Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagMaterialism

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The beam of light in the path of the magic forest

The Rational Magicians

Can real meaning be experienced in a godless world? The postrationalists are trying

In the era of scientific enlightenment, progress, and technological sophistication, “magic” might be the last word one might use to describe the activity of modern Western culture. We live in an age of reason, not superstition. Right? The old world of myth, mystery, and religion is holed away in museums and cathedrals; these are relics of an admirable but outdated generation. After Reason In a fascinating new article from The New Atlantis, writer Tara Isabella Burton writes about the “postrationalists,” an Internet subculture disillusioned with the technocratic rationalism of Silicon Valley and in search of a sense of the mystical and divine. “Reason,” or the modern conception of it, has left the postrationalists disappointed. Neither, however, are they flocking to Read More ›

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The Ultimate Defense of Substance Dualism

Philosopher J.P. Moreland is the co-author of an upcoming tome in defense of the soul

For decades, materialism has dominated the philosophical conversation. Before the 19th and 20th centuries, however, such a worldview was largely untenable. Most thinkers accepted the reality of both the body and the soul, the physical and the immaterial. What happened? And why do we see the resurgence of a fascination with consciousness and panpsychism, and a renewal of belief in the soul?  Philosopher J. P. Moreland, a Fellow of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the author of dozens of books, has an upcoming book dealing with exactly these questions. It is The Substance of Consciousness: A Comprehensive Defense of Contemporary Substance Dualism (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2023). Dr. Moreland, a professor at Biola University, is co-author with Brandon Rickabaugh, who is Read More ›

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A room with round glass window overlooking beautiful landscape background . Hotel futuristic showroom with modern interior . Sublime Generative AI image .

Transhumanism’s Vain Search for Immortality

Transhumanism promotes its own defeat-of-death eschatology

April 9th was Easter Sunday for the Western churches. Next Sunday, for Eastern Orthodox churches. For believing Christians, whether Eastern or Western, celebrating Christ’s Resurrection joyfully commemorates the permanent defeat of death and entrance into eternal life. Transhumanism, which is a quasi-religion that worships at the altar of technology, promotes its own defeat-of-death eschatology. Instead of the New Jerusalem for which Christians yearn, transhumanists hope to live indefinitely — if not forever — in the corporeal world through the wonders of AI and other human-invented methods of technologically defeating death. And it could be here by 2050! From the Daily Mail story: Despite the setback, that same year, a prominent futurist predicted that ‘electronic immortality’ would be available to humans by 2050. Dr Read More ›

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Vienna - lion for national library

Michael Aeschliman on C.S. Lewis and Scientism

Aeschliman observes how technological progress and scientific mastery, when it isn't wedded with virtue and moral knowledge, wreaks havoc

Michael D. Aeschliman first wrote The Restoration of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism in 1983. It was praised as a remarkable achievement upon its arrival by eminent writers and thinkers like Russell Kirk, Malcolm Muggeridge, and George Gilder. Discovery Institute Press published an expanded and updated edition of the book in 2019, and a recent podcast episode featuring Aeschliman piqued my own interest in the book. Aeschliman writes on the advent of “scientism,” the belief that science is the only viable path to knowledge and should therefore be esteemed above all other disciplines. Such a view leads to the reckless moral relativism and “will to power” that arguably brought about the bloodbaths of the twentieth century, Read More ›

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The surface of Venus, the irregularities of the planet. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

C.S. Lewis and Science Fiction

Sci-fi can reveal that you don't necessarily need to visit Mars to find the bizarre and beautiful

The 20th-century intellectual, novelist, poet, and popular theologian C.S. Lewis was a rare bird. He spent most of his life embedded in the academic world, to which he contributed greatly, but was also a lover of fairy tales and the dystopian. His long-held affection for fantasy and science fiction led him to write some of the most popular fictional works in recent memory, most notably The Chronicles of Narnia and what’s commonly known as the “space trilogy,” though Lewis himself objected to the term “space” as an adequate descriptor of what he viewed as a vibrant and meaningful cosmos. In a more obscure Lewis title, Of Other Worlds, Lewis writes of his appreciation for science fiction and what makes the Read More ›

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Conceptual art, concept of problem mind psychology freedom and solution, surreal painting,  jigsaw puzzle on human head.

Kenneth Miller on Consciousness and Evolution

Despite Miller's claims, neither human reason nor free will evolved because neither are generated by material processes

Kenneth Miller is a biologist at Brown University who has been very active in his written and vocal support for Darwin’s theory of evolution. He’s neither a materialist nor an atheist – he is a Catholic, and in being one of the rare Darwinists who doesn’t subscribe wholeheartedly to the materialist/atheist paradigm, he allows himself to be used as a token theist by the Darwinists. It helps his career, no doubt, but doesn’t advance the truth. Not an admirable place to be. Miller’s New Book and What it Misses In his 2018 book The Human Instinct: How We Evolved To Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will, Miller manages a feat uncommon even for Darwinists – even the title of the Read More ›

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Sculpture portrait of Aristotle

Sean Carroll: “How Could an Immaterial Mind Affect the Body?”

The well known physicist thinks free will is nonsense. But has he investigated the classical understanding of causation?

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Johns Hopkins University who takes an atheist and materialist philosophical perspective on nature and on science. I have disagreed with him often — I’m in no position to judge his scientific acumen, but his philosophical acumen leaves a lot to be desired. An example of this is a question he asks in a recent documentary about free will (which I haven’t watched yet). In the trailer for the movie, Carroll asks, How in the world does the immaterial mind affect the physical body? Carroll’s denial of libertarian free will is based on this question, and of course, he believes that the immaterial mind does not exist and, if it did exist, could not Read More ›

isaac newton and the apple
Law of Universal Gravitation education funny concept. Isaac Newton under an apple tree

Blinded by a Defunct Theory

The "interaction problem" is everywhere we look in physics, but the dogma of materialism remains

Materialism. What a weird word. It sounds like a ghost, materializing in front of me. And it is sort of like a ghost, one that has mysteriously taken over the minds of many intelligent people. Because they believe in materialism, these smart people don’t believe in ghosts. Especially the ghost in the machine. The problem is there is no way for the ghost to interact with the machine. This is known as the “mind-body interaction problem”.  The great thing about materialism is at least that theory doesn’t have an interaction problem. Any material thing can interact with any other material thing. Yet there is a deep irony. Let’s explore the idea of materialism to see why. Materialism is the idea that reality only consists of matter. Read More ›

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Aerial view of Frankenstein Castle in southern Hesse, Germany

The Prophecies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Andrew Klavan explores the world of the Romantics in new book and finds special insight in Shelley’s classic horror story

Andrew Klavan, acclaimed novelist and host of the Andrew Klavan Show at the Daily Wire, wrote a book about his profound encounters with the Romantics of the 19th century, called The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus. The Romantics include literary figures like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and John Keats. While it’s common to highlight the Romantics’ veneration of nature, they were also living in the throes of the Enlightenment, in which atheistic materialism was becoming a minority alternative to theism. Klavan writes, “The wonderful success of science at explaining the material world threatens to create in scientists a bias towards Read More ›

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Gray maze with mechanic brain

Mysteries of the Mind

It’s hard to know where the brain ends and the mind begins. How can studying our brains give us insight into our minds? Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor sit down for a chat about all things brain related including neurotheology, methods of studying the brain, and other mind/brain phenomena. Additional Resources Andrew Newberg’s Website Michael Egnor at Discovery.org Read More ›

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Projecting The Future

What Is AI Doing To Me? AI’s Manufactured World Lacks Value

The best way to defend ourselves from AI's influence is to return to the abstract ideas of virtue, value, and goodness

During the Christmas season I watched that wonderful classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. About the same time, I had learned of the writings of Samuel Strauss in The Atlantic. I realized that both “Miracle on 34th Street” and Strauss were dealing with issues similar to those we are wrestling with today related to artificial intelligence (AI). Perhaps the most famous lines from “Miracle on 34th Street” are: Susan Walker: I believe, I believe, I believe. Fred Gailey: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Kris Kringle: Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind. The point made is that what is most Read More ›

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Unlocking the Mysteries of Life and Death concept.Two human figures join together with bright rays and keyhole between them.

Why Cartesian Dualism?

Materialism is dead. There are simply too many questions left unanswered after years of studying the brain. Now, people are scrambling for a new way to understand the mind-body relationship. Cartesian dualism has become a whipping boy in philosophy, but it has advantages over the alternatives. Dr. Joshua Farris discusses Cartesianism and philosophy with Dr. Michael Egnor. Show Notes 01:27 Read More ›

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Brain model on EEG waves paper

Finding God in the Brain

Materialism insists that God is just a figment of the imagination, but there are some interesting phenomena in neurotheology that suggest otherwise. There are also certain methodological challenges when it comes to trying to find evidence of God in the brain. Michael Egnor discusses these issues with Andrew Newberg, who is a pioneer and authority in the field of neurotheology. Read More ›

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3d rendering of human  brain on technology background

Neurotheology: Spirituality and the Brain

Neurotheology is the study of the relationship of our religious and spiritual selves and our brains. How can studying our brains give us insight into our minds? Dr. Michael Egnor interviews Dr. Andrew Newberg on neuroscience, methods of studying the brain, and how our minds and brains are related. Show Notes Additional Resources

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Billiard balls colorful background, 3D rendering

Can the “Physical World” Be Wholly Physical? Physical at All?

Nothing ever physically touches anything else in the physical world, yet the effects of objects on each other are a constant occurrence

Sounds like the answer should be “Of course!” But the question may not be as simple as it appears. Let’s wind the clock back to the first century BC, when a Roman poet and philosopher named Lucretius wrote the poem On the Nature of Things.” In this poem, Lucretius outlines a philosophy known as Epicureanism in order to demonstrate the world can be explained without reference to a deity. In the Epicurean philosophy, only three things exist: atoms, the void, and the universe. Consequently, everything we see in the physical world can be reduced to atoms bumping into each other. You may notice that Epicurean philosophy sounds similar to modern day physics. This is not an accident. Through the influence Read More ›

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Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

Why So Many Neuroscientists Are Unreflective Materialists

It’s part of a larger commitment to the belief that materialism will one day refute dualism by explaining away all of the apparent immaterial aspects of the mind

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has contributed a chapter of The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021): “Have science and philosophy refuted free will?” (Ch 18) and “Can materialism explain human consciousness?” (Ch 19). In it, he notes a reality of modern neuroscience: Materialism (the mind is simply what the brain does) is not a discovery so much as a pledge of allegiance: One might think that the logical problems with materialism would insulate 21st-century neuroscience from its influence, but that is not so. Most contemporary neuroscientists work from an implicitly materialist perspective — in part because they’re unreflective, in part because materialism is the metaphysical correlate of the atheistic scientism that Read More ›

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Blume des Lebens mit Sternenkosmos und Lichtstreifen

The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp out consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical Read More ›

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Beautiful night sky, the Milky Way, moon and the trees. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

“If Nobody Looks at the Moon, Does It Exist?” and Other Metaphysical Questions

If no one is looking at the moon, does it exist? Why has materialism been around for so long? Will computers ever be conscious? What happens to our consciousness after we die? Bernardo Kastrup tackles these questions and more with Michael Egnor in another bingecast! Show Notes Additional Resources

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futuristic got

How Did Descartes Come To Make Such a Mess of Dualism?

Mathematician René Descartes strictly separated mind and matter in a way that left the mind very vulnerable

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, before getting into problems with René Descartes’ understanding of consciousness, they begin by talking about qualia, a topic considered “central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness.” For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular Read More ›

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

How we can know mental states are real?

Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section, they talk about how we can know that the mind is real and how materialist philosophy has just plain gone bad: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the twenty to thirty-one minute mark: Michael Egnor: There was a philosopher named Franz Brentano (1838–1917) in the 19th century who proposed what I think is the best definition of what distinguishes a mental state from a physical state. Brentano asks, is there any unique thing that all mental states have that no physical state has? He said, it’s intentionality, and by intentionality he meant that every mental state Read More ›