Exploring a non-materialist approach to the mind has included a death threat for neurosurgeon Michael Egnor:
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 imagine the same is not true of neurosurgeons. As long as you can fix people’s brains, nobody really cares what your metaphysical beliefs are. (01:44:11)
Michael Egnor: Right. And it’s interesting that doctors are not often materialists. Nor are, for example, engineers. Materialists in the scientific professions are almost always theoretical scientists. They’re not scientists that work in the real world. They’re scientists who live in these little imaginary scenarios.
As an example of how difficult this can be, I’ve been involved quite a bit in the intelligent design vs. Darwinism debates. I have a friend who is a basic scientist and molecular biologist who is one of the leading people in this field. He is exceptionally accomplished… great guy.
I was at a meeting with him one time and he took me aside and he said, “I’ve seen what you’ve been doing with intelligent design and so on. I’m a Christian. And I think you’re right. I think Darwinism and materialism are grossly inadequate ways of understanding biology. But I can’t say that out loud. I can’t say a word about that, because my wife is sick. We need our health insurance. I need my job. And if I said a word about materialism or Darwinism not being acceptable frameworks for doing the science, I would never get another grant. I couldn’t feed my family.” (01:45:51)
And that’s true. They will destroy people. They will destroy people’s careers. Look at what people tried to do to Mike Behe for writing Darwin’s Black Box (1996). He’s tenured. But in his department, he was treated as a pariah. If they could have fired him, they would have done it in a minute.
Note: Biochemist Michael Behe is the author of a number of books, Darwin’s Black Box, Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves, which explore the sharp constraints on what natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism) can actually do in creating and enabling new life forms. In academic environments where Darwinism is experienced as a support for fashionable atheism, Behe has not been very popular.
Arjuna Das: I was wondering how he got away with it. (01:46:12)
Michael Egnor: He’s tenured. I’ve gotten calls to my department in my university demanding that I be fired. That’s a fairly frequent thing.
I was called a couple of years ago by the campus police that there was a death threat against me and they wanted to protect me. So this kind of stuff goes on. And some of these people are vicious.
If you are a scientist — and there are many scientists who really don’t buy into this, scientists who are good Christians or good Jews or good Muslims or good Hindus, who really have deep and justified religious beliefs — for the most part, they dare not say it publicly. (01:46:18)News, “Non-materialist science is wanted — dead or alive” at Mind Matters News
Actually, the lid is coming off materialism and its hyper variant Darwinism anyway… but you still don’t wanna be roadkill on the campus crybullies’ highway even if it’s breaking up.
Takehome: In neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s view, materialist scientists are almost always theoretical scientists. They’re not doctors or engineers.
Here are transcripts and notes for the first hour and forty-three 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.
Epilepsy: If you follow the science, materialism is dead Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain. Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor addresses objections to his finding that epilepsy shows that the brain does not create the mind.