Intelligent Design

Non-materialist neuroscience: “Mind does really matter”

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My lead author on the book The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul, Mario Beauregard, has an article coming out in Progress in Neurobiology which describes a number of studies in non-materialist neuroscience.

(Non-materialist neuroscience = the mind exists and uses the brain but is not the same thing as the brain. Please, nobody, write to me to ask how this is relevant to ID. Use your imagination.)

Neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can now show the ways in which people reorganize their brains by changing their minds. However, their ability to do this is in direct conflict with materialist theories of mind, according to which the mind either is simply the brain at work or is a side-effect of brain processes – or perhaps does not even exist. As Beauregard writes,

The results of the neuroimaging studies reviewed here call in question the psychophysical identity theory and epiphenomenalism. For the psychophysical identity theory, mental processes (including intentional ones) are identical with neural processes (Feigl, 1958). For epiphenomenalism, mental processes are causally inert epiphenomena (side-effects or by-products) of neural processes. These findings also challenge eliminative materialism (or eliminativism). According to this view, mental processes and functions (e.g., consciousness, intentions, desires, beliefs, self) can be reduced entirely to brain processes. These mental processes and functions are pre-scientific concepts that belong to unsophisticated ideas of how the brain works (sometimes called “folk psychology”). Eliminative materialism further proposes that all common language or “folk psychology” descriptions of mental experience should be eliminated and replaced by descriptions using neuroscientific language (Churchland, 1981). For these materialist views (psychophysical identity theory, epiphenomenalism, eliminative materialism), physically describable brain mechanisms represent the core and final explanatory vehicle for every kind of psychologically described data. These views are extremely counter-intuitive since our most basic experience teaches us that our choice of perspective about how we apprehend our mental states makes a huge difference in how we respond to them (Schwartz et al., 2005).With regard to this issue, we agree with Glannon (2002) that the tendency of modern neuroscience and biological psychiatry toward neurobiological reductionism, i.e., the reduction of persons to their brains (a form of “neural anthropomorphism”), is ill-advised and socially hazardous.

Okay, if you are not a neuroscientist, you might prefer to read The Spiritual Brain. The style is mine, not Mario’s. I write like a journalist, not a scientist (like, who knew?)

Also at my non-materialist neuroscience blog, The Mindful Hack:

Alcoholics: Spirituality corks the bottle of spirits

Artificial intelligence: Making the whole universe intelligent?

Theories of Everything: A theory of everything must address consciousness, says prof

Neuroscience watch: Another controversial new finding about nerves

9 Replies to “Non-materialist neuroscience: “Mind does really matter”

  1. 1
    chunkdz says:

    It becomes increasingly apparent to me that the more successful reductionism is, the more impotent it becomes.

  2. 2
    jaredl says:

    I guess I need more help here: what evidence could even in principle overthrow the materialist paradigm in neuroscience?

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    I have found Sir Roger Penrose’s and Dr Stuart Hammeroff’s ideas on this subject to be quite interesting.

    http://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

  4. 4
    nullasalus says:

    I can’t help but feel bad for Roger Penrose. He’s an atheist and a secular humanist, but when Hammeroff proposed his theory of consciousness at the “Beyond Belief” meeting, the reaction was furious. This went beyond simple dismissal and argument against Penrose’s view (supposedly Max Tegmark has some strong but facts-based criticisms of their concept) – the mere insinuation that consciousness, in particular human consciousness, is somehow special or strange was grounds for excommunication.

    Looking forward to this Spiritual Brain release.

  5. 5
    Rude says:

    Jared L,

    As Darwin collapses so ought the materialist philosophy of mind (or lack thereof)—see Angus Menuge, as you might also enjoy maverick Rupert Sheldrake in regard to possible biological evidence for the soul.

    Yes, I much anticipate this book! With a great science writer like O’Leary the book should be understandable and also a joy to read.

  6. 6
    mike1962 says:

    nullasalus,

    Their outrage at Penrose and Hammeroff was just their religion/ideology manifesting. I’m not surprised at all. Imagine someone showing up a Catholic meeting and attempting to show that the virgin Mary wasn’t a virgin after Jesus was born, and you will have some idea of the nature of this thing. Religion comes in a lot of forms, it seems.

  7. 7
    mike1962 says:

    nullasalus,

    “I can’t help but feel bad for Roger Penrose. He’s an atheist and a secular humanist”

    Actually, from what I’ve read, he appears to be a Platonist, who very definitely thinks human reason and/or consciousness emanates from kind of “special” reality, i.e, the Platonic reality. I guess that might set him apart from more of the dogmatic naturalist/atheist types, like Dick Dawkins.

  8. 8
    gpuccio says:

    Indeed, Penrose is a great guy. His arguments about consciousness, especially the Godel argument, are extremely intriguing, and very important.
    That’s the proof that being an atheist, a naturalist, or anything else, does not necessarily mean being stupid or arrogant. Only a special kind of atheists (dogmatic, superficial, intolerant, self-contradictory, or frankly ignorant) are really unbearable. I need not give the names…

  9. 9
    klauslange says:

    Nobel prize winner John C. Eccles tolds that behavior of immaterial spirit to its brain in a very impressed model changing the quantum field random amplitudes of neurons.

    But Eccles prefers a evolution of the brain (not of the spirit). That evolution part is not my point of view.

    The importants of those models for ID belongs to the immaterial state of genuin information.

    Material processes of specification like in DNA or other komplex functionallity structures in nature, to establish information that we can detect and construct by ourself, is based on that hiding immaterial genuin information layer (or dimension). And that is the transmission mechanism of our spirit or the spirit of all spirits who creates all material and immaterial dimensions of our world.

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