This is a preview/excerpt from my upcoming review of Michael Shermer’s newest book: Heavens on Earth.
Shermer is still laboring under the delusion that the concept of an immaterial soul has been debunked by “science.”
“but neuroscience has demonstrated that the mind—consciousness, memory, and the sense of self representing “you”—cannot exist without a brain.”
Neuroscience actually doesn’t study consciousness. It studies brains. Most neuroscientists believe that they study consciousness because they are philosophical illiterates. But the claim here is much stronger than just brain and consciousness are related or even identical.
Shermer is saying that it is not possible to have consciousness, memory, or a sense of self without a brain. This kind of conclusion is the exact sort of thing science cannot do. Because this isn’t a provisional statement it’s a metaphysical absolute. Contemporary science doesn’t deal with metaphysics, partially because they don’t think metaphysics are possible.But maybe Shermer has a good argument for this ridiculous conclusion.
“When portions of the brain die as a result of injury, stroke, or Alzheimer’s, the corresponding functions we call “mind” die with them. No brain, no mind; no body, no soul.”
So so many problems…
There are so many problems here that it’s hard to even begin to clean up this mess. Suffice it to say this is the sort of pseudo intellectualism that Shermer is infamous for advocating. His evidence doesn’t even logically match onto his conclusion.
P1: If a mental state correlates to a brain state then mind and brain are =
P2: mental states are correlated to brain states
C: Therefore mental states are not possible without brain states
This comes very close to being the rare true case of the question begging fallacy. That in itself is very unfortunate, but not decisive since C is a different kind of claim from P1.
But it makes little difference since P1 is necessarily false. Brain states and mental states are metaphysically different from each other which means that P1 violates the law of identity: if A has the same exact properties as B then A=B. Therefore the argument is invalid.
But more importantly than that the conclusion doesn’t even follow from the first two premises. The best one could hope for is something like “it is possible that mental states do not exist apart from brain states.” If we assume P1 and P2 are true it doesn’t even make the assertion probable merely possible. Because even if P1 were true then the function at play (brain/mind stuff) could be replicated without a brain. Something Shermer actually believes is possible! The technical term for this in philosophical discourse is an undergraduate paper.
The complete review should be posted soon on Medium or hopefully The Federalist.