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?

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

  1. At the 9 minute mark Dr. Egnor asks a thought provoking question:

    “Why are there no intellectual seizures?

    People with epilepsy disorder experience a great variety of seizures and behavior tics but apparently no abstract thoughts, they don’t contemplate justice, calculus, Shakespeare etc…
    WHY the exception?

  2. Nobody in that linked article had “most of their brain removed and retained normal function” as you have previously claimed.

    often by surgically removing the great majority of the brain

    Could you quote from the article you have linked to where that is said?

  3. “majority” does not appear in that article.
    “removed” does not appear in that article.

    Did you even read it?

    That article is talking about people with congenital defects who have surprisingly normal lives. You are talking in this OP about brains being removed and people continining on normally. Someone being born with 2/3 of a brain is not the same as someone having the majority of their brain removed, as you have claimed as evidence for, well, whatever it is you are claiming.

  4. Both of their arguments are laughably bad. Egnor’s argument for the immaterial mind depends on a false theory of what concepts are, and Ali’s use of “neural networks” as if that completely solves the problem of the mind is at least thirty years behind contemporary cognitive neuroscience.

  5. J-Mac: There are many experiments that seem to imply retrocausality but they don’t necessarily prove the existence of an immaterial soul… Quite to the contrary…
    Dr. Egnor, whom I respect, has provided me with insights into the human consciousness and mind that don’t depend on an immaterial soul…Other neurosurgeons too, as well as many experiments in that field…

    The perfect examples is when Dr. Egnor (or others) surgically remove the majority of patient’s brain. In most cases the brain is able to compensate and the patients can more of less function, but not always.

    That is what you said. This article does not support anything you have said.

    So, do you have any support for your claims or not?

  6. J-Mac: People with epilepsy disorder experience a great variety of seizures and behavior tics but apparently no abstract thoughts, they don’t contemplate justice, calculus, Shakespeare etc…
    WHY the exception?

    Since the lights in my house do not come on when I turn off the water, the control of the lights is immaterial.Why not?

  7. Kantian Naturalist:
    Both of their arguments are laughably bad. Egnor’s argument for the immaterial mind depends on a false theory of what concepts are, and Ali’s use of “neural networks” as if that completely solves the problem of the mind is at least thirty years behind contemporary cognitive neuroscience.

    I agree…

  8. For what it’s worth, the cover article of the current issue of Scientific American is an extensive look at current work in the field of the mind and how the brain produces it. It’s regarded as an emergent phenomenon from the neural structure and the process of neural firing. Lizzie could have written it, I suspect.

  9. Anatole France, the satirist, had a brain about two-thirds the average weight. He won a Nobel Prize for literature.

    But his most remembered novel predicts an absurd and impossible future in which a high-tech civilization is destroyed by terrorists. So perhaps he wasn’t all that smart.

  10. Such bad logic by Ali. Dismantle a car engine and randomly rearrange the parts, and the car no longer works and cannot be driven. That doesn’t entail the car is the driver. So many of these arguments against immaterial mind need a basic logic 101 class.

  11. Immaterial mindists: How does drunk work? How does unconscious work? What about sleep?

  12. J-Mac: I agree…

    One of the problems with Intelligent Design is that it disagrees with nothing.

    Common descent? Sure, ID is fine with that.
    The long round trip in the giraffe’s neves? Necessary for timing that, so it’s Intelligently Designed.

    That’s the trouble with the whole ID enterprise, and what makes it not-science. Newton’s predictions would eventually give the wrong answers, so a new understanding was sought. All ID does is retrospectively predict everything that is happening anyway. So it never needs to disagree with anything because everything is support for ID. And that’s what makes it an unnecessary entity that can be discarded from further consideration.

    Unless you can tell me otherwise….What yet to be determined fact is your particular branch of non-materialism incompatible with?

  13. EricMH:
    Such bad logic by Ali.Dismantle a car engine and randomly rearrange the parts, and the car no longer works and cannot be driven.That doesn’t entail the car is the driver.So many of these arguments against immaterial mind need a basic logic 101 class.

    So, are you suggesting that immaterial mind, whatever it is, does depend on hardware, such as human brain, at least to a certain degree?

  14. Rich:

    Immaterial mindists: How does drunk work? How does unconscious work? What about sleep?

    Dementia? Why can morality be affected by brain damage?

    And centrally, how does an immaterial mind influence the operation of a physical brain?

  15. J-Mac, to Eric:

    So, are you suggesting that immaterial mind, whatever it is, does depend on hardware, such as human brain, at least to a certain degree?

    Practically everyone believes that the brain does something, J-Mac.

  16. keiths: Practically everyone believes that the brain does something, J-Mac.

    Provides the darkness and distortion to the looking glass.

  17. keiths:
    J-Mac, to Eric:

    Practically everyone believes that the brain does something, J-Mac.

    I would hope so…though I got an impression from some dualists, like Dr. Egnor, that after the great majority of the brain is surgically removed, the immaterial mind or soul, compensates for the missing hardware.
    This notion would defeat Dr. Ali’s neural network idea…

  18. EricMH: Such bad logic by Ali. Dismantle a car engine and randomly rearrange the parts, and the car no longer works and cannot be driven. That doesn’t entail the car is the driver. So many of these arguments against immaterial mind need a basic logic 101 class.

    I think thats a reasonable criticism.
    I think all of the available evidence now suggests that the mind is an emergent property of the working brain but that doesnt mean one couldn’t suggest a model for a supernatural source for the mind thats consistent with the evidence.( I didnt describe it as ‘immaterial source’ because everyone agrees the mind is immaterial) The only model I’ve seen that comes close to this is describing the brain as a sort of antenna that picks up an external mind. I think to be taken seriously this would have to be elaborated a great deal ..ie. whats the nature of the external ‘mind signal’ , how does the brain read it etc etc. The good thing about this is that it could be distinguishable from the non-supernatural view of the mind by future experiments and understanding

  19. RodW: The only model I’ve seen that comes close to this is describing the brain as a sort of antenna that picks up an external mind. I think to be taken seriously this would have to be elaborated a great deal ..ie. whats the nature of the external ‘mind signal’ , how does the brain read it etc etc. The good thing about this is that it could be distinguishable from the non-supernatural view of the mind by future experiments and understanding

    Do roach brains operate this way? Snake brains? Bird brains? Rat brains?

    And so forth.

  20. J-Mac: I got an impression from some dualists, like Dr. Egnor, that after the great majority of the brain is surgically removed, the immaterial mind or soul, compensates for the missing hardware.

    Do you have a quotation where he says that? Or a link in a youtube video?

    But you know what, on second thoughts I now believe it is possible that some people could have the majority of the brains removed and function exactly the same as before.

  21. J-Mac: So, are you suggesting that immaterial mind, whatever it is, does depend on hardware, such as human brain, at least to a certain degree?

    No, that does not follow from my comment. The immaterial mind may or may not need physical hardware. The point is that the destruction of said hardware has no bearing over whether it is needed or not. I destroy the car and the driver can get out and walk, and get to his destination (much more slowly). The car still does not drive.

    Or a closer analogy, someone cuts my internet cable. You’ll no longer see me posting on this forum, but that doesn’t mean I don’t exist. Also, maybe I know you “in real life” and can just walk next door and talk to you face to face. Again, the internet has no bearing on whether I do or do not exist, nor does it entail I need the internet to communicate.

  22. “Weather” is an emergent property of atmospheric processes. As such, it’s as hard to predict as future human behavior.

  23. One has to wonder what disease J-Mac thinks is being cured by removing most of the brain! Perhaps he thinks you think with your heart. Many of his other ideas are of that age.

  24. EricMH:

    The immaterial mind may or may not need physical hardware.

    If it doesn’t, then the Designer’s got a lot of splainin’ to do. The brain burns about 20% of our resting energy.

  25. petrushka: Do roach brains operate this way? Snake brains? Bird brains? Rat brains?

    And so forth.

    Good question. You’d have to ask one of the people that think our minds come from God but I’d guess that they’d say theres something special about us that distinguishes our minds from those animals. But where do you draw the line? If you draw it between humans and chimpanzees theres a problem.
    I said I thought it would be good if they could come up with a more rigorous model of mind but of course I think the more rigorous it was the more easy it would be to poke holes in it, the more easily it could be disproved by a simple experiment or observation and the more apparent its absurdity.

  26. EricMH: The immaterial mind may or may not need physical hardware. The point is that the destruction of said hardware has no bearing over whether it is needed or not

    How do you test whether the mind can function without the hardware?
    What would be the evidence for such an independent mind?

  27. J-Mac: How do you test whether the mind can function without the hardware?

    You don’t. Hence ID is compatible with it.

    J-Mac: What would be the evidence for such an independent mind?

    Ever seen a ghost?

  28. J-Mac: This notion would defeat Dr. Ali’s neural network idea…

    It’s funny, but in a different thread you are casting doubt on the age of the universe because things are always “changing” in radiometric dating. Like there’s hope we’ll find out it’s really 6000 years after all or something.

    And yet here your prefered idea defeats a competitor on the mere basis of your say-so.

    And you wonder why serious universities never teach whatever the hell it is you people are pushing. You can’t even explain the simplest things about your claims.

    In this thread it appears you have identified the components that cannot be damaged in order not to interfere with the “radio” brain. Sounds like a grant request to the Templeton foundation to me, but of course you’ll never do that.

    even a small damage to certain parts of the brain can shut down the entire neural networks and the immaterial mind

    How would you even notice?

  29. out of interest, the radio-brainers, do the realm where the brains actually live follow our laws of physics? Or some other law of physics? Or no laws at all? Or only whatever the lard says it is to be? Is there no cause and effect in that realm then?

    And is that realm a different one to the “free will realm” that phoodoo and WJM insist they make decisions in? Or is it the same? How do you know?

  30. Flint:
    “Weather” is an emergent property of atmospheric processes. As such, it’s as hard to predict as future human behavior.

    You mean like power is an emergent property of wealth? Or freedom is an emergent property of untethered conditions? Or speed is an emergent property of expended energy? Beauty is an emergent property of elegant lines?

  31. OMagain: And is that realm a different one to the “free will realm” that phoodoo and WJM insist they make decisions in?

    And keiths, don’t forget Keiths.

    Just chose an ice cream.

    But not Omagain, he believes decisions are just physics. And physics can decide.

  32. phoodoo,

    Don’t include me among the goofballs like you and WJM who believe in an immaterial soul/mind yet can’t even begin to explain how it interacts with the physical body.

  33. phoodoo,

    But not Omagain, he believes decisions are just physics. And physics can decide.

    Physical systems are capable of deciding. Or do you think that self-driving cars have immaterial souls?

  34. keiths:
    phoodoo,

    Don’t include me among the goofballs like you and WJM who believe in an immaterial soul/mind yet can’t even begin to explain how it interacts with the physical body.

    Explain? You mean like your explanation about choosing ice cream? You just choose. See free will! Hahaha.

    Keiths joins Omagain, physics chooses.

  35. keiths:
    phoodoo,

    Physical systems are capable of deciding.Or do you think that self-driving cars have immaterial souls?

    Now you actually believe self-driving cars are deciding.

    Keiths still doesn’t understand what computers do.

  36. Heh.

    Do tell, phoodoo. Give us the phoodooxplanation of how self-driving cars get to their destinations.

  37. keiths:
    Heh.
    Do tell, phoodoo.Give us the phoodooxplanation of how self-driving cars get to their destinations.

    Or how a Roomba decides it needs to seek out a battery charger.

  38. phoodoo: Now you actually believe self-driving cars are deciding.

    Keiths still doesn’t understand what computers do.

    In simple terms, they examine conditions and branch based on them. There’s not much difference between “if the light is red, stop” and “if it’s raining, open your umbrella.” Any non-trivial system makes truly enormous numbers of decisions, and can evaluate those decisions conditionally. The best chess and go playing programs evaluate a huge number of possible board positions many moves ahead – and can do so better than you (or anyone else) can.

    So yes, self-driving cars ARE deciding, in fact making countless decisions concurrently, from low level decisions like maintaining proper speed, to higher levels like determining proper speed, to highest levels like deciding how to reach a destination wherever it may be. They have more and better sensors than YOU have, and use them all constantly.

  39. phoodoo: Explain? You mean like your explanation about choosing ice cream?

    Yes, an attempt at an explanation would be the intellectually honest thing to do.

    phoodoo: You just choose. See free will! Hahaha.

    Yes, much like “design is a mechanism”. About as expected from you.

    phoodoo: Keiths joins Omagain, physics chooses.

    And for phoodoo, what chooses? You can’t say can you? So we’ll put you down as “physics” for now, until and unless you say otherwise.

  40. keiths:
    Heh.

    Do tell, phoodoo.Give us the phoodooxplanation of how self-driving cars get to their destinations.

    Well, its either programmed (you know, by a human) , so that if “A” happens it does this, if”B” happens do that. For example, if a something is the size of a horse in front of the car, and its 50 yards away, brake. If its is five yards away, and the shape of a horse, swerve and brake…It does what the program tells it based on its algorithm. It doesn’t actually consider, based on how it feels, what it wants to do. Think your ice cream choice.

    Now, I realize the program is complicated, very complicated, so its hard for us simple minds (yours) to see the complex figuring the computer MUST do, thus it can appear to the simple mind like a decision. Much like if you put money in a vending machine and your type in the keypad, A6 and the machine cranks and turns and rotates, and finally spits out your cheesy bag of bugles (that could also look like a decision to some.)

    Or it has free will.

    Which do you believe it is?

  41. phoodoo: Or it has free will.

    What’s that and how does it differ from the scenario described above?

    On what basis do you make decisions if not rules programmed in since you were a child? Turn the cup upside down, the drink falls out and I can’t drink it. Never watched a baby learn? There’s a reason they do things 100’s of times.

    phoodoo: Much like if you put money in a vending machine and your type in the keypad, A6 and the machine cranks and turns and rotates, and finally spits out your cheesy bag of bugles (that could also look like a decision to some.)

    Or like how you eat when you get hungry?

    On the one hand you want to have this thing called “free will” that you cannot define and on the other you believe that you were designed (not far from programmed) by an omnipotent deity. Do you think you can diverge from that deities plan for you? If not, you are as much as a robot as the car you describe.

  42. phoodoo: Now, I realize the program is complicated, very complicated, so its hard for us simple minds (yours) to see the complex figuring the computer MUST do, thus it can appear to the simple mind like a decision.

    Sounds just like what goes on with neurons. You are not aware of them firing, you just “make a decision”. I guess you have confused “free will” with “lack of introspection”.

  43. phoodoo,
    Out of interest do you believe in the same sort of free will that WJM espouses or is yours something different? If different, then obviously it’s not possible for both to be true so how do we determine the truth of the matter?

  44. phoodoo: Well, its either programmed (you know, by a human) , so that if “A” happens it does this, if”B” happens do that.

    What programmed you? Your “designer”? So you are just following its rules. You are a robot car phoodoo. You think you are making free will decisions, but you are just following the road dodging boulders in the same way a robot car is…

  45. phoodoo: Are you calling Keiths a fool for saying one can choose chocolate or vanilla?

    It’s demonstrably true that one can certainly appear to choose and upon making that choice if feels as if it was made freely. The question I have is how do you actually choose if physics and causality play no part? And how do you know?


    When I was a baby I was beaten every time I was given chocolate milkshake.
    Now, for some reason I “choose” vanilla every time. How very strange.

    And perhaps Keith is a fool. Sometimes everybody is. Sometimes I am. The point is what percentage of the time you are a fool and if you learn from it.

    You’ve been making the same baseless claims for literally years. You are incapable of learning.

  46. phoodoo: Are you calling Keiths a fool for saying one can choose chocolate or vanilla?

    I’m actually laughing at you because you so transparently ignore the idea that as a designed entity you are also following a program as much as any robot car.

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