Artificial Intelligence brains and computation vs contemplation Darwinism Science, worldview issues/foundations and society

VIDEO: Prof. Raymond Tallis – “Aping Mankind? Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity”

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A food-for-thought lecture:

[youtube U5baL9oh430]

Thoughts? END

PS: Kindly note this (and the discussion in the original post here with onward discussion and video here) on the problem of neural networks, computation vs contemplation and trying to get North by heading West:

A neural network is essentially a weighted sum interconnected gate array, it is not an exception to the GIGO principle
A neural network is essentially a weighted sum interconnected gate array, it is not an exception to the GIGO principle

 

14 Replies to “VIDEO: Prof. Raymond Tallis – “Aping Mankind? Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity”

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Neuromania, Darwinitis — an interesting diagnosis by prof Tallis.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: For instance we may wish to ponder the discussion on choice vs brain processing from about 14:00 – 22:00.

  3. 3
    Neil Rickert says:

    A quick comment.

    The first 40 minutes of the video is Tallis presenting his talk. The remainder is a question and answer session. The questions are very hard to hear (poor acoustic, I guess), but the answers can be heard clearly.

    Personally, I mostly agree with Tallis. But I don’t know why he feels the need to use labeling (“Neuromania” and “Darwinitis”). I think that detracts from what he has to say.

    I also wonder why he bothers. It’s pretty obvious that most scientists and non-theist philosophers are not going to be persuaded.

  4. 4
    cantor says:

    Is there a transcript of this talk available online somewhere?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Bad miking, and there may be a transcript but I have not seen it.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Querius says:

    Thank you, kairosfocus.

    I enjoyed Professor Tallis’ talk and his critique of those scientists who seem to feel that science is a tool that they can use to support their materialistic world view. Their method is no different from anyone with a religious, moral (or amoral), or political agenda, and is poisonous to scientific advancement.

    Mechanistic determinism has been repeatedly demonstrated invalid in many of the sciences starting with meteorology, but the ideological fascination of its devotees has created an impermeable barrier against any contrary evidence, especially scientific evidence. One can easily hide the hand of God or human volition within the uncertainties of the chaotic nature of the physical universe, not to mention quantum mechanics.

    And if there is indeed “a ghost in the machine” meaning a spirit that controls the brain (which Professor Tallis does not believe in), it would be no surprise that there might be a time lag between the ghost’s decision and the machine’s awareness of the decision. In fact, if the results of the vaunted experiment on awareness and decision making were reversed, the results could also be interpreted as a proof of neurological materialism. Heads I win, tails you lose.

    As Professor Tallis said, some of the beliefs of those infected by Neuromania and Darwinitis might start out as cute puppies, but grow up into something else indeed, something sinister.

    Certainly to someone who believes that humans have no more independent volition or personal responsibility than a pebble (to use Professor Tallis’s comparison), they would find no moral difference between tossing a pebble into the middle of the ocean than tossing you into the middle of the ocean. The treatment of humans can then be made equivalent to the treatment of any other cattle.

    This is all too convenient for despots high and low.

    -Q

  8. 8
    Robert Byers says:

    it truly shows the absurdity of seeing us/free will as a part of the brain as opposed to us using our brain.
    there is no evidence we are just a brain.
    I like he brought up about memory.
    i don’t think we have minds but rather the mind is just priority memories.
    The bible hints at this.
    The power of the memory can explain the actions taking place quicker then a choice. As the Prof said the choice or memory is already working.
    great to see a questioning of brainism as the source of human beings thinking.

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Q:

    A good short but substantive summary of highlights.

    I think prof Tallis’ main point is that when science is in the grips of ideological a prioris it distorts interpretations. You are right about heads I win tails you lose. GIGO in action, ideological form.

    And while his language is hard, sometimes NR, it is necessary to call something by a hard name. When people are in favour of what is being said to elites they don’t like, they call that “speaking truth to power.”

    Tallis spoke some hard truth to power here.

    And his root point on the various exercises is that they are not “proving” what is thought, they are being misinterpreted through ideological GIGO. In particular, they see a situation where there is a lot of contextual background that takes up much more time than the fraction or few seconds that are being pounced on as though decisive. And in fact WHAT is being observed through fNMRI is not contemplation but computation.

    Have we forgotten the concept of a mind that is partly unconscious, partly conscious, and the issue of a narrow window of consciousness tied to a centre of present focus when we attend to a matter?

    In short, our whole frame of thought is highly questionable and is far too mechanistic. Not to mention, that self-referentially incoherent own-goal-itis problem . . . determinism. (Even, when modified by stochastic processes it is still self refuting and utterly inadequate to account for the basic facts of our conscious, reasoning, deciding mind.)

    Again, mechanistic computation is not self-aware reflective rational contemplation of the self-moved agent, and you cannot get North by going West.

    The time has come for a comprehensive re-think.

    For, a paradigm-shift away from a bankrupt, degenerative materialism-driven research programme that en-darkens even as it dresses in the lab coat that makes us look to it to “shed light” on pivotal topics.

    KF

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung,

    yup there’s a book. Blurb:

    In a devastating critique Raymond Tallis exposes the exaggerated claims made for the ability of neuroscience and evolutionary theory to explain human consciousness, behaviour, culture and society. The belief that human beings can be understood essentially in biological terms is a serious obstacle, argues Tallis, to clear thinking about what human beings are and what they might become. To explain everyday behaviour in Darwinian terms and to identify human consciousness with the activity of the evolved brain denies human uniqueness, and by minimising the differences between us and our nearest animal kin, misrepresents what we are, offering a grotesquely simplified and degrading account of humanity. We are, shows Tallis, infinitely more interesting and complex than we appear in the mirror of biologism.

    The reader reviews are also useful, e.g. observe Moritz:

    As a neuroscientist, Tallis writes with obviously intimate insider knowledge of the field, and he argues with a lot of common sense as well as with deep philosophical understanding and reasoning regarding the issues. He shows the severe methodological and conceptual limitations of brain scans and he refutes in detail what he calls Neuromania, the tendency to reduce the human mind and consciousness to the firing of neurons, and “Darwinitis”, the attempt to minimize the profound differences between humans and animals via a misguided biologism. While he debunks Darwinitis, Tallis is a full-blown Darwinian (as am I, except when it comes to the human soul). He is also an atheist, which may make his knowledgeable and fearless attacks against Neuromania and Darwinitis, which are in themselves mostly rooted in atheistic views, considerably more devastating than if they had come from a theist (of course there is no shortage of effective theistic rebuttals of these intellectual tendencies, but they usually follow different avenues of argumentation).

    Against popular modern philosophical thinking, the author strongly affirms the obvious realities of consciousness, qualia and intentionality. It is most impressive and intellectually delicious how, with razor-sharp reasoning, Tallis lays waste to Dan Dennett’s ideas who seeks to explain these issues “away” (at some point he rightfully argues why Dennett’s book “Consciousness Explained” should rather be called “Consciousness Evaded”). He also superbly demolishes Dawkins’ meme theory and, while he does not mention his name that frequently, Steven Pinker’s ideas as well. Tallis convincingly demonstrates why evolutionary psychology and its spin-offs neuroaesthetics, neuroethics, neurolaw and neurotheology, among others, are thoroughly misguided (and in part dangerous) pseudo-science — even if some of the studies have been published in the most reputable top scientific journals like Nature and Science. He also refutes the popular but unfounded idea that the human mind is (like) a computer, and shows how hollow the assertion is that one day computers may acquire consciousness once they are “complex enough”. Tallis affirms that the mind is not identical with the brain, but that it is far more than just the brain. His arguments to that effect, which do not invoke an immaterial soul, are original, and while I do not by any means think they tell the entire story, they certainly appear to have considerable merit.

    Tallis also affirms the profound and common-sense reality of human freedom, against all the facile and pseudo-scientific dismissals, born from nothing more than plain naturalistic dogma, that it is just an illusion of our brains. He tries to argue for freedom from the perspective of intentionality which, he appears to think, simply allows us to somehow step back from the laws of nature and make choices by “aligning ourselves for our means” with one law or another. Yet Tallis treats intentionality as a brute given, and it seems hard to envision how intentionality, even from his particular view of how the mind is more than just the brain, somehow might escape the web of determinism without the assumption of an immaterial soul. This section appears rather contrived, and to me clearly shows some of the limitations of an atheistic world view. Tallis shines the right light on the common-sense reality of human freedom and he does it so well; the more stunning it seems how his solution appears so flawed. Yet this is an exception in a book that is otherwise soundly reasoned (a few remarks here and there also reveal a crude lack of understanding of theistic philosophy; yet these remarks are not directly relevant to the ideas discussed in the book).

    Tallis rightfully rejects scientism, the silly and dogmatic idea that science is the only valid source of human knowledge and understanding (just like him, I reject the idea also as a scientist, knowing the limitations of science). He restores proper authority to philosophy which, while it should be informed by science, is not subservient to it. Interestingly, while as an atheist the author repeatedly dismisses dualism and what he calls “supernaturalism” as unnecessary alternative, he ultimately has to admit that he has no good explanation for the mysteries of the human mind himself — which puts into question if dualism is really as unnecessary an alternative as he wants it to be. It makes the impression that Tallis does protest a bit too much. It is refreshing, however, that he exhibits the intellectual honesty, the profound philosophical thought and the common sense to admit to these mysteries, rather than being content with modern materialistic pseudo-explanations.

    This book should be considered mandatory reading for atheists who are interested in genuine reasoning about the reality of the uniqueness of the human mind, rather than in superficial pseudo-scientific reasoning that is rooted in Neuromania and in a simplistic biologism that seeks to minimize what distinguishes us from the remainder of the animal world, including apes. It should also be considered mandatory reading for theists who want to inform themselves how a convincing case can be made that evolutionary psychology, Neuromania and Darwinitiis are terribly mistaken, simply by reasoning “from within”, without having to invoke an immaterial soul (I do believe that correct philosophy about human rationality and freedom is ultimately impossible without the concept of a soul, but that is another issue). Be prepared though to invest some mental energy into following the arguments, which can be demanding at times. But it is worth it.

    In short we here have a Sir Fred Hoyle at Caltech moment, with Tallis in front of the Royal Institution. Not an easy to deride and dismiss “IDiot” or — shudder — “nutter Creationist” . . . note how the ideology leads so naturally to dismissive prejudice-driven namecalling [or worse, silent GIGO-driven assumptions — this is Britain], nope, Tallis makes sure to say, see, here is my party card, but I am not happy with the party line.

    Time for a serious rethink on whether we are trying to get North by going West.

    KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Schroder’s review as a reader is also well worth pondering Sandwalk, PT, ATBC Anti Evo, TSZ et al . . . your explain it away and dismiss it attacks on “nutter” “IDiots” and “Creationists” are getting a tad threadbare:

    In this book Tallis attacks scientism: the mistaken belief that the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology and their derivatives) can or will give a complete description of everything, including human life. We are not just our bodies. Humans are more than just animals. Scientists are deluded if they have the notion that our consciousness, the self to which the successive moments of consciousness are attributed, our personality, our character, personhood itself, are identical with activity in our brains. He calls this belief Neuromania.

    Contrary to what evolutionary psychologists have argued, our behavior is not just determined by our biology. “The reduction of human life to a chain of programmed responses of modules to stimuli overlooks the complexity of everyday experience and the singularity of the situations we find ourselves in, to say nothing of the role of conscious deliberation.” The human brain alone does not account for all our actions, our most private thoughts and our beliefs.

    Religious belief is not the result of certain parts of the brain, so-called “God-spots”. We are not just “hard-wired” for religious belief.

    Darwinism cannot give a satisfactory answer to the questions: how did consciousness emerge, and what is consciousness for, anyway? When Darwinists teach that natural selection is random, and that we have evolved without any intelligent design or purpose, they still have to account for the emergence of humans who have consciousness, and seek for meaning and purpose in their lives. The logic of human development presupposes purpose. Atheists cannot explain the fact that we are purpose-seeking beings. We have the need to ask “Why?” We seek reasons. We are rational beings. Random natural selection does not explain this feature of life.

    Tallis protests too much when he opines, “As an atheist humanist I reject the idea that evolution has a goal. More particularly, I do not for a moment think it had us in mind as its destination and crowning glory….it is a mindless, pointless process…Darwin had argued that there was an alternative to a conscious, super-intelligent designer: the operation of unconscious, although non-random, natural selection over hundreds of millions of years.” He is going against his fellow atheists, like Dawkins, who see no purpose in the blind forces of physics. He claims that Darwinism leaves something unaccounted for.

    “Isn’t there a problem in explaining how the blind forces of physics brought about (cognitively) sighted humans who are able to see, and identify, and comment on, the `blind’ forces of physics, even to notice that they are blind, and deliberately utilize them to engage with nature as if from the outside, and on much more favorable terms than those that govern the lives of other animals? On the Origin of the Species leaves us with the task of explaining the origin of the one species that is indeed a designer. How did humans get to be so different?…Something rather important about us is left unexplained by evolutionary theory. We are not mindless and yet seem to do things according to purposes that we entertain in a universe that brought us into being by mindless processes that are entirely without purpose. To deny this is not to subscribe to Darwinism but to embrace Darwinitis.”

    Tallis addresses the issue of God rigging the outcome of evolution, but concedes that that notion would not be compatible with evolutionary theory. He thinks that evolution is a shockingly cruel and inefficient process that has nothing to do with love, mercy or even common decency. It is no place for a God of love. He has a problem with the relationship between God and nature, and opts for eliminating God from the equation. He thinks that belief in a Creator is a man-made notion to explain why the world makes sense. However he is disgusted with those who would reject religion on the basis of a devastating reductionism. “In defending the humanities, the arts, the law, ethics, economics, politics and even religious belief against neuro-evolutionary reductionism, atheist humanists and theist have a common cause, and, in reductive naturalism, a common adversary: scientism.”

    This book will keep the new atheists like Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and Wilson up late at night. If ever Tallis has a religious experience he will be hard put to maintain his atheism since he has rejected scientific reductionism.

    The FSCO/I threshold of 500 – 1,000 bits shows, starkly, the limits of blind chance and mechanical necessity in discrete steps or imagined step by step increments that have to confer functional advantages, in explaining functionally specific organisation and associated information.

    This is a routine product of intelligences, as posts in this thread show.

    The theory/ ideology does not fit the facts . . . so much the worse for the facts?

    Let us seriously ponder whether we have been trying to get North by heading West.

    AKA, the stubborn march of folly.

    GIGO rules, folks!

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Courtesy ENV, a clip from p. 29:

    Part of the attraction of Neuromania comes from the belief that it is brand new and that it has grown out of the latest discoveries in the laboratory. In fact, the assumption that there is, indeed there must be, an organ in the body where the soul or mind or consciousness is to be found goes back a very long way. It seems to have originated, like other enduring myths, in ancient Greece. … So when people tell you that scientists have “recently discovered” that the mind is in the brain, or that mental activity boils down to neural activity, just remind them that this theory was put forth several centuries before Jesus Christ was born. (p. 29)

    Food for thought for those wedded to reducing contemplation to computation (or arguing that somehow the former “emerges from” the latter.)

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    NR:

    I also wonder why he [prof Tallis] bothers. It’s pretty obvious that most scientists and non-theist philosophers are not going to be persuaded.

    Just maybe Tallis feels a sense of duty to speak truth to the power of an entrenched and increasingly threadbare paradigm?

    KF

  14. 14
    Dionisio says:

    Kairosfocus

    Maybe a little OT?

    Here’s some info on what’s going on in the so called AI: specifically about MSFT competing with Google and IBM in the area of AI. I thought you and your readers might like to see this:

    http://www.wired.com/2014/07/microsoft-adam/

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/.....916,00.asp

    http://www.eweek.com/cloud/mic.....on-ai.html

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