Science Uprising: Who wins the battle over mind?

The scientific evidence for immaterial mind defeats materialism – claims Dr. Egnor, a neurosurgeon affiliated with the Discovery Institute… Not so quickly – says Dr. Faizal Ali, a psychiatrist affiliated with CAMH and University of Toronto, who describes himself as an anti-creationist and a militant atheist. He believes that neural networks can be responsible for the emergence of the human mind, naturally…

Let’s look at their evidence…

Dr. Faizal Ali suggested:

“I often ask people who insist their mind is immaterial to put their money where their mouths are, by scooping out their brain and pulverizing it in a food processor, then continuing our discussion with their mental faculties still intact, as they should be if they were correct. No one has ever taken me up on this.”

Dr. Egnor does the scooping of the brains often by surgically removing the great majority of the brain… If Dr. Ali’s neural networks theory is correct, how come the mind is often not effected by the majority of the neural networks missing after surgery? This evidence would seem to support Dr. Egnor’s theory that the mind is immaterial and therefore unaffected by the majority of the brain tissue missing…

However, just like Dr. Ali seems to imply, not the whole brain can be discarded. Moreover, it is a well known fact, and both neurosurgeons and psychiatrists are well aware of the fact, that even a small damage to certain parts of the brain can shut down the entire neural networks and the immaterial mind…

So, who is right? Who is wrong?

238 thoughts on “Science Uprising: Who wins the battle over mind?

  1. phoodoo: Can my IMac decide it doesn’t want to display images, or type the words I write?

    Can the neurons in your optic nerve decide they don’t want to transmit any more?

    phoodoo: Why not?

    Why not?

    phoodoo: Can my GPS decide to give me a location which s different than what I ask for?

    Has it had that ability programmed in?

    Why don’t you ask something like: can a robot car decide that it needs to slow down based on another drivers behavior and the road conditions?

    Can it?

    If you were being intellectually honest here you’d actually answer the questions others have been asking about when this magical, mysterious ability to decide makes its appearance. Does everything living have it? If not, how do you know what does and does not have it?

    It seems to me like you just can’t accept there is no scientific evidence for a “soul” and that’s where you think decisions are made. I mean, unless you actually say what your alternative is to mere physics is who can really decide?

  2. phoodoo: It was a simple question Joe. Can the ciliate decide not to move, or it must move when it bumps into something?

    Likewise, you believe you were designed.
    And that means that something programmed you, right? And that something also presumably made the rules that apply in the realm where you pretend that you know you make decisions.

    So, can you behave in a way that your designer did not intend to happen? Can you act against those rules in your special decisions making realm?

    If not, then you are just as unable to decide not to move as the cilate is when it bumps into something.

  3. phoodoo: You are a fool who doesn’t understand computers.

    Can a car building robot decide it doesn’t want to put the door on the car?

    If not, why can’t it?

    Humans have evolved a general purpose intelligence that can be put to many different usages. Evolution designed us that way. Each generation improves, in relation to the environment, just a little. Populations who live at high altitudes select genes that provide benefits at those altitudes and so on.

    Car building robots, on the other hand, have no general purpose intelligence because they don’t need any to do the specific task they have been designed to do. The concept of “want” has not been programmed in.

    Unlike, say a robot cleaner that wants to recharge when power is low…

    So, if I gave car making robots a general purpose intelligence and make it so they reproduced with variation then I’d expect that one day a robot would appear that did not want to put doors on cars any more and lead it’s people in a glorious revolution…..

    It’s like the concept of “build a strawman, burn that strawman, look proud like a toddler after potty” was made for you….

  4. phoodoo: Can my IMac decide it doesn’t want to display images, or type the words I write? Why not? Can my GPS decide to give me a location which s different than what I ask for? Can Siri decide she is sick of answering kids under 7? Can my car decide to go left even if I turn the wheel to the right? Can it decide when I press the ignition to open the trunk instead?

    They can’t decide against their nature, neither can you. You keep laboring under the delusion that the concept of choice entails being able to take any imaginable action. It doesn’t.

  5. phoodoo: Can a car building robot decide it doesn’t want to put the door on the car?

    Irrelevant question.

    The robot puts the door on the car because that is what it was programmed to. If it is programmed to do something else, it will do something else.

    But self driving cars are also programmed, in such a way that, for all appearances, they make decisions about what to when presented with situations that they may not even have ever encountered before.

    On what basis do you say they don’t have free will, and we do? Because we are lousy drivers compared to them?

  6. Just watch some videos of goal seeking robots. They are not programmed for specific behavior. They are designed to learn how to achieve a goal, and to learn how to overcome obstacles.

  7. Faizal Ali:
    BTW, the discussion between Michael Egnor and I continues.Here is the latest installment:

    https://betterrightthanhappy.com/michael-egnor-responds/

    Good to know that someone is still fighting the good fight here. I still think that the real flaw with Egnor’s position is that he’s helping himself to a distinction between understanding and imagining here — if I can understand something that I cannot imagine, then what I am understanding cannot be a concrete particular but must be abstract — and since an abstract universal cannot be known by a concrete particular (but why not??) it follows that the intellect cannot be or depend on any concrete particulars, such as brains. Hence the intellect must be immaterial.

    The whole argument goes by far too quick for my taste and Egnor is relying on the fact that his audience doesn’t know enough history of philosophy (Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant), philosophy of language (Wittgenstein, Quine, Sellars) or cognitive neuroscience to see what’s wrong with any of it. And since his argument reinforces all their own prejudices, they have no incentive to scrutiny it to begin with.

  8. phoodoo:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    It was a simple question Joe.Can the ciliate decide not to move, or it must move when it bumps into something?

    The excitable membrane ./ cilia system is how the ciliate ddecides to back up.

    And the question I asked remains unanswered by you — if a system like that which has no supernatural processes is in our ancestor, at what later point was the supernatural stuff inserted?

  9. Kantian Naturalist,

    I’m not even trying to deal with his amateurish attempts at philsophising. His mangling of science and basic logic is more than enough material for me to work with.

  10. Faizal Ali: I’m not even trying to deal with his amateurish attempts at philsophising. His mangling of science and basic logic is more than enough material for me to work with.

    Fair enough. Division of intellectual labor and all that.

  11. Egnor sums up his confusion in a single paragraph:

    Abstract thoughts about types are immaterial in origin—they do not, and cannot, arise from brain processes. Immaterial entities cannot arise from material things, because (to paraphrase Thomas Aquinas) the effect of a cause must, in some sense, be in the cause. A cause in nature cannot give what it does not, in some sense, have. I cannot impart momentum to an object unless I have some momentum (energy) to give. Matter cannot give rise to immateriality.

    There’s a lot of wrong packed into those five sentences.

    First, abstractions need not have a platonic existence in some immaterial realm, any more than numbers do.

    Second, thoughts about abstractions are not the same as the abstractions themselves, and they need not have the same qualities.

    Third, Egnor says:

    …the effect of a cause must, in some sense, be in the cause…Matter cannot give rise to immateriality.

    If Egnor’s reasoning were correct, then it would be impossible for us to imagine stop signs without using octagonal red metallic masses of brain tissue to do so.

    Fourth, suppose we think about something that doesn’t exist. By Egnor’s reasoning, our minds don’t exist, because only a nonexistent mind could give rise to thoughts about a nonexistent object.

    Like Ben Carson, Egnor is not exactly a credit to his profession.

  12. What is their profession, and are they bad at it? Not a rhetorical question.

  13. Faizal Ali: But self driving cars are also programmed, in such a way that, for all appearances, they make decisions

    Right. See the problem?

  14. Rumraket: They can’t decide against their nature

    You have said this about ten times now. I have no idea what the fuck against one’s nature means and why you continue to parrot this nonsense phrase.

  15. petrushka,

    What is their profession, and are they bad at it? Not a rhetorical question.

    They’re neurosurgeons, and they’re not (to my knowledge) bad at it. It’s their poor thinking in other areas that’s the problem.

  16. phoodoo, to Rumraket:

    I have no idea what the fuck against one’s nature means and why you continue to parrot this nonsense phrase.

    That you see it as a “nonsense phrase” is a symptom of your deep confusion on this issue.

  17. keiths,

    Zero confusion on the issue Keiths.

    You just make a decision because you make a decision, and yet it’s completely based on physics, and determined. Now that is some serious confusion if not just downright buffoonery.

  18. Joe:

    I particularly liked the fact that some of the discrete areas of the cortex are also “discreet”.

    Those are the immaterial parts of the cortex. You’d hardly know they’re there.

  19. More bad news for the dualists, from a paper by Darby et al:

    Significance

    Free will consists of a desire to act (volition) and a sense of responsibility for that action (agency), but the brain regions responsible for these processes remain unknown. We found that brain lesions that disrupt volition occur in many different locations, but fall within a single brain network, defined by connectivity to the anterior cingulate. Lesions that disrupt agency also occur in many different locations, but fall within a separate network, defined by connectivity to the precuneus. Together, these networks may underlie our perception of free will, with implications for neuropsychiatric diseases in which these processes are impaired.

  20. keiths: Free will consists of a desire to act (volition) and a sense of responsibility for that action (agency)

    Wrong

  21. keiths:
    Joe:

    Those are the immaterial parts of the cortex.You’d hardly know they’re there.

    Maybe there’s no there there.

  22. phoodoo,

    If the will is immaterial, why does it vanish when certain kinds of brain damage occur?

  23. Another Darby paper that’s bad news for the dualists:

    Significance

    Cases like that of Charles Whitman, who murdered 16 people after growth of a brain tumor, have sparked debate about why some brain lesions, but not others, might lead to criminal behavior. Here we systematically characterize such lesions and compare them with lesions that cause other symptoms. We find that lesions in multiple different brain areas are associated with criminal behavior. However, these lesions all fall within a unique functionally connected brain network involved in moral decision making. Furthermore, connectivity to competing brain networks predicts the abnormal moral decisions observed in these patients. These results provide insight into why some brain lesions, but not others, might predispose to criminal behavior, with potential neuroscience, medical, and legal implications.

  24. Dualists,

    If the will is immaterial, then why is moral decision making affected by certain types of brain damage?

  25. phoodoo: Wrong

    Provide your own definition then. Unless your favoured rhetorical style is that of a six year old.

  26. Rumraket to Phoodoo: I think choice is simply being able to consider multiple options, not that you cantake any imaginable action. And it certaintly doesn’t require the ability to act against your nature. That would incoherent.

    Is self-preservation an attribute of animal nature?
    Are humans animals?
    Does attempting suicide go against animal nature?
    Is it part of an animal’s nature to partake in sex whenever they get the urge to do so?
    Is deciding to become celibate going against our nature?
    Do you think that human nature is different from animal nature?
    If so, what is it that sets us apart?

    I believe that these are a few of the questions that need to be answered if we want to clarify what we mean by “our nature”.

    And if we do have a dual nature then we do not have an option but to go against at least one aspect of our nature.

  27. keiths:
    phoodoo,

    If the will is immaterial, why does it vanish when certain kinds of brain damage occur?

    Keith’s, the very first paragraph, the very first sentence of the paper is wrong. Why would I believe anything after that?

  28. keiths: qutes from a paper by Darby et al:

    Free will consists of a desire to act (volition) and a sense of responsibility for that action (agency)

    I agree with phoodoo here.

    Someone may stab another person in an act of passion. They are well aware that they are responsible for the crime but they are unable to control their rage. This is not a free act as they could not control their anger. Free will does not mean free licence, it means being in complete control of one’s actions.

  29. phoodoo: Keith’s, the very first paragraph, the very first sentence of the paper is wrong.

    So correct it? Then you can publish a better paper?

    Of course that’ll never happen will it? You have never said once what is correct, but you seem to know what is wrong without fail.

  30. CharlieM,

    But my argument is even more fundamental than this.

    Let’s say you are sitting down and saying should I respond to a post on Tsz .Now you think I can choose if I want to or if I don’t, it’s all my choice. I control my hands, I can move them to type or not type it’s all totally up to me, I can choose. But what the materialist must conclude is that this is false. It my feel like you can choose wick to write and it may feel like you can choose to respond at all or night, but this is just an illusion. You can actually ever only do one thing, and it is exactly the thing you do. Whatever state the chemicals in your brain are in is exactly what you will do. You can change nothing, the state is the state and whatever it is, that is what you must do.

    Again, no one actually believes this, but it is the ultimate conclusion of the materialist theory.

  31. phoodoo: Again, no one actually believes this, but it is the ultimate conclusion of the materialist theory.

    Now, if only someone could provide a theory that explained the available evidence better then the current one.

    Now that you have conclusively demonstrated that the materialist position is nonsensical perhaps the time has come to provide that alternative?

    2199 comments and you never did say first time round: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/what-is-a-decision-in-phoodoo-world/

    But perhaps the time is now! How are decisions made in phoodoo world

    phoodoo: You can change nothing, the state is the state and whatever it is, that is what you must do.

    When you make a decision, how are you able to avoid this? What is special about the way you think that decisions are actually make that avoids this?

  32. phoodoo: But what the materialist must conclude is that this is false. It my feel like you can choose wick to write and it may feel like you can choose to respond at all or night, but this is just an illusion. You can actually ever only do one thing, and it is exactly the thing you do.

    No that is not the position of a “materialist”, though some of them may endorse it. That it the position of someone who does not accept the existence of libertarian free will.

    Anyway, having described that position, are you going to provide any reason to deem it false?

  33. Faizal Ali: Anyway, having described that position, are you going to provide any reason to deem it false?

    phoodoo’s “gut feelz” deem it false.

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