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. Rumraket: 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?

    Good, then just explain it.

    I think its funny you are calling something a decision, when Joe is saying it is not a decision. That seems to have flown over your head.

  2. phoodoo: I think its funny you are calling something a decision, when Joe is saying it is not a decision.

    Different people have different opinions. Communication is difficult. Is the “decision” to pull your hand away from a fire really a decision? People can press their hands against hot things if they desire!

    However we are all united on one thing, your inability to do what you want others to do and your inability to see that as a problem.

  3. It is too simplistic to say that the will is something which all life possesses. It’s fair enough to say that animals respond to stimuli through pure will. These are the type of reaction we all possess. If something moves close to my eye I will blink.

    But humans possess a higher type of will. This will brings about a reaction to stimulus which is brought about through the intermediate process of thinking. And whereas the lower type of will is concerned with bodily functions this higher will takes place in the moral sphere. Only humans exhibit such well developed moral (and immoral) actions.

    This type of willing is raised above the purely physical processes that occur in automatic reflex responses.

  4. CharlieM,

    But you can’t really name a living organism that doesn’t exert some will with its surroundings.

    Yet one also can’t name ANY inanimate objects that exerts will.

    Materialists will never be able to explain this, yet their faith is strong, one day, one day…

  5. Rumraket: 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?

    When I watched this video I noticed that co-option featured prominently as I’ve listed here:

    2:03 – first neurons co-opted
    3:01 – early multi-cellular animals co-opted pre-existing ion channels
    4:09 – first electrical synapses were co-opted electrical pores
    5:21 – multi-cellular organisms co-opted glutamate receptors to construct chemical synapses
    8:20 – the cellular machinery containing sensory and inhibitory neurons was co-opted to allow learning and memory
    9:07 – multiple evolutionary steps each involve the co-option of pre-existing genes

    It struck me as very fortunate for our existence that so many features were available to be adapted. And those co-opted features mentioned are but a few that have to do with the nervous system. So much of the equipment needed to produce rational thinking, self-conscious beings was potentially there so early in evolution. A bit like the way an oak tree is potentially there in the sprouting acorn.

  6. phoodoo:
    CharlieM,

    But you can’t really name a living organism that doesn’t exert some will with its surroundings.

    Yet one also can’t name ANY inanimate objects that exerts will.

    Materialists will never be able to explain this, yet their faith is strong, one day, one day…

    I won’t argue with any of that.

    Animals interact with the world in two ways. Feeling is the effect of the environment on them and willing concerns their their effect on the environment. Generally there is interaction between the two without much else intervening. An animal will try to satisfy its sexual urges whenever it feels them stirring. Humans on the other hand are thinking beings and thinking is the means by which we can gain some control over our will. Our thinking turns us from being purely impulsive creatures into moral beings.

  7. phoodoo: Good, then just explain it.

    Joe already did. There’s nothing mysterious about it. It’s also in the video I linked.

    I think its funny you are calling something a decision, when Joe is saying it is not a decision.

    I don’t think he’s saying it’s not a decision, he’s just saying it can be shown to be physical. That doesn’t make it not be a “decision”, or “will”. The whole point is that there is a physical cause of the decision you, or a rhesus monkey, or a ciliate makes. It’s just easier to see in the case of the single-celled organisms, whereas for you and the rhesus monkey many many more cells are involved in huge networks of interactions, but the underlying principles are the same. Physical interactions propagate through the network of cells and this results in certain behavior. You call the outcome of this process “will” or a “decision”, but it’s a physical phenomenon.

    That seems to have flown over your head.

  8. CharlieM: When I watched this video I noticed that co-option featured prominently as I’ve listed here:

    2:03 – first neurons co-opted
    3:01 – early multi-cellular animals co-opted pre-existing ion channels
    4:09 – first electrical synapses were co-opted electrical pores
    5:21 – multi-cellular organisms co-opted glutamate receptors to construct chemical synapses
    8:20 – the cellular machinery containing sensory and inhibitory neurons was co-opted to allow learning and memory
    9:07 – multiple evolutionary steps each involve the co-option of pre-existing genes

    It struck me as very fortunate for our existence that so many features were available to be adapted. And those co-opted features mentioned are but a few that have to do with the nervous system. So much of the equipment needed to produce rational thinking, self-conscious beings was potentially there so early in evolution. A bit like the way an oak tree is potentially there in the sprouting acorn.

    One of the ways evolution works is by already existing structures and genes being copied and mutated, and these mutations and copies in turn either have negative, neutral, or positive effects on fitness. It is unavoidable that such a process will produces lots and lots of coopted genes and structures.

    But the present is an outcome of what happened in the past, that can’t not be the case. You’ve said nothing informative, and no matter what had happened you could say that it was a remarkable thing that X happened so that later this Y thing you find interesting could happen too. If the sun didn’t shine, water in the oceans would not have evaporated, so there would have been no clouds, so it wouldn’t have rained, so the dirt would not have collected in pools around the storm drain. To think of all those remarkable coincidences that had to happen just for that dirt to be transported to that pool around the storm drain.

  9. If phoodoo admits that in the case of a ciliate there is no need for supernatural processes, the issue I was trying to raise is, where along the path back to our common ancestor with ciliates did the supernatural first get involved? In bilaterian worms? In the earliest mammals? In the common ancestor of apes?

    For it seems that phoodoo has admitted that the supernatural was not involved early on, yet is in us.

  10. phoodoo: But you can’t really name a living organism that doesn’t exert some will with its surroundings.

    Yet one also can’t name ANY inanimate objects that exerts will.

    Why not? I could name a computer controlled robot, or even just a computer program. Why is the ciliate acting according to the laws of physics when it changes direction, exhibiting “will”, and a robot or computer program reacting to some stimulus is not? It’s you saying the “inanimate” computer/robot is not exhibiting “will”. But why not? What’s the difference?

    Materialists will never be able to explain this

    So you keep wrongly saying(explanations have been given now multiple times), but you’re not offering one yourself. Somehow you’re fine with no explanations, there are different rules for you than for us.

    There’s a name for that, it’s called hypocrisy.

  11. Joe Felsenstein: For it seems that phoodoo has admitted that the supernatural was not involved early on, yet is in us.

    Well now he seems to be saying the ciliate is still somehow supernatural, because reasons. Reasons that amount to intensely insisting that “materialists can’t explain it”.

  12. Joe Felsenstein:
    If phoodoo admits that in the case of a ciliate there is no need for supernatural processes, the issue I was trying to raise is, where along the path back to our common ancestor with ciliates did the supernatural first get involved? In bilaterian worms?In the earliest mammals?In the common ancestor of apes?

    For it seems that phoodoo has admitted that the supernatural was not involved early on, yet is in us.

    WTF? I admitted the supernatural world is not involved early on because you say ciliates don’t decide, they react?

    You guys are all over the board now. Rumraket doesn’t seem to understand what you are saying, at this point I am not convinced you know what you are saying.

    Is a cilliates move away from object, a physical reaction that it has no choice over (like a jellyfish being pushed by a wave) , or is it a decision. Which are you claiming? Why don’t you settle that matter first.

    But of course you don’t think the only thing that cilliates do is be pushed by things, do you? You have a very long ways to go before you go demonstrate that all of their activities are physical reactions they have no control over.

    I hardly feel I need to begin to say when the supernatural got involved in life, if you can’t even show what makes life.

  13. Rumraket: Why not? I could name a computer controlled robot, or even just a computer program.

    They make decisions do they?

    You are sounding more and more like keiths. Its fun.

  14. Rumraket: I don’t think he’s saying it’s not a decision, he’s just saying it can be shown to be physical. That doesn’t make it not be a “decision”, or “will”.

    So then you must believe that when one chooses chocolate ice cream, they actually have no choice, just like a ciliate being pushed or a wave knocking you over, or a tornado throwing you over a cliff.

    Or are you going to throw in even more ridiculous contradictions into your (supposed) argument?

  15. Joe Felsenstein,

    So I will scratch you out of the “people have free will ” camp, since you then would have to decide when the free will got introduced.

    Or is free will like being pushed by the wind?

  16. Rumraket: One of the ways evolution works is by already existing structures and genes being copied and mutated, and these mutations and copies in turn either have negative, neutral, or positive effects on fitness. It is unavoidable that such a process will produces lots and lots of coopted genes and structures.

    But the present is an outcome of what happened in the past, that can’t not be the case. You’ve said nothing informative, and no matter what had happened you could say that it was a remarkable thing that X happened so that later this Y thing you find interesting could happen too. If the sun didn’t shine, water in the oceans would not have evaporated, so there would have been no clouds, so it wouldn’t have rained, so the dirt would not have collected in pools around the storm drain. To think of all those remarkable coincidences that had to happen just for that dirt to be transported to that pool around the storm drain.

    Yes H20 is a remarkable, unique substance without which conscious life could not have evolved.

    What I have shown is that just because the later develops out of the earlier this does not demonstrate that the later was the result of a series of accidents. It is a feature of the modern outlook to see the smallest simplest parts as being fundamental and everything developing from there. There is another possibility. Wholeness is fundamental and the separation into parts is seen as such because of the way the human mind and consciousness works.

  17. phoodoo: They make decisions do they?

    Yes. You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that decisions aren’t determined or don’t have physical causes. What institution of learning failed you here?

  18. Rumraket: Yes. You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that decisions aren’t determined or don’t have physical causes. What institution of learning failed you here?

    Well, that’s very scary. If humans program a computer to do this when that, and it decides not to listen, whoa, that can be really something!

  19. phoodoo: So then you must believe that when one chooses chocolate ice cream, they actually have no choice

    That depends on how you define choice. If you define choice to mean something not determined by any physical circumstances, such as the structures and activity of your brain and the sensory information that enters it, then no they don’t have choice. I just don’t see why we have to define choice that way.

  20. Rumraket,

    All this teleological language you materialists use, when you say something but you actually don’t mean it has apparently really been detrimental for you.

    You are actually starting to believe then when someone says a computer decides, they actually mean decides. Ha.

    I have tried to warn you guys about your metaphorical problems before. But you didn’t listen.

  21. phoodoo: Well, that’s very scary. If humans program a computer to do this when that, and it decides not to listen, whoa, that can be really something!

    How is that a response to what I wrote?

    You keep piling one misappreionsion on top of another. Now you seem to be saying that decision-making entails the ability to act against your own nature. I’d say that’s incoherent.

  22. Rumraket: That depends on how you define choice. If you define choice to mean something not determined by any physical circumstances, such as the structures and activity of your brain and the sensory information that enters it, then no they don’t have choice. I just don’t see why we have to define choice that way.

    So you want to define choice as being under the illusion that you can select from several options, when in actuality the physical circumstances forces the choice.

    Sort of more of your metaphorical problems I think. You are either choosing, or the physical circumstances require it.

    Maybe you want KN’s mysterious third way that you can’t articulate?

  23. Rumraket: How is that a response to what I wrote?

    You said computers can decide. What happens when a computer decides it doesn’t want to do what the programmer programmed?

  24. phoodoo: So you want to define choice as being under the illusion that you can select from several options, when in actuality the physical circumstances forces the choice.

    Sort of more of your metaphorical problems I think. You are either choosing, or the physical circumstances require it.

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

  25. phoodoo: You said computers can decide. What happens when a computer decides it doesn’t want to do what the programmer programmed?

    Your question is incoherent. I don’t think decision-making entails the ability to act against your nature.

  26. phoodoo, to Rumraket:

    You are either choosing, or the physical circumstances require it.

    False dichotomy.

    Your reasoning is circular, phoodoo. Without realizing it, you are assuming that dualism is true in order to show that dualism is true.

    In effect, you’re saying “If physics causes me to choose chocolate over vanilla, then physics forces the choice — not me.” You’re assuming that you are separate from the physics.

    In other words, you are assuming that dualism is true.

  27. phoodoo, to Joe:

    Or is free will like being pushed by the wind?

    You’re doing it again, phoodoo. Assuming that we are separate from the physics, when that is what you are hoping to demonstrate.

    Circular reasoning.

  28. Rumraket, to phoodoo:

    That depends on how you define choice.

    The dictionary backs us up. A comment from the Christian List thread:

    Here’s what the dictionary says:

    choose
    /CHo͞oz/

    verb
    1 pick out or select (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives.
    “he chose a seat facing the door”

    2 decide on a course of action, typically after rejecting alternatives.
    “he chose to go”

    Those definitions work just fine when the outcome of the choice is predetermined.

    Think about it, phoodoo.

  29. keiths:
    Rumraket, to phoodoo:

    The dictionary backs us up.A comment from the Christian List thread:

    Those definitions work just fine when the outcome of the choice is predetermined.

    Think about it, phoodoo.

    YOU are doing it again keiths. Its the word decide, in your definition of decision that is throwing you for a loop.

    You have alternatives (you claim) and then you “decide” on one. As if you could choose either-because that is how it feels. That you could choose either.

    But the materialist claim, that it is just physical reactions, much like Joe’s claim about the cilliate) says that there is no choice, its reaction. It just looks like a choice, until you look closer.

    Why do you think Joe can’t answer if the cilliates are choosing?

    Think about it Keiths.

  30. phoodoo,

    You have alternatives (you claim) and then you “decide” on one.

    Yes, but without the parenthetical and without the quotes around “decide”.

    As if you could choose either-because that is how it feels. That you could choose either.

    If I choose chocolate I get chocolate. If I choose vanilla I get vanilla. I choose chocolate because I like it better.

    Whether my choice is predetermined is irrelevant, because I am making the choice. Someone else in my place might choose differently.

    None of this is difficult, phoodoo. It’s just that you’re determined (heh) to fight the dictionary.

  31. phoodoo:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    So I will scratch you out of the “people have free will ” camp, since you then would have to decide when the free will got introduced.

    Or is free will like being pushed by the wind?

    We were talking about “will” and whether that need involve supernatural processes. Not “free will”. You are welcome to go off somewhere else and discuss free will with whoever else wants to do so.

    I was using the example of a protist that had cilia that could be made to reverse their direction of beating, and how the cortex of the ciliate could bring that about once the ciliate collided with something. In ways that are fully understandable at the molecular level. There was “will” because there were two choices, keep on beating to push the cell forward, or reverse direction of beating to make the cell back off.

    It could be completely deterministic. No issue of “free will” there at all.

  32. Joe Felsenstein,

    It has nothing to do with determinism, you guys keep confusing this.

    Joe Felsenstein: I was using the example of a protist that had cilia that could be made to reverse their direction of beating, and how the cortex of the ciliate could bring that about once the ciliate collided with something.

    Can the ciliate control that, yes or no? Can they make a decision?

    Can a bucket of paint make a decision? Can a computer make a decision? Can a self driving car make a decision? (No, no and no is the answer).

  33. keiths: Someone else in my place might choose differently.

    But you wouldn’t because you can’t. That is the point.

    If materialism is true, you can only choose chocolate. It doesn’t matter if it seems like you can choose others, if it is like Joe describes, A happens, then B results (not A happens then perhaps B or perhaps C depending on how you feel), then you are not choosing.

    Of course, no one actually believes that, thus you understand you have a choice.

  34. Think of a car building robot guys. The arms of the robot pick up a car door, swing it around to the side of the car, then bolt it on to the car.

    You can’t say it chose to do that, because it might have chosen to just thrown the door outside into the street, even though it is incapable of throwing the door outside into the street. Throwing a car door out into the street is still an alternative, so see, its a choice…

  35. phoodoo, to Joe:

    Can a bucket of paint make a decision? Can a computer make a decision? Can a self driving car make a decision? (No, no and no is the answer).

    No, yes and yes is the answer.

    de·ci·sion
    /dəˈsiZHən/

    noun
    a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.

    Both computers and self-driving cars can consider the situation and reach a conclusion. They can decide and they can choose.

    And you can fight the dictionary.

  36. phoodoo,

    If materialism is true, you can only choose chocolate.

    No. I can choose chocolate if I want chocolate, and I can choose vanilla if I want vanilla. It’s up to me; the decision is mine.

    As I said above:

    Whether my choice is predetermined is irrelevant, because I am making the choice.

  37. Think of a car building robot guys. The arms of the robot pick up a car door, swing it around to the side of the car, then bolt it on to the car.

    You can’t say it chose to do that, because it might have chosen to just thrown the door outside into the street, even though it is incapable of throwing the door outside into the street.

    That’s not what we’re saying, phoodoo.

    The car-building robot isn’t considering the alternatives. Neither is the bucket of paint. They aren’t making choices.

  38. Check out some of the DARPA Boston Dynamics videos.

    Robots are routinely subjected to what looks like torture. They cannot possibly be programmed to respond to every challenge.

  39. keiths,

    Right Keith’s, it’s this thing you call considering, thinking, feeling, …that’s the difference between living things making a choice and everything else. Hey congratulations, you are almost there!

    A computer doesn’t consider (you just said it) , it doesn’t consider because there is nothing inside a computer that thinks. I know it looks like it is thinking Kieth’s, but don’t let that fool you. It is only calculating ones and zeros. With all you computer guys here I think you would know that by now.

    Thinking, considering, actually be able to have preference and maybe even change your preference at will… Now that is deciding. Computers will never decide

  40. Right Keith’s, it’s this thing you call considering, thinking, feeling…

    You’re making stuff up again, phoodoo. I didn’t say anything about thinking or feeling.

    A computer doesn’t consider (you just said it)…

    Here’s what I actually said:

    The car-building robot isn’t considering the alternatives. Neither is the bucket of paint. They aren’t making choices.

    I have no idea how you got from that to thinking that computers (or self-driving cars) cannot consider alternatives.

  41. phoodoo,

    Let’s see if you’ve made any progress.

    1. Do you understand how a decision made by me is my decision, even if it is determined by the laws of physics?

    2. Do you understand that if you deny #1, you are assuming the truth of dualism, not demonstrating it?

    3. How do you think a self-driving car finds the fastest route to a destination without considering alternatives?

  42. keiths: I have no idea how you got from that to thinking

    You have no idea how I got from considering to thinking??

    Well, now we see the problem.

  43. phoodoo: Can the ciliate control that, yes or no? Can they make a decision?

    The ciliate is hard-wired to have certain conditions under which it reverses the direction of beating of its cilia. Namely, when it bumps into something and a wave of excitation spreads around its cortex, and the cilia reverse. All by mechanisms that we can understand at the molecular level.

    That is a change in behavior, which occurs under certain knowable conditions.

    As we go back to earlier and earlier ancestors of humans, where was the supernatural stuff first inserted? Got any ideas?

  44. phoodoo: Can a bucket of paint make a decision? Can a computer make a decision? Can a self driving car make a decision? (No, no and no is the answer).

    No, yes, and yes is the answer.

  45. Rumraket: No, yes, and yes is the answer.

    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?

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

    Is there a difference between a general purpose learning program programmed to make decisions in novel situations and a program designed specifically to do one thing only that has no awareness of anything except door and car?

  47. Rumraket,

    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?

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

    What’s the essential difference between you and a computer? What can you do that a computer can’t that gives you the ability to (somehow) make decisions in a way that is not in any way (presumably, 2000+ comments in and you never did say on the thread dedicated to this very question) analogous to the way computers make decisions?

    What is missing from our simulations of neurons that means that such a network can never make a decision in the same way you can?

    https://www.neuron.yale.edu/neuron/

    I understand computers. I understand computers can make decisions. Otherwise how can a robot car drive down a street it has never encountered before?

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