Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain:
Arjuna Das: I was discussing that point in the comments under the video from your discussion with David Papineau and the person was replying, “The reason why you can never trigger a sense of agency, the sense that I’m the one moving it, is because when you’re stimulating the brain you’re triggering the action in a different way from how the brain normally triggers it.” And in this way they’re arguing that it’s not evidence that we are not identical with our brains. (01:39:59)
Michael Egnor: Well, that would be a way of looking at it. However, you have to keep in mind that the denominator in this experiment is enormous. That is that Penfield stimulated the brains of 1100 patients,hundreds of times for each patient. So, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of stimulations using different currents, different locations, different electrodes, different numbers of electrodes, different voltages, and not once was he able to find the will. So, if the will is in there, it’s awfully secret.
And in addition, on the issue of intellectual seizures, the fact that there has not been a single seizure in recorded medical history out of 250 million seizures, a quarter of a billion seizures, that has evoked abstract intellectual content, Maybe the next one will, but I’m not going to bet on it… (01:40:28)
If you’re making the argument that, well, maybe we just didn’t do the experiment the right way, maybe you should also consider that you have an ideological commitment to materialism. And you’re simply reluctant to let it go.(01:41:36)News, “Epilepsy: If you follow the science, materialism is dead” at Mind Matters News
Takehome: Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor addresses objections to his finding that epilepsy shows that the brain does not create the mind.
Here are transcripts and notes for the first hour and thirty-two minutes, starting from the beginning:
Why neurosurgeon Mike Egnor stopped being a materialist atheist. He found that materialism is just not working out in science. Most propositions in basic science are based on mathematics and mathematics is not a material thing.
How science points to meaning in life. The earliest philosopher of science, Aristotle, pioneered a way of understanding it. Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks about the four causes of the events in our world, from the material to the mind.
How we can know mental states are real?
Mental states are always “about” something; physical states are not “about” anything. Michael Egnor argues that doing science as a physicalist (a materialist) is like driving a car with the parking brake on; it’s a major impediment to science.
What’s the 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 reviews the mind-brain theories for East Meets West: Theology Unleashed. He think dualism makes the best sense of the evidence.
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. After Descartes started the idea that only minds have experiences, materialist philosophers dispensed with mind, then puzzled over how matter has experiences.
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.
Aristotle and Aquinas’s traditional philosophical approach, Michael Egnor argues, offers more assurance that we can truly perceive reality.
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 has split patients’ brains, while treating serious epilepsy, and the results are not at all what a materialist might expect.
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. One investigator, whose work followed up and confirmed Roger Sperry’s, called her split brain findings “perceptual disconnection with conscious unity.”
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. A cynical neurosurgeon colleague told Michael Egnor that he could not account for how a child patient’s NDE account described the operation accurately.
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. Dr. Egnor argues that the brain and body constrain the mind. When dying, they may constrain it less, resulting in sudden end-of-life lucidity.