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 think this is part of the weakness of the materialist position. Unless they go to the extremes and deny consciousness and/or free will, they are forced to say that some configurations of matter are conscious. However, ideas of consciousness are routinely excluded from the rest of science.

    If someone said that a certain protease hates other proteins and enjoys destroying them, it would be taken either as a joke, or as completely absurd. This is not even a question of complexity, the idea that the earth might get angry and cause volcanic eruptions or earthquakes would be equally objectionable. Consciousness is only included in materialistic science where it is absolutely unavoidable - in the human brain - there are even those who would deny animals have consciousness!
    Well I think Idealism is still a real possibility, because rather like Newtonian gravitation is a good approximation to General Relativity, so it may be that dualism is a good approximation to Idealism. Just as science had to develop via the simple theory, I think a better theory of consciousness would involve Dualism, even though that could ultimately be absorbed into Idealism.

    Clearly however, NDE's make materialism impossible once people stop quibbling over whether they are 'real'. That is why they are contested so fiercely.

    David
     
  2. Drokalok

    Drokalok New

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    Well said! And in that spirit:

    "The Way has never been divided up, speech has never been constant. It's all because of 'this' [i.e. labels/mental constructs/intellectual abstraction] that there are demarcations." - Chuang Tzu
     
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  3. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    The trouble is, a materialist could almost say the same. The forces of gravitation and electromagnetism extend outward forever, but getting weaker all the time!

    David
     
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  4. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    I listened to the interview in fits and starts over the course of about five hours in my hotel room last night, thanks to a bad Internet connection. Provided I didn't miss anything important in the last ten minutes or during the ten to twenty minute long gaps between sentences, I was really disappointed that Evan didn't address veridical perception. Alex mentioned the tennis shoe example and the Sartori study, but there is more (including my paper a couple years ago and another really long paper by Jan Holden). Veridical perception during an OBE, whether linked to an NDE or not, pretty much kills the "mind is brain" assumption.

    Evan seemed reasonable, but I am not convinced he is as familiar with the full extent of NDE literature as he would need to be to authoritatively say anything about the value of veridical cases in the literature.

    AP
     
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  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Andy,

    It is good to see you posting again - have you finished your PhD?

    I agree, and I think the alternative concept - that people remember the scene in the resuscitation room that they have seen with their own eyes - could do with some research itself.

    1) How many people are resuscitated with their eyes open? I'd have thought it might be normal practice to close their eyes to avoid possible damage - I don't know.

    2) How much could anyone see in that position - I don't see much of what my dentist is doing - and I am wide awake!

    3) I seem to remember a study that displayed an image on to a person's retina that was automatically adjusted so that it remained in the same place on the retina as the eyes moved (saccades). People found that the image just faded out under those conditions. In other words, without constant eye movements vision doesn't even work!

    I feel that sceptics just discount the remarkably strong evidence staring them in the face, and always demand better evidence - it is just a tactic!

    David
     
  6. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    Yeah, it was always pretty silly to assume the brain was somehow perfectly isolated or shielded, and anomolous information gained over space or time seems pretty secure to me.
     
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  7. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    I'm done with the PhD but I
    I'm not done with the PhD, but this summer, unlike the previous four, I am actually giving myself a bit of a holiday from the PhD. For the past two weeks I have been in Bangkok, Thailand, doing some fashion photography shoots. This allows me to make a new portfolio and to get my mind off of the PhD for awhile. I just got back last night, so this will be a brief answer here but I wanted to say something.

    One thing about skepticism: it shows up everywhere. When I was in Thailand, a Buddhist country where everyone you ask is a Buddha and surrounds themselves with Buddhist iconography, one would expect to find widespread belief in reincarnation and other things associated with Buddhist teachings. In my very tiny possibly unrepresentative sample of two taxi drivers and a woman whose job involved Buddhism, none believed that any of the paranormal abilities or effects surrounding the so-called "Buddha Boy" meditating monk accounts were genuine. This was because, as they said, "none of those things are possible". I mentioned the research of Ian Stevenson, which none of these people had heard of, but they had heard of "many, many" stories of children who remembered previous lives. Again, the response came down to "I don't believe it because it isn't possible."

    I mentioned a rigorous study where a monk was observed continuously by scientists for a period of two or three weeks and seen to take no nourishment, no water, and no toilet breaks during that time without ill effects. This was also disbelieved. They didn't bother to explain the observations collected during the study because "it is not possible". The one person who showed some interest in this kind of thing was a successful American businessman, who discussed these subjects with me for several hours. The locals, all of whom are supposed by debunkers of the paranormal to be credulous in these matters for the purpose of explaining the witnesses found by Stevenson in Thailand and neighboring countries, were uniformly antagonistic to the proposal that any psi effect is genuine.

    In this, Evan shows himself to be more open, but like them, he has not explored the data as deeply as he would need to do to discover the error of his positions.

    AP
     
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  8. People who have more education are more likely to believe in the afterlife.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10950526/
     
  9. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    That is sad to hear, but I think that orthodox science is rapidly painting itself into a corner on a whole range of subjects - as we discuss quite often on this forum - and I predict a backlash against it as the truth emerges. Without the internet scepticism might win hands down.

    David
     
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  10. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    You might find this review paper by Hameroff and Penrose interesting.
    They propose a theory based on quantum mechanical processes in neurons which they claim may allow us to access consciousness which is theorised to be a fundamental characteristic of the universe. So a similar general concept to what you are suggesting.

    http://ac.els-cdn.com/S157106451300...t=1438277148_bf1037e28651c9c517b1c1378f72cec0

    As you know I think they are mistaken; but none the less it is a fascinating paper involving a good deal of leading edge QM and neuroscience.
    Hameroff is an unusual individual in that he is clearly a materialist and a reductionist, but he doesn’t suffer from the ideological myopia that afflicts so many.
     
  11. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Hello David
    As you know I dont favor idealism as a solution to the puzzle of consciousness; nor do I think your analogy really holds.
    Relativity is a modification and extension of classical mechanics; not a replacement by its opposite.
    Idealism and dualism posit fundamentally opposed theories of experience and the universe.

    What form of idealism do you favor?
     
  12. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Just a small point.
    In my opinion, most people who do believe in religious and paranormal phenomena, do so in the same way that those people you met in Thailand dont believe in them. Neither group base their beliefs on the kind of thing some people do here....ie actually researching and thinking rationally about these matters.
     
  13. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I really do not think there is enough data to choose a particular strand of Idealism - indeed, the idea is so abstract I don't think it makes sense to try to use it scientifically.

    Dualism splits off a mental realm - distinct from the physical realm. However that does not rule out the possibility that even the physical realm is somehow run by some form of mentality (presumably not human).

    I think a useful analogy (if you are interested in computers) is that you can run Linux and then a program called Virtual Box, and within that you can install and use a copy of Windows! Alternatively, you can run Virtual Box on Windows and install and use a copy of Linux! I can imagine Dualism 'running' on a substrate that is fundamentally Idealist.

    My point is that if we want to make progress, it is probably best to look for the simplest theory - Dualism - but to expect that that may be a temporary theory.

    Physics has worked with QM and GR for decades knowing they are incompatible - so why can't we use Dualism as a stopgap theory in the expectation that something like Idealism will subsume it in due course?

    Idealism and Dualism are only opposites from one point of view. To the extent that both treat consciousness as a first class object, they are actually similar!

    David
     
  14. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I agree that idealism makes no sense scientifically; when we mean science to be knowledge and agency in the everyday world of experience. A primary presupposition of science is that the world we experience is objectively real.

    In my philosophy mind or the mental realm is distinct from the physical realm. Which means I distinguish the perceptual world from the actual objective world; or perceptual space from physical space. Mind arises as a mental realm when pure consciousness interacts with a nervous system such as the brain. Pure consciousness experiences the world as and in mind via the nervous system; and in terms of the functional parameters and characteristics of the nervous system.

    The perceptual world and the actual world coincide but are not the same. The perceptual world is saturated with psycho-emotional elements, such as meanings and personal significances and feelings, none of which is present in the actual world.

    At a deeper level my intuition is that both the physical universe and pure consciousness (I call it presence-awareness) arise from the same Source. So in that sense the realms of experience, which function as a dualism, are arising from a unitary Source. But that also implies that Source Itself is neither ideal nor physical, but something entirely Other or different; probably beyond anything we can cognise or objectivise.

    For me dualism describes the actual structure of the realms of experience- seer and seen; whereas both idealism and materialism try to collapse the realm of experience to one or other aspect of its natural structure. For me idealism and materialism are both reductive.
     
  15. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Hang on - you are agreeing with something I didn't say! I said it didn't make sense to try to use the theory scientifically - in just the same way that even if someone in Newton's day had come up with GR, it would have made no sense to use it as a theory - algebra wasn't up to it, and nobody could make experimental tests that would distinguish it from Newtons's laws.
    Well speculating about the ultimate theory may not be very useful - I mean my view is that this aspect of science is grossly under-developed - maybe like the rest of science was in 1700 - I agree that Dualism looks like a good start, just as Newton's laws were a good start in the physical realm back then.

    We also agree that Dualism can't be an ultimate theory because there has to be an interaction between the two realms. Approximate Dualism could then either resolve as you suggest, or it could perfectly well be that the physical realm is simulated (so to speak) by some more mental stuff, and the results made available to our minds while we are embodied. The lattre case would be a form of Idealism because everything would be mental.

    David

    David
     
  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    I'd love to get these folks on Skeptiko. Is anyone up for sending them an invite?
     
  17. Alex

    Alex New

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    fascinating form of self-loathing -- none of the cool Western people believe in that stuff... only foolish, superstitious folks from Thailand do.
     
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  18. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I happen to be going over what I underlined in one of Ian Stevenson's books, Cases of the Reincarnation Type Volume 1: Ten Cases in India (1975), that made me think of this exchange. Stevenson is describing how Indians in larger cities and towns are often more acquainted and therefore attached to Hindu beliefs (such as reincarnation), whereas villagers, especially lower-caste villagers, aren't (a fact most Westerners don't know) . But on the other hand, he says:

    (S)ome upper class Hindus who have become Westernized (whether or not they have left India) tend to depreciate Hinduism in favor of Western materialism (I mean by this term both disbelief or skepticism regarding life after death and preoccupation with physical comforts and possessions). Although such persons may profess nominal Hinduism, privately (and sometimes publicly) they assert that it no longer has any effective meaning for them. When Indians of this group encounter a case of the reincarnation type, the evidence confronting them often shakes their doubts since it suggests that what they were taught in childhood may make some sense after all. Some of them (and other persons also) have approached the cases that have come to their attention with great resistance. They have sometimes tried to mislead or trick the subject into discrepancies or false statements and recognitions.
    (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. p. 57)
    And this is over forty years ago.
     
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