My favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor, has written a rebuttal to my previous post criticizing the dualism of Deepak Chopra. His rebuttal is very revealing about the disconnect between dualists – those who think that the mind is something more than and separate from the brain, and materialist neuroscientists – those who think that the functioning of the brain is an adequate explanation for the phenomenon of mind. Egnor illustrates, although it seems inadvertently, that the real difference is that between science and philosophy.
In my original post I stated:
Deepak then plays the “false controversy” gambit. He wants us to keep an open mind “until the argument is resolved.” But there is actually nothing left unresolved. Deepak has presented no mysteries that cannot comfortably be explained within the completely material paradigm of neuroscience. His “invisible will” is nothing more than a trick of semantics – not an established phenomenon; not a genuine mystery to be solved. He says the material paradigm is “untenable” but has presented nothing that makes it so.
To which Dr. Egnor responds:
Is there genuinely “nothing left unresolved’ in our understanding of the mind-body problem? Are there “no mysteries that cannot comfortably be explained within the completely material paradigm of neuroscience?” The truth is that there remain enormous mysteries, and virtually nothing about these mysteries is resolved. The mind-body problem is perhaps the most active and contentious area of modern philosophy, and there is very little “resolved”. Of the many issues raised by philosophers, perhaps the most important is the “hard problem of consciousness” formulated by philosopher David Chalmers.
Dr. Egnor completely missed the context of my statement, which was a response to Chopra’s contention that there are actual phenomena (not just subjective experience) that cannot be explained by the brain and requires a separate will or mind. In his response Egnor confuses scientific questions and methodology with philosophical questions.
For example, if the brain causes the mind then: there will be no documented mental function in the absence of brain function; altering the brain biologically will alter the mind functionally; mental development will correlate with brain development; and mental activity will correlate with brain activity (this holds up no matter what method we use to look at brain activity – EEG to look at electrical activity, PET scanning to look at metabolic activity, SPECT scanning to look at blood flow, and functional MRI to look at metabolic and neuronal activity).
This evidence cannot be dismissed as the “easy problem” nor as mere correlation. Brain function correlates with the mind in every way we would predict from the hypothesis that the brain causes the mind. From a scientific point of view, the mind is a manifestation of the brain.
As I have discussed previously, one way to dodge the obvious conclusion from this evidence is to confuse the question of how the brain causes the mind with the question of does the brain cause the mind. We certainly have much to learn about exactly how the brain functions to produce all mental phenomena, but this in no way diminishes the fact that the question of whether or not the brain causes the mind is settled – it does.
The biggest problem with dualism is that the materialist neuroscience model explains all observed phenomena – there is nothing left for the dualists to explain. They are clinging to the notion of “qualia”, that subjectivity itself needs a separate explanation, but they have not made this case. Often they use mere semantics to make it seem as if something more is needed, but there isn’t. Further, the dualist hypothesis does not generate any hypotheses or predictions that distinguish it from the materialist hypothesis. Every prediction points to materialism as the answer.