Michael Egnor: The Evidence against Materialism

That is the question. Theoretically/conceptually? I guess it can. Does it exist? No good evidence for that as far as I can see. Egnor’s video does not change that.


Hi @Faizal_Ali,

Thank you for the interesting link. I’m not so sure of its relevance, however:

A 50-year-old, ambidextrous woman was referred for the management of intractable partial seizures which began at the age of 13. During the first several years, she reported experiencing recurrent episodes of flash-backs which she described as “very familiar scenes passing by me”. She also reported olfactory hallucinations which consisted of odd smells. At the age of 17, she started to have complex partial seizures (CPS) which were associated with different types of psychic auras such as déjà-vu, jamais-vu, and FT. These auras were experienced alone or in various combinations. She also had experienced two prolonged episodes of continuous FT which lasted for several days after clusters of CPS. She recalled these episodes of FT as “I forgot something that I should do”. Despite systematic trials of antiepileptic drugs (AED), she was still having two to three episodes of CPS monthly, and she decided to receive epilepsy surgery.

That doesn’t sound like intellectual cogitations to me. There was no syllogizing involved.

I think Egnor’s argument errs in failing to appreciate the neurological complexity involved in complex abstract thoughts. Similar to his other arguments, he seems to believe that there is a single point in the brain that, when stimulated, should cause someone to understand the Pythagorean theorem or make an argument in favour of a flat tax rate. By the same token, you don’t just stimulate a tiny point in the brain and cause someone to brush his teeth.

Well, I don’t know. If brain stimulation can cause a man to develop a powerful love for Johnny Cash’s music, why can’t it cause a man to spout syllogisms?


I have no idea whether a disembodied consciousness could exist. I was addressing the question whether a disembodied consciousness would be able to see or hear. Obviously, if a disembodied consciousness is not possible, then a disembodied consciousness wouldn’t be able to see or hear.

But if that is the issue, why did the original person bother asking if a disembodied consciousness can see or hear?


So you’re an agnostic and have no idea whether or not God could exist?

Because we don’t yet know how to stimulate it. We also cannot stimulate a brain to make a woman dance Swan Lake. But I guess Egnor might think that involves some immaterial spooky magic, as well.

A strong counter to the immaterial mind concept, IMHO, is that we have now created computers that can play chess and poker at the highest level of expertise. They do so far better than the people who programmed them.


If you can see without eyes, hear without ears, and think without a brain, why have them in the first place?

1 Like

Have you ever wondered why cogitation takes time? It’s not instantaneous. Thinking literally requires a span of time to occur. Information enters through the senses, then thinking happens and it takes time, and then some result is produced and the person acts a certain way (or concludes something through some period of thinking). Why? If thinking has no, or does not take place in spatial dimensions, why should thinking take time? Why are some people slower thinkers than others? Why do some problems take much more time to work out than others? The physics of computation by physical information processing architectures explain and answer these questions, which implies mind and thoughts is some sort of material process where interactions has to take place between entities distributed in space.
Electrical or other physical signals literally have to travel from one location to another, whether through copper wires and transistors, or axons between neurons or what have you in terms of physical connections.

1 Like

How do you know it has no physical properties? Take velocity, how do you know it doesn’t have velocity? Or electric charge?

This feels like another discussion that doesn’t seem to be resolvable.

The materialists are suggesting that all we can observe is the material (properties of, or changes in, matter) and we know that material changes in the brain affect thinking and behavior. So, even if we can’t explain everything, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to invoke the immaterial.

The dualists are suggesting that there is a layer beyond the material, that interacts with and is in some way reliant on the material. The points in Egnor’s video in the OP would be supportive of that. So it’s not that the brain doesn’t do anything, Egnor seems to be suggesting it’s primarily to handle sensory input and basic tasks, but that higher functions are a mixture of brain inputs and processing and something else that is immaterial.

I don’t see a way how to demonstrate either case conclusively.


It doesn’t have velocity since it has no location. It’s meaningless to ascribe location or electric charge, or mass to consciousness since such physical properties are not what we mean by consciousness. Consciousness is all our thoughts, emotions, experiences, none of which are captured by electric charge etc.

If you are conscious, then necessarily you are invoking the immaterial. See a blog post by me:

Don’t have to have them, but then we couldn’t interact with this empirical reality.

That’s very wrong. If something has one of either velocity or location, it cannot have the other. That’s one of the startling things we’ve learned about the universe over the past century.

I do not find that reasoning at all persuasive. However, I have added your blog to my RSS reader, because you discuss some interesting topics.

1 Like

No, they’re presupposing that eyes are necessary to see and ears are necessary to hear. How would disembodied consciousnesses do either? And if they do, can they also taste and smell? Can they wear socks? Can they fart? What, if anything, are bodies good for?


I think you have confused having velocity and location with being able to determine what that velocity and location are. The uncertainty principle concerns the latter.

How could we differentiate between disembodied consciousness that needs to function through a brain and consciousness that is entirely a product of the activity of a physical brain?

1 Like

You have to specify a location in order for a velocity to make any sense. Consciousness has no location. I don’t know what the heck QM has to do with anything, but I simply don’t buy into your metaphysical conception of reality eg subatomic particles that lack a position etc. Physics ultimately simply describes the patterns in our perceptual qualia.

I don’t know what you mean by “necessary”.

In order to see the sky whilst in a house then the house needs windows. The curtains should not be drawn. The glass can’t be too dirty etc. So yes, windows are necessary to see the sky, but only whilst we are inside the house. Once outside we have an unrestricted view of the sky and windows are no longer necessary.

Windows don’t create our vision, rather the vision is intrinsic to the person.

So a believer in an afterlife would agree that eyes and ears are necessary, but only whilst they are embodied. Eyes and ears don’t create visions and sounds.

QM has to do with EVERYTHING.

1 Like