You Are Not Your Brain

In going back and reviewing the audio from my church’s SWAT Seminar from a week and a half ago, I have been listening to J.P. Moreland discuss his evidence for the existence of the soul. This was of particular interest to me, because I posted such an argument on my blog last year. I was intrigued to note that my argument was only slightly related to Moreland’s argument, because it means 1) I’m capable of independent thought, and 2) I feel like I might be able to contribute to the overall defense of theistic belief.

However, in listening to Moreland’s talk on the subject, it’s clear to me that his position is on much firmer ground than mine. He gave many different reasons why conscious states differ from brain states, but more importantly why “you are not your brain.” Among these reasons is that a person’s consciousness is not comprised of parts (you can have 80% of a brain, but you can’t have 80% of a person) and that it is possible for self to be disembodied, but not possible for the brain, therefore the person and the brain are not identical.

But the one that struck me as the simplest, yet most powerful, is the idea that if the person and the brain were the same, free will would not be possible. And if free will is not possible, then there is no reasonable concept of responsibility. In essence, if we didn’t have free will, there would be no reason we should logically choose to do good things, because whether or not a good thing is done is directed by the brain, and we as a person have no say in what we choose. In reality, everything would just be an effect of the laws of physics and chemistry, and as a result there would be no moral value or worth placed on any result–it just is what it is.

But because we place moral value on some choices (i.e. some things are really right or really wrong), this means that there is some personal responsibility, and as a result, free will is a real concept. And since free will is a real concept, the resulting conclusion is that a person is not the same as his/her brain. This gives powerful evidence to the existence of something immaterial that is responsible for the movements between conscious states in a person.

I’m sure I’ll have a few more posts from the SWAT stuff, but thought this was worth sharing.

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103 responses to this post.

  1. “Among these reasons is that a person’s consciousness is not comprised of parts (you can have 80% of a brain, but you can’t have 80% of a person”

    The problem is that we have split-brain people (people with two distinct and competing personalities) as well as people who are fundamentally changed by the destruction or damage of part of the brain.

    Reply

    • Destruction or damage may limit a person’s functionality, but it doesn’t mean they are less of a person in essence. That’s the distinction here.

      Reply

      • I’m not saying they’re less of a person. I’m saying they’re a different person.

        There are cases where a person with brain damage becomes, in every demonstrable way, a different person than before they were damaged.

        Does that mean the soul was changed as well? Does the soul not have anything to do with a personality? Could you and I (hypothetically) exchange souls and still be who we were?

      • Glad I’m still listening to Moreland’s talk. He likens brain damage or alteration to being in a car. If you’re locked in a car with no way of getting out, you can still drive that car and use it to get around. However, if the steering wheel falls off or the engine breaks down, you no longer have full functionality of the car. Or the steering wheel could be altered in such a way that when you wrench it left, it turns right. You still have full capacity, but your ability to use the car to move yourself is severely altered, limited or even gone. Think of you as the driver as the soul, and the car as the brain. The soul uses the brain to process things, but when something happens to the brain, the soul is not able to use it in the same ways. It doesn’t change the soul, just as the driver is not changed. It just limits what the soul is able to do. But this doesn’t mean that the driver is the same as the car, obviously, so neither is a person’s essence their brain, so to speak.

        I don’t have a great answer for your last question, honestly. My guess in such a hypothetical situation is that the soul is linked to personality, and so if we were to switch souls you would have my personality and I would have yours. But I can’t state that to a high degree of certainty or provide any conclusive evidence, especially because we also have different brains. Your brain might interpret the signals from my soul differently than my brain does, so it’s not like a Freaky Friday type of situation, I don’t think.

  2. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 7, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    I’d be interested to know how you explain what he describes in this video.

    Reply

    • Well it seems to me to have an obvious answer. If the right brain says “yes” to being asked if it belonged to a woman, when it belonged to a man, then either the right hemisphere has the capacity to lie or to be confused due to limited capacity. Either the way the brain is interpreting the belief, not generating it. The belief is not the brain, because you can’t find that belief inside of the brain. It doesn’t have mass, spatial features or parts. A belief is a state of consciousness, not a state of the brain. See the car example I gave to NotAScientist.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 8, 2012 at 10:31 AM

        Well if you listened he said that the person pointed to ‘yes’ when asked if they are a woman and then started laughing as in making a joke. So in this case it wasn’t a matter of the ‘brain misinterpreting the belief’ it was just a joke.

        What we have is a person who, holds a belief in one half of their brain and a different one in another. Which is strong evidence against your unfounded assertion that belief cannot be found in the brain.

        There are examples of people who suffer damage to the part of their brain that examines what they are seeing and the part of the brain that deals with the emotional response. In these patients they develop a belief that their parents are imposters, because when they see them they do not develop an emotional connection (due to it having been severed) – so you have to admit that beliefs are at least partially influenced by what goes on in the brain if not fully.

      • The externalizing of the belief has to go through the brain, yes. I don’t think I said that it didn’t. The point I made in my reply to you is that in making a joke, his right hemisphere was able to say something other than what he believed was the truth. So when one half of the brain says there is no God, it’s possible that he was able to externalize an answer that he didn’t really believe. His right hemisphere had the capacity to lie. So it doesn’t really give us solid evidence to say that these two differing opinions means that the origin of the belief is the brain. Again, it’s how the brain interprets and externalizes the belief that can vary or be altered. Again, see the car example. The driver is not the car.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 8, 2012 at 11:55 AM

        Well your explanation of it doesn’t prove that the brain is separate from the self. You have to concede that at least.

        The claim that there is more to you or I than the brain does have a burden of proof. My burden of proof is already fulfilled by the existence of the brain, I am arguing that this is sufficient to explain conciousness and the existence of a ‘self’, what you are saying is that this explanation is insufficient, and that a secondary component is required, and to demonstrate this you’d need to provide proof of that.

        So perhaps you could answer these:

        1. Can you give a precise definition of this secondary aspect of the ‘self’ which is not the brain? What is is made from? Where is it? Is it created at birth? What happens when it is disconnected from the brain etc?

        2. Why is this necessary to explain the self? What proof or evidence is there for it? In other words why should I accept it as an explanation when the brain is perfectly sufficient?

        Using your analogy of the car. My position would be that the engine and the components of the car are sufficient to explain it’s motion. Your position is analogous to saying that there is more to a car than it’s engine and components, that there is something more to it – I think you’d agree that there is a burden of proof for you to fulfil.

      • I think that the argument does give sufficient reason to believe that the self and the brain are not the same. You can’t have 80% of a belief, but you can have 80% of your brain. Consciousness and the brain are not synonymous.

        Going to my car analogy, the engine and car components may make the car able to move, but it requires a driver to actually make it go. That’s the difference.

        To your questions, I think you know the answer. My opinion is that there is an immaterial soul that houses consciousness, and the soul uses the brain to externalize this consciousness. But there are states of consciousness that differ from brain states. How can I arrive at this conclusions? Well, the brain is composed of parts, therefore it has physical properties. But a thought, which is a state of consciousness, is not composed of parts. You can’t take away 55% of a thought, because a thought has no physical properties. Therefore, the thought is not synonymous with the brain. The thought must originate somewhere besides the brain, though the brain can be used as a tool to externalize the thought. A desire is the same way. A belief is the same way.

        So my burden of proof is only to show that your self is not your brain. I think there is adequate evidence to support this belief.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 8, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        What do you mean by 80% belief? Also saying this is not sufficient to meet the burden of proof for the claim. After all removing and damaging certain areas of the brain is shown to have a profound affect on a person, why should this be so if a person is not defined by their brain?

        Analogies have limits, brains don’t need drivers. Perhaps a better analogy would be a computer or a robot, a computer can run programs and perform tasks with nothing more than their circuitry and a power supply. Our brain is the circuit board complete with the right programs and our metabolism is the power supply, there’s no reason to think that they need anything more than this.

        I don’t even know what you mean by ‘you can’t take away 55% of a thought’ but I don’t think that is sufficient to meet the burden of proof. Also you claim that thoughts have no physical properties however we can put someone in a EEG machine and ask them to think about stuff and it will show brain activity, so there must be at least some physical properties to it.

        I think you need to clarify what you mean by ‘55% of a thought’ because that means absolutely nothing to me.

      • Again, damage to the brain can alter or limit what the soul is able to do, but it doesn’t mean you have less of a person if you damage their brain. That’s what I mean by the self not having parts or properties. The brain does have both parts and properties. Based on the law of identity, we can conclude that the self and the brain are not equal.

        That’s all I need to establish for the burden of proof to be fulfilled, because as I’ve said time and time again, we’re looking for adequate reasons to believe, not 100% certainty. If you’re looking for 100% certainty, ignore history and most of science.

        You can’t quantify a thought and assign it spatial relationships. That’s why you can’t have 55% of a thought. But you have mass and spatial relationships for a brain, and so you can partition out 55% of a brain with relative ease. Again, law of identity means that the brain and the thought are not equal. Therefore, you are not your brain. Same evidentiary reasoning and burden fulfilled.

  3. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    Okay so if I receive damage to the part of my brain that is devoted to recognising faces, does my soul still recognise faces or not?

    I’m sorry but that is not enough to fulfil the burden of proof. Firstly your proposition is unfalsifiable, unless you can think of an experiment which would establish that. You’re positing something that cannot be demonstrated, there would be no way of telling if it is true, so it is essentially meaningless to science. It is as if I were arguing that gravity is actually caused by completely undetectable angels which pull things down to the ground – because there would be no observable difference if my proposition were true, or if it were false, it is an utterly unscientific proposition. Because of this your burden of proof could never be met sufficiently.

    But your proposition doesn’t make any sense unless you explain what you mean by 55% of a thought. I can think of the sentence: Today I went for a. Is that what you mean by 55% of a thought? Some things cannot be quantified in percentages because it doesn’t make sense, for example I cannot say that this post is 49% long, but I can remove 49% of it, or I cannot say that I only had 14% sleep last night but I could have slept for 14% less time than I did, just because it doesn’t make sense to quantify some aspect of something as a percentage whilst it does with another aspect of it doesn’t mean that those things must be separate. Your argument really isn’t sufficient to prove anything.

    Reply

    • “Okay so if I receive damage to the part of my brain that is devoted to recognising faces, does my soul still recognise faces or not?”

      If you lose your car’s steering wheel, does that mean you forgot how to drive? Answer that and you’ll have my answer to your question.

      “Firstly your proposition is unfalsifiable, unless you can think of an experiment which would establish that.”

      If I was making a scientific argument, I could see that. But given that this is an evidentiary argument, I only need adequate reasons to make such a claim. And I’ve given those.

      “But your proposition doesn’t make any sense unless you explain what you mean by 55% of a thought.”

      What I mean is that a thought is either a “1” or a “0.” You either have a thought or you don’t. You can’t have part of a thought. You can’t quantify a thought by breaking it down into parts. But you can certainly do that to your brain. By law of identity, you are not your brain. This is a pretty simple concept.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 7:17 AM

        Just to get a bit more understanding of how you view the brain, what do you think would happen if you removed 55% of someone’s brain?

        Okay here’s some more questions for you.

        1. How does the immaterial soul interact with the material? If you drink three glasses of whiskey, does your soul get drunk too? If so how does the interaction from purely material causes to consciousness take place?

        2. How does an intention transfer from the immaterial to the material body take place? If my ‘immaterial soul’ intends to press a key on my keyboard, how does that transfer to my body?

        Without convincing answers to these questions there isn’t really any point taking you seriously.

      • I’m not sure what would happen. I’m not a neurosurgeon.

        1. If a car gets sprayed with a hose, does that mean the driver gets wet too?

        2. I’m not trying to posit the “how” here, though it seems like a person’s will would initiate some desire to perform a function, which it then passes on to the brain and the brain performs the necessary functions to complete the task. But I’m not even taking it that far in this post. I’m simply saying that there are excellent evidentiary reasons to believe that the self and the brain are not identical, several of which I’ve given.

        “Without convincing answers to these questions there isn’t really any point taking you seriously.”

        Are you ever willing to actually take me seriously, or are your pre-suppositional biases clouding your objectivity? Why do I need to give you a convincing answer when “I don’t know” is a sufficient answer for you when prodded on an initial cause to the universe? Sounds a bit hypocritical.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 10:09 AM

        Well it would depend on where you make the cut. I mean remove the front 10% or so of the brain and you will be scarcely capable of thought. If you removed the left hemisphere you’d lose a great deal of your language function. The simple fact of the matter is that specific areas of the brain are linked with specific functions and when those areas are damaged the function is affected – this strong evidence that we are our brain. Damage to certain brain areas can have a profound impact on our personality, perceptions and memories etc. There simple is not any reason to accept that there is some extra unnecessary magical component to it.

        1. But if the soul doesn’t get drunk why do ‘I’ feel drunk?

        2. Until you can show me a disembodied self there is no reason to take anything you’ve said, just on your say so.

        There are no evidential reasons, most people who are aware of the evidence discard dualism as a outdated concept that simply doesn’t account for the facts. You can go on about the brain being some kind of receiver for the soul all you want, but all of the facts are explained equally well without that assumption. If you have a lobotomy and you become a scarcely human zombie incapable of language or complex thought, what reason is there to assume that the thoughts were anything other than a product of that part of the brain? There’s no solid scientific reason to accept that the thoughts are still going on somewhere in mystical lala land. Show me a disembodied thought and I might start to listen, until then it just sounds like a fantasy to me.

      • Again, see my car analogy. That’s like you saying that if you take the engine out of a car, it affects the driver differently than if you were to remove the tires. The functionality is different, but it doesn’t make you any less of a person in essence. You’re missing the distinction here.

        1. Because you’ve created an alteration to the brain that limits or alters what the soul is able to externalize with it. It’s like putting your hand under a strainer — you’ve affected how the water is able to go through the strainer, but it doesn’t mean that the water and the strainer are the same thing.

        2. So you deny the possibility of out-of-body experiences? You believe that’s a 100% impossibility?

        Again you miss my point. I’m NOT making a scientific argument; I’m making an evidentiary one. It’s the difference between requiring proof and requiring adequate evidence, and you fail to see that distinction. Go fix your burden, because that’s not the level required to satisfy all other evidential arguments. It sounds like fantasy to you because you’re biased. At least admit that.

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 11:38 AM

        Your car analogy is flawed because you’re presupposing the driver, where we don’t know if there is the equivalent when it comes to the brain. I’d say it is more like removing the parts on a robot, you might take off some of the casing or the unimportant parts and it still works, but remove the motor etc and it ceases to work.

        With regards to outer body experiences, I don’t doubt that people can have hallucinations of drifting out of their bodies, however I see no reason to accept that it is anything other than this. We know for example that inhibiting the right frontoparietal regions using the drug ketamine causes someone to have an out of body experience [1] – strongly indicating that it is due to this part of the brain naturally being inhibited rather than anything supernatural. I would not say that it is 100% impossible, however this evidence gives a far more plausible explanation.

        You’re making a scientific claim, that there is an immaterial aspect to the self which somehow beams itself into the brain and creates the person. This claim would require a scientific level of evidence in order for it to be accepted, you haven’t met that, therefore there isn’t any reason to accept it.

        I am biased towards the standards of science in this case because you’re making a scientific claim, and this standard is the standard against which all scientific claims are measured, if you don’t like that then don’t make claims of a scientific nature.

      • My car analogy works to describe how the soul, if it exists, relates to the brain. I’m pre-supposing it because I was asked to explain that relationship. The blog post gave the evidence for why there is good reason to believe that the self exists independently of the brain.

        You continually show me that altering the brain is possible, but I’m not arguing brain alterations. I’m arguing that the self doesn’t have parts, but the brain does. What is so hard to understand about that?

        I didn’t make a scientific claim. I made a claim that the self and the brain are different, and I backed that up with evidence. Do you now get to decide what claims I make too? If you’re going to come here and attack me, at least attack what I was actually saying, instead of what you think you can argue against.

  4. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Well you asked me whether I accept OBE’s and I gave an explanation for how these can happen without needing to posit the existence of a soul.

    Can you define the self?

    I personally think that the self is made up of different parts. Memories make up part of who we are, yet we can still have that part of our ‘self’ removed and still be said to have a self. Beliefs make up another aspect of who we are, yet I can change beliefs without having to change my memories, or other aspects of myself. A large part of myself is defined by my interactions with other people and the associations I have with them, yet I could suffer a stroke and lose my ability to recognise the faces those who are special to me, yet I am still me despite having that part of my self disabled. Another aspect of my ‘self’ is my body image, yet I can develop a disorder in which my self image is affected (anorexia for example) and this doesn’t other aspects of my self. All this points to a self which is a conglomerate of different aspects – which is entirely consistent with the view that my self is defined by interactions between different parts of my brain rather than being some abstract indivisible entity which is channelled through my brain.

    Do you accept that your memories make up an aspect of your self? If so then what happens to someone who develops severe memory loss? Surely this represents someone who loses an aspect of their self, showing that the self is in fact a conglomerate of parts rather than an indivisible whole.

    You have made a scientific claim. You are positing that rather than the brain being responsible for creating the self, there is an abstract indivisible component which feeds into the brain, any claim made about reality in such a way is a scientific claim. Just as if I were to claim that there is another element to gravity which we haven’t yet detected – this is resolutely a scientific claim, and would therefore require a scientific standard of evidence before it is accepted as fact. I couldn’t just ‘prove’ it with a logical argument, you’d need a lot more than that to win the Nobel prize. If you’re positing that something such as the soul exists in reality then you’re making a scientific claim.

    Reply

    • I agree that memories are thoughts, and are therefore a state of consciousness. But a conscious state is not a brain state. As you stated yourself, you can remove memories and still have a self. Therefore, the self doesn’t have parts, but is able to move between conscious states. The way memories are “removed” is by an alteration or a damaging of the brain, so the self is incapable of accessing the functionality of that piece of the brain. It doesn’t mean the memory is gone, though; it just means that it can’t be accessed. It also doesn’t show that you can have half of a memory, so it’s not like the memory has parts, but the brain does.

      In order to show that the memory is the brain, you need to show that everything true of the memory is true of the brain (law of identity). Yet if you had a memory of your grandmother wearing a red dress, you have the awareness of red in your memory, but you can’t find the awareness of red within the brain. That is strong evidence that not everything true of A (the memory) is true of B (the brain), therefore, A is different from B, and therefore the memory is not the same as the brain.

      Body image is a belief, which is also a conscious state. But you can’t have half of a belief, or a quarter of a belief. A belief is an all-or-nothing proposition. You can have weak belief or strong belief, but you can’t have partial belief.

      IT IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC CLAIM. Get over it already. It’s an evidentiary claim, because I’m making a philosophical argument. Notice that I’m using the law of identity, which is a logical argument, not a scientific one. Stop making it into something it’s not. The world is not “science or nothing.” That’s simply your bias talking.

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 9, 2012 at 4:51 PM

        How do you know that people who suffer from severe memory loss have only lost access to their memories rather than the memories themselves? It is a massive assumption to make.

        Sure you can have half of a memory, in fact I’d say that is true of many memories, and I’m sure you could even quantify this. Write down everything that you do tomorrow in the evening and put it in a sealed envelope and keep it somewhere safe. 3 months later write down what you can remember from that day and compare it to what you wrote down on the evening of that day. You could even quantify how much of that memory you had lost as a percentage by doing this. So you could if you were so inclined carry out a test to see by what percentage your memory had decreased over time, if it is over 50% you can quite reasonably say that what you have there is half a memory.

        “but you can’t find the awareness of red within the brain.”

        Says who?

        You’re arguing for the existence of something, if you argue for the existence of something it can be treated as a scientific claim. Let me ask you this, if a study was carried out that lends strong support to your argument, would you ignore it or use it to prove your point?

        Okay and another question, is the transmission from the soul to the brain instantaneous? Once I consciously decide to press a key does that transfer to my brain in an instant?

      • You’re right on the access to memories. It’s an assumption that I can’t verify. I have no problem admitting that. But when the evidence shows that the memory and the brain are not the same (law of identity), then one can at least reasonably make the assumption that brain damage doesn’t affect the memory, but only the access to that memory. It’s a logical assumption to make, but to your point, one I can’t verify.

        Your test on memory is a test on recall of the memory, not the memory itself. It’s not like if you can’t recall the color of a shirt in a memory, that person wasn’t wearing a shirt. A memory is based on the experience–you’re only focused on the recall. They’re two different things.

        [“but you can’t find the awareness of red within the brain.”

        Says who?]

        Ok, can you dissect a brain and show me where the awareness of red is? Or can you only show me neurons? Because I believe that neurons respond to the conscious state of awareness, but that the conscious state and the neurons are not the same. If you believe they are the same, then there should be a physical quantity of the awareness of red that is not a neuron.

        So if I argue for the existence of Socrates, we would have to examine that scientifically by testing it, observing his life, repeating his existence? Arguing for the existence of something doesn’t necessarily fall in the realm of science. And when I’m using a logical argument, it falls in the realm of a philosophical claim, which requires evidentiary discovery, not scientific methodology.

        As to your final question, I’ll admit I don’t know. I’ll do some research to see if anyone has commented or established an opinion on this matter, but for now I don’t have a good answer to give you.

  5. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    “Your test on memory is a test on recall of the memory, not the memory itself. It’s not like if you can’t recall the color of a shirt in a memory, that person wasn’t wearing a shirt. A memory is based on the experience–you’re only focused on the recall. They’re two different things.”

    I’d be interested to know what you’d make of phenomena in which people have been ‘encouraged’ to remember things that never happened. There are some well known cases in which people have been put under hypnosis and then been encouraged under subtle suggestion to believe that they really were molested as a child, or abducted by aliens. How do you propose that a false memory is inserted into the soul? There is no recall in these situations because they never happened, yet people can become convinced that they did.

    “Ok, can you dissect a brain and show me where the awareness of red is? Or can you only show me neurons? Because I believe that neurons respond to the conscious state of awareness, but that the conscious state and the neurons are not the same. If you believe they are the same, then there should be a physical quantity of the awareness of red that is not a neuron.”

    No because that isn’t how the brain works, the awareness of the colour red might take place in two or more different distinct regions in the brain, there isn’t any one part that you could cut out and say ‘this is where the awareness of red is stored’.

    What you can do however is give someone a brain scan as you show them different colours, you could then see which parts of the brain are active when they are ‘aware’ of the colour red.

    Can you clarify what you mean by a ‘physical quantity of the awareness of red that is not a neuron’? That doesn’t make sense to me, and I am unsure as to why it is that I’d need to demonstrate that.

    “So if I argue for the existence of Socrates, we would have to examine that scientifically by testing it, observing his life, repeating his existence? Arguing for the existence of something doesn’t necessarily fall in the realm of science. And when I’m using a logical argument, it falls in the realm of a philosophical claim, which requires evidentiary discovery, not scientific methodology.”

    You failed to answer my question though. If an experiment were carried out which gave support to your views, would you or would you not incorporate that into your argument?

    “As to your final question, I’ll admit I don’t know. I’ll do some research to see if anyone has commented or established an opinion on this matter, but for now I don’t have a good answer to give you.”

    I’m interested to see what you come up with for this.

    Reply

    • “I’d be interested to know what you’d make of phenomena in which people have been ‘encouraged’ to remember things that never happened.”

      Interesting, but not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about ACTUAL memories, and saying you can’t have half of a memory. I’m not talking about altering the brain state to put in false memory. So while what you are offering is an interesting case study, for the purpose of our conversation it’s completely irrelevant.

      “No because that isn’t how the brain works, the awareness of the colour red might take place in two or more different distinct regions in the brain…”

      But can you show me a physical piece (not a neuron) where even part of this awareness of red is stored? Can I physically see it? If not, then the law of identity means that sensations and the brain are not equal (since I can physically see the brain), and therefore evidence for something else. The law of identity states that everything that is true of one thing must be true of the other if they are identical. We can’t “see” the awareness of red–we can only see neurons firing in response to it. That is what I mean.

      “If an experiment were carried out which gave support to your views, would you or would you not incorporate that into your argument?”

      It’s an irrelevant question. It wouldn’t change the nature of the claim, just where I got the evidence used to support it. That’s what you’re failing to understand.

      “I’m interested to see what you come up with for this.”

      Why does it even matter?

      Reply

  6. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    “Interesting, but not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about ACTUAL memories, and saying you can’t have half of a memory. I’m not talking about altering the brain state to put in false memory. So while what you are offering is an interesting case study, for the purpose of our conversation it’s completely irrelevant.”

    You say you can’t have half a memory, but I really don’t know what you’re trying to prove with this. You can’t have 40% of a piece of string, at least not without some idea of how long the original piece was. It doesn’t make sense to quantify some things in that manner. I’m not sure what that proves. If I went to a 4 hour event, and I only remembered 2 of the hours I was there then you could say I remembered 50% of it, or if I remembered 50% of the things that happened at the event you could say I only remembered 50% of it, but no matter how much of it I do remember the memory itself could never be classified as half a memory because that is a nonsensical proposition to start with. I can say you ‘can’t have half a bubble’ – it doesn’t prove that their origin is supernatural just because you can’t quantify them in that way. I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove in saying that.

    “But can you show me a physical piece (not a neuron) where even part of this awareness of red is stored? Can I physically see it? If not, then the law of identity means that sensations and the brain are not equal (since I can physically see the brain), and therefore evidence for something else. The law of identity states that everything that is true of one thing must be true of the other if they are identical. We can’t “see” the awareness of red–we can only see neurons firing in response to it. That is what I mean.”

    I’m still not sure what you’re trying to prove, I mean I could take a car and say can you show me without pointing to a particular part of the car, where the forward momentum is stored? You can’t physically see it therefore the forward momentum of the car cannot be caused by the car itself.

    “It’s an irrelevant question. It wouldn’t change the nature of the claim, just where I got the evidence used to support it. That’s what you’re failing to understand.”

    It would change the nature of the claim, if you would use scientific evidence to support it then it would be a scientific claim. So it would be a scientific claim, at least when it is convenient for it to be so…

    “Why does it even matter?”

    Because it would explain how the brain and the soul might interact with each other…

    Reply

    • But with memories, I’m not trying at this step to prove supernaturalism. I’m simply trying say that a memory is not identical to the brain. You can’t take a knife and cut a memory in two, but you can do that to a brain. Law of identity states that everything true of A must be true of B for them to be identical, and the brain and a memory are not identical given such circumstances. That means memories must come from somewhere else.

      To your car analogy, what your position would be likened to is asserting that forward momentum and the car are the same thing. See the difference?

      Even if we don’t know how the brain and soul interact with each other, still what does that mean? “We don’t know yet” is a perfectly reasonable answer for you to give in other realms of debate.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    The first major problem with your argument is that you assume ‘non-physical’ to mean ‘metaphysical’ without allowing for the notion of the non-physical to be an abstraction.

    You assume that physical (i.e consisting of matter) processes cannot give rise to non-physical phenomena, yet this is not true. Gravity is not made of matter – so it’s non-physcial, yet it arises due to mass – a sufficient amount of matter. Electricity is not made of matter, it is described as the ‘flow’ of electrons, but it is not the electrons themselves, it is another example of the physical creating something non-physical. Magnetism is non-physical… I think your notion that non-physical cannot arise from the physical is a fallacy.

    Thoughts are caused by electro-biochemical processes in the brain. It is fallacious to assume that a non-physical thought can only arise from a non-physical realm. Non-physical abstractions of physical phenomena occur all the time, gravity, electricity and magnetism attest to this. The non-physicality of electricity or magnetism does not mean that electricity and magnetism arise from the metaphysical.

    Reply

    • I would disagree. You’re discussing forces (magnetic force, gravitational force, electric force) which are based on waves that have physical processes. But regardless, we’re not talking about these things. We’re talking about the brain. And the brain is composed of matter and has mass. You can physically separate a brain into parts. You can’t do that with a memory or a belief. And again, the law of identity states that EVERYTHING true of one must be true of another, or the two are not identical. This fails to meet that standard.

      I also disagree with your statement about thoughts. How do you know? If neurons fire when you have a thought, how do you know that the neurons are not responding to an immaterial soul that houses the conscience. You can’t say for certainty that the brain is the creator, not the processor. We’ve had this discussion before. So the positive claim “Thoughts are caused by electro-biochemical processes in the brain” carries an extremely high burden of proof, and one I don’t think you’ll be able to make. It is my belief that brain scans show the effect of a thought, not the cause. But since you made the initial claim, I’ll leave it to you to prove otherwise.

      Reply

  8. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    “I would disagree. You’re discussing forces (magnetic force, gravitational force, electric force) which are based on waves that have physical processes.”

    Gravity is not based on waves, it is a non-physical abstraction of physical processes. Electricity is the flow of electrons, its not waves, its a non-physical abstraction of physical processes.

    “But regardless, we’re not talking about these things. We’re talking about the brain. And the brain is composed of matter and has mass. You can physically separate a brain into parts. You can’t do that with a memory or a belief. And again, the law of identity states that EVERYTHING true of one must be true of another, or the two are not identical. This fails to meet that standard.”

    Gravity is a non-physical abstraction of mass. Take a planet for example, a planet is composed of matter and has mass. You can physically separate a planet into parts (at least theoretically), but you can’t physically separate gravity into parts. It does not follow that because you can separate a planet into parts, but not gravity, that gravity therefore is not an abstraction from the physical mass of the planet.

    Electricity is a non-physical abstraction of electrons, it is defined by the flow of electrons, however there is no fundamental constituent of electricity, it is immaterial in that sense. You can take one circuit of a particular length and half it to make two circuits, yet you cannot cut electricity in half. It does not follow that because you can cut a circuit in half, but not electricity that the electricity is not a non-physical abstraction of the flow of electrons through the wire.

    The magnetism is a non-physical abstraction of physical matter. You can cut a magnet in half, but you cannot cut magnetism in half… You catch my drift by now

    Your argument is a non-sequitur.

    “I also disagree with your statement about thoughts. How do you know? If neurons fire when you have a thought, how do you know that the neurons are not responding to an immaterial soul that houses the conscience. You can’t say for certainty that the brain is the creator, not the processor. We’ve had this discussion before. So the positive claim “Thoughts are caused by electro-biochemical processes in the brain” carries an extremely high burden of proof, and one I don’t think you’ll be able to make. It is my belief that brain scans show the effect of a thought, not the cause. But since you made the initial claim, I’ll leave it to you to prove otherwise.”

    I admit that I don’t know with 100% certainty that thoughts are electro-biochemical processes in the brain. But in as much as we can measure that is what they are – the burden of proof for that exists entirely. Its not my burden of proof to disprove that there is something else to it, that’s your burden of proof to show that. That would be like me saying its a huge burden of proof for you to show that gravity is not caused by invisible, undetectable, supernatural unicorns. It doesn’t work like that.

    Reply

    • So you’re still using physical processes by which to measure the forces. Not doing so with a belief or a memory. Argument is still the same.

      “It does not follow that because you can separate a planet into parts, but not gravity, that gravity therefore is not an abstraction from the physical mass of the planet.”

      No but it does show that gravity and the planet are not the same thing. Which is the entire point of my post.

      “But in as much as we can measure that is what they are – the burden of proof for that exists entirely.”

      How can you measure that the firing of neurons is a cause and not an effect? I’d love to see this.

      “That would be like me saying its a huge burden of proof for you to show that gravity is not caused by invisible, undetectable, supernatural unicorns.”

      It would be if I made such a positive claim. I didn’t. You did.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 13, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    “So you’re still using physical processes by which to measure the forces. Not doing so with a belief or a memory. Argument is still the same.”

    Yes, but I’m saying that just as gravity, electricity and magnetism are non-physical (i.e. not constituted of matter) abstractions of physical (constituted of matter) phenomena, thought is a non-physical abstraction of physical phenomena, namely the electro-biochemical processes of the brain.

    Gravity is not made of stuff, you can’t give me half a piece of gravity. Its not physical in that sense it has no material construct, yet it arises as an abstraction from the physical (the mass of a lot of matter – which you can give me half of). This demonstrates that your notion of physical only being able to give rise to physical, and metaphysical only giving rise to non-physical is a false dichotomy. The non-physical can be an abstraction of the physical. It does not follow that because a thought is non-physical that it can only come from a metaphysical source, it can be an abstraction of physical processes.

    In short, non-physical does not mean metaphysical, non-physical things can be an abstraction of the physical.

    “No but it does show that gravity and the planet are not the same thing. Which is the entire point of my post.”

    I never said the brain and the thought are the same thing. The thought is a non-physical abstraction of brain activity, just as gravity is a non-physical abstraction of the mass of an object.

    “How can you measure that the firing of neurons is a cause and not an effect? I’d love to see this.”

    Well, there’s not any reason to assume that it is an effect of some unseen cause. I don’t have to prove that neurons firing is not an effect. You can’t prove that thought is not the product of interdimensional beings belching, it doesn’t mean you have to entertain that notion in any serious matter. At least not until some evidence is shown.

    “It would be if I made such a positive claim. I didn’t. You did.”

    I claim that until proven otherwise there is no good reason to assume that thought is anything other than the electo-biochemical processes in the brain that we can measure. The burden of proof for this is met very well, and I am open to change my mind if some scientific evidence comes in showing that there is more to thought than that.

    Reply

    • But the law of gravity doesn’t cease to exist if two planets using it cease to exist. This shows that the planets are not the cause of gravitational force, but the effect of its power. Likewise, a thought doesn’t cease to exist if the brain does, if you consider it a non-physical abstraction like gravity or magnetism. Same rule must apply.

      By the way, nice backtrack from your positive claim. However, you said “I never said the brain and the thought are the same thing,” and then you said, “thought is … the electo-biochemical processes in the brain that we can measure.” Those sound like contradictory statements to me. Is thought a part of the brain, or a non-physical abstraction? Either way, your logic fails, but the fact that you talk out of both sides of your mouth makes your case seem even weaker.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    “But the law of gravity doesn’t cease to exist if two planets using it cease to exist. This shows that the planets are not the cause of gravitational force, but the effect of its power. Likewise, a thought doesn’t cease to exist if the brain does, if you consider it a non-physical abstraction like gravity or magnetism. Same rule must apply.”

    Yes but the gravitational force created by those two planets ceases to exist. Just as if I die my thoughts cease to exist, but yours don’t.

    Also it wasn’t meant to be a complete analogy, I was merely demonstrating that physical can give rise to non-physical. I wasn’t saying that thought is directly analogous to gravity. I never claimed that the same rule must apply to all non-physical abstractions, gravity certainly doesn’t follow the same rules as magnetism. My point is to demonstrate this: non-physical is not necessarily derived from the metaphysical. That is all I need to show to demonstrate that your argument is baloney.

    “By the way, nice backtrack from your positive claim. However, you said “I never said the brain and the thought are the same thing,””

    I can only apologise for not being clear with my wording. I never held the position that a thought and the brain are physically the same thing. The gist of what I was trying to say is that thoughts are caused by the brain and take place in the brain – until there is convincing reasons to believe otherwise, I see no reason to accept that there is anything more to it.

    ““thought is … the electo-biochemical processes in the brain that we can measure.” Those sound like contradictory statements to me. Is thought a part of the brain, or a non-physical abstraction? Either way, your logic fails, but the fact that you talk out of both sides of your mouth makes your case seem even weaker.”

    Thought is a non-physical abstraction of brain activity, sorry for not being clear and concise on that earlier. I can assure you that it was never my intention to assert that thought is the same thing as the brain.

    Care to explain how the logic fails rather than just asserting that it does?

    Your logic is failed because your assertion that non-physical things must necessarily have non-physical causes is flawed. It does not follow that a thought being something non-physical, means it has to come from something non-physical such as a soul. Non-physical things can have physical causes. I’ve demonstrated this to be so.

    If your assertion that non-physical can only come from a non-physical cause then surely the logic must also work the other way around? Something physical can only come from a physical cause. This logic taken to it’s extreme can be used to refute the existence of God, because if those rules apply then something physical (the universe) cannot be caused by something non-physical (God). But if you’re willing to admit that non-physical can cause the physical, then you have to admit that the physical can cause the non-physical.

    Your argument fails on some very simple logic.

    Reply

    • “Just as if I die my thoughts cease to exist, but yours don’t.”

      Do they? Seems to me some people thought the world was round long before they proved it. Does that mean their thoughts died or didn’t die? I honestly don’t know. So I don’t think we can really make that judgment. I’m also not convinced that the gravitational force ceases to exist, but perhaps just gets focused elsewhere. Maybe I’m wrong on that front.

      “That is all I need to show to demonstrate that your argument is baloney.”

      If my argument in this blog was to say non-physical must come from non-physical. That wasn’t the goal.

      “The gist of what I was trying to say is that thoughts are caused by the brain and take place in the brain – until there is convincing reasons to believe otherwise, I see no reason to accept that there is anything more to it.”

      So your belief doesn’t require proof, but you expect it from me? Nice.

      “Non-physical things can have physical causes. I’ve demonstrated this to be so.”

      I don’t think you have. You’ve talked about non-physical abstractions, but the things you reference still have physical properties. You can measure the degree of gravitational, magnetic, or electrical force, therefore these things are not non-physical. Non-physical would have to be completely absent of physical properties, like emotions or thoughts. The fundamental forces don’t fall into this range, and therefore would not be considered non-physical. So you’ve shown nothing.

      “But if you’re willing to admit that non-physical can cause the physical, then you have to admit that the physical can cause the non-physical.”

      No, that’s not how it works, unfortunately. That’s like saying if a ball is blue, then whatever is blue must be a ball. Just because something is true doesn’t mean its inverse is true too. Not in logic, or in science for that matter. Flawed reasoning.

      What you haven’t shown to be even close to true is that thoughts are electrochemical processes in the brain. You’re simply saying that you have no good reason not to believe it. But you can’t prove it, therefore you’re simply taking it on faith. If you want to take it on faith, that’s your right, but don’t pretend like you have some superior line of thinking or are more rationally grounded in this argument.

      Reply

  11. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 15, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    “If my argument in this blog was to say non-physical must come from non-physical. That wasn’t the goal.”

    Yes, but your argument is predicated upon the following; something physical (the brain) cannot give rise to something non-physical (a thought). You’re saying that because a thought is not a physical ‘thing’ that you can divide, yet the brain is, then it follows that the thought cannot be caused by the brain. This is a fallacy.

    “So your belief doesn’t require proof, but you expect it from me? Nice.”

    Well I have an awful lot of proof to show that thoughts are electro-biochemical processes in the brain. I can show brain scans, I can demonstrate that brain injury and strokes have a profound affect on a person etc. Anything beyond that is speculation at best. If you want to show that thought is sometime more than what I’ve described then you need proof, without proof there simply is no reason to accept it.

    “I don’t think you have. You’ve talked about non-physical abstractions, but the things you reference still have physical properties. You can measure the degree of gravitational, magnetic, or electrical force, therefore these things are not non-physical. Non-physical would have to be completely absent of physical properties, like emotions or thoughts. The fundamental forces don’t fall into this range, and therefore would not be considered non-physical. So you’ve shown nothing.”

    Thoughts have physical properties, they are electro-biochemical signals between neurons. Your assertion that thought has no physical properties whatsoever is demonstrably nonsense, if that were the case then, sitting in a CT scanner and thinking would show no activity. The fact that you do get a reading from doing this shows that thought does have measurable physical properties as does gravity and so on. Just because it doesn’t make sense to talk about having half a thought doesn’t mean thoughts have no-physical properties whatsoever, it doesn’t make sense to talk about having half electricity either, that doesn’t negate it from having some physical properties.

    “What you haven’t shown to be even close to true is that thoughts are electrochemical processes in the brain. You’re simply saying that you have no good reason not to believe it. But you can’t prove it, therefore you’re simply taking it on faith. If you want to take it on faith, that’s your right, but don’t pretend like you have some superior line of thinking or are more rationally grounded in this argument.”

    We can as I said, sit you in a CT scan and observe what happens as you think. We see areas of the brain light up, demonstrating unequivocally that thought has something to do with brain activity. We know that strokes and brain injuries have profound affects on people’s cognitive functions, which further demonstrates that our perception of the world and our thoughts are created in the brain and can be affected by damage. There is no faith involved in my conclusion that unless there is convincing proof to the contrary, this evidence strongly points to our brain being the source of our feelings, emotions, thoughts and perceptions. The fact that we can observe our brain in action, that certain chemicals can alter our emotions, thoughts and perceptions, that damage to our brains can also alter these things is strong evidence in favour of my position. These are perfectly good reasons to accept that, and there are no good reasons to not accept that…

    If you’ve got some contradictory scientific evidence that shows how the brain cannot be all there is to thought then do tell.

    Reply

    • “Yes, but your argument is predicated upon the following; something physical (the brain) cannot give rise to something non-physical (a thought).”

      No it’s not. It’s predicated on the fact that something cannot be both physical and non-physical at the same time. And therefore, if one thing possesses the physical properties and the other thing possesses no physical properties, the two are not the same.

      “Well I have an awful lot of proof to show that thoughts are electro-biochemical processes in the brain.”

      I thought you said that thoughts and the brain are not the same thing. Which is it?

      “Thoughts have physical properties, they are electro-biochemical signals between neurons.”

      Where’s the proof of this positive claim? How can you prove they are the same thing and the neurons are not simply processing a response to stimuli? Again, you have yet to show the brain function as the cause, not the effect. So I’d steer clear of such strong claims if I were you. Besides, this contradicts your previous statements that thoughts and the brain are not the same thing.

      “We can as I said, sit you in a CT scan and observe what happens as you think.”

      Oh so you can see the reaction to a thought in the brain? That would make the brain the effect and not the cause, it would seem. But that would contradict your previous statements as well.

      “The fact that we can observe our brain in action, that certain chemicals can alter our emotions, thoughts and perceptions, that damage to our brains can also alter these things is strong evidence in favour of my position.”

      Not according to your contradictory beliefs that the brain and thoughts are the same, yet not the same. And that the brain is the cause of thoughts, yet the brain is the effect of thoughts based on your CT scan statement. It just sounds like you’re in a muddled mess to me.

      “If you’ve got some contradictory scientific evidence that shows how the brain cannot be all there is to thought then do tell.”

      Perhaps if I was making a scientific claim. But we’ve already established that I’m not, so I guess you’re out of luck.

      Reply

  12. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    “No it’s not. It’s predicated on the fact that something cannot be both physical and non-physical at the same time. And therefore, if one thing possesses the physical properties and the other thing possesses no physical properties, the two are not the same.”

    Firstly I’m going to stop talking about physical and non-physical because I don’t think it makes things clear enough. Henceforth I shall use the following definitions:

    Material: Something consisting of matter, i.e: atoms (a nucleus of protons and neutrons orbited by electrons)

    Non-material: Something not consisting of atoms.

    Now your argument is stating that something material (the brain) cannot be non-material at the same time. Now this is true, but you fail to accept that something non-material can arise from something material. Take one of those wind-up torches for example, the torch is material, yet it gives rise to something non-material (electricity) when you wind it up. Again electricity is non-material because it is defined as a flow of electrons (not the electrons themselves), consequently you cannot divide it into parts and so on.The torch on the other hand you can divide into parts and it is made up of matter. So in the same way that I can say a material object (the torch, or the brain) can give rise to a non-material phenomena (electricity or thought). It is not an assertion that the torch and electricity are the same thing, merely that the electricity is a by product of the mechanics of the torch.

    Going back to your assertion that thoughts have no physical properties, I told you that this is not true. If thoughts had no physical properties then we would not recognise any brain activity if we asked someone to sit and think during a brain scan.

    “I thought you said that thoughts and the brain are not the same thing. Which is it?”

    Thoughts are a product of the brain, much like electricity is a product of the wind-up torch.

    “Where’s the proof of this positive claim? How can you prove they are the same thing and the neurons are not simply processing a response to stimuli? Again, you have yet to show the brain function as the cause, not the effect. So I’d steer clear of such strong claims if I were you. Besides, this contradicts your previous statements that thoughts and the brain are not the same thing.”

    I told you where the proof is. I don’t have to prove that they are NOT simply processing a response to stimuli, just as I don’t have to prove that they are not the result of unicorns dancing in the 12th dimension. Your making the positive claim that there is something additional to those things I mentioned, therefore you have a burden of proof to fulfil. You misunderstand science completely if you think that I have to prove that. You can’t come along with your theory and assert it as true and then respond by saying ‘well you can’t show that it’s NOT true’ – that’s not how it works.

    It doesn’t contradict my statement at all. Thought arises in the brain and you can see it on a brain scan, but that doesn’t mean it is the same thing, any more than the electricity in the torch is same thing as the torch.

    “Oh so you can see the reaction to a thought in the brain? That would make the brain the effect and not the cause, it would seem. But that would contradict your previous statements as well.”

    No you can see the thought occurring in the brain. If you want to posit that it is the ‘reaction to a thought’ you need some additional proof rather than an assertion.

    “Not according to your contradictory beliefs that the brain and thoughts are the same, yet not the same. And that the brain is the cause of thoughts, yet the brain is the effect of thoughts based on your CT scan statement. It just sounds like you’re in a muddled mess to me.”

    My beliefs aren’t contradictory at all you just fail to understand them. When did I argue that the brain is the effect of thoughts? The CT scan argument never made such an assumption and I fail to see how you drew it from that. Your responses are the only muddled mess around here.

    “Perhaps if I was making a scientific claim. But we’ve already established that I’m not, so I guess you’re out of luck.”

    It is a scientific claim, saying that it isn’t doesn’t change that.

    Reply

    • “Again electricity is non-material because it is defined as a flow of electrons (not the electrons themselves), consequently you cannot divide it into parts and so on.”

      I still contend that electricity has physical properties, because the flow of electrons can be stopped. Therefore it possesses the physical property of motion, and is not abstract. But that’s not even the point because we’re arguing different things now. You’re arguing that the material can be the cause of non-material; I’m arguing that they’re not identical, that’s all. And you’ve conceded that.

      “If thoughts had no physical properties then we would not recognise any brain activity if we asked someone to sit and think during a brain scan.”

      Special pleading. No proof that thoughts are the brain activity. Again, the brain activity can be a response to the thought generated in the soul. So no way to make that assertion on your end.

      “I told you where the proof is. I don’t have to prove that they are NOT simply processing a response to stimuli, just as I don’t have to prove that they are not the result of unicorns dancing in the 12th dimension.”

      The way you prove that is to show that thoughts and the brain are identical. You continue to contradict yourself on that point. I’ve given good evidence that they’re not, so I think I’m in a better position here, friend.

      “No you can see the thought occurring in the brain.”

      How? Not on a brain scan, because that shows response to stimuli, and not creation of a thought. I’ve made this point clear.

      “When did I argue that the brain is the effect of thoughts? The CT scan argument never made such an assumption and I fail to see how you drew it from that.”

      When you say that a CT scan shows what happens as you think, the implication is that the CT scan shows the effect of a thought. It lights up certain areas of the brain as a thought. But you don’t actually see the thought on the brain scan. This shows that the brain scan demonstrates cause and effect, not identity. And I don’t know why you continue to argue this when you’ve already said that thoughts and the brain are not the same. That is my entire argument in this post, and you’ve conceded it. What’s the problem here?

      Reply

    • Perhaps we can make this easier by establishing your beliefs on the subject. Answer me this first, and please try to do so as simply as you can: are thoughts and the brain the same thing? Are they identical? Yes or no?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 7:59 AM

        I have already answered that.

        A brain is not a thought.

        A thought is produced by the brain.

        They are not identical, one is the product of the other.

      • Ok my next question was going to be if you believed one was the cause and the other the effect. Your last sentence answered that, so no problems there.

        Now, do you believe it’s possible to have brain activity without a thought? I’m talking about conscious thought, not unconscious thought here. Can you see a brain scan with neurons firing and have the person be completely absent of any thoughts whatsoever?

  13. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    “I still contend that electricity has physical properties, because the flow of electrons can be stopped. Therefore it possesses the physical property of motion, and is not abstract. But that’s not even the point because we’re arguing different things now. You’re arguing that the material can be the cause of non-material; I’m arguing that they’re not identical, that’s all. And you’ve conceded that.”

    Your arguing that A = A and A cannot = not A – which is fine, but it’s irrelevant because I’m not saying A = not A, I’m saying that A gives rise to not A, which is very different to saying that A is the same thing as not A. For example a bird gives rise to a sound, but a bird is not a sound itself. Similarly a brain gives rise to a thought, but a brain is not a thought itself.

    “Special pleading. No proof that thoughts are the brain activity. Again, the brain activity can be a response to the thought generated in the soul. So no way to make that assertion on your end.”

    Yes but even if that is the case it demonstrates that thoughts have physical properties contrary to your assertion. If they had none they would not be detectable in a brain scan.

    “The way you prove that is to show that thoughts and the brain are identical. You continue to contradict yourself on that point. I’ve given good evidence that they’re not, so I think I’m in a better position here, friend.”

    I never proved that thoughts and the brain are the same thing, I was giving evidence that thoughts are created by the brain. Showing that sounds are produced by a bird isn’t the same thing as conceding that the bird is a sound.

    “How? Not on a brain scan, because that shows response to stimuli, and not creation of a thought. I’ve made this point clear.”

    You’ve made it clear that you don’t believe that a brain scan shows the creation of a thought, but your belief counts for nothing without evidence.

    “When you say that a CT scan shows what happens as you think, the implication is that the CT scan shows the effect of a thought. It lights up certain areas of the brain as a thought. But you don’t actually see the thought on the brain scan. This shows that the brain scan demonstrates cause and effect, not identity. And I don’t know why you continue to argue this when you’ve already said that thoughts and the brain are not the same. That is my entire argument in this post, and you’ve conceded it. What’s the problem here?”

    The CT scan shows the parts of the brain that are active in the creation of the thought. Of course you don’t actually see what the person is thinking, but you see the activity in the brain that is responsible for creating the thought.

    Now let me explain how you are wrong more fully. What we see is a construction of our brains. A signal is passed from our retina to the visual centres in the brain, which then process the signal and make sense of it. We can be certain that our brain is responsible for creating our visual sensation of the world because there are various conditions in which our visual perception of the world can be altered. Sufferers of a stroke might lose the ability to recognise faces, or lose the ability to sense movement properly, or fail to be able to categorise objects into anything other than broad categories such as ‘animal’ or ‘plant’ etc. Our visual perception of the world is undoubtedly a product of specific areas of the brain working in coordination with each other to produce a cohesive experience of seeing. This experience of seeing is not the same thing as the brain, rather it is the product of activity in the brain. It doesn’t make sense to talk about dividing up an experience into parts, because even after damage the experience can only ever be a whole in and of itself. This doesn’t mean however that seeing is not a product of brain activity.

    The brain is very capable of creating an abstract cohesive experience of seeing, from the signal it receives and the way it is processed. There is no reason to assume that the case is any different when it comes to thought.

    Reply

    • I’m going to skip this for the time being. I’m not casting off your arguments, but I need to get a better understanding of why you believe so strongly this positive claim you’re making.

      Reply

  14. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    “Now, do you believe it’s possible to have brain activity without a thought? I’m talking about conscious thought, not unconscious thought here. Can you see a brain scan with neurons firing and have the person be completely absent of any thoughts whatsoever?”

    Yes it is possible, because thought is only 1 product of brain activity. For example hearing would necessarily involve brain activity, so would the regulation of breathing and heartbeat, so in short yes, a brain scan would show activity even if you were not thinking.

    Now you might actually be able to do an interesting experiment here. Take an experienced meditator (someone adept at clearing their mind of conscious thought) and ask them to meditate whilst in the CT scan. Once they had reached a certain point in their meditation you could assume that most of the activity you see is ‘baseline’ activity such as sensory perception and bodily function regulation (there probably would be some ‘noise’ because I doubt its possible to be completely free from conscious thought, but you could still get a pretty good baseline). You could then initiate a period of concious thought, say by asking them to come out of meditation and start thinking normally when you ring a bell. You could then compare the images of the brain during meditation and after, and this could be used to demonstrate that there is a significant difference between the brain when engaged in conscious thought and a brain with reduced conscious thought. This would conclusively show a relationship between conscious thought and neural activity.

    Reply

    • That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking if it is possible for brain activity to occur completely devoid of thought, not in conjunction with it. Breathing and hearing are done in conjunction with thought, as far as I know. If there is absolutely no thought, can you still have brain activity? And how is this demonstrated?

      I guess what I might be asking in lay terms is this: is it possible for you to have no thoughts whatsoever? Or are you always thinking?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        I think you need to define ‘thought’ before I can answer that clearly.

        I’m assuming you mean what I’d define as brain activity. When brain activity ceases it is often used as a legal indicator of death, so I’d say that no, so long as you are alive, your brain is always active.

      • That’s not quite what I’m getting at, but I’ll take it for the purpose of what I’m trying to get to.

        Now, is it possible for a person to have thoughts with no brain activity? If a brain scan shows no activity, does that mean a person most assuredly is not thinking about anything? Or is is possible that the person has thoughts but is unable to externalize them? Without any pre-suppositional bias, is that possible?

  15. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    “That’s not quite what I’m getting at, but I’ll take it for the purpose of what I’m trying to get to.

    Now, is it possible for a person to have thoughts with no brain activity? If a brain scan shows no activity, does that mean a person most assuredly is not thinking about anything? Or is is possible that the person has thoughts but is unable to externalize them? Without any pre-suppositional bias, is that possible?”

    Well, considering that lack of brain activity is a legal indicator of death, I’d have to say no, I see no reason to assume one can still continue to think beyond death.

    Lets put it this way, if you did a brain scan on someone and there was nothing on the screen they would be dead. So given that I’d see no reason to assume that thought was still going on.

    Reply

    • Well that’s not entirely true, is it? People are still alive with little to no brain activity, but if they are on life support they are technically still alive. Are we to assume that even though they’re still alive they have no thoughts at all? And without any pre-disposition, how can we make such a claim? People come out of comas all the time talking about being in something like a dream, so it would seem that thoughts are still happening if there is no brain activity. What do you think?

      Reply

      • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 2:36 PM

        I think if there is no brain activity it is a safe assumption that there is no thought because there is no good evidence to suggest that thought is anything other than brain activity.

        We can make such a claim because there has been no demonstrable evidence that there is something more to thought than brain activity, if there were such evidence then I grant that the assumption would no longer be reasonable. Until then it is a perfectly reasonable assumption to make.

        Comas are not the same as brain death, during a coma there is still brain function of differing degrees. If you the brain stops functioning completely you’re not in a coma, you’re dead.

      • “I think if there is no brain activity it is a safe assumption that there is no thought because there is no good evidence to suggest that thought is anything other than brain activity.”

        That’s a pre-suppositional statement, which is what I asked you to avoid. Please try again.

        “If you the brain stops functioning completely you’re not in a coma, you’re dead.”

        So people who are considered brain-dead but still on life support are actually dead?

        My other question is this: if you can’t have thoughts without brain activity, and you can’t have brain activity without thoughts, then how is it possible for the law of cause and effect to take place? In order for cause and effect to work, the cause must be present first and stand-alone. The cause produces the effect; it’s not tied to the effect. But if the brain must have thoughts in order to work, then the cause is tied to the effect, which violates the law of cause-and-effect. How is this possible?

  16. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    “That’s a pre-suppositional statement, which is what I asked you to avoid. Please try again.”

    I wasn’t making any pre-suppositions. I am going by the evidence that we have have, and based upon that evidence I think my statement was a fair one, given no reason to think otherwise. It would be a pre-supposition to say that there is anything more to it without any reasonable evidence to back it up.

    I did say that ‘there is no good evidence to suggest that thought is anything other than brain activity’ – not ‘there is no way thought could possibly be anything other than brain activity’ – which would be a pre-supposition. I think my statement is as honest as I can be on the matter. I’m certainly not going to try again just because you don’t like what I said.

    “So people who are considered brain-dead but still on life support are actually dead? ”

    Well you can keep someone’s organs going artificially for quite some time, and we could have a lengthy discussion about what ‘alive’ actually means given this, but as far as brain activity goes you’d be dead yes.

    “My other question is this: if you can’t have thoughts without brain activity, and you can’t have brain activity without thoughts, then how is it possible for the law of cause and effect to take place? In order for cause and effect to work, the cause must be present first and stand-alone. The cause produces the effect; it’s not tied to the effect. But if the brain must have thoughts in order to work, then the cause is tied to the effect, which violates the law of cause-and-effect. How is this possible?”

    My conscious experience of vision is the culmination of activity in various regions of the brain, so my conscious experience is caused by neural activity. But really it is not a separate entity from the activity itself, the activity creates the experience. It’s conceivable that you could have brain activity that doesn’t produce thoughts (perhaps epilepsy is an example) but, this is not likely to occur because thoughts require energy, so brains that use up valuable energy in activity that does not produce thought (or more accurately, that does not serve a purpose) would be selected against by natural selection, because more efficient brains without unnecessary brain activity would do the job just as well, with less energy input.

    Reply

    • “My conscious experience of vision is the culmination of activity in various regions of the brain, so my conscious experience is caused by neural activity.”

      If I took out your eyes you would have no conscious experience of vision. The eye is the cause of vision, not the brain.

      “It’s conceivable that you could have brain activity that doesn’t produce thoughts”

      I thought you said that it couldn’t. Remember: “When brain activity ceases it is often used as a legal indicator of death, so I’d say that no, so long as you are alive, your brain is always active.” Which is it?

      “this is not likely to occur because thoughts require energy,”

      So this (thoughts requiring energy) would mean thoughts have physical properties that can be measured independently of brain function. Care to show me where you get this info?

      Reply

  17. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 19, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    “If I took out your eyes you would have no conscious experience of vision. The eye is the cause of vision, not the brain.”

    Actually there is more to the experience of vision than that. The experience you have of the visual world around you is constructed by the brain, it is influenced by the input from your eyes but that alone is not sufficient to cause the experience of seeing.

    “I thought you said that it couldn’t. Remember: “When brain activity ceases it is often used as a legal indicator of death, so I’d say that no, so long as you are alive, your brain is always active.” Which is it?”

    That’s not saying all brain activity has to create thought is it? It’s saying that when all activity in the brain ceases you’re declared dead. Being able to have activity in the brain that does not necessarily have a function doesn’t negate this. I never said however that you can have thought without brain activity.

    “So this (thoughts requiring energy) would mean thoughts have physical properties that can be measured independently of brain function. Care to show me where you get this info?”

    In order for cells to carry out their various functions they need to convert glucose into energy (ATP) this is true of all cells, and the brain cells are no exception. If you stop eating and breathing eventually your brain will stop working.

    Reply

    • “Actually there is more to the experience of vision than that.”

      True, but the eye is what gets it started. The cause of the vision experience is the eye, not the brain.

      “I never said however that you can have thought without brain activity.”

      So then are you affirming its opposite? That you can’t have thought without brain activity?

      “In order for cells to carry out their various functions they need to convert glucose into energy (ATP) this is true of all cells, and the brain cells are no exception.”

      That’s great, but I’m asking about thoughts. Show me the literature that says thoughts have energy, not brain cells. I have to ask this because you said that thoughts and the brain are not the same. So you can’t use information about brain cells to reference thoughts.

      Reply

  18. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 20, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    “So then are you affirming its opposite? That you can’t have thought without brain activity?”

    I don’t think that there is any reason to assume that thoughts can occur in an inactive brain. I’d be prepared to change my mind on that if scientific evidence was presented to the contrary.

    “That’s great, but I’m asking about thoughts. Show me the literature that says thoughts have energy, not brain cells. I have to ask this because you said that thoughts and the brain are not the same. So you can’t use information about brain cells to reference thoughts.”

    We thought is created by electo-biochemical processes that occur in the brain, these will be regulated by the activity of cells, and since most metabolic activity uses ATP in all life (an argument for common origin, but that is an aside) then its safe to say that in creating and regulating electro-biochemical processes the brain uses energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate which is a product of glycolysis (the breaking down of glucose). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain#Metabolism

    Reply

    • I’m curious to know what you think about the “Recovery” section of this Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistent_vegetative_state . If a person is able to recover cognitive function in their brain, doesn’t that mean there’s at least a chance that consciousness never left, but was simply unable to externalize itself? Is that even a possibility? Yes or no?

      “We thought is created by electo-biochemical processes that occur in the brain,”

      You’re missing a word or phrase here, but it appears again that you are identifying thoughts as part of the brain again. Can you please stick to one side of the discussion? Either thoughts are part of the brain or they are separate. If they aren’t an actual part of the brain, then making claims about the energy function of the brain means absolutely nothing to this discussion.

      Reply

  19. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    “I’m curious to know what you think about the “Recovery” section of this Wiki article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistent_vegetative_state . If a person is able to recover cognitive function in their brain, doesn’t that mean there’s at least a chance that consciousness never left, but was simply unable to externalize itself? Is that even a possibility? Yes or no?”

    You’re making an over simplification that consciousness is either there or it’s not. The article itself states:

    “Most PVS patients are unresponsive to external stimuli and their conditions are associated with different levels of consciousness. Some level of consciousness means a person can still respond, in varying degrees, to stimulation. A person in a coma, however, cannot. In addition, PVS patients often open their eyes in response to feeding, which has to be done by others; they are capable of swallowing, whereas patients in a coma subsist with their eyes closed (Emmett, 1989).”

    So I’d say that in accordance with the article, consciousness is there, but it is at a different level. When certain levels of consciousness shut down, I see no reason to assume that they are still in operation, just as I see no reason to think that when I turn off and unplug my computer there is some activity going on inside it.

    Or perhaps a better analogy in line with the levels of consciousness, there is no reason to assume that my external hard drive is still active when I disconnect it from my computer.

    “You’re missing a word or phrase here, but it appears again that you are identifying thoughts as part of the brain again. Can you please stick to one side of the discussion? Either thoughts are part of the brain or they are separate. If they aren’t an actual part of the brain, then making claims about the energy function of the brain means absolutely nothing to this discussion.”

    Well the electro-biochemical processes occur in the brain, and they are the result of neurons functioning in a synchronized manner. It is not accurate to say this activity is the brain, it makes more sense to refer to it as a function of the brain. Just as the manufacture of proteins is the function of the ribosome and the tRNA, it doesn’t make sense to say that protein synthesis and the ribosome, or the tRNA are the same thing, and it also doesn’t make sense to say that protein synthesis occurs separately. One is the function of the other.

    They are the result of activity that occurs in the brain, this is not the same as the brain, and it is not entirely separate. The cells use energy to carry out their function – which is to facilitate the electro-biochemical processes in the brain.

    Reply

    • “So I’d say that in accordance with the article, consciousness is there, but it is at a different level.”

      So consciousness can be there without brain activity is what I’m getting from this. Since I’m talking about thought as a state of consciousness, based on this evidence and your agreement with it. this makes it more plausible that the thought generates the brain activity, not the other way around.

      “It is not accurate to say this activity is the brain, it makes more sense to refer to it as a function of the brain.”

      Then you can’t state that thoughts have energy, because the energy you speak of relates to brain activity. You can state that the brain uses energy to carry out functions, but that doesn’t mean the functions themselves have energy. You’re missing a step here.

      Reply

  20. Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on March 21, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    “So consciousness can be there without brain activity is what I’m getting from this. Since I’m talking about thought as a state of consciousness, based on this evidence and your agreement with it. this makes it more plausible that the thought generates the brain activity, not the other way around.”

    No I never said that. Brain activity is still there when people are in vegetative states. If it were not they would be declared brain dead. You’re either trying really hard to misunderstand me deliberately, or you really are struggling.

    “Then you can’t state that thoughts have energy, because the energy you speak of relates to brain activity. You can state that the brain uses energy to carry out functions, but that doesn’t mean the functions themselves have energy. You’re missing a step here.”

    I never said thoughts have energy, I’m saying that it requires energy to think.

    Reply

    • “Brain activity is still there when people are in vegetative states.”

      How? According to the Wiki article: “Patients in a vegetative state may have awoken from a coma, but still have not regained awareness. In the vegetative state patients can open their eyelids occasionally and demonstrate sleep-wake cycles, but completely lack cognitive function.” How are cognitive function and brain activity different?

      “I never said thoughts have energy, I’m saying that it requires energy to think.”

      So this — “It’s conceivable that you could have brain activity that doesn’t produce thoughts (perhaps epilepsy is an example) but, this is not likely to occur because thoughts require energy,” was just poorly worded? And it still goes back to the vegetative state. There’s no evidence of brain activity as I understand it, so where is the energy? This would mean they are having no thoughts, but if there were no thoughts, how could they have thoughts if they come out of a vegetative state? It seems a more unlikely scenario than the one I’m offering, I would say. You have to jump through far fewer hoops if thoughts are the cause and not the effect.

      Reply

  21. Posted by Christopher on March 25, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    In my philosophy class, we are currently talking about mind/body and free will/determinism, so I appreciate the coincidence in timing 😉

    You say that “you can have 80% of a brain, but you can’t have 80% of a person.” I think this begs the question, does it not? Just because I am not conscious of everything my brain does, does not mean that my ‘mind’ isn’t dependent on the brain. What about someone had their prefrontal cortex removed or damaged? Would they still be the same ‘person’? Physically, yes, but personality-wise? The data says ‘no.’

    You say that “if the person and the brain were the same, free will would not be possible.” I agree, which is why I do not think we have free will.

    “And if free will is not possible, then there is no reasonable concept of responsibility. In essence, if we didn’t have free will, there would be no reason we should logically choose to do good things…”
    Sam Harris, in his new book, argues against this:
    “To say that I was responsible for my behavior is simply to say that what I did was sufficiently in keeping with my thoughts, intentions, beliefs, and desires to be considered an extension of them… Judgments of responsibility depend upon the overall complexion of one’s mind, not on the metaphysics of mental cause and effect… We need not have any illusions that a causal agent lives within the human mind to recognize that certain people are dangerous. What we condemn most in another person is _the conscious intention to do harm_… If the accused appears unrepentant and eager to kill again, we need to entertain no notions of free will to consider him a danger to society…”

    But also, you seem to have presented a fallacious Appeal to Consequences. Moral relativism is not relevant to the truth of the identity theory of the mind.

    Reply

    • Thanks for stopping by, Christopher.

      On the “80% of a person,” what I’m discussing is the physical nature. If naturalism is all there is, then the person must be metaphysical in his/her entirety. But if you can’t cut a person’s essence into parts with a knife, but you can cut a person’s brain into parts with a knife, then the law of identity states they are not the same. Ergo, you are not your brain.

      Harris’ argument here makes no sense, because we’re not arguing for whether or not we can tell others are responsible. We’re talking about our own personal responsibility. And if there is no free will, you are not actually making choices, therefore you are not responsible for anything. You can only be responsible for choices that you make. Under determinism, there is no choice, therefore there is no personal responsibility. And if there is no personal responsibility, then there is no good and bad. See, on determinism you must commit to the lack of a moral framework, because one can’t distinguish between good and bad if there is no actual choice to be made.

      Finally, it’s not a fallacious appeal to consequences, because it shows the effect of a complete dependence on naturalistic identity. To say you and your brain are synonymous means there is no morality, again because the physical nature of your essence allows not for free will (it’s just a by-product of brain activity, which is based on matter and chemistry), which means no choices, which means no moral value system. There is no “value” without “choice.”

      Again, thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

      • Posted by Christopher on March 26, 2012 at 2:19 PM

        To make the objection that ‘you can’t cut your mind in half, therefore it must not be a product of the brain’ is a complete non-sequitar. I can’t cut ‘wetness’ in half, or ‘hardness’ in half, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t water or rocks. But it is also contradictory to evidence. When a brain gets damaged, what people commonly refer to ‘the mind’ gets damaged as well.

        You say that Harris’ argument is irrelevant because it is talking about “whether or not we can tell others are responsible. We’re talking about our own personal responsibility.” But that is exactly what I quoted him on. The first sentence I quoted him saying is what it means for himself (or any person) to be responsible. When you say “You can only be responsible for choices that you make.” what would you expect? To be held responsible for choices you don’t make? That is nonsensical. Under determinism you may not make choices in the same sens as free will suggests (although determinism does not mean you don’t make choices), but you are still morally held responsible.

        And yes, Appealing to Consequences is fallacious. If you say something must be so because the conclusion is unwanted, this does not mean that something must be so, it just means that what you want is irrelevant.

      • “To make the objection that ‘you can’t cut your mind in half, therefore it must not be a product of the brain’ is a complete non-sequitar.”

        If that’s what I was saying, sure. But what I’m saying is that the mind and the brain are not identical. I believe the brain function is a product of consciousness, so there is a cause-effect relationship. What I’m saying is that in order for the naturalistic perspective of mind to be true it must be shown to be a physical entity, and I am demonstrating that it is not.

        “I can’t cut ‘wetness’ in half, or ‘hardness’ in half, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t water or rocks.”

        Yes it does. If I asked you to point to hardness, you couldn’t point to a rock and say that it was hardness. You could only say that it was a rock. The rock may be a physical externalization of the concept of hardness, but the two are not equal. Check your thesaurus for confirmation.

        “When you say “You can only be responsible for choices that you make.” what would you expect? To be held responsible for choices you don’t make?”

        What I’m saying is that on determinism there is no “choice.” Responsibility implies choice. Harris’ argument reflects responsibility as we relate to others’ choices, or at least that’s how I read it. You may think you have a choice, but really on determinism, choice is illusory. So if you believe you have choices, then you believe in free will. That’s my position. How do you reconcile choices with determinism?

        Finally, it’s not an appeal to consequences if the conclusion is deductively valid. In this case, the argument would appear as follows:

        1) If the mind and brain are identical, then free will does not exist.
        2) If free will does not exist, then choices and personal responsibility do not exist.
        3) But choices and personal responsibility do exist.
        4) Therefore, free will exists.
        5) Therefore, the mind and brain are not identical.

        This is a hypothetical syllogism that is logically tight, so there is no logical fallacy at play. You can choose to deny any of the premises you like, but it’s not a logical fallacy.

      • Posted by Christopher on March 26, 2012 at 4:23 PM

        “But what I’m saying is that the mind and the brain are not identical. I believe the brain function is a product of consciousness, so there is a cause-effect relationship. What I’m saying is that in order for the naturalistic perspective of mind to be true it must be shown to be a physical entity, and I am demonstrating that it is not.”

        Except your argument presupposes that the mind is separate from the brain. If the mind/brain identity theory is correct, then there is no mind to cut in half. Identity theory does not say that there is a physical brain and a physical mind. It says that ‘mind’ does not exist, and that everything that people attribute to the ‘mind’ is no different than the brain.

        “Yes it does. If I asked you to point to hardness, you couldn’t point to a rock and say that it was hardness. You could only say that it was a rock. The rock may be a physical externalization of the concept of hardness, but the two are not equal. Check your thesaurus for confirmation.”

        Emergent properties do not imply immaterial properties. The wetness of water is an emergent property of H2O, but that doesn’t mean there is an immaterial thing called ‘wetness.’

        “What I’m saying is that on determinism there is no “choice.” Responsibility implies choice. Harris’ argument reflects responsibility as we relate to others’ choices, or at least that’s how I read it. You may think you have a choice, but really on determinism, choice is illusory. So if you believe you have choices, then you believe in free will. That’s my position. How do you reconcile choices with determinism?”

        If by “there is no ‘choice'” you mean “you couldn’t have done otherwise,” then Harris and myself would not disagree. In fact, in Sam Harris’ new book, he explicitly states this (and I hope I do not irritate you by using excessive quotes): “Therefore, while it is true to say that a person would have done otherwise if he had chosen to do otherwise, this does not deliver the kind of free will that most people seem to cherish–because a person’s ‘choices’ merely appear in the mind as though sprung from the void. From the perspective of your conscious awareness, you are no more responsible for the next think you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact you were born into this world… If you pay attention to your inner life, you will see that the emergence of choices, efforts, and intentions is a fundamentally mysterious process. Yes, you can decide to go on a diet–and we know a lot about the variables that will enable you to stick to it–but you cannot know why you were finally able to adhere to this discipline when all your previous attempts failed… Yes, you can do what you want–but you cannot account for the fact that your wants are effective in one case and not in another (and you certainly can’t choose your wants in advance)… You can do what you decide to do–but you cannot decide what you will decide to do… So it’s not that willpower isn’t important or that it is destined to be undermined by biology. Willpower is itself a biological phenomenon. You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline–but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in his moment, and not a scintilla more (or less).”

        But you are also committing the fallacy of equivocation. You say “responsibility implies choice.” Am I responsible for what I think? No. In the sense of being causally responsible, then of course we do not have this. That is practically the definition of determinism. But you later go on to change ‘causally responsible’ to ‘personally responsible’ (or morally responsible, which is what I first quoted Sam Harris saying).

        (Looking at each premise:)
        1) I agree
        2) I disagree. Choice may not exist in the sense that free will implies, but personal responsibility still exists.
        3) I disagree. Choices do not exist, although personal responsibility does.
        4) I disagree. Your argument has not taken into account all of the evidence supporting the mind/brain identity theory and determinism.
        5) I disagree. Even accepting your premises, there are theories of dualism that are deterministic, and theories of identity theory that are libertarian.

      • “Identity theory does not say that there is a physical brain and a physical mind. It says that ‘mind’ does not exist, and that everything that people attribute to the ‘mind’ is no different than the brain.”

        Then you would be able to show me where awareness was in the brain, or consciousness, or a memory. And I’m not talking about neurons firing — I’m talking about the memory itself. It would be a distinct physical entity as a piece of the brain. In order for a memory to be identical with the brain, everything that is true about the brain must be true about the memory (law of identity). Since you and I are both able to see my brain, you and I must both be able to see my actual memory, or the two are not the same. Given that what I’m asking for is impossible, it shows the failure of your theory.

        “The wetness of water is an emergent property of H2O, but that doesn’t mean there is an immaterial thing called ‘wetness.’”

        No, but it does demonstrate that wetness is a property of water, not the same thing as it. That’s what I’m getting at here. The brain and mind have a cause and effect relationship, but they are not identical.

        “But you are also committing the fallacy of equivocation. You say “responsibility implies choice.””

        How are personal responsibility and causal responsibility different? And how can you be responsible for something you didn’t choose to do? Just because Harris can’t explain how a choice is made doesn’t mean that one isn’t made, unfortunately for you.

        Please show me how choices don’t exist, but personal responsibility does exist. You can only disagree with the conclusions in the argument if you deny the premises, because it’s logically valid. According to your rebuttals, you only deny that choices exist, but personal responsibility does exist. Please demonstrate this for me.

  22. Posted by Christopher on March 27, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    “Then you would be able to show me where awareness was in the brain, or consciousness, or a memory. And I’m not talking about neurons firing — I’m talking about the memory itself. It would be a distinct physical entity as a piece of the brain.”

    Identity theory does not posit that there are separate things called ‘memories.’ What you ask me to show you would actually disprove identity theory. When an identity theorist says that ‘memory is nothing more than your brain’ or that ‘happiness is nothing more than a brain state,’ we are not saying there are distinct things called ‘memory’ and ‘happiness’ that correspond to the brain. We are saying they are the brain. (That is supposed to be italicized, if it is, ignore this.) We aren’t saying two things are equal to each other, we’re saying there’s only one thing: The brain.

    “How are personal responsibility and causal responsibility different? ”

    Well, I am not responsible for whether an earthquake happens, but if I know about it in advance and fail to warn anyone, then I would still be personally (morally) responsible. I’m sure you know what ‘causal responsibility’ means, that you caused something; personal (or moral) responsibility is about obligation to our fellow humans. What Sam Harris, and thus myself, are arguing is that ‘causal responsibility’ is not real, but ‘personal (or moral) responsibility’ is.

    “And how can you be responsible for something you didn’t choose to do?”
    Causally, you aren’t. Personally (or morally), this is what I originally quoted Sam Harris saying.

    “Please show me how choices don’t exist…”
    * Benjamin Libet et al. has used EEG to show that the activity in the brain’s motor cortex can be detected roughly 300 milliseconds before a person feels they have the decision to move.
    * Another study used fMRI to watch people press buttons corresponding to a random sequence of letters. The results were that there are two brain regions that contained information about which button subjects would press a full 7 to 10 seconds before the decision was consciously made.
    * Direct readings from the cortex showed that the activity of merely 256 neurons was sufficient to predict with 80% accuracy a person’s decision to move 700 milliseconds before he became aware of it.

    “…but personal responsibility does exist.”

    Consider the following examples of human violence:
    1. A four-year-old boy was playing with his father’s gun and killed a young woman. The gun had been kept loaded and unsecured in a dresser drawer.
    2. A 12-year-old boy who had been the victim of continual physical and emotional abuse took his father’s gun and intentionally shot and killed a young woman because she was teasing him.
    3. A 25-year-old man who had been the victim of continual abuse as a child intentionally shot and killed his girlfriend because she left him for another man.
    4. A 25-year-old man who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.”
    5. A 25-year-old man who had been raised by wonderful parents and never abused intentionally shot and killed a young woman he had never met “just for the fun of it.” An MRI of the man’s brain revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in his medial prefrontal cortex (a region responsible for the control of emotion and behavioral impulses).
    In each case a young woman died, and in each case her death was the result of events arising in the brain of another human being… How can we make sense of these gradations of moral responsibility when brains and their background influences are in every case, and to exactly the same degree, the real cause of a woman’s death? We need not have any illusions that a causal agent lives within the human mind to recognize that certain people are dangerous. What we condemn most in another person is the conscious intention to do harm… If the accused appears unrepentent and eager to kill again, we need entertain no notions of free will to consider him a danger to society… The point is not that you are the ultimate and independent cause of your actions; the point is that, for whatever reason, you have the mind of a regicide.” – Sam Harris

    Reply

    • “We aren’t saying two things are equal to each other, we’re saying there’s only one thing: The brain.”

      And how do you go about proving this?

      “I’m sure you know what ‘causal responsibility’ means, that you caused something; personal (or moral) responsibility is about obligation to our fellow humans. What Sam Harris, and thus myself, are arguing is that ‘causal responsibility’ is not real, but ‘personal (or moral) responsibility’ is.”

      So if I killed you I’ve failed in moral responsibility but not causal responsibility? I didn’t actually cause your death? Sounds absurd.

      “Causally, you aren’t. Personally (or morally), this is what I originally quoted Sam Harris saying.”

      How can you be personally responsible to your fellow man if you have no say in the outcome? If you failed to warn your earthquake victims, you had no say in the outcome or in your inability to warn them, so how can you be responsible for their deaths if you’re not responsible for your failure? You didn’t have a choice to fail to warn them or not, so how are you responsible to them?

      “* Benjamin Libet et al. has used EEG to show that the activity in the brain’s motor cortex can be detected roughly 300 milliseconds before a person feels they have the decision to move.”

      All three of these show a choice can be detected before made, not that a choice doesn’t exist. What you’ve demonstrated because you use terms like “decision” is that there is choice, not an absence of it. Thanks for making my point for me.

      “What we condemn most in another person is the conscious intention to do harm…”

      And on what basis do we condemn it? Probably that causal agent that defines morality, which the theist posits as God. Harris has failed to provide a moral ontology in this instance, so we don’t really have an objective foundation for his entire moral landscape. Besides, how can we condemn someone who has no say in their actions to kill. After all, they didn’t have a choice, so how can we condemn them?

      Do you see the problem with such a belief that choice is illusory? It means we have no ontological basis for calling anything right or wrong, which shatters responsibility, personal or causal. This is a fundamental flaw in the belief system of determinism.

      Reply

      • Posted by Christopher on March 30, 2012 at 3:20 PM

        And how do you go about proving this?

        What would we expect to find if the mind is not real and everything is really a product of the brain? Well, when something happens to the brain, we would expect something to happen to the attributes generally attributed to the mind. We would expect certain things (attributed to the mind) to correspond to certain sections of the brain, and altering the sections alters what corresponds to it. We wouldn’t expect any of this to be true if the mind was separate from and acted independently of the brain.

        So if I killed you I’ve failed in moral responsibility but not causal responsibility? I didn’t actually cause your death? Sounds absurd.

        You were causally responsible for my death, but not causally responsible for wanting to kill me and then acting upon that desire. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

        How can you be personally responsible to your fellow man if you have no say in the outcome? If you failed to warn your earthquake victims, you had no say in the outcome or in your inability to warn them, so how can you be responsible for their deaths if you’re not responsible for your failure? You didn’t have a choice to fail to warn them or not, so how are you responsible to them?

        Whether or not you have free will has no bearing on whether you should be held personally (or morally) responsible. It sucks that you got those genes, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore the behavior that results from it.

        All three of these show a choice can be detected before made, not that a choice doesn’t exist. What you’ve demonstrated because you use terms like “decision” is that there is choice, not an absence of it. Thanks for making my point for me.

        Tell me, how is it making a choice if it happens before you are even aware of it? And the use of the word ‘decision’ does not help you, because I am merely using a language that has remnants left over from a time when people believed in free will. Plus, taken in context of what I said and the study itself, I was not saying that there is ‘free will’ via choice, because I was saying that what we call ‘decisions’ can be shown to have taken place before we actually make them.

        And on what basis do we condemn it? Probably that causal agent that defines morality, which the theist posits as God. Harris has failed to provide a moral ontology in this instance, so we don’t really have an objective foundation for his entire moral landscape. Besides, how can we condemn someone who has no say in their actions to kill. After all, they didn’t have a choice, so how can we condemn them?

        Harris was not trying to provide a moral system, so objecting to this makes no sense. His book is on free will, not morality, which he wrote about elsewhere. And he explicitly stated that we do not need to condemn on a ‘causal agent,’ which I even quoted him saying. Your objection that ‘we cannot condemn someone who has no say in their actions to kill’ because we do not have free will is a nonsequitar.

        Do you see the problem with such a belief that choice is illusory? It means we have no ontological basis for calling anything right or wrong, which shatters responsibility, personal or causal. This is a fundamental flaw in the belief system of determinism.

        I have seen you point out no flaw in determinism that has not already been responded to and subsequently dismissed.

      • Well, when something happens to the brain, we would expect something to happen to the attributes generally attributed to the mind.

        Would we also expect this if the mind existed separately but used the brain to process the input and externalize the data, like what I’m saying? Doesn’t seem to me this proves anything.

        You were causally responsible for my death, but not causally responsible for wanting to kill me and then acting upon that desire.

        So then causal responsibility is not an illusion as you stated previously.

        Whether or not you have free will has no bearing on whether you should be held personally (or morally) responsible.

        Why not? Morality, in my opinion, is based on choice, which is why we call them “moral choices.”

        Tell me, how is it making a choice if it happens before you are even aware of it?

        How is it making a choice? You’re making the choice. Your brain makes the choice before you’re aware of it, but it still makes the choice. No big deal here.

        Harris was not trying to provide a moral system, so objecting to this makes no sense.

        Condemnation implies wrongdoing, which is a moral choice, ergo moral system.

        I have seen you point out no flaw in determinism that has not already been responded to and subsequently dismissed.

        Except that choices actually exist. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Posted by Christopher on March 30, 2012 at 6:02 PM

        Would we also expect this if the mind existed separately but used the brain to process the input and externalize the data, like what I’m saying? Doesn’t seem to me this proves anything.

        Would we expect the mind to use the brain if the mind was something that existed separately? No. This doesn’t mean that dualism cannot account for this, but it is harder to explain under dualism than under the identity theory.

        If the mind is completely dependent on the brain, then the mind would be an unnecessary middleman.

        So then causal responsibility is not an illusion as you stated previously.

        No, you simply applied causality to something else. I am causally responsible for you seeing these words, but I am not causally responsible for picking what words I want or choosing to actually type them up and post them.

        Why not? Morality, in my opinion, is based on choice, which is why we call them “moral choices.”

        Why not? Because personal responsibility is not dependent on free will, regardless of how you define morality.

        How is it making a choice? You’re making the choice. Your brain makes the choice before you’re aware of it, but it still makes the choice. No big deal here.

        As Sam Harris would say, you are changing the subject:

        Unconscious neural events determine our thoughts and actions–and are themselves determined by prior causes of which we are subjectively unaware… Our moral intuitions ans sense of personal agency are anchored to a felt sense that we are the conscious source of our thoughts and actions… The freedom that we presume for ourselves and readily attribute to others is felt to slip the influence of impersonal background causes. And the moment we see that such causes are fully effective–as any detailed account of the neurophysiology of human thought and behavior would reveal–we can no longer locate a plausible hook upon which to hang our conventional notions of personal responsibility…

        According to compatibilists, if a man wants to commit murder, and does so because of this desire, his actions attest to his freedom of will. From both a moral and a scientific perspective, this seems deliberately obtuse… Where is the freedom when one of these opposing desires inexplicably triumphs over its rival? The problem for compatibilism runs deeper, however–for where is the freedom in wanting what one wants without any internal conflict whatsoever? Where is the freedom in being perfectly satisfied with your thoughts, intentions, and subsequent actions when they are the product of prior events that you had absolutely no hand in creating?… It may be true that if I had wanted to do otherwise, I would have, but I am nevertheless compelled to do what I effectively want. And I cannot determine my wants, or decide which will be effective, in advance. My mental life is simply given to me by the cosmos. Why didn’t I decide to drink a glass of juice? The thought never occurred to me. Am I free to do that which does not occur to me to do? Of course not.

        And there is no way that I can influence my desires–for what tools of influence would I use? Other desires?… [Compatibilists] trade a psychological fact–the subjective experience of being a conscious agent–for a conceptual understanding of ourselves as person. This is a bait and switch… To say that you are responsible for everything that goes on inside your skin because it’s all ‘you’ is to make a claim that bears absolutely no relationship to the feelings of agency and moral responsibility that have made the idea of free will an enduring problem for philosophy…

        How can we be ‘free’ as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware? We can’t. To say that ‘my brain’ decided to think or act in a particular way, whether consciously or not, and that this is the basis for my freedom, is to ignore the very source of our belief in free will: the feeling of conscious agency.

        Condemnation implies wrongdoing, which is a moral choice, ergo moral system.

        I did not say that a moral system was not involved, I said that it was not Harris’ intention to provide that moral system in a book about free will, when he has dedicated a different book to moral systems.

        Except that choices actually exist. Thanks for stopping by.

        You have done nothing to demonstrate this in the slightest except to take what I have said and misunderstand it. Thanks for trying.

      • Would we expect the mind to use the brain if the mind was something that existed separately? No.

        I’d love to see a demonstration of this. That’s akin to saying a man would never drive a car to get around if he was not the car. Absurd.

        I am causally responsible for you seeing these words, but I am not causally responsible for picking what words I want or choosing to actually type them up and post them.

        If that’s all you’re taking to mean causally responsible, then it has no bearing. To say personal responsibility exists in one realm and causal responsibility exists in another realm demands a reconciliation of the two. A demonstration that it is not possible for causal responsibility to exist in the moral realm or personal responsibility to exist in any realm but the moral realm is what is needed. Have fun trying that one on for size. Otherwise, you’re comparing apples to oranges, which is just befuddling in such a discussion.

        How can we be ‘free’ as conscious agents if everything that we consciously intend is caused by events in our brain that we do not intend and of which we are entirely unaware?

        And who is to say the mind does not intend this? Harris is acting off of pre-supposition.

        I did not say that a moral system was not involved, I said that it was not Harris’ intention to provide that moral system in a book about free will, when he has dedicated a different book to moral systems.

        Then perhaps you should not use a Harris quote where he speaks about condemnation if that’s not your intent.

        You have done nothing to demonstrate this in the slightest except to take what I have said and misunderstand it.

        Then that would be my choice to misunderstand, wouldn’t it? Again proving my point. Thanks again for stopping by.

      • Posted by Christopher on March 31, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        I’d love to see a demonstration of this. That’s akin to saying a man would never drive a car to get around if he was not the car. Absurd.

        You’re asking me to prove you right? And no, the two are quite different. A car is not a brain, and a person is not a mind.

        If that’s all you’re taking to mean causally responsible, then it has no bearing. To say personal responsibility exists in one realm and causal responsibility exists in another realm demands a reconciliation of the two. A demonstration that it is not possible for causal responsibility to exist in the moral realm or personal responsibility to exist in any realm but the moral realm is what is needed. Have fun trying that one on for size. Otherwise, you’re comparing apples to oranges, which is just befuddling in such a discussion.

        Yes, it has every bearing to the conversation. How can I have free will if I am not causally responsible for what my brain does? That makes absolutely no sense. I am saying that we are not causally responsible for what our brain does, not what other people see us doing. You keep claiming that morality depends on us being causally responsible, yet you have done nothing but assume this to be the case. There is absolutely no need for us to be causally responsible for our behavior (free will) for there to be morality. When you confuse the difference between different types of responsibility, you are committing the fallacy of equivocation. THAT is befuddling in a discussion.

        And who is to say the mind does not intend this? Harris is acting off of pre-supposition.

        Because you continue to miss his (and my) point. There can be a mind; his argument against free will does not depend on the mind being nothing but the brain. But if the mind makes the brain do something, then you are simply moving the problem back a step, because then we would simply have shown that we have no control over what the mind intends.

        Then perhaps you should not use a Harris quote where he speaks about condemnation if that’s not your intent.

        You are asking him (and myself) to do something that is not necessary as to derail the entire conversation. Sorry for wanting to stay on topic. To say that I have to first argue for a moral system before we can talk about anything else after the original topic has started is to assume that you are right.

        Then that would be my choice to misunderstand, wouldn’t it? Again proving my point. Thanks again for stopping by.

        No. You have done nothing but corrupt everything that I (or Harris) have said, and are being extremely intellectually dishonest. If you refuse to have an intellectually honest conversation, then say so.

      • You’re asking me to prove you right? And no, the two are quite different. A car is not a brain, and a person is not a mind.

        No I’m asking how you would go about showing that the expectation of the mind as a different entity is that it would not use the brain in any way. This sounds like special pleading.

        My car analogy demonstrates this point. What you’re saying is akin to this analogy saying that there’s no good reason for us to expect that a person who needs to get around would use a car. It’s just bad logic.

        How can I have free will if I am not causally responsible for what my brain does?…You keep claiming that morality depends on us being causally responsible, yet you have done nothing but assume this to be the case.

        The burden is not on me, friend. You said causal responsibility is illusory, and then said it wasn’t in certain situations but not others. My burden is simply to show that choices are real in both an everyday sense and a moral sense. And all I need to demonstrate that choice is the ability to choose one thing over another. All you have shown is that the choice can be determined earlier than we thought, not that there is no choice. I’ve satisfied my burden; you still have yet to show anything that backs yours up.

        There can be a mind; his argument against free will does not depend on the mind being nothing but the brain.

        But it needs to, according to your position.

        You have done nothing but corrupt everything that I (or Harris) have said, and are being extremely intellectually dishonest.

        I’m pointing out bad logic when I see it. There is a lot of special pleading going on here, and realize that very little of what we’re discussing now has to do with the original topic. You derailed it with Harris quotes and talks of illusory causal responsibility. I’m just calling it for what it is–a bad and fundamentally flawed position.

      • Posted by Christopher on April 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        No I’m asking how you would go about showing that the expectation of the mind as a different entity is that it would not use the brain in any way. This sounds like special pleading.

        Two points: the fist is that the mind is supposed to be able to function without the brain (e.g. life after death, out of body experiences, near-death experiences); the second is that, historically speaking, the mind has been attributed to other body parts, such as a heart. Thus, prima facie we would not expect to have the evidence we do. There is no special pleading.

        My car analogy demonstrates this point. What you’re saying is akin to this analogy saying that there’s no good reason for us to expect that a person who needs to get around would use a car. It’s just bad logic.

        What’s bad logic is using an analogy that doesn’t apply. The mind is not a person, the car is not a brain, and driving a car is not using the brain.

        The burden is not on me, friend. You said causal responsibility is illusory, and then said it wasn’t in certain situations but not others. My burden is simply to show that choices are real in both an everyday sense and a moral sense. And all I need to demonstrate that choice is the ability to choose one thing over another. All you have shown is that the choice can be determined earlier than we thought, not that there is no choice. I’ve satisfied my burden; you still have yet to show anything that backs yours up.

        You do not have the burden of proof when you say that dualism is correct? I’m sorry, but your position is not the default. Dualism is a position that requires proof, just like mine is.

        I never said causal responsibility was illusory only in certain cases. I said you applied ‘causality’ to a different situation. You took the fact that you caused me to die to mean that you causally chose to kill me. These are two completely different applications of ‘causal responsibility.’

        You have not satisfied your burden. You have in no way shown that we have choices. The evidence I have cited is not saying we can predict choice before we used to think we could. You are completely ignoring the fact that the ‘choice’ is shown in the brain before you are aware you have made the decision, which means you have nothing to do with what is chosen.

        But it needs to, according to your position.

        I don’t think it needs to, I just think it does.

      • Two points: the fist is that the mind is supposed to be able to function without the brain (e.g. life after death, out of body experiences, near-death experiences);

        And who’s to say that it doesn’t?

        the second is that, historically speaking, the mind has been attributed to other body parts, such as a heart. Thus, prima facie we would not expect to have the evidence we do.

        Historically the mind has also been attributed to the brain too. So yes, special pleading still exists in your argument.

        What’s bad logic is using an analogy that doesn’t apply. The mind is not a person, the car is not a brain, and driving a car is not using the brain.

        How can you be sure of this? If my position is correct, this analogy makes quite a bit of sense. In order for you to say it’s a bad analogy you need to show that my position is wrong. I haven’t seen that done here, not even close.

        You do not have the burden of proof when you say that dualism is correct? I’m sorry, but your position is not the default. Dualism is a position that requires proof, just like mine is…You have not satisfied your burden. You have in no way shown that we have choices.

        The fact that you and I fall on opposite sides of the same data shows that choices exist. You choose not to believe some data, but to believe other pieces of data. I go the other way. As you like to say, prima facie we would have to conclude that choices exist unless there is conclusive evidence to the contrary. There has been none of that given.

        I never said causal responsibility was illusory only in certain cases. I said you applied ‘causality’ to a different situation. You took the fact that you caused me to die to mean that you causally chose to kill me. These are two completely different applications of ‘causal responsibility.’

        And yet it also falls in the moral realm, so it would mean that causal responsibility and personal responsibility are at least synonymous, if not identical, thereby proving my point that responsibility comes from moral choices.

        You are completely ignoring the fact that the ‘choice’ is shown in the brain before you are aware you have made the decision, which means you have nothing to do with what is chosen.

        That’s a poor conclusion. That fact that you keep saying “you have made the decision” to say “you don’t make the decision” shows that the conclusion you’re drawing is a false one. I just don’t see any good evidence coming from your end to show that choices don’t exist. Your entire case hinges on this point, and it’s yet to be made. Sorry.

      • Posted by Christopher on April 7, 2012 at 4:07 PM

        And who’s to say that it doesn’t?

        Wait, are you arguing that I’m right on this point?

        Historically the mind has also been attributed to the brain too. So yes, special pleading still exists in your argument.

        How is that special pleading? I’m making the point that over time, people have changed what they think the mind is related to. That isn’t special pleading at all. I think you’re just trying to find something to argue with me about to distract from the point that your arguments don’t hold.

        How can you be sure of this? If my position is correct, this analogy makes quite a bit of sense. In order for you to say it’s a bad analogy you need to show that my position is wrong. I haven’t seen that done here, not even close.

        No, I do not need to refute your entire argument to say it is a false analogy. All I need to do is show that it is a false analogy. Which I did. Because a car is not a brain, and a person in the car is not a mind.

        The fact that you and I fall on opposite sides of the same data shows that choices exist. You choose not to believe some data, but to believe other pieces of data. I go the other way. As you like to say, prima facie we would have to conclude that choices exist unless there is conclusive evidence to the contrary. There has been none of that given.

        That absolutely does not show that choices exist. Why would we say that “there are choices” is a somewhat “default” position on this issue? We have no reason to think there are choices other than the fact that we are ignorant of prior causes. You should be the one showing there are choices, not the other way around.

        And yet it also falls in the moral realm, so it would mean that causal responsibility and personal responsibility are at least synonymous, if not identical, thereby proving my point that responsibility comes from moral choices.

        This is incorrect. Causal responsibility and personal responsibility are not synonymous regardless of the subject.

        That’s a poor conclusion. That fact that you keep saying “you have made the decision” to say “you don’t make the decision” shows that the conclusion you’re drawing is a false one. I just don’t see any good evidence coming from your end to show that choices don’t exist. Your entire case hinges on this point, and it’s yet to be made. Sorry.

        The fact that you think your position is correct based on language just shows that you have no argument in the slightest. And you also continue to ignore things I say, and chalk that up as a point against me. This does not in the slightest mean my point has “yet to be made.” On the contrary, you simply dismiss my points out of sheer desire to be right without actually being right. Sorry.

      • Wait, are you arguing that I’m right on this point?

        Not unless you’re agreeing with my original point, which is that the mind and brain are not the same. If you are, then I’m arguing you’re right. Otherwise you’re confused.

        How is that special pleading? I’m making the point that over time, people have changed what they think the mind is related to.

        I don’t even think we’re talking about the same thing on this anymore. Best to drop it.

        All I need to do is show that it is a false analogy. Which I did. Because a car is not a brain, and a person in the car is not a mind.

        If you’re saying a car is not a brain in actuality, therefore it’s a false analogy, perhaps you need to learn what an analogy is. If you’re saying the analogy is false because it’s mis-representative of the brain-mind relationship, then the burden of proof is much higher and you need some pretty solid evidence. Since you’ve provided me nothing, I think this is a rather bold claim of yours to make.

        We have no reason to think there are choices other than the fact that we are ignorant of prior causes. You should be the one showing there are choices, not the other way around.

        How would you go about showing that we are ignorant of prior causes? That’s another pretty bold assertion. And I’ve been showing you very simple examples of the notion that real choices do exist. I don’t know what else you’re looking for, because I’m continually satisfying my burden.

        This is incorrect. Causal responsibility and personal responsibility are not synonymous regardless of the subject.

        So if I killed you, I’m not causally and personally responsible for my actions? Absurd.

        I just can’t fathom why you continue to pursue me on this when it’s so plainly clear that you have no case at all for what you are arguing. I can keep showing you over and over that choices exist, but it won’t do any good to either one of us unless you actually grasp what I’m saying. Otherwise, let’s agree to disagree and let it lie. Thanks.

      • Posted by Christopher on April 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM

        If you’re saying a car is not a brain in actuality, therefore it’s a false analogy, perhaps you need to learn what an analogy is. If you’re saying the analogy is false because it’s mis-representative of the brain-mind relationship, then the burden of proof is much higher and you need some pretty solid evidence. Since you’ve provided me nothing, I think this is a rather bold claim of yours to make.

        A car does not work without a person driving it. This would have to mean that the brain does nothing without the mind making it do so. However, this has not been shown, and I have presented evidence to the contrary.
        If a car gets damaged, a person can get a new car. This would have to mean that if there is brain damage, then the mind could simply be transferred and it would be as if nothing changed. However, you have not demonstrated this.

        How would you go about showing that we are ignorant of prior causes? That’s another pretty bold assertion. And I’ve been showing you very simple examples of the notion that real choices do exist. I don’t know what else you’re looking for, because I’m continually satisfying my burden.

        Because the prior causes happen without us knowing about them. That’s not a bold assertion at all. I am ignorant of my brain causing my heart to pump, but that doesn’t mean my heart will stop. And you have not shown choices exist, you are simply saying they do, which is not evidence of choices.

        So if I killed you, I’m not causally and personally responsible for my actions? Absurd.

        You’ve already made this claim, and I rejected it as a misrepresentation of my statement. I have said that you would not be causally responsible for killing me, but you would be causally responsible for my death. This means two different things. I am not causally responsible in the sense that I did not cause my own actions, but I am causally responsible in the sense that I actually did something. You are combining the two, which is a fallacy. I am also saying that in light of the differences of causal responsibility, you would still be held personally (or morally) responsible.

        I just can’t fathom why you continue to pursue me on this when it’s so plainly clear that you have no case at all for what you are arguing. I can keep showing you over and over that choices exist, but it won’t do any good to either one of us unless you actually grasp what I’m saying. Otherwise, let’s agree to disagree and let it lie. Thanks.

        All you have done is put forth your opinion as if it were fact, and reject and twist what I have said, showing that you have no argument. So if you want to agree to disagree, fine.

      • A car does not work without a person driving it. This would have to mean that the brain does nothing without the mind making it do so.

        Not entirely true. A car’s engine could be running without the driver inside of it, but you’re correct in that a driver must be present for a car to be functional. So it is with the brain, in my opinion.

        However, this has not been shown, and I have presented evidence to the contrary.

        What evidence have you presented that the brain can act without the presence of the mind? You’re arguing that they’re the same thing, aren’t you? Therefore it’s impossible on your view to provide “evidence to the contrary.” For the purposes of this blog, I’m just trying (analogously) to show that the car and the driver are not identical. I think I’ve done so, several times.

        Because the prior causes happen without us knowing about them. That’s not a bold assertion at all.

        Now THAT is very much special pleading. You just answered my question with the question.

        I am ignorant of my brain causing my heart to pump, but that doesn’t mean my heart will stop.

        Completely irrelevant. We’re talking prior causes. This is a red herring.

        And you have not shown choices exist, you are simply saying they do, which is not evidence of choices.

        I have a choice to believe you or not, don’t I? If I don’t, then you must show me the prior causes that determine I didn’t have a choice. But that would contradict your opinion that we’re ignorant of prior causes. So which of your statements are you willing to retract — that choices don’t exist or that we’re ignorant of prior causes.

        I am not causally responsible in the sense that I did not cause my own actions, but I am causally responsible in the sense that I actually did something.

        Then I should not be punished for killing you, because I didn’t cause my action of killing you. That is the logical next step. There is no justification for justice or consequences, because I’m just acting out my part in nature. Is this the position you really wish to promote?

        All you have done is put forth your opinion as if it were fact, and reject and twist what I have said, showing that you have no argument. So if you want to agree to disagree, fine.

        Do you honestly believe that? I’ve shown using the law of identity that the mind and brain are not the same thing (quite conclusively), and I feel like I’ve shown you several different times that choices do in fact exist. If they didn’t, then I would be forcing you to come back over and over to try to prove your case. But I hold no power over you, because I don’t even know you. You are making a choice to continue to drag this out. You’re completely over-philosophizing your deterministic position because you have to in order to even have a hope of it being true.

        If determinism is true, then why are we here? There must be a prior cause for everything on determinism. But that would mean that the universe or whatever naturalistically caused it (i.e. multiverse) must be eternal, otherwise there was an initial Uncaused Cause. I’ve shown in some other blog posts that a naturalistic eternal universe can’t possibly be the case. So on that alone, I reject determinism. But determinism is also irreconcilable with moral responsibility, no matter how cleverly linguistic Sam Harris tries to be. There is no ontological basis for morality on determinism. If free will doesn’t exist, then evil doesn’t exist, and evil is one of the baselines for moral values. Determinism is a self-defeating proposition. It’s time you learned that, friend.

        I really don’t wish to continue this anymore. Perhaps you can write a rebuttal on your own blog, but I’m done beating my head against this wall. Thanks for stopping by, and best wishes to you on your search for truth.

  23. Posted by Ron on March 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Asking where memories and consciousness are stored in your brain is like asking where the text is stored on your monitor. Both are artifacts of electro-chemical impulses. Neuroscience is still an emerging discipline. At present, the best we can do is to map the impulses within the brain as they occur. As studies progress, we’ll gain a better understanding of how the brain works and many of these questions will be addressed more conclusively.

    Reply

    • So are you saying that the text on your monitor and your computer are the exact same thing? Because what I’m arguing is that they’re not, using your analogy. To say that the brain and memories are synonymous means they have to satisfy the law of identity: everything true of one must be true of the other. Are you committing to this belief, or are you saying one is the by-product of the other?

      Reply

      • Posted by Ron on March 29, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        What I’m saying is that the text on your monitor (and computer) doesn’t exist at all — it’s merely an abstraction, i.e., a convenient label that’s assigned to differentiate between specific groupings (or patterns) of like-colored pixels against a uniform background of contrasting colors.

        Similarly, if I asked you to remove the platter from your hard drive and point to the exact location of your “documents” folder you’d be unable to do so because it doesn’t exist in a form you recognize. At a microscopic level all you’d see is a meaningless jumble of magnetically charged particles on a polished aluminum disk. Those magnetic charges are retrieved by a complex series of circuits and motors, assembled into memory buffers by the CPU, converted into electrical pulses which get sent to the monitor over a cable, and then converted via more complex circuits which illuminate various pixels on the screen. But at no point in the process can you point to anything that resembles a specific letter of the alphabet — that part occurs only after your brain interprets the image created by photons striking the cones and rods in your retina.

        You mention the law of identity, which basically states that a thing is itself — i.e., a rock is a rock, and a dog is a dog, and a rock is not a dog; or a brain is a brain and a foot is a foot and a brain is not a foot. That’s fine. You then go on to state that your brain is your brain, and your consciousness is your consciousness, and your brain is not your consciousness.

        However you are making a category error by assuming that the brain as a whole is equivalent to the sum of its parts, which is simply not the case. The pons is the pons, and the medulla is the medulla, and the hypothalamus is the hypothalamus, and the cerebellum is the cerebellum, etc, and none of these are each other, or the brain. They each perform a specific function (although there may be areas that overlap) just like the individual parts contained within your computer (CPU, graphics card, hard drive, I/O board, etc).

        In other words, your motor skills are regulated in one area of the brain, your memories are housed in another area of the brain, and your consciousness is confined to yet another area of the brain (most likely the frontal lobes).

      • I understand your point, but where do these things come from? If they are stored in the brain, they need to be created somewhere. And science shows us that a created entity possesses the characteristics or markers of its creator. This means that memories, if created by the brain, need to have these markers. I submit that one marker needed to be demonstrated is physical properties. If consciousness is the by-product of the brain, then one can have the brain without consciousness, but no consciousness without the brain. If this is true, then out-of-body experiences are complete fabrications (though we have at least some evidence to the contrary), and someone with no brain activity (i.e. a vegetable) should not be able to say they were experiencing anything during their vegetative state. Yet many people who come out of a vegetative state describe it like a dream, which should be impossible if memories are a by-product of the brain.

        So I think there are some excellent reasons to believe that memories and consciousness are neither created by the brain nor a by-product of it. You are not your brain, and I maintain that with a good amount of confidence.

      • Posted by Ron on April 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM

        “”I understand your point, but where do these things come from? If they are stored in the brain, they need to be created somewhere.”

        How Memories Are Made, And Recalled: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908101651.htm (Plus related articles in sidebar)

        “And science shows us that a created entity possesses the characteristics or markers of its creator. This means that memories, if created by the brain, need to have these markers. I submit that one marker needed to be demonstrated is physical properties.”

        What markers and creators are you referring to? Your DNA?

        “If consciousness is the by-product of the brain, then one can have the brain without consciousness, but no consciousness without the brain.”

        That’s precisely what I mean. Your consciousness resides largely in the frontal lobes, and injuries to those areas often results in a marked change to a person’s sense of judgment and overall personality — cause and effect. Q.E.D.

        “If this is true, then out-of-body experiences are complete fabrications…”

        Not complete fabrications so much as mental processing mistaken for genuine experiences. The hippocampus (which is essential for learning new information and consolidating information from short-term to long-term memory) remains active even while we are asleep, so someone who’s unconscious can still have dreams that seem vividly real upon awakening. NDEs and OBEs can be (and have been) induced artificially.

      • “How Memories Are Made, And Recalled:”

        But this would be equally true under my hypothesis, where the mind uses the brain to externalize such things. Besides, can you show me the memory within the brain? And I don’t mean neurons firing, I mean the memory itself.

        “What markers and creators are you referring to? Your DNA?”

        If the brain creates something, then what it has created must bear its characteristics, one of which is tangibility or materiality. So if you can show me a memory materially (again a memory, not a neuron; law of identity shows the two are not identical), then it works. If you can’t, then the best explanation is that the brain did not create the memory.

        “Not complete fabrications so much as mental processing mistaken for genuine experiences…NDEs and OBEs can be (and have been) induced artificially.”

        How do you go about proving this? Let me give you an anecdote.

        A man who was having surgery had some complications. However, he claimed to have an OBE where he saw a younger doctor tell the older surgeon to let him die, nothing more they could do. The surgeon refused, however, and was successful in bringing the patient back. When the patient awoke, what do you think the first thing he did was? Answer: cuss out the younger doctor. How could he have known this if the OBE was a mistake or artificially induced?

        What I’m arguing for here is the possibility of OBEs. And if OBEs are possible, it makes my hypothesis possible as well. Are you going on record as saying these are completely impossible as genuine experiences? Or are you willing to consider my hypothesis?

  24. Posted by Ron on April 11, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    “But this would be equally true under my hypothesis, where the mind uses the brain to externalize such things. Besides, can you show me the memory within the brain? And I don’t mean neurons firing, I mean the memory itself.”

    Except we have no evidence to support your hypothesis, and all the evidence we do possess points in the opposite direction. And as I’ve already stated — using the computer analogy — your memories are stored via a biochemical process that alters the synaptic connections within your brain. Pinpointing the exact location for any particular memory is no more possible than pinpointing the exact location of a text document on you hard drive, because the stored data does not physically resemble the information it ultimately communicates without additional processing.

    For a preliminary introduction of how that process works see: http://nba.uth.tmc.edu/neuroscience/s1/introduction.html

    “If the brain creates something, then what it has created must bear its characteristics, one of which is tangibility or materiality. So if you can show me a memory materially (again a memory, not a neuron; law of identity shows the two are not identical), then it works. If you can’t, then the best explanation is that the brain did not create the memory”

    Again, the above link explains the biophysical changes taking place when memories are stored.

    “How do you go about proving this?”

    There are videos like the following which demonstrate how NDEs and supernatural presences can be induced in fully conscious subjects.

    “Let me give you an anecdote… How could he have known this if the OBE was a mistake or artificially induced?”

    Auditory processing during deep propofol sedation and recovery from unconsciousness. (pdf)
    by Stefan Koelsch, Wolfgang Heinke, Daniela Sammler, Derk Olthoff

    From page 1:

    Abstract

    Conclusions: Results indicate that the auditory sensory memory (as indexed by the physical MMN) is still active, although strongly reduced, during deep sedation (MOAAS 2-3). The presence of the P3a indicates that attention-related processes are still operating during this level. Processes of syntactic analysis appear to be abolished during deep sedation. After propofol-induced anesthesia, the auditory sensory memory appears to operate normal as soon as subjects regain consciousness, whereas the attention-related processes indexed by P3a and P3b are markedly impaired.

    From page 11:

    4.2. Deep sedation

    Under deep propofol-induced sedation (MOAAS 2–3),
    i.e. when participants were unresponsive to normal verbal
    commands, a tiny MMN was observed in response to
    frequency and timbre deviants. The MMN was clearly
    reduced compared to the awake state. The presence of this
    MMN residual during deep sedation replicates findings from
    previous studies (Heinke et al., 2004b; Ypparilla et al.,
    2002), indicating that auditory sensory memory operations
    are markedly affected by sedation, but can still be observed
    under deep sedation, even when participants are unrespon-
    sive to normal verbal commands.

    “What I’m arguing for here is the possibility of OBEs. And if OBEs are possible, it makes my hypothesis possible as well. Are you going on record as saying these are completely impossible as genuine experiences? Or are you willing to consider my hypothesis?”

    The above report (and others like it) make your hypothesis untenable unless you can present peer-reviewed research to demonstrate otherwise. So the question becomes: do you have any?

    Reply

    • Ron,

      I am asking you to show me a material or physical memory. In order for the brain to have been the creator of the memory, the memory should bear this characteristic. And a neuron is not a memory. A neuron might process a memory, but it is not the same thing as a memory. Unless and until you can show me physically where a memory is in the brain, so that I can see it the way I can see other parts of the brain, then the most logical and scientific conclusion is that the memory was not created in the brain. As such, the two are not identical, and therefore the mind and the brain are separate entities, with one feeding off of the other. That piece of the argument I believe I’ve satisfied.

      My hypothesis is that the mind and the brain are not the same thing, and I’ve used the law of identity to support this. Not everything true of the mind is true of the brain, therefore they are not the same thing. That’s all I’ve needed to show, and I believe I’ve done so.

      Much of the OBE and NDE stuff I will admit I’m not as up-to-date on, but my hypothesis is simply that they are possible, not necessarily explainable in every case. Just because they can be induced artificially doesn’t mean that they can’t happen without artificial induction. It’s a non sequitur. However, I’m not prepared to give any good evidence for OBEs and NDEs, so I’m willing to concede this as conjecture for now.

      However, OBEs are probably the weakest component of the original argument I made. The law of identity shows that the mind and the brain are not identical, and our free will also demonstrates this fact. I’ve already had the determinism bout on here, and I think I’ve done a decent job of showing the self-defeating nature of determinism. So I feel quite comfortable in maintaining my assertion that the mind and the brain are different.

      Reply

      • Posted by Ron on April 13, 2012 at 8:20 PM

        What can I say? The article I linked to explains how a memory is formed.

        And quite frankly, I think you want to have your cake and eat it too — because on the one hand you request physical evidence for what a memory looks like, but when it’s pointed out that neurons, synaptic tissue, and other biochemical changes within the brain constitute the physical evidence you seek, you then turn around and claim that that can’t possibly be it.

        Yet every scientific study shows a direct correlation between memory development and physiological changes within the brain. Moreover, scientific research also shows a direct correlation between memory loss and physical impairment of the brain.

        In other words, we have a falsifiable claim: if the two are unrelated then severe brain damage should have no discernible effect on a person’s memories.

        How would your hypothesis be falsified? And for the second time, where is the scientific research supporting your hypothesis?

      • Does that mean all neurons are individual memories and that’s it? If that’s the case, then maybe I’d have to agree. But I’m guessing you’re not willing to make that jump, which means that neurons and synaptic tissue aren’t the same thing as a memory, but merely processing entities.

        If there’s a direct correlation between memory development and physiological changes, that could easily point to the idea that the brain processes what the mind creates. Same goes to for memory loss, so I don’t see any issues here.

        I’m not saying the two are unrelated; I’m saying the two are not synonymous. You’re offering apples to my oranges.

        My hypothesis would be testable if you could show that not everything true of a memory is true of the brain, because it would show the two to be independent entities that perhaps work together but are not synonymous. And as stated above, neurons are not memories, so memories don’t contain the property of materiality like the brain does. Ergo, my hypothesis is more likely to be true than untrue.

        I think you’re making more out of my claim than I am, because my claim is easily tested and confirmed. I don’t see the problem here.

      • Posted by Ron on April 17, 2012 at 1:14 AM

        Memory is defined as: the processes by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. If you refer to diagrams 21 and 23 you’ll notice that the brain consists of an intricate array of interconnected logic modules, some of which are used for processing, and others of which are enlisted for data storage. Combined with your sensory inputs it represents a closed-loop system. What you call your “mind” is your perception of your brain in operation.

        As such, your hypothesis is completely superfluous because it provides no additional information which can’t already be directly obtained by observing natural processes.

      • So which of these logic modules is the memory of when I graduated high school? That would certainly be easily found because it would be the only thing lighting up when I thought of that memory, and it wouldn’t light up for any other memory that I think about.

        The problem is, that type of experiment has never been falsified. Not that it hasn’t been tried, I’m sure. But that is what is needed to show that the logic module and the specific memory are the same thing exactly. Otherwise, the memory and the brain are not the same thing. And that’s my hypothesis–that they’re not the same thing.

        So if you please, can you find me that experiment that shows that each module is connected to one specific memory and only that memory, so that it is completely non-functional except for when that memory is experienced? That is what is needed to falsify the alternative hypothesis here. Otherwise, your argument is rather unconvincing.

      • Posted by Ron on April 18, 2012 at 3:14 PM

        Huh? I already linked to what you ask for in my post https://sabepashubbo.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/you-are-not-your-brain/#comment-585“>dated April 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM.

        As for locating your “high school graduation” memories, you’d have to go in and get a brain scan done while thinking about them.

        And I think you have a misunderstanding about what’s meant by a falsifiable claim. A falsifiable claim is one which describes a possible observation (or set of observations) which would render that claim false.

        To repeat my earlier statement: if memory and physiological changes within the brain were unrelated then severe brain damage should have no discernible effect on a person’s memories.

        If you can demonstrate that that’s indeed the case, then a Nobel Prize awaits you.

      • That article shows that the same neurons that fire during an experience are the same ones used to recall that experience. It doesn’t show that those neurons are used for absolutely nothing else except that one specific memory. That’s what needs to be shown.

        To repeat my earlier statement: if memory and physiological changes within the brain were unrelated then severe brain damage should have no discernible effect on a person’s memories.

        To repeat my answer: I’m not saying they’re unrelated; I’m saying they’re not synonymous. You need to satisfy my objection above to show that they are synonymous. Until then, I believe using the law of identity I’ve done a reasonable job of showing that your opinion (memories and neurons are the same thing) is false.

  25. Posted by Ron on April 19, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    That article shows that the same neurons that fire during an experience are the same ones used to recall that experience. It doesn’t show that those neurons are used for absolutely nothing else except that one specific memory. That’s what needs to be shown.

    And that’s precisely what makes the hypothesis sound; because if the exact same neurons fired during the recall stage of different events it would be invalidated. So now we’ve identified two possible observations which would render the hypothesis false. All you need to do is don a lab coat and start conducting research.

    I’m not saying they’re unrelated; I’m saying they’re not synonymous. You need to satisfy my objection above to show that they are synonymous. Until then, I believe using the law of identity I’ve done a reasonable job of showing that your opinion (memories and neurons are the same thing) is false.

    The law of identity states a thing is what it is; and in this case the brain is what it is: namely a conglomeration of neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters.

    The word memory is simply a label which differentiates neurons used for processing/storing information from those which serve other purposes, much in the same way that the words table, chair and bookcase are convenient labels used to differentiate between various items made of wood.

    In other words, the law of identity is preserved because:

    (a) memories are defined as “the neurons used to process/store information”
    (b) those neurons form a subset of the complete set of neurons found within your brain.

    Reply

    • And that’s precisely what makes the hypothesis sound; because if the exact same neurons fired during the recall stage of different events it would be invalidated.

      The other way it can be falsified is if it can be shown that more than one neuron fires in response to stimuli, such as recalling a memory or recognizing a face. This article seems to suggest that multiple neurons respond to some stimuli, thereby falsifying your theory. In fact, it appears that this Bowers might have been trying to prove the very thing that you’re touting, but came up with a different result.

      The law of identity states a thing is what it is; and in this case the brain is what it is: namely a conglomeration of neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters.

      And a memory is what it is, so something claiming to be a memory must have all of the same properties as that memory–namely immateriality. I think I’ve made that point far too many times for us still to be here.

      The word memory is simply a label which differentiates neurons used for processing/storing information from those which serve other purposes

      Two things: 1) This is your biased opinion on the definition of the word, 2) you even use the words “processing/storing” when describing the neurons. In order for the memory to live in these neurons, these neurons must create them. Otherwise, the question of “where do memories come from?” still remains without a satisfactory explanation. I think such a statement actually helps my case more than it does yours.

      Reply

  26. Posted by Ron on April 30, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    The other way it can be falsified is if it can be shown that more than one neuron fires in response to stimuli, such as recalling a memory or recognizing a face. This article seems to suggest that multiple neurons respond to some stimuli, thereby falsifying your theory. In fact, it appears that this Bowers might have been trying to prove the very thing that you’re touting, but came up with a different result.

    The article investigates competing theories as to which neurons are involved and to what extant, but nowhere does it suggest that there is any disagreement that neurons are the primary mechanism involved in the formation of memories.

    And a memory is what it is, so something claiming to be a memory must have all of the same properties as that memory–namely immateriality. I think I’ve made that point far too many times for us still to be here.

    But as I’ve demonstrated (via the links), memories are material objects and no reputable scientist I know of considers them immaterial in nature.

    I think we can both agree that how text gets transfered from the keyboard to the monitor can be explained via natural means without speculating that outside agencies must somehow be involved in the process.

    “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” ~Douglas Adams

    Two things: 1) This is your biased opinion on the definition of the word,

    No, it’s the scientific definition of the word.

    2) you even use the words “processing/storing” when describing the neurons. In order for the memory to live in these neurons, these neurons must create them. Otherwise, the question of “where do memories come from?” still remains without a satisfactory explanation.

    Because in simple language, processing and storing information is precisely what your brain does, and it does this by re-wiring it’s neural circuitry via physiological processes after receiving sensory stimulation.

    Reply

    • Nowhere does it suggest that there is any disagreement that neurons are the primary mechanism involved in the formation of memories.

      And if that were the issue you brought up, we wouldn’t have a problem. But I suggested that what needs to be shown is that if memories and neurons are synonymous, then one neuron is responsible for each individual memory. The article invalidates this theory, thereby giving us excellent reasons to believe that memories are not synonymous with neurons, but are a cause and/or effect of the neurons. As such, one can’t reasonably conclude that the memories are in the brain, because you can’t find them with a microscope. I can’t look into your brain and see the memory of your 5th birthday.

      But as I’ve demonstrated (via the links), memories are material objects and no reputable scientist I know of considers them immaterial in nature.

      See above. If memories were material, then I could see your 5th birthday if I look into your brain. I can’t, so it’s a logical conclusion that memories are not material. If memories are material, grab one, paint it green, take a picture of it and post it on here for me to see. Otherwise, you can’t reasonably say that memories are material. I’ve presented a falsifiable challenge. Have at it.

      No, it’s the scientific definition of the word.

      The Dictionary.com definition of the word is “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.” There is no mention of neuron differentiation. Any inclusion of such is, as I say, a biased definition to fit your position.

      Because in simple language, processing and storing information is precisely what your brain does, and it does this by re-wiring it’s neural circuitry via physiological processes after receiving sensory stimulation.

      This strengthens my position. The brain is a processing/storing entity (as you’ve said yourself), not a creative one. For a memory to be created, that creation must be done in a different entity. Ergo, the memory doesn’t come from the brain. I’ve now given you several excellent reasons to believe that memories do not come from the brain. Just drop it, man. You’re digging yourself a bigger hole each time.

      Reply

  27. Posted by Ron on May 1, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    But I suggested that what needs to be shown is that if memories and neurons are synonymous, then one neuron is responsible for each individual memory.

    Except no one ever claimed that an entire memory is contained within a solitary neuron. Encoding a memory requires a multitude of neurons, just as encoding a computer file (txt, doc, pdf, jpg, mp3, etc) requires many bytes of bytes.

    If memories were material, then I could see your 5th birthday if I look into your brain. I can’t, so it’s a logical conclusion that memories are not material. If memories are material, grab one, paint it green, take a picture of it and post it on here for me to see. Otherwise, you can’t reasonably say that memories are material. I’ve presented a falsifiable challenge. Have at it.

    To repeat what I wrote earlier: Pinpointing the exact location for any particular memory is no more possible than pinpointing the exact location of a text document stored on you hard drive, because the stored data does not physically resemble the information it ultimately communicates without additional processing.

    Using a different analogy, what you are asking me to do is the equivalent of pointing out where the drummer resides on a compact disc.

    The Dictionary.com definition of the word is “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.” There is no mention of neuron differentiation. Any inclusion of such is, as I say, a biased definition to fit your position.

    Please note that I explicitly wrote the “scientific” definition of the word — not the generic definition found on dictionary.com. This also applies to the word “theory” which has an entirely different meaning when used in science than it does in every day life.

    This strengthens my position. The brain is a processing/storing entity (as you’ve said yourself), not a creative one. For a memory to be created, that creation must be done in a different entity. Ergo, the memory doesn’t come from the brain. I’ve now given you several excellent reasons to believe that memories do not come from the brain. Just drop it, man. You’re digging yourself a bigger hole each time.

    I don’t see how. The manner in which the brain receives, processes and stores information from the outside world can be explained entirely through natural processes.

    Reply

    • Except no one ever claimed that an entire memory is contained within a solitary neuron.

      This is what needs to happen for memories and neurons to be synonymous. Otherwise, they are not the same, and the memory must either be the cause or effect of the neurons firing. I’ve made this patently clear.

      To repeat what I wrote earlier: Pinpointing the exact location for any particular memory is no more possible than pinpointing the exact location of a text document stored on you hard drive, because the stored data does not physically resemble the information it ultimately communicates without additional processing.

      Using a different analogy, what you are asking me to do is the equivalent of pointing out where the drummer resides on a compact disc.

      And the same conclusion follows. The text document is not the same thing as the hard drive, nor is the drummer the same thing as a CD. Ergo, a memory is not the same thing as the brain. So, as the title of the post states: you are not your brain. Case closed.

      I don’t see how. The manner in which the brain receives, processes and stores information from the outside world can be explained entirely through natural processes.

      Except it can’t explain how a memory is created. Either a memory always existed (which we know to be false) or it had to have its origin somewhere. But the brain is a processing entity, not a creative entity. So if a memory is created, it needs to be created by a creative entity, which by your own admission the brain is not. This is an excellent reason to believe that the mind and the brain are not the same thing.

      I don’t see you winning this argument, because you keep making my points for me. Please do us both a favor and let it go.

      Reply

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