Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence

Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

Archives

Why Can’t Our Memories Be “Stored” in the Brain?

The image of storing and erasing memories is popular due to computer technology but it is not relevant to how the human mind works
When we talk about memory, we often use word pictures that make it seem as though memories behave like material things but they don’t.

Why Doesn’t God Just Do Something Dramatic to Prove He Exists?

The Divine Hiddenness argument for atheism, espoused by Matt Dillahunty, is that, if a perfectly loving God existed, reasonable unbelief would be impossible
Philosopher Blaise Pascal argued that God gives enough evidence for faith and leaves room for doubt because he wants our heart first — and reason follows.

The Primacy of Information Over Matter

In this episode, host Michael Egnor continues a conversation with Dr. William Dembski, a senior fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, about the relationship between the mind and the body. Dembski argues that if information is considered fundamental rather than matter, it dissolves the mind-body problem. He suggests that information is not constrained by the speed of light and can be exchanged through correlations, as seen in quantum mechanics. Dembski also discusses the concept of free will and how materialism denies its existence. He explores the idea of information as a fundamental concept in the natural world, analogous to energy, and discusses conservation of information and its relevance to Darwinian evolution. Dembski concludes by suggesting that an

My Reply to Free Will Deniers: Show Me

It is helpful to consider the question in this way—not “do we have free will?,” but rather “what does it mean to believe we don’t have free will?”
No humans live as if we doubt free will. Free will denial is just a way for materialists to advertise themselves, like a political yard sign.

William Dembski on Information and the Mind-Body Relationship

On this episode, host Michael Egnor speaks with Bill Dembski about the concept of information and its role in understanding the mind-body relationship. Dembski explains that information is a verb, representing the narrowing of possibilities and the constraining of contingency. He discusses how information can be understood in different contexts and how it relates to concepts such as meaning and communication. Dembski also introduces the concept of informational realism, which holds that information is the most fundamental aspect of reality. He argues that information is more real than matter and that even material entities disclose themselves informationally. Along the way, the interview touches on various philosophical perspectives, including idealism and Aristotelianism, and

Where, Exactly, Is Memory Stored in the Brain?

The hippocampus of the brain is important for memory formation but memories are immaterial and are not really “stored” anywhere
Memories during near-death experiences, when the mind is not in touch with the brain, are often clear, precise, and comprehensive.

What Christof Koch Misunderstands About the Mind and the Brain

In his revealing interview at Closer to Truth, the Allen Institute neuroscientist, though he doubts physicalism, attributed subjective experiences to “brains”
As I noted earlier this week, neuroscientist Christof Koch, who is chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, seems to be having second thoughts about a purely physical view of consciousness. Koch has long been a proponent of a physicalist understanding of the mind-brain relationship—that the mind is in some sense reducible to the brain. He has proposed that consciousness arises as a product of brain-network complexity. But when he was interviewed a month ago on Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s show Closer to Truth, he seemed to be reconsidering his physicalist perspective on the mind-brain relationship. He noted that experience—the first-person subjective character of consciousness—cannot be derived from matter by any mechanism we currently understand. He

Leading Neuroscientist Wavers on Physical View of Consciousness

On Closer to Truth, Christof Koch said last month, “Consciousness cannot be explained only within the framework of space and time and energy, but we need to postulate something additional”
Here’s a fascinating short video (9 minutes) of neuroscientist Christof Koch, interviewed on Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s YouTube philosophy show, Closer to Truth: Koch, chief scientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, has long been a proponent of physicalism as an explanation for the mind. On that view, the mind is wholly a product of physical processes in the brain. But last month he explained that he is now coming around to an explanation for consciousness that transcends traditional physical theories: Koch: Consciousness cannot be explained only within the framework of space and time and energy, but we need to postulate something additional — experience.” He acknowledges that subjective experience — I am an ‘I’ and not just an

Evaluating Popular Theories of the Mind-Brain Relationship

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the most common mind-brain theories? On today’s episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor concludes his conversation with Dr. Angus Menuge about the mind-brain relationship and the popular dualistic theories of Cartesian dualism and Thomistic dualism. Cartesian dualism posits that the mind and body are fundamentally different substances, with the mind being immaterial and the body being material. Thomistic dualism, on the other hand, sees the mind and body as one substance, with the mind being the form of a human being. Dr. Menuge presents some of the strengths and weaknesses of both theories. The conversation also touches on topics such as the unity of consciousness, near-death experiences, information realism, and the limitations of reductionist

From Physicalism to Idealism: Challenging Assumptions about Reality

Can the mind be understood independently of physical matter? On today’s episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continues his conversation with Dr. Angus Menuge, Chair of Philosophy at Concordia University, about his book Minding the Brain: Models of the Mind, Information, and Empirical Science. They discuss various models of the mind-brain problem, including idealism, which posits that matter does not exist and that the world is made up of minds or spirits and their ideas. They also explore dualism, which suggests that the mind and body are fundamentally different substances, and emergence, which proposes that mental states emerge from physical processes. Along the way, the pair touches on topics such as quantum mechanics, split-brain surgery, and the binding problem. The

Exploring the Mind-Brain Relationship and Challenging Materialism

Can the mind be explained in purely physical terms? Or is it something else entirely? In this interview, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor kicks off a three-part discussion with Dr. Angus Menuge about his book Minding the Brain: Models of the Mind, Information, and Empirical Science. The book brings together contributors from various academic disciplines to challenge the dominant materialist paradigm in the study of the mind-brain relationship. Menuge explains that materialism, or physicalism, is the belief that everything about human beings can be understood in the same way as physical processes in nature. However, this view neglects the subjective and intentional aspects of the mind. The interview discusses different theories that have attempted to explain the mind in purely physical terms,

Why Free Will Denial is Self-Refuting

If free will deniers are right, their denial of free will is just a biological ink stain.
Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne has doubled down (it’s more like quadrupled down) on his denial of the reality of free will. There are abundant reasons to affirm free will — e.g., it is the lived experience of every psychologically normal human being throughout history, it is the foundation for most of our religious traditions as well as the foundation for our systems of justice, our systems of government, our conventions of morality, it is the foundation for every aspect of our interpersonal relationships (does your spouse really choose to love you, or is she a meat robot compelled to do so by her molecules?), and there is strong neuroscience evidence for the reality of free will as well. The only ‘scientific’ basis for the denial of free will is determinism, which is the theory

How Could Human Consciousness “Evolve”?

Human consciousness entails a unique human ability to think abstractly .
My colleague Denyse O’Leary has a new post titled “The Human Mind Has No History,” where she observes, “There is no good reason to assume that human intelligence evolved from mud to mind via a long slow history.” Denyse and I have been working on a book that will be published by Worthy next year titled, The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two, in which we explore the abundant evidence from neuroscience for the immaterial human soul. In her post, Denyse rightly points out that the evidence for the “evolution” of human consciousness is scant to non-existent. Human consciousness entails a unique human ability to think abstractly — to reason, to think logically, to use language, to do mathematics,

Israel, Free Will, and the Problem of Evil

If determinism is true, then we have no free will. We are nothing more than meat machines.
The events of the past week in Israel have left the civilized world reeling. Hamas has killed more than 1,200 Jewish innocents in the most violent eruption of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust, and it seems likely a war will follow that will soon kill thousands more innocent people. As we ponder and pray over this mass slaughter, it is worthwhile to reflect for a moment on what these events tell us about the ideological and scientific dogmas of the 21st century — about atheism, determinism and Darwinism. Are these dogmas true, and do they provide a meaningful understanding of man and of moral action? If atheism is true and there is no God, there is no Moral Lawgiver. The concept of good and evil become merely individual human preferences — e.g., we condemn the killing of

Body & Soul: Joshua Farris and The Creation of Self

How does the body contribute to the soul? On today’s episode, host Michael Egnor and theologian Dr. Joshua Farris discuss the implications of a neo-Cartesian understanding of the human soul on divisive cultural issues such as transgenderism and abortion. Farris, author of the recent book The Creation of Self: A Case for the Soul, argues that the body supplies certain controls and powers to the soul, and that separating the body from the soul would do harm to the soul. He also addresses the question of when ensoulment occurs in human development and explores the idea of switching souls among identical twins and the challenges it poses to philosophies of mind-body dualism. He concludes by discussing the rise in popularity of metaphysical theories and their connection to cultural

What Makes Humans Unique? 

What makes humans unique compared to the rest of the natural world? Can strict materialists answer that question? In today’s podcast episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor speaks with Dr. Joshua Farris on the idea that human beings are made in God’s image, the mystery of consciousness, and panpsychism. Additional Resources Michael Egnor at Discovery Institute Dr. Joshua Farris at Missional University Podcast

The Person as “Immaterial Substance”

Is there substantial evidence that we are more than our bodies? And does that point to the existence of God? Theological anthropologist Dr. Joshua Farris thinks so. In this podcast episode, Farris speaks with host and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor to talk about materialism, mind, and theism, as well as Farris’ new book: The Creation of Self.  Additional Resources Michael Egnor at Discovery Institute Dr. Joshua Farris at Missional University The Creation of Self by Joshua Farris Podcast

Discussing the Cartesian Error

What impact did the ideas of the philosopher René Descartes have on our modern conception of the mind/body problem? In today’s episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor digs deeper into his conversation with Dr. Joshua Farris, discussing Thomistic dualism, materialistic explanations for consciousness, and the inevitability of metaphysics.  Additional Resources Michael Egnor at Discovery Institute Dr. Joshua Farris at Missional University Podcast

Neuroscience, the Mind, and Theism

What can modern neuroscience teach us about the immaterial mind? Can we ever know anything for certain? In this episode, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talks with anthropologist Dr. Joshua Farris. They discuss the brain, Descartes, and the theological implications of the various philosophies of mind.  Additional Resources Michael Egnor at Discovery Institute Dr. Joshua Farris at Missional University Podcast

The Nature of Mind, Body, and Soul

How do the mind, the body, and the soul interact? After years of studying the brain, there are still many questions. Dr. Joshua Farris discusses free will, consciousness, and philosophy on this bingecast with Dr. Michael Egnor. Additional Resources Dr. Joshua FarrisDr. Michael EgnorBuy Dr. Joshua R. Farris’ Book: The Soul of Theological Anthropology Cartesian ExplorationWhat is Berkeleian Idealism?What is Cartesian Dualism?What is Emergence?Who is Roger Sperry?Who is Wilder Penfield?More information about Split-Brain surgeryPotency and ActWho is Thomas Aquinas?Who is Boethius?The Prime Mover Argument Podcast