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.
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! “
Some fellow tippling philosophers and myself are having an email exchange about psychology. It started with one of us writing an email lauding Daniel Kahneman’s work Thinking Fast and Slow (the bold is where he is quoting someone else).
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.
After having looked at Randal Rauser’s reasons for being a Christian, and having had my reasons and his defences intensely debated on his blog, I have in a previous posts (linked below) offered Dr Vincent Torley’s account. Some readers may know Vincent from the Uncommon Descent website which attempts to refute evolution. I have argued with him at length when I used to write for John Loftus more often at Debunking Christianity. Here is his bio:
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….
After having looked at Randal Rauser’s reasons for being a Christian, and having had my reasons and his defences intensely debated on his blog, I have in a previous post offered Dr Vincent Torley’s account. Some readers may know Vincent from the Uncommon Descent website which attempts to refute evolution. I have argued with him at length when I used to write for John Loftus more often at Debunking Christianity. Here is his bio:
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.
New Scientist has started a new feature series on people with bizarre and rare mind / brain disorders and predicaments. This article looks at Cotard’s syndrome. What is fascinating about this article and syndrome is the interplay between brain, consciousness and self-awareness. That these conscious states arise from brian patterns:
“When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren’t going to do me any good ’cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn’t need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death.”