09 August 2018

Machines Have No Minds

Michael Egnor explains the science behind the mind and the brain, and why they are fundamentally different from computers.

The mind is unitary, immaterial, and will is free.



Here is something Dr. Egnor wrote about Wilder Penfield (who he mentions in the video) a few years ago:

Penfield was a neurosurgeon who pioneered the field of epilepsy surgery. He operated on thousands of patients who were awake (under local anesthesia), and were able to speak to him while he stimulated various regions of their brains.

Penfield found that he could invoke all sorts of things- movements, sensations, memories. But in every instance (hundreds of thousands of individual stimulations- in different locations in each patient- during his career), the patients were aware that the stimulation was being done to them, but not by them. There was a part of the mind that was independent of brain stimulation and that constituted a part of subjective experience that Penfield was not able to manipulate with his surgery.

I've performed some epilepsy surgery (although it's not my primary specialty), and my experience has been the same. Patients always know that the memory or sensation or movement is is imposed on them, not by them. Some colleagues who do specialize in epilepsy surgery have confirmed Penfield's observations as well.

Penfield called this "double consciousness", meaning that there was a part of subjective experience that he could invoke or modify materially, and a different part that was immune to such manipulation.

There probably has been no other person who has had Penfield's volume of direct experience with stimulation of the brain during consciousness (he probably did at least 10,000 such operations, perhaps more. He was practically the only person in the world doing this work in the early and mid 20th century.) He was a meticulous scientist (not that common among neurosurgeons, who tend to be 'cowboys').

He considered the strict materialist view of the mind to be utter nonsense.