Thursday, October 23, 2008

Out of their minds

To properly support dualism...non-materialist neuroscientists must show the mind is something other than just a material brain. To do so, they look to some of their favourite experiments, such as research by [Jeffrey M. Schwartz] in the 1990s on people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Schwartz used scanning technology to look at the neural patterns thought to be responsible for OCD. Then he had patients use "mindful attention" to actively change their thought processes, and this showed up in the brain scans: patients could alter their patterns of neural firing at will.

From such experiments, Schwartz and others argue that since the mind can change the brain, the mind must be something other than the brain, something non-material. [But] in fact, these experiments are entirely consistent with mainstream neurology - the material brain is changing the material brain.
-- from Creationists declare war over the brain. In addition to the faulty reasoning by Schwartz and the Christianists, an irony here is that the technique employed in the attempt to prove their point -- mindfulness -- comes from the Buddhist tradition, which in its core teachings is atheist.

P.S. In the first of a series of essays in Nature about 'being human', Pacal Boyer concludes:
Some form of [magical] thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.

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