I spent a good part of my working life programming computers. I started in the late 60’s, almost fifty years ago. Back then, computers were the size of houses, and the programs were punched on cards. Data storage was on magnetic tape. Processors were slow and memory was small. But in the early 70’s when the microelectronics explosion happened, memories grew from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes to terabytes. Processor speed accelerated from kilohertz to megahertz to gigahertz. And of course the cost went down and down and down. Today, most kids carry one around in their pocket.
John D. Bargh is a psychologist with an interest in matters concerning free will. He edited a superb book on psychology and free will which I would advise anyone to get called Are We Free? From it, this excerpt was interesting, especially given recent conversations defending naturalism with a fellow Tippling Philosopher by email who thinks that human minds are too far removed from the rest of the animal kingdom to be explicable by naturalistic evolution (pp. 145-146):
The next five minutes of this video of Sam Harris talking at the Sydney Opera House on free will is…
Consciousness — the internal dialogue that seems to govern one’s thoughts and actions — is far less powerful than people believe, serving as a passive conduit rather than an active force that exerts control, according to a new theory proposed by an SF State researcher.
William Lane Craig, in a recent video, has declared, as a get out of jail free card for free will and neuroscience, a soul-brainstate-consciousness model for decision making.
I was listening to a Reasonable Doubts podcast from a few years ago, and it was, as ever, cracking. This one was about consciousness, its hard problem, dualism, and how it, and neuroscience, are being co-opted as a philosophical area to argue for the “God of the Gaps” style argument in the same vein as evolution in the creationist and intelligent design movements.
Good ole Brian Cox. I miss his wistful stares from mountaintops as he regales the audience with soundbites of majestic physics.
The TV presenter/scientist/ex-keyboardist of D-REAM has recently come to Twitter blows with blowhard Chopra and his rather dubious use of real science to espouse his spiritualistic nonsense. There is a great article, here, at The New Statesman:
I reported in my Free Will? book that we can laser in memories to fruit flies, so it was only a matter of time before such procedures were contextualised to humans. Scientific American reports:
This great quote came from Reddit where a commenter was reacting to my piece on the Carroll/Novella vs Alexander/Moody debate. It’s spot on:
It’s always a false dichotomy with these guys. Either the materialist explanation of consciousness has to describe absolutely everything in its entirety down to the atom, or else magic is true! “
A few weeks back, theologian, author and blogger Randal Rauser had a pop at me. We have previously had a few cross-posts and whatnot, and even debated on US radio/Reasonable Doubts podcast on the subject of the Nativity, which can be found here. Luke, a theist who regularly comments here,, also comments at Rauser’s blog, and I got into a revived debate about libertarian free will and the Kalam.
The Tippling Philosophers group that I frequent has a collection of very differing viewpoints, from reductionist style physicalism to Christianity; agnosticism to various degrees of spiritualism. Fiona, who is posting here, has had an interesting journey. She has had, and continues to have, experience with Eastern worldviews and practices (including yoga and meditation, and Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism). This comes through in her post. But what is interesting is her acceptance fairly recently of the illusion of free will, and how this has affected her take on, well, herself. The ever illusive “I”.
Our brains give us the remarkable ability to make sense of situations we’ve never encountered before — a familiar person in an unfamiliar place, for example, or a coworker in a different job role — but the mechanism our brains use to accomplish this has been a longstanding mystery of neuroscience.
By studying how memories are made, UC Irvine neurobiologists created new, specific memories by direct manipulation of the brain, which could prove key to understanding and potentially resolving learning and memory disorders.
The “mini brain” is roughly the size and developmental level of a nine-week foetus
Miniature “human brains” have been grown in a lab in a feat scientists hope will transform the understanding of neurological disorders.
University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher.
By analysing MRI images of the brain with an elegant mathematical model, it is possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before. In this way, researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen have succeeded in determining which letter a test subject was looking at.
The journal Neuroimage has accepted the article, which will be published soon.
And so it is. Goddidit and supernaturalism sidle into the corner of explanatory power as the march of science proceeds. Today, Near Death Experiences and their afterlifey dualism take a hit….
This essay sets out to dispel the myth that the soul can be the originator for free will. I will start the essay by establishing the Cartesian idea of what the body is and showing that Descartes and modern biology indicate that the body is a biological machine. After indicating how Descartes (and others) use the soul as the originator for free will / volition, I will show that in order for the soul to be labelled and identified as a soul, it must have the format and properties of a soul. These must be adhered to in order to designate the soul with coherent and consistent properties. To conclude, I will maintain that if a soul must adhere to rules and laws to remain being a soul, then it must operate within a deterministic framework.
Neuroscientists Plant False Memories in Mice: Location Where Brain Stores Memory Traces, Both False and Authentic, Pinpointed
This hit the news yesterday on radio and TV. Fascinating stuff. This reported from Science Daily:
July 25, 2013 — The phenomenon of false memory has been well-documented: In many court cases, defendants have been found guilty based on testimony from witnesses and victims who were sure of their recollections, but DNA evidence later overturned the conviction.
This is a superb article from Jerry Coyne over at Why Evolution Is True about the work being done building on and improving upon the Benjamin Libet experiments which I have talked about before online and in my book. Thanks you so much to Jerry who has allowed me to repost his article. Please, please check out his excellent blog.