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?

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

  1. Faizal Ali,

    keiths and your argument boils down to -“Why can’t I have access to the supernatural to see it? ”

    Well, there is a reason we call it supernatural.

    Care to explain “will” based on the physical?

    Keiths has demurred.

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  2. phoodoo: I wonder the same thing about my TV. If I smash it to bits, is it still showing Seinfeld?

    The broadcasting machine and network isn’t affected by what happens to your TV, that’s the whole point. On the dualist immaterialism idea that there is some sort of soul or nonphysical mind independent of the brain, you are supposed to be the thing doing the broadcasting, not the thing that receives. Your mind is not supposed to be affected by your brain, the brain is only supposed to be the antennae that receives the “you” signal so you can steer your body around. But your mind should not be dependent on your brain in the same way the network broadcasting Seinfeld is not dependent on the physical state of your TV. If your TV breaks and fails to show Seinfeld, the network is still broadcasting. So in the same way, you should still continue to be aware and completely unaffected cognitively even if your brain is damaged.

    If you are not the activity of your brain, why do you experience getting knocked out when your body hits the tree? Why do you lose consciousness?

    Why don’t you just lose contact with the body, but remain conscious, sort of awaiting a re-establishing of the connection?

    If you were doing a math problem while walking around, why don’t you continue to do the math problem while your body is knocked out(get snow on screen, but continue to be able to think perfectly lucidly and clearly), and then once the body wakes up you start getting sensory information again and can continue moving and navigating the body?

    If the mind is not run by the brain, then if your brain gets knocked out that should merely result in you getting a “black screen”(your mind no longer gets signal from your body because it’s knocked out), yet you should still be perfectly aware and awake, and you could simply decide to continue thinking about things, considering the situation, recalling memories, planning your day, doing problems in your head while waiting for connection to your body to re-establish.

    But that’s not what happens. If you’re knocked out, your mind is gone. You don’t continue thinking, and you don’t persist in awareness wih consciousness.

    That only makes sense if the brain is what is actually running the mind and consciousness, and if those processes really gets temporarily shut down when you’re out cold.

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  3. Joe Felsenstein:
    phoodoo, when a Rhesus Macacque exhibits “will”, is that supernatural too?

    Of course. Now are you going to try to explain “will” in physical terms?

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  4. phoodoo: Now are you going to try to explain “will” in physical terms?

    Are you going to try to explain it in immaterial terms? You ask the question as if the alternative you are proposing is capable of explaining will. Then do it, go on. Explain how the immaterial makes “will”.

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  5. phoodoo: keiths and your argument boils down to -“Why can’t I have access to the supernatural to see it? ”
    Well, there is a reason we call it supernatural.

    That reason being because it is conceived of as existing apart from the “natural” world.

    The reason is NOT because its cannot, in principle, be demonstrated to exist.

    So please demonstrate the existence of the “supernatural” forces that give rise to the mind, if you can. And if you cannot, please explain why you nonetheless insist they exist.

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  6. phoodoo: keiths and your argument boils down to -“Why can’t I have access to the supernatural to see it? ”

    Well, there is a reason we call it supernatural.

    Aren’t we, according to you, fundamentally immaterial? What sense does it make to ask how can we have access to the immaterial if you’re right? It would be akin to asking how we can have access to ourselves.

    As far as I can tell, if your position is right, the correct question is how can we have access our material body and environment

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  7. Faizal Ali: And if you cannot, please explain why you nonetheless insist they exist.

    The argument is fairly well formed. If brain surgery demonstrates that the brain is not necessary, then the supernatural mind must exist. I accept that as a valid form of argument.

    The problem for the argument is the the facts put forth as evidence are simply wrong.

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  8. petrushka: The argument is fairly well formed. If brain surgery demonstrates that the brain is not necessary, then the supernatural mind must exist. I accept that as a valid form of argument.

    No, it is not valid. The mind could exist for natural reasons that do not require a brain under the conditions of your argument..

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  9. petrushka: The problem for the argument is the the facts put forth as evidence are simply wrong.

    On that, I agree completely.

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  10. Faizal Ali: No, it is not valid. The mind could exist for natural reasons that do not require a brain under the conditions of your argument..

    It’s not a syllogism, but it’s a reasonable inference, that if the mind continues to do its thing after the brain is removed, there is something going on that is completely outside our understanding of biology and physics.

    The problem is not with the argument. The problem is that the evidence put forth is bogus.

    I appear to be one of the rare people who has has surgery under twilight sleep, with ether. I don’t see much reference to current use of ether. I’ve experienced out of body dreams. That was sixty years ago, and I still have a vivid memory of the images. For the record, I saw something like them in Kubrick’s 2001.

    More interesting, they changed the way I feel about existence. People who’ve used psychedelic drugs say pretty much the same thing. I guess ether is a psychedelic drug.

    Also for the record, the ether dreams were different in content, but not in kind, from vivid dreams in general. In my old age, I’ve become quite a vivid dreamer, and remember quite a bit of detail.

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  11. If MIND is software rather than hardware, then, in principle it has transcendance from the physical susbtrate.

    Physicist PWC Davies pointed out that a few physicists think space-time is made of some other more fundamental substance, if so, then hypothetically the soul/mind (if made of software) could be ported to another substrate instead of the space/time/matter universe we are in.

    Davies is an agnostic. He lays out his ideas here:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=cPWd08Fbem4C&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=paul+davies+disembodied+minds&source=bl&ots=ZVJswKEc_o&sig=ACfU3U2exu0oMMToVweu9nPqoCMxwSX2Ig&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjm2K-Qg7_jAhVKhOAKHWCxB1wQ6AEwDnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=paul%20davies%20disembodied%20minds&f=false

    If souls are software, then one might say, are numbers (in the ultimate sense) actual objects? Does the number “3” for example need a physical universe for it to exist? Likewise, do algorithms exist without machines to implement them?
    Just like the number 3, software sort of has a life of its own just waiting for a body (a hardware system) to inhabit.

    Perhaps MIND and body is somewhat like software residing on hardware.

    If souls persist after death and souls are made of software, then the next life is made of different substrate.

    That said, one might argue the hardware/software divide in computers is purely a conceptual convenience — that it’s only a useful conceptualization of reality. On the other hand, like mathematics, the idea of software’s transcendance from hardware is somewhat hard to run away from.

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  12. stcordova: If MIND is software rather than hardware, then, in principle it has transcendance from the physical susbtrate.

    The mind is what the brain does. I have no proof of that, but there is no evidence to the contrary.

    There is no known way to abstract the software that constitutes the mind. It is embodied in the physics and chemistry of the brain, and we are currently unable to emulate chemistry in silicon.

    Perhaps we are getting closer, but we are not there, and emulations of things like protein folding are inordinately costly in terms of materials and energy.

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  13. The ID crowd needs to devote a bit of thought that chemistry is always faster than emulations of chemistry.

    This does not require quantum woo.

    Although the study of chemistry has become entwined with quantum mechanics.

    There are things about brain physiology and brain behavior that lend themselves to study by science, they are hard, to the point of being intractable.

    Not because — woo — but because they are hard problems.

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  14. It is certainly true that the slogan, “the mind is to the brain as software is to hardware” inspired the first major approach to cognitive science, sometimes called computer functionalism or the computational theory of mind. Despite the hype it has some rather drastic limitations and it’s conceptual foundations are shaky, to say the least.

    (This is not to give any aid and comfort to “immaterialism”; it is to say that functionalism, which has been hugely influential in the last quarter of the 20th century, has rather serious problems, both conceptual and empirical.)

    With regard to arguments put forth thus far, it must be stressed that Egnor’s chief argument for the “immateriality” of the mind assumes realism about abstract universals. On his view, our cognitive grip on abstract universals like “love” and “justice” is just like our cognitive grip on concrete particulars like “that table over there” or “the cup that Grandma gave me for my birthday”. Animal brains are sufficient to explain their responsiveness to concrete particulars (he would say) but to explain our responsiveness to abstract universals we must posit an immaterial mind.

    But Egnor doesn’t really explain why we should think anything like this — he just appeal to the authority of Aquinas as if that settles the issue, and completely ignores every other account of concepts that has ever been developed. And he also completely ignores all the problems with Aquinas’s account.

    Granted, Egnor is too busy as a neurosurgeon to sit down and read up on the history of epistemology and philosophy of language — but unfortunately his ignorance does not prevent him from appealing to his own authority as a neurosurgeon from opining on the immateriality of the human intellect.

    (FN: I am moving a bit quickly here in conflating what are actually two separate distinctions, abstract/concrete and universal/particular.)

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  15. Kantian Naturalist: It is certainly true that the slogan, “the mind is to the brain as software is to hardware” inspired the first major approach to cognitive science,

    I would say it is an obsolete concept that has no relevance going forward.

    It feeds fantasy literature and movies, but it is deeply wrong.

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  16. BruceS,

    Thanks for that nice little reminder! Earlier today I started wondering whether sensorimotor loops in O’Reagan and Noe’s sense are really all that different from what the cyberneticists meant by “feedback”

    I have finally caught up on some reading on structural representations as distinct from symbolic representations though there’s a lot of nonsense to sort through.

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  17. From an old comment at UD:

    Further evidence that the will is embodied is an article entitled “Drowning Mr. M”, from the spring 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine, Volume 16, Number 1. It’s available online at sciammind.com, but unfortunately you have to pay for it (I subscribe to the print version).

    The article begins:
    “The summer heat is oppressive. Mr. M, seated beside his pool, looks at the cold water. “What could be better than a refreshing dip?” he thinks. He dives headfirst into the water and takes a couple of powerful strokes. Then, suddenly, he stops. He exhales, sinks to the bottom and simply stares straight ahead. “I’m drowning,” he realizes, strangely unperturbed. He knows that a few strong kicks would bring him back to the surface. But he can’t quite bring himself to do so.”

    “As luck would have it, his daughter has been watching from inside the house. She runs out and dives in the pool to save him. The sight of his daughter shakes Mr. M from his apathy, and just as she reaches him he propels himself upward, breaking the surface and gasping for air. Later he tells his family, ‘I don’t know what was wrong with me. I just didn’t want to swim anymore.’”

    “What was happening in Mr. M’s brain as he came within seconds of drowning? How could he so abruptly lose all desire to act, even to save his own life?”

    The article goes on to say that Mr. M suffers from PAP syndrome, with the French acronym translating to “loss of psychic autoactivation”. PAP syndrome involves damage to the brain’s limbic loop.

    More from the article:
    “Within only a few weeks after the pool incident, Mr. M’s personality underwent a drastic change. The normally active and energetic man became increasingly passive and apathetic. He spent entire days in bed yet felt neither boredom nor impatience. His family had to remind him constantly to carry out the most basic activities: ‘Come to dinner! Get dressed! Take a shower!’… Mr. M’s wife said her husband would have starved to death had she not intervened. Yet he never complained of hunger… Incredibly, PAP patients do experience hunger and pain. They simply lack the will to react.”

    You might ask: If their will is impaired, how can PAP patients respond when prompted? It turns out that the will to respond to a verbal command involves other brain pathways which bypass the damaged area.

    So not only does the will appear to be a physical phenomenon; its unity also appears to be illusory.

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  18. phoodoo,

    If the will is non-physical, as you claim, then how do you explain cases like Mr. M’s?

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  19. Kantian Naturalist: though there’s a lot of nonsense to sort through.

    That makes sense to me, based on my limited knowledge of both.

    What puzzles me is the nature of the “tight” coupling in the sensorimotor loops that Noe et al sometimes refer to, specifically when the coupling is between (1) the embodied brain and (2) the environment. Does that tightness imply that there can be no scientifically useful model of the embodied brain that treats the environment through external causal input/outputs? I think the existence of such separate models is an empirical issue. Much of cognitive science seems to assume that that separation can be successfully made, ie by allowing the embodied brain to be modeled separately. Representations of some sort are a common aspect of that type of work.

    I don’t think cybernetics has much influence on modern cognitive science, but control theory as in Eliasmith or Grush might be considered a modern successor to it.
    https://philpapers.org/rec/GRUTET

    Judging by this NBN list of book interviews, cybernetics seems to evolved into system science, and some work has taken “interesting” directions. Such work reminds me of biosemiotics in that regard.
    https://newbooksnetwork.com/category/science-technology/systems-and-cybernetics/

    I’d be interested in what papers you think are nonsense so I avoid them!

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  20. Oliver Sachs would not be surprised by the drowning man.

    What’s interesting is that people who lose a part of the brain still report a unified consciousness, even though outsiders see a change.

    My favorite example comes from Sachs, and involves the artist who lost the sense of color. He did not simply become colorblind. He lost all memory and awareness of the concept of color. Being an artist, he was able to continue working, but he could not make any sense of color.

    My question to dualists is, why couldn’t he remember color. If I suddenly became blind and had some vision restored by a black and white camera, I would know about the change and would remember color.

    If my mind is immaterial and my body became unable to see color, wouldn’t my immaterial mind notice the change?

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  21. phoodoo:

    Joe Felsenstein:  phoodoo, when a Rhesus Macacque exhibits “will”, is that supernatural too?

    Of course. Now are you going to try to explain “will” in physical terms?

    Yes. See, you have started down a slippery slope. By agreeing that macacques have “will” you can’t easily stop anywhere, moving back in evolution. early mammals? synapsids? pelycosaurs? amphibians? lungfish-like fishes? placoderms? ostracoderms? Haikouella? amphioxus-like chordates? early bilaterian “worms”, our common ancestors with cnidarians?

    You can get back to our protist ancestors. Ciliate “protozoans”, for example, are single-celled but have a behavior that when they bump into something, a wave of excitation spreads around their cell membrane, and the cilia that cover them reverse their direction of beating. They back away.

    The mechanics of this is known and knowable, down to the molecular level. Note that we are discussing how that works. Not how it evolved. The how-it-works is not a mystery needing supernatural anything.

    Unless you want to argue that it uses chemistry, which is really quantum mechanics applied, and all that is therefore supernatural. (In which case when you mix vinegar and baking soda to make a “volcano” in school, all the fizzing is really supernatural).

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  22. phoodoo, to Faizal Ali:

    keiths and your argument boils down to -“Why can’t I have access to the supernatural to see it? ”

    That’s a question, not an argument, and neither of us is asking it.

    We’re not asking to see the immaterial mind; we’re asking for evidence that the mind is immaterial.

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  23. BruceS: I’d be interested in what papers you think are nonsense so I avoid them!

    “Nonsense” was too harsh. I think that a lot of stuff under “enactive cognitive science” or “enactivism” depends on an overly narrow view of what counts as a “representation”.

    Specifically the early enactivists (Evan Thompson and Francisco Varela) thought they were rejecting representationalism tout court because of a heady mix of dynamical system theory together with Rorty’s arguments against privileged representations in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and a conflation (widespread through the 1960s through 2010s) between the concept of representation and the concept of symbolic representation. There are several significant confusions here, including (unfortunately) Rorty’s own failure to distinguish between structural representations and symbolic representations (together with his Good Idea that no specific symbolic representations have any privileged epistemic status in the space of reasons).

    Anyway my new book (should I ever finish it) should set the record straight on all these problems!

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  24. Petrushka:

    There is no known way to abstract the software that constitutes the mind.

    I think (as in guess) these issues are formally undecidable. To attempt to resolve formally will result in arguing in circles.

    From a chemical perspective, one could argue we’re made of different atoms than we were when we were kids, so something persisted despite having different hardware (as in atoms). EXCEPT, some study says the chemical turnover in the pre-fontal cortex of our brains is low to non-existent. But if enough of the physical brain is made of different atoms than between child and adult, then this does look like software being ported from on set of hardware to another over time, but well, who knows…

    …it does however remind me of the account I heard from a Federal Express junior exective that as the company maintained their airplanes, partly due to FAA regulations, not a single original part remained from the original airplane, but each airplane maintained the same identity in terms of human affairs, the same tail number (which is the airplane’s name or “person hood”). It’s a tad difficult to conceptualize it as being anything other than the same airplane over time even though it’s not made of the same stuff!

    That said, the problem of distinguishability between atoms (like all hydrogen atoms look alike) is kind of the same issue about the persistence of the FEDEX airplanes. It raised real-world physics issues regard mixing entropy! It’s famously called the Gibbs paradox:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbs_paradox

    It raises issues about whether FORM is just as important as substance, and FORM can be sort of viewed like software, or perhaps more formally, platonic forms (the term Penrose uses in his books about mind and computer science).

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  25. Sal,

    The Gibbs paradox and related issues vanish if you use the correct interpretation of entropy — namely, the missing information interpretation.

    One more reason to ditch the energy dispersal view of entropy.

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  26. keiths:
    Sal,

    The Gibbs paradox and related issues vanish if you use the correct interpretation of entropy — namely, the missing information interpretation.

    One more reason to ditch the energy dispersal view of entropy.

    The Gibbs paradox is independent of the pedagoical DESCRIPTION (not definition) of entropy.

    The Gibbs paradox emerges in with Clausius and Boltzman definitions of entropy.

    You know like stuff derived from

    dS = dQ/T

    or

    S = log W

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  27. FWIW, I wish the ID community would drop arguments about mind and dualism for the simple reason we likely will never resolve the issue one way or another.

    It’s a distraction from things like the question of the origin of life, which is accepted to be improbable. The only argument is the degree of improbability.

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  28. Sal,

    My statement is correct:

    The Gibbs paradox and related issues vanish if you use the correct interpretation of entropy — namely, the missing information interpretation.

    One more reason to ditch the energy dispersal view of entropy.

    It all hinges on the distinguishability (or indistinguishability) of the particles in question.

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  29. Kantian Naturalist: “Nonsense” was too harsh. I think that a lot of stuff under “enactive cognitive science” or “enactivism” depends on an overly narrow view of what counts as a “representation”.

    Makes sense to me!
    I’ll look forward to your book; I hope the work goes well for you.

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  30. Even setting aside the word “entropy” regarding mixing, let’s start with an easier example.

    We have a box of 2 billiard balls, inside each billiard ball is an identifying number which you have no access to now or ever. Each billiard ball is identical as far as you can tell by the information you have available to you.

    You have a box where you place one billiard ball in one corner and then another billiard ball in the other corner. You then close the box and shake vigorously in such a way that you can’t possibly follow the trajectories of the billiard ball and thus you lose track of which billiard ball is which as you shake.

    Now you open the box. You try your best to put the billiard balls in the original corner, but you can because you can’t identify which one is which. So you do your best, and as far as you’re concerned it looks the same as the original configuration provided you have the balls at least occupying the same corners as at the start, even though you know there is a 50% chance you got the wrong balls in the wrong corners.

    But for practical purposes, you could say you’ve restored the the system to it’s original state.

    Now think instead of two “identical” hydrogen atoms. Because of Heisenberg uncertainty, you really don’t have a chance in principle of saying one atom is different from another after they’ve bounced around for a while inside a box. The Gibbs paradox says, as far as what is practical, the entropy doesn’t change when when hydrogen from one side of a container mixes with identical hydrogen from another side of the container. Or using the “entropy = ignorance” view, one could say we’re just as ignorant which hydrogen atom is with before the mixing as in after, so the entropy doesn’t change. But heck, you don’t need “entropy = ignorance” to do that, you can use dS = dQ/T or S = (kB) log W and get the same blasted result in the end.

    So, like the question of a tree that fell down in the forest, did it really fall down if you can’t observe it falling down. With respect to the two hydrogen atoms in the box, are they really the same atom since you can’t distinguish them after a while. I’d say they’re not the same atom, but as far as standard approaches to entropy, they are treated the same.

    How this relates to the brain.? The brain consumes a lot of glucose. It doesn’t matter chemically which glucose molecule is which that is making your brain function. But, technically speaking, glucose molecules in your brain today aren’t the same glucose molecules that were in your brain as a child. But your self has persisted! Your MIND has persisted. So, like software, one can say that something transcending the material substrate has persisted.

    Whether it’s appropriate to frame this in terms of the dualism debate, I really have no stake in the matter, but even though in a sense we’re not the same person we were years ago, in a sense we are in the sense person we were years ago because something about us persisted in the process of hardware/chemical substitutions in our body.

    By law and by cultural norms we treat a person as the same person even though they’ve gotten a little older. We treat ourselves as the same person. So something about us, like software, persists and is tied to our identity even to ourselves.

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  31. Joe,

    That must be a very powerful argument. Does anyone else understand phoodoo’s argument? I don’t.

    Sounds like he’s a vitalist as well as a dualist.

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  32. phoodoo:

    You know, the part you materialists can’t explain

    So you say, but where’s yours? Where is your explanation for will?

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  33. petrushka: Anything you can’t explain is magic.

    Heh, yes. That still leaves us without an explanation assuming materialism can’t explain “will”. It’s funny how we’re being scolded for supposedly not having an explanation, yet he’s fine with not having one himself.

    “Materialism is a false faith because it can’t explain will, so immaterialism must be true even though it also can’t explain will.”

    Supernaturalists are all hypocrites and it’s impossible to take them seriously.

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  34. stcordova: But, technically speaking, glucose molecules in your brain today aren’t the same glucose molecules that were in your brain as a child. But your self has persisted! Your MIND has persisted. So, like software, one can say that something transcending the material substrate has persisted.

    I don’t think so. Just as the brain changes in many microscopic ways as we grow older, so do we change in our personality in different ways. I’m certainly not identical with how I used to be. My tastes and preferences, behavior, beliefs, performance, memories and knowledge have all changed since my childhood.

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  35. Sal,

    Or using the “entropy = ignorance” view, one could say we’re just as ignorant which hydrogen atom is with before the mixing as in after, so the entropy doesn’t change.

    Right. The missing information interpretation gives the right result, and it depends on the fact that the molecules are indistinguishable.

    But heck, you don’t need “entropy = ignorance” to do that, you can use dS = dQ/T or S = (kB) log W and get the same blasted result in the end.

    dS = dQ/T gives the wrong answer when the gases are distinguishable. S = Kb log W gives the right answer only when you count the microstates correctly, which also depends on whether the gases are distinguishable.

    As I said:

    The Gibbs paradox and related issues vanish if you use the correct interpretation of entropy — namely, the missing information interpretation.

    One more reason to ditch the energy dispersal view of entropy.

    And:

    It all hinges on the distinguishability (or indistinguishability) of the particles in question.

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  36. petrushka:

    Joe Felsenstein:
    phoodoo,
    That must be a very powerful argument.Does anyone else understand phoodoo’s argument?I don’t.

    Anything you can’t explain is magic.

    But I had pushed the argument back to protists, where in ciliates we can understand the activation of the cell cortex at the point where it bumps into an obstacle, the wave of activation spreading, and the reversal of the cilia when that wave reaches them, causing the cell to have the “will” to back up away from the obstacle.

    No sign of a gap where there is room for supernatural forces in that formation of “will” and its expression.

    So still mystified.

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  37. I tend to be uninterested in unanswerable questions. If someone asks, how does material give rise to consciousness, I respond, why not. Both are observed.

    Not understanding how something works is a challenge, not an end to the discussion.

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  38. Joe Felsenstein: But I had pushed the argument back to protists, where in ciliates we can understand the activation of the cell cortex at the point where it bumps into an obstacle, the wave of activation spreading, and the reversal of the cilia when that wave reaches them, causing the cell to have the “will” to back up away from the obstacle.

    No sign of a gap where there is room for supernatural forces in that formation of “will” and its expression.

    So still mystified.

    CDK007 made a really nice youtube video explaining how basic decision making at the cellular level works, and evolved, back in 2009: The Origin of the Brain.

    If the decision and action in response to some stimulus, for example by moving, isn’t “will”, then what is?

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  39. Rumraket,

    If the decision and action in response to some stimulus, for example by moving, isn’t “will”, then what is?

    I predict phoodoo will say that he’s talking about conscious will. Then he’ll demand that we explain consciousness in physical terms, despite being utterly unable to explain it himself.

    Consciousness provides a roomy berth for the immaterial mind/soul of the gaps. And please ignore all the evidence that consciousness is a physical phenomenon.

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  40. keiths: I predict phoodoo will say that he’s talking about conscious will

    phoodoo agreed with me that macacques had “will”. So if you are right, he would then also be saying that macacques were “conscious”.

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  41. Joe,

    phoodoo agreed with me that macacques had “will”. So if you are right, he would then also be saying that macacques were “conscious”.

    You never know with phoodoo, but I’d be surprised if he denied that macaques are conscious.

    Or capuchins:

    Capuchin protests unequal pay

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  42. Joe Felsenstein: Anything you can’t explain is magic.

    But I had pushed the argument back to protists, where in ciliates we can understand the activation of the cell cortex at the point where it bumps into an obstacle, the wave of activation spreading, and the reversal of the cilia when that wave reaches them, causing the cell to have the “will” to back up away from the obstacle.

    No sign of a gap where there is room for supernatural forces in that formation of “will” and its expression.

    So still mystified.

    If you get knocked over by a wave, does that mean you have no will to decide which flavor ice cream you have?

    You argument is silly, do you have examples of living things that express no will whatsoever to further their existence of living?

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  43. phoodoo: If you get knocked over by a wave, does that mean you have no will to decide which flavor ice cream you have?

    That makes zero logical sense. Why would the decision for a particular flavor of icecream be immaterial, when the decision to move in a certain direction for a single cell can be shown to be physical?

    You argument is silly, do you have examples of living things that express no will whatsoever to further their existence of living?

    No the argument is just fine, but your question is incomprehensible. I think you need to rephrase it.

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