Search Results for "michael egnor"

Dec 12 2008

More Neuroscience Denial

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Dr. Michael Egnor has written two more posts reiterating his neuroscience denial over at the Discovery institute. This reinforces the impression that neuroscience denial is the “new creationism” – the new battleground against materialism as a basis for modern science. It is important to keep an eye on the arguments and tactics being developed by the DI to deny the core claim of neuroscience, that the mind is what the brain does. This is likely to be an increasing area of attention for the DI and others with an anti-scientific agenda.

Intellectual Dishonesty

Creationists are intellectually dishonest because they are not engaged in a genuine search for understanding, but rather have staked out an ideological position that they will defend at all costs. This applies as well to Dr. Egnor, who is ideologically dedicated to denying the obvious conclusion from the last century of neuroscience – that the brain causes mind.

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72 responses so far

Dec 03 2008

And One More Thing…

Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday I deconstructed Michael Egnor’s tangle of logical fallacies and false premises that he uses to attack modern neuroscience. There was one point I forgot to address, however. (One of the hazards of daily blogging.) It’s important enough to warrant a separate entry, however.

Reader Gary Goldwater hit upon this contradiction, although tangentially, with this comment:

I also wonder to myself….and perhaps you can explain this…how a brain surgeon would come to Egnor’s conclusions. If my knowledge base is correct, a brain surgeon would have a professional lifetime experiencing the direct connection between the material brain and the function of mind. It seems to me that one of the major foci of a brain surgeon is to limit collateral damage during surgery for the specific purpose of limiting an affectation in the patient’s mind.

The answer to Gary’s question lies, I think, in Egnor’s logical contradiction I did not point out yesterday.

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87 responses so far

Oct 30 2008

Religion vs Superstition – Mande Barung Revisited

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Michael Egnor has managed to write his most incoherent blog entry ever, and that’s saying something.  I was actually impressed with how many errors and misconceptions he could cram into each sentence. Writing for the anti-evolution Discovery Institute, Egnor also reinforces the point I have been making recently that the Intelligent Design movement is not just anti-evolution but anti-science, and their primary strategy is to paint any scientific conclusion they find objectionable as “materialist ideology.”

This time Egnor is playing off the recent Baylor University survey on religious beliefs, and true to form he gets it completely wrong. He begins:

“Skeptical” atheist Steven Novella has a blog post on “Mande Barung,” an Indian version of the Himalayan Yeti and the North American Bigfoot. Novella ruminates on the credulity of one Dipu Marak, a local passionate believer in the shy mythical creature. Debunking Yeti sightings is low-hanging fruit for skeptics like Novella, whose skepticism knows no limits — except for his own materialist ideology, about which he is credulous to the bone. One wonders why atheist “skeptics” need to explain to their readership — presumably compliant atheist skeptics all — that Yeti probably don’t exist.

I see that now he has taken to using “skeptical” in scare quotes. Clearly Egnor does not understand the first thing about skeptical philosophy. First, he seems to equate it with being an “atheist”. He does not bother to define “atheist”, which is not a small point, especially since I am on record as describing myself as an agnostic. (The atheist vs agnostic discussion is for another post.) This is also important because he is pushing the “materialist ideology” theme – and the whole point of agnosticism is anti-ideology.

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41 responses so far

Oct 24 2008

Reports of the Demise of Materialism Are Premature – Part II

Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday I wrote about the Wedge strategy of the intelligent design (ID) movement – namely to undermine and replace the materialist basis of modern science with something that conforms to their ideological spiritual beliefs. This anti-materialist agenda has been primarily targeted against evolution, but now seems to be shifting its attention to neuroscience.

An Unholy Alliance

The Wedge strategy of the Discovery Institute (DI) and other ID proponents is largely a Christian movement. It is interesting that they have found common ground with others who have a very different ideology but share in common a distaste for strict materialism because it is inconvenient to their spiritual agenda.

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167 responses so far

Oct 23 2008

Reports of the Demise of Materialism Are Premature

Published by under Uncategorized

The New Scientist has recently discovered what readers of this blog have known for a while – that the denial of materialist neuroscience is the “new creationism.”  In fact I have written extensively over the past year about the embrace by the Discovery Institute (an intelligent design group) of cartesian dualism, the notion that the mind is a different substance from the brain. The primary proponent of this argument for the DI (and a frequent foil of my blog entries) is Michael Egnor, a creationist neurosurgeon. But the New Scientist article correctly points out that this is actually part of a larger movement and a larger strategy.

The Wedge Strategy

This current attack on neuroscience has the same underlying roots as the ID attack on evolution – the real enemy for ID proponents is materialism. The infamous Wedge document makes this clear in its opening paragraphs:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.

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20 responses so far

Jun 13 2008

B. Alan Wallace and Buddhist Dualism

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Previously I have discussed, largely in the context of an ongoing debate, the notion of cartesian dualism – the belief that consciousness is due, in part or whole, to a non-physical cause separate from the brain. (I hold the neuroscientific view that consciousness is brain function.) This form of cartesian dualism seems to be favored by Western dualists, like Michael Egnor from the Discovery Institute.

There are other forms of dualism as well. David Chalmers, a philosopher of consciousness, holds what he calls naturalistic dualism – that the brain causes mind but consciousness cannot be reduced to brain function. There therefore must be some higher-order (but still entirely naturalistic) process going on. This view is opposed by other philosophers, like Daniel Dennett, who believe no such higher order process need be invoked. Consciousness can be understood as an emergent property of brain function (the position I find most compelling).

Today I want to discuss the dualism of B. Alan Wallace, a former Buddhist monk. I interviewed Alan about a year ago for the SGU podcast and it was an interesting discussion. He is quite a prolific writer on the topic of science, Buddhism, and dualism – so in addition to the interview there is no shortage of material explaining his views.

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36 responses so far

Jun 10 2008

Ether of the Mind: Chalmers and Dennett on Dualism

Published by under Skepticism

Consciousness is undoubtedly one of the most complex and interesting phenomena in the universe. Wrapping our minds around the concept of mind has vexed philosophers and scientists for centuries – perhaps because it is the task of the brain trying to understand itself. This has led to many theories and bizarre beliefs about consciousness – that it is non-physical, that it is due to quantum weirdness, or that it requires new laws of nature to explain. And yet modern philosophers and neuroscientists are increasingly of the opinion that perhaps it’s not such a hard problem after all. Perhaps the real trick is realizing that it’s not even a problem at all.

Yesterday I wrote my most recent reply to Michael Egnor’s rather lame attempt at defending what is called cartesian dualism – the notion that consciousness requires the addition of something non-physical. Ironically he invoked the writings of David Chalmers to his cause, not realizing (or not caring) that Chalmers is a harsh critic of cartesian dualism and rather supports what he calls “naturalistic dualism.” Chalmers believes that the “something extra” required to explain consciousness is a new law of nature, not a non-physical spiritus.

Today I will discuss Chalmers’ proposed solution (actually he points the way to a solution but acknowledges he does not yet have one) and its major critic, Daniel Dennett.

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36 responses so far

May 20 2008

Lost Blog Entries

Published by under General

Recently the data file for this blog was corrupted and about half of my posts were down. As soon as I discovered this we worked on the problem (thanks to Mike for helping with this) and restored every post from the archive. However, for some reason they appear to be down again.

Interestingly, Michael Egnor noticed the absent posts and wrote about it here. I never received the e-mail he sent me, and there is no way to leave comments on his blog.

All of the blog entries are archived. We will have them restored as soon as possible and I will leave a notice when they are back.

— Update 05/20/08 —

The problem appears to be with the new version of WordPress we just installed and Brinkster, our host. I am told that by tonight everything will be back. We will have to go back to the old version of WordPress, but that will not affect subscribers, just the back end.

I suggest that if you leave any long brilliant comments today you should save a copy offline. We will try not to lose anything in the transition, but it”s better to be safe.

Thanks for your patience.


Update 5/24

All blog entries seem to be back up. Please let me  know if you find missing entries or broken links.

Note – if you registered between 5/17 and5/21 please re-register.

Thanks again to Mike for fixing my blog.

11 responses so far

Feb 11 2008

Intelligent Design of the Brain

Dr. Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon who has decided to take on a second career as an intelligent design proponent, has been embarrassing himself over at the Discovery Institute propaganda blog. He has dropped some real gems, like the claim that if evolution were true then brain cancer should evolve a better brain. Recently he has been taking me on over the question of the materialist vs dualist concept of the mind. On Friday he posted his latest reply, nicely illustrating that he can apply the same logical fallacies favored by the intelligent design proponents to the question of dualism.

In response to this statement that I wrote in my previous blog entry on this topic:

The materialist hypothesis— that the brain causes consciousness — has made a number of predictions, and every single prediction has been validated.

Dr. Egnor replies:

A bit of advice: whenever a scientist says of his own theory that “every single prediction has been validated’, you’re being had. No scientific theory has had ‘every single prediction’ validated. All theories accord with evidence in some ways, and are inconsistent in others. Successful scientific theories prevail on the preponderance of the evidence, not validation of “every single prediction”. Real science lacks the precision of ideology.

This is one of those statements that seems reasonable on the surface, but with a bit of thought, and a modicum of scientific knowledge, we can see that it is just deceptive rhetoric. Science progresses chiefly by formulating hypotheses to explain observed phenomena, and then testing those hypotheses with observation and experimentation. It is true that often the data does not point entirely in one direction – depending upon the type of data that is being collected and the complexity of the question.

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18 responses so far

Jan 15 2008

The Mind-Brain Problem – A Creationist Rebuttal

My favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor, has written a rebuttal to my previous post criticizing the dualism of Deepak Chopra. His rebuttal is very revealing about the disconnect between dualists – those who think that the mind is something more than and separate from the brain, and materialist neuroscientists – those who think that the functioning of the brain is an adequate explanation for the phenomenon of mind. Egnor illustrates, although it seems inadvertently, that the real difference is that between science and philosophy.

In my original post I stated:

Deepak then plays the “false controversy” gambit. He wants us to keep an open mind “until the argument is resolved.” But there is actually nothing left unresolved. Deepak has presented no mysteries that cannot comfortably be explained within the completely material paradigm of neuroscience. His “invisible will” is nothing more than a trick of semantics – not an established phenomenon; not a genuine mystery to be solved. He says the material paradigm is “untenable” but has presented nothing that makes it so.

To which Dr. Egnor responds:

Is there genuinely “nothing left unresolved’ in our understanding of the mind-body problem? Are there “no mysteries that cannot comfortably be explained within the completely material paradigm of neuroscience?” The truth is that there remain enormous mysteries, and virtually nothing about these mysteries is resolved. The mind-body problem is perhaps the most active and contentious area of modern philosophy, and there is very little “resolved”. Of the many issues raised by philosophers, perhaps the most important is the “hard problem of consciousness” formulated by philosopher David Chalmers.

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21 responses so far

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