Craniopagus twins revisited: A response to Professor Egnor

Professor Michael Egnor has kindly responded to my post, The craniopagus twins from British Columbia: A test case for Thomistic dualism (TSZ, November 25, 2017), in a new post, titled, The Craniopagus Twins and Thomistic Dualism (ENV, December 10, 2017). In my earlier post, I had argued that “the twins’ ability to share thoughts without speaking weakens the case for Thomistic dualism, and lends support to a subtle variety of materialism which incorporates top-down causation.” In his response, Professor Michael Egnor gets to the heart of our disagreement and explains why he does not think that the experiment I proposed would serve to test whether dualism or materialism is true. Egnor proposes another test of his own, relating to mathematical abilities. In this post, I’d like to explain why I object to Professor Egnor’s test, before putting forward another one, very similar to it, which I believe could experimentally resolve whether dualism or materialism is true. Finally, I offer a few reflections on the philosophical argument which, Egnor contends, makes materialism logically untenable.

Do the Hogan twins share thoughts or just images?

In his latest article, Professor Egnor contests my claim that the Hogan twins are capable of sharing thoughts (“We talk in our heads” is how the twins describe it). Instead, he thinks, what the twins are sharing is probably mental images. Egnor also maintains that because the girls are twins who spend all their time together, it is likely that their thoughts are very much alike, which means that when they share the same image, they will both (individually) think the same thought, in parallel:

Where Torley disagrees with my view that the twins’ mental abilities are consistent with Thomistic dualism is on their ability to share thoughts. I assert that what they share are images, which are material mental things on the Thomistic view, but that they do not share abstract thought, which is immaterial. (By “images” I mean reconstruction of sensations — visual, auditory, tactile, etc. — in the absence of the object originally sensed.)…

It is clear that the Hogan twins share some thoughts — they giggle at private thoughts that they seem to share. Torley believes that these private thoughts entail some immaterial content. I believe they do not. I believe that the twins share images and perceptions, and that their reaction to the images that they share (giggling) is a manifestation that they both quite separately find the images funny.

In my view, the twins don’t share the intellectual immaterial thoughts. They do share some imaginary material thoughts (sensible species), from which they (at times) each individually extract similar immaterial thoughts (intelligible species). It is only the material sensible species that they share by virtue of their brain connection…

“Talking in their heads” can mean many things, and may just refer to shared perceptions from which they independently derive similar propositions. They may arrive at similar propositions from their shared image, in the same way that two different people may look at the same object and draw similar conclusions from it…

Personally, I think the girls’ description of how they communicate mentally without speaking aloud (“We talk in our heads”) is not at all what one would expect them to say, if they only shared mental images with one another. Professor Egnor evidently thinks differently. Fair enough. But as Huckleberry Finn famously put it, “RECKONING don’t settle nothing. You can reckon till the cows come home, but that don’t fetch you to no decision.” (Tom Sawyer Abroad, by Mark Twain, chapter 9.) What we need is an experiment.

Why Professor Egnor objects to my proposed experiment for testing dualism vs. materialism

In my earlier post, I proposed an experiment: allow each girl to (a) silently choose one statement from a list of six simple sentences containing abstract concepts, (b) decide whether she agreed or disagreed with the statement, and (c) mentally formulate an argument as to why she agreed or disagreed. If each girl could report on the other girl’s choice, agreement or disagreement, and her reasons, without the other girl telling her anything, then that, I argued, would surely show that the girls can share propositional thoughts, and not merely images. Professor Egnor is unconvinced. All it would show, he says, is that the girls think alike:

…[E]ven if they don’t share intelligible species, which is the Thomist view, they may still share sensible species/images and may separately derive the same intelligible species from it. This is particularly likely because of the close relationship between the two girls. They may routinely and individually derive the same abstract thoughts from a sensory image, yet not actually share the same abstract thought. This kind of thing is quite common, for example, with married couples over many years, who both think of abstract things at about the same time (my wife and I do this all the time). Similar things happen with non-conjoined twins and even with close siblings, for whom the actual sharing of thoughts is not an issue.

Now, this would be a perfectly legitimate criticism if the girls consistently made similar choices in the test I have proposed. But what if each girl held different opinions on some of the statements, but was nevertheless able to report accurately on the reasons underlying her sibling’s view, even if she violently disagreed with it? Now that would be a significant finding. Nor could it be explained by saying that as twins, they’re used to arguing over certain issues that regularly arise between them, such as what to eat (interestingly, the girls have different tastes in food). For in the experiment I proposed, the six sentences were entirely novel, and unlikely to have been seen or discussed by the girls previously. So I still think that the test could discredit dualism in the event of a disagreement of opinion between the girls over some of the sentences.

Professor Egnor’s new test

To his great credit, Professor Egnor then proposes a test of his own. He argues that if the girls differ in their mathematical aptitude, that would support Thomistic dualism, but if their mathematical aptitudes never diverge significantly from one another, then that would bolster the case for materialism:

I suggest another approach to testing the girls… If the twins share both material and immaterial powers of the mind, they should share mathematical ability very closely. They should have the same aptitude and the same comprehension of mathematical concepts at every stage of their education. If they share material and immaterial thought, they should share mathematical aptitude, and do so identically.

If they share perceptions (images), but not abstraction (concepts), they would be expected to differ at times in their mathematical aptitude. For example, both girls may share the perception for the symbol for a square root, but if they do not share immaterial thought, it is quite likely that one girl will understand what square roots mean before the other girl understands it… [I]f they do not share abstract thought, it is likely that in at least a few aspects of their mathematical education they will progress at different rates, because they have different comprehensions of the mathematical perceptions they share.

This can be tested rather easily. Thomistic dualism predicts that they will have at least occasional disparities in their understanding of mathematics, which would show up on standardized tests, school grades, etc. If they share intellect as well as perception, their scores and grades should be indistinguishable.

I would suggest that the mathematical test is more comprehensive and practical than the test suggested by Torley. If Thomists are right, the girls will diverge at times in their mathematical aptitude. If Thomists are wrong, and the girls share intellect and well as perception, they should not diverge at all.

I have to say that I regard this test as flawed, as it stands. My reason is very simple: the girls only share parts of their brains, not all of their brains. As I put it in my previous post, “the girls have two brains, not one, even if those brains are uniquely inter-linked.” In an article titled, Parts of the Brain Associated With Thinking Skills (Livestrong.com, August 14, 2017), neurologist Dr. Heidi Moawad writes:

Mathematical and analytical skills require a system of interaction between the temporal lobe, prefrontal region and parietal lobe, which is located near the back of the brain at the top of the head. Skills for algebraic mathematical tasks and calculations are generally concentrated in the left parietal lobe, while skills for geometric perception and manipulation of 3-dimensional figures are determined primarily by the right parietal lobe.

It is almost certain that the two girls’ brains differ in their relative proportions, in some of these areas, and in the number of neuronal inter-connections. That would likely give one girl a mathematical edge over the other, even if the materialistic hypothesis were correct.

An amended version of Professor Egnor’s test

Nevertheless, I think Professor Egnor is on the right track with his proposed test. So I’d like to propose a slight modification to it. Let’s say that one twin is having trouble grasping an abstract mathematical concept – say, the notion of congruence and how it applies to triangles, or the concept of a prime number, or for that matter, a negative number. If the more mathematically gifted twin were then able to correct her sister’s misunderstanding and enable her to grasp the new concept, without saying anything out loud, but simply by “talking in her head” to the other sister, then that would suffice to demonstrate that the two sisters can actually share abstract concepts, and not merely images.

I hope that Professor Egnor will accept my proposed modification to his test. I gather from his remarks on a recent podcast (Michael Egnor on What the Craniopagus Twins Tells Us about Mind and Brain, ID the Future, December 13, 2017) that he knows Dr. Douglas Cochrane, the neurosurgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital who treats the Hogan twins. If that is the case, and if the girls’ mother is agreeable, then there is no reason why the test I have proposed could not go ahead. What say you, Dr. Egnor?

Why I don’t think philosophical arguments about the mind-body problem are logically compelling

Let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that my modified version of Professor Egnor’s test was performed, and that it supported the hypothesis of materialism (the brain is capable of abstract thought) over that of Thomistic dualism (the brain stores images and sensory memories, but does not engage in abstract thought). Here’s an interesting question: would Professor Egnor change his mind? I suspect that he wouldn’t. It appears that he regards the philosophical arguments against materialism to be so powerful that no experimental finding to the contrary would cause him to alter his view. As he puts it:

I do point out, however, that in the Thomist view it is not merely empirically true that perception is material and intellection is immaterial. It is logically necessary for the intellect to be immaterial, because the intellect is that by which we contemplate universals, which by definition do not have particular existence and thus cannot be material.

If the twins were shown to share intellect as well as perception, it is not merely our theory of mind that would need revamping, but the logical and metaphysical basis for Western thought as well.

Now, I will readily acknowledge that there are some very powerful prima facie arguments in favor of dualism. Associate Professor Edward Feser has discussed some of these in a series of posts:

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part I
Some brief arguments for dualism, Part II
Some brief arguments for dualism, Part III
Some brief arguments for dualism, Part IV
Some brief arguments for dualism, Part V

But there is an ocean of difference between a highly persuasive argument and a compelling one: the former may (in theory) be mistaken, while the latter cannot. So it’s worth quoting what Dr. Feser himself has to say about the much-vaunted argument from universals:

Whatever one thinks of arguments like this, it is important to understand that (like the other arguments I’ve presented in this series) they are not the sort that might be undermined by the findings of neuroscience, or any other empirical science for that matter. They are not “soul of the gaps” arguments which purport to give a quasi-scientific explanation of some psychological phenomenon that we simply haven’t got enough empirical data to explain in a materialistic way. Rather, they purport to show that it is in principle impossible, conceptually impossible, for the intellect to be accounted for in a materialistic way. If such arguments work at all, they establish conclusively that the intellect could no more be identified with processes in the brain than two and two could make five. If they are mistaken, they would be mistaken in the way one might make a mistake in attempting to carry out a geometrical proof, and not by virtue of having failed to take account of this or that finding of brain research.

Reading between the lines, I get the sense that Dr. Feser himself isn’t 100 per cent sure that the arguments for dualism are both valid and sound. Why might that be?

(i) Universals are particularizable

Let’s look at Professor Egnor’s argument first:

1. By definition, universals do not have particular existence.
2. By definition, material things and processes have particular existence.
3. Therefore, necessarily, universals are not material.

The problem lies in the vague term “particular existence.” It is certainly true by definition that universals are not particular objects belonging to the group whose properties they generalize. The concept of a panda is not a particular panda; nor is the concept of a triangle a particular triangle. But it does not follow that these concepts do not possess particular existence of some sort or other.

How might this be so? Let’s take the common concept of a triangle: a closed two-dimensional figure having exactly three sides (and three angles). (Mathematicians will tell you that’s actually a Euclidean triangle, but let that pass.) I could represent this concept in code, if I wished: C23, where the first letter indicates whether the figure is open (O) or closed(C), the second character represents the number of dimensions (2) and the final character denotes the number of sides (3). Viewed in this way, the concept of a triangle does turn out to have particular existence, after all: each of the characters in the three-letter code has a particular value.

The same goes for the common definition of a giant panda: a large black-and-white herbivorous bearlike mammal. The panda is a mammal, and not a bird, reptile, amphibian or fish. It’s a member of the bear family (not the dog family), within the order Carnivora (animals whose teeth and claws make them specially adapted to meat-eating). Unlike other bears, it’s black-and-white in color. And most unusually, it’s a herbivore. Once again, the concept seems to be “particularizable,” to coin a term. The only vague predicate in the definition is “large,” but even here we can set particular limits by specifying a range: adults are 1.2 to 1.9 meters long, for instance. I see no reason in principle why the brain cannot store such information. I am not saying that it does, of course; only that it might.

(ii) The term “concept” is not a natural kind

Dr. Feser’s argument is somewhat more subtle (which is hardly surprising as he is, after all, an Associate Professor of Philosophy). Feser writes:

Consider that when you think about triangularity, as you might when proving a geometrical theorem, it is necessarily perfect triangularity that you are contemplating, not some mere approximation of it. Triangularity as your intellect grasps it is entirely determinate or exact… Of course, your mental image of a triangle might not be exact, but rather indeterminate and fuzzy… Any mental image of a triangle is going to have certain features, such as a particular color, that are no part of the concept of triangularity in general. A mental image is something private and subjective, while the concept of triangularity is objective and grasped by many minds at once.

Quite so; but all that proves is that the concept of a triangle is not a mental image. What it doesn’t prove is that the concept of a triangle is immaterial. But Feser is not done yet, for he continues:

Now the thought you are having about triangularity when you grasp it must be as determinate or exact as triangularity itself, otherwise it just wouldn’t be a thought about triangularity in the first place, but only a thought about some approximation of triangularity. Yet material things are never determinate or exact in this way... And in general, material symbols and representations are inherently always to some extent vague, ambiguous, or otherwise inexact, susceptible of various alternative interpretations. It follows, then, that any thought you might have about triangularity is not something material; in particular, it is not some process occurring in the brain. And what goes for triangularity goes for any thought that involves the grasp of a universal, since universals in general … are determinate and exact in a way material objects and processes cannot be.

The key premises in Feser’s argument appear to be as follows: (i) concepts are inherently determinate; (ii) our thoughts about these concepts are likewise inherently determinate; (iii) material objects and processes, on the other hand, are inherently indeterminate; therefore (iv) our thoughts are not material objects or processes.

Unfortunately, Dr. Feser does not provide us with anything like a general argument as to why he believes material things and processes are inherently ambiguous or capable of alternative interpretations. (He refers to the work of the philosopher James Ross, which is summarized here. Ross’s main argument is that the various instantiations of a mathematical concept – e.g. the concept of the square of a number – do not uniquely determine its content, as a finite number of instances cannot fix the rule: another interpretation is always possible. But what this proves is not that material processes are inherently ambiguous, but that the meaning of a mathematical concept can never be exhausted by its instances. Fine; but who said it could? And in the case of squaring, the instances aren’t even material, anyway; they’re numbers!)

Feser appears to believe that abstract objects (such as the concept of a triangle) are incapable of alternative interpretations, but again, he does not tell us why. Perhaps his thinking is that you either grasp them or you don’t. This is more promising; but the question we need to ask is: what makes them graspable? Is it their immateriality, as such? And if so, why? Feser does not tell us.

The anatomy of a dog

Finally, Feser neglects to mention the inconvenient fact that not all concepts are equally determinate. For instance, the biological concept of a dog [pictured above] (which is capable of hybridizing with a wolf or a fox) is much fuzzier than the mathematical concept of a triangle, the chemical concept of gold (element number 79) or for that matter, the biochemical concept of DNA (which may contain non-canonical bases). And what about the geographical concept of a mountain (arbitrary cut-off point) or for that matter, the concept of “bald” (where does one draw the line)? What about the concept of love (which some people confuse with liking), or the concept of justice (which means different things to different people)? I could go on, but I won’t belabor the point.

The real problem here is that, as philosopher Edouard Machery puts it in a brilliantly argued 2004 essay, Concepts Are Not a Natural Kind. Indeed, Machery argues that we don’t even have a single concept of “dog”: we have several concepts. He concludes:

First, the notion of concept is ill-suited to formulate scientifically relevant generalizations about the mind. Psychologists should focus instead on other classes of mental representations, particularly prototypes, exemplars, and theories (and eventually others). In other words, the notion of concept does not carve the mind at its joints. Second, the controversy between the main psychological theories of concepts is deeply misguided. Concepts are neither prototypes, nor exemplars, nor theories. Some concepts are prototypes, some concepts are sets of exemplars, some concepts are theories. The theory view of concepts, the prototype view of concepts and the exemplar view of concepts are not inconsistent theories about our concepts: instead, they characterize the main features of three basic different kinds of representations. Finally, this position raises a provocative question: if the notion of concept is ill-suited for scientific purposes, do we need it at all? But this is certainly a topic for another day.

More recently, Machery has written a provocatively titled book, Doing Without Concepts, proposing that we jettison concepts altogether (see here for a critical review). This is a very extreme move, and in my opinion, an over-reaction, but Machery has at least performed the philosophical service of forcing us to re-examine our preconceptions about what the mind does and how it works. Philosophical arguments based on the nature of our mental concepts should never be used to over-rule the findings of science, because we can never be certain that we actually think in the way we assume we do.

I would like to close with a plea for an open mind. The philosophical tradition of dualism is a venerable one, which is supported by some ingenious philosophical arguments; but as far as I can tell, the case for dualism is far from airtight. That’s why experiments are so useful. They can, at least, help to eliminate bad hypotheses about the mind, even if they can never prove any particular hypothesis to be true.

In a recent podcast (Michael Egnor on What the Craniopagus Twins Tells Us about Mind and Brain, ID the Future, December 13, 2017), Professor Egnor cited the pioneering work of Wilder Penfield, Benjamin Libet and Roger Sperry, and concluded: “Any objective person looking at the science would have to come away with the viewpoint that dualism makes the most sense here.” Penfield and Libet were indeed both dualists; but Sperry was not. He was a monist, and a strong determinist at that, although he believed in a version of downward causation. His student, Michael Gazzaniga, is a materialist who maintains that determinism is compatible with a version of free will: brains are automatic, but people are free, as he puts it. The point I wish to make here is that neither the scientific data nor the philosophical arguments for or against dualism are compelling, right now. To take one instance: the split-brain work of Sperry and Gazzaniga seemed to disprove dualism, but more recent work by cognitive psychologist and physicist Yaïr Pinto points the other way: when you split the brain, you still end up with only one person. The moral of this story is that we need to keep digging and avoid a rush to judgement.

What do readers think?

85 thoughts on “Craniopagus twins revisited: A response to Professor Egnor

  1. I don’t see how you can unequivocally determine if the abstract reasoning of one girl was assisted, sub vocally, by the other girl. Even if she said that she was helped by her sister “talking” to her in her head, how do we know that it is not just her own “inner voice”. There are plenty of examples of people “hearing voices”.

  2. Thanks for the post VJ.

    It is a well known fact that twins, whether conjoint or not, exhibit special, possibly telecommunication abilities that, just like in case of Krista and Tatiana are hard to be verified…

    I remember a case of identical twins my friend told me about that was studied at the psychiatric hospital he was doing his internship at the time…
    Teen twins developed psychosis and were admitted to the hospital. While at the hospital, it became clear that only one twin had real psychotic symptoms and the other twin simulated his brothers symptoms, so that he could be admitted to the hospital as well to be with his ill twin brother.

    The fascinating part began when the twins were separated, so that they could not see each other. Both twins continued to exhibit very similar symptoms, similar side effects from medications (one was getting anti-psychotic medications, the other was getting different medications that didn’t cause the same side effects). While I don’t remember all the details, staff and psychiatrists looking after them were convinced that the twins were able to communicate somehow as they knew details that they both could only have know if they were able to speak to each other or communicate somehow…None of that was possible, so the only way for them to communicate was to telecommunicate, or I suspect quantum communicate possibly via quantum entanglement for which there is no shred of verifiable evidence but the mystery about it…

    BTW: Regarding quantum consciousness, quantum mind; there is more and more experimental evidence… Quantum communication between twins could be explained if they shared some of the similar properties of micro-tubules in neurons…

  3. I don’t understand the experimental tests. I don’t understand your proposed test. I don’t understand Egnor’s proposed test.

    What I don’t understand about them, is how they could possibly be relevant to claims of dualism.

  4. J-Mac,

    It is a well known fact that twins, whether conjoint or not, exhibit special, possibly telecommunication abilities that, just like in case of Krista and Tatiana are hard to be verified…”

    Sorry, but I must call bullshit on this. We have identical twins and other than looking remarkably similar, they have completely different personalities.

    Yes, when they were very young and we were mad at one, the other would also get upset. But that is just the natural reaction of a person when the person they are closest to is in distress. Nothing magical about it.

  5. I recently read egnors Discovery article. it mentioned TSZ and vjtorley and in complimentary ways.
    I see this all as a great gain for creationism or rather yEC biblical creationism.
    Just what the doctor ordered.
    The thing i loved about Egnor’s article was the importance he brought to memory.
    The eyes are the clue. they do see things with each others eyes. SO they are reading images from senses. Cased closed.
    How do we read images by senses?
    I say simply we read the info from the organs being put on a memory screen. wE read a memory.
    just as optical illusions(wiki0 shows.
    they are not optical illusions but revealtions of the simple truth.
    We don’t see anything. we don’t look outside of our head as through a window.
    The eyes are not the window to outside(or the soul).
    instead we read a image smashed onto a memory screen. the optical illusion showing only that oit edits out trivial details.
    Indeed watching cartoons demands this.
    Anyways.
    In like manner I see no reason and see every reason to welcome these children reading each others memories. Even though having separate souls.
    When we think in our thoughts SURELY we are using our memories.
    We have memorized this subject and think about it in our thoughts.
    NOT JUST a soul is thinking but memorized details.
    It must be this way.
    so these children, as a option, should be able to read any MUTUIAL memory connection.
    In fact the only reason it wouldn’t be perfect is because the connections are not perfect. AS itemized in these discussions. Legs/eyes etc etc.
    an unhappy case actually undercuts wrong ideas about a materialistic brain exclusivity in the human being.
    These two souls read each others memories. sure they do.

    I agree some testys can be done but they would only show a degree of mutaual memory connection.
    I don’t agree there is anything that would show a SOUL having retained ideas WITHOUT the memory.

    Yes, Its cHristmas, Jesus , GOD , as a baby had no memory of being god. He was not pretending to be a dumb baby. He was a toal human baby without memory of when he was God.
    The bible clearly says JESUS , as a kid, grew in wisdom.
    this means he couldn’t remember his wisdom. NOT that he picked things up down here he didn’t know up there.
    Jesus soul was meshed to his human memory to the exclusion of any other memory. He was human. Though with the soul of God.
    also remember his eyesight healing episode that required a double whammy.
    Another clue.

    Very excellent threads for TSZ. A Christmas present thats worthy and very important and intellectual and , should be, revolutionary to humanity.

  6. Acartia,

    Seems like it to me too… and yet anytime I came across twins, they seem to verify some inexplicable “connection” they have…

    https://www.livescience.com/45405-twin-telepathy.html

    I was a part of a pretty large study that also involved identical twins… while I didn’t examine a lot of them personally, I did make a point to ask some of them about that special connection…

    The responses have varied from hunches, like my twin must be sick, to I think he/she is in trouble… to something is terribly wrong….

    While verifying those is difficult, one stuck in my mind: one female twin was diagnosed with cancer and right after that she called her twin sister to see the doctor. You can probably guess the rest of the story…

  7. Neil Rickert:
    I don’t understand the experimental tests.I don’t understand your proposed test.I don’t understand Egnor’s proposed test.

    What I don’t understand about them, is how they could possibly be relevant to claims of dualism.

    I’m not surprised… look at Robert…. for a moment I thought he responded to a differed OP…

    It doesn’t matter anyway…

    99% of the religious insist that there has to be something beyond our physical existence, so they insist on proving at all cost an existence of an immortal soul that survives death… like Egnor…

    99% of materialists insist that our physical existence is all there is… so they try to prove it at any cost…

    Then there’s a very small % of people like Hameroff, Penrose and others that try to explain consciousness which seems to be related to some possibility of “an existence” after death with quantum mechanics; i.e. quantum consciousness…
    Hameroff assumes a possibility of a quantum consciousness that survives death as a quantum soul, Penrose doesn’t…

    I have my own view on the matter and I think I could make a pretty good case for quantum consciousness “surviving death” but still needing some kind of a processor, like human brain, to have the conscious experience and be able to recall memories and experiences…

    Unlike 99.9% of the religious I don’t think there is enough scientific and scriptural evidence for any kind of conscious existence after death without the dual, interdependent entities; quantum consciousness and a quantum, non computational processor of awareness…

  8. Hi Neil Rickert,

    I don’t understand the experimental tests. I don’t understand your proposed test. I don’t understand Egnor’s proposed test.

    What I don’t understand about them, is how they could possibly be relevant to claims of dualism.

    Might I suggest that you begin by having a look at my original post, The craniopagus twins from British Columbia: A test case for Thomistic dualism. Then if you have any remaining questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

  9. I’ve been getting quite interested in theories of mental representation and theories of concepts. My first book for the winter break is Fodor’s Language of Thought (1975), a classic that I never actually read yet. I’ll be following that up with some more recent work in philosophy of mind.

    Here are the questions I’m wrestling with:

    1. by virtue of what criteria does a state count as being a representation, and what role do representations play in cognition?

    2. what makes concepts different from other kinds of representations, if concepts are a natural kind after all?

    3. what differences does language make to the kind of concepts that a mind can have?

    My guiding assumptions at this phase of the inquiry:

    1. the proper function of representations is to guide action, and they primarily do so by generating predictions about what stimuli to expect, causing the actions that would be correlated with the expected stimuli, and then revising those predictions if the stimuli are deviate too far from what is expected (given the parameters of the organism’s model of its environment). Action-guiding representations are the dynamic, continually updated and revised models that ensure a close coupling of organism and environment.

    2. Gareth Evans’s Generality Constraint is the right way of thinking about moderate conceptual holism. (So, no conceptual atomism a la Fodor.) The question then is whether the Generality Constraint could be satisfied in the absence of a public natural language. There’s been some recent work on this by Peter Carruthers and by Liz Camp that I need to get into.

    3. Depending on how we resolve (2), we might think that the Constraint can’t be satisfied without a public language, in which case we would have to conclude that animals without language don’t have concepts — or we might conclude that animal concepts are just very different from ours, that they satisfy the Constraint differently or to a weaker degree.

    But I have to admit that I really don’t care about materialism or dualism.

  10. Here is the problem with Thomistic Dualism that Dr. Egnor is so strongly promoting:
    Was Thomas Aquinas the product of Christianity/Catholicism?
    Or was he the product of Aristotle’s philosophy that crept into Christianity and Catholic teaching?

    In other words: Who converted who?

  11. We don’t understand how a normal (single) brain works. How could we possibly draw conclusions about a semi-merged pair of brains. Are they one ? two ? somewhere in between ? This is even before evaluating the concept of ‘dualism’.

  12. dazz: Here’s the original paper, in case anyone is interested
    Original paper

    From the abstract:

    Across a wide variety of tasks, split-brain patients with a complete and radiologically confirmed transection of the corpus callosum showed full awareness of presence, and well above chance-level recognition of location, orientation and identity of stimuli throughout the entire visual field, irrespective of response type (left hand, right hand, or verbally). Crucially, we used confidence ratings to assess conscious awareness. This revealed that also on high confidence trials, indicative of conscious perception, response type did not affect performance. These findings suggest that severing the cortical connections between hemispheres splits visual perception, but does not create two independent conscious perceivers within one brain.

    They do well to use the word “suggest”! 🙂

    There was a thread here that touched on the biology. But the fact that we have two unequal hemispheres that act almost independently as centres of consciousness whilst the corpus callosum acts as mediator is well supported by evidence. Skeptics, please indulge me with a glance here

  13. Alan Fox,

    There are apparently people who are missing two-thirds of their brain and even more and they function fine..Some of them are accomplished scientists and musicians…

  14. J-Mac: There are apparently people who are missing two-thirds of their brain and even more and they function fine.

    Just a quibble. I think you mean that they are missing two-thirds of a normal brain. That isn’t the same as missing two-thirds of their own brain.

  15. Neil Rickert: Just a quibble.I think you mean that they are missing two-thirds of a normal brain.That isn’t the same as missing two-thirds of their own brain.

    They are missing two-thirds or more of the brain tissue…
    You can imagine a melon with two-thirds of its composition missing…
    Brain scans reveal that the majority of their bran tissue is unaccounted for yet their brain functions and abilities are the same in comparison to people who have full brain tissues…

    Does it help?

  16. J-Mac: They are missing two-thirds or more of the brain tissue…

    But that surely means two-thirds of brain tissue that is present in a normal brain.

    My point: Growing up with a brain 1/3 the normal size is very different from growing up with a normal brain and then having 2/3 of it scraped out.

  17. Neil Rickert: But that surely means two-thirds of brain tissue that is present in a normal brain.

    My point:Growing up with a brain 1/3 the normal size is very different from growing up with a normal brain and then having 2/3 of it scraped out.

    This is a question for Dr. Egnor….My understanding is that even if 2/3 or more of your brain is removed the patient can still remain fully conscious and fully or partially functional.. It all depends on what parts of the brain is removed and which part is left…
    Why do you think it’s very different growing up with 1/3 of your brain then having the same 2/3 removed as an adult?

  18. J-Mac: Why do you think it’s very different growing up with 1/3 of your brain then having the same 2/3 removed as an adult?

    The point I have been making, all along, is that you do not grow up with 1/3 of your brain. You grow up with your brain, which happens to be 1/3 the size of a normal brain. I understand that some birth defects have this outcome.

    During development (or growing up), which begins before birth, the developing person learns to make the most of the brain tissue that is there. And often they can grow up to what seems to be a normal person.

    By contrast, if 2/3 is removed as an adult, I would expect some loss of function. By that time, the brain has already specialized, and the removal would damage the abilities that depend on the parts of the brain that are removed. The person may be able to partially recover the lost abilities, but they are unlikely to fully recover.

  19. Neil Rickert,

    I agree… but if a large part of the brain 2/3 or so can be removed, and the patient can retain normal functions, both materialist and IDiests have some serious paradox to resolve…more so Darwinists I think…

  20. Kantian Naturalist: 2. what makes concepts different from other kinds of representations, if concepts are a natural kind after all?

    I don’t see concepts as representations. I see them more as nodes in a perceptual network. Roughly speaking, concepts are what guides us in how we carve up the world.

    Perhaps I should not that I consider proprioception (roughly, self-perception) as an important kind of perception.

    Maybe I should stop there, or we will finish up talking past one another.

  21. Neil Rickert: The point I have been making, all along, is that you do not grow up with 1/3 of your brain.You grow up with your brain, which happens to be 1/3 the size of a normal brain.I understand that some birth defects have this outcome.

    During development (or growing up), which begins before birth, the developing person learns to make the most of the brain tissue that is there.And often they can grow up to what seems to be a normal person.

    By contrast, if 2/3 is removed as an adult, I would expect some loss of function.By that time, the brain has already specialized, and the removal would damage the abilities that depend on the parts of the brain that are removed.The person may be able to partially recover the lost abilities, but they are unlikely to fully recover.

    Saying the brain makes the most of the brain tissue there is saying nothing about mechanism or if its true. Its a guess based on maintaining the concept the brain is needed for thinking.
    Yet all these things are clues the “brain’ is irrelevant to thinking.
    tHis because its the immaterial soul that does the thinking as the bible says.
    The brain is not a brain but instead a memory machine, like in ones computer, that connects the soul/memory/body.
    You could remove 3/4 of the brain or 9/10ths. its irrelevant. It just needs the memory.
    these functioning people/kids with loss of brain tissue/parts PROVE their memory is not affected.
    while affected memories, as in retardation, do make a difference.
    the abberations here are great clues to the redunctionist equation.
    The brain is just the mind which is just the memory. AS gods word always says.

    the option of the soul was wrongly dismissed by “sciencey types” without intellectual authority.
    Now modern research keeps bringing up the abberations that suggest the thinking being is not a sum of parts in the skull. In fact if it was true subtracting even a few parts should have a great difference. never mind thirds/halfs, quarters.

  22. J-Mac: They are missing two-thirds or more of the brain tissue…
    You can imagine a melon with two-thirds of its composition missing…
    Brain scans reveal that the majority of their bran tissue is unaccounted for yet their brain functions and abilities are the same in comparison to people who have full brain tissues…

    That’s what you’d like to believe, yes. But in these cases what is the IQ? I’m betting it’s around 75.
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12301-man-with-tiny-brain-shocks-doctors/

    I realize that you you this may in fact seem perfectly normal, but trust me, it ain’t.

  23. OMagain,

    Here is the article by Dr. Micheal Egnor:

    “…I have scores of patients who are missing large areas of their brains, yet who have quite good minds. I have a patient born with two-thirds of her brain absent. She’s a normal junior high kid who loves to play soccer. Another patient, missing a similar amount of brain tissue, is an accomplished musician with a master’s degree in English….”

    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/06/a-map-of-the-soul

    The essence of the article by Dr. Egnor’s seems that to explain the issue of the large parts of the brain missing– 2/3 and more–one must invoke non-material entity, such as an immaterial soul…

    I would argue, and I have challenged Dr. Egnor more than once, to consider quantum consciousness/mind (which are not necessary the same thing)…

    In short, quantum mechanics could explain why people with large parts of the brain missing often retain normal brain and body functions because of how quantum entanglement works… Quantum information can not be destroyed…so if consciousness is quantum, the removal of large parts of the brain shouldn’t matter because quantum consciousness/mind are never affected as long as a part of human brain is able to process that information in some microtubules in the remaining neurons..

    This is just an extremely short explanation of how QM could be involved in our brain processes…

  24. Robert Byers: Saying the brain makes the most of the brain tissue there is saying nothing about mechanism or if its true.

    I didn’t think I was making an argument about mechanism.

    the option of the soul was wrongly dismissed by “sciencey types” without intellectual authority.

    <sarcasm>

    Sure. And phlogiston was wrongly dismissed by sciencey types. And ether was wrongly dismissed by sciency types. Yea, let’s go back to the dark ages.

    </sarcasm>

  25. J-Mac: I have a patient born with two-thirds of her brain absent.

    That’s just a foolish thing for Egnor to say. Whatever wasn’t there at birth was never hers. Actually, none of her brain was missing. Rather, she had an abnormally small brain.

  26. Neil Rickert: That’s just a foolish thing for Egnor to say.Whatever wasn’t there at birth was never hers.Actually, none of her brain was missing.Rather, she had an abnormally small brain. We know the parts of the brain that we expect to see in a human, so when some isn’t there, we can say its missing.

    No, I don’t think that Egnor is saying her brain was small, compared to others, he is saying there are sections that exist in most humans that are missing. You know there are different parts to the brain right?

    Your complaint is way off the mark. Egnor knows what he is talking about.

  27. Neil Rickert,
    I know…He wasn’t being specific but there are people with large chunks of their brain removed who retain consciousness, memories and all or most of brain and bod functions…

    This is the most challenging issue for many believers on both sides of the issue…

    Not so much for me… 😉

  28. phoodoo: No, I don’t think that Egnor is saying her brain was small, compared to others, he is saying there are sections that exist in most humans that are missing.You know there are different parts to the brain right?

    Your complaint is way off the mark.Egnor knows what he is talking about.

    I disagree… Engor is cat-walking his preconceived idea about the soul while being careful not to touch on sensitive or difficult issues, such as :

    The removal or damage of small parts of the brain causes vegetative state.

    General anesthetic disables consciousness while all brain functions remain normal.

    If we have an immaterial soul, why do anesthetics cease temporarily its function?

  29. J-Mac: So, explain it why rather than leaving me to figure it out!

    I’m not sure what’s to explain.

    If you remove part of a computer, it may well stop working. But the brain isn’t anything like a computer. So that intuition misleads us.

    The computer is the product of intelligent design. That makes it very mechanical, with many single points of failure.

    The brain operation is mostly a cooperative network of autonomous neurons. It isn’t mechanical (at least, as I understand “mechanical”). There probably aren’t any single points of failure — when one neuron fails, others can step it to take over. However, removing significant amounts of brain tissue will change the system at multiple points. So there still could be failure, if there is too much damage for other neurons to be able to take over.

    Changing topics: the most obvious issue with ID, is that for intelligent design to work would require an extremely mechanical design. So ID is, implicitly, an extremely materialistic and mechanistic theory. Yet the proponents of ID are anti-materialist and anti-mechanist. They somehow fail to see the contradictions in their own positions.

  30. Neil Rickert: I’m not sure what’s to explain.

    If you remove part of a computer, it may well stop working.But the brain isn’t anything like a computer.So that intuition misleads us.

    The computer is the product of intelligent design.That makes it very mechanical, with many single points of failure.

    The brain operation is mostly a cooperative network of autonomous neurons. It isn’t mechanical (at least, as I understand “mechanical”).There probably aren’t any single points of failure — when one neuron fails, others can step it to take over.However, removing significant amounts of brain tissue will change the system at multiple points.So there still could be failure, if there is too much damage for other neurons to be able to take over.

    Changing topics: the most obvious issue with ID, is that for intelligent design to work would require an extremely mechanical design.So ID is, implicitly, an extremely materialistic and mechanistic theory.Yet the proponents of ID are anti-materialist and anti-mechanist.They somehow fail to see the contradictions in their own positions.

    Or the brain works like a orchestrated network (via quantum entanglement) with the many backup systems to assure its function…One system fails (or its removed) another systems takes over, like in an orchestra of the many of the same kind of instruments…

    Penrose and Hameroff call it Orchestrated Objective Reduction.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchestrated_objective_reduction
    While I disagree on few aspects of their theory (mainly with Hameroff), I think their theory has some promises being recently proven by experiments confirming quantum vibration in human brain…

  31. Hi Neil Rickert,

    The computer is the product of intelligent design. That makes it very mechanical, with many single points of failure….

    Changing topics: the most obvious issue with ID, is that for intelligent design to work would require an extremely mechanical design. So ID is, implicitly, an extremely materialistic and mechanistic theory. Yet the proponents of ID are anti-materialist and anti-mechanist. They somehow fail to see the contradictions in their own positions.

    Surely all that follows is that the Designer of the human brain was far more intelligent than the human designer of a computer? Why must design be mechanical?

  32. vjtorley: Surely all that follows is that the Designer of the human brain was far more intelligent than the human designer of a computer? Why must design be mechanical?

    Hi VJ,

    Nor it should be… It seems that if consciousness is quantum ( as this is the best science has gotten to explaining it ) , operating via quantum coherence, the brain is neither mechanical nor its operations are computational…

    This means that AI will never be able to get even close to the functions of human brain…that we know about…Simply matching the operations per second per neuron, which is estimated to be 10 ^25 per brain seems very unlikely to be matched by any computer…even by Star Trek computer… 😉

  33. vjtorley: Why must design be mechanical?

    Because you need mechanism to project the design. The designer needs mechanism to be able to predict what he will get. Otherwise you won’t get what you think you designed.

  34. J-Mac: Hi VJ,

    Nor it should be… It seems that if consciousness is quantum ( as this is the best science has gotten to explaining it ) , operating via quantum coherence, the brain is neither mechanical nor its operations are computational…

    That is nothing but empty speculation based on nothing but opinion That’s not science!

    J-Mac: Or the brain works like a orchestrated network (via quantum entanglement) with the many backup systems to assure its function…One system fails (or its removed) another systems takes over, like in an orchestra of the many of the same kind of instruments…

    Let us know when there is some data to support that speculation

    While I disagree on few aspects of their theory (mainly with Hameroff), I think their theory has some promises being recently proven by experiments confirming quantum vibration in human brain…

    Nothing of the sort has been proven but I’ll take the charitable route and ask you to point us to the data that supports your assertion.

  35. PeterP,

    Looks like someone very familiar is trying to get back at me… PeterP…huh?

    I guess PeterP has no clue how to search??? Isn’t that ironic? 😉

    Let’s see what PeterP has to offer instead of Penrose and Hameroff apparent speculations…
    Take is away … and make sure you search this time lol
    Let’s see some data rather than speculations on PeterP part…
    We are all ears…aren’t we…;-)

  36. J-Mac: Looks like someone very familiar is trying to get back at me… PeterP…huh?

    I guess PeterP has no clue how to search??? Isn’t that ironic? 😉

    Let’s see what PeterP has to offer instead of Penrose and Hameroff apparent speculations…
    Take is away … and make sure you search this time lol
    Let’s see some data rather than speculations on PeterP part…
    We are all ears…aren’t we…;-)

    So, no supporting data forthcoming from you. I understand and now everyone can see how baseless your speculations are.

    FYI: I have no problem searching which is why I knew you would not and could not, supply the supporting data for your speculations and assertions.

    Thanks for that!

    Attempting to shift the burden of proof is a recognized tactic and, some might say the desperation, of trying to cover for the the emptiness of your speculations.

  37. PeterP: So, no supporting data forthcoming from you.I understand and now everyone can see how baseless your speculations are.

    FYI:I have no problem searching which is why I knew you would not and could not, supply the supporting data for your speculations and assertions.

    Thanks for that!

    Attempting to shift the burden of proof is a recognized tactic and, some might say the desperation, of trying to cover for the the emptiness of your speculations.

    Obviously experts like PeterP have only big mouths and nothing to offer instead of what they don’t agree with… not even their own, supposedly better speculations…

    For those who care, here is a link to the summary of:

    “Consciousness in the universe A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory.”

    Please note that Penrose and Hameroff predicted in late 1980 and early 1990 that of quantum consciousness theory were to be true, quantum vibrations would have to be detected in microtubules in the neurons, despite many objections from experts in QM the human brain is too wet to maintain quantum entanglement. They stand vindicated now…

    Abstract
    The nature of consciousness, the mechanism by which it occurs in the brain, and its ultimate place in the universe are unknown.
    We proposed in the mid 1990’s that consciousness depends on biologically ‘orchestrated’ coherent quantum processes in
    collections of microtubules within brain neurons, that these quantum processes correlate with, and regulate, neuronal synaptic and
    membrane activity, and that the continuous Schrödinger evolution of each such process terminates in accordance with the specific
    Diósi–Penrose (DP) scheme of ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’) of the quantum state. This orchestrated OR activity (‘Orch OR’) is
    taken to result in moments of conscious awareness and/or choice. The DP form of OR is related to the fundamentals of quantum
    mechanics and space–time geometry, so Orch OR suggests that there is a connection between the brain’s biomolecular processes
    and the basic structure of the universe. Here we review Orch OR in light of criticisms and developments in quantum biology, neuroscience,
    physics and cosmology. We also introduce a novel suggestion of ‘beat frequencies’ of faster microtubule vibrations as
    a possible source of the observed electro-encephalographic (‘EEG’) correlates of consciousness. We conclude that consciousness
    plays an intrinsic role in the universe.

    https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1571064513001188/1-s2.0-S1571064513001188-main.pdf?_tid=63271658-e399-11e7-88e1-00000aab0f02&acdnat=1513563540_d147c6059e4ccf404c838500ac203ad5

    Make sure you don’t choke on it Mr. expert PeterP lol

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hw3CE04LGiA

  38. J-Mac: Make sure you don’t choke on it Mr. expert PeterP lol

    Choke on their ‘suggestions’? Now that’s funny no matter how novel they think they are.

    How about the actual data that demonstrates that this has been proven? Try providing that for a change.

  39. PeterP: Choke on their ‘suggestions’? Now that’s funny no matter how novel they think they are.

    How about the actual data that demonstrates that this has been proven?Try providing that for a change.

    On no… Looks like keiths has been resurrected…same nonsense, self-contradictory comments and angry attitude…
    Welcome back!

  40. J-Mac: On no… Looks like keiths has been resurrected…same nonsense, self-contradictory comments and angry attitude…
    Welcome back!

    Your design detector is on the fritz better have that looked at before it leads you too far astray from reality….oh wait….nevermind…LOL

    FYI: bluster and baseless speculations aren’t a substitute for the data necessary to support your assertions.

    You, I and everyone else knows that there isn’t any data to support Penrose’s pet hobby horse. Poor thing has been flogged for years with nothing but ‘suggestions’ to show for all that effort.

  41. Neil Rickert: I didn’t think I was making an argument aboutmechanism.

    <sarcasm>

    Sure.And phlogiston was wrongly dismissed by sciencey types.And ether was wrongly dismissed by sciency types.Yea, let’s go back to the dark ages.

    </sarcasm>

    Ah. Yet thats not true. ether, etc, was not dismissed out of hand but defeated by investigion.
    the soul was never defeat in its existence but ruled away as a option based simply on a rejection of it as a option.
    its poor science and now its stronger then ever in explaining things.

  42. J-Mac:
    Robert Byers,

    you should publish this Robert…

    You might be mocking me BUT i desire to publish it but it would be so hard to get it published and hard to make a paper with such need to cite.
    I wrote a paper on the origin of marsupialism from a biblical stance and had a devil of a time getting creationists to publish it. It was poorly written but well thought out.
    I think my equation could lead to healing but its so hard.

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