Arouet's discussion about NDE's

#1
I removed the previous post because I'd sent it in a hurry, and didn't want what I'd said to be misconstrued because I ran out of time.

I hadn't ignored your post, Steve, I'd begun mine before you submitted it, and agree threads should be left intact so that neutrals can see how the debate pans out. However I think it's important that long threads on important topics like this should be summarised in the same way Michael Larkin condenses the original podcast. This will convey the merit or otherwise of dissenting views, and allow solid research to contribute to the totality of knowledge on the subject. If skeptics routinely derail threads as I suspect, it allows evidence to be side-lined adding to the claims that more is required to gain credibility. I don't believe there's a credibility gap or a volume of data gap, I think there's acceptance gap. This takes various forms including questions of what denotes evidence, but also subjects threads to silly and unfounded accusations like the one Small Dog makes of Dr Long promoting religion, which can take pages to fend off. Meanwhile the subject at hand is kicked into the long grass. Maintain similar accusations on a regular basis and all evidence is sullied or "debunked" before its implications gain traction. In this way data is depicted as inconclusive, professionals are subjected to smears, the study is dismissed as woo and onlookers are bored to tears based on a single fallacious premise.
I'm sorry Gabriel, but you're just off-base on almost every level here.

The fact that this study is completely self-selected and uncontrolled is a major issue that must be taken account to accurately interpret this study. That's selection bias within the NDE scale not to mention the greater selection bias of the NDE scale itself. Greyson himself calls it selected in his original article where he establishes his scale. Here's what he writes:
Subjects who believed they had had NDEs as described in the phenomenological literature were used, rather than unselected individuals who had come close to death, in order to increase the frequency of positive responses to the questionnaire, to reduce the confounding of NDE elements with symptoms of other stress-related syndromes, and to provide a criterion group with which to validate the scale.
[...]
As noted above, for the purpose of developing the NDE Scale, this selected sample was preferred over a sample of unselected individuals who had come close to death; use of the selected sample maximized positive responses and thereby facilitated interitem correlations, and reduced the number of elements characteristic of other stress-related syndromes not peculiar to the NDE.​

He recognised possible bias effects from the manner in which the scale was constructed:

The final format of the NDE Scale, in which all 16 questions receive high scores for positive responses, resulted not from preselection of items but from the empirical analysis of the preliminary questionnaire responses: questions that received high scores for negative responses were eliminated from the final NDE Scale due to their low correlation with the rest of the questionnaire. The resultant unipolar wording of the final NDE Scale raises the question of response bias related to subject acquiescence; this matter should be explored in further studies, controlling. for acquiescence and social desirability.​
I searched the studies that cite this paper, but I couldn't find any that did this follow up. Maybe someone knows of one and can post the link.


Note the primary purpose of the scale initially was for therapeutic purposes. The focus on transpersonal effects were geared at the development of psychological therapy:
These attempts to measure the NDE treat the experience as a unitary phenomenon, a theoretical assumption that appears increasingly troublesome to those attempting explanations of the NDE. The NDE may comprise discrete parallel experiences with differing mechanisms and effects (6). If further study confirms the impressive reports of personality transformations following a NDE, then isolation of the particular components of the experience that are associated with positive outcomes may lead to significant therapeutic insights (7).
[...]
Clinicians may use the NDE Scale to differentiate near-death experiences from organic brain syndromes and nonspecific stress responses following close brushes with death.​

He doesn't state quite why he feels this can do that accurately but I haven't looked into this issue yet so it might have been covered elsewhere. But look what he writes next:
For clinical use, a minimum cut-off point for the determination of a NDE may be unnecessary; dismissing a patient's claim of having had a NDE on
the basis of an arbitrary criterion score would be countertherapeutic.​

This is exactly in line with what Dr. Parnia writes in the AWARE study. The NDE scale was designed to for therapeutic reasons, with a hope that it could be useful for investigating NDE cause. But on this Greyson keeps the scale in context:

The NDE Scale and its components may be used as independent variables to discriminate among individuals varying in degree and type of NDE, in the investigation of psychological and clinical effects of a neardeath event. The scale may also be used as a dependent measure, to test hypotheses regarding causes and mechanisms of NDEs. For research purposes, the criterion of a score of 7 or higher (1 SD below the mean) seems a valid cut-off point for selecting a group of subjects with NDEs for further study.​
Note it was meant to be comparative, not determinative on its own.

From what I can tell, there hasn't been much discussion of the validity of the scale subsequent to this before the AWARE study. Again, I might just not have found one so I stand to be corrected.

What this all boils down to is that the NDE scale is useful but it must be applied properly. Even its author recognizes that it is based on selected samples, and that to some extent the criteria is arbitrary. The groupings are focussed on the aspects that have the most psychological impact. This makes sense with regard to the scale as a therapeutic tool. However, as a causal investigative tool it must be used more cautiously, and always kept in context.

Dr. Long's study without question does not do this. It has a very high risk of selection bias.

I don't want you to take my word for any of this. Do some research. Read about selection bias (I can give you some material if you'd like). Read the Greyson paper I linked above. Read the AWARE study. I am not pulling this stuff out of my ass. But with respect, without elaboration your assertion that none of this is relevant and that I'm just trying to smear parapsychologists comes across as exactly that. It is bluster designed to distract from substantive argument. For that matter, if you reread the thread, it is pretty clear that the derail was started by your rant, followed by Smithy misattributing a post to me (which he has retracted :)) and making a comment about your rant, which I then responded to. You then asked me a bunch of questions, which I proceeded to answer. And the discussion went from there. The suggestion that I intentionally derailed the thread is smoke and mirrors.
 
#2
Thanks David for moving this to its own thread. I'll respond to some posts from the original thread here.

I've added headings and broken it up into several posts to try and keep each one manageable.

I think there is a suspicion of skeptics among proponents but I would not call it a fear.
Call it what you want, we're talking about the same thing. That feeling of uneasiness, distrust.

Skeptics Behaving Badly

It can't be denied that skeptics do organise with a purpose to demolish and deny discussions such as we have here. We are all aware of groups such as the JREF crowd, Skeptics in the Pub, CSI(COP) and a multitude of humanist and atheist groups. So naturally we are suspicious of skeptics who camp out here on a board dominated by proponents (one of the few such boards that I'm aware of). We wonder what on earth they get out of such a dalliance; missionary zeal, perhaps?

While I don't have any knowledge about that particular activity, I'm certainly aware of many other instances where skeptics have treated proponents badly. So like I said, I get where the suspicion comes from.

Don't hold back, tell me how you really feel...

As for yourself, Arouet, that suspicion will be difficult to overcome. What Billw describes as an "overly rigid insistence and fixation" on methodology may well be seen as a thinly disguised skeptical ploy to introduce doubt where such doubt is not warranted.
So again: what is your criteria for considering doubt warranted? What is your criteria for determining that a proposed methodology if overly rigid. How do you determine the detailed reasons I've given are legitimate or thin disguises?[/quote]
 
#3
It's not about Flaws, it's about Risk of Flaws
From my point of view, I don't see the need to assume that every single NDE account must be flawed.
But that's not the assumption. To understand what I've talking about you need to understand the difference between "bias" and "risk of bias". Here is a passage from the Cochrane Handbook: Chapter 8.

A bias is a systematic error, or deviation from the truth, in results or inferences. Biases can operate in either direction: different biases can lead to underestimation or overestimation of the true intervention effect. Biases can vary in magnitude: some are small (and trivial compared with the observed effect) and some are substantial (so that an apparent finding may be entirely due to bias). Even a particular source of bias may vary in direction: bias due to a particular design flaw (e.g. lack of allocation concealment) may lead to underestimation of an effect in one study but overestimation in another study. It is usually impossible to know to what extent biases have affected the results of a particular study, although there is good empirical evidence that particular flaws in the design, conduct and analysis ofrandomized clinical trialslead to bias (see Section8.2.3). Because the results of a study may in fact be unbiased despite a methodological flaw, it is more appropriate to consider risk of bias.​

Gabriel should like this since this brief paragraph succinctly sums up what I mean when I refer to bias, and why it is more important to look at risk of bias instead of trying to figure out what bias actually occurred.

And it's not about every Risk of Flaw, it's about Important Risks of Flaws

Note, a key part of the analysis is considering how big or small the potential bias is. If a bias has a trivial effect on a study, even a high risk of it is not something to worry about. This gets at yours and Bills issue of overly rigid methodology. Insisting on controlling for a risk of bias that has a trivial effect on the results would indeed be overly rigid.

Note also what it says: a particular bias can have a big effect in one study but not in another.

When it comes to the issue of the reliability of memory, whether or not that risk of bias has a trivial or substantial effect depends on the question being asked. It also depends on the details of the particular account.

There are many issues in NDE science where memory bias would have a small effect. For example: when considering therapeutic issues.

When it comes to figuring out the causes of NDEs memory concerns can sometimes be small, or large. One example I've raised before where it is a big issue is in a case where the report describes meeting someone during the experience that they were not able to identify at the time, but later saw a picture of someone at which point they identified the person in the picture as the person they saw during the experience. Here, it is important to consider the possibility that the person has incorporated the picture into the memory. If that risk was realised, it accounts for the entire effect. It gives a wrong answer if the question is: did the person actually meet that person.

But in many many accounts, that's not going to be a big concern. In fact, most accounts do not involve details where that is an issue. These factors come up in a very small percentage of the total cases. They also happen to be among the cases that have the most evidential impact.

In other words, it's not "hundreds and hundreds" of cases where this is an issue that has a strong impact on the study results. And it is not an issue in every cases that has a strong impact on study results. And it must be separated from other issues, such as interpretation issues, whether the brain should be capable of recording information, etc.

And we have some strong evidence that NDErs don't always have perfect recall of their experience. Van Lommel talks about memory issues in the Lancet paper. People describe remembering that they had access to knowledge that they no longer remember. It's not a character flaw. It's not an insult. It's a fact of life.
 
#4
I made be Deluded here, but I don't think Delusion is Even on the Table
As Gabriel rightly points out: many of those accounts fit what I would expect. There are people here on this forum who have had such experiences and I can only imagine how they must feel when they are subject to constant insinuations of delusion, false memories, fabrications and confabulations.
We're talking about the interpretation of single experience so I'm not sure the concept of delusion applies. At least not how I read it in the DSM V but I'm not a psychologist. Here is the definition:
Delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence. Their content may include a variety of themes (e.g. persecutory, referential, somatic, religious, grandiose).[…] Delusions are deemed bizarre if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences. […] The distinction between a delusion and a strongly held idea is sometimes difficult to make and depends in part on the degree of conviction with which the belief is held despite clear or reasonable contradictory evidence regarding its veracity.

I'm not 100% on this (perhaps there is a psychologist on the forum who can comment) but when it comes to an NDEr interpreting their experience, there isn't really any conflicting evidence to present in the way that they mean here.

And regarding confabulation, I addressed that above: the issue isn't a concern in most cases. But it is in some. And we have strong evidence that it occurs, that it is unconscious, not deliberate. And though his description is brief, if I'm reading it correctly Parnia refers to some possible confabulations in his 7th theme identified among the people who didn't rate high enough on the NDE Scale. I certainly can point to times where I've confabulated memories that were definitely from different instances but that I recalled as one. Again, this is something that happens regularly. It is not a character flaw and should not be presented as such. It's a surprise when it happens, and not a pleasant one, but that doesn't mean it can be ignored.

Yet it would be a mistake to regard the reluctance to view a convincing NDE account with cynicism as a lack of aptitude for critical thinking. As I have said before, it is more the case that many here have set the threshold for credence at a different level. Some skeptics are remarkably uncritical of things they assume are just true (neo-Darwinism, for example).
Yes, we set the bar differently. And I don't think I've made any accusations about lacking an aptitude for critical thinking. I don't want you to think I've set it without critical thought, that's why I explain my reasoning in detail. I don't want to jump to conclusions about your reasons, that's why I ask for you guys to explain your rational.
 
#5
Going to keep this as a single post but I've signposted it so hopefully will enhance navigation.

Legalism and Parsimony

Legalism is applying the letter of the law against the spirit of the law, which is the search for truth. The analogy with regard to NDEs is thousands of people of different backgrounds and beliefs have similar experiences, which is suggestive of a real phenomenon, but skeptics attempt to undermine individual cases to make NDEs as a whole appear suspect. If there was a uniting characteristic that made them flawed, scepticism would be appropriate, but the only feature they have in common is they're related by human beings. Human beings are known to be flawed (in numerous ways, not just memory) so NDEs must be flawed. It makes sense from a skeptical viewpoint but common sense dictates that it is complete rubbish as a criticism. The appeal is to a higher authority, philosophical materialism. As I don't subscribe to that philosophy, the likelihood of NDErs reporting something objectively real, as opposed to a delusion based on human weakness, is the most parsimonious explanation.
Thanks for elaborating here.

I think my posts above addressed the main issue here. I understand your concern, but I hope you see now that I'm not making the argument you attribute to me here. It's a subtle difference, but crucial.

But I hope you've started to see as well that my appeal is less to philosophical materialism than to the work of researchers like Iaonnidis, and the Cochrane group.

Also: I'm not a big fan of "parsimony" as a convincing argument. Too many times it is either wrongly applied or just plain untrue. There's no reason to assume that the solution to a problem must be simple!

A new world record? Nope, he hit the bar...
An evidential high jump is the demand for proof that exceeds one demanded by the normal conventions of evidence. What is extraordinary to a philosophical materialist may be unremarkable to the man in the street.
I think you're perceiving me to be making an extroadinary claims type argument. I've talked about this issue generally before but I want to be clear that I'm not in any way making an extroadinary claims argument. But neither am I making a "common sense from the man on the street argument". Rather I'm advocating a scientific standard based on the recommendations made by meta researchers who studied the various methods being used in normal practice and identified the methods that produce the most reliable results.

It is pretty clear that many of the standards that have been long considered "normal conventions of evidence" were at high risk of bias - particularly in the field of psychology upon which parapsychology is most closely related in terms of research practices. In other words - those "normal conventions of evidence" produced a lot of crappy results (take a look at the Critiques of Science as Currently Practiced thread).

So to put it succinctly: I posit that my proposals are research based and meant to be applied as normal scientific convention.

I doubt that you doubt enough...
"You seem to characterize doubt as a negative thing. For me, it is not." That's obvious but I suspect you reserve doubt for things that question your preconceptions. In particular ideas like survival that permeate cultures worldwide, and are the bedrock of near death experiences, but don't match reductionist science.
While I am biased as anyone in favour of my preconceived notions I think I've made a pretty good effort to challenge them. In many ways everything I do here is aimed at challenging my preconceived notions. I mean, is it even possible to do the kind of research and analysis that I have done without challenging my preconceptions? If I haven't demonstrated this over and over again through my posts then I don't really know what you consider to be challenging preconceived notions.

The magic 8 ball says...
What I suspect you're doing here Arouet, is stress testing the conventions of reasonable discourse. How far can the things we call facts be relied upon to be objective and authentic. At what point do words cease to convey meaning about the thing we call reality. In reply I'd say there's no lower limit, and if you can convince someone we're atomised bits of biological matter imagining we're in communication, rather than reasonable human beings discussing a Skeptiko topic, you've scored a pyrrhic victory. It's impossible to know via the internet whether your motives are pathological or ideological.
Serious question: have you actually read many of my posts? So often what you seem to be responding to has so little relation to what I've actually said that I'm not sure what you could be basing your reply on. Often, such as here, it's almost the opposite of what I say. I'm not sure if you do it on purpose or not, but since you don't usually point to specific examples I can't tell.
 
#6
Wow, Arouet. A thread all about you. Do you realise how much you demand to make this stuff all about you? How your motives misunderstood, how nobody studies your long posts, how you are the one being conciliatory, how people respond in sound bites rather than taking on your critiques point for point? My post was mostly about skeptics in general but when I meant you in particular I addressed that point to you in particular. Yet you seem to take all criticism of skeptics personally and also seem to be constantly pleading for the rest to give you a break.

Clearly we look at these phenomena differently. I've said it, Gabriel has said it and others have said it: when we read about NDEs we don't immediately start pointing out that there might be reason to doubt that aspect, or seek references to studies which show that in certain cases the brain can produce similar effects naturally. That is your thing. Why do you feel it is incumbent on the rest of us to follow where you lead? Make the point, by all means, but leave us to consider it and reply if and how we wish. We are under no obligation to join you in picking apart every NDE until all that remains is doubt about the whole experience.

[Edited to use a different word]
 
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#7
From reading this thread it's clear that Arouet processes information differently from most people, sufficiently differently that it might be better if people engage him here rather than on the rest of forum. I don't accept that the universal exercise of doubt over what denotes reality is a reasonable or sustainable approach to life, but it's an interesting exercise for those who are into that kind of thing, and it keeps the approach from spilling out into more common perceptions of evidence that are the main business of this forum.
 
#8
Wow, Arouet. A thread all about you. Do you realise how much you demand to make this stuff all about you? How your motives misunderstood, how nobody studies your long posts, how you are the one being conciliatory, how people respond in sound bites rather than taking on your critiques point for point? My post was mostly about skeptics in general but when I meant you in particular I addressed that point to you in particular. Yet you seem to take all criticism of skeptics personally and also seem to be constantly pleading for the rest to give you a break.

Clearly we look at these phenomena differently. I've said it, Gabriel has said it and others have said it: when we read about NDEs we don't immediately start pointing out that there might be reason to doubt that aspect, or seek references to studies which show that in certain cases the brain can produce similar effects naturally. That is your thing. Why do you feel it is incumbent on the rest of us to follow where you lead? Make the point, by all means, but leave us to consider it and reply if and how we wish. We are under no obligation to join you in picking apart every NDE until all that remains is doubt about the whole experience.

[Edited to use a different word]
I have very little time today, but inbetween chores, I watch this thread with lots of interest. Hopefully I can post a more substantial contribution one of these days, but as regards yours, Kamerling, I can only agree.

I like to express my sincere admiration for Arouet that he is putting so much effort in making his position clear.
But I wonder whereto this drawn-out discussion will lead.

My problem with skeptics is that many of them tend be to overly critical. There's always something to complain about and quite often in a demanding, condescending tone. Actually, Rivas and I wait for the skeptic who will write a one-star review of our book The Self Does Not Die (so far we have had twelve 5-star reviews...., plus a 5-star review on the German Amazon site)

It will be a clever task to dismiss all the 104 cases we have collected. But... no worries... diehard skeptics will bend over backwards to criticize them. How? They pick out one case, filet it to the bone, and on the basis of that action declare all other cases rubbish.

Sorry Arouet, but that has been my experience all over the past 40 years that I have been dealing with skeptics. No wonder that many of the posters here are suspicious of you and others. However, you do not give me the impression that you are ideologically driven, but quite a few skeptics truly are.

Also, another problem is that, in case of attempts to dialogue, skeptics tend to demand such exchanges to be conducted on their terms... That won't work of course.

That's all for now. Back to work.
 
#10
We're talking about the interpretation of single experience so I'm not sure the concept of delusion applies.
I disagree, we're talking about the interpretation of single experiences set against a large and increasing body of knowledge regarding similar cases. The only way the NDE body of knowledge becomes problematic from an evidential viewpoint, is if it runs counter to a different position on how the world works. What we're really talking about here is not the reliability of the evidence, but what that evidence does to other models of reality. Absolute critiques of reality make no more sense than complete acceptance and gullibility, they're not up for discussion because their polarities negate normal standards of debate and evidence. The supply of what-ifs is infinite to someone inclined to resort to them, but they can appear to be trolling if they routinely derail the subject in the same direction.

Even Dr Mitchell-Yellin has tacitly admitted that near death experiences are not reducible to representative single cases, and embarked on a kind of meta-analysis, albeit of a cultural not a scientific kind. Until you're prepared to acknowledge the recurring strands in a body of evidence, proponents and yourself will be permanently on a different page. Reductionist deconstruction may be the way you instinctively view the world, or just an uncompromising stance in a culture war, but either way it's not a position that promotes the engagement you claim to seek.
 
#11
I disagree, we're talking about the interpretation of single experiences set against a large and increasing body of knowledge regarding similar cases. The only way the NDE body of knowledge becomes problematic from an evidential viewpoint, is if it runs counter to a different position on how the world works. What we're really talking about here is not the reliability of the evidence, but what that evidence does to other models of reality. Absolute critiques of reality make no more sense than complete acceptance and gullibility, they're not up for discussion because their polarities negate normal standards of debate and evidence. The supply of what-ifs is infinite to someone inclined to resort to them, but they can appear to be trolling if they routinely derail the subject in the same direction.

Even Dr Mitchell-Yellin has tacitly admitted that near death experiences are not reducible to representative single cases, and embarked on a kind of meta-analysis, albeit of a cultural not a scientific kind. Until you're prepared to acknowledge the recurring strands in a body of evidence, proponents and yourself will be permanently on a different page. Reductionist deconstruction may be the way you instinctively view the world, or just an uncompromising stance in a culture war, but either way it's not a position that promotes the engagement you claim to seek.
I agree that generally NDEs must be taken in context, (that's the argument I was making earlier, our difference here is that I would compare them to the entire sample, including those who don't rate high enough on the NDE scale, I believe you've said you limit it to the NDE scale. Correct me if I've misrepresented you).

The bit you're quoting is just with regard to the concept of delusion, as defined in the DSM. I'm arguing that even if an experiencer has incorrectly interpreted their NDE, i don't think that would qualify as delusion. In other words, If I understand it correctly, in general I don't think one should refer to NDErs as deluded about their NDE.
 
#12
Where we differ is placing the phenomenon in context. I'm employing no absolute scale of truth or value to a report, I'm adding it to a category known colloquially as the Near Death Experience. These are accounts that match one another in ways that don't readily lend themselves to a physicalist explanation. I'm interested in any explanations that claim to exhaust their meaning, including physical ones, but not so for general reproaches like the fact people are known to misremember things. It should go without saying that the commonalities of experience are not debunked by weaknesses in human perception, unless we deny all perception, which leaves nothing to say about this or any other phenomenon. The forum cannot function with caveats about drawing conclusions every second post, those warnings go without saying, and proponents are as well equipped for the placement of doubt as skeptics.
 
#13
It's not about Flaws, it's about Risk of Flaws

And we have some strong evidence that NDErs don't always have perfect recall of their experience. Van Lommel talks about memory issues in the Lancet paper. People describe remembering that they had access to knowledge that they no longer remember. It's not a character flaw. It's not an insult. It's a fact of life.
Thanks for the sincere and detailed commentary.

Recall of experience is an important issue in the gathering of subjective reports, no matter what is being observed. The subject of NDE's "for and against" can be contextualized with with the first step being analyzing the issue at both levels of science modeled activity, physical and informational. The physicalistic skeptic is clinging only to cause and effect. Those in the classic mode tend to call quantum models "weird" because of the probabilistic nature of the operators and outcomes. However, they can be comfortable with "margin of error" and detection limits as concepts. because there are simple and general physical examples. Statistics about the application of these - such as the "sigma" of the data behind a math modeled theory - are not as well understood.

In statistics, the standard deviation (SD, also represented by the Greek letter sigma, σ for the population standard deviation or s for the sample standard deviation) is a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation or dispersion of a set of data values.
(ok here is where I will lose most everybody)

At the informational level - cause and effect is not the model. The model for measuring information is signal->channel->receiver. Here, in this science model, there is triad of steps and the output is in probabilistic terms, like QM.

In near-death experiences there is presumed to be *noise in the channel", like most all other communication systems. There is noise when having the experience, noise that can be different at different levels of the communication. Further, there is noise in the channel when later recalling an experience. Because of how science modeled communication is measured - it must be accepted that there is margin of error in both the images "seen" and the meanings assigned them.

* noise - Noise introduces uncertainty as to what the original message was.... When Claude Shannon worked out the math, he found something very surprising: The formula for noise in an information system was identical to the formula for entropy in thermodynamics.


That said -- Psi can get a big boost from this kind of thinking, pioneered in physics. Experiments that expect noise in the channel can professionally account for it and measure its influence. The idea that NDE data should be like a digital recording is comic book thinking. It reminds of the literal Bible in English, being taken as an exact wording of ancient writers. Logical/semantic analysis can sort some of this out.

Images seen during OBE or NDE can be symbolic. Finding the associated meanings may need logical analysis and outside references to understand what may be communicated. Dr Moody's Final Words project being a good example where seeming nonsense in death-bed descriptions may be translated into deep-meaning.
The language of the dying can sometimes seem like nonsense. I prefer to call this language “trans-sense” coined by Dr. William Taegel. The term “trans-sense” reminds us that the nonsensical language of the dying may in some way be associated with transition from life to death—and possibly to another dimension.

The trans- also reflects the transcendental quality of the nonsensical language in that it has the paradoxical qualities we often find in the speech of mystics and poets as well as those who have had near-death-experiences.
http://www.finalwordsproject.org/qualities-of-final-words.html
 
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#14
Thanks for the sincere and detailed commentary.

Recall of experience is an important issue in the gathering of subjective reports, no matter what is being observed. The subject of NDE's "for and against" can be contextualized with with the first step being analyzing the issue at both levels of science modeled activity, physical and informational. The physicalistic skeptic is clinging only to cause and effect. Those in the classic mode tend to call quantum models "weird" because of the probabilistic nature of the operators and outcomes. However, they can be comfortable with "margin of error" and detection limits as concepts. because there are simple and general physical examples. Statistics about the application of these - such as the "sigma" of the data behind a math modeled theory - are not as well understood.



(ok here is where I will lose most everybody)

At the informational level - cause and effect is not the model. The model for measuring information is signal->channel->receiver. Here, in this science model, there is triad of steps and the output is in probabilistic terms, like QM.
Thanks Stephen. I'm trying to understand what you're saying here. I'm not quite seeing how signal-channel-receiver isn't considered cause and effect within probability in a similar manner to the physical version.

If I'm reading Tononi correctly, he paints a much more integrated (no pun intended) relationship between information processing and the cause-effect space it resides within. Take a look at his 2015 paper Integrated Information Theory. He writes:

Information
The system must specify a cause-effect structure that is the particular way it is: a specific set of specific cause-effect repertoires—thereby differing from other possible ones (differentiation). A cause-effect repertoire characterizes in full the cause-effect power of a mechanism within a system by making explicit all its cause-effect properties. It can be determined by perturbing the system in all possible ways to assess how a mechanism in its present state makes a difference to the probability of the past and future states of the system. Together, the cause-effect repertoires specified by each composition of elements within a system specify a cause-effect structure. Consider for example, within the system ABC in Figure 3, the mechanism implemented by element C, an XOR gate with two inputs (A and B) and two outputs (the OR gate A and the AND gate B). If C is OFF, its cause repertoire specifies that, at the previous time step, A and B must have been either in the state OFF,OFF or in the state ON,ON, rather than in the other two possible states (OFF,ON; ON,OFF); and its effect repertoire specifies that at the next time step B will have to be OFF, rather than ON. Its cause-effect repertoire is specific: it would be different if the state of C were different (ON), or if C were a different mechanism (say, an AND gate). Similar considerations apply to every other mechanism of the system, implemented by different compositions of elements. Thus, the cause-effect repertoire specifies the full cause-effect power of a mechanism in a particular state, and the cause-effect structure specifies the full cause-effect power of all the mechanisms composed by a system of elements.[8]
Here is how he describes what an experience is in IIT:
The central identity proposed by IIT is then as follows: every experience is identical with a conceptual structure that is maximally irreducible intrinsically, also called "quale" sensu lato (Figure 3) (note that the identity is between an experience and the conceptual structure specified by a set of elements in a state, not between an experience and its physical substrate - the elements as such).[17] In other words, an experience is a “form” in cause-effect space. The quality of the experience—the way it feels due to its particular content of phenomenal distinctions—is completely specified by the form of the conceptual structure: the phenomenal distinctions are given by the concepts (qualia sensu stricto) and their relationship in cause-effect space. The quantity of the experience—the level to which it exists—is given by its irreducibility Φmax.[18][19] The postulated identity between features of experiences and features of conceptual structures implies, for instance, that the breakdown of consciousness in sleep and anesthesia must correspond to a breakdown of conceptual structures; that the presence of distinct modalities and submodalities must correspond to distinct clusters of concepts in cause-effect space; that features that are bound phenomenologically (a blue book) must be bound in the conceptual structure, corresponding to irreducible higher-order concepts; that similar experiences must correspond to similar conceptual structures, and so on (see Section 5: Predictions and explanations). [20]
Are you arguing something different than Tononi here?

But I guess I'm also not getting what you are zeroing in on here vis-a-vis what I wrote above. From an informational point of view, isn't the relevant cause-effect issue:
  • where is the information coming from that makes up both the experience and the recall of the experience?
  • what are the conditions in which the memory is recorded (ie: does it depend on the brain having a certain amount of power, etc.)

So for example, during an NDE OBE, is the information coming from a mixture of auditory signals and internal interpretation and internal processing? Is the information completely external to the brain/body system? Are there circumstances where memories can be encoded in the brain, even if the brain system doesn't experience them at the time? Etc.

As Tononi puts it: cause effect really just refers to something that makes a difference:
"a system constituted of elements in a state must exist intrinsically (be actual): specifically, in order to exist, it must have cause-effect power, as there is no point in assuming that something exists if nothing can make a difference to it, or if it cannot make a difference to anything."

In near-death experiences there is presumed to be *noise in the channel", like most all other communication systems. There is noise when having the experience, noise that can be different at different levels of the communication. Further, there is noise in the channel when later recalling an experience. Because of how science modeled communication is measured - it must be accepted that there is margin of error in both the images "seen" and the meanings assigned them.
By noise, do you mean something like confabulation? I'm trying to place what you're saying in the context that we've been talking about. I mean, look, we're really not measuring information in NDE science right? We don't have a perspective on the internal mechanisms, we don't know how many bits are involved. We're talking about interpreting verbal reports based on an experiencer's memory of the event. Can you maybe give an example of what you're talking about in practice? How does it manifest during the NDE. I think that will help me figure out what you're trying to say here.

That said -- Psi can get a big boost from this kind of thinking, pioneered in physics. Experiments that expect noise in the channel can professionally account for it and measure its influence. The idea that NDE data should be like a digital recording is comic book thinking. It reminds of the literal Bible in English, being taken as an exact wording of ancient writers. Logical/semantic analysis can sort some of this out.
If I'm reading you right you are agreeing with me that there is no reason to expect the report of the NDE to be completely accurate? Is that what you are saying here? If so I agree. And I think its more than just noise, altering our perception of what occurred, but I think there is also information loss, where every detail is not recorded.

Images seen during OBE or NDE can be symbolic. Finding the associated meanings may need logical analysis and outside references to understand what may be communicated. Dr Moody's Final Words project being a good example where seeming nonsense in death-bed descriptions may be translated into deep-meaning. http://www.finalwordsproject.org/qualities-of-final-words.html
That's a challenging process from a risk of bias perspective. Interesting to be sure, but when it comes to symbol interpretation I there are a lot of questions to look into! Do you think this kind of analysis can be done in a way that lets us reach high confidence conclusions?
 
#15
Thanks Stephen. I'm trying to understand what you're saying here. I'm not quite seeing how signal-channel-receiver isn't considered cause and effect within probability in a similar manner to the physical version.
Are you arguing something different than Tononi here?

As Tononi puts it: cause effect really just refers to something that makes a difference:
"a system constituted of elements in a state must exist intrinsically (be actual): specifically, in order to exist, it must have cause-effect power, as there is no point in assuming that something exists if nothing can make a difference to it, or if it cannot make a difference to anything."

By noise, do you mean something like confabulation?

If I'm reading you right you are agreeing with me that there is no reason to expect the report of the NDE to be completely accurate? Is that what you are saying here? If so I agree. And I think its more than just noise, altering our perception of what occurred, but I think there is also information loss, where every detail is not recorded.
By noise - I am referring to the math model of Claude Shannon and its derivatives developed since. The math model corresponds to Boltzmann entropy. (Think of noise like friction and headwind, with noise being ambient signals that are unconnected (random) to the message)

I am arguing for something different than Tononi - who is "trying like mad" to stay connected to the current "message" of neuroscience. He is looking for neural correlates of consciousness - not embracing information as a separate level of reality. Tononi is not an Informational Realist.
Instead, IIT takes the opposite approach: it starts from experience itself, by identifying its essential properties (axioms), and then infers what kind of properties physical systems must have to account for its essential properties (postulates) - Tononi 2015
NDE's being accurate to what objective phenomena? A physical disposition would seemingly be Tononi's answer. My answer is to personal meaning. NDE's are interesting because they leak a life-changing type of experience and deep-meaning emotions. Getting the objective "message" from an NDE is not learning about some abstraction - it is learning about the probability for changing your inner character and your personal make-up and potential for doing good. NDE are about a person's real world participation.
 
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#16
Arouet,

I didn't have the time to read this thread yet, just glance through real quick, but I noticed you mentioned IIT again, which reminded me ... recently, I've gotten a bit curious to learn more about that. Do you recommend a good place to start with that? Do they have a laymen's book, maybe? Or, a good introductory paper? Just want to get familiar with the basic concepts kind of thing

Also, without being too wordy, while trying to be specific, what do you think IIT means for psi, survival, NDEs, etc? IIRC, your favorite theory to date is IIT, which is why ask, but if I'm not RC, please ignore the question! Not trying to start a debate, don't really have much to say about it myself, just curious your opinion.

Thanks
 
#17
If I'm reading Tononi correctly, he paints a much more integrated (no pun intended) relationship between information processing and the cause-effect space it resides within.
Yes but consciousness isn't just an information space - a book or a database on a computer would be examples of an information space, but consciousness has to include experience (qualia), and however people try to dice it, that is vital. Imagine that you existed, but you felt absolutely nothing! So to put it bluntly, Tononi isn't correct!
It can't be denied that skeptics do organise with a purpose to demolish and deny discussions such as we have here. We are all aware of groups such as the JREF crowd, Skeptics in the Pub, CSI(COP) and a multitude of humanist and atheist groups. So naturally we are suspicious of skeptics who camp out here on a board dominated by proponents (one of the few such boards that I'm aware of). We wonder what on earth they get out of such a dalliance; missionary zeal, perhaps?
Yes, but I don't think you realise how far this zeal extends. It extends deep into academia, making people reluctant to even express an interest in ψ at work. Rupert Sheldrake has reported that after giving a talk, he will often have several conversations in which people express support for his ideas, but don't think anyone else in the lab (or whatever it is) hold the same views!

There is a vast bias against ψ in scientific circles. Perhaps part of the reason is that the experimenter can no longer be seen as detached from the experiment his is conducting - even if it is a purely physical/chemical experiment!

David
 
#18
Yes, but I don't think you realise how far this zeal extends. It extends deep into academia, making people reluctant to even express an interest in ψ at work. Rupert Sheldrake has reported that after giving a talk, he will often have several conversations in which people express support for his ideas, but don't think anyone else in the lab (or whatever it is) hold the same views!

There is a vast bias against ψ in scientific circles. Perhaps part of the reason is that the experimenter can no longer be seen as detached from the experiment his is conducting - even if it is a purely physical/chemical experiment!

David
While I agree, you wrongly attributed the quote to Arouet but it was from a post of mine. As for me, I do realise what you say is happening which is indeed part of the point I was trying to make. CSI(COP) in particular is crammed with scientists steeped in such bias.
 
#19
By noise - I am referring to the math model of Claude Shannon and its derivatives developed since. The math model corresponds to Boltzmann entropy. (Think of noise like friction and headwind, with noise being ambient signals that are unconnected (random) to the message)
I understand the basic concept of noise, what I'm missing is how you are applying it in this context?

I am arguing for something different than Tononi - who is "trying like mad" to stay connected to the current "message" of neuroscience. He is looking for neural correlates of consciousness - not embracing information as a separate level of reality. Tononi is not an Informational Realist.
I've read the sources you've provided and I still haven't seen a description that seems to treat information as a separate level of reality. We've looked at levels of abstraction but I think we agree that those aren't separate. We've looked at sources that describe them as different sides of the same coin with information being convertable into energy. We've discussed the link that is entropy and thermodynamics. But none of those seem to describe it as you do. I've googled information realism but haven't found anything either.

NDE's being accurate to what objective phenomena? A physical disposition would seemingly be Tononi's answer. My answer is to personal meaning. NDE's are interesting because they leak a life-changing type of experience and deep-meaning emotions. Getting the objective "message" from an NDE is not learning about some abstraction - it is learning about the probability for changing your inner character and your personal make-up and potential for doing good. NDE are about a person's real world participation.
I agree that makes them interesting, and as we've seen there is a lot of work that studies them from the psychological perspective that you are describing. But the psychological effects don't really tell us much about the nature of NDEs.
 
#20
Images seen during OBE or NDE can be symbolic. Finding the associated meanings may need logical analysis and outside references to understand what may be communicated. Dr Moody's Final Words project being a good example where seeming nonsense in death-bed descriptions may be translated into deep-meaning. http://www.finalwordsproject.org/qualities-of-final-words.html
This is a crucial point. Symbols are difficult to discuss in a way that doesn't reduce them to a mere referent, a pared down substitute for something "real". I strongly suspect the relationship works the other way round, and symbols are the ultimate language of the real (although language is an impoverished comparison to make) and manifest reality, the everyday business of being, is a leaden, codified and materialised version of fundamental reality. The problem with understanding reality is our inability to move past this engrossing but ultimately abstract condition. It's something saints and sages point to, NDEs suggest and even dreams hint at as many of us have had an "of course!!!" moment in sleep when everything explains itself. We wake up and the conscious mind immediately sets its referent logic in place, and the eureka moment dissipates on a tide of the mundane.

This is why life is referred to as a trial or test, we recognise the "immanent sublime" our true condition through these glimpses, but have to negotiate the obstacle course of the material as essentially spiritual beings. The Fall myth and similar stories speak to this condition of abandonment of our true selves, but we've come to elevate our hamstrung condition to the only one possible, and its impediments are expressed as benefits. One can only assume purpose to this uncompromising condition of recognition, quest and unavoidable failure.
 
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