One More Awkward Question for Theology to Answer

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 3, 2010 in Christian Theology,Science,Video

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

Atheist.pig June 4, 2010 at 12:27 am

It would be funny to hear a theists response to this just out of curiosity, even though its only a bit of fun.

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James Onen June 4, 2010 at 1:32 am

Christians will probably argue “demonic possession”. Seriously.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exorcising_the_Gerasenes_demonic)

So maybe the guy’s “soul” retreated into one hemisphere of the brain, and demons took control of the other.

LOL.

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ManaCostly June 4, 2010 at 2:40 am

Believers will deny the whole thing and then assert demonic possession.

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Reginald Selkirk June 4, 2010 at 5:00 am

Who was the speaker? I thought I recognized Richard Dawkins in the audience.

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spyro June 4, 2010 at 5:45 am

hmm funny but not totally compelling. It’s a bit of a stretch to take that example and conclude the person has two personalities each with its own view on god. Split brains seem more like fragmented parts each capable of expressing itself in a way that we might mistakenly take to be a complete self.
Interestingly enough though religious experiences tend to be more related to the right hemisphere (note sure what the science on this one is like thought).

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noen June 4, 2010 at 7:24 am

The split brain phenomenon is fatal to any most dualist conceptions of consciousness.

spyro:
“Split brains seem more like fragmented parts each capable of expressing itself in a way that we might mistakenly take to be a complete self.”

Descartes proved that consciousness is unified and indivisible. That was a major concept of his that he claimed demanded that we posit a non-material thinking substance or realm in which consciousness resides. If it is true as you assert that consciousness can be fragmented into separate parts then I see no reason to believe Cartesian dualism.

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Lorkas June 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

Wait, he’s inconsistent about which side answered no and which answered yes.

At 1:44 and following, he says that the right hemisphere says yes and the left says no, but at 1:52 and following he says the right side is an atheist and the left believes in God.

The gestures he makes during the 1:44 segment would be consistent with the second interpretation, though–he moves his right hand when talking about the right hemisphere instead of crossing over, so he probably just misspoke the first time.

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Lorkas June 4, 2010 at 9:21 am

Oh, and the speaker is V.S. Ramachandran.

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Sabio Lantz June 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

This confirms a major theme of my blog. We are many selves (even more than the two hemispheres). This is why often there are not atheists in fox holes. Atheists ignore their inner theist and theists ignore their inner atheists.

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Mazen Abdallah June 4, 2010 at 11:33 am

Just imagine the debates those people must have

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Lorkas June 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Just imagine the debates those people must have

I can’t imagine they’re too different from any other debate, since the vocals are all controlled by one hemisphere (the left one). It’d be just like a debate with a normal person, since only one hemisphere gets to express its opinion.

Something I find interesting to ponder: if we invented an artificial corpus callosum and implanted it into this fellow, would the combined hemispheres consider themselves atheist or theist? I also wonder what they considered themselves to be before they had their corpus callosotomy.

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Lee A.P. June 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

There are atheist in fox holes. Pat Tillman was a very famous one.

http://www.maaf.info/expaif.html

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Sabio Lantz June 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm

@ Lee A.P.
I think that is a fantastic list. In the military, ask in many areas to declare one’s Atheist position, makes one vulnerable to a stunted career — I applaud their bravery.
My point is that we are all a mix of conflicting beliefs. (some more than others, of course)

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Zak June 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Personally, I think this is one of the best arguments there is against the idea that a mind can exist without a brain.

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Bryce June 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I’ll admit this stumps me a little bit; although there does seem to me the possibility of resolving this as a dualist can resolve many “proofs of monism” by pointing out that the experiments/cases in question prove the dependency of the mind on the brain. I’ve never done any specific studying into philosophy of mind, so maybe I will have to do that now.

Oh, yes, and claiming demonic possession never crossed my mind. A possibility in my worldview, yes, but still far-fetched and unlikely. It doesn’t seem a very good explanation, either, since, if the immaterial mind exists, why should demons oppress one half? Just to force there to be this quandary? Nah.

Not being a psychologist, I can’t verify this solution, but why not posit some sort of thought disorder? We have verified this behavior in people with perfectly whole brains who demonstrate erratic and contradictory affirmations; that a (assuming “single”) person might answer the same question contradictorily is no problem; the only significance here is that they were answering about their belief in God. It could have been their belief in whipped cream.

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Sputnik June 4, 2010 at 10:01 pm

As mentioned earlier, that’s Ramachandran at beyond belief 2006. The whole talk is worth watching on thesciencenetwork.org. Yes, Dawkins and many other prominent scientists were in attendance.

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Zak June 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Bryce, the split-brain thing is much more in depth and interesting than Ramachandran goes into in this short clip. Check out the work by Michael Gazzaniga (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMLzP1VCANo).

It’s not just some sort of psychological disorder, it is a lack of the hemispheres being able to communicate with each other, which causes two separate, independent minds to exist in the same body (this is not controversial at all in neuroscience). Not only does this allow for contradictory beliefs, but also contradictory actions. Check out “The Right Brain and the Unconscious: Discovering the Stranger Within” on google books, and read pages 103-106 for some very bizarre examples.

I think the more important point to be made here is this: if dualism is correct, and the mind is not dependent on the brain, then why does cutting the brain in half create two separate, individual minds?

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spyro June 5, 2010 at 5:40 am

Noen you are right that the split brain phenomenon is incompatible with cartesian dualism, or any notion of the mind/self as a single uniform entity. Findings like this are great evidence against theistic conceptions of god and how an afterlife might function. I can thing of a few counterarguments thought which could be offered. One might be that once split only on hemisphere is bound to the mind and the other acts as a zombie. Another could be that the mind cannot express itself entirely through a single hemisphere, remaining united but its connection to the physical world split. Not very compelling but apologetics rarely is.

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Zak June 5, 2010 at 8:01 am

Spyro,

To counter your anticipated counterarguments, one could point out that you don’t need both hemispheres to be completely conscious. There have been cases of children born missing an entire hemisphere. However, because the brain had not fully yet developed, brain plasticity takes over, and the child develops perfectly normal cognitive functions.
http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=582

The zombie hemisphere argument also is just a mere assertion. Though, I don’t even buy the standard zombie argument. http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/unzombie.htm

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ayer June 5, 2010 at 11:00 am

“Another could be that the mind cannot express itself entirely through a single hemisphere, remaining united but its connection to the physical world split. ”

Yes, you are on the right track. The brain is like a piano and the mind the pianist. If the instrument is damaged, the mind cannot fully express itself, but still exists sui generis.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

Who was the speaker? I thought I recognized Richard Dawkins in the audience.

V.S. (Vilayanur) Ramachandran. The excerpt is from one of the Beyond Belief conferences, though he’s also spoken a few times at TED;

http://ca.ted.com/speakers/vilayanur_ramachandran.html

Top notch.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 11:29 am

Another really interesting bit about V.S. Ramachandran. He’s successfully treated phantom limb pain using a mirror. (This actually adds to the issue of beliefs and knowledge being in different categories.)

How Do You Amputate A Phantom Limb?

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 11:35 am

Yes, you are on the right track. The brain is like a piano and the mind the pianist. If the instrument is damaged, the mind cannot fully express itself, but still exists sui generis.

Evidence?

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Bryce June 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Hermes, this conclusion could result from evidence that there is an immaterial mind and evidence also that the disruption of the brain’s processing of information. So, whatever evidence there is that the mind is immaterial + whatever evidence that the disruption of the brain leads to disrupted behavior/beliefs would be evidence of that conclusion.

Zak, I think that the immediate conclusion that there are two independent minds is yet unwarranted. For indeed, if we continue with the broken piano analogy, an input that goes through a broken machine could end with a broken output; if I played the piano and, upon playing an Eb, an Eb and a metallic *ting* sound was made, should we conclude that there are really two players of separate instruments, or just, at the most, that the piano is broken?

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Mike Young June 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I deny that there are two person in a split brain patien fo the following reason. Imagin if you will that luke and bill craig are trapped in the same body and are fighting over control of that body. What would that look like?
Well to get some purchase on that we might want to consider what it would look like if Bill and Luke were foghting over the steering wheel of the car and Luke was trying to wrstle control of the vehicle from Bill. The car would swerve every which way and be erratic in its direction. We never see anything like this from SBP’s. We also never have the left brain saying “The right side keeps interrupting me.” We would expect to see that if there were relly two people in the same body, we dont see this behaviour and so I reject the two person one body hypothosis. Unless someone wants to offer me an explanation of how and why we never see this I will continue to reject it. Scientists do some great work, but without philosophers to check them they make some odd claims because they misunderstand the conceptual playing field.

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Mike Young June 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Forgot the check the notify me of follow up comments box when I typed my last post. So I am typing this comment so I can get notified, just thought Id notify you all of my desire to be notified.

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Atheist.pig June 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

We never see anything like this from SBP’s.

http://splicd.com/0lmfxQ-HK7Y/523/611

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Justfinethanks June 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Scientists do some great work, but without philosophers to check them they make some odd claims because they misunderstand the conceptual playing field.

Definitely. All scientists have is repeated, controlled experimentation and empirical observation. That’s why it’s important for them to be checked on by philosophers who can wave away countless hours of rigorous testing and hard work with “piano player” and “car driver” metaphors that they thought up one afternoon.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I think it is uncontroversial at this point in time that there is positive evidence — facts — that demonstrate that the mind is partially if not entirely based on brain tissues and structures (neurons, neural structures, other fleshy bits, …).

So, we have two lists; one with facts that anyone with the means can investigate and reasonably verify, and another one with unsupported speculations and assertions.

Without facts provided in support of the speculations and assertions of an incorporeal part of the mind, there is no reason to give credence to those speculations and assertions even though many do.

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Atheist.pig June 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I think it is uncontroversial at this point in time that there is positive evidence — facts — that demonstrate that the mind is partially if not entirely based on brain tissues and structures

Your being very generous to the mystics with that statement Hermes.

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Hermes June 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Yep. I’m leaving the door wide open. I think the strongest case against incorporeal minds is that no positive support for it ever materializes.

Only lunatics ignore the positive support for corporeal minds. Attempting to tear down that positive support doesn’t work very well since the positive support for corporeal minds is unambiguous and based on verifiable facts.

Sure, the complaint that minds aren’t brains can be made but so what? Grant that, and the main issue remains; where is the positive support for incorporeal minds? Claiming that it is ‘the mind’ does nothing except assert the conclusion.

In the end, patience is easy when facts can’t be wished away.

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Mike Young June 5, 2010 at 10:07 pm

@ just fine thanks. Science was invented by philosphers and all the concepts that it uses were invented by philosophers. Scientists are taking amethodology that was invented by philosophers and running with. That means that sometimes they do not fully grasp all of the concepts in play and they make huge and enormous logical errors. Eliminative materialism and computer functionalism are two such mistake.

@ Atheist.pig This does not refute what I siad, remeber I asked you to show me where we see the two halves fighting for control. If what the video luke posted said is true then we ought to be seeing not just incapabilites from the left hand to be able to do certain things, we ought to see the two sides fighting over control of which actions to perform. We should see perosn A in the left half Trying to do action 1 while person B in the left half is trying to do action 2. the result would be the body getting mixed signals from both sides because the two people are fighting over the same body. We dont see this in your video. Noice try.

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Zak June 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Mike Young,

Yes, there are many cases where the two severed hemispheres are fighting for control. This is well known in neuroscience, and quite fascinating. Though, people can generally get along alright, since most information goes through the brain stem (both hemispheres therefore receive the same info).

Look up “The Right Brain and the Unconscious: Discovering the Stranger Within” on google books, and read the section “Left-Brain Right-Brain Conflicts” (page 103) for examples of competing hemispheres.

Also, when you say things like “We never see anything like this from SBP’s. We also never have the left brain saying ‘The right side keeps interrupting me’”, it suggests that you don’t actually know what you are talking about. As I already pointed out, you simply ignorant about the facts. Second of all, how the heck would the hemispheres interrupt each other?? Brocas and Wernickes area is only in one hemisphere (usually the left). The right side has no ability to produce language, hence why Ramachandran stated they had to have the right hemisphere point to answers. This is BASIC (I mean, basic, low level, undergrad) neuroscience.

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 6, 2010 at 1:27 am

When the subject, who is a man, answers “yes” to the question of whether he is a woman, that answer is interpreted as a joke. But in the case of the question about belief in God the possibility of a joke is not considered. Also the subject always responded “yes” and “no” perhaps trying to avoid appearing mentally uncertain. If the subject had no clear theistic views (we are not told anything about his background) then perhaps he just chose a yes or no answer in random. Neither are we told about how other SBPs reacted to the same question. My general point then is that the videoclip is not what a sceptic should consider serious evidence. After all it’s not like hearsay that comes from a scientist is not hearsay.

But let us suppose that the evidence is serious. Even then I don’t quite see what the problem (let alone the “tsunami” like problem) for theism is supposed to be. After all on theism the mind is not identical to the brain as many naturalists believe; rather the brain is a tool of the mind. If the tool is broken then one can hardly make any good inferences about the mind (which is basically the same answer that Bryce and Ayer point at above). I suppose in this video we have one more case of a philosophically ignorant naturalist observing theism through naturalistic glasses, and finding theism problematic on the evidence. I’d be more worried if such a naturalist were to find theism not problematic.

Hermes writes: “I think it is uncontroversial at this point in time that there is positive evidence — facts — that demonstrate that the mind is partially if not entirely based on brain tissues and structures”.

Actually, unless one makes naturalistic assumptions, there is not a thread of evidence that the brain produces consciousness, let alone the mind. And if one does make naturalistic assumptions when discussing theistic claims then one is of course committing the trivial fallacy of begging the question.

Hermes writes: “Only lunatics ignore the positive support for corporeal minds.”

Well, let me quote what Sam Harris (who is trained both in philosophy and in neuroscience) writes in his “The End of Faith”: “The idea that brains produce consciousness is little more than an article of faith among scientists at present, and there are many reasons to believe that the methods of science will be insufficient to either prove or disprove it”.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 4:15 am

Mike Young, how would either of the the two halves try to take control?

Each half might try, but they don’t talk with each other (sans corpus callosum) at a conscious or even subconscious level, and at the next connection (autonomic nervous system in the midbrain), each half shares the same goal; to keep the body going.

Give me a clue here: Why is that an important issue to you and how would it even be possible or relevant?

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 4:17 am

Dianelos Georgoudis, I did not address consciousness. That’s a mess of a subject and very vague where there’s little agreement on what the topic actually covers if it covers anything at all. I was talking about brains and minds.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 4:18 am

Zak, thanks for the reference. I wasn’t aware of that!

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Atheist.pig June 6, 2010 at 4:59 am

This does not refute what I siad, remeber I asked you to show me where we see the two halves fighting for control…we ought to see the two sides fighting over control of which actions to perform.

Did you watch the whole clip? Its only about 2 minutes long or so, heres the experimenters quote:

“What happens when we allow two hands together to try to solve the problem? What we find out is that they fight over each other, one hand knows how to do it and one hand does not and so they more or less squabble.”

Mike, I’m not an expert on this topic but I just showed you the sort of evidence you asked for. The two halves are fighting for control of the situation. I’m not trying to refute you or prove one way or the other. Thanks.

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Atheist.pig June 6, 2010 at 5:27 am

I must live on a different planet from Dianelos Georgoudis, what other type of glasses should a scientist look at theism through other than naturalistic, 3-D glasses? I take it that since you quote Sam Harris on the topic of consciousness you also quote him when he says :

“The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.”

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 5:28 am

I think Atheist.pig and Zak have covered the main issues, though my comment to Mike Young covered this specific assertion;

Mike Young:We should see perosn A in the left half Trying to do action 1 while person B in the left half is trying to do action 2. the result would be the body getting mixed signals from both sides because the two people are fighting over the same body.

Mike, there won’t be a ‘fight over the same body’ because each half of the brain already has control over their half and no has no control over the other half.

Consider conjoined twins if you want another example of why ‘fighting over the same body’ just doesn’t happen. After all, what is one half going to do to the other? Put it in hand cuffs? Threaten it with a gun? Every option is external; there is no fight of wills over who controls what hand or leg because such internal control has been broken with the loss of the corpus callosum or because of separate brains (in the case of conjoined twins).

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lukeprog June 6, 2010 at 6:25 am

Nice quote, atheist.pig.

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Zak June 6, 2010 at 8:33 am

Dianelos Georgoudis,

I think the tsunami that it creates is this: If the brain does not create the mind, and is just a tool it uses (which makes no sense), then why does cutting the brain in half create two independent minds?

Also, I think it is clear that the person was joking when he said he was a woman, based on the fact that he laughed after he answered it.

Lastly, it is VERY uncontroversial (actually just about a complete consensus) among philosophers of mind and cognitive neuroscientsts that the idea of an immaterial soul/mind is incoherent.

—-

There’s a scientific consensus that hard-core dualism, which says that people can think without using their brain or that memories will survive the death of your body, is just flat mistaken. Your mental life is a product of your brain. –Paul Bloom

There is something approaching a consensus among philosophers and cognitive scientists: no immaterial mind/soul makes any sense at all. -Dan Dennett

No dualist has ever been able to give an account of how a brain can affect a mind, or how a mind can affect a brain. Dualism, for most philosophers today, is not a real option. –John Searle

All conscious states are caused by brain processes. There aren’t any exceptions. Every single conscious state is caused by brain processes. -John Searle

An immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense. It’s basically superstition. -VS Ramachandran

No self-respecting professor of philosophy wants to discuss the soul in class. It reeks of old-time theology, or, worse, New Age quantum treacle. The soul has been a dead end in philosophy ever since the positivists unmasked its empty referential center. Scientific philosophy has shown us that there’s no there there. -Stephen T. Asma

Modern neuroscience has shown that there is no user. “The soul” is, in fact, the information-processing activity of the brain. New imaging techniques have tied every thought and emotion to neural activity. And any change to the brain—from strokes, drugs, electricity or surgery—will literally change your mind. -Steven Pinker

All mental processes, even the most complex psychological processes, derive from operations of the brain. -Eric Kandel

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

The Stephen T. Asma quote is cherry.

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Hermes,

The mind presupposes consciousness. Indeed the problem of consciousness is also called the mind-body problem. If you think that consciousness is a vague concept that’s ok, on the other hand you can’t discuss the mind without discussing consciousness. If, as Sam Harris and I claim, there isn’t any and there can’t be any scientific evidence that the brain produces consciousness, then, by logical inference, neither can there be any evidence that the brain produces the mind. I know this will strike most atheists as surprising. A big part of the conceptual confusion comes from the fact that many naturalists conflate the concept of mind with the concept of intelligence. In response to the confusion philosophers distinguish between the hard problem of consciousness (related to unobserved/private conscious life) and the easy problem of consciousness (related to the observed/public intelligent behavior).

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Zak,

Let me first comment on the interesting list of quotes you posted:

I think psychologist Paul Bloom does not know what he is talking about. Dualism is a metaphysical theory, so the scientific consensus is irrelevant. Nor does dualism say that “people can think without using their brain”.

Daniel Dennett, after publishing a book back in 1992 claiming to have explained consciousness (an as a matter of fact laughable proposition if there is one), is now claiming that animals as well as pre-linguistic children are not conscious beings. I consider Dennett a philosophical conjurer rather than a serious philosopher.

The interaction problem John Searle points at is a famous philosophical problem; but so is the mind-body problem that confronts non-dualism. Indeed, some of the most famous philosophers in this field, such as David Chalmers, have come down to the dualistic side (to a version of dualism called “property dualism”). In any case when Searle speaks about “most philosophers” he clearly means “most naturalistic philosophers” (for most theistic philosophers are dualists). But in the context of our discussion naturalism is not given, and what naturalist philosophers qua naturalist philosophers believe is therefore irrelevant.

The next quote by Searle is false. The only evidence we have points to an exact correlation between conscious states and brain states, but this is true also on dualism, so the whole issue is moot.

Ramachandran, and his offhand quip about “complete nonsense”, is a scientist displaying the same kind of philosophical ignorance that Richard Dawkins does. Ridiculing ideas one has not studied and does not understand is the mark of a superficial mind. See for example how fundamentalists speak about Darwinism.

Stephen T. Asma’s quote is actually quite interesting, because it reveals how important it is for some academic philosophers to keep their distance from anything that smacks of religion. But such is not the mark of a freethinker, for a freethinker evaluates ideas only on their own merit. On the specifics, I find it weird that he calls upon logical positivism, which is the rare example of one philosophical idea that has been virtually universally renounced (it was found to be self-referentially incoherent). As for “scientific philosophy” it’s simply what philosophers who pretend to be scientists do. On the other hand, there are also a lot of scientists pretending to be philosophers. As a general principle I’d say it’s a good idea to avoid both the philosophy produced by scientists, and the science produced by philosophers.

Steven Pinker is another non-philosopher in the list talking about philosophical matters. Now his quote is actually quite useful, because I think it accurately reflects the thinking of most people who are confident in their belief that the brain produces the mind. At issue is the well-known logical fallacy known as “affirming the consequent”. Here is an example of such a fallacious syllogism: “1. If it has rained then the street is wet. 2. The street is wet. 3. Therefore it has rained.” But of course, the street may be wet for many other reasons apart from rain. Similarly, Pinker’s (and many a naturalist’s) syllogism is this: “1. If the brain produces the mind then any change in the brain will affect the mind. 2. Any change in the brain does affect the mind. 3. Therefore the brain produces the mind.”

As for Eric Kandel (another non-philosopher in the list), his quote is sufficiently ambiguous as to be true. It’s like somebody saying “All sounds of the piano sonata, even the most complex cadences, derive from the operations of the piano.” True, but it does not follow that there is nobody playing the piano.

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Zak,

You write: “why does cutting the brain in half create two independent minds?”

Well, it should be no surprise that a brain cut in half would produce some strange behavior. After all something as simple as drinking a few glasses of wine can make us behave in strange ways too. On the other hand, where do you get the idea that cutting the brain in half creates two independent minds? After all it’s not like we know that the mind is identical with the brain; that’s just what many naturalists assume. Neither is the mind something we can observe, so that we can say “here is a mind, there is another one”. Indeed we can’t scientifically detect the mere presence of mind, and that’s why, for example, nobody knows whether cockroaches have a mind or not.

Further your claim that it is very uncontroversial among philosophers of mind that the idea of an immaterial soul/mind is incoherent – is factually wrong. After all, surely, you will find hardly any theistic philosopher who thinks that the idea of an immaterial soul/mind is incoherent.

But let’s leave behind what other people think. I would be interested to know why do *you* think that the idea of an immaterial soul/mind is incoherent. It’s a really simple idea, in which some of the greatest philosophers, past and present, have believed in. To claim that some of the greatest philosophers have believed in an idea which is not only false but actually *incoherent*, is an extraordinary claim. I personally see nothing incoherent in that idea. Nor do I recall any good argument that shows that the idea of an immaterial soul/mind is incoherent. So I am very curious why you should think that.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Dianelos Georgoudis, if you can provide a clear way to describe consciousness and to show it exists — and you can show that your description and evidence is generally accepted — then it’s a topic that is relevant, otherwise it is too vague to be meaningful and brain and mind will have to do. Can you do that?

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm

FWIW, I am not a naturalist.

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Zak June 6, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Dianelos Georgoudis,

I like your idea, let’s keep it to what we think. I will try and answer your questions, if you would be so kind to answer several I have as well.

You claimed that Paul Bloom is wrong, and dualists are not claiming that you can think without a brain. This seems flat out false. Does God think? Do angels think? Do people in heaven think? Every theist I have ever encountered would say yes. Are you suggesting that dualists don’t claim immaterial minds (God, etc) can think?

You asked me, “Where do you get the idea that cutting the brain in half creates two independent minds?” From split brain patients. This does not just produce funny results like with alcohol. It creates two independent minds with can have different ideas, wills, etc (this is not a controversial idea at all, and is taught in undergrad neuro classes. A few scientists used to argue that the right hemisphere was not conscious, because it couldn’t speak, but no one takes that seriously, for obvious reasons). There are tons of crazy examples of the different hemispheres competing for different things. Why would two separate hemispheres have different ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc if it wasn’t two independent minds? And if that isn’t evidence of two independent minds, then does the fact that you and I have different views, goals, ideas, etc not support the idea that you and I have independent minds? That is, if independent thoughts are not evidence of independent minds, then what is?

How could an immaterial mind have any influence, on a physical system? Along the same lines, how is mental causation even possible?

If the immaterial mind can effect the brain, why can’t it effect other brains? Why only one? Why not other objects?

Curare will render you unable to move, but you will still be conscious. Neuroscience states that curare blocks neurotransmitters, which render you unable to move. Why does curare stop the immaterial mind from moving the body?

If we destroy certain brain areas, we lose certain parts of our mind. What makes you think that if we destroy the entire brain, our mind would pop back into existence, completely whole again? And if it can, then why do we need brains to begin with?

As a person’s mind slips away from Alzheimer’s, does it seep into the afterlife little by little? Either way, what is preventing it from interacting with the brain? Does Alzheimer’s have some mystical property that slowly blocks out the immaterial mind? And is it just another coincidence/correlation that neurons are being destroyed at the exact same rate that the mind is being lost?

If a person suffers brain damage, and loses all of his memories, when he dies, will those memories come back? If so, where were they being stored in the meantime? If memories can be stored without a brain, why do we need a brain to begin with? Will memories from his childhood that have long been lost come back? And would he only have memories that his brain had remembered, or the exact detail of everything he ever experienced?

Why does consciousness seem to arise as the brain develops? Do you think babies are just as conscious as an adult? If so, why don’t we have memories from our infancy? If not, why not? Can the immaterial mind change, develop, etc? I would presume not, since theologians claim that minds are immutable, and the simplest things around.

If an infant dies, still unable to process what it sees/hears/etc, will it’s mind pop back into existence in the afterlife, fully understanding everything? How could this happen?

Where does the mind go when you are knocked unconscious? How is unconsciousness even possible if the mind exists independent of the brain?

I just don’t get what dualists think the immaterial mind does. Saying things like “the brain is a receiver for the mind” or “the brain is a tool the immaterial mind uses” makes no sense to me at all. It doesn’t help us understand a single thing about the mind at all. I doubt dualism can account for a single question I just asked.

It seems to me that dualist logic could be used to argue any sort of absurdity you like. For example, that muscles aren’t responsible for physical strength: In fact, muscle is like a receiver for the musco (my term for the immaterial substance that gives you physical strength), and the bigger your muscles get, the more they can receive the signal from the musco, helping you to move heavier objects. The muscle is just a tool that musco uses, and it’s just fallacious naturalistic assumptions to think that muscles are responsible for your strength. When people get diseases or in accidents that destroy their muscles, rendering them barely able to move, it just proves a correlation… not that muscles are responsible for strength.

Would you agree with all that? Especially that muscle/strength is just an unfounded naturalistic assumption, and it’s actually just a correlation?

If it’s more convenient, you can just email me. Zachary_Kroger@yahoo.com

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Zac, great comments.

If the immaterial mind can effect the brain, why can’t it effect other brains? Why only one? Why not other objects?

Good points.

While some people do assert that actually happens, I do not know of any credible support for it and all claims boil down to assertions and anecdotes. If anyone knows otherwise, then can provide credible support of those effects happening.

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Zak June 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Hermes,

Thanks! It is problems like those which seem to only be solved in light of a scientific understanding of the mind, and is why the vast majority of neuroscientists and philosopher of the mind don’t take the idea of an immaterial mind seriously, or see it as a helpful concept to explain our mental activity.

You are right, there are people like Uri Geller who claim to be able to move objects with his mind. However, whenever there is the least bit of scrutiny placed on these claims, they crumble.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CASghTzNhc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7yDLRib5CQ

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Classic. Long live Randi, though he was wise to turn over the JREF to DJ. Grothe. It might have his name in the title, but it’s good that it won’t die when he does.

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Mike Young June 6, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I have seen lots of talk about evidence pointing to some problems occuring whenc the CC is cut, But I havent seen any evidence demonstrating that there is to centers that have a “what is it like?” answer. Or to put it another way, I have yet to see the existence of two distinct and different selves. Or yet again how about the existence of two “I’s”.

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Hermes June 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

How couldn’t you? Before you is someone with one body, and if you ask the right hand side, you get one answer. Ask the left, you get another answer. What other conclusion can you get from that?

The answer is spelled out in facts, not speculation. On what basis do you feel justified to reject facts?

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Zak June 6, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Hermes & Mike Young,

Don’t forget that there are many cases where the hemispheres compete with each other over certain physical actions. Kind of like Dr. Strangelove LOL!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9ihKq34Ozc

Seriously though, if different thoughts and competing control over the body isn’t evidence of an independent mind, then nothing is. I feel like these objections (not you Hermes) are really grasping at straws, and attempts to really deny the obvious (and very uncontroversial) facts of the matter. Like I have said a number of times before, you literally learn this stuff in undergrad neuro classes. It’s not some new, highly debated thing. The fact that split brains create split minds has been known since the 70s, and fits perfectly with what we know about how the brain/mind works.

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Mike Young June 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I am not grasping for straws, I just want you to realize exactly what you are postulating. Think about what an “I” is. t has its own centre of concsiousness, it has its own memories, ideas, thoughts, vloitions, wants, feelings and so on. An I is one of the largest concepts there is and from what I can see what you guys (by you guys I mean those postulating that the slicing of the corpus collosum causes there to be 2 “I’s” in one body) seem to have done is to suppose that because we have some odd behaviour where the left and right hands in a split brain patient seem to not work together, or that you get contradictory answers given indentical questions that we can now postulate an entire new person. This is a HUGE postulation. given that the person in almost all cases seem to walk Gine, talk fine, appear normal for the most part, and given that these strange occurances only occur when you cut off the field of vision from one side or the other it seems like you are assuming an aweful lot. If you were right we would expect that inorder to even walk it would be extremely difficult as both halves would have to be communicating to each othe, whihc isimpossible given that the CC has be cut.

Think of this imagine you wake up in a body in which you are in control of one leg and that someone whom you cannot communicate with is in control of the other leg. How would some destination (say going from the bed to the kitchen rather then the bathroom)be decided upon? In fact, even if a destination could be decided on, how would it get there without falling over as it seems like all co-ordination would be lost? You guys are far from proving your case.

Why can we not say that there is one person, and when that one person must to a task with the left hand (which is associated with the right half of the brain) they are (because the CC is cut) unable to access the information that would be housed in the left half of the brain. As such the pool of resources from which they have to draw from is diminished and they cannot do any task which requires the resources of a cognitive ability associated with the left side. When focusing on what the left hand is doing agency draws on the resources available in the right half of the brain and when they must focus on the right hand agency draws on resources available in the left half. This would not be a problem for people with an operating CC because focus in on the left hand would not require the agent to use only resources on the right side of the brain as via the CC even if they are fucosing on what the left hand is doing they have a full resource set available to them. Trying to do a task with both hands that requires cognitive ability from only one would create problems because the information required to perform the trask could not be sent to both hands giving the appearance of competition when it is actually a mere disconnect.
For the religious question we could even argue that one side of the brain is responsible for governing skepticism and the other side is responsible for faith. One side of the brain would be responsible for gender association and so if that side was cut off the agent might give a contradictory answer by being forced to rely on the side of the brain which has no resources for answering the quesiton.
It seems like I can account for all the phenomena without postulating an entirely new center of conciousness. Or a brand new to the scene “I.”

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 7, 2010 at 2:01 am

Zak,

You ask:

Are you suggesting that dualists don’t claim immaterial minds (God, etc) can think?

Paul Bloom in the quote you posted spoke of *people* being able to think without a brain, not about God or angels. Dualists do not claim that people can think without a brain, on the contrary they consider people to be an immaterial mind conjoined to a physical body. This is trivial stuff; you can’t speak of dualism without knowing even that much.

Why would two separate hemispheres have different ideas, thoughts, opinions, etc if it wasn’t two independent minds?

You are here conflating consciousness with behavior; that’s precisely the confusion which the distinction between the hard and the easy problems of consciousness tries to avoid. My point above was that if one cannot even scientifically detect the presence of one mind, much less can one detect the presence of two minds.

Now, on dualism there is an immaterial mind producing intelligent behavior via the use of a material brain. If that brain is split in two then it’s only to be expected that the resulting behavior will be conflictive. So the evidence is exactly what one would expect to be the case if dualism is true, so that evidence cannot be construed to be against dualism.

Finally, you wonder how one mind can have different ideas, thoughts and opinions. Now it’s true that a normal person cannot know how it is like to be a split brain patient, but let me note that having conflicting ideas, thoughts and opinions is part of the normal human condition of us all anyway (Sam Harris in his The End of Faith explicitly discusses this fact). We normal people with uninjured brains manage (not always successfully) to keep a tab on this mental incoherence, but I suppose SBPs have a much harder time. An excellent and classical book in this context is Marvin Minsky’s “The Society of Mind” in which he argues that the mind is a “society” of different and competing thoughts, wishes, impulses, and so on.

How could an immaterial mind have any influence, on a physical system?

Supernaturally of course. Dualism is a supernatural worldview. You can’t hope to understand a supernaturalistic worldview looking through naturalistic glasses. Nor should a supernaturalist try to explain her views in ways that a naturalist will find familiar, for this can only lead to confusion.

Incidentally, the interaction problem asks a different question, namely how can an immaterial mind influence a *causally closed* physical system. That was a hard question to answer when people thought that the physical universe was deterministic, but is a much easier question to answer today.

If the immaterial mind can effect the brain, why can’t it effect other brains?

This is like asking “If making a fire under one kettle heats it, why can’t it also heat other far away kettles?” I suppose the answer is: Because that’s how the world works. Now strictly speaking dualism does not entail that one human mind in our current condition can only affect one brain, but that’s is what dualists assume to be the case.

Why does curare stop the immaterial mind from moving the body?

Because curare inhibits the relevant parts of the brain from functioning properly, and the immaterial mind needs these parts in order to move the body.

What makes you think that if we destroy the entire brain, our mind would pop back into existence, completely whole again?

That’s not what dualism claims. Quite on the contrary the classical theistic view is that in order for people to be whole again they need the resurrection of the physical body. Granted, this is not the only theistic view. Other theists believe in a strictly spiritual afterlife, and that after death God will permit the human mind to function at least as well as it did before without the benefit of being conjoined to the body. Feel free to disbelieve any of these views, but the question at hand is where the *incoherence* you claim lies.

As a person’s mind slips away from Alzheimer’s, does it seep into the afterlife little by little?

Of course not. It’s the functioning of the brain suffering from Alzheimer (or even just from old age for that matter) that slowly slips away, and thus hinders the mind from producing normal behavior.

Either way, what is preventing it from interacting with the brain?

Nothing is preventing the mind from interacting with the brain. It’s the brain suffering from Alzheimer that is not functioning properly, as Alzheimer destroys its neurons. Similarly, a pianist is not prevented from interacting with a broken piano, she is prevented from producing music with that piano, because it is broken. This is a simple idea; I hope I have dispelled any misunderstandings.

If a person suffers brain damage, and loses all of his memories, when he dies, will those memories come back? If so, where were they being stored in the meantime?

On the classical theistic view (see “general providence”) physical matter cannot exist and cannot do anything whatsoever without being guided by God’s will. So the very existence and structure of a normal brain, as well as its capacity to store memories, depend on the continuous application of God’s will. Therefore it’s not like without the existence of the physical brain theists have some problem accounting with the preservation of a person’s memories. One way or the other all existence is upheld by God’s mind.

Do you think babies are just as conscious as an adult?

Perhaps you are confusing consciousness with its content. A baby and an adult are equally conscious beings, because both are able to experience. A stone and a thermostat are not conscious beings, because they are not able to experience (at least that’s what most people believe). Once consciousness is given (and some naturalists believe that thermostats too possess consciousness) one can ask the separate question about what these conscious beings actually experience, i.e. are conscious about. Now it is probably true that the conscious life of babies is more primitive than that of adults, even though nobody really knows and there are some reasons to think that the opposite is true.

If an infant dies, still unable to process what it sees/hears/etc, will it’s mind pop back into existence in the afterlife, fully understanding everything?

I think that there is space for growth in the afterlife too. I mean it’s not like that what we learn in this life is all we shall know for all eternity, indeed no theist claims such. To think that in the afterlife we shall be some kind of mind-frozen zombies is absurd, don’t you think? So it seems rather obvious to me that people who die as babies in this life will continue to grow both mentally and spiritually in the afterlife. In this context see also what the so-called Irenaean theodicy has to say.

Where does the mind go when you are knocked unconscious? How is unconsciousness even possible if the mind exists independent of the brain?

Dualism does not claim that we can now think, or have any other kind of normal conscious life, without a brain functioning properly. In any case to directly answer your question: The immaterial mind existing in the immaterial realm is there waiting with no change until its brain is back to working to order.

Saying things like […] “the brain is a tool the immaterial mind uses” makes no sense to me at all.

Imagine listening to music produced by an immaterial pianist playing a material piano. I know this idea conflicts with naturalism’s assumptions, but what is it that you find “makes no sense at all”? Where is the incoherence in dualism’s understanding of the mind?

It seems to me that dualist logic could be used to argue any sort of absurdity you like.

I didn’t quite understand your analogy about muscles, but let us suppose that the “dualist logic” when applied to muscles produces some absurdity. What would this show? Nothing more than that dualist logic should not be applied to muscles, as it is not thus applied as a matter of fact. I mean suppose I were to claim that by applying modal logic one can solve problems about epistemic probability. And suppose you were then to respond that applying modal logic to bakery produces absurdities. Even if true that would be irrelevant.

So I think that your line of questions has not explained why dualism is incoherent, as you claimed. I daresay your questions only show that there is much about dualism you misunderstand.

In conclusion I would like to argue the following:

Theism (or the dualistic version we are discussing here) may be false. On the other hand it is a fact that world-renowned philosophers (not to mention Nobel price winning physicists) believe it’s true. So it is a fact that if theism is false it can’t be trivially false. Therefore one should be very suspect of people who claim that theism is trivially false, and that they can show this in a few sentences. Such people only prove their own ignorance.

Secondly, naturalism too may be false. Naturalism is plagued with grave conceptual problems, not only related to the mind, but even related to non-classical physics. (Let me know if you want me to explain what I find incoherent in the naturalistic understanding of the mind.) Therefore it would be more rational if atheists, instead of ridiculing theistic ideas most of them do not even understand, were to study and try to solve the problems that are intrinsic in their own worldview.

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Alex June 7, 2010 at 3:58 am

“This is a HUGE postulation. given that the person in almost all cases seem to walk Gine, talk fine, appear normal for the most part, and given that these strange occurances only occur when you cut off the field of vision from one side or the other it seems like you are assuming an aweful lot. If you were right we would expect that inorder to even walk it would be extremely difficult as both halves would have to be communicating to each othe, whihc isimpossible given that the CC has be cut.
Think of this imagine you wake up in a body in which you are in control of one leg and that someone whom you cannot communicate with is in control of the other leg. How would some destination (say going from the bed to the kitchen rather then the bathroom)be decided upon? In fact, even if a destination could be decided on, how would it get there without falling over as it seems like all co-ordination would be lost? You guys are far from proving your case.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkKWApOAG2g

They seem to walk just fine.

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 4:37 am

Trying to do a task with both hands that requires cognitive ability from only one would create problems

And that’s what we see.

because the information required to perform the trask could not be sent to both hands giving the appearance of competition when it is actually a mere disconnect.

The last part doesn’t make much sense.

Where you might be confused about is that a higher level conscious effort vs. autonomic responses. There are many things you do each day that are handled by your autonomic system, and that part of the brain is below the cerebral cortex. The corpus callosum normally bridges the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, not the other parts.

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Atheist.pig June 7, 2010 at 5:05 am

Dualism is a metaphysical theory, so the scientific consensus is irrelevant.

End of discussion for me since I don’t practice the Black Arts.

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Zeb June 7, 2010 at 7:36 am

Dianelos Georgoudis, thanks, you said almost everything I wanted to say better than I could have said it. I would just add that, as you hinted, modern neurological discoveries such as split brain studies are just as big a problem for naturalism as for theism. The example in the OP doesn’t so much demonstrate the creation of two minds as threaten to undermine the existence of any mind at all. It’s becoming more and more clear than “mind” as far as it is contained in matter, is a behavior, not an entity, and it appears to be a unified object only to outside observers (I include as an outside observer the “interpreter module” of the brain, which observes and creates a unified narrative of the activities of the rest of the brain, but does not control the brain or the body as a homunculus). What reason have we to believe that the subject in the OP did not have the right brain atheist and left brain theist in his head before the CC was severed? Each side of a split brain patient is not aware of the other side at all; in fact they are not aware that anything is even out of the ordinary. See all of Michael Gazzinga’s excellent series linked above. So we all might have two or more independent “minds” in our brains, in the sense of different parts containing different beliefs and desires, and it only seems we have a unified mind because contradicting ones are not expressed at the same time.

The only place I might disagree with you Dianelos is that the particular content of consciousness at any moment may well be contained completely outside of the immaterial “mind.” That is, everything we call “mind” (thinking, beliefs, emotion, desire) except for the presence of a witness and a will, may be accounted for by the material brain. The immaterial mind may persist without the functioning of the brain (if a person is knocked out, or dead), witnessing whatever God may communicate to it (in theistic dualism). So I don’t know what it would mean to “grow” in the afterlife unless it was God who was growing the content of the immaterial mind rather than revealing His own mind completely at once. But this disagreement might just be a Rome/Byzantium thing, and really knows?

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

I would just add that, as you hinted, modern neurological discoveries such as split brain studies are just as big a problem for naturalism as for theism. The example in the OP doesn’t so much demonstrate the creation of two minds as threaten to undermine the existence of any mind at all.

How is that a problem for the naturalists?

Do any naturalists want to speak to this point?

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Zak June 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Holy moly, so much to respond to!

I will keep this brief, but I appreciate all the conversation. Dianelos Georgoudis, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all my questions… even though I still have no idea what an immaterial mind would do lol!

Anyway, as to your question, Hermes, I find it in no way a problem for naturalism. Naturalism (to me at least) is exactly what the evidence says. If the evidence says that there is no self, then so be it. If it says there is an immaterial mind, so be it. If the evidence says that people can have psychic powers, fine. I have nothing against it, or any loyalty to materialism. I just don’t see it making sense with what the data says, unless you just start making stuff up other stuff.

To me, dualism is just crazy ad hoc, and violates ockhams razor like no ones business. I’m sure people disagree with me, but as I have said before, there is basically a consensus among philosophers of mind that dualism makes no sense at all, and this is for a very good reason (ask them yourself if you don’t believe me. Seriously, just email a philosopher of mind and ask them).

Thanks for the interesting discussions!

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Mike Young June 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

At Alex: \That is kind of the point, if they were seperate people you would not see that.
At heremes, Re read my post, you have to account for your huge postulation

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Zeb June 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I should not have said it is a problem for naturalism, but for naturalists. It doesn’t just challenge the presumptions theists have about how the afterlife works, it challenges the presumptions all of us have about how life (in the biographical and social sense) works.

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Mike Young, that’s too vague. What is your question?

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Zeb, yes, there are some interesting things coming out of neuroscience. While I’d be comfortable with anything that is shown to be real, and I understand how that can be a problem for theists or other supernaturalists^^^, I don’t see a problem for other groups (not limited to naturalists).

[ ^^^ - Supernatural is a largely unrestrained area of study, so the term supernaturalists can apply to quite a few different groups and ideas/beliefs/... . ]

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Mike Young June 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm

What I mean is if you read my second post,you will that saying that there are two I’s in one head is a huge postulation.

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

It’s been shown experimentally, and references have been provided so you can check it yourself. We can’t choose different facts even if we don’t like them.

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Hermes June 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I’m kinda puzzled that you are disputing facts. That doesn’t seem to make much sense.

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Mike Young June 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I have an interpretation of the evidence whic accounts for everything without postulating a second center of consciousness. I posted it, but I will post it again.

Why can we not say that there is one person, and when that one person must to a task with the left hand (which is associated with the right half of the brain) they are (because the CC is cut) unable to access the information that would be housed in the left half of the brain. As such the pool of resources from which they have to draw from is diminished and they cannot do any task which requires the resources of a cognitive ability associated with the left side. When focusing on what the left hand is doing agency draws on the resources available in the right half of the brain and when they must focus on the right hand agency draws on resources available in the left half. This would not be a problem for people with an operating CC because focus in on the left hand would not require the agent to use only resources on the right side of the brain as via the CC even if they are fucosing on what the left hand is doing they have a full resource set available to them. Trying to do a task with both hands that requires cognitive ability from only one would create problems because the information required to perform the trask could not be sent to both hands giving the appearance of competition when it is actually a mere disconnect.
For the religious question we could even argue that one side of the brain is responsible for governing skepticism and the other side is responsible for faith. One side of the brain would be responsible for gender association and so if that side was cut off the agent might give a contradictory answer by being forced to rely on the side of the brain which has no resources for answering the quesiton.
It seems like I can account for all the phenomena without postulating an entirely new center of conciousness. Or a brand new to the scene “I.”

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 2:32 am

I started to write up a long reply, and noticed that most of it was teaching about the facts found in psychology and neuroscience. You don’t need me for that, since it’s already available if you are the slightest bit curious and go look for it. Please don’t reinvent the wheel.

Summary: http://splicd.com/ZMLzP1VCANo/170/227

In the examples (including the snip above), the right hand side of the body doesn’t know what what the left is aware of. Alternatively, the left hand side doesn’t know what what the right is aware of. This is not just functional where some parts of the brain are adept at specific tasks. The two sides aren’t integrated into a single awareness.

Don’t confuse functional abilities with actual awareness.

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Mike Young June 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

You assumed what you are trying to prove, namely that the left side and right side are both independantly self aware. I think my response handles this just fine.

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Hermes June 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I don’t need to assume anything. The evidence is there. It’s atomic, and accepted by neurologists and psychologists. If you disagree with them, then you have my sympathy. This is not 400bce where we are still attempting to guess what is going on.

I was hoping that you would agree with some of this, and then move to the next step. There are some very interesting things going on — ones that actually tie back to some of what you’ve written — yet if you don’t know the basics we can’t discuss them properly.

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Zak June 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Mike Young,

I am curious why you think that split consciousness is such a huge postulation? In neurology, split consciousness is well known, and has been since it’s “discovery.” It’s not even the least bit controversial.

To quote Gazzaniga, “It would appear that the right hemisphere, along with but independent of the left, CAN possess conscious properties following brain bisection. In other words, the mechanisms of human consciousness CAN be split and doubled by split-brain surgery.” (emphasis original)

Also… I am baffled by your lengthy posts attempting to “account for everything”. Overall, they really makes no sense at all, especially in light of what we know about how the brain works. And that makes me wonder… are you just making this stuff up? What are you basing your posts on? For example, what in neurology would have led you to believe that two hemispheres could interrupt each other? Or, what makes you think that “we could even argue that one side of the brain is responsible for governing skepticism and the other side is responsible for faith”?

I don’t want to sound mean… but seriously, your posts make it really sound like you have no idea what you are talking about.

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Mike Young June 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

ZAK And HERMES
I dont mean to be mean either but I will be blunt, all you did is say I am wrong and then quote Gazzangia. You have to explain WHY I am wrong. The contradict me is not to prove me wrong.
Secondly, What I am doing is not questioning the evidence, I am hitting you both (and Gazzangia) with a charge of an unwarranted inference. This is why, Zak, when you say that in the field of Neurology a certain thing is well known I don’t care. The assumptions about consciousness on which current Neurology rests I deny.
I gave an explnation tha made perfect sense if you read it and understood it. Here is a fuller explication. If consciousness is not centered in the brain but spread through it from somewhere else (to appease materialists I will suggest they consider that consciousness is housed in the brain stem and is spread through the brain) then it would create a problem for Gazzangia’s theory.
Current research indicates that an active brain stem is a necessary condition of consciousness. In fact, we can’t find fully functioning concious talking people without brain stems. Now, the brain stem is the control center for all the important organs of the body if it dies, you lose your heart, lungs, kindey etc. However, even if we put someone on life support and control all their organs externally such that the brain stays alive and healthy we get the same problem: namely that we cannot seem to get a conscious, talking, self aware perons without a brain stem. This is true even when the rest of the brain is fully intact and healthy. This seems to show that the arousal of consciousness depends, not on the brain (although that is necesary for the expression of consciousness), but on its stem. As a pre-empt: behaviour of monkeys who seem to recover some consciousnes after brain stem ablation is not the recovery of consciousness at all but rather the mere automatic response (like a reflex) left over from the departed conciousness.
If this is right then the behaiviour of split brain pateients could then be explained by my suggestion. How? Because if I am correct them when the persons attention (see John Searle’s Rediscovery of the Mind for more detail on what I mean by attention) is focused to one side of the brain rather than the other you would get contradictory results based upon the resources available on that side of the brain.
Re-read my post and read this carefully ( I read each of your five or six times for clarity) I have intentionally packed this as full as I could to say as much as I could in as little a space as possible.

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 9, 2010 at 12:49 am

Hermes,

You write: “I don’t need to assume anything. The evidence is there. It’s atomic, and accepted by neurologists and psychologists.

So, what is that atomic evidence? You should have evidence to justify your beliefs, you know.

Or perhaps you mean that the evidence is that you know of neurologists and psychologists who believe that each SBP is two independent conscious beings? If this is what you mean, then I’d suggest you make up your own mind and not just believe something because other people believe it.

As for those neurologists and psychologists who believe this, they don’t believe it because of the evidence. Rather they believe it because they are naturalists and they simply note not that evidence is compatible with their naturalistic assumptions (in this case that consciousness is produced by the physical brain, so a brain “cut in half” must instantiate two conscious subjects). Conversely, theistic neurologists and psychologists simply note that the evidence is compatible with their theistic assumptions (and that the behavior of the one conscious subject is conflictive simply because of the grave injury to her brain). So the evidence of SBPs is compatible both with theism and atheism’s naturalism, so that evidence does not count neither for atheism nor for theism.

What I’d rather say you should rather ponder is why Sam Harris (who is a philosopher and a neuroscientist) claims that there is no, nor can’t be any, scientific evidence that the brain produces consciousness. Don’t you think that Sam Harris, who is a polemic atheist, wouldn’t be claiming such an unpopular view if he hadn’t very good reasons? (Indeed what I admire in Sam Harris is his originality, his freedom of thought, and his freedom of consciousness. He is not afraid to expound views he knows people in his own group will dislike.)
On the other hand I find that most of popular atheistic books are simply an exercise of smoke and mirrors; if you actually study the arguments you’ll find that it’s all make believe and fallacious logic. After all if you find some evidence which is compatible with your assumptions, it does not logically follow that your assumptions are true. It only logically follows that that evidence does not contradict them. Which is nice, but does not get you very far, especially when the very same assumptions entail a lot of other conceptual problems. Indeed, those who believe that the brain produces consciousness have to deal with the so-called “hard problem of consciousness”. In this context here is what J. A. Fodor, one of the best known atheist philosophers today, has to say: “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious.”

In short, if you actually study serious books you will find that naturalism, despite of all the pretensions of being “scientific”, really stands on very unstable feet and requires the acceptance on faith of a lot of assumptions. Authors, like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who give the impression that naturalism is a solid and well-grounded worldview, are simply deceiving others and are perhaps deceiving themselves too.

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Hermes June 9, 2010 at 2:24 am

Mike Young: You have to explain WHY I am wrong.

He he he he … did you watch the little 1 minute clip? What’s to argue about? Seriously. I’m out of patience. You’re fighting facts and consensus. The ideas you have do tie back but how they tie back matters.

Same to Dianelos Georgoudis. Cut the nonsense on consciousness. I’m not addressing that, and I’ve already said so and why, but you keep bringing it up.

If you both insist things are different, you’ve got to address the evidence not just talk about the topic. You’ve got to challenge the uncontroversial consensus of neurologists and psychologists.

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Hermes June 9, 2010 at 3:08 am

Let’s bring this back a bit. Are either of you interested in discussing the presentation given by V.S. Ramachandran, or are we on other tangents exclusive of that?

You’ve both got quite a bit of wiggle room, based on available facts, but I only want to deal with facts and not speculations that someone from the 1800s let alone 390bce could make.

[ ... more later, life calls ]

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Dianelos Georgoudis June 9, 2010 at 3:50 am

Hermes,

When you speak about minds you are speaking about consciousness too, because the mind is a property that some conscious beings have. In other words you can’t have the presence of a mind without the presence of consciousness, the same way that you can’t have the presence of wetness without the presence of a liquid. So to say “I am not addressing the issue of a brain having consciousness, I am only addressing the issue of the brain having a mind” is as absurd as saying “I am not addressing the issue of this floor being covered with some liquid, I am only addressing the issue of this floor being wet”.

Now perhaps you are confusing “mind” with “that which produces intelligent behavior”. That’s a common mistake, but consider that a simple personal computer can be quite intelligent, and, say, play chess or prove mathematical theorems or compose music better than most people, but nobody says that a personal computer has a mind. Why not? Because nobody thinks that a personal computer is a conscious being. (Well, almost nobody. Some naturalists believe that not only personal computers but even thermostats are conscious beings; it seems that naturalism moves people into adopting very strange beliefs indeed.)

In short, if you believe you can talk about minds without talking about consciousness, then, I am sorry to say, you don’t understand what “mind” means.

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Hermes June 9, 2010 at 3:56 am

I’m going to ignore comments on ‘consciousness’ and conflate it with mind. If you bring up specific comments about consciousness alone, I’ll ignore them. (You can always address my earlier request and make consciousness relevant — but don’t expect a gimme.)

Can we move on?

* Address the evidence.

– OR –

* Address the original comments made in the V.S. Ramachandran video.

I’m not interested in unattached speculations.

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Leo November 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Here is a good critique on the split brain experiments showing why their is no general consensus that the data from split brain experiments should be explained in the manner that their are two conscious selves.

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Leo November 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Here is a good critique on the split brain experiments showing why their is no general consensus that the data from split brain experiments should be explained in the manner that their are two conscious selves.  

whoops forgot the link here it is
http://www.newdualism.org/papers/T.Rivas/Dualismlives.htm

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