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At Mind Matters News: The battle over the human mind split two great thinkers

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Charles Darwin (1809–1882) opted for a materialist model; his co-theorist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–2013) insisted that the mind was not just the brain:

Some, improving on Darwin, insist that chimpanzees really do think like people if you study them enough (no, they don’t). Others claim that artificial intelligence will soon surpass human intelligence. If so, that would be a credit to human intelligence because we created it.

AI capable of thinking like a human would be a philosophical problem, to be sure, because it would mean both that intelligence can create itself and that it can be instantiated in a non-biological form. However, such a development would not demonstrate that human intelligence is a material thing or that it arose from a material thing. If anything, it would more readily suggest the opposite.

Thomas notes the key role neuroscience has played in undermining a purely materialist account of the mind — an unexpected role for neuroscience, perhaps, but that’s what happened…

News, “The battle over the human mind split two great thinkers” at Mind Matters News (June 26, 2022)

Takehome: Philosopher Neil Thomas, author of Taking Leave of Darwin (2021), points out how neuroscience today has undermined a purely materialist account of the mind — an unexpected role but that’s what happened.


You may also wish to read:

Dualism is 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.

and

Why panpsychism is starting to push out naturalism A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work. Panpsychism is not dualism. By including consciousness — including human consciousness — as a bedrock fact of nature, it avoids naturalism’s dead end. (Denyse O’Leary)

9 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: The battle over the human mind split two great thinkers

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    As Michael Ruse recently put it, “mind is the apotheosis of final cause, drenched in purpose … irreducibly teleological.” At the same time, however, Ruse puzzlingly and to me somewhat contradictorily contends, “Why should the evolutionist be expected to explain the nature of consciousness? Surely it can be taken as a given, and the evolutionist can move on … leave the discussion at that.”

    and,

    “Hoffman develops the point further: “At the most microcosmic level the brain consists of subatomic particles which have qualities like mass, spin and charge. There is nothing about these qualities that relates to the qualities associated with consciousness such as thought, taste, pain or anxiety.” To suggest otherwise, continues Hoffman, would be like asserting that numbers might emerge from biscuits or ethics from rhubarb.”
    https://mindmatters.ai/2022/06/the-battle-over-the-human-mind-split-two-great-thinkers/

    Blatant denialism on Ruse’s part, and refreshing honesty of Hoffman’s part.

    Here are a few notes,

    Teleology and the Mind – Michael Egnor – August 16, 2016
    Excerpt: From the hylemorphic perspective, there is an intimate link between the mind and teleology. The 19th-century philosopher Franz Brentano pointed out that the hallmark of the mind is that it is directed to something other than itself. That is, the mind has intentionality, which is the ability of a mental process to be about something, rather than to just be itself. Physical processes alone (understood without teleology) are not inherently about things. The mind is always about things. Stated another way, physical processes (understood without teleology) have no purpose. Mental processes always have purpose. In fact, purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) is what defines the mind. And we see the same purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) in nature.
    Intentionality is a form of teleology. Both intentionality and teleology are goal-directedness — intentionality is directedness in thought, and teleology is directedness in nature. Mind and teleology are both manifestations of purpose in nature. The mind is, within nature, the same kind of process that directs nature.
    In this sense, eliminative materialism is necessary if a materialist is to maintain a non-teleological Darwinian metaphysical perspective. It is purpose that must be denied in order to deny design in nature. So the mind, as well as teleology, must be denied. Eliminative materialism is just Darwinian metaphysics carried to its logical end and applied to man. If there is no teleology, there is no intentionality, and there is no purpose in nature nor in man’s thoughts.
    The link between intentionality and teleology, and the undeniability of teleology, is even more clear if we consider our inescapable belief that other people have minds. The inference that other people have minds based on their purposeful (intentional-teleological) behavior, which is obviously correct and is essential to living a sane life, can be applied to our understanding of nature as well. Just as we know that other people have purposes (intentionality), we know just as certainly that nature has purposes (teleology). In a sense, intelligent design is the recognition of the same purpose-teleology-intentionality in nature that we recognize in ourselves and others.
    Teleology and intentionality are certainly the inferences to be drawn from the obvious purposeful arrangement of parts in nature, but I (as a loyal Thomist!) believe that teleology and intentionality are manifest in an even more fundamental way in nature. Any goal-directed natural change is teleological, even if purpose and arrangement of parts is not clearly manifest. The behavior of a single electron orbiting a proton is teleological, because the motion of the electron hews to specific ends (according to quantum mechanics). A pencil falling to the floor behaves teleologically (it does not fall up, or burst into flame, etc.). Purposeful arrangement of parts is teleology on an even more sophisticated scale, but teleology exists in even the most basic processes in nature. Physics is no less teleological than biology.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2016/08/teleology_and_t/

    And here are three very interesting quotes from no less than Planck, Schroedinger and Wigner about the necessary primacy of consciousness in any model of reality that we may put forth,

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    – Max Planck (1858–1947), one of the primary founders of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    – Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.

    “The principal argument against materialism is not that illustrated in the last two sections: that it is incompatible with quantum theory. The principal argument is that thought processes and consciousness are the primary concepts, that our knowledge of the external world is the content of our consciousness and that the consciousness, therefore, cannot be denied. On the contrary, logically, the external world could be denied—though it is not very practical to do so. In the words of Niels Bohr, “The word consciousness, applied to ourselves as well as to others, is indispensable when dealing with the human situation.” In view of all this, one may well wonder how materialism, the doctrine that “life could be explained by sophisticated combinations of physical and chemical laws,” could so long be accepted by the majority of scientists.”
    – Eugene Wigner, Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, pp 167-177.

    And advances in quantum mechanics have now validated Planck’s, Schroedinger’s, and Wigner’s ‘common sense’ observations about the necessary primacy of consciousness in any model of reality that we may pout forth.

    Specifically, due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality (Jerry Coyne). or is an intrinsic property of material reality, (panpsychism, Philip Goff)
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality (Jerry Coyne). or is an intrinsic property of material reality, (panpsychism, Philip Goff), then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    And here are eight lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that all converge to the same point indicating that consciousness must precede material reality,

    1. Double Slit experiment,
    2. Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries,
    3. as well as the recent experimental confirmation of the Wigner’s friend thought experiment,
    4. Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, (Quantum Eraser, etc..)
    5. Leggett’s Inequalities,
    6. Quantum Zeno effect,
    7. Quantum Information theory and the experimental realization of the Maxwell demon thought experiment,
    8. and last but not least, the recent closing of the Free Will loophole by Zeilinger and company.

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:16-17
    For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

  2. 2
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    If you cannot separate two things, then maybe they are not separate things.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    ^^^ Huh???,,, if you are saying that the mind and brain can’t be separated, the problem is not that mind and brain can’t be separated. The problem is that they can’t be brought together in any meaningful, ‘scientifically’ explanatory, sense.

    To repeat Hoffman

    “Hoffman develops the point further: “At the most microcosmic level the brain consists of subatomic particles which have qualities like mass, spin and charge. There is nothing about these qualities that relates to the qualities associated with consciousness such as thought, taste, pain or anxiety.” To suggest otherwise, continues Hoffman, would be like asserting that numbers might emerge from biscuits or ethics from rhubarb.”

    In fact, besides the mind, there are a whole litany of ‘abstract’, i.e. immaterial, objects of the immaterial mind that simply refuse to ever be reduced to a ‘scientific’, i.e. materialistic, explanation.

    As Dr. Michael Egnor further explains, “Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts.,,, It is in our ability to think abstractly that we differ from apes. It is a radical difference — an immeasurable qualitative difference, not a quantitative difference.
    We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses. Our difference is a metaphysical chasm.”

    The Fundamental Difference Between Humans and Nonhuman Animals
    – Michael Egnor – November 5, 2015
    Excerpt: Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking. Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not. Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts. Human beings are rational animals.
    Human rationality is not merely a highly evolved kind of animal perception. Human rationality is qualitatively different — ontologically different — from animal perception. Human rationality is different because it is immaterial. Contemplation of universals cannot have material instantiation, because universals themselves are not material and cannot be instantiated in matter.,,
    A human being is material and immaterial — a composite being. We have material bodies, and our perceptions and imaginations and appetites are material powers, instantiated in our brains. But our intellect — our ability to think abstractly — is a wholly immaterial power, and our will that acts in accordance with our intellect is an immaterial power. Our intellect and our will depend on matter for their ordinary function, in the sense that they depend upon perception and imagination and memory, but they are not themselves made of matter. It is in our ability to think abstractly that we differ from apes. It is a radical difference — an immeasurable qualitative difference, not a quantitative difference.
    We are more different from apes than apes are from viruses. Our difference is a metaphysical chasm. It is obvious and manifest in our biological nature. We are rational animals, and our rationality is all the difference. Systems of taxonomy that emphasize physical and genetic similarities and ignore the fact that human beings are partly immaterial beings who are capable of abstract thought and contemplation of moral law and eternity are pitifully inadequate to describe man.
    The assertion that man is an ape is self-refuting. We could not express such a concept, misguided as it is, if we were apes and not men.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2015/11/the_fundamental_2/

    A few more notes along that line,

    What Does It Mean to Say That Science & Religion Conflict? – M. Anthony Mills – April 16, 2018
    Excerpt: Barr rightly observes that scientific atheists often unwittingly assume not just metaphysical naturalism but an even more controversial philosophical position: reductive materialism, which says all that exists is or is reducible to the material constituents postulated by our most fundamental physical theories.
    As Barr points out, this implies not only that God does not exist — because God is not material — but that you do not exist. For you are not a material constituent postulated by any of our most fundamental physical theories; at best, you are an aggregate of those constituents, arranged in a particular way. Not just you, but tables, chairs, countries, countrymen, symphonies, jokes, legal contracts, moral judgments, and acts of courage or cowardice — all of these must be fully explicable in terms of those more fundamental, material constituents.
    In fact, more problematic for the materialist than the non-existence of persons is the existence of mathematics. Why? Although a committed materialist might be perfectly willing to accept that you do not really exist, he will have a harder time accepting that numbers do not exist. The trouble is that numbers — along with other mathematical entities such as classes, sets, and functions — are indispensable for modern science. And yet — here’s the rub — these “abstract objects” are not material. Thus, one cannot take science as the only sure guide to reality and at the same time discount disbelief in all immaterial realities.
    https://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2018/04/16/what_does_it_mean_to_say_that_science_and_religion_conflict.html

    Dr. Ed Feser – The Immateriality of the Intellect – video
    Excerpt:
    1: Formal thought processes can have an exact or unambiguous conceptual content.
    However,
    2: Nothing material can have an exact or unambiguous conceptual content.
    So,
    3: Formal thought processes are not material.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNi0j19ZSpo

    Naturalism and Self-Refutation – Michael Egnor – January 31, 2018
    Excerpt: Mathematics is certainly something we do. Is mathematics “included in the space-time continuum [with] basic elements … described by physics”? It seems a stretch. What is the physics behind the Pythagorean theorem? After all, no actual triangle is perfect, and thus no actual triangle in nature has sides such that the Pythagorean theorem holds. There is no real triangle in which the sum of the squares of the sides exactly equals the square of the hypotenuse. That holds true for all of geometry. Geometry is about concepts, not about anything in the natural world or about anything that can be described by physics. What is the “physics” of the fact that the area of a circle is pi multiplied by the square of the radius? And of course what is natural and physical about imaginary numbers, infinite series, irrational numbers, and the mathematics of more than three spatial dimensions? Mathematics is entirely about concepts, which have no precise instantiation in nature as described by physics.,,,
    Furthermore, the very framework of Clark’s argument — logic — is neither material nor natural. Logic, after all, doesn’t exist “in the space-time continuum” and isn’t described by physics. What is the location of modus ponens? How much does Gödel’s incompleteness theorem weigh? What is the physics of non-contradiction? How many millimeters long is Clark’s argument for naturalism? Ironically the very logic that Clark employs to argue for naturalism is outside of any naturalistic frame.
    The strength of Clark’s defense of naturalism is that it is an attempt to present naturalism’s tenets clearly and logically. That is its weakness as well, because it exposes naturalism to scrutiny, and naturalism cannot withstand even minimal scrutiny. Even to define naturalism is to refute it.
    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/01/naturalism-and-self-refutation/

    The Great Debate: Does God Exist? – Justin Holcomb – audio of the 1985 Greg Bahnsen debate available at the bottom of the site
    Excerpt: When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary.
    The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,,
    http://justinholcomb.com/2012/.....god-exist/

  4. 4
    OhReally says:

    “maybe they are not separate things”

    Let me take those words and write them on a piece of paper. I will then read that piece of paper into a microphone connected to a cassette tape recorder. I will then play that recording into my A/D converter. I will then take that file and transfer it from my desktop onto a thumbdrive. I will then take that thumbdrive and upload it in to my laptop. I will then stream that file to my Bluetooth speaker. I will then allow my voice recognition software to convert that input back into the text “maybe they are not separate things”.

    Your cognition, which was presented to me as a pattern of photons being emitted from a screen, has been converted to variations in sound pressure, then to the amplitude of voltage, then to a sequence of voltage, then to a pattern of polarity gates, then back to variations in voltage, then to electro-mechanical work, then back to variations in sound pressure, then back to variations in voltage, then back to a sequence of voltage, and finally, back to a pattern of photons emitted from a screen.

    If a common product of cognition is undeniably separable from the material it is instantiated in, then on what facts do we say that the source of cognition is inseparable from the material it is instantiated in?

  5. 5
    relatd says:

    Evolutionary psychology is a concept that says we think for survival and reproduction only – whatever those two things are.

  6. 6
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    @OhReally #4

    The fact that you cannot separate them.

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    .
    You mean, the fact that you cannot put them together. Which atoms like blue?

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Aside from the excellent examples that OhReally and Upright BiPed have provided, I remind Pater Kimbridge that there are thousands, upon thousands, of Near Death Experience testimonies of people who have died for a short while, been resuscitated, and testified to experiencing their conscious mind apart from their material brain.

    A Reply to Shermer: Medical Evidence for NDEs (Near Death Experiences) – Dr. Pim van Lommel
    Excerpt: People can experience their consciousness outside their body, with the possibility of perception out and above their body, with identity, and with heightened awareness, attention, well-structured thought processes, memories and emotions. And they also can experience their consciousness in a dimension where past, present and future exist at the same moment, without time and space, and can be experienced as soon as attention has been directed to it (life review and preview), and even sometimes they come in contact with the “fields of consciousness” of deceased relatives. And later they can experience their conscious return into their body.
    https://vdocuments.site/a-reply-to-shermer-medical-evidence-for-ndes-by-pim-van-lommel.html

    The Mystery of Perception During Near Death Experiences – Dr. Pim van Lommel – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyUsPgIuQ0

    (Eben Alexander) – A (Harvard) neurosurgeon confronts the non-material nature of consciousness – December 2011
    Excerpted quote: To me one thing that has emerged from my (Near Death) experience and from very rigorous analysis of that experience over several years, talking it over with others that I respect in neuroscience, and really trying to come up with an answer, is that consciousness outside of the brain is a fact. It’s an established fact. And of course, that was a hard place for me to get, coming from being a card-toting reductive materialist over decades. It was very difficult to get to knowing that consciousness, that there’s a soul of us that is not dependent on the brain.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ciousness/

    Near death, explained (?) – By Dr. Mario Beauregard research professor Neuroscience Research Center at the University of Montreal. – April 2012
    Excerpt: These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.
    NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.
    http://www.salon.com/2012/04/2.....singleton/

  9. 9
    EvilSnack says:

    If your theory is that the phenomena studied by science (space-time, atomic particles, and EM radiation) constitute the ultimate reality, then you have to explain everything in terms of those things.

    And if you refuse to entertain the notion that your theory is wrong, you will be forced to embrace whatever explanation is available, even if it is manifestly silly.

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