Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Background with a Planet, Moon and Star

SETI’s Seth Shostak Explains the New Galileo Project To Find ET

Controversial Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has put together a private funding package to search for alien life

The Galileo Project, formed in response to the recent release report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), proposes to look “systematically, scientifically and transparently” for evidence of ET. The report noted that a number of observed phenomena remain unexplained. SETI’s Seth Shostak explains: Avi Loeb, a Harvard astrophysicist who doesn’t hesitate to swim in the shark-infested waters of controversy, is proposing a major effort to find aliens in our solar system, perhaps even in our airspace. He has raised $1.7 million in private funding to launch something he calls the Galileo Project, an initiative to bring the rigor of experimental science to ufology. Loeb’s plan is to use a telescope now under construction, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, to study interstellar…

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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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Pot with beautiful blooming azalea and cup of tea on table

How Science Points To Meaning in Life

The earliest philosopher of science, Aristotle, pioneered a way of understanding it

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” Among other things, he talks about how science points to meaning in life. Earlier, he had explained why he ceased to be an atheist as he learned more about science and its dependence on mathematics, which is not a material thing. In this section, he talks about the importance of the concept of purpose in nature (teleology), with a hat tip to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) Here is a partial transcript and notes for the fifteen- to twenty-minute mark: Michael Egnor: I think teleology is the cornerstone of understanding nature. That whole system of understanding nature, that includes…

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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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ビジネスプラン

How Informational Realism Subverts Materialism

Within informational realism, what defines things is their capacity for communicating or exchanging information with other things

Here are some brief excerpts from design theorist William Dembski’s chapter in a forthcoming book on informational realism: To see how informational realism dissolves the mind-body problem, we need first to be clear on what informational realism is and why it is credible. Informational realism is not simply the view that information is real. We live in an information age, so who doesn’t think that information is real? Rather, informational realism asserts that the ability to exchange information is the defining feature of reality, of what it means, at the most fundamental level, for any entity to be real. William A. Dembski, “Informational Realism Dissolves the Mind–Body Problem,” a chapter of the forthcoming Mind and Matter: Modern Dualism, Idealism and…

Human skull and science

Our Scientific Salvation Will Be The Death Of Us

Will we trust "the science" (meaning the scientists) to the point of madness?

Originally published at Patheos “The truly insane man is the perfectly rational man.” So says G.K. Chesterton. This saying is very counter intuitive today. The perfectly rational man is the ideal scientist, the man who knows reality in precise quantitative terms, the best kind of knowledge we have. Such scientific knowledge promises the secret of immortality. If we can understand the fundamentals of our physical existence, we can shape our existence in whatever way we wish. The rational man is the messiah of our scientific age. So, why did Chesterton warn us about the rational man? The problem is that rationality only deals with the known knowns and the known unknowns. Rationality does not deal with the unknown unknowns. The…

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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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Close encounters of the third kind. Unidentified objects coming from space. Contact with extraterrestrials UFO.

NASA Seeks Standards for ET Life Claims

The agency wants to develop a credibility scale so we know what to pay attention to

What with everything from Oumuamua to phosphine on Venus claiming our attention, NASA thinks it’s time to develop some standards for what constitutes a credible claim about extraterrestrial life: “The discovery of a potential biosignature in [a planet’s] atmosphere is important, but it’s just the start,” said Green in an interview. “You have to examine potential false positives, whether there are [non-biological] ways to form the chemical, whether the measurement is an artifact of your instrument, whether the environment on the planet is conducive or hostile to life, whether water is present.” Applying such a chain of reasoning could result in a kind of credibility scale for the general public to turn to when they read about new results in…

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アンドロメダ銀河

Some Say That the Universe Is a Donut. Others Say It’s a Hole.

Actually, as astrophysicist Ethan Siegel points out, there’s only one universe — which makes theorizing about it a problem.

At Forbes, theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel comments: The true problem with the Universe is that there’s only one to observe, or at least, only one that we’re capable of observing. We don’t have a large sample of Universes to compare between, and we don’t have a large set of data points available to us within our Universe. It’s like rolling five dice, together, once. Your odds of getting all sixes is small: about 1-in-7800. Yet if you rolled five dice at once and saw that it came up all sixes, you wouldn’t necessarily conclude that it was anything more than random chance. Sometimes, nature just doesn’t give you the most likely outcome. It’s possible that the leftover photons from the…

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Time and space travel concept abstract background

What If Only Part of You Could Be Teleported? — Sci-Fi Saturday

A rooftop smoke break reveals a dreadful secret

“Liminal” at DUST by Collin Davis and Matt Litwiller (July 19, 2021, 6:47 min) From the producers: “Liminal explores big ideas in contained spaces: a character piece with a sci-fi backdrop. Gwen, the lead scientist on a secret experiment to teleport humans, encounters a co-worker on a smoke break. As she grapples with the implications of recent discoveries it’s clear that a dire mistake has been made. Her test subject has lost something along the way. ” Review: “We sent a man to Europa and brought him back in two-thirds of a second … the solar system just got smaller.” This short film benefits from good performances by Anna Campbell (Gwen) and Max Lesser ( Tim), lending authenticity to a…

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Wild Zoo Animal Squares

Would You Become an Animal to Save a Species? — Sci-fi Saturday

The animation is good and the question raised is interesting

“Floreana” at DUST by Louis Morton (Jul 23, 2021), 4:13 min, originally at IMDB 2019 “On a remote island in the future, people are training for an important mission. Take a look at the mechanics of this training facility and the creatures within.” Review: Floreana is an animated film which offers a genuine surprise in terms of how humans in the future might propose to deal with the issue of endangered wildlife. It’s a bit unrealistic (how many people would really go along with living inside animals?) but worth thinking about. Just the right length to get across the basic idea. Films reviewed are sorted roughly by length so you can choose films based on how much time you have.…

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The stones in the water

Claim: “Spirituality” Circuit in the Brain Has Been Identified

Really? Is that even possible?

It’s a story like so many others: Researchers have “found” the brain circuits for spirituality: A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital takes a new approach to mapping spirituality and religiosity and finds that spiritual acceptance can be localized to a specific brain circuit. This brain circuit is centered in the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a brainstem region that has been implicated in numerous functions, including fear conditioning, pain modulation, altruistic behaviors and unconditional love … “Our results suggest that spirituality and religiosity are rooted in fundamental, neurobiological dynamics and deeply woven into our neuro-fabric,” said corresponding author Michael Ferguson, PhD, a principal investigator in the Brigham’s Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics. “We were astonished to find…

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Exoplanet

When Sci-Fi Gets Earnest About Colonization — Sci-fi Saturday

Worth seeing but we never get to find out who the characters are fighting or why some treaty could not be arranged

“Ripple Effect” at DUST by [ Hannah Bang at Dust, July 12, 2021, 7:12 min: “In a not so distant future- a coalition of the old earth’s nations have sought and claimed the discovery of a new planet “Gaia” as the human race’s last hope for survival. However, when the human settlements rolled in, what awaited them was neither discovery nor pioneering but colonization and war against the planet’s original inhabitants. With an increasingly militaristic government that demands the settlers’ sacrifice for the good of all, one family is torn apart when the eldest daughter, Ara, questions who the real bad guys are. At a time where mass think seems to be the safest option, Ripple Effect asks us if…

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Create yourself concept. Good looking young man drawing a picture, sketch of himself

If You Could Change by “Inserting” Knowledge… Should You?

An education professor is surprisingly sympathetic to just “inserting” Correct knowledge to produce desirable changes

John Tillson, philosopher of education and author of Children, Religion, and the Ethics of Influence, asks if, instead of drills and homework, what about just “learning” a skill via a computer cable plugged into the back of your head, the way Neo learned karate in The Matrix?: Discussing the pros and cons of just acquiring knowledge by mere insertion, Tillson is surprisingly friendly to the idea, especially in terms of reprogramming bad ideas: Even if we dodge the threat of replacement by downloading a modest suite of knowledge at a suitably gentle pace, we might still worry that knowledge insertion would make us become someone we wouldn’t want to be. This isn’t always a problem. Suppose Neo was racist and…

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water pouring into glass

Human Psychology in a World Without Water — Sci-fi Saturday

“Oasis” was filmed as a response to the Capetown Water Crisis of 2018

“Oasis” (2020) at DUST by David Wayne Smith (May 12, 2021 at DUST). 8:05 min “In the wake of the 2018 Cape Town water crisis, a handful of filmmakers and I put together a project that tackled environmental issues. In developing a film that focused on the needs of Cape Town, we discovered a global story. OASIS is a Science-Fiction short film that comments on our responsibility in a world that is vulnerable.” Review: The almost entirely wordless film does a good job of portraying a world dying for lack of water. But honestly, the psychological dynamics — and particularly, the fight scene — did not make sense. There is such a thing as taking the “empowered woman” thing too…

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Colorful exoplanet insolated on black

Why the Search for ET Now Focuses on Oceans in the Outer Planets

Some researchers are refining their ET life-tracking skills

The moons of the outer planets, research shows, have vast oceans and water is an essential ingredient of life as we know it. Natalie Elliot, a science writer with a specialty in astrobiology, explains, The hottest spots in the search for alien life are a few frigid moons in the outer solar system, each known to harbor a liquid-water ocean beneath its icy exterior. There is Saturn’s moon Titan, which hides a thick layer of briny water beneath a frozen surface dotted with lakes of liquid hydrocarbon. Titan’s sister Saturnian moon Enceladus has revealed its subsurface sea with geyserlike plumes venting from cracks near its south pole. Plumes also emanate from a moon that is one planet closer to the…

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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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The Earth from space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

Cornell: Earth Could Be Seen by ET Far More Easily Than Thought

Using analytic software, researchers can determine whether Earth would be visible from a given star system

According to Cornell and American Museum of Natural History researchers, “Scientists have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems — within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years — that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun”: Scientists at Cornell University and the American Museum of Natural History have identified 2,034 nearby star-systems — within the small cosmic distance of 326 light-years — that could find Earth merely by watching our pale blue dot cross our sun. That’s 1,715 star-systems that could have spotted Earth since human civilization blossomed about 5,000 years ago, and 319 more star-systems that will be added over the next 5,000 years. Exoplanets around these nearby stars have a cosmic front-row seat to…

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Virus bacteria cells background

What If the UAP (UFOs) Are Much Simpler Life Forms Than We Think?

Why assume, if the unexplained phenomena are ET, that they are more advanced than we are? What if the opposite is true?

Readers will recall that on June 25, the Pentagon released a nine-page report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UFOs) which signaled a significant change in attitude from debunking to carefully assessing. That is, we don’t know what’s out there but it’s something and we had better find out. The report references 144 incidents, of which investigators “could not explain”143. First, some reactions from science writers at Futurism: They were generally “disappointed” by the report’s uncertainty, accompanied by tantalizing hints: Reports of strange sightings made by US military pilots emerged after The New York Times published a series of mysterious videos in 2017, captured by military personnel and showing unidentified objects that seemed to defy the laws of physics. The June report,…