Thursday, December 6, 2012

Steven Novella warns us about confirmation bias!



Dr. Steven Novella, a Yale neurologist who takes a singularly materialist view of the mind-brain problem, warns us of the dangers of confirmation bias in science:


It is my contention that scientific skepticism is an intellectual discipline and a cognitive skill set more than anything else. It is also a philosophy, a value system, and an approach to knowledge – but these are hollow without the knowledge and skills to apply that philosophy.

This is especially true in our complex world, with sophisticated pseudoscience alongside mature and highly technical real science, ideologies of every stripe pushing their agenda...

It is therefore not enough to have a generally skeptical outlook, or even to call oneself a skeptic. Skepticism is a journey of self-knowledge, exploration, and mastering the various skills that comprise so-called metacognition – the ability to think about thinking... 
As an example of the need for metacognitive skills in navigating this complex world there is confirmation bias. This is definitely on my top 5 list of core skeptical concepts, and is a major contributor to faulty thinking. Confirmation bias is the tendency to perceive and accept information that seems to confirm our existing beliefs, while ignoring, forgetting, or explaining away information that contradicts our existing beliefs. It is a systematic bias that works relentlessly and often subtly to push us in the direction of a desired or preexisting conclusion or bias. Worse – it gives us a false sense of confidence in that conclusion. We think we are following the evidence, when in fact we are leading the evidence.  
[emphasis mine] 

Oh, where to find confirmation bias in this big world of ours...
Scientism-- the atheist viewpoint that science proves atheism and represents the only reliable source of knowledge-- is confirmation bias on steroids. Scientism is a crude logical error in which one adopts a particular method of inquiry congenial to a preconceived notion of truth and then mistakes the answer it provides for truth itself.

Here's another jaw-dropping example of confirmation bias:
"The materialist hypothesis - that the brain causes consciousness - has made a number of predictions, and every single prediction has been validated. Every single question that can be answered scientifically - with observation and evidence - that takes the form: "If the brain causes the mind then..." has been resolved in favor of that hypothesis."

Wow. This guy actually believes that his own metaphysics-- materialism-- has been validated by every relevant scientific experiment ever performed. It's like a terminal case of confirmation bias.
Too bad he's not a "skeptic", on a journey of self-knowledge.
: ) 


90 comments:

  1. Why is it that whenever I think 'Michael Egnor' I immediately think 'confirmation bias'?

    Michael, your article on EvolutionNews contains a major error. Scientific theories provide models of reality. If there are ever any observations (data, evidence) inconsistent with the model, then either the observations are wrong (and they need to be checked and rechecked) or the model (scientific theory) is either wrong or incomplete.

    It's not true, as you claimed, that scientific theories are supported by a preponderance of evidence, some against but more in support. If there's definite evidence against a theory, then it's definitely wrong or incomplete.

    I think the reason you have your idiosyncratic idea of how theories are tested because it allows you to ignore inconvenient evidence as being inconsequential.

    It's also useful for a theory to have a definite mechanism. The materialistic position that the mind is a product of the brain has at least the advantage that the brain is a definite structure, and changes in the function of the brain result in changes in the mind.

    An alternate model, with the mind being non-physical, has the disadvantage that there are no observations that will ever support or reject the model. Acceptance of such a model becomes one of wishful thinking. Near death experiences (and the related out of body experiences) are explained more economically on the basis of physical changes in the brain.

    I suspect that is the reason why you didn't like my suggestion in a previous thread that Jovan Belcher might have committed murder-suicide as a result of neurological damage due to repeated episodes of concussion (raising the straw man argument of whether strokes lead to homicidal tendencies) because it questions the non-physical mind and the concept of free will.

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    1. "It's not true, as you claimed, that scientific theories are supported by a preponderance of evidence, some against but more in support. If there's definite evidence against a theory, then it's definitely wrong or incomplete."

      What a stupid thing to say. All scientific theories are incomplete, and there is definite evidence against all theories. No theory perfectly coincides with every bit of evidence. Not quantum mechanics, not relativity, not Newtonian mechanics, etc.

      For most theories, preponderance of evidence, as well as less tangible criteria such as explanatory power and simple beauty and conformity to the zeitgeist, determine acceptance in the scientific community.

      Darwinism in my view is not a scientific theory, in the rigorous sense. You will notice that evolutionary biologists never discuss the evidence "against" it. They insist that it is a fact, and any inconsistencies are merely facts not yet fully understood. That of course is not science, but ideology.

      Darwinism fits in with Marxism and Freudianism much more than it fits with Newtonian mechanics or relativity.

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    2. Yeah, yeah, we already know you're a crackpot about evolution, and that you disagree with the Pope. Surprise us with something new, whydoncha?

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    3. Johann, I think you need to clean the bird poop off your empathy antenna. The signal you aren't getting is that no one who disagrees with your radical materialistic philosophy is going to be inclined to listen to lectures from a piece of trained meat; i.e., you. Or so you claim for yourself, and I have no empirical reason to doubt your word.

      So allow me to give you a treat, meat. The following excerpt was taken from sci-fi short story that appeared in OMNI Magazine and was nominated for a Nebula Award. Enjoy...

      "Imagine if you will... the leader of the fifth invader force speaking to the commander in chief...

      "They're made out of meat."
      "Meat?"
      "Meat. They're made out of meat."
      "Meat?"
      "There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
      "That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars."
      "They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
      "So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
      "They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
      "That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

      [...]

      "No brain?"
      "Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat!"
      "So... what does the thinking?"
      "You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat."
      "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!" [...]

      Sorry, Johann, meat metaphysics just doesn't make it with folks who have an I inside. It sounds too much like the old lady who believed the world was supported on the back of a turtle, and when asked what the turtle was standing on, replied "It's turtles all the way down to the quantum level."

      (actually, I added that last phrase)



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    4. You, guys, will get some credibility when you demonstrate that a person can function without a brain.

      Hoo

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    5. You, Dr Hoo, I offer as an exemplar.

      Q.E.D.

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    6. George,

      I've told you before. It's PDQ, not Johann. The rest of your comment is bullshit, so I won't bother commenting further.

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    7. It's meat! And this meat has an attitude!

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    8. Oh, boy, this dog is barking mad.

      Hoo

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  2. I looked up "confirmation bias" in the dictionary and it said, "see Egnor, Michael".

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  3. "Scientism!" is an ontological analog of penis envy. It afflicts mainly philosophers, whose own picture of the world is primarily borrowed from scientific studies, and their fans.

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  4. This guy actually believes that his own metaphysics-- materialism-- has been validated by every relevant scientific experiment ever performed.

    Wow. You're like a terminal case of illiteracy. What Novella actually said was that a single hypothesis - that the brain causes consciousness - results in several predictions. And those predictions concerning that particular hypothesis have held true every time.

    But since that doesn't fit what you want to believe, you made up something else that you claim Novella said and argue about that. In other words, you made something up. In common parlance, that's lying.

    Again. You're predictable - you find something you disagree with, you proceed to lie about it.

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    1. Consider the Leghorn Theory of Solar Fluctuation:

      Dr Foghorn Leghorn believes that roosters cause the sun to rise. The Leghorn theory predicts that when the rooster crows, the sun will come up. In every single experimental case of roosters crowing, the sun did in fact rise.

      Amazing, eh?

      To quote a famous dude, I think the data show that the issue "has been resolved in favor of [the Leghorn] hypothesis".

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    2. [What Novella actually said was that a single hypothesis - that the brain causes consciousness - results in several predictions. And those predictions concerning that particular hypothesis have held true every time.]

      Bullshit. I pointed out that even by Novella's silly criteria, dualism is much more supported by the science than is materialism.[http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/02/proving_dr_novella_wrong_imagi004840.html]

      Novella is no "skeptic". He's a credulous materialist gasbag.

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    3. Michael,

      No. If there is any definite evidence that the brain doesn't produce the mind or consciousness, then it's disproved. You're wrong when you state that all theories have evidence against them.

      Provide something to support your incorrect assertion. What is the evidence against the brain producing the mind and consciousness?

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  5. I present my evidence in detail in the post I gave above. [http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/02/proving_dr_novella_wrong_imagi004840.html]

    I believe that the soul, which includes the mind, can exist independent of the body-- technically speaking, the soul is an subsistent form. Aquinas makes the case quite clearly-- Feser discusses it in the psychology chapter of Aquinas.

    But under normal circumstances I believe that the mind is dependent on the brain for function, although that dependence is not a 1:1 materialist reduction. In Thomistic Dualism, there is a strong dependence of soul on body, but they are not reducible to each other and some aspects of the mind (e.g intellect) are intrinsically immaterial, although dependent on matter for normal function.

    My point in the debate with Novella was not to show that science "proves" dualism. My point was to show that Novella is an idiot who doesn't even understand his own claims. I succeeded.

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    1. Succeeded in convincing yourself? That wasn't hard. You are a well-known fool.

      Maybe we should ask if others find your demonstration convincing.

      Hoo

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    2. Hoo,

      OK, I'm someone else. I didn't find it convincing. Egnor is setting up a straw man argument in which he invents something he calls 'strict materialism' to which he imputed all sorts of ridiculous statements. Such as his claim that strict materialism insists that all brain damage results in a detectable change in mental function. Which materialism doesn't claim.

      A subtle change perhaps. Barely detectable in some cases and only by very specialized techniques.

      He attempts to make a lot of the fact that the various methods of assessing mental function (clinical examination, EEG, fMRI etc) don't correlate with each other. But each does correlate with mental function (it's like saying that feeling a patient's pulse and using a sphygmomanometer don't correlate in measuring a patient's blood pressure - but in a patient with high blood pressure, the pulse does correlate with BP - albeit not accurately enough to make clinical decision).

      And anyway, the methods do correlate - the methods vary in sensitivity. Clinical examination is just the least sensitive. If a patient shows no response with fMRI (unless deaf) then its certain that clinical examination will show no mental function (although there's some selection bias - you wouldn't do a fMRI unless there was no mental functioning on clinical examination).

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    3. bach:

      I'M USING NOVELLA'S CRITERIA. That's my f*cking point. By HIS criteria, materialism fails, unless he starts special pleading ("Well, I didn't mean exactly what I said... I really meant that some changes would be undetectable...")

      I used his stupid criteria to show that even by his stupid criteria materialism fails.

      Provide me with the material by which you propose to prove materialism using scientific evidence, and I'll show you that either 1) you fail or 2) you have to include such fudge factors that you open the door to dualism.

      Goodness gracious you guys are idiots.

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    4. Your 2008 article is quite silly, Dr. Egnor. The fMRI didn't probe the patient's mind. It probed activity in her brain. The probe clearly indicated that her brain was capable of performing functions found in the brains of healthy people. Which means that her brain was not completely damaged. Some function remained.

      The experiment did not prove that she had no brain and some mind, as you would have us believe. It demonstrated that the patient retained some of her brain functions. Period. How that is a proof, or even an indication, of dualism, I have no idea.

      Hoo

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    5. Michael,

      No. Science doesn't prove scientific theories. It just fails to disprove them. The support for a scientific theory increases over time as efforts to disprove them continue to fail.

      If you want to disprove the materialist position that the brain produces the mind and consciousness, then it's up to you to provide the evidence.

      Insisting that in your mind you've defeated one person, Steve Novella, by exaggerating what he actually thinks, is just ludicrous.



      You're typically clueless.

      Hoo,

      You've made a BIG mistake writing '... I have no idea'. Knowing Michael, he'll quote mine this and make a thread out of it. It does, after all, save him from the bother of fabricating quotes. The dishonest pathological liar...

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    6. Dr Egnor,
      A thought for consideration:
      Perhaps the brain is a kind of physical/organic interface that allows the soul to exist/develop within time.
      In essence I suggesting that if one considers the true duality of the mind, that perhaps the brain functions as a kind of means to anchor the soul into the time stream. The result of this synthesis is what we call 'mind'.
      If one considers these ideas, could this successful synthesis be the desired end product of this union?
      Could this synthesis be a kind of fertilized 'mind-soul' that comes into being OUTSIDE of time-space once we reach the point of physical death?
      Obviously following this kind of metaphysical logic we could conclude that the nature of the this chrysalis like transformation would heavily depend on the life experiences of the individual creature involved. A good, morally consistent, compassionate, kind, and loyal creature would produce a much different synthesis than that of evil, selfish, sadistic, and/or purely instinctive creature.
      This in turn would make any sort of 'judgement' essentially simple for a divine/creating force/intelligence.
      Just a thought on the subject of dualism.
      I know it is hopelessly off topic, but I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the subject given your profession and experience as a neurosurgeon.

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    7. CrusadeRex,

      You're just making things more complicated than they need to be. If God exists, then He provided humans with a brain large and complex enough to produce a mind. Insisting that the mind is non-material is just adding an unnecessary detail, which could be disproved.

      You hardly need to posit an independent mind to justify the existence of God (in your mind). The human brain, the most complex object we know of, is amazing enough.

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    8. Bach,
      With all due respect, I know you have a view that is consistently (eliminative) materialistic and reductionist. I understand your dismissal of my concepts and would expect nothing more.

      But, I am not a person that interested in simplistic solutions. Such solutions have no relation to the reality I experience or the abstractions I have come to understand in my own life.

      I enjoy complexity, you see. I don't flee from it, I embrace it. Physical complexity is interesting indeed, but it is simply the superficial/material manifestation of abstract complexity.

      A baroque view of existence is what fascinates me.
      I see the universe as more of a Madelbrot Set than a flat plane or simple cube/sphere, Bach.
      Like a that famous fractal imagery, I like to use the 'zoom' function and look into the deeper layers and map the connections in the patterns between one level and the next.

      You are correct that the brain is a wondrous organ. I could not agree more that it is a wonder of creation.
      But, I see your empirical approach as almost useless in these matters I have forwarded. I say almost because they do hint at bigger things, but are incapable of properly explaining or defining what is beyond it's scope.

      I am not concerned with 'gaps' in the current academic interpretation of data collected by scientists. Nor do I base my thinking on them. Proofs or falsifications are not the means to determin the nature of metaphysical concepts concerning form and the soul.
      Science has it's value, I would concede that gladly. But science, as I have often stated before, is a tool that is subject to the hands that wield it (I guess that is a little closer to topic).

      Hence my interest in a Catholic Neurosurgeon's take on my postulations. His combination of scientific knowledge and metaphysical wanderings makes his opinion on this of interest to me. He is open to such concepts as 'soul' and 'potentiality' while being grounded in an education in the biology of the specific organ of which we speak.

      Further I have a deep fascination with the nature of time. Unfortunately I have to be obscure as to the reasons and sources for this interest, but it factors into almost all of my philosophical questions.

      So, my inclination is to see the brain as a kind of 4 dimensional reality generating/perception device.
      Who was it that said it? It escapes me currently... but the famous quote was something like the human brain is a 'machine that is built for a ghost to operate'.
      I wonder if the human form (brain included) kind of soul cocoon that allows the immaterial to transcend into the material via conception then synthesize and progress again into some 'beyond' in the process we call 'death'.

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    9. @Hoo,

      I'm not going to reargue the 2008 post here. I made my points clearly. Take them or leave them.

      My point (in case you still don't get it) is that Novella's "criteria" for demonstrating the truth of the strict materialist position on the mind are not probative. In fact, if you apply the criteria objectively, you can make a stronger argument that they support dualism than you can make that they support materialist monism.

      In fact I don't think Novella's criteria count for much either way, because the argument about the dualist/materialist nature of the mind is not a scientific empirical argument, but a logical and metaphysical argument.

      I'll try to expand on those arguments when I can. I wrote quite a bit about this a couple of years ago on ENV.

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    10. Michael,

      No, the 'dualist/materialist nature of the mind' is a scientific empirical argument. You make observations on the nature of the mind and determine whether the results are consistent with the materialist or dualist theories.

      No observation ever proves a theory. All an observation can ever do is to fail to disprove the theory. The only prediction you can ever make is that, if the theory is correct, then any new relevant observation you make will be consistent with the theory being true.

      It's just applying Bayesian analysis in a continuous process, Which is how science is done. Which is how most people go through life.

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    11. I'll leave them. Thanks for the offer, though.

      Your dualist position is akin to a fairy tale. It is impossible to disprove the existence of a mind that is separate from the brain. It is inaccessible to science. Science mucks with the brain's workings, as I have already said. Not with the mind. The dualist conception of the mind is completely unfalsifiable and is entirely inconsequential. An entirely immaterial mind might fly away during sleep to visit the other 7 dimensions. Or something. You can make up anything about the mind and no one will be able to disprove it. This is why philosophy of mind is a complete failure.

      In contrast, your opponent's position is that mind is a property of the brain, much as heat is a property of a physical object, rather than an invisible substance (the phlogiston). You can study mind scientifically from this perspective, by studying the brain. Just like you can study heat by examining physical bodies in thermal contact. Theories constructed along these lines can be falsified.

      This, in a nutshell, is Novella's argument. You have never addressed it.

      Hoo

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    12. crus:

      A very thoughtful synthesis of two of the most interesting questions in philosophy: what is the mind, and what is time. I tend toward a Thomistic dualist (form/matter) view of the mind, in which the mind is really certain properties of the soul (the form of the body) that we have conceptually separated out. While some aspects of the soul are tightly linked to matter (the vegetative and sensory aspects), higher aspects of the soul (intellect, judgement, intellectual memory, etc) are inherently immaterial and while they may depend on matter for proper functioning they can exist independently of the body.

      As for time, I honestly have no idea. It is an extraordinary mystery, and I have a sense that it is a mystery at the core of existence. Your view is fascinating-- that the mind/brain is the link between human existence and time.

      There are a couple of interesting related topics. One is an absolutely fascinating observation by Brian Greene, who is a physicist and popular science writer who I think is the very best (please read him if you have a chance-- The Fabric of the Cosmos is a masterpiece). He observed that when you do the physics of light, time disappears. From the perspective of a photon traveling at the speed of light, there is no such thing as time. Light is timeless. I'm still trying to understand the implications of that.

      The other fascinating observation about time are the experiments of Ben Libet, who was a neuroscientist at UCSF who did pioneering experiments on the timing of thoughts and sensations in human subjects by measuring brain activity as it correlated with thoughts and time. His work is massive, but one of the interesting tidbits is that he found that when we feel a stimulus (a touch on a finger) we perceive it BEFORE the nerve activity from the finger reaches the brain! The brain activity happens some milliseconds after we are aware of being touched.

      I'll try to post some on Libet when I can. He was one of the great neuroscientists, and practically invented the scientific exploration of the neurophysiology of consciousness. Parenthetically, he was a property dualist, and thought that materialists were crazy.

      What's not to like?

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    13. @Hoo:

      [In contrast, your opponent's position is that mind is a property of the brain, much as heat is a property of a physical object, rather than an invisible substance (the phlogiston)]

      The belief that the mind is a property of the brain is called "property dualism".

      Let me clarify-- PROPERTY DUALISM. A form of DUALISM.

      You (and Novella) have just articulated a dualist position, while arguing for materialist monism.

      You don't even understand the terms of the debate. Now do you see why I think you guys are idiots?

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    14. Michael,

      You asked me previously how I'd 'prove' the materialist position on the mind. As I've said, no observation ever proves a theory. All that can be said is that it's consistent.

      One observation that's consistent with the mind being a product of the brain. Unlike a horcrux, it's possible to physically split the mind.

      For other readers, the left cerebral hemisphere controls the right side of the body, receives vision from the right visual field (medial field of left eye, lateral field of right eye) and has the motor speech centre. The right cerebral hemisphere controls the left side of the body and receives vision from the left visual field.

      In patients with intractable epilepsy, occasionally the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres and allow them to 'communicate') is split surgically, so it's then possible to show the left cerebral hemisphere of the patient a photo of, say, a chicken, and the right cerebral hemisphere of the person a photo, say, of a snow covered driveway.

      If you then ask the person to pick out from a number of photos, including one of a snow shovel, with his left hand (controlled by his right brain), the photo which goes with the one he previously saw, and he'll pick out the photo of the snow shovel - which is logical, the right brain saw the photo of the snow covered driveway, and you need the shovel to clear the driveway.

      If you then ask the person to say why he chose the snow shovel, you'll get a bizarre reply. The left brain has the motor speech centre and saw the chicken, but saw the photo of the shovel being picked. So 'chickens live in hen houses, and poop, and you need the shovel occasionally to shovel out the chicken poop!'

      It's exactly as though there are two minds. I'd expect that if you tried the same experiment on two separate people, you'd get similar results. If you show one person a photo of a chicken, but tell him the other person saw the same photo instead of the actual one - the snow covered driveway), you'd get a similar explanation as previously as to why the other person selected a photo of a shovel.

      It doesn't 'prove' the materialist position but its consistent with it. It could also be consistent with the dualist position too. If so, I'd be interested in reading your explanation...

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    15. I don't think you have thought this through, Dr. Egnor. You should look up the description of property dualism in some reputable source. I will copy here a short excerpt from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and replace its example (hurricane and atoms) with something that strikes closer to home (mind and brain). Let's see if you like it. I certainly do.

      Although the predicate ‘mind’ is not equivalent to any single description using the language of neuroscience, we believe that each individual mind is nothing but a collection of brain cells behaving in a certain way: one need have no more than the brain cells, with their normal biological properties, following normal biological laws, for there to be a mind. One might say that we need more than the language of neuroscience to describe and explain the mental processes, but we do not need more than its ontology.

      That's the kind of dualism I can get behind. You? I don't think so.

      Hoo

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    16. Your assertion that the mind is a property of the brain is property dualism. Spare me the cut-and-paste dance.

      There are three main kinds of mind-brain dualistic theories-- substance dualism, property dualism, and Thomistic dualism. Some people would include Epiphenominalism as a fourth kind.

      Property dualism-- the view that the mind is a property of the brain-- is considered more "dualistic" than Thomistic dualism, which is the application of hylemorphic dualism (matter-form of Aristotle) to the mind-brain question.

      I'm a hylemorphic dualist. You're a property dualist. Which means that you take a more radically dualist position than I do.

      You don't have a clue what you're talking about.

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    17. I don't care what you call this point of view. That's the prevailing view of "mind" in neuroscience. And you have been arguing against it. If it consoles you that some philosophers call it a dualism, well, congratulations! You have managed to love a position that you clearly reject. Ain't philosophy wonderful?

      Hoo

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    18. In defense of materialism, you have articulated a dualist position that is more dualist than my own.

      Can't you just be honest and admit that you don't know what you're talking about?

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    19. Dr Egnor,
      Thanks for the response.
      I knew you'd give me something to look up, think about, or look forward to.
      I have read snippets of Greene's work (some essays on string and M theory, if my memory serves), and on your recommendation I will see if I can get my hands on the book you mention.I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to some very bright ideas and minds (no puns intended) on the subject of time and have heard about the physics of light.
      There also seems to be direct connections with the force of gravity and the flow of time as well.
      Considering much work has been done in the field suggesting that consciousness/perception have a defined and real effect on things such as particle/waves (duality again!), I have to wonder (as I have posited) about a connection between it and the actual function of time. With the brain being the centre or nexus of our perceptions (at least in the material sense) that leads me to wonder about my 'anchor' idea.
      Anyway, thanks again.
      And thanks for deciphering my meaning. I am glad you see it as thoughtful. My resident 'egg heads' (affectionate term) sure found it an interesting concept, but then they're (probably) even more nuts than I am.
      Very interesting take, Doctor.
      Cheers.
      I look forward to the posts on Libet.
      I'll have to do some prep reading on him!

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    20. You are asking the wrong question.

      I don't care for materialism or dualism. I don't care for philosophy in general. I think it's a lousy way to study the world. It is glorified bullshitting.

      I do care about what scientists think (being one myself). And the prevailing point of view among neuroscientists is the one Novella and I have articulated. You have argued against this point of view many times. You clearly disagree with it. Nad now you find solace because some navel gazers called it a form of dualism. Great tactics, I say. Use it to learn to love evolution, and you will be OK.

      Hoo

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    21. Michael,

      No. Property dualism is the same as the materialist position that the mind is a product of the brain. Property dualism states that there's only one substance - matter.

      You're a substance dualist, insisting that the brain is physical and the mind non-physical.

      And Ben Libet's work did much to disabuse the concept of 'free will'. 'Free won't' perhaps, but not 'free will'.

      And anyway, you're wrong, a sensory stimulus, such as being touched on the hand, CANNOT physically reach the brain AFTER the person is aware of the stimulus. That's physically impossible. I have no doubt that you've misunderstood, as usual, the results of Ben Libet's work.

      Being aware of something and being able to accurately sense something are two different things. A patient with destruction of the visual cortex is blind, but still has the lower visual centers and can still be aware of objects in his environment, although an EEG will show no response to visual stimuli. The visual cortex processes degraded (compressed - like a digital camera) visual input from the eyes, and creates a rich illusion of the surroundings, which is generally fairly accurate, albeit requiring around 0.1 seconds of processing - exactly like a digital camera (the prototype actually required 20 minutes).

      The brain takes all the sensory inputs and combines them into a coherent whole, which it then projects externally. Light travels faster than sound. If a person sees and hears another person clapping his hands at a distance, the sight arrives before the sound. But up to a point, about 0.09 seconds, the brain puts together the two senses and the sight and sound appears simultaneous. If the two people are further apart, then the synchronicity breaks down completely, and they appear independent.

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    22. @Hoo,

      Your "atoms and hurricanes" cut-n-paste is an attempt to define the mind as an emergent property of the brain. Emergence theory applied to the mind brain fails on two accounts (it was refuted quite effectively by Karl Popper in the mid-20th century). It fails because 1) mind differs ontologically from brain matter, not just conceptually 2) "Emergence" is an observer-dependent phenomenon. Observer presupposes mind, which can't therefore be the complete explanation for mind.

      I posted on this a few years ago. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12/dr_novellas_evasion_is_an_emer014801.html

      The most disturbing thing I have encountered in debating materialists about the mind-brain problem is their (your) abject ignorance of the subject. You haven't even reached "wrong" yet. You're clueless.

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    23. You have no idea what emergence is, Dr. Egnor. You're just bluffing your way through.

      Emergence need not be observer-dependent. One of the well-known examples of an emergent property is temperature. It can be objectively quantified and is thus independent of the observer. So fuck off.

      Hoo

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    24. @bach:

      Property dualism is dualism.

      Libet's work is complex. His work on sensory perception is less well-known than his work on motor intention. He was quite disturbed by his finding that perception of touch precedes arrival of the action potential from the periphery into the brain. He explained it by asserting that the brain "backdated" the sensation. It was a weak explanation, and he knew it.

      His work on motor intentions did not disprove free will. Libet was a strong believer in libertarian free will-- he noted that the subject could always cancel the act volitionally, regardless of the timing of the readiness potential, which he interpreted as the act of free will.

      Libet was a strident property dualist and was convinced of libertarian free will. His work has been expropriated by hacks (like you) who are unfamiliar with his research and who cherry-pick his observations to assert theories that he specifically rejected.

      Delete
    25. You might enjoy "Mind Time", which Libet co-authored, on Kindle. Educate yourself.

      Delete
    26. @Hoo:

      [Emergence need not be observer-dependent. One of the well-known examples of an emergent property is temperature. It can be objectively quantified and is thus independent of the observer. So fuck off.]

      Before I fuck off, could you explain to me who it is who is objectively quantifying temperature, if not an "observer"?

      Delete
    27. @Hoo:

      [I don't care for materialism or dualism.]

      Obviously.

      [I don't care for philosophy in general.]

      I coulda' guessed.

      [I think it's a lousy way to study the world. It is glorified bullshitting.]

      Your assertion that philosophy is a lousy way to study the world and is glorified bullshitting is... philosophy.

      It's all philosophy. No getting around it. To deny philosophy is to do philosophy.

      There's just good and bad philosophy.

      Are all scientists as ignorant as you are?

      Delete
    28. Why is it that whenever confronted with a philosophical question or premise that so many materialists react with such emotive responses?
      Without philosophy you have no inquiry.
      Without philosophical inquiry you will have no theoretical thought. And without theoretical thought you have NO SCIENCE.
      Philosophy is the FOUNDATION of scientific inquiry as much as mathematics are it's language.
      If philosophy is 'professional bullshitting' then science must be the actual bovine faeces itself. Philosophy being the grunting bull, and the sciences it's steamy pile of stools.
      Perhaps I have answered my own question?
      The immaterial nature of the roots and language of science are best ignored (or profanely rejected) by those who seek to mentally reduce the cosmos to simplistic models of the interaction of matter.

      Delete
    29. Before I fuck off, could you explain to me who it is who is objectively quantifying temperature, if not an "observer"?

      A thermometer. Ahahahaha!

      Now fuck off.

      Delete
    30. ** should read 'glorified bullshitting' **

      Delete
    31. Dr Egnor,
      It is the objective naturally emergent thermometer that has appeared ex nihilo / or rushed forth from a de sitter universe that evolved to produce thermometers.
      Come on now!

      Delete
    32. Michael,

      But 'property dualism' isn't the same as what you're claiming exists; 'substance dualism'. They're different things.

      'Libertarian free will', being able to cancel volitions, is 'free won't' not 'free will'.

      And unless you insert a single electrode into a single highly selected sensory neuron, you can't accurately state when the sensory input has reached the brain. The EEG is a crude measure of numerous cortical neurons, and says absolutely nothing about what is happening in lower neural centers.

      And anyway, he wasn't working with action potentials, the activity of single neurons. He was working with EEGs, the activity of many neurons. You're the hack, and you're the one who is cherry picking.

      My example of seeing and hearing someone simultaneously is a perfect example of what the brain does. The brain doesn't advance the sound of a clap, it delays the sight of the clap so they coincide.

      Delete
    33. You, guys, crack me up. You don't understand what objective means. It does not mean "existing independently of humans." It means "the opposite of subjective," not dependent on a mind, on a subject's opinion, or some such.

      Taste is subjective. Different people have different tastes. Temperature is objective. Different people will measure the same temperature (as long as they understand what it is).

      Hope this helps.

      Hoo

      Delete
    34. Hoo,
      You are talking about theoretical models and controlled experimentation.
      None of this is independent of observation. It is RELIANT on observation.
      It is also reliant on mathematical and temporal constants. You need that objectively real maths (immaterial as they are) and you need time constraints.
      The person performing the experiment (or their proxy) is the observer.
      Glad I made you laugh.
      Much healthier than the rage.

      All this materialist baloney has made me hungry. I think I'll go fix a sandwich and watch a film before bed.
      Enjoy, Gents.

      Delete
    35. Hoo,

      You're confused as to the definitions of the 'woo'. 'Objective' means 'God-given'. 'Subjective' means 'decided by all humans by general agreement'. I hope this helps you.

      Michael,

      I'll read Libet's book. Sigh... Yet another book on my list. The Kindle version, unfortunately, doesn't include the illustrations, referring, uselessly, to the printed version.

      Delete
    36. Oh and Mike!
      Fuck ON, my friend.
      Thanks for the input.
      Good night and God bless.

      Delete
    37. [Taste is subjective. Different people have different tastes. Temperature is objective. Different people will measure the same temperature (as long as they understand what it is).]

      "Temperature" is indeed objective, if by temperature you mean the measurement of some physical manifestation of molecular motion (expansion of a column of mercury, etc)

      But temperature is only a meaningful concept-- an emergent property of molecules in motion-- if there is an observer.

      If there is no observer, the only reality is molecular motion, without emergent properties such as temperature.

      "Emergent properties" are conceptual constructs, dependent on minds. With minds observing, molecular motion can be understood as temperature. Without minds, molecular motion can't be understood at all. It's just molecular motion.

      Emergent theories of the mind presuppose mind, so they can't completely explain mind.

      Delete
    38. Michael,

      You haven't bothered responded to my corrections of your comments on Ben Libet's work. Or the materialistic explanation of the split brain/split mind.

      But anyway. Do you really think that a mind is necessary for temperature? The centre of the Sun isn't tens of millions of degrees hot? It's just particles in motion? Or that you need a mind to have wetness of water? Water wouldn't insinuate itself into a sponge unless a mind is present?

      Emergent properties don't need minds. A termite mound or a bee hive forms quite naturally from the combined actions of insects doing evolved rote innate actions. So you're wrong that emergent properties need minds. You don't need a mind to develop a mind on top of an increasingly complex brain.

      Again, the mind is a product of the brain. Nothing you've produced indicates that the mind exists independently of the brain. No brain, no mind.

      Delete
    39. I believe that everything is dependent on a Mind (Aquinas' Fifth Way). Contemporary New Essentialist philosophers call teleology "physical intentionality". Without a Mind, nature is inexplicable, even if we remove human minds from consideration.

      Emergent properties like temperature are obviously mind (observer)-dependent. Excluding consideration of God, the Sun obviously didn't have a "temperature" until there were minds to observe temperature. It had plasma in motion, kinetic energy, etc, but temperature is a concept, and concepts mean minds.

      Regarding the insect hives, insects have minds.

      "The mind is a product of the brain" is inherently dualist-- property dualist, or functionalist, or whatever. There are dual natures-- the brain and the product of the brain. They are not the same thing, thus it is a dualist notion.

      "The mind is the brain" or "Only brain exists" is materialist monist.

      Delete
    40. Michael,

      And the split brain/split mind? You'd promised that if I gave evidence for the materialist view of the mind, you'd show that the dualist explanation is better.

      So temperature doesn't exist if there's no one to observe it?

      Property dualism is materialism. There's only material, not something else, non-material. The mind isn't the brain, or part of the brain, it's a product of the brain.

      I prefer to think of the mind as the model of the outside world and the person's position within it, taking compressed sensory inputs such as vision, sound and smell, and constructing the illusion of a seamless reality and giving the person the illusion that he has 'free will', whereas actually it's just the product of a large number of non-conscious processes.

      Libet's work fits in perfectly with this.

      'Insects have minds'. Good to hear that. You're not human-centric then? But actually, bee hives and termite mounds aren't constructed by the action of a single insect mind. If there's a mind constructing bee hives or termite mounds then its the figurative mind of all the insects in the colony. Which isn't a mind. Hives and termite mounds are constructed by the repetitive evolved rote actions of a number of insects constructing hexagonal combs or chambers of instinctively the right size. No mind evolved.

      The hive is an emergent property of having a large number of individual bees, none of whom would have constructed a hive on their own in the first place.

      And you still haven't conceded that you were wrong when you claimed that Libet discovered that the person is aware of a sensation before the stimulus gets to the brain. Which is absolutely impossible.

      Delete
    41. [Property dualism is materialism.]

      Property dualism is dualism.

      [There's only material, not something else, non-material. The mind isn't the brain, or part of the brain, it's a product of the brain.]

      What about the mind is material? How long is it? How wide is it? What is the weight of mercy? Gibberish.

      [Libet discovered that the person is aware of a sensation before the stimulus gets to the brain. Which is absolutely impossible.]

      Libet invoked back-dating to elide the evidence. It is not impossible that we are aware of a sensation before the AP reaches the brain, if our awareness extends to our peripheral nervous system. The hypothesis that only the brain mediates awareness is merely a hypothesis-- perhaps this is evidence against that.

      On the split brain stuff, I have to think about it more. The reality is that split brain people are normal in all ordinary respects. They only manifest the characteristic findings on careful testing. They have one mind, one self, with a split in certain subtle perceptual matters.

      What is remarkable is not the subtle stuff, which is to be expected. What is remarkable is how little it alters the normal mental processes of the person.

      Delete
    42. Egnor: "Temperature" is indeed objective, if by temperature you mean the measurement of some physical manifestation of molecular motion (expansion of a column of mercury, etc)

      But temperature is only a meaningful concept-- an emergent property of molecules in motion-- if there is an observer.

      If there is no observer, the only reality is molecular motion, without emergent properties such as temperature.


      No. Temperature is an objective characteristic of thermal equilibrium (itself an emergent property) or lack thereof. Thermal equilibrium between two physical bodies exists whether or not they are being watched by a human observer. Heat either flows from one body to another or it does not. The sun has been hotter than the earth for billions of years before some clever apes introduced the concept of temperature. All that time the sun's temperature was higher than the earth's. (Try to argue otherwise!)

      Hoo

      Delete
    43. Temperature is a concept, which does not exist without minds. Emergent properties like temperature, wetness, etc are observer-dependent. WIthout an observer, atoms and plasma and the like were doing what atoms and plasma do since the Big Bang, but without minds there were no emergent properties associated with them.

      Without an observer, things are just what they are. Water isn't wet unless there's someone to feel the wetness.

      Delete
    44. Michael,

      The mind is a product of the brain, a material structure. The mind doesn't exist independently of the brain. In the same way that temperature doesn't exist in the absence of matter.

      Libet didn't backdate sensation because he had evidence that the action potentials from a stimulus reaches the brain after awareness of the stimulus. He was very aware that there's a primary evoked potential in the brain, unconscious to the person, occurring at the time interval expected from the conduction rate of action potentials along nerve fibres, but that the stimulus has to last around 0.5 seconds before the person is aware of it. The brain is then capable of timing the stimulus to the time of the primary evoked potential.

      You're talking gibberish when you suggest that awareness extends into the peripheral nervous system. It doesn't. There's still a refractory period necessary for nerve actions resulting from the stimulus to reach the brain. Which doesn't mean that the person can't respond to a stimulus before being aware of it. As in the various reflexes, including spinal ones such as the patellar reflex.

      Which is what the brain is very good at doing. Creating the illusion of a seamless model of the outside world, delaying some sensations (such as occurs when you observe a person clapping at a distance up to about 30 metres - sight and sound appear to coincide although sound should follow up to 0.1 seconds after sight) and advancing others.

      A split brain person does have two minds. It's just that the two halves of the brain, by necessity, are experiencing the same stimuli from the outside world, most of the time. Each half has an intact 'theory of mind', which is learned (young children don't have it). A split brain person is in exactly the same position as two separate people observing the same event. Each half of the brain or each person sees the same event the other sees, observes the action of the latter and imputes the same motives to the latter's actions that the former would adopt.

      I'll be interested with which explanation you come up with.

      Delete
    45. Egnor: Temperature is a concept, which does not exist without minds. Emergent properties like temperature, wetness, etc are observer-dependent. WIthout an observer, atoms and plasma and the like were doing what atoms and plasma do since the Big Bang, but without minds there were no emergent properties associated with them.

      This is incoherent postmodern gibberish. Everything you write about is a concept. You say that without an observer water was just atoms, but if one seriously takes your lining of reasoning than he should realize that atoms are also a concept. Without an observer, they are just a bunch of protons and neutrons and electrons orbiting them. Oh, wait, protons are also a bunch of quarks and gluons... And an orbit is a concept, so all electrons are doing is motion... Which is a concept itself.

      FAIL

      Hoo

      Delete
    46. Michael,

      'Water isn't wet unless there's someone to feel the wetness'. Now you're being silly. Wetness is a physical property of water molecules with their weak hydrogen bonds, which are capable of being broken easily and forming new bonds with other molecules. Such as those in water absorbent sponges. Or the human skin and its nerve receptors. Liquid water 'wets' regardless of whether there's a mind to observe it or not. A wet pavement after a shower of rain doesn't become wet only when someone comes along to observe it.

      Liquid mercury and liquid helium II aren't wet, because the molecules have different physical properties.

      Delete
    47. [Everything you write about is a concept. You say that without an observer water was just atoms, but if one seriously takes your lining of reasoning than he should realize that atoms are also a concept.'

      You are invoking formal cause (intelligibility) and final cause (teleology) in nature, which Thomist philosophers today call 'physical intentionality'. This is the core for Aquinas' Fifth Way that demonstrates God's existence.

      If everything is a concept, a Mind is presupposed.

      Delete
    48. bach:

      In your comment on Novella's blog, you refer to "process dualism" and "structural dualism".

      I think you mean property dualism and substance dualism. At least learn the terms of the debate.

      And I am neither a property nor substance dualist. I'm a Thomistic dualist, as I've noted innumerable times.

      Delete
    49. Michael,

      I agree I'm confused by this terminology. I'm a 'lumper'. There's materialism or there's dualism. I'm a materialist. I've read the Wikipedia article on dualism, and I regard property dualism to be materialism. The description of Thomistic dualism I regard as just gobbledygook, so I just lump it in with dualism.

      Have you given any more thought to split brain/split mind?

      I don't think that you can use Aristotle or Thomistic dualism to argue that there must be a Mind. All this talk about Causes I regard as just nonsense.

      Delete
    50. There is monism and dualism. Monism has three flavors-- materialism, idealism, and neutral monism. Look 'em up.

      Materialism (materialist monism, to be rigorous) has several flavors-- eliminative materialism, type-identity theory, token-identity theory, philosophical behaviorism.

      Dualism has several flavors. Substance dualism, property dualism, Thomistic Dualism, Predicate dualism, Parallelism, Occassionalism, and Epiphenominalism. Epiphenominalism is usually considered a form of property dualism.

      Functionalism is generally considered indeterminate between materialism and dualism, although I (and many others) consider it dualist.

      You may think that Four Causes is nonsense, as well as Thomistic dualism, but that reflects on you, not on them.

      Delete
    51. Michael,

      OK, I gather you're 'a splitter'. I'm definitely 'a lumper'. I regard there to be just materialism and everything else. You're in the everything else camp. In the same way that there's a non-teleological camp and a teleological camp in evolution, which again includes everything else..

      The Causes and Thomistic dualism are just words used to describe something that either doesn't exist or isn't useful. So I don't bother with them.

      Delete
    52. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    53. Michael,

      I see now where my confusion arose. Ages ago in this thread you wrote of the materialism/dualism dichotomy (so at that time you were a 'lumper'). I took the materialist position that the mind is a product of the mind. You changed 'product' to 'property' (they're not the same thing!), and called my position 'property dualism', and setting yourself off on your ever more finely delineated splitting.

      Please go back to your original lumping. The split brain/split mind is perfectly consistent with the materialist view of the brain. How is it consistent (or better explained, if you like) by whatever dualist flavour you prefer?

      Delete
    54. In split brain, there is no split mind. There remains one mind, one person.

      There are perceptual oddities, mostly unconscious. Fascinating, but just perceptual oddities all the same. In everyday life, and to all ordinary observers, split-brain people are normal, and even to the patients themselves, split-brain patients are normal..

      The remarkable thing is that despite severing the massive tracts that connect the hemispheres, the mind remains unitary and singular.

      Delete
    55. Michael,

      So why does the 'left' brain have its bizarre interpretation of why the 'right' brain picked the photo of a snow shovel. The left brain has a 'theory of mind' regarding how the right brain regards the world that can be manipulated to be wrong. In the same way that two people with two minds can be manipulated so that one can give a wrong interpretation of the other's rationale.

      You've explained nothing. The materialist position is that in the split brain individual, there's a right mind and a left mind, which most of the time are extremely similar, because the right and left brains are experiencing the same stimuli.

      The left mind has a theory of mind about the right mind that's accurate because they're both a product of split brains which are seeing the same things.

      All you've done is to ignore the argument as not existing. Why does the left brain think that the right brain picked the shovel to shovel chicken poop from the henhouse if the mind of the person is indivisible?

      Delete
    56. You miss the forest for the trees. The mind is not split, despite the massive split of the hemispheres. There are perceptual quirks, as noted, but they are surprisingly subtle and only detectable on very difficult specialized testing. Patients never notice it in normal life. Remember that the testing is so subtle and difficult that Sperry won a Nobel Prize for doing it.

      You chop the material brain in half, and the mind remains unitary, with only subtle evidence for perceptual quirks. How does that support materialism, again?

      Delete
    57. Michael,

      To put it another way, if there's only one indivisible mind, then it knows that the person has seen a photo of a snow covered driveway. And a photo of a chicken. And knows that the person picked the photo of the snow shovel because you need the shovel to clear the driveway.

      That's not a perceptual quirk. That's a major difference in interpretation.

      It goes along with my view that the mind is a product of the brain and is a model of the outside world and the person's place in it. In the split brain person, the left brain has a model, and the right brain has a model, and usually the models are identical, because both are sensing the world identically. But they're not the same models.

      You haven't explained why a unitary mind would interpret the world differently. At the same time. With perceptual quirks, such as the famous young girl/old crone picture, the mind flips from one to the other and back several times before settling on one, a different thing.

      Why don't you use this as a thread to see what others think?

      The split brain/split mind 'supports' materialism, because its consistent with materialism. The mind is a product of the brain, which is capable of being split. The mind isn't a non-material something, which isn't incapable of being split. It's consistent with materialism, but not consistent with dualism, in my opinion, and you need to explain why it is.

      You claimed that whatever evidence I came up with in support of materialism, you would be able to make a stronger argument that it actually supports dualism.

      And all you've done is to ignore the evidence.

      Delete
    58. And there are behavioral changes too. Such as the person who reaches for a cigarette, and the other hand stops him. Or the person who takes a dress out of a wardrobe with the other arm putting it back. In both cases the person professing ignorance as to why the person has performed contradictory negating actions.

      Whenever in future you bring up duality, I'll take great pleasure in pointing out that you don't have an answer to the split brain scenario. Refuse to recognize it. Although you insist that dualism is a much better explanation of the world than materialism.

      Delete
    59. Who is the "person"? The one who reaches, or the one who stops? Are they both persons? Is neither a person?

      And you err in thinking that split brain research is necessary to show this effect. It is seen in all of us, all the time. The vast majority of our volitional acts are unconscious-- the set of our hip as we turn, the contraction of our left triceps when we grab a cup. We are unaware of the vast majority of the specific volitional acts that we do.

      In pathological situations, there are many examples beside split brain. Blind sight and phantom hand are other examples.

      Yet without exception these persons experience life unified. They do not become two or more persons in any meaningful sense in real life.

      The questions raised by this are profound. Thomas Nagel wrote a seminal paper on this a while ago-- acknowledged to be the best paper on the topic.

      [http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/278/art%253A10.1007%252FBF00413435.pdf?auth66=1355265066_b6953486d3430b3ef56ebba1759a2f06&ext=.pdf]

      He concluded that there is no coherent way of understanding this-- materialist or dualist-- in our current way of thinking.

      Nagel also thinks materialism is crap, and likes ID, although he's an atheist.

      [http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/Science/?ci=9780199919758&view=usa]

      Delete
    60. Michael,

      Yes, but it all agrees perfectly with the materialist position that the mind is a product of the brain, of all the unconscious and often contradictory processes that are occurring there. It absolutely ruins your view that the mind is non-material, indivisible, and that there's free will. Libet's free won't, certainly, but not free will. Decisions are generally made unconsciously by the brain and presented to the mind after the motor neuron activation necessary for the action has been initiated.

      Again, if the mind is unitary, the person with a split brain would be aware that he's seen a photo of a snow covered driveway and a chicken, and would know he picked the photo of a snow shovel to clear the snow covered driveway, not to shovel chicken poop from an unseen henhouse.

      And actually my materialist take on the mind, that its a model of the world and the person's place in it, fits in well with blind sight and phantom limb. There's still cortical representation of vision and somatic sensation within the brain, and these areas are still constructing the parts of the model, the mind, which are lacking any sensory input.

      But again, you're missing another point again. You claimed that if anyone came up with any evidence for the materialist position, you'd come up with an argument that allows it to support the dualist position better.

      All you're doing is just denying it. Now that's what I call stupid and dishonest. Pathological liar is a good description of you.

      Delete
    61. That's such a nice way to put it.

      I've noticed that when you folks have your back to the wall, you get personal.

      Split brain research, and all of the pathological and normal unconscious aspects of the mind, are perhaps the most interesting and challenging philosophical challenges today.

      Your view that s-b phenomena support the materialist position is difficult to understand. There are 4 core materialist theories-- philosophical behaviorism, eliminativism, type identity theory, and token identity theory. In each of these theories, the mind is the brain, or there is no mind, only the brain.

      Corpus callosotomy splits essentially all of the connections between the intellective halves of the brain. From a materialist viewpoint, intellect is utterly split into two units that are no longer in substantive communication.

      Yet the person functions normally, in all ordinary life. Only very subtle specialized experiments reveal any split at all, and that split is only a more developed version of the splits between unconscious process that exist normally.

      If the mind is material, and the material is split in two, the mind should split in two. It does not, for all ordinary intents and purposes.

      The simplest explanation is that there is a self that transcends the material brain, and integrates it in normal life despite the complete disconnection of the regions that subserve intellection.

      Dualism 1, materialism 0.

      Delete
    62. Actually it's dualism 1,000,001, materialism 0.

      Just another nail in the materialist coffin.

      Delete
    63. Michael,

      No. You've just taken one materialist position - the brain is the mind- and ignored others. Such as the mind is a product of the brain.

      In an unsplit brain, there's a single mind. In the split brain, there's two minds. The right brain produces a mind. The left brain produces a mind. In most cases, the two minds are almost identical, because the two halves of the brain are experiencing the world identically, so the two halves don't disagree.

      The mind isn't material. It's a product of the brain that produces it. Splitting the brain isn't splitting a physical mind. It's physically splitting a material brain that then produces a separate mind each, both of which generally, but not always, agree.

      Your 'simplest' explanation isn't simple. What is the 'self' that transcends the material brain? How does it do it? Why isn't it aware that the person has seen a photo of a snow covered drive and a chicken and picked the photo of the snow shovel to clear the snow from the driveway and not to shovel chicken pop from a henhouse?

      And anyway, if I'm getting personal, calling you a pathological liar, it's not because my back is to the wall. It's because your arguments are just so lame. And anyway, personal abuse is also one of your foibles, with you calling people you don't like bastards (and worse!)

      Delete
    64. @bach:

      "The mind isn't material. It's a product of the brain that produces it."

      Materialism posits that the mind is material. M-a-t-e-r-i-a-l-i-s-m. That's what it means-- the mind is material. Material. Materialism.

      The theory that the mind is a non-material product of the brain that produces it is a DUALIST theory. Non-material mind. Material brain. Dualist.

      If the non-material mind is a substance in itself, that's substance dualism. If the non-material mind is a property of the brain, that's property dualism. If the non-material mind is related to the brain as form to matter, that's Thomistic dualism. If the non-material brain is a property of the brain without causitive power, that's Epiphenominalism. If the non-material mind is the functional relation of the brain-- what the brain does, that's functionalism, here a form of dualism.

      You argue for materialism using explicitly dualist arguments. Teaching you guys about the mind-brain problem is like trying to teach it to a monkey.

      Delete
    65. Michael,

      No. Materialism states that the brain is material, not that the mind is material. I don't care what you think, or whether you have elaborate albeit incomplete subclassifications of dualism and materialism.

      The mind is a product of the brain caused by the electrochemical activity of the brain, similar to the way that vision is a product of the electrochemical activity of the visual cortex.

      Destroy the brain or destroy the visual cortex and you destroy the mind or vision.

      The mind is material to the extent that it needs a functioning brain. It doesn't persist without a physical brain.

      And anyway, even if my position is closest to property dualism, I still regard it as materialism. The mind only exists when the brain is intact. No brain, no material - no mind. Which is an enormous distance from your concept of Mind. Absolutely incompatible. Physically divide the brain, divide the mind, because each half produces each mind.

      Delete
    66. bach:

      [No. Materialism states that the brain is material, not that the mind is material.]

      EVERYONE agrees that the brain is material. Only Idealists would deny that.

      The question is whether the mind is material. Materialists say yes. Dualists say no.

      Welcome to the dualist camp.

      Issues of whether the mind can exist independently of the brain etc. are issues within dualism. Substance dualists say yes. Property dualists say no. Thomistic dualists say only a part of the mind can subsist without the brain.

      Bach, your dualist membership card is in the mail.

      Delete
    67. bach:

      You and Hoo and Novella illustrate points I've been making for years.

      1) Dualism is the only sane theory of mind
      2) People who say they are materialists rarely are. They are just too clueless to understand the actual issues
      3) Atheists disdain dualism because they associate it with religion. They don't care whether it's true. They just hate religion, and will say any self-contradictory gibberish they can think of to fight it.

      Novella has been arguing for materialism using dualist positions for years ("The mind is what the brain does", etc). He's too stupid to understand his own arguments, let along those of others.

      Delete
    68. Michael,

      I don't care for philosophers' classifications. There's materialism, which regards the mind as a product of the brain, and which doesn't exist independent of the brain. And there's dualism, which regards the mind as existing independent of the brain.

      I'm a materialist. The mind exists only when there's intact electrochemical functioning of the brain.

      You're a dualist. You think that at least part of the mind can exist independent of the brain.

      Our positions are so far apart, that they can't be considered just flavors of dualism. No brain, no mind.

      Delete
    69. And anyway, even if my materialism is the same as property dualism, I can make exactly the same arguments that I've already made, including the split brain, to support my position of no brain, no mind - and against structure dualism and your Thomistic dualism.

      For which you don't have the slightest scrap of evidence, besides wishing it were so.

      Delete
    70. bach:

      Knowing what the words mean is an entry ticket into the debate. If you don't know what "necrosis" or "inflammation" mean, you don't have standing to debate pathology. If you don't know what "Sylvian fissure" or "burr hole" mean, you don't have standing to debate neurosurgery.

      Most atheist scientists/physicians who debate the mind-brain problem are abjectly ignorant of the real issues involved. They don't even know what the words mean.

      You don't know shit about the mind-brain problem. You don't even know what the words mean. I've been dealing with you ignorant f*cks for years. You mock and deride people who take the issue seriously and who have taken the time and effort to try and understand it.

      You all need to be publicly humiliated. I'm doing my part.

      Delete
    71. Michael,

      Right, you ignorant fuck (I'm returning the favor). I'm a materialist. The mind is a product of the material brain. It's caused by material (physical) processes occurring in neurons and astroglial cells within certain unclear regions of the brain. Qualitative variations in cell membrane depolarization and synaptic activity. Material processes.

      You still haven't explained why, if the mind remains single undivided, the person doesn't know he's seen an image of a chicken and a snow covered driveway, and picked the photo of the snow shovel to clear the driveway, not to shovel chicken poop from a henhouse.

      Anyway, you're ignorant regarding neurophysiology. You still haven't justified your claim that a person is aware of a cutaneous touch before the action potentials reach the brain. That's an impossibility, similar to claiming that neutrinos are capable of traveling faster than light.

      I quoted the section in Libet's book (page 72 on) which indicates you're wrong. The brain backdates touch sensations to the time of the primary evoked potential (which is at the nerve the stimulus has reached the brain, but unconscious). But the stimulus has to last about half a second, before it becomes conscious which the brain backdates. The action potentials had already arrived.

      You need to be publicly humiliated. I'm doing my part.

      Delete
  6. Michael,

    I've just realized where you made your mistake in reporting Libet's work when you wrote; 'He was quite disturbed by his finding that perception of touch precedes arrival of the action potential into the brain. He explained it by asserting that the brain "backdated" the sensation. It was a weak explanation, and he knew it'.

    No, you're wrong, as usual. You've confused 'evoked potential' with 'action potential'. Page 72 on in Libet's book explains it 'Antedating of Delayed Sensory Experience'. After skin stimulation, there's a primary evoked response, which the subject is unaware, occurring with only the delay due to nerve conduction, and the subject only becomes aware of stimulation when it persists for 0.5 seconds. And the brain is capable of antedating the awareness back to the time of the primary evoked potential.

    It's actually exactly as I wrote. The brain constructs a model of the outside world. It's a fairly accurate model, but it's also delayed by between 0.1 to 0.5 seconds. It's an illusion that we are living in the world in real time. We aren't, although its a very convincing illusion.

    You continue to be typically clueless. Just because terms happen to include common words, it doesn't mean that they mean the same thing.

    National Socialism isn't the same as socialism.

    Process dualism isn't the same as substance dualism.

    Evoked potential isn't the same as action potential. You did study physiology, sometime, to become a neurosurgeon, didn't you?

    Idiot.

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  7. Bachfiend - why do you continue to feed the troll? It looks like you're single-handedly keeping Egnor's comments alive. Why do you do it?

    Now he's launched another one at the measured and rational Dr. Steve Novella in the desperate hope that Steve will take notice and give Egnor that thing he desires most - recognition. Any publicity is good publicity for Michael. If Steve responds, I picture Michael running out his house yelling in delight "I'm somebody now!!" like Steve Martin did in "The Jerk" when his name appeared in the new phone book.

    So why, Bach, do you spend so much time giving Egnor what he wants and feeding the need-to-be-noticed flame that keeps him posting his anti-intellectual extremism?

    ReplyDelete