Home » Intelligent Design » That link I promised, to a survey paper of non-materialist neuroscience

That link I promised, to a survey paper of non-materialist neuroscience

Here is neuroscientist Mario Beauregard’s article in Progress in Neuroscience, identifying areas of progress in non-materialist neuroscience.

Yes, that’s right. Beauregard is doing something that is supposed to be unthinkable for a neuroscientist. He is blowing off materialism, based on evidence.

The skinny: Materialist neuroscience argues that the mind does not really exist. The mind is merely the functions of the brain or a simulacrum thereof. So you do not really have a mind, let alone a soul or free will.

Materialist neuroscientists have not proven this proposition; it is a logical deduction from the materialism they have already accepted.

Go here, here, and here for a few examples.

Non-materialist neuroscience means neuroscience that assumes that the mind really exists. It treats the mind as real. And for good reason. A number of studies show the mind remapping the brain, which is evidence against materialism.

If you find the clinical neuroscience in the linked study heavy going, check out The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary (Harper 2007), which will be available mid this year. I am the co-author, so if you understand the stuff I write here, you will understand that book. Promise!  (I DO wish the publisher, Harper, would put up the cover … soon, I suppose)

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16 Responses to That link I promised, to a survey paper of non-materialist neuroscience

  1. 1

    “A number of studies show the mind remapping the brain, which is evidence against materialism.”

    I know that this is the key premise for your non-materialist argument about the mind/brain, but I really don’t think it flies.

    To give this argument force, in my view, you need to show discernibility between these two statements: “one region of the brain remapping another region” and “the mind remapping the brain” – so long as these two statements are indiscernible, your argument has little to no force for the materialist, nor the materialist/dualist agnostic like me.

    Sure, if we beg the question and assume the soul/mind, then the soul/mind becomes a good candidate for the source of the remapping. But so long as the question of the existence of soul/mind is on the table, the argument I see emerging here doesn’t do the argumentative work it’s supposed to.

    Just my 2 cents. What do you think?

  2. Can you identify the regions that are doing the remapping? Can you show that their activity is irrelevant to consciousness? – Denyse

  3. ““A number of studies show the mind remapping the brain, which is evidence against materialism.”

    I know that this is the key premise for your non-materialist argument about the mind/brain, but I really don’t think it flies.”

    I think studies showing any re-mapping of the brain tend to place a burden on materialists to come up with an explanation for it, or else they may start to look as though they’re barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. In short, it doesn’t do away with materialist notions of the mind, but it definitely looks bad for them.

  4. By the way Denyse, I’m dying to read your book.

  5. 5

    Denyse, any brain circuits involved in the activities of attention and focus are obvious candidates.

    shaner74, why do studies showing neural re-wiring or other forms of neuroplasticity stand against the materialist? I just don’t get it.

    The presence of real-time adaptation in biological systems is pervasive. We see matter shaping and re-arranging itself all the time (in biological systems). Why, in the case of the brain, does directed modification require an immaterial mind, whereas in a system like the immune system, we are happy with an immediate material/mechanical explanation.

    Sure, the IDist is interested in the origin of the immune system, but no one suspects that its current operation is anything but mechanical. Why is the rewiring of the brain a different issue and why does it beg for an immaterial explanation?

  6. “Why, in the case of the brain, does directed modification require an immaterial mind”

    If we use the analogy of the brain being like a computer, it would be like a computer not liking the way it was working, and re-designing itself to run the way it wants to. What part of the brain is deciding the brain needs to be changed? It’s a case of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. It’s not that you can’t find some way to fit it into a materialist worldview, it’s just that it tends to favor “something” intelligent doing the modification. What do you think is happening? Do you think there is a part of the brain responsible for modifying the brain? Just curious.

  7. What is meant by the “mind remapping” are you referring to physical brain damage? And how is this remapping linked to mind as the cause?

    I read the link you posted and I don’t think it supports your case, the article seems to be stating “stimuli alters the way the brain reacts” (paraphrased).

    It also infers that beliefs (world view) affects perception, again I would think this a rather materialistic expectation. Reasoning – supporting or opposing stimuli to a world view causing stress or pleasure releasing chemicals etc.

  8. Briefly, I have no doubt that materialists can explain such phenomena as the placebo effect according to their system, for the same reason that Marxists can explain any episode in history according to their system.

    And what they can’t explain, they can deny or rule out of order (psi, for example).

    But if neuroscience can get along quite well using a non-materialist paradigm, as Mario demonstrates, then science is not applied materialism. And THAT has momentous consequences.

  9. 9

    “Do you think there is a part of the brain responsible for modifying the brain?”

    Roughly, the prefrontal cortex.

    “it’s just that it tends to favor “something” intelligent doing the modification.”

    Really? And does immune system response tend to favor “something” intelligent doing the modification? Or how about the healing of a wound? The fact of the matter is that lots of stuff like this happens in the material body. Further, in the case of brain re-wiring, it’s not as if we are aware of the process involved in restructuring the neural system. In no way does it resemble something like the re-engineering of a road system, where we intentionally map out the system and execute the re-organization.

    O’Leary – you’re not being charitable to the materialist position here. In fact, you are characterizing materialism under an extreme. What C.D. Broad called Pure Mechanism.

    The fact is that in certain material systems (i.e. life) matter re-organizes itself. This is a fact which any materialist who’s honest with himself should recognize. No one who’s thought long and hard about the world is a Pure Mechanist any longer.

  10. “Really? And does immune system response tend to favor “something” intelligent doing the modification? Or how about the healing of a wound? The fact of the matter is that lots of stuff like this happens in the material body.”

    Briefly, sure, lots of stuff happens as built-in responses to stimuli; engineers make stuff do this all the time. Like I said above, I’m sure you could think of ways to fit this into a materialist paradigm, but IMO you need to show how if you expect strict adherence to your philosophy. I think it’s pointing towards a real mind. In the link Denyse provided, it is the thought of the patient that is triggering the brain changes – the immaterial manipulating the material, which supposedly causes the immaterial in the first place. Is this just some mechanistic response of a system?

  11. Micah writes, “No one who’s thought long and hard about the world[*] is a Pure Mechanist any longer.”

    Hmmm, the payload here is “any longer”. So they tried it out because it was a slam dunk for materialism, and it didn’t work. And now they have to deal?

    Okay, here’s the deal: I think the evidence will show that no form of materialism is true.

    For example, if neuroscience can get along without materialism, the most likely explanation is that materialism in any form is not an accurate description of reality.

    But first, a lot of evidence that was formerly separate or disallowed must be brought together. That’s the sort of project that The Spiritual Brain is – a humble beginning, perhaps, but a beginning.

    (*”The ones who have thought long and hard about the world.” Thanks for making the distinction because I hear frequently from the ones who have not, and expect to hear plenty more. )

  12. Hi, micahsparacio. You wrote:

    “Denyse, any brain circuits involved in the activities of attention and focus are obvious candidates.”

    But why would the activity of these circuits have differential effects on the brain, depending on what is being attended to and foused on? Why would psychotherapy for panic disorder affect the brain in one way, and psychotherapy for depression affect the brain in another?

  13. As pointed out, a material process such as the immune system or blood clotting involves a stimulus or input condition, and then a determined set of resulting actions. In other words, while a “remapping” may take place, there are never actually real alternative options to choose from — the result is determined.

    Now, human thinking introduces an entire new feature — the characteristic of decision making. Decision making is an entire science in the field of management, based on selecting an optimal choice among multiple alternatives. How does the brain handle such a feat? The Materialist must simply conclude that the perception and experience of choosing from among alternatives is an illusion, that no such choice is really open to us.

    But why would this be the case? Why would the Darwinian evolved brain offer up this entire realm of perception and experience as an illusion, when in reality it is not real? In other words, evolution creates works of fiction, all explicitly for no purpose!! And we are expending all sorts of energy debating the whole concept, and do not even have a free will choice to do so.

    Does this make any sense to anyone??? Or is this simply desperate clutching to a philisophy so that we can escape the ultimate reality of accountability for free-will choices???

  14. However long the neuro-article or neuro-book, be it Francis Crick’s mistitled tome (The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul – as though Crick’s colleagues weren’t already commited to there being no soul) or whatever else, they all boil down to the same thing: emergence or supervenience which, to my thinking, is like saying, “Here is mechanism and—hocus pocus—voilà consciousness!”

    Well, then how does supervenience differ from pure materialist reductionism? Is it that some might go so far as to suggest that as yet undiscovered Platonic forms or laws kick in at higher levels of organization? If so it’s still chance and necessity all the way down. Consciousness supervenes on mechanism, and be it computational and/or stimulus response mechanism, there isn’t the foggiest notion of how this happens—there’s no theory—just blind faith.

    But what about quantum uncertainty? Well, perhaps the soul interacts with matter at that level, but surely uncertainty cannot account for the will.

    ID observes that specified complexity arises from mind—never in our experience from chance and necessity. But then is the mind itself a mere mechanism of chance and necessity? Angus Menuge argues that agency is elemental—a “sky hook” a la Daniel Dennet. Is Menuge right?

    Darwinists talk about the appearance of design, YECs mention the appearance of age, and neuro-materialists allude to what we might dub the appearance of agency—if the one is sweeping something under the rug why not the other?

  15. “Psychotherapy for depression”—as a naïve commoner I’ve always thought they have it backwards. Long ago the folks said that if you were depressed it was your attitude that affected your nerves and hormones—now apparently they think that your brain condition (treatable with drugs? hypnotic suggestion?) will fix the mind you falsely imagine you have.

  16. 13, Ekstasis, wrote re material processes, In other words, while a “remapping” may take place, there are never actually real alternative options to choose from — the result is determined.

    Precisely.

    If mind is a material phenomenon of some sort then thoughts are determined. For example, certain sensations in my body will result in me thinking, “I’m hungry and need to eat,” and that will be the stimulus for me to engage in food-seeking behaviour followed, on success in that endeavour, by food-eating behaviour.

    There is no materialistic reason why feeling hungry should make anyone think about anything other than organising their next meal. People would be skinny or fat depending on the availability of food but no one would be on a diet.

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