Dinner and socializing, followed by a discussion on the evening's topic which is generally announced in advance.
This month's topic will be a discussion led by David Saroff on a talk by UCSB professor Michael Gazzaniga, which seems to be in the intersections of neuroanatomy, physics and free will, with an eye on how skeptics might look at some associated questions.
"As skeptics we don't have God available as the final cause of things. We are skeptical about the existence of final causes altogether. At the same time, the improvements in brain imaging technologies are showing, with a Moore's law intensity, the mechanisms and locations of thought, perception, and action. Are we responsible for what we do, or did our brains make us do it, is a question that is becoming more difficult to answer, not less.
We have certain knowledge that we exist, know ourselves, and make choices. But wait, isn't the brain doing that, being certain, knowing, choosing? There is no God, no metaphysical soul, there is only the substance of brain, and its action. Mind is the action of a living brain. There is nothing else. Then are we determined mechanically to know that we have free will? It is dizzying.
Consider the defense in a murder case. The lawyers present functional MRI imaging and the expert witnesses explain that it shows damage to the defendants brain in the region most active when a person is contemplating moral issues. If the defendant is organically incapable of the moral sense that restrains us from murderous acts, is he to be sentenced for murder like the rest of us? More broadly, what are any of us responsible for, and to whom?"