Home » Intelligent Design, Neuroscience » It’s becoming conventional to assert that the mind is not the brain—even NYT’s David Brooks is now doing it

It’s becoming conventional to assert that the mind is not the brain—even NYT’s David Brooks is now doing it

Recently, I noted—in a pattern that is now becoming familiar: Cautious re-evaluations of the usual tales of materialist neuroscience. See, for example, New Scientist offers a biological basis for free will.

It seems even David Brooks, author of a dreadful “evolutionary” novel, The Social Animal, is getting in on the act:

At the lowbrow level, there are the conference circuit neuro-mappers. These are people who take pretty brain-scan images and claim they can use them to predict what product somebody will buy, what party they will vote for, whether they are lying or not or whether a criminal should be held responsible for his crime.

At the highbrow end, there are scholars and theorists that some have called the “nothing buttists.” Human beings are nothing but neurons, they assert. Once we understand the brain well enough, we will be able to understand behavior.

Quite a switch for someone who used to extol the eagerness of young neuroscientists to replace traditional categories of human thinking with new ones which will “replace misleading categories like ‘emotion’ and ‘reason.’” with brain-based ones.

Figure of fun Jerry Coyne is not happy with Brooks at all, though he agrees with me that The Social Animal is a dreadful book:

In the last paragraph Brooks makes his big mistake: he equates the difficulty of studying the brain with the conclusion that “the brain is not the mind.” This confusion plagues the rest of his piece.

So neurocrackpot-ology is taking the same sort of hits as multiverse crackpot-ology?

Maybe there is a hunger out there for genuine science?

Note also a recent article in Nature, Rise of the neurocrats: “Sandra Aamodt evaluates a cautionary account of how brain-scan results could be used and abused.”

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7 Responses to It’s becoming conventional to assert that the mind is not the brain—even NYT’s David Brooks is now doing it

  1. Semi related note: Near Death Experiences, in which the experiencer is profoundly effected on the spiritual/mental level by the experience, due to improved resuscitation techniques, are now found to be quite common among people who have had a close brush with death,,, and as such the people who have such experiences are finally, slowly but surely, starting to gain a measure of respect from Nurses and Doctors,, Doctors and Nurses who use to, and many times still do, heavily sedate or offer psychological help whenever the patients would tell them of these deep spiritual experiences:

    NDE Medical Training Video

    Mary Jo Rapini Sees the Light, plus reporter Bob Woodruff’s out of body experience – video

  2. 2

    The idea of the brain being us is a rejection of the soul. Thats the point for dissecting it believing the machine parts are programmed from nature.

    Truly the logic behind evolution regarding the climb of inferior to superior has and must be connected to the unique case of human intelligence.
    A fundamental conclusion has been to say human thinking and intelligence is in the brain and our head. No more ideas of floating souls inhabiting a body they say.
    The bible teaches we are just souls. We have no emotions or any mechanics except for our thoughts. We are just thinking beings unrelated to the material world.
    As the singers sing “WE are spirits in a material world”
    Creationism has a chance on this issue of brains/minds/ knobs and buttons TO strike a better high ground on human intelligence and its origins.
    Back to the soul!

  3. OT: Danny MacAskill vs. San Francisco HD – video
    Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill – video

  4. Human beings are nothing but neurons, they assert. Once we understand the brain well enough, we will be able to understand behavior.

    One foreseeable problem with this concept is that they’re trying to reduce human behavior to neurological impulses, to brain chemistry. If that is the case, then how do we prosecute those who break the law? Is murder simply a matter of the brain misfiring? What about arson? Rape? Are these behaviors (all of which are classified as felonies) simply a matter of a person’s brain chemistry?

    I’m reminded of the quote: “If God is dead, then all things are possible.”

  5. Yes Barb, The old joke

    “Of all the things I’ve lost I think I miss my mind the most”

    ,,Should literally be the materialist’s mantra. Nobody in their ‘right mind’ lives as though they have no mind. In fact they’d be psychopaths:

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.

    Moreover, and not so surprisingly, in this following video there is a talk about some studies, which seem to have been rigorously done as far as I can tell, that show that people who do not believe in a soul are a bit more anti-social than the majority of people who do believe in a soul:

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video

    But, in what I believe is a far more direct link between morality and the belief in a mind/soul, it is found that crime, across the board, took a dramatic increase for 17 years straight when prayer was removed from school

    United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2010 (Please note the skyrocketing crime rate from 1963, the year prayer was removed from school, thru 1980, the year the steep climb in crime rate finally leveled off.) of note: The slight decline in crime rate from the mid 90s until now is attributed in large part to tougher enforcement on minor crimes. (a nip it in the bud policy)

    AMERICA: To Pray Or Not To Pray – David Barton – graphs corrected for population growth

    And although Dr. Craig does not make the connection to the removal of prayer from schools in the following video, Dr. Craig is concerned that altruism, (i.e. concern for fellow man) took a steep decline in America since the early 1960′s

    What Lies Behind Growing Secularism by William Lane Craig – May 2012 – podcast (steep decline in altruism of young people since early 1960′s)

    But I guess the atheist would argue, somewhat convolutedly as is usual for an atheist, that all this preceding anecdotal evidence is to be expected if we really don’t have a free will but really are just meat puppets that are victims of whatever brain states our neurons happen to be firing in at any particular instance. Thus, to make moral culpability real, it is necessary to show that free will really does exist. There are solid studies that have shown that mental intention precedes neuronal firing:

    In The Wonder Of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind, Eccles and Robinson discussed the research of three groups of scientists (Robert Porter and Cobie Brinkman, Nils Lassen and Per Roland, and Hans Kornhuber and Luder Deeke), all of whom produced startling and undeniable evidence that a “mental intention” preceded an actual neuronal firing – thereby establishing that the mind is not the same thing as the brain, but is a separate entity altogether.,,

    “As I remarked earlier, this may present an “insuperable” difficulty for some scientists of materialists bent, but the fact remains, and is demonstrated by research, that non-material mind acts on material brain.”
    Sir John Eccles – Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1963 – (as quoted in Cousins, 1985, pp. 61-62,85-86)

    But atheists would always try to hide within the complexity of the brain to say that mental intention did not precede neuronal firing. Here is the refutation of the latest attempt by materialists to dodge the reality of the mind:

    Brain might not stand in the way of free will – August 2012
    Excerpt: “Libet argued that our brain has already decided to move well before we have a conscious intention to move,” says Schurger. “We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity.”

    And although Theists have (IMHO) as far as evidence of this sort is concerned, by far, the strongest hand empirically and philosophically for the reality of the mind over the atheists’ contention for ‘only a brain’, the atheists could always, because of the complexity being dealt with, play a sort of cat a mouse game in this area.,,, But, science progresses and the progress of science could care less about whether atheists, or anybody else, are able to maintain their a priori philosophical beliefs.,, Quantum Mechanics has now unambiguously shown that free will (and by default moral culpability) is an intrinsic part of reality,,, In the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is falsified by the fact that present conscious choices effect past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my choices instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past?,,, The materialist simply has no place to hide anymore, as he did in the mind/brain correlation studies. It is clear simple and direct refutation of the materialists position!,,, Of semi-related note:

    The Hard Problem (Of Consciousness) – video

    Verse and music:

    Luke 10:27
    He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    Nickelback – Lullaby

  6. semi-related: What are Biophotons?
    Excerpt: According to a leading researcher of biophotons, German biophysicist Fritz-Albert Popp, light is constantly being absorbed and remitted by DNA molecules within each cell’s nucleus. These biophotons create a dynamic, coherent web of light. A system that could be responsible for chemical reactions within the cells, cellular communication throughout the organism, and the overall regulation of the biological system, including embryonic development into a predetermined form.
    The laser-like coherence of the biophoton field is a significant attribute, making it a prime candidate for exchanging information in a highly functional, efficient and cooperative fashion, lending credence to the idea that it may be the intelligence factor behind the biological processes. An aspect of, or cousin to consciousness, though this remains speculative.

    One may see Biophotons in action here:

    The (Electric) Face of a Frog – video
    Note: The video suggests that bioelectric signals presage the morphological development of the face. It also, in an instant, gives a peak at the phenomenal processes at work in biology. As the lead researcher said, “It’s a jaw dropper.”

    Hmmm, Do frogs have ‘souls’?,, I think Dr. Moreland does an excellent job as to addressing this question:

    Is the Soul Immortal? (J.P. Moreland)- video

  7. semi OT: Efficient signal transmission at sensory system synapses – June 19, 2013
    Excerpt: In the retina, analog to digital conversion for transmission to the brain occurs at more than one level. The bipolar cells have a substantial investment in ribbon synapses which presumably support precision graded-level transduction. However, it has emerged that spiking, at least in the form of multi-ion “spikelets,” may also be a critical part of their repertoire, and therefore the two modes are not exclusive. One concern in a situation like this is that if the cell switches often between graded and spiking modes, the spikes, which might be expected to cause relatively prodigious release, would tend to get expensive. Vertebrate retinas also make extensive use of synaptic ribbons within the far more numerous photoreceptor cells.

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