Third Tues dinner and topical discussion

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?"


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  • David S.

    toothache, dentist, hope it was a good discussion anyway... sorry

    March 18

    • Caroline

      Sorry that you are not feeling well. We decided to save your topic until next month when you can be here. Feel better soon!

      1 · March 18

    • Kathy T.

      Sorry you were under the weather and look forward to the discussion next time!

      March 19

  • Mrrzy

    Looks for now as if I have no Tues nite nor Weds morn classes!

    March 17

  • David S.

    Is there a mind-body problem? Is mind, awareness, self, etc something that is distinct from the brain, and not explicable in physical, biological, or neurophysiological terms? I think not. For me, and Gazzoniga, mind is something healthy brains do, brains instantiate mind. It was once said that a thought could never be photographed. But the doubling in computing power every year and a half that is called Moore's law is seen in the advances in real time, non invasive brain imaging. "That is not really a thought" might be said, but the areas of the brain active during any sort of cognitave or imagnitive or intellectual task are being observed at finer and finer scale, and the interconnections active are too. Buckminister Fuller wrote "I am a verb", and that is apropos. The "I" of the brain, what I call myself is not a thing, it is an action. Where does this leave us when considering personal responsibility? Did I do it, or did my brain make me do it? Lets talk about it.

    March 16

  • Mrrzy

    Sorry, teaching Tuesdays again till after Memorial Day. Thursdays too. Boo.

    March 13

  • Bruce F.

    Sounds like a lively topic! Can't wait.

    March 4, 2014

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Rafaël

We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

Rafaël, started French Conversation Group

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