Sep 23 2009

Obama and Academia – a Fascinating Comparison: BUMPED

Category: college,education,Obamaamuzikman @ 7:00 pm

The author of this article makes some very interesting comparisons and poignant observations about the Obama presidency and academic life.  It is worth reading every word.


Sep 23 2009

The Next Great Awakening, Part 10: Your brain is not a computer, and your mind is not your brain

Category: philosophy,religion,scienceharmonicminer @ 9:48 am

The previous post in this series is here.

In a very interesting interview on the unlikelihood that Sci-Fi style artificial intelligence (AI) is coming soon, or even possible, computer scientist Noel Sharkey says why he thinks that AI is a dangerous dream –

I’m an empirical kind of guy, and there is just no evidence of an artificial toehold in sentience. It is often forgotten that the idea of mind or brain as computational is merely an assumption, not a truth. When I point this out to “believers” in the computational theory of mind, some of their arguments are almost religious. They say, “What else could there be? Do you think mind is supernatural?” But accepting mind as a physical entity does not tell us what kind of physical entity it is. It could be a physical system that cannot be recreated by a computer.

Of course, materialists have a very hard time accepting that anything of non-material nature exists, anything that is not some mere arrangement of matter and energy, space and time.  What the materialist approach fails to explain is that this theory is itself a non-material thing.   What is the materialist nature of an idea?   Calling it a mere brain state, even a brain state that is shared by others, forces us into the notion that a “brain state” is about something.  Yet the materialists have mostly asserted that what we call consciousness is mere “noise in the system.”  How to account for “brain states” that are about other “brain states” which are attempts to account for the existence of other “brain states”?  One is tempted to take seriously the idea that the minds of materialists are just “noise in the system.”

In his book, The Spiritual Brain, neuroscientist Mario Beauregard adduces the evidence for a non-material mind that is related to but independent of the physical brain.

In the book, Beauregard makes short work of claims of a “God gene” or a “God spot” in the brain, something that would provide a false sense of transcendental experience that could be falsely attributed to God by the gullible.  He asks some very interesting questions about the placebo effect, and what that effect suggests about the relationships of mind, brain and body.  His discussion of the small but persistently measurable PSI effect is very interesting, and refreshing to read from a scientist.  Especially interesting is the discussion about the implications of psycho-therapeutic models that involve teaching people to think different ways, essentially using “mind” to affect “brain,” producing measurable physical effects by changing ideas held by a person.  Beauregard’s work in using functional MRI to study the brains of meditating Carmelite nuns is very interesting, and well worth reading.
You may have the impression that someday science will explain the mind in physical terms.  This is certainly the notion that materialist neuroscientists would like to create in the public mind.
The problem, of course, is that a promise of future theoretical success is a non-material idea flowing from a non-material motivation to defend a non-material perspective about the nature of things.  It seems an impossible task.
Think of it as analogous to trying to write an essay on the topic, “Why there is no such thing as an essay.”  (Coming up next:  “Why there is no such thing as a question….  or an answer.”)
The amazing thing about the human mind is not that it has a non-material aspect.  It is that it has a physical aspect.  After all, the human mind is an echo of the non-material Mind behind everything.  Of course it has a non-material aspect.  The amazing thing is that the Creator made a unique integration of mind, brain and body, one that seems to have been designed specifically to allow free moral choice in a physical universe that is of non-physical origin, one characterized as much by quantum uncertainty as by obvious cause and effect relationships.
The next post in this series is here.