May 08 2014

After the Afterlife Debate

The debate hosted by Intelligence Squared on the proposition – Death is not Final, was a lot of fun. Of course, I am pleased with the outcome, as I think my partner, Sean Carroll, and I performed well, and in the end we won the final audience vote.

Off stage I found Raymond Moody to be a very nice guy. He is a philosopher of logic, and in general seems to understand a great deal about skepticism. He rejects the pseudoscience of ESP and other paranormal claims. Yet – he seems to have a soft spot for claims of the afterlife. Not surprising since he wrote the book on NDEs in the 1970s.

Eben Alexander was also very friendly, as I expected given his interviews and everything I have read about him.

Although interesting, debates are terrible venues for carefully dissecting the evidence. There is no time to look up references and check claims. Two times Eben Alexander and I came to an “impasse” and had to simply move on.

One such impasse (the one that seemed to generate the most internet discussion) was when Alexander cited Carl Sagan as believing in reincarnation. He seemed unaware of the stature Sagan has in the skeptical community. Afterward, back stage, he asked me if I had ever read Demon Haunted World. I chuckled.

Alexander specifically referenced Demon Haunted World page 302. The relevant section has already been posted by many others, including in the comments here, but here it is:

“Perhaps one percent of the time, someone who has an idea that smells, feels, and looks indistinguishable from the usual run of pseudoscience will turn out to be right. Maybe some undiscovered reptile left over from the Cretaceous period will indeed be found in Loch Ness or the Congo Republic; or we will find artifacts of an advanced, non-human species elsewhere in the Solar System. At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study:
(1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect random number generators in computers;
(2) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation;
(3) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images “projected” at them.
I pick these claims not because I think they’re likely to be valid (I don’t), but as examples of contentions that might be true. The last three have at least some, although still dubious, experimental support. Of course, I could be wrong.”

To put this in context, Sagan is arguing that we have to be open to even unlikely possibilities, and sometimes it is not unreasonable to gamble on low-probability ideas. I tend to agree, within the limits of practicality and resources. But if someone wants to spend their time researching very unlikely ideas, more power to them. Just expect to be held to a very high standard of scientific rigor.

In the full quote Sagan clearly states that he does not think these propositions are likely to be valid, and the evidence so far for them is “dubious.” But – further researcher might be interesting. That’s pretty thin gruel on which Alexander is hanging his hat.

Further, Demon Haunted World was first published in 1995. In the almost 20 years since, the case for reincarnation is weaker, if anything. Sagan is referring primarily to the work of Ian Stevenson, who collected hundreds of cases of children reporting memories of past lives.

Stevenson’s methods have been soundly criticized. (Here’s a good summary.) He has no method for falsifying any account, which were either solved or unsolved, but never falsified. He often used translators, and failed to adequately control for the cultural beliefs of the children and all possible sources of contamination.

In a review of the book A Cogent Consideration of the Case for Karma (and Reincarnation), Barry Beyerstein wrote:

As Leonard Angel showed in these pages some time ago (SI, Fall 1994), careful reading of the acknowledged “best cases” for reincarnation, e.g., several from the parapsychologist Ian Stevenson, reveals significant internal inconsistencies in the accounts that throw them into doubt, even before the evidence itself is examined. Edwards notes similar problems in the evidential base and has taken the trouble to trace many other “best” cases back as close to their sources as possible. Along the way, we are treated to some hilarious examples of gullibility among those seized by the will to believe.

The case for reincarnation remains dubious.

Alexander, however, finds this evidence compelling and overwhelming, as he does for ESP and a host of other paranormal claims – anything that suggests a mind separate from the brain. Clearly his threshold for compelling and overwhelming are different from mine.

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685 responses so far

685 Responses to “After the Afterlife Debate”

  1. DavidCTon 08 May 2014 at 10:06 am

    This topic shows just how easy it is for intelligent people to fool themselves. Once fooled it seems that smart people are excellent at defending their position and avoiding the need to change their minds. The most hopeful result was that outsiders watching the debate could change their minds based on the evidence presented.

  2. Skepticoon 08 May 2014 at 11:23 am

    Since Sagan write those words those ideas have been tested in some detail to the point that I think we can dismiss them with some confidence.

    Random number generators – they only achieved success by looking for events that influenced the RNGs after they had already noticed an effect. It’s just your basic sharpshooter fallacy. Read an evening with Dean Radin. Radin just ignores RNG spikes that are not correlated with world events.

    You already dealt with the reincarnation claim. Stevenson’s “hits” were either impossible to confirm (eg unknown who the earlier “life” was supposed to be so don’t now if it is true or not) or Stevenson only net the child long after the events had been matched, so no idea what the child knew just by himself.

    The third item is the Ganzfeld experiments. Minuscule effects that get smaller when better controls are introduced. Decades of research and all they can point to is tiny statistical differences?

    This is what they are still pointing to as evidence?

  3. hardnoseon 08 May 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Is there a transcript anywhere?

    I don’t know if we should be convinced by the audience vote, since the debate may have attracted a certain type of audience.

    NDEs are extremely common, and I don’t think they should be casually dismissed as hallucinations. It’s too easy to call everything you don’t like to believe an illusion or hallucination.

    In any case, we can’t criticize anything about the debate if we don’t have a transcript or video.

    As I said before, I am a scientist and a naturalist. But I am also a skeptic, and I don’t ignore evidence just because it doesn’t fit into my ideology.

  4. BuckarooSamuraion 08 May 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve been trolling livescience and intelligence squared for responses to the debate and while most have been fairly boring ad hominems, and listen to my anecdote, a person put this study forth from The Lancet: http://profezie3m.altervista.org/archivio/TheLancet_NDE.htm

    What do you think, the authors seem to believe that their evidence suggest that NDEs aren’t completely in the mind.

    I’m skeptical of this assertion but my eyes glaze over when trying to read a lot of it.

    -Justin Couron

  5. Lukas1986on 08 May 2014 at 1:57 pm

    @BuckarooSamurai:

    The researcher who is behind the paper is Pim vam Lommel a known believer in dualism who was even on skeptiko:

    http://www.skeptiko.com/pim-van-lommel-transformed-by-near-death-experience-research/

    His research was discussed and criticized many times here are just few links of skeptics about this:

    “In another Dutch bestseller titled We zijn ons brein (We are our brain), neurobiologist Dick Swaab praises Van Lommel’s research for mapping patients experiences and opening up the subject of Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) to the medical world. But he also indicates that Van Lommel’s book ignores (Nobel Prize winning) scientific knowledge including some conclusions from his own research. He does not refute neurobiological explanations, gives no scientific basis for his statements and borrows concepts from quantum physics without ground.”

    Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pim_van_Lommel

    More links:

    http://neardth.com/setting-the-record-straight.php

    Or here:

    “In conclusion, I think the paper as a whole is reasonably good. The only conclusion that I think is somewhat overstated they don’t focus that much on. The controlled aspects of the study produce some good insight into several factors involving NDEs and the non-controlled parts raise interesting questions for further research.

    I think a bigger issue for this paper is how some people have interpreted it: ie: concluding for example that this paper demonstrates strongly that NDEs aren’t physical. I don’t think it does. It’s a controlled study, but not on the elements that are most hotly debated here – that of whether NDEs are brain based or not.”

    Taken from: http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/the-van-lommel-lancet-nde-paper.110/

    There are more but I am lazy to look for more..

  6. wernerdanon 08 May 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Clearly the skeptics won this debate. Dr. Moody and Dr. Alexander were not strong debaters, though seemed very pleasant and respectful – as were their opponents. Chris Carter and Dr. Stuart Hameroff, both fiery “believers” would have put up a fiercer fight in my opinion. Hameroff is a physicist and could counter Dr. Carroll’s points far more strongly.

    The debate itself focused on the near death experience, though apparent past life memories reported by children and mediumship communication were briefly mentioned by Alexander, including Gary Schwartz’s Afterlife Experiments. Dr. Julie Beischel has continued studies with alleged mediums at the Windbridge Institute, tightening protocols and improving the experimental design. It is quite the extraordinary claim, but not something I think is fair to dismiss a priori, which some self identified skeptics are apt to do. Surely I am not convinced that these mediums are communicating with the deceased, but I do consider this to be a possibility and worthy of further investigation.

    “But if someone wants to spend their time researching very unlikely ideas, more power to them.”

    Dr. Jim Tucker, successor to Dr. Ian Stevenson, continues on researching cases of the reincarnation type at the University of Virginia, focusing not on foreign cases but reports from American children. Below I pasted an article from Jesse Bering, skeptic and atheist.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/2013/11/02/ian-stevensons-case-for-the-afterlife-are-we-skeptics-really-just-cynics/

    Overall, I notice that both sides can overestimate their cases. As I mentioned on the debate page, Dr. Stephen Braude may have said it best when he remarked that the believers overestimate the evidence and skeptics underestimate it when it comes to the subject of the afterlife.

  7. Enzoon 08 May 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I was in the audience and was desperately trying to ask a Dr. Alexander if he believed these metaphysical experiences of the afterlife were somehow causing physical effects in the brain — i.e. we have some kind of “soul receptor” analogous to photoreceptors for light. Surely a physical event must be occurring on some level in order to instill memories. And that makes it a quite scientific issue. Dr. Carroll brought this concept up in his introductory remarks but the other side never addressed it.

    I find it impossible to deny Drs. Carroll and Novella trounced the other side. Drs. Alexander and Moody came prepared with literally nothing but “I have this experience of mine and it just can’t be imaginary” and “there are all these people with stories and I trust their judgement, I feel there could be something more.” Dr. Alexander even mentioned quantum mechanics — I’m pretty sure I psychically sensed Steve’s groan.

    The highlight of the night was Steve’s shocked outburst when Alexander dropped the bomb that Carl Sagan sided with him.

    @hardnose

    Intelligence Squared US puts out podcasts for each of their debates.

    NDEs are extremely common, and I don’t think they should be casually dismissed as hallucinations. It’s too easy to call everything you don’t like to believe an illusion or hallucination.

    Who is being casual? There is absolutely no reason we are forced to accept NDEs as something paranormal. All the experiences and hallucinations reported for NDEs are within our ability to replicate or otherwise explain with our physical/biological understanding of the brain. The problem is when the brain/mind does something, you have no way of knowing if it was a real experience or a hallucination.

    Besides, in this debate you’ve got one guy claiming PROOF OF HEAVEN. I think all we are trying to say is there is no such compelling proof (or evidence for that matter).

  8. Steven Novellaon 08 May 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Justin – I have read that paper before. It is just descriptive – they are not controlling for anything. They seem to be saying that because everyone does not have an NDE during cardiac arrest, it can’t be physical. This is profoundly naive. Effects of decreased O2, increase CO2, and drugs can have different effects on different parts of the brain, with different thresholds. Just to give one example, at some level of anoxia memory making will turn off. Above this threshold, you have memories of a OOB experience, below, you have no memories. That alone can explain why such memories of NDE are intermittent.

    It makes less sense, if NDEs are spiritual, that they would not just happen every time.

  9. steve12on 08 May 2014 at 3:22 pm

    “NDEs are extremely common, and I don’t think they should be casually dismissed as hallucinations. It’s too easy to call everything you don’t like to believe an illusion or hallucination.

    In any case, we can’t criticize anything about the debate if we don’t have a transcript or video.

    As I said before, I am a scientist and a naturalist. But I am also a skeptic, and I don’t ignore evidence just because it doesn’t fit into my ideology.”

    How is anyone ignoring anything? No one’s pretending that the experience isn’t real. Giving prosaic interpretations (hallucinations) for phenomena that jibe with well known scientific mechanisms (oxygen starved brain) is not ignoring!

    Giving fanciful interpretations that have no known mechanisms despite the prosaic alternatives is not science, I can tell you that much.

  10. Paulzon 08 May 2014 at 3:23 pm

    “He seemed unaware of the stature Sagan has in the skeptical community. Afterward, back stage, he asked me if I had ever read Demon Haunted World. I chuckled.”

    I’m surprised he had to ask you that. You stated quite clearly during the debate that you’d read it many times.

  11. RBHon 08 May 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Skeptico wrote “Random number generators – they only achieved success by looking for events that influenced the RNGs after they had already noticed an effect. It’s just your basic sharpshooter fallacy. Read an evening with Dean Radin. Radin just ignores RNG spikes that are not correlated with world events.”

    Radin’s been doing that for decades. In 1987, for my sins, I published a critique of a paper of his in which he violated just about every rule of experimental design and analysis.

  12. Ekkoon 08 May 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I found this whole debate and topic really amusing. The pro side basically amounted to “I had these experiences that I can’t wholly explain, therefore Heaven is real”. Of course the whole experience of an NDE and surviving whatever experience prompted it is so emotionally charged, I can see how some people let their imaginations run away from them – the need to believe in an afterlife and the fear or denial of mortality and loss of self/ego is obviously very compelling for some, against all rational better judgement. If death is anything, it’s a release of all attachments and memories and everything we’ve accumulated as our selves in life. I see value in living each day and not taking life for granted (one day I will not be here to appreciate it) rather than assuming my self will go on in some afterlife where I will meet departed relatives, etc. The whole fantasy of Heaven this way seems so ridiculously self-serving and self-deceiving. I once had a Mormon who was proselytizing say to me about Heaven and the afterlife “but wouldn’t it be nice!” This basically summed up for me the whole fanciful, self-created, wish-fulfilling aspect of it.

  13. Sheridan44on 08 May 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Okay, say there is life after death. My question #1 is – Wouldn’t it be boring to live forever? Think of all the things you enjoy while you are alive. Then imagine an afterlife: no sex, no eating/drinking, no hiking, no sports, no TV, no internet, no work, no books, no music, no games, no babies being born, no birthdays, no weddings, no celebrations of any kind to mark important events as we did when we were living. Boring??? I certainly think so.

    Question #2 – So – What does one DO after being in heaven for a thousand or a million years?

  14. the devils gummy bearon 08 May 2014 at 5:36 pm

    “Demonstrably not true. I mean, everything you said is the exact opposite of the truth.”

    – Steve FTW

    Okay, the video of the debate is now up, as is the transcript (PDF link below). I have some additional comments after rewatching the video which I’ll come back to later today or tomorrow, but for now, I just want to copy and paste the portion of the transcript where Dr. Alexander cited Carl Sagan (page 46 of the PDF)

    Eben Alexander:
    I would say it’s more a question of the information, you know, than the energy. It’s not
    a conservation issue around energy.People often use that one to argue against a soul being able to influence the material world. I would say it’s much more a question of the information, and especially when you — as I said, when you — for example, a very renowned skeptic and scientist, Carl
    Sagan admitted that past life memories in children, the evidence for that is
    overwhelming.

    Steven Novella:
    That’s not true. Come on, Carl Sagan, please.

    Eben Alexander:
    He said that in his book, in his book, “The Demon Haunted World,” on page 302, he says
    exactly that.

    http://intelligencesquaredus.org/images/debates/past/transcripts/050714%20Death%20Not%20Final.pdf

  15. hardnoseon 08 May 2014 at 8:13 pm

    “if the arrow of causation’s going from brain to mind, then if we change the brain, that should change the mind. And if we damage the brain, that should damage the mind.”

    Causation goes the other way also — what happens in the mind has and effect on the brain and body.

    It is true that damaging the brain damages the person — how could it not? But is it the mind that is damaged, or the mind’s ability to interact with the physical world?

    “there is no practical or functional limit that neuroscientists have encountered so far to the degree which we can mess with your mind by messing with your brain.”

    Of course that is true, but it does not answer the question. All our sensory information about the physical world gets to us through the brain. Of course the sensory data influences our mental states — how could it not, and why would it not?

    The evidence shows that the mind depends on the brain for its information about the physical world. We know that, and no one would deny it, and it is not relevant to this topic.

    Novella’s mistake has been made by all the scientific materialists. Because we need a brain to interact with the physical world, they conclude that the mind is nothing more than a brain. They are confusing necessary conditions with sufficient conditions.

    I do not think that mind is anything unnatural or supernatural. I just think we don’t yet know what it is. In my opinion, the brain is part of the mind, but not all.

    It does not contradict any law of physics to say that the mind is more inclusive than the brain. It is incredibly narrow-minded to think that all the laws of physics have been discovered and are well understood by science.

  16. tmac57on 08 May 2014 at 8:51 pm

    I came across this article in Esquire magazine about Dr. Alexander that didn’t go exactly as he would have liked:
    http://www.esquire.com/features/the-prophet

    It doesn’t provide any sort of ‘smoking gun’ as to whether or not he is a reliable witness to his own experience,but it does raise some questions in my mind about whether he took liberties with the facts,and possibly introduced some hyperbole into the narrative for his ordeal in order to make it more compelling.
    For instance,one of the doctors involved in his treatment stated that she put him in a medically induced coma,rather than his implication that meningitis directly caused the coma. Maybe a small detail,but why then would he change the facts if not to make the story fit his narrative a bit better.
    And if he changed that detail,what other things were changed,either consciously or unconsciously to make it a better fit for the idea that the book was supporting?
    In any case,it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day for people who understand that these kind of experiences,no matter how faithfully they are recounted,do not provide any real evidence for an afterlife.They are no more trustworthy than any other sort of eyewitness testimony (and probably worse,under the circumstances),but they have that magical element of the slim possibility that we may yet escape our certain mortality,and people have been pinning their hopes on much less for centuries.

  17. tmac57on 08 May 2014 at 9:06 pm

    It does not contradict any law of physics to say that the mind is more inclusive than the brain. It is incredibly narrow-minded to think that all the laws of physics have been discovered and are well understood by science*.

    Why introduce new unknown variables to a problem that is not completely understood yet with the variables that we do know?
    Find some concrete evidence that we have exhausted all currently known pieces of the puzzle before hypothesizing new ones from out of whole cloth. Either that or provide evidence for some new physics.The Nobel awaits!

    *BTW,your second sentence was clearly a straw man.No one thinks that.

  18. grabulaon 08 May 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Hardnose is making a name for himself around her.

    @hardnose

    You keep claiming to be a scientist. I’m interested in your credentials as such since they continue to come up in every thread you post in.

    You also continue to try to introduce evidence that doesn’t exist and you argue from a credulous position so often it’s becoming ridiculous. We’ve establish that if you change the brain, you change the person. How would you defend against that if the mind is something more? What’s your evidence for something more other than like the pro guys in this debate, anecdotal evidence. Surely is you’re a scientist as you constantly claim you understand what place anecdotal evidence has in science?

  19. Mlemaon 08 May 2014 at 11:51 pm

    I was able to listen to the initial comments and the first 15 minutes of the debate. I found it enjoyable and compelling. Dr. Novella is a great debater and I think his side gave a better argument, such as it was. However, I must contend that the question of an afterlife is the same as the question of God. There’s just no way to know if something exists that’s not a part of our own existence. The rational and logical response is: agnosticism.

  20. the devils gummy bearon 08 May 2014 at 11:57 pm

    Yeah @tmac57, Dittrich’s exposé in Esquire is an eye opener. Jeff Bercovici did a follow up to it over at Forbes, and it is damning, to put it mildly;

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/07/02/esquire-unearths-proof-of-heaven-authors-credibility-problems/

    The most critical, and most relevant criticism of Alexander’s claims, I think, is by Sam Harris himself;

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

    A must read :)

    And, by way of introduction; I’m a loooooonnnnnnng time lurker, but an even longer time(r???) listener to SGU, been listening since ohhhhh, round about ought-five. Back in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ‘em. Give me five bees for a quarter, we’d say. Anyway, the details of my life are inconsequential. Hey guys.

  21. BillyJoe7on 09 May 2014 at 12:47 am

    Mlema,

    ” However, I must contend that the question of an afterlife is the same as the question of God. There’s just no way to know if something exists that’s not a part of our own existence. The rational and logical response is: agnosticism.”

    Depends on how you define “agnosticism”.
    If, by your definition, you’re also agnostic about faeries, then I think your definition is not a useful one.

  22. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 12:52 am

    BillyJoe – I use the standard definition. How do you define faeries?

  23. Rogue Medicon 09 May 2014 at 12:52 am

    Dr. Novella wrote – “They seem to be saying that because everyone does not have an NDE during cardiac arrest, it can’t be physical.”

    Everyone’s heart does not go into the ECG (ElectroCardioGram) rhythm of VF (Ventricular Fibrillation) when they die, therefore it can’t be physical?

    Everyone’s heart does end up in asystole – a flat line, which indicates (as long as the leads are properly connected, . . .) that there is no electrical activity in the heart. Does that mean that the electrical activity has gone to ECG heaven, where it can be with the other heart rhythms?

    -

    hardnose wrote – “NDEs are extremely common, and I don’t think they should be casually dismissed as hallucinations. . . .”

    Requiring evidence is not casually dismissing NDEs.

    Requiring evidence is just the opposite of casually accepting NDEs.

    -

    “If every individual student follows the same current fashion in expressing and thinking about electrodynamics or field theory, then the variety of hypotheses being generated to understand strong interactions, say, is limited. Perhaps rightly so, for possibly the chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction – a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory – who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unusual point of view; one that he may have to invent for himself. I say sacrificed himself because he most likely will get nothing from it, because the truth may lie in another direction, perhaps even the fashionable one.”

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1965/feynman-lecture.html

    Richard Feynman’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech provides a reason to continually question that which is currently accepted – but not to accept something without valid evidence.

    We are asked to accept NDEs without valid evidence.

    It does not help the NDE side that one of the proponents of NDEs misunderstands what Carl Sagan has written about assessing the quality of evidence.

    It may be worse if Dr. Alexander misrepresented what Carl Sagan wrote, but I prefer Hanlon’s Razor – “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    -

    I did not get the impression that Dr. Moody presented the evidence that he had. I got the impression that he is open to both possibilities, but has faith in NDEs for philosophical reasons, rather than based on any particular evidence. I do not make my money doing cold readings, so I could be way off.

    :-)

  24. BillyJoe7on 09 May 2014 at 1:00 am

    Mlema,

    “How do you define faeries?”

    How do you define “god”?

  25. Rogue Medicon 09 May 2014 at 1:20 am

    hardnose wrote – “I do not think that mind is anything unnatural or supernatural. I just think we don’t yet know what it is. In my opinion, the brain is part of the mind, but not all.
    It does not contradict any law of physics to say that the mind is more inclusive than the brain.”

    You claim to be contradicting what Dr. Novella presented, but what he presented is that we have thousands of people being resuscitated in the US alone – and yet there is no evidence that NDEs are real.

    If the NDE is an opportunity to temporarily commune with greater minds, why does the only communication seem to be that, “The Dude abides”? I do not intend to start a flame war over the quality of the movie, but I do expect a bit better than platitudes from Heaven. Polonius might have made me suicidal, too.

    It also does not contradict any law of physics to say that the mind is the brain.

    Without valid evidence to the contrary, we have no reason to assume properties the brain does not possess.

    With the dramatic increase in the resuscitation rates since the focus on continuous high-quality chest compressions, there have been many more opportunities for people to experience NDEs and provide something more than some platitudes.

    Therapeutic hypothermia is also a treatment that seems to offer protection to the brain and may be able to allow for more accurate reporting of any possible useful information the person might have obtained from those in Heaven.

    This may be limited by the use of benzodiazepines for sedation, since they can cause retrograde amnesia. However, if the person really is out of body, then the benzodiazepines should not affect the mind.

    I still do not see any evidence to support NDEs, but a lot of evidence to discredit the possibility that NDEs are the mind actually leaving the body.

    :-)

  26. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 1:25 am

    BillyJoe – I don’t.

  27. grabulaon 09 May 2014 at 1:34 am

    I’m comfortable with atheism. So far the world’s myths haven’t held up and there’s no evidence for anything else.

  28. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 1:36 am

    No reason to let logic interfere with comfort.

  29. Rogue Medicon 09 May 2014 at 1:59 am

    There are plenty of reasons to choose logic over comfort.

    Reality does not accommodate comfort for any particular reason. It is only a coincidence if reality appears to accommodate your comfort.

    :-)

  30. grabulaon 09 May 2014 at 4:01 am

    Mlema, misses the point. His concepts are under attack so often here for being irrational and in scientific, gotta throw him a bone on occasion.

    If it helps mlema, logically and rationally there’s no evidence for god, God’s or the afterlife. The evidence so far is overwhelmingly against so I’ll sit comfortably in atheism unless someone comes along with evidence that suggests otherwise.

  31. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 6:55 am

    grabula
    “We’ve establish (sic) that if you change the brain, you change the person”.

    If that were true then that would prove the brain produces consciousness. In order for that person to change into someone else, then the person post brain damage would have to feel that he’s suddenly popped into existence, have no feeling of connection whatsoever to the person prior to the brain damage etc.

    Indeed under any materialist based metaphysic we would predict that sufficient or appropriate brain damage would literally change a person. So far as I’m aware this never happens.

  32. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 7:35 am

    grabula

    “If it helps mlema, logically and rationally there’s no evidence for god, God’s or the afterlife. The evidence so far is overwhelmingly against so I’ll sit comfortably in atheism unless someone comes along with evidence that suggests otherwise”.

    grabula, it revolves around what what means by “god” and what is it that is being supposed could survive death.

    In my experience atheists have an absurd anthropocentric conceptualisation of God, rather reminiscent of the type of “god” I entertained when I were around 10-12 years old. Atheists do not appear to have done any further thinking about this concept after that age. I’m entirely in agreement with them that it is highly unreasonable to suppose such a “god” exists.

    Likewise in the issue of an afterlife they smuggle in their materialist conception of a “self”, show that such a “self” could not exist given that such a “self” changes with brain damage, then conclude there’s no “life after death”. However the thinking non-materialist does not share their conception of the “self”. In fact materialists cannot believe in a self at all. They just use the word “self” to refer to the sense of self.

  33. Sam Randazzoon 09 May 2014 at 9:28 am

    Ian Wardell,

    I find it troubling that you try to throw the old “childish thinking attack” at atheists, and you can do that because you seem to think you have some kind of elevated reasoning because you can conceptualize god in ways that nobody else can. Yeesh. Even if you can, that doesn’t mean god is real and that you are right or somehow above everyone else.

    As far as this statement goes:

    “Indeed under any materialist based metaphysic we would predict that sufficient or appropriate brain damage would literally change a person. So far as I’m aware this never happens.”

    Holy cow, that is quite an uniformed statement. Traumatic brain injury can change a person in so many ways. There are a ton of cases out there where a person who has suffered a brain injury suddenly becomes “dark,” depressed, angry, and/or suicidal when before they were not at all that way. A quick google search will show you how wrong your statement is.

  34. Hosson 09 May 2014 at 10:20 am

    Ian
    “Indeed under any materialist based metaphysic we would predict that sufficient or appropriate brain damage would literally change a person. So far as I’m aware this never happens.”

    Strange you how you don’t even know the basic evidence especially with how emotionally invested you are with this subject. This is but one well documented example.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/phineas_gage_neuroscience_case_true_story_of_famous_frontal_lobe_patient.html

    Does that change you mind at all…probably not. Ideologues tend to find contradictory evidence inconvenient rather than compelling.

  35. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 10:40 am

    No Hoss it doesn’t change my mind at all since I’ve already incorporated all that evidence in coming to my beliefs. And just to stress I’m not saying that there is definitely an afterlife, however after weighing up all the reasons and evidence for and against, I gravitate towards believing we survive. However I might well be wrong. This whole subject is extraordinarily complex and confusing.

    In the particular case of Phineas Gage I have briefly mentioned his case in this paper I wrote a few years back. I’ll quote from it:

    “But what about permanent radical personality change such as suffered by the aforementioned Phineas Gage?

    “Once a polite and caring person, Gage became prone to selfish behavior and bursts of profanity. Dr. Harlow said it was if Gage lost the balance between “his intellectual faculty and animal propensities.” He had no respect for social graces and often lied about his accomplishments. Previously energetic and focused, he was now erratic and unreliable. He had trouble forming and executing plans. There was no evidence of forethought in his actions, and he often made choices against his best interests”. http://brainconnection.brainhq.com/the-strange-tale-of-phineas-gage/

    Indeed Gage changed to such an extent that his friends declared that Gage was no longer Gage. Now I believe the crucial question here is whether Gage himself agreed with his friends. In other words did he concede that his former self prior to the accident had literally ceased to exist, and that his present self had sprung into being after the accident? Although I don’t know the answer to this question, I very strongly suspect that he had not agreed with them and that he definitely felt like the same person despite the fact that his moods and ability to concentrate were now radically different. Indeed it is not clear to me why his case is qualitatively different from a person getting drunk, remaining drunk for the rest of his or her life, and thereby experiencing a permanent personality change. If such a thing were to happen to myself, then other people might declare that “Ian is no longer Ian”. However I myself would be completely convinced that I am still me 100%. It would just be that I might feel more gregarious, might find it more difficult to concentrate on various mental tasks, might be more prone to getting bad-tempered and so on and so forth”.

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/is-after-death-conceivable.html

  36. Rogue Medicon 09 May 2014 at 11:01 am

    Ian Wardell wrote – “If that were true then that would prove the brain produces consciousness. In order for that person to change into someone else, then the person post brain damage would have to feel that he’s suddenly popped into existence, have no feeling of connection whatsoever to the person prior to the brain damage etc.”

    If you make up your own definitions to exclude things that do happen, but do not fit your conclusion, then you can create the mistaken impression that you are right.

    You won’t convince anyone paying attention.

    :-)

  37. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 11:18 am

    Sorry Rogue Medic but I don’t understand what you’re saying.

  38. Hosson 09 May 2014 at 11:25 am

    Ian
    You’re using a straw man to dismiss evidence that contradicts your position.

  39. steve12on 09 May 2014 at 11:49 am

    Ian:
    “Indeed under any materialist based metaphysic we would predict that sufficient or appropriate brain damage would literally change a person. So far as I’m aware this never happens.”

    Hoss:
    Phinias Gage

    Ian:
    “Now I believe the crucial question here is whether Gage himself agreed with his friends. In other words did he concede that his former self prior to the accident had literally ceased to exist, and that his present self had sprung into being after the accident? Although I don’t know the answer to this question, I very strongly suspect that he had not agreed with them and that he definitely felt like the same person despite the fact that his moods and ability to concentrate were now radically different. ”

    If this is your criteria, you don’t have to know what Phineas Gage thought. There are countless cases of people’s disposition and personalty changing from brain damage. Many are very aware of these changes and loss of self. This is not esoteric info. Go to google scholar and you’ll find report after report.

  40. Hosson 09 May 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Ian

    The Phenomenology of Personality Change Due to Traumatic Brain Injury in Children and Adolescents
    http://journals.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=101293

    Here’s one of the google searches steve12 was referring to. Not all entries in the search are relevant, but tens of thousands are.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=brain+damage+personality+change&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C44&as_sdtp=

    I’m curious how you’re going to rationalize the rejection of this evidence. I might be a little hasty in assuming your rejection of the evidence, but with the pattern of denial you’ve displayed so far on this forum, I think it likely.

  41. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 12:26 pm

    grabula – how can you have “evidence against” something you say doesn’t exist?
    perhaps you might tell us what sort of evidence for God you would accept?

    Rogue Medic – what is this, “who’s on first?” I’ve suggested to grabula that being comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean one is being logical.

    steve12, hoss – not all people who believe in a “spirit” think that the personality, thoughts, emotions, etc. constitute the spirit. They don’t believe that, if there’s an afterlife, it’s pretty much like life, but see-through. :)

    To try to draw a corollary in the physical world (which is all we have to draw corollaries in) when the western world equaled Europe and parts explored in contiguous continents, there were those who said “this is all there is because we have no evidence of anything more” Some said “no, there’s definitely more” Others said “I don’t know.”

    Now please don’t try to draw an “afterlife of the gaps” argument. As I said, all we have is the physical world to make comparisons to. If something exists “separate from” the physical world (again, for lack of a better vocabulary) tell me – how would we know? Some like to say: what’s the point if we can’t know? I agree. But still, we seem to be fond of discussing these kinds of things more than any other kinds of things. What IS the point of this conversation? If we can’t know, our statements for or against are statements of belief, not fact. People who say “there is” have no evidence (they can’t have evidence). People who insist “there isn’t” are making illogical assumptions that everything we know, and can know, is all there is.

    And for another discussion: how are we able to entertain the possibility of things that don’t exist in the universe, or the multiverse, or anything else you want to through in with existence?

  42. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 12:27 pm

    *throw

  43. ConspicuousCarlon 09 May 2014 at 12:44 pm

    “Ian Wardell on 09 May 2014 at 10:40 am
    No Hoss it doesn’t change my mind at all since I’ve already incorporated all that evidence in coming to my beliefs.”

    No you haven’t. You mentioned an example and made up an unsupported reason to dismiss it.

  44. Steven Novellaon 09 May 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Ian – evidence for neuroanatomical correlates are not limited to sensory input. Damage or physical changes to the Brian can change your emotions, memories, desires, cravings, and every aspect of how your brain constructs reality. I defy you to name a type of mental function that does not have a demonstrable neuroanatomical correlate – with the exception of consciousness itself, as that is likely an emergent phenomenon of overall brain function, not a piece of the brain. And of course you can inhibit consciousness by inhibiting brain function.

    No one ever loses their entire self because that is a function of the entire brain. If you caused enough damage to entirely lose self, you would not be conscious.

  45. Rogue Medicon 09 May 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    You wrote ” the person post brain damage would have to feel that he’s suddenly popped into existence,”

    Please provide evidence that this is essential, mandatory, or in some other way, required.

    If you are going to convince anyone of your position, you need to provide an explanation for any absolute statements. If you have provided this elsewhere, I missed it.

    :-)

  46. tmac57on 09 May 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Ian-

    In my experience atheists have an absurd anthropocentric conceptualisation of God, rather reminiscent of the type of “god” I entertained when I were around 10-12 years old. Atheists do not appear to have done any further thinking about this concept after that age. I’m entirely in agreement with them that it is highly unreasonable to suppose such a “god” exists.

    Please tell us Ian about this reasonable god that your mature self now conceptualizes.

    And by the way,atheists that pan the god that you see as a naive concept,are usually doing so because they are really making light of the populist god that is so,so prevalent in culture,especially in the U.S. The kind espoused by fundamentalist TV and radio preachers,and even the softer “god is love,god is light,god grants all prayers” warm and fuzzy types.
    As a matter of fact,atheists often have a much more learned understand of various religions,and include some actual biblical scholars and philosophers who have studied the full spectrum of religious/deist thought.
    It’s much like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert teasing FOX News hosts because they are such easy targets due to their blatant hypocrisy and poor reasoning skills.The more sensible conservatives bristle at it,but then again those guys (FOX et al) have an enormous megaphone,and tremendous influence on the average public.They need to be made fun of as do the cartoon preachers and holier than thou public figures that push the simplistic god concepts.

  47. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Steven Novella:
    “Damage or physical changes to the Brian can change your emotions, memories, desires, cravings, and every aspect of how your brain constructs reality”.

    Our brains don’t need to be damaged. Our emotions change all the time. I hear some good news — my emotions change. However I do not regard my self as literally changing. Same goes for memories. I have no memories of my 3 year old self, nor does my 3 year old self have memories of what I did yesterday. However I do not regard my self as literally changing from when I was 3 years old. My desires change. I used to fancy someone, now I don’t. My cravings change. My intelligence does. My interests change etc etc.

    People generally do not regard that they literally change from one person to another when these properties change. Materialists do, yes. But then materialists have their own peculiar conception of the “self”. But non-materialists believe we are literally the same person from 7 years old to adulthood despite emotions, memories, cravings, interests and intelligence all changing.

    So the way materialists define the “self” I agree with them. Such a self cannot survive the deaths of our bodies. But that doesn’t perturb me :-)

    All these changes are significant only if they are *constitutive* of the self. But I don’t regard them as being constitutive of the self. Rather they are *properties* of the self.

    The way the materialists define the “self” there can be no survival of that self. Not after death and not from 1 year to the next either. But perhaps that shouldn’t be so depressing. Wouldn’t be good for a person suffering from dementia to be like that in the afterlife! And what about people born suffering from some sort of brain damage?

  48. steve12on 09 May 2014 at 1:33 pm

    The problem, Ian, is that there’s no evidence for any of the non-materialist stuff. But there’s a lot of evidence (and none to the contrary) that the brain/body is who and what we are, which f course backs the materialist perspective (along with all of science).

    I’m much more interested in hearing your response to Steve’s statement:

    “I defy you to name a type of mental function that does not have a demonstrable neuroanatomical correlate – with the exception of consciousness itself”

  49. Ekkoon 09 May 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Ian,
    “People generally do not regard that they literally change from one person to another when these properties change. Materialists do, yes. But then materialists have their own peculiar conception of the “self”. But non-materialists believe we are literally the same person from 7 years old to adulthood despite emotions, memories, cravings, interests and intelligence all changing.”

    I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that our sense of self changes over time based on internal and external factors but how does any of this relate to something conscious, a self-aware being, surviving death and existing in some afterlife?

  50. Ian Wardellon 09 May 2014 at 3:13 pm

    steve12
    “I’m much more interested in hearing your response to Steve’s statement:

    “I defy you to name a type of mental function that does not have a demonstrable neuroanatomical correlate – with the exception of consciousness itself””

    The mental functions are what I talked about in my previous communication. You need to read my post.

    Ekko
    “I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that our sense of self changes over time based on internal and external factors but how does any of this relate to something conscious, a self-aware being, surviving death and existing in some afterlife?”

    Read my blog entry about the sense of self and self

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/does-self-as-opposed-to-mere-sense-of.html

  51. steve12on 09 May 2014 at 3:26 pm

    “The mental functions are what I talked about in my previous communication. You need to read my post.”

    I did. None of your posts answer that question. I’m not looking for a philisophical or metaphysical answer.

    What is the cognitive function that shows an extra-body correlate?

  52. Ekkoon 09 May 2014 at 3:49 pm

    “Read my blog entry about the sense of self and self”
    Your blog entry also does not say anything about a self surviving death and you say as much in the blog entry itself.
    “None of this though says anything about the possibility of a persisting or enduring self should we reject all materialist positions.”

    Also:
    “If we are aware of not only a pleasurable state followed by a painful state but in addition an awareness that I have changed from a pleasurable state to a painful state, then there must be something enduring which persists through both states……..In short if the materialist or Buddhist is to assert that there is no persisting self then he needs to address this challenge of the “conscious transtemporal unity” of successive conscious states.”

    This is simply an example of how memory functions. The thing that persists through both states is our sense of self. This says nothing about a self or sense of self which could persist through death though.

  53. RickKon 09 May 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    What is constitutive of self, by your definition?

    What do you use as your standard of evidence for a non-material self that survives after body death?

    And can you explain how your standard of evidence is stronger than, say, the standard of evidence used by L. Ron Hubbard to convince thousands of people that body thetans are real?

  54. ScShPaon 09 May 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I think the mistake here is to jump the gun in arguing about whether or not life exists after death, especially as it seems – after a quick read through of NDE research – there’s no clear answer to be found that will satisfy all parties. I suspect the best we can achieve is a more educated agnosticism about the topic.

    So I propose we should first consider whether Materialism as a Philosophy is the best assumption. Andrew Clifton, IMHO, offers a good reason to doubt this in his essay “The Empirical Case Against Materialism”:

    http://anti-matters.org/articles/126/public/126-192-1-PB.pdf

    From there we might ask if there’s any scientific reason to doubt the materialist case. One might consider the IQOQI results:

    http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_reality_tests/P3/

    As well as experiments suggesting Bohr’s ideas about wave/particle duality involving the observer:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21728971.600-quantum-shadows-the-mystery-of-matter-deepens.html

    According to Michio Kaku in The Future of Mind (see the relevant Appendix discussing quantum mechanics and consciousness), the Idealist Interpretation of the Measurement Problem has not been disproven though I believe Kaku is wrong in suggesting Wigner did not reject this very interpretation. IIRC a paper by Dieter Zeh caused him to abandon the Idealist Interpretation.

    In fact, judging from the experimental work I just mentioned, it has far more evidence that the current en vogue Multiverse Interpretation.

    Naturally we’re then faced with the philosophical question of Idealism vs. Materialism, but the argument for agnosticism would come from the aforementioned paper by Andrew Clifton.

    So I apologize for this lengthy trip on the back of the Ouroboros, as I haven’t proved anything. Ideally some good wisdom from Terry Prachett will suffice as recompense:

    “It’s true that, before death, your life flashes before your eyes. The process is called *living*.”

  55. Insomniacon 09 May 2014 at 5:07 pm

    The debate was great indeed and both Sean and Steven delivered incredibly powerful punch lines, so congratulations.

    There’s a point that I thought would have been addressed but has not, which is given that presumably the other side accepts evolution and thus common descent, where do they draw the line between humans and other animals regarding whether or not they possess soul or will enjoy life after death ? If chimpanzees and other so-called higher mammals are included, then where do you stop ? What about starfish – let’s keep in mind that less than four percent of all animal species are closer to us than starfish are – or bacteria ? Or maybe soul gifted animals are cherry-picked given the complexity of their nervous system ?

    Besides, I felt that the public really responded well to scientific arguments, while I think people are hardly familiar with the extent to which we essentially view the brain as a mind-making machine today. This is often something people feel really confident about, that there is something magical out there, and that it has been somehow “proved” by philosophers… The disconnect is huge between the current neuroscientific paradigm on this issue and the general public idea of it, be it that they don’t know or disagree. It seems that neuroscience is a field where there is tremendous progress to be made for ideas to spread in society. And it would be worth it, no question about that.

  56. AmateurSkepticon 09 May 2014 at 6:08 pm

    @IanWardell

    “I defy you to name a type of mental function that does not have a demonstrable neuroanatomical correlate – with the exception of consciousness itself””

    The mental functions are what I talked about in my previous communication. You need to read my post.

    For those of us who aren’t able to command the same level of expertise as the regulars here, could you please put your answer into a comma separated list of nouns (or verbs if you prefer).

    Thanks.

  57. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 6:38 pm

    “I defy you to name a type of mental function that does not have a demonstrable neuroanatomical correlate – with the exception of consciousness itself”

    But consciousness is the crux of the mind/body argument. Saying it’s an emergent phenomenon doesn’t do anything to illuminate how it’s caused by the brain. It’s just using another descriptor. It’s “caused”, it’s “generated”, it’s “a process”, it “emerges”, etc. We’re still not getting closer to the solution to the problem. We’re just characterizing our beliefs.

    Consciousness is a slippery thing. Also, it doesn’t exist without sensory input – either from the rest of the body or from the rest of the world. Internal monitoring of function, pain, external photons, electrons, molecules, sound waves, etc. – may also be claimed to be what consciousness “emerges” from, since we have no evidence that consciousness exists without them.

  58. etatroon 09 May 2014 at 7:06 pm

    ” In order for that person to change into someone else, then the person post brain damage would have to feel that he’s suddenly popped into existence, have no feeling of connection whatsoever to the person prior to the brain damage etc.”

    I don’t even know where to begin with how wrong and inaccurate this prediction is.

  59. hardnoseon 09 May 2014 at 7:43 pm

    “There are researchers who are doing a very good job of making progress of understanding consciousness as a neurological phenomenon. We certainly are not all the way there of understanding exactly what it is. It’s a very difficult nut to crack.”

    We are not “all the way there” and we don’t understand “exactly what it is.” The implication of that statement is that we are just inches away from knowing all about how the brain generates consciousness.

    Then he admits it is very difficult. So of course you can’t expect it to take just 5 more minutes. Maybe a week or two.

    This kind of fancy framing is designed to confuse, not to enlighten. I don’t think it is done deliberately, but it is very typical of “skeptics” who actually have almost no skepticism at all regarding the power of materialist science to explain it all.

    Steve N. accuses the afterlife believers of wishful thinking. But his worship of science is just as wishful. He — and all the many others like him — cannot accept that nature might be beyond our comprehension.

  60. streetwisehercon 09 May 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I was impressed with the job of the moderator in cutting through BS from the debaters and the questions from the audience.

    The debate itself was one-sided (if not an outright slaughter). While Moody might be a kind old gentleman, his arguments were downright embarrassing and cringe-worthy. He claimed that the NDE debate wasn’t a scientific debate, but instead an issue of logic and critical thinking (his final statement of his opening “argument”). Excuse me?! What exactly is his definition of “science”? Dr. Alexander was equally as inept in providing any evidence other than his own subjective interpretation of the events that occurred during his catastrophic bacterial infection. Alexander GENUINELY (and I will underline genuinely) was confused on exactly where he was this evening, and that was evident from his opening statement in which he went over the time allotment (without ever making an argument FOR his position) and appeared to believe that he was speaking at a book signing or a related press event. The FOR side could have been joined by the 4 year old boy who also wrote a book about the authenticity of Heaven and they would have neither gained, nor lost any measure of credibility.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Alexander and Moody are qualified (with the help of a boardroom full of publishers, editors and marketers) in writing “best-sellers” that pander to millions around the globe (or more likely the FOX News demographic) who seek to affirm their own cognitive biases and religious beliefs. As far as a worthwhile debate? This one was near death before it even began.

  61. hardnoseon 09 May 2014 at 8:04 pm

    “the kind of remote seeing or telepathy or telekinesis or clairvoyance that is being talked about here is in utter and complete violation with everything we understand about the current laws of physics.”

    Sean Carroll thinks that remote perception violates the current understanding of physics. It seems like he never heard of a radio or TV or cell phone — the remote perception devices we use every day. Are they violating any known laws of physics?

    Even seeing the future isn’t really violating known physics, because at least some physicists believe time can go both ways.

  62. hardnoseon 09 May 2014 at 8:08 pm

    And by the way I am not convinced by Alexander’s NDE either. I am sure it convinced him that there is an afterlife, but one person’s experience is not scientific evidence.

    The fact that Moody has interviewed thousands of people who had similar experiences is kind of convincing, but still is not great scientific evidence.

  63. grabulaon 09 May 2014 at 9:12 pm

    @Ian Wardell

    “grabula, it revolves around what what means by “god” and what is it that is being supposed could survive death.”

    Ian, your post is laden with magical thinking. Your characterization of an “atheist” view on god is ridiculous since as an atheist, I take my ‘view’ on what god is supposed to be from the people who believe in he, she or they. In fact, I’ll go even farther in saying that believing in any of it is pretty childish, especially when there’s no good evidence for it. It’s literally clinging to a materalistic sense of self you accuse atheist of clinging to. Religious beliefs throughout the world and history have been childish ways to hold power over others, and in some cases attempt to try to explain something we did not or currently do not understand. I gave up those childish beliefs when I was old enough to realize they hold no water, and make absolutely no sense – regardless of how you define it, or them.

    “Indeed it is not clear to me why his case is qualitatively different from a person getting drunk, remaining drunk for the rest of his or her life, and thereby experiencing a permanent personality change.”

    It’s not, and that’s the point. Regardless of how gage percieves who he is (Dr. Novella has addressed this concept several times in previous posts – examples about of people not percieving what is reality) the point is that changes to the brain brought on by trauma or temporary chemical influences, shows us pretty evidently that ‘we’ are not something seperate from our brains. The only question these days as far as I understand it is how ‘we’ come about from that physical relationship. There’s no need for magical thinking to explain this, it’s only a matter of time before we understant the relationship.

    “But non-materialists believe we are literally the same person from 7 years old to adulthood despite emotions, memories, cravings, interests and intelligence all changing.”

    I believe you have it backward here Ian. It’s very materialistic to believe that you are who you are regardless of outside factors, including time. I say this because it’s clinging to the ideal that we are forever unchanging, which is why the fear of death is such a hot topic with humanity. I have no illusion that I am the same person at 40, that I was at 7. There are some consistant behaviours sure, but for the most part, if viewed seperately one could believe we were two completely different individuals. As time goes on of course consistancies become more common through time but that does not mean I change over that timeline.

    Mlema

    “how can you have “evidence against” something you say doesn’t exist?
    perhaps you might tell us what sort of evidence for God you would accept?”

    I’m apparently confusing you, so let me clarify. I don’t have any evidence disproving god, we all know you can’t right? What I do know is that we have plenty of evidence that shows the concept of god, gods and the afterlife and other such magical thinking has no evidence to back it up. There IS enough evidence showing that what some claim are magical effects (NDE’s to stay apropos) are really just physical/science based, non magical realities.
    It’s a long discussion if you want to discuss subtleties in evidence but when it really comes down to it, nothing to date even piques my curiosity in the direction of fantastic thinking. The universe as it turns out is doing a pretty good job of doing what it does without mystical intervention and as time goes on we keep discovering more and more about how those things work. I won’t fall into the trap of trying to describe evidence beyond the obvious, i.e. God appearing before me, becuase who knows what might convince me? So far, nothing.

    “how are we able to entertain the possibility of things that don’t exist in the universe, or the multiverse, or anything else you want to through in with existence?”

    Plausibility. It’s possible to see how a god or a pantheon of gods might plausibly explain what one sees until you understand what you’re seeing, then it becomes less plausible. For example, many major religions sprung from other religions, how does this validate any one belief? In the case of an afterlife, al of the plasuible explanations lean towards more science, real wrld based explanations, and those hold alot more water as time goes on.

    @Hardnose

    “The implication of that statement is that we are just inches away from knowing all about how the brain generates consciousness.”

    More garbage? The implication is that we accept we don’t yet understand, but that we are working on it. You like to imply that open statements like this indicate an around the corner attitutde when most of us are much more realistic than that. Try another tack, this is a weak way to argue.

    “cannot accept that nature might be beyond our comprehension.”

    Statements like these are the most ignorant. It shows you don’t understand the scientific method. You mischaracterize our appreciation of science as a religion (an oldy but a goody with you guys) and then you go on to show you don’t even understand what “science” means to us. Nothing lies outside the purview of science. There may be road blocks to getting answers but those can always be worked around given enough patience and good scientific work put into it. Natural vs Unnatural or paranormal is a false dichotomy set up by people who haven’t bothered to understand the scientific method and what it entails. It’s a toolbox hardnose, and used properly it can be used to develop robust theories about anything, and then go on to provide evidence to support those. What’s ironic about you hardnose is you make these sweeping statements and then go on to say things like:

    “Even seeing the future isn’t really violating known physics, because at least some physicists believe time can go both ways.”

    and

    “The fact that Moody has interviewed thousands of people who had similar experiences is kind of convincing, but still is not great scientific evidence.”

  64. mumadaddon 09 May 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    It seems like what you’re suggesting is that mind can’t be proven to be the product of brain unless some kind of brain damage can cause a complete break in continuity.

    Is that a fair representation?

  65. Mlemaon 09 May 2014 at 10:39 pm

    grabula: “…who knows what might convince me? So far, nothing.”

    fair enough

  66. grabulaon 10 May 2014 at 12:00 am

    http://www.iflscience.com/brain/new-neurons-erase-old-memories-mice

    Seems appropriately related

  67. BillyJoe7on 10 May 2014 at 1:33 am

    Ian,

    Your sense of self today is different from what it was yesterday, and more different from what it was a week ago, and almost unrecognisable from what it was when you climbed out of your mother’s womb, and totally unrecognisable in the zygote that formed from your parents gametes.

    The mind is different, the consciousness is different, even the body is different. All the connections in the brain are different. All the molecules constituting your body have changed. Where is this unchanging self through all of these changes. Where is this elusive essence of self that somehow survives bodily death.

    “In my experience atheists have an absurd anthropocentric conceptualisation of God, rather reminiscent of the type of “god” I entertained when I were around 10-12 years old. Atheists do not appear to have done any further thinking about this concept after that age.”

    This reminded of this amusing cartoon:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/the-path-to-god/toon-background-007/

    I hope it gives you as good a belly laugh as it gave me.

  68. grabulaon 10 May 2014 at 2:38 am

    ” totally unrecognisable in the zygote that formed from your parents gametes. ”

    Out of curiosity Ian, where are ‘you’ before ‘you’ were born?

  69. BillyJoe7on 10 May 2014 at 7:01 am

    I’ve finally had the chance to watch this debate.

    I think most would agree that Steven Novella contributed the most to this debate, with Sean Carroll a creditable second. The physics angle was a relevant and important contribution, but I’m not sure how many in the audience were sufficiently acquainted with physics to able to
    be convinced by his arguments.

    I did not find anything the other two said to be of any value. One was convinced by his own personal experience, and the other by the experiences of those he has interviewed. Against that we the thousands of people who allegedly had alien abduction experiences, as Steven mentioned.

    It all came down to anecdote versus evidence. In other words: no contest.

    Highlights were Steven slinging back with his defence of Carl Sagan when he was blatantly misquoted by Eben; Steven’s stinging retort regarding the discredited experiments conducted by Gary Swartz which seemed so convincing to Eben; and both Steven and Sean’s demolition job on “there is no reason to think there are things science does not know [therefore what I would like to be true could be true]“.

  70. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 7:13 am

    grabula

    “the point is that changes to the brain brought on by trauma or temporary chemical influences, shows us pretty evidently that ‘we’ are not something seperate from our brains”.

    This is just an unsubstantiated statement. And you could not begin to substantiate it because it’s just silly. If this were true then no-one should ever enjoy an alcoholic drink or take any other drugs since it would be a different person enjoying the effects.

    “Out of curiosity Ian, where are ‘you’ before ‘you’ were born?”

    It seems to me the self doesn’t have a location. Or are you asking whether we exist before birth?

    Assuming the latter there are a number of reasons why I believe that should there be a “life after death then we will have existed before birth and conception too. I hold this for the following reasons:

    Firstly if the body — specifically the brain — doesn’t produce consciousness, then there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the self should come into being at the same time as the brain first forms.

    Secondly if the self can be created that seems to make it much more reasonable that it can cease to exist too.

    Thirdly if we are eternal beings it would be somewhat surprising to find ourselves existing just a few decades since we came into being.

    Fourthly there’s very compelling evidence for reincarnation from Ian Stevenson and other researchers. Not just children who seem to remember previous lives, but birthmarks corresponding to the injury which killed the previous personality.

    Fifthly I feel that I existed before I was conceived.

    mumadadd

    “It seems like what you’re suggesting is that mind can’t be proven to be the product of brain unless some kind of brain damage can cause a complete break in continuity.

    Is that a fair representation”?

    One would need to be convinced that one has suddenly popped into existence. That they are not the same person as before the brain injury. But note here we’re talking about *existential change* rather than alterational change. I’ll quote my blog to explain the difference:

    From blog entry
    “Consider a table. We could paint it a different colour. That’s alterational change. It’s the same table, but has been altered slightly. But now consider destroying a table, and putting in it’s place a table looking identical. That’s existential change.

    I take it that commonsense takes it for granted that, at least from one minute to the next, we undergo alterational change and emphatically not existential change. If the latter were true then, since we continuously change from one second to the next, then we would, from the commonsensical perspective, be effectively constantly “dying” from one second to the next. And this is precisely what materialists are obliged to believe. Hence both materialism and Buddhism entail a profound shift in the manner in which we view ourselves — for one thing it would entail our fear of death is wholly misplaced”!
    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/does-self-as-opposed-to-mere-sense-of.html

  71. grabulaon 10 May 2014 at 7:31 am

    @Ian

    eh, you’re beliefs are pretty far out there.

    “This is just an unsubstantiated statement. ”

    It’s not, it’s substantiated, watch the debate to see Dr. Novella explain some of it.

    “This is just an unsubstantiated statement. And you could not begin to substantiate it because it’s just silly.”

    Actually, this is just silly:

    ” If this were true then no-one should ever enjoy an alcoholic drink or take any other drugs since it would be a different person enjoying the effects.”

    “If the latter were true then, since we continuously change from one second to the next, then we would, from the commonsensical perspective, be effectively constantly “dying” from one second to the next. And this is precisely what materialists are obliged to believe. ”

    This is all just magical thinking really. There’s no evidence for your claims. A lot of idle speculation on your blog and a call to people like Ian Stevenson, who also have a lot of magical beliefs, based mostly on anecdotal evidence.

    “Firstly if the body — specifically the brain — doesn’t produce consciousness, then there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the self should come into being at the same time as the brain first forms.”

    Dr. Novella already did a good job of explaining this, I’d reference his post for where this line of thinking goes wrong.

  72. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 8:09 am

    I think the “eh” says it all. You simply don’t understand anything I’m saying.

  73. BillyJoe7on 10 May 2014 at 8:58 am

    …eh, Ian, add me to that list. ;)

    As to your llst of reasons why you believe in reincarnation…hilarious!
    …especially this one:

    I feel that I existed before I was conceived

    That is some slam dunk convincing argument you got going there fella :)

  74. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 9:21 am

    Ian,

    “If the latter were true then, since we continuously change from one second to the next, then we would, from the commonsensical perspective, be effectively constantly “dying” from one second to the next. And this is precisely what materialists are obliged to believe. ”

    You’re completely misrepresenting and/or misunderstanding the materialist position. Consciousness has continuity, even if the physical material that comprises the brain does change over time, and even if neuronal configuration alters.

    Read this for more – also check out the comments thread:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-continuity-problem/

  75. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 9:27 am

    mumadad, I contributed to that comments thread. A couple of the materialists there said I understand the materialist position on the continuity issue better than many materialists themselves. Billyjoe was one of them I think.

  76. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 9:44 am

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-continuity-problem/#comments

    In those comments BillyJoe7 says:

    “Unfortunately, many materialists do not actually understand materialism. For the materialist, there can be no soul, spirit, or self, and that’s the only way to achieve continuity. Clearly this is a dualist concept. I’m truely surprised to see that Steven Novella and ccbowers do not understand this point. The problem is that dualism is intuitive – our whole language is dualist – whilst materialism is counterintuitive”.

    I agree entirely with BillyJoe. Materialism is staggeringly counterintuitive.

  77. RickKon 10 May 2014 at 9:48 am

    hardnosed said: “I don’t think it is done deliberately, but it is very typical of “skeptics” who actually have almost no skepticism at all regarding the power of materialist science to explain it all.”

    …. and I spit my tea all over the keyboard in laughter.

    Can materialist science solve all the mysteries of nature? Probably not – humans evolved in a tiny, exceedingly rare zone in our vast universe. And we are limited by that evolution.

    Yet here we are debating this topic over a global digital communications network while average human life has been doubled, the human-carrying capacity of the planet has been multiplied, probes orbit Saturn and explore the sea floor, and our senses have been extended to see from distant galaxies to the insides of our own cells to the components of the components of atoms.

    On the back of this impressive increase in human knowledge we can say this with complete confidence: every of mystery of nature ever solved was solved by materialist science. It is the ONLY tool in the toolbox that has ever actually worked.

    Arguing for immaterial causes for material events and arguing against materialist science is backing a team that has never won against a team that has never lost. Not all the games have been played out – far from it. But you can’t ignore the prior probabilities, and any rational person must set a VERY high evidence bar for the claims of immaterial causes for anything, including consciousness.

    Personal feelings and anecdotes can be as easily dismissed as those of people who claim alien abduction or recent encounters with Elvis or to be infested with body thetans.

  78. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 9:58 am

    Just to point out that science in no shape or form supports materialism anymore more than any other metaphysical position. The phrase materialist science therefore has no meaning. I might as well talk about subjective idealism science. The point is there’s only science and it’s neutral in respect of any metaphysical positions.

  79. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 10:01 am

    Ian,

    “In my experience atheists have an absurd anthropocentric conceptualisation of God, rather reminiscent of the type of “god” I entertained when I were around 10-12 years old. Atheists do not appear to have done any further thinking about this concept after that age. I’m entirely in agreement with them that it is highly unreasonable to suppose such a “god” exists.”

    I’m genuinely interested – what is your definition of god?

  80. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 10:33 am

    mumadadd I don’t want to talk about God. I want to talk about alterational change via existential change.

    Here’s a reminder of these 2 types of change:

    Consider a table. We could paint it a different colour. That’s alterational change. It’s the same table, but has been altered slightly. But now consider destroying a table, and putting in it’s place a table looking identical. That’s existential change.

    Does brain damage bring about alterational change or existential change? What about from when you were 7 years old compared to now? What about after you’ve had a couple of pints of beer? What about the change brought about on hearing some good news?

  81. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 10:34 am

    vs not via* We can’t edit posts?

  82. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 10:49 am

    Ian,

    “mumadadd I don’t want to talk about God. ”

    You brought it up though.

    “Does brain damage bring about alterational change or existential change?”

    By your definitions, alterational. But so what? In theory, if we could map and manipulate the brain we could make somebody feel as though they had just popped into existence. In fact I had a very similar experience on LSD, feeling as though I were constantly popping into existence at every instant. But again, so what? What would that demonstrate?

  83. Insomniacon 10 May 2014 at 11:13 am

    Ian

    “Just to point out that science in no shape or form supports materialism anymore more than any other metaphysical position. The phrase materialist science therefore has no meaning. I might as well talk about subjective idealism science. The point is there’s only science and it’s neutral in respect of any metaphysical positions.”

    Actually it’s kind of supporting materialism to the extent that every scientific endeavor requires methodological naturalism. And this view assumes there’s a physical world, which is independant of our mental representations of it. I know that with your subjective idealism you’re far from this kind of thoughts. So far, by definition all that science has dealt with is the natural world, and nothing else has been shown to exist (it’s not just matter, since this word usually only entails particles that forms ordinary matter, but there are others, and space-time). What actually is the natural world is changing over time, as new particles or forces are discovered for example. No doubt that any magnetic device shown to people in the Middle Ages would have been thought to be witchcraft or supernatural.

    By the way, if humans have unchanging immaterial selves. What about other animals ? Do they have immaterial selves ? If so, which are they, and why ?

  84. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 11:50 am

    mumadadd

    “By your definitions, alterational. But so what? In theory, if we could map and manipulate the brain we could make somebody feel as though they had just popped into existence”.

    But current brain damage is supposed to demonstrate existential change! eg Phineous Gage

  85. Terraneron 10 May 2014 at 12:24 pm

    One particular subject interest me in all this, and of course its connected to the whole NDE experience. Namely, there was mentioning of brain damage and changing of personality. To quote from one of the posts above (more precisely taken from one of Ian Wardells replays):

    “Steven Novella:
    “Damage or physical changes to the Brian can change your emotions, memories, desires, cravings, and every aspect of how your brain constructs reality”.”

    What I would like to ask how then (as one example) does hemispherectomy fit into all of this?*

    Thank you for the answer.

    *and I mean in all its implications regarding brain-mind relationship. Oh, and pleas, do understand that its only curiosity. I am trying to be impartial on the topic of NDE.

  86. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 12:26 pm

    “But current brain damage is supposed to demonstrate existential change! eg Phineous Gage”

    No it isn’t. Phineas’s personality may have changed drastically but I’ve never heard anything about him forgetting his existence prior to his injury, and even if he had, the fact that he could still use language, recognise objects etc would demonstrate that at least some of his prior self had survived. And who said that brain damage is supposed to represent existential change anyway? Oh, it was you. How have you arrived at this conclusion?

    It may be highly unlikely that you would ever see cases of brain injuries that cause this ‘existential change’, but that would in no way undermine the general principal that altering the brain alters the mind. This is some arbitrary criterion you’ve come up with.

    As I said before, if we could map, understand and manipulate the brain to a fine enough degree, there’s no reason in principle we couldn’t completely alter someone’s personality and also selectively erase their past memories – would you agree that that would meet the criteria for ‘existential change’?

  87. ccbowerson 10 May 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I haven’t been following these comments until now, and I see that I am referenced in a quote from a previous post. I still think that there is little/no disagreement between Steve, BJ7 and me, (others may disagree) and that bringing that up does not advance your argument, Ian. It seems to me that Ian often conflates the sense of self with an actual immaterial self. That is not the same argument that I was making in the past.

    “I think most would agree that Steven Novella contributed the most to this debate, with Sean Carroll a creditable second.”

    BJ7- Actually, I was a bit surprised that I found Sean Carroll most “convincing.” He did much better than I expected, and used language in a way that I think was very effective at making good points for a general audience. Steve also did well, but from a different, more direct angle (in terms of answering the question). The other side provided almost zero evidence, other than saying that they were very convinced by their own, or others’ exeriences.

  88. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Just watching it now. Sean’s quote:

    “Quantum physics is confusing, consciousness is confusing, so maybe they’re the same.”

    Love it. He has top marks so far for pithy soundbite.

  89. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 12:52 pm

    ccbowers
    “It seems to me that Ian often conflates the sense of self with an actual immaterial self”.

    No! That’s like conflating the perception of a table with the table itself! Read my blog entry.

    Sorry guys I’m having a drink now so won’t be contributing any further tonight. I’ll leave it until tomorrow. I want to discuss this alterational vs existential change, and also why science doesn’t support materialism. I also want to discuss naturalism.

  90. mumadaddon 10 May 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Ian,

    I’ll be off for some drinks soon too, but look forward to picking this up on the morrow.

    Very interested to find out why you think science doesn’t support materialism.

  91. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 1:20 pm

    ccbowers
    “I haven’t been following these comments until now, and I see that I am referenced in a quote from a previous post. I still think that there is little/no disagreement between Steve, BJ7 and me, (others may disagree)”

    On the continuity issue? I don’t know about you but someone like BillyJoe completely and totally disagrees with Steven Novella on that issue.

    It doesn’t help me. I was just pointing out to mumadadd that materialists cannot believe in a self. They obviously believe in a sense of a self (since it’s a plain fact we all have a sense of self), but materialists cannot believe in an actual self. Unfortunately many materialists don’t grok this.

  92. hardnoseon 10 May 2014 at 3:07 pm

    “Arguing for immaterial causes for material events and arguing against materialist science is backing a team that has never won against a team that has never lost.”

    Well “material” events can be caused by gravity or electricity, for example. Do you think gravity and electricity are “material?” I actually have no idea what you mean by that word. You probably don’t either.

  93. hardnoseon 10 May 2014 at 3:14 pm

    “We’ve establish that if you change the brain, you change the person.’

    Anything that has some effect on the brain will have an influence on the person. Our experiences in this world all come through the brain. No one would argue that experiences leave a person unchanged.

  94. ccbowerson 10 May 2014 at 4:25 pm

    “No! That’s like conflating the perception of a table with the table itself! Read my blog entry.”

    Perhaps I need to elaborate, because I was not referring to your blog entry but to some comments above regarding Phineas Gage. I was referring to your comments here, and that you seem to take conclusions derived from your (or Mr Gage’s) perception of self as being informative of the existence of an immaterial self when you said:

    “Now I believe the crucial question here is whether Gage himself agreed with his friends.”

    The point is that Mr Gage’s perceptions are not really really meaningful to answer the question. The perception of self does not inform us about the existence of a soul/immaterial self. Perhaps this is not your argument, but if that is the case, I really don’t understand your point here. Why is/was Mr Gage’s perception of self “crucial?”

    As for Steve and BJ7, in that blog post I was definitely on the same page as Steve (from my memory, but I have not revisted those discussions). Honestly, I don’t want to go back and reread the discussion (it’s pretty long), but perhaps I will at a later time. I don’t think that that discussion is necessary for this discussion.

    Your conclusions about what “materialists” must conclude do not necessarily follow. You are making leaps in logic without sufficiently exploring those leaps (e.g. that we must believe that we are constantly dying from one moment to the bext because changes take place over time).

  95. tmac57on 10 May 2014 at 4:39 pm

    So sad to see that this topic has now driven two participants to drink :(

  96. ccbowerson 10 May 2014 at 4:43 pm

    “They obviously believe in a sense of a self (since it’s a plain fact we all have a sense of self), but materialists cannot believe in an actual self. Unfortunately many materialists don’t grok this.”

    If by “actual self” you mean what people mean when they say “soul,” then I agree (because that would entail some immaterial entity that contains the essence of each person- whatever that means). Otherwise, I think that the sense of self, plus aspects of the material body that makes that perception possible are what I view as “self.” There is nothing immaterial there, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel an attachment to my sense of self and the body that makes that possible. (i.e. what I mean when I refer to my’self’)

    I do not understand how this is relevant to the question of the afterlife. You state above, after applying reason to the evidence, that you conclude that you lean towards a persistence of “self” and afterlife. Yet you don’t mention any actual evidence (unless that Phinneas Gage story was supposed to contrbute to that somehow) or how it informs that view. This maybe a common approach, as neither of the “pro afterlife” people even tried to put forth evidence in the debate.

  97. Maximilianon 10 May 2014 at 5:11 pm

    @Steven Novella

    Hi Steven, I’m a new skeptic and I have a question. You say in this blog post that “your threshold for compelling and overwhelming are different than yours.” You didn’t mean that to sound that your opinions are just separate but equal right? You need to have a certain amount of evidence for something to be given consideration. What is the “right” amount of evidence for something to be scientifically sound. You say that Stevenson “often used translators, and failed to adequately control for the cultural beliefs of the children and all possible sources of contamination.” How much DOES he have to control for, in order for it to be science? Is there a subjective line to be drawn there? Also what would you say to the argument that you are simply “moving the goal posts” in terms of evidence? How would you refute that. I understand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But where is the line drawn, and what could Stevenson have done differently so that you would consider his experiments as serious science.

    This is a long way to ask a simple question, I just didn’t know how to word it. I am total agreement with your side, but I could see how someone might think scientists are just moving the goal posts. What would you say to that?

    Thanks! This is my first post, I am sure to make more in the future.

  98. Insomniacon 10 May 2014 at 5:38 pm

    hardnose

    You’re just playing semantics with the word “materialism”. My previous comment covered this issue. Of course when one is said to be a materialist, it just means that this person only believes that all phenomena can be explained just assuming the natural world. The latter is made of particles (forces being reduced to interactions between particles, but not just usual matter) and space-time. Maybe the word is not appriopriate as it’s misleading, and maybe we should talk about naturalism instead. Every single person here in the comments section knows that, so your remark is useless and doesn’t shed any light whatsoever on the actual debate.

  99. ScShPaon 10 May 2014 at 7:07 pm

    With regard to the paranormal, curious if Krippner’s Dream Telepathy has been mentioned?:

    http://www.sfweekly.com/2012-04-25/news/the-grateful-dead-parapsychology-dream-telepathy-joe-eskenazi/

    “The knock on parapsychology studies has long been that any so-called evidence of ESP is usually limited to negligible effects only detectable after scouring massive bodies of data. “Those to whom this criticism has any appeal should be aware that the Maimonides experiments are clearly exempt from it,” wrote Irvin Child, Yale’s former psychology department chair, in American Psychologist, the APA’s flagship journal. “I believe many psychologists would, like myself, consider the ESP hypothesis to merit serious consideration and continued research if they read the Maimonides reports for themselves.”"

    Krippner’s response about replication:

    “First of all, our original dream telepathy results were repeated several times in our own laboratory. We published both the successful replications and the unsuccessful replications. All of these articles are referenced at the end of our book DREAM TELEPATHY (by Ullman, Krippner, and Vaughan). A meta-analysis of all the studies produced high significant results and was published in a 1985 article by Irvin Child in The American Psychologist, flagship journal of the American Psychological Association..

    Several other researchers attempted to replicate our work. Both the successful replications and the unsuccessful replications have been published in the chapter by Roe and Sherwood in ADVANCES IN PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH, VOLUME 9 (edited by Krippner and Friedman). A meta-analysis of all these studies produced highly significant results. They were not as strong as the Maimonides data, probably because they used “home dreams” instead of “laboratory dreams,” the latter involving psychophysiological recordings. In the lab, participants can be awakened once they have been in REM sleep for a while. For home dreams, participants are usually awakened randomly by telephone, hence many dreams are lost.”

  100. etatroon 10 May 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Ian, I promise you that I am a different person now than who I was 10 years ago, and it happened gradually and it was not an instantaneous change. I also promise you that the 32 year old me is a different person than the 5 year old me. Two examples, I am (slightly) better at math, and (much) more punctual. I have the same genes, but if you talk to the 5 year old me and the 32 year old me, it’s a totally different experience.

  101. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I’ve just got in from a pub, but just a quick point:

    ccbowers
    “If by “actual self” you mean what people mean when they say “soul,” then I agree”

    A “soul” is the same as a self, but with the additional proviso that this soul survives the death of our bodies. So the word self is better for referring to that which constitutes a person without any connotations it might survive the death of the body.

    ccbowers
    “You state above, after applying reason to the evidence, that you conclude that you lean towards a persistence of “self” and afterlife. Yet you don’t mention any actual evidence”.

    Aye, I’m not really interested in advancing reasons/evidence to support an afterlife. I’m more interested in the materialists justification in their assertion there is no afterlife. And picking that apart.

  102. hardnoseon 10 May 2014 at 7:36 pm

    ” Of course when one is said to be a materialist, it just means that this person only believes that all phenomena can be explained just assuming the natural world. The latter is made of particles (forces being reduced to interactions between particles, but not just usual matter) and space-time.”

    If you believe the world is made of particles, then you must not believe in radios and cell phones. How can they receive remote information, when there is no transfer of particles?

    Your ideas about physics are stuck in the 19th century — and that is also true of most materialists.

    Naturalism is not any better. Everything that exists must be part of nature, so the word has no meaning.

    You are probably thinking of the old distinction between natural and supernatural, so that “naturalism” basically means a rejection of anything supernatural.

    But that is really an obsolete and meaningless distinction. “Supernatural” really means beyond the world we perceive with our senses. But we have known for a long time now that most of nature is beyond our senses. Most of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, cannot be perceived by our senses.

    The idea that the world is made of particles is an illusion. It has become pretty obvious that the world is made of information.

    Everything is natural, and everything is information. We should not necessarily remain stuck in old ideas about the brain and consciousness. The religious idea — that the brain and mind are separate things — doesn’t seem right. But neither does the materialist idea, that the brain is a machine that somehow can generate the mind.

  103. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 7:37 pm

    BTW aye means “yes” :-)

  104. Bo Gardineron 10 May 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Eben Alexander put his own post-debate blog post up yesterday (“Post Debate Reflections: The Sound of One Hand Clapping, May 9, 2014, http://www.ebenalexander.com/post-debate-reflections-the-sound-of-one-hand-clapping-by-eben/ ).

    I’m sure we’re all shocked to learn there’ll be no apology from Eben over his Sagan misquote. Au contraire! In what can only be interpreted as an in-your-face gesture, he ends his blog post with this:

    “I’d like to close quoting a true skeptical scientist whom I greatly admire: ‘The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, it has no place in the endeavor of science.’— Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996), Cosmos, 1980

    Dr Carl Sagan lamented the rising prominence of ignorance in the predominant cultural thinking of the time. It is interesting how the tables have turned – that pure materialist “scientists” suppress uncomfortable ideas, and are willfully ignorant of the abundant evidence of the afterlife. Sagan would be gratified that many modern scientists, and so many souls enlightened by their own experiences, are fully addressing the deep mysteries of consciousness and quantum mechanics (especially in light of the remarkable experiences related to the afterlife question) and the very nature of all existence. These scientists and spiritual journeyers have become the enlightened ones so confronted by the rampant ignorance of the deniers and debunkers.

  105. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 8:06 pm

    ccbowers
    “As for Steve and BJ7, in that blog post I was definitely on the same page as Steve (from my memory, but I have not revisted those discussions)”.

    Why is this important? If you agree with Steve Novella in a persisting self, then you are wrong. A materialist cannot believe in a persisting self.

  106. Ian Wardellon 10 May 2014 at 8:32 pm

    ccbowers I’ve just looked at the continuity thread. I’m afraid you don’t understand that materialists cannot believe in a persisting self.

  107. grabulaon 10 May 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Ian, in some ways you’re right but only in that your explanations are nonsensical and full of magical thinking. You’ve not provided any evidence what so ever for the after life except to repeatedly point out that a table repainted is a different situation from a table replaced, a horrible metaphor by the way since the table isn’t self aware. I understand is just another way to belittle what you obviously see as misguided materialism but it follows along with the rest of you’re irrational system of belief you’ve built up. Ultimately, the evidence is against an afterlife but the reason I started with ‘eh’ is because after your post previous to mine I realized you are a true believer and that no amount of evidence presented before you could get you to shift in any direction. It’s always disappointing to see someone just show up to “trash the materialistic” argument. It shows you’re not here for honest discourse. You’re going to talk about all the points you’ve got figured out, you know, the ones the credulous following your blog part you on the back for, but you’re not really going to hear what’s being said to you. Some of the guys live to engage that story of behavior but I quickly grow bored with it. I’m only interested in open and honest discourse, this is not.

  108. grabulaon 10 May 2014 at 9:34 pm

    @Hardnose

    Trying to redefine supernatural to suit your tastes? At it again really? Let’s establish a common understanding in this blog that more parallels the real world and not your fantasy land. There’s science, then there’s the supernatural. If materialism is the belief that nothing exists that cannot be explained then count me as one. Supernatural is anything that lies outside of nature which by its very definition tells you it doesn’t exist. It’s a weird that encompasses alot of magical thinking and ignorance about the scientific method, something you have a hard time grasping.
    Instead of trying to redefine everything to fit your arguments as magical thinkers commonly do and you are extremely guilty of, why not try arguing your side from a rational and logical standpoint. If you find yourself constantly having to defend your understanding of even the basic phrasing of the argument you might want to ask yourself if you’re prepared to discuss the topic at hand.

    So waiting for those science credentials by the way. ..

  109. Insomniacon 11 May 2014 at 4:09 am

    hardnose

    “If you believe the world is made of particles, then you must not believe in radios and cell phones. How can they receive remote information, when there is no transfer of particles?”

    Haha ! What a funny thing to say. Actually electromagnetic interactions – which are the phenomena behind all telecommunications – are just interactions between ordinary matter and photons. You’re accusing us of being stuck in the 19th century while it’s now obvisous that you have limited knowledge about basic physics. Electromagnetic waves are not just “information”, they are perturbations of the local electromagnetic field, which can today be modelled by the propagation of photons.

    “You are probably thinking of the old distinction between natural and supernatural, so that “naturalism” basically means a rejection of anything supernatural.
    But that is really an obsolete and meaningless distinction. “Supernatural” really means beyond the world we perceive with our senses. But we have known for a long time now that most of nature is beyond our senses. Most of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, cannot be perceived by our senses.”

    The distinction is indeed meaningless, as by definition, natural things are things that have been shown to exist by science. One could then argue that by definition no supernatural thing has been shown to exist.

    Supernatural phenomena are not what we can’t perceive with our senses. Otherwise X-ray or neutrinos would be supernatural entities. Supernatural events refer to phenomena that can’t fit in our current scientific model of reality, bu that’s not all. As I said magnetism would have been thought supernatural until quite recently. I’m not even sure about that because even if you don’t know what it is, experiments can be duplicated and yield identical results. So you can begin to build a theory making magnetism part of your understanding of how the natural world behaves and remove it from the supernatural realm. Now we know better anyway.

    “The idea that the world is made of particles is an illusion. It has become pretty obvious that the world is made of information.
    Everything is natural, and everything is information. We should not necessarily remain stuck in old ideas about the brain and consciousness. The religious idea — that the brain and mind are separate things — doesn’t seem right. But neither does the materialist idea, that the brain is a machine that somehow can generate the mind.”

    Wow, please tell us where you’ve seen that particles are illusions. What’s that idea with information ? A particle can become energy, is energy merely information ? If you say yes to that, I think we should stop arguing. I’m open to every idea but for this one you should have to bring a comprehensive theory of an information-based natural world. Interesting…

    You can’t dismiss an idea because it “doesn’t seem right”. Quantum physics or relativity doesn’t seem right to our human brains evolving in this medium-speed medium-size world, are they false for this particular reason ?

  110. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 7:11 am

    mumadadd

    “Phineas’s personality may have changed drastically but I’ve never heard anything about him forgetting his existence prior to his injury, and even if he had, the fact that he could still use language, recognise objects etc would demonstrate that at least some of his prior self had survived. And who said that brain damage is supposed to represent existential change anyway? Oh, it was you. How have you arrived at this conclusion?”

    Phineas Gage is often an example that the materialists bring up supposedly demonstrating that a self can literally change. If he’s undergone mere alterational change, then by definition he’s not a different self. So they need to argue that he underwent existential change. So why can’t developing a bad-tempered disposition etc be merely alterational change? I’ll throw out this question to all the materialists here.

  111. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 7:17 am

    grabula
    “Ian, in some ways you’re right but only in that your explanations are nonsensical and full of magical thinking. You’ve not provided any evidence what so ever for the after life except to repeatedly point out that a table repainted is a different situation from a table replaced, a horrible metaphor by the way since the table isn’t self aware”.

    It’s not a metaphor. It’s an explanation of what alterational vs existential change means. And I explained it in the simplest way I could think of. If you still don’t understand, then fair enough. But in that case allow people who do understand to discuss this issue.

  112. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 7:59 am

    Insomniac
    “Actually it’s kind of supporting materialism to the extent that every scientific endeavor requires methodological naturalism. And this view assumes there’s a physical world, which is independant of our mental representations of it. I know that with your subjective idealism you’re far from this kind of thoughts. So far, by definition all that science has dealt with is the natural world, and nothing else has been shown to exist (it’s not just matter, since this word usually only entails particles that forms ordinary matter, but there are others, and space-time). What actually is the natural world is changing over time, as new particles or forces are discovered for example. No doubt that any magnetic device shown to people in the Middle Ages would have been thought to be witchcraft or supernatural”.

    I don’t understand what “methodological naturalism” means.

    Materialism entails:

    a) That there is a mind-independent reality — that this reality would exist in a “full-blooded” sense regardless of whether any minds exist or not.

    b) That consciousness itself is also wholly material.

    Science can in no shape or form provide any evidence for the truth of these 2 assertions.

    I’ll just address “a” in this post.

    Materialism entails the existence of an unexperienced reality. By definition we cannot experience that which is unexperienced. But science is wholly grounded in what we can experience. Therefore the question of whether there is a mind-independent reality is not a question that science could ever *in principle* address.

    The supposition that the physical world is independent of our mental representations of it is purely a metaphysical stance. Philosophical arguments need to be advanced to justify this stance. It is a question that is beyond science. But since it is a question beyond science then science cannot ever in principle support such a notion.

    You say: “So far, by definition all that science has dealt with is the natural world, and nothing else has been shown to exist”

    It hasn’t shown consciousness exists either. Nor *in principle* could it ever do so (I’ll show that in another post dealing with “b”). Does that entail consciousness is supernatural?

    I’d say no because that rules out some major scientific revolution which is able to incorporate consciousness. Maybe some interpretation of QM, or if not QM some of as yet unthought of theory.

  113. Insomniacon 11 May 2014 at 8:07 am

    Ian

    You invented a distinction that is non-existent in the materialistic worldview. It’s derived from your assumption that souls exist. So the materialist account of reality doesn’t have to comply to your particular requirement which is this distinction. It’s just gobbledygook to us. You have first to prove that there are in fact immaterial selves.

  114. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 8:14 am

    What distinction?

  115. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 8:16 am

    The fact that science in no shape or form suggests materialism has nothing to do with any arbitrary distinction or the question of “immaterial selves”.

  116. Insomniacon 11 May 2014 at 9:32 am

    Ian

    I’m talking about your alterational/existential dstinction. You just make this up, it’s neither data nore a premise, it’s derived from your philosophical beliefs (subjective idealism and thus the existence of a soul). We materialists don’t have to address this problem because to us there is no distinction to be made in the first place.

  117. ccbowerson 11 May 2014 at 11:01 am

    “Aye, I’m not really interested in advancing reasons/evidence to support an afterlife. I’m more interested in the materialists justification in their assertion there is no afterlife. And picking that apart.”

    Ian. Nice attempt to shift the burden of proof. I reject your assertion of what “materialists” must believe (whatever that loaded term means). I do not assert that there is no afterlife without qualification, but this is based upon the fact that there is no good evidence for an afterlife. Without evidence for an assertion, I do not believe in it, and if there were actual evidence then I would reconsider.

    I’m sure you are familiar with “Russel’s teapot,” so I will chalk this up to motivated reasoning. Again, you stated that there was evidence… so let’s hear it.

  118. Steven Novellaon 11 May 2014 at 11:02 am

    Ian – your point about Phineas is a straw man and moving the goal post.

    When we say changing the brain changes the mind that does not imply nor require an entire existential change. In order for that to happen, as I have already stated, most of the brain would have to change (everything but basic functions) There is no mechanism for this that would not result in death or a permanent vegetative state.

    There is actually no known neurological syndrome (from damage or anything else) that makes people forget who they are. If you have enough cortical activity to be conscious, you know who you are.

    What the evidence does show is that, if we change the brain a little, the mind changes a little. If we change the brain a lot, the mind changes a lot. If we change the brain in a specific way, the mind changes in a specific way. This is not limited to sensory processing, but to how our brains construct our sense of reality, and pretty much every higher cognitive function you can think of. We’re still working out the details and complexity, but the materialist paradigm of neuroscience is remarkably successful, predictive, and progressive.

    Unfalsifiable notions about the brain as receiver, tuner, limiter, or whatever are unfalsifiable and unnecessary. They are as necessary as saying that an invisible light fairy turns the lights on when I flip the switch.

  119. RickKon 11 May 2014 at 11:11 am

    Ian,

    If you don’t understand “methodological naturalism”, the foundational assumption underlying the scientific method, you should probably look it up. Arguing against the conclusions of science on philosophical grounds without grasping this concept is kind of like arguing against evolution without understanding natural selection.

    You said:
    “Materialism entails:
    a) That there is a mind-independent reality — that this reality would exist in a “full-blooded” sense regardless of whether any minds exist or not.
    b) That consciousness itself is also wholly material.
    Science can in no shape or form provide any evidence for the truth of these 2 assertions.”

    Baloney.

    If by using these assertions science is able to make highly accurate predictions, then the assertions “work” and the success of these predictions offers “proof” beyond any reasonable doubt. And the fact that when all “minds” leave some portion of reality, and then return to it, the reality is still there is in fact evidence.

    Now, if you’re suggesting that we could be living in a version of the Matrix, and that everything is an illusion and there is no independent reality, fine. If the Matrix programming is such that our world functions as if “mind” and “consciousness” are properties of the brain, the the materialist approach to neuroscience is still the correct way to ultimately understand mind and consciousness.

    So either way, your anti-materialist position is ultimately a failure.

    And for the record, “Materialism” is the result not of a previously-invented metaphysical stance thrust upon the world by a materialist cabal. It’s the the conclusion that those studying nature (most of whom were and are devout believers in immaterial, supernatural beings) have been dragged to, kicking and screaming, by the evidence.

    But of course, it is only those that are intellectually humble and honest enough to follow where the evidence takes them that have actually advanced human understanding of nature (and yes, “reality”). So with history as our guide, the materialist approach is the correct path to lead us to deeper understanding of consciousness and mind.

  120. eternallylearningon 11 May 2014 at 11:16 am

    One thing I was surprised no on in the debate jumped on was Alexander’s comment that his NDE seemed to last for months though he was only in a coma for weeks and he suspected that the experience happened within a matter of days on top of that.

    “…yet I knew the entire ultra-real odyssey that I had just been
    deep in coma, went [spelled phonetically] so extensive it seemed to last for months,
    even though it had to fit within seven days of earth time.”

    It seems that possibly he attributes this mismatch of time to heaven-time being more dense or something than earth-time, but I really am not sure. What seems obvious to me though is that if can understand that his sense of time could be so distorted, why is it impossible for him to conceive that it could be slightly more distorted and that these memories formed during the time period where he believes his mind was capable of forming them and not over the course of days when he believes it wasn’t.

    Also, in going through his opening statements again I’m starting to wonder if he attributes his recovery to the mind fixing the body as it were. He describes in great detail how damaged his brain was and how there was no chance for full recovery (which obviously did happen) and then describes the turning point as being when he felt his consciousness was back in his body. Is he trying to say that his consciousness healed his body or is he saying that the fact he’s conscious in spite of the damage to his brain is evidence of dualism?

  121. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Steve Novella
    “Ian – your point about Phineas is a straw man and moving the goal post”.

    It is really tiresome when materialists continually accuse me of attacking straw men. I’m well aware what the materialist position entails. It demonstrates to me that they have no arguments so they resort to this sort of tactic.

    Steve Novella
    “When we say changing the brain changes the mind that does not imply nor require an entire existential change”.

    Either we have alterational change, or we have existential change. We cannot have a mixture of the two. Anyway I’ll write a blog entry about alterational vs existential change next week should anyone be interested.

    Steve Novella
    “Unfalsifiable notions about the brain as receiver, tuner, limiter, or whatever are unfalsifiable and unnecessary”.

    It’s not a scientific hypothesis. Neither is the brain produces consciousness thesis. Hence the falsifiability criterion doesn’t apply since Popper meant it to apply to scientific hypotheses only. It’s also worth mentioning that Popper himself was a dualist.

    Even if the filter hypothesis was a scientific one, hypotheses can always be “saved” by the introduction of appropriate auxiliary hypotheses. So falsifiability arguably doesn’t really characterise scientific progress.

    RickK
    “If you don’t understand “methodological naturalism”, the foundational assumption underlying the scientific method”.

    I have studied the philosophy and history of science, and got a first class in that credit area, but I have never heard of “methodological naturalism”. It’s very difficult to discern a scientific method. And if by naturalism you mean materialism then science most definitively doesn’t assume materialism.

    OK there’s been a lot of comments. Haven’t presently got time to respond. I’ll leave it there for now.

  122. hardnoseon 11 May 2014 at 1:45 pm

    “Wow, please tell us where you’ve seen that particles are illusions. What’s that idea with information ? A particle can become energy, is energy merely information ? If you say yes to that, I think we should stop arguing. I’m open to every idea but for this one you should have to bring a comprehensive theory of an information-based natural world. Interesting…”

    Wow, it is well known that “material” things can appear solid to us because no two electrons can be in the same place at the same time. This gives the illusion that matter is made out of some kind of particles.

    The original idea was that everything is made out of atoms, which are two small to see. That of course turned out to be wrong, since atoms were found to be made up of sub-particles, which in turn are made of sub-sub-particles, etc.

    So all that led to string theory and matrix theory, in which there are no ultimate little particles. Only vibrations, relationships, in other words information.

    The idea that the universe could be made out of information goes back at least to the 1960s and cellular automata. Not everyone knows about it or necessarily agrees with it, but lots of people do.

  123. chrisjon 11 May 2014 at 2:14 pm

    “Clearly his threshold for compelling and overwhelming are different from mine.”

    This kind of makes it seem like thresholds for evidence are a matter of personal tastes. Surely there is some principled way to argue for a particular threshold. We can throw out Sagan’s slogan “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This helps, but is there something more specific we can say. What counts as extraordinary evidence? Perhaps there is even a way to couch this in terms of probabilities using Bayes theorem or something. Anyone have some thoughts on this.

  124. Bronze Dogon 11 May 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I recently played a sci-fi puzzle game called The Swapper, which featured some talk about the nature of consciousness. The game’s main mechanic was using the titular device to create mindless clones that copy your movements and zap them to transfer your consciousness between them. Or at least that’s how most people would interpret what it does.

    In the story, things apparently got weird when earlier experimenters used the swapper on other conscious beings, resulting in mental merging. The other character(s) you meet are two consciousnesses in one body arguing over the nature of consciousness and identity, and IIRC, were originally three or more people subjected to the swapper. The one arguing for souls claims that even though she’s got the combined memories from the original people involved and is behaving differently, she protests, “I still feel myself” as if her perception of self wasn’t subjective or prone to flawed self-testing. I got the impression that they were trying for ‘it could be either way’ with the story, but I didn’t see a good case for the soul.

    To me, such a mental merge isn’t fundamentally different from the changes that come from simply living day to day. The difference is mostly about degree and suddenness. We regularly take in new experiences, make new memories, and this information make us look at the world differently. We don’t think of ourselves as constantly newborn because we have a lot of memories to reconstruct a personal history. If we didn’t instinctively take ownership of our memories and construct personally relevant narratives from them, we probably wouldn’t learn as much from our past experiences.

    That perspective leads me to see consciousness as being intimately tied to change. Neuroscience gives us a steadily improving framework to understand, explain, and predict many of those changes. Dualism and similar beliefs seem more interested in denying the possibility of certain changes and comforting people when they get uncomfortable thinking about those sorts of changes.

  125. BillyJoe7on 11 May 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Rick: “if you’re suggesting that we could be living in a version of the Matrix”

    Ian is an Idealist.
    For the Idealist, there is no external reality. There is just the mind which creates its own reality. When Ian argues against your point of view, he is essentially arguing against a point of view created in his own mind. You are part of the reality that, in his opinion, does not exist. The computer he argues through is also a creation of his own mind, not something that has any real existence.
    Just so you know whay you’re up against.

  126. Ian Wardellon 11 May 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Billyjoe, your hostility towards me is interesting.

    I believe reality is as we perceive it. There are colours, sounds, smells out there in the world, not wavelengths of light etc. These colours, sounds, smells reside in an external reality. It is the materialist who rejects that they are part of the external world. They believe that all such qualities are creations of the mind.

    So quite the opposite of what you’re suggesting.

  127. M_Morganon 11 May 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Hardnose

    I share your skepticism about the sufficiency of “brain” to encompass “mind”. I have written about it in a piece available at http://sdrv.ms/1a4HBbk The idea is to broaden to neurons generally, and not merely those in the brain, as a first step. Its surprising where this can develop.

    For example, receptors and effectors are at all sites of anatomy – distributed throughout. They “finalize” by firing in the brain for the experience of awareness (both thoughts and feelings) after firing at sites for recognition of site events (sight, sound, touch, viscera, etc etc).

    They also fire in the brain in for anticipation of site events in the same process – as recognition-anticipation, or sensory-motor. The brain processes a response to recognition, as anticipation, as inputs become outputs to give effective to responses.

    By recognition-anticipation we can condition ourselves to produce responsive motor moves – developed from childhood. By laying out the process in this way, it is clear that the brain is the junction for receptors and effectors at sites of anatomy and completely bound to them.

    Of course any damage to that essential junction, which finalizes and integrates diverse site inputs, to send diverse sites outputs in response, will alter the experience of awareness. However, plasticity shows the fundamental importance of site conditioning to overcome many deficits – both to sites (missing limbs as phantoms) and the brain (bypassing damaged regions).

    Consequently, we need to consider sites as “causal”, and see the brain as a rapid automatic facilitator for manual site functions to literally be aware of their functions in the world. Neurons represent sites’ functional interfaces with a world at all times – we are completely immersed in a world and capture self and world stimulation for finalization as an ordered experience after the second firing in the brain.

  128. leo100on 11 May 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I am not surprised you Steven and Sean won the debate based on the fact that the other two are not very well schooled at all in the evidence for survival after death and psi. I know of not many naturalists like you Steven Novella that jump on the bandwagon of saying that the mind is somehow produced by the brain. A lot of naturalists points out its actually a assumption they go with because they can work with that model. Look, at Christof Koch he admits now that you need to postulate something else other than the brain that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe that the mind is linked to the brain but isn’t the same as the brain.

  129. grabulaon 11 May 2014 at 9:28 pm

    @ian

    So here’s what we’ve got from you so far. ..

    1- you don’t believe in science because it’s took materialistic
    2- if you can’t see it you dint believe in it, ie color is color, not light and waves and other magical stuff
    3- anyone who disagrees with your philosophy is a materialist who doesn’t understand what they or you believe in.
    4- only you seem to understand the arguments on both sides, everyone else is just hand waving since they don’t comprehend at the level you do.

    To distill all this down, you’re here to talk AT us and hopefully get a few hours in your blog.

  130. Bronze Dogon 11 May 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I know of not many naturalists like you Steven Novella that jump on the bandwagon of saying that the mind is somehow produced by the brain. A lot of naturalists points out its actually a assumption they go with because they can work with that model.

    It’s a conclusion based on observing changes to consciousness whenever the brain is subjected to change. These changes happen in a consistent fashion that we can often make accurate predictions.

    Look, at Christof Koch he admits now that you need to postulate something else other than the brain that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe that the mind is linked to the brain but isn’t the same as the brain.

    Why is this “something else” necessary to explain what we observe? What can it do? What can it not do? What predictions can we make from hypothesizing this entity’s existence? How can we observe it? How were its properties determined? How does it interact with the rest of the universe? What exactly does it explain that isn’t currently explained by neuroscience?

    What does it mean to say that consciousness is “fundamental” and how is it supposed to affect our understanding of the universe or our methods of inquiry?

  131. Factoidjunkieon 11 May 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Lots of interesting comments to this post and quite a bit of hoopla.

    I just want to express my thanks to you Dr. Novella and Sean Carroll for your thoughtful demeanor and accurate portrayal of the rationalist/materialist/scientific worldview. I believe efforts like this will help improve our ability to flourish.

  132. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2014 at 6:38 am

    @Grabula

    I’m anti-science meaning I don’t subscribe to any materialist metaphysic . .

    It really does reveal a complete serious lack of understanding that people on here think that science somehow entails materialism. I could patiently explain why it doesn’t till I’m blue in the face, but you guys still won’t get it . .

    @RickK You said:

    “If by using these assertions (i.e the assertions underpinning materialism) science is able to make highly accurate predictions, then the assertions “work” and the success of these predictions offers “proof” beyond any reasonable doubt”.

    Well it would also work if one assumed say something like subjective idealism. I briefly explain subjective idealism in a blog entry ( http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/a-very-brief-introduction-to-subjective.html). Indeed subjective idealism is superior since under its assumption quantum mechanics is no longer weird. Anyway there’s a few assumptions underlying science such as the uniformity of nature i.e the same characteristic patterns obtain throughout the Universe and the future will resemble the past, but the assumptions that there’s a consciousness-independent reality, and reality including consciousness is wholly material, are not included.

    Naturalism, properly understood, is of course a reasonable position, but there’s absolutely no reason to suppose it is incompatible with non-materialist positions. Current science as we know it is incompatible with the existence of anomalous cognition (psi), and it is incompatible with the soul, unfortunately it is also incompatible with the very existence of consciousness!

    What we need is a revolution in physics, some deeper theory which will incorporate the existence of consciousness. Then such abilities of consciousness such as psi, the existence of the self, and indeed the soul, might simply be revealed as a natural consequence of this new understanding. And I suspect this new understanding will also preserve causal closure of the world whilst still affording a causal role for consciousness.

    @Factoidjunkie There’s nothing remotely rational about materialism. It’s possibly one of the most preposterous beliefs that human beings have ever entertained. And I don’t mean the idea that the brain creates consciousness which has a certain reasonability due to the systematic correlations between brain function and mental states. I mean the notion that conscious experiences, which are characterised by the qualitative, are one and the very same thing as physical processes which are characterised by physical properties such as mass, momentum, electrical charge etc. Perhaps it’s a complete failure to grasp what the word “same” means, I don’t know.

  133. Bill Openthalton 12 May 2014 at 8:01 am

    Ian Wardell –

    Indeed under any materialist based metaphysic we would predict that sufficient or appropriate brain damage would literally change a person. So far as I’m aware this never happens.

    My uncle was a hard-nosed businessman, a laywer by education, an expansive talker backed up by phenomenal erudition, living life in the fast lane. One night, while driving back from the French Provence, he lost control of his car (a Mustang :) ) and suffered severe cranial trauma. He survived the accident, but was a changed man; gentle instead of brash, boring instead of erudite, slow instead of driven. He lived for another twenty years thanks to the selfless devotion of his wife, smiling, inoffensive, and endlessly rehashing the same few subjects. It was very sad for those who had known him before, but he was not aware of any difference — he didn’t remember much of his past.

    This is an anecdote, but he was a changed person indeed.

  134. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2014 at 8:06 am

    @ Bill Openthalt Was it existential change or mere alterational change?

    The distinction between these 2 types of change are as follows:

    Consider a table. We could paint it a different colour. That’s alterational change. It’s the same table, but has been altered slightly. But now consider destroying a table, and putting in it’s place a table looking identical. That’s existential change.

    This is just one reason why it would be naive to suppose ones behaviour determines ones destination in the afterlife realm. I talk about this in a blog entry: http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/what-determines-where-we-go-should.html

  135. BillyJoe7on 12 May 2014 at 8:07 am

    Ian,

    “Billyjoe, your hostility towards me is interesting”

    Hostility?
    You must have read that into what I wrote, because I certainly didn’t feel hostile while writing it.

    “I believe reality is as we perceive it. There are colours, sounds, smells out there in the world, not wavelengths of light etc. These colours, sounds, smells reside in an external reality”

    Okay, maybe I have you confused with somone else. Apologies.
    Hmmm, yes…I remember…you’re the one who denies that A and B in the Checkerboard Illusion are are identical.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Sen1HTu5o
    Who you gonna believe…science or your lying eyes!

    “It is the materialist who rejects that they are part of the external world. They believe that all such qualities are creations of the mind”

    Yes, but those creations are based on external reality stretching right back through our evolutionary history. And examining and interpreting the flaws in these creations gives us a better picture of that external reality.

    “So quite the opposite of what you’re suggesting”

    Well, not quite…

  136. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2014 at 8:32 am

    @Billyjoe:

    I write about that Checkerboard “Illusion” here and explain why it’s not really an illusion:

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/are-perceptual-illusions-always.html

  137. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2014 at 8:37 am

    If you didn’t believe your “lying eyes” you might have very good vision, but you wouldn’t be able to *see* :-)

  138. SteveAon 12 May 2014 at 10:43 am

    BJ7: “Hmmm, yes…I remember…you’re the one who denies that A and B in the Checkerboard Illusion are are identical. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Sen1HTu5o

    Fantastic video. Thanks for the link.

    I doubt anyone will make any progress with Ian W. He’s just another true believer fighting for his (after)life, but it’s always interesting to read your comments and those of grabula etc.

  139. Bill Openthalton 12 May 2014 at 10:46 am

    Ian Wardell –

    Was it existential change or mere alterational change?

    For that distinction to be made you need to posit the existence of an afterlife. The afterlife being a matter of belief, you are welcome to use it as basis for your reasoning, but you can only propose the concept to others, who are equally free to believe it, or ignore it.

    To all who knew him, the accident caused fundamental changes to my uncle’s personality. Without doubt, it profoundly altered the course of his life (in addition to shortening it, as he suffered more than brain lesions). A table with a coat of paint remains a table, just as much as you remain the same person if you colour your hair, or change clothes. If you modify a table so it becomes a chair — is it still a table because it has most of the original wood? Or are the character, behaviour, memories and mental faculties of humans less important than their looks to determine who they “are”?

  140. TiinaB.on 12 May 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Hi! Greetings from Finland!

    I just watched the debate via Youtube and enjoyed it very much. I am interested in science and try to keep up with what is going on.

    One thing has puzzled me for a long time. Although scientists and experts keep saying they are willing to change their mind on something should proper evidence appear there are numerous examples of scientists that have been ridiculed by their peers during history and their ideas totally dismissed in their own time.

    Only later (sometimes much much later) have their ideas been proved right as new generations have been looking into them, many times with new equipment available, or new people in charge of the funding.

    For example, think about the guy who at one point suggested it might be a good idea for surgeons to wash their hands before operating on people. Someone had a hunch dirty hands might transfer some nasty things into patiences and cause inflammation. Bacteria could not be seen with the bare eyes and therefor their existance not proved before the innovation of microscope.

    Or think about Galileo Galilei.

    Today we don´t know what dark matter is, as it can not be measured or seen. Reality might be 12 dimensional.

    Perhaps at some point someone figures out an apparatus that ables us humans see to those other dimensions?

    I wish researchers in all areas of science really would keep an open mind. But I have to say I am sceptical about that.

  141. ccbowerson 12 May 2014 at 3:15 pm

    “Aye, I’m not really interested in advancing reasons/evidence to support an afterlife. I’m more interested in the materialists justification in their assertion there is no afterlife. And picking that apart.”

    I have seen this type of motivation in the past with commenters on other topics. The idea seems to be that if you can ‘win some points’ against ‘the other side,’ that strengthens your position somehow. The problem is that you are not acually engaging or addressing your own position, and you think that you can become correct by default. In reality, you need evidence and arguments for your position, which you have repeatedly dodged.

  142. BillyJoe7on 12 May 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Ian,

    “If this were a real object that we are seeing, then squares A and B are very different colours. Our senses are not deceiving us”

    Did you even bother to watch the video I linked to?

    That video does depict a real 3D object.
    And the squares are DEMONSTRABLY the same colour.

    Moreover…
    When the square in the shadow is moved into the light, it appears DARKER than it was when it was in the shadow!
    When it is moved back into the shadow it looks LIGHTER than it was when it was in the light!
    Which is the exact OPPOSITE of what you would expect!

  143. Ian Wardellon 12 May 2014 at 9:17 pm

    @Billyjoe I linked to my blog entry, what do you find wrong with my reasoning?

    @Bill Openthalt You didn’t answer my question.

    Of course the materialist has to hold that all change in a persons mind is existential change. Contrariwise, those who subscribe to an afterlife, have to believe that all change in a person’s mind is alterational change.

    So the materialist will point to extreme examples pertaining to brain damage to try and convince that existential change has taken place.

    Now it seems to me that almost all of us feel we are literally the very same person as we were when we were a child. But our intelligence has changed, our interests, our demeanour etc. So either we are mistaken (the materialists stance), or the self is not constituted by any of these psychological properties (the survivalist).

    So those who believe in a “life after death” will subscribe to the latter. hence banging on about brain damage and the mind changes thus precipitated ought not to impress such a person.

    Of course a materialist might attack the survivalist’s notion of the self. He might say “what does the self consist of if divest of all these psychological properties”? Well that’s a possible line of attack, yes. But it’s a good ol’ philosophical debate which moves us beyond the tired brain damage examples.

  144. RickKon 12 May 2014 at 10:21 pm

    BillyJoe,

    I think what Ian is saying is that perception is reality. If you perceive the two squares to be different colors, then they are. There is no such thing as an optical illusion because ther is no objective reality to negate your perception.

    So if I perceive Ian to be a jackbooted neo-Nazi who eats kittens, there is no objective reality to refute my perception – my perception is the reality.

    Do I have that right?

  145. Niche Geekon 13 May 2014 at 12:09 am

    Ian,

    Your argument in this thread seems to hinge upon your assertion that “…the materialist has to hold that all change in a persons mind is existential change.” Having read your blog post, I think this remains unsupported. Your premise is that materialists “…claim that even from one second to the next there is no actual enduring self” however you offer no examples of materialists making this claim. From whence does it come? Certainly you’ve found no instances in this thread as It appears that these materialists disagree with you. I, for example, would argue that if the sense of self is a product of the brain then the persistence of the brain is sufficient to support persistence of sense of self.

    While your table metaphor is irrelevant if materialism does not require existential change, may I suggest that Mr. Pratchett has already addressed it?

    “This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y’know. Pretty good.”

  146. BillyJoe7on 13 May 2014 at 12:57 am

    Rick,

    “Do I have that right?”

    Spot on.
    I was trying to demonstrate the ridiculousness of his position.
    It seems he won’t play, though, so I’ll just chalk it up as a win.

  147. M_Morganon 13 May 2014 at 3:39 am

    @ Ian Wardell
    @ Billyjoe7

    The nub of your debate – the basic relation between mind and world, is easily answered. I will disregard much of the contentious material and arguments presented, as it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of “mind” in my view. A “mind” is a product of neurons across all functional sites of anatomy being finalized in the brain.

    Billyjoe7, did you know that we experience awareness as a brain event from inputs of sites (eyes, ears, skin, organs – every site of anatomy)? I see no indication that you have come to grips with the basics. It is a finalization by firings in the brain upon inputs of sites reaching “sufficiency” approximately 100 milliseconds after firings at sites upon stimulation (to see a world, hear it, smell it, touch it etc) in my model (which corresponds to basic neuroscientific models).

    The model is that neurons at sites extend to a brain for their diversities to be centralized and integrated into intact experiences (rather than entirely diverse and fractured ones)! Diversities from sites become integrated and then diverse coordinated outputs are sent back to diverse sites automatically in response – according to conditioned neural connections from past experiences. Easy as pie!

    Ian Wardell, you are clearly correct in saying there can be no “proof” of a mind-independent world, for the obvious reason suggested by Descartes – “I think, therefore I am”. By the experience of “thought”, we “therefore” conclude that we exist. This seems to have entirely escaped Billyjoe7. The subjective personal experience of “mind” and “feelings”, both of which are a personal, individual, neural experience upon ongoing finalizations in the brain, are PRIMARY.

    The subjective experience is primary – and it is the only way we can even purport to “know” that we exist – let alone whether a world exists. Nevertheless we can TRY to define that entirely subjective experience in objective terms. Do you fellows realize that the task of science is to objectify – to place experiences of mind on a more secure footing than having a purely subjective construct prone to useless distracted ideas? Perhaps Billyjoe7 was unaware of that.

    Science proposes there is a world of objects “out there”, and that their regularities are accessible and understandable to subjectively constructed minds. It encourages us to explore those regularities, and the best way to do so is to “conceive” (everything is a subjective conception by an isolated individual mind) of yourself as an object in the world that creates its own subjective awareness. Model biology and psychology, and use objective analyses to model yourself “from the outside, as an object”.

    But of course, as Descartes correctly hinted (but did not fully understand), even that task is subjective because the experience is primary and all we can do is hypothesize about what is “objectively true” in modelling to our personal and then collective rational satisfaction (if others support your model – its just a consensus issue beyond individual opinions). That doesn’t make it “true” – it always remains a subjective construct to be debated between subjective individuals. QED to explode the myth of “objective truth”. I will save the rest of my argument to give you pause to breathe and learn.

  148. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 7:03 am

    @Niche Geek Re selves are not persisting — not even from one second to the next.

    Some materialists agree, some don’t. Billyjoe agrees with me for example. But it doesn’t matter whether they agree with me or not since it is *impossible* for there to exist a persisting self should materialism be true.

    I prove this, read this blog entry from myself from the 4th paragraph onwards:

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/is-after-death-possible-if-we-are.html

    And it’s been discussed on this blog before. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/after-the-afterlife-debate/#comments

  149. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 7:04 am

    Sorry that last link should be http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-continuity-problem/

  150. BillyJoe7on 13 May 2014 at 7:21 am

    M. Morgan:

    “Billyjoe7…I see no indication that you have come to grips with the basics”
    “This seems to have entirely escaped Billyjoe7″
    “Perhaps Billyjoe7 was unaware of that”

    Well, he has a sense of humour at least. (:

  151. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 7:21 am

    I’d like to ask people a question. Do the changes that happen to us from say the age of 7 to adulthood not also establish that there cannot be any life after death?

    I mean just about everything changes — our intelligence, interests, behaviour, just about everything that materialists think makes up a person. So what can it be that survives? And why is this evidence not as equally if not more compelling than continually reciting examples of brain damage?

  152. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 7:57 am

    Billy Joe, just take some time to breathe and learn, you’ll get it one of these days :-) .

  153. Mr Qwertyon 13 May 2014 at 7:57 am

    @Ian
    I think the continuous change of our personalities is an interesting approach as well, so I’ll go even further with it.

    You could argue that a diety of some sort backs up all of our wetware and its states every 10 minutes and restores the last “good” copy in some virtual heaven-space.

    Let’s just assume that’s true, even though there’s no way to disprove it or way to prove it even being possible, let alone happening. (That’s essentially what the proponents of “Death is not Final” are saying (or close), although they do their best to obfuscate it in philosophy and mysticism in order to make as few hard / testable claims as possible.)

    So, lets say one has an accident which puts them in a coma for a year. They gradually come out and recover some of the functions but remain mentally impaired (and a different person) for the next 50 years until they die.

    What backup version do you use?

  154. Mr Qwertyon 13 May 2014 at 8:02 am

    Wife and I had a great time watching this debate, and also learned a lot.

    I wish someone from the audience directed the same “what would it take to make you change your mind” question to the “pro” side. I suspect the answer would be “nothing”.

  155. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 8:07 am

    Ian: “And why is this evidence not as equally if not more compelling than continually reciting examples of brain damage?”

    Because only philosophers seem to think this implies something mind-boggling profound. (Hint: it doesn’t)

    I would recommend not framing every single argument you spout as some kind of “materialism” versus “survivalism” or some other such hypothetical categories you have defined in your head and whose definitions no one else shares. Talk about subjectivity.

  156. BillyJoe7on 13 May 2014 at 8:12 am

    Mr. Qwerty,

    “What backup version do you use?”

    What backup version for an anencephalic?
    The blastocyst? (:

    “I suspect the answer would be “nothing””

    I suspect even “nothing” wouldn’t change their minds. (:

  157. BillyJoe7on 13 May 2014 at 8:14 am

    The Other John Mc.

    “Billy Joe, just take some time to breathe and learn, you’ll get it one of these days :-)

    Well, I’m not holding my breath, that’s for sure. (:

  158. Bill Openthalton 13 May 2014 at 8:22 am

    Ian Wardell –

    I did answer your question. Your dichotomy only exists by the expedient of an unverifiable assumption, i.e. the existence of a hereafter. Without this assumption, it is clear changes to the brain can result in sudden and very noticeable changes to a human’s personality and demeanour, their ability to remember and to reason to the point they are in those respects no longer recognisable to their familiars. The body’s exterior appearance has barely changed, but the person(ality) has changed. The problem is not with the change itself (humans change every day of their lives), but with the discontinuity.

    Now it seems to me that almost all of us feel we are literally the very same person as we were when we were a child.

    The sense of continuity stems from our memories — we remember the child we were, what we experienced over the years etc. Even though our memories are often partial and notoriously unreliable, they provide the frame of reference used by the brain. The sense of being the same person includes the memories of the changes we went through. There is no need to postulate the existence of a (undetectable) entity that implements the “self”.

    If the damage to the brain also affected the memories (or the ability to access them) to the extend that the person is no longer aware of their past, there is no reason there should not be an illusion of continuity based on the available memories, like we build a melody from individual notes without there being a melody “entity”. There are only sounds, and brain activity. Unless we have information on missing memories (which does happen), there is no reason we should not interpret the memories we have as a continuum – one cannot work with information one does not have.

    But our intelligence has changed, our interests, our demeanour etc. So either we are mistaken (the materialists stance), or the self is not constituted by any of these psychological properties (the survivalist).

    There is no reason a feeling of “self” should preclude changes in intelligence, demeanour or interests. People are aware of being the same individual at the same times as having changed over the course of time. The key is our ability to remember the past, and that doesn’t require an afterlife.

  159. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 8:29 am

    @Mr Qwerty

    I’d like you to link to people who argue that in a “life after death” we will be similar to that just before we died. This would mean that a person suffering from Alzheimer’s just before death would also be suffering from Alzheimer’s in the afterlife too. Or a person born with brain damage will have a damaged mind in the afterlife. I submit this is an obvious straw man.

  160. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 8:35 am

    Mr Qwerty

    “Wife and I had a great time watching this debate, and also learned a lot”.

    I can’t say I learnt anything at all. There was nothing anyone said that I didn’t already know. I’ve heard of shared death experiences. I’ve heard of Capgras syndrome. The assertion that we know that consciousness is produced by the brain is simply false. The assertion the brain is the mind (if taken literally i.e a declaration of a certain type of reductive materialism) is actually incoherent.

    The debate was on a very shallow level indeed. I would be surprised if any intelligent person learnt anything substantive. The only interesting thing that people might have learnt are the shared death experiences and related phenomena.

  161. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 8:37 am

    @ The Other John Mc

    I have no idea how your response could be considered an answer to my question.

  162. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 8:55 am

    @ Bill Openthalt

    Yes I’m aware of everything you say. And you’re not saying anything interesting or relevant. And yet again you have wholly failed to address my post. You might as well have talked about the weather.

    “There is no need to postulate the existence of a (undetectable) entity that implements the “self””.

    I’m yet to be convinced we have any compelling reasons to suppose the self doesn’t exist. Basically we can only argue the self doesn’t exist if we suppose our personalities *constitute* the self rather than being properties of the self.

    So essentially the materialists are always both begging the question and attacking a straw man.

    But I keep repeating myself. I think I’m going to have to give up on the hope that any of you guys can actually understand the underlying issues. It’s ridiculous that we have people asserting materialism is true and yet not only can they not argue for their position, none of you even seem to understand what your position entails! Or even what flavour of materialism you’re subscribing to :O

    ok from this point onward I’m only going to respond to people who actually advance *arguments* to support their stance.

  163. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 9:12 am

    we prefer evidence here, arguments not so much; perhaps that’s why you seem so confused

  164. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 9:19 am

    Yes you guys seem averse to arguments, that’s for sure!

  165. sonicon 13 May 2014 at 9:55 am

    Ian-
    You said-
    “So essentially the materialists are always both begging the question and attacking a straw man.”

    I think you paint an overly broad picture. There must be a counter example somewhere.
    I’m unable to supply one, but… :-)

  166. mumadaddon 13 May 2014 at 9:55 am

    Ian,

    I’ve lost track of this thread a bit, so sorry if I’m being repetitive.

    You seem to keep referring back to this ‘existential vs alterational’ change. I’ve never heard of this before, but then I haven’t read much philosophy – are these your own terms or are they more widely recognised and defined?

    Even if we agree to your definitions, and we postulate scenarios in which ‘existential’ change occurs, I can’t see (or you can’t demonstrate) that this would necessitate either an afterlife or some ‘self’ entity separate from material reality.

    I think I asked you before but don’t recall a response – what if somebody suffered a brain injury and awoke with a markedly different personality (to whatever degree you like) and no recollection of their own life up until the point at which they awoke, so, a complete break in continuity and a seemingly different person? Would that fit your definition? If so, what are the implications your flavour of dualism or the existence of life after death?

  167. Mr Qwertyon 13 May 2014 at 10:02 am

    Ian:
    > I’d like you to link to people who argue that in a “life after death” we will be similar to that just before we died.

    Why? I never claimed that – why the straw man?

    What I’m saying is that the the “life after death” idea is intentionally vague. I have a feeling that this is so because making it more specific in any way becomes illogical (or results in absurd or non-acceptable) conclusions.

  168. Mr Qwertyon 13 May 2014 at 10:04 am

    Ian:
    > The assertion that we know that consciousness is produced by the brain is simply false.

    Just saying it doesn’t make it false.

    Ian>
    > The assertion the brain is the mind (if taken literally i.e a declaration of a certain type of reductive materialism) is actually incoherent.

    It is actually the ONLY coherent and non-contradicting hypothesis.

    Care to provide a better one?

  169. Mr Qwertyon 13 May 2014 at 10:05 am

    My bad, at this point it’s not even a hypothesis, it’s a proper, testable scientific theory.

  170. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 10:26 am

    Some of the best lines of evidence in support of brains being the physical structures of minds are:

    1) correlational brain imaging data showing that specific brain regions (modules) are associated with specific sensory, perceptual, and cognitive activity. All such activity has historically been associated only with an immaterial life-force or soul, but no longer.

    2) correlational brain imaging and neuroanatomy showing that specific brain regions (modules), when damaged, are associated with specific sensory, perceptual, and cognitive deficits.

    3) experimental brain stimulation techniques that can suppress, enhance, or otherwise alter specific sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functions; these basically always rely on and corroborate findings from (1) and (2) above. This is experimental evidence, I repeat, experimental evidence.

    4) ability to mathematically and computationally model sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functions to remarkable degrees of fidelity.

    5) ability to experimentally confirm that ensembles of real neurons in humans’ brains and other organisms’ nervous systems, are wired and connected as our theories/models/behavioral data would predict.

    6) Genetic data correlated with sensation, perception, cognition, and personality characteristics, suggesting such capabilities are at least partly explainable by physical genetic (as opposed to non-material) factors.

    7) Points 1-6 above eliminate the need for the soul as an explanation of most and probably all aspects of sensation, perception, and cognition.

    8) The “soul theory” has no plausibly proposed mechanism of action, to explain why or how the brain or body might be some kind of “conduit” to a soul, or how such an immaterial soul is able to interact with the physical matter of the brain/body and yet still remain undetectable by scientific investigation.

    9) The inability of the “soul theory” to answer simple questions like:
    – Why don’t we remember being souls before our bodies were born?
    – or why can’t a blind person’s soul see?
    – or if souls are immaterial, why do they require brains/bodies to interact with the world?
    – what is it about brains/bodies that allow them to interact with souls, and why could we not replicate this capability in another medium?
    – if brains are all that is required for souls, then all animals with nervous systems have souls? Birds, insects, philosophers, etc.?

    As a theory, the idea of a soul just has no compelling evidence in support of it; no explanatory or theoretical mechanism as to how or why it works; and libraries full of correlational, experimental, mathematical, computational, and genetic evidence that seem to directly refute the “theory.” The scientific conclusion on this issue is therefore straightforward: there ain’t no soul, and if there is, prove it with some actual experimental evidence please.

  171. mumadaddon 13 May 2014 at 10:27 am

    Ian,

    I think you are essentially arguing from ignorance: pointing to some difficulty with defining and understanding consciousness as though it favours your conclusion. We have very strong evidence demonstrating that brain causes mind, and no reason to even look for anything else.

    “I’m yet to be convinced we have any compelling reasons to suppose the self doesn’t exist. Basically we can only argue the self doesn’t exist if we suppose our personalities *constitute* the self rather than being properties of the self.”

    Why does it matter? Aren’t you just playing with definitions here? Under which definition is is an afterlife supported? How?

    If you and I agreed on certain essential characteristics of selfyness; eg. continuity, memories, awareness of the present moment, being embodied etc, what happens if we break one of those characteristics, eg making someone experience floating outside of their body through TCM stimulation? Are they no longer themself? Is there a threshold of selfness, under which they aren’t themselves? And again, how would this demonstrate a non material self or an afterlife?

    Actually, rather than lead you I’ll flat out just ask: what evidence is there of a non material self?

  172. Bronze Dogon 13 May 2014 at 11:50 am

    “Reductive materialism.” I think back to a Yoda deepity. “Luminous beings are we. Not this crude matter.” I can accept it as true within the Star Wars universe, but I don’t understand why similar assertions are made with such emotion in the topic of how consciousness works. Why the implied reverence for the “luminous” stuff and the implied disgust in calling matter “crude”?

    To me, the fixation on “material” versus “non-material” is a bait and switch as well as a convenient scapegoat. Positing the existence of unobservable souls is effectively a strategy for remaining in denial, since it only moves the question of how consciousness works from “how does the brain work?” to “how do souls work?” It defines souls as conveniently beyond any method of inquiry we can devise by asserting the junk drawer category of “non-material.” It certainly seems like a plausible explanation for why I see fallacies and confusion from the dualist community instead of progress.

    I think the deeper conflict is about a discomfort dualists feel being told that we’ve made useful headway in explaining how minds work. Explaining how something works typically involves reducing it into simpler parts and describing how those parts interact to produce the net effect in the whole. If they railed against the idea of explanations, they’d have a harder time being taken seriously. Instead, they rail against “reductionism,” which is essentially the same thing, but described in an obfuscating manner.

  173. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 11:55 am

    @The Other John Mc

    The correlations between brain states and mental states are very interesting. Clearly, without considering any other issues whatsoever, it is reasonable to suppose the brain produces consciousness.

    “7) Points 1-6 above eliminate the need for the soul as an explanation of most and probably all aspects of sensation, perception, and cognition”.

    So you’re not merely referring to the functional aspects of sensation, perception, and cognition i.e what sensation, perception, and cognition *do* but also have in mind the raw qualitative experiences associated with sensation, perception, and cognition?

    If the self/soul is not needed, so that qualitative experiences are not properties of a self, then brain processes have to produce such experiences. Here we have a huge problem. Allow me to explain:

    Normally we would consider that the parts of some object can explain its properties or behaviour as a whole. For example, consider a clockwork clock. By looking at the components of that clock – namely the cogs, the springs, and the wheels – and how they all interrelate together, we can actually understand how the hour, the minute and the second hands move. We would not expect the clock to exhibit any phenomenon that could not in principle be discerned from a thorough understanding of the properties and arrangement of its parts. For example we would not expect it to sound an alarm at every hour if it did not possess the appropriate mechanism. We would expect — lacking such a mechanism — that it would be physically impossible for it to sound an hourly alarm.

    But suppose it did sound any hourly alarm anyway. We could take it apart, examine all the parts more closely, realise that they are nothing other than what they seem, put it all back together, and hey presto, it still sounds the hourly alarm. In this case the alarm would be scientifically inexplicable even though it apparently is a product of the clock since the alarm only sounds when the clock is assembled. But nevertheless even though the clock somehow causes the alarm, reductionism fails because there is no explanation for why there is an alarm sound at all. In this case the hourly alarm would be a strongly emergent phenomenon.

    As far as I am aware we never ever encounter such strong emergence, with the possible sole exception of consciousness.

    To understand this consider that physical events are always something which can be quantified and which can therefore be measured. And, at least in principle, we can trace the chains of physical events. So event A causes event B causes event C etc.

    So in the case of a clockwork clock we can see the gears and wheels in motion, and each event in the physical chain of cause and effect will lead to another event, eventually resulting in the movement of the clock’s hands.

    So the movement of the clock’s hands is a weakly emergent phenomenon.

    It is extremely important to understand that each event in the chains of physical cause and effect is something which can be quantified and measured.

    So to consider our clock, every single event, including the very last event in the chain of physical cause and effect — namely the movements of the hands, is something which we can see, can quantify, can measure.

    It’s the same for our brains. We can follow the chains of physical cause and effect until we get to the very last event in the chain (or chains). This will be some event we can quantify and measure. It might be the physical event in the brain which precipitates in me the experience of seeing greenness.

    But the experience of greenness is not a further physical event since we cannot quantify and measure it. We can quantify the physical event in the brain corresponding to the experience of greenness i.e that physical event which causes or elicits the experience of greenness. But we cannot measure and quantify the experience of greenness in itself. And the same of course applies to the entirety of our consciousness.

    So assuming the brain does indeed produce consciousness then this is *strong* emergence. It only exists because of the preceding chain(s) of physical cause and effect, but it cannot be derived from them. Each of the other events in the chain is characterised by dynamics, and dynamics only ever leads to dynamics can only ever lead to further dynamics. But the experience of something like greenness is not characterised by dynamics, it is not something which can be quantified or measured, and indeed it is not something which can be objectively observed (only the subject experiences his own consciousness).

    So far as I’m aware this makes consciousness unique. If it is produced by the brain then it is the only strongly emergent phenomenon. And it is therefore not scientifically explicable. And of course this might give rise to the question of whether it is produced by the brain at all.

    You say:

    “9) The inability of the “soul theory” to answer simple questions like:
    a)– Why don’t we remember being souls before our bodies were born?
    b)– or why can’t a blind person’s soul see?
    c)– or if souls are immaterial, why do they require brains/bodies to interact with the world?
    d)– what is it about brains/bodies that allow them to interact with souls, and why could we not replicate this capability in another medium?
    e)– if brains are all that is required for souls, then all animals with nervous systems have souls? Birds, insects, philosophers, etc.?”

    a) Presumably we don’t remember for the same reason that we can’t remember most of our present life, and nothing at all before the age of about 5. Namely the brain blocks the memories.

    b) Events normally have multiple causes. The soul always has the capacity to see (perhaps by the same means as underpins remote viewing), but requires the area in the brain dealing with vision and the eyes to be functioning whilst the self “inhabits” the body.

    c) Brains might act as a reducing valve or “filter” which severely curtails the range of consciousness. Arguably this would serve the useful purpose of filtering out the perception of other realities and other conscious states which are not necessary, or which hinder our ability to function in this physical reality. This hypothesis would broadly be consistent with phenomena such as the occasional reports of people recovering their mental faculties near death, near-death experiences and other mystical experiences, and also accounts such as those found in the “Tibetan Book of the Dead.

    It seems we need the self to function through ones body in order to be able interact with the world. Maybe the self can initiate micro events in the brain allowing causal interaction with the world which a disembodied self couldn’t achieve on its own.

    d) Some brain processes might be susceptible to micro-psychokinesis. Maybe it could be replicated in some other medium, I have no idea.

    e) Other mammals I would assume “have” souls. It’s a bit tricky when we get down to insects and the like. Are insects conscious? Anyway I’m unable to understand the relevance of this question.

  174. Ian Wardellon 13 May 2014 at 11:58 am

    Bronze Dog
    “I think the deeper conflict is about a discomfort dualists feel being told that we’ve made useful headway in explaining how minds work”.

    Let’s grant this is true. It still remains the case that we are wholly unable to explain why brain processes are accompanied by inner qualitative experiences. Why are we all not philosophical zombies?

  175. Bruceon 13 May 2014 at 12:12 pm

    @Ian Wardell

    Having read everything you have written, I can sum up your argument in one sentence:

    “We don’t know everything, therefore the soul might exist”

    This is a god (soul) of tha gaps argument. all your explanations to our questions are qualified, just look at your language:

    “Presumably we don’t remember”
    “Events normally have multiple causes”
    “Brains might act as a reducing valve or “filter””
    “Some brain processes might be susceptible to micro-psychokinesis”
    “Other mammals I would assume “have” souls”

    You are not saying anything, you only have expounded conjecture. The evidence points towards the brain being a physical structure. It might not be the easiest thing to live with, but it is looking very likely that the existence of a soul is pure and utter wishful/magical (or whatever you want to call it) thinking.

  176. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Ian,

    Consciousness is an “emergent” phenomena…yada yada…therefore souls exist? C’mon you gotta do better than that. Try very specifically defining your terms, and try cutting out the extremely lengthy and unnecessary analogies involving clocks and the like, please. Will make the discussion clearer for everyone.

  177. The Other John Mcon 13 May 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Ian: “The correlations between brain states and mental states are very interesting. Clearly, without considering any other issues whatsoever, it is reasonable to suppose the brain produces consciousness.”

    Why oh why couldn’t you just leave it at that? What other issues do we really have to consider?? Others have already asked, and I am going to again: without resorting to thought-experiments or philosohpical gobbledy-gook using ill-defined terms:

    what is the *compelling experimental evidence* that brains are not the sole determinant of minds?

    Remember the evidence I provided above that you are up against…good luck

  178. Steven Novellaon 13 May 2014 at 1:32 pm

    There are good potential reasons why our nervous systems evolved subjective experience:

    1 – The brain needs to pay attention. It needs some mechanism to prioritize which tiny slice of the sensory information and internal states to monitor and process most aggressively. Paying attention, I would argue, requires a subjective experience.

    2 – We need need some way to distinguish a memory from an active experience. They have to “feel” different in some way.

    3 – A lot of behavior is based on motivation/emotion. This started with single cells that were attracted to some chemicals and repulsed by others. We still have a basic pain/reward system, although the stimuli and responses are much more complex. Pain, for example, is a strong motivation of behavior, and it has a strong emotional component. This is inextricably tied to experiencing the pleasure or pain.

    The most straightforward way to get an organism to act as if it feels something is for it to feel something.

    I don’t think p-zombies are even possible, but even if they were, that does not preclude subjective experience, and I would argue subjective experience is likely easier than making a p-zombie.

  179. Pirsqedon 13 May 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Question: Have there been any verified cases of extreme retrograde amnesia? If so, wouldn’t that be what Ian is looking for?

    I’ve heard of cases where people lose their memories in a very extreme way. Even so far as to forget who they are. Many stink with National Inquirer levels of foulness, while others seemed more compelling. (A guy in Florida wakes up only speaking Swedish? C’mon! Sounds like BS to me.)

    One particular case that I remember is Benjaman Kyle

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjaman_Kyle

    However, Wikipedia doesn’t really go into detail about his condition, and I’m curious to know if it has been verified.

  180. the devils gummy bearon 13 May 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Eben followed up with another twisted exhumation of Sagan (in his post-debate blog post)? My eyes rolled so hard I think I gave myself a concussion. Pious fraud or Hanlon’s Razor, huckster or not, he’s a crackpot. One does not simply “quote” Sagan in order to prop up supernatural bullshit.

  181. Ekkoon 13 May 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Ian Wardell: “It still remains the case that we are wholly unable to explain why brain processes are accompanied by inner qualitative experiences.”

    Consciousness and a sense of self – an ability to feel things, reflect on the past, plan for the future, etc. have inherent adaptation and survival value over just brain processes alone.

  182. Bill Openthalton 13 May 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I conjecture consciousness is a by-product of the human brain’s ability to communicate substantial information on its internal state to other brains. This communication enables human collaboration on a scale not even ants are capable of, by multi-purpose individuals with significant genetic difference. As collaboration goes, billions of humans cooperating rather smoothly is an incredible “tour de force”.

    And it is made possible by our ability to acquire information on our brain’s internal state (feelings, memories and other thoughts), convert them into a code, and transmit the information to other brains. In the process, the information becomes structured, and amenable to analysis by the brain that produced it just as much as by the brains that receive it. The ability to analyse information on oneself (as if one was another creature), and re-analyse the result of the analysis, is nothing less than consciousness.

  183. M_Morganon 13 May 2014 at 5:35 pm

    @ Billyjoe7

    “Well, he has a sense of humour at least. (:”

    No I don’t. I was giving a direct assessment of what I have read from your posts.

    I see you have no answer to the points I have made, which is no surprise to me because in the next thread you provide a one word assessment of my character and contribution as “crank”.

    You provided no facts or logical argument to support the assessment of “crank”, whatsoever! None at all, just a one word judgment out of the blue. And you have taken no opportunity here to support it by facts or logic.

    That amounts to “trolling” in my view, and a clear example, so henceforth, given no correction or apology, and given no evidence at this site in counter argument by anyone to support that view, you are a “troll” You are to be ignored, and others would be advised to treat your posts with caution.

  184. BillyJoe7on 13 May 2014 at 6:21 pm

    MMorgan,

    I know you don’t have a sense of humour. That would be up characteristic of a crank. I know you are deadly serious. I know you have spent every spare moment over the past thirty years developing your ideas. It’s sort of sad but, you know, nonsense is nonsense. What can I say?

    “You provided no facts or logical argument to support the assessment of “crank””

    You have provided the best argument of all – the 220 page booklet espousing your crank ideas.
    You have also not provided any counter evidence in the form of academic qualifications, peer review, or a list of papers published in reputable science journals or presented at scientific conferences.
    On the contrary, you have provided evidence that your ideas have been rejected by those who would know a crank when they see one.

    I know it must be hard to accept that you have wasted thirty years of your life.
    I have some idea of what it is like because I wasted my whole childhood and adolescence on something I know now to be totally false.
    But, look on the bright side – you probably have another thirty years to make you life mean something.

    Some suggestions:
    - put aside your crank ideas for about ten years.
    - pick one subject that particularly interests you.
    - educate yourself about the current thinking on this subject by obtaining academic qualifications in that subject, studying all the academic books and texts on the subject, and reading all the published papers.
    - after ten years, revisit your ideas on this one subject and discover how cranky you were ten years ago.
    - then, maybe, just maybe, you might be able to make a small contribution to the field.

    Good luck mate!
    …and sorry for bowling you a googly. (:

  185. Bronze Dogon 13 May 2014 at 6:46 pm

    I don’t get why you’d expect p-zombies, Ian.

    What is internal qualitative experience if it’s not term to describe the act of processing and evaluating information and sensory input?

  186. Bronze Dogon 13 May 2014 at 6:59 pm

    For extra credit: How exactly does a non-material mind explain inner qualitative experience?

  187. leo100on 13 May 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I like to put down some slam dunk arguments against both Steven Novella and Sean Carroll. Both who I believe are holding science as a position then a method. First, to Steven Novella he mentions that the arrow points to the brain producing the mind somehow. First, we don’t know that at all its an assumption that is based on the data itself. Two, there is well attested phenomenon that does not fit into the picture that the mind is produced by the way for example terminal lucidity patients who recover their memories shortly before their deaths. That is something we would not expect if the brain is the producer of consciousness. Third, people missing more than 80 percent of their brains but are able to fully function many in fact still have complete consciousness intact. Fourth, if the naturalists want to prove their case that the mind is produced by the brain they will have to do better than silly arguments of brain damage, split brain experiments, drugs effecting the mind, diseases of the brain etc. They will have to do something that behaviorism tried to do but failed miserably at doing that behavior aka mind can be explain by the brain as well as a successful demonstration that robots can be self aware and have inner subjective experiences. If they could do one of those two things above they would go a long ways in showing that mind is probably produced by the brain.

    Now on to Sean Carroll that the natural laws themselves prove that their probably isn’t no life after death. Your wrong, the natural laws don’t stretch all of reality also the laws themselves don’t go to the subatomic level. Where bizarre things can happen also where parallel universes are likely based on growing evidence that parallel universes may in fact be real. These parallel universes can have completely different laws of physics themselves so things such as apparitions can be explained by people from those universes harnessing white worm holes to make their entrance on his side of reality. In fact, there really isn’t anything in physics except personal envy against ideas life after death that preclude the possibility of an afterlife. Parallel universes has a profound implication on our death because if they are real then death is really a figment of an imagination in this realm of existence. That consciousness in fact continues according to quantum immortality. I ain’t here by the way to convert anyone but just some actual food for thought and I think its a good thing for everyone to thinks for themselves instead of having anyone rather that person have a Phd or not persuade into believing what they believe.

  188. Niche Geekon 13 May 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Ian,

    Having read your new links, I think you’ve misunderstood me. I understand that the possibility of copying consciousness introduces a philosophical challenge to the nature of self. That said, you have taken the absurd leap from “possible” to “necessary”. Can you please outline your argument why materialism requires the destruction of self? It is a premise in many of your pieces but it is nowhere justified. You seem to believe that BillyJoe agrees with you on this point, perhaps billy joe can explain.

  189. Niche Geekon 13 May 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Further, that you are looking for a “part” to explain an emergent phenomenon implies that you don’t understand what emergent phenomena are.

  190. M_Morganon 14 May 2014 at 3:42 am

    @ Billyjoe7

    You obviously don’t want to be ignored, but your crystal ball is off the mark, Troll. What a disgrace, and not only to Dr Novella and his worthy site. No facts and no logic concerning the work itself AT ALL. Not a bean. Just waffle and a pathetic attempt at “hurtfulness”, classic Troll behaviour! Your reply was too revealing to ignore, and Dr Novella should just ban your disgraceful approach to “argument”. I am not trying to be hurtful to you, I am calling you out based on your own words, which you have to date failed to do with mine.

    You can’t even pull apart an extended comment by me above with plenty of material to dispute – to get into the issue whether I am a “crank” by reference to the ideas themselves rather than whatever it is you are trying to present as “argument” to try to be hurtful. I assume the comment I posted is way beyond your capacity to contradict. Your comment, on the other hand, is so repetitive and desperate, it must be a while since someone called you out. How long exactly have you been getting away with this behaviour in blogs?

  191. BillyJoe7on 14 May 2014 at 6:47 am

    MMorgan,

    I get push back all the time. Just like I’m getting from you. No problem.
    Also, I don’t say anything specifically to be “hurtful”, as you put it. I just call things as I see them.
    I see your qualifications as a lawyer, but none as a physicist. I see your lack of response to my requests about your acedemic record which I take to mean that you have none. This is not ordinarily a problem, but when you presume to tell the world’s practicising physicists that they are wrong, then you’d better have a damn good track record. I don’t see that. That, in my assessment, makes you a crank. And that’s only the start…

    You might care to read Martin Gardner’s “signs of a crank” (summarised by Brian Dunning) to better understand what we mean by the term:

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2010/07/08/martin-gardners-signs-of-a-crank/

    Cranks tend to work in isolation from their colleagues.
    Cranks tend to be paranoid.
    Cranks tend to consider themselves geniuses.
    Cranks tend to regard their colleagues and critics as stupid.
    Cranks tend to believe there is a conspiracy against them.
    Cranks tend to criticize the work of big names in science.
    Cranks tend to invent their own terminology, sometimes their own sciences, and tend to write in their own overcomplicated jargon.

    Please click the link and read the details and tell me you don’t recognise yourself.

    “You can’t even pull apart an extended comment by me above with plenty of material to dispute”

    That is exactly the wrong way to deal with cranks.
    I’ve done that before. It’s a tiresome, thankless, unrewarding, sisyphean task.
    Nope. Recognise the crank. Ignore the rantings. Move on.

    ——————————————-

    “Dr Novella should just ban your disgraceful approach”

    You are calling for censorship?
    But I called you a mate and I even offered you some helpful advice:

    - put aside your crank ideas for about ten years.
    - pick one subject that particularly interests you.
    - educate yourself about the current thinking on this subject by obtaining academic qualifications in that subject, studying all the academic books and texts on the subject, and reading all the published papers.
    - after ten years, revisit your ideas on this one subject and discover how cranky you were ten years ago.
    - then, maybe, just maybe, you might be able to make a small contribution to the field.

    At the very least I was hoping for a thank-you. (:

  192. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2014 at 8:10 am

    @Niche Geek

    I don’t want to post anymore on here. Nothing is being achieved and nobody seems to pay any attentions to my posts or understand what they mean. And that definitely includes you.

    I wrote a long post explaining reductive materialism and why consciousness cannot be reductively explained. Therefore if it is produced by the brain it is a strongly emergent phenomenon. You simply don’t appear to be reading or comprehending what I write (and that goes for everyone else).

    Furthermore I have explained why a persisting self is not possible under materialism. http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/is-after-death-possible-if-we-are.html The replica/teleporting thought experiments makes it easy to understand why this is so.

    Yes ask BillyJoe to explain it to you. I’m not interested in posting here any more.

  193. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 8:30 am

    Now Ian, people have been perfectly polite in reading your posts, but no, no one understands what they mean. This implies either (a) you are not explaining yourself well (this might be remedied by further attempts) or (b) you aren’t making much sense (this might be remedied by you yourself by paying attention to and understanding other people’s posts).

    No one is claiming to “reductively explain” consciousness. Yes, it is likely an emergent phenomenon. OK. That doesn’t imply spirit, soul, ghost, or non-materialism of any form. What are we supposed to be inferring from relabeling it “emergent”? Have you surveyed the technical definition of “emergent phenomena”?

    Persisting selves, consciousness replicas, etc. are all philosophical thought-experiments, which count for little when we have actual scientific experimental data that goes towards these questions, no?

  194. mumadaddon 14 May 2014 at 8:43 am

    Ian,

    If you’re getting frustrated it’s because you failing to provide any good evidence, or using faulty logic or very shaky premises.

    I this from your blog: “Should naturalism/materialism be true then, even in our apparent day to day existence, we do not even survive from one second to the next. The overwhelming feeling we are persisting selves is all a horrible illusion.”

    But why, why oh why, Ian? I recall you’ve said this also in this thread, but you haven’t backed it up at all. Speaking for myself, I want you to be right – death terrifies me precisely because I believe it to be the end of my existence, so my starting point with your train of thought was sympathetic and hopeful, but you aren’t giving me anything solid.

    And also, if you’re willing to buy supposed ESP as evidence for a dualistic reality, then you appear to have a very low bar for acceptable evidence, to be using motivated reasoning and rationalisation to prop up your theory. If not, and you have some compelling evidence for ESP, bring it on, please, that would be an absolute game changer for the future of humanity.

    Here’s a question for you. If you refute that brains cause consciousness, can you provide any examples of things that are not brains that are conscious?

    Thanks.

  195. Bruceon 14 May 2014 at 9:20 am

    “Speaking for myself, I want you to be right – death terrifies me precisely because I believe it to be the end of my existence, so my starting point with your train of thought was sympathetic and hopeful, but you aren’t giving me anything solid. ”

    You speak for me too, if there were one area of woo I really really desperately wished had some kind of thread of truth it would be the afterlife. Unfortunately it follows exactly the same patterns as other woo and having to face the reality of a final death is one of the most paralysing and simultaneously motivating things I have ever experienced.

  196. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 10:01 am

    Ian, here’s some food for thought on the use of thought-experiments in philosophy (and science) of the mind, in a very thoughtful upcoming paper to be published in “Perspectives on Science”:

    http://cogsci.uwaterloo.ca/Articles/thagard.thought-experiments.final.2013.pdf

    Punchlines I particularly liked:

    “Accepting hypotheses merely on the basis of thinking about them constitutes a kind of epistemic hubris…”

    and

    “The harmfulness of thought experiments is illustrated by their effects on the philosophy of mind, where they have led to the widespread adoption of views that run contrary to empirically-supported alternatives.”

    I’m hoping this is ringing some bells. Whether you agree or not, it’s an interesting read nonetheless. I happen to agree with the author and the implications for philosophy of mind.

  197. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2014 at 10:29 am

    @ The Other John Mc

    Sorry what is the purpose of that link? It mentions Newton’s bucket experiment. Gorge Berkeley pointed out the flaws at the time at the time back in the 18th Century. He argued that not only absolute space but also absolute time is unintelligible.

    Article says:

    “Saul Kripke’s claim that pain is not a brain process because he could imagine possible
    worlds in which is not”.

    If it is logically possible (i.e in some logically possible world) that pain can exist without the brain process, then by definition pain is not a brain process. Try imagining a possible world where a table is not a table — yes it makes no sense.

    Article says:

    “Frank Jackson’s claim that there is more to color than brain processes because he could
    imagine a neuroscientist who supposedly knew everything about color but learned
    something by gaining the experience of color”.

    This demonstrates the falsity of reductive materialism. So what’s the problem?

    Article says:
    “David Chalmer’s claim that the possibility of “zombies” (which are just like us physically
    but lack consciousness) shows that consciousness is not a brain process”.

    ditto

    Article says:

    “My basis for thinking that all of these thou
    ght experiments have yielded false conclusions
    is that in the past two decades there has been a huge accumulation of evidence in favor of
    the identification of mind and brain (see e.g. Anderson 2007; Smith and Kosslyn 2007;
    14
    Thagard 2010). The mind-brain identity hypothesis is part of the best explanation of a
    wide range of phenomena including perception, inference, and emotion whose neural
    mechanisms are becoming increasingly well understood”.

    The author is hopelessly philosophically naive. You cannot have evidence for something which is incoherent.

    Why are you linking to a paper written by an author who is philosophically clueless?

  198. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 10:39 am

    Color-thought experiment, you conclude: “This demonstrates the falsity of reductive materialism”
    Zombie thought experiment, you conclude: “Ditto”

    That right there is your problem. You are making judgments about the truth or falsity of the mind-brain identity hypothesis based on thought experiments, when empirical scientific evidence tells a different story. You really did not catch on to that? For reals?

  199. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2014 at 10:46 am

    The same paper says:

    “Richard
    Feynman is supposed to have said that scientists are explorers, but philosophers
    are tourists, and that philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology
    is to birds”.

    By coincidence I’ve just written out a blog entry about the value of philosophy. However I haven’t published it yet and might amend it accordingly. And I mention Feynman and his attack on the philosophy of science in the last paragraph. This is what I’ve put:

    If an individual never thinks philosophically, never questions his existence, what the world is about, what justifies certain moral stances and other philosophical questions, then what will determine his beliefs in such things? Presumably the prevailing beliefs of his culture. He will trust what he considers to be the most intelligent peoples’ stance on such issues. These are likely to be people in the higher echelons of academia, and especially what scientists say.

    Hence, for example, he is likely to accept that he is merely a sophisticated biological robot with no free will, that science can in principle tell us everything about the world, and indeed everything else. He might even accept that there are no objective morals — that they are merely an expression of emotions, or they merely reflect psychological truths about the way human beings happen to be.

    In that case, by not thinking for himself, he is merely absorbing the common wisdom of his culture. This is highly undesirable for a couple of reasons.

    The first reason is that those who rise to the top in the academic community are liable to express views consonant with the prevailing orthodoxy — for if they do not then they will be less likely to have risen to such a position in the first place. So certain beliefs about the world tend to be perpetuated, not necessarily because of their underlying merits, but because there are influences actively discouraging the expression of views which are at variance with generally accepted beliefs. Since the prevailing common wisdom is both rather bleak and also, it seems to me, profoundly wrong, this surely cannot be desirable (I hope to address the question of why I believe it to be profoundly wrong with a future blog entry on scientism).

    Secondly it is of benefit to be able to understand underlying philosophical issues in and of its own sake. This has the benefit not only of obtaining a greater understanding of our underlying beliefs about ourselves and the world and other philosophical issues, it also is helpful in developing our critical thinking skills which can be applied in many other aspects of our lives.

    And a final brief word on the benefits of philosophy to science. It was Richard Feynman who said: “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” I agree that this will be true for the average scientist, certainly. But the truly great scientist who hopes to revolutionalize the way we view reality, must break out of orthodox ways of thinking and truly understand all the philosophical ramifications of competing revolutionary scientific hypotheses. With that in mind perhaps it might be more accurate to say philosophy of science is about as useful to the average scientist as knowing about how the engine works is to the average car driver. But what if your car keeps breaking down? What if the car accelerates when you hit the brakes? Or turns right when you steer left?

  200. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 10:59 am

    After quoting Feynman, the author ALSO said: “these comments reflect the common view of philosophy as a navel-gazing, angel-counting enterprise divorced from matters worth thinking about, a view that is encouraged by use of dogmatic thought experiments to proclaim how things must be in isolation from empirical studies of how they are. In contrast, I think philosophy has a great contribution to make to scientific and social issues, dealing with questions that are more general and more normative that usual scientific work.”

    Neither myself nor the author is advocating the down-fall of philosophy; get your britches un-bunched. Again, (face-palming) here is the problem: philosophers like yourself telling us how the world is, based upon thought-experimenting, and expecting us to take them seriously when scientists show through empirical demonstration how the world actually is. You want a philosopher of cars working on your busted transmission, or a properly-schooled mechanical engineer who is familiar with the underlying science for auto transmissions?

  201. mumadaddon 14 May 2014 at 11:33 am

    Ian,

    I sort of agree with the gist of what you’re saying above…. philosophy can be a useful tool in helping us to frame difficult questions like ‘what is consciousness’. It has informed the science in this area and there is some cross over between science and philosophy within this sphere of research.

    But, a dead end is still a dead end. And you’re still yet to back up your assertions about materialism necessitating no continuity of the self from second to second, yet to provide a logical argument from sound premises, yet to provide any evidence of a dualistic reality…

    ‘Hence, for example, he is likely to accept that he is merely a sophisticated biological robot with no free will, that science can in principle tell us everything about the world, and indeed everything else. He might even accept that there are no objective morals — that they are merely an expression of emotions, or they merely reflect psychological truths about the way human beings happen to be.’

    What if, by the most objective methods we have at our disposal, all the evidence points to a cold and uncaring deterministic universe, with us unimportant, short lived meat robots inhabiting a tiny corner? What if there is no objective source of morality?

    Well that may suck balls, but it does not stop it from being so.

  202. Ian Wardellon 14 May 2014 at 12:28 pm

    @mumadadd

    I explain in my blog entry about the persisting self issue. And it doesn’t matter if replicating or teleporting a human being will forevermore be beyond what is possible to achieve technologically. It’s a thought experiment to illustrate a truth.

    Our bodies, our brains are in a constant state of change. Hence if brains produce and determine mental states, then they too are in a constant state of change. But the materialist has to conceive of the self as consisting of certain psychological states including memories. So, since our psychological states change all the time, the self changes all the time. The thing is to try and understand this is existential change rather than alterational change. If you opt for alterational change then this is saying there is an essence which doesn’t change — basically a mental substance — the existence of which materialists of course deny.

    I used the replica/teleport thought experiment because it’s easier to grasp that way.

    Science sweeps the qualitative, intentions, purposes, teleology etc under the rug then pretends to have explained them. We have no reason to suppose there’s no ultimate purpose to our existence. Mystical states, NDEs, DMT trips etc all tell us that all things, including our lives, have an ultimate purpose.

  203. Ekkoon 14 May 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Ian,
    “The first reason is that those who rise to the top in the academic community are liable to express views consonant with the prevailing orthodoxy — for if they do not then they will be less likely to have risen to such a position in the first place. So certain beliefs about the world tend to be perpetuated, not necessarily because of their underlying merits, but because there are influences actively discouraging the expression of views which are at variance with generally accepted beliefs.”

    This is a huge assumption bordering on conspiracy theory. In most scientific fields, “prevailing orthodoxy” being overturned makes you famous. The catch is simply that this overturning has to be real – as in, accompanied by strong evidence. These “beliefs” are what best evidence show to be true. Think of your quote above in the context of a Creationism vs. Evolution debate for example. Liking the sound of a certain philosophical view does not make it so, especially when our best evidence to date does not support it.

  204. Ekkoon 14 May 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Ian,

    “So, since our psychological states change all the time, the self changes all the time. The thing is to try and understand this is existential change rather than alterational change. If you opt for alterational change then this is saying there is an essence which doesn’t change — basically a mental substance — the existence of which materialists of course deny…..We have no reason to suppose there’s no ultimate purpose to our existence. Mystical states, NDEs, DMT trips etc all tell us that all things, including our lives, have an ultimate purpose.”

    To go back to the original topic that started all this – none of this says anything at all about a “self” or “essence”, or whatever word you wish to use, that can survive death and exist in some sort of after-life. We also have no reason to suppose there is “an ultimate purpose to our existence”. Or, this purpose may be different for everyone. Or the purpose is just existence itself – not everything needs a purpose outside of its own expression. I get the impression you are trying to tease out some kind of articulation about a persistent “higher self” that exists behind our everyday thoughts, emotions, etc. There are certainly different states of consciousness and I am sympathetic to a point with where you are going with that. But none of that is incompatible with consciousness, including states of higher awareness, being an emergent property of the human brain that will cease at death of the organism.

  205. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 12:57 pm

    “Mystical states, NDEs, DMT trips etc all tell us that all things, including our lives, have an ultimate purpose”

    You had a better shot when you were using philosophical thought-experiments as “evidence”, now you’ve moved on to hallucinogenic drug-induced self-reports? I enjoy psychonautics as much as the next guy, but the royal road to Truth it is not.

  206. The Kenon 14 May 2014 at 1:15 pm

    It is crucial that the viewpoints of folks like Ian, Sonic, Hardnose, and even Will N (!) be presented and considered. Not because many will be swayed by their arguments, but because there are thousands of readers like myself that delight in the (mostly civil) back and forth, point and counterpoint, until it becomes clear whose position is justified and whose is not – and whose point contributes to the advancement of knowledge, isn’t that the goal? *Hint: motivated reasoning, logical fallacies, ideology, dogma, etc. are obvious and yet powerful psychological hurdles to truth – their recognition is crucial.

    At the same time, I see the frustration build on both sides when belabored points seem to be misunderstood, glossed over, or simply not addressed. In my opinion, both sides advance their arguments MUCH too far without gaining agreement or agreeing to impasse before proceeding with eight paragraphs of wasted energy. Do we all agree that knowledge (true belief that is justified) is useful? Some may not, and they don’t have a vote here – do not pass go, do not collect $200. If we agree knowledge is useful, I submit there are only two mutually exclusive epistemologies to gain knowledge – faith (not in the religious sense) or reason (encompassing science). Faith is either, and can be substituted directly with: pretending to know something you don’t (or can’t) know, or belief without evidence. Reason is based on evidence – empirical or otherwise (the standards for what constitutes actual evidence will not be discussed here, but that one seems to also be a major sticking point for some). There also seems to be a glaring misunderstanding of what science is all about (mostly from the ‘contrarian coalition’ as I affectionately call them :] – now, it does require acceptance of one and only one premise to work: that there is no ‘magic/supernatural forces’ in the universe (for one, that would hinder the repeatability of experiments). Don’t accept that premise? End of discussion, I wish you well. One step at a time though.

    Yes, proving god (or the like) does not exist is outside the purview of science – see Russel’s Teapot. Same for Elvis, tooth fairy and the all-knowing all-seeing Flying Spaghetti Monster – so the burden of proof is squarely on those making the claim and don’t forget it. Consciousness is NOT outside the purview of science. Dismissal of experimentation linking it to the physical brain is not novel – but there is a long way to go to even begin to overturn the idea. Sure, our understanding of consciousness is still in its infancy, as powered flight and range weaponry once was. But can I provide compelling evidence for the success of science to shed light where there was once darkness AND FEAR? Unequivocally yes! All the hypocrites who dismiss the scientific method can stop using their computer, cell phone, taking medicine, flying on airplanes, drinking tap water, or enjoying any myriad of groundbreaking and life-changing advances we have today. Stop slapping the faces of countless courageous individuals throughout history who have dedicated their entire lives and worked tirelessly on actual research in order to advance our state of knowledge.

    In this particular case, I hereby coin Ian’s arguments an “argument from arrogance.” Wait, I do think philosophy is enlightening, adds much to our understanding of the mind, but only in the sense it can help us accept who we are and where we come from (read reality). It can supplement science, but thought experiments and “belief” the soul was here before the brain are based on anecdote and wishful thinking. I get it, death would be scary, so we can all be eternal beings if only we understood why materialism is false. (By the way, I am determinist, incompatibilist and think not only free will but also the notion of self are complete illusions most care not to investigate). Tables and clocks, hmm…ok where is he going with this…ESP, remote viewing, here a major slip and untenable position…is he unaware those are testable hypotheses (like prayer) with overwhelmingly mountainous evidence with negative results?

    The other point about an intellectually honest person with an evidence-based epistemology is a willingness to change his/her mind – we simply cannot progress by holding on to dogma. No, science does not have all the answers and I am OK with that, are you? Science does not say the sun will rise with 100% confidence. Nothing in the universe is 0% or 100% certain, understand probability and confidence intervals. Understand and respect the importance of rigorous experimentation methods, controls, double-blindedness, placebos, signal-to-noise ratios, statistical significance, N and P values, etc. Science works because it is self-correcting, it is blind to human desire, it is cold but wonderful reality, and lack of its understanding is the biggest problem facing society, in my opinion.

    To summarize, Ian is probably smarter than a lot of us here, but he does not have a THEORY, he has a HYPOTHESIS. Great, find a way to test it other than thought experiments and anecdotes and he may actually be able to increase his blog readership. Can’t test it? Hopefully science will provide a tool in his lifetime to help with that, because how boring this reality must be when the soul is free to roam the universe free of time and space! Do not misinterpret my passion for knowledge for any ad hominem attack, I respect the level of intelligence here and willingness to contribute.

  207. mumadaddon 14 May 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Ian,

    Thanks for the clarification, I do now understand your viewpoint, but still disagree.

    There may be atoms, molecules, functional structures always undergoing change in the brain but there is still continuity, and you’re making a leap in saying this requires some kind of essence that persists through this change. Even by your own definition, the functional whole would need to be replaced in an instant to qualify as existential change, and this is not what happens. Certain molecules are recycled faster than others, neuronal activity cycles or varies at different rates in different parts of the brain, cells within different structures have different lifespans.

    Again, I think you’re pointing to some difficulties we have with defining and conceptualizing consciousness as though they undermine the fact that, to the best of our ability to test it, there is a material world, and only a material world.

    And again, you do yourself a disservice by bringing up esp as though it qualifies as evidence.

  208. Mlemaon 14 May 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I admit i haven’t read all these posts, so I don’t know if this is helpful or not. But I saw something about Chalmers and p-zombies above, and I just wanted to say that I think a lot of people misinterpret Chalmers. It’s interesting because the way they misinterpret him tends to reveal their philosophical beliefs. Chalmers shows, through a philosophical exercise, that a world indistinguishable from ours could theoretically exist without subjective consciousness. But Chalmers is a physicalist and contends that it’s unlikely that p-zombies could exist in our natural world. Hence his leanings toward property dualism. Chalmers is an atheist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRrnAXgxS2U

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/davidchalm479504.html

  209. Mlemaon 14 May 2014 at 2:01 pm

    So maybe after we die we become a “property” of the universe? :)

  210. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Ian:

    You’re just using the semantics of what “self “means as some sort of proof against materialism.

    What you’re really pointing out is that our cultural conception of the stable self does not map onto some immutable physical reality that we might also call the self. So what? No materialist ever said it would. Pointing out the semantic mismatch of culturally used ‘self’ and physical ‘self’ is not really that interesting and in no way undermines materialism. It’s a dialectic parlor trick.

  211. Mlemaon 14 May 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Dr, Novella:
    “The brain needs to pay attention. It needs some mechanism to prioritize which tiny slice of the sensory information and internal states to monitor and process most aggressively. Paying attention, I would argue, requires a subjective experience.”

    I don’t see how attention requires subjective experience. The same data “enters” the brain – the same photons, sound waves, molecules on the tongue, etc. – regardless of whether there is then (or there is also) sight, sound, taste, etc.. The brain has to determine which information to “aggressively process” regardless of whether that processing then (or also) “generates” seeing, hearing, etc.. The brain has to decide what to pay attention to when the information enters and is interpreted. Why does it need images, sound, taste in order to prioritize? Why add the experience of the brain processing this information? It slows down and often misinterprets the processing of incoming data. You seem to be suggesting that the brain reacts to the images, sounds, etc. directly. There are no images or sounds in the external world. They are “emerging” from brain activity, right? And if they are emerging from the brain, they aren’t something that’s needed, or else they are something intermediate. Is the brain accepting the incoming information, turning it into images and sounds that we “experience”, so that it can then determine what to pay attention to? Wouldn’t this require something additional to simply accepting input, determining priority and then responding appropriate.ly? i see no reason. The fact that so much error occurs in interpreting our experiences seems to give more reason against it’s necessity.
    I don’t think we’ve shown need.

    “We need need some way to distinguish a memory from an active experience. They have to “feel” different in some way.”

    Again, how does distinguishing memory require experiencing it? Why do memories have to “feel” different? Whatever physically makes them “feel” different could more directly and efficiently distinguish them from active experience – and wouldn’t that be more reliable? If memories are physically existent in the brain, isn’t it easier to access them directly – which would automatically differentiate them from active experience based on brain process? No need to “feel” any difference. Again, the brain has to generate that “different feeling” – why add an extra or intermediate layer of processing?

    “A lot of behavior is based on motivation/emotion”

    We may think of emotion as a motivator, but in reality it’s the stimuli that caused the emotion that motivates us. Remember, these are just neurons and chemicals – there’s no reason for them to generate emotion. An effective response can be made without it – perhaps better, since emotion can cause inappropriate response.

    “This started with single cells that were attracted to some chemicals and repulsed by others. We still have a basic pain/reward system, although the stimuli and responses are much more complex….Pain, for example, is a strong motivation of behavior, and it has a strong emotional component. This is inextricably tied to experiencing the pleasure or pain.”

    Whatever causes the pain is what motivates the behavior – the pain is a subjective experience that serves no purpose to the organism, since whatever caused the pain (for example, injury to the organism) could likewise motivate the same response without the intermediary, or addition of pain. Also, you seem to overlook that pain and emotion are both subjective experiences. If they’re both tied to each other, or are both tied to some injury, the injury could elicit the adaptive response without either pain or emotion. Since pain, emotions, and other subjective experiences are all “generated” by the brain, but unnecessary for the brain to process and respond to whatever stimuli are causing them, I don’t see that there’s any “reason” to evolve something that seems to be intermediate, or more likely, superfluous to stimulus and response. Since it’s often the source of misinterpretation, it seems to be more of a liability than a benefit.

    “The most straightforward way to get an organism to act as if it feels something is for it to feel something.”

    I would say that the most straightforward way to get an organism to act is to do something to it that causes it to act. “Feeling” something isn’t required. When you say “act as if it feels something” – what do you mean? Can you give an example? We can program computers to act as if they feel something. Do they? We can program them to respond to things in the environment that can damage them – does it require that they feel pain and emotion in order to preserve their functionality? We can build in motivation to act in accordance to certain goals – do they then feel motivated?

    “I don’t think p-zombies are even possible, but even if they were, that does not preclude subjective experience, and I would argue subjective experience is likely easier than making a p-zombie.”

    I guess when we’re able to tell how subjective experience emerges from the brain, we might be able to tell if it’s easier than making a p-zombie. I think it was pretty easy to make a p-zombie. It’s just an idea that somebody thought up – easy! :)

  212. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 2:25 pm

    @leo100

    Dude… Does it not give you pause that you are throwing down “slam dunk arguments” to two experts in their own fields? Or does this not cross your mind? You are making brain function statements to a neurologist, and you are waxing on about your rather sophomoric take on quantum physics and cosmology to a physicist who works in these areas… I mean, does this not give you pause? I guess these slam dunks must be revelatory or something. Slam dunk away.

    But you’re right about this; It’s not a PhD pissing contest.

  213. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 2:38 pm

    @the devils gummy bear

    My point was that you would think that Sean Carroll would be aware of the fact that if parallel universes are real then quantum immortality becomes a reality. But, nowhere does he mention that because it would be strong evidence for an afterlife. The above arguments that I made against the mind producing brain argument that they are all scientifically valid. That is why I called them slam dunk arguments.

  214. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 2:55 pm

    “I know of not many naturalists like you Steven Novella that jump on the bandwagon of saying that the mind is somehow produced by the brain.”

    Yeah, it’s sort of trendy right now, but we’ll see what next season brings.

    Sometimes unintentionally funny is the funniest funny. This has been one of those times…..

  215. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 3:10 pm

    leo,

    How do you define scientific validity? I don’t think your parallel universe thing constitutes anything approaching “strong” evidence (or any sort of evidence) for an afterlife at all. The brain/mind discussions in these comments are out of my wheelhouse, and I’m not qualified or compelled to add anything. However, there are some logical problems in your “slam dunks”.

  216. Ekkoon 14 May 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I like how leo100′s “slam dunk arguments” hinge on imaginary scenarios and thought experiments.
    If parallel universes exist and if in one of them aging has been eliminated to the point where some kind of immortality has been achieved then this means there is an afterlife because when I die here my subjective viewpoint will migrate somehow to my parallel self in this magical parallel universe. Is that about the gist of it?

  217. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Leo (or anyone, really)

    Can you find me high quality and convergent evidence for mind coming from anywhere other then the body? Because I have tons upon tons of high quality and convergent evidence showing that it does.

    Maybe leo could throw down and break the backboard for me with some links re: this statement:
    “there is well attested phenomenon that does not fit into the picture that the mind is produced…”

    I don’t know what “well attested phenomenon” means – so can you produce some links?

    As far as I know – and this is what I study for a living – the grand total of evidence for the mind being produced somewhere other than the body is 0.0, Mr Blutarsky.

    But feel free to set me straight.

  218. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 4:49 pm

    @steve12

    I am sure you do Steven, but that evidence that you mention and I have seen a lot of it on your blog and on neuroscience articles need not be explained by assuming mind is produced by the brain. Instead think of the brain as a receiver/blocker/filter of consciousness. For example with people with dementia instead of assuming that their memories are permanently wiped out by the disease perhaps the brain blocks the memories because of the disease that would of otherwise came in if it wasn’t the disease affecting the brain. Occam’s razor doesn’t just go for the simplest explanation but for the theory that covers all aspects the totality of the evidence. I think occam’s razor actually is more likely to slice the brain producing the mind theory. Because, the totality of the evidence points more likely towards the filter/receiver/blocker theory.

    One of those evidence’s would be terminal lucidity

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21764150

    Girl living with half of her brain

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MKNsI5CWoU

    I am sure if the production of consciousness really comes from the brain then it would take the whole brain itself to bring about consciousness. I remember reading in 2009 that a team of neuroscientists found an apparent conscious signature spanning through the brain well that is greatly challenged by people with half their brains and less. Then their is all the evidence for an afterlife like the cross correspondences, near death experiences, drop dead communications and psi phenomenon which you mentioned you find nonexistent. So their is no points in mentioning that evidence here.

    @Ekko your subjective viewpoint continues shortly after death in a parallel universe that you most likely would live instead of never being born and die immediately in.

    Read the 10 mind bending implications of the many worlds interpretation

    http://listverse.com/2013/02/22/10-mind-bending-implications-of-the-many-worlds-theory/

  219. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 4:54 pm

    @Ekko

    leo100′s sort of reasoning is essentially this; one cannot disprove the notion that fairies are using white hot wormholes to make their entrance to our world, therefore it is a scientifically valid “thing” that spectral apparitions are fairies breaking on through, from the netherworlds, thus parallel universes, meaning (somehow) profound implications for netherworld stuff including an afterlife.

    The thought experiment begins with “You can’t disprove the invisible floating dragon”, and ends with “afterlives are real”. EXCELSIOR!

    Quantum mechanics is a perfectly acceptable delivery mechanism for transient fairies.

    leo100 said;

    In fact, there really isn’t anything in physics except personal envy against ideas life after death that preclude the possibility of an afterlife. Parallel universes has a profound implication on our death because if they are real then death is really a figment of an imagination in this realm of existence. That consciousness in fact continues according to quantum immortality.

    First; What? Second; huh? You’ve lost me. Personal envy against ideas of magic in physics? Whhhaaaa? What does that mean? The last sentence did something to my brain. I don’t understand what you are saying, leo.

  220. Ekkoon 14 May 2014 at 5:13 pm

    “Because, the totality of the evidence points more likely towards the filter/receiver/blocker theory.”

    So far I have not seen a shred of evidence from anyone that the brain is a receiver and that consciousness is somehow being broadcast to it.
    Terminal lucidity is cherry picking anecdotes. In the literature, it describes a small number of people who have experienced this, apparently. Meanwhile, billions haven’t. This is grasping at straws as far as evidence for some eternal consciousness. It is flimsy and transparent motivated reasoning. You like the idea. So you will desperately latch onto anything to support it and ignore all evidence to the contrary. There is a ton of stuff in theoretical physics that is pure conjecture still – big imaginary what ifs – and that is not something that should carry any weight to counter what is currently known about the brain and mind. It is very easy to fool yourself when you like the sound of an idea.

  221. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Leo

    This can be confusing – I’m not Steve Novella. I’m a cognitive neuroscientist who investigates object recognition, not a neurologist.

    The evidence that you cite does not support other loci for the mind than the body. In the case of losing large portions of the brain – what’s more likely: redundant encoding and subtle loss of function, or some as yet unknown seat of cognition? Anyway it’s not evidence for anything you’re trying to say because you need to show WHERE the other locus is.

    I’m not familiar with terminal lucidity. But after brief reading, how is this evidence for cognition coming from outside the body? With this few cases (and many old cases) it’s not even known that this is a real phenomena. And even if it is, you’re making a classic god of the gaps argument: neuroscience doesn’t know, ergo some spirit or quantum consciousness or whatever is responsible. I think it’s the bogey man whispering in their ears, personally. And look! I have exactly as much evidence as you do!.

    “I am sure if the production of consciousness really comes from the brain then it would take the whole brain itself to bring about consciousness. ”

    I’m not sure at all!!!! We can just make wild assumptions by simply prefacing them with our confidence level? YOu need to become familiar with how evidence works. This statement is just plain wrong.

    “Then their is all the evidence for an afterlife like the cross correspondences, near death experiences, drop dead communications and psi phenomenon which you mentioned you find nonexistent. So their is no points in mentioning that evidence here.”

    No, that’s how it works. You produce evidence, discussion ensues. You can’t just invoke “Ya know – all that evidence” and walk away. Not if you wanna be taken seriously.

    You don’t really understand any of that advanced physics so you can’t really apply it to the brain. Over your head- grab a a physicist and they can tell you why.

  222. M_Morganon 14 May 2014 at 5:47 pm

    @ Billjoe7

    The same desperate nothingness? Clearly, you have no conception of the value of ideas, and no understanding that anyone with sufficient intelligence can produce them. My “qualifications” are a passing interest in science over several decades a few hours a week at most until I compiled my ideas into a compendium (the book) quite easily over the last 8 years or so. This is all quite normal and natural behaviour – you don’t need qualification if you are intelligent and read a lot over a long period. Are you a tertiary institution admissions clerk?

    You are welcome to ignore a work by a member of the public from a profession requiring even more intellectual rigor than science (law and my university required far better grades than science for entry). I have had a tremendous professional life, establishing a free state-wide service for family violence courts using the private profession – but my book is a set of ideas on another subject entirely, and a good break from the day to day.

    Ignore it by all means as a personal choice, but when you conclude the work is rubbish without reading it or arguing any point made, you have obviously stepped over the line. Unless you read it and have a point to make, you are just being an Troll, which is why you don’t belong in the blog. Its not censorship, it removing patent nonsense like anyone whitewashes a “tagged” wall. You are a disturbed individual for sure, but I accept you do not understand that, so you are definitely on ignore from now on – too risky dealing with you types.

  223. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 5:54 pm

    @Steve12

    I just came here I already knew I would get these kind of responses such as the silly argument that fairies are the same as apparitions which they ain’t. I see no point in continuing this conversation agree to disagree?.

  224. M_Morganon 14 May 2014 at 6:02 pm

    @ leo100
    @ steve12

    Just considering visual perception, we know it arises from two events – neural firing or capture at the eye; and neural firing or sufficiency in the brain to finalize the input. It becomes integrated across many brain cortices for conscious awareness of vision to arise in ‘mind’. It takes 100 milliseconds or so to extend in the brain and reach sufficiency. Where is mind? It would be “finalized” in the brain, well after, and far from, the eye itself. There is a simple way of modelling this:

    The brain does not send a signal back to the eye itself to tell it “now you can see”. Sight happens “in the brain” when it finalizes. We have the “impression” of sight at the eyes because the brain has a complete anatomical map from all sites of anatomy to represent them all accurately in ‘mind’. We create a neural representation, and well integrated for coordination across diverse sites, in which we have the “impression” that brain it not involved at all and everything is actually happening more or less instantaneously at sites themselves.

  225. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 6:21 pm

    @leo100 please correct me, because I missed your non-silly explanation/argument of “apparitions”.

    I ain’t seein’ it.

  226. Hosson 14 May 2014 at 6:28 pm

    M_Morgan
    There are a few comments about your “book” on the thread linked below.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/correlation-and-causation/

    Do you have any evidence for the major claims in your “book”, especially for the claims that contradict the best current scientific explanations? The book reads like some scientifically semi-ignorant, crazy guy decided to apply his unfalsifiable, pet “hypothesis” to different phenomena.

    The ideas in your book are rejected as “shit” for a reason.

    If you would kindly make your way to the other thread, so the conversation can continue there.

  227. Ekkoon 14 May 2014 at 6:54 pm

    @ the devils gummy bear
    “Quantum mechanics is a perfectly acceptable delivery mechanism for transient fairies.”
    Lol! I missed that the first time through.

    This has been one of the most entertaining comment threads/posts in quite a while. Beliefs and thought experiments are not things to get too attached to though. If they don’t hold up to scrutiny, they should be tossed on the rubbish bin. Otherwise, there’s no growth or progress. Like, we could be living in a virtual reality simulator produced by an incredibly advanced civilization and when we “die”, we simply wake up back in this advanced civilization. But it’s unfalsifiable/untestable at this point so it’s really nothing other than an entertaining cool story. All of these examples of “evidence” above to prop up the notion of an eternal self or consciousness from outside the body are no different than religious notions of heaven. Evidence-free hypotheses to soothe fears of mortality.

  228. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 6:54 pm

    “I just came here I already knew I would get these kind of responses such as the silly argument that fairies are the same as apparitions which they ain’t. ”

    I’m not sure how this answers any of my points in any way.

    “I see no point in continuing this conversation agree to disagree?.”

    Sure

  229. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 7:01 pm

    M_Morgan on 14 May 2014 at 6:02 pm:

    This is too vague to mean much, and I’m not sure what your point is.

  230. Bill Openthalton 14 May 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Steve12 –

    Leo’s terminal lucidity is a crock. It’s not because in their final hours a demented person is perceived to behave with more purpose one can deduce they have fully recovered their mental faculties. It would be utterly amazing if such a (dying) person would have been whisked off to the lab to ascertain we are really in the presence of a full recovery.

    One anecdote mentions signs like a look in the eye and a smile that, compared with previous observations, lead the observer to the belief the person is lucid again. But there is nothing more; for all we know it is wishful thinking of the observer.

    What will never happen (and this is a confident prediction) is people like Ian and Leo abandoning their convictions, or Marcus realizing he’s a crank. It’s like asking the pope to proclaim Jesus never existed, expecting Ali Khamenei to declare Muhammad a fraud, or prince Charles to announce he’s become a republican. They are so tied up in their beliefs their world would disintegrate.

  231. Bill Openthalton 14 May 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Ekko –

    Like, we could be living in a virtual reality simulator produced by an incredibly advanced civilization and when we “die”, we simply wake up back in this advanced civilization.

    One of the best takes on this is Philip J Farmer’s Riverworld ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverworld ).

    But an advanced civilization of terminally bored people entering a simulator to live mostly boring human lives would be a nice backdrop for a SciFi novel. Especially the agony of the guy who gets to write 234 pages of impenetrable prose would be a mighty fine plot device.

  232. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Sometimes, in my lonelier and uneasier moments, I find myself saying, “Computer… End program…” But if the holodeck has gone evil, voice command recognition failure will probably be the first clue.

  233. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 7:54 pm

    “One anecdote mentions signs like a look in the eye and a smile that, compared with previous observations, lead the observer to the belief the person is lucid again. But there is nothing more; for all we know it is wishful thinking of the observer.”

    That’s sort of what I figured. But I try to avoid getting pulled down into the irrelevant side point, becasue even if there were such a phenomena it wouldn’t make his point.

    “What will never happen (and this is a confident prediction) is people like Ian and Leo abandoning their convictions”

    Yeah, I was thinking about this generally. I’m not as sure that the brain is the seat of the mind as they are sure that it isn’t. I could be swayed by new evidence (I dunno – some quantum disruption on the moon gives a guy prosopagnosia) – they cannot.

    But I’m pretty damn sure on this one!

  234. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 8:08 pm

    @steve12

    Just had to come to let you know I actually am open to changing my mind and I do actually consider the possibility that the mind is produced by the brain. I mentioned how naturalists would have to do to show that they are correct such as behaviorism which was one of the ways they could of proven their case but they failed. Another is artificial intelligence which I mentioned earlier but again its looking more and more unlikely that artificial intelligence will happen. I can’t answer for Ian however.

    @Bill

    You may want to look at these cases of terminal lucidity were apparently mental faculties can back shortly before their death.

    I have actually read your responses Steve one of them being this

    The evidence that you cite does not support other loci for the mind than the body. In the case of losing large portions of the brain – what’s more likely: redundant encoding and subtle loss of function, or some as yet unknown seat of cognition? Anyway it’s not evidence for anything you’re trying to say because you need to show WHERE the other locus is.

    What locus are you talking about?. You mean that materialists have yet to find the locus of consciousness well I agree with you on that. But, why would a small area of the brain produce consciousness?. Isn’t it more reasonable anyways that it would take the entire brain to produce consciousness?. If it does why is it we have well documented cases of people with more than 50 percent of their brain missing having self awareness?. You could use the tired argument that its just simple neuroplasticity at work in these cases that the brain is great at being plastic.

  235. Bronze Dogon 14 May 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Sometimes, in my lonelier and uneasier moments, I find myself saying, “Computer… End program…” But if the holodeck has gone evil, voice command recognition failure will probably be the first clue.

    Chief O’Brien and Worf on DS9, reminiscing about their time on the Enterprise.
    Worf: “We were like warriors of legend. There was nothing we could not do.”
    O’Brien: “Except keep the holodecks working properly.”

  236. M_Morganon 14 May 2014 at 8:47 pm

    & steve12

    “This is too vague to mean much, and I’m not sure what your point is.”

    Really? The experience of awareness is confined to the brain as a finalization from anatomical sites such as the eyes in my example.

    You either knew it but haven’t said it in your posts, or you didn’t know it and still don’t understand it.

    Either way it is far from vague – it is the process itself and it ends in the brain. Awareness, or mind, is a “brain event”. Period. Not vague. Not waffle. Just a fact. You can obviate most of what you have written above by exploring that fact.

    Alternatively, you can dispute that fact and we can have an argument. But don’t give it the old fob off “too vague”. it is directly on point, and the direct answer to your meandering exchanges about where “mind” is located.

    Any arguments about that, or do your still fail to understand it?

  237. M_Morganon 14 May 2014 at 8:58 pm

    @ Bill Openthalton

    “What will never happen (and this is a confident prediction) is people like … Marcus realizing he’s a crank. It’s like asking the pope to proclaim Jesus never existed, expecting Ali Khamenei to declare Muhammad a fraud, or prince Charles to announce he’s become a republican. They are so tied up in their beliefs their world would disintegrate.”

    You certainly suffer from the same blight of intellect as @ Billyjoe. You are probably the same person for all I know (Trolls do that). Brain broken. Facts? Logic? Argument? Did you read my ideas? You have nothing to say about my ideas posted here? That’s where the proof of your gamble lies, but ignorance compels you to gamble. You are another worthless “contributor” with nothing better to do than spout rubbish in public blogs – nothing factual or logical to say. Another educational institution admissions clerk, or just another Troll?

  238. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 9:07 pm

    That gave me a good laugh, Bronze Dog.

    So, I’m just going to assume leo100 has chosen to ignore me, and I’m just talking to the peanut gallery I guess.

    I mentioned how naturalists would have to do to show that they are correct such as behaviorism which was one of the ways they could of proven their case but they failed. Another is artificial intelligence which I mentioned earlier but again its looking more and more unlikely that artificial intelligence will happen.

    Those are quite some statements. The first one has been addressed repeatedly in these very comments, so this person, leo100, is probably not reading along. The second statement about AI is nothing short of a whopper. I mean, what world would one have to be living in to think AI is becoming increasingly unlikely to happen. A cave? A windowless cave world? Must be the cave world parallel dimension, where self-driving cars aren’t a thing, where algorithms in your freaking pocket complete your thoughts for you on the fly. Robots and IT systems run the world. I mean, not to get ahead of myself, but Skynet is like… We’re probably past that. Skynet is in our past. Hyperbole aside, AI is happening all around us. And so far, it’s been pretty cool. It’s looking more and more likely, however you want to define AI, that it’s going to happen, one way or the other (or in a plethora of ways).

  239. The Other John Mcon 14 May 2014 at 9:21 pm

    MMorgan, on what planet is calling someone an ‘institutional education admission clerk’ an insult? Have you been rejected by a few and carry some emotional baggage about it?

    I’m just a dirty little Troll myself, but even when I try I can’t make sense out of your perfectly lucid example of brain awareness and its final process in the brain. It appears to me, a professional brain scientist myself, that you have taken ideas and concepts from brain science and simply made word salad from them. If you can’t even speak intelligibly to your colleagues who study the very exact thing you claim to study, how can you hope to recruit faceless minions from the internet to buy into your ideas?

  240. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 9:49 pm

    @the devil’s gummy bear

    I sure am reading along you may want to look at this link for why Artificial Intelligence is a failure.

    http://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/artificial-intelligence-gone-awry/

  241. the devils gummy bearon 14 May 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I’ve read this article. I don’t find Kassan’s conclusion compelling, but I appreciate the nuance he detailed. This is also an older publication, which might be problematic considering the subject.

  242. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 10:07 pm

    “Really? The experience of awareness is confined to the brain as a finalization from anatomical sites such as the eyes in my example.”

    I’m sorry. It’s not just vague, it’s obvious. I didn’t understand your writing well enough to comment on the sheer obviousness.

    “Either way it is far from vague – it is the process itself and it ends in the brain. Awareness, or mind, is a “brain event”. Period. Not vague. Not waffle. Just a fact. You can obviate most of what you have written above by exploring that fact.”

    This is also very obvious – the mind happens as a result of brain events. That’s very nice – I’m very proud of you. Not to scoop you here, but my research has been moving in this direction, along with everyone else in neuroscience over the last 75 years.

    “Alternatively, you can dispute that fact and we can have an argument.”

    No!

    But don’t give it the old fob off “too vague”. it is directly on point, and the direct answer to your meandering exchanges about where “mind” is located.
    Any arguments about that, or do your still fail to understand it?”

    No sir! You are quite on point, even if that point was made in 1924….

  243. leo100on 14 May 2014 at 10:25 pm

    @ the devil’s gummy bear

    I think you will with this one and its more recent news.

    http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/mobile-applications/no-god-in-the-machine/d/d-id/1251115

  244. steve12on 14 May 2014 at 10:27 pm

    “what world would one have to be living in to think AI is becoming increasingly unlikely to happen. A cave?”

    I think he means strong AI, which I would agree we’re not close to, though I think we’ll get there if we don’t kill civilization off first.

    But it really is beside the point. Our current lack of strong AI is in no way, form, or fashion evidence for mind outside the body. This is the trick that cranks peform over and over: they get people mired in details that do not matter to the larger point.

  245. grabulaon 14 May 2014 at 11:11 pm

    @ian

    I’m a little behind but I see Ian is still profoundly missing the point and even harder, trying to get hits on his blog.

    For example Ian, if you had been paying attention we’re not sticking to extreme examples to make our point although they help under line the cause effect of changing the brain changes the mind. We seem to understand that even little changes to the brain or is chemistry change the mind. A good example of this is chemical depression, which causes fundamental Changes in ones personality and can also be reversed through medication!

    I think you’d learn more if you weren’t trying so hard to generate attention for your blog

  246. grabulaon 14 May 2014 at 11:14 pm

    @ Tina b

    People who deal in science are not infallible. Scientists in general are open to plausible possibilities as long as evidence develops to support it. In all of your examples as evidence was provided for those theories the scientific consensus changed.

  247. grabulaon 14 May 2014 at 11:24 pm

    @ian

    ‘I’d like to ask people a question. Do the changes that happen to us from say the age of 7 to adulthood not also establish that there cannot be any life after death?’

    You build a Strawman in your assumption that continuity of self is a series of moments and not just an evolution overtime. I understand that while I change as I grow older there’s an ongoing continuity in who I am. However this can be disrupted by changes in my physical brain. You’re view is overly simplistic, it’s why you think you’re tearing down these arguments, you’re building childish strawmen then seeing against those.

    I’ve got a question for you Ian, that is apropos but may not seem so at first. What are your thoughts on evolution?

  248. grabulaon 14 May 2014 at 11:56 pm

    @ian

    At this time I’d like to take a moment to commit a few ad hominems…

    ‘For example, consider a clockwork clock’

    The two paragraphs following this ironically Ian year apart your entire idiotic argument lol. Consider science and the rational view as seeing the clock for what it is and your argument as hearing the alarm whether it exists or not. Good job explaining to yourself where you go wrong.

    ‘And you’re not saying anything interesting or relevant’another ironic statement from you, all while being a pompous asshat

    ‘The debate was on a very shallow level indeed. I would be surprised if any intelligent person learnt anything substantive’

    Way to dismiss anyone who learned anything from that debate. ..pompous asshat

    ‘I think I’m going to have to give up on the hope that any of you guys can actually understand the underlying issues.’

    …pompous asshat

    ‘Yes you guys seem averse to arguments, that’s for sure!’

    Then make one you pompous twit. Your pattern has become, imply if you dint understand my argument your an idiot, I’ve sobbed the problem why can’t you see it, you must be to stupid to understand it. You’ve not only failed to bring to the table a coherent argument, you don’t seem to understand what a table is according to your absurd example. You’re being spoon feed scientific evidence for even the most basic of cognitive processes and haven’t budged. In fact you’ve just become more and more unlikeable and less engaging. It’s bad enough your grasp on reality is loose to say the least bit to gety pompous about it makes you an insufferable twit.

    For the rest of you rational commentators I apologize I know ad hominems don’t advance the conversation but Ian has spent too much time doing it himself on this thread for me to let it slide.

  249. grabulaon 15 May 2014 at 12:42 am

    @leo

    ‘I am sure if the production of consciousness really comes from the brain then it would take the whole brain itself to bring about consciousness’

    This is a huge assumption based on what?

    I think the problem you’re having Leo is you make some pretty
    Astounding logical leaps to get to your conclusions. For example the fact that we have yet to produce AI isn’t evidence for or against life after death. It’s just evidence that we’re not there yet. The gap could be technological, and I think that’s a widely accepted issue. We certainly don’t compeletly understand consciousness yet but this isn’t an argument for life after death. You can’t jump to these conclusions based on a lack of knowledge or development. A few decades ago we didn’t have the technology to detect half the particles we know now exist. A few centuries ago we didn’t understand that gems can cause sickness. We seek evidence and we follow where it leads us. Currently the best evidence and growing more robust every day is that the mind comes from the brain.

    I thin you need to try to understand the argument better. For example, when Steve12 asks you where the other loci of the mind is if it’s not the brain. This has not been answered except through some serious handwaving by guys like Ian Wardell. The evidence is definitely strong that it codes from the mind and because we may not yet understand why that is, it doesn’t mean we’re not moving towards an answer.

  250. grabulaon 15 May 2014 at 12:47 am

    @m_morgan

    I’m unclear as to what you’re arguing. It feels life you are arguing that the mind comes from the brain? Is possible I’m as dumb as Ian has implied we all are but I’m having a hard time following your argument.

  251. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2014 at 7:33 am

    MMorgan,

    “My “qualifications” are a passing interest in science over several decades a few hours a week at most”
    What boggles my mind is that you can say that and not realise that you’ve completely undercut your credibility and simultaneously firmly buttressed my argument.

    “…you don’t need qualification if you are intelligent and read a lot over a long period.
    You do if you are going to tell career scientist that they are wrong.
    To think so makes you nothing more than a…well, I’ll let you sing the refrain at this point.

    Are you a tertiary institution admissions clerk?

    Bingo!
    Actually, no. Sorry.

    “You are welcome to ignore a work by a member of the public from a profession requiring even more intellectual rigor than science”

    The point is, no matter how much of an expert you might be in your own field, you can have no expertise in science sufficient to challenge career scientists. For that you need a science education, science qualifications, peer review, and a publication history in reputable science journals.
    A self-published booklet does not qualify, no matter how long you took to write it.

    “I have had a tremendous professional life, establishing a free state-wide service for family violence courts using the private profession”

    I congratulate you for your truly worthwhile efforts.
    I really mean that.
    And I’m sure that it far outweighs the wasted three hours per week writing about something for which you know absolutely nothing in comparison with that of actual scientists.

    “but my book is a set of ideas on another subject entirely, and a good break from the day to day”

    A good break?
    You’re going to break science with a side salad?

    “Unless you read it and have a point to make, you are just being an Troll, which is why you don’t belong in the blog”

    Look, you are not a sceintific genius, and you don’t have the track record necessary to overthrow the ideas of scientists, let alone make even a minor contribution. It is just not worth my time and effort to do more than skim your book to confirm my initial impressions gained from reading your contributions here that you have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

    “You are a disturbed individual for sure, but I accept you do not understand that, so you are definitely on ignore from now on – too risky dealing with you types”

    So now you’re a psychiatrist?
    And really, MMorgan, the only risk you run is realising that you’re not the legend that you have created of yourself in your own mind. Come on. Read that link I gave you yesterday. Tell me you don’t fit the criteria. Instead of psychoanalysing others, perhaps a bit of self-analysis is in order here.

  252. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 7:37 am

    Leo you flat-out contradict yourself, saying ‘I am sure if the production of consciousness really comes from the brain then it would take the whole brain itself to bring about consciousness’ then a sentence or two later claim that a person having half a brain has some consciousness.

    Can you explain why brain damage to a particular brain area might remove the person’s conscious experience of color but not other visual percepts, like object recognition? Or why damage to a different area might hurt their object recognition abilities but not their conscious experience of color? Don’t you think that might have something to do with those particular brain areas being responsible for producing those particular aspects of consciousness, abilities that can be selectively lost when selectively damaged?

  253. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2014 at 7:43 am

    MMorgan,

    I will let you have the last word:
    (The last paragraph of your book)

    “I am a lawyer who converts jargon to real language for clients, or to read facts on Sundays. No scientist at all have exchanged views despite attempts over decades. The Philosophy Department Chair at Lehman College, New York, evaluated my work as “utter nonsense” and “shit”, in a one line reply to my book last year. So much for public debate. If academics are ashamed, get over it and open an essential public debate along the lines I propose. Our local news network, ABC, rejected my ideas as “self-promotion” when shared on a show they had about Universals. I replied I promote new ideas for free, then they banned any reference to my book at all. Ignorance is curable. Cowardice, hypocrisy, and basic human dishonesty are the only evils you need to worry about. Vested interest thrive on suppression”

    ( h/t Hoss from “correlation and causation”)

    Seems I’m not alone in my assessment.

  254. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 7:55 am

    I’ve known a couple of true cranks in my day who sound suspiciously like MMorgan, and the underlying issue seems to be a suffering from something approaching (or reaching) delusions of grandeur, thinking that they are incredibly intelligent and gifted on some topic (often they are quite intelligent, though not remarkably so). It often manifests as crank inventors or amateur scientists claiming to solve (usually just by ‘thinking deeply’ about it) incredibly difficult, complex, important problems that would bring them the fame, fortune, and gratitude they feel they rightly deserve. Almost everyone misjudges their own talents and capabilities, skewing to the positive side, but cranks quite obviously take this to the extreme. This has been a fascinating thread…

  255. SteveAon 15 May 2014 at 8:03 am

    M_Morgan: “You certainly suffer from the same blight of intellect as @ Billyjoe. You are probably the same person for all I know (Trolls do that). Brain broken. Facts? Logic? Argument? Did you read my ideas? You have nothing to say about my ideas posted here? That’s where the proof of your gamble lies, but ignorance compels you to gamble. You are another worthless “contributor” with nothing better to do than spout rubbish in public blogs – nothing factual or logical to say. Another educational institution admissions clerk, or just another Troll?”

    As Hoss has already pointed out you’ve already been called out on one aspect of your work on the http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/correlation-and-causation/ thread. Perhaps you could respond to ferrousbueller’s point about atomic orbitals and see where that takes us.

  256. SteveAon 15 May 2014 at 8:14 am

    The Other John Mc: “Almost everyone misjudges their own talents and capabilities, skewing to the positive side, but cranks quite obviously take this to the extreme.”

    There appears to be a strong narcissistic thread running through Morgan’s writing. I imagine that other people’s confusion (or indifference) about his ideas serves only to convince him that he must be much, much cleverer that they are.

  257. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 8:44 am

    grabula
    “I think you’d learn more if you weren’t trying so hard to generate attention for your blog”

    I’m aware of the correlations between brain states and mental states. People have been aware of such correlations — at least to a certain extent — for 1000s of years eg the effect of alcohol. As I said before, the changes brought about from when one was a child compared to adulthood is equally, if not more, impressive.

    Pointless banging on about this unless people grok that the self need not consist of such psychological states. These might be mere properties.

    And what’s the problem with my blog? I like people to read the stuff I put! I make no money from it whatsoever. There’s no advertisements on it. It’s a labour of love.

  258. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 8:51 am

    Hi grabula. I won’t quote your last communication. I might get sick of putting “sic”!

    I’m a pompous asshat? Well . .thanks for letting me know!

  259. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 9:03 am

    M_Morgan –

    Look mate, what you don’t seem to grasp is that being a crank doesn’t mean you are wrong, just that your ideas are way out, your belief in them is unquestioning, and your enthusiasm for their promotion is boundless. I suppose you can recognise yourself in this sentence :) .

    Take Giordano Bruno, who was without doubt a crank in his time to the point of being burned at the stake, but whose cosmology proved right. But being a crank doesn’t automatically mean you are right. The overwhelming majority of cranks are just plain wrong. We remember those who, against all odds, prevailed over the consensus of their day.

    Humans tend to believe what they want to be true, and the scientific method tries very hard to protect us against this cognitive weakness. One of the cornerstones of the scientific method is that one should not try and confirm one’s hypotheses, but do one’s utmost to disprove them. That means taking criticism seriously, not dismissing it, and being your own harshest critic.

    As far as reading your book is concerned, I am afraid the flowery language of the law has had a massive influence on your writing style, resulting in an almost unintelligible word salad ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_salad ). Take for example this passage:

    In physics, particles and fields may be defined by their space, time, cause, and effect forms under the Design,reconciling their capacities. In summary, in physics, the resting proton and energetic electron are distributive and interactive. They aggregate by distributive and interactive field photons and gravitons. Particles have one form of definition and fields another in one framework for delineation in the discrete Design. In biology, a passive head and active body are distributive and interactive. Distributive and interactive appendages between head and body coordinate in functions. Organs have one form of definition and appendages another in one framework of delineation in the discrete Design

    What are “distributive and interactive field photons and gravitons”?

    Here’s another helping of word salad:

    If a life buoy attached to a rope were thrown to a particle in the sea, electromagnetism would aim at it, but let go of its end, and the particle’s inertial drift is either away from or towards the boat. Gravitation would hold its end, but throw without aim, and the particle’s inertial drift is away from or towards the buoy. The throwing particles hope it drifts towards the boat or the buoy, but it may be as likely to drift away. A photon serves a recipient’s inertia directly towards or away, depending on it being an opposite or like charge. A particle’s inertia in relation to a graviton field could be any angle, and some are drawn to orbit.

    How can a life buoy be thrown at a particle in the sea? To you, this image might be meaningful, but to me (and I guess most other English-speaking humans,) it’s dubyaspeak.

    I gather you believe humanity is the purpose of the universe, and not the outcome of a non-directed process. You’re not a creationist, or a supporter of Intelligent Design, your “Design” is the fabric of the universe itself. I don’t think you have a point, and your book does not convince me. Its style and structure don’t make it easy to read, and your playing fast and loose with the accepted terminology (distributive field photons), combined with misplaced metaphors (throwing buoys at particles) makes it almost impossible to distinguish your argument. You might have one, but you do your utmost to hide it in a language that makes Finnegan’s Wake look like an Ikea manual.

    Writing is difficult, and science writing is extremely difficult to get right. Isaac Asimov had the gift to present complex issues in understandable English — you could do worse than to read some of his science vulgarization to help you to reformulate your arguments in a more readable style.

  260. mumadaddon 15 May 2014 at 9:06 am

    Ian,

    Would you please set out clearly and briefly what your position is? Obviously this has been a long thread so it’s time consuming to reread it and try to glean the salient points from multiple posts, and in all honesty I don’t think you have been very clear at all.

    Because you still haven’t explained this:

    “Pointless banging on about this unless people grok that the self need not consist of such psychological states. These might be mere properties.”

    Why is this so? What do you even mean?

    Thanks.

  261. mumadaddon 15 May 2014 at 9:18 am

    “Pointless banging on about this unless people grok that the self need not consist of such psychological states. These might be mere properties.”

    Actually, isn’t this a fallacy? You’re basically saying that if you accept my definition of the self (not inhered in the brain), then you will see that the self is not inhered in the brain?

    I wish I could remember the name of the fallacy – a tautology? Any takers?

  262. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 9:51 am

    @mumadadd My position is that materialism cannot be correct. It cannot be reconciled with the existence of consciousness.

    However!

    That doesn’t entail that the brain doesn’t produce consciousness. But we would need to have strong emergence of consciousness. This means that the processes in the brain can’t explain how consciousness arises (in contrast to understanding how the clock hands move by looking at the clock’s internal components. The movement of the clocks hands is weak emergence, not strong). It would just be a brute fact about reality that when we have certain physical processes, then consciousness appears.

    I do however gravitate towards a belief in a “life after death” (and also life before birth of course). There is plenty of evidence, although much of it is confusing and bewildering eg void like and hell like NDEs.

    What I think about the self is that we are the same selves throughout our lives (and probably before and after our lives too). I feel I am the same self now as when I was 7. I deny I have literally changed (i.e it is alterational change only, not existential change). I talk about the self in the blog entry I linked to before: http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/is-after-death-conceivable.html

  263. mumadaddon 15 May 2014 at 10:06 am

    “It would just be a brute fact about reality that when we have certain physical processes, then consciousness appears.”

    It is.

    Out of interest then, would a human level AI falsify your theory?

  264. mumadaddon 15 May 2014 at 10:07 am

    Ian,

    I already read that blog entry, by the way.

  265. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 10:27 am

    mumadadd
    “Out of interest then, would a human level AI falsify your theory?”

    Only if it is conscious. How could we ever know it’s conscious?

    Suppose someone produces what they allege is a conscious robot. Why do we suppose it is conscious? Because it says it is and behaves as if it is? But we could pull it apart and see exactly why it behaves as it does. Low and behold it has nothing to do with any consciousness!

  266. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 10:28 am

    *lo and behold

  267. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 10:32 am

    Ian you are contradicting yourself:

    “materialism cannot be correct. It cannot be reconciled with the existence of consciousness.”

    “when we have certain physical processes, then consciousness appears.”

  268. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 10:47 am

    Ian Wardell –

    Suppose someone produces what they allege is a conscious robot. Why do we suppose it is conscious? Because it says it is and behaves as if it is? But we could pull it apart and see exactly why it behaves as it does. Lo and behold it has nothing to do with any consciousness!

    Why not? Because we understand it? In your opinion then, has it to be beyond comprehension to qualify as consciousness? But if you don’t understand it, how can you determine it is not consciousness?

  269. mumadaddon 15 May 2014 at 10:49 am

    The Other John Mc,

    I think he meant that if materialism were true, then…

    Ian,

    Hard solipsism – I can’t ever prove that any other being is conscious, or in fact if there is even anything other than my own consciousness.

    I expect that we would be able to come up with some reasonable way to determine whether an AI were conscious.

    “Suppose someone produces what they allege is a conscious robot. Why do we suppose it is conscious? Because it says it is and behaves as if it is? But we could pull it apart and see exactly why it behaves as it does. Low and behold it has nothing to do with any consciousness!”

    But what if we could pull humans apart and see exactly why they behave as they do? Clearly we aren’t there yet, but there is no reason in theory why we couldn’t get there. Do you agree that that would falsify your theory?

    What do you think consciousness actually is, if not the real time functioning of the brain’s ‘bag of tricks’?

  270. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 11:02 am

    @ the other John Mc

    I actually don’t contradict myself I mean that is the brain produces consciousness the whole brain then why would the production fail with patients with 50 percent and more of their brain gone but with still consciousness.

  271. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 11:13 am

    leo100 -

    I actually don’t contradict myself I mean that is the brain produces consciousness the whole brain then why would the production fail with patients with 50 percent and more of their brain gone but with still consciousness.

    I’m not sure I understand you, but the brain is not an indivisible whole. It is made up of identifiable functional parts, and consciousness is handled by a one of these. As long as that part isn’t missing or destroyed, there will be consciousness. Similarly, morality resides in the prefrontal cortex, and when this part is not fully functional you get sociopaths.

  272. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 11:19 am

    Leo, no one but yourself claimed we need 100.0% of a human brain to have “consciousness”.

    Indeed if you are arguing that by having various incomplete brains (some 50%, some 75%) resulting in reduced levels of consciousness, you are making our point for us (i.e., manipulating the amount of brain tissue has an effect on the level of consciousness, suggesting a causal connection between the two).

  273. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 11:29 am

    @The Other John Mc

    I think you need to read up and understand what materialism means.

    Materialism means that reality is wholly material. But consciousness exists. Consciousness is not the same thing as the brain. Consciousness has no physical properties whatsoever. Hence consciousness is not material.

    Hence we have the existence of the immaterial, namely consciousness. Therefore materialism is by definition false.

  274. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 11:32 am

    Wow, good thing you are here to fill me on the definition of “materialism”!

    “Consciousness is not the same thing as the brain” = assumption, demonstrably wrong, else please provide a counter-example

    “Consciousness has no physical properties whatsoever” = assumption, please provide a counter-example

    You seem to be hopelessly lost in your assumptions

  275. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 11:34 am

    Here’s your argument: “I personally don’t think consciousness is physical, based on my incredible introspective capabilities, therefore materialism is flat out wrong! I win! Yay!”

  276. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 11:47 am

    @The Other John Mc

    Saying consciousness is the same thing as the brain is like saying an apple is the same thing as an orange.

    Brains are physical and are exhausted by physical properties. Consciousness is exhausted by the qualitative. They are not the same thing even if one causes the other.

  277. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 11:53 am

    So you recognize that is your assumption: consciousness is not physical. You realize this is begging the question? You are assuming consciousness isn’t a physical process, and then proclaiming materialism is wrong because of the existence of consciousness (which you’ve already assumed to be non-physical).

    Logical problem alert! Sirens and bells should be going off now, do you hear them?

  278. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Ian Wardell –

    Materialism means that reality is wholly material.

    In a computer, the representation of information (e.g. a book) is material (charge in RAM devices or magnetic patterns on a hard disk, etc.). The “same” information can be represented by ink stains on paper, or illumination patterns on a projection screen, or soundwaves, or holes in a punch card.

    The information is the same, and arguably immaterial, in the sense that it is not in itself a material object, and has no physical properties whatsoever. Materialism simply states that everything (including emergent phenomena such as information and consciousness) is rooted in material properties and interactions. The fact that something in itself is not tangible — like information or consciousness — does not disprove materialism. If only it were that easy.

  279. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Bill Openthalt
    “So you recognize that is your assumption: consciousness is not physical”.

    That’s like saying it’s an assumption that smoke isn’t fire. It’s just a plain fact they are not.

  280. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 12:17 pm

    @Bill Openthalt

    Information only exists by virtue of consciousness. It couldn’t exist in a purely material world. All we’d have is meaningless marks on a paper etc.

  281. Hosson 15 May 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Ian
    “Information only exists by virtue of consciousness. It couldn’t exist in a purely material world. All we’d have is meaningless marks on a paper etc.”

    In this little universe we find ourselves in, information has existed since the big bang with human consciousness coming along billions of years later. I would hope this demonstrates to you that information is not dependent upon consciousness. Perhaps you should amend your previous comment.

  282. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 1:23 pm

    ian,

    *IF* you could demonstrate consciousness is not a physical process, THEN I would be forced to agree that this spells trouble for materialism. But there is overwhelming, converging, consistent evidence suggesting materialism is correct, but not a shred of good proof for non-materialsim. Right now, all you are saying is:

    “Assuming the existence of a non-physical entity (consciousness), materialism is false. Why won’t people read my blog or stop calling me asshats?”

    But I will not grant you your assumption, so your conclusion is unfounded.

  283. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 1:28 pm

    @Hoss

    You must be defining information differently from me. In the absence of consciousness there are merely physical processes. In fact I’m not sure even if it makes sense to talk about a world in abstraction from consciousness at all.

  284. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 1:31 pm

    The other John

    I ain’t making your point for you because the ones with 50 percent and 70 percent of their brains gone are actually fully conscious. If the mind is produced by the brain you would see a reduction but you don’t in many cases.

  285. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 1:33 pm

    “I ain’t making your point for you because the ones with 50 percent and 70 percent of their brains gone are actually fully conscious.”

    Leo – I got into why this is not evidence for your point above. If you disagree, fine, but you can’t simply ignore people’s criticisms of your points and then go on making them as if nothing had happened!

  286. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Ian

    I’d be curious as to your response to my post :# steve12 on 14 May 2014 at 2:05 pm

  287. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 1:35 pm

    “That’s like saying it’s an assumption that smoke isn’t fire. It’s just a plain fact they are not.”

    No, it’s an assumption.

  288. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Leo you are honestly telling me, with a straight face, no joke, someone with 50% of their brain missing is fully, normally conscious in every way we might go about measuring that?

  289. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 1:51 pm

    steve12
    “You’re just using the semantics of what “self “means as some sort of proof against materialism.

    What you’re really pointing out is that our cultural conception of the stable self does not map onto some immutable physical reality that we might also call the self. So what? No materialist ever said it would. Pointing out the semantic mismatch of culturally used ‘self’ and physical ‘self’ is not really that interesting and in no way undermines materialism. It’s a dialectic parlor trick”.

    My concept of what constitutes the self gives no evidence against materialism. It’s the existence of consciousness which disproves materialism.

  290. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 1:54 pm

    John – I tried to tell Leo that there’s loss of what at first glance looks like subtle function (among many other things), that there’s redundant encoding, etc. I actually gave him a run down on all of his “evidence”.

    He just didn’t reply and said we should agree to disagree, then re-stated the same points to other people. It’s easy to keep your world view when you just refuse to engage those who question it!

  291. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 1:56 pm

    “My concept of what constitutes the self gives no evidence against materialism. It’s the existence of consciousness which disproves materialism.”

    Your words:
    “Likewise in the issue of an afterlife they smuggle in their materialist conception of a “self”, show that such a “self” could not exist given that such a “self” changes with brain damage, then conclude there’s no “life after death”. However the thinking non-materialist does not share their conception of the “self”. In fact materialists cannot believe in a self at all. They just use the word “self” to refer to the sense of self.”

  292. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 2:02 pm

    “It’s the existence of consciousness which disproves materialism.”

    That you cannot cite one instance of consciousness without material (body) doesn’t give you a little pause? It should.

    No, there is no evidence that the mere existence of consciousness disproves materialism. It just becomes that much more absurd when you consider the following:

    1. EVERY SINGLE EXAMPLE of consciousness that has EVER existed relied on material. When that material went away, so did the consciousness

    2. You cannot find me ONE EXAMPLE of consciousness without material.

  293. Ekkoon 15 May 2014 at 2:08 pm

    “It’s the existence of consciousness which disproves materialism.”

    I see Ian is still confusing emergent properties of matter as being apples and oranges to each other.
    When you see a wave in the ocean, does its motion, force, and wetness also disprove materialism? Are they also separate from molecules of H2O? Emergent properties cannot exist independently from what caused them to arise. And has been pointed out many times, there is no evidence that consciousness can exist without a brain producing it.

  294. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 2:25 pm

    “Saying consciousness is the same thing as the brain is like saying an apple is the same thing as an orange”….true, oranges, apples, brains, and consciousness are all physical…we are in agreement

  295. Bronze Dogon 15 May 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Sometimes I think the concept of p-zombies exists so that people can use it as a means of rationalizing away any sympathy they might have. Sometimes similar ideas come up in bad sci-fi and fantasy fiction to make it okay to kill AIs, or certain “always chaotic evil” races even though they demonstrate emotion, self-awareness, and the capacity to learn. Cue dispassionate genocide as the heroic solution to the problem.

    Information exists. The first living things, without anything approaching the consciousness of humans, gained information about their environment by interacting with said environment. Those that reacted to this information in ways that benefited their survival and self-replication had a selective advantage. As the competition between numerous species made survival in certain niches into a more complex task, organisms with a hub of neurons that allowed them to perform more complex information processing had an advantage. They could make better and more varied decisions about how to act based on evaluating risk versus reward. This included being increasingly informed about their internal state, and such information could lead to the prioritization of tasks. This prioritization also became subject to selection, since the organisms that could detect the urgency of their circumstances were quicker and more decisive in acting. More complex brains eventually came along that had enough internal self-checking processes, memory storage, and verification by communication with other organisms to pay attention to its internal process and make decisions about how to change the internal process. Or, in other words, learn.

    Information exists because the universe exists. Consciousness is what we use to interpret that information under the subjectively biased lens of personal and social relevance. The meaning isn’t in the information itself, it’s in the act of interpreting it.

  296. Hosson 15 May 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Ian
    “You must be defining information differently from me. In the absence of consciousness there are merely physical processes.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_information

    “In fact I’m not sure even if it makes sense to talk about a world in abstraction from consciousness at all.”

    I’m not understanding this statement at all. The universe was around long before life started(a universe without consciousness), so I don’t see the problem.

    I have a question for you, and to be clear I’ll define a term or two.
    Magic – The unknown mechanism of dualism.

    When and why did magic start interacting with matter/subatomic particles?
    What type of subatomic particles does magic interact with?
    If there is no interaction between magic and subatomic particles, does that mean magic has no effect on our brain or body?
    If there is an interaction between magic and subatomic particles, shouldn’t we be able to detect an effect by observing the system magic is interacting with?
    Or is magic just magic?

  297. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 4:11 pm

    The other mac

    Those cases are out there all I know is many people that have less than 50 percent of their brains often say they are fully conscious and have their mental faculties intact.

    @Grabula

    Haven’t you not read one of the neuroscientist articles that clearly stated they found a conscious signature spanning throughout the brain that consciousness is not produced by the brain but it is about dynamics. As far AI goes it is actually because if strong AI is true then that lowers the possibility of an afterlife if weak AI is true it doesn’t.

  298. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 4:14 pm

    @ steve

    What run down? you were just saying you were not sure that mind is produced by the brain and went on how me and Ian wouldn’t change our minds to new evidence. The evidence from psychical research shows that the mind is separate from the brain yes had to go there because that is what the evidence shows. Also, it does from psi phenomena even though the results are weak they are consistent and are not going away.

  299. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 4:17 pm

    @ Steve

    If you mean if not presenting the evidence for my case here about life after death well I ain’t going too but I have done so in the past by skeptics in infidels forum and james randi forum as well and they just laugh. Because there minds are already closed.

  300. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 4:26 pm

    steve12on 15 May 2014 at 2:02 pm

    “That you cannot cite one instance of consciousness without material (body) doesn’t give you a little pause? It should”.

    Consciousness is only known through it’s interaction with a physical body in this physical reality.

    So almost by definition I cannot. If there are any disembodied selves floating around, then since they are non-material, how could we see them? Maybe we could sometimes via psi in the form of apparitions, but I’m not sure you would accept this evidence.

  301. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 4:28 pm

    @Hoss

    Any difficulties dualism may have doesn’t make materialism any the less incoherent.

  302. Ekkoon 15 May 2014 at 4:33 pm

    leo,
    “Those cases are out there all I know is many people that have less than 50 percent of their brains often say they are fully conscious and have their mental faculties intact.”

    “many people”
    Nothing could possibly be wrong with their own verbal assessment of their mental faculties in these cases of brain damage, right?
    “psi phemonema”
    “apparitions”
    So many cool stories…

  303. Steven Novellaon 15 May 2014 at 4:34 pm

    len – you only need one hemisphere and your brainstem to be conscious. Each hemisphere can be conscious by itself. In cases where one hemisphere is surgically removed, it is often the case that that hemisphere was not working anyway, and so removing it is not a problem.

    Now – If I removed half of your brain, believe me, you would notice. There would be a profound loss of function. But you would be able to remain conscious.

    Consciousness itself does not seem to localize. At present our best guess is that every part of the cortex contributes to consciousness, which is an aggregate emergent phenomenon.

    Ian – you are trapped in circular logic. The very existence of the mind does not invalidate materialism or render it incoherent. Your logic is not valid. The mind is not a thing, it’s a process – a process being carried out, demonstrably, by a physical object, the brain.

  304. Hosson 15 May 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Ian
    “Any difficulties dualism may have doesn’t make materialism any the less incoherent.”

    That is not my argument, so why are you bringing it up. I just wanted you to answer some basic questions about dualism mechanics. The reasoning in my questions are not just “difficulties”, but instead my questions illustrate major flaws with the non-scientific hypothesis of dualism.

    I’m glad you understand the fallacy that disproving a hypothesis does not make another hypothesis true unless it is a dichotomy. Very curious though, most of your arguments for dualism take this form though. You’ve done little to establish dualism as a real phenomenon and have instead attempted to poke holes in the current scientific explanation of consciousness.

    I see you apply irrational standards to the best scientific explanation of consciousness and a complete lack of standards being applied to dualism. Why is that?

  305. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 4:47 pm

    “Consciousness is only known through it’s interaction with a physical body in this physical reality.
    So almost by definition I cannot. ”

    Then how can you know that it exists outside of material?

    Here’s the deal:
    1. You want to claim that consciousness is not material, but you have no evidence.
    2. This makes 1 an assumption on your part
    3. You won’t admit it’s just an assumption, but you won’t offer evidence (see1)
    4. People find this annoying for obvious reasons.

    How can you have a discussion with someone who wants their assumptions to be treated as laws? It’s silly.

  306. Ian Wardellon 15 May 2014 at 4:50 pm

    May I ask a question for those who reject reductive materialism and subscribe to non-reductive materialism?

    Non-reductive materialism holds the mental supervenes on the physical. Changes in the physical therefore necessitate changes in the mental. But is this necessity metaphysical necessity? Or is it mere nomological (i.e physical) necessity?

  307. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 4:52 pm

    “If you mean if not presenting the evidence for my case here about life after death well I ain’t going too but I have done so in the past by skeptics in infidels forum and james randi forum as well and they just laugh. Because there minds are already closed.”

    No. I brought up very specific rebuttals to what you said here:
    steve12on 14 May 2014 at 5:18 pm
    and you refused to respond.

    Why would you or Ian come to a discussion here with a “I don’t want to get into the evidence” attitude? That’s absurd. That your evidence is unconvincing should make you think more critically about it’s value.

  308. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 5:00 pm

    “What run down? you were just saying you were not sure that mind is produced by the brain and went on how me and Ian wouldn’t change our minds to new evidence.”

    I was saying that, given the evidence, it’s ironic that YOU are the one who is more sure of your position.

    “The evidence from psychical research shows that the mind is separate from the brain yes had to go there because that is what the evidence shows.”

    WHAT F*CKING RESEARCH!!!!!!!! Stop referring to it and LINK IT!!!! SAY IT!!!!!!!! (said Like Kinnison in Back to School)

    “Also, it does from psi phenomena even though the results are weak they are consistent and are not going away.”

    I again refer to the late, great Sam Kinnison. Say it.

  309. steve12on 15 May 2014 at 5:04 pm

    “But is this necessity metaphysical necessity? Or is it mere nomological (i.e physical) necessity?”

    Can you clearly define the distinction between these?

  310. Bronze Dogon 15 May 2014 at 5:10 pm

    The brain-based model of the mind has predictive and explanatory power for what we observe in conscious beings. It has been providing a framework for useful investigation that expands on existing knowledge. It’s kind of hard for incoherent ideas to do anything like that. There are still unknowns, but that’s why research continues.

    The hypothesis that consciousness lies outside the brain has comparatively little predictive or explanatory power, and typically devolves into “it’s magic!” Dualists assert that non-material entities explain consciousness, but they never seem interested in providing a meaningful or useful explanation. That’s why I suspect there is no coherent dualist explanation for consciousness. Worse, it seems like so many other supernatural hypotheses: It’s not an explanation, it’s an assertion that there is no answer and that we should just give up on investigating.

  311. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Ian:

    Materialism = physical objects.
    Consciousness =/= a physical object.
    Therefore materialism is false.

    Wow!

    Listen, Ian, any process carried out by physical objects is part of materialism.
    Please tell me you understand that at least.
    What you need to do is prove that consciousness is not carried out by a physical object, the brain.

    It seems you think this is not even possible by definition.
    Well then, it seems to me you have nothing.

  312. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 6:04 pm

    leo100 -

    If you mean if not presenting the evidence for my case here about life after death well I ain’t going too but I have done so in the past by skeptics in infidels forum and james randi forum as well and they just laugh. Because there minds are already closed.

    Just for one fleeting moment, try considering the possibility your ideas are wrong and your evidence sucks. Believe me, it’s illuminating.

  313. BillyJoe7on 15 May 2014 at 6:18 pm

    I’m not sure that Leo’s native language is English.
    Perhaps the problem here is one of miscommunication.

  314. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Ian Wardell –

    Information only exists by virtue of consciousness. It couldn’t exist in a purely material world. All we’d have is meaningless marks on a paper etc.

    Information remains information even in the absence of something to interpret it. My collection of 8″ floppies still contains information even though I no longer have an 8″ floppy disk drive. Our books will still contain information after the demise of the last human. DNA encodes information, and it existed long before humans and long before anything remotely resembling human consciousness (amoebas aren’t exactly paragons of consciousness). Photons carry information on their source, which is why we can use them in our attempts to understand the universe.

    Meseems you don’t understand what information is.

  315. M_Morganon 15 May 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I will keep my replies brief. The comments are the same old repetitive rubbish – no science degree means “crank”. Just time wasters who love to type diatribe endlessly. Don’t any of you have real jobs to do, or is this it for you?

    @ Billyjoe7

    The same old rubbish, no facts, no logic, just an opinion about another one-line opinion in the final paragraph of my book without facts or logic. A pathetic diatribe – you can type, but that’s all.

    @ Bill Openthalton

    “being a crank doesn’t mean you are wrong”

    Are you reinventing the English language? It means “false” and “ludicrous”.

    “What are “distributive and interactive field photons and gravitons”?”

    Read on and find out. Look up “distributive”, “interactive”, and “field” in a dictionary and don’t waste my time with that rubbish. Digging out a paragraph and saying “please explain” is infantile. If this is your example of a “false” or “ludicrous” idea, you should just give up.

    “How can a life buoy be thrown at a particle in the sea?”

    Clearly it can’t – this is called “analogy” – never heard of it? Don’t take up literary criticism. You will have to do better than saying the use of analogy as “false’ or “ludicrous”.

    Son, go back to your drawing board – or read my work and attempt a proper assessment and not a pathetically biased and ignorant approach. Writing not to your taste? Don’t’ read it. Don’t understand it? Try harder or give up. Your standards of “argument” here suggest it is probably too hard, but knock yourself out by all means. Save the desperate smears about this and that “crank” (or dangerous psychopaths in some of your example above). Desperate bias reeks from every paragraph you write. Now, that’s a fair literary criticism.

    @ steve12

    “my research has been moving in this direction, along with everyone else in neuroscience over the last 75 years.”

    Everyone else over that time frame? Total rubbish. Your research? It obviously centres on baiting spiritualists from what I’ve read. I think Ian Wardell and Leo100 would be better informed if you didn’t waffle and you got to the point of how neurons create the “experience” in the brain – read my book if you want answers.

    Somehow I have gone from “vague” to “obvious” with nothing added – a complete contradiction – just another pathetic attempt to smear. Look, “researcher”, if that’s what you are, do some useful research and quit baiting. Its back the drawing board for you too steve12.

    @ steveA

    “Perhaps you could respond to ferrousbueller’s point about atomic orbitals and see where that takes us”

    I will have a look and respond there if its a worthwhile comment.

  316. Bronze Dogon 15 May 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Let’s pretend that for a moment that we find psychic who can move an object by looking at it and concentrating. They can do this even under increasingly strict controls.

    How does a non-material mind explain how they do it?
    How does a non-material mind explain why most people can’t do this?

  317. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Bronze Dog

    Most people can be a music singer because the people that are singers have a gift.

    Hi Bill, are maybe its because the skeptics don’t care to actually look at the evidence. Instead would assume its all complete woo woo before actually looking at it.

  318. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Steve12

    Why don’t you buy a book called Science and the after life experience by Chris Carter

    http://www.scienceandtheafterlifeexperience.com/

    I am sure you won’t because your only interested in what fits your worldview.

  319. Ekkoon 15 May 2014 at 7:02 pm

    leo,
    What evidence would that be?
    You have it completely backwards. Skeptics are more than happy to look at evidence. It’s just that you don’t have any. I think the issue is perhaps your definition of evidence. Cool stories are not evidence.

  320. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Bronze Dog

    Earlier in my posts I gave a useful coherent explanations of how the brain is the receiver/filter/blocker of consciousness instead of the producer of it.

  321. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Hi Morgan

    I am already very well aware of the work in neuroscience.

  322. leo100on 15 May 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Ekko,

    How many anecdotes to you have to swipt under a rug until they get serious enough for scientific inquiry?,

    I think it is telling that in pro circles the only two options left to explain the evidence for life after death is either super psi or survival.

  323. Ekkoon 15 May 2014 at 7:24 pm

    leo,
    “Earlier in my posts I gave a useful coherent explanations of how the brain is the receiver/filter/blocker of consciousness instead of the producer of it.”

    Let’s examine what that “useful coherent explanation” was earlier:

    “Instead think of the brain as a receiver/blocker/filter of consciousness. For example with people with dementia instead of assuming that their memories are permanently wiped out by the disease perhaps the brain blocks the memories because of the disease that would of otherwise came in if it wasn’t the disease affecting the brain.”

    This is not a useful explanation leo. This is an assertion, followed by an example that, besides being imaginary, does nothing to support the assertion.

    leo, the problem is that the quality of evidence that you are willing to accept is very very very low. Books about the afterlife, anecdotes, probably television shows about paranormal investigators. With your approach to reality, pretty much anything goes. There is no critical thought involved at all. No understanding of how implausible any of this is. You are a true believer seeing what you want to see.

  324. Mlemaon 15 May 2014 at 7:41 pm

    “At present our best guess is that every part of the cortex contributes to consciousness, which is an aggregate emergent phenomenon.”

    Unless someone can give me at little more as to how aggregate cortical activity causes consciousness to emerge, I have to conclude that at this point we’ve got squat on either and every side of this issue. If even a small amount of cortical activity denotes sense of self (for example), it seems like we should be able to figure this out. What is it that’s happening when any or all of the cortex is active that’s not happening when none of it is active? Please don’t say “activity”. That is circular logic. Seriously, can someone link me to what they think is the most promising scientific theory explaining how consciousness “emerges” from cortical activity? I find plenty of research on the nature of consciousness, and plenty of brain research – but nothing on how the brain causes consciousness. Do you see why people say we only have correlates? We need a mechanism. Help!

  325. Mlemaon 15 May 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Seriously, maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but i feel like I ought to be able to find something.

  326. Mlemaon 15 May 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Bill O.,
    Does everything encode information?
    Does consciousness require information?

  327. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 8:03 pm

    M_Morgan –

    I know this is a lost cause, and I am not usually given to quixotic behaviour, but what the heck, one final attempt.

    1. About you being a crank: it is not because I, or even the whole of humanity, consider you a crank(*), that your ideas are not correct. It means you have not been able to convince your audience. I specifically threw you a life buoy by mentioning Giordano Bruno — someone who was right, but was also considered to be a (dangerous) crank by his contemporaries. This means that I have conceded you might be right, and I am not dismissing your ideas out of hand — didn’t you get that?

    2. About reading comprehension: if your target audience is the average correctly educated adult, you have to be very careful about how you explain complex ideas (hence my reference to Isaac Asimov). You have to use metaphors people know, not — like in the passages I quoted — novel juxtapositions of terms or confusing metaphors. And you don’t blame your readers for not understanding you, you listen and fix your prose. I quoted from your book, which means I did try and read it. Let me tell you your condescending answer doesn’t motivate me to try again — you score a big fat zero for public relations.

    I know from experience it is difficult to evaluate and proof-read one’s own writing (that’s why one needs a good editor), but please try and read the following paragraph as an outsider:

    Further coverage of sex can be given now. In Diagram 36, the two Gravitons make a vaginal opening with clitoris at the counter- rotation point. In Diagram 37, the two Photons make the head of a penis extending point first in as a hill, and base first out as a well, in entry into, and exit from, a vagina. Testes and penis are at the edge of anatomy, levitating to aim multiple tiny sperm to levitate towards an egg. A vagina extends from one massive fallen egg in a uterus based inside the anatomy, which extends as an embryo grows. Copulation is levity oscillation within insulated gravity for rising friction until a centered match at fertilization.

    I pride myself in having a dirty mind, but try as I may, I cannot see a vagina in your diagram 36 (two intersecting ellipsoids with tails) and no penis in diagram 37 (which, by the way, is also called diagram 36), which consists of two not-quite-closed ellipsoids, one with two arrows labeled “Back” and “Front” pointing up, and one with two arrows labeled “Back” and “Front” pointing down at the open ends. One could argue diagram 37 has balls, but it is missing the shaft, so to speak. I used a dictionary, and it defines “levity” as humor or frivolity, especially the treatment of a serious matter with humor or in a manner lacking due respect. — so pray tell me what levity oscillation is about, because levity has nothing to do with levitation.

    The upshot is: if you want to sell your ideas, package them better.

    (*) On the Interwebz, a crank means someone who has an unconventional take on a subject, believes it with relentless commitment, and goes through extraordinary lengths to publicize it in a not very effective way. Miles Mathis is a prime example (in addition to being a serviceable painter). Come to think of it, you have the same initials, M M. Are you related?

  328. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Mlema –

    Does everything encode information?
    Does consciousness require information?

    Everything doesn’t “encode” information (as I see it, encoding would mean something placing information in an object with the aim of using it), and in any case, everything is a pretty sweeping term. Off the top of my head, water doesn’t encode information, claims of the homeopathy crowd notwithstanding.

    As I said, I think consciousness is a side effect of the ability to collect and exchange information on the internal state of the various brain processes, so yes, consciousness does require information.

    It’s too late here, I’m signing off.

  329. emerriamon 15 May 2014 at 8:42 pm

    I read through these posts and became intrigued with M_Morgan’s book. To make it easier for anyone else who wants to read the book, here’s some information that can help with finding it:

    The Human Design: An Introduction to the Design in Nature
    Marcus Morgan
    Dedicated to People of the Future

    @M_Morgan

    I’ve read your book. Either you’re a genius without any ability to relate your thoughts to other people – which makes your genius useless. Or, you have an exceptional ability to maintain cognitive dissonance.

  330. Bill Openthalton 15 May 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Billy Joe 7 –
    A quick comment read career scientists. Lack of formal training, peer reviewed publications etc. doesn’t mean one doesn’t know one’s stuff. What matters is the quality of research and the theory. It is possible to be self-taught and revolutionise our understanding of the world. But the quality has to be there.

  331. Mlemaon 15 May 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Bill O., thanks. Yes i see that one wouldn’t say everything encodes information. in fact, i am using the word “encode” wrongly. But could i say that the world provides information to my consciousness? (from the world of my brain, along with the rest of my known reality?)

  332. grabulaon 15 May 2014 at 9:21 pm

    @ian

    Thought you were done trying to ‘educate’ the dirty masses?

    ‘These might be mere properties.’

    This is the foundation of your problem in comprehension, your suppositions rely on might or maybe. Meanwhile science is busy confirming, developing data and continuing to investigate.

    Nothing wrong with your blog as a source for your opinion. I used to know a guy like you in the martial arts world though. You’re so proud of yourself for your complex explanations related to your agenda that your blog, like this guy’s school, had become a bastion to protect your ego. You get frustrated here because no one’s buying your meandering, nonsensical thinking so you return to you blog to virtually nudge you’re fellows in woo with a wink and point and say, see how rational thinkers can’t understand is?

    You pomposity consider yourself an intellectual while displaying the worst behaviors that defy your ability to actually BE an intellectual. For example, dismissing out of hand everyone who doesn’t agree with you as being too stupid to understand you, dozens of examples above. Or how about the inability to absorb the facts as they’re given to you and at the very least adjust your thinking. What makes most of the other commentators on this blog much smarter than you is the fact that they understand how to follow the evidence and don’t have to wander into baseless philosophy in order to hand wave what sits plainly before them. That’s what makes your effort here so disgusting and such an utter failure. We get quacks Hey all the time but in most ways you are the worst of them all, and keep in mind we’re talking about some really disingenuous and misguided people. My suggestion is to go back to your fall corner of the Internet since you’re not contributing anything here.

  333. The Other John Mcon 15 May 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Mlema: “Unless someone can give me at little more as to how aggregate cortical activity causes consciousness to emerge, I have to conclude that at this point we’ve got squat on either and every side of this issue.”

    I’ll give it a go, and see what others would like to contribute. Keep in mind you have asked the million dollar question, and we don’t have an *exact* answer yet obviously, but the only foreseeable barriers are further technological sophistication (in brain slicing, imaging, info storage, retrieval, etc.), and THEN deriving a computational network model from it all that can run on a big and complex enough computer. There’s plenty to do. Check out the work by the Blue Brain project and also Simon Seung’s lab, they both seem to be (current) leaders on this grand path.

    So my two cents are: the whole point of having a nervous system is processing information from the environment. Evolution seems to have favored organisms that had better and higher fidelity information from the environment, with which to act on for aided survival and reproduction. The better the representation of external reality, the more our lineage appears to have benefited from having bigger and bigger brains (particularly cortical brain regions). Eventually, an organism’s representation of external reality gets so complex and of high-enough fidelity that it needs (or somehow benefits from) a representation of *itself* in that mental model. We may have also benefited from having complex language in that it allowed the language centers to feed into this representation and provide an inner monologue (the voice in our heads). Language seems to also allow complex autobiographical memories to be formed, contributing to our sense of self.

    I believe the thinking is that cortical brain regions in particular allow for insane levels of connectivity between disparate brain regions, permitting all the different brain regions to interact on an unthinkable level: this seems to be the path the Blue Brain project is headed down, by trying to accurately model how cortical columns connect and function, and then replicating and connecting such columns and seeing what happens.

    So, in a nutshell, my understanding is consciousness is *somehow* the result of an information processing system containing a high-enough fidelity model of reality that the system seems to include an imperfect, patchwork, lower-fidelity representation of itself within that model. But I would love to hear what a computational neuroscientist has to say about this, I’m just a lowly experimental/perceptual psychologist.

  334. grabulaon 15 May 2014 at 9:44 pm

    @hoss

    “I