Egnor Has Evidence of the Soul

This post at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog is about Michael Egnor — that’s his write-up at the Encyclopedia of American Loons. He’s been promoting the magical, mystical, divinely created attributes of the mind for years — see, e.g.: Egnor Ain’t No Kin To No Monkey. After a few of those, we pretty much lost interest in him.

But he’s back again. Klinghoffer just wrote Egnor: Why Neuroscience Points to a Soul. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

I’ve called Michael Egnor the philosophical neuroscientist. [We’ve called him something else.] That’s because unlike some well-known atheist scientists, who are pure amateurs when it comes to philosophy, Dr. Egnor brings it all together: the latest scientific research and the search for wisdom about the fundamentals of reality from Aristotle to today.

Ooooooooooooh! Egnor brings it all together! Then Klinghoffer says:

He is featured in the second episode of Science Uprising [A Discoveroid podcast!], making the case that human beings are not, per evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, “robots made out of meat.”

Rejoice, dear reader. You’re more than meat. After that reassuring news, Klinghoffer tells us:

Here, in a supplementary video, Egnor has the time to further unfold his arguments: [Video embedded in Klinghoffer’s post.]

We haven’t seen the video. Klinghoffer continues:

Is the mind simply another word for the brain, an organ in the head that fools us into thinking that the self, the “inescapable I,” is a genuine entity? Dr. Egnor explains the materialist view in its several successive historical manifestations, and why, despite its pervasive influence, it hardly qualifies as a serious perspective. Egnor details the findings of his own field, neuroscience. These indicate that something extra, something immaterial, is joined with the material body to form the complete human being. That something extra is traditionally designated as the soul. [Gasp!]

Ooooooooooooh! The soul! [*Ten minutes go by.*] Forgive the delay, dear reader, but your Curmudgeon is recovering from an ecstatic trance. Let’s read on:

You are more than a physical creature alone. Egnor cites, among other pieces of evidence, a 2006 study in the journal Science [Klinghoffer provides no link.] reporting that patients in a persistent vegetative state, contrary to how their condition appears clinically, are not all absent as personalities. Even with a severely damaged, shrunken brain, the non-material person is somehow still there, and aware. For example, as functional magnetic resonance imaging shows, many such patients, just like healthy people, can distinguish the sound of meaningful sentences from syntactical gibberish. That should be impossible under materialist assumptions.

Someone in that condition would probably be a creationist. Anyway, now we come to the end:

It’s fascinating stuff that flies in the face of the viewpoint treasured and defended by prestige academia and the mainstream media. Watch the episode of Science Uprising here: [Link omitted].

If you watch the thing, dear reader, please let us know what we’re missing.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Egnor Has Evidence of the Soul

  1. Mark Germano

    Michael Egnor + Argument from Incredulity = Argument from Egnorance.

  2. I’m fairly sure that many animals can distinguish words from gibberish. I know from experience that cats can distinguish their names and simple directions from gibberish. And, as I recall, the article that impressed Egnor so much has no evidence that the fMRI responses are anything other than the products of neuronal function — no mysticism needed.

  3. Michael Fugate

    The Science paper – many more studies have been done since (see PLOS link below)
    Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State
    Adrian M. Owen, Martin R. Coleman, Melanie Boly, Matthew H. Davis, Steven Laureys, John D. Pickard
    Science 08 Sep 2006:
    Vol. 313, Issue 5792, pp. 1402
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1130197
    Abstract
    We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to demonstrate preserved conscious awareness in a patient fulfilling the criteria for a diagnosis of vegetative state. When asked to imagine playing tennis or moving around her home, the patient activated predicted cortical areas in a manner indistinguishable from that of healthy volunteers.
    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/313/5792/1402

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0074711

    Why if the material brain is functioning – neurons firing, is this evidence of an immaterial soul?

  4. Steve Gerrard

    as functional magnetic resonance imaging shows

    the patient activated predicted cortical areas

    Evidence of neurons firing in the brain while in a vegetative state directly supports the materialist view of the mind, not “preserved conscious awareness” or any other such thing. The phrase “the patient activated predicted cortical areas” should be replaced with “predicted cortical areas were activated in response to the input,” which is what happens whether or not the patient is conscious.

  5. @Michael Fugate: Thanks for the link. I had read the article when it was published, and, as I mentioned above, I don’t remember anything other than neuron function (which is, after all, what fMRI measures). Egnor’s entitled to go hunting for “immaterial souls” if he likes, but this sure isn’t evidence he’s found one.

  6. Too bad the late Oliver Sacks never discussed things with Dr. Egnor.

  7. “reassuring news”
    Huh? This news would worry me, weren’t it for the fact that Mr. Egnorance and Dr. Klunckleduncker don’t even tell us what they’re talking about when using words like “mind” and “soul”.

    “That should be impossible under materialist assumptions.”
    Why exactly? Because “magnetic resonance” also is not material or something? Is Dr. Klunkcleduncker telling us that he believes in magnetic healing or something?

    “If you watch the thing, dear reader, please let us know what we’re missing.”
    You missed Dr. Egnorance linking Democritus to behaviourism and misrepresenting both – in the very first minute.

  8. docbill1351

    Enter Terry Bisson and the famous They’re Made of Meat story.

  9. as functional magnetic resonance imaging shows, many such patients, just like healthy people, can distinguish the sound of meaningful sentences from syntactical gibberish. That should be impossible under materialist assumptions.
    A) The Fallacy of the False Dilemma
    As usual, this is the argument that “it seems that ther is smething lacking in my opposents position, therefore I am right”.
    1) Maybe there is a way of recovig the opponent’s positon.
    2) Maybe there is a thrd position, wherre neither your opponent nor you have the right answer
    3) Maybe nobody has the right answer.
    4) You have not shown that your answer does have an nswer to the question.
    5) You have not described what your answer is.
    B) The assumption of a naturalist, physicalist, materialist defintion of what it means to me human
    If yu have some scientific argument for the defiiton of what it means to be human, or to have a soul, then what about the cases where the scientific argument fails? Do you really want to say thatt when he distinction between normal speech and gibberish is not observed, that the subject is not human? What about cases of schizophrenia, gllossolalia, zygotes, a feral child (see the WIkipedia articlle “Genie (feral child)”)? What about the abilitiy of of some non-human animals, or even machines, to produce or recognize the difference between normal speech and gibberish?

  10. Desnes Diev

    “Egnor cites, among other pieces of evidence, a 2006 study in the journal Science [Klinghoffer provides no link.] reporting that patients in a persistent vegetative state, contrary to how their condition appears clinically, are not all absent as personalities. Even with a severely damaged, shrunken brain, the non-material person is somehow still there, and aware”

    It would have been more convincing if people with a “severely damaged, shrunken brain” were not in a vegetative state or if people with a perfectly well-working brain were in a vegetative state (because their soul went elsewhere for a holiday). But if the properties of the “soul” are correlated to the condition of the brain (i.e., more damage => less consciousness, less damage => more consciousness), it supports perfectly the idea that the “soul” is generated by the brain.

    The eyes, visual areas, etc., are material but vision is immaterial: it’s a process made possible by material elements. Walking is not material (the limbs are material but the gait is a process), but you can’t walk without a spinal cord because the neurons generating walking are located in it. Why consciouness should be different than other neural processes?

  11. @DesnevD doesn’t get it: “Why consciouness should be different than other neural processes?”
    Because of special creation by a Grand Old Designer (blessed be MOFO!) of course.