Michael Egnor

Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, State University of New York, Stony Brook

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Theists vs. Atheists: Which Group Has the Burden of Proof?

Because Dillahunty refuses to debate me again, I’ll address his claim that atheists have no burden of proof in the debate over God’s existence in this post
A common refrain from those atheists who are willing to debate theists is that theists, not atheists, have the burden of proof in the debate over God’s existence. Internet atheist Matt Dillahunty made this claim in our recent debate. Regrettably, it looks doubtful that Dillahunty and I will debate again. He didn’t fare well—he had no real understanding of any of the ten classical proofs of God’s existence— and in the wake of his confused and rambling attempts at exculpation he refuses to debate me again. His reluctance is understandable—he was clearly shaken by the revelation that his rejection of the proofs of God’s existence isn’t based on any actual understanding on his part of the arguments. Like all other internet atheists I’ve encountered, Dillahunty is

Atheist Claims About Logical Fallacies Often Just Mean: Shut Up!

In the recent debate, Matt Dillahunty accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity” because we examine his claims and find them incredible
What does atheist Matt Dillahunty mean when he accuses theists of “the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity”? Atheist rhetoric is a mish mash of ignorance, denial and pretense, often mingled with explicit or implicit efforts at censorship. Atheists travel in herds—contrary to their own inflated sense of their ‘freethought’ and ‘skepticism’, they are the most gullible idealogues. In debate with atheists, specific themes show up again and again, and atheist accusation of ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ is among the most common, usually aimed at Christians who challenge atheist arguments. Matt Dillahunty invoked ‘the fallacy of the argument from personal incredulity’ in our recent debate. It’s worthwhile examining

Weak Anthropic Principle? Not an Explanation but a Tautology!

Compared to the Strong Anthropic Principle — the universe is objectively fine-tuned for life — the Weak Anthropic Principle aims to avoid evidence and subvert discussion
My friend and colleague Dr. Bob Marks has a wonderful podcast with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz, regarding a recent paper they published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics on fine tuning for life in the universe. It’s very clear from astrophysics that many physical variables in the early universe needed to take very specific values — with very little margin for error — to permit the emergence of life. This is quite remarkable, and the authors have written a very nice paper exploring the probabilities involved in this apparent fine-tuning in considerable detail. It’ fascinating and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. In the most recent segment, “Our universe survived a firing squad — and

The Divine Hiddenness Argument Against God’s Existence = Nonsense

God in Himself is immeasurably greater than we are, and He transcends all human knowledge
In my recent debate with Matt Dillahunty about the existence of God, Dillahunty invoked his favorite argument against God’s existence — the Divine Hiddenness argument. We didn’t have a chance to go into that argument in detail in the debate, and Dillahunty is unwilling to have any more debates with me (even if he’s paid, apparently). So this is a good forum to look at that argument in more detail. What is the argument for atheism from God’s Hiddenness? This is a standard form of the argument from Divine Hiddenness against God’s existence: Necessarily, if God exists, then God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be.Necessarily, if God perfectly loves such finite persons as there may be, then, for any capable finite person S and time t, God is at t open

Science Can and Does Point to God’s Existence

Natural science is not at all methodologically naturalist — it routinely points to causes outside of nature.
In my recent debate at Theology Unleashed, with Matt Dillahunty, Dillahunty made the claim that science necessarily follows methodological naturalism, allowing only for causes within nature. This is a common assertion by atheists. It’s wrong, and here’s why: First we need to start with the definition of science. Despite the huge literature on this topic and the great confusion about the answer, I think the answer is relatively simple. Classical philosophers defined science (scientia) as the systematic study of effects according to their causes. To clarify, consider the three assertions in this definition: 1) science is systematic — that is, it is not merely the occasional musing or haphazard insight but an organized planned course of action to deepen

Leading Astronomer Gets It All Wrong About Free Will and Destiny

Logic and reason aren’t laws of physics and therefore they transcend physical properties
Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, has recently written an essay in which he considers whether human beings have free will and how long the human race will survive. Loeb is a prolific and often quite thoughtful scientist who has a refreshing propensity to think outside the mainstream. However, his recent essay in Scientific American, titled “How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?”, is well off the mark. I think he profoundly misunderstands human nature and human destiny. Loeb opines on the question of human free will: The Standard Model of physics presumes that we are all made of elementary particles with no additional constituents. As such composite systems, we do not possess freedom at a fundamental level, because all particles and their interactions follow the laws of physics.

Atheist Spokesman Matt Dillahunty Refuses To Debate Me Again

Although he has said that he finds debates “incredibly valuable,” he is — despite much urging — making an exception in this case. Why?
I recently debated atheist Matt Dillahunty on Theology Unleashed,. Matt is an atheist activist and the former president of the Atheist Community of Austin, Texas. Since 2005 he has hosted the televised webcast The Atheist Experience and he has also hosted a live Internet radio show and founded Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics project. From a bio sketch: Matt Dillahunty is a seasoned debater, the current president of the Atheist Community of Austin, and the well known host of The Atheist Experience. He has debated Jordan Peterson, David Wood and a host of other theists, and has shared stages with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Laurence Krauss. He is known for his cool headed logical arguments and philosophical abilities. Matt describes himself as a strong proponent of debates

Is Brain Science Helping Us Understand Belief in God?

To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t
A recent article about a Harvard neuroscientist’s research on the correlates of religious experience in the brain raises many familiar questions about the relevance of neuroscience to religious experience. Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities. Nonetheless, Ferguson thought, As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound.Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at The Scientist (Jul 13, 2021) The paper covered

A Neuroscience Theory That Actually Helps Explain the Brain

Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory is an instance of getting something right
Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein. Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries. It is the theory that the brain is a type of transducer, that is, a device

“If Nobody Looks at the Moon, Does It Exist?” and Other Metaphysical Questions

If no one is looking at the moon, does it exist? Why has materialism been around for so long? Will computers ever be conscious? What happens to our consciousness after we die? Bernardo Kastrup tackles these questions and more with Michael Egnor in another bingecast! Show Notes 0:00:28 | Introducing Dr. Bernardo Kastrup 0:01:22 | How quantum mechanics points to the mind 0:02:40 | Does the moon exist if no one is looking at it? 0:03:41 | Transpersonal mental states 0:05:02 | Subjective idealism 0:05:16 | Objective idealism 0:05:36 | Bernardo Kastrup’s view of idealism 0:06:23 | The longevity of materialism 0:10:49 | Belief in God and metaphysical perspectives 0:13:48 | Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways 0:14:34 | Free will 0:17:02 | Moral

Remembering a Biologist’s Remarkable Confession of Faith

Is it scientific misconduct to make science about materialist atheism?
My friend and colleague Casey Luskin has penned a poignant essay in memory of Richard Lewontin, a Harvard evolutionary biologist who passed away at 92 recently. Casey is a gentleman and a scholar, and very much disposed to finding the best in people. Indeed it seems there was much that was very good in Lewontin’s persona, and Casey highlighted it beautifully in his encomium. I am not of the opinion, however, that we should speak only good of the dead. The passing of a public figure is a good time to consider his impact, and Lewontin’s impact on American culture and science is something very much worth considering. By all accounts, Lewontin was a gentleman and a good friend and affable mentor to this colleagues and students. From what I know of him, I think I would have enjoyed

Can LSD Help Us Understand the Mind–Brain Relationship?

Is the mind generated by the brain or does the brain merely focus the mind on the current scene? An experiment sheds some light
In a fascinating article inThe Guardian titled “Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception,” science editor Ian Sample discusses recent research on the mechanism by which LSD alters the brain and the mind. He begins by quoting Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) who noted that LSD “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life.” Remarkably, recent work in neuroscience supports Huxley’s view. The research, conducted at Cornell University, confirms what has been called the Rebus model of psychedelics. Rebus is a rough acronym for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”; the model proposes that the brain is essentially a prediction engine for daily life. In this model, the brain processes information from the senses

The Brain Prosperity Gospel: Can “Neurotheology” Be Real Science?

The study of the neuroscience of mental states, including religious belief, is a reasonable pursuit but neurotheology, as a science, faces huge obstacles
Neurotheology is the study of the neuroscience associated with spiritual experience. It is a growing field. In a recent essay, Andrew Newberg, a prominent researcher, discusses recent advances: The field of neurotheology continues to expand from its early origins several decades ago to the present day. In its simplest definition, neurotheology refers to the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between the brain and our religious and spiritual selves. As I always like to say, it is important to consider both sides of neurotheology very broadly. Thus, the “neuro” side includes brain imaging, psychology, neurology, medicine, and even anthropology. And the “theology” side includes theology itself, but also various aspects related to

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned
Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does the state of a system

If IQ Is Inherited, Is the Intellect Simply Material?

A reader writes: I was reading your writings about mind and brain, and I was wondering about how IQ relates to all of this. Since IQ seems to have a large heritable component to it, and the only thing that can be inherited genetically is physical traits, does IQ and its heritability pose a threat to mind-body dualism?It seems to me that someone with an IQ of 75 would have a very different mental experience than someone with an IQ of 145, and that they would also make decisions very differently, which, to me at least, would pose a threat to free will as well, since wouldn’t a certain level of intelligence be required to make decisions freely in a meaningful way? It’s a very thoughtful question and an excellent point. The widely accepted heritability of IQ — between 57% and

One of the Greatest Poets Asks, Can We Be Good Without Free Will?

As a centuries old poem shows, materialism is a logical mistake and not really a coherent system of belief
Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri, exiled for life from his native Florence, took the opportunity to write a magnificent trilogy — the Divine Comedy — in which he tours Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Comedy is more than a poetic masterpiece. It is a profound philosophical and theological reflection on this life and on eternity. Remarkably, although Dante’s immediate guides through the unseen worlds are, famously, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) and later, a childhood sweetheart Beatrice (who died young), his philosophical guide is the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. The metaphysics, the ethics, and the theology of the Divine Comedy deeply reflect Thomas’s influence. That is remarkable, considering that Dante (1265–1321 AD), who was only a child

Bruce Gordon on the Meaning of Neuroscience (Part III)

In this third and final episode with Dr. Bruce Gordon, host Michael Egnor picks Gordon’s brain on the overlaps between historical metaphysical perspectives and modern neuroscience. What does St. Thomas Aquinas have to say about metaphysical realities, and how does that compare to Plato’s idealism? Who is right? And what can near-death experiences and other phenomena tell us about the nature of reality? Show Notes 00:57 | Introducing Dr. Bruce Gordon 01:30 | Idealism as the most satisfactory metaphysical perspective 04:55 | Thomism and modern neuroscience 09:39 | Near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences 12:11 | Idealism versus St. Thomas Aquinas 22:01 | Split-brain surgery patients 24:40 | The animal soul Additional Resources Dr.

Why the Universe Itself Can’t Be the Most Fundamental Thing

Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory
Jerry Coyne has posted in reply to my observation that God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary methods of science. That is to say, all proofs of God’s existence are scientific theories in the sense that they have the same logical structure as any other scientific theory that proposes explanations for the natural world. Scientific theories are inductive in that they depend upon evidence in the natural world to reach a conclusion. Thus demonstrations of God’s existence, for example Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, are scientific theories in the sense that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are scientific theories. Scientific theories can demonstrate the existence of things outside of

Bruce Gordon on Idealism and Quantum Physics (Part II)

Continuing their discussion on idealism and the nature of reality, Michael Egnor and Bruce Gordon delve into the mystifying realm of quantum physics. What does quantum physics say about the nature of our reality? And how does this relate to philosophical theories about the world around us? Show Notes 00:23 | Introducing Dr. Bruce Gordon 03:03 | The mind-dependent character of reality 06:50 | What counts as a measurement? 12:36 | The phenomenon of non-localizability of individual particles 14:34 | The quantum Cheshire Cat phenomenon 17:18 | The idealist perspective 18:37 | Wrapping in Aristotelian and Thomistic thought Additional Resources Dr. Bruce Gordon at Discovery.org N. David Mermin, physics professor at Cornell University Werner

Here’s Why an Argument for God’s Existence Is Scientific

The form of reasoning and the type of evidence accepted is the same as with Newton’s theories or Darwin’s
Atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne is a fountain of nonsensical arguments against the existence of God. If a scholar wanted to write a review paper on the most ridiculous arguments against God’s existence so far in the 21st century, he would need look no further than Coyne’s blog. Coyne’s latest post denying God’s existence takes issue with an essay by Samuel Benson in the Deseret News in which Benson makes the case that invoking both a miracle and a scientific achievement in the development of the COVID vaccine is not necessarily contradictory. Benson points out that the natural world, properly understood, can only be explained using both science and theology. In support of his view, he quotes the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day