Modern neuroscience: Room for the soul? John Beggs

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1 Modern neuroscience: Room for the soul? John Beggs

2 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

3 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

4 Apollo s chariot

5 or rotation of the earth?

6 Science killed Apollo. Will neuroscience kill the soul?

7 Dualism Body Mind Rene Descartes

8 Dualism Body and mind are separate The mind influences the body Mind is the fundamental truth Rene Descartes

9 The modern view: monism Francis Crick The brain produces the mind Body, or matter, is the fundamental truth

10 What is the Biblical view? Today you will be with me in paradise. 23:43 -Luke Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who is able to destroy soul as well as body in hell. Matt 10:28 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. -Phil 1:23

11 What is the Biblical view? Today you will be with me in paradise. 23:43 -Luke Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who is able to destroy soul as well as body in hell. Matt 10:28 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. -Phil 1:23

12 What is the Biblical view? Today you will be with me in paradise. 23:43 -Luke Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who is able to destroy soul as well as body in hell. Matt 10:28 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. -Phil 1:23

13 What is the Biblical view? Today you will be with me in paradise. 23:43 -Luke Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather be afraid of the One who is able to destroy soul as well as body in hell. Matt 10:28 I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far. -Phil 1:23

14 The opposing view All that you touch and all that you see is all your life will ever be. Pink Floyd Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Macbeth (Act V, Scene V).

15 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

16 Trying to explain different levels macroscopic mesoscopic microscopic

17 Cortical neurons from rat ~10 10 neurons in human brain

18 Neurons generate voltage pulses voltage time

19 Output is communicated by pulses through synapses Memory? voltage time

20 Each neuron makes and receives many connections ~ inputs ~ outputs

21 If all the inputs exceed a threshold, the neuron will fire in in in in Otherwise, it won t out

22 From the lab of David McCormick, Yale University

23 The cortical sheet is responsible for higher functions

24 Beggs lab: small sections of the sheet In collaboration with Alan Litke, UC Santa Cruz

25 Functions are partially localized in cortex Cortical structure is fairly uniform

26 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

27 Every physical system that has been investigated has turned out to be either deterministic or random. Both are bad news for free will, he said. So if human actions can t be caused and aren t random, he said, It must be what some weird magical power? - Michael Silberstein

28 Benamin Libet s experiment

29 Readiness potential precedes will to move

30 There is no free will I was predestined to win this argument! John Calvin

31 Response to Libet s experiments

32 Response to Libet s experiments Will Readiness Hand movement potential Conscious I have decided reflection on decision Are there any examples of our awareness lagging behind?

33 Blindsight (Lawrence Weiskrantz)

34 So My tendencies could be detected by electrodes, or by questions that you ask me. But I do not necessarily act on all my tendencies. Example: I may be angry at someone, but I may chose to forgive them. Which takes more willpower : anger or forgiveness?

35 Free Will Free will may be a new type of process, as yet not fully understood.

36 Free Will Free will may be a new type of process, as yet not fully understood. Signals of my intentions may come before my sensed decision. But my choice may actually come before both.

37 Free Will Free will may be a new type of process, as yet not fully understood. Signals of my intentions may come before my sensed decision. But my choice may actually come before both. We have many strong automatic tendencies, but these are often overruled by our will.

38 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

39 Jonathan Cohen

40 A runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks toward five people who will be killed if it proceeds on its present course. The only way to save them is to hit a switch that will turn the trolley onto an alternate set of tracks where it will kill one person instead of five. Most people hit the switch, saving five

41 As before, a trolley threatens to kill five people. You are standing next to a large stranger on a footbridge that spans the tracks in between the oncoming trolley and the five people. In this scenario, the only way to save the five people is to push this stranger off the bridge, onto the tracks below. He will die if you do this, but his body will stop the trolley from reaching the others. Most people refrain from pushing, letting five die

42 What makes it morally acceptable to sacrifice one life to save five in the trolley dilemma but not in the footbridge dilemma? Emotional areas (footbridge dilemma) Cognitive areas (trolley dilemma)

43 Should one smother a crying baby to death to protect the lives of many when enemy soldiers are approaching? Here they compared the activation patterns in the brains between those who approve (utilitarians) and those who do not (deontologists). Deontologists: Don t smother emotional brain areas dominate Utilitarians: Smother cognitive brain areas dominate

44 "The social-emotional responses that we've inherited from our primate ancestors... undergird the absolute prohibitions that are central to deontology. In contrast, the 'moral calculus' that defines utilitarianism is made possible by more recently evolved structures in the frontal lobes that support abstract thinking and high-level cognitive control." - Greene and Cohen

45 From this we are to conclude

46 From this we are to conclude Utilitarianism, being most recent, is correct

47 From this we are to conclude Utilitarianism, being most recent, is correct Deontological views, being most ancient, are incorrect

48 From this we are to conclude Utilitarianism, being most recent, is correct Deontological views, being most ancient, are incorrect But would you rather have a utilitarian as a neighbor? As a parent?

49 From this we are to conclude Utilitarianism, being most recent, is correct Deontological views, being most ancient, are incorrect But would you rather have a utilitarian as a neighbor? As a parent? Don t let neuroscientists tell us how to live!

50 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

51 Michael Persinger 80% of Dr Michael Persinger's experimental subjects report that an artificial magnetic field focused on [left temporal lobe] brain areas gives them a feeling of 'not being alone'. Some of them describe it as a religious sensation.

52 Out-of-body experience?

53 Even Richard Dawkins

54 Reply to Persinger I can also create the illusion of spirals by giving people LSD. Does this mean that all spirals are just figments of the mind? No real spirals exist? Just because you can stimulate me to think about God does not mean he is only in my head!

55 Outline Introduction Neuroscience background Free Will Ethics God Implications

56 If there is a soul there has been a connection both historically and theologically between the existence of a substantial soul and the supernatural realm. If the soul exists, then this is very good reason to think that a personal, self-aware being God exists. -J.P.Moreland

57 If there is no soul These [embryos] are microscopic groupings of a few differentiated cells. There is nothing human about them except potential and, if you chose to believe it, a soul. Michael Kinsley, Time magazine, June 25, 2001 (from J.P. Moreland)

58 But does philosophy have any impact on real-world events? John Locke American revolution Karl Marx Russian revolution Mind/Body debate Euthanasia, abortion, value of human life, how we treat each other, empathy, war, whether people accept God or not

59 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:24

60 You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body. -C.S. Lewis

61 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain

62 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain This includes mechanisms of will, moral choice, and perceptions of God

63 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain This includes mechanisms of will, moral choice, and perceptions of God From this it does not follow that:

64 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain This includes mechanisms of will, moral choice, and perceptions of God From this it does not follow that: Free will is an illusion

65 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain This includes mechanisms of will, moral choice, and perceptions of God From this it does not follow that: Free will is an illusion Utilitarianism is correct

66 Conclusions Mental functions may be produced by the brain This includes mechanisms of will, moral choice, and perceptions of God From this it does not follow that: Free will is an illusion Utilitarianism is correct God is an illusion

67 Conclusions Accept the science, but not the nonscientific conclusions

68 Modern neuroscience: Room for the soul? Thanks! By John Beggs

69 Other interesting topics Mind reading fmri scans Remote control of rats Neural control of prosthetic limbs Mentally moving a cursor for shut in patients Closed loop experiments: Brain in a dish Split brain experiments Hemineglect Prosopagnosia The case of H.M.; no new memories Gay rams? Spiritual machines?

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