Mod+ 281. DR. EVAN THOMPSON FINDS NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE EVIDENCE UNCONVINCING

#21
I am pretty sure it can't, because a mathematical model is a sort of mechanism, and Roger Penrose is of the opinion that consciousness can't be a mechanism because of his Gödel's theorem argument. Regardless of whether that holds water, I don't see a mechanism - something that could in principle be built out of clockwork - can possibly be conscious! That puts a lot of constraints on physical consciousness.

I am also very dubious about the decoherence explanation of the wave function collapse. It seems like a cop-out to me - I mean you still have a wave function that becomes more and more complicated as one system interacts with another, but nothing actually performs the collapse - not consciousness - the effect is just statistical. I mean ordinary statistical mechanics is rather different because it averages over the classical behaviour of a molecules bouncing about in a box (at least in the simple case). Whereas QM follows a very different logic - and I feel it needs a micro-explanation as to what is going on!

David
I'm with you, David. Decoherence is often thrown out as an explanation for collapse, but quantum physicists know better. But there are all kinds of ideas being thrown around and experimental work with no-go theorems is making progress in eliminating potential interpretations. I think there is good justification for trying to eliminate objective options first before turning to conscious collapse models because of the broader implications for physics.

I also think the lack of a possibility for a mathematical model for consciousness goes beyond Gödel's theorems. This is more about decidability like Turing's undecidability theorem that compliments Gödel's theorems, in that we cannot mathematically model our ability to see truth or to decide all things. But free will would be something entirely different. And what about intention? It's a problem because it appears to order matter, but how?

In one way, it shouldn't be that surprising if consciousness is fundamental that causality and mechanism are not found. Even within quantum theory causation is not really there, nor mechanism. It seems that causation and mechanism are emergent properties in the universe.
 
#22
I am pretty sure it can't, because a mathematical model is a sort of mechanism, and Roger Penrose is of the opinion that consciousness can't be a mechanism because of his Gödel's theorem argument. Regardless of whether that holds water, I don't see a mechanism - something that could in principle be built out of clockwork - can possibly be conscious! That puts a lot of constraints on physical consciousness.

I am also very dubious about the decoherence explanation of the wave function collapse. It seems like a cop-out to me - I mean you still have a wave function that becomes more and more complicated as one system interacts with another, but nothing actually performs the collapse - not consciousness - the effect is just statistical. I mean ordinary statistical mechanics is rather different because it averages over the classical behaviour of a molecules bouncing about in a box (at least in the simple case). Whereas QM follows a very different logic - and I feel it needs a micro-explanation as to what is going on!

David
You put it so well. I agree entirely.

I am worried this thread is going somewhat off topic on the QM stuff. The only reason I brought it up in the first place was to illustrate how weak I find it when people duck out of discussing it with appeals to their ignorance of the intricate workings and mathematics of it. I feel it too is a cop out.

I don't believe one needs to be a qualified quantum physicist to understand the implications derived from the (conceptually simple, mathematically mind boggling) double slit experiment. My 10 year old son gets it.
Clearly there are no entirely satisfactory explanations for it - but the role of consciousness is undeniably thrust to the foreground, and intimately entangled with the results. To somehow try to brush it away is truly - disingenuous!

I simply felt that Dr Thompson was ducking out too easily. The implications of the double slit - that consciousness has a bigger role in this drama called life than science wants to grant - simply put, is further weighty data that lends itself abstractly, but very definitively to the possibility of consciousness being primary, and therefore not dependent on the brain, and by extension, that NDE's may have some anecdotal support for their validity and reality.
 
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#23
I always find it amusing that Newton himself was a deeply, and I mean Deeply religious individual, with a strong belief in God as the necessary principle upon which all of his work was focused. He spent more of his time in esoteric pursuits and alchemical investigations than on anything else, and they led his inquiries and his incredible discoveries. It was only a later remodelling of Newton by the French in the 18th century which re cast him as some kind of courageous renaissance atheist inhabiting a mechanistic universe, to suit the notions of their day. Newton himself would be horrified to see that God was chased out of his universe.

I understand the earlier scientist's need to divorce themselves from the mainstream notion of the person of God (grey beard, on a throne, in the clouds etc), however, the earlier resistance to such a God has now outstayed it's welcome I fear, as many broader and sophisticated notions of a creative and sustaining force in the universe (God for want of a better word) do not hinder scientific inquiry in the way the old dogma did, rather it facilitates broader inquiry and hypothesis. Really, it all boils down to this question of God. Materialism is the prevailing paradigm. Should any data challenge that paradigm, it is battle stations, and any and every tactic to dismiss and undermine the data is not only permissible, it is necessary. Why? Because a challenge to materialism, is a point to the God camp in the blinkered eyes of the mainstream scientific community. NDE research, Double Slit results etc, all are dangerous for that reason in their opinion. Most scientists don't know much about how sophisticated notions of a God principle can be, they simply understand God to be synonymous with the tooth fairy, father Christmas and leprechauns, and think a belief in God is too childish to consider. It really is a battle for them between Materialism and God it seems.

(I have to say, this just occurred to me now, as I am writing this, but it really does make sense to me. We often skirt the issue, but I do wonder if the scientific resistance to entertain notions of consciousness some how being fundamental, NDE data suggesting there is more to consciousness than the brain, QM experiments suggesting the observer being somehow primary, are really threatening not because it simply upsets the prevailing paradigm, but that it opens the door enough for God to get back in the room.)
It's not just defending metaphysical assumptions or ideologies. A theory cannot really be challenged too seriously without a competing theory, and so far there is no such theory. If a theory emerged that was testable and made predictions that were then validated, things would change big time. You would still see resistance, but that happened with many theories in physics in the past, including quantum theory.
 
#24
You put it so well. I agree entirely.

I am worried this thread is going somewhat off topic on the QM stuff. The only reason I brought it up in the first place was to illustrate how weak I find it when people duck out of discussing it with appeals to their ignorance of the intricate workings and mathematics of it. I feel it too is a cop out.

I don't believe one needs to be a qualified quantum physicist to understand the implications derived from the (conceptually simple, mathematically mind boggling) double slit experiment. My 10 year old son gets it.
Clearly there are no entirely satisfactory explanations for it - but the role of consciousness is undeniably thrust to the foreground, and intimately entangled with the results. To somehow try to brush it away is truly - disingenuous!

I simply felt that Dr Thompson was ducking out too easily.

I disagree that consciousness is thrust to the foreground in standard QM experiments. There are many other attempted explanations and I do not think they are unjustified.

Parapsychology experiments, especially those on double slits by Dean Radin lately, DO really indicate the involvement of consciousness. But this is not mainstream QM experiments.
 
#25
I disagree that consciousness is thrust to the foreground in standard QM experiments. There are many other attempted explanations and I do not think they are unjustified.

Parapsychology experiments, especially those on double slits by Dean Radin lately, DO really indicate the involvement of consciousness. But this is not mainstream QM experiments.
That it is not MAINSTREAM, does not mean anything. That the world was round was not mainstream. That the earth was not the centre of the planetary system (as it wasn't a SOLAR system until the sun was placed at it's centre) was not mainstream. But, scientific experiment and prediction changed this. Dean Radin's work the role of consciousness in the double slit is robust, and valid, and will be ignored, as consciousness must be kept in it's place, and that is entirely secondary.

The other attempted explanations are not unjustified at all. They are very valid and important attempts to investigate and understand, and what they do is throw up testable ideas - but if we are honest, those tests have failed to validate these other hypotheses in any satisfactory way. We are left with no clue as to how to explain the double slit experiment from these other explanations. Consciousness causing collapse just seems too easy and convenient an explanation, while at the same time being an impossibly difficult thing to explain, at least in terms of some kind of mechanical, or mathematical framework - scary - sounds like God again - RUN!!!
 
#26
That it is not MAINSTREAM, does not mean anything. That the world was round was not mainstream. That the earth was not the centre of the planetary system (as it wasn't a SOLAR system until the sun was placed at it's centre) was not mainstream. But, scientific experiment and prediction changed this. Dean Radin's work the role of consciousness in the double slit is robust, and valid, and will be ignored, as consciousness must be kept in it's place, and that is entirely secondary.

The other attempted explanations are not unjustified at all. They are very valid and important attempts to investigate and understand, and what they do is throw up testable ideas - but if we are honest, those tests have failed to validate these other hypotheses in any satisfactory way. We are left with no clue as to how to explain the double slit experiment from these other explanations. Consciousness causing collapse just seems too easy and convenient an explanation, while at the same time being an impossibly difficult thing to explain, at least in terms of some kind of mechanical, or mathematical framework - scary - sounds like God again - RUN!!!
Well the quantum information theories involving computational models or "simulation-like" models are gaining ground and are pretty consistent with experiment. I still think they only make sense with consciousness involved, but oh well.

But when quantum theory is invoked as a reason for consciousness, that is not going to go over well for many people as an argument because that is not the state of contemporary quantum theory. That doesn't make it right, but it is not too hard for physicists to not take the reasoning seriously since they aren't even exploring that option.
 
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#27
Do you think the neuroscientific, emergentist model of consciousness can remain intact in the light of NDEs, which don't fit within it? Rather than the "last gasp" theory of NDEs, are we witnessing the last gasp of a dying neuroscientific paradigm?
I don't think we're at at the last gasp... lol... but perhaps we're at the beginning of them gasping. However, Alex is so stuck on the idea of consciousness being separate from the brain, that this and other podcasts never really explore the idea of consciousness merely requiring a brain. Alex might then push his guests to concede that the brain is not some perfectly isolated organ, rather it's embedded within, and completely wide open to it's surrounding environment.

Early on, Evan mentioned living organisms without a nervous system, this was a nice opening for some questions... It would be nice to see Alex push his guests to comment on how they can square the idea that the brain/consciousness/processing/memory etc requires firing neurons, when we have plenty of studies showing apparently intelligent behavior in simple single and multi-cellular organisms that don't have any neurons at all (but they all have centrioles).

I thought Evan was far too quick to dismiss veridical NDE OBE's... Yes, we don't have 'solid' evidence for them... yet, but what do you expect when all previous studies keep hiding the damn targets... so that third parties can't see them! ...and in any case some of the anecdotal recollections are pretty damn good in my view, and certainly good enough to prevent Evan (and anyone else's) outright dismissal.

I agreed with what Evan found important about Borjigin's Rat study, that the rats show's highly synchronized activity well into cardiac arrest, but he completely failed to mention that this activity resembled a wakeful humans EM field who is undertaking a visual task. I want to see Alex press his guests on this issue... Why for gods sake would a rat's brains EM field... some 17 seconds into cardiac arrest... *suddenly* begin to resemble a wakeful humans EM field who is undertaking a visual task. Just ask guests how Borjigin's study actually shielded the rats from external EM fields (it's not in the paper). Borjigin told me she used a Faraday cage (type unknown), but Faraday cages don't block slowly varying magnetic fields... and the brains EEG frequencies we're interested in are right in the middle of these slowly varying fields. For all we know, these rats brain's - when in an energy compromised state - might have become synchronized to the slowly varying magnetic fields from the main's power supply?

I found Evan's response that he was unconvinced by any ideas which used Quantum Mechanic's in some way to explain the NDE... quite bizarre... just seconds earlier he admitted that he doesn't understand Quantum Mechanic's well enough to comment on it?
 
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#28
Or I guess my point is that when the statement is made that quantum theory says consciousness is involved, it is all too easy for a physicists to say that no, maybe it's MWI, or GRW, or a quantum computational model, etc.
 
#29
Early on, Evan mentioned living organisms without a nervous system, this was a nice opening for some questions... It would be nice to see Alex push his guests to comment on how they can square the idea that the brain/consciousness/processing/memory etc requires firing neurons, when we have plenty of studies showing apparently intelligent behavior in simple single and multi-cellular organisms that don't have any neurons at all (but they all have centrioles).
I think this is important too. However, I suppose conceptually a true believer that consciousness is some sort of computation, can imagine some sort of molecular computation replacing a computation done using neurons.
I thought Evan was far too quick to dismiss veridical NDE OBE's... Yes, we don't have 'solid' evidence for them... yet, but what do you expect when all previous studies keep hiding the damn targets... so that third parties can't see them! ...and in any case some of the anecdotal recollections are pretty damn good in my view, and certainly good enough to prevent Evan (and anyone else's) outright dismissal.
Right - the whole idea that information needed to be hidden from everyone who wasn't located on the ceiling seemed overkill to me! I mean you have a person whose eyes are either closed, or open but not focussing, and presumably not undregoing the constant jitter without which we see nothing, and yet we have to ensure that the patient can't be absorbing images of the scene as if hovering overhead!
I agreed with what Evan found important about Borjigin's Rat study, that the rats show's highly synchronized activity well into cardiac arrest, but he completely failed to mention that this activity resembled a wakeful humans EM field who is undertaking a visual task. I want to see Alex press his guests on this issue... Why for gods sake would a rat's brains EM field... some 17 seconds into cardiac arrest... *suddenly* begin to resemble a wakeful humans EM field who is undertaking a visual task. Just ask guests how Borjigin's study actually shielded the rats from external EM fields (it's not in the paper). Borjigin told me she used a Faraday cage (type unknown), but Faraday cages don't block slowly varying magnetic fields... and the brains EEG frequencies we're interested in are right in the middle of these slowly varying fields. For all we know, these rats brain's - when in an energy compromised state - might have become synchronized to the slowly varying magnetic fields from the main's power supply?
A great point! What you are really saying is that these experiments are hard to do correctly.
I found Evan's response that he was unconvinced by any ideas which used Quantum Mechanic's in some way to explain the NDE... quite bizarre... just seconds earlier he admitted that he doesn't understand Quantum Mechanic's well enough to comment on it?
I noticed that! BTW, I don't think people attempt to explain NDE's as such by QM (he seemed to imply that they did) - they invoke QM in connection with consciousness itself.

David
 
#30
Alex, you should consider interviewing Evan's father, William Irwin Thompson.
He has known some of the greatest minds of the past decades and is a polymath and outright genius imo.

This was an interesting interview; and also frustrating.
Evan is open and lively; but he is a convinced materialist. From that point of view he cannot see that the NDE data Alex discussed all points in one direction – that the standard materialist presumption does not explain the data.
This failure of the paradigm of scientific materialism is not visible to him.
And he resists the suggestion robustly.
Why?

I think this has to do with how consciousness and human knowing functions. I don’t think we can say in the case of sincere and open individuals like Evan that there is bad faith or obstinacy involved.
Thomas Kuhn had the notion that different paradigms are incommensurable; one cannot understand one paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of another. If one is approaching the issue through the paradigm of scientific materialism one cannot see the rational structure of a paradigm that holds consciousness to be independent of the brain.
When we perceive and know the world we do so through an explanation or theory. We don’t perceive the world in the raw as it is in itself, but rather as we interpret it. We see it in terms of meanings and significances, which are mental constructions.
 
#31
I'd just like to make a point about those rat experiments. I have always thought that they suggest that rats (and by extension possibly all creatures) have (N)DE's. That seems plausible - I don't think humans are fundamentally unique.

What this goes to show, is that any data can be nuanced in both ways!

David
there's nothing to suggest that the rat studies are measuring NDEs.
 
#32
there's nothing to suggest that the rat studies are measuring NDEs.
Right, there isn't even a correlation established with NDEs.

I had a skeptic present this experiment to me, but he was quite upset when I said it was interesting but it does not even establish a correlation with NDEs let alone explain it.
 
#33
None of the materialist attempts to explain NDEs can really explain them. NDEs cannot be explained by: a lack of oxygen, a dying brain, hallucinations, religious expectations, cultural expectations, hearing about medical procedures after the fact, hearing during resuscitation, brain dysfunction, retinal dysfunction causing an image of a tunnel, brain chemicals such as ketamine, endogenous opioids, neurotransmitter imbalances, or hallucinogens including DMT, REM intrusions, epilepsy or seizures, psychopathology, unique personality traits, residual brain activity during unconsciousness, the experience occurring before or after brain activity stopped, brain activity during CPR, evolutionary adaptation, depersonalization, memory of birth, medication, naloxone, defense against dying, partial anesthesia, misuse of anecdotes, or selective reporting.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/07/materialist-explanations-of-ndes-fail.html

NDE Anomalies. Nineteen Anomalies of near-death experiences that materialists cannot explain:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2014/04/anomalous-characteristics-of-near-death.html

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/08/an-electrical-surge-in-dying-brain.html
(Examples of each type of NDE are at the link.)
A surge of electrical activity cannot explain:

  • Veridical (verifiable) near-death experiencess where the experiencer is aware of what is happening at a location he could not perceive with his normal senses even if he was conscious.
  • Shared near-death experiences where more than one person is close to death and they share the same near-death experience.
  • Shared near-death experiences where one person is close to death and one or more people around him share his near-death experience.
  • Near-death experiences that occur when the experiencer is not suffering cardiac arrest and is not physiologically close to death.
  • Near-death experiences where the subject experiences cardiac arrest for much longer than the surge of electrical activity lasts and the experiencer can report veridical information long after the surge of electrical activity ends.
  • Near-death experiences that occur when it is known that the experiencer's EEG shows no brain activity.
...

However, unconsciousness produced by cardiac arrest characteristically leaves patients amnesic and confused for events immediately preceding and following these episodes (Aminoff et al., 1988; Parnia & Fenwick, 2002; van Lommel et al., 2001). Furthermore, a substantial number of NDEs contain apparent time "anchors" in the form of verifiable reports of events occurring during the period of insult itself. For example, a cardiac-arrest victim described by van Lommel et al. (2001) had been discovered lying in a meadow 30 minutes or more prior to his arrival at the emergency room, comatose and cyanotic, and yet days later, having recovered, he was able to describe accurately various circumstances occurring in conjunction with the ensuing resuscitation procedures in the hospital.
 
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#34
By the way, did Thompson state that the electrical activity lasted for up to 30 minutes after cardiac arrest? I think I need to relisten to confirm, but the actual study says 30 seconds.
 
#35
I found this to be a very interesting show. Although one thing that I thought of that does not get much attention is some of the paranormal aspects of NDEs, such as precognition or meeting people not known to be dead at the time. I think this also demonstrates a link between NDEs and parapsychology.
good point. I think this is a natural consequence of getting pulled into the the legitimacy game... where the NDE science stuff becomes more about science than NDEs.
 
#36
By the way, did Thompson state that the electrical activity lasted for up to 30 minutes after cardiac arrest? I think I need to relisten to confirm, but the actual study says 30 seconds.
Quote from transcript:

They basically induced cardiac arrest in rats, and they see a huge surge of brain activity – very complex pattern involving multiple frequencies and shifting patterns of coherence that happens in the 30 to 40 seconds after the cardiac arrest. Then, you see prolonged activity in the brain for up to 30 minutes after the cardiac arrest. Now, that’s a startling finding in relationship to the classical medical view that just basically says you have a heart attack and your brain shuts down. No. The brain is an extremely complicated system made up of many different kinds of cells with incredible connectivity. It doesn’t just turn off when blood flow and oxygen are no longer being delivered. It goes into a kind of huge phase change of activity that can actually be kind of protracted.

The bottom of the line here is that we don’t actually know the answer to these questions.
 
#37
It is always oh so tiresome to hear very intelligent people appeal to their ignorance of the inner workings of QM in order to sidestep having to wrestle with the fact that QM definitively amplifies the importance of the subject (observer) to such a huge degree, that it shakes the very bedrock of the materialist notion of a fundamentally existent and out there independently existent material world. To claim ignorance of the workings of the engine, doesn't mean you don't know what it does!!!
agreed!

Also, I think the impression he worked hard to give of himself is of someone occupying a reasonable and middle ground, halfway between die hard pseudo skeptics and those who see the limitations of a materialist paradigm in light of the data. for me, when all is said an done, it is clear he does not occupy middle ground.
the middle doesn't hold!
 
#38
there's nothing to suggest that the rat studies are measuring NDEs.
I should clarify - my idea is that assuming an NDE starts as the mind breaks away from the brain, that process might cause some sort of disruption in the brain.

This is totally different from suggesting that the NDE happens in the brain!

I guess the main reason for this suggestion is that that surge is very curious - and seems to occur about the time you might expect the separation to begin. However, note Max's contribution above - he thinks the experiments picked up human brain waves, and were simply flawed.

I don't like to just throw away awkward information - that is what sceptics do!

David
 
#39
good point. I think this is a natural consequence of getting pulled into the the legitimacy game... where the NDE science stuff becomes more about science than NDEs.
Well I think to ignore aspects of a phenomena in order to be more about science is not practicing science :)

But I know what you mean, where the NDE research almost has to ignore certain aspects in order to have a dialog with "normal science." Otherwise there runs the risk of being completely rejected as being absurd.
 
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