Mod+ Brains on Fire: Dr. Steven Novella Explains, "The Mind Is the Fire of the Brain"

#1
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/12/brains_on_fire092151.html
Dr. Steven Novella, clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, has posted two responses to my posts on memory and neuroscience. His first post was scattered, and not worth a reasoned response, but he collects himself in his second post and provides an opportunity for discussion.
...
The difference between a memory and a representation of a memory is obvious. Right now I remember that I have an appointment at noon. I'm writing down "appointment at noon" on my calendar.

My memory is my thought that I have an appointment at noon.

The representation of my memory is the written note on my calendar.
...
How could my brain state represent my memory of my appointment? An actual written note in my cortex? A little calendar in my hippocampus? A tiny alarm set to go off in my auditory area? How, pray tell, could a brain state map to a thought, especially a thought that is not an image?

For most of our memories and thoughts -- those that are not pure images -- the concept of representation in the brain simply doesn't make sense.
...
So even if my memory that I have an appointment at noon were represented in a brain state, I still have not solved the problem of memory. It still remains unexplained how the representation is accessed, decoded, and read.
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I suggest reading the full article and the linked background articles to get a full understanding of the point. I would summarize it this way: You might be able to store data in the brain, but a memory is not just data, it is also a subjective experience. How can you store a subjective experience in the brain? How can you store what the color red looks like, or what it feels like to be happy in matter? You cant!

Another point Michael Egnor makes is that to access a memory you need some way to find it, but then you have to remember how to find it, so there is an infinite regress.
 
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S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#3
Is it just me or is "The Mind is What the Brain Does" only believable to people who've already bought into materialism or are just desperately against anything that suggests a soul?

Even Sam Harris thinks that it's nonsense demanding an ex nihilo miracle. I think I even mentioned this to Novella before, but like more most fanatics - religious or materialist - he ignores or runs away from things that contradict the safe box he's hid himself in.
 
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#4
Is it just me or is "The Mind is What the Brain Does" only believable to people who've already bought into materialism or are just desperately against anything that suggests a soul?

Even Sam Harris thinks that it's nonsense demanding an ex nihilo miracle. I think I even mentioned this to Novella before, but like more fanatics - religious or materialist - he ignores or runs away from things that contradict the safe box he's hid himself in.
I think some people don't really appreciate the significance of qualia. If you've never thought deeply about it, it doesn't necessarily have much meaning. I remember when I first read something that discussed the significance of subjective experience, I didn't get it right away. There is a difference between hearing words, understanding their literal meaning, and appreciating in depth the implications of their meaning. So I think someone who has bought into the mind=brain dogma because of a career as a neuroscientist and self-proclaimed skeptic will never really allow the concept to develop in his mind. It's part neuroplasticity, part perceptual bias, part fear of being wrong, but they cannot form the concept.
 
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#5
If you think all subjective experiences are just various patterns of neurons firing, then you can believe a memory is just getting a pattern to fire again so you relive the experience. But that's essentially what a computer does, and a computer is not conscious of what it displays on its screen or sends to a printer. There is something else in a human being that responds to the neurons firing and has the conscious, subjective experience. Its the same as the hard problem of consciousness, if you can't explain the subjective experience of why red looks red, you can't explain the subjective experience of knowing what you remember. The brain might store data used to produce memories, but to explain why red looks red, or how you know what you remember, you need something else. Materialists have no place in their world view for that something else so they refuse to see the need for it.
 
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#6
Is it just me or is "The Mind is What the Brain Does" only believable to people who've already bought into materialism or are just desperately against anything that suggests a soul?

Even Sam Harris thinks that it's nonsense demanding an ex nihilo miracle. I think I even mentioned this to Novella before, but like more most fanatics - religious or materialist - he ignores or runs away from things that contradict the safe box he's hid himself in.
Some just don't like the idea of an afterlife and/or soul. Some would rather sleep eternally.

And yes, I changed my avatar again. I'm a changer.
 
#8
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/12/my_reply_to_dr_novellas_critiq014281.html
My Reply to Dr. Novella's Critique of Intentionality as a Property of the Mind
Michael Egnor December 15, 2008

Steven Novella recently replied to my post in which I pointed out six properties of the mind that were not properties of matter. Strict materialistic theories of the mind restrict themselves to purely materialistic explanations. The difficulty is that the salient properties of the mind -- intentionality, qualia, continuity of self through time, restricted access of thoughts, incorrigibility of mental states, and free will -- are not known to be properties of matter, including brain matter. The important things that characterize the mind are not material. How then can the mind be explained completely by materialism?
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Intentionality is the "aboutness" or meaning of a mental state, the ability of a mental state to refer to something outside of itself. Ink on paper has no meaning unless it is conferred by a mind, which wrote it or read it. Matter may have intentionality only secondarily ("derived intentionality"). The problem of intentionality is believed by many philosophers of the mind to be the most serious challenge to materialism.
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/11/the_mind_and_materialist_super013961.html
The Mind and Materialist Superstition
Michael Egnor November 26, 2008

Qualia is subjective experience, which is first person ontology.
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Persistence of Self-Identity
We are the same person throughout our lives, despite a continual turn-over of matter in our brains.
...
Restricted Access
Restricted access means that I, and only I, experience my thoughts first-hand.
...
Incorrigibility
Incorrigibility, which is related to restricted access, means the unassailable knowledge of one's own thoughts. If I am thinking of the color red, no one can credibly refute that fact.
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Free Will
If the mind is entirely caused by matter, it is difficult to understand how free will can exist. Matter is governed by fixed laws, and if our thoughts are entirely the product of brain chemistry, then our thoughts are determined by brain chemistry. But chemistry doesn't have "truth" or "falsehood," or any other values for that matter. It just is. Enzymatic catalysis isn't true or false, it just is. In fact, the view that "materialism is true" is meaningless... if materialism is true.
"In fact, the view that "materialism is true" is meaningless... if materialism is true."
 
#9
Modern day materialism and athiesm are definitely seeming dogmatic at this point. Just look at how they view themselves as the one lone light in the evil, superstitious darkness. Clearly a belief system does not require a deity to be a religion.

If video games have taught me anything useful on this matter, it's that you can easily have a computer program that operates in a pretty convincing facsimile of life and consciousness, but nonetheless is neither alive nor conscious. If we were just biological computers, there would be no room for any driving awareness or consciousness any more than there is for NPCs in video games.
 
#10
The thing is though. Human memory is different to a computer much different. When you store a film on a computer or a file, it is identical whenever you open it. Whenever you watch say Star Wars on a hard drive, the death star always blows up. Or if you play a justin beiber song, it consistently sounds like sh*t. Our memory has been shown to be incredibly fallible on occasions, just look a court cases where people have been convicted and incarcerated based on a false recollection of an event. A computer is not like that. RE consciousness, I suspect a fair bit is brain based, (personality and most memory), but that there is something about the material that is experiential, or proto-aware. I just can't see how subjectivity can arise from supposedly dead matter. Strawson argues it best in this lecture:

 
#11
Is it just me or is "The Mind is What the Brain Does" only believable to people who've already bought into materialism or are just desperately against anything that suggests a soul?

Even Sam Harris thinks that it's nonsense demanding an ex nihilo miracle. I think I even mentioned this to Novella before, but like more most fanatics - religious or materialist - he ignores or runs away from things that contradict the safe box he's hid himself in.
people like certainty, it's much more comfortable to be that way. As Voltaire said, "doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd"
 
#12
I'm sure Novella's writing/typing another article right now.
Once upon a midnight deadline, while Novella mulled a headline,
Near his desk sat a quaint and typical bookshelf of skeptical lore—
While he yawned, his eyelids creeping, suddenly there came a beeping,
As of some one rudely heaping, heaping on some extra chore.
“’Tis some editor,” he muttered, "with advice he has to pour—
"Best be this, and nothing more.”

Presently the sound got stronger; and the frown he had grew longer,
“Shoot,” he said, “Gosh darnit, truly your leave of me I implore;
See, the fact is I was typing, when so rudely you came sniping,
And so loudly you came griping, griping that there wasn't more,
That I'm sure my paper's not done”—here he grasped his iPhone 4;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Back to the computer turning, all the beer within him churning,
Soon again he heard a beeping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said he, “surely that is Shermer on his Windows Mobile;
Let me see what shook his core now, and this anecdote explore—
Let me test by proclamation and shout the phrase I adore;—
’Tis debunked and nothing more!”

So here then he pressed the touchscreen, and, with great volume he did much scream,
As there smiled a stately Radin with some facts one can't ignore;
Just the best of data spoke he; and Novella could not stop he;
He dominated the discussion, on Novella's iPhone 4—
There he talked of the afterlife on Novella's iPhone 4—
Spoke of psi, and spoke some more.

Then Novella became tenser, and he cursed, needing a censor
Like the atheists who pounded on Wikipedia's door.
“Wretch,” he cried, “thy God hath lent thee— wait, there's no God to have sent thee
Respite—respite and desist from thy stories of Eben's Core;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget of Heaven's door!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

“When we die there's no soul parting, none at all!” he shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back to Skeptiko and IANDS's shore!
No psychic has pow'rs awoken; 'tis a lie, thy theory's broken!
Leave the truth of psi unspoken!—quit thee of this nonsense war!
Take thy fields from out my science; take thy books from off my store!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

And Dean Radin, never balking, still is talking, still is talking
In the sprawling YouTube channels, on Novella's iPhone 4;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a medium who's dreaming,
And the talks of paranormal push Novella out the door;
And his paper for that journal, that lies floating on the floor,
Shall be written—nevermore!
 
#13
Once upon a midnight deadline, while Novella mulled a headline,
Near his desk sat a quaint and typical bookshelf of skeptical lore—
While he yawned, his eyelids creeping, suddenly there came a beeping,
As of some one rudely heaping, heaping on some extra chore.
“’Tis some editor,” he muttered, "with advice he has to pour—
"Best be this, and nothing more.”

Presently the sound got stronger; and the frown he had grew longer,
“Shoot,” he said, “Gosh darnit, truly your leave of me I implore;
See, the fact is I was typing, when so rudely you came sniping,
And so loudly you came griping, griping that there wasn't more,
That I'm sure my paper's not done”—here he grasped his iPhone 4;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Back to the computer turning, all the beer within him churning,
Soon again he heard a beeping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said he, “surely that is Shermer on his Windows Mobile;
Let me see what shook his core now, and this anecdote explore—
Let me test by proclamation and shout the phrase I adore;—
’Tis debunked and nothing more!”

So here then he pressed the touchscreen, and, with great volume he did much scream,
As there smiled a stately Radin with some facts one can't ignore;
Just the best of data spoke he; and Novella could not stop he;
He dominated the discussion, on Novella's iPhone 4—
There he talked of the afterlife on Novella's iPhone 4—
Spoke of psi, and spoke some more.

Then Novella became tenser, and he cursed, needing a censor
Like the atheists who pounded on Wikipedia's door.
“Wretch,” he cried, “thy God hath lent thee— wait, there's no God to have sent thee
Respite—respite and desist from thy stories of Eben's Core;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget of Heaven's door!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

“When we die there's no soul parting, none at all!” he shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back to Skeptiko and IANDS's shore!
No psychic has pow'rs awoken; 'tis a lie, thy theory's broken!
Leave the truth of psi unspoken!—quit thee of this nonsense war!
Take thy fields from out my science; take thy books from off my store!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

And Dean Radin, never balking, still is talking, still is talking
In the sprawling YouTube channels, on Novella's iPhone 4;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a medium who's dreaming,
And the talks of paranormal push Novella out the door;
And his paper for that journal, that lies floating on the floor,
Shall be written—nevermore!
This is extremely funny! You have made my day!
 
#14
Once upon a midnight deadline, while Novella mulled a headline,
Near his desk sat a quaint and typical bookshelf of skeptical lore—
While he yawned, his eyelids creeping, suddenly there came a beeping,
As of some one rudely heaping, heaping on some extra chore.
“’Tis some editor,” he muttered, "with advice he has to pour—
"Best be this, and nothing more.”

Presently the sound got stronger; and the frown he had grew longer,
“Shoot,” he said, “Gosh darnit, truly your leave of me I implore;
See, the fact is I was typing, when so rudely you came sniping,
And so loudly you came griping, griping that there wasn't more,
That I'm sure my paper's not done”—here he grasped his iPhone 4;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Back to the computer turning, all the beer within him churning,
Soon again he heard a beeping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said he, “surely that is Shermer on his Windows Mobile;
Let me see what shook his core now, and this anecdote explore—
Let me test by proclamation and shout the phrase I adore;—
’Tis debunked and nothing more!”

So here then he pressed the touchscreen, and, with great volume he did much scream,
As there smiled a stately Radin with some facts one can't ignore;
Just the best of data spoke he; and Novella could not stop he;
He dominated the discussion, on Novella's iPhone 4—
There he talked of the afterlife on Novella's iPhone 4—
Spoke of psi, and spoke some more.

Then Novella became tenser, and he cursed, needing a censor
Like the atheists who pounded on Wikipedia's door.
“Wretch,” he cried, “thy God hath lent thee— wait, there's no God to have sent thee
Respite—respite and desist from thy stories of Eben's Core;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget of Heaven's door!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

“When we die there's no soul parting, none at all!” he shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back to Skeptiko and IANDS's shore!
No psychic has pow'rs awoken; 'tis a lie, thy theory's broken!
Leave the truth of psi unspoken!—quit thee of this nonsense war!
Take thy fields from out my science; take thy books from off my store!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

And Dean Radin, never balking, still is talking, still is talking
In the sprawling YouTube channels, on Novella's iPhone 4;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a medium who's dreaming,
And the talks of paranormal push Novella out the door;
And his paper for that journal, that lies floating on the floor,
Shall be written—nevermore!
Bravo! :D
 
#16
Once upon a midnight deadline, while Novella mulled a headline,
Near his desk sat a quaint and typical bookshelf of skeptical lore—
While he yawned, his eyelids creeping, suddenly there came a beeping,
As of some one rudely heaping, heaping on some extra chore.
“’Tis some editor,” he muttered, "with advice he has to pour—
"Best be this, and nothing more.”

Presently the sound got stronger; and the frown he had grew longer,
“Shoot,” he said, “Gosh darnit, truly your leave of me I implore;
See, the fact is I was typing, when so rudely you came sniping,
And so loudly you came griping, griping that there wasn't more,
That I'm sure my paper's not done”—here he grasped his iPhone 4;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Back to the computer turning, all the beer within him churning,
Soon again he heard a beeping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said he, “surely that is Shermer on his Windows Mobile;
Let me see what shook his core now, and this anecdote explore—
Let me test by proclamation and shout the phrase I adore;—
’Tis debunked and nothing more!”

So here then he pressed the touchscreen, and, with great volume he did much scream,
As there smiled a stately Radin with some facts one can't ignore;
Just the best of data spoke he; and Novella could not stop he;
He dominated the discussion, on Novella's iPhone 4—
There he talked of the afterlife on Novella's iPhone 4—
Spoke of psi, and spoke some more.

Then Novella became tenser, and he cursed, needing a censor
Like the atheists who pounded on Wikipedia's door.
“Wretch,” he cried, “thy God hath lent thee— wait, there's no God to have sent thee
Respite—respite and desist from thy stories of Eben's Core;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget of Heaven's door!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

“When we die there's no soul parting, none at all!” he shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back to Skeptiko and IANDS's shore!
No psychic has pow'rs awoken; 'tis a lie, thy theory's broken!
Leave the truth of psi unspoken!—quit thee of this nonsense war!
Take thy fields from out my science; take thy books from off my store!”
Quoth Dean Radin: “You are more.”

And Dean Radin, never balking, still is talking, still is talking
In the sprawling YouTube channels, on Novella's iPhone 4;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a medium who's dreaming,
And the talks of paranormal push Novella out the door;
And his paper for that journal, that lies floating on the floor,
Shall be written—nevermore!
Ha ha ha my belly hurts now.
 
#19
Some just don't like the idea of an afterlife and/or soul. Some would rather sleep eternally.

And yes, I changed my avatar again. I'm a changer.
You hint at something very, very important. Most people are not really interested in truth. They are interested in feeling better. They choose beliefs much like they choose which food to eat at a restaurant for dinner. They will give very little thought beyond that. Without getting religious because we can have an afterlife without the concept of God, I have often asked "athiests" of which I am not one, to define God. I get dumbfounded looks and long winded answers suggesting they don't have to answer the question. Then I ask the very simple question, "How can you say something does not exist if you don't know what it is?" I get silence.

An investigation of truth requires the painful search that I might be wrong. I learned this in my own story posted in another thread. In order to find out what happened in Berlin I had to also find out if I was in fact insane and seeing things. This is not an easy thing to do. Most for good reason, do not want to do the work.
 
#20
You hint at something very, very important. Most people are not really interested in truth.
I agree with most of your post except for the premise of "feeling better" as being a prime motivator. In fact, even a cursory look will show that people readily believe things that are likely to make them "feel bad." People hold to beliefs for many different reasons but a very common motivator is the combination of "wanting to be right" plus "herd instinct." Add in the belief in experts/authorities and you have a much more common and powerful driver.
 
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