Saturday, January 15, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #48 - Debunking Christianity: The Mind/Brain Problem

John Loftus has been been commenting a lot on Dr Victor Reppert's blog lately. His latest attempt is responding to nature of mind and matter (the brain). My comments will be in italics.

Okay, Okay, I've been participating in a guilty pleasure by visiting Victor Reppert's Blog lately. Vic argued
I am suggesting on principled grounds that a careful reflection on the nature of mind and matter will invariably reveal that there is a logical gap between them that in principle cannot be bridged without fudging categories.
I'm glad Loftus has been reading Reppert's blog, maybe God can use it to reach him.

My responses so far:

You're arguing that we cannot get to a mind from the fact that there is only a brain.

So, let's talk about the mind. If there is a mind can we get to a brain? Think about this. You have merely reversed the argumentation but it leads to the same conclusion. I maintain that there is no logical connection between the mind and the brain. If we presume there is a mind then how does it tell the brain what signals to send to the arm such that it moves? Logically, unless there is a point of contact between them, the mind cannot interact with the brain. You know the problem.

Loftus does not say why this must be true he merely asserts it. I think a good analogy are computers. The hardware - the processor - is like our brain. In this analogy the mind is like the operating system/software that runs the computer. The analogy breaks down quickly but let's ride it for a moments as far as it can carry us. How is the software connected to the processor? It's not in the same way the hardware is connected. I think it's here where the analogy starts to go off the rails. I don't know how the mind and brain are connected. No one really does. Are they connected? Yes. Is the brain all there is? I don't think so? We do have people who have had near-death experiences and while they were brain-dead for few moments, they still reported consciousness.

Would you please define a mind for me? If that definition does not include material properties then how is this not a logical problem? What's your solution?

The mind is our desires, personalities, memories, emotions, consciousness - it's the sum total of everything that makes you who you are. This is more than what you are. When you talk to someone you are interacting with their mind not their brain.

Let's say you have none, or at least, let's say I'm not persuaded. Then we are at a logical impasse.

What to do then?

I'd like to know why does John Loftus think that his persuasion would make it true. Something can be true even if he doesn't think it is.

Trust the sciences. Science repeatedly disconfirms that there is a mind. Drugs, strokes, electromagnetic probing, and a nail through the brain can and does change a person's emotions, ideas, thinking patterns, and a man's personality itself.

Science does no such thing. If a computer's hardware is damaged or changed, don't you think it would change the software? Saying that mind and brain are not the same thing is not the same thing as asserting that they are not connected. Some people get brain damaged or head trauma or even lobotomies and experienced no change in who they are. Just because a person's emotions, ideas, thinking patterns, and personality are affected by changing the brain does not mean there is no mind. I don't know why anyone would expect the mind and body to be totally separate. Making a distinction does not mean making a separation.

In fact, as neurologist Sam Harris has said, if there is a mind there is no reason for God to have created us with brains. If the mind tells the brain what signals to send to the arm then it can by-pass the brain altogether and simply send signals to the arm.

Sam Harris sure likes making assertions that he can't prove. If the mind is your intentions and thoughts then you want to move your arm and the brain sends the signal. To argue that either the brain or mind is unnecessary is a really silly idea and no reason can be found for that.

The brain ends up being unnecessary on the hypothesis there is a God who created the mind. Or you could perhaps give me one function of the brain that could not be performed by the mind if there was one.

Just one.

That is not what theists argue. God created mind and brain - in fact all of reality. We don't understand ourselves or the universe to determined what is unnecessary just yet. As for one function of the brain that could not be performed the mind is the wrong question. The question that Loftus and people like him are afraid of is the question: Where does consciousness come from? I think computers again help us here. Is anyone really willing to argue that if we made a computer with enough circuits and connection (like the human brain) consciousness would result? I don't think so. I don't think consciousness comes form the brain. However research is currently being done that will prove it as our computers become more sophisticated.

I also maintain that on the supposition of a creator god that the vastness and age of the universe isn't necessary. He could have created a world on a flat disk for this. The question at that point is why did god create unnecessary things? The burden of proof is on the theist to show why unnecessary things were created.

I think that Loftus is seriously mistakenly. He failed to show the mind or anything is unnecessary. He first has to prove that the mind is unnecessary.

To the Christian objection that we need our senses and the brain as a storage unit to process the senses I argue that you theists do not take your theology very seriously at all. If there is a mind then it can sense the empirical world on your own assumptions. If there is a mind we do not need our senses. Get it? If there is a mind that can interact with the brain then it can control the brain. If it can control the brain then it knows what the brain is doing. How it does this is left unexplained, but if we take that position seriously it can. Now if it can sense the brain then it can sense the outside world and so we do not need the five senses.

I don't know anyone who thinks that the mind can sense the empirical world. He offers no proof or explanation that the mind and brain are related to one another the way he says it is. It is silly conclude that if the mind can sense the outside world we don't need the five senses. Our five senses organs are like hardware on a modern computer. Microphone of ears. Speakers for mouth. Cameras for eyes. We even have peripherals that sense force so it is like touch. Without software to make sense of analyze the input, all those senses are useless. Same thing with brain and mind. The brain processes the data but the mind makes of the data and determines its values and importance.

You people need to be more consistent here. Consistency, that's all I ever ask.

I'll be happy when Loftus offers such consistence.

But let's assume God created us with senses anyway. The mind supposedly has the characteristics of memory storage, critical thinking, decision-making and so on. What need then of a brain? I simply don't see it based on theistic grounds.

I wouldn't say that the mind store memory. Memory storage is a function of the brain. I believe science has been able to show that. But when it comes to thinking and consciousness there has been no proof that it's only the brain responsible for that.

Why is it that atheists like Loftus Harris are invested in denying the existence of the human mind? Simple. They know that if there is no mind and if all that means that all that there is (to them) is a material world and you can't have a consciousness without a body which (to them) would mean that there in no way could be a god as described in the body. They are trying to get around the scripture, and perhaps not even consciously.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
- Acts 17:24-31

Debunking Christianity: The Mind/Brain Problem
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