Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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white knight chess piece

Atheist Spokesman Matt Dillahunty Refuses To Debate Me Again

Although he has said that he finds debates “incredibly valuable,” he is — despite much urging — making an exception in this case. Why?

I recently debated atheist Matt Dillahunty on Theology Unleashed,. Matt is an atheist activist and the former president of the Atheist Community of Austin, Texas. Since 2005 he has hosted the televised webcast The Atheist Experience and he has also hosted a live Internet radio show and founded Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics project. From a bio sketch: Matt Dillahunty is a seasoned debater, the current president of the Atheist Community of Austin, and the well known host of The Atheist Experience. He has debated Jordan Peterson, David Wood and a host of other theists, and has shared stages with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Laurence Krauss. He is known for his cool headed logical arguments and philosophical abilities. Matt describes…

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Knowing the Enemy

Debate: Former Atheist Neurosurgeon vs. Former Christian Activist

At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other

“Does God exist?” On September 17, in a rip-roaring old-fashioned debate, Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty debated the question at Theology Unleashed. We’ll cover this debate for you, including transcripts and notes. First, each participant was given a chance upfront to state where he is coming from and why. Michael Egnor, representing the Yes side, went first. How did a medic, formerly an atheist, who cuts open people’s brains for a living, come to be sure there is a God? And how did a fundamentalist Christian come to be hosting The Atheist Experience? The debate hosts are Arjuna Das for Theology Unleashed and Nathan from Digital Gnosis as the moderator. A partial transcript and notes follow.…

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Big Bang

The Big Bang: The Beginning of All Questions About the Universe

... and the mind and all that

This offbeat “Science Uprising” film discusses the way in which the Big Bang, — the idea of a cosmic beginning — is unpopular among many philosophers of science because it sounds like an argument for the existence of God. But it is the best science explanation: You may also wish to read: The Big Bang has no natural beginning. In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself

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business and investment strategy analytics, financial simulation model

When a Simulated World Begins To Fall Apart — Sci-fi Saturday

Marie has reason to expect trouble when the simulator who explains reality to her cannot get her name right…

“Untitled Earth Sim 64” at DUST by Jonathan Wilhelmsson (September 10, 2021, 6:11) Marie is an offbeat woman who suspects that all is not right with the world. After experiencing various glitches in reality, she is called upon by a mysterious being that accidentally lets slip that her universe is a simulation. Marie’s life quickly unravels at this revelation, as she desperately looks for meaning in an untitled simulation. Review: This sci-fi comedy has won a number of awards and it is easy to see why. It is fast-paced and raises many interesting issues. When Marie (Karen Olrich-White) attempts to explain to her friend (Alexandra Frick) that she has learned from a mysterious voice (James Fraser) — amid a series…

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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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Concept of shame and ridicule

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…

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Man with his back walking through the fog street

Is a Science Writer’s “Agnosticism” a Futile Pursuit?

John Horgan, a creative thinker and able writer, is agnostic about quantum mechanics, consciousness, and God. But let’s look at the bases for that.

If science writer John Horgan had merely said that agnosticism is the only sensible stance regarding God, there would be little surprise. That view is over-represented in popular science writing. But he says the same thing about quantum mechanics and consciousness too. Some brief snippets from his article (with brief responses): He’s not happy that quantum mechanics, a well-established branch of science (our computers would not work if it were not real) cannot eliminate the role of the conscious observer: Quantum mechanics Introducing consciousness into physics undermines its claim to objectivity. Moreover, as far as we know, consciousness arises only in certain organisms that have existed for a brief period here on Earth. So how can quantum mechanics, if it’s…

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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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cute model of the Earth, Sun and Moon with googly eyes on the chalkboard, a donut, a globe and a cookie on the chalkboard

When God Gets Distracted — Sci-fi Saturday

A clever animated short offers a take on why there is so much violence and chaos in the world

“Tales from the Multiverse” uploaded at DUST by director Magnus Igland Møller (August 6, 2021, 6:36 min, animated) “God is a single parent and amateur programmer. He’s working on project ‘Earth’ but never seems to get a break from the kids. One day though, he finally gets a breakthrough.” Review: This film debuted in 2020 (IMDB). It’s a clever riff on why we live in a crazy world. God can’t really concentrate on the computer program he is using to simulate (create Earth) because he is breaking up fights between his kids. He tries out Adam and Eve, a round Earth and a flat Earth, and dinosaurs living alongside Stone Age people. But his absence, even when he seems to…

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Religion conflicts global issue

Religion Is Far Too Complex to Have a Single Evolution Story

Casey Luskin reflects on Yuval Noah Harari’s thesis that religion evolved through stages because humans needed it in order to co-operate in larger groups

In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015), historian Yuval Noah Harari recounts a familiar sort of tale about the origin of religion. Casey Luskin, who has been reviewing the book, explains, Yuval Noah Harari tells the standard evolutionary story. According to this story, religion began as a form of animism among small bands of hunters and gatherers and then proceeded to polytheism and finally monotheism as group size grew with the first agricultural civilizations. At each stage, he argues, religion evolved in order to provide the glue that gave the group the cohesive unity it needed (at its given size) to cooperate and survive. Casey Luskin, “Reviewing Sapiens: Getting the Origin of Religion Backwards” at Evolution News and Science…

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shamanic girl with frame drum on abstract structured space background.

A Glimpse of Sci-Fi in a World of Panpsychism — Sci-fi Saturday

Shamanism isn’t science, of course, but it makes more fictional sense in a sci-fi world where everything has a soul than one where nothing does

“The Shaman” at DUST (July 30, 2021) by Marco Kalantari (2015 at IMDB, 16:16) The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. Recently mankind re-discovered the arts of Shamanism. The Shaman’s school of thought believes that every person or object has a soul. During battle Shamans step over into the Netherworld to find and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines. This tactic enables a single man to overcome an invincibly seeming steel monster. This is the story of Joshua, a Shaman, who is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. He does not yet know that the soul is prepared for his coming and…

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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…

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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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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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Black Hole in space

What Happens If Earth Passes Through a Black Hole—Sci-fi Saturday

This story isn’t exactly about passage through a black hole: It is a meditation on nothingness that crashes headfirst into nihilism

“Until There Was Nothing” at DUST by Paul Trillo (August 25, 2020, 5:36 min) “A philosophical video and art exploration of the Earth’s passage through a black hole.” Review: This film is actually a philosophical meditation on nothingness — the concept of non-entity, as every concept of mathematics, physics, natural law, and order vanishes. Gravity reverses itself at odd moments for no particular reason. Terrifying. Whether the filmmakers intended this or not, it is really a meditation on the way the fundamental constants of the universe work. And what would happen if they didn’t. For more, see the Kalam Constant, a philosophical proof of the existence of God. — A note re our new feature below: We sort reviewed films…

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African American woman studing and reading the Bible.

Does Religious Belief Help People Think in a More Complex Way?

One psychologist became interested in the question because many studies have associated religious belief with better health and greater longevity

University of South Florida psychologist Jay L. Michaels, who has a background in experimental social psychology and quantitative psychology, designed a study to test that proposition: In the study, 630 adults from from 48 countries completed a cognitive assessment in which they were asked to pick a phrase that best described a given behavior. They had the choice of picking a high-level description (which focused on why the action was performed) or a low-level description (which focused on mechanistic aspects of the action.) For example, one item asked whether “reading” was better described as “Gaining knowledge” or “Following lines of print.” Eric W. Dolan, “New study links intrinsic religious motivation to higher-level patterns of thought” at PsyPost (May 22, 2021)…

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Coronavirus covid-19. Child praying to God requesting that the coronavirus covid 19 not spread beyond control.

Side effects: COVID Got People Praying Again

Despite the fact that many could not go to houses of worship

McLean Hospital psychologist David H. Rosmarin has the stats: In the early days of the pandemic, economist Jeanet Bentzen of the University of Copenhagen examined Google searches for the word “prayer” in 95 countries. She identified that they hit an all-time global high in March 2020, and increases occurred in lockstep with the number of COVID-19 cases identified in each country. Stateside, according to the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans prayed to end the spread of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, and nearly one quarter reported that their faith increased the following month, despite limited access to houses of worship. David H. Rosmarin, “Psychiatry Needs to Get Right with God” at Scientific American (June 15, 2021) Not…

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dachsund dog portrait studio looking up.

Do Any Dogs Go To Heaven? If So, Why?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch was troubled as a child by the Catholic tradition that dogs like his beloved Purzel did not go to heaven

In recent articles, we’ve discussed well-known neuroscientist Christof Koch’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness which, as he acknowledges, takes a panpsychist (everything is conscious to some degree) approach to the mind. He has explained his reasoning at MIT Press Reader: Materialists must see human consciousness as an illusion — but then whose illusion is it? Panpsychism allows humans to have actual consciousness but, he says, “experience may not even be restricted to biological entities but might extend to non-evolved physical systems previously assumed to be mindless — a pleasing and parsimonious conclusion about the makeup of the universe.” His perspective is gaining popularity in science. One, perhaps unexpected, factor that he mentions as shaping his overall approach was youthful…

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Statue of Saint Anselm and the towers of the Cathedral of Aosta, the Cattedrale di Aosta de Corso Pere-Laurent in Aosta. Aosta Valley. Italy. Europe

Gödel Says God Exists and Proves It

Here is a line-by-line explanation of his proof

Kurt Gödel, an intellectual giant of the 20th century, offered a mathematical proof that God exists. Those who suffer from math anxiety admire what the theorem (shown below) claims to do, but have absolutely no idea what it means. Our goal is to explain, in English, what Gödel’s existence of God proof says. Gödel’s proof shows the existence of God is a necessary truth. The idea behind the truth is not new and dates back to Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Great scientists and philosophers, including Descartes and Leibniz, have reconsidered and refined Anselm’s argument. Gödel appears to be the first, however, to present the argument using mathematical logic. Lexicography In any development of a mathematical theory, there are foundational axioms…

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Image catastrophe on Earth

What Would the Ruins of “Eden” Be Like?: Sci-fi Saturday

Scavenging for artifacts on a ruined planet, a space drifter comes across the ruins of a high-tech civilization

“Eden” (2018) at DUST (May 20, 2021) by Kristian Bakstad, 11:51 min: “Deep in the recesses of space, a lone scavenger hunts for a valuable artifact on a desolate planet. When he discovers an abandoned facility, he ventures inside hoping for his big payday; but instead encounters a mad man and the remnants of a religious cult.” Review: This one got a lot of negative reviews but the studio has been around for a while, so let’s have another look. The lead character (Christoff Lundgren) is agreeably scuzzy, batting around in space. The opening portrays his lifestyle well: His tracking system detects something that might be evidence of a ruined advanced ET civilization to scavenge. He needs something he can…