Alex's book

#1
We started a thread here for skeptical input on Alex's book project, but it appears to have been a casualty of one or other of the Great Forum Apocalypses.

I'm keen to start the thread again as I suspect the book will feature to some extent in upcoming podcasts. To restart the dialogue I am quoting his response to Alan Amsberg's thoughtful suggestions for the book (in the S&EC forum):

Hi Alan... thx for starting this thread.

re above... maybe, but that's kinda presupposes a lot. It kinda anthropomorphizing this larger consciousness in a way that's bound to be wrong.

besides, the book is going more in the direction of "why science is wrong" rather than trying to figure out what the "right" answers are :)
{My bolded} I'm not at all convinced that this is the right tone for such a book, but I'm interested in others' thoughts before I comment further.
 
#2
I'm not at all convinced that this is the right tone for such a book, but I'm interested in others' thoughts before I comment further.
It seems a legitimate tone to take from here. Since the advent of New Atheism, claims for science have moved into political and ideological arenas for which there's little to no basis. You don't have to know the underlying mechanisms to see such a move is unsupportable. Throwing a light on the endemic BS is a great first step.
 
#3
I think saying "science is wrong" is pretty bold. None of the researchers in parapsychology say this. Dean Radin himself has said that science is mostly correct, it's just missing a few things, all that's required is an expansion of what we know. I recommend that Alex's book be a broad review of the various classes of evidence that present a challenge to what is generally thought, perhaps and irreducible mind light of sorts.
 
#4
I think saying "science is wrong" is pretty bold. None of the researchers in parapsychology say this.
One the other hand, some, such as Susan Blackmore insist that "science is right" and couples that with "but it doesn't support the paranormal". (Those are not actual quotes, but summarise the sort of views she has expressed).

That wouldn't matter very much if such views were not given such prominence in the media. For example there were two separate programmes on BBC radio in the past week which featured Susan Blackmore. And there's the fashionable Brian Cox who is much favoured by the media, who likes to scatter sneering and derisory comments regarding anything 'paranormal' throughout his otherwise well-considered presentations.

If the mainstream media gave as much airtime to researchers such as Dean Radin, that might not be such a problem, but as it stands the general public stand little chance of hearing a balanced viewpoint, unless they do their own research of what other views there are, but there is little in mainstream science presentations to prompt such curiosity, on the contrary, the limited and constrained views presented would tend to discourage such study as being pointless.
 
#5
One the other hand, some, such as Susan Blackmore insist that "science is right" and couples that with "but it doesn't support the paranormal". (Those are not actual quotes, but summarise the sort of views she has expressed).

That wouldn't matter very much if such views were not given such prominence in the media. For example there were two separate programmes on BBC radio in the past week which featured Susan Blackmore. And there's the fashionable Brian Cox who is much favoured by the media, who likes to scatter sneering and derisory comments regarding anything 'paranormal' throughout his otherwise well-considered presentations.

If the mainstream media gave as much airtime to researchers such as Dean Radin, that might not be such a problem, but as it stands the general public stand little chance of hearing a balanced viewpoint, unless they do their own research of what other views there are, but there is little in mainstream science presentations to prompt such curiosity, on the contrary, the limited and constrained views presented would tend to discourage such study as being pointless.
Sue Blackmore is presenting at the Tuscon conference in the same talk as Sam Parnia. I wonder if she's going to repeat the same stuff again. As for Brian Cox, was he making these statements recently?

With that said, what would happen if Cox or Blackmore admitted they were wrong. "Yes I've spent the past decades or years saying how this is all bullshit, I've done dozens of talks, written books about it, but actually, I was wrong I like Brian Cox, but he comes across as incredibly arrogant sometimes. If they were to admit that such phenomena were perhaps real, it would seriously damage their ego.
 
#6
Sue Blackmore is presenting at the Tuscon conference in the same talk as Sam Parnia. I wonder if she's going to repeat the same stuff again. As for Brian Cox, was he making these statements recently?
Good question Regarding Sue. When challenged she tends to back down slightly in the sense of admitting "well, I could be wrong", but I don't know what her current views are.

In the case of Brian Cox I'm just referring to various programmes aired on the BBC during the past year or so - but some of them may be repeats of an earlier broadcast. I'm not saying he launches a full-on attack, its the throwaway lines tagged on to the end of a sentence or interspersed within his presentations.
 
#7
Good question Regarding Sue. When challenged she tends to back down slightly in the sense of admitting "well, I could be wrong", but I don't know what her current views are.

In the case of Brian Cox I'm just referring to various programmes aired on the BBC during the past year or so - but some of them may be repeats of an earlier broadcast. I'm not saying he launches a full-on attack, its the throwaway lines tagged on to the end of a sentence or interspersed within his presentations.
But this gets to the point. Have any of the skeptics actually looked at the evidence? (regardless of what conclusions one draws)
 
#8
But this gets to the point. Have any of the skeptics actually looked at the evidence? (regardless of what conclusions one draws)
That was my point too. The media actively discourages the sceptics from looking, both by what it does give airtime to, and by what it does not.
 
#10
In my opinion its a chicken-and-egg situation. It won't be accepted until it is widely publicised. and it won't be widely publicised until it's accepted. I suspect that at the higher levels where programming policy (for example at the BBC) is decided, the question isn't even discussed.

There is also a governing authority in the UK controlling what is broadcast, and certain topics may only be covered provided that there is a disclaimer classifying a programme as "entertainment only" rather than being a factual documentary. The controlling authority thus sets a compulsory bias preventing balanced reporting.
 
#11
In my opinion its a chicken-and-egg situation. It won't be accepted until it is widely publicised. and it won't be widely publicised until it's accepted. I suspect that at the higher levels where programming policy (for example at the BBC) is decided, the question isn't even discussed.

There is also a governing authority in the UK controlling what is broadcast, and certain topics may only be covered provided that there is a disclaimer classifying a programme as "entertainment only" rather than being a factual documentary. The controlling authority thus sets a compulsory bias preventing balanced reporting.
The problem is, whenever they show programmes involving "past lives" and "psychics" they're all immensely sensationalised. If they actually showed them like the lectures Dean et al do. It would be a lot better, and balanced. No Uri Geller nonsense, no stupid music, no crystal ball reading, no bigfoot, etc. Just a televised lecture of parapsychologists presenting their data. The exaggerated claims from delusional idiots is the kind of shit that allows entertainers like Derren Brown, Randi et al to flourish and further poisons the well of actual scientific research.
 
#12
I'm not at all convinced that this is the right tone for such a book, but I'm interested in others' thoughts before I comment further.
Not to speak for Alex, but I think he is distinguishing between science as is practiced, versus science as an ideal. Science as an ideal is an approach to inquiry that brings us into contact with the world in a way that other methods do not allow for. In that sense it is a fruitful exercise, and can provide us with some semblance of 'truth'. But of course like all ways of "knowing" and belief systems it has inherent limitations, embedded biases, etc.

On the other hand present-day institutionalized science, as is currently practiced and defined, is even more fraught with blind-spots, logical errors, corruption, and so on. It's more of a dogmatic political enterprise than an open-minded methodology nowadays. It is therefore unable to lead us toward genuine self-knowledge and/or objective truth. It is in that sense profoundly "wrong".

I don't think the argument is necessarily that everything science tells us is wrong; just on "big question" issues surrounding the "paranormal" that Alex covers here.

The title however doesn't necessarily make you privy to that distinction. Perhaps that is your major issue? I'm of course interested to read your thoughts/feelings.

Regards,
John
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
Perhaps "How the scientific establishment got it wrong" is a better slogan than "How science is wrong".

IMO the best of the best cases should be covered in the book, even if this means sacrificing accounts like Eben Alexander's for less detailed or idyllic visions. All the support Krippner got for having good research is a nice place to start.

Beyond that I personally think getting into why the laboratory work might not work as well most of the time will help people get why they shouldn't discount Psi out of hand:

Going into Wigner's explanation of how science is poised to track high invariant phenomenon, followed by Braude's writings on how no one knows what Psi is or even if it makes sense to say a particular person is psychic. When you have no knowledge of the invariants you're not in a position to decide what is or is not real.

Kripral talks about this as well, noting how Psi is attached to death, fear, and grief. When you want the Phenomenal to be mechanistic you cut out all the aspects of it that are tied to invariants related to emotion and qualia.
 
#14
It's worth reminding ourselves that science is a method. Nobody owns a method, unless they're smart enough to patent it. People seeking to self-identify with a method, and extrapolate a mindset from it, and from the mindset a polemic, are barking up the wrong tree. Certain groups insist that science is so much more, meaning they can mould it in their own image. I don't seek a science dominated political establishment any more than I desire a theocracy. People need reminding that we're all basically stupid, and not demi-gods, as often as possible.
 
#15
Perhaps "How the scientific establishment got it wrong" is a better slogan than "How science is wrong".

IMO the best of the best cases should be covered in the book, even if this means sacrificing accounts like Eben Alexander's for less detailed or idyllic visions. All the support Krippner got for having good research is a nice place to start.

Beyond that I personally think getting into why the laboratory work might not work as well most of the time will help people get why they shouldn't discount Psi out of hand:

Going into Wigner's explanation of how science is poised to track high invariant phenomenon, followed by Braude's writings on how no one knows what Psi is or even if it makes sense to say a particular person is psychic. When you have no knowledge of the invariants you're not in a position to decide what is or is not real.

Kripral talks about this as well, noting how Psi is attached to death, fear, and grief. When you want the Phenomenal to be mechanistic you cut out all the aspects of it that are tied to invariants related to emotion and qualia.
Eben Alexander's story is something I'm deeply suspicious of. The fact that it's called "proof of heaven" and is an NY Times bestseller automatically rings alarm bells for me. As for Krippner's good research, could you point me in that direction? Thanks!.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Eben Alexander's story is something I'm deeply suspicious of. The fact that it's called "proof of heaven" and is an NY Times bestseller automatically rings alarm bells for me. As for Krippner's good research, could you point me in that direction? Thanks!.
Eben Alexander's credibility is ultimately in shambles, whether people like how that was done is another question. But since he had no veridical componenents to his experience I never really thought his experience merited such high publicity. At least it encouraged a few people to look into the matter themselves.

Remember Krippner has no smoking guns, but his book Dream Telepathy is a good introduction to his research. Still have to go through most of it though. I'd recommend reading this article first and then deciding if you think it's worth pursuit.

I should probably recreate the lost Krippner thread at some point. Sad we lost the name of that former grad-student of his in the Forumpocalypse.
 
#17
Eben Alexander's credibility is ultimately in shambles, whether people like how that was done is another question. But since he had no veridical componenents to his experience I never really thought his experience merited such high publicity. At least it encouraged a few people to look into the matter themselves.

Remember Krippner has no smoking guns, but his book Dream Telepathy is a good introduction to his research. Still have to go through most of it though. I'd recommend reading this article first and then deciding if you think it's worth pursuit.

I should probably recreate the lost Krippner thread at some point. Sad we lost the name of that former grad-student of his in the Forumpocalypse.
RE: Eben Alexander I completely agree, he's opened himself up to Krauss, Shermer, and Maher. All of whom lay into him. And thanks for the Krippner stuff!
 
#18
Speaking of Krippner...

http://observatoryroom.org/2014/03/02/stanley-krippner-on-dreams/
Tuesday, April 15
Time: 8 pm
Admission: $12
Presented by: Shannon Taggart & Liminal Analytics

This presentation will discuss the important role that dream interpretation played in many shamanic practices, the institutionalization of dream work in the dream temples of ancient Greece, the lucid dream practices of Tibetan Buddhism, and the marginalization of dreams until Sigmund Freud made them a key part of Western psychotherapy. Currently, there are five major approaches to dream interpretation: the cultural, the psychodynamic, the Gestalt, the associative, and group dream work. Examples of each will be given and dream reports from one volunteer will be used to show that dreams are of increasing relevance today.
 
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#19
It seems a legitimate tone to take from here. Since the advent of New Atheism, claims for science have moved into political and ideological arenas for which there's little to no basis. You don't have to know the underlying mechanisms to see such a move is unsupportable. Throwing a light on the endemic BS is a great first step.
"New Atheism" spawned as an antidote to religious extremism and fundamentalism. Like or loathe Dawkins etc, a lot of that stuff needed to be said, the time was ripe, and the subsequent debate has (IMO) been worthwhile, whichever "side" you find yourself on. Let us not forget that Dawkins has provided Alex with his main (most oft used) argument against materialism.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#20
RE: Eben Alexander I completely agree, he's opened himself up to Krauss, Shermer, and Maher. All of whom lay into him. And thanks for the Krippner stuff!
I think Dr. Alexander is a cautionary tale. He should be added to the annals of "maybe something happened", not hailed as the ultimate game changer. His recovery is worth noting at the least.

Is Shermer still around? I'd thought he'd been discredited as an advocate given the scandals surrounding him.
 
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