Feb 21 2009

Mind and Brain on NPR

Published by under Uncategorized
Comments: 84

NPR finally aired the segment they recorded with me last month. The segment is called Doubting Darwin: Debate Over The Mind’s Evolution, and features interviews with me and Dr. Egnor. The interviews were recorded separately – it was not a discussion or debate. Of course we are each very familiar with the other’s arguments, and readers of this blog will recognize most of the points made.

The segment was well produced and fair (at least from my perspective, I can’t speak for Dr. Egnor) – they used my points in context, chose reasonably representative segments, and did not sandbag me with counterpoints I was not aware of. (These are all risks when being interviewed, especially by lower quality outlets.)

However, there was one point that Dr. Egnor made toward the end that was not adequately addressed. He said:

“The person was able to have mental processes during a time when they were in cardiac arrest, in cardiac standstill, and sometimes even absent EEG waves. So I think there is very real scientific evidence that the mind in some circumstances can exist without a functioning brain.”

It is interesting that he never tried to make this claim in our blog debate (if he did I missed it). And of course, this claim is utterly false, and Dr. Egnor cannot produce any reference to support it – something which he essentially admits by referring to this evidence in the interview as “anecdotal”.

The segment producer added that neuroscientists claim there is still some brain activity during cardiac arrest, even if the EEG signals are hard to detect. This is true, but is only one of the two reasons why Egnor’s claim is nonsense.

Others, like Deepak Chopra, have tried to use near-death experiences as support for a mind separate from brain. I have written about his before as well. There are two reasons why NDEs are not evidence for a mind separate from brain. The first is that there is no reason to conclude that all brain activity stops during cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR provides enough blood flow to the brain to keep it alive – that’s its primary function. This is enough to allow for some activity.

Also, keep in mind that EEGs are not routinely performed during CPR. It would not be feasible to place EEG electrodes on the scalp during CPR. Therefore we only see the EEG during CPR when the EEG was already in place. I am personally aware of only one case in which this occurred – the patient’s heart stopped while being EEG monitored (and it was not detected for some time, so there was no CPR). Brain waves rapidly decrease but do not instantly disappear when the heart stops. They maintain a low level of function.

In fact, there are reported cases of using bispectral index (a form of EEG that is used to monitor level of consciousness during anesthesia) to monitor the response of brain function to CPR. Effective CPR was able to maintain brain activity as measured by bispectral index – therefore the evidence suggests that CPR is capable of maintaining measurable brain function.

Generally speaking, if someone survives CPR and later recovers consciousness then it could not have proceeded for very long -  30-60 minutes at most. During this time brain activity will not have completely vanished.

So the first premise of Dr. Egnor’s anecdotal claim is not true – that there is demonstrably no brain activity during mental activity. The second premise is also not true – that the memories later reported of a near-death experience occurred during CPR, or during the time of minimal brain activity.

If someone has a sufficiently prolonged CPR that their brain activity is diminished, then it also must be true that their brain will take time to recover – hours to days. It is not like in the movies where someone comes back from cardiac arrest, their eyes flutter open and they are completely conscious. Rather, CPR survivors will slowly regain brain function and will be delirious for an extended period of time.

During this time of delirium they are forming confused memories, and have very poor time sense. It is simply not possible from any documented case to time any memory later reported by a CPR survivor to the time of their CPR – the time when their brain activity was most decreased.

Therefore, Dr. Egnor’s two necessary premises for his point – that there is no brain activity, and there is mental activity during this time – have not been established.

Of course, if this were true then Dr. Egnor would win our little debate. If there were reliable scientific evidence that the mind can exist without the brain, then the mind must be something other than just brain. But Dr. Egnor cannot make this case – if he could, he would.

Instead, he tried to slip in “anecdotal” claims during a radio interview that would not allow for a thorough exploration of his claims – claims already demolished by me and others.

So, Dr. Egnor, either provide references adequate to establish your premises or admit that there is no evidence for mind separate from brain.

Share

84 responses so far

84 Responses to “Mind and Brain on NPR”

  1. theoon 21 Feb 2009 at 9:44 am

    Yeah. I would have assumed there’d be some brain activity even after the heart has stopped. They’re two different organs. Half an hour after cardiac arrest, then I’d start being impressed…

    And this:

    The person was able to have mental processes during a time when they were in cardiac arrest, in cardiac standstill… very real scientific evidence that the mind in some circumstances can exist without a functioning brain.

    is a WTF? non-sequitur. Even if we grant it truth, the heart was non functioning, not the brain…

  2. HHCon 21 Feb 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Hhmmm, I wonder if ” mind without brain ” is a new technical term for word salad?

  3. Mully410on 21 Feb 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Great post and great NPR story. I still believe that the phrase “anecdotal evidence” is a bit wishy washy.

    I agree with this as I’ve witnessed it myself: “If someone has a sufficiently prolonged CPR that their brain activity is diminished, then it also must be true that their brain will take time to recover – hours to days. It is not like in the movies where someone comes back from cardiac arrest, their eyes flutter open and they are completely conscious.”

    Back in 2000, my father had a cardiac arrest in our living room. My mother and I performed CPR for 2.5 minutes until paramedics arrived and defibbed him. He was in ICU for 5 days. On day 3 he appeared fully conscious and we had conversations with him. Interestingly, his short term memory was non-existent. He could remember things from years ago but had to be reminded of things that happened 2 minutes ago. If it wasn’t so scary for us, it would have been funny like that old Tom Hanks SNL skit.

    After a week or so, dad regained his memory and is now running around playing with his grandkid and having his one Manhattan per day.

    PS: Dad has no recollection of “white light” or floating around or any other memory considered a “near death” experience.

  4. empiricalgod2on 21 Feb 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Excellent read.
    Both the news story and the blog entry.

  5. ozzy1248on 21 Feb 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I’ve been having this same discussion with some friends, and they use the “mind exists outside the brain” argument all the time with referencing these “scientific studies” of patients who have memories of events happening to them when their brain and hearts were stopped. When I ask for the references of the studies, they always resort to the “Well, I saw it on TV” or “I read it in a science magazine.”
    I just heard the NPR story, and agree that it was “balanced”, but its difficult when you’re trying to balance fact with fiction. Truth does not lie in the middle.
    Its unfortunate, too, that most people hearing this who already believe in an afterlife or souls, all they will hear is the anecdotal evidence presented near the end and take this away as “scientific proof”.

  6. Kennethon 21 Feb 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I listened to the segment on NPR. I agree with your side of the issue. I must admit, that the concepts of mind and consciousness, are difficult to wrap my neurons around! It does seem to me, that me, my self, should be more than a mound of meat inside my skull, but then again, I can’t see how it can be otherwise.

  7. pecon 21 Feb 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Certain types of near death experiences are very common, and no one knows how to explain them. We do not know whether or not there is brain activity during an NDE. Egnor doesn’t know, but neither does the “skeptical” blog author.

    It doesn’t matter what either of them say, the fact is we don’t know. So until there is scientific evidence one way or the other, there is no point debating. It is merely ideological preference.

    There is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence, however, because near death and out of body experiences are very common.

    Susan Blackmore has a really dopey materialist explanation for out of body experiences, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with science. It’s pure materialist speculation.

    Anecdotal evidence is not scientific, but when millions of people have experienced the same thing it doesn’t make sense to ignore it.

  8. Steven Novellaon 21 Feb 2009 at 10:53 pm

    No one is advocating ignoring it (oh master of the straw men). There is something to the common experience. There are plausible neurological explanations for it.

    The point you completely missed is that Egnor is offering these anecdotal experiences as scientific evidence that the mind exists apart from the brain. My point is that he has offered no such evidence. And there absolutely is evidence that there is brain activity during CPR, as the reference I linked to indicates.

  9. Alexon 21 Feb 2009 at 11:00 pm

    pec – we do know that certain hallucinogens (most notably ketamine, also some of the 5HT2A-agonist “classical” hallucinogens such as LSD, DMT, etc.) cause near-death- and out-of-body-experiences with a degree of reliability that strongly suggests that the best explanation of these effects is materialistic. Epistemologically it doesn’t follow that all such experiences are materialistic, but the availability of reasonable materialistic explanations, along with the problems with magical sky-hooks (as Blackmore observed, the detailed descriptions of supposedly visited places given by people with OOBEs often didn’t match up with the real world), suggests that your pseudo-agnosticism on this issue is not warranted by the available evidence.

    Dr. Novella – this is off-topic, but are you going to respond to Egnor’s accusation (based on the New Scientist cover) that you misrepresented evolutionary science?

  10. sonicon 22 Feb 2009 at 4:11 am

    I have successfully preformed CPR while working in a hospital.
    The people all had different experiences.
    Often the person would tell me about having what I now know is called an NDE. (At the time I had not heard of this)
    On two of the ocassions I was able to verify that what they saw at a distance (the patients had seen things that were going on down the hallway) was in fact happening. Specific things that I could not imagine as ‘guesses’. The only times that I was able to check these stories they turned out to be true. (Other people told me about other things going on- I just didn’t or could confirm)
    I have learned that these are not all that unusual. I believe they are called ‘vertigal NDE’s’.
    Saying that this experience can be induced at times that are not truely ‘near death’ (as in the case with some drugs) is a strawman.

    Nobody has to believe that these experiences mean anything. Denying the possibility that they mean exactly what they seem to (that is that the consciousness can separate from the body) is one of the most anti-scientific stances I have ever encountered.

  11. Steven Novellaon 22 Feb 2009 at 8:51 am

    Sonic – I cannot reply to anecdotes. There are no documented cases where someone acquired specific information that they could only have acquired while undergoing CPR or otherwise without a consciously working brain.

    Also – can you please point out to me where I or anyone here denied the possibility that NDEs represent consciousness separate from body? Your most anti-scientific stance you have ever encountered (seriously, you need to get out more) is a straw man.

    Rather, I and other simply pointed out the actual evidence, and pointed out errors in the logic of those trying to conclude that NDEs are evidence for mind separate from brain.

    But I see you have attended the Egnor school of arguing – misrepresent arguments of evidence and logic as dogma and denial.

  12. pecon 22 Feb 2009 at 10:20 am

    “The point you completely missed is that Egnor is offering these anecdotal experiences as scientific evidence that the mind exists apart from the brain. ”

    No, I didn’t miss that. I am not agreeing with Egnor. As I said, I think both of you are being ideological rather than scientific.

    “There are plausible neurological explanations for it.”

    No, there are not. Blackmore’s “explanations have nothing to do with science, and are entirely a product of her materialist extremism.

  13. Alexon 22 Feb 2009 at 11:30 am

    You can talk about motivations all you like, pec. But since the way we reason is largely the same way we rationalize, it’s not very relevant. Blackmore’s rationalizations are better than yours.

  14. DoubleBitAxeon 22 Feb 2009 at 11:38 am

    pec, I think it’s pretty funny that you are claiming to be a logically or scientifically superior thinker but you reply to a statement like “there are plausible neurological explanations for it” with a very strong and ridiculous statement like “No, there are not.” You can’t possibly make such a claim, at best you can claim that you don’t know of any plausible explanations for them. Even if Susan Blackmore’s explanations don’t convince you (and I admit that I’m not sure what her’s are), there are many explanations which are scientific. For example, chemically induced NDEs. If there are chemicals which can cause the experience, one should conclude that it is the brain, and it’s behavior, that cause them.

  15. tmac57on 22 Feb 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I heard a piece on Radio Lab about jet pilots that experienced OOB experiences due to extreme G forces during maneuvers . Though this is anecdotal, it suggests that they are due to physical not metaphysical causes. I’m sure there have been studies done on this, but I can’t cite them here.

  16. Fifion 22 Feb 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Hehe – “explanations have nothing to do with science” – that’s really funny.

  17. HHCon 22 Feb 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I believe the out of body and near death experiences were traced by this blog to errors at the sites of the junction between temporal and parietal areas of the brain. Has anyone of these experiences ever been discussed as description of seizure activity. Extreme stresses, such as hemorrhaging or G forces can
    produce altered sensory experiences. We may be discussing issues pertaining to the “sensory cortex” and “psychic cortex”.

  18. HHCon 22 Feb 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Based on the anesthesia case, abnornal mental status changes precede abnormal vital signs in organ perfusion.

  19. HHCon 22 Feb 2009 at 2:38 pm

    That should read abnormal mental status precedes abnormal vital signs.

  20. HHCon 22 Feb 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Dr. Egnor stated in the NPR podcast that you can have a soul without EEG waves. At the Chicago 2009 Auto Show I saw one!
    The Soul is made by Kia Motors. Their trademark includes the power to surprise, wow, I beheld the soul.

  21. daedalus2uon 22 Feb 2009 at 3:25 pm

    One of the things that all near death metabolic states cause is hypoxia, and hypoxia activates many nitrite reductases in many (all that have been looked at carefully) tissue compartments including mitochondria (which all cells have). This produces NO, which activates sGC producing cGMP. Some of the ion channels important in transduction of light into neuronal signals in the retina are regulated by cGMP. NO from hypoxia could make light sensitivity go up, go down, or change in complex ways. It would be completely expected that vision would be perturbed during near death metabolic stress, and in characteristic ways.

  22. artfulDon 22 Feb 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Nitric oxide gases have conductive properties, offering visual and aural pathways that without near death would otherwise go unnoticed.

  23. medmonkeyon 22 Feb 2009 at 5:05 pm

    The idea that mind-without-brain and brain-dependent-mind philosophies are on equal grounds is preposterous. The evidence of physical damage to brains having dire consequences on mind is highly supportive of the positive relationship. Attempting to falsify the negative (mind-without-brain) theory is analagous to disproving god. It’s more reasonable to assume the positive relationship based on the existing evidence unless evidence for the negative relationship is presented. Meanwhile, science will continue to provide evidence that allows for the negative relationship to be false with sufficient explanation for certain strange phenomena (e.g. NDEs).

    Check out this interview where Dan Dennett discusses consciousness with Robert Wright:

    http://meaningoflife.tv/video.php?speaker=dennett&topic=complete

    (the pertinent stuff starts around minute 28)

  24. artfulDon 22 Feb 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Consciousness, to boil down Dennett’s view a bit, is the result of sensory input. In addition, the purpose of that resulting “conscious” feeling is to aid in choosing a response consistent with consequences the organism’s structure is able to predict.

    It has yet to be demonstrated that the mind has sensory apparatus separate from the brain or that it can make predictions separate from the brain’s assistance, and thus has any need to be separately conscious to begin with.

  25. pecon 22 Feb 2009 at 7:41 pm

    “Hehe – “explanations have nothing to do with science” – that’s really funny.”

    I said BLACKMORE’s explanations have nothing to do with science.

  26. pecon 22 Feb 2009 at 7:50 pm

    ” The evidence of physical damage to brains having dire consequences on mind is highly supportive of the positive relationship.”

    The mind depends on the brain to interact with the physical world. If the mind didn’t need a brain to interact with this world, there would be no reason for anyone to have a brain. Something can be necessary without being sufficient — for example, eyes are necessary for vision, but not sufficient.

    Materialism claims that since the brain is necessary for the appearance of consciousness, it is sufficient.

  27. Doctor Evidenceon 22 Feb 2009 at 8:44 pm

    “Materialism claims that since the brain is necessary for the appearance of consciousness, it is sufficient.”

    nicely succinct. I think others would make a different
    statement, such as

    “Materialism claims that a materialist *explanation* is
    sufficient for the observations made thus far related to the
    phenomena of consciousness.”

  28. artfulDon 22 Feb 2009 at 9:15 pm

    pec,
    Actually there’s no reason for anyone to believe the mind is anything but an aspect of the brain.

    The brain doesn’t need to obtain it’s consciousness from some free floating mind that can see and hear and remember things on its own sans the interaction that you allege that same mind actually requires that brain to allow it to see and remember. That’s a bit silly at best.

    In or after these near death and similar experiences, the brain simply “remembers” what it expects would have happened – or would have expected to happen – had it been awake enough at the time to remember it.

  29. Mjhavokon 22 Feb 2009 at 9:33 pm

    “As I said, I think both of you are being ideological rather than scientific.”

    Novella’s ideology = Science and logic
    Egnor’s ideology = Make up shit.

    Dr Novella’s “ideology” is the ideology(method) of science. The ideology that you must have evidence to back up your claims and your arguments have to be logical.

  30. daedalus2uon 22 Feb 2009 at 9:35 pm

    If eyes are necessary for vision, how does a disembodied mind “see”? If eyes are not necessary for the mind to see, why bother to have them? Why does this non-light mediated method of “seeing” only happen under irreproducible circumstances?

    Being able to see in total darkness would be a great survival feature. Why are there no organisms that are demonstrably able to do so?

  31. Mjhavokon 22 Feb 2009 at 9:46 pm

    What a joke. Near the end the Host NPR guy says that Egnor has some anecdotal evidence(in other words, shit he made up) that suggests the mind exists without the brain but they Egnor flips it and says he thinks there is good scientific evidence for it, which he doesn’t give. What a slimy bastard.

  32. Mjhavokon 22 Feb 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Steven,

    Great name btw (same as mind). I just wanted to ask you if you have a top 5 or 10 popular science books with neurology as the main subject.

    Regards

    Steven

  33. carbone1853on 22 Feb 2009 at 11:44 pm

    You seemed happy with the report, I’m surprised. To me it seemed like the report could have be titled “Two guy who disagree on something”. It provided dulling quotes and no context or other information. If I had no outside information or strong opinion on the topic, I would have been forced to decide that there is a 50/50 shot of a non-material explanation for the brain. I think this is the worst kind of report. It takes a topic that nearly all the evidence is one sided and presents it in a way that makes it look like it could go either way.

  34. proportion wheelon 23 Feb 2009 at 12:29 am

    I pretty much accidentally heard the NPR segment, and it pissed me off so much that I wrote a rant about it on my own (very new) blog, which is mostly about graphic design. This kind of pseudo-balanced report is very common in the mass media, and it’s misleading in many ways. For one thing an uninformed listener would think that that this is a scientific debate between Egnor and you. It’s not clear to a listener that it’s really a contrast in viewpoints between religious wackaloonery and real science, and not really a debate at all—the evidence is all on the scientific side. Further, I appreciate the technical details you and commenters have posted above, but we don’t have to sharpen up Occam’s razor very much to conclude that “remembered” experiences on emerging from hypoxia don’t have any more evidentiary weight than dreams.

  35. sonicon 23 Feb 2009 at 3:42 am

    Steven-
    I did not say that you have denied the possiblity.
    I don’t think there are anything but anecdotes on this subject- as there is no way to repeat the test.
    If I wrote down what I saw would that make it documented?
    What would documentation be like in this case?

    I agree that what I witnessed is nothing more than that- what I witnessed. But now I know that a lot of people have witnessed similar things and the ‘explanations’ don’t even address the actual issues.

    Would I be more scientific to deny what I saw?

  36. skidooon 23 Feb 2009 at 4:36 am

    @Sonic:

    Would I be more scientific to deny what I saw?

    No, but your “testimony” would be equally irrelevant.

  37. Steven Novellaon 23 Feb 2009 at 9:53 am

    I agree that the report followed the “false balance” fallacy that is unfortunately common. The report was certainly not a hard-nosed scientific report. In that sense I was not “happy” with the report.

    However, on the spectrum of what I experience, it wasn’t bad (so I guess my expectations are low). It did not distort what I said, use my quotes out of context, or sandbag me with points that seemed to counter my position but to which there was no response. I have experienced all of these things before.

    Also, others who listened to the report have told me Egnor came off sounding disingenuous (which I think he is). If that reaction is common, then in a way the report worked. I would be interesting in hearing what others think – but of course I know I am getting a very biased sample.

  38. Steven Novellaon 23 Feb 2009 at 9:59 am

    Sonic – this is not about denying what you saw – it is about how to interpret what you think you saw. Just writing down an experience does not render it not anecdotal – although it does have the one advantage of locking the story down and preventing memory drift.

    NDEs are highly emotionally charged situations. I have been there as an MD many times myself. The perceptions and memories of patients and family members are incredibly unreliable as scientific evidence because they are so distorted by emotion.

    Adequate documentation would require a situation in which the variables were sufficiently controlled so that it could be reliably concluded that the patient obtained information they could only have obtained while their brain was not capable of being conscious.

  39. Dackson 23 Feb 2009 at 10:16 am

    Great to hear you on NPR the other night, but I think the piece didn’t do much for scientific inquiry. The “false-balance” gave Egnor equal validity, and I don’t think the interviewer gave you a chance to explainWHY Egnor’s theories don’t hold water. Also, he tapped into your frustration with Egnor, which made it sound like a personal disagreement, which it clearly is not.

    On the other hand, it was good to hear Egnor’s links with the Discovery Institute accentuated.

    Keep up the good work to bring critical thinking to the masses!

  40. mindmeon 23 Feb 2009 at 11:12 am

    The false balance was rebalanced, I thought, by the segment hosts who pretty much concluded at the end of the piece that Egnor’s claims were untestable by science and therefore not science.

  41. theoon 23 Feb 2009 at 11:19 am

    Hey Steve, quick question. Do you believe in free will? (Not that I believe you have a choice in your belief or whether you answer or not…)

    The answer can be quick too (i.e., yes or no), but feel free to elaborate. I find it odd when neuroscientists believe in free will.

    For anyone’s interest, here’s an essay I wrote a while back, that started my thinking on brain=mind and my now lack of belief in free will. Is there a difference between the mind and the brain? Freaked me out at first, but now everything’s just dandy – the illusion of free will is overwhelming most of the time.

  42. artfulDon 23 Feb 2009 at 3:32 pm

    My opinion, for what it’s worth: The freedom is not so much in the will itself but in the nature of the choices the “will” may be called upon to make. It may come down to whether there is even the smallest degree of randomness entered somewhere in the endless string of causations. If so, there’s a chance that if the problems you wil face were not inevitable, neither will be the decisions you will have been expected to make to continue the unbroken chain of causation.

  43. Gary Goldwateron 23 Feb 2009 at 4:42 pm

    The question of “free will” isn’t a black or white issue. It’s a grey matter [so to speak]. Hahahaha

  44. Calli Arcaleon 23 Feb 2009 at 5:56 pm

    What I kinda wonder is (even assuming his totally uncited anecdote is reliable) how one could even tell that there had been mental activity during a period of no EEG activity. Did the person think? Or did they just hallucinate that they had been thinking? What I’m getting at is that the brain is notoriously poor at timestamping its own activities, so how can we tell the person was thinking while they were “out” rather than just having the impression of having thought after coming back. I assume his anecdote is based on somebody’s self-report, after all, since as far as I know, nobody’s really figured out how to mind-read yet.

  45. Steven Novellaon 23 Feb 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Calli – that is exactly the point I made. Having a memory of an OOB experience several days after the CPR and then assuming the experience actually took place during the CPR, but it could have occurred in the days following when the person was delirious.

  46. artfulDon 23 Feb 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Why would you assume it was a memory of a delirious episode?
    Memory can be manufactured to fill in a gap, can it not? And when that happens, one tends to fill the gap with something the brain “predicts” it would have expected to experience at the time.

  47. artfulDon 23 Feb 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Memory formation occurs when we sleep, for example, as our brains work on problems and suggest solutions that are retretrievable from memory when we awake. In the same way, the brain can suggest what it calculates as past probabilities. We may not be conscious of the calculative process and where other memories are missing, we tend to treat the retrieval of these suggestions as if they result from actual experiences. The process also factors in what it “hopes” could have happened as therefor somewhat probable as well.

  48. Advocatvs Diabolion 24 Feb 2009 at 4:22 am

    I’m wondering just how (un)familiar Dr Novella is with the published literature given that he’s claiming that because a flatlined EEG does not necessarily indicate complete absence of brain activity this suggests NDE/OBE patients have some semblance of said activity after all.

    Namely, the question of whether or not there is any activity in the cortex is irrelevant here because in both of their respective papers Lommel and Fenwick specifically point out that the patients in question were clinically dead as brain-stem reflexes were also notably absent.

    Here, I’ll quote Lommel’s Lancet paper:

    “In our prospective study of patients that were clinically dead (flat EEG, showing no electrical activity in the cortex, and loss of brain stem function evidenced by fixed dilated pupils and absence of the gag reflex), the patients report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, or memory from early childhood occurred, as well as perceptions from a position out and above their “dead” body.”

    So unless it’s being suggested that clinically dead patients still have a somewhat functional brain that is capable of generating vivid visual and auditory hallucinations the argument still stands.

    >>There are no documented cases where someone acquired specific information that they could only have acquired while undergoing CPR or otherwise without a consciously working brain.

  49. sonicon 24 Feb 2009 at 5:53 am

    Theo-

    I read your article. You might be operating on a misconception of what science has found as it seems your ideas are more from the known to be false ‘classical’ physics. A good reference to modern science (quantum physics) and how it relates to the
    ‘mind-brain problem’ can be found here-

    http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/kout.pdf

    Hope you enjoy the reading!!

    Steven,
    I agree that what I saw is just that and the question is how I (or anyone else) would intepret it. The point I was trying to make is that there is a question there.
    Wasn’t it Feynman who said, “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt. ” ??

  50. theoon 24 Feb 2009 at 7:41 am

    Sonic – I never said I was a determinist! (I’m a physics teacher, so am familiar with QM.) I’ll read the pdf you linked to on the train to work, but QM arguments are no better at providing free will. At best they could add true randomness to life, is all. That being said, I haven’t read the article so will be happy to change my “mind” when provided with new evidence / arguments, not that “I” have a choice in the matter…

  51. Steven Novellaon 24 Feb 2009 at 8:40 am

    Advocatvs – the quote you cite does not appear to be from the actual paper (http://profezie3m.altervista.org/archivio/TheLancet_NDE.htm) but from separate commentary by Lommel (http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_skeptic_response.htm).

    I doubt that there is complete absence of brainstem findings in most of the cases, in which duration of CPR was only a few minutes. Perhaps in some of the longer cases, but these findings are difficult to interpret because, as the article also says, it is standard procedure for these patients to have received opiates and other sedatives during or surrounding the procedure.

    Second – in order to meet my criteria there needs to be both a demontrable absence of brain activity and the memories must date to that time. Although Lommel claims this is the case, I disagree with his conclusions. The observations reported were actually anecdotal and the information was not controlled.

    Lommel also has been criticized for grossly overinterpreting his results. For example, he dismisses the anoxia explaination solely on the basis that therefore 100% of patients should have had an NDE when only 18% did. This is absurd, and he contradicts his own conclusion when he observes that those with impaired memory tended not to report NDEs. NDEs are also more common in the young than the old. These suggest brain differences.

    That is very significant, and Lommel totally glosses over it. This suggests there may be a range of hypoxia in which NDEs tend to occur.

    In fact I would turn his conclusion back at him – if NDEs were not a quirky brain phenomenon and was rather spiritual, then how come 100% (or nearly so) of people do not report such an experience?

    Lommel’s data is not adequate to document that NDEs are not a brain phenomenon, and he completely overinterprets his results.

  52. Smedon 24 Feb 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I love that Egnor’s first words were “I’m a neurosurgeon.” It doesn’t get much more disingenuous than that.

  53. artfulDon 24 Feb 2009 at 2:28 pm

    theo writes: “I haven’t read the article so will be happy to change my “mind” when provided with new evidence / arguments, not that “I” have a choice in the matter…”
    Sounds like a determinist who believes that all evidence of randomness were predetermined phenomena.

  54. Advocatvs Diabolion 24 Feb 2009 at 8:44 pm

    >>I doubt that there is complete absence of brainstem findings in most of the cases, in which duration of CPR was only a few minutes. Perhaps in some of the longer cases, but these findings are difficult to interpret because, as the article also says, it is standard procedure for these patients to have received opiates and other sedatives during or surrounding the procedure.>in order to meet my criteria there needs to be both a demontrable absence of brain activity>and the memories must date to that time. Although Lommel claims this is the case, I disagree with his conclusions. The observations reported were actually anecdotal and the information was not controlled.>These suggest brain differences.>This suggests there may be a range of hypoxia in which NDEs tend to occur.>In fact I would turn his conclusion back at him – if NDEs were not a quirky brain phenomenon and was rather spiritual, then how come 100% (or nearly so) of people do not report such an experience?

  55. Advocatvs Diabolion 24 Feb 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Whoops, my post got messed up for some reason, I’ll try again:

    “I doubt that there is complete absence of brainstem findings in most of the cases, in which duration of CPR was only a few minutes. Perhaps in some of the longer cases, but these findings are difficult to interpret because, as the article also says, it is standard procedure for these patients to have received opiates and other sedatives during or surrounding the procedure.”

    Well either the reflexes are there or they aren’t, and in these particular cases they weren’t. They are the most primitive of physiological functions and so are not affected by opiates or sedatives, their sustained absence is a primary criterion for determining legal brain death, short-term (reversible) absence is a primary feature of clinical death.

    “in order to meet my criteria there needs to be both a demontrable absence of brain activity”

    That would be clinical death, no?

    “and the memories must date to that time. Although Lommel claims this is the case, I disagree with his conclusions. The observations reported were actually anecdotal and the information was not controlled.”

    How was it not controlled? Every patient was/is methodologically interviwed post-resussitacion as outlined in the studies, first to determine if an NDE was experienced and secondly, if a veridical OBE was reported, to assert the factual accuracy of the account.

    “These suggest brain differences.”

    But isn’t everybody’s brain unique? And if so, why do the same core elements and universalist spiritual revelations consistently keep popping up in different people’s supposedly unique hallucinations? Why not wildly varied hallucinations instead, ones specific to each individual?

    “This suggests there may be a range of hypoxia in which NDEs tend to occur.”

    But NDEs/OBEs frequently occur in non-life threatening situations such as illness, falls or narrowly avoiding a potentially fatal accident, Michael Shermer cites the preponderance of such cases when concluding the theory as being “implausible.” (Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, 2002)

    Furthermore, the clarity of perception and cognition that occurs during most NDEs seems to be very much at odds with the actual experience of hypoxia, which borders on unconsciousness and can be frightening and confusing. A pilot who has experienced both hypoxia and an NDE reported (Fenwick & Fenwick, 1995) “no similarity” between the two.

    “In fact I would turn his conclusion back at him – if NDEs were not a quirky brain phenomenon and was rather spiritual, then how come 100% (or nearly so) of people do not report such an experience?”

    The same argument can also be applied to the neurocentric model: if NDEs are simply a standardized physiological reaction to dying then why are they so notably uncommon?

  56. HHCon 24 Feb 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I will assume that the pilot discussed in Fenwick an Fenwick (1995) did not experience cardiac failure, an end result of hypoxia while flying the plane. Its common for pilots in training to pass out at 7 Gs. The Fenwicks’ pilot’s near death experience is not clearly explained above. Was the pilot immediately debriefed and by whom?

  57. weingon 24 Feb 2009 at 11:41 pm

    I see no difference between OBEs and lucid dreams, in which you are aware that you are asleep. I have experienced these periodically since I was in college. No drugs were involved. Not all people experience these, at least not anyone in my family or circle of friends. I figure the same would apply to NDEs.

  58. artfulDon 25 Feb 2009 at 3:27 am

    Lucid dreams, if remembered in any detail, are remembered as an addition to our memories, not as a substitute for those gone missing.

  59. theoon 25 Feb 2009 at 6:19 am

    artfulD

    Sounds like a determinist who believes that all evidence of randomness were predetermined phenomena.

    Zuh? Determinism would mean that all the electrochemical processes in our brains that cause our first person experience and the illusion that there’s a mind in control, follow the classical laws of physics. If this was the case, the only reason we couldn’t “determine” the future is because we don’t have the ability to know the position, motion and energy of every particle in the universe. (Psychics obviously do have this ability and that’s why they are able to accurately predict the future. Oh, wait, I got that the wrong way around. They can’t.)

    Adding QM simply means it’s not possible, even in theory, to do this. However, that doesn’t necessarily leave the door open for free will, it just means that there are genuinely random events in the universe. But nevertheless, the conscious awareness that we perceive as our first person experience occurs after these physical events, including those of a QM nature.

    Trying it from a completely different angle (and this is not offered as any sort of proof, but the experience is consistent will no free will). Examine your own thoughts and reflect upon how they just enter into your consciousness.

    At what angle is your head tilted at the moment?

    Now, did “you”, your first person experience, “choose” to note the position of your head, or were “you” made aware of it as a result of the external stimuli of my question?

    As a matter of fact, could you have chosen otherwise? It’s a bit like Lose The Game. (Try getting that out of your head…)

    Still haven’t read that paper yet… so events might change my mind yet.

  60. HHCon 25 Feb 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Anoxia occurs at high altitudes, e.g. the Fenwick pilot story. Also, it occurs during cardiac arrrest.

  61. artfulDon 25 Feb 2009 at 2:28 pm

    theo: Free will traditionally neans that at some point, no matter how thin, the choices you make are ultimately under the control of your own mechanism and will depend at the final moment on your perception and that that perception, regardless of its dependance on sensory input, cannot be known until in fact you make it. And that will be true if anywhere in the chain of all the causes of any of the sensory input there was a random event.
    The fact that every one of our actions are manipulable doesn’t mean that in some small way we cannot manipulate the situation in return and there is no freedom involved in the game.
    And guess what, I chose not to play in that game.

  62. unBeguiledon 25 Feb 2009 at 8:36 pm

    How perfect is it that Egnor’s first sentence is a fallacy of composition? A neuron is not conscious, therefore a brain cannot be conscious. Well, nuts, bolts, sheet metal, and fiberglass can’t fly . . . but does that mean planes can’t fly?

  63. theoon 26 Feb 2009 at 5:11 am

    Rules of “The Game

    RULE 1: You are playing The Game.
    RULE 2: Whenever you think about The Game, you lose.
    RULE 3: Loss must be announced.

    artfulD said:

    And guess what, I chose not to play in that game.

    I refer you to Rule 1, and by claiming that you chose not to play, you have now fulfilled Rule 2 and lost (as have I… and I have completed Rule 3 also…)

    Damn that game! I’m stuck in a loop… someone, please, help me!).

  64. artfulDon 26 Feb 2009 at 12:35 pm

    theo: You have not taken into account the unwritten rule of all games, which is that you can win any game by succesflly lying. Plus if whoever wrote those rules lied, whoever plays the game is not really playing. Plus this game has no referee. Plus my game has different rules, which are that I cannot agree to play in your game.

    In any case this is an example of logical paradox which requires an acceptance of the inference that none of the premises are false.

  65. Spin-gnosiaon 26 Feb 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Interesting Blog… and good to see so many rational thinkers, free of supernatural indoctrination.

    Having only scanned many of the posts, it is clear that the vast majority support the Blogger in Residence’s POV… which is to say, follow the necessary conclusions mandated by the evidence.

    Currently, there is overwhelming evidence that the mind is wholly instantiated by the physical brain… and it’s marvelously evolved neural network. Similarly and to the same extent… this is an utter lack of evidence supporting a dualist notion of a separate mind entity… which we all know is simply the faith-based desperately wishing for an eternal, soul-based, demigod status… versus the reality of our natural mortality.

    Last time I checked, none of the separate minds… or souls… or ghost have returned to interact with the rest of us. Unfortunately for those still mired in religious dogma, there seem to be no angels nor demons as well.

    One must ask when exactly during our embryological-fetal development does this separate conscious entity appear? Of course primate evolution plus nerurodevelopment and maturation of the individual provide a neat, tidy answer. One must also wonder why big-brained mammals share essentially all aspects of what were once ignorantly consider to be “unique human traits”… including “altruism”.

    Well… those are just a few thoughts and NPR is airing (as I type this) an interesting blurb on H. Erectus footprints from about 1.5 MYA. Just some more of that goofy evolutionary mythos, eh PEC?

  66. tmac57on 26 Feb 2009 at 9:00 pm

    theo: I read your interesting article that you linked to, and while I agree with the basic premise that brain activity gives rise to the ‘mind’ , I don’t think your paper made a good case that ‘free will’ doesn’t exist. I find this notion as sort of a pedantic way of viewing consciousness . Can we really assert confidently that : “Phenom, our experience of phenomena, can be classified as three distinct types: [1] experiences of the ‘external’ world

    sights, sound, smells, positions of our limbs, textures etc; [2] experiences of the internal world

    fantasy images, daydreaming, recollections, bright ideas; and [3] experiences of emotion or ‘affect’

    bodily pain, hunger, thirst, anger, joy, lust, pride, fear etc.”
    Aren’t these divisions a little arbitrary? Sort of a false ‘tricotomy’ to coin a word ? I am open to the free will argument, but most of what I have heard about it seems like so much verbal gymnastics at times.

  67. weingon 26 Feb 2009 at 10:22 pm

    theo,
    Speaking as someone who studied psychology in his formative years in the early 70s, there is no way free will exists. Because of our tendency to rationalize after the fact, we come to believe what isn’t, ie. free will.

  68. artfulDon 26 Feb 2009 at 10:39 pm

    On the other hand, your determinism is the basic “rationalization” for theistic religions that require omniscience and omnipotence to be a reality of their world. ID, for example, is a deterministic philosophy.

  69. Spin-gnosiaon 26 Feb 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Quick comment on FW: if you mean “contra-causal FW”… then definitely not. The evidence which I have summarized in a not as yet published essay… is overwhelming and comports with intersubjective reality (science).

    However if you equate (conflate) FW with our actions (“volition”)… then of course… the individual (human, dog, chimp… whatever) is no doubt the proximal cause of those actions… the embodiment of them if you will (no pun intended).

    Part of our evolved human animal nature is to be a causal agent… but not containing or directed by some supernatural “soul” entity mysteriously supervening on our physical brains. You could say we are our actions… but everything about us… every aspect of our evolved beings has a causal or Natural explanation… which in no way dimishishes its grandeur, but merely grounds it in reality, versus religious superstition.

    Genetics… proteinomics… continue the assault on the once dark recesses of human behavior. The subconcious brain does the “heavy lifting” without a doubt. We didn’t choose our parents (genes) and the subconscious rules… thus some priviledged agency called “FW” is an absurd abstraction. As individuals we cannot be the cause of ourselves.

    Thus, we deserve neither “ultimate balme” nor credit of our determined selves… but again, we are the proximal agents and can be held responsible for maladaptive behaviors and rewarded for positive, enriching acts.

    Does the severely autistic child have FW… the pedofile… the addict… the anorectic… the pathologic liar or narcissist? Does the savant or genius “choose” their “gift”?

    Merely scratching the surface here… could post volumes… but am resisting tempation.

    Cheers!

  70. artfulDon 26 Feb 2009 at 11:47 pm

    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

    – Omar Khayyam

    My view of the key to the free will versus inevitability paradox:
    Even if the future were inevitable (and the uncertainly principle would argue otherwise), that “inevitability” could only be known in retrospect. And this only means that whatever could have been avoided, and resulted in a different “inevitability,” was not avoided. But also this present state of being was doubtless the result of some things that were in fact avoided that would have otherwise led to a different “inevitability.” (People such as the philosopher Daniel Dennett would perhaps call this consistent with the views of a compatiblist).

    So the concept of inevitability does not in itself require that there is no free will – yet also does not eliminate the possibility that free will is nevertheless an illusion. It simply, in my view at least, affirms the necessity and the wisdom of continuing to act as if we do have that type of choice.

    And in any case we are ultimately concerned with predictability, and in that endeavor we have to factor in a certain amount of probability as to cause and consequence and a certain understanding that our choices are constrained by the same limiting factors.

  71. arthurgoldenon 27 Feb 2009 at 6:18 am

    Spin-gnosia on 26 Feb 2009 at 11:26 pm

    “…Does the severely autistic child have FW [free will ?]”

    Related to the subject of there being mind activity separate from the physical brain activity:

    As the father of a now 37 year-old son Ben, who is “severely autistic” but chronologically no longer a “child,” I recently had to prepare an Adult Disability Report to the U.S. Social Security Administration, and had to disclose all of his medical information since the start of his disability, but I only went back to his date of birth (there is some question of physical brain damage during delivery but no documentation prior to his actual birth). In accordance with the requirements of this report, I had to disclose not only a diagnosis of autism disorder but also a later diagnosis of severe mental retardation (and IQ scores on the low side of severe, getting close to profound). In addition, there is medical information about severe physical sensory input dysfunction documented as a preschooler. Our family lived in the Boston area until Ben was a young adult, we had access to world class medical services and I believe the accuracy of the medical information about the severe dysfunction of the physical brain activity of our son.

    However, since my wife and I always believed that mind activity is separate from the physical brain activity, we never placed any limits on our expectations for our son despite the medically information. As with many who are severely autistic, it seems that his mind is absent from his body a lot of the time and not just during the NDE discussed in this blog entry, but much of the time Ben has shown mind activity far beyond the reasonable expectations based on his very low level of physical brain activity. Our experience with our son is definitely not unique and I wish there were more scientific studies about the mind acitivity of such persons. I am not aware of such studies that would “prove” my own experience but such belief, based on our over 3,000 year-old ultraorthodox Jewish culture, determines how we and our culture interact with our son.

    Arthur Golden of Jerusalem Israel

  72. Spin-gnosiaon 27 Feb 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Arthur:

    Sorry about your indoctrination into the “ultraorthodox jewish culture”… and more sincerely, about your severely afflicted son.

    However, nothing you posted remotely suggests minds somehow exist beyond our remarkably complex neural networks (brains)… and by some occult mechanism, supervene upon them.

    Autism clearly has a genetic basis and a strong association with “mirror neurons”. There are indeed “neuroanatomic” correlates to conscious thought and when these area of the brain are compromised (thrombotic or hemorrhagic stroke)… epilepsy… accumulation of interfering protein… infection… trauma… etc. etc… then predictably, there are specific deficits or dysfunction. However, depending on the insult or neuropathology, focal or global… there are areas spared and neurons have more “plasticity” than previously thought.

    Thus, “predictability” or lack thereof after a diagnosis or insult in no way undermines the utterly determined nature of our evolved physiology.

    I am not talking about someone who despite being mute and paralyzed, may in fact have a rich inner “thought life” or personal narrative. In fact, I rather suspect such will be the case… and I would interact with that person accordingly.

    Ditto for your son… but neither you, your wife nor your son are priviliged entitites beyond the contraints of the evolving “cosmos”… beyond the natural “laws”… some immortal, supernatural, soul-based, free-willing agents. You, me, the stars and galaxies… and everyother entity in the universe has evolved into reality… and just as surely, evolve out again.

    Cheers.

  73. artfulDon 27 Feb 2009 at 1:21 pm

    The autistic child will have as much access to the choice process as any other living entity, free of will or not, mind/brain duality or not. The difference will be in the limits placed by its condition on those options. The difference between the living and non-living is essentially that the non-living have no option-choosing abilities at all.

  74. arthurgoldenon 01 Mar 2009 at 5:52 am

    I appreciate the responses to my comment.

    “Spin-gnosia” writes about “our remarkably complex neural networks (brains)” and “neurons have more “plasticity” than previously thought.” Then, states “I am not talking about someone who despite being mute and paralyzed, may in fact have a rich inner “thought life” or personal narrative. In fact, I rather suspect such will be the case… and I would interact with that person accordingly. Ditto for your son…”

    Realizing there are differences in our viewpoints, I am willing to share this specific viewpoint, which does not seem to be inconsistent with my general viewpoint.

    Does Dr. Steven Novella share this specific viewpoint?

  75. Spin-gnosiaon 01 Mar 2009 at 2:25 pm

    AG: here’s a link on the latest autism controversy –

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1871515,00.html

    Personally, I cannot see the utility of measuring amniotic fluid testosterone as a reliable screen for ASD… unless it would be followed by reliable genetic markers, which IMO, will be ultimately elucidated.

    It would be analgous to the biomarkers we have for Down’s via the “quad screen” (blood assay of 4 analytes) +/- U/S markers (eg nuchal translucency, near the end of the 1st trimester) during pregnancy … which if positive, could, if the woman desires, lead to amnio and karyotyping for Trisomy 21.

    Back to AG… are you still asserting minds exist apart from brains… and if so, from whence do they come… and why do they take so very long to “mature”… and why do so many fail to do so… or are so very dysfunctional, eh?

  76. daedalus2uon 01 Mar 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Spin-gnosia, the testosterone connection to autism is overblown. High testosterone is an effect of low nitric oxide (what I think is the real “cause” of autism).

    I think the genetic “causes” of autism are overblown too. In my conceptualization, an individual’s position on the autism spectrum is a function of their neurodevelopment over their entire lifespan until that point, largely mediated by NO.

    A final common pathway of many genetic disorders is metabolic stress, which causes low NO. Low NO is the final common pathway by which many single gene mutations “cause” autism-like symptoms. Essentially every physical symptom of autism is in physiology mediated through NO, and the symptoms are all characteristic of that physiology being skewed in a low NO direction.

    I think there will never be a prenatal test for autism. Having autism-like behaviors (to some degree) is an inherent part of being human. Any and every human genome can support an autistic phenotype under the right (or wrong) in utero conditions.

    The correct question to ask of any prenatal test is what is what false positive rate will be necessary to achieve what false negative rate? In other words, how many non-autistic fetuses must be aborted (false positives) to prevent the birth of one with autism (false negative)? The trade-off of false-positives for false negatives is an inherent part of any test. If the “cost” of a false negative (the cost of a lifetime of care for an autistic individual) is born by the providers of the test, they will skew the test to have as few false negatives as possible. If that number is 2 or 3, there are likely many couples who will have to abort many fetuses to get one that tests “negative”. There are some families with multiple siblings on the spectrum. If half of all siblings conceived are on the spectrum, a woman may have to abort 5 of 6 pregnancies (3 actual positives and 2 false positives) to get one that tests “negative”.

    I suspect that trade-off will be unacceptable to most women making any test not viable.

  77. arthurgoldenon 01 Mar 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Spin-gnosia (and everyone else here):

    I have explanations for all your points but comments to a blog entry do not allow book-length explanations. My ultraorthodox Jewish view does include one key concept of “Hester Panim” which translates to “Hidden Countenance” which results in my viewpoint that no matter how dysfuntional the physical brain might be, the human mind is whole, even if it is completely hidden from our physical observation.

    Are you familiar with the book “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” published in April 2008 by NYU Psychology Professor Gary Marcus? Don’t his writings challenge your views about “our remarkably complex neural networks (brains)?”

  78. Spin-gnosiaon 01 Mar 2009 at 11:53 pm

    AG:

    AH… silly me… I should have suspected all along. Why bother with goofy science and peer-reviewed evidence, when we can simply trust the mystical musings of “ultraorthodox” desert, tribal jews from millennia ago! It’s work so well for them vis a vis the “holy land” and peace-harmony, eh?

    Of course, “hidden countenace” does indeed explain just about everything in the realm of fledgling neuroscience … and heck, why bother with all this scientific mumbo jumbo… let’s just trust “god’s chosen people” and their privileged cadre of rabbis… peering into the very mind… of the “creator”!

    Cheers.

  79. arthurgoldenon 02 Mar 2009 at 1:29 am

    Spin-gnosia:

    Could you also respond to the other part of my last post, which I will repeat?

    Are you familiar with the book “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” published in April 2008 by NYU Psychology Professor Gary Marcus? Don’t his writings challenge your views about “our remarkably complex neural networks (brains)?”

  80. ClonalSelectionon 02 Mar 2009 at 7:33 am

    @ Steven:

    I’d like to leave a comment that gets away from this free will, ideological, and anecdotal stuff; namely I had a light criticism (or maybe just observation?).

    I was listening to the NPR story, and was little worried about your comments at the beginning of the segment. Specifically, your choice of words in characterizing the mind-brain relation sounds very dualistic.

    You say first (or rather the Hamilton summarizes) that: ‘the mind depends on the brain’, but go on to say:

    “If you change the brain, you change the mind…And now with more sophisticated tools…we can see that brain activity precedes mental activities — and that makes sense, because causes come before their effects.”

    This last part, I take it, is saying that the brain stands to the mind like a cause to an effect. But someone trained in the philosophy of mind could really put some pressure on you for this claim. A dualist is perfectly willing to grant that the mind is causally dependent on the brain (Dave Chalmers does this enthusiastically), and that’s exactly the trick; this buys them the rhetorical push to make them sound “scientifically serious” by allowing for a mind-brain [causal] interface, but still giving them the room to argue that the “mind” is something more.

    I also saw that Egnor has actually exploited Chalmers’ dualism for his creationist position, so conceding this point to them (that the mind-brain relation concerns nothing more than causal dependence) strengthens their conceptual argument against you.

    Anyway, I’d say I’m also committed to a physical solution to the mind-brain problem and also to evolution, so I hope this helps to shore up the front against the creationists (and dualists).

  81. Steven Novellaon 02 Mar 2009 at 10:04 am

    Clonal – I agree with you point. You have to realize they interviewed me for an hour and then used the tiny clips you heard. That type of venue is not conducive to a fair treatment of a complex topic like this. I try to give tight sound bites, but in the end I never know what they are going to use.

    If you read my extensive blog entries on this topic you will see that I delve into that very point very deeply.

  82. mindmeon 02 Mar 2009 at 10:46 am

    ||Are you familiar with the book “Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind” published in April 2008 by NYU Psychology Professor Gary Marcus? Don’t his writings challenge your views about “our remarkably complex neural networks (brains)?”||

    I’ve heard a couple podcast that interviewed him. I’m not sure what your point is, however. Kluges can be complex. And in software they generally are (when you start having to add one kluge onto another).

  83. Fifion 02 Mar 2009 at 10:49 am

    Something can be remarkably complex and a kluge (in fact, inefficiency often adds to complexity…simple efficiency and simple perfection is the holy grail of design). It seems to me that only someone who believes in intelligent design would make the assumption that the brain can’t be both complex and inefficient/a kluge….hell, almost every single bureaucracy on earth is both complex and inefficient…perhaps they just reflect our neural structures… ;-)

  84. Fifion 02 Mar 2009 at 10:54 am

    Er, what mindme said too! ;-)

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.