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Can I just take a moment to say that I LOVE the way you write? I just love it. There.

Bravo on another excellent post, Michael!


This blog has become my regularly-indulged-in antidote to a particular brand of closed mind...

I came across a article reviewing a book yes froma christian neurologist named Dr. Warren Brown. Keith Augustine yes him again did a review of his book. The part that made my eyes turn up was this part.

The Evidence From Neuroscience

As one would expect from its title--"Brain, Mind, and Behavior"--Chapter 4 is the most important chapter in the entire book. It begins with a brief historical account of the development of neuroscience to the present day and then illustrates the overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain by considering localization studies of brain functions, split-brain surgery and hemispheric specialization, various mental deficiencies tied to brain lesions or brain damage, and the effects of brain damage on personality traits and social behavior. Malcolm Jeeves' historical overview of the development of neuroscience ends with a brief consideration of a very famous and dramatic example of mind-brain dependence:

In 1848, a 25-year old foreman, Phineas Gage ... accidentally prematurely exploded a charge which sent a tamping iron through Gage's left cheek, piercing his skull, traversing the front of his brain and exiting at high speed from the top of his head.... His employers described how, before the accident he was efficient and capable, but afterward his personality had clearly undergone a dramatic change. Not only was he feckless and irresponsible, his likes and dislikes, his aspirations, his ethics and morals, were altered. Such findings suggested that ... there may be systems in the human brain, which, if damaged, may alter the personal and social dimensions of normal life (77-78).

In Chapter 6, "Nonreductive Physicalism: Philosophical Issues," Nancey Murphy conceives of physicalism[4]--the position that only physical matter is needed to account for everything encountered in nature--as the "research program" of the neurosciences. For neuroscience, physicalism entails that mental phenomena can be accounted for in terms of brain function. In Imre Lakatos' philosophy of science, a research program is a model which explains known phenomena and (hopefully) predicts the occurrence of novel phenomena. Research programs which generate novel predictions are progressive programs, whereas those which fail to generate novel predictions are considered degenerating[5]. The ability of a program to generate predictions which are later confirmed is an important mark of scientific progress. Murphy writes: "Insofar as researchers ... make progress in explaining 'mental' phenomena, the program as a whole is making empirical progress and its core thesis [physicalism] is thereby corroborated" (140). Murphy continues: "I find brain localization studies to be some of the most impressive pieces of evidence for the physicalist program. Besides simply locating and modeling mental processes as previously understood, these studies sometimes improve our understanding of the mental processes themselves" (140). The enormous success of physicalism as a research program and the complete absence of a rival research program in psychology based on dualism illustrates the level of corroboration that physicalism has received from neuroscience. There is simply no ongoing research correlating mental states to the states of an immaterial spiritual substance. That this is so is no accident; rather, it is indicative that dualism is a degenerative research program--a scientific dead end as useless today as an Earth-centered model of the solar system.

The ability to localize mental traits to specific areas of the brain provides strong evidence that mental phenomena are generated by the brain itself, rather than by an immaterial soul which merely uses the brain to control the body. Nevertheless, Murphy concedes that such evidence does not constitute proof that dualism is false because mental traits could merely be correlated with certain areas of the brain. Why they would be so correlated must be a great mystery to dualists who think that the mind can exist almost completely intact in the absence of a brain, as if thinking, remembering, and perceiving would be unaffected by the disintegration of the brain and sense organs. Furthermore, certain types of well-established phenomena, such as the creation of two separate streams of consciousness operating simultaneously in one body in split-brain patients (who have had the corpus callosum connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain severed), cannot be accounted for on dualism[6]. If the mind was an indivisible immaterial substance that could exist independently of the brain then we should not be able to create two minds simply by severing the corpus collosum. Nor should the mind be directly affected by any tampering with the brain. If Cartesian dualism were true the only affect that brain damage could have would be to incapacitate the ability of the mind (or soul) to control the body, but the mind itself would remain intact. We have an enormous amount of evidence that this is false--changes in the brain result in changes in mental states themselves. The specific evidence from neuroscience, as well as the general success of physicalism and the corresponding failure of dualism as research programs, provides sufficiently strong evidence--even if not irrefutable proof--to make physicalism by far the best explanation of the evidence at hand.

Michael, well stated. To quote a famous skeptic of yesteryear, William James:

"I can, of course, put myself into the sectarian scientist's attitude, and imagine vividly that the world of sensations and of scientific laws and objects may be all. But when I do this, I hear that inward monitor of which W. K. Clifford once wrote, whispering the word 'bosh!' Humbug is humbug, even though it bear the scientific name, and the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow 'scientific' bounds."

does the below quote come with references from those authors or is more of scientific speculation...

the authors assert, "During [cardiopulmonary arrest], the brain undergoes several biochemical and physiological changes, but by relying on its limited backup of stored oxygen and metabolic fuels, certain aspects of consciousness can be sustained, albeit in a somewhat degraded fashion. Thus, it is not surprising that there might be some residual memories from the time that one was dying, but not yet clinically dead."

the minute I see the "can be", "might be" nonsense in debunkings my antennna goes up...

gotta pity these folks...

>does the below quote come with references

No specific references for this statement are provided in the article.

For a contrary view, see Pim van Lommel's response to Michael Shermer here. The relevant section begins with the sentence, "We know that patients with cardiac arrest are unconscious within seconds, but how do we know that the electro-encephalogram (EEG) is flat-lined in those patients, and how can we study this?" This is found about one-quarter of the way down the page.

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