Associations and generalizations are something we learn to do because of the constant input from our surroundings. A newborn child will not have that ability until it begins to experience life and grow in the knowledge of it’s surroundings.
The newborn child has the innate ability to make such connections. They require sensory input in order to make them, but that doesn’t mean the ability arises from receiving sensory input. I’m in no way denying that making these connections requires taking in information; I’m challenging the idea that simply taking in the information in a material manner is sufficient for making these connections.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that we take in information mechanically through our senses. This is not something that can be disputed, IMO. The fact that computers and animals can also take in such information is also not disputable IMO. We must avoid a reductionist approach, however, which forces us to limit our understanding of the human mind to the materialist/mechanistic level.
The fact is that our minds make connections that have no apparent material components, and this can be seen by a few simple facts. First, and most obviously, is that we work with concepts, such as time, that have no material components or definition. More importantly, however, we make links between ideas that are not materially related, such as my previous example of rivers and time. If knowledge could be reduced down to material input, then there would be a material connection that could be made between these. There is no material, experiential link between these concepts, however, so we must either conclude that we simply don’t see it, or we can conclude that there is an immaterial component in human knowledge and understanding. Only a rigidly and dogmatically materialist view could accept the first conclusion after careful examination, however. The second conclusion not only accounts for all the facts we can observe in the case of information processing, but accounts for other odd aspects of humanity as well, such as our natural propensity for seeking the supernatural (another thing that can’t be reduced to material causes). The second conclusion is therefore more sound, and that’s just with two reasons out of many that could be given.
There are other things that show us even more concretely that human knowledge doesn’t seem to have a material component, but I think these examples suffice for now. These things have even been noticed by the likes of materialists who study the human mind, such as Dr. John Searle, the leading philosopher of the mind and major critic of the concept of A.I. Unfortunately Dr. Searle hasn’t yet embraced the obvious conclusions of his research as he’s beholden to the materialist point of view, but he’s quite aware of the inability of the modern materialist approach to explain the workings of the human mind.
If you want to read a paper that goes into this issue more deeply, written by a Dominican and student of Dr. Searle, check out this link:
Peace and God bless!