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IS THE BRAIN THE ORIGIN OF MAN’S MIND?

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence or AI is among the most recently advanced scientific concepts. The associated field of study has been defined as follows: ‘the study of mental faculties that encompasses computational techniques for performing tasks which apparently require intelligence when performed by humans’ (M. S. Aksoy, The Fountain, 1993, No.4, p.10).

Modern scientific inquiry is directed to finding analogues for human mental activities

Besides searching for new techniques to substitute man in the fields of labor, modern scientific inquiry is also directed to finding analogues for human mental activities. Since their assumption is that man is merely a physical-material entity (a complex of physical, biological and chemical processes), many scientists are hopeful that they can produce a complete copy of human functions. It is their assertion that since at least nothing in existing physical theories accounts for the existence of non-computable processes in the brain, all of man’s intellectual activities can be computed. However, Roger Penrose, the famous Oxford mathematician, argues against this assertion. He argues from Gödel’s theorem which states that for every consistent formal system that has the power to do arithmetic, there will always be a true statement. That is, a formal system is a set of logical or computational rules; termed consistent if it never produces contradictory statements. Yet, as human beings can see that that statement is true, this constitutes a sign that our minds can go beyond the powers of any formal system. However, since Penrose himself (like many others who share his opinions) cannot free himself from the confines of (materialistic) physics and nothing in existing physical theories accounts for non-computable processes, in order to be able to find a physical foundation for his theory, he pins his hopes on future elaborations of the theory of quantum mechanics. In his attempt to explain human consciousness, Penrose notes that the biggest mystery of all is how electrical activity in the brain gives rise to the experience of consciousness. It is hard to understand why an inner life should arise from the mere enactment of a computation, no matter how complex. However, his alternative is not more convincing than what he rejects. He tries to explain human consciousness with quantum processes in microtubules-collapsing quantum wave functions (the mathematical functions describing the position and momentum of a particle) in protein structures found in the skeletons of neurons.

Is the physical body the origin of all activities of man’s intellect?

The main problem arises from accepting the physical body as the origin of all activities of man’s intellect. The problem is also true for the expectations from Artificial Intelligence. Aksoy has a simple but meaningful objection to the assumptions underlying those expectations: ‘A man-made system can be very smart and artificially very intelligent but no such system so far has been awarded a prize for its innovative abilities. It is the human being who made it who wins the prize. What is prized, what is of higher worth, is not the system but its maker or builder.’ Another more simple objection can be raised here. For example, after doing a spell-check on a word-processor, you may come across many mistakes which the software has not recognized. Any sentence can be written in several ways in which the words are correctly spelt but are not the words you intend to use. For example, if we type the sentence ‘What is prized is not the system but its maker or builder’ as ‘What is priced is not the system but its make or build’, most people who know the language will recognize it immediately and effortlessly as nonsense. But the software’s spell-check and grammar-check will pass the sentence as OK. Such examples can be multiplied for a great variety of tasks requiring experience and understanding which cannot be analogued or translated for AI machines but which humans cope with quite easily.

More ‘developed’ animals must also be more developed in using their senses and faculties or their brains but they are not always so

Another point to mention concerning man’s intellectual activities relates to the issue of learning and education. Materialistic approaches attribute all of man’s intellectual activities to his brain. According to the theory of evolution, if taken literally, more developed animals must also be more developed in using their senses and faculties or their brains. But this is not the case.

As Dr Yilmaz points out (The Fountain, No. 19, pp. 34-6), compared with a shark which can smell a drop of blood in the sea from a distance of about 25,000 feet, man is very much less developed. If we judge the degree of development according to the sense of smell, in place of men or monkeys, sharks will be at the top of the chain. Whereas, with respect to the sense of seeing, eagles are much more developed than sharks, as well as more than men and monkeys: an eagle can spot a rabbit on the ground from a height of about 6,000 feet. Would it not be true for a honey-bee to say of us: ‘Those clumsy ones can draw with tools and only after calculations the hexagons that I can make so easily and exactly identical to one another. They cannot make so sweet and healing a substance as honey that I produce in great amounts.’ Again, according to the literal logic of the theory of evolution, must a more developed animal not inherit the abilities of one less developed than itself? In this case, must man not have the abilities of all animals and must apes not have the abilities of all other animals ‘lower’ on the evolutionary ladder than themselves? Also, if man was evolved from apes, should the first man evolved not have inherited all the abilities and knowledge of all apes? However, we see that while all other animals are born as if educated and instructed already in all the information they will need to survive, man is born knowing next to nothing of what he needs to know to survive. And while all other animals come to the world with the same information or knowledge their predecessors had and there is negligible (if indeed any) difference between the amount of knowledge and abilities that the members of a species have, a man’s knowledge cannot be inherited by his progeny. Consequently, human beings vary hugely in their intellectual and artistic capacities and the amount or level of their knowledge.

Behaviorism and cognitivism in learning

Materialistic and evolutionist psychology consider learning either as a matter of behavioral patterning by reinforcement or the storage and use of knowledge. The first view is called behaviorism, while the latter cognitivisim. However, both are agreed that it is the brain or neural systems which learn. That is, the intellectual dimension of man’s being consists in his brain. They confuse how a man learns with what it is that does the learning. What they want us to believe with respect to man’s intellectual faculties is not different from defining how a factory works. According to their logic, it is the factory itself which built itself and works according to the laws pre-determined by either itself or the collective being of factories. Although they use personal pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘You’ or ‘We’ in referring to those who learn, speak, think, reason, decide and so on, forgetting that the brain does not know itself or what it is doing and also forgetting that it is we-humans-who study, speak about, comment on and even operate on the brain, they regard it as scientific to attribute all man’s intellectual activities and faculties, and therefore his conscious existence, to the brain. If that is so, why do we not concentrate our efforts merely on the brain and adjust it as a way of adjusting or educating individuals rather than go to the trouble and expense we currently go through to educate and bring up our fellow members of society? Again, does attributing man’s intellectual activities to the brain mean that whatever man will need in life and also his desires, expectations, feelings, pains of the past and anxieties of the future, etc. were pre-encoded in his brain and that according to the situations or the stimuli coming from the outer world, the brain brings them forth as responses? According to what we are asked to believe, the brain continually self-organizes, learns and adapts throughout our lives. Understanding how millions of neurons self-organize through non-linear feedback interactions requires that we have a full grasp of the mathematics of neural networks and of how this mathematics helps us to understand the link between brain and behavior. Is it not compounding our ignorance to attribute to a heap of blind, deaf, ignorant flesh, blood and neurons unconscious of themselves, of their existence and what they are doing or why, all of man’s intellectual faculties and activities with all their complexity, all of our consciousness and culture, religious life? Does this make sense? And does not doing so entail a denial of man’s free will? Although some psychologists such as Tolman and Köhler are of the opinion that at least in some cases learning appears to be purposeful and animals and people have an awareness of what is being acquired and they actively interpret the stimuli they sense from the environment, since they too attribute this to the brain by asserting that there must be more than one system in the brain involved in learning, the point on which all materialistic approaches are agreed (consciously or unconsciously) is that man is an animal whose acts consist in the automatic responses of his brain, an animal that has no free will to direct and control his life.

The activity of learning is remarkably easy as both behaviorists or cognitivists assert. Yet it is nevertheless extremely complex. Besides senses, many human faculties such as imagination, conceptualization, reasoning, comparing, retaining, remembering, confirming and conviction, have a share in it. Each of these faculties give its color to what is learnt. For example, only imagination gives rise to falsehoods, while conceptualization is ambiguous as to what passes through it. Reasoning does not have an established view of what comes to it, while capable of confirming partiality or prejudices pleasing to the one doing the reasoning. Surely the materialistic approach has no right to that degree of conviction achieved by impartial reasoning and study of real evidence and which is worthy to be called scientific knowledge. Rather, what materialist and evolutionist psychologists suggest may only be the product of imagination or partial (i.e. biased) reasoning.


Recommended Reading:
Religion and science: Shared responsibilities

Last Updated on October 26, 2000

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