Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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Researchers: The Universe Simulated Itself Into Existence

A recent physics journal paper proposes self-simulation as the origin of the universe, using a quantum gravity model

Yesterday, we looked at “Untitled Earth Sim 64,” a science fiction comedy based on the idea that Earth is a messed up simulation — created by entities that are in themselves simulations. And maybe their simulators were in turn simulated… And so forth. The problem is, where’s the original? Surprisingly, perhaps, there is a physics theory that offers an answer: The universe simulated itself: A new hypothesis says the universe self-simulates itself in a “strange loop”. A paper from the Quantum Gravity Research institute proposes there is an underlying panconsciousness. The work looks to unify insight from quantum mechanics with a non-materialistic perspective. How real are you? What if everything you are, everything you know, all the people in your…

Concept Of Open Mind

New Theory of Mind Offers More Information, Less Materialism

First, let’s begin by noting a remarkable fact: Panpsychism seems to have triumphed in the area of theories of consciousness.

At Nautilus, evolutionary biologist Tam Hunt asks us to consider the “General Resonance Theory of Consciousness,” which he has been developing with psychologist Jonathan Schooler — “a framework with a panpsychist foundation. It may, he thinks, “at least in theory, provide more complete answers to the full array of questions the hard problem of consciousness poses.” Hunt’s quite clear about the panpsychism (the view that everything in the universe participates in consciousness): Since I came up in philosophy, rather than neuroscience or psychology, for me the easy part was deciding the philosophical orientation. Schooler and I duked it out over whether we should adopt a materialist, idealist, panpsychist, or some other position on our way to a complete answer. I…

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The Final Materialist Quest?: A War on the Reality of the Mind

Going to war with the very concept is an approach even George Orwell did not think up

One of the stranger articles we’ve seen in a long time at Aeon proposes a war on the very concept of “the mind.” “The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them,” Joe Gough, a philosophy student, says. Here is his reasoning: The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once.…

Blume des Lebens mit Sternenkosmos und Lichtstreifen

The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp put consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical…

Inside the brain. Concept of neurons and nervous system.

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the Timing of Sensory Processing

One neuroscientist, encountering the timing, made up a theory that didn’t really work, but he was a great neuroscientist anyway

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with host Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, Dr. Egnor talked about the troubles of being a non-materialist medical scientist, including demands that he be fired and death threats and so forth. In this segment, he talks about the meaning of “soul” in philosophy. Not a “spook” of some kind but common sense reasoning about life and death: Arjuna Das: So there’s a delay in how long it takes for the brain to process visual sensations compared to auditory sensations. So it’s a half second delay and this creates a problem. … We have no free will then. (01:57:50) Michael Egnor: If I can…

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

Why Some Scientists Think Consciousness Persists After Death

We should not assume that pepole who are near death do not know what we are saying

A very significant change that happened in the last century or so has been the ability of science professionals to see what happens when people are thinking, especially under traumatic conditions. It was not a good moment for materialist theories. Here is one finding (there are many others): Death is a process, usually, not simply an event. Consciousness can persists after clinical death. A more accurate way of putting things might be that the brain is able to host consciousness for a short period after clinical death. Some notes on recent findings: The short answer is, probably, yes: Recent studies have shown that animals experience a surge in brain activity in the minutes after death. And people in the first…

small mushrooms toadstools

Mushrooms Have Minds? Well, If You Doubt Humans Are Exceptional…

… it is a short step to thinking that mushrooms have minds. A Miami University biologist has taken that step

It’s pretty daring to claim that mushrooms have minds. But, in the light of what we have learned about plant communications, we should perhaps pause a moment to at least listen. Miami University biologist Nicholas P. Money, argues: Given the magical reputation of the fungi, claiming that they might be conscious is dangerous territory for a credentialled scientist. But in recent years, a body of remarkable experiments have shown that fungi operate as individuals, engage in decision-making, are capable of learning, and possess short-term memory. These findings highlight the spectacular sensitivity of such ‘simple’ organisms, and situate the human version of the mind within a spectrum of consciousness that might well span the entire natural world. Nicholas P. Money, “The…

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…

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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Non-Materialist Science Is Wanted — Dead or Alive

Exploring a non-materialist approach to the mind has included a death threat for neurosurgeon Michael Egnor

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which epilepsy provides a glimpse into the way the mind is not simply the brain but has powers in its own right. In this segment, Dr. Egnor talks about the problems of being a non-materialist physician in a materialist world — death threats and all. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 44 minute mark to the 1 hour 56 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You said how scientists, if they reject physicalism, it doesn’t help their career. They might get less opportunities or less prestige or whatever… I…

man before big brain

Can Science Really Engineer a Bigger Human Brain?

Computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham wonders why we would bother. There is no strict relationship between brain size and intellectual achievement

In a three-part series at Psychology Today, Hobart and William Smith College computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham, author of An Internet in Your Head: A New Paradigm for How the Brain Works(2021), tackles that question: First, most parts of the human brain are already larger than they should be for an animal life form of our size. But the difference is hardly commensurate with average human intelligence vs. average chimpanzee intelligence. Sure enough: Neuroscientists have struggled to explain what our extra brain mass actually accomplishes. The best guess seems to be that, at the species level, our extra brain mass allows us to store more lifetime memories. One piece of evidence for this is that bigger-brained (and therefore bigger-bodied) mammals also…

Venus against the background of the sun. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Carl Sagan Institute: Who Can See Us From Outer Space?

Most exoplanets are spotted when they dim a star’s light while crossing it. Earth does the same thing

We’ve all heard of astronomer Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot (Earth from a billion miles away, 1990). But Jaimie Green reminds us at Slate that Sagan (1934–1996) also published a paper in 1993 that looked at Earth from that distance as if it were an exoplanet. What signals would prompt them to suspect life here? That approach is still followed by astronomer and director Lisa Kaltenegger at Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute. One question is, where would an intelligent, technologically advanced civilization need to be to see us? Kaltenegger and her collaborators used new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to figure out which stars have, have had, or will in the next 5,000 years have the right…

sad mixed breed dog posing in a cage in animal shelter

Are Animals Capable of Committing Suicide?

Generally, experts think not. They may, of course, become profoundly depressed and engage in self-harm

At Discover Magazine, Richard Pallardy offers an anecdote: In April 1970, Ric O’Barry visited a dolphin named Kathy at the Miami Seaquarium, where she was languishing in “retirement” after three years as the title character on the television show Flipper. O’Barry, who had captured her from the wild and trained her to perform, remembers thinking that she seemed depressed. She was all alone in a concrete tank — not a good thing for a highly social animal like a dolphin. He claims the former cetacean starlet swam into his arms, sank to the bottom of the tank and refused to resurface, drowning herself. Richard Pallardy, “Do Animals Commit Suicide?” at Discover Magazine (August 10, 2021) There is no lack of…

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Epilepsy: If You Follow the Science, Materialism Is Dead

Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnordid a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which people’s minds sometimes become much clearer near death (terminal lucidity). Dr. Egnor suggested that that may demonstrate that the brain constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at objections raised to the view that epilepsy provides evidence for the mind as not merely a function of the brain. Dr. Egnor begins by focusing on the work of Wilder Penfield, the founder of epilepsy surgeries, who worked in Montreal in the mid-twentieth century, “a wonderful scientist, one of the best scientists that neurosurgery has produced”: Here is a…

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Skyscrapers and City. 3d illustration

Quantum Physicist Shows How Consciousness Can Create Reality

In his argument against physicalism (physical nature is all there is), Andersen draws from the 19th-century philosopher Schopenhauer the concept of Will as the basis of all reality

Tim Andersen, principal research scientist at Georgia Tech in general relativity and quantum field theory and author of The Infinite Universe: A First Principles Guide (2020), offers a riff on the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). He argues, with Schopenhauer, that Will is the basis of reality: The key to understanding Will is in examining our own sense of consciousness. We have, in a sense, two levels of consciousness. The first is of experience. We experience a flower’s color and smell. Therefore, we are conscious of it. The second is that we are aware of our consciousness of it. That is a meta-consciousness which we sometimes call reflection. I reflect on my awareness of the flower. It is this second level…

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Defending the Mind’s Reality at a Materialist Cocktail Party

What to say when you find yourself among self-assured elite sloganeers

Most of the university cocktail set is quite sure that the mind is simply what the brain does. To doubt that, in their view, is to part company with science. And yet the evidence points in the opposite direction. If you are stuck with them, here are some snatches of their usual brilliance, along with suggested replies and their sources. Arguments from evolution Claim: We are just animals so, as we might expect, the human brain is not really unique. The human, mouse, and fly brains all use the same basic mechanisms!1 Response: That’s the remarkable part. What we do with our brains sets us apart. And greater size doesn’t really account for that. Lemurs, whose brains are only 1/200th…

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Why Do Some People’s Minds Become Much Clearer Near Death?

Arjuna Das and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor discuss the evidence for terminal lucidity at Theology Unleashed “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.”

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at how the human mind often becomes much more sharp and clear near death. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 26 minute mark to the 1 hour 32 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You’re either doing science or you’re defending your dogma. (01:25:59) Michael Egnor: Exactly. John Searle, a philosopher of mind, who is an atheist and not a dualist has a tremendous distaste for materialism. And he commented one time, ”When…

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Researchers: Prolonged Meditation Alters the Brain

The changes were detected mainly in the frontal and parietal lobes

Andrew Newberg and colleagues have found that extended periods of prayer and meditationcan change the brain: We studied one such seven-day programme in Pennsylvania based on the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. Our research on this retreat programme, which is typically conducted in silence and consists of extended periods of prayer and meditation, showed a number of differences in participants’ brains after the retreat compared with before it. For one, our study looked at the effects of the retreat programme on serotonin and dopamine, two critical neurotransmitters involved in many of our emotional and cognitive processes. The results suggested that a person’s brain becomes more sensitised to the effects of serotonin and dopamine, which might help us understand how retreat…

Two Indian tibetan monk lama

Researchers: Buddhist Monks’ Bodies Decay Very Slowly at Death

According to traditional meditation lore, they are in a meditative state (thukdam) until their consciousness is clear; only then does the body begins to decay

We are told that one of the more remarkable effects of a lifetime of meditation can be a comparatively slow decay process for the body. Recent evidence for that emerged in the death of Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Lhundub Sopa, August 28, 2014, at the age of 91. Sopa, who had been tutor to the Dalai Lama in Tibet, moved to Wisconsin in 1967. There he co-founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center and taught South Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, becoming a friend of prominent American neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson. According to Daniel Burke, former religion editor for CNN, Davidson recalls the scene as follows: Three days after his heart stopped, Geshe Lhundub Sopa was leaned upright against…

light at the end of the tunnel

The Brain Does Not Create the Mind; It Constrains It.

Near-death experiences in which people report seeing things that are later verified give some sense of how the mind works in relation to the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way that the split-brain research that followed Roger Sperry’s findings has increased the evidence for the reality of the mind. In this segment, they discuss the way in which the brain actually constrains the mind. That may seem counterintuitive at first but consider the evidence: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 12 minute mark to the 1 hour 25 minute mark: Arjuna Das: So, this relates to how I understand perception in the brain, despite the mind being non-material: “The brain is a reducer of consciousness rather than a…