Archive for the 'Brain' Category
The case study continues…
In part 1 we discussed how the partisan mind creates an alternate reality by bypassing the rational lobe of the brain. We saw how the partisan brain deals with information which challenges the subject's deeply held partisan beliefs.
Now let's see how the partisan brain processes information which reinforces the subject's deeply held partisan beliefs.
A 1951 football game between Princeton and Dartmouth featured the great Dick Kazmaier. Princeton's Kazmaier was an All-American and a Heisman Trophy candidate (he would win the Heisman later that year with a record number of votes). Talented and handsome, he had just been featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He was a beloved idol, and the most celebrated player at the very school where American College Football was born.
It was a rough game. Lots of penalties on both sides. Kazmaier was sidelined early with a broken nose and a concussion. Princeton's Brad Glass was kicked in the ribs while laying on the turf. The second half saw Dartmouth's Gene Howard taken out with a leg injury, while Dartmouth QB Jim Miller was stretchered off with a broken leg. News stories about the game were notably acrimonious on both sides.
In 1954, a study published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology asked Princeton and Dartmouth students about their perceptions of the controversial game.
In short, Princeton students overwhelmingly (93%) saw the game as "rough and dirty" . Not a single respondant thought the game was "clean and fair", and nearly 90% thought Dartmouth initiated the rough play. After viewing the game on film, Princeton students said that Dartmouth had committed twice as many penalties as Dartmouth students saw, and those penalties were more flagrant than Dartmouth students said.
Dartmouth students were shown the same game, but came away with very different conclusions. More than half thought both sides were to blame for the rough play, and were nearly evenly divided on whether the game was "rough and dirty" or "rough and fair". 13% said the game was clean and fair, and most saw the penalty infractions as even between the two teams.
In the conclusion of the study, the authors wrote:
"…it is inaccurate and misleading to say that different people have different "attitudes" concerning the same "thing." For the "thing" simply is not the same for different people whether the "thing" is a football game, a presidential candidate, Communism, or spinach."
It is true that deeply partisan beliefs color our perceptions. Not just in our attitudes, but in the way our brain chemistry helps us perceive reality. When confronted with information that threatens our partisan beliefs, our brains divert processing and bloodflow from areas of the brain associated with "cold reasoning" to areas of the brain known to process social emotions. In other words, when our deeply held politics are threatened, we respond emotionally, and not rationally.
Enter PZ Myers.
RLC posted Mind/Brain Thought Experiments at Viewpoint. Quoting:
The debate between those who believe that everything is reducible to material substance and those who believe that there's more to reality, especially the human being, than just matter is one of the most interesting of the perennial controversies in philosophy. It goes back at least to the ancient Greeks and has popped up repeatedly throughout the history of Western philosophy.
In 1714 Gottfried Leibniz, one of the greatest philosophers and mathematicians in history invited us to consider an interesting thought experiment that he, and many others, believed shows the inadequacy of physicalism (i.e. the belief that everything is explicable in terms of purely physical or mechanical processes):
Suppose that there be a machine, the structure of which produces thinking, feeling, and perceiving; imagine this machine enlarged but preserving the same proportions, so that you could enter it as if it were a mill. This being supposed you might visit its inside; but what would you observe there? Nothing but parts which push and move each other, and never anything which could explain perception.
Stephen M. Barr, a professor of physics at the University of Delaware, wrote Matter Over Mind at First Things. Origins generally evoke thoughts of life's origin or perhaps cosmology but the origin of consciousness is a challenge to both intelligent design and critics of the concept. Barr provides a brief summary about what we have learned:
Here is a small sampling of the things that have been learned so far: Different parts of the language center of the brain are used to understand speech and to formulate speech. Our brains analyze facial expressions differently from all other visual data in a specialized part of the temporal lobe called the “fusiform face area.” Different kinds of moral dilemmas (for example, ones that involve accidental versus deliberate harm to others) activate different neural circuitry in our frontal lobes. The parts of the limbic cortex that register the bodily responses associated with social emotions such as empathy and shame are connected by exceptionally long neurons to the regions of the brain where higher mental faculties are based. These special “von Economo neurons” are almost unique to human beings, and it has been suggested that this linkage is what allows us to reflect on and understand our own emotions and those of others and so to be more “deeply social” than other animals.
At his blog Thinking Christian Tom Gilson posted the blog entry The Will to Power–Is “Free Will” All in Your Head?: Scientific American. The link to the SA article is here. The author Christof Koch begins by posing the question: which part of the brain relates to behavioral decisions? He provides the qualifier- if it is the brain. Then in referencing the soul he adds the simile- like Casper the Friendly Ghost- which is sure to endear him to the scientific Ubermensch whose evidence of their status is a penchant for ridicule.
Herr Koch, we know the tune. It's nothing so primitive as a soul. No, volition
springs forth magically emerges. Take a rain check on the specifics and don't think of inserting anything but confidence in materialist outcomes into the gaps of knowledge. The author then dishonestly describes dualism as emotionally reassuring. Even lower level Ubermensch know that only IDiots believe in dualism and that it is anything but emotionally reassuring. In the best Teutonic tradition Koch wants to know what laws Casper follows. There must be rules that describe volition. But if there are is it really free will? Take in a doubleheader and another rain check. The games will be played in a gap.
Roger Penrose has indicated that the conscious brain is explained only by a theory of physics we do not yet possess. That in turn would indicate that core elements of Intelligent Design i.e. purpose and volition, are undefinable by referencing any existing physics theory. Empirical disciplines like forensic science, archaeology and psychology utilize purpose and volition to derive conclusions based on physical evidence. Purpose and volition were revealed by human sources i.e. they were directly communicated or inferred through behavior. Whether derived through communication or observed behavior, effects of purpose and volition are manifestations of prior machinations of conscious minds. The workings of these minds are linked to brain cell activity. Although cellular functions are individually definable there is no theory citing a threshhold level of multi-cellular interactions at which consciousness kicks in and below which it does not exist.
Kauffman on the Philosophy of Mind is a short Technology Review article discussing views of theoretical biologist, Stuart Kauffman. This is from the article:
The gist of his answers is that mind is a quantum phenomenon that produces a classical output that Kauffman says is the source of free will. He adds that this classical output is nonrandom and yet cannot be described by the laws of physics because, as the quantum system decoheres, information is lost in a way that can never be retrieved.
If true, that's important because "if the quantum-classical boundary can be non-random yet lawless, then no algorithmic simulation of the world or ourselves can calculate the real world, hence the evolutionary selective advantages for evolving consciousness to "know" it may be great".
Recently TT member aiguy posted a well thought out comment which raised broader issues applicable to ID. His last paragraph states:
I think what is most interesting in this forum is to work on what aspects of the mind/body problem are relevant to telic theories of origins, and what the entailments actually are. In my view, telic theories require that cognition transcends physical causation – after all, you and various ID proponents (Dembski, Egnor, etc) often defend mind/body dualism. Do you agree that unless dualism is true, ID makes no sense?
The study of dualism is a major endeavor so I'll provide a shorthand version applicable to the mind/brain issue. Although the mind and brain are clearly interdependent in my view there is a distinction between the two. You don't have to be a dualist to realize the distinction has practicle utlity. The mind is something we exercise and experience on a daily basis. Like gravity its effects are continually evident. That was also the case prior to the advent of advanced technology. Humans have always had evidence of minds and the means to assess minds and intelligence.
By contrast neurobiology is very recent. We are able to learn how specific biochemicals influence thinking and emotions. We also are able to observe how thoughts and emotions can alter neural biochemistry. Distinguishing between the mind and the body tissue associated with its function makes as much sense today as in prior eras.
13 things that do not make sense or do they? Take the first one:
1 The placebo effect
Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.
This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it's not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.
So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don't know.
But the placebo effect makes perfect sense. It's just that it runs counter to mainstream thinking. The mind interacts with but is independent of brain cells. That's why beliefs can alter brain cell function. A straightforward and rational interpretation consistent with facts. But the problem with it is it leaves Lewontin's door a bit open. But he'll survive along with the rest of you.
Peter S. Williams's A Rough Guide to Creation & Evolution contains this:
My first piece of advice is to start at the very beginning, with just the first five words of Genesis: "In the beginning, God created…" If you need more words to get your teeth into, go to John 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." "Word" is a translation of the Greek term Logos, from which we get the word logic. Logos is equivalent to what scientists like Stephen Hawking mean when they talk about "knowing the Mind of God". The belief that Logos came first, that Mind created Matter, is the fundamental theistic claim about creation, and this is the place to start when considering the relationship between Creation and Evolution.
Plato noted that "all things do become, have become and will become, some by nature, some by art, and some by chance" (The Laws, book X), and he argued that either Mind comes before matter (and the world is basically a work of art), or matter comes before mind (and the world is purely the result of chance and natural regularities). The doctrine of Creation says that Mind came before matter – the cosmos is a creation, a work of art.
In a recent comment TP wrote:
In an attempt to stay topical, it is my position that Penrose's argument against "Strong AI" procludes the "intelligence is algorithmic" presumption.
I maintain that the only way AI can have consciousness is if it includes Quantum Mechanics (which is not algorithmic).
Henry P. Stapp wrote Why Classical Mechanics Cannot Naturally Accommodate Consciousness but Quantum Mechanics Can. The link contains some thought provoking questions:
Ryan Sayre Patrico authored The Human Brain is a Machine at First Things. It's a short piece:
At least, that what atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett thinks. He argues that “we’re robots made of robots made of robots made of robots.” In other words, the brain is made up of millions upon millions of neurons, and each of those neurons is made up of eukaryotic cells, and each of those eukaryotic cells is made up of organelles, and each of those organelles is made up of proteins, and each of those proteins is. . . well, you get the idea.
Dennett then goes on to say that the sheer complexity of the human brain makes it nearly impossible to create a humanoid robot—that is, a robot with human-like intelligence. So, “we’re robots,” but robots aren’t us. Hmm. . .
And robots, as I understand it, don’t have free will. An absence of the will is what makes them robots. If that premise is true, and if Dennett is correct in saying “we’re robots,” I can’t for the life of me understand how he can talk about changing his mind when he thinks he made a mistake.
I guess when Dennett says “we’re all robots” he really means “everyone, that is, except me.”
Why would the complexity the human brain make "it nearly impossible to create a humanoid robot—that is, a robot with human-like intelligence?" I would think the existence of suitable technology would make a deliberate developmental process more likely than one with a largely stochastic generating basis.
Over at Uncommon Descent, Denise O'Leary posted a thread on Phineas Gage that I thought was worth looking at. I know I was taught that Gage's brain injury changed his personality. I'm sure many others here have heard the story. To find out that it probably wasn't true is quite a revelation.
Michael Egnor wrote Materialism of the Gaps at Evolution News & Views. Quoting Egnor:
I must say that I’ve never understood the rhetorical force of the ‘God of the Gaps’ argument. The God of the Gaps sneer is invoked to imply the inexorability of materialism as a complete explanation in natural science. Any critique of materialist dogma in science from a design or immaterial perspective is derided as a 'God of the Gaps' argument. But the real issue is the gaps, which are plentiful and very wide.
Egnor puts his finger on the real issue. Perhaps he does not understand those attracted to the phrase because he does not perceive the mindless, robot-like mentality leading one to fall back on cliches. More from Egnor: