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'Woo-woo' vs science

by In Wales Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 01:18:21 PM EST

I write this diary to try to encourage those who wish to write about their own experiences to do so, especially if it challenges what could be described as the 'comfort zone' of ET.  I write it also to encourage those who may pile in with their perspective that anything that is not easily explained by science or that has a 'spiritual' element to it is all a waste of space - that perhaps even so, there is value to the topic or experience.

As most people here know, I am a scientist.  I like my logic and my evidence and finding an explanation for why things do the things they do and how it all comes together.  I'm not religious.

But I have a conundrum.  How do I explain my near death experience?


I saw this on BBC online and contacted the researcher.
BBC NEWS | Wales | Journey to unlock 'out of body' mysteries

In September, medical teams at 25 hospitals across the world revealed they were undertaking the largest study of its kind into near death experiences (NDE).

Researchers want to know if there is any truth in so called "out-of-body" incidents reported by gravely ill people.

She's not some kooky, hippy weirdo. She has extensive experience of collating people's NDE tales and has published a book on it.  The current research programme involves placing artwork in emergency rooms/operating theatres that can only be viewed from high up, in an attempt to verify whether or not reported out of body experiences have any substance to them. (Excuse the pun).

I experienced my NDE when I was 9 years old.  I didn't tell a soul about it for years.  But it has always remained vivid.  To date, I still don't think I have even told 5 people about it before I discussed it with the researcher.  Partly because it is deeply personal and doesn't easily pop into conversation (I'm not the attention seeking type).  I also don't especially want people who have no idea what I've experienced trying to tell me it was a dream or some trick of the mind.  I can't be bothered to argue about such a profound thing.

I'm actually having an argument with myself as to whether or not to post the details here.  I don't think I can make the point I want to make unless I do.

I had whooping cough and I was extremely ill for many weeks with it, not able to keep fluids or food in me.
The Doctor did home visits since I was too infectious to be taken to hospital. There was one particular night where I was at the worst of it because I was still coughing and very weak and when the doctor visited in the evening apparently he told my parents that he didn't expect me to survive the night and there wasn't anything more that he could do to help.

My parents put me in their bed (I had a cabin bed that was too high) and they slept in the spare room.

This was the night I had my NDE.  Although I do not remember waking up in the morning or the immediate period that followed, it's often been spoken of, of how I 'recovered overnight'.  I went to bed, dying.  I woke up recovered, apart from the weakness and residual cough.

I 'woke' during the night because there was a bright light spilling into the room around the edge of the door and I could hear my name being called. I don't wear a hearing aid at night and can't hear external noise.

I got up out of bed to see what the light was and turned round to see myself still in the bed, asleep.  But the voice kept calling me so I opened the bedroom door and it was just this pure brilliant white light and I stepped into it and kept walking towards the voice. I was just walking in the light, there wasn't anything else.

Yes, it sounds so cliched doesn't it, walking into the light?

Then I was in a room and saw my life playing in front of me and I realised there was a presence behind me and he put a hand on my shoulder but told me not to turn around.  Then he said that I had to go back because I have a job to do. It went white again and I walked back and saw myself on the bed again and climbed back in.

The quackery jargon for that is 'life review'. Apparently it is very unusual in children.  I've been asked about it, why I thought I'd been 'shown' that and whether there was any judgement from it.  I didn't feel any judgement other than I was trusted to take from it what I needed to take.  That's very ambiguous isn't it?  I judged myself and realised that I was presented with a choice.  I chose to be 'good'.

Fortunately the whole thing gave me a sense of self belief that I am meant to be here and I have something important to do with my life. That quiet confidence has kept me alive.  I don't have a clue what that 'important thing' is. I just don't know.

I refer you back to my summer diary 'Whirlwind Journey of Discovery'.
European Tribune - Whirlwind journey of discovery

My obsessive documentation of interesting angles on everything I see through the camera lens in the quest to get a shot of that building/construction/thing that would somehow stand out from the millions of other similar shots in people's photo albums all across the world, would drive most people up the wall if they had to put up with that for too long.

I approach it that way because I want to learn while the opportunity is in front of me, I just want to drink in all that information, the culture, the differences and similarities.  I don't know what my brain is doing with it all but I am convinced it is doing something. And one day my brain will find all the links it needs and will consolidate everything I have seen, read, learned and thought over and my master plan will present itself to me.  Whatever it is.

Hopefully you can see the connection.  I have been shaped beyond measure by that experience at 9 years old.  My thirst for knowledge, for experience for meeting new people and seeing new places, is all part of my quest to work out why the hell I am here.  To see if I can figure out what I am meant to be doing.  I cannot change that about myself, and even if on my deathbed, it all turns out to be fruitless - well at least I've lived, I've stepped out of my comfort zone and I've been the best that I know how to be.

I have a PhD in physical chemistry.  Science has classified NDE's with aliens and ghosts and spirit mediums.  It has quackery stigma attached to it because current science can't explain it.  

If I were religious I could easily explain it by saying that it was God/Jesus who had called me, but I'm not religious.  

If as I scientist I follow current thinking and say well it was just my brain shutting down, starved of oxygen, then it is as though I am invalidating a profound experience that changed how my life turned out. Anyway, it doesn't explain it.  

Science itself is a constant quest for knowledge or a certain type of truth but it can be too rigid and not open minded enough when something appears to contradict current thinking.  But that's how new paradigms and narratives evolve.  Once upon a time the earth was flat. Once all the other planets revolved around us.  But unthinkable evidence came along and the paradigm shifted.

So maybe something suitable will develop to explain NDEs although somebody is probably going to have to play Gallileo before it's accepted.

Display:
Fascinating diary, In Wales! Thanks for sharing it with us.

I agree with you: science is the way to a certain kind of knowledge (and a very important one), but it is not the only way to knowledge. Because of its amazing achievements, many scientists tend to forget a basic prerequisite of the real scientific approach: humility.  

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 02:15:59 PM EST
If as I scientist I follow current thinking and say well it was just my brain shutting down, starved of oxygen, then it is as though I am invalidating a profound experience that changed how my life turned out. Anyway, it doesn't explain it.  

Science itself is a constant quest for knowledge or a certain type of truth but it can be too rigid and not open minded enough when something appears to contradict current thinking.  But that's how new paradigms and narratives evolve.  Once upon a time the earth was flat. Once all the other planets revolved around us.  But unthinkable evidence came along and the paradigm shifted.

So maybe something suitable will develop to explain NDEs although somebody is probably going to have to play Gallileo before it's accepted.

This sums up my thinking on such matters.  I think you can embrace science and acknowledge that science has yet to explain everything.  

I'd like to write more, but have to run.

Thanks for posting this dairy.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 02:17:44 PM EST
Thanks. I'm glad it has been well received (so far...)
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:51:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See? It really is as simple as that.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:54:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gosh, In Wales, did you have to do this - here I just wanted to turn my computer off and what do I see - your fascinating diary. :-)

Thanks for sharing an experience that propably influenced and still does, your life and how you experience it.

On of the most fascinating books I read on NDE is the book Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation by Michael Sabom, a cardiologist. As far as I remember, he started the investigation, because he wanted to prove that NDE's do not exist.

While looking for his book I came across this link: People have near-death experiences while brain dead

I will be back tomorrow. :-)

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 02:45:48 PM EST
I try to distinguish between scientific method and the scientific canon of knowledge. The method is based on observations and generalisations etc, but we are seldom able to apply it properly and test statements, other then within a small area of expertise. The canon of knowledge is where we must rely on more general tools of which sources we trust and how it fits with other sources. Viewed as a canon it is not different from other canons (based on more flimsy methods), it is defended religously and belief in authority runs wild. We hope it is better - truer - canon but that is probably the hope of everyone who adhears to a certain canon.

European Tribune - 'Woo-woo' vs science

Science has classified NDE's with aliens and ghosts and spirit mediums.  It has quackery stigma attached to it because current science can't explain it.  

[...]

So maybe something suitable will develop to explain NDEs although somebody is probably going to have to play Gallileo before it's accepted.

NDEs are a good example of where the current canon prevents the method to be used. No one is studying it and thus it has no merits and should not be studied and therefore it has no merits...

Finally, a quibble.

Once upon a time the earth was flat.

I believe that is a myth, created to point out how stupid people used to be. Or so the canon has told me.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 02:50:16 PM EST
Actually there had been investigations/research done into NDE's. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross comes to mind as well as Prof. Raymond Moody and Dr. Michael Sabom whom I mentioned above. The problem is, that the topic is often considered metaphysical or parapsychological and thus something not to be taken serious.

Raymond Moody - near-death experience research

In 1975, Dr. Raymond Moody's best-selling book entitled Life After Life focused public attention on the near-death experience like never before. It was Moody who actually coined the term "near-death experience." You can read more about Dr. Moody at his website. Moody is also the author of the following books, The Light Beyond, Reunions, Life After Loss, Coming Back, Reflections, and The Last Laugh

Moody recorded and compared the experiences of 150 persons who died, or almost died, and then recovered. His research describes the results of decades of inquiry into the NDE phenomenon. He outlines nine elements that generally occur during NDEs.

and
Michael Sabom - near-death experience research

Michael Sabom, M.D., is a cardiologist whose first book, Recollections of Death, is considered to be a landmark in the field of near-death research. He is a leading authority with over twenty years in the field. In 1994, he founded the Atlanta Study which is the first comprehensive investigation of its kind into NDEs. Its purpose was to document the life-and-death dramas played out in operating rooms and hospital beds - and the simultaneous events unseen by medical personnel but reported with astonishing clarity and conviction by nearly 50 individuals who returned from death's door. Dr. Sabom's latest book, Light and Death, shares with the world his findings from the Atlanta Study. Sabom, also a born-again Christian, scrutinizes NDEs in light of what the Bible has to say about death and dying, the realities of light and darkness, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Below are the findings from Sabom's Atlanta Study.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 02:56:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran, Fran... I'm not out to dismiss what you say as woo-woo, but you complain:

the topic is often considered metaphysical

Then you quote:

Sabom, a born-again Christian, scrutinizes NDEs in light of what the Bible has to say about death and dying, the realities of light and darkness, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Words fail me.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL, I actually never realised that he was a born-again Christian - but what he found was interesting, as far as I remember, and it is quite a while, in the book he did not interpret his findings in accordance with the bible. I have to search if I still have the book, :-) Besides in the 80's he was one of the few who approached the topic in a more scientific way. And further, i never used to really pay attention to peoples religion, until I got involved with ET.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:28:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, why are we paying so much attention to religion and why does being a born-again Christian automatically disqualify his work?

Doesn't seem very open-minded to me.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't. But it raises a little red flag - particularly in conjunction with dog-whistle terms such as "what the Bible has to say" and "the gospel of Jesus Christ." In much the same way that being a born-again Christian employing similar dog-whistles would raise red flags in a discussion of the Cambrian Explosion.

And this will likely be the case until and unless sane born-again Christians manage to exercise a little "trademark control" vis-a-vis the off-the-wall-insane born-again Christians. You may argue that it's not fair. Heck, I may even agree that it's not fair. But I'll argue that it's very reasonable never the less.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:07:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I keep copies of the Watchtower in my loo because I find that it is excellent reading material for creating motions.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:19:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please. It says he scrutinizes NDEs in the light of what the Bible says and in the light of the Gospel.

So if we accept his work is qualified, then we are absolutely placing ourselves on the terrain of religious belief. Am I wrong?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:13:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there are at least two plausible theories (or classes of theories) to accommodate NDEs and OBEs and so on.

One (call it spiritual) is that consciousness can exist independently of the body.

The other (call it materialistic) is that certain types of brain malfunction manifest themselves as memories of lights, voices and tunnels and/or dissociation from the body.

So of course we have to discuss religion. But it seems to me in any case that any amount of anecdotal evidence (and even clinical tests) could be accommodated by both classes of theories. Is any of this (including the materialistic class as a whole) likely to be falsifiable in a Popperian term? On the other hand, suppose that neurophysiologists start experimenting with non-permanent disruption of brain function to recreate NDEs or OBEs. One could always claim that they are freeing the consciousness to leave the body or that some sort of 'god organ' in the brain is being stimulated.


A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:21:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point is that this person is not saying he's a believer and also a scientist (there are plenty of those). He is claiming scientific status while  applying the criteria of religious belief ("light of the Bible" "the gospel") to his science. Not the same thing.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:29:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can falsify any of the specific scientific models that have been forwarded to explain the interaction between experience, brain activity and sensory input.

In principle, one could falsify the assumption that consciousness cannot exist outside the brain by finding consciousness outside the brain. If one were to make - say - a golem, it would certainly cause much rethinking of the meaning of consciousness, as would the discovery of a species similar to the Hooloovoo.

W.r.t. the postulate that stimulating NDEs could "free the spirit" - sure, but remember Occam's Razor: How does postulating a spirit leaving the body add predictive power? In the unlikely event that we eventually develop a comprehensive model of neurobiology that can adequately predict certain experiences as a result of certain stimuli... what exactly would invoking spirits add?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:08:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
In principle, one could falsify the assumption that consciousness cannot exist outside the brain by finding consciousness outside the brain. If one were to make - say - a golem, it would certainly cause much rethinking of the meaning of consciousness, as would the discovery of a species similar to the Hooloovoo.

How do you measure consciousness, what is your definition? Would an advanced enough AI satisfy?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:27:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, an advanced AI could work. But an advanced AI embedded in an advanced computer system would have a "brain." An advanced AI embedded in a lump of clay would not.

At the end of the day, a Hoovooloo may be a more convincing example.

It's a quite tall order. Then again, spirits are a quite extraordinary claim.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:19:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's been a cross-discipline spat going on between those who think AI is possible, those who think it isn't, and some who are asking, "What do you mean by intelligence?"

One source of the discussion is the lack of a Formal, testable, and commonly accepted, definition of either "consciousness" or "intelligence."  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:44:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
How does postulating a spirit leaving the body add predictive power?

It doesn't, because it's not meant to. Spirit leaving the body is barely a proto-theory, never mind a falsifiable hypothesis.

At this point we're still collecting observations. If there turn out to be observations which need to be explained, theory building can start at that point.

It would rather anal to pretend there's nothing at all to explain. The stats suggest that around 10% of people who recover from near death have an NDE. The format is usually - but not always - consistent. So there's certainly something happening.

But there's no definitive information about how externalised these experiences are, or what - if anything - they mean.

And 'just knowing' after the experience, no matter how strongly, doesn't - unfortunately - seem a reliable indication of veracity.

Finding evidence of unusual physical perception seems like a good place to start.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:43:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may elaborate (and belabor) one of your points --

A broad class of plausible models of NDEs assign them some property that is, in effect, verifiable; in semi-Popperian terms, the absence of that property is falsifiable.

This class includes all models in which NDEs enable subjects to report a fact about about the physical world that should be unavailable by ordinary means. Examples include NDE models in which reports of seeing the physical world from a position outside the body are are taken at face value.

Given what we know of the shocking unreliability of eye-witness reports, the standard of evidence for rare NDE observations of this sort must be quite high, but there is no reason why the standard could not be met. Further, in many reasonable models, the standard would be met so routinely and decisively that the matter would never have been in question.

In particular, there is a class of models in which NDEs have a teaching purpose, and the teaching is performed by reasonably knowledgeable and competent agents of some sort. By the nature of "teaching", these models naturally lead to the strong expectation that we would have clear, routine, and age-old evidence. Models in which teachers withhold strongly evidential information seem to me to strain credibility.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McCainPalinObama!PollsPollsNewPolls!Inspiring
DirtyBadDidYouHearOhNoHurrah!!!!

Thank you for your attention.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:02:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:41:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm keeping schtum...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 07:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"...certain types of brain malfunction..."

But considering the coevolution of biological and social structures, would the reported NDEs really be a malfunction? From a kin-selection perspective, decreasing an individual's fear of death (and perhaps strengthening adherence to social norms) might well be adaptive.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:14:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you are right, but the bible and Gospel thing is in connection with his book Light and Death about the Atlanta study, which was based on this assumption and not for the first one Recollections of Death. As far as I remember he wanted to prove that no such thing as NDE existed. So in a way he seems to have been pretty open minded, contuing to do one the first study on NDE's that could be considered somewhat scientific, and which proved that there is such a phenomena.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:45:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Background: I did computational physical chemistry in my MsC in bioinformatics. I almost started a PhD in the area (I ended up in population genetics of malaria).

Background 2: I intend to write a much bigger piece on this - taking months, but as you asked, here is an half-baked argument.

Part I
There was one very important lesson that I took from physical chemistry (please apologise if I've forgotten some of the technical details), and it has to do we the models that we have of reality:
It turns out that we know "everything" about physical chemistry (everything in comparison to say, biology, economics where we know little) (interesting that, though we know everything, there is still the uncertainty principle), anyway, my point is another: From ab initio methods, to semi-empirical methods to newtonian mechanics -  this is a scale where we very easily loose our ability to predict how systems work. Ab initio is better, semi-empirical methods less and newtonian mechanics worse....

What is interesting is that newtonian models are, (compared to economic, biological, ...) still grounded one a detailed and profound knowledge of reality.

Our scientific knowledge in "soft sciences" is weaker than newtonian mechanics is for physical chemistry.

That takes me to my first argument: What we know in psychology, biology, economics is much less than we think we know (as an aside, I think your theoretical background might be disadvantageous here: you are in a cognitive world where too much is known. Soft sciences have much bigger amounts of uncertainty and error).

Part II

I am able to find, in the majority of papers that I've carefully read in my area, errors (most of my work last week, was precisely finding an error on a paper). There are people in my area that say that they've never found a completely sound paper. I can point you errors (mathematical) in 80% the papers that I know in the area of malaria resistance modeling. I doubt I can do any better. Population genetics is an extremely complex issue when put to practice. There are much more complex things than population genetics.

My second argument is: Our human cognitive ability might be not enough to understand the universe: Maybe we will never understand the fundamental parameters driving the spread of malaria (although we will delude ourselves that we do). Or we maybe never understand how our brain works. We might not be able to understand, by our own limitations, how the universe works

Part III

We need certainty, we abhor uncertainty. There is a world out there and we need to understand it in order to cope with our fears and doubts. If no rational explanation exists then religion is better than uncertainty. It gives us comfort. We need it, psychologically.
It also makes us like authoritarian models of science (aka, "mathematical proof" that malaria can be eradicated in certain way), they give us comfort. We prefer to read a "definitive proof" then an argument saying "There are lots of doubts".

Part IV

This is not an argument in favor (or against) "higher powers" and a spiritual world. It is just trying to give an evolutionary explanation to the existence of religion.
This is not an argument against science. Just because we might not be able to understand the universe, that doesn't mean a god is needed. It might just be our inability to comprehend complex things.

Part V

A suggestion: you might have to live with your doubts and anxieties about this forever. Keep it cool: maybe there is an afterlife, maybe it is just your brain making things (maybe there is a common cognitve/emotional human response to death as they say), who knows? The best answer for this: a pint at the pub.

by t-------------- on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:04:35 PM EST
We're at the d'OH! stage of understanding the brain, never mind the mind.

It was recently discovered Kim Peek, the basis of The Rain Man, lacks a corpus callosum - that little bit that connects the two hemispheres.  Ain't got one.  According to the neurophysiology I learned as a youngster that would mean he's either dead or a vegetable.  Admittedly he doesn't exhibit a full range of human response.  And So What?  

And that is the question: at what point does human experience, and the experience of human experience, trump expectation and description of human experience, and the experience of human experience?  Until we can Falsify previous paradigms and heuristics there is no way to give rise to More Better explanations based on More Better Theories.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:25:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See also Is your brain really necessary?
John Lorber, a British neurologist, has studied many cases of hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and concluded that the loss of nearly all of the cerebral cortex (the brain's convoluted outer layer) does not necessarily lead to mental impairment. He cites the case of a student at Sheffield University, who has an IQ of 126 and won first-class honors in mathematics. Yet, this boy has virtually no brain; his cortex measures only a millimeter or so thick compared to the normal 4.5 centimeters.


A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:34:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a puzzlement.

People have exhibited "normal" behaviour with extensive brain damage, like the boy in your example, and have gone gonzo-weird with (seemingly) minuscule brain trauma.

Part of why I find the Brain/Mind so fascinating.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:51:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that that boy hasn't had "brain damage". His brain developed from the embryonic stage as a hydrocephallic brain, just like the brain of Rainman developed without a corpus callosus.

So maybe removing the corpus callosus from a normal brain would kill it or turn it into a vegetable, but it's possible for the brain to develop viably without one?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, malformation is not damage.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:03:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

"Malformation" is a physical characteristic, not necessarily having a functional affect.  

That I know of.

This is kcurie territory and the wimp wimped out.  (The wuss! :-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:35:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, apparently TBG has all the answers on this one!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:42:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would anyone like to join my cult?

It's not very expensive. And almost entirely painless.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 09:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which plane of reality should I apply through for membership?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 09:14:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Flossing is THE answer!

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 10:45:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
your cult sells Mental floss?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:07:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reference to a passage in a book by Robert A. Wilson.  Joke directed at TBG.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:47:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah answered with a Zappa reply, fishing for people who knew.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:14:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
And almost entirely painless.

operative word: almost!!

we already did, tbg, and yes it hardly hurt at all...

clutches cranium and staggers off into the night gibbering.

 je je jejeje...

oops, wires crossed again..

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:39:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The developing brain interprets malformation as damage and routes around.

-- #include witty_sig.h
by silburnl on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 06:52:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kim Peeks (the original Rain Man) isn't "normal" by standard criteria.  He is functional for a broad definition of "function."  

It seems there are processes during brain development that 'do their thing' with can give rise (emergent property?) to an attempt to full (?) and complete (?) status?   It seems to be true that areas of the brain have their potential function lost by adjacent areas 'moving in' if it is unstimulated at the proper time or in the proper degree.

Yet other functions - language - develop no matter if the child is stimulated by human language or not.  

Removing functions in a 'finished' adult brain can kill or put a person in a coma.  But not always.  I don't know if an adult has ever had their corpus collosum removed.  There have been cases where it has been severed, eliminating the cross-hemisphere traffic, to ameliorate epileptic attacks.  These are the basis for the Split Hemisphere studies and their well-known findings.  These people are functional but not fully functional to a "normal" level.

As I said, it's a puzzlement.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:30:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say "normal" or even "functional" but "viable".

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:52:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Viable" has a group of specific meanings in Biology and is used at the organism/species level.  At that level a brain is not 'viable.'

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:54:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A pint at the pub - that's where I have been.  Wasn't expecting to come back to so many comments.

tiagoantao:

Our human cognitive ability might be not enough to understand the universe

I think that is a really interesting point and probably one that many wouldn't like to put forward as being possible.

For me, I don't think I am looking for an answer to what the experience was because although I can't explain it, it doesn't matter - no answer could change the impact it had on me.

I'd certainly be interested in seeing a diary that expands on these thoughts!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:41:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is often said, a map is not a territory. But a territory is not a map just as well. To comprehend, we need to build (or use) a map. A territory like the whole universe can hardly be comprehensible. Or at least, no one will ever able to prove that he knows everything.

Maybe we do not really have "our own limitations", in the sense that our brain in principle can deduce anything that can be concluded by any kind of rational thinking. But there may be limitations of "any rational thinking", but we still may need to go beyond for mere survival. We may need to consider conspiracy theories in dealing with enemies; we may need to outright believe that global cataclysms will leave survival chances. A feasible next step in the evolution of scientific method could be building up discipline of working with plenty of poorly verifiable (or falsifiable) models. More models (=maps) would have to be allowed, at least in dealing with burning economical or ecological problems. Occam's razor and immediate empirical testability won't be the only factors in ranking models; we may value richness of connections, concreteness of guidance, degree of inspiration. Even "story-telling" explanatory power can be most valuable if broad communication of a theory is important.

And more patience with verifying those models. Say, even in "perfectly scientific" physics, what the new CERN Large Hadron Collider  is supposed to do is to test 30-years old theories. How much time should we give to test a social theory? Something like 70 years? We may also have to learn uncertainty. I think that human desire for certainty is overestimated. People are able (and love) to gamble as well.

I suspect that models of NDE's (in particular) will hardly be free of hardly testable features. So far, my model is similartly simplistic as the rational "brain processes" model. I see an evolutionary significance of NDE's: it is not only birth, growth and procreation that are genetically-neurologically planned in detail. Getting old or dying must be particular routines as well. If that helps to make the "good choice" even in just a fraction of occurrences, that is already significant. (In general, I am still impressed by Timothy Leary's eight-circuit brain model, popularized by Robert Anton Wilson.)

by das monde on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 02:44:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. ...

Sir Arthur Eddington

One of my favorite quotes. I have always believed it to be essentially true.


I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:00:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's some interesting neurobiology happening at the moment involving the way the brain uses stories to make sense of All The Stuff That Happens. It's all way over my head, so I can't tell whether it's good science, paradigm-shattering brilliance or complete, steaming dingo's kidneys.

But the basic story - you should pardon the pun - told by the guys who do it is that the ability to call forth long-term memories at will and attach them to other long-term memories and/or new experience is dependent on them being part of a coherent story that evokes an emotional response.

There's this guy called John Teske who argues that emotional response is vital in imprinting the contents of our short-term working memory onto the long-term memory. Putting the experience into a coherent story allows, he claims, the mind to retrieve it from the long-term memory at will, rather than having it surface semi-randomly in response to sensory input.

At the talk I attended, he argued that one reason that trauma manifested as post-traumatic stress disorders was that it had never been put into a coherent story that allowed the mind to "file" it properly and only retrieve it when needed. So it would surface as a pre-cognitive response to various sensory triggers. Think the shell-shocked veteran who dives for cover when he hears a firecracker go off - in some cases, the veteran can even be aware that it's a firecracker, not an artillery shell, and it'll still trigger an involuntary recall of a traumatic memory.

Teske's explanation is that the experience hasn't been adequately "retold" as a story, so it remains merely a connection between certain sensory input (a loud, sharp noise) and certain emotional and mechanical responses (fear, diving for cover). He claims that a reason that re-telling their experience can work for PTSD sufferers is that it puts the experience into a coherent narrative framework that can then be related to future sensory input in a more constructive way (say, to distinguish between loud, sharp noises made by firecrackers and loud, sharp noises made by shelling - imputing causal connection between two events, Teske claims, is inherently an act of narrative construction).

Now, I'd be very surprised if Teske's story is the be-all-end-all final word in how the human memory works. But I think it has a reasonable chance of explaining one of the mechanisms behind memory and how we construct experience from sensory input.

Where am I going with all this? I'm not precisely sure, except to say that there is indeed science at work here that, if not exactly paradigm-shatteringly outside-the-box stuff, then at least attempts to push the edge of the envelope a little farther out.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:08:35 PM EST
Precisely what I've been nattering on about here for a couple of years ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:35:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

NOW I understand :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:13:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It turns out both from physiology and the psychology disciplines emotions are a necessity for cognition.

Implying, those that have greater connections between the two hemispheres and better connections between the frontal Temporal and posterior Frontal lobes have better grasp of Reality -- whatever that is -- then those without such pathways.

Since women, in general, have more neural pathways than men the implication can be made women have a better grasp of Reality -- whatever that is -- than men.

Therefore, the average woman is more likely to have a better grasp on Reality -- whatever that is -- than the average man.

Therefore, under Indeterminate Epistemological situations one is better off to accept the average woman's grasp of the situation than the average man's.

Conclusion: If you are a guy, Shut Up and listen to what {Fran, In Wales, metavision, Barbara, Sam, ElaineinNM...} tells you.

QED.

:-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since women, in general, have more neural pathways than men the implication can be made women have a better grasp of Reality -- whatever that is -- than men.

Therefore, the average woman is more likely to have a better grasp on Reality -- whatever that is -- than the average man.

That makes the rather large assumption that the neural pathways are accurately observing and modeling reality. If they're not then having more could mean that they actually are further away from reality.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 09:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, it makes the rather doubtful assertion that "women have more neural pathways" means anything more than "the top of the bell curve for women is 2% higher than for men with a standard deviation of 10%", as is very often the case with these men/women brain comparisons.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:33:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please note the smiley!

The affect and effects of hormones on brain development, and how they impact stimulus processing is very much an area of on-going research.  Gross-level testing implies a 'Female' (gender please note!) brain has finer grain response to certain stimuli than a 'Male' brain and a Woman's (extensive difference in levels of certain hormones -- and differences in the level of other neuro-transmitters) brains have responses to stimuli that, in some cases, do not overlap a Man's response to the same stimuli but is more responsive.

For other stimuli the reverse is true.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:18:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds a lot like what I do in my work, some of it coming from NLP. Actually I worked with a boy who had a phobia of fireworks, and by changing the internal markers and the narrative of what fireworks mean, he is now able to watch fireworks again.

What he says sounds a lot like NLP which has used the creation of new narratives for quite a while - it's called 'change history' or in what goes in the same direction 'Reframing'.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:13:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How appropriate, In Wales, that you deliver a personal and candid "metaphysical" experience now, given the OT discussion a few nights ago.  The personal is of course just as real.  Thanks for bringing this to ET.

I'll bet many of us have some experiences to report that "seem" beyond the bounds of conventional science.  And i come from a generation involved in psychedelic quest, another area where the experiential and scientific waters become muddied.  I've posted here on the seemingly direct communication with my father at the moment of his death 5000 km away.  Just because i can't explain the mechanism, doesn't mean it wasn't real.

As the world devolves into chaos, let's have more of the true metaphysical, as well as a better understanding of man's relationship to the cosmos.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:34:31 PM EST
I think you're doing science a disservice when you state that

It has quackery stigma attached to it because current science can't explain it.

Quite apart from the fact that reasonably sound research is in fact being carried out on the subject, I'd argue that a large part of the reason that the "average scientist" associates NDEs with quackery is that various and sundry quacks have jumped all over it (from creationists over Catholic apologists to alties and UFOlogists). It apparently has a lot of the bells and whistles that attract quacks.

And scientists trust quacks, in a way. If the quacks think that something is in their area of expertise, quite a lot of scientists will take them at their word and dismiss that something as being, well, within the area of expertise of certifiable quacks.

Which is not to say, of course, that science doesn't suffer from Not Invented Here(TM), nor that science doesn't have its own Conventional Wisdom(TM) and Serious People(TM). All human endeavours do - heck, ET has those things as well :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:40:36 PM EST
In the fall of 1974 I knocked on the door of a friend's apartment in Seattle.  Her room mate answered the knock.  I asked if "Sally" was in.  She said she was, but in her room.  The roomie let me in and I walked to "Sally's" door, knocked, entered, and closed the door behind me.  The roomie heard a conversation - as well as anyone does when not deliberately eavesdropping.  After about 30 minutes, I walked out of the room, chatted for a brief moment with roomie, said my good-bye, and walked out the door, opening and closing it behind me.

Banal, right?

Nope.

I was asleep in New York City at the time and "Sally" was asleep in Seattle.  I remembered it as a rather vivid dream.  "Sally" remembered it as a vivid dream.  We only discovered the "reality" -- whatever THAT means in this context! -- when the roomie idly questioned "Sally" the next day, "I thought AT was in New York.  When did he return to Seattle?"  And the whole thing came out.

This happening was a fact.  There was independent verification.  There was physical evidence in sound and movement.  There was objective social (dialogue) with a person who wasn't asleep.

What does it mean?  It doesn't mean anything.  There is no theory in which, from which, meaning can arise.  The best explanation I can come up with, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is "There be a bunch of stuff going on that beats my pair of Aces."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 03:56:24 PM EST
You might want to read Robert Monroes book Journeys out of the Body. :-)

Robert Monroe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Allan Monroe (October 30, 1915-March 17, 1995) was an advertising executive from Virginia who became known for his research into altered consciousness. His 1971 book Journeys Out of the Body is credited with popularizing the term "out-of-body experience". In 1978 Monroe founded The Monroe Institute, which carried on his work after his death. [1][2][3][4][5]
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:02:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

In his last book "Ultimate Journey" there is a chapter "About the Author". In this chapter it's said that Robert Monroe is directing Monroe Institute from There, meaning that he is able to take part in his Institute life from his post-death state.

A reporter for The Hook, weekly newspaper for Charlottesville, Virginia, who visited the Monroe Institute said, "...with a few exceptions, the only 'normal' people with whom I could fully identify were the trainers, who seemed remarkably well-grounded for people whose day-to-day experiences include astral projection and disembodied spirits."[3]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monroe_Institute

Of course this doesn't "automatically disqualify it" but it does - er - make one think :-)


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no theory in which, from which, meaning can arise.
This isn't exactly so. In the Bhagavad-Gita, or Song of God, as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, with introduction by Aldous Huxley, C. 1944 & 1951 by the Vedanta Society of S. California, the authors present a similar situation and an underlying philosophy that supports that situation.  
From Huxley's Introduction:
More than twenty-five centuries have passed since that which has been called the Perennial Philosophy was first committed to writing; and in the course of those centuries it has found expression, now partial, now complete, now in this form, now in that, again and again.  In Vedanta and Hebrew prophecy, in the Tao Teh King and the Platonic dialogues, in the Gospel according to St. John  and Mahayana theology, in Plotinus...among the Persial Sufis and the Christian Mystics of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance--the Perennial Philosophy has spoken almost all of the languages of Asia and Europe....But under all of this confusion of tongues and myths...there remains a Hihgest Common Factor, which is the Perennial Philosophy in what may be called its chemically pure state.

-Skip-

At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.
 First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness--the world of things and animals and men and even gods--is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all paratial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be nonexistent.
 Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning.  This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
 Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul.  It is possible for a man if he so desires, to identify himnself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
 Fourth: man's life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

Others have said that on the level of the self, time and distance do not exist.  I have had certain experiences waking, dreaming and under the influence of psychoactive agents that are congruent with these doctrines.  I immediately see congruences with the experiences described by Crazy Horse above.

The situation:

In the Gita dialog there are four speakers: King Dhritarashtra, Sanjaya, Arjuna and Krishna.

Dhritarashtra is blind.  The sage Vyasa (who is tratitionally supposed to be the author of the Gita) offers to restore his sight in order that he may watch the battle of Kurukshetra.  But Dhritarashtra refuses.  He cannot bear to see his kinsmen killed.  So Vyasa confers the psychic powers of clairvoyance and clairaudience upon Sanjaya, who is Dhritarashtra's minister and charioteer.  As they sit together in the palace, Sanjaya describes to his master everything he sees and hears on the distant battlefield.


My wife has had experiences with the voice described by In Wales.  She also experienced a psychic visit by a friend and teacher in a dream state which she described to me as electrifyingly real.  The next day he called to ask her if if she saw him when he visited her the previous evening!

I believe that direct experience is primary and while our culture encourages us to reject what we cannot understand, that it is important to cultivate an ability to hold on to inexplicable experiences pending the development of an understanding in which they can be explained.  It is really not so hard to do.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:58:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used the word "Theory" to mean:

'A structured explanatory communication, supported by empirical evidence'

as opposed to the common definition:

'a bunch of words tacked together in an effort to 'splain somethin'

The Theory of Evolution is a means of understanding and partakes of the first.

The Theory of Intelligent Design is a bunch of nonsense and partakes of the latter.

I am familiar with the 'Gita, as well as the Mahabharata, BTW.  I find it hard to accept as empirical evidence or an explanation of such.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:18:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not proposing that the Gita or the  Vedas in their entirety comprise a "theory" in the sense that we take the meaning of "theory" when applied to evolution or general relativity.  That would be anachronistic.  What the Vedas and the Gita do provide is a well articulated world view within which such experiences are readily explained.  But this worldview was developed long before  the development of the western scientific worldview.  

I would not rule out the possibility of identifying states of consciousness or attributes of the human mind that could readily explain experiences such as yours, that of Crazy Horse or some of my own and others and that could be related to the Perennial Philosophy described by Huxley in the introduction.  Most work in psychology through Fechner was done in the light of the traditions of the Perennial Philosophy.  However Fechner's observation that sense perception related to sensual stimulation by the logarithm of the stimulus was seized upon by those who followed Fechner to drive Psyche out of Psychology. For most of a century Psyche was entrusted to the care of Procrustes in the guise of scientific reductionism, with some exceptions.  The subject of a future diary, perhaps.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:02:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 It is really not so hard to do.

yup, once you let go of anything being threatening to your preciousss belief system!

if it flies in your face? be grateful!

better now than later...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:47:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
huxley, one of my arch-gurus.

at 20, i carried a round a copy of his 'perennial philosophy' for a year, full of underlinings, scribbled sidenote springboard revelations. it was the first book on philosophy that made intuitive sense to me.

between him, hesse and ronald laing, guardian angels holding my hand as i dangled, unglued in the abyss.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was unaware he had written such a book.  Thanks.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:55:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Isherwood/Swami Prabhavananda translation was the first contact I had with the Gita. In the mean time I have read other versions too - it seems the Gita is a never ending source of Wisdom.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:05:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am no scholar of the Vedas, but this book, along with the Manchester/Swami Prabhavananda translation of the Upanishads, spoke and still speaks to me in a way that I can best describe as "mind altering."  It is almost like taking two hits of my favorite charis back in the '70s.  As a consequence, I haven't made it very far into either work! I guess I am just too easily satisfied.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 10:55:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The term Synchronicity probably applies here, but what that means scientifically?
by das monde on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 02:59:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you were to pose a "scientific" question, would it be

  1. Does the "soul" (undefined) "exist" (equally undefined), or

  2. Does the human body have sensory apparatus in addition to the 5 senses everyone is familiar with, or

  3. What?


They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 04:14:42 PM EST
A scientific question would be one answerable by the scientific method. And since that sound tautologic, I will give an example of what I consider a good question to the study described in the diary.

Can people experiencing a NDE percieve and later remember things viewed from an angle that they would have no access to otherwise?

And then you can device a test as:

European Tribune - 'Woo-woo' vs science

The current research programme involves placing artwork in emergency rooms/operating theatres that can only be viewed from high up, in an attempt to verify whether or not reported out of body experiences have any substance to them. (Excuse the pun).

If the test turns out positive, then you can go on and modify it in different ways and see if you can learn about boundary conditions for the phenomena. What this means or what it is can not be answered, only how it manifests. What you want to call whatever you find for - soul, ESP, quantum-information transfer or simply witchcraft - is very much a part of the scientific canon, but not of the method.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What this means or what it is can not be answered, only how it manifests.

Right, and most of the debate around this is about what it means, because how it manifests is basically a collection of self-reported incidents by subjects and though there can be some disagreement on the reliability of self-reporting, that is not a difficulty specific to this particular kind of reported phenomenon.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:26:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds good.  I'm an old school scientist; wouldn't want to be responsible for this work; it might be too prone to fraud; interpretation of the "data", etc.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:30:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all about the interpretation.

That's also true in 'hard' science (no experiment without theory-led manipulation of raw data) but the tension is not that great.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:33:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the science that I have been involved with or am currently working on.  I either come up with a solution to a problem or I don't; no excuses allowed.  Not your usual brand of "science", I agree.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:39:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're talking about technology, then?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:40:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just checked the dictionary definition of "technology".  Yes, I do "science" with a specific goal/problem in mind, usually with a $ motivation.  Currently I'm trying to domesticate truffles.

  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuber_(genus)

Note: Tried to embed the link but kept fucking up.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:56:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And, in fact, even the link is fucking up.  Hit wiki for "truffles" if you have any questions.  Need to take a shower; back in a bit.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:58:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:00:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's them.  I'm trying to "domesticate" the little buggers.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Attempting to give a "rational" explanation for this experience may shock or appear unfeeling, but I don't think, first of all, that you got out of bed and went towards a light and a "he" spoke to you from behind. You probably don't believe that yourself. Either it's a "soul" or "spirit" leaving the body, or you experienced something in your own brain as you lay there.

It's very possible that the somewhat incoherent narratives of our dreams are attempts by the brain to make sense of inchoate stimuli caused by random firing of neurons during REM sleep. What may happen in the particular state of approaching death, I have absolutely no scientific idea, but it's possible that a powerful narrative may be constructed at that moment. (Secondly, as the much-maligned Freud would tell us of the interpretation of dreams, what matters is the meaning you give your memory after the event, what understanding you later build of it).

Through this narrative, it seems to me you told yourself that you wanted to live because you were persuaded of your worth and the hopeful possibilities of your life. You chose to live, not to die. And you woke the next morning in better health.

And I'm so very glad you did.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:07:28 PM EST
I'm also glad In Wales did.

But she wrote that she saw her body in the bed,  That at least hints that "something" left the body behind, something with consciousness.  Could be "attempts by the brain to make sense of inchoate stimuli caused by random firing of neurons during REM sleep." or it could be something else.

Me screaming "Let go Joe" over and over at the moment of my father's painful death across the country, out loud in an empty hallway at the top of my lungs, however, did involve the body.  Suggesting there's more to the eye than meets the eye, et. al.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:26:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But In Wales has described her experience very clearly and trying to rewrite it for her with a different perspective would not be her experience anymore.  I think honoring the original and letting the owner decide its meaning, is what matters.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:52:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

But In Wales has described her experience very clearly and trying to rewrite it for her with a different perspective would not be her experience anymore.

Yes it would, but it would not be her description of her experience - a different thing. Sometimes others - doctors, scientists, can give accounts of our experience which we may find helpful and that they offer explanations which make sense and may be supported by much other evidence.

 

I think honoring the original and letting the owner decide its meaning, is what matters.

She put it here expecting some discussion - not just for each of us to say "we honour your account." Afew wasn't telling her what its meaning was, but offering a possible explanation of what happened.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Pioneering TMS researcher Michael Persinger, a neuropsychologist at Canada's Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, is doing even more astounding work. By stimulating specific areas in the right hemisphere of the brain, he is able to induce mystical states of consciousness, giving some subjects the experience of encountering God.

In scientific terminology, he uses a specific, precisely timed, repetitive signal - one dubbed the "Thomas Pulse" - to create a "sensed presence" in the test subject's brain. Some volunteers have reported feelings of pleasant detachment, while others have broken into a panic, convinced the test chamber is "hexed". And some have had direct experience of the divine.

Persinger is convinced that naturally occurring electromagnetic fluctuations could be responsible for paranormal experiences like ghosts, UFOs and mystical apparitions. Some have argued, on the basis of Persinger's work, that religion itself could be electromagnetic in origin - and the transcendent experiences like those recounted by saints and mystics can be recreated with electromagnetic pulses in his laboratory.

http://www.erowid.org/tech/devices_article1.shtml



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:35:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That experiment, and others like it, prove less than the experimenters would like to think.

Electric stimulation of the occipital lobe induces 'visions.'  Does that mean "electromagnetic fluctuations" are responsible for seeing?  Well.  Yes.  In part - ignoring the neurotransmitters - all brain activity is "electromagnetic fluctuations" but no one is daft enough to claim all human vision is an hallucination.

The location of stimuli processing in the brain is not the source of the stimuli that location processes.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:54:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still, if you can trigger an NDE or OBE in a healthy subject just by using electromagnetic stimulation, what does that tell you about NDE or OBE?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:58:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It tells me NDE and OBE are within the range of Human Experience.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't we know that already? At least within the range of self-reported human experience.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:12:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People "self-report" a lot of stuff.  Including abduction by Space Aliens, being in contact with higher intelligences, seeing the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast, and the Invisible Hand of the Market.

Got a decided fondness for hard evidence, including a bit o' Brain lurking somewhere behind Mind.  (I hasten to add: I don't claim to understand the Brain, the Mind, or the Brain/Mind totality!)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anyone reports seeing the Invisble Hand, because it's - you know - invisble. And not actually a hand, as such.

At least with toast you can see it. (And eat it too, I suppose.)

I have a general suspicion - not really a theory - that All Narratives Are Self Serving. There's always a pay off of some sort - some more than others, of course, and there's almost endless mileage in persuading people your narrative promises a pay-off even if it never delivers.

Even so - if there was nothing to make a narrative emotionally compelling it would be impossible to remember it, except as a curiosity.

Although I'm strenuously agnostic about 'spiritual' things, it's hard to reconcile a pragmatic view of personality as a patchwork of competing and often inconsistent narratives filtering primal drives with the idea that there might be something organised enough to be usefully metaphysical.

I suppose the drives might have a life of their own - they can certainly feel that way sometimes - but if they do, there's no definitive picture I've found yet anywhere, metaphysical or not, which is detailed enough to explain what's happening without leaving a lot of gaps and begging a lot of questions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:59:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, I suppose the narratives could have a life of their own too.

(And wouldn't that be - interesting?)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anyone reports seeing the Invisble Hand, because it's - you know - invisble.

You may not be able to see it, but if I had my livelihood invested in subprime paper right now, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to feel the Invisible Hand...

I wonder how an invisible punch to the nuts feels like. [Drew's WHEEEEE™ Technology]

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:41:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
I have a general suspicion - not really a theory - that All Narratives Are Self Serving.

I agree, but don't we do that in "Reality" too? Don't we all create our own Concept or Map of Reality or Narratives, which is suppost to serve us deal with live? I do not believe anymore in the so called 'objectivity' - I really doubt there is such a thing. Every scientist will filter his research data through his Concept of Reality. I think that is what created the frustrating situation that when studying Psychology you get so many different researches and different outcomes. Some of them were chosen to be more true.

Objectivity would be something more stable to me, but looking at the history of science the views and narratives always changed, despite having had objectiv truth about something. I think there might have been 'objective' reasons to consider the world flat.

I think the best we can do is become aware that we are subjective by nature and take this into account when we look at the world.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:00:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference in science is that the maps have to be share-able.

Scientists are as brutal with each other about new possibilities as they are with outsiders. Sometimes this goes horribly wrong, and useful ideas are left to rot for a few decades. But it also means that at the core, maps are likely to be accurate because they've been tested independently many times, and anyone who learns to read the map will get the same answers no matter how they feel about science.

When views change they change because new information appears and they're adapted. Views are always provisional, but some are more provisional than others. Ideas at the edge of science where new ground is being broken are always very provisional and subject to change without notice. Ideas at the core are much more likely to be stable, or at least likely to be stable except in exceptional circumstances.

It's very difficult to do that kind of science when all you have is self-reporting, and once you move away from the physical sciences, everything gets fuzzier, less precise, and often more ideological.

But that doesn't mean everything is subjective - more that the maps are more complicated and much harder to draw accurately.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:36:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the problem is that science often wants to establish one 'true' map for all and tends to exclude others that might be just as valid. By valid I mean producing helpful outcomes. As an example, Shamans migth have a map of reality that is at the opposite end, but works for them fine. But as it is such a different map it might not be or not easily verified by the map that is used for the scientific approach. I think most maps work well within themselves - but may not work if looked at from inside a different kind of map. For me subjectivity is looking at the world from inside a map, which to certain degrees we share with others, not just personal experiences. I even wonder if we can have an experience without a map of reality?!
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 11:47:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I even wonder if we can have an experience without a map of reality?!

No, we can't.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, I can certainly understand the frustration of - say - an oncologist when a patient with a perfectly curable tumour starts consulting shamans and witch doctors instead of undergoing surgery and radiation. Because the doctor knows perfectly well that shamans have much lower survival rates for most types of cancer than surgery and radiation.

But of course, measuring the value of a treatment in survival rates is a very Modern(TM) way of looking at the world, that may not be Helpful to the patient.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:08:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If only it were so clear cut. Medical science is probably out on the edge of fuzzy effectiveness. Drug trials are so expensive they're rarely replicated properly and it's not unheard of for trials to be managed fraudulently.

New Scientist (where else?) had an interesting feature earlier in the year about the relative effectiveness of drugs, and how there's solid evidence that objectively influenced by the placebo effect and by the confidence of the patient in what is - often - as much a ritualistic activity as a scientific one. Doctors reliably hand out ineffective tablets and get positive results. How is that not voodoo?

So far as I know, shamanistic cures have only very rarely been studied objectively, so there's very little evidence for their effectiveness, or lack of it.

What passes for shamanism in the West is usually based on silly white people buying themselves a drum after a package holiday to Siberia or a weekend in a slightly remote part of Wales. I'd be surprised if it has much in common with the real thing, which - by all acounts - can kill you if you don't learn it properly, and will probably drive you mad even if you do.

The fact that frontline Western doctors (and vets) are very suicide prone is possibly just a coincidence.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:32:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But in quite a few cases, it actually is that clear-cut. There are forms of cancer which are curable, full stop. Where the survival rates after proper treatment beginning sufficiently early approach 100 %, and where the survival rates of those forgoing treatment (or in places where treatment is unavailable) approach 0 %. Then you have a lot of cancers where the science is a lot more fuzzy. And then you have the ones where you're just Shit Outta Luck and even the best medical science can offer is only palliative.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 08:04:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That doesn't change the fact that fuzzy things happen, and have been reported to happen objectively.

It's a continuum - not all of the action happens at either extreme.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 09:23:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference in science is that the maps have to be share-able.

That's is a key point.

Also, in some disciplines, the map and the narrative comes with a recipe: under these conditions, do such-and-such, and you'll get this.  In other areas the recipe is: under this statistical environment, do such-and-such, and you'll get this range of responses.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree - but to take the extrem example of Shamans again, they can share their recipe between them, which creates certain outcomes, but with in their own map of reality.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:40:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but the story about the recipe doesn't have to be correct: I can go to chi kung seminar, spend a day learning about chi and releasing chi and so on via some exercises and still find the exercises useful and relaxing and healing without ever accepting a word about chi energy flows in any real sense: the recipe works, even if the story to explain it is nonsense.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:50:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
the recipe works, even if the story to explain it is nonsense.

classic colman!

weird isnt it?

the point where reason just keels over and...accepts.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:49:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reason hasn't keeled over: reason just has nothing to work with. There is the fact of the subjective experience or our own body, which we know better than to accept as necessarily representing any outside reality, an explanation for that experience which is based in a mystic religion and not much else. I'm not in a position to even ask the questions that would start the required research programme.

So the reasonable thing to do is accept that the trick works, discount the woo-woo story and don't worry too much about why it works.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:46:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ookkk, 'keeled over' in the sense of surrendering to forces beyond its ken, not die really. maybe the attachment to the sense of control one infers from thinking one understands the forces at work, rather than simply relaxing into the miracle that it does work.

maybe digging the mystery of it too, that such a homespun technology, (in the same sense that knowledge of training horses is 'technology' too), should elude the intellectual understanding demanded by double-blind tests and the like.

'woo-woo' is an appellation used to distance oneself from attempting to delve deeper into meeting the experience, rather than laying back and letting it roll over you, as you say, not worrying about the why.

what especially fascinates me is that after this brief abdication of the instinct for categorisation, one's reason seems to work better.

as if it had had a refreshing rest!

not to dismiss the importance of reason, not at all, just to put it in its place as useful complement to other sources of less easily quantifiable data.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 10:30:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is, incidentally, probably a bit early to celebrate the death of reason.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:50:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What could possibly make you say that? History has already ended, after all. Shouldn't reason be next :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:16:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm still waiting for the birth of reason.

So far we have some labels and something which twitches into life occasionally, but given what seems to go on in everyone's mind most of the time, that's about the extent of it.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:35:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After Reason's birth, I think it underwent postnatal abortion sometime during the French Revolution.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 03:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might be more appropriate to say that the recipe works regardless of whether or not the user believes the story.  The story might seem wildly improbable, but how do you prove that it is incorrect?  Research has shown that bio-electric fields are important to ontology and to healing.  Perhaps the chi energy flows described by the practitioner constitute an intuitive approach to aspects of the body that science is just beginning to explore.  That is what many of the practitioners claim.  If their "map" leads them to therapeutic actions that can now be explained in the context of western science, how can we say that they were not on to something from the start and that western science is just now beginning to understand what they have been doing for centuries?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:38:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you prove it correct? Sure, they could be onto something, but how do you tell?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 01:33:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you prove it correct?
You could start by postulating that these practitioners and those traditions are worthy of study.  Then compare their maps for chakras or acupuncture points with measurements of bio-electric fields and the relative intensities of these fields in subjects that are complaining of symptoms and those who are not.  Work closely with skilled practitioners of these arts who have good reputations in their cultures of origin.  It is likely that, if there is a physical basis for their work, that the ability to monitor postulated effects will be very useful to them and will allow them to make testable suggestions.

In Jake's example of the deadly mushroom hunt, were you to partner with a shaman from a local culture it is highly likely that you would only eat mushrooms that had properties that he predicted.  Scientifically minded non-botanists who were foolish enough to participate in such a procedure on their own would be subject to the same winnowing he described.  Hell, even animals usually do better than that.  How do they manage?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 01:49:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the point of my example is precisely that you don't get to talk to all the shamans who can't do it right. On account of them suffering from a severe case of being dead.

So yes, the shaman may know which mushrooms to pick. In fact, if I had to choose between a local who's been mushroom hunting for years on end in the same area and a botanist who's never studied the particular area in question, I'd go with the local. Hands down, no contest. But that doesn't mean that the local's explanation of how you can tell which mushrooms are poisonous makes sense. It's perfectly possible to construct a memorable narrative that gets all the known facts right and yet is completely incapable of dealing with new facts - i.e. has no predictive power.

Local knowledge is, in fact, often used as a starting point for scientific enquiry - but usually the first part of the exercise is to strip out all the concrete facts and discard the fluffy narrative.

So going back to the acupuncture example, you'd start by investigating whether sticking needles into people at random points produces medically interesting effects. It's perfectly testable whether "traditional" acupuncture has stumbled upon a useful fact that sticking needles in people actually triggers a useful biological response.

The second thing to investigate is whether sticking needles into certain points produces effects that differ from sticking needles into semi-random points. Again, this is a perfectly testable proposition.

Chakras, however, are not useful at any point in this exercise, except insofar as they can serve as mnemonic tricks, similar to learning multiplication by doing times tables. The times tables aren't interesting in and of themselves, they're just a scaffolding you can use to memorise facts. By contrast, while scientific theories can serve as mental scaffolding, their greatest value is that they can be extrapolated to cover unknown situations.

Faced with an unknown mushroom, our shaman wouldn't know whether it was poisonous or not (he'd very probably know whether to eat it or not, but that's not quite the same thing :-p). The botanist wouldn't either, of course, it being an unknown mushroom. But the botanist would know how to run a chemical analysis on it and compare the results to a list of known chemical substances. For that matter, if he has a good chemist at his lab, he'd be able to extrapolate from the known toxicity of related chemicals to hazard an educated guess as to whether the mushroom is dangerous or not.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 03:55:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
The second thing to investigate is whether sticking needles into certain points produces effects that differ from sticking needles into semi-random points. Again, this is a perfectly testable proposition.

Not necessarily, because this assumes that it's the needles and the sticking which are important.

Something else could always be going on. A more interesting test would be a combination of self reporting - not for definitive results, but for pointers - with a battery of tests for a wider spectrum of outcomes.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:21:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because firstly, most of their results are frankly not clinically interesting. In most cases (and for many kinds of woo-woo in all cases investigated), the improvement felt by the individual comes down to confirmation bias, regression to the mean and various and sundry other well-known mental short-circuits.

Realigning your Chakras will cure a common cold in seven days. Doing absolutely nothing will cure a common cold in a week.

Secondly, attempting to claim equivalence between bioelectric potentials and Chi flows is just plain silly. This is precisely the kind of rhetorical slight-of-hand and "gotcha" games that makes people who actually spend some time studying science exasperated with woo-woos.

Thirdly, even if a religious ritual happens to chance upon something that works above and beyond confirmation bias, placebo effect and what have we, it does not necessarily validate the underlying model.

To illustrate this, let me tell a little story:

1000 people went picking mushrooms one by one. Each found two mushrooms - one of which is instantly lethal when consumed, the other is harmless - and each of them flips a coin to decide which to eat for dinner.

The next day, the remaining five hundred go out into the woods and find two mushrooms - one dangerous and one harmless. Again, each flips a coin to decide which one to eat.

This repeats itself on the third day.

On the fourth day, the remaining 125 people meet for a Grand Council where they relate their recent experiences in the craft of mushroom picking.

They then conclude that flipping a coin to decide which mushrooms to eat makes perfect sense - after all, it's worked for all of them for three days in a row, which cannot possibly be a coincidence.

Attending the council meeting is a botanist, who happens to have a handbook on mushroom picking. He courteously explains that his professional opinion is that using the handbook to discern between poisonous and edible mushrooms is superior to using the coin-flip method.

The coin-flippers tell the botanist that they already know which mushrooms are edible: The coin told them, and what the coin told them matches what the botanist's science tells them. So obviously the two must be equivalent. Or, in fact, the coin-flipping method is slightly superior on account of having found the edible mushrooms first and faster and with less fuss and bother. So they'll stick to the coin-flipping method, thankyouverymuch.

The council is dissolved and each coin-flipper goes his own ways to search for mushrooms.

Ten days later, the botanist is the only one attending the meeting who is still alive.

The End.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:54:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL

A pertinent comment in Finland at this autumn mushroom-picking time ;-)

However, you forgot to add to your story the alternative botanist who carefully collected and consumed Amanita muscaria, and who, for short periods of time, regarded the Council and its members as a cosmic energy flow in another dimension.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 08:05:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't rightly take credit for the story - it's a rip-off of one of Orac's old posts, where he uses day-traders as the example. Too lazy to dig it out, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 08:16:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
Because firstly, most of their results are frankly not clinically interesting. In most cases (and for many kinds of woo-woo in all cases investigated), the improvement felt by the individual comes down to confirmation bias, regression to the mean and various and sundry other well-known mental short-circuits.

This isn't actually true. It's probably impossible to investigate woo woo without confirmation bias on either side, and I can certainly think of at least one disconformation study with a methodology which would have been rightly ripped to shreds or ignored if it hadn't produced a negative result.

In the placebo studies I mentioned, the results were statistically significant. In fact they were more significant than the results of mainstream drug studies - not that that's a high standard, necessarily. But even so.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 09:32:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You always get bad papers in any discipline, on any subject. The question is whether you get good papers on the subject or not.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:34:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or how easy it is to get them researched in the first place, and published in 'serious' journals if they challenge conventional wisdom.

But that just highlights the double standard - this study was quoted by 'serious' researchers as if it was definitive and utterly professional, when in fact it was a very small data set collected under less than strictly controlled conditions as a high school student science fair project.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree to a certain extent.  ;-)

The trend of 20th century science has been, to a large extent, within the "narrative" of Statistical Mechanics.  By definition this means a Set, therefore restricted, of Probable outcomes in the Learning process.

Shaman's invoke a Learning process on a 1:1 or, maybe, a 1:'Small Group' basis.  Due to uncertainty of the affects of stimuli on an individual's neuro-psychology Shamans can constrain but not restrict.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fran:
I agree - but to take the extrem example of Shamans again, they can share their recipe between them, which creates certain outcomes, but with in their own map of reality.

But not reliably. The difference between science and woo-woo is that science works without preconditions. Science eventually turns into technology which makes outcomes easy.

I don't need to be in the right mood to make my light switch work. I don't need to spend three years living on my own, doing lots of drugs, communing with elders, invoking the spirits, having conversations with the vegetation around me, purifying my karma, sacrificing chickens and small furry animals, or waiting for the planets to line up just so.

I don't even need to know Maxwell's equation or understand the scientific model of the world.

If I want light - click - I get light. I can be drunk, I can be tired, I can be angry [1], I can be half dead from a terminal illness, I can be blind and unable to see the light after it's been turned on - it doesn't matter.

The problem with woo woo is that it's so very contingent and unreliable. You may get something from a ritual, ceremony, exercise, divination or happening, but it's just as likely that you won't. If you're a complete novice, you almost certainly won't. If you're a master you probably will, but there's no guarantee.

Eventually your map will not be the same as anyone else's map, because everyone else's map will reflect their own psychology.

It's a lot more like an art than a science. You can never tell ahead of time whether a musical or stage performance will be rockin', or a dud. You can't force it to be either, although you can increase the likelihood by practicing.

This doesn't prove woo-woo doesn't exist, but when something is this subjective, it's pretty damn hard to make share-able maps of it, or to know which parts of the map matter, and which parts are just superstition and myth-making which have been picked up along the way.

[1] Although in fact I have a history of fusing light circuits when I get really annoyed. Hmmm.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 07:52:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

I don't need to be in the right mood to make my light switch work. I don't need to spend three years living on my own, doing lots of drugs, communing with elders, invoking the spirits, having conversations with the vegetation around me, purifying my karma, sacrificing chickens and small furry animals, or waiting for the planets to line up just so.

I don't even need to know Maxwell's equation or understand the scientific model of the world.

I hope you are not serious. :-) How many years of training does a Western Healer aka medical doctor need? Here I think it is up to 10 years including internship. I do remember experiments with eggs, etc. - so I am not sure what it was all about. And btw. it used to be prerequisit that to become a Psychiatrist you had to go through a personal analysis with a mentor.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 08:03:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't need any years at all, and certainly not any knowledge of degree level biochemistry, to take an aspirin for a headache or buy an antiseptic cream for a minor skin infecton.

I don't there was ever any need for psychiatrists to have therapy. Psychotherapists usually try to enforce therapy on up-and-coming therapists, but I've seen the results of that first hand, and it's rarely been impressive.

Psychiatry isn't particularly impressive either, but that's not necessarily the point here.

This isn't just about medicine.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 09:09:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
The difference between science and woo-woo is that science works without preconditions. Science eventually turns into technology which makes outcomes easy.

This is an interesting part of our western narrative of science and technology. Science gives technology, technology works thereby proving science. I really recomend The Golem at Large: What You Should Know About Technology: Harry Collins, Trevor Pinch: Books for an in-depth look at that relationship.

The short version as I recall it (I read it years ago, my apologies in advance to Collina and Pinch) is that technological development mostly works with different methods then scientific research. The goal is not understanding, but improving the tech which is often done from an in-depth understanding of specific - not general - properties. New technology therefore gives incentive to develop the general theories to explain the tech and perhaps develop it further. Do read the book, it is well written and full of interesting stories about drilling for oil in Sweden, US-Israel missile cooperation and english economists.

It took somewhere around a century between Watts steam-engine (which was nto the first, but an improvement) and Joules theories that explained how it worked. We have cut significant time since then, but the general model stays the same. Medicine is mostly technology in this sense, it is less about the general explanations and more about finding methods that work. Same with finding truffels.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:22:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OTOH, you have such things as fibre optics, communication satellites, GPS and transistors, where a fairly detailed understanding of the underlying science is necessary to make it work at all in the first place.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:32:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, no rule without exceptions. In history at least.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:43:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're confusing levels. Getting it to work is science. Making it work so that people can use it without understanding it is technology and engineering.

I can plug a TOSLINK cable into my Mac, wire it up to a DAC, and get music out of it. I don't need to know about semiconductor band gaps, optical transmittivity, coding protocols, dither, or clock jitter.

Assuming I have the very basic level of knowledge needed to understand that I'm supposed to plug it into a DAC and not my ear, and as long as something isn't broken, it will just work for me.

Obviously if you're an engineer it's your job to know more, and to understand how to wave dead chickens and oscilloscopes around. But if you do your properly most people won't need to get that hands-on.

Woo woo tends not to be that reliable. Sometimes interesting, surprising, exotic and baffling things happen, but just as often nothing significant happens at all.

Maybe if we had a unified theory of woo woo it would work reliably. Or maybe it's perpetually liminal and just doesn't work like that.

No one knows. Camps on both sides assume they do, but really they don't at all.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 12:14:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I discussed this kind of error - "it's all subjective" - in my diary Nietzsche contra Greenspan:

... being sceptical is not the same as nihilism; one should be both sceptical AND respect well-researched, well-argued views. What we need is a "reasonable scepticism ":

   


 While these examples are meant to disillusion the reader about the objectivity and vision of transcendent truth claimed by scientists, they are not intended to be antiscientific or to suggest that we should give up science in favor of, say, astrology or thinking beautiful thoughts. Rather, they are meant to acquaint the reader with the truth about science as a social activity and to promote a reasonable skepticism about the sweeping claims that modern science makes to an understanding of human existence. There is a difference between skepticism and cynicism, for the former can lead to action and the latter only to passivity. So these pages have a political end, too, which is to encourage the readers not to leave science to the experts, not to be mystified by it, but to demand a sophisticated scientific understanding in which everyone can share.

    A Reasonable Skepticism by Richard Lewontin

    http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/course/76-101AA/readings/Lewontinfull.htm

Also objectivity is to do with the process rather than the end result, I.e. it's about the kind of process TBG describes in his comment. So to say that something is objective is not to say it is the absolute truth, but rather that it was arrived at using the kind of procedures used in science: considering rival theories, looking at the relevant evidence, doing experiments which might well undermine the cherished theory of the scientist doing it. This has been a lot more productive than asserting subjective opinions:

This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in realitythis is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods. Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known; we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible.

http://www.todayinsci.com/B/Bronowski_Jacob/BronowskiJacob-Quotations.htm



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 07:58:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think anyone reports seeing the Invisble Hand, because it's - you know - invisble. And not actually a hand, as such.

And here we come to a huge problem.

The Epistemic system an individual carries around in their neuro-psychology affects how, when, and why that individual processes stimuli, both input and output.    "Seeing" the Invisible Hand, for example, is a process whereby an individual (input side) selects particular and/or a group of stimuli-as-evidence from the full gamut of all possible stimuli-as-evidence based on previous 'runs' of that person's Epistemic system.  On the output side, the individual self-reports the existence of the Invisible Hand based on the 'evidence' constructed by the stimuli-as-evidence as further processed by Knowledge structures within the Epistemic system.  Granted, under certain circumstances the stimuli received from Reality -- whatever that is -- can, and does, change, morph, affect, effect, and muck-around with these Knowledge structs as well as the Epistemic system, and even the neuro-psychology.

Put another way:

What you see is what you are prepared to see unless something comes along to change it.  

(But that's soooooo understandable.  

:-D

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:44:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a general suspicion - not really a theory - that All Narratives Are Self Serving.

This is why I appreciate the scientific method - it gives humanity a small bootstrapping away from the all-consuming bias of "self-serving narratives."

I have a basic theory for what I think drives humanity:

  1. The emotional needs created by the friction in our minds between the demand to procreate and survive; and the knowledge that our bodies have a finite life span.

  2. The need to lead and/or follow other humans (perhaps better stated as the need to manipulate or be manipulated by other humans)

  3. The search for meaning (we are here, therefore there must be a narrative that explains why we are here).

I believe the universe and beyond is more complex than humans will ever understand, but in my view the vast, vast majority of arguments that begin with "science can't explain x" are easily explained in terms of the drivers above rather than new insights that take us beyond mere science. The rare commentaries that do reach beyond these drives as well as what science can tell us are always a treat.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:56:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the point is that most cognitive science research is based on self-reporting.

If I stimulate a certain part of your brain and you say "I felt like I was leaving my body" all I can say is that you reported leaving your body.

Anyway, maybe it's time for me to provide my take o Jill Bolte Taylor because assuming her self-reporting is reliable, it tells us quite a lot about the physical basis for experiences of "oneness" and bodily dissociation.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:03:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't we know that already?
We knew that NDEs & OBEs were reported to occur.  Now we have evidence that associates them with specific brain locations.  Perhaps PET scans can show correlated neural activity.  Perhaps some individuals can consciously trigger such activity and experiences.  At least we have an empirical basis for formulating testable hypotheses.

With evidence such as this we may be able to formulate hypotheses as to why evolution would have provided us with such structures.  It is only recently that we have discovered that birds and possibly other animals have what appears to be a built in magnetic compass that may be important to migratory abilities.  Beats studying operant conditioning of rats in mazes.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 11:15:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(and before kcurie jumps all over me ...)

Stimuli processing occurs in parallel and sequence(s) among and along many different locations in the brain.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 06:59:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With multiple simultaneous 'terminations'

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 07:51:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am utterly convinced that it was not a dream and nor was it dream-like.  I've had hallucinations before and it wasn't like that either. That is about as much as I can say with certainty, but I did 'leave' my body and look back on myself.

There wasn't a 'he' behind me any more than my home disappeared into the light as I opened the door.

But the clarity of the voice is not something I have never 'heard' for real which is another thing that strikes me about it, looking back.

I was very accepting of the experience at the time and still young enough that the boundaries were still blurred between what 'can' be real and what can't. I possibly still believed that swallowing cherry stones would make a tree grow in my stomach.  

I think what adds another dimension to it is that I was a child and not an adult which limits the possible construction of narratives around the experience.  I'm not saying that the brain didn't construct something ie why a 'he' and not a gender neutral or female presence, why the journey towards the voice, why the life review, why the very clear message that I am here for a reason?  

I was told in words (not through telepathic understanding) that it wasn't time for me to go and that I had to go back. I didn't 'consciously' choose to live within the context of the narrative, I chose to be 'good' as a result of the experience. Perhaps that translates to a fight to stay alive as I was dying, through whatever the NDE was.

All I can give you is what I recall, and given that I didn't speak to anybody about it for years, the 'narrative' is entirely as I perceived it at the time and held in my memory.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 09:13:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could accept your explanation fully for what is called Lucid Dreaming, but not for NDE's or OOB's. These are very different qualities to them, though I never had an NDE, I do know that OOB's and Dreams are very different experiences - the Lucid Dreams might have a narrative, but the OOB and I assume the NDE is just different.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:51:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks a lot for adding variety and excitement, In Wales!   Your experience is amazing and you will keep getting more insight with time, but it won´t surprise you if it comes through science, through people you meet, or through your camara.  

It doesn´t surprise me anymore how many people admit having unexplained experiences and I bet there are lots at ET.  

I have had small events that I have no words for:  peak moments, low moments that were beyond physical limits and they had their purpose and their lesson.  They just are and can´t be ignored because we have additional capacities we don´t know how to measure, so I avoid labeling them or minimizing them.  What matters is that I have my proof and don´t need to justfify them to anyone´s standards.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 05:35:11 PM EST
A useful link

Rather annoyingly, they don't include online versions of the papers which have been published so far.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:22:22 PM EST
It looks really interesting, thanks.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 08:33:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi In Wales..

I think the most in-depth analysis I ahve read on the topic of science, out-of-science and non-science items has been given by thatbritguy. He posted some of the best comments on this issue and any issue I have read (well, actually the best idea I have read on the issue, period).

Science is a narrative which has a small set of magical thinking in its core. You are a scientist because you beieve in this small set of magic... and with this small set of magic and a proper fundamental narrative (or called mythology in antrhopology 101) you can explain a lot of things.. but not all of them. A bunch of things can not ahd will never be able to be analyzed by science...Science requires repetition ans testing, everything which does not happen constantly or with a certain regularity is out.. It msut be dealt with other mythologies/paradigms, not with science

If I told you that one day by gran grand mother spoke to me from the past (not happened but imagine),there will be no way for anyone to test wether is true or not. The same with any personal experience that can not be tested.

Thatbritguy had a partiucalr brilliant insight about a bunch of things which present certain repetitivity but are outside the realm of science by cultural decision and the backstory behind those repititions... I hope he will be around and will send you to the appropriate  comments..

Regarding your near death experience, it has nothing to do with science, it can not be explained or not not explained or qualified or disqualified or even itnerpreted int he framework of science.. it has nnothign to do with science...

Regarding the repetitive phenomena that a lot of people describe experiences similar to NDE could be a subject of science but..well I think Thatbritguy will give you the answer on why it could happen, but it is difficult.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Oct 18th, 2008 at 07:25:04 PM EST
kcurie:
Regarding your near death experience, it has nothing to do with science, it can not be explained or not not explained or qualified or disqualified or even interpreted in the framework of science.. it has nothing to do with science...

beautiful...

what i find so liberating about what you say, is that it makes me confront some social conditioning that i have imbibed along the way somehow that tries to dictate that something that science has not understood yet is beyond the pale, 'out there', or 'woo-woo'.

this assertion, however subconscious, has conditioned some of my attitudes, sometimes in rebellion against it, in that i recognised a certain insecurity in human nature that makes us crave certainty, however illusionary, as a fixed point, a north star, against which every supposition is aligned.

this is how groupthink can be so destructive, as it offers a kind of herd-pleasure, during which one's critical intelligence can easily abdicate, following someone else's lodestone...

science, like some octopus, likes to stick its probes and tentacles into and around everything and 'regularise' it by attaching it to some certainty, some predictability, some set of laws, so then it can be 'safe' to acknowledge, 'sanely' etc.

problem being, science reverses its opinions all the time!

it's natural to catalogue, pigeon-hole, quantify and summate, and perhaps eventually the states of mind/soul in wales, crazy horse and others describe here will one day be as mysterious as a phone call, which in turn would have seemed impossibly fanciful to most cavemen.

most of us couldn't write a scientific paper on how a phone works, but we make calls blithely every day.
unfortunately, if a mind is raised on too much (false) certainty, it goes into spasm while trying to embrace something too abstract for its cognition, and even locks down and even strikes back, threatened that its foundation may be rocked by something that hitherto has resisted scientific explanation.

there's an amusing irony i find about ET, in its earnest desire for rigor, spending countless computer man/hours debating the finest points of complex, arcane, financial constructions of diabolical import, all based on disastrously misconstrued axioms and assertions as arrogant and results as inhumanly uncompassionate as any weird cult you could name!

yet...

god forbid we stray too far off the beaten track...

i also find it fascinating how much interest there was in rg's tarot series, how until jerome 'banned' astrology how much people opened up about all sorts of interesting stories about themselves around that most unscientific of subjects.

it looks to me that by sticking to the subjects under the rubric of ET, we get very few females interested to stick around or do more than lurk, which has brought on the interesting conversations when fran opened that box on friday, and that while we can have long, fun-packed threads on very 'male' subjects, all well and good, but there's a plethora of human interest stories that presently is somehow squelched by a somewhat insecure fear we won't be seen as Serious PeopleTM if we go into woo-woo land.

me, i live there, so no biggy!

...but i didn't come to ET for some kind of affirmation of my spritual beliefs, i came because of some very wry, astute, occasionally visionary commentary on hard-core issues like energy, finance, ponzi schemes, and political skullduggery.

but i stayed for the shoe-blogging, putin beefcake pics, and because like any self-respecting masochist, i enjoy having my tender, fluffy lttle soul getting slapped around by hardcore rational materialists on a gleefully debunking roll...

/snark

ET wants to be all things to all people, and i think it's fun to play with it, as it forms under our fingertips. my guess is that we're all much more interesting than we're letting on, and that we've got the male part sussed and solid, and should listen to the women more, allowing ET to flower into its future as an E-zine with all kinds of quirky weirdness to balance out the d-r-y analyses that are always educational, but relentlessly left-brain much of the time.

...and then maybe rg will come back and play with us more often again!

* this is not a criticism of ET, i love(d) it just the way it is/was, just an observation of how it's trying to morph into something more colourful sometimes, and an attempt to describe the forces in play encouraging or holding back that change.

thanks for your story, in wales! it was beautiful, did i say that already?

:)

ET, where the rational and the fantastic collide...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 12:40:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what i find so liberating about what you say, is that it makes me confront some social conditioning that i have imbibed along the way somehow that tries to dictate that something that science has not understood yet is beyond the pale, 'out there', or 'woo-woo'.

Now, just because something is not within the reach of science doesn't mean that what is said about it isn't woo-woo. I mean, science is not woo-woo free, so why should other areas of human experience be woo-woo free? Science is easy and structured enough that woo-woo tends to stick out like a sore thumb. So, when not doing science, one has to exercise more, not less critical judgement because there is no structure more or less adapted to weeding out woo-woo.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very entertaining link!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:49:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm glad it spoke to you.
I think Migeru makes a good point here though.  I know there is frustration that 'spiritual' experiences are disregarded as not being proper or worthy of inclusion in mainstream discussion.  

Unfortunately this gets strengthened by the many frauds out there - as Migeru says, this makes woo-woo stand out because in these cases there is no apparent rigour attached to observing the experiences and we are told we just have to believe it is true...

but equally science has it's frauds and it has those who fiddle their stats and extrapolate whatever conclusion they want without it being fully grounded with evidence.  But this slips through even with peer review to be seen as legitimate research, when actually it is just as woo-woo as a woman pretending to be psychic and telling people what she thinks they want to hear in a reading, possibly causing them harm.

I think my reason for writing the diary is that when you strip away the woo-woo or fraud there are 'real' experiences that are interesting and worthy of discussion even if there is no apparent explanation for them.  Some people are willing to simply accept these experiences and others are frustrated by the lack of explanation or evidence and will try to pick it apart or disregard it without realising that there can be some value to the experience just as it is.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 04:46:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately this gets strengthened by the many frauds out there - as Migeru says, this makes woo-woo stand out because in these cases there is no apparent rigour attached to observing the experiences and we are told we just have to believe it is true...

You totally misunderstand me. I did not say that scientific discourse makes paranormal claims stick out as woo-woo. What I said is that the good think about scientific discourse is that it provides a structure within which woo-woo sticks out like a sore thumb. I studied theoretical physics so I am well acquainted with scientific woo-woo, having dabbled in it myself. Sometimes I had to stop a discussion with 'guys, if we don't stop waving our hands we'll take off flying'.

Which is why I don't think stepping outside the constraints of scientific discourse is "liberating": if you want to get anywhere with it, it forces you to exercise more critical thinking about most claims that are made so it is a lot more work. Especially claims that are not independently verifiable even in principle.

Of course, overreliance on the scientific method leads to suspending critical judgement of scientific claims, and bad things happen

but equally science has it's frauds and it has those who fiddle their stats and extrapolate whatever conclusion they want without it being fully grounded with evidence.  But this slips through even with peer review to be seen as legitimate research, when actually it is just as woo-woo as a woman pretending to be psychic and telling people what she thinks they want to hear in a reading, possibly causing them harm.
The thing about scientific frauds though is that they are so newsworthy because they are so rare and because the scientific community if horrified every time they happen.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:27:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if you want to get anywhere with it

Drop the with it, it just makes things ambiguous again.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scientific fraud may be rare but errors and ambiguity is more common, which can lead to mistakes.  I refer to  tiagoantao's comment.

Migeru:

I did not say that scientific discourse makes paranormal claims stick out as woo-woo. What I said is that the good think about scientific discourse is that it provides a structure within which woo-woo sticks out like a sore thumb.

I interpret these two things to be broadly the same so I'm obviously not following your logic.

And yes using a scientific structure has its worth but there are some things that don't appear to be verifiable or we don't know how to go about robustly observing and trying to seek an explanation.  I don't think this necessarily means those experiences are not valid in themselves, that is all I was trying to say.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:01:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I interpret these two things to be broadly the same so I'm obviously not following your logic.

Your diary does not contain woo-woo that I can see. Refer to the Crackpot Index.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:04:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ok. We've been working with different understandings of woo-woo, possibly. I guess I would expect many people to disregard my own experience as woo-woo and write it off or tell me I am wrong about it all.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a pathological syndrome in science where self-styled authorities write off unusual experiences and events as scientifically impossible by definition, and then proceed to heap personal scorn and bile on anyone who so much as dares mention them.

That's usually called scientism, and it's - not helpful. Although unfortunately it's not uncommon.

The problem is that the cranks and kooks who like to live on the fringes are often so ridiculous that there's so much noise that any signal becomes buried. Between authoritarian scientism on one hand, way out woo-woo watchers on the other, and the occasional deliberate fraudster, it gets to be very messy.

Fraud in science isn't actually all that uncommon. There have been studies of both graduate and post-grad papers, and falsified, or at least massaged, results aren't all that rare.

That's why reproducibility is so important. If one person says something, you can take their point or leave it. If the same thing happens to a hundred people, it's much more likely to be worth paying attention to.

The problem with so-called woo-woo is that it's not very lab friendly. And because of scientism, even when evidence piles up it's not accepted, and no one is interested in trying to reproduce it because it's a sure way to end your career.

It's not just woo-woo which suffers from the same problem. Science is fanatically political, and becoming more so, and that has blunted its effectiveness over the last few decades.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:50:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem is the amount of loons who insist on sending their crazy to scientists. The maths department I studied in used to get a fair amount of crazies sending their newest wonderful discovery to them, and they're a small school with no-one famous - I assume famous scientists get lots of crap sent to them. Cranks are apparently annoying when they insist on bothering you with their stuff.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 10:58:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A professor I know answered every crazy proposal for a new wonderous machine within his field of work with "Sorry, but for legal reasons I will not look at your blueprints until they are patented". Apparently, that worked in most cases.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:32:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Physics professor to secretary: "Why do you keep giving my e-mail to all these perpetual motion machine loons?"

Secretary: "Oh, I don't. I split them evenly across the department."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:37:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the concept I was talking about...

It was brilliant, and still is :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 10:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But they can't as they don't know, can't know even, anything about your experience since all there is to discuss is your self-reporting. Now if you had made cosmological claims on the basis of your experience we'd be talking about woo-woo.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But we'd learn something important if the cosmological (well, maybe just cosmic) claims were sufficiently detailed and corresponded to scientific knowledge gained later.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 06:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the woo-woo overton window is sliding open!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:11:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is that intended to mean?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
not much, just being silly and glib, a fault o' mine.

(that the spontaneous nature of blogging stimulates, unfortunately!)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 02:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oops i sent colman's reply to mig and vice versa.

to mig:

playing with metaphor, the overton window signifying the common wisdom, the fact that an economy/energy blog should even bother to comment on diaries like these, and the surge of interest from women as well as men when they occur, all suggest a shift, from where i stand... also peoples' attitudes to these phenomena seem a tad less judgmental than last winter, when similar discussions led to bad blood.

so it is amazing, but not how you meant, i think...

i do have a record of misunderstanding you sometimes, so excuse me if i inadvertently pushed your buttons there.

;)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 02:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find it nothing short of amazing that in response to your comment above about "liberation" I argued that stepping outside scientific "constraints" is not "liberating" in the sense that it requires you to exercise more and not less critical thought, as well as a discussion of the difference between reported experience and woo-woo, and your conclusion is that "the woo-woo overton window is widening".


A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:58:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
once you set foot off the beaten track, things get pretty ambiguous. one message i get through my experiences is to remain sceptical about other people, no matter how spiritual they may seem, until you feel so much trust with them that you are willing to risk more open-ness. the spiritual world is full of frauds, just as the financial world is revealing itself to be.

you shouldn't lose a sense of responsibility just because you start taking the roads less travelled, to the contrary...

if you get conned, well, you partly deserved it, and next time you take more care, just as in any other field. people are people, and and some have talents that are more developed than their conscience, leading to aberrations like black magic.

if you are stupid and ignorant to get involved with stuff like that, then you'll learn the hard way sooner or later why so many warnings against doing just that abound.

you don't have to hand over your credulity lock stock and barrel just because you consult a psychic, for example, but right now it's seen as something almost to be embarrassed about, which is a sign something's a bit off, imo.

if psychics didn't work, why would police forces use them? they're known for woolly thinking... not!

it's how people get their panties in a twist about other people checking out their other realities that mystifies me.

if science were always right about everything, or hadn't a track record of birthing horrors as awesome as benefits, then i would expect people to give it more credibility. to my mind, in its search for absolutes like permanent, failsafe repeatability, science betrays its addiction to literality, and while repeatability is a valuable attribute, the very existence of the word 'singularity' should give rational materialists pause for thought, one might think.

if one wants to know the Self, then one might surely be well advised to look in all the corners, for all the clues, not just the ones that 'add up', or fit some proscribed version of a story one already feels to be crystallised.

there's sort of intellectual pride that conspires to make men blind, searching in the dark for truth and meaning, relying on a cane of 'fact' to probe the unknown.

it might be the best way of guaranteeing the bridge doesn't fall down, but it doesn't cover all the bases, not by a long shot, and has to play catch-up constantly to ideation that is inherently more imaginative than fact-finding and checking, which trundles in late to help confirm, rather than establish as holy writ, as it claims to arbiter, and has (often cruelly and mistakenly) for centuries.

not all facts are 'hard'. the ones that are belong to science, the rest are free-floating as soap bubbles.

crazy horse and in wales can tell themselves till they're blue in the face that what happened to them couldn't have happened, but it did!

the caveman got a bluetooth message...

i'm sure the fanatic attachment to 'scientific truth' is in inverse proportion to man's equally silly 'faith' in superstition, equally cruel and mistaken, which in turn was the closest we had to 'science' at the time.

science as we know it is a fabulous set of toys, but it's not the whole game, as some of its adherents/disciples falsely believe...unless ( and even as) the meaning of the word itself stretches towards redefinition.

i've had many experiences that science can't explain, like those cited here. reading intelligent posters stories, like these here at ET serves as a kind of 'peer review' of a kind...

till you have one, it's like describing the taste of a banana to a martian, limited to speaking in backwards swahili, hopeless!

till he eats one himself, that is...when it becomes redundant, like my monologues, sigh...

why do these excursions excite me so? 'tis a strange sensation sticking up for something that itself avoids proof like the plague, lol.

more fool me... i guess i like getting flamed, called delusional etc... quixotic at best.

time to up meds again!

i've gone insane, again! science, please help me!

just please don't ask me for my soul in return-

 

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:10:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My tag line will have to be my response.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 08:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if psychics didn't work, why would police forces use them? they're known for woolly thinking... not!

Funniest line of the night! cf, "War on drugs", "war on terror", "war on cameras".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:53:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if pyramid schemes are a confidence trick, why do hard-nosed investors fall for it? The wonder, the wonder...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 08:09:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
which has brought on the interesting conversations when fran opened that box on friday,...

InWales: Fran, I wrote this diary about a OBE/NDE which I think you can appreciate, but which will get too beaten around if I put it on ET. Can you recommend another place to post it?

Fran: Give me a few days. You will recognize when the soil is properly moistened for such a piece on ET. I really like what you wrote and would like the ET ScienceTribeTM to be able to read it without them triggering the slavish particulars of their worst selves.

InWales: I'll keep watching.

Fran: I don't know yet how I will approach it, but You Go Girl.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 07:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd be welcome to email me but I have no suggestions for other places to post if you don't feel that ET is the right place for it.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 08:02:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry if my attempt at humor didn't carry through the method or the medium.

I was referring to the conspiracy that no one has brought up yet; That Fran made the ground more stable for your interesting, yet non-science (or perhaps future-science) based diary, one that might have brought out more brazen attitudes if the "Why are there not more females writing on ET" thread been explored within 36 hours previous.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 09:11:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I should further clarify my above attempt at clarifying.

I enjoyed your diary, and appreciated that you posted it here. There is no other place that I go to everyday, so if it was somewhere else I would have missed it, to my detriment.

In fact, I rarely read diaries, for want of time. I'll open a bunch which have titles that might be interesting, but I rarely read more than a couple lines in and even more rarely read past the fold. I am already in trouble with every project that I am working on, and each interesting thing gets me deeper in trouble. So, always the Salon, sometimes the OT and less sometimes the diaries.

But your title was provocative, at first glance seemingly counter-point to the recent "why not more females" thread...even though I don't know if 'woo woo' had been brought up there. (Without checking, I remember that Fran stomped on the sub-thread of 'meta-physical' cleverly enough, before it could gather either steam or condescension.) In fact, it was a counter-point to the mega-thread of a few months ago that still leaves a scar on ET members...at least upon me.

And thus, my attempt at humor...(he says, getting ready to explain the joke once again)...that we were set up to take your story seriously, reflecting elements of our kinder selves rather than clever rat-a-tat-style of idea enforcement.

And even though I did not otherwise comment on any of the other mentioned threads, I am more sympathetic to the side that shan't be described as metaphysical (for fear of denigrating it) than to the side that must forcefully remind us that it is science, based upon the methods that have so obviously brought sanity to the society.

Not that I don't like science, for I am a technology person. It's just that science forgets how limited its scope of understanding is, fixed at only what it can see from the narrow shelf of the subtended angle of its place(s) of expertise on the ExpandoMaticSphere of all potential knowledge.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 09:52:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahhh.  I've had my much needed afternoon nap now... and I see what you were saying. But still, the clarification helps!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 11:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am much relieved.

Good week to you...

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL! siegestate, I almost fell into the same trap as In Wales, but after the third reading I got it. Very sneaky of you. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 10:41:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Glad you gave it enough readings~! I'm going to have to get one of those {siegestate's attempt at humor] tags.

Enjoy a fine week ahead...and thanks for efforts to keep us on our toes.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:10:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
siegestate:
InWales: Fran, I wrote this diary about a OBE/NDE which I think you can appreciate, but which will get too beaten around if I put it on ET. Can you recommend another place to post it?

why not post it here? the box is open now, let 'er rip!

quick, before the subject gets banned!

:)

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:17:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding your near death experience, it has nothing to do with science, it can not be explained or not not explained or qualified or disqualified or even itnerpreted int he framework of science.. it has nnothign to do with science...

We don't have the tools needed to even attempt a full understanding of the operation of the brain. We might someday.

The best argument I've seen against ever having an understanding of the brain (I think Sven has brought it up before, and I have seen it elsewhere) is "the brain can't understand itself." I don't agree with it, but it's interesting to consider.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 05:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If maybe,one day we get more or less to know how the brain works... and , if we can someday somehow understand cultural and personal experiences in uber-fast brain t-scan... maybe, maybe we could know if In Wales is believing or think that what is explained is correct... but the experiment in itself... never... becasue reality does not exist (from a  scientific point of view), only what the brain and senses makes of it. So, if NDE exist or not.. no idea, because NDE is a personal experience...

And if we are smart enough we may know what a machine register while In wales is having the experience... but actually you can not.. becase you will not have feedback witht he subject.. so you might guess how the experience looks in an scan...

and then maybe you can check if there is something universal in those tscans...but agan this would be the repitition of NDE... not the particualr experience. It wil eb exactly as quantum field theory... it looks like everything is asicallya  quantum field if weonly knew how to put gravitiy in it.. does it mean reaity are really matehamtical functions behaving in a quantic fashion? Who knows....and as far as science is concerened, nt interesting... after all your everyday experience is the incredible thing.

So, the particualr experience of In wales, is and will always be out-of science..as Miger says, science is not useful any more... your trust of the other person, your skills to know other people, your critical skills and frienship or your particular vision of the world will make sense of it.. not science..

So, yes one day we could know how the experience looks in a t-scan and make science of out it..actually, if it were not for what brit points out, we could try out right now... but the level of noise in data makes it impossible and the different cultural background of woos-woos and unscientific scientists folks makes it almost impossible.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 10:50:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the different cultural background of woos-woos and unscientific scientists folks makes it almost impossible

Yep.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:27:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if we are smart enough we may know what a machine register while In wales is having the experience... but actually you can not.. becase you will not have feedback witht he subject.. so you might guess how the experience looks in an scan...

That depends on whether or not we have privileged access to our mental states. We're not yet in a position to answer that.

and the different cultural background of woos-woos and unscientific scientists folks makes it almost impossible.

I'm assuming our brain scanner can pick up the structures formed by the culture that the person's brain developed in along with the brain activity that occurs during the event in question. That gives us both ends of the relative nature of experience. From there it's a question of whether or not psychology is a science. I don't have an opinion on that, but the older I get the more I'm certain it's not a yes or no question, or even important, for that matter.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 06:53:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All things considered, the mind is an odd place to live. After all, whatever scientific investigation there has been on the brain, nobody seems to have a handle yet on consciousness and the mind at all. You can observe it by glancing sideways at the mirror by the light of the moon, but never under the microscope.

Memory seems to be a bridge. It's incredible to understand how memory works : Strangely so much like a modern computer with transitional memories (RAM) that we hold onto for the day that are downloaded by REM sleep into permanent storage (HDD), dreams being the editing/contextualisation process. Then there is the more subtle background process whreby memories that are unused get put into offline storage, accesible only by triggers (metatags) not under conscious control (Fran's dissociated memories of ptsd).

I describe it thus not to mechanise and cheapen it, but because it is how I visualise my wonder of it. And my biggest wonder is the discovery of large physical memory pathways that only seem to work in low oxygen situations (NDE ?), but they don't seem to go anywhere except the top of the brain. It's as if  a large amount of "experience" needs to be moved around urgently as the blood oxygen count diminishes.

Now you all know I am contemptuous of religion, because it is, imo, a temporal distortion of the wonderful gift of human spirituality for invariably base political ends. Nevertheless I remain respectful of all manifestations of spirituality, even those constrained by religion. I do not know what happens when we die, if pushed in most conversations I will state clearly and unequivocally that we cease. Utterly. So this is kinda strange cos I'm telling a load of strangers something I would never tell even my nearest and dearest. But it "rationalises" the things I understand about the NDE and its meaning.

If spirituality means anything, then it suggests a metaphysical "existence" outside of our 4 understood dimensions (I'm ignoring the others required to support String theory). Which kinda gives it a timeless quality.

Vaguely on-topic aside : In fact some of the more interesting archeological dowsing entirely depends on creating an internal sense of free-floating in time. Also, there are magnetic machines which switch off those parts of the brain that create our internal sense of time and space (interestingly co-located near the memory shunts I mentioned) to create an artificial sense of spiritual presence.

In my view it is related to eastern ideas of re-incarnation; the essence comes into corporeal existence, learns, and then uploads the experience for the next incarnation to draw upon. That's what I think the "mechanism" exists to do, in the last moments of "life" it uploads our body of experience into our spiritual existence. So, by that understanding, the NDE occurs when the response is triggered, but the higher self intervenes to say it is not time.

Now seeing as the human animal evolved to reproduce, evolution has no interest in what happens with the individual after reproductive abilty has been achieved, it is difficult to understand how such a mechanism could come into existence within the physical brain of the animal, so I accept this is a fallacy. But this is belief, faith if you will. It's the first time I have ever written it out, I have certainly never spoken it aloud, so it probably doesn't hang together. Still..... I felt your risk justified mine.


keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 11:32:26 AM EST
Nicely written Helen and not a bad way to sort the different pieces together. It's an analogy that drifts in and out of reality since the tool is a mimic of the original to some extent. And, just as we know so little of the components of the tool set (my mind gets tickled by quantum entanglements, like this: INVISIBLE HAND, AND A QUICK ONE AT THAT, we are way behind where we should be in knowing about the original.

The evolution aspect is interesting, isn't it? The theory is, as you have stated, that 'evolution has no interest...'. But if evolution is the remainder of the selected people who did a certain action for some survival-positive reason(s), then those who do the last-second data dump for some purpose, carried/carry that trait forward. And upload of things to remember? things to forget? as the essence comes again into corporeal existence.

Can't be faith, lest it would remain unquestioned.

Thanks for putting the thoughts down.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 01:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very complementary and very interesting points, Helen.  Parts of your comment are like time-lapse writing for me and it would make a fantastic diary (ies) on their own, don´t you think?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 02:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wondered about that, but it so closely referenced InWales diary that I felt it would detract.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 02:33:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily, it could evolve the discussion.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 02:46:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Done


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As a sidenote:

Helen:

Memory seems to be a bridge. It's incredible to understand how memory works : Strangely so much like a modern computer with transitional memories (RAM) that we hold onto for the day that are downloaded by REM sleep into permanent storage (HDD), dreams being the editing/contextualisation process. Then there is the more subtle background process whreby memories that are unused get put into offline storage, accesible only by triggers (metatags) not under conscious control (Fran's dissociated memories of ptsd).

I describe it thus not to mechanise and cheapen it, but because it is how I visualise my wonder of it.

We often use our most advanced machines to describe ourselves, and clockwork just does not cut the advanced-test anymore.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 11:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's fascinating to observe the derivations of the comments from all the different views, how suddenly it goes way off to the right into all kinds of science branching and returns a little to the center.

I am also surprised that those with science backgrounds use the word ´woo woo´ for everything-else-in-life that´s not a basic group of sciences, as if it were almost scary to them.  Almost all acknowledge there is personal experience, though begrudgingly, but they still need to minimize other sciences and/or worry about a possible invasion of charlatans and fakes with, LOL, herbs and sticks, or worse, ´personal experiences´!  Too funny.

If science is full proof, why all the insecurity?

Now playing at ET:  
How the invasion occurred.  With charts.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 04:55:15 PM EST
those with science backgrounds use the word ´woo woo´ for everything-else-in-life that´s not a basic group of sciences

Wrong. Try again.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 04:59:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wrong. Try again.


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 05:43:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you make statements about other people you can expect to be called out on them when they're incorrect.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 10:54:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From actual life observation:

Migeru
http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2008/10/18/131821/29#83

Now, just because something is not within the reach of science doesn't mean that what is said about it isn't woo-woo. I mean, science is not woo-woo free, so why should other areas of human experience be woo-woo free? Science is easy and structured enough that woo-woo tends to stick out like a sore thumb. So, when not doing science, one has to exercise more, not less critical judgement because there is no structure more or less adapted to weeding out woo-woo.

Please, find something good to say, Migeru!  Your last attack on Sunday says enough.  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 01:34:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What precisely do you find objectionable in that quote?

If it is merely the word "woo-woo" that is objectionable, I am sure that we can agree upon a replacement that denotes the same methodological errors but lacks the perceived pejorative tone.

May I suggest "excessive hand-waving?"

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 02:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
InWales used woo-woo in the title of her diary.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:43:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But InWales and metavision are two different people.

In any case, the force of the argument does not hinge on the particular wording. And there is no point in using terminology that raises red flags in people's minds from the word go.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:51:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And In Wales and I are two different people, too, which explains why my use of woo woo is evil, but In Wales's is acceptable.

I suspect the difference is chromosomal.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:55:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Puh-leeze. There's certainly a bit of tribalism at work here, I'll happily grant you that. You can even argue that there are double standards. But attributing it to gender preferences is uncalled for, IMO.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 05:02:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How are you construing that as an attack?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 02:54:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that the attack on Sunday or are you talking about something different.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 04:41:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am also surprised that those with science backgrounds use the word ´woo woo´ for everything-else-in-life that´s not a basic group of sciences, as if it were almost scary to them

I've met a handful of science absolutists in the professional world, but there aren't any on here that I know of.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Oct 20th, 2008 at 06:10:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooops!  Sorry to step on scientific toes I didn't consider individually.  Seriously.  

So, given the strong science interest in the discussion, is there a need for separate science debates?  

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 01:12:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used the word woo-woo to capture the broad (outside ET, not necessarily within previous discussions here) disregard for 'things that science can't explain' - and as I have said already my diary was an attempt to get discussion going in a way that didn't resort to invalidating the experience I had, just because there  is no scientific way to explain it properly.  

I feel that contributions have been interesting and fair even if nobody has changed their opinion on anything - which wasn't something I set out to do anyhow. Nobody has treated my experience or diary with disregard, which is all I can ask for.

I don't appreciate any attempt to use my diary as a means to attack people who don't agree with you and I ask that the discussion in this bit of the thread ceases please.  If you have an issue with what I have said here then email me, but I don't want this thread to turn into a argument which will spoil an otherwise really decent set of contributions in the comments.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 05:47:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used the word woo-woo to capture the broad (outside ET, not necessarily within previous discussions here) disregard for 'things that science can't explain'

I did a little exercise in archaeology in ET's comment archive. The first 4 comments ever mentioning the term of woo-woo were by ThatBritGuy in 2006:

It's that disconnect with reality that has to be bridged. What we have now is a system that pretends to define reality while mostly being based on hand-waving and woo-woo, with a side order of bullying and oppression.
Considering how audio reviews are mostly hand-waving and woo-woo, sometimes with a few meaningless graphs thrown in for supposedly objective air cover, and some of them are genuinely corrupt, this is not a good thing.
So you get economics which is pure made-up woo-woo, both in terms of bubbles and pretend-factors like GDP.
Reid really is a complete woo-woo-wee-wee fruityloop, isn't he?
Then we have the opening salvo in ET's science wars, by JakeS:
Chopra? Gimme a friggin' break! The man is a class-A woo-woo. His 'thinking' on quantum mechanics are astrology-grade nonsense. That kind of thing is exactly what we don't need, and frankly, I though that progressives had learned their lesson after the Sokal Hoax.
Then I used the term here
Finally, there's an additional twist to this whole discussion which is that decoherence is supposed to be about breaking entanglement, a concept which figures prominently in gaianne's writeup and seems central to the "everything is connected" woo-woo (excuse me) narratives. Now the twist is that entanglement itself is not well defined. It is possible to write down a state of three particles such that depending on the result of a measurement made on A, B and C may or may not be entangled (and cyclic permutations of A, B and C). So, "connectedness" of A, B and C means that "connectedness" of B and C depends on what happens to A far away. This state is called sometimes a Borromean state, by analogy with the borromean rings which are not linked pairwise, but are linked as a set of three.
to which rg graciously replied
"'woo woo' is not shorthand, it's rudeness."--Bertrand Russell
http://www.watchingyou.com/woowoo.html

There are 41 statements to the Woo Woo credo, many of which demonstrate that it is a term coming out of Usenet flamewars--or somesuch.  To understand if a person is a woo woo, one would have to run their comments via the list--and if they matched up, you can then call them "woo woos" and start an argument--it's an argumentative term, with some humour but clearly aimed at a certain Usenet type of character (the kind who reports you to the sys admin etc.)  The list does have some enjoyable moments.  I recommend numbers 4, 8, 9, 12, 22...wow, 22!  But I don't recommend using it as shorthand because it is clearly meant to be derogatory.



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 06:09:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rg's link is broken, read it at http://www.insolitology.com/tests/credo.htm

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 06:22:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think to be fair we're really talking about some very different things here. Precision could be helpful.

I've used 'woo woo' in this thread in the way (I presume) InWales meant it - which is anything unusual which doesn't currently have a scientific explanation.

I'd guess in a Borromean way it shades into self-aggrandising kookiness at one extreme, well intentioned and open minded curiosity in another, and dismissive self-aggrandising but ignorant skepticism in the third.

If anything it's probably more useful to look at socially acceptable woo-woo as a social process, because there's not much else to add about the scientific angle at this point.

I put Chicago-style economic theory in that category deliberately, because I really can't see a difference in the quality of reasoning needed to decide that 'tachyon meditation' is something special, as opposed to the reasoning behind trickle down or tax cuts for very rich people.

Except possibly that one is more consciously cynical and exploitative than the other - although which is which may not be obvious.

It bothers me that the professional scientific skeptics are keen to tackle the paranormal with crusading zeal, but seem willing to leave more mundane, but far, far more dangerous, Chicago-style pseudo-science alone.

As for audio woo-woo - endless fun there, and a diary in prep about that. :)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 06:37:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, i've apprently suffered some sort of herz infark, because i'm looking at my head nestled against the keyboard.  i've been asked to disrobe and prepare to enter the first Bardo (meet the Starmaker).  before i go, i would like to express some surprise that i can still enter ciphers on the internets without touching the keyboard, so hear me out.

We have all entered the realm of the most wonderful topic in all of human potentiality, and the hardest to measure against what we know now.  I would ask all, (i suppose as a last request, since my head is not breathing against the keyboard) if you would all please stop thinking of yourselves as being sure about things like this.  A bit of humility here would be in order, and if i had a good joke i'd probably use it to lighten this place up.

The world of reality is in total meltdown, on the stock tickers, the schmelzing polar caps, the tundra farting, and the developing schizophrenia of amurka.  This might be causing some dissociative chakra problems, or at least an itchy nose.

Who amongst you know what the fook is going on, why you're here!

Please, for the sake of discourse, take my dying opinion as the only gateway to eternal peace, or at least as the path to some stashed offshore funds.

*The preceding Proscendant message has been brought to you by the ehemalige free state of Iceland, where it seems i have to spend my next reincarnation.  i will, in the next minutes, be reborn as chaosdottir.

PPS.  If you really want to discuss science versus hippy, yiou have to start by doing your homework:  Olaf Stapledon's Starmaker.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Oct 21st, 2008 at 06:57:57 PM EST

Who amongst you know what the fook is going on, why you're here!

Me ! :-) An old man with a big beard revealed what's going on to me:

"The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living."

And a man with a big moustache revealed why I'm here, to mature (finally):

"Maturity consists in having rediscovered the seriousness one had as a child at play."

:-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Oct 24th, 2008 at 04:43:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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