Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Michael Egnor

Ultrasonic transducer
Ultrasonic transducer on the blue background

A Neuroscience Theory That Actually Helps Explain the Brain

Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory is an instance of getting something right

Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein. Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries. It is the theory that the brain is a type of…

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AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Deep learning. Mindfulness. Psychology.

Is Brain Science Helping Us Understand Belief in God?

To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t

A recent article about a Harvard neuroscientist’s research on the correlates of religious experience in the brain raises many familiar questions about the relevance of neuroscience to religious experience. Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities. Nonetheless, Ferguson thought, As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of [religious] experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound. Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at The Scientist (Jul 13, 2021)…

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chemin vers le brouillard

Remembering a Biologist’s Remarkable Confession of Faith

Is it scientific misconduct to make science about materialist atheism?

My friend and colleague Casey Luskin has penned a poignant essay in memory of Richard Lewontin, a Harvard evolutionary biologist who passed away at 92 recently. Casey is a gentleman and a scholar, and very much disposed to finding the best in people. Indeed it seems there was much that was very good in Lewontin’s persona, and Casey highlighted it beautifully in his encomium. I am not of the opinion, however, that we should speak only good of the dead. The passing of a public figure is a good time to consider his impact, and Lewontin’s impact on American culture and science is something very much worth considering. By all accounts, Lewontin was a gentleman and a good friend and…

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Light rays through the black window. Toned photo

Can LSD Help Us Understand the Mind–Brain Relationship?

Is the mind generated by the brain or does the brain merely focus the mind on the current scene? An experiment sheds some light

In a fascinating article inThe Guardian titled “Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception,” science editor Ian Sample discusses recent research on the mechanism by which LSD alters the brain and the mind. He begins by quoting Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) who noted that LSD “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life.” Remarkably, recent work in neuroscience supports Huxley’s view. The research, conducted at Cornell University, confirms what has been called the Rebus model of psychedelics. Rebus is a rough acronym for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”; the model proposes that the brain is essentially a prediction engine for daily life. In this model, the brain processes information…

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double exposure of the Passion of the Christ

The Brain Prosperity Gospel: Can “Neurotheology” Be Real Science?

The study of the neuroscience of mental states, including religious belief, is a reasonable pursuit but neurotheology, as a science, faces huge obstacles

Neurotheology is the study of the neuroscience associated with spiritual experience. It is a growing field. In a recent essay, Andrew Newberg, a prominent researcher, discusses recent advances: The field of neurotheology continues to expand from its early origins several decades ago to the present day. In its simplest definition, neurotheology refers to the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between the brain and our religious and spiritual selves. As I always like to say, it is important to consider both sides of neurotheology very broadly. Thus, the “neuro” side includes brain imaging, psychology, neurology, medicine, and even anthropology. And the “theology” side includes theology itself, but also various aspects related to religious beliefs, attitudes, practices, and…

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boy standing and looking at broken golden gear wheels, digital art style, illustration painting

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned

Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does…

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IQ test Result, Very Superior Intelligence Quotient.

If IQ Is Inherited, Is the Intellect Simply Material?

A reader writes: I was reading your writings about mind and brain, and I was wondering about how IQ relates to all of this. Since IQ seems to have a large heritable component to it, and the only thing that can be inherited genetically is physical traits, does IQ and its heritability pose a threat to mind-body dualism? It seems to me that someone with an IQ of 75 would have a very different mental experience than someone with an IQ of 145, and that they would also make decisions very differently, which, to me at least, would pose a threat to free will as well, since wouldn’t a certain level of intelligence be required to make decisions freely in…

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Villa Melzi - Dante e Beatrice

One of the Greatest Poets Asks, Can We Be Good Without Free Will?

As a centuries old poem shows, materialism is a logical mistake and not really a coherent system of belief

Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri, exiled for life from his native Florence, took the opportunity to write a magnificent trilogy — the Divine Comedy — in which he tours Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Comedy is more than a poetic masterpiece. It is a profound philosophical and theological reflection on this life and on eternity. Remarkably, although Dante’s immediate guides through the unseen worlds are, famously, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) and later, a childhood sweetheart Beatrice (who died young), his philosophical guide is the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. The metaphysics, the ethics, and the theology of the Divine Comedy deeply reflect Thomas’s influence. That is remarkable, considering that Dante (1265–1321 AD), who was only a child…

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Chain hanging from the sky

Why the Universe Itself Can’t Be the Most Fundamental Thing

Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory

Jerry Coyne has posted in reply to my observation that God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary methods of science. That is to say, all proofs of God’s existence are scientific theories in the sense that they have the same logical structure as any other scientific theory that proposes explanations for the natural world. Scientific theories are inductive in that they depend upon evidence in the natural world to reach a conclusion. Thus demonstrations of God’s existence, for example Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, are scientific theories in the sense that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are scientific theories. Scientific theories can demonstrate the existence of things outside of nature…

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World mental health day concept: Silhouette of human standing to worship God in meadow autumn sunset background

Here’s Why an Argument for God’s Existence Is Scientific

The form of reasoning and the type of evidence accepted is the same as with Newton’s theories or Darwin’s

Atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is a fountain of nonsensical arguments against the existence of God. If a scholar wanted to write a review paper on the most ridiculous arguments against God’s existence so far in the 21st century, he would need look no further than Coyne’s blog. Coyne’s latest post denying God’s existence takes issue with an essay by Samuel Benson in the Deseret News in which Benson makes the case that invoking both a miracle and a scientific achievement in the development of the COVID vaccine is not necessarily contradictory. Benson points out that the natural world, properly understood, can only be explained using both science and theology. In support of his view, he quotes the president of…

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X-ray.

Why a “Budding” Neuroscientist Is Skeptical of Brain Scans

After reading her perceptive essay about the problems in fMRI imaging in neuroscience, I’m sad that a gifted student has doubts about a career in the field

Kelsey Ichikawa has just published a superb essay about the pitfalls of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain. Ms. Ichikawa (pictured), who describes herself as a ”budding” neuroscientist who graduated last year from Harvard, discusses the snares into which misinterpretation can lead us. fMRI brain scanning is a relatively new technology in which researchers and clinicians use magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain to detect brain activity almost as it happens. The technique is widely used, both for clinical care of patients (neurosurgeons use it to map sensitive parts of the brain prior to surgery) and for research purposes. A major thrust of neuroscience research in the last couple of decades has been the use of fMRI…

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Young blind man with white cane and guide dog sitting in park in city.

The Mystery of Blindsight Helps Us Understand the Mind Better

How can a blind person demonstrate awareness of an object in his visual field — and yet not be conscious of it?

Blindsight is the remarkable ability of some blind people to sense objects that they cannot actually see. It occurs when the blindness is caused by damage to the main part of the brain that processes visual information (the striate cortex). But the eyes themselves are intact. The eyes continue to see (sensation) but nothing is receiving the messages (perception). Or so we would think, except for this: One of the most contentious discussions in philosophy of mind and neuroscience is the nature of perception as opposed to sensation. How can we perceive objects in our environment? On a deeper level, what do we mean by “perception”? In what ways does perception differ from sensation, if at all? The neurobiology of…

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human brain on technology background represent artificial intelligence and cyber space concept

Why “the Mind Is Just a Computation” Is a Fatally Flawed Idea

Much modern neuroscience can be characterized as a collection of weak metaphors about the mind and brain. This is one of them

The computational theory of mind (CTM) is the theory that the mind is a computation (calculation) done by the brain. That is, the mind works by rule-based manipulation of symbols, which is what a computer does — computation. Thus our mental states are computational states. Several prominent philosophers have held this view, notably Hilary Putnam (1926–2016) and Jerry Fodor (1935–2017) , and more recently Matthias Scheutz, among several others. I believe that the computational model of the mind is fatally flawed. Here are some reasons: The most obvious reason is that all mental states have meaning — that is, they are intentional. Intentionality means that our thoughts are about something — there is always an object to which a thought…

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Afro-american boy hiding in ruined building, escaped from dysfunctional family

Woke Medicine Is Very Bad for Everyone’s Health

The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed

Critical Race Theory and claims about structural racism in American society are infiltrating medical care and education. There is a major effort in medical education today to indoctrinate students and resident physicians into Critical Theory. This is, in my view, a deeply misguided approach.The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed. The question we face is: how can we protect medical education and practice from this latest iteration of Marxism, and at the same time work to improve deficiencies in education and medical care that Critical Race Theorists correctly point out? It is undeniable that there are structural problems in medicine. Many of these problems impede good medical care, especially…

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Eye close up

What if only part — not all — of your brain were transplanted?

You might end up seeing double out of an eye a thousand miles away

Recently, we’ve been discussing the concept of total or partial human brain transplants. What about transplanting an eye and the parts of the visual cortex it needs from one person to another? Which of the two people would be seeing out of that eye? The answer is not simple. As noted earlier, researchers may never succeed in transplanting both an eye and the hemisphere brain parts that the eye needs to function from one human being to another. But let’s assume a science fiction scenario — a thought experiment — in which there is an exchange. Jack gets Mary’s right eye/hemisphere and Mary gets Jack’s right eye/hemisphere. Both parties, who live on different parts of the planet, survive. For simplicity,…

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Anatomy human body model. Part of human body model with organ system.

Are Human Brain Transplants Even Possible?

What would be the outcome if one person received transplants from the brains of others? If it’s not possible, there may be a good reason why not

Earlier this week, I discussed the work of Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who did extensive research on head transplants in animals. The operation sometimes worked, most notably in monkeys. But it has never been done in humans, mostly because head transplantation would mean cutting the spinal cord, which would cause complete and permanent paralysis. The most reasonable perspective on the soul is that it is the active principle of the body — that is, the soul is what the body does. Thus soul follows function. From this perspective, I infer that after a head transplant, I would see with my original eyes, hear with my original ears, etc. If I were able to move my…

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Electrocardiogram in hospital surgery operating emergency room showing patient heart rate with blur team of surgeons background

Are Head Transplants Soul Transplants?

Specifically, if your head were transplanted, would your soul go with it?

Wired offers a fascinating article about Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who was famous for his extensive research on head transplants. He transplanted heads of various animals, often unsuccessfully (many animals died) but with some success, particularly with monkeys. The medical, ethical, and sociological issues are interesting in themselves, but I’ll focus here on the metaphysical issues. Specifically, if your head is transplanted, does your soul go with it? First, it worth noting that head transplantation is difficult surgery but doable. We know how to sew blood vessels together, how to fuse spinal bones, how to attach tracheas and muscles and peripheral nerves. Transplantation of an entire head (or an entire body, depending on your perspective)…

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Blue glowing multiverse in space

We Don’t Live in a Multiverse Because the Concept Makes No Sense

Neurologist Steven Novella and philosopher Philip Goff, both atheists, agree that there are many universes besides the one we live in

Cosmic fine-tuning is the observation that many of the values of the variables in the fundamental laws of physics specifically permit the existence of sentient life (life like us) within a very narrow margin of error. The likelihood of this happening by chance seems vanishingly small. It seems as if Someone expected us. How can we explain this? The fact that God created the universe explains fine-tuning. But for atheists, it’s a real conundrum. As a result, at Neurologica blog, neurologist Steven Novella (pictured) and philosopher Philip Goff have been discussing the most popular atheist explanation for fine-tuning, the “multiverse.” That is, there are countless universes out there, each with its own parameters, and ours just happens to be one…

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Acceleration of Painted Dream

A Reader Asks: Is It True That There Is No Self?

The assertion that self is an illusion is not even wrong — it’s self-refuting, like saying “I don’t exist” or “Misery is green”

Sir, I am confused after reading the view of materialist philosophers regarding the sense of self. One of them, Thomas Meitzinger, a German philosopher and expert in conciousness, said that “There is no self” in his book. He said that self is an illusion produced by modules of brain. Is it so? Please help me understand this view. Thomas Meitzinger (pictured) is a prominent philosopher of mind who has a strong interest in artificial intelligence. I don’t know his work well, but what I do know of it, I find unintelligible. Perhaps it’s me, or perhaps he’s a sophist, or perhaps both. But this much is clear: My self cannot be an illusion, because having an illusion presupposes a self.…

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Closeup of ill blond senior woman sitting at home and taking oxygen from respirator while nurse with protective mask on sitting next to her and holding her hand during corona virus.

Explosive New Information About New York’s Mass COVID Deaths

In a video conference, perhaps accidentally, a health official blurted out the deadly policy and the reasoning behind it

In November, I wrote about the horrendous consequences of the official directive issued March 25, 2020 by senior New York State officials that required nursing homes to admit residents regardless of their COVID-19 status. In fact, the directive prohibited testing residents prior to admission: No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. [underline in original]. The officials responsible are Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured), Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin. Despite public outrage and strong media criticism, their order…