Details for the Annual Meeting, April 17-18 in Pittsburgh

We have an exciting lineup for the Annual Meeting this April. The theme is “Mind and Brain”. The final schedule is as follows:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Location: Wyndham Garden Hotel, University Center, 100 Lytton Ave, Pittsburgh (Oakland)

7:00 PM Registration and welcome reception

8:00 PM J.P. Moreland, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

“The irrelevance of neuroscience for formulating and addressing the fundamental problems in philosophy/theology of mind.”

In the first part of my talk, I will lay out the autonomy and authority theses in philosophy and identify the central questions in the four key areas of the mind/body problem. In the second section, I will show why neuroscience cannot even formulate, much less address these central questions. I will also clarify what it means to say that two or more theories are empirically equivalent and go on to argue that when it comes to the neuroscience of mirror neurons, (1) strict physicalism (2) mere property dualism and (3) substance dualism are empirically equivalent treatments of the scientific data. And an appeal to theoretical simplicity does not favor strict physicalism.In the third section, I will show that a simple soul is, but a complex brain is not the sort of thing that can acomodate 3 things we know about ourselves: (1) we are possibly such that we can exist in a disembodied state after death and NDEs have made this beyond reasonable doubt; (2) we possess a fundamentally unified consciousness; (3) we are continuants even though our bodies and brains undergo severe part replacement. I will conclude by point out that while philosophy/theology does not need neuroscience to address its central issues the converse is not true. Neuroscience needs philosophy to do its work.

9:00 PM Michael Egnor, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Stony Brook University

“Misconceptions in modern neuroscience”

During the past century neuroscientists have have gained much understanding of molecular and cellular neurobiology. Yet a genuine scientific understanding of the biological basis for consciousness remains elusive. A primary reason for this is the materialist metaphysical predicate in which neuroscientific research is conducted. An understanding of this conceptual error, and replacement of materialist metaphysics with a hylemorphic metaphysical perspective, will deepen scientific insight into the mind and its biological substrate.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Location: Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd, Pittsburgh (Oakland)

9:00 AM Eric Jones, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Regent University College of Arts and Sciences and member of the executive board of the Society for Christian Psychology

“The ultimate purpose of the human brain: survival, mental continuity and human flourishing”

Over the past twenty years the role of the brain has become progressively more central to the work of experimental psychology. Although the discovery and description of brain functions have exploded during this time, the strict adherence to evolutionary psychological perspectives among researchers has resulted in no realistic competing philosophical explanations for these discoveries. Given that brain function must be explained within an evolutionary context and as brain function is fundamentally involved in these processes, it is also assumed the purpose of the brain as a whole adheres to a survival orientation. This presentation reviews theory and research from the field of psychology as well as philosophy and theology from a Christian perspective to provide an alternative understanding of the function and purpose of the brain. It is proposed that the brain is not ultimately oriented toward the survival of individuals. Instead the brain appears to be better characterized within a relational ontological context leading to a strikingly different view of the person than contemporary psychology holds.

10:00 AM David Snoke, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, University of Pittsburgh, and president of the Christian Scientific Society

“A Calvinist looks at quantum mechanics and substance dualism”

Many have invoked either quantum mechanics or substance dualism, or both, as a way of having free will. As both an expert in quantum mechanics and a Calvinist, I will look at some of the logical issues involved in these questions, including what we mean by free will and what we want it to mean. In particular, I will examine some of the ways in which Mind is introduced in quantum mechanics, without delving too much in the mathematics.

11:00 AM Erik Larson, Ph.D., Research Scientist Associate, IC2 Institute

“Why don’t we have smart robots? The failure of AI to reproduce general intelligence”

Recent excitement about advances in narrow AI have led to confusion about the scope and powers of AI. In fact, general intelligence, the hallmark of the human mind, continues to elude researchers in Artificial Intelligence, as much today as ever. We should expect the mystery of mind to continue for a very long time, as the real challenges the field faces are significant.

12:00 PM Lunch Break

1:00 PM Angus Menuge, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Concordia University Wisconsin and president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society

“Can a serious scientist believe in the soul?”

Many suppose that the soul has no place in a modern scientifically informed view of reality. The most common arguments for this opinion are that: (1) souls undercut the causal closure of the physical world, making it impossible to complete physical science; (2) souls violate the laws of physics, and especially the energy conservation law, because causal interactions require an energy transfer; and (3) souls are redundant, because there is nothing one can explain with souls that one cannot better explain by appeal to neurophysiology alone.

I argue that all of these objections fail. Either they conflate empirical science with a dubious materialist philosophy or they overstate what the empirical data really show. I contend that: (1) we do not have good reason to accept the causal closure of the physical world; (2) souls need not violate the laws of physics, including the energy conservation law; and (3) souls are not redundant, but serve as the best explanation of the rational powers of agents presupposed by scientific inquiry. The scientist who embraces souls gains a coherent picture of the relation between the scientist and nature, which is unavailable to the materialist.

2:00 PM Panel Discussion with Responders: William Dembski, Ph.D (Discovery Institute), Fazale Rana, Ph.D. (Reasons to Believe), and Joel Chan, Ph.D. (Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University)