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Science Uprising — Michael Egnor Responds to a (Thoughtful) Critic

David Klinghoffer

Science Uprising

Often in the debate about biological origins, about the mind, and more, we find ourselves tangling with critics who, in their capacity for thoughtful disagreement, leave something to be desired. So neuroscientist Michael Egnor was happy to discover a valid critical response from a viewer of Episode 2 of Science Uprising. The episode counters the materialist idea equating the mind with the brain. In it, Egnor cites a range of research that weighs against that idea.

Joshua Veltman, a commenter on YouTube, writes:

I don’t necessarily hold to materialism, but, while I find these examples fascinating, they’re not very convincing to me. There are plausible alternative explanations that would still need to be ruled out. For example, although higher thought is not localizable to one region of the brain, it may be distributed to neurons throughout the brain; it doesn’t have to be the result of something immaterial.

Science Doesn’t Work That Way

Egnor grants that this is possible, as he says over at Mind Matters. The question, though, isn’t whether materialism or its alternative can be “proven” as a matter of science (rather than philosophy). The real issue is which view provides the better explanation:

Veltman points out that the non-localization may also be due to a distribution of neurons that mediate abstract thought throughout the brain. It’s a valid objection. My point was that there is an immaterial, as well as a material, perspective on the research and that the immaterial perspective also has considerable explanatory power. In some cases, the immaterial explanation has greater explanatory power than the material explanation.

Experimental science does not prove anything. Interpretation of experiments depends upon inferential reasoning, not (primarily) on deductive reasoning. But when you look carefully at the inferential reasoning and the neuroscience, you can make a lot of sense out of a lot of neuroscience by assuming that abstract thought is in immaterial power of the mind. There may indeed be material explanations (at least from the perspective of neuroscience) but the simplest and most convincing explanation for the results of many experiments is that abstract thought is an immaterial power, not a material power, of the mind.

That makes sense. It’s only the insistence on materialism that, for no very good reason, sets up a roadblock to considering the “simplest and most convincing explanation.” The search for the truth about nature is the definition of science by any reasonable standard. We should be permitted, as the dictum goes, variously attributed to Plato and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to “follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”

Read the rest at Mind Matters. And find Episode 2 here:

Photo: Michael Egnor, Stony Brook University, in a scene from Episode 2, Science Uprising.