Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

“Rationalist” encyclopedia stumbles onto non-materialist neuroscience

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Rationalwiki is an online encyclopedia struggling to be born. Judging from the copy I saw August 29, 2007 (which will probably change), it appears to be written by a group of people who see themselves as the guardians of reason, progress, and enlightenment, against “the anti-science movement” and “crank ideas”.

Nowadays, theirs is a pretty crowded field, in which hordes of half-educated and indifferently talented placeholders aim their resentment at anyone capable of questioning materialist dogmas.

Read more here (but NOT if you are drinking milk, okay?)

C. Gieschen you wrote:
What I really cannot understand is the big fuss over how one thinks/believes we got here. If God created all things, as Genesis teaches, or if we evolved by random chance mutations working over millions of years…who cares?
Well, obviously a lot of people care. But your question of why they care is a good one. I guess you would get different reasons from different people. But basically when it comes down to the nitty gritty the people who are passionate about the debate generally belong to 2 schools of thought. The first are the evangelical evolutionists who seem to have a compelling purpose in trying to convince everyone that evolution is the only rational description of the historical development of life on earth. Most of them are atheistic although there are some who are not. The atheist evangelical evolutionist can come in a variety of flavors. Many hate religion and want to destory belief in God in order to destroy religion. They believe that allowing any type of non materialistic paradigm to be acceptable in the academic establishment will make their goal of destroying religion all the harder to achieve. Others believe that evolution is true and just don't want anything but the truth to be acceptable as scientific. Most are loath to admit the former but their true motives are constantly exposed whenever they open their mouths to criticize ID. Ivariably the main criticism of ID is philosophical in context based upon their perception that ID is nothing more then a Trojan Horse meant to destroy free thinking and enslave humanity to the whims of theocrats. They wil throw in other reasons as well, but almost always you will see their fear of religion as a main if not the main reason for their evangelism. The latter, the ones who just believe in evolution and want the truth to be dominant usually includes many theists because by their own belief system they are not afraid of religion. Most evangelical evolutionists are primarily motivated by fear and hatred of religion. As for the other side, the people who support intelligent design or creationism of some sort, they are generally sick and tired of the academic establishment being totally controlled by materialist evolutionists with a clear agenda to instill materialism as absolute truth and to discredit belief in God in the name of science and rational thought. Sometimes misguided religious people support them because they are fooled by the evolution con game as well as the fake pure intentions of the hard core anti religion materialists. Materialism, or the philosophy that nothing exists besides matter, is seen by ID people not only as bad science but also a philosophical outlook which leads to despair (there is nothing beyond death) and immoral acts (social darwinism, eugenics, etc). They believe that good science is based upon following evidence to it's natural conclusion, wherever that may lead. Materialists on the other hand want to keep any ideas which invoke something beyond the purely material as being out of bounds and not to be allowed in the academic establishment. They have set up predefined parameters within which research and allowable discussion can exist. If you step out of those parameters they want to shut you down in any way they can. They do not believe in the spirit of inquiry and science. They pay lip service to science and inquiry but in actual practice they have made it emphatically clear to one and all that certain ideas and areas of inquiry and research are simply not allowed. You must not step outside the walls of the materialist mental prison. If you do you will be attacked and censored in various ways. mentok
What I really cannot understand is the big fuss over how one thinks/believes we got here. If God created all things, as Genesis teaches, or if we evolved by random chance mutations working over millions of years...who cares? Both can study cells, DNA, virus actions, etc. and get the same results. This is operational science. Origins science is where the debate lies, but has zero impact on studying how things work now. For example, genetics explains bacterial resistence, not evolution. C. Gieschen
Trent in your section on "non materialist neuroscience" under the heading "Drugs" your wiki presents a completely bogus conclusion based upon the evidence you present. The conclusion is thus:
These drug manipulations show that memories encoding and retrieval, emotional responses, cognitive control over behavior, perception of reality, and personality are all directly controlled by neuronal firing patterns in the brain. Neuronal firing patterns are clearly a materialist mechanism and so all these things are sufficiently explained by standard materialist theories.
Nowhere in the "Drugs" section do you present any scientific evidence whatsoever that proves that "memories, encoding and retrieval, etc" are "all directly controlled by neuronal firing patterns in the brain". All the evidence you provide shows only that drugs affect memory etc. Where is the science to back up your claim hyperbolic claim? In the section on Imaging all you do is present circumstantial evidence and then claim it is solid scientific proof. And you even kind of admit this when you say "correlation does not equal causation". The whole imaging argument proves nothing other then certain areas of the brain react to certain types of thought or provocation. So the section proves nothing on the true nature of the mind or thought. The section on injury and surgery is another case of circumstantial evidence with no real scientific proof of any kind. Just a listing of mysterious occurrences which you claim prove that the mind is a product of the brain. This is your sole attempt at giving a "scientific" explanation for the mysterious things described:
If motivation, thought and behavior are dictated by the materialist mechanisms of the brain these split cases are easy to understand
Nowhere did you attempt to show any scientific evidence of what and how those materialist mechanisms are or work. You just make assertions with no actual evidence. Where is the science? In the section called Computational modeling you claim:
Computational modeling of the brain is probably one of the greatest death blows to dualism that has emerged.
This section has to be the most unscientific section of the entire article. All you do is tell us about some computer modeling some people dreamed up as being similar to how a brain works. Then you qualify your previous claim with this:
As models grow in sophistication and other areas of research converge we will slowly approach the ability to accurately model inside computers all of those electrical patterns that were thought to be uniquely "human" and be the source of the "mind" or "soul". However, we are not yet at this point
Yeah, and if you study electricity you will understand everything there is to know about how a television works. After all a television uses electricity so if we look real closely at how the electricity works in a television then all the other stuff that makes the television work and able to show TV images sent from far away becomes of interest only to cranks who believe in pseudoscience. As for memory and the brain The mind and thoughts work together. What is the mind? What substance are thoughts comprised of? How do we intellectually understand thoughts? How do we receive memory which is thought? Can thought be stored in cells? If so how and where? Can cells read your mind and understand language, grammar, word meanings, etc? If not where does memory come from? How does the mind and therefore thought function if the mind is solely dependent on the interactions of chemicals in cells? Can cells really understand what you are thinking and give you information that you want in a language you speak? If I ask you where you were last night how does that memory become available to your mind? If that memory is stored in cells in your brain are you telling me that those cells understand and can communicate with me so that if I ask you a question they can supply the answer? Well if they can’t then where does memory come from? Without memory we would be like new born babies at all times. In order for us to be able to be intelligent and function as we do we need a very sophisticated memory management system. Yet our memory is based upon thought and communication which cells are unable to do because they do not possess the required means which would enable them to talk to us and understand our thoughts and our language. Can cells in your brain communicate through thought and are they able to understand language, grammar, vocabulary etc? Which cells were those again? The thought cells? How do they look like and where are they? All neurons do is act as carriers. Which cells speak Swahili? If you disagree show me a cell that can talk to me in Swahili or explain to me how a cell can do it. So how do we exist the way we do with memory and mind and thought all working together to form an intelligent person? One thing I do know is that cells do not have the capacity to manifest thought nor memory. Cells are unconscious, thought is conscious. Cells in my brain do not have the ability to comprehend reality intellectually because they are unconscious. So how is something which is unconscious, a machine part, able to manifest conscious intellectual awareness and thought? Tell me the science Einstein. How is an unconscious mechanical cell able to read my thoughts and comprehend the language I think in and then find and retrieve the memory I desire? How does a mechanical unconscious cell copy what I experience through my intellectual perception and then store that as a memory? How does a cell store a thought? How does it know what I am thinking? How does it know what to do with that thought? Memory cannot be explained through a purely mechanical material process because what is involved is mind reading and thought communication. A non-mind cannot perceive conscious intellect and mind in the same way that a mind can. A non-mind can only perceive things in an abstract sense. An example is a venus fly trap. It can perceive conscious beings, but only in an abstract sense, it isn't actually consciously aware of anything because it has no mind or intellect of any type. It is acting purely mechanically. Only a conscious mind can comprehend anything, i.e. you need thought to comprehend. Therefore unless cells have minds and can think then they cannot comprehend anything, what to speak of understanding your thoughts in a complex language and then responding to your thoughts wanting a particular memory. Therefore how our memory system works is dependent on a mind besides our own because we cannot and do not control our memory system and neither can any cell in our bodies. If I ask you to tell me what a movie you saw last week is about you cannot do anything but wait for the memory to pop into your mind. You cannot go looking for the memory because you don't know how or where to look. You have no direct control over your memory system. Cells cannot control the memory system because cells cannot speak your language nor can they comprehend anything, what to speak of copying what you experienced and then storing that information efficiently and then retrieving it simply by the thought of your desire. Where are these super duper magic cells which can read my mind and comprehend any language fluently? They are unconscious machine parts, not magic beans. mentok
It's a good question, Tyke. I'd argue that all of the higher animals mentioned above - chimps, dogs, dolphins, ravens, sheep, octopuses and sharks possess a non-material component, in that they show conscious, mindful behaviour. Flies and clams I can't make any comments about at all, though one scientist interviewed for the popular science book What I Believe, But Can't Prove has consciousness in beetles as his particularly unprovable belief. Beast Rabban
Here's a question for the dualists among us. Do the minds of other species also possess a non-material component? Which of the following would you include? Chimps, dogs, dolphins, ravens, sheep, octopuses, sharks, flies, clams, etc.. No real agenda behind the question. I'm just curious to know what you think. tyke
As it stands, yes, Bohm in that statement does make it clear that he believes consciousness arises from matter. However, his comments do not equate to a simple materialism, as if you look at the quote he notes that there is an ordering principle beyond matter. Beast Rabban
Bohm: "The recurrence and stability of our own memory as a relatively independent sub-totality is thus brought about as part of the very same process that sustains the recurrence and stability in the manifest order of matter in general. It follows, then, that the explicate and manifest order of consciousness is not ultimately distinct from that of matter in general" (Bohm, 1980, p. 208). Simplified: The recurrence and stability of memory as independent sub-totality is caused by the process that sustains the order of matter in general. This is simple materialism is it not? Is anything truly sustained in light of thermodynamics except the (non physical property)information? bill Me
As my final word on the subject, I just want to note that the Ratwikians seem comfortable looking like an encyclopedia and then checking up anyone who assumes that they have ever tried to be. And imagine their thinking that I would wish to discuss science with them! As more scientists become interested in non-materialist approaches to stubborn questions, their rubbish heap of detractions can only grow - but not, I hope, with further attention from me. O'Leary
For me the biggest problem with materialist theories of mind is a mountain of empirical evidence to the contrary. Of course the legion of closed minded skeptics as in this new wiki site simply deny the real existence of this evidence. Given this there really is no meaningful communication possible. magnan
As for ID and non-materialist neuroscience being political, yes they are, in the sense that humanity is a political animal, as Plato or Aristotle observed, and science and culture generally inform and govern interactions within the polis . However, they are not necessarily party political movements. An account of the world that considers the best explanation for its beauty and complexity in creatively active, transcendent intelligences can and historicially has supported political viewpoints of both left and right. ID and non-materialist neuroscience don't necessarily support one political party. I did, however, notice on your Rationalwiki site, Trent, that it did have a distinct party political orientation against Conservapedia . So I found it somewhat ironic that you dismiss the objections raised here against your characterisation of ID as being purely political, when it seems to be you who has made the assumption that ID and non-materialist neuroscience are political movements. Beast Rabban
Regarding the status of non-materialist neuroscience as junk, Trent, that's a highly questionable statement. The non-reducible nature of the mind or consciousness is something that can clearly be argued for rationally, and there are empirical studies which support it. Rather, the paucity of explanation seems to come from the other, materialist side. The Churchlands' Eliminativism has been criticised as being essentially an attempt to define away the problem of consciousness, and in the view of many consciousness researchers is incoherent. Daniel C. Dennett's book, Consciousness Explained , actually doesn't do what it says. It discusses brain function, parallel processing and the like, but it does not demonstrate how qualia arises from the interaction of billions of neurons and axions. That seems to be a major failing of most popular materialist neuroscience books. Flicking through a copy of one such book by two British neuroscientists, Material Minds: How Matter Learns to Think I got the impression of the same flaws. Non-material agencies, and particularly William Alfred Russell's Spiritualism, were expressly discounted, and there was much discussion of the location of brain function and so on. But at no point were the sticking points of the hard problem of consciousness addressed. It was merely asserted that we didn't need a transcendent spirit to explain consciousness. And philosophers have also pointed out that there are major problems with invoking Hume's explanation of consciousness as merely bundles of experience. One philosopher has stated that if Hume's account of consciousness were true, then humans would not be able to continue with a consistent train of thought long enough to count to five. Beast Rabban
Thanks for the advice, Shaner74.:) Thanks also for the appreciation, bill Me. I'm afraid I haven't come across Eric Baum's work, so this is new to me. Now I'm not a physicist, so don't take this explanation as necessarily accurate. As I understand it, a hologram is the product of the interference pattern from two laser beams photographing an object by etching its likeness in glass. When exposed to ordinary light, this etched pattern creates the impression of a three dimensional object. The hologram itself doesn't emit light. The minutely etched interference pattern affects natural light to recreate a three dimensional optical effect. Regarding the wave/particle duality of light, I don't know where current research stands. The impression I had was that sometimes scientists treat it as a wave, and sometimes as a particle, or that it's a particle that behaves as a wave, depending on the experiment. The usual objection to any theory based on the independence of information is that all the information about which we know in this world is encoded on a material substrate. There is an objection to this in David Bohm's theory of the Implicate Order in which the mathematical laws which structure quantum physics and therefore reality really do exist as transcendent entities very much like Plato's Ideal Forms. Beast Rabban
Tell me how the properties of light are seperate from the hologram. And isn't there still a question about light being particle or not? Eric Baum studies artificial intelligence and he says "On qualia, I don't have too much to say beyond what's in my book, butI believe the issue is pretty much settled. Also look at the section "Evolution of Consciousness" in http://www.whatisthought.com/survey.pdf " Baum makes a distinction between origins and evolution; choosing the starting point affects the answer. Is it right to say information has no physical property? Please tolerate me while I get up to speed. I have a lot of questions, but if this is the wrong site to ask them I will move on. bill Me
Thank you Beast Rabban for answering my question. Your posts are appreciated here. bill Me
Its also particularly ironic that your discounting anything I say because its “political.” Ironic. Heh. No, I just said your site doesn't seem very interesting with regards to science, because it's first and foremost a political site. Something you seem to be downright embarassed about, despite saying as much outright on your main and about pages. I don't blame you - hardly seems "rational". The whole ID movement is a political movement and so is this “non-materialist neuroscience” junk. Let me guess what else are "political movements": The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, theories of retrocausality, the hard problem of consciousness, consciousness studies in general, the Big Bang, junk DNA, and today's "Ziggy". Or "any view that doesn't line up with your view, especially if there's science involved". nullasalus
The intricacies of how and why we started and what we are doing is probably off-topic here. And the fact remains no one seems the least bit interested in discussing any science. I suppose thats not exactly surprising. Its also particularly ironic that your discounting anything I say because its "political." The whole ID movement is a political movement and so is this "non-materialist neuroscience" junk. Ideas in science rise and fall on research and evidence, and none has been presented. I will leave you to your little cluster. Trent
Hardly touch on science? I integrate over two dozen interesting neuroscience publications from imaging to modeling in the article. Wow, over two dozen neuroscience publications. That's modestly approaching as many as has been posted... er. Probably right here on UD. Really, the wiki came about largely as a response to Conservapedia, apparently - and the bulk of your focus is on politics. Scientific discussion that doesn't fit the political/social agenda - that does not have an agenda - isn't the point of your site. Because it's one more political wiki. Worse, it's a political wiki started in large part to combat another political wiki. Good luck on the eventual MWI entry. I have yet to see a serious self-described rationalist expound on the view without their embarassment practically burning a hole through my monitor. nullasalus
I for one am convinced by numerous empirical evidences that the brain and consciousness are in fact two separate entities. A very fruitful avenue of research is possible in this area since the consciousness must indeed interact and "impose its will" with the material of the brain. For instance "Exactly which type of thoughts control exactly which type of material-s. Is this Mind/matter interaction truly localized to the brain or is it able to "subtly" effect material outside of the brain? I believe man is in a good technological position to investigate such questions,,,If only people can overcome this wretched materialistic dogma that has a choke hold on "big science" bornagain77
Hardly touch on science? I integrate over two dozen interesting neuroscience publications from imaging to modeling in the article. The fact that O'Leary doesn't bother to discuss the science doesn't mean the science isn't there. Trent
While I can appreciate Denyse's point about what an embarassment to science hardcore materialists tend to be, eh. It's just one more political wiki - the focus hardly seems to touch on science, other than it being hoped that spouting off on 'bad science' will advance their political aims. At least PZ Myers seems honestly interested in science news. I've a feeling this site's authors will be at their most livid when they hear about an episode of Family Guy being censored by Fox, rather than when non-materialist science is discussed. nullasalus
The wiki in question is just another example of self-styled 'rational' people bent on fixing their misguided interpretation of reality on the world. Anyone who disagrees with their view is, in their own little minds, irrational. Arrogance is their principle sin and ensconcing materialism, in some form or other, their goal. Rationalism is the religion of pseudo-intellectuals who erroneously think they are smarter than everyone who disagrees with their highly questionable logic. Rationalism is self-defeating.
If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes...it cuts its own throat. [most rationalists are also atheists like the ridiculous Rational Response Squad - borne] Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning...
CS Lewis Borne
Denyse, if you explored the site very far you would see that we say up front that we are not an encyclopedia. We never had a desire to be an encyclopedia. We "look" like wikipedia becaue we use media wiki software. We work in collaboration, but other than that the similarities end fairly quickly. I am sure I am the embodiment of many things, but what I may embody or not doesn't really matter. Just as me referring to your participation here as "parasitic" is not an argument against your points, so calling us ratwiki and a "dump" is not an argument against our points. I await your book then for the real argument....hopefully there is more to it then what Beauregard has published to date. Trent
“Analyzing and refuting the anti-science movement, ideas and people.” If there really were an “anti-science” movement, wouldn’t “science” refute it automatically? Unless, of course, what is being referred to as “science” is actually materialism in a cheap tuxedo. Is there an "anti-science" movement against the laws of thermodynamics? How bout relativity? shaner74
bill me said: "Give me an example of a spiritual aspect of the universe. Right Wing, Left Wing, it doesn’t matter." I wouldn't even respond to this Beast Rabban. He can use Google, just like the rest of us. shaner74
Well, bill Me, it's been argued that mind is non-local and quantum in origin because it seems that the brain does not assign specific locations to distinct memories. From this it has been inferred by a very few that the brain, or mind, is like a hologram in that each particle contains the whole. If you divide a hologram in half, you get two whole pictures half the size of the origin, not two halves of one picture. The argument goes that memory and brain location follows the same thing. This has also been tied into various theories about the holographic universe. Interesting, Leibniz in his theory of monads believed that these minute particles of reality, beyond space and time, also mirrored the whole of reality around them. And as for whether it really matters what the political beliefs of a person are regarding the spiritual dimension of the universe, you're absolutely right it shouldn't matter at all. What matters is whether or not what they are proposing is true. Beast Rabban
Give me an example of a spiritual aspect of the universe. Right Wing, Left Wing, it doesn't matter. bill Me
Nonmaterialist neurology and psychology go back a long way, and included some of the finest minds in these disciplines. The psychologist William James, the author of The Psychology of Religious Experience didn't believe that the brain was identical to mind. He viewed the brain more as a receiver which tuned into a non-material, transcendent mind. Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-discoverer of Natural Selection with Darwin, was a convinced Spiritualist and although definitely not a Christian, strongly believed that evolution had been guided by non-material entities. One of the great pioneers of experimental psychology was the 19th century German scientist, Fechner, who invented the science of 'psychophysics'. This was the application of experimental methods of scientific research to psychology. Fechner believed that as the mind acted through the body, such mind-body interactions could be objectively measured and gauged to say something of the relationship and operation of the two. However, he certainly did not believe that mind and brain were identical, and wrote a book, Zend-Avesta expounding his mystical views on the relation of spirit and cosmos. There's a link here clearly to parapsychology. The veteran British parapsychologist, John Beloff, who passed away last year, had several of his papers published in neurological journals. Beloff himself was interesting in that although he came from a Jewish background, he was himself an atheist. Yet he was a staunch defender of human post-mortem survival. He wasn't alone. Many of the founding figures of British psychical research were agnostics. As for accusations of right-wing political connections, contemporary Skepticism is vulnerable to this as well. Penn and Teller's Bullsh*t series is a case in point. From what I understand of it, it carried programmes criticising environmentalism and passive smoking, critics of nuclear power and GM crops, all of which are more strongly associated with the political Left than the Right. And the link between Skepticism and Right-wing viewpoints isn't confined to them. The Skeptical Inquirer once carried an article a few years ago now criticising the New Age from the viewpoint that it disrupted the healthy functioning of capitalism. Beast Rabban
It also appears that "rationalism" has little to do with "rational." tribune7
It would appear that "rationalism" and being objective are not the same thing. mike1962
Trent: You are an embodiment of just what is wrong with your tradition. You make your site LOOK LIKE Wikipedia, but now you claim that it is not, after all, an encyclopedia. No, it isn't. It is a rubbish dump of detraction. I have given you the names of many more people to detract - every one of whom is certainly a more thoughtful and creative person than you could ever hope to be. Thus your dump will grow. And if you seek your monument, look around you. I am sure it's the world's fault if the world doesn't think you are any Christopher Wren. O'Leary
If u get bored, there is also this one: http://www.salvomag.com/new/ads/peti.html Robo
I expect you will enjoy this humor then: http://www.salvomag.com/new/ads/geobbels.html Robo
So proponents of nonmaterialist neuroscience are all members of the Religious Right? Somehow, I doubt that. A lot of the attacks on a purely materialist, reductionist view of the mind which sees it as purely identical to the brain seems to come from doctors and scientists who either come from the direction of the New Age, and so are liberal in political orientation, or simply don't advertise their political viewpoints. The quantum physicist, Dr. Fred Alan Wolf, who believes that the soul is a quantum phenomenon, is an example of a scientist approaching the problem from a New Age perspective. The British neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Fenwick, whose work on the Near Death Experience convinced him of the reality of Cartesian Dualism, doesn't give any mention of which way he votes, nor of his religious views beyond a belief that the mind survives death. As for the right-wing nature of Cartesian Dualism, to my mind it's far more liberal than the alternative proposed by materialism: that consciousness does not exist, and humans have no free-will. Dr. Susan Blackmore of the University of the West of England here in Britain and the author of Introduction to Consciousness and Conversations on Consciousness takes that view. When I saw her speaking at the Cheltenham Festival of Science last year, she made it very plain that she didn't believe there was an 'I', tried to justify this by reference to Buddhist concepts of No-Self, and referred to the human organism as 'this machine'. Now this is profoundly dangerous. Christian doctrine insists that humans do indeed have free will, and that they aren't machines to be manipulated or discarded when they break down. Blackmore claims that recognising that she doesn't exist has given her a sense of freedom. Perhaps it has, but the price, it seems to me, is far too high. Free will means responsibility for one's actions. Now while that's certainly insisted upon by traditional right-wing Conservative parties, it's not exclusive to them. Sartre's existentialism is based on the terrible burden of free will. Removing this, and the notion of people as transcendent beings with an innate dignity, seems to me to lead inevitably to totalitarianism and a brutally utilitarian view of humans. It is materialism which is profoundly illiberal in this respect, not Cartesian Dualism. Beast Rabban
We are not actually an "encyclopedia" so wikipedia can keep that job. Thanks for the tip about "co-author" and a few other names to work with. Other than that I don't see much else to comment on. I guess the "science" will come out in your book? Trent
There's an even more "rational" online encyclopedia?! The fundamaterialist apologetic wikipedia (the original) isn't "rational" enough? It's like trading Syphilis for AIDS. UrbanMysticDee
So D.O., you are a "reactionary." Did you have to take special classes for that? Is there a club? Do you get a secret "reactionary decoder ring" with six box tops? BarryA

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