Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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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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Cocktail drink on night club.

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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Caregiver supporting sick woman with cancer dying in the hospital

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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Woman pray with bible, Asian woman believe in the prayer to God, Christian student pray for study to pass the exam in the library at the college .Bible and christian study concept

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…

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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…

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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…

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Colorful wooden alphabet letters  isolated on white background and texture, top view

How the Split Brain Emphasizes the Reality of the Mind

Fascinating research following up Roger Sperry’s work — which showed that the mind is not split when the brain is — has confirmed and extended his findings

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discuss the significance of the fact that there are aspects of the human mind that cannot be split into parts — as demonstrated by the work of Nobelist Roger Sperry (1913–1994). In this segment, they discuss the neuroscientists who followed up on and extended Sperry’s work — one of whom met a tragic end: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 6 minute mark through the 1 hour 12 minute mark: Michael Egnor: There has been some absolutely intriguing work done since Sperry that I think very clearly shows the existence of…

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Models of two brain halves on black background

The Brain Can Be Split But the Mind Can’t

Neuroscientist Roger Sperry found that splitting the brain in half does not split consciousness in half. It just gives you a rather interesting, but very subtle set of perceptual disabilities

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, they discuss the significance of the fact that there are aspects of the human mind that cannot be split into parts — as demonstrated by the work of Nobelist Roger Sperry (1913–1994). Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 57 minute mark to the 1 hour five minute mark: Michael Egnor: If one is to try to understand the mind in a coherent, consistent framework, one wants to have a metaphysical perspective that does the job, that makes sense. I think there are three different metaphysical perspectives that one could consider, materialist, idealist, and dualist… By…

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the giant robot launching rocket punch destroy the city,illustration painting

Real vs. Digital Humans Locked in All-Out War — Sci-fi Saturday

The reals are attacking the digitals and the digitals invade Toronto in the 24th century in an attempt to power them down

“E-X-T” by director Adrian Bobb (Uploaded at DUST August 2, 2021, 7:38 min) “200 years after humanity has abandoned the real world for a digital one, the system’s most talented security agent is forced out of retirement to recruit and lead a team of talented warriors to eliminate a threat from a world no one has seen for centuries. The real world.” Further: “In the snow-covered ruins of 24th century Toronto, AEGIS, a humanoid war machine, leads a team of five similar yet unique machines into the EXT, the new real-world to retake an enemy-occupied server installation vital to the survival of their digital homeland. During an attempt to ambush a large pack of enemy-controlled war-drones, AEGIS recalls an interrogation…

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Empty old opera gala theater stage and red velvet curtains

How Philosopher John Locke Turned Reality Into Theatre

His “little theater in the mind” concept means that you can’t even know that nature exists. It may just be a movie that’s being played in front of your eyes

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, they discuss the way in which theories of perception that began in the early modern era (17thcentury on) led to doubt about our ability to perceive reality. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the forty-seven to fifty-seven minute mark: The Cartesian theater of the mind Arjuna Das: This is one of [the Vedic] arguments against the brain explaining consciousness. By the time it reaches the end stages of its processing, you have about 20 pixels worth of data. So the information that comes from your senses gives you reference points and then your sensors actually are…

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Joke

Why Animals Can Count But Can’t Do Math

A numerical cognition researcher outlines the differences between recognizing numbers and doing math

At The Conversation, psychology professor Silke Goebel offers some perspective on the differences between the way animals and small children process numbers and the way adults do. As a researcher in numerical cognition, she tries to focus on how brains process numbers. Her research shows that Humans and animals actually share some remarkable numerical abilities – helping them make smart decisions about where to feed and where to take shelter. But as soon as language enters the picture, humans begin outperforming animals, revealing how words and digits underpin our advanced mathematical world. Silke Goebel, “Why animals recognise numbers but only humans can do maths” at The Conversation (July 28, 2021) Essentially, she says, there are two different types of counting…

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futuristic got

How Did Descartes Come To Make Such a Mess of Dualism?

Mathematician René Descartes strictly separated mind and matter in a way that left the mind very vulnerable

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this segment, before getting into problems with René Descartes’ understanding of consciousness, they begin by talking about qualia, a topic considered “central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness.” For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular…

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Ideas escape from brain of pensive african man

Dualism Is Best Option for Understanding the Mind and the Brain

Theories that attempt to show that the mind does not really exist clearly don’t work and never did

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section (with transcript), they talk about ways we can understand the relationship between the mind and the brain: The basic options are materialist (several varieties), idealist, panpsychist, and dualist. The most popular textbook type theory is reductive materialism, which Egnor says argues that mental states are identical to brain states. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the thirty to forty-two minute mark: Identity theory Michael Egnor: Identity theory doesn’t mean that mental states come from brain states or that they correlate with brain states but that they are brain states, in the same way that the evening…

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

How we can know mental states are real?

Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In this section, they talk about how we can know that the mind is real and how materialist philosophy has just plain gone bad: Here is a partial transcript and notes for the twenty to thirty-one minute mark: Michael Egnor: There was a philosopher named Franz Brentano (1838–1917) in the 19th century who proposed what I think is the best definition of what distinguishes a mental state from a physical state. Brentano asks, is there any unique thing that all mental states have that no physical state has? He said, it’s intentionality, and by intentionality he meant that every mental state…

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Abstract fractal spiral. Shell background

Quantum Theory of Consciousness Gains Support From Recent Study

The researchers were testing principles that underpin the Penrose–Hameroff theory

Cristiane de Morais Smith, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Utrecht in Belgium, has teamed up with colleagues from China led by quantum physicist Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University to test principles that underpin a quantum theory of consciousness. Many dismiss the idea, originally proposed in the Nineties by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, because it is assumed that quantum mechanical laws (as opposed to classical physics laws) apply mainly at very low temperatures, for example at – 272 C, which is just below – 273 (absolute zero, when all classical movement stops). De Morais Smith and Xian-Min think, however, that they may have come a bit closer to validating the idea: Our brains are composed of…

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Atom Particle

Why Neurosurgeon Mike Egnor Stopped Being a Materialist Atheist

He found that materialism is just not working out in science

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did another podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, Egnor talked about why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. A partial transcript follows, taking us down to 15 minutes, with notes (more in a further installment): Arjuna Das: (00:01:49) Today, I’ve got Michael Egnor on. I’m very delighted to have him on for a second time. He’s a neurosurgeon, a Christian, and he’s quite good at arguing philosophy too… W So we’ll start out with him telling a little bit of a story, how he changed his metaphysical views through things…

Environmental awareness, global warming consciousness and aspirations to protect future of the planet conceptual idea with close up on hand holding the earth in the open palm

The Day Philosophers Started To Take Consciousness Seriously

Of course, once they did, they found themselves deep in huge conundrums

We sometimes forget how far we are from solving the mystery of consciousness. An anecdote from 1994 might help us understand. Picture an utterly boring, pointless conference in Tucson, Arizona, one of whose attendees was an obscure philosopher from Australia, scheduled to give the third talk. And shook everything up: The brain, Chalmers began by pointing out, poses all sorts of problems to keep scientists busy. How do we learn, store memories, or perceive things? How do you know to jerk your hand away from scalding water, or hear your name spoken across the room at a noisy party? But these were all “easy problems”, in the scheme of things: given enough time and money, experts would figure them out.…

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parrot

Do Birds Really Understand What They Are Saying?

Remarkable claims are made for some birds

Perhaps because parrots can carefully mimic human voices (and many other sounds), many claims are made for their intelligence For example, that they understand abstractions like currency: After training eight African grey parrots and six blue-headed macaws to barter metal rings for walnuts, the researchers paired the birds up with same-species partners. They then put the parrots in clear chambers joined by a transfer hole, and gave one bird—the donor—ten rings, while the other was left with none. Even without the promise of a reward for themselves, seven out of eight of the African grey parrot donors passed some of their available tokens through the transfer hole to their broke partners, usually shuttling them beak to beak. On average, about…

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Underpass near the subway in the city in the late evening

Do Only Western Religious People Have Near-Death Experiences?

Even famous atheist philosopher A. J. Ayer had a near-death experience

Gregory Shushan, author of Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions (2018) notes in a recent article at Psyche that near-death experiences are not a new discovery: NDEs have been popularly recognised in the West since the mid-1970s, but people from the largest empires to the smallest hunter-gatherer societies have been having them throughout history. Accounts are found in ancient sacred texts, historical documents, the journals of explorers and missionaries, and the ethnographic reports of anthropologists. Among the hundreds I’ve collected are those of a 7th-century BCE Chinese provincial ruler, a 4th-century BCE Greek soldier, a 12th-century Belgian saint, a 15th-century Mexica princess, an 18th-century British admiral, a 19th-century Ghanaian victim of human sacrifice, and a Soviet man who’d apparently killed himself…

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Claim: “Evolution” Explains Near-Death Experiences

The problem is, there is no evolutionary reason to believe the claim

Some researchers believe that near-death experiences are a biological mechanism like the fight-or-flight response, a means of pretending death to avoid a predator. They call it thanatosis: The authors propose that the acquisition of language enabled humans to transform these events from relatively stereotyped death-feigning under predatory attacks into the rich perceptions that form near-death experiences and extend to non-predatory situations. Of note, the proposed cerebral mechanisms behind death-feigning are not unlike those that have been suggested to induce near-death experiences, including intrusion of rapid eye movement sleep into wakefulness,” Daniel Kondziella explains. “This further strengthens the idea that evolutionary mechanisms are an important piece of information needed to develop a complete biological framework for near-death experiences.” No previous work…