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?

0

602 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?

    0
  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.

    0
  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….

    0
  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.

    0
  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?

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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?

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  12. What is their profession, and are they bad at it? Not a rhetorical question.

    0
  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?

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  20. keiths: Free will consists of a desire to act (volition) and a sense of responsibility for that action (agency)

    Wrong

    0
  21. keiths:
    Joe:

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

    Maybe there’s no there there.

    0
  22. phoodoo,

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

    0
  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.

    0
  24. Dualists,

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

    0
  25. phoodoo: Wrong

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

    0
  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.

    0
  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?

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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.

    0
  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?

    0
  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?

    0
  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.

    0
  34. So, if we choose what to do, do we also choose what we want?

    I’m really curious what people mean by freely choosing.

    To be free, do our choices need to be unmotivated?

    0
  35. phoodoo: I control my hands, I can move them to type or not type it’s all totally up to me, I can choose.

    Then the question becomes how does this “ me “ decide what to do.

    0
  36. CharlieM: 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?

    To say that we have a nature is not to say that we always do the same thing. For example it is in my nature to breathe, and there are circumstances in which it is my nature to hold my breath.

    Both are in my nature, but they each require different circumstances for me to perform. Something must cause me to react that way, and given my “programming”, which is to say my genes and upbringing, what it takes to get me to act that way will differ from what it takes to get someone else who does not have the same exact “programming” that I do, to act that way.

    To say that I have some nature is merely to say that I have way I will reliably act in a particular way in response to certain particular conditions. In this way I am no different than the computer executing code. Given the right input, you will get a particular output. If you want me to hold my breath, or become celibate, or commit suicide, you need to find the right kind of input that will produce that output.

    It might be a simple as daring me to hold my breath to prove that I can(until I can’t), will produce that output, but it’ll take more to make me go celibate, or commit suicide. There are probably some circumstance under which I would do those things, in which case you’ve found the right input that the organic computer in my skull will turn into those behaviors.

    I’m going to guess it is not in your nature to go get a Darwinfish tattoo on your forehead on my mere daring you to. That is not to say there is no circumstance under which you would do that, which just means it might be in your nature to do it given that circumstance.

    0
  37. newton: Then the question becomes how does this “ me “ decide what to do.

    Yes, what is this “I” that does the choosing, and why does it choose?

    If the I is motivated, what chooses the motivation?

    0
  38. phoodoo: I control my hands, I can move them to type or not type it’s all totally up to me, I can choose.

    And yet you seem to keep choosing to do it. And we probably have some part in causing you to do it. By arguing against you, we compel you answer back and posit your challenges to us, perhaps hoping that this in turn will compel us to see things your way and stop arguing against you. You seem to be coming to the strange conclusion that it is almost like there is no cause of or explanation for why you choose the things you do. Presumably you wouldn’t be typing the words you do if we did not type the ones we do.

    You could be talking about salads, or birdwatching. But you’re not. Something is causing you to talk about choice, will, and materialism. Your behavior is easily explained by a model in which you are like an organic computer, producing a particular output according to your programming, given the particular input you see on the screen.

    0
  39. Suppose the decision is a bit more sticky than choosing chocolate or vanilla.

    Suppose it involves accepting pain for the benefit of others, or letting it slide.

    Suppose the choice is pain.

    What makes that free, as opposed to being motivated. Or is that a bad example?

    What would be a better example?

    0
  40. petrushka: If the I is motivated, what chooses the motivation?

    phoodoo thinks he is designed. So why phoodoo cannot admit that he is programmed by said designer and his motivation is as the designers desire I don’t know.

    0
  41. phoodoo: I control my hands, I can move them to type or not type it’s all totally up to me, I can choose.

    Can they choose to attach red hot bolts to the car so the car door can be attached? Oh, they can’t? How very strange. But given what you said earlier….

    0
  42. keiths: 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.

    Egnor is a pediatric neurosurgeon, and by all accounts extremely good at his job. That doesn’t mean he’s good at cognitive neuroscience, especially at it bears on philosophy of mind. He does seem to have fastened onto Aquinas’s philosophy of mind (possibly due to Egnor’s own Catholicism) and doesn’t seem aware of any criticisms or alternatives.

    Here’s my main criticism of Egnor.

    His argument involves two big claims, one about the nature of thought and one about the nature of that which does the thinking. He wants to use an argument about the very nature of thought to demonstrate that the intellect — that which does the thinking — cannot be identified with the brain or anything else material. Here’s the argument about thought:

    1. Everything that I can imagine is a concrete particular.
    2. But I can comprehend things that I cannot imagine.
    3. Therefore, anything that I can comprehend but cannot imagine cannot be a concrete particular.
    4. So, what I comprehend, since it is not a concrete particular, must be an abstract universal.

    This allows for the claim that animals can reliably locate, track, identify and re-identify concrete particulars solely through computations within and across neuronal assemblies.

    Egnor’s view allows that there is purely biological cognition — what he insists, however, is that purely biological cognition, neurocomputation, allows only for mental states about concrete particulars, and that mental states involving abstract universals requires a non-material intellect that non-human animals lack.

    Here’s one alternative view that Egnor neglects: that imagination and comprehension do not take different kinds of entities — concrete particulars and abstract universals — as their intentional contents, but rather are two distinct ways of taking concrete particulars as intentional contents, one in which the intentional content is accompanied by a mental image and one in which it is not.

    In short, Egnor’s argument for the immateriality of the intellect rests on denying that nominalism about abstract universals makes any sense. For if nominalism is true, then the difference as Egnor understands it between human intellect and animal cognition collapses.

    0
  43. OMagain: phoodoo thinks he is designed. So why phoodoo cannot admit that he is programmed by said designer and his motivation is as the designers desire I don’t know.

    Some religions stipulate that everything that happens is god’s will. Others ignore the implications of omnipotence.

    0
  44. I grew up in a family of MDs. Grandfather, father, brother.

    I wouldn’t give a nickle for their opinion on anything outside their specialties.

    That said, I bet anyone who successfully does brain surgery is very careful to do the least possible damage to non-diseased tissue.

    Why?

    0
  45. phoodoo: You can actually ever only do one thing, and it is exactly the thing you do.

    If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

    If an immaterial mind makes the choices, how does it make the insubstantial choice into the physical action? How does the immaterial affect the material world? Conversely does the material affect the immaterial ?

    Whatever state the chemicals in your brain are in is exactly what you will do.

    How does the immaterial mind do it and how does it know how ?

    0

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.