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

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I hope that cat made it!

    Actually I don't like thinking about experiments on animals - unless they are of the Rupert Sheldrake type!

    That is the problem, you would probably need a fairly sophisticated animal to be able to detect psychological changes, and then it would be a horrible experiment.

    David
     
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  2. I agree.

    I didn't mean inducing an NDE in animals, I meant testing rescued animals. (I updated my comment.)

    The linked article says the cat is now in good health.
     
  3. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    Reposting my comment from the interview's mainpage (and briefly expanding on it in some areas):

    "Consciousness is the unfolding, the 'e-volution,' of what has always been hidden in the heart of the primordial universe of stars. For a universe in which consciousness is no more than a statistical probability is still a universe in which consciousness is implicit. It is in the living organism that the whole world feels; it is only by virtue of the eyes that the stars themselves are light." - Alan Watts

    Thompson's definition of where consciousness arises or is located (i.e. contingent on the brain, or even granting it one step further, the human organism) is still limited to defining systems as separate from each other - as opposed to the mutually supportive/interdependent organism-environment continuum that all life is (where seemingly individual manifestations of consciousness are still expressions of the entire system, like bubbles being obvious/concentrated/surface representations of the all-permeating heat of boiling water).

    To put it in another way, the whole of reality/existence is the sufficiently complex organization that makes "our" consciousness possible. Which means, if you believe that you are conscious, then you believe the universe is; literally the entirety of it needs to exist to support "you." We (and other "complex organisms") might be the conscious tip of the iceberg, but you don't poke your head out of the water without the rest of the berg beneath you lifting you up. You might call yourself "John Doe," but it is the whole cosmos that is "John Doe-ing" in the place you call "here and now." "You" are not a fixed thing, but a flowing event that is a continuous aspect/expression of the whole pattern. And that whole pattern is just as much you as your fingernails! We just don't tend to experience it as such. We have no problem recognizing that we have "internal" organs like a heart and lungs and liver and brain(!) that "belong" to us, but we fail to realize - in the exact same way - that we have "external" organs like trees and the sun. Or, to frame it another way, a tree is "the other half" of your lungs - together they are aspects of a greater continuous/more complete (and entirely reliant) whole.

    So, by simply admitting we are conscious, or that we contain/express consciousness, Thompson - and any other materialist/reductionist that takes that position - is tacitly admitting/acknowledging that we live in a "conscious" universe (or, alternatively, that consciousness pervades all that there is). And, as shown, this can be concluded in approaching it from a purely "physical"/materialistic standpoint. Though it doesn't "explain" consciousness or why it exists or why "your" experience might be different from "my" experience or solve the "hard problem" as such, proving it is really that simple.
     
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  4. Dillinger

    Dillinger New

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    Alex,

    I agree with your assessment of the physics community in regards to quantum mechanics. They really do take a strictly the instrumental approach to the mathematical formalism and are inclined not to reflect on its metaphysical implications.
     
  5. Matt²

    Matt² New

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    Why is it, that materialist academia and NDE skeptical science in general, not only always seem to want to have their cake and eat it too, but they just automatically assume they can, as if that's the default position?

    This is my introduction to Dr. Evan Thompson and he comes across very knowledgeable and an amicable person. However, as soon as Alex brought the EEG data and its long history into the discussion, Thompson tries to claim and swerve around that position by stating the brain is so complex, mysterious and there are so many unknowns. Well yeah, we get that, but that that in no way means the decades of NDE research and data is therefore meaningless and dismissed.

    Nothing more than the same old and tired debunker claims shined up, trotted out, and rode around in a small circle we've all seen over and over.

    Disappointing and boring...
     
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  6. Robert Perry

    Robert Perry Member

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    I just caught this show, which I found very frustrating. To me the explanation for Thompson being able to look straight at the evidence and remain unimpressed, while sounding very calm and rational, has everything to do with how he weights the larger issues before even encountering the evidence. I think the weighting goes like this: Well, we basically know it's all brain-based, so any evidence to the contrary has to get over an incredibly high bar before we even consider it good evidence. And any theoretical explanations for explaining away that evidence has an incredibly low bar to get over--it just needs to be a tiny window, a vague possibility, and it has effectively neutralized the apparent evidence. Once you have weighted things like this, you can look straight at the evidence and say, actually, I was prepared to be convinced, but there just isn't much evidence there. It's just not compelling.

    I heard Alex and Thompson talking on the level of the evidence, but they were like ships passing in the night because they started with different rules for how to handle the evidence.
     
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  7. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Not necessarily.
    Most materialists believe that consciousness is an effect produced by certain processes under certain conditions.
    The potential for the effect is inherent in the structure of the universe, but that does not mean the effect itself is present, other than as a potentiality.
    From the proposition that the universe can produce consciousness (as an effect) it does not follow that the universe is conscious.

    Personally I think NDEs are evidence against the proposition that the universe is conscious.
    To me they indicate that consciousness is distinct from the material universe.
     
  8. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Yes this was how I felt too as I listened. I encounter this phenomenon repeatedly in discussions.
    I think Kuhn's notion of incommensurability describes it very well.

    The principle applies to us all; to both sides of the discussion.
     
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  9. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    The point simply remains, the universe is conscious through us (or, perhaps more accurately, as us). It is the entire universe, it can't be anything less. Put another way, "you" are the entire universe, you can't be anything less. QED

    Doesn't matter what materialists believe about certain effects and conditions (though they may help determine why consciousness is expressed as such, or in particular sub-patterns), they would almost certainly assert that it resides "inside" of us. Well, our "inside" is really an inside-outside, just like "outside" of you is in all actuality outside-inside...it is one continuous, complete process. Even if consciousness were to seemingly and miraculously pop into existence sui generis, its simple presence at that moment simultaneously and automatically makes it that way. It doesn't "follow," it just is.

    And as to those "effects and conditions," in the words of Henri Poincare:

    "If all the parts of the universe are interchained in a certain measure, any one phenomenon will not be the effect of a single cause, but the resultant of causes infinitely numerous; it is, one often says, the consequence of the state of the universe the moment before."

    I would hesitate to say consciousness is distinct from the material universe, because distinctions don't exist in Nature. Even to say that it is embedded or woven in still implies that there's an "it" that is separate and could be teased out. Is consciousness (or some "Mind at Large") in some way "extra-material" - underlying and/or above and beyond what we categorize as material? I can't answer that for certain. I've heard it that some Hindus said of Brahman that "He is the entire universe, plus three inches." But irregardless of where those chips may fall, arriving at the above realization doesn't even necessitate that sort of speculation.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  10. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I dont take you point as QEDed at all Drokalok; it sounds like some form of panpsychism.
    I am definitely not the entire universe. Of that I can assure you.

    NDEs indicate that consciousness is something distinct from the material universe...not an effect of it.
     
  11. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    The QED was somewhat in jest, but the point absolutely remains. By "you" I don't mean some inflated ego or personality that is the universe, or that "you" are omniscient and/or consciously omnipotent in some sort of way. I also don't claim for consciousness to be an effect of the material universe.

    What we must first do is inquire into what we mean by "self" - in other words, what do we mean when we use the word "I". Some talk about the "auto-biographical self," some about the "self" as it exists in spacetime, some about the "soul," some about naked presence and awareness as such. And I'm saying we just focus on what even materialists would agree exists, the physical organism - or, the "self" as it exists in a physical nature in space right "now" (with consciousness firmly embedded..."effect" or not).

    Well, most people's view of that "self" is a portrait view from about 3 meters away. Truncated from the waist up. Maybe, if they're being generous, head-to-toe. That is who "I" am. A "skin-encapsulated ego," as Alan Watts put it. Cut out from the "outside" world from the boundary of my skin. But, in actuality, on one level, you are a collection of atoms, on another a community of cells and microbiota, on another the "total" human unit (that portrait view), still farther away you are the earth/"terrestrial" (for in the same way an apple tree "apples," the earth "peoples"...and remember your interdependency with those "external" organs?), further out you are the solar system, further still galactic, and so on. In other words, what "you" say you are depends on your perspective/POV/level of magnification/range of observation. But "you" aren't any one of them, you are all of them at once. Douglas Harding draws his self-portrait as such (while accounting for the "naked presence"/zero millimeter view as well):

    (can't post link, will try to when I meet forum requirements)

    I recommend reading his work to fully grasp the image (and direct ways of exploring that zero millimeter view).

    But, that aside, let's go back and re-examine the idea of being cut-off by a skin barrier (the materialist's favorite view). It's my contention that the skin isn't a barrier, it's a bridge. It connects inside-to-outside. And space itself doesn't separate, it connects. The earth and the sun are connected in the same way that two ends of a stick are. Think of it this way, you have a bee here, and a flower there - seemingly separate as separate can be. But you don't have bees without flowers, and you don't have flowers without bees (or some other similar pollinating organism). Bees have been referred to as the sex organs of plants. Put any way you'd like, they are one continuous organism in the same way that your head and feet - while they look different as can be - are one continuous organism (one just seems more obvious). In the same way, you are not an organism in an environment, "you" are an organismenvironment (more clearly read as organism-environment...but just as inseparable as space and time (i.e. spacetime). If you can, check out the following Alan Watts clips on YouTube:

    - Alan Watts - Organism-Environment, the transactional nature

    - It all goes together - Alan Watts (from user Tragedy & Hope)

    - How Do You Define Yourself? (also from user Tragedy & Hope)

    (sorry, I would embed/link thesm directly...along with the above picture...but I can't because I don't meet the forum requirements for new members)

    The problem is, we've come to only identify ourselves with the diversity, but you are also the Unity underlying and encompassing the diversity. Saying "I'm not the universe" would be like a wave saying "I'm not the ocean." But a "wave" is the entire ocean "waving" in that particular location (in the same way a green caterpillar is the entire environment "green caterpillar-ing"...for, like "them," we are not fixed things, but flowing events...verbs, not nouns).

    So, again, from a purely "physical"/materialistic standpoint - here "I" am and I am conscious - one can easily (and definitively) come to the conclusion that the entire universe is conscious. Even if we were to go into total reductionist "I am my brain and only my brain" mode, it doesn't change the broader truth. Again, I'm not making claims to orders of consciousness (might "inferior" or "superior" beings to us have a conscious experience different than us, or one that we would even recognize as conscious?)...just that because we are, it is.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
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  12. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I take NDEs seriously. They clearly indicate that consciousness is not an effect of matter. That the ‘self’ is not the physical body; nor an effect of the physical body. The self is not the physical organism. I am not atoms or molecules or organs or the sum of body parts or the entire planet or the universe either. I am consciousness inhabiting a physical body for a lifetime.

    It is I am consciousness; not the body nor the universe.

    What we have here is a classic case of incommensurability between our points of view. You arguments are no doubt philosophically clever and imaginative etc; but make no sense to me whatsoever, because they rest on presumptions about reality that are completely different to mine.

    The body does conform to your view, in that it is not separate from the planet or the universe. The body is part of the living matter of the Earth, the biosphere, and is thus part of the planet and the wider universe. But consciousness is not the body.

    The clear testimony of NDEs (have you read or studied them at all?) is that consciousness is not an effect of the body.
    The conscious self is not the body or the universe.
    What you are describing is a sort of panpsychism; which is a form of materialism.

    I am not trying to convince you; only to make myself clear to you.
     
  13. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    I'm not arguing that NDEs aren't valid (I have read plenty, and accept their legitimacy and am intrigued by what they imply), or that there isn't an experience and/or consciousness "outside" of embodiment from the human organism/what we consider "material" reality, just that - even if one were to take that "incommensurable" hard-line, strict materialist perspective - it is possible to prove that consciousness (even their "version" of it) is a universal phenomenon/universally pervasive. And maybe, in accepting that, they can move towards that deeper view of consciousness.
     
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  14. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Proof is very hard because strict materialists will postulate just about anything in order to win their case:

    1) That contrary to the whole understanding of the brain, it can produce a vastly complex hallucination using a tiny fraction of the resources it would normally need.

    2) That a body can absorb visual and audio information long after the heart has stopped - even though vision not only requires the eyes are open and focussed, but it also relies on continuous rapid movements of focus in order to continue to work.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccade
    I think that issue needs more thought - unless saccades continue for the duration of the NDE, it is totally impossible to understand how people can 'return' with visual information about their resuscitation.

    3) That experiments such as Rupert's dog experiments aren't sufficient to establish the effect, when similar or less rigorous experiments are done all the time.

    4) They also seem to dance around when really pushed. Dennett claimed that consciousness is an illusion (whatever that could mean), and then Churchland contradicted the idea but came out with some equally vague notion. Whenever you focus on any part of their argument, they claim you aren't understanding it in the right way, or they didn't mean it literally, or whatever.

    etc.

    What I am saying is that if the materialist viewpoint ever collapses, it will be a messy, grudging process!

    I think what you are saying is that the materialist position is inherently incoherent, and I think so too. Probably the weakest point is the very nature of consciousness and free will. The very existence of both of these is under attack - which is a sure sign that they cannot be explained in materialistic terms.

    David
     
  15. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    Yes, I think those sorts of ideas are correct. GoT sayings suggest they had similar ideas yonks ago, and we're still struggling with them today.

    It definately feels loop-like to me, with the same stuff seen differently from different perspectives.
     
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  16. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Yes I see what you mean. And there are materialists who do take that line; Penrose and Hameroff suggest that line - that consciousness, in the sense of qualia, is inherent in the nature of matter, like spin or mass or energy etc. Those materialists at least take consciousness seriously; which is an improvement on those who discard it as an epiphenomenal illusion.
    For me panpsychism as an explanation of human consciousness is not consistent with NDEs and a plethora of other traditional testimony and evidence about human consciousness, so I see no advantage to be gained in arguing in favour of it on the basis it is less wrong than other more hardline materialist views.
    Less wrong is still wrong.

    ps I agree with David's general point; and couple that with what Planck said about scientific progress. Materialists will have to die out; they wont be converted.
     
  17. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    Good points all-around, especially on the skeptics ever-moving goalposts. And you are also well to point out the absurdity of the Dennet-like denial of consciousness (after all, one must use consciousness itself to deny itself), even if it is the only position that follows the logic/is "intellectually" consistent (which is why it is inherently incoherent).

    @David Eire

    I think you and I are largely in agreement. And while I am fairly well versed in panpsychism, I would clarify that that's not what I am suggesting. It need not even be posited in this case. Just going on (to borrow a phrase from Douglas Harding) "present evidence"...as in, here-and-now "first person" experience. A materialist may firmly/dogmatically hold that not even another spec of matter be conscious/be imbued with consciousness (as opposed to the position of panpsychism), and it would still be the case that because they themselves are conscious (to which they would almost certainly agree...unless they were to take Dennet's position), the entire universe is. Because the totality of "their" being includes/is the entire universe. I am sorry I am unable to make this point clearer, any lack of understanding of what I mean rests solely on me.

    @Max_B

    Thanks for the link! Will check it out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
  18. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Your clarification does make your view clearer to me. But I must also say it makes it even more clearly incoherent and a non sequitur, in my opinion.
    Which means, it does not at all follow from my understanding of consciousness and the universe etc.

    I do not share your belief that "the totality of "their" being includes/is the entire universe".
    You state that belief as though it is obviously true; whereas for me it is obviously untrue.

    I suppose from such a proposition your conclusion might follow; but I don’t share your belief in that proposition; or indeed in many of the other propositions you have put forward.

    That a creature has a particular characteristic does not entail that the entire physical universe has that characteristic; only that the entire universe entails the potential of producing creatures that can have that characteristic.
    But as I have tried to make as clear as possible from the beginning of our discussion there is good evidence (in my opinion) (NDEs etc) to strongly suggest that the physical universe does not produce consciousness.

    We have very different approaches to the issue; and we think and express ourselves in very different ways. I encourage you to stick to your way; and I will stick to mine. I don’t think this issue can be resolved (objectively and conclusively) either way at this time

    Thank you for clarifying your view.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2015
  19. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    Thanks, I appreciate the back-and-forth. Being pressed not only forces us to clarify our own thoughts/position, but can help us uncover new insights and strengthen/recalibrate it for the better. We may have different approaches (though I do also take NDEs, OBEs, reincarnation, psi phenomena, meditative and other "non-ordinary" states of consciousness, etc...into consideration, as well), it does seem all roads lead back to Rome (I'm just trying to compel materialists to travel down their path the entire way).

    And, not to belabor the point/debate, but one final thing - for my proposition, I wasn't claiming/asserting (and it isn't necessary to assume) that consciousness is "produced" by the physical universe. That being said, a strict materialist may very well take that position (as they're wont to do), and the implication would remain the same.
     
  20. Reece

    Reece Member

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    As Maharaj says, "everything causes everything." Nothing can be separated out except as an intellectual abstraction. Reality is whole and undivided.

    http://www.amazon.com/I-Am-That-Nisargadatta-Maharaj/dp/0893860468
     
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