Dualist... Nails in the Coffin?

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#2
In their comparison of the NDE to syncope, they make reference to an article by Lempert, that's dated 1994. I imagine some NDE researchers must be aware of it. Hopefully we'll see a response at some point.

Member Jim Smith had quoted from another article on his blog arguing instead for the differences between syncope and NDEs:
In a comprehensive review of symptoms and signs of syncope (Wieling et al., 2009), the prodromal visual changes were described as blurred and fading vision, scotomas, color changes, dimming or graying of the peripheral field of vision (“graying out”), followed by peripheral light loss and complete blindness (“blacking out”). Graying out has been clearly described in experimental conditions only, such as during exposure to centrifugal force. There may be a link between graying out and the experience of seeing a tunnel, but the latter is qualitatively different and seems to depend on cultural factors as well (Belanti et al., 2008): in fact, it is usually described as passing through a tunnel and reaching a new landscape (van Lommel et al., 2001; Facco, 2010), while graying out is a much simpler transient sensation usually followed by blackout. These data as a whole make the retinal hypothesis as the main mechanism of tunnel vision plausible at best only for pilots and falls from a high altitude in the mountains.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.ca/2013/07/materialist-explanations-of-ndes-fail.html
 
#3
Can't say I've seen anything from NDE researchers in response, but my opinion is that this article is just more of the same old, same old. Nothing really new there.

They just cannot get past "it's all about the brain!!!!". I just think trying to find answers to what is really going on by chopping up the brain into smaller and smaller bits is just plain old barking up the wrong tree.

He speaks an awful lot about subcortical, deep brain activity on the hippocampus and amygdala (apparently, all we really need are these two brain structures, neuroscience just cannot get enough of the amygdala and hippocampus) as if activity in these areas are explanation enough for the hyperreality experienced during the NDE. They don't even have a good working theory for memory formation, yet want to point to a non-functional cortex and some vague activity deep within the brain as the explanation for rich cognitive experience and memory formation.

Occams chainsaw? Sorry, no. More like Occams wet noodle. But what do I know, I'm not a neuroscientist and apparently they are the only ones allowed to comment on the nature of consciousness. Unless you're Sue Blackmore or Patricia Churchland.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#4
Back to the 1994 Lempert article about syncope and NDEs that's one of the cruxes of this article, I see Bruce Greyson did respond to it in the "altered blood gas levels" section of his chapter on explanatory models of the NDE in T:he Handbook of Near-Death Experiences:

One of the earliest physiological theories proposed for NDEs is that lowered levels of oxygen - hypoxia or anoxia - have produced hallucinations (Blackmore 1993; Lempert 1994; Rodin 1980). However, NDEs occur without anoxia or hypoxia, as in non-life-threatening illnesses, falls, or other near-accidents. Furthermore, the experiential phenomena associated with hypoxia are only superficially similar to NDEs. James Whinnery (1997), who compared NDEs to what he called "dreamlets" occurring in brief periods of unconsciousness induced in fighter pilots by rapid acceleration, argued that some features common to NDEs are also found in these hypoxic episodes, including tunnel vision, bright lights, brief fragmented visual images, a sense of floating, pleasurable sensations, and, rarely, a sense of leaving the body. The primary features of acceleration-induced hypoxia, however, are rhythmic jerking of the limbs, compromised memory for events just prior to the onset of unconsciousness, tingling in extremities and around the mouth, confusion and disorientation upon awakening, and paralysis (Whinnery 1997), symptoms that do not occur in NDEs. Moreover, contrary to NDEs, the visual images Whinnery reported frequently included living people, but never dead people, and no life review or accurate out-of-body perceptions have been reported in acceleration-induced loss of consciousness.

Greyson, Bruce. (2009) "Explanatory Models for Near-Death Experiences". In The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences (p. 217). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
 
#5
The scientific view from contemporary cognitive neuro-science is somewhat different. Here consciousness is viewed as an emergent property from a highly integrated and distrib-uted network of neural activity. In other words, the mind iswhat the brain does (see; Crick, Koch, Kreiman, & Fried, 2004;Gray, 2004; Ortinski & Meador,2004; Kosslyn & Koenig, 1995; Rees,Kreiman & Koch, 2002; Seth & Baars,2005; van Hemmen & Sejnowski,2006; Zeki, 2003; for theoreticaloverviews).
It's not a scientific view -- it's a metaphysical presupposition. Reductive materialism is false by definition. I explain this in my recent essay.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
Occams chainsaw? Sorry, no. More like Occams wet noodle. But what do I know, I'm not a neuroscientist and apparently they are the only ones allowed to comment on the nature of consciousness. Unless you're Sue Blackmore or Patricia Churchland.
Just ignore the shaming tactics of the materialist evangelicals. True skeptics like myself accept the possibility of NDEs pointing to mind not being brain, though I will have to do my own examination of the evidence before I can say anything definitive. I do think there's reason to accept the proposition as a livable truth that one is taking a "reality gamble" on, to use the phrasing of Robert Anton Wilson.

Of course why the brain seems to equal the mind due to their tight coupling, if it's not the case that mind = brain, is in fact another question that makes me wary of NDEs being some definite pointer to the truth. Even mind-not-brains could be deceived after all.
 
#7
However, it is never clear how gaps in our understanding of the complex brain/mind relationship can ever be taken to support a non-scientific interpretation.
The dualism is not necessarily a non-scientific interpretation. They believe that dualism is a non-scientific interpretation because they believe that dualism is not true, but the fact is that NDEs and other lines of evidence are in favor a scientific interpretation of dualism, as I will explain below.

The paranormalist view has neither changed nor been endowed with evidential support over the same time period. This view still clings to the same faith-based reasoning and claims it did decades ago.
That's not true. There are Karlis Osis experiments with psychic Tanous, Daryl Bem experiments...

Despite an extensive search of the leading international peer-reviewed literature, there appears to be no study clearly and objectively demonstrating both the presence of a completely inactive human brain and the synchronous co-presence of striking and vivid NDEs taking place at that specif-ic and exact point in time.
True, but there is not a single experiment that proves that NDEs are entirely caused by neural activity.

Whether these particular brain states (either the hippocampal component or the cortical component) are capable of supporting conscious experience is the really important questionand one that awaits clarification.
Who is against Occam's razor then? Besides NDEs are only one type of evidence on the existence of consciousness shedding of the organic body, because there are also apparitions, mediumship...

Firstly, it seeks to explain one mystery (the afterlife in NDEs), with another mystery (the afterlife in syncope), and so in reality explains nothing. To accept this argument one must pre-accept the existence of theafterlife in order to establish, well,the afterlife. It is circular reasoning that ship wrecks itself on the rocky shores of its own confusion in a desperate attempt to maintain asupernatural worldview.
This is not to explain something, but to establish that it is possible to have similar experiences to NDEs being in good health, although NDEs are glimpses of the afterlife. With this possibility the argument that "NDEs can not be glimpses of the afterlife because there are these syncope" is invalidated.

The article fails to see that non-afterlife explanations have to force the situation to the limit and not follow Occam's razor to be successful: hyper-lucid experiences that probably a nervous system in crisis can not generate, evidence of an afterlife; veridical experiences that probably can not be obtained by the known senses, evidence of an afterlife, cases Peak in Darien, evidence of an afterlife; there are certain cases of apparitions, mediumship and children who remember their past lives, also increases the probabilities that NDEs are glimpses of an afterlife.
 
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#8
In other words, the mind is what the brain does

...

Few would deny that there is an explanatory gap between quantifying a symphony of neural processes and relating them to the contents of consciousness.
By definition there cannot be any explanatory gap if the mind is what the brain does.
 
#9
I've written an email to them. I said:


Hello Dr Jason Braithwaite and Hayley Dewe

Just having a quick glance at your paper.

You say:
In other words, the mind is what the brain does

...

Few would deny that there is an explanatory gap between quantifying a symphony of neural processes and relating them to the contents of consciousness.


These 2 statements directly contradict each other. By definition there can be no explanatory gap “if the mind is what the brain does” (a vacuous assertion in itself, but let’s not go there)


You also say:



However, it is never clear how gaps in our understanding of the complex brain/mind relationship can ever be taken to support a non-scientific interpretation.
If it’s not clear then perhaps it might be a good idea for you to study the philosophy and history of science and the mind-body problem? Science as currently conceived deals exclusively with the quantifiable. But consciousness is characterised by the qualitative.

An essay I’ve written on my blog explains this:


Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia



Ian Wardell
 
#11
Playing the devil's advocate, I would say that the physicalists claim that the gap between mind and brain is merely epistemological, not ontological.
I don't understand this. If the mind is what the brain does, we merely need to find out what the brain does then we have a complete explanation for the mind. There is no gap.

The explanatory gap refers to the notion that the mental cannot be reduced to the physical. But they are denying this in their first statement, hence for them there can be no explanatory gap.
 
#12
I always thought that occam's razor(or occam's chainsaw...sigh) is a odd "argument". You read that as a argument against dualism and everything that isnt matter-based all the time. Neuroscientists also often talk about that as a primary argument for cosciousness being based on the brain. Who is actually making the decision which theory is making less assumptions? The people that are using occams prinziple. I could use the principle too and get a different conclusion. And well, brain-based consciousness is making various assumptions aswell. I wouldnt dare to say that they are making less of them then some sort of dualistic theory.

And in the end, its a principle, not a method that provides certainity (although we want to achieve it through the usage of the principle). I normally dont do that, but even wikipedia states that:

In the scientific method, Occam's razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable.[1][10][11]
Occams razor isnt necessarily about theories that are better or worse. Its all about finding out whats true and whats not. And to do that it is assumed that less complex theories are easier to test. It is NOT saying that the less complex method is necessarily correct.
 
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#14
I don't understand this. If the mind is what the brain does, we merely need to find out what the brain does then we have a complete explanation for the mind.
I guess the author thought that today we do not know everything about the brain, so there is a knowledge gap between mind and brain, but not a gap itself.

Anyway that's a minor criticism; I think my comment treats more important points.
 
#16
I've read the paper and it is as someone else said, same old, same old. I've tackled Braithwaite before about this .....you have to remember he is desperate, his whole career will be up in the air if the paradigm changes, my goodness how they don't want that to happen. The afterlife for a senior lecturer in psychology in any English university is anathema.

You can tell he's desperate, he's almost begging the reader to accept his word ......;-) Amusing Jason thanks
 
#19
I guess hes not a pleasant person to discuss with when it comes to his personal views, huh?
He wasn't unpleasant. It's saying to me stuff like:

"We know the mind is what the brain does - this is not in question".

What the brain does is purely quantitative. Consciousness is characterised by the qualitative. So not only do we not know this, we know it's false!
 
#20
These two comments from the paper are astoundingly silly

"However,the first point outlined above is based on the unsubstantiated assumption that flat EEGs provide evidence for total and complete brain inactivity, and that these instances have happened at the precise time of vivid NDEs:these are the assumptions being contended here."


"One is the notion that EEG measures reflect all neural activity and that when flat, the brain can be said to be completely inactive. The other is the somewhat milder idea that flat EEG profiles index a brain state that is insufficient to support consciousness, and even more so the vivid conscious experience reported by NDEers."

His young and attractive assistant must have been responsible for these, surely. Unsubstantiated "assumption" that flat EEG's = no brain activity.

http://www.skeptiko.com/eeg-expert-on-near-death-experience
 
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