This acclaimed scientist gives a friendlier face to atheistic neuroscience |331|

#61
This interview with the dear Dr. is one of those interviews where fact checking will produce a headache before it is all over. Therefore I will choose just one. The Dr, suggested that you read Dr. Michael Gazzaniga. I have read most of Gazzaniga and talk about it when I lecture on consciousness.It is good stuff. As with most arguments the Gazzaniga defense of atheism is only as good as the facts Paxinos wishes to leave out, because the split brain research hardly back up the 1st grade Sunday School view that Paxinos is promoting.

The fact that there are two brains hardly makes it easier to believe that this formation happened by accident. Gazzaniga also points out a bigger problem that there are potentially thousands of independent modules in the brain, such as sight, sound, balance, speech etc. Without getting into the complexity of genetic mutations forming this Jumbo Jet in the junkyard after numerous tornados, it raises the realization to any neuroscientist that he is reality attending Trump University. The ugly unspoken word at Trump University is the binding problem. How do these potentially thousands of modules work together to almost instantly create the super virtual reality we call qualia?

We are expected to believe that some massive committee of modules is making collective decisions (otherwise known as Oneness) to chose correctly each word as we put it in a sentence, walk talk and chew gum at the same time etc, or run the thousands of other unconscious functions like healing wounds, regulating blood pressure, sugar levels, heart rate yada yada.The insistance that this multi moduled brain is a randomly created self-organizing system rivals any and all miracles in the Bible.

The other wonderful thing about the split-brain research that Paxinos chose to ignore is the "storyteller" or "interpeter" that Gazzaniga was created with discovering. It is located in the scientific rational anylytical left brain and is as close to a "scientific fact" as one gets. It was discovered that when an instruction was given to the right brain, the left scientific rational analytical brain was ignorant of it because there are no signals being exchanged between the brain halves. When the right brain was told to get up and walk around or go get a drink, Gazzaniga would ask the "verbal" left brain, "Why did you get up and walk around or get a drink?"

In every case, the left brain would make something up and in every case it was wrong. It would immediately say "I was thirsty" or "I needed to stretch." It was given the name storyteller as the left brain consciousness (and it appears to be an independent consciousness so now we have three consciousnesses in the same brain) was trying to fill the gap in the suddenly inconsistent situation. The appropriate name for the storyteller in the rational left brain is pathological bullshitter.

This is where skepticism comes from. Science is a method to investigate the world around us. The idea that skepticism is a part was added later. Skepticism is the atheistic rational analytical consciousness's way of dealing with things when their religious scientific beliefs start to fail.

A prime example from the interview. Alex confronts the Dr. with the evidence of near-death experience and how it invalidates the materialistic brain Sunday School story. Because there is now a big hole in Paxinos's world view, his left brain storyteller jumps in immediately with "the evidence wasn't published in a major journal." The story is now consistent again.

So Alex then brings up the fact that the evidence was written in the Lancet, and again there is a hole in Paxinos's world view. The storyteller jumps in immediately with a questioning of the controls used in the experiment. If Alex had killed that the storyteller would have come up with something else. This is not theory. READ GAZZANIGA.

Just for interest sake the split brain research also shows that when the left brain is shut down as is found in autistic savants, even though many of them cannot dress themselves, speak, or go to school, can produce many things that they have never been taught. These include calendar counting for specific dates thousands of years in the future, multiplying six digits numbers against each other, producing 15 or 16 digital prime numbers, telepathically pick of 162 digits in a row, and instantly counting hundreds of small items instantly that have just dropped to the floor. ANY reading in savant literature shows clearly that these skills do exist and are completely reproducible. It would not be fair to bring these things up with Paxinos, as he is still in grade one when it comes to the complexity and what consciousness can do through the brain.
Hi Grant... you might have finnally nudged me over the cliff :) I gotta try to get Gazzaniga on Skeptiko.
 
#62
At about 9 minutes into the podcast, Paxinos talks about for example being born in The United States or in Afghanistan as examples of how our outlook is a result of these external influences. But he doesn't explain how we can break free of that conditioning and see what we really are.

For example, in an article entitled "Why psychology lost its soul" he writes at the start, the provocative statement, "Psychology is the study of behaviour". Now I'd always understood it to be the study of the psyche or the mind. By redefining the mind out of existence at the outset, there is really nothing further to be discussed. The book is closed before it is even begun.

Since however, one's outlook is produced by the environment in which one was raised, Paxinos here is playing the victim. He is unable to break free of this conditioning, the poor bewildered creature is doomed to continue to believe those things which he was taught.
great point.
 
#63
Hi everybody,

this is my first post at Skeptiko, let's start with my thoughts about the TV-analogy you, Alex, have suggested as the one alternative to a naturalistic framework.

I do appreciate you question notions like "the mind is what the brain does" because they are really not thought through well.

In the other hand, I am not happy with the TV analogy.

Usually it is not some "pure conscious event" that strikes us first, but the contents of consciousness. Intuitively, I'd say the magic thing is e.g. the consciously experienced pain itself and not an extra ingredient "consciousNESS".

I am pointing this out because it is really the brain that shapes the contents of our conscious experience. And this is different from what a TV set does. A TV set doesn't shape the contents of a TV show.

Maybe there is some truth to the analogy on a higher level of abstraction. But I suppose the main purpose of the analogy is to convince others and I fear that instead, it gives the impression that non-naturalists underestimate the role of the brain.

Does that make sense?
yes it does. I always cringe when I hear (or use) the TV analogy, then again, it's hard to bring hardcore folks like George up-to-speed without some oversimplification.
 
#64
I would like to agree with George Paxinos' view that genetic/neural determinism makes us more sympathetic and understanding toward others but my genetically pre-programmed neurons won't allow it. All jokes aside, why ask a man who works with rats and maps brain cells questions about the nature of consciousness and whether consciousness survives brain death? .
agreed. it's a strange twist of the materialistic torture wheel... "experts"
 
#65
From my point of view science isn't going to turn around from materialism any time soon - it is just too pervasive. I don't expect science to budge much until such times as Darwinian evolution theory tumbles. Darwinian evolution theory really does reach into the public consciousness, though in a very simplistic way, and is pretty much taken as fact.
agreed. it's the touchstone. you can talk quantim physics and eyes just glaze over, but bring up evolution and everyone "knows."


As to NDE research I don't think that is gaining much traction with the public at all.
interesting take. I think NDE science has won over a lot of folks.
 
#66
As I recall, the question Alex "teed-up" was whether or not there was a paradigm shift away from materialism/physicalism to something that could incorporate the findings of consciousness research into ESP, mediumship, NDE's, etc.Personally, I do not think so judging from the popular science media I read. "Mind" and "brain" seem to be used interchangeably. Articles covering the paranormal have a sensationalist bent. I frequently debate on atheistforums.org. I can tell you that I hear the same mocking attitude and ridiculous straw-men continually presented in otherwise serious publications. I have no doubt that the guest is quite serious about his research yet he was quick to dismiss NDE perceptions as "floating eyeballs". It is very difficult to reach people who immediately fit inexplicable phenomena into childish notions of the transcendent.
 
#67
Yes - I don't like the transmission theory.
Neither to I. Part of the problem is that the most popular theories of mind are based on the assumptions of modern analytic philosophy. In Thomism, because it starts with different assumptions, the mind-body problem simply doesn't exist.
 
#68
As I recall, the question Alex "teed-up" was whether or not there was a paradigm shift away from materialism/physicalism to something that could incorporate the findings of consciousness research into ESP, mediumship, NDE's, etc.Personally, I do not think so judging from the popular science media I read. "Mind" and "brain" seem to be used interchangeably. Articles covering the paranormal have a sensationalist bent. I frequently debate on atheistforums.org. I can tell you that I hear the same mocking attitude and ridiculous straw-men continually presented in otherwise serious publications. I have no doubt that the guest is quite serious about his research yet he was quick to dismiss NDE perceptions as "floating eyeballs". It is very difficult to reach people who immediately fit inexplicable phenomena into childish notions of the transcendent.
I agree... we all have resist the pull of the echo chamber. most of the "normal" people I encounter are only slightly more open to this stuff.
 
#69
Most people on this forum err towards the conclusion that physical brain and conscious mind are not synonymous. They are clearly connected, as alcohol, narcotics and head injury illustrate, consciousness can be altered or occluded, but to talk about unconsciousness, a lack of consciousness, is a misnomer. Even people deeply sedated and anaesthetised, whose bodies are being kept alive by entirely artificial means, remain the same people on recovery so consciousness is being maintained, not eliminated.
sorry, I don't understand the direction of your post. Why do you think it is an error to acknowledge that the physical brain and the conscious mind are not synonymous? Most people would assume that conscious experience ceases under deep anaesthesia before it comes back afterwards. Do you simply want to point out that consciousNESS is a strange term?
 
#70
A bit, but then id be interested in those further assumptions that you think that are wrong. How is consciousness, that doesn't seem to brain based in your opinion as far as i can guess, different from the contents that are brain based?
I think you got me wrong. Maybe I wasn't clear enough. I didn't want to oppose an immaterial consciousNESS to brain-based contents of consciousness. I don't like using the term consciousNESS. I think that while the brain (as we understand it in contemporary science i.e. a biological information processing machine) does determine WHAT we experience, it cannot provide the ontological basis for conscious experience.

To me, the wording "the brain CREATES conscious experience" implies that the brain provides the ontological basis for consicous experience. But people use language differently...
 
#71
yes it does. I always cringe when I hear (or use) the TV analogy, then again, it's hard to bring hardcore folks like George up-to-speed without some oversimplification.
Then, probably, we can find a better analogy.

I recently had the idea to use an orchestral score and the music it conveys as an analogy for brain and consciousness:

- To a large extent, the score determines the music.

but:

- Paper and ink is not the ontological basis for music, in other words, music is not localized on a sheet of paper. Why at all can music exist then? Because it is created and experienced somewhere else!
- the essential structures of a piece of music (not fully amenable to analytic/reductionistic analysis) fundamentally differ from those of musical notation and a piece of paper&ink. How can this be possible? because the latter is interpreted by a process located in a different realm!

One important limitation of this analogy is that it describes a uni-directional relation. I don't think the relation between brain and conscious experience is uni-directional (why would biological evolution have come up with a uni-directional relation?). But the TV-analogy suffers from the same limitation.

Probably we can start some brain-storming here about analogies that might replace the TV-set-analogy. Has anyone a good idea for a bi-directional analogy?
 
Last edited:
#72
Probably we can start some brain-storming here about analogies that might replace the TV-set-analogy. Has anyone a good idea for a bi-directional analogy?
I am doing a bit of personal brain-storming trying to imagine what you mean by a bi-directional analogy. Anyhow, I often use the TV analogy with the caveat that it is simplistic and not literal. If I get anywhere with that (and, more often than not, I don't) I'll try to introduce the filter theory.

But what I find is the real road-block is the refusal on that part of mind=brain materialists to consider subjectivity seriously. If I talk about the subjective qualities of music, drama, art, etc. or the beauty of a red rose, I am told that brains have evolved to recognise patterns and that the feelings associated with those patterns have some evolutionary advantage. The response is so pat and so consistent that I imagine classrooms full of students repeating passages from Dawkins like the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution reciting Mao's little red book. At that point I usually remember the gulf that exists between worldviews - one that I can never expect to bridge.
 
#73
I am doing a bit of personal brain-storming trying to imagine what you mean by a bi-directional analogy...
1) bi-directional: brain processes have causal effects on conscious experience. Conscious experience have effects on brain processes.

2) uni-directional: the broadcasted TV programm has effect on the physical processes in my TV. Physical processes in my TV have no effect on what is being broadcasted.
 
#74
...But what I find is the real road-block is the refusal on that part of mind=brain materialists to consider subjectivity seriously. If I talk about the subjective qualities of music, drama, art, etc. or the beauty of a red rose, I am told that brains have evolved to recognise patterns and that the feelings associated with those patterns have some evolutionary advantage. The response is so pat and so consistent that I imagine classrooms full of students repeating passages from Dawkins like the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution reciting Mao's little red book. At that point I usually remember the gulf that exists between worldviews - one that I can never expect to bridge.
Don't give up trying to bridge the gulf. One point I keep trying to make: many people seem to think that if they find a point of view from which a problem becomes invisible, they have solved the problem. If you look at brains who claim to have conscious experience, you can't see the mind-body problem. It is a perspective from which the mind-body problem becomes invisible. I remember one or two materialists who after a lively discussion finally acknowledged that ignoring a problem isn't precisely the same as solving it. So they converted from Eliminativism to one-day-we-will-find-it-out-materialists...
 
Top