Intelligent Design Mind

Atheist neuroscientist: Why mechanist accounts of consciousness always fail

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No, not what you think: More from Raymond Tallis, this time What neuroscience cannot tell us about ourselves (New Atlantis, Fall 2010), debunking “the tropes of neuromythology.”:

So when we are talking about the brain, we are talking about nothing more than a piece of matter. If we keep this in mind, we will have enough ammunition to demonstrate the necessary failure of neuroscientific accounts of consciousness and conscious behavior.

It is a pure dedication to materialism that lies behind another common neuroscientistic claim, one that arises in response to the criticism that there are characteristics of consciousness that neuroscience cannot explain. The response is a strangely triumphant declaration that that which neuroscience cannot grasp does not exist. This declaration is particularly liable to be directed at the self and at free will, those two most persistent “illusions.” But even neuroscientists themselves don’t apply this argument consistently: they don’t doubt that they think they are selves, or that they have the illusion that they act freely — and yet, as we will see, there is no conceivable neural explanation of these phenomena. We are therefore justified in rejecting the presumption that if neuroscience cannot see it, then it does not exist.

Of course, Francis Crick called his idea “You are nothing but a pack of neurons”, the Astonishing Hypothesis.

Tallis castigates those who dump on on free will too.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

5 Replies to “Atheist neuroscientist: Why mechanist accounts of consciousness always fail

  1. 1
    MedsRex says:

    I realize I might be making a somewhat unsophisticated point but . . .
    Really what do those in the reductionist neuroscience community need as evidence? A soul pouch with neural connections running to it? They slice it open and out pops Slimer or Casper?
    Maybe a lil ethereal homunculus sitting in front of a flesh computer with a name tag that says “Timmy’s soul” pinned to it’s tiny chest?
    More science fiction dreams dashed I suppose.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    This is of related interest;

    Present! – Pim van Lommel (part one) Consciousness Beyond Life

    I found this interview of Near Death Experience researcher, cardiologist Pim Van Lommel to be very honest and enlightening (though the ‘New Age’ tone of the interviewer put me off a bit), Also of note is, contrary to what was mentioned in the video, foreign non-Judeo-Christian cultures have a extreme rarity of encounters with ‘The Being Of Light’;

  3. 3
    MedsRex says:

    cool BA.. I’ve done more than a bit of research into the NDEs phenom. Pim has done some excellent work in that field.
    Hey BA do you have any links that I could look at concerning your statement about the lack of positive NDEs outside of Judeo-Christian cultures? That is something I am interested in examining further.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    MedsRex, here are a few;

    Near-Death Experiences in Thailand: Discussion of case histories By Todd Murphy, 1999:
    Excerpt: We would suggest that the near-constant comparisons with the most frequently reported types of NDEs tends to blind researchers to the features of NDEs which are absent in these NDEs. Tunnels are rare, if not absent. The panoramic Life Review appears to be absent. Instead, our collection shows people reviewing just a few karmically-significant incidents. Perhaps they symbolize behavioral tendencies, the results of which are then experienced as determinative of their rebirths. These incidents are read out to them from a book. There is no Being of Light in these Thai NDEs, although The Buddha does appear in a symbolic form, in case #6. Yama is present during this truncated Life Review, as is the Being of Light during Western life reviews, but Yama is anything but a being of light. In popular Thai depictions, he is shown as a wrathful being, and is most often remembered in Thai culture for his power to condemn one to hell. Some of the functions of Angels and guides are also filled by Yamatoots. They guide, lead tours of hell, and are even seen to grant requests made by the experient.

    A Comparative view of Tibetan and Western Near-Death Experiences by Lawrence Epstein University of Washington:
    Excerpt: Episode 5: The OBE systematically stresses the ‘das-log’s discomfiture, pain, disappointment, anger and disillusionment with others and with the moral worth of the world at large. The acquisition of a yid-lus and the ability to travel instantaneously are also found here.
    Episode 6: The ‘das-log, usually accompanied by a supernatural guide, tours bar-do, where he witnesses painful scenes and meets others known to him. They give him messages to take back.
    Episode 7: The ‘das-log witnesses trials in and tours hell. The crimes and punishments of others are explained to him. Tortured souls also ask him to take back messages to the living.

    The Japanese find death a depressing experience – From an item by Peter Hadfield in the New Scientist (Nov. 30th 1991)
    Excerpt: A study in Japan shows that even in death the Japanese have an original way of looking at things. Instead of seeing ‘tunnels of light’ or having ‘out of body’ experiences, near-dead patients in Japanese hospitals tend to see rather less romantic images, according to researchers at Kyorin University. According to a report in the Mainichi newspaper, a group of doctors from Kyorin has spent the past year documenting the near-death experiences of 17 patients. They had all been resuscitated from comas caused by heart attacks, strokes, asthma or drug poisoning. All had shown minimal signs of life during the coma. Yoshia Hata, who led the team, said that eight of the 17 recalled ‘dreams’, many featuring rivers or ponds. Five of those patients had dreams which involved fear, pain and suffering. One 50-year-old asthmatic man said he had seen himself wade into a reservoir and do a handstand in the shallows. ‘Then I walked out of the water and took some deep breaths. In the dream, I was repeating this over and over.’ Another patient, a 73-year-old woman with cardiac arrest, saw a cloud filled with dead people. ‘It was a dark, gloomy day. I was chanting sutras. I believed they could be saved if they chanted sutras, so that is what I was telling them to do.’ Most of the group said they had never heard of Near-Death Experiences before.

    India Cross-cultural study by Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia Medical School and Dr. Satwant Pasricha of the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India
    Excerpt: “Suddenly I saw two big pots of boiling water, although there was no fire, no firewood, and no fireplace. Then, the man pushed me with his hand and said, “You’d better hurry up and go back.” When he touched me, I suddenly became aware of how hot his hand was. Then I realised why the pots were boiling. The heat was coming from his hands! When I regained consciousness, I had a severe burning sensation in my left arm.” Mangal still had a mark on his left arm that he claims was a result of the burning. About a quarter of Dr Pasricha’s interviewees reported such marks.

    Near-Death and Out-of-Body Experiences in a Melanesian Society by Dorothy E. Counts:
    Excerpt: “When you were in your village you claimed to be an important man. But in this little place you have been eaten up by a knife, a dog, and a pig. And now fire will utterly destroy you.” When the loudspeaker had finished, a fire blazed up and destroyed the remains.

    There seem to be great cultural differences in beliefs about NDEs. In an Australian study, 58 percent of participants interpreted an NDE vignette as possible evidence of life after death and 15 percent thought they were dreams or hallucinations. (Kellehear & Heaven, 1989). This is in stark contrast to a Chinese study in which 58 percent believed they were dreams or hallucinations and 9 percent believed they were evidence of life after death (Kellehear, Heaven, & Gao, 1990)

    Several studies (Pasricha, 1986, Schorer, 1985-86) & Kellehear, 1993) Murphy 1999,2001) have indicated that the phenomenologies of NDEs is culture-bound. (Of Note: Judeo-Christian Culture NDEs are by far the most pleasant “phenomena”)

    Researching Muslim NDEs, on the web at the NDERF home page, I find that there are only a handful of Muslim NDE experiences out of the thousands of NDE’s they have listed on their web site. There is only one really deep Muslim NDE in which there is a reference to “the Light”. Not surprisingly, this NDE occurred to a teenage boy. In the handful of somewhat deep adult Muslim NDEs that I have read about, the Muslim NDES never mentioned “the Light”, “Supreme Being” or a “Being of Light”. If this holds steady for all adult Muslim NDEs, then this will fall into stark contrast to the majority of deep Judeo/Christian NDE testimonies of adults for the western world.

    also of note; not all western NDE’s fall into the extremely pleasant category;

    Greyson and Bush (1996) classified 50 Western reports of distressing NDEs into three types:
    * The most common type included the same features as the pleasurable type such as an out-of-body experience and rapid movement through a tunnel or void toward a light but the NDEr, usually because of feeling out of control of what was happening, experienced the features as frightening.
    * The second, less common type included an acute awareness of nonexistence or of being completely alone forever in an absolute void. Sometimes the person received a totally convincing message that the real world including themselves never really existed. (note* according to one preliminary study, a similar type of this NDE may be very common among the Buddhist culture of China)
    * The third and rarest type included hellish imagery such as an ugly or foreboding landscape; demonic beings; loud, annoying noises; frightening animals; and other beings in extreme distress. Only rarely have such NDErs themselves felt personally tormented.

    This testimony from Bill Weise, on hell, caught my eye for he mentioned ‘the tunnel’ in his transition to the higher ‘eternal’ dimension;

    Bill Wiese on Sid Roth – Reality of ‘Eternal Dimension’ discussed in Description

  5. 5
    MedsRex says:

    Appreciate that BA. Interesting, compelling and some what frightening stuff. I’m going to have to take some time to give it all a proper perusal treatment.
    I was familiar with some of the Indian incidences.. But the rest are pretty new to me.

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