Intelligent Design

Professor Michael Egnor’s incredible claim about perception

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Professor Michael Egnor is not only an accomplished neurosurgeon, but also an articulate exponent of Aristotelian philosophy. In his latest article, however, he makes a fantastic claim which is foreign to Aristotle’s thinking: he asserts that whenever you perceive a distant object, your perception of that object occurs outside your body, rather than inside it. In Egnor’s own words:

When you perceive music from your radio, your perception of the music occurs at your radio. When you perceive a tree in your yard, your perception of the tree occurs at the tree. When you perceive the moon, your perception of the moon occurs at the moon. Perceptions occur at the object perceived, regardless of distance, regardless of location. It seems bizarre, but it is logically sound and, when you think it out a bit, it is plainly true.
(Do Perceptions Happen in Your Brain?, Evolution News and Views, December 1, 2015.)

My perception of the moon occurs at the moon? Something sounds very funny here. I should add that since non-human animals, such as wolves, are also capable of perceiving the moon, Egnor must presumably hold that they, too, have extra-bodily perceptions. Bizarre.

Now, it is very easy to show that this account of perception simply cannot be right. First of all, perception is a bodily event, as Egnor’s own illustrations demonstrate. To cite a few examples from his article: you see a tree, hear music and feel a pinprick. Egnor himself acknowledges: “Perception is a wholly material thing — it does have location.” He also remarks that “a subject perceives a sensory stimulus.” In other words, it is you who perceives. Since perception is a material event of which you are the subject, it must be an event involving your body.

Second, regardless of whether your perceptions are (a) actions performed by your body when it encounters external objects, or (b) passive experiences which are undergone by your body when it is affected by those objects, it is impossible for your perceptions to be located at some point which is separate from your body. Your bodily actions cannot be separated from your body, since they originate from within it. Likewise, your bodily experiences necessarily occur within your body. Either way, then, we are forced to conclude that your perceptions are events which may occur either at the surface of your body, or alternatively, inside your body – but never separately from it.

Hence it is nonsensical to claim that when you see the moon, your perception occurs at the moon, or that when you perceive music coming from your radio, your perception occurs at the radio.

Now, if Professor Egnor had contented himself with asserting that the objects of your perceptions are located outside your body, I would have been in perfect agreement with him. But when he claims that the perceptions themselves are located outside the body, then I can only reply: “I don’t know what you mean.”

Do the findings of neurophysiology support Egnor’s claim?

In his article, Professor Egnor also claims that the findings of neurophysiology buttress his account of perception:

The sensory experiments of Benjamin Libet, a neuroscientist at U.C. San Francisco in the mid 20th century, demonstrated that a subject perceives a sensory stimulus on the skin at the moment the skin is touched, before the stimulus reaches the brain and before full deliberative consciousness occurs. Libet was flabbergasted by this result and hypothesized that “the subjective timing of the experience is (automatically) referred backwards in time.” Yet Aristotle offered a much simpler and logically coherent explanation — the stimulus on the skin is perceived on the skin, not in the brain. Perception occurs at the location of the stimulus, not in the brain.

I should note at the outset that Egnor is contradicting his own argument here. For if tactile perception occurs when the skin is stimulated, then why not say that visual perception (e.g. of the moon) occurs when the eye receives light? But in that case, we shall have to locate a subject’s perception of the moon in the subject’s eye, and not (as Professor Egnor counter-intuitively claims) on the moon itself.

In any case, it is simply wrong to claim that Libet demonstrated that a subject perceives a sensory stimulus on the skin before the stimulus reaches the brain. That may have been how he interpreted his experimental findings, but other interpretations are possible. Allow me to quote from the abstract of an article by physicist S. Pockett, titled, On Subjective Back-Referral and How Long It Takes to Become Conscious of a Stimulus: A Reinterpretation of Libet’s Data (Consciousness and Cognition 11, 144–161, 2002):

The original data reported by Benjamin Libet and colleagues are reinterpreted, taking into account the facilitation which is experimentally demonstrated in the first of their series of articles. It is shown that the original data equally well or better support a quite different set of conclusions from those drawn by Libet. The new conclusions are that it takes only 80 ms (rather than 500 ms) for stimuli to come to consciousness and that “subjective back-referral of sensations in time” to the time of the stimulus does not occur (contrary to Libet’s original interpretation of his results). [Emphasis mine – VJT.]

The very most that can be said from the foregoing results is that they may lend support to the claim that perception occurs in the sensory organ, rather than the brain. And as we have seen, it is highly doubtful whether Libet’s experimental findings establish even that.

Egnor’s non-existent regress

Additionally, Professor Egnor puts forward a philosophical argument against the view that “primary qualities” [i.e. “the ordinary physical properties of an object,” – that is, “mathematically quantifiable properties such as mass, weight, dimension, location, and velocity”] “stimulate sensory organs and that perception only occurs in the brain when the secondary subjective qualities” [color, taste, feel, smell, etc.] “are conjured in the brain” (emphasis mine – VJT).

Again, I note that even if Egnor’s argument is valid and sound, all it proves is that perceptions don’t occur in the brain. It doesn’t show that perceptions are located at the objects perceived, as he claims. An alternative possibility is that they are located in the sensory organ that is affected by the stimulus – or that they are located partly in the sensory organ, and partly in the brain.

But is Egnor’s argument a sound one? Let’s have a look:

Consider this experiment. I wish to empirically demonstrate the arrival of the stimulus in my brain — the arrival that corresponds to my subjective awareness of the pain. So I hook myself up to an EEG to record my brain waves. Sure enough, when my finger is pricked, a brain wave spike occurs in my somatosensory cortex — I’ve confirmed where my conscious awareness of the secondary qualities of the pain occurs!

However, it appears that Professor Egnor has left out the last and most important step. (I say “appears” because he is, after all, a neurophysiologist; my specialty is philosophy.) The primary somatosensory cortex, which is the main sensory receptive area for the sense of touch, is located in the lateral postcentral gyrus, which is situated in the parietal lobe of the human brain. The somatosensory cortex contains a map of sensory space, known as a cortical homunculus. (The illustration above shows a cortical sensory homunculus, but there’s also a motor homunculus, relating to bodily movements.)

The point I’d like to make here is that the cerebral cortex is made up of three parts: sensory, motor, and association areas. For consciousness to occur, signals traveling to the brain have to reach the association areas. As Dr. James D. Rose explains in his widely cited paper, The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain (Reviews in Fisheries Science, 10(1): 1–38, 2002):

Diverse, converging lines of evidence have shown that consciousness is a product of an activated state in a broad, distributed expanse of neocortex. Most critical are regions of “association” or homotypical cortex (Laureys et al., 1999, 2000a-c; Mountcastle, 1998), which are not specialized for sensory or motor function and which comprise the vast majority of human neocortex. In fact, activity confined to regions of sensory (heterotypical) cortex is inadequate for consciousness (Koch and Crick, 2000; Lamme and Roelfsema, 2000; Laureys et al., 2000a,b; Libet, 1997; Rees et al., 2000). (Section IV, last paragraph. Emphases mine – VJT.)

Full disclosure here: my Ph.D. philosophy thesis on animal minds cites the work of Dr. James Rose, who was very helpful in answering my scientific queries on consciousness. I would also recommend his more recent article, Can fish really feel pain? (Rose et al., Fish and Fisheries, 2014, 15 97-133), or for those wanting a less technical summary of the evidence, Dr. Rose’s primer, Do Fish Feel Pain?.

Let us return to Professor Egnor’s argument. He continues:

But there’s a problem. In the materialist paradigm, all of the conscious experience of all sensory inputs occurs in the brain, including vision. So when I observe the arrival of the stimulus on the EEG machine that corresponds to my brain wave, that stimulus blip itself is a primary quality, and it is only experienced by me when the image of the stimulus arrives in my brain — in my visual cortex. So in my experiment, when I observe my pain event in my brain, the event actually occurs in my visual cortex (corresponding to my observation of the stimulus), not in my somatosensory cortex.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the spike I observe in my somatosensory cortex corresponds to my conscious awareness of a painful pinprick. When I observe the arrival of the stimulus on the EEG machine, the blip is indeed a primary quality, and not a subjective experience of pain. But the blip on the EEG machine is not the same thing as the spike in my somatosensory cortex: it is an observation of that spike. What’s more, it’s an observation of the primary, or physical properties of that spike, and not the subjective qualities of pain which are associated with it. So what Professor Egnor’s argument merely shows is that if I observe my brain while experiencing a painful pinprick, then my observation of the physical properties of the conscious part of my brain will be recorded in my visual cortex.

If I were a materialist (which I’m not), I’d be underwhelmed.

Did Aristotle ever make a claim like Egnor’s?

Finally, in his article, Professor Egnor attempts to enlist the support of Aristotle (bold emphases mine – VJT):

This simple logic dates to Aristotle, who made no fundamental ontological distinction between primary and secondary qualities. He noted that perception entails the mind grasping the form (he called it the “sensible species”) of the object at the location of the object. He was a bit astonished himself at this fact. He commented that the mind is not a passive recipient of perceptionsit actively grasps the sensible properties of objects and it does so externallyat the objects perceived.

Your mind is not bound by location. Wherever the object is that you perceive, the location of the object is where you perceive it. Your mind grasps — becomes one with — the form of the object, at the object, yet your mind remains itself. The mind, a power of the soul, is, in Aristotle’s terms, the form of forms. The mind is a form capable of grasping other forms and perceiving them, while remaining itself. It is not constrained by location.

But the only quote from Aristotle which Egnor cites is a fragmentary one: Egnor quotes him as saying that “the soul is in a way all existing things…” (De Anima iii 8). That quote says nothing about the location of perceptions. Nor does it say anything about the mind. Aristotle attributes perception to the soul, not the mind – and for a very good reason. The ability to perceive is, for Aristotle, what distinguishes animals from plants. Mind (nous), on the other hand, is what distinguishes man from the other animals.

So what did Aristotle really say about perception? The following quotes convey the tenor of his thought (bold emphases and italics mine – VJT):

Of the psychic powers above enumerated some kinds of living things, as we have said, possess all, some less than all, others one only. Those we have mentioned are the nutritive, the appetitive, the sensory, the locomotive, and the power of thinking. Plants have none but the first, the nutritive, while another order of living things [ animals – VJT] has this plus the sensory. If any order of living things has the sensory, it must also have the appetitive; for appetite is the genus of which desire, passion, and wish are the species; now all animals have one sense at least, viz. touch, and whatever has a sense has the capacity for pleasure and pain and therefore has pleasant and painful objects present to it, and wherever these are present, there is desire… What is the soul of plant, animal, man? Why the terms are related in this serial way must form the subject of later examination. But the facts are that the power of perception is never found apart from the power of self-nutrition, while – in plants – the latter is found isolated from the former. Again, no sense is found apart from that of touch, while touch is found by itself; many animals have neither sight, hearing, nor smell. Again, among living things that possess sense some have the power of locomotion, some not. Lastly, certain living beings – a small minority – possess calculation and thought, for (among mortal beings) those which possess calculation have all the other powers above mentioned, while the converse does not hold – indeed some live by imagination alone, while others have not even imagination.
(De Anima ii 3)

Sensation depends, as we have said, on a process of movement or affection from without, for it is held to be some sort of change of quality…

[W]e must recall that we use the word ‘perceive’ in two ways, for we say (a) that what has the power to hear or see, ‘sees’ or ‘hears’, even though it is at the moment asleep, and also (b) that what is actually seeing or hearing, ‘sees’ or ‘hears’. Hence ‘sense’ too must have two meanings, sense potential, and sense actual. Similarly ‘to be a sentient’ means either (a) to have a certain power or (b) to manifest a certain activity. To begin with, for a time, let us speak as if there were no difference between (i) being moved or affected, and (ii) being active, for movement is a kind of activity – an imperfect kind, as has elsewhere been explained. Everything that is acted upon or moved is acted upon by an agent which is actually at work.
(De Anima ii 5)

What has the power of producing sound is what has the power of setting in movement a single mass of air which is continuous from the impinging body up to the organ of hearing. The organ of hearing is physically united with air, and because it is in air, the air inside is moved concurrently with the air outside. Hence animals do not hear with all parts of their bodies, nor do all parts admit of the entrance of air; for even the part which can be moved and can sound has not air everywhere in it.
(De Anima ii 8)

The flesh plays in touch very much the same part as would be played in the other senses by an air-envelope growing round our body; had we such an envelope attached to us we should have supposed that it was by a single organ that we perceived sounds, colours, and smells, and we should have taken sight, hearing, and smell to be a single sense.
(De Anima ii 11)

(A) By a ‘sense’ is meant what has the power of receiving into itself the sensible forms of things without the matter. This must be conceived of as taking place in the way in which a piece of wax takes on the impress of a signet-ring without the iron or gold; we say that what produces the impression is a signet of bronze or gold, but its particular metallic constitution makes no difference: in a similar way the sense is affected by what is coloured or flavoured or sounding, but it is indifferent what in each case the substance is; what alone matters is what quality it has, i.e. in what ratio its constituents are combined.

(B) By ‘an organ of sense’ is meant that in which ultimately such a power is seated.

…This explains also why plants cannot perceive: …in the case of plants, the affection is an affection by form-and-matter together.
(De Anima ii 12)

…[I]n a sense even that which sees is coloured; for in each case the sense-organ is capable of receiving the sensible object without its matter. That is why even when the sensible objects are gone the sensings and imaginings continue to exist in the sense-organs.

The activity of the sensible object and that of the percipient sense is one and the same activity, and yet the distinction between their being remains. Take as illustration actual sound and actual hearing: a man may have hearing and yet not be hearing, and that which has a sound is not always sounding. But when that which can hear is actively hearing and which can sound is sounding, then the actual hearing and the actual sound are merged in one (these one might call respectively hearkening and sounding).
(De Anima iii 2)

Let us now summarize our results about soul, and repeat that the soul is in a way all existing things; for existing things are either sensible or thinkable, and knowledge is in a way what is knowable, and sensation is in a way what is sensible: in what way we must inquire.

Knowledge and sensation are divided to correspond with the realities, potential knowledge and sensation answering to potentialities, actual knowledge and sensation to actualities. Within the soul the faculties of knowledge and sensation are potentially these objects, the one what is knowable, the other what is sensible. They must be either the things themselves or their forms. The former alternative is of course impossible: it is not the stone which is present in the soul but its form.
(De Anima iii 8)

An animal is a body with soul in it: every body is tangible, i.e. perceptible by touch; hence necessarily, if an animal is to survive, its body must have tactual sensation. All the other senses, e.g. smell, sight, hearing, apprehend through media; but where there is immediate contact the animal, if it has no sensation, will be unable to avoid some things and take others, and so will find it impossible to survive. That is why taste also is a sort of touch; it is relative to nutriment, which is just tangible body; whereas sound, colour, and odour are innutritious, and further neither grow nor decay. Hence it is that taste also must be a sort of touch, because it is the sense for what is tangible and nutritious.
(De Anima iii 12)

Putting the foregoing quotes together, we arrive at the following conclusions:

1. Perception is a power of the soul which distinguishes animals from plants. (Alternatively, “perception” may denote what happens when this power is exercised.)

2. Perception involves a sensory organ being affected by the object that it senses. In other words, perception is, at least partly, a passive power, contrary to what Egnor asserts.

3. Nevertheless, this power can be actively exercised – e.g. when a person attentively listens, as opposed to merely hearing.

4. According to Aristotle, perception takes place in the sensory organ, not in the object. (For instance, he writes that “even when the sensible objects are gone the sensings and imaginings continue to exist in the sense-organs.” – De Anima iii 2.) Thus hearing takes place in the organ of hearing – i.e. the ear – rather than in the objects which create the sound that is heard.

5. In the case of perception, the sensory organ is affected in a very special way: it receives the form (i.e. the color, sound, odor, taste or touch) of the object which it senses, without receiving the object itself. This separation of the object’s form from its matter is what distinguishes sensation from mere physical alteration: plants, according to Aristotle, are altered by objects in their environment, but they do not sense them.

I won’t belabor the points which I have made here: I shall leave it to readers to decide whether I have summarized Aristotle’s thought fairly and accurately.

Belief in materialism does not entail a denial of direct realism

In his article, Professor Egnor seems to assume that if one is a materialist, then one must be committed to a denial of the claim that we perceive objects directly. As he puts it:

In the materialist view, when you perceive an object, what really happens is that the primary qualities of the object stimulate a sense organ of yours (a touch receptor, or a retinal cell, or a cochlear cell, etc.). The stimulus is transmitted to your brain, and it is in your brain that the stimulus acquires its secondary qualities — pain, or vision, or hearing. The pain or color or harmony isn’t really in the object perceived. It’s in your brain.

You don’t really perceive the object in your environment directly; you perceive the secondary qualities that are evoked in our brain by the transmission of the nerve stimulus, which is excited by the primary qualities

I have to say that the conclusion doesn’t follow. First, it is incorrect to say that “the primary qualities of the object stimulate a sense organ of yours”; qualities aren’t substances, so they don’t do anything. It would be better to say that the object itself stimulates your sensory organ, by virtue of its primary qualities. Second, the fact that the secondary qualities of the stimulus – e.g. the pain it causes you to feel – are entirely in your brain – doesn’t imply that you don’t perceive the object directly. Still less does it imply that “you perceive the secondary qualities that are evoked in our brain.” No; what I perceive is the object itself, and the secondary qualities are that whereby I perceive it. Secondary qualities, like primary qualities, are not “things” in their own right; hence it makes no sense to say that I can ever perceive them. What I perceive are objects.

At this point, someone is bound to object: “What about hallucinations, then?” But as philosopher John Searle has pointed out, the fallacy underlying this objection is the implicit assumption that (as he puts it), “if there’s something significant in common between the perception [of an object – VJT] and the indistinguishable hallucination, then that thing must be the object that you perceive.” There’s no reason why that has to be the case. As Searle explains in his essay, Perceptual Intentionality (Organon F 19 (2012), pp. 9-22):

Now let us apply this to the famous Argument from Illusion that we considered earlier. In the sense in which I am aware of an object when I look at the desk, the intentionality sense, in that sense when I have a hallucination [of a desk – VJT], I am not aware of anything. There is nothing there; hence I could not be aware of anything. Nonetheless, I am having a conscious visual experience and it is tempting, given the way our language works, to erect a noun phrase to stand for that awareness and make it into the object of the verbs of perception. So “aware of”, “conscious of”, are used in two different senses. We feel immediately hesitant to say that one “sees” anything in the hallucination case, so we are tempted to put sneer quotes around “sees”. But what is going on, I hope, is obvious and clear. In every case there is an ambiguity in the crucial phrases “aware of” or “conscious of”; because in the intentionality sense in which I am aware of something when I see it, in the case of the hallucination I am not aware of anything. I have a conscious experience, but that conscious experience is not itself the object of the experience; it is identical with the experience.

Once pointed out that this is such an obvious fallacy it is hard to see how anybody could have made it; but nonetheless there it is and it produced the idea that is common to the Great Philosophers that one does not perceive the world or does not perceive it directly. One perceives only the contents of one’s own mind, one’s own sense data. (2012, p. 11. Emphases mine – VJT.)

In short: the belief that secondary qualities (conscious experiences such as colors, sounds and pains) are located entirely within our brains is perfectly compatible with a thoroughgoing and direct version of realism.

Primary and secondary qualities: is there a distinction between the two?

Professor Egnor is right about one very important point: Aristotle did not recognize a distinction between primary and secondary qualities. For him, perception unaccompanied by awareness (including desire) would have been an oxymoron: to sense something as pleasant (or painful) goes hand-in-hand with desiring to enjoy it (or avoid it).

Is Aristotle the voice of common sense? Has modern philosophy led us badly astray, as Egnor believes? Whatever its faults and failings may be, I am very glad that modern philosophy draws a distinction between first-person (or subjective) and third-person (or objective) properties. Logically, there is no reason why an organism with the ability to detect and avoid noxious stimuli or seek out pleasant stimuli should possess any subjective feelings at all – even low-level ones, such as twinges of pain. It is perfectly conceivable that the organism should behave as it does, simply because it has been designed that way, and because such behavior helps it to survive. Nociception (avoidance of noxious stimuli) and pain are two very different things, as Rose points out in his article.

To laypeople, the idea of an organism being able to sense objects, and even learn about them, without being phenomenally conscious of them, might sound strange. But the fact that these activities are typically conscious in human beings does not entail that they have to be in all animals.

On the other hand, there are some behaviors observed in “higher” animals which are very hard to account for, except on the hypothesis that they are conscious. Petra Stoerig and Alan Cowey’s article, Blindsight in man and monkey (Brain (1997), 120, 535–559) describes a case in point. To put it very simply: if monkeys can hallucinate and experience after-images, then that would seem to indicate that they are phenomenally aware, and that there is “something that it is like” (as philosopher Thomas Nagel would put it) to be a monkey.

Finally, it seems to me that the Aristotelian view that colors, smells, tastes etc. reside in objects themselves strikes me as not only peculiar, but superfluous. Consider a lemon. Are we supposed to believe that in addition to having various physical properties, including a tendency to reflect light at a wavelength of 570 to 590 nanometers, produce citric acid when squeezed, and emit certain oils from its peel, the lemon also has various built-in psychic properties, such as a built-in tendency to appear yellow, taste sour, and smell clean and fresh to human beings? The mind boggles. One wonders: did lemons have these properties before humans and other conscious animals appeared? Such a view of nature strikes me as animistic.

What’s more, it seems that these psychic properties are redundant. Positing them would make good sense if the sensory organs detecting the color, taste and smell of lemons were capable of conscious awareness, but as we have seen, they are not. They can even be replaced (to some degree) by man-made prosthetic parts (e.g. the bionic eye) which are certainly devoid of consciousness. It is only when the sensory signals reach the associative regions of the brain that we become conscious of what we sense. Consequently, there is no need to posit properties in the lemon itself which engender conscious states. All we need suppose is that when the signals reach the neocortex, which possesses the unique structural features of “(1) exceptionally high interconnectivity within the neocortex and between the cortex and thalamus and (2) enough mass and local functional diversification to permit regionally specialized, differentiated activity patterns” (Rose, 2002; cited from Edelman and Tononi, 1999), they then become conscious. In other words, the subjectively felt color, taste and smell of a lemon are not found in the lemon itself; they arise from the highly inter-connected brains of humans and some “higher” animals. (In my thesis on animal minds, I tentatively conclude that mammals, birds, and just possibly reptiles and cephalopods are phenomenally conscious.)

In saying that phenomenal consciousness can arise from an inter-connected brain, I am not in any way arguing that reflective consciousness, which is unique to human beings, can arise in this way. On Aristotle’s view, the discontinuity between humans and other animals is far more profound than that between animals and plants, which he viewed as a rather blurry one. I completely agree. An animal that can understand the abstract notion of a rule, as well as the notions of truth and falsity, belongs in a category of its own. The formal logic which we engage in cannot be equated with any material process.

Conclusion

As I pointed out above, there are several possibilities to consider besides the bizarre view put forward by Professor Egnor, that your perceptions are located at the object perceived, regardless of its distance from you. One possibility is that they are located in the sensory organ that is affected by the stimulus. Another is that they are located partly in the sensory organ, and partly in the brain. A third possibility is that they are located entirely in the brain, since that is where the signal produced by an external stimulus, which is transmitted inside your body, finally becomes conscious.

As I see it, the drawback of the first possibility is that if it is correct, then our perceptions are not conscious; for my eye is certainly not conscious of anything. People with bionic eyes can still see, after a fashion – and yet nobody would say that a bionic eye is conscious. In addition, my spectacles (which I purchased recently for just 80 U.S. cents, at a 100-yen store in Japan, to counteract worsening long-sightedness) certainly help me to see clearly; and if the act of seeing is supposed to take place in my eyes, and not in my brain, then by the same token, we should grant that for visually impaired people, the act of seeing takes place in their spectacles as well.

The third possibility, however, is decidedly counter-intuitive, for it entails that my eyes don’t see anything, my ears don’t hear anything and my skin doesn’t feel anything. Now, if someone wanted to say that my eyes don’t consciously see anything, then I’d have no problem with that.

The second possibility therefore seems to be the most sensible one: my perceptions are located partly in my sensory organs, and partly in my brain. Insofar as they are perceptions of external objects, my perceptions can be located in the organs affected by those objects. But insofar as they are conscious, my perceptions are located in my brain – and in particular, my neocortex, and especially the association regions, which play a central role in consciousness. What this view entails is that perceptions are composed of conscious and non-conscious components, and that my perceptions begin a very short time before I become aware of them. That might strike some people as a little odd, but I can live with it.

Perceptions have generated a great deal of philosophical controversy over the past 2,400 years, and I’m sure they will continue to do so. Some of the opinions I’ve expressed in this article are almost certainly wrong; but I’m about as certain as I can be of anything, that when I look at the moon, my perception of the moon is somewhere within my body, and not on the moon.

What do readers think?

68 Replies to “Professor Michael Egnor’s incredible claim about perception

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    Your blog is pretty good but there is ONE issue you might need to learn before you become frustrated out of your mind;
    Some people will not be “CONVERTED”-no matter what evidence you present. They just do not want to accept anything including the evidence. Why? Only God knows and he might or rather not be perplexed about it…

  2. 2
    Andre says:

    Dr Torley

    At the moon is very different than on the moon….

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    This idea is not new. I have seen it elsewhere years ago. Dr. Egnor is so completely and painfully wrong, I don’t know where to start. I am embarrassed by his nonsense. He makes non-materialists and hardcore dualists like me look bad. One might be tempted to ask Dr. Egnor, just for grins and giggles, why does his spirit even need a body?

  4. 4
    Virgil Cain says:

    If I was at the Moon I could not perceive as I do from the Earth. When I am standing at a tree I do not perceive it as I do from a distance.

  5. 5
    bornagain says:

    as to:

    “but I’m about as certain as I can be of anything, that when i look at the moon, my perception of the moon is somewhere within my body, and not on the moon.”
    VJT

    I seem to recall Einstein thinking something along the same line about the moon:

    “We often discussed his notions on objective reality. I recall that during one walk Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it.”
    Abraham Pais – Rev. Mod. Phys. 51, 863–914 (1979), p. 907

    Reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, (Delayed Choice) quantum experiment confirms –
    Mind = blown. – FIONA MACDONALD – 1 JUN 2015
    Excerpt: “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” lead researcher and physicist Andrew Truscott said in a press release.
    http://www.sciencealert.com/re.....t-confirms

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    “We know what the particle is doing at the source when it is created. We know what it is doing at the detector when it is registered. But we do not know what it is doing in-between.”
    Anton Zeilinger

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
    Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays”;

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961 – received Nobel Prize in 1963 for ‘Quantum Symmetries’

    ‘all real things are contents of consciousness’
    – John von Neumann

    How observation (consciousness) is inextricably bound to measurement in quantum mechanics:
    Quote: “We wish to measure a temperature.,,,
    But in any case, no matter how far we calculate — to the mercury vessel, to the scale of the thermometer, to the retina, or into the brain, at some time we must say: and this is perceived by the observer. That is, we must always divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer.”
    John von Neumann – 1903-1957 – The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, pp.418-21 – 1955
    http://www.informationphilosop.....s/neumann/

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

    Macrorealism Emerging from Quantum Physics – Brukner, Caslav; Kofler, Johannes
    American Physical Society, APS March Meeting, – March 5-9, 2007
    Excerpt: for unrestricted measurement accuracy a violation of macrorealism (i.e. a violation of the Leggett-Garg inequalities) is possible for arbitrary large systems.,,

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    One more thing. If this is the kind of nonsense that passes for critical thinking at the Discovery Institute, ID is in big trouble. Isn’t the Discovery Institute the main organization championing ID?

    I am glad to see VJTorley take Egnor to task. UD must fully distance itself from this crackpottery.

  7. 7
    turell says:

    How can our perception be at the moon or the sun? The moon image we see is one-plus seconds old when we see it, and the sun image is 8 minutes or so old when it arrives. We never see an instantaneous image at the moon or the sun in real time.

  8. 8
    anthropic says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to recall reading about impulses travelling in the brain faster than possible from purely material means.

    Does anybody else remember that? If so, might it be relevant to this discussion?

  9. 9
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Not relevant at all because you are completely wrong. Action potentials can move 200m/s at their fastest thanks to concentrations gradients, which we spend massive amounts of energy maintaining.

  10. 10
    bornagain says:

    The Puzzling Role Of Biophotons In The Brain – Dec. 17, 2010
    Excerpt: In recent years, a growing body of evidence shows that photons play an important role in the basic functioning of cells. Most of this evidence comes from turning the lights off and counting the number of photons that cells produce. It turns out, much to many people’s surprise, that many cells, perhaps even most, emit light as they work.
    In fact, it looks very much as if many cells use light to communicate. There’s certainly evidence that bacteria, plants and even kidney cells communicate in this way. Various groups have even shown that rats brains are literally alight thanks to the photons produced by neurons as they work.,,,
    ,,, earlier this year, one group showed that spinal neurons in rats can actually conduct light.
    ,, Rahnama and co point out that neurons contain many light sensitive molecules, such as porphyrin rings, flavinic, pyridinic rings, lipid chromophores and aromatic amino acids. In particular, mitochondria, the machines inside cells which produce energy, contain several prominent chromophores.
    The presence of light sensitive molecules makes it hard to imagine how they might not be not influenced by biophotons.,,,
    They go on to suggest that the light channelled by microtubules can help to co-ordinate activities in different parts of the brain. It’s certainly true that electrical activity in the brain is synchronised over distances that cannot be easily explained. Electrical signals travel too slowly to do this job, so something else must be at work.,,,
    (So) It’s a big jump to assume that photons do this job.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....the-brain/

    Of related note to “It’s certainly true that electrical activity in the brain is synchronised over distances that cannot be easily explained”, the following video and paper comments on ‘zero time lag’ in synchronous brain activity:

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video (1:58 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jjpEc98o_Oo?t=117

    ,,, zero time lag neuronal synchrony despite long conduction delays – 2008
    Excerpt: Multielectrode recordings have revealed zero time lag synchronization among remote cerebral cortical areas. However, the axonal conduction delays among such distant regions can amount to several tens of milliseconds. It is still unclear which mechanism is giving rise to isochronous discharge of widely distributed neurons, despite such latencies,,,
    Remarkably, synchrony of neuronal activity is not limited to short-range interactions within a cortical patch. Interareal synchronization across cortical regions including interhemispheric areas has been observed in several tasks (7, 9, 11–14).,,,
    Beyond its functional relevance, the zero time lag synchrony among such distant neuronal ensembles must be established by mechanisms that are able to compensate for the delays involved in the neuronal communication. Latencies in conducting nerve impulses down axonal processes can amount to delays of several tens of milliseconds between the generation of a spike in a presynaptic cell and the elicitation of a postsynaptic potential (16). The question is how, despite such temporal delays, the reciprocal interactions between two brain regions can lead to the associated neural populations to fire in unison (i.e. zero time lag).,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2575223/

    The following paper appeals to a ‘non-local’, (i.e. beyond space and time), cause to try to explain the zero lag synchronization in neural circuits,,,

    Nonlocal mechanism for cluster synchronization in neural circuits – 2011
    Excerpt: The findings,,, call for reexamining sources of correlated activity in cortex,,,
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.3634

  11. 11
    Neil Rickert says:

    I think Egnor is arguing for the idea that perception is direct (in contrast to the view that we perceive representations). However, his way of putting it is awkward and perhaps misleading.

  12. 12
    Robert Byers says:

    I think everyone, including old man Aristotle, misses what really happens simply. We only watch our memory. ut is our memory that gets the info. this mat be editted for us also. thats why there is no difference between seeing a desk and hallucinating there is a desk. .In both cases we are just watching a recording.

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    There must be bazillions of ribozymes in the brain, right Alicia?

  14. 14
    anthropic says:

    BA 10, much thanks. I’d seen it before but forgot the details.

  15. 15
    bornagain says:

    Of related note:

    “It has been experimentally confirmed,, that unstable particles will not decay, or will decay less rapidly, if they are observed. Somehow, observation changes the quantum system. We’re talking pure observation, not interacting with the system in any way.”
    Douglas Ell – Counting to God – pg. 189 – 2014 – Douglas Ell graduated early from MIT, where he double majored in math and physics.

    Interaction-free measurements by quantum Zeno stabilization of ultracold atoms – 14 April 2015
    Excerpt: In our experiments, we employ an ultracold gas in an unstable spin configuration, which can undergo a rapid decay. The object—realized by a laser beam—prevents this decay because of the indirect quantum Zeno effect and thus, its presence can be detected without interacting with a single atom.
    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2.....S-20150415

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    The Measurement Problem in quantum mechanics – (Inspiring Philosophy) – 2014 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE

    The Renninger Negative Result Experiment – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3uzSlh_CV0

    Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester
    Excerpt: In 1994, Anton Zeilinger, Paul Kwiat, Harald Weinfurter, and Thomas Herzog actually performed an equivalent of the above experiment, proving interaction-free measurements are indeed possible.[2] In 1996, Kwiat et al. devised a method, using a sequence of polarising devices, that efficiently increases the yield rate to a level arbitrarily close to one.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....xperiments

  16. 16
    Charles says:

    Perceptions occur at the object perceived, regardless of distance, regardless of location.

    So when I perceive the Andromeda galaxy, I perceive it at a distance of 2.5 M lightyears beyond my body, perceiving its light 2.5 M years before I was born.

    (face-palm)

    It seems bizarre, but it is logically sound and, when you think it out a bit, it is plainly true.

    Well, unless of course, you haven’t thought it out a bit, and your logic is bizzare.

  17. 17
    Mung says:

    It’s amazing how Charles can fit the entire Andromeda Galaxy inside his tiny brain.

    🙂

  18. 18
    niwrad says:

    I think the entire tempest-in-a-glass depends on a misunderstanding due to a wrong word used by Egnor.

    Egnor writes: “Perceptions occur at the object”. He should have written “Perception *begins* at the object”. That is true because it is the light rays coming from the object that start the entire process of perception, which finishes in our brain (or better, in our mind).

    According to Aristotle, knowledge is in general the common act shared by the knower and the known. Perception — which is a lower form of knowledge, however a direct intuitive one — is not exception. In fact perception starts at the object seen and ends at the agent seer. It is a relation, and as such implies two terms and a link connecting the couple. No scandal about that, simple logic.

  19. 19
    Mapou says:

    Perception starts and ends in the brain, period. This is a truth corroborated by a mountain of anecdotal and clinical evidence. And it is true regardless of what is doing the perceiving.

    Egnor is out to lunch. Apparently, being a neurosurgeon does not increase one’s wisdom over the years. The Discovery Institute should immediately retract the article and issue an apology. Don’t be like the lying Darwinists. Don’t use half-baked deceptive tactics. Just be cool.

  20. 20
    Charles says:

    Mung:

    Not so amazing really… the inside of my brain is negatively curved space-time. I have an infinite capacity for pretty much anything… ok, well maybe not patience so much, and I guess I have some cooperation issues. Now my evil twin, Chuck,… dude’s gotta mind like a bag of cats.

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    So why is it that we can believe in action at a distance, such as gravity, which if I recall is instantaneous, and pooh pooh the idea that perception occurs at the object?

    Something doesn’t seem quite right to me.

  22. 22
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    ~200,000 ribosomes per cell lets say, 100 billion neurons in the brain.

    = 2×10^16 ribozymes in a brain would be the lower limit, Mungy.

  23. 23
    Virgil Cain says:

    And evolutionism cannot explain the existence of ribosomes and neurons, Alicia.

  24. 24
    Mapou says:

    Mung @21,

    This is the real problem with Egnor’s hypothesis. It assumes distance/space exists even though we live in a non-local universe. If consciousness happened in a nonlocal manner, as Egnor falsely claims, the evidence would show it. But the opposite is what we observe. The indisputable fact is that consciousness does not have long-distance sensing powers. That is preposterous. Why have a brain and eyes if you don’t need them to see?

    We see the sun and the moon where they were minutes or seconds ago. We hear a distant sound coming from where the sound was generated some time ago. This is proof that consciousness can only see the activated neurons in the brain’s memory.

  25. 25
    Charles says:

    Mung @ 21

    Gravity propagation is not instantaneous. Einstein predicted it would be the speed of light. Recent observations of gravitational damping in binary pulsars indirectly confirms gravitational propagation velocity to within 1% of c. Just sayin.

  26. 26
    Mapou says:

    Chales @25,

    Einstein was just guessing. He wanted gravity to move at C because he was against nonlocality. He called it spooky action at a distance. He was wrong.

    Besides, we still can’t find those gravity waves and there is no sign they will ever be found. That gravitational damping in binary pulsars business is just an interpretation. It means nothing. Just a bunch of relativists doing what they do, protect their baby.

    The truth is that Newton assumed that gravity was instantaneous and Newtonian gravity theory is so accurate that it is the theory used by NASA to send probes around the solar system. It never fails.

    I predict that Newton will be shown to have been correct. Gravity is, without a doubt, a nonlocal phenomenon.

  27. 27
    Charles says:

    Mapau @ 26

    Einstein was just guessing.

    lol

    That gravitational damping in binary pulsars business is just an interpretation.

    I did say the confirmation was indirect.

    Besides, we still can’t find those gravity waves and there is no sign they will ever be found.

    The first gravitational wave detectors only become operational in the last decade and more advanced instruments only this year. A chance to observe a nearby supernovae could also provide direct confirmation.

    The truth is that Newton assumed that gravity was instantaneous and Newtonian gravity theory is so accurate that it is the theory used by NASA to send probes around the solar system.

    That is a testimonial to engineers who know that the relativistic effects of *orbital mechanics* can usually be ignored. That doesn’t mean those relativistic effects don’t exist. The perturbations in the orbit of Mercury are explained only by relativistic effects. Keeping spacecraft communications and timekeeping synchronized must account for the relativistic effects of redshift and time dilation.

  28. 28
    Mapou says:

    Charles @27:

    Mapau @ 26

    Einstein was just guessing.

    lol

    Why are you laughing? Was Einstein some kind of infallible God or something? The man was wrong about continuity (the universe is discrete), wrong about “spooky action at a distance” (the universe is nonlocal), wrong about determinism (the universe is probabilistic). Worst of all, he was wrong about spacetime (it’s just a block universe in which nothing happens). In sum, Einstein was wrong about so many things, it’s really strange that he was made into the smartest man that ever lived. But I’ll say one thing about Einstein. He had some sense that his theories were wrong and he was honest about it. Before he died, he wrote to his friend Besso:

    “I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e., on continuous structures. In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and of] the rest of modern physics.”
    Source: Subtle is the Lord by Abraham Pais.

    Charles:

    That gravitational damping in binary pulsars business is just an interpretation.

    I did say the confirmation was indirect.

    It does not matter. It’s just conjecture. That’s my point.

    Besides, we still can’t find those gravity waves and there is no sign they will ever be found.

    The first gravitational wave detectors only become operational in the last decade and more advanced instruments only this year. A chance to observe a nearby supernovae could also provide direct confirmation.

    It will never happen.

    The truth is that Newton assumed that gravity was instantaneous and Newtonian gravity theory is so accurate that it is the theory used by NASA to send probes around the solar system.

    That is a testimonial to engineers who know that the relativistic effects of *orbital mechanics* can usually be ignored. That doesn’t mean those relativistic effects don’t exist. The perturbations in the orbit of Mercury are explained only by relativistic effects. Keeping spacecraft communications and timekeeping synchronized must account for the relativistic effects of redshift and time dilation.

    This is just smoke and mirrors. Relativistic effects cannot account for the huge error that would have resulted if Newton did not assume instantaneous gravity in his equations. Without instantaneous gravity, the solar system would become unstable very quickly and we would not be having this discussion.

    If Newton had access to the Michelson-Morley results, he would have easily incorporated those results into his instantaneous theory of gravity and it would have made it nearly perfect. He would have understood that the MM results had much more to do with measurements than anything else.

  29. 29
    Charles says:

    Mapau @ 28

    It does not matter. It’s just conjecture. That’s my point.

    lol. “Conjecture” that has been confirmed to within a few percent of Einstein’s prediction in at least two binary pulsar observations, assuming general relativity applies. And if Einstein’s other general relativity predictions had failed, you might have point; but they haven’t and so you don’t.

    Relativistic effects cannot account for the huge error that would have resulted if Newton did not assume instantaneous gravity in his equations.

    Neither do relativistic effects account for an apple falling from a tree. Approximating (“guessing”) instantaneous gravity for falling apples and orbiting spacecraft works, but not so much for perturbations of Mercury’s orbit, redshift/blueshift, time dilation, and binary pulsar gravitational damping.

    Without instantaneous gravity, the solar system would become unstable very quickly and we would not be having this discussion.

    Now who’s guessing.

  30. 30
    vjtorley says:

    Hi niwrad,

    I like your suggestion. It is the action of the object itself that initiates the entire process of perception, although I wouldn’t call it perception until a sensory organ of the observer’s body is stimulated, and I wouldn’t call the perception conscious until the signal reaches the association areas of the observer’s brain. Still, your explanation puts the object back at the center of things: it is, after all, what the observer’s perception is of, or about. Many thanks.

  31. 31
    bornagain says:

    as to:

    “I wouldn’t call it perception until a sensory organ of the observer’s body is stimulated,”

    of related note to the observer’s body being stimulated:

    Quantum Consciousness – Time Flies Backwards? – Stuart Hameroff MD
    Excerpt: Dean Radin and Dick Bierman have performed a number of experiments of emotional response in human subjects. The subjects view a computer screen on which appear (at randomly varying intervals) a series of images, some of which are emotionally neutral, and some of which are highly emotional (violent, sexual….). In Radin and Bierman’s early studies, skin conductance of a finger was used to measure physiological response They found that subjects responded strongly to emotional images compared to neutral images, and that the emotional response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds BEFORE the image appeared! Recently Professor Bierman (University of Amsterdam) repeated these experiments with subjects in an fMRI brain imager and found emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Moreover he looked at raw data from other laboratories and found similar emotional responses before stimuli appeared.
    http://www.quantumconsciousnes.....Flies.html

    Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue? (meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010) – (Oct. 22, 2012)
    Excerpt: “But our analysis suggests that if you were tuned into your body, you might be able to detect these anticipatory changes between two and 10 seconds beforehand,,,
    This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.
    “I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,'” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....145342.htm

  32. 32
    bornagain says:

    of related note:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    The Experiment That Debunked Materialism – video – (delayed choice quantum eraser)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xKUass7G8w

    In the following video we find that observation changes the nature of what we are observing not just the activity of what we are observing:

    Quantum Physics And How We Affect Reality! – video – (17:21 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/REATuidImYw?t=1041

    Here is a good quote at the 19:06 minute mark from the preceding video:

    “That’s the enigma. That our choice of what experiment to do determines the prior state of the electron. Somehow or other we had an influence on it which appears to travel backwards in time.”
    Fred Kuttner – Univ. Of California

    Along that line:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    “If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.”
    Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000).

    You can see a little better explanation of the “delayed-choice entanglement swapping” experiment at the 9:11 minute mark of the following video

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment Explained – 2014 video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6HLjpj4Nt4

  33. 33
    Mapou says:

    vjtorley:

    Hi niwrad,

    I like your suggestion. It is the action of the object itself that initiates the entire process of perception, although I wouldn’t call it perception until a sensory organ of the observer’s body is stimulated, and I wouldn’t call the perception conscious until the signal reaches the association areas of the observer’s brain. Still, your explanation puts the object back at the center of things: it is, after all, what the observer’s perception is of, or about. Many thanks.

    Aw, come on. There is no “entire process of perception” that starts with the object in the visual field. This is ridiculous. Visual perception starts and ends when certain neurons that are designed for that purpose fire. What we perceive are not objects but representations of objects in the memory cortex. We carry a virtual model of the world in our heads.

    Egnor needs to retract his nonsense and apologize. Otherwise, the reputation of the Discovery Institute will suffer a serious blow, which would be unfortunate, IMO. I like what they’ve been doing. I especially love the many interviews conducted by Casey Luskin. They are brilliant. However, there is no room for crackpottery on the side of ID. Let the Darwinists be the only crackpots in this fight. The job of the Discovery Institute should be to unmask the crackpottery of Darwinism, not to create crackpottery of their own.

  34. 34
    Mung says:

    I think people are missing the point. What is the form of an object and how and where do we grasp that form?

    Or to Mapou’s point, how do we construct models in our brains? What do these model consist of?

  35. 35
    Mapou says:

    Mung, what follows is a very brief summary of what I have been able to learn about the functioning of the brain’s perceptive mechanism over the years.

    Every sensory cortex (internal memory), including the visual cortex, consists of two neuronal hierarchies: a pattern hierarchy and a sequence hierarchy. A pattern is a non-random group of concurrent signals whereas a sequence is an ordered list of successive patterns. Each cortical column represents a single sequence of patterns or a sequence of other sequences, depending on its level in the hierarchy.

    During recognition, sensory signals travel first to the pattern hierarchy where various patterns are detected. Pattern detection neurons immediately fire and the signals are sent to sequence memory where they activate various sequences. The latter is where most of our conscious thinking (invariant recognition, attention, recollection, analogy making, planning, etc.) occurs.

    Intelligence, recognition, learning, etc. are entirely based on the precise timing of the incoming sensory signals. This is why there are special oscillatory circuits in the hippocampus and elsewhere that generate precisely timed trains of pulses that are sent to various regions of the brain for synchronization purposes. The cortex is designed in such a way as to automatically compensate for most imperfections in the sensory space such as noise, occlusions, molecular malfunctions, and yes, the retinal blind spot. The cortex is a highly precise timing mechanism designed for making accurate predictions without which adaptation and even ordinary motor behavior would be impossible.

    What we consciously perceive are the various firings of the cortical neurons. Amazingly, comparatively few neurons in the brain cause conscious sensations. The entire cerebellum (about half of the brain’s neurons), for example, is 100% unconscious even though it is fully active during waking hours and does most of the routine work.

  36. 36
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Mapou,

    Thank you for your comments. Basically I’m not in disagreement with any of the scientific claims you make; it’s your philosophical claims that I find controversial.

    For instance, you write: “What we perceive are not objects but representations of objects in the memory cortex. We carry a virtual model of the world in our heads.” The problem I have with this statement is that it appears to commit the homunculus fallacy: it posits a little man in the brain who views and interprets the representations of objects which are stored in the brain. I maintain that there is only one act of viewing, and that’s the act of viewing which is done with my eyes. We now know that at this stage, the process of perception isn’t conscious yet: the signals have to reach the association areas of the brain before conscious perception can occur. However, we should resist the temptation of supposing that there is a second, (conscious) act of viewing in the brain itself. We do not see representations of objects; representations are that by which we see. They are not that which we see.

  37. 37
    Mapou says:

    vjtorley @36,

    Well, I certainly do not accept the homunculus fallacy since it leads to an infinite regress. The representations in the brain do not need to be interpreted for the simple reason that they are the interpretations. The brains simply interprets the incoming sensory stream into representations.

    Having said that, I hasten to add that I am a card carrying yin-yang dualist. I have no real problem with this:

    I maintain that there is only one act of viewing, and that’s the act of viewing which is done with my eyes. We now know that at this stage, the process of perception isn’t conscious yet: the signals have to reach the association areas of the brain before conscious perception can occur.

    But I do have a problem with this:

    However, we should resist the temptation of supposing that there is a second, (conscious) act of viewing in the brain itself. We do not see representations of objects; representations are that by which we see. They are not that which we see.

    As a dualist, I disagree, of course. I don’t see the distinction you seem to be making between “seeing representations” and “representations are that by which we see”. Consciousness requires a knower and a known. IMO, conscious sensing is a subject-object process whereby physical representations (the known) are linked to abstract qualities (the knower) such as colors, tastes, odors, etc.

  38. 38
    bornagain says:

    Perception and the Cartesian Theater – Michael Egnor – December 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Perception at a distance is no more inconceivable than action at a distance. The notion that a perception of the moon occurs at the moon is “bizarre” (Torley’s word) only if one presumes that perception is constrained by distance and local conditions — perhaps perception would get tired if it had to go to the moon or it wouldn’t be able to go because it’s too cold there. Yet surely the view that the perception of a rose held up to my eye was located at the rose wouldn’t be deemed nearly as bizarre. At what distance does perception of an object at the object become inconceivable?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....01471.html

    also see post 32, post 15, and post 5 for evidence of ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, , i.e. quantum, perception of objects

    32
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-591206

    15
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-591057

    5
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-591016

  39. 39
    Mapou says:

    bornagain @38,

    Perception is local and we know exactly where it is located: in the brain. Egnor is a crackpot and anyone who supports his crackpottery is also a crackpot.

    PS. I’m waiting for the Discovery Institute to reject and retract the crackpottery in the next few days. Unless they do so, I, for one, will no longer vouch for them. I refuse to support any crackpot other than myself. 😀

  40. 40
    bornagain says:

    Mapou, the fact that you say Egnor is a crackpot is actually a point in his favor IMHO.

    Quantum mechanics, such as the experiments already referenced in 38, more than support Dr. Egnor’s contention that perception has a non-materialistic element to it that transcends time and space.

    Frankly, I am amazed that Theists who profess to believe that we, (‘made in the image of God’), humans have a conscious mind that is not ultimately limited by time and space, would be so easily persuaded otherwise that their minds are strictly limited by time and space. There is certainly a lapse in logic in those two contrary beliefs!

    Verse and Music:

    Genesis 2:7
    Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

    Little Drummer Boy – Pentatonix – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc

  41. 41
    Steve says:

    I just read Egnor’s reply to this post.

    And I have to say, Egnor has made a fantastic reply!

    We all (mostly 🙂 ) like Torley’s posts, but in this case Egnor has edged Torley out.

    Egnor’s reply is erudite, insighful, articulate and convincing in his counter-intuitive argument.

  42. 42
    Mapou says:

    bornagain:

    Mapou, the fact that you say Egnor is a crackpot is actually a point in his favor IMHO.

    Funny. I was just thinking that the fact that you support Egnor’s crackpottery is another reason to reject it.

  43. 43
    Steve says:

    Mapou, Egnor is hardly a crackpot.

    Separate the issues. You don’t have to like the guy to agree or disagree.

    What he says makes logical sense.

  44. 44
    Mapou says:

    Steve, what Egnor says is stupid. I don’t know the guy well enough to like him or hate him. But I will have a lower opinion of him if he insists on defending his nonsense.

  45. 45
    bornagain says:

    Mapou, it is not I, but you, who many times has had to remind everyone that you are a Christian after you state ‘bizarre’ things (to use Torley’s term against Egnor), that go directly against Christianity and against Theism in particular, (and directly against logic for that matter).

    “I say that as a Christian.”
    – Mapou

    For instance, among many other unsubstantiated ‘crackpot’ ideas you have stated over the years, (as if they were undeniable fact and personally attacked anyone who disagreed with you), you believe God is not omniscient.

    “I realize that many Christians love infinity. How else can God be infinite, omnipotent and omniscient, right? They’re wrong, IMO. The Biblical God never claimed such things about himself. On the contrary, he claimed the exact opposite. Just saying.”
    – Mapou

    Now I’m certainly glad that you do not deny Christ, but for someone so far out in left field in your basic beliefs about Theism, you certainly seem to have no problem with the *’crackpot calling the kettle black!’, (*not that Egnor is the ‘kettle’ in this instance)

  46. 46
    bornagain says:

    To sum up:

    Dr Egnor holds that perception is ‘at a distance’.

    Dr Torley disagrees and holds that perception is somewhere within his body.

    Quantum Mechanics itself, our best description of reality (surpassing even General Relativity in terms of accuracy and usefulness for modern man), disagrees with Dr. Torley’s claim and agrees with Dr. Egnor’s claim:

    a few notes to that effect:

    How observation (consciousness) is inextricably bound to measurement in quantum mechanics:
    Quote: “We wish to measure a temperature.,,,
    But in any case, no matter how far we calculate — to the mercury vessel, to the scale of the thermometer, to the retina, or into the brain, at some time we must say: and this is perceived by the observer. That is, we must always divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer.”
    John von Neumann – 1903-1957 – The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, pp.418-21 – 1955
    http://www.informationphilosop.....s/neumann/

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

    In the following video at the 16:30 minute mark, the narrator states this in regards to ‘decoherence’:

    “But this doesn’t answer the question, “Why doesn’t the light simply change the direction of the sub-atomic particle? Why does observation actually change the nature of what is being observed?”

    Quantum Physics And How We Affect Reality! – video –
    https://youtu.be/REATuidImYw?t=1041

    17:21 minute mark of preceding video, it is noted that Einstein, like Dr. Torley currently does, believed the the moon existed even when he did not look at it.

    “but I’m about as certain as I can be of anything, that when i look at the moon, my perception of the moon is somewhere within my body, and not on the moon.”
    VJT

    “We often discussed his notions on objective reality. I recall that during one walk Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it.”
    Abraham Pais – Rev. Mod. Phys. 51, 863–914 (1979), p. 907

    Yet Quantum Mechanics itself disagrees with Einstein, (and Torley), and says that reality does not exist until we look at it.

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    In regards to ‘observation’ defying time and space, here is a good quote at the 19:06 minute mark from the ‘How We Effect Reality’ video:

    “That’s the enigma. That our choice of what experiment to do determines the prior state of the electron. Somehow or other we had an influence on it which appears to travel backwards in time.”
    Fred Kuttner – Univ. Of California

    Along that line, Wheeler’s ‘Delayed Choice’ experiments have been very successful in showing that ‘observation’ defies time and space and is indeed ‘action at a distance’ just as Dr. Egnor holds.

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
    http://www.bottomlayer.com/bot.....choice.htm

    The Experiment That Debunked Materialism – video – (delayed choice quantum eraser)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xKUass7G8w

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    “If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.”
    Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000).

    You can see a little better explanation of the “delayed-choice entanglement swapping” experiment at the 9:11 minute mark of the following video

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment Explained – 2014 video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6HLjpj4Nt4

    Thus, no matter how ‘bizarre’ it may be for Dr. Torley, and others, to believe that perception can be ‘at a distance’ as Dr. Egnor holds, the fact of the matter is that Quantum Mechanics itself supports Dr. Egnor and dis-confirms Dr. Torley’s materialistic notions of his ‘perception’ being completely limited by time and space.
    And to repeat, frankly, I am amazed that a Christian Theist who professes to believe that we have a God given ‘mind’ that is not reducible to matter, energy, time and space, would be so easily persuaded otherwise that his mind is strictly limited by matter, energy, time and space.
    However nuanced Dr. Torley may try to play this discrepancy out to be, there certainly appears to be a irreconcilable contradiction in logic in those two beliefs that he is currently holding!

    Verse and Music:

    Matthew 17:20
    He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

    O come, O come, Emmanuel – (Piano/Cello) – ThePianoGuys
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc

  47. 47
    Mapou says:

    bornagain,

    The world is mired in crackpottery and lies. Both the scientific community and the religious communities are swimming in it. I am a Christian and a rebel. I rebel against all of it, Christian, atheist or otherwise. I kiss nobody’s behind and I am nobody’s dog.

    You are a perfect example of a Christian crackpot. And please, do me a favor, stop your useless quotes. Arguments are not won by listing interminable quotes from other people. Besides, nobody has the time to read them. We have enough information glut as it is. Your incessant proselytizing is also a turnoff.

  48. 48
    bornagain says:

    Thanks for making my point exactly about personally attacking anyone who dares disagree with your ‘bizarre’ ideas.

    I’m sure that Dr. Torley in particular is proud to have you so fully standing behind his fairly materialistic claims for the human mind against Egnor’s Theistic claims for the human mind (sarcasm). Theistic claims for the mind that are, as pointed out, verified by Quantum Mechanics by the way.

  49. 49
    nkendall says:

    Dear Mapou, Bornagain,

    Glad to see some lively debate on this topic which frankly I have not been able to wrap my mind around. Egnor is sometimes hard to understand even though he writes clearly. I often find gaps in the progression as written which is not to suggest there are gaps in his logic.

    I agree with Egnor that thoughts cannot be explained by brain chemistry (that seems obvious to me) and that memories are not stored in the brain. I also agree with him that there is in infinite regress problem with perception and actually many more such cases. Nothing would surprise me, nothing is more fantastic of a claim than claiming that our thoughts, hopes, fears and longings are merely physics and chemistry.

    As an aside, like Mapou I tend toward skepticism in all directions but I disagree in that I have found Bornagain’s articles and links to be invaluable resources–thanks!

  50. 50
    Mapou says:

    nkendall:

    I agree with Egnor that thoughts cannot be explained by brain chemistry (that seems obvious to me) and that memories are not stored in the brain.

    You appear to be just as much a crackpot as Egnor and bornagain. This thread is beginning to lose its initial appeal.

  51. 51
    vjtorley says:

    Hi everyone,

    My reply to Professor Egnor’s latest post is available here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....sor-egnor/

    I’d also like to ask readers to maintain a spirit of charity, in their comments. As Steve points out above, Professor Egnor’s post is indeed a literary masterpiece, and although I disagree with his philosophical conclusions, I would readily grant that he argues for them with admirable lucidity.

    I am content to let Professor Egnor have the last word, if he wishes to reply to my latest post.

  52. 52
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain,

    You write: “And to repeat, frankly, I am amazed that a Christian Theist who professes to believe that we have a God given ‘mind’ that is not reducible to matter, energy, time and space, would be so easily persuaded otherwise that his mind is strictly limited by matter, energy, time and space.”

    May I remind you that perception is a capacity which belongs not only to human beings, but also to sub-rational animals, such as wolves. Are you sure you want to claim that wolves have powers which are not limited by matter, energy, time and space?

  53. 53
    vjtorley says:

    Mapou,

    Please try to be less acerbic with your comments, in future. I know you like to call a spade a spade, but calling people names is another matter.

  54. 54
    bornagain says:

    VJT, shifting the focus to other animals is a fairly disingenuous way for you to try to dodge the contradiction in your own logic that you are faced with.

    Do you have a God given mind or not?

  55. 55
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Perception is a product solely of the brain. Receptor cells are activated and sensory neurons fire. The brain integrates the signals, organizing them into our perceptions.
    Why do we need all this philosophical crap?

  56. 56
    nkendall says:

    Alicia and Mapou,

    Explain how Einstein’s thought streams related to relativity for example: 1) arose in his brain and 2) how they were represented in his brain through brain chemistry alone. For that matter explain how the thought streams that arose in your brains’ in order to write your cryptic nonsense occurred and how they are represented in your brain.

    What sort of encoding is used? How did the code arise? Explain how two or more algorithmic processes, which are purported by materialists to explain consciousness, perception, thought and memory, are instantiated, how they interact together in the brain and how they “evolved.”

  57. 57
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    “Thought streams” are the connection of ideas. This occurs in the brain through neural connections; constant shifting of neural connections and strengthening of certain connections through learning. Subsets of nerves become associated with certain perceptions as we develop, and we further and further interconnect this network as we age and learn. Just about every neuron is capable of integrating incoming signals, and then a signal is often passed to another neuron which is also integrating a number of incoming signals. The trillions of connections in the brain allow us to link concepts/ideas/etc. together into complicated thoughts.

  58. 58
    nkendall says:

    Vtorley,

    Thomas Nagel recently acknowledged in his Book “Mind and Cosmos”, that no one has any idea how the brain can explain how consciousness arises even to the extent to recognizes the taste of sugar. This “hard problem” of consciousness (which is not nearly the hardest problem) remains unsolved.

    Personally, I believe animals must have some form of mind apart from the physical brain. Dogs for example, it seems, have dreams and thought streams, albeit considerably more primitive then your’s and mine but judging from comments on this blog, perhaps on par with Mapou’s and Alicia’s.

    If you believe that a dog’s brain could just happen to arrange what must be many millions of brain elements to produce even a somewhat basic set of thoughts and images then you need to explain how that is possible given the vast number of alternative arrangements these brain elements could have been in. What explains the coherency?

    By way of example, my Husky had another bad dream last night. His legs were thrashing around no doubt trying to avoid a bath. Even in this case, my guess would be that the thoughts and images and sounds that conspired together to bring forth this dream sequence in my faithful companion would have had to have involved the instantaneous and coordinated arrangements of trillions of molecules all of which did what they did in a way not at all necessitated by local antecedent physical causation.

  59. 59
    Mapou says:

    We will not win this fight by pointing our fingers at the filth in the houses of Darwinism and materialism unless we are prepared to clean out the filth from our own houses.

  60. 60
    nkendall says:

    Alicia,

    Your opening statement: ““Thought streams” are the connection of ideas. This occurs in the brain through neural connections…” is an example of begging the question; a description being passed off as an explanation.

    Then you say: “constant shifting of neural connections and strengthening of certain connections through learning.” What causes this shifting to shift in just the precise way to give rise to a new idea which is what happens when we learn?

    You continue: “Subsets of nerves become associated with certain perceptions as we develop, and we further and further interconnect this network as we age and learn.” Science is about identifying causes, your comment is merely a description, an observation of events.

    Then you say: “Just about every neuron is capable of integrating incoming signals.” Does this mean neurons have the ability to recognize and parse both signals that encode for abstract thoughts such as quantum mechanics and also concrete thoughts such as the color red? How are they distinguished? How do they get encoded and decoded? How did the encoding scheme arise? How are thoughts delineated, demarcated, encoded, represented? How is a neural network reset to a “known-good” state such that the same signal is recognized as such with each instantiation–each traversal?

    You continue: “…and then a signal is often passed to another neuron which is also integrating a number of incoming signals.” What causes the signal to be passed off to another neuron in just the right way? Sounds like an Ethernet switch.

    Finally, you say: “The trillions of connections in the brain allow us to link concepts/ideas/etc. together into complicated thoughts.” You are trying to pass off an assertion as a causal explanation.

  61. 61
    nkendall says:

    Mapou,

    You say:

    “We will not win this fight by pointing our fingers at the filth in the houses of Darwinism and materialism unless we are prepared to clean out the filth from our own houses.”

    Mixed metaphors aside, I think you are confused. First you suggest that believing that thoughts are not reducible to brain chemistry is “crackpot”. Then you refer to materialism as “filth.” If abstract thoughts are not immaterial, then what is it that falsifies materialism in your mind?

  62. 62
    Mapou says:

    nkendall,

    One of the reasons that I directed a level of hostility toward you and bornagain is that you two insist on putting words in my mouth.

    I clearly wrote that I am a yin-yang dualist. This means that I believe that the mind requires BOTH spirit and brain not just one or the other. The consciousness part of mind comes from the spirit and the intelligence comes from the brain. You and bornagain seem to be of the opinion that the brain is an unimportant organ and that our memories are not in our brains. This is all pure hogwash in my view and not much better than the materialist viewpoint. The evidence against it is overwhelming and not just clinical. Anybody can prove the importance of the brain to memory and consciousness with just a few shots of whisky or tequila.

  63. 63
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Kendall, I’m trying to explain to you how the basic function of the brain works.
    You should learn some intro biology; many of your questions would be answered and you’d realize that the rest don’t make sense.

  64. 64
    nkendall says:

    Alicia,

    I am very well read. Precisely none of these questions, you claim are answered are in fact answered. I assure you. If they are then you can simply point me to them instead of offering a sheepishly dismissive comment.

    All questions related to how a material brain could give rise to consciousness, perception, memory, thought, etc are unanswered. That you are not aware of this is betrayed by your attempts at an explanation above which was simply a set of observations and descriptions of the goings on in the brain. I have heard all that. Maybe you should take one of those “crappy” philosophy courses.

    The explanation you provided above would be like you asking me about football and how the game is played and I said, “Well these guys have helmets, and there is a ball, they run around, sometimes they go off the field, sometimes they kick the ball and sometimes they throw it. They often run into each other and fall down and go boom.”

    That is essentially what you did in your prior comment. It tells me nothing at all of interest related to cause. An explanation of cause would entail the rules, strategy, tactics, etc.

    Here is a very easy one related to perception…suppose you put an old faded photo of your grandmother on the table and asked your mother who it was that was in the photo. And let’s suppose that your mother had never seen that photo before. I am sure she would recognize who it was immediately. But how could a material brain recognize it and do so immediately?

    So as your mom looks at the photo, a spike train is initiated and transmits to the visual cortex. The visual cortex, I am guessing you might say, would pass it off to some algorithm for recognition. But there is a problem. The precise perception, the precise spike train would not be at all similar to any other of the vast number of memories in your mom’s brain–it would be entirely different. There would be no way for the brain to accomplish a computational match “pixel by pixel” so to speak. So explain how that could be accomplished? Details.

  65. 65
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    You may be well read but it’s not in biology.

    The neural connection shifting does not “shift in just the precise way to give rise to a new idea”
    Free neural connectors are constantly sampling the surrounding environment, forming and releasing connections. Learning reinforces these neural connections. We learn typically by association, associate and idea or thing with something else and a similar process is occurring in the brain, neurons associated with these ideas or things are associating with each other.
    In general, a neuron receives excitatory and inhibitory signals. Many of them, from many different neurons. That neuron sending its own signal depends on the effects of all these exciting/inhibiting signals; this is integration. The complexity of a thought scales to some degree with the amount of neural connections involved in that thought. More complex thoughts come with more complex associations of other thoughts/ideas. There is no “encoding or decoding.” Thoughts, emotions, etc. are the product of nerve network activation.
    Signals are passed from one neuron to another because you have established that connection during learning. It is nothing like an Ethernet switch.
    Recognizing her face would involve the activation of many neurons, and yes the precise “spike train” would not be exactly like any other thought or memory, but it would be very similar to to the “thought trains” that occur when recognizing other faces, or thinking about facial features themselves, or looking at someone’s face, etc.

    Like I said, go find yourself an intro bio book.

  66. 66
    nkendall says:

    Mapou,

    Thanks for the clarification. I do not believe the brain is superfluous in normal human conditions. Clearly the brain does something. A piano does something but does not do anything by itself. I think there could be a confusion between necessary and sufficient cause. The brain is necessary (under normal human conditions) but it is not sufficient in my opinion to explain even simple perceptions, thoughts, memory let alone consciousness.

    You have asked specifically about memory. There have been many attempts to locate memory traces. It is a materialist assumption that they exist. To my knowledge, they have not been found. That is not to say that changes to the brain cannot effect memory. But they have a way of coming back even after large tracts are excised. If you have some more recent research I would be glad to look at it.

    There are various conceptual problems related to memory identification and recall. I cannot discuss them all. Memory recall would require some sort of an extraordinarily complex look up table and associated algorithm. This recall system would also require a way for the recall system itself to be recalled so the prospect of an infinite regress arises. Think of the administrative task of maintaining memories of abstract thoughts and learning as they change and all the links between thoughts and various other memories. Each time a memory is recalled, there would be a need to instantiate it through a network of neurons. But in order for the memory to be the same, the initial conditions of the neural infrastructure would have to be reset to a known state otherwise it would be slightly different each time, each iteration as we turned over the same thoughts and memories over and over again.

    Furthermore, there are many, many cases of near death experiences where a person is watching their body being resuscitated from above. They recall these events, i.e. they recall watching themselves from above. Therefore their “memory system” would have to be working at a time when their brain was known to be flatlined. In some cases such as Eben Alexander, his neo-cortex was eviscerated by bacterial meningitis. Yet he made a full recover including his knowledge of neuro-surgery which was his profession. If the memory trace theory is correct, one would expect that all the memories, algorithms that are purported to account for thought would have been hopelessly lost as would be his sense of self. How does all that get restored; there is no orderly shutdown, no stack, no non-volatile memory. All that requires top down pre-planning.

    I could go on but I am out of time.

    Be well my friend. God bless.

  67. 67
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    You mean a neurosurgeon was able to picture himself as a patient with a brain infection…while he was a patient with a brain infection?
    How unconvincing.

  68. 68
    Charles says:

    Mapau @ 26:
    Einstein was just guessing.

    Besides, we still can’t find those gravity waves and there is no sign they will ever be found.

    Charles @ 27:
    The first gravitational wave detectors only become operational in the last decade and more advanced instruments only this year. A chance to observe a nearby supernovae could also provide direct confirmation.

    Mapau @ 28:
    It [gravitational wave detection] will never happen.

    Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction
    https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20160211

    LIGO Does It Again: A Second Robust Binary Black Hole Coalescence Observed
    https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/news/ligo20160615

    Einstein’s “guesswork” correct again.
    Mapau’s invicible ignorance blows up in his face, again.

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