Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Michael Egnor: Why the mind can’t just be the brain

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Thinking it through carefully, the idea doesn’t even make sense:

It turns out that even a committed materialist like neuroscientist Steven Novella doesn’t really believe that.

A good place to begin is with Dr. Novella’s seemingly quite sensible assertion that “the mind is what the brain does.” This seems to be a version of a theory called functionalism. Dr. Novella is a bit imprecise about his own metaphysics but functionalism is the philosophical view that what makes a thing mental (rather than physical) depends only on its function, rather than on its matter. A thought is a thought because it does what thoughts do, regardless of the material substrate that gave rise to it.

This account, of course, gets the materialist off the hook. Materialists like Novella can explain (away) the causal gap between brains and thoughts by saying “Thoughts are what brains do” and leave it at that. It’s a “materialism of the gaps” argument.

There are problems with functionalism as an explanation of the mind. The most obvious problem is that functionalism, as understood in this way, is dualist. That is, Novella is invoking “what the brain is” and “what the brain does.” Even if his claims for functionalism are true, those are two different things.

Michael Egnor, “Why the mind can’t just be the brain” at Mind Matters News

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7 Replies to “Michael Egnor: Why the mind can’t just be the brain

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    Novell says some pretty remarkably stupid crap to refute dualism

    Raymond Talus actually does a really good job dismantling Novell in an earlier work that he did

    Novell seems to believe in millions of tiny hemoculi running the show, so I’m not sure his problem with brain fairies

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    As to,

    A good place to begin is with Dr. Novella’s seemingly quite sensible assertion that “the mind is what the brain does.”

    In regards to Novella’s claim that ‘the mind is what the brain does’, it is interesting to note exactly what the brain is doing as it is supposedly ‘doing the mind’.

    While the resting metabolism of the body is based on Quarter Power Scaling,,,

    Of Life’s Laws And Unity – May 11, 2016
    Excerpt: Life obeys certain allometric scaling laws that seem to reveal a sort of overarching design principle at work. We don’t know what this principle is, although it’s probably related to optimization: What’s the best shape for the least amount of energy consumption? A famous allometric law is known as Kleiber’s Law, where the metabolic rate of an animal grows as its mass to the 3/4 power. (The metabolic rate can be measured in terms of the rate at which an animal consumes oxygen, for example.) Although there are small variations (due to motion, disease, aging), the relation holds over a wide range of masses. (There are disputes for very small animals without a circulatory system.)
    Geoffrey West, Brian Enquist and James Brown proposed a model based on blood flow to explain this and a few other general allometric scaling laws with body weight observed in animals (for a review paper see this): Apart from Kleiber’s Law mentioned above, life span scales as 1/4 power (so take two square roots of the mass), and heart rate as -1/4 power. Put together, these two laws explain why all species have a similar amount of heartbeats, 1.5 billion, over their life spans.
    Pause for amazement.
    The laws are not absolutely precise but do indicate a common trend across an enormous variety of living creatures. On Monday night, I was on a panel on Complexity with Geoffrey West at the New York Academy of Sciences. At some point, I asked West whether alien life, if it exists, would follow the same sort of unifying allometric laws. With a twinkle in his eye, West replied, a big smile on his face: “Well, I can only speculate here, but it seems plausible that this sort of design principle for life does have universal characteristics.”
    It would be amazing if life as we don’t know it is, after all, life as we do know it.

    And while Natural Selection cannot possibly be the explanation for Quarter Power Scaling since natural selection supposedly selects, or rejects, the whole organism based on 3-Dimensional phenotypic concerns

    Post-Darwinist – Denyse O’Leary – Dec. 2010
    Excerpt: They quote West et al. (1999),
    What Darwin Got Wrong – pg 79
    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.”
    They comment,
    “In the words of these authors, natural selection has exploited variations on this fractal theme to produce the incredible variety of biological form and function’, but there were severe geometric and physical constraints on metabolic processes.”
    “The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection. It’s inconceivable that so many different organisms, spanning different kingdoms and phyla, may have blindly ‘tried’ all sorts of power laws and that only those that have by chance ‘discovered’ the one-quarter power law reproduced and thrived.”
    Quotations from Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79.

    The predominance of quarter-power (4-D) scaling in biology
    Excerpt: Many fundamental characteristics of organisms scale
    with body size as power laws of the form:
    Y = Yo M^b,
    where Y is some characteristic such as metabolic rate, stride length or life span, Yo is a normalization constant, M is body mass and b is the allometric scaling exponent.
    A longstanding puzzle in biology is why the exponent b is usually some simple multiple of 1/4 (4-Dimensional scaling) rather than a multiple of 1/3, as would be expected from Euclidean (3-Dimensional) scaling.

    And while Natural Selection cannot possibly be the explanation for the Quarter Power Scaling of the body, the brain, in and of itself, exasperates this insurmountable ‘4-Dimensional’ problem for Darwinists. As the following article states, “cerebral metabolic, hemodynamic, and microvascular variables scale with allometric exponents that are simple multiples of 1/6, rather than 1/4, which suggests that brain metabolism is more similar to the metabolism of aerobic than resting body.”

    Scaling of Brain Metabolism and Blood Flow in Relation to Capillary and Neural Scaling – 2011?
    Excerpt: Brain is one of the most energy demanding organs in mammals, and its total metabolic rate scales with brain volume raised to a power of around 5/6. This value is significantly higher than the more common exponent 3/4 (4- dimensional Quarter Power Scaling) relating whole body resting metabolism with body mass and several other physiological variables in animals and plants.,,,?Moreover, cerebral metabolic, hemodynamic, and microvascular variables scale with allometric exponents that are simple multiples of 1/6, rather than 1/4, which suggests that brain metabolism is more similar to the metabolism of aerobic than resting body. Relation of these findings to brain functional imaging studies involving the link between cerebral metabolism and blood flow is also discussed.,,?General Discussion Excerpt:?,,It should be underlined that both CBF and CMR scale with brain volume with the exponent about 1/6 which is significantly different from the exponent 1/4 relating whole body resting specific metabolism with body volume [1], [2], [3]. Instead, the cerebral exponent 1/6 is closer to an exponent,, characterizing maximal body specific metabolic rate and specific cardiac output in strenuous exercise [43], [44]. In this sense, the brain metabolism and its hemodynamics resemble more the metabolism and circulation of exercised muscles than other resting organs, which is in line with the empirical evidence that brain is an energy expensive organ [10], [17], [18]. This may also suggest that there exists a common plan for the design of microcirculatory system in different parts of the mammalian body that uses the same optimization principles [45].,,?

    The brain simply does not fluctuate in its base line metabolic activity,

    Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories? – By Ferris Jabr – July 2012?Excerpt: Unlike physical exercise, mental workouts probably do not demand significantly more energy than usual. Believing we have drained our brains, however, may be enough to induce weariness,,,?Although the average adult human brain weighs about 1.4 kilograms, only 2 percent of total body weight, it demands 20 percent of our resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the total amount of energy our bodies expend in one very lazy day of no activity.,,,?—Resting metabolic rate: 1300 kilocalories, or kcal, the kind used in nutrition?—1,300 kcal over 24 hours = 54.16 kcal per hour = 15.04 gram calories per second?—15.04 gram calories/sec = 62.93 joules/sec = about 63 watts?—20 percent of 63 watts = 12.6 watts?So a typical adult human brain runs on around 12 watts—a fifth of the power required by a standard 60 watt lightbulb. Compared with most other organs, the brain is greedy; pitted against man-made electronics, it is astoundingly efficient.?

    THE EFFECT OF MENTAL ARITHMETIC ON CEREBRAL CIRCULATION AND METABOLISM ?Excerpt: Although Lennox considered the performance of mental arithmetic as “mental work”, it is not immediately apparent what the nature of that work in the physical sense might be if, indeed, there be any. If no work or energy transformation is involved in the process of thought, then it is not surprising that cerebral oxygen consumption is unaltered during mental arithmetic. ?

    The preceding finding is very unexpected for Darwinian materialists since materialists hold that ‘mind’ is merely a ’emergent property’ of the physical processes of a material brain. i.e. “The mind is what the brain does’.

    But why should ‘thought’ which is presupposed to be result of, and subservient to, the material processes of the brain constrain the material brain to operate at such a constant and optimal metabolic rate whereas the rest of body fluctuates in its metabolic activity according to our activity?

    The most parsimonious explanation for such a optimal, ‘6 Dimensional’, constraint on the brain’s metabolic activity is that the material brain was designed, first and foremost, to house the immaterial mind and to give the immaterial mind the most favorable metabolic environment at all times.

    Also of note, Darwinists can’t even explain where a single neuron came from,

    “The brain is not a supercomputer in which the neurons are transistors; rather it is as if each individual neuron is itself a computer, and the brain a vast community of microscopic computers. But even this model is probably too simplistic since the neuron processes data flexibly and on disparate levels, and is therefore far superior to any digital system. If I am right, the human brain may be a trillion times more capable than we imagine, and “artificial intelligence” a grandiose misnomer.”
    Brian Ford research biologist – 2009 – The Secret Power of a Single Cell

    ,,, much less can Darwinists explain where the ‘beyond belief’ brain came from,,,

    The Human Brain Is ‘Beyond Belief’ by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. * – 2017
    Excerpt: The human brain,, is an engineering marvel that evokes comments from researchers like “beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief”1 and “a world we had never imagined.”2,,,
    Perfect Optimization
    The scientists found that at multiple hierarchical levels in the whole brain, nerve cell clusters (ganglion), and even at the individual cell level, the positioning of neural units achieved a goal that human engineers strive for but find difficult to achieve—the perfect minimizing of connection costs among all the system’s components.,,,
    Vast Computational Power
    Researchers discovered that a single synapse is like a computer’s microprocessor containing both memory-storage and information-processing features.,,, Just one synapse alone can contain about 1,000 molecular-scale microprocessor units acting in a quantum computing environment. An average healthy human brain contains some 200 billion nerve cells connected to one another through hundreds of trillions of synapses. To put this in perspective, one of the researchers revealed that the study’s results showed a single human brain has more information processing units than all the computers, routers, and Internet connections on Earth.1,,,
    Phenomenal Processing Speed
    the processing speed of the brain had been greatly underrated. In a new research study, scientists found the brain is 10 times more active than previously believed.6,7,,,
    The large number of dendritic spikes also means the brain has more than 100 times the computational capabilities than was previously believed.,,,
    Petabyte-Level Memory Capacity
    Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.9,,,
    Optimal Energy Efficiency
    Stanford scientist who is helping develop computer brains for robots calculated that a computer processor functioning with the computational capacity of the human brain would require at least 10 megawatts to operate properly. This is comparable to the output of a small hydroelectric power plant. As amazing as it may seem, the human brain requires only about 10 watts to function.11 ,,,
    Multidimensional Processing
    It is as if the brain reacts to a stimulus by building then razing a tower of multi-dimensional blocks, starting with rods (1D), then planks (2D), then cubes (3D), and then more complex geometries with 4D, 5D, etc. The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materializes out of the sand and then disintegrates.13
    He also said:
    We found a world that we had never imagined. There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions.13,,,
    Biophoton Brain Communication
    Neurons contain many light-sensitive molecules such as porphyrin rings, flavinic, pyridinic rings, lipid chromophores, and aromatic amino acids. Even the mitochondria machines that produce energy inside cells contain several different light-responsive molecules called chromophores. This research suggests that light channeled by filamentous cellular structures called microtubules plays an important role in helping to coordinate activities in different regions of the brain.,,,


    Psalm 139:14
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

  3. 3
    Truthfreedom says:

    Is Mr. Novella a scientist, or is he a philosopher?

    Was not science “the only begetter of truth” and philosophy “dead/ a waste of time”?

    Why is Mr. Novella wasting his time then? Is he a robot that can not help it?

    Have I ever mentioned the strong correlation between materialism and non-sense? 🙂

    Oh, and fairies. Materialists and the word “fairy” are inextricably linked. Something to ponder about.

  4. 4
    JVL says:

    Truthfreedom: Is Mr. Novella a scientist, or is he a philosopher?

    He’s an extremely public figure and easy to look up. I’ll leave it up to you if you’re really interested.

    Why is Mr. Novella wasting his time then? Is he a robot that can not help it?

    You can subscribe and read his blog if you’re really interested in his view.

    Oh, and fairies. Materialists and the word “fairy” are inextricably linked. Something to ponder about.

    Nice to see you haven’t lost your subtle and compassionate approach.

  5. 5
    Truthfreedom says:

    So Mr. Novella is a scientist who auto-perceives himself as a philosopher. A travesty then. A mockery. Like same sex
    “marriage”. Like “vegan steak”. How “woke” of him.

    JVL: is being “compassionate” something “good”? Should I strive to that end? (Remember that materialism and universal moral truths are sworn enemies).

    Popcorn in the oven. *Crunch *crunch.

  6. 6

    Unfortunately, dualism suffers the exact same problem. Either matter (the brain) can cause mental states, or it cannot. Arguing that mind exists independent of the physical brain doesn’t let you off that hook.

  7. 7

    Ultimately, dualism is an unsupportable ontological framework, since no experience can occur outside of mind. Consequently, not only is there no good reason to postulate that an extra-mental world exists, because even if one did it would be both impossible to verify and useless.

    After considering BA77’s point that ERT was very useful, I’ve realized that no, it wasn’t. In fact, logically speaking, it couldn’t have been. That perspective is a categorical misrepresentation of what was going on.

    As a functional fact, all we can ever investigate and make theories about are our experiences, which occur entirely in mind. That historical investigation and theory-making could never have been, functionally and factually speaking, about anything else regardless of how we characterized it in our mind. That erroneous perspective could only have retarded progress by insisting that we were investigating something other than the only kind of thing we can ever have any access to – mental experiences.

    Materialism and dualism are necessarily insupportable and problematic perspectives that cannot possibly bring any additional functional value to the table, in the same way that materialist evolutionary theory cannot bring anything functionally additional to the examination of life; it can only add problems, dysfunction and unnecessary limitations.

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