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Monday, October 15, 2007

Spiritual Brain: Mario's and my interview with MercatorNet

In response to MercatorNet’s Michael Cook’s question re our recent book, The Spiritual Brain:
Quite a few widely-publicised articles in leading scientific journals have made astonishing claims about the scope of neuroscience: that God, altruism, morality, and emotions are all figments of the brain. It all sounds very convincing. But how close are these researchers to proving their case?

I reply,
Let me say something first about how such claims arise. The materialism that underlies them is assumed. It is not demonstrated. A materialist explanation is assumed to be better than a non-materialist explanation even if it is silly. All the claims I examined had fallen apart by the time I got to them. But why believe me? The fact that consciousness is referred to in the trade to this day as "the hard problem of consciousness" demonstrates better than I can how far they are from proving any case at all.

Note: If you are not a materialist, consciousness isn’t a problem in the same sense. It is a state that you cannot explore using the tool set and assumptions mandated by materialism. But so? To a non-materialist, that just means developing and working with other tool sets, other assumptions.

And we nosh around further, with Michael asking,
Are there many major neuroscientists who do not accept that all of our mental processes can be reduced to biological processes?

In the journal Nature Neuroscience, some researchers recently argued that American liberals and conservatives think differently because of the way their brains are structured. What are the implications of reducing ideas to circuitry? What comes next?

What indeed? See MercatorNet for my comment.

Michael asks Mario,
Do you think that neuroscientists think much about the ethical implications of their work?

and Mario replies,
No. Most neuroscientists prefer to leave the critical reflection about the ethical implications of their work to theologians and philosophers.

Hey, Mario! Is that how one of them ended up working for the CIA?

I fear so. One can't just park one's conscience at the Park n' Fly in any profession.

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