Mod+ 250. DR. JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO EXPLAIN PERSONHOOD

although I'm new here, I've already heard the host, Alex, say things like, ''if we could just get past the proof thing''. It's hard to even keep up any pretence to scientific validity with such an attitude. It's seems that many on this forum weight heavily on 'feeling and thinking and sensing', but not on the validity of what they call evidence. So Alex will say it's 'overwhelming suggestive', that there is consciousness after death, based on some people's anecdotes. That is NOT any sort of evidence or scientific validity.
I don't mean to speak for Alex but I'm pretty sure his main point isn't that proof is not important but rather-
- it's already been proven many times over and in many different ways and anyone that has taken reasonable time to look at the data will discover this.
and
- proof is illusive because it is subjective, ie: everyone's definition of "scientifically valid" proof is different
and
- to many solid enough proof is seemingly impossible. So why bother?

I disagree with Alex that is is no longer necessary. For me it is still a thrill to see evidence that is irrefutable. Which doesn't mean that it wont be refuted by someone however, no matter how compelling.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

I don't know what PA Convention materials will be published online, but IANDS 2014 Conference will be Live Streamed!
Thanks for the heads up!

Here's a (long!) paper by Schwartz, authored with Stapp & Beauregard. It deals with the neuroplasticity argument in more detailed fashion:

QUANTUM PHYSICS IN NEUROSCIENCE AND PSYCHOLOGY: A NEUROPHYSICAL MODEL OF MIND/BRAIN INTERACTION

...Neuroscientists consequently now have a reasonably good working knowledge of the role of a variety of brain areas in the processing of complex information. But, valuable as these empirical studies are, they provide only the data for, not the answer to, the critical question of the causal relationship between the aspects of empirical studies that are described in psychological terms and those that are described in neurophysiological terms...

...It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that there is at least one type of information processing and manipulation that does not readily lend itself to explanations that assume that all final causes are subsumed within brain, or more generally, central nervous system (CNS) mechanisms. The cases in question are those in which the conscious act of willfully altering the mode by which experiential information is processed itself changes, in systematic ways, the cerebral mechanisms utilized...
 
This gets to what I think is the whole fallacy of this line of thinking. Alex once again mentions in the intro that this work “falsifies mind equals brain”. I think this is not the case at all.

The fact that someone meditates and it changes the physical brain is completely unremarkable to me and more importantly is unremarkable to a dyed-in-the wool materialist.

As I've said in an earlier post- when a weightlifter repeatedly lifts focusing on particular muscle groups, it results in a bodily change. No surprise to anyone.
.
I do agree that this whole re-wiring of the brain issue isn't conclusive. However, part of the problem is that materialists (believers that only the material world exists) take a hell of a lot for granted! Machines that we make will only change their structure in very pre-planned ways. For example, your computer will bypass any sectors of your hard disk that it finds to be defective. Now consider the OCD issue. A person with untreated OCD presumably simply continues with their problem, so the ability to re-wire this part of the brain surely can't have arisen by natural selection, because it can only be activated using a specific therapy, and therapists haven't been around long enough to influence our evolution! If an alien came along and unscrewed one of the wheels of a Mars rover, it wouldn't deploy another one because its designers didn't expect this to happen!

So I think the fact that OCD can be cured this way is pretty remarkable.

There really isn't such a thing as proof in science (only in maths) but I can tell you a number of reasons that make me pretty certain that there has to be some sort of non-material world.

1) Science seems really stuck at explaining consciousness. Most attempts confuse consciousness with computation, but the difference is obvious - if you are conscious you don't only think things out, you also have experiences. You tell me how physical interactions between bits of matter can generate conscious awareness. It may be useful to imagine actually making a conscious machine, to understand the issues.

2) I think the NDE phenomenon is remarkable. Not only is it very hard to explain how a brain starved of oxygen can hallucinate a complex experience and remember it, it is also hard to explain how someone lying on a hospital bed (and in a coma!) actually views the whole scene from the ceiling. Next time you go to the dentist, ask yourself how much of the activity in the room is visible to you while you are being treated! Furthermore, some people have NDE's when they didn't know they were in danger (or are kids that don't understand death), so why do they hallucinate a death-related drama.

3) There are some really weird phenomena associated with consciousness - for example autistic savants. These extraordinary people are severely mentally handicapped except for one talent area, where they seem to access information that they have never been taught (and could never have understood anyway).

4) I think there is a substantial number of experiments that provide evidence for ψ under controlled conditions. Conventional science doesn't so much explain these phenomena, as shuffle them out of site. Of course, there are people such as Brian Josephson, who got the Nobel Prize for physics, who takes ψ very seriously, but they are the exceptions.

David
 
Last edited:
Does anyone know a reference that quantifies how much Schwartz's therapy can improve OCD symptoms? Schwartz (below) claims it reduces the need for medication. He doesn't say it cures the disorder, he doesn't say it eliminates the need for medication.

Self-directed neuroplasticity (and the placebo effect) shows consciousness is not an illusion. If consciousness can alter the brain it, it is a causal agent, it cannot be an illusion.

But when you read how his therapy is conducted, it doesn't sound much different from rewiring the brain to play a musical instrument through practicing. When you deliberately use your mind in a certain way at the onset of an OCD attack, the brain becomes trained to react that way. I don't see anything mystical in that, that is not in any other type of training.

http://hope4ocd.com/mindfulness.php
The first step is to Relabel. We put an accurate notation in our own mind that answers the question, "What is this that's bothering me?" and the answer is a treatable medical condition, OCD.
...
So the second step, Reattribute is answering the question, "Why do they keep bothering me?" The thing that really makes them debilitating is that they don't go away, they keep bothering you and bothering you. The answer to that question is that the intensity and intrusiveness of the thought or urge is caused by the medical condition OCD, and it's probably the result of a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
...
We then came up with this little aphorism that a patient actually said, "it's not me it's the OCD". Now that has a lot to do with mindfulness because it's mindfulness that is allowing you to see clearly that you are not the disease and that your mind and your consciousness are not the disease process.
...
Now once we see our mind as separable from those experiences we can go on to the critical third step. This step, called Refocus, actually changes how the brain works. In the Refocus step the critical key phrase is "work around." Work around, I am using as a technical term. Work around the OCD symptoms by focusing attention on something else by doing something else and the key phrase here is do another behaviour. The term "work around" means don't wait for the feeling to go away--Work Around it by doing another behaviour, even though the feeling is still bothering you.
...
When you do this on a regular basis you literally change the gearbox shifting capacity of the caudate nucleus. What you have happen is that the gearbox now starts shifting to good behaviours. Because of the underlying medical disease process it won't shift to the good behaviours unless you literally shift it yourself by refocusing your attentions willfully on an adaptive behaviour. The key phrases are do another behaviour while working around the fact that the bothersome thoughts and urges are still there.
...
Now when you do things in the proper way and put your attention on your action what ends up happening is that you really come to Revalue which is step four and is the last step of this process. It can often take several weeks or months to kick in. Revalue means that you really learn not to take the OCD or what ever anxiety symptom we're talking about at face value. Instead you literally recognize the feeling in a different way. This is the most powerful part of mindfulness because with mindfulness you can literally have the same feeling but have a totally different meaning than it did before you were mindful.

So it is not the feeling that needs the change, it is your understanding of the truth that needs to change. As your understanding of the truth develops then this feeling that I need to wash, I need to check, I can't breathe if it's a panic attack, whatever the phobia might be changes. The key is to put a different value on that feeling and say "oh well that's just the symptom, that's just the medical symptom I don't need to listen to that I'm going to refocus and do an adaptive behaviour." Yes it takes mindfulness. Yes it takes mental strength. But it's a powerful process with powerful results.

When you do this it literally changes your brain in a very significant way. You literally have used your mind to change your brain.
...
With the learning of new and better habits, and the new patterns of focusing attention, you literally see biological changes in the area of the brain that functions as the gearbox. I strongly believe this lowers the need for medications, too, although much more research needs to be done on this aspect of treatment. I think all of the clinicians here at the conference would agree that when people do the cognitive behaviour therapy there is often a progressive decrease in the amounts of medication that are needed.

Slowly over time you can see people needing less medication than they would if they did not do the cognitive behaviour therapy.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Hey Jim, I'm still working my way through the paper I mentioned above.

Ideally I'll be able to see exactly why Schwartz claims neuroplasticity is suggestive - if not proof - of an immaterial consciousness when it seems to many of us he's wrong to use this argument.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Hey Jim, I'm still working my way through the paper I mentioned above.

Ideally I'll be able to see exactly why Schwartz claims neuroplasticity is suggestive - if not proof - of an immaterial consciousness when it seems to many of us he's wrong to use this argument.
I read that paper and my interpretation is that the authors get the mystical stuff from quantum mechanics not from self-directed neuroplasticity. To my reading it says, roughly, because of the evidence from QM that consciousness can influence wave functions, we have to develop models of mind brain interaction that take that into account. (Everyone else is still thinking like Newton and they have to get with the times.)

http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/PTB6.pdf

The new framework, unlike its classical-physics-based predecessor is erected directly upon, and is compatible with, the prevailing principles of physics, and is able to represent more adequately than classical concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.
It is my opinion that you have to already believe that consciousness is non-physical in order for self-directed neuroplasticity to make sense in terms of non-physical consciousness. Self-directed neuroplasticity by itself is not a good argument that consciousness is non-physical and it is not claimed to be by Schwartz et al.
 
Last edited:

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
Does anyone know a reference that quantifies how much Schwartz's therapy can improve OCD symptoms? Schwartz (below) claims it reduces the need for medication. He doesn't say it cures the disorder, he doesn't say it eliminates the need for medication.

Self-directed neuroplasticity (and the placebo effect) shows consciousness is not an illusion. If consciousness can alter the brain it, it is a causal agent, it cannot be an illusion.

But when you read how his therapy is conducted, it doesn't sound much different from rewiring the brain to play a musical instrument through practicing. When you deliberately use your mind in a certain way at the onset of an OCD attack, the brain becomes trained to react that way. I don't see anything mystical in that, that is not in any other type of training.

http://hope4ocd.com/mindfulness.php
I don't think it's supposed to be "mystical", it's just the idea that a form of talk therapy can effect the brain.

Unless I've got this wrong, I assume that Schwartz's claim that a certain form of therapy rewires the brain (re: OCD) doesn't rely exclusively on his specific treatment method, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT), which is a "recent" subset of CBT. I couldn't find efficacy findings for MBCBT for OCD, but this Schwartz article states the following regarding CBT in general for OCD:

What is the efficacy of CBT for OCD and how does it compare to drugs and surgery? CBT has a response rate of 50-60% among those seeking treatment, a rate considered at least as high as that of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), the most popular form of pharmacotherapy for OCD (Franklin and Foa 1998; Greist 1996, 1998; Kozak et al. 2000). For those completing treatment, CBT response rates up to 75% have been reported (Franklin and Foa 1998, Stanley and Turner 1995). Response rates of 30-80% are reported for neurosurgery, depending on procedure and outcome criteria (Rosenfeld and Lloyd 1999, Greenberg et al. 2003). No therapy is universally effective against OCD and responders to any therapy tend to retain residual symptoms (Greist et al. 1995, Abramowitz 1997, Kozak 1999, Greenberg et al. 2003). CBT and pharmacology are effective for patients of all levels of severity, while surgery, ideally, is reserved for highly disabled, otherwise intractable chronic patients (Yap 1995, Rosenfeld and Lloyd 1999, Cosgrove and Rauch 2003).

http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDcQFjAD&url=http://www.clinicalneuropsychiatry.org/pdf/03%20ONEILL-SCHWARTZ%2002.pdf&ei=UHfpU47JN-XuyQPSt4KoDQ&usg=AFQjCNE4HctMEDsQdPEBt7gQg-LkS-PJ5Q&bvm=bv.72676100,bs.1,d.d2k
It's now pretty much recognized that all forms of therapy - like many things in life we experience! - have effects on the brains. See here for example. (It mentions an intriguing study that found that psychodynamic therapy (not CBT) affected the brain more than medication did.) :
http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychotherapy/how-psychotherapy-changes-brain
any change in our psychological processes is reflected by changes in the functions or structures of the brain. Straightforward reductionistic stances, however, are unfounded because there is clear evidence that our subjective experiences affect the brain
 
Last edited:
I've heard some of them say that consciousness is a 'function' of the brain. But I've never heard of any scientists say that consciousness is an 'illusion' etc. They readily admit that people can have imaginations, and dreams, and be creative, etc.....brains functioning that way.
The idea that consciousness is illusion most famously comes from the work of cognitive scientist and "philosopher" Daniel Dennett.
 
No, it doesn't make sense, but just shows you have a good imagination. Your idea is not based on anything already known about the world, nor backed up by anything. I don't see anything in the literature about photons or orther particles getting energy by ''going by''. As far as I've heard, we get our energy from.....food.
In electronics, there are circuits/circuit boards that are not energized. They can sit in the palm of your hand while you inspect them. Then, when you plug them into the fixture and turn on the power supply, the circuit is energized by digital and analog voltages. There are copper or aluminum lines that become energized. I am suggesting that wave-function solutions to quantum mechanics are describing something that really does exist as an ethereal field that has the speed of light as a characteristic. Such a field exists even when there are no photons going by. But when a photon does go by, it's as if the field is energized.

In the same way, there are neural pathways in your brain that are firing, they are energized, until they are not being used.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

I keep seeing this term 'biological robot', but only on this forum, nowhere else, and certainly it's not common amongst biologists. Where did it come from? Did just one guy say it once and it keeps getting repeated, or from some particular movement, or where? I don't see real scientists, the ones who know the most about biology say that.
Dawkins coined it:

“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”

― Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
 
Dawkins coined it:

“We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”

― Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Sure we feel selfish. But how do you get a cell or an organism to feel anything at all?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Sure we feel selfish. But how do you get a cell or an organism to feel anything at all?
I have seen criticisms of naturalism's tendency to introduce teleological features to cells, genes, natural selection all the while giving assurances that all this is mere metaphor that can be "cashed out" in non-teleological terms.

It's an interesting question, which is why IMO Nagel is correct to say ID is a worthwhile scientific pursuit. For myself, I lean toward the idea that certain teleological features are inherent to nature. Whether this necessitates a Prime Mover...on the fence about that...but as I've said elsewhere I think There is a God, the story of [ex-]atheist philosopher Anthony Flew's conversion, is worth a look.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

In electronics, there are circuits/circuit boards that are not energized. They can sit in the palm of your hand while you inspect them. Then, when you plug them into the fixture and turn on the power supply, the circuit is energized by digital and analog voltages. There are copper or aluminum lines that become energized. I am suggesting that wave-function solutions to quantum mechanics are describing something that really does exist as an ethereal field that has the speed of light as a characteristic. Such a field exists even when there are no photons going by. But when a photon does go by, it's as if the field is energized.

In the same way, there are neural pathways in your brain that are firing, they are energized, until they are not being used.
I think this paper might help to direct your intuitions into more concrete possibilities:

Bohm’s Implicate Order, Wheeler’s Participatory Universe, Stapp’s Mindful Universe, Zurek’s Quantum Darwinism and the Buddhist Mind-Only Ground Consciousness

(board thread here)

The psychologist Karl Pribram, with whom Bohm collaborated in the development of a holonomic brain theory, referred to the basic field of potentiality from which holographic brain structures, which are stored non-locally within the brain’s quantum field, ‘unfold’ experience, as the ‘frequency domain.’ Pribram and Bohm posited a model of cognitive functioning as being facilitated by an interference effect between individualized cognitive neurological quantum wavefunction structures, which are individuated aspects of the frequency domain, interacting with the global ‘frequency domain’ that is shared by all sentient beings; although, of course, differing individual quantum brain structures would, to various degrees, ‘unfold’ different aspects from the global possibilities contained within the frequency domain. Bohm gave the example of the way in which one of the frequencies within a superposed assemble of radio waves can be tuned into, and thereby activated, an example which naturally leads to the view that the primary mechanism in the activation of experience from the potentialities within the frequency domain is a kind of holographic resonance.
In this depiction Stapp’s characterization of the basic field which gives rise to the psychophysical duality is the ‘field of potentialities’, which clearly denotes a global wavefunction which is somehow triggered to produce a sequence of moments of perception and experience. Furthermore Stapp suggests that it is quite clear that this process involves a ‘gap’ which provides the necessity for conscious choices to be made that have a determining effect upon the nature of the immediate experience as well as the pool of potential experiences projected into the future:

"...choices are not fixed by quantum laws; nonetheless each choice is intrinsically meaningful: each quantum choice injects meaning, in the form of enduring structure into the physical universe."

And this view clearly resonates harmoniously with John Wheeler’s assertion that:

"Directly opposite to the concept of universe as machine built on law is the vision of a world self-synthesized. On this view, the notes struck out on a piano by the observer participants of all times and all places, bits though they are in and by themselves, constitute the great wide world of space and time and things."

An observation which clearly indicates that Wheeler, in his later approach to the interpretation of the quantum evidence, considered that the all the phenomena of the material world, space and time were the result of the congealed perceptions, so to speak, of all the sentient beings who have previously inhabited the Universe, presumably over vast time periods.
That last part, where space & time are congealed perceptions, suggests Lee Smolin's Principle of Precedence:

One of Smolin’s most astonishing ideas is something he calls the “principle of precedence,” that repeated measurements of a particular phenomenon yield the same outcomes not because the phenomenon is subject to a law of nature but simply because the phenomenon has occurred in the past. “Such a principle,” Smolin writes, “would explain all the instances in which determinism by laws work but without forbidding new measurements to yield new outcomes, not predictable from knowledge of the past.” In Smolin’s view such unconstrained outcomes are necessary for “real” time.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Is "selfish" a feeling (like guilt for example) or a description of some behavior (the thing we feel guilt about)?
Selfishness is one of many things that consciousness can experience by virtue of the fact that consciousness is a transcendent phenomena that can experience molecules. The brain is a chemical machine that both holds or traps consciousness within it's cells, and then presents experiences to the cells with neurochemicals. When the cells talk to each other in coordinated ways, consciousness is amplified.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Selfishness is one of many things that consciousness can experience by virtue of the fact that consciousness is a transcendent phenomena that can experience molecules. The brain is a chemical machine that both holds or traps consciousness within it's cells, and then presents experiences to the cells with neurochemicals. When the cells talk to each other in coordinated ways, consciousness is amplified.
So our conscious experience comes from the combined consciousness of our cells?

I think that runs into the combination problem panpsychism faces.
 
Top