Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagPromissory materialism

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Three friendly happy playing dogs in summer park. German shepherd, american staffordshire terrier and french bulldog holding one stick. Different dog breeds have fun together.

Claim: We’ve Shown That Dogs Can Form “Abstract Concepts”

It’s a good idea to be skeptical when any such claim is followed up with the assertion that humans “aren’t that cognitively unique after all.”

University of Buffalo researchers reported recently on a study of three pet dogs known to them that they had taught to “ponder their past”: Dogs are capable of learning the instruction “do that again,” and can flexibly access memories of their own recent actions—cognitive abilities they were not known to possess, according to the results of a recent University at Buffalo study. “We found that dogs could be trained to repeat specific actions on cue, and then take what they’d learned and apply it to actions they had never been asked to repeat,” says Allison Scagel, Ph.D., the study’s corresponding author, who was a UB graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the time of the research. “Our findings…

Girls eye with paint and earth
Girls eye with paint and earth

New Scientist Offers a Sympathetic Account of Panpsychism

A serious, long form article shows that physicalism (“the mind is just what the brain does”) is failing

Panpsychism, the view that all nature participates in consciousness, has been growing under the radar for some time in science. But it is now coming into plainer view. New Scientist is one of the last places one might have expected to find a serious, long-form account of panpsychism — one that, in the context, amounts to a defense. Yet that’s just what science writer and filmmaker Thomas Lewton has been permitted by the editors to do. He tells us about his own journey at his site: “Studying physics, I thought telescopes and particle colliders would offer firm answers, but instead they raised more questions.” And at New Scientist, he tells us why: It can seem as if there is an…

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open eye in space

A Darwinian Biologist Resists Learning To Live With Panpsychism

Jerry Coyne makes two things quite clear: He scorns panpsychism and he doesn’t understand why some scientists accept it

Jerry Coyne, a traditional Darwinian evolutionary biologist and author of Why Evolution Is True, is having a hard time understanding why anyone would even consider taking panpsychism seriously. His bafflement over the growing acceptance of the idea that every living thing (or everything) is conscious to some extent may shed light on some new features of the changing science landscape. His jumping off point is a recent three-way debate/discussion, sponsored by MindChat, between panpsychist philosopher Philip Goff, naturalist theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, and physicalist philosopher Keith Frankish, who views the mind as an illusion created by the brain — or, as Coyne puts it, “a trick of the biological mind.” Coyne, as a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is),…

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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…

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Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept

Epilepsy: If You Follow the Science, Materialism Is Dead

Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnordid a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which people’s minds sometimes become much clearer near death (terminal lucidity). Dr. Egnor suggested that that may demonstrate that the brain constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at objections raised to the view that epilepsy provides evidence for the mind as not merely a function of the brain. Dr. Egnor begins by focusing on the work of Wilder Penfield, the founder of epilepsy surgeries, who worked in Montreal in the mid-twentieth century, “a wonderful scientist, one of the best scientists that neurosurgery has produced”: Here is a…