Jeff Kripal article on the paranormal in the Chronicle of Higher Education

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#3
Seems apropos to some of our recent discussions here; especially the turn to the paranormal as a sort of 'story' or 'mythology' in Kai's thread...

http://chronicle.com/article/Embrace-the-Unexplained/145557/
This was really good stuff.

Kripral has, IMO, a good point about the causal factors for Psi not being conducive to lab experiments.

I do think a lot of anecdotal accounts should at least make us wonder what's going on in the Imaginal/Phenomenal/Numinous realm(s?).
 
#4
Part 2:
http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/04/08/embracing-the-unexplained-part-2/
The week began with The Chronicle’s publication of my essay on why the “impossible” experiences of precognition, clairvoyance, and mystical experience may well be keys to unlocking the nature of consciousness and the mind-brain relationship and why the sciences and the humanities need one another to address those questions.

The piece quickly became the object of a materialist screed in The New Republic by Jerry A. Coyne entitled “Science Is Being Bashed by Academics Who Should Know Better.” I actually share some of Coyne’s calmer questions and open-minded concerns (like why psychic phenomena are reported in both traumatic and nontraumatic contexts). What troubled me were the ways that Coyne distorted my positions through invective and exaggeration, blatantly misrepresented the findings of parapsychology (“they always fail”), and effortlessly conflated science, rationalism, and materialism, as if there were no ways to be scientific and rational without adopting his own particular brand of antireligious materialism.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Thanks for that K9! - it's funny how many people have complained about Coyne.

Not just proponents either, he lashes out at skeptics who refuse to be as polemical about religion as he is.

Also, glad Kripral linked to A Rationalist's Mystical Moment. Will add it to the Living with a Wild God thread in Spirituality.
 
#6
I think Kripal really summed it up in this paragraph:
Somehow, in roughly the same period, I managed to be an “offense” to both materialist ideologues and fundamentalist censors. The materialists painted me as a science-bashing religionist, while the fundamentalists portrayed me as a religion-bashing pervert and reductive materialist. The two groups sound remarkably alike, and their angry rhetoric and penchant for misrepresentation are virtually indistinguishable.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
I also note that as someone raised Hindu that the pulping of Doniger's book and attacks against Kripral is a travesty and goes against the self-exploration and decentralization of the faith.

Both scholars have offered spiritual recognition for those marginalized by certain bigoted forces that overstep and serve retrograde notions when they claim to "protect" the faith.

"one cannot ignore the marginal, the “little”, the liminal, the “zara hatke” [the slightly different], the woman we see only when we squint a little — in these cracks may rebellion, and the promise of a better tomorrow, be found."
-Qalandar
 
#10
Speaking of screed, the comments section on the article seems to be chocked full of comments that basically accuse Krippal of promoting magic
I posted a bit in the comments on Kripal's original article. Most of Coyne's supporters are as ignorant as he is.
 
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#11
Posted this in the comments to Kripal's blog post:

Thanks for the post, Jeff. Jerry Coyne should be embarrassed to publish such an article. As you point out, anyone who thinks parapsychology experiments always fail is simply not conversant with the literature. In almost any other field of inquiry such ignorant statements would not be taken seriously, and yet, we have academic heavy-weights like Steven Pinker tweeting that Coyne’s post represented “sanity.” Sanity it is not, more like ill-informed invective.

I have a few comments on Coyne’s article. First, his assertion that “when the brain expires, so does consciousness” is beginning to be challenged by EMPRICAL evidence. The evidence in question is a result of Sam Parnia’s AWARE study. It suggests that consciousness is not annihilated during cardiac arrest. The results are under peer review, but publication in a major medical journal is expected later this year.

Coyne does not seem to understand your suggestion about trauma as a catalyst for
robust psychic events. He writes, “And of course Kripal doesn’t explain why those “messages from beyond” have to [italics are Coyne’s] involve trauma.” Either he misreads you, or is deliberately misrepresenting you. As someone who has read your monographs, I find his insinuation that you are clueless about the alleged psychic abilities of mystics, saints, and yogis to be spectacularly ill-informed.

I also don’t think Coyne is aware of how common the experiences you describe are
among the general population. Peter Fenwick’s studies of hospices in England and Holland, for example, suggest that so-called Death-Bed Visions and After Death Communications are actually quite common. Their ontological status notwithstanding, these things do happen, and they happen all the time!

Finally, Coyne seems to be ignorant of the significant minority of philosophers who doubt physicalist accounts of mind. Nagel is far from a voice crying in the wilderness. See, for example, the edited volume “The Waning of Materialism”.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#12
Good stuff Troy!

Finally, Coyne seems to be ignorant of the significant minority of philosophers who doubt physicalist accounts of mind. Nagel is far from a voice crying in the wilderness. See, for example, the edited volume “The Waning of Materialism”.
Curious about this. The majority of philosophers seem to be materialists from everything I've read, but I could be far off the mark.
 
#13
I posted a bit in the comments on Kripal's original article. Most of Coyne's supporters are as ignorant as he is.
Ah, so all those commenters were his acolytes. Makes sense. Just to clarify, Coyne is undoutbedly an excellent scientist, but equally, he comes across as incredibly childish, demeaning, and rude. His actions regarding TED demonstrate this. Which brings to mind something that I notice about skeptics in the US and UK. In the US, they seem to be a lot more rabid and vocal, whereas on my side of the pond, they seem to be more calm, friendly, and likely to offer you a cup of tea rather than call you a "woo believing imbecile". Chris French, for instance, signed the petition to TED, despite disagreeing signed it and basically supported Sheldrake's right to present his talk.

Of course the funny thing is, the filter theory isn't magic. The Neuroscientist Kripal quoted says nothing rules it out, and if it's true, it would simply be part of nature, not magic.
 
#15
The majority are materialists of one sort or another. I was objecting to the fact that Coyne makes Nagel out to be a crank.
It reminds me of what David Strathairn said playing Edward R. Murrow in good night and good luck. A friend of his was a socialist, he wasn't. But nonetheless, his friend's book was dedicated to Murrow. Murrow (Strathairn) then says (and I'm paraphrasing) He was one of those individuals where viewpoints were not a precursor to discussion or friendship. Put it this way, I could quite easily see myself, if I met him, having a great chat with Chris French. If I met Coyne, I'm not so sure.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
The majority are materialists of one sort or another. I was objecting to the fact that Coyne makes Nagel out to be a crank.
Definitely not a crank - I think Nagel had the right idea but from what I've read so far Mind and Cosmos is hampered by poor execution.

That said Coyne reminds me of the anti-gay person who turns out to be homosexual himself. Even atheists think the guy hulks out too much. I wouldn't be surprised if half of the anonymous accounts at TASTE are his.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#17
Relating to Kripral's ideas and Nagel's Mind & Cosmos, here's some discussion on Nagel at NPR:

(Discussion on the entirety of the text here)
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/01/29/169896128/is-there-a-place-for-the-mind-in-physics-part-i
Now, as 13.7 readers know, I am no fan of reductionism. In its grandest claims, reductionism tends to be more an affirmation of a faith then a tenable position about ontology (what exists in the world). However, as a physicist I am more prone to the Emergentist position because it requires a less radical alteration of what we believe does exist out there. Nagel's view asks for such a dramatic reworking of ontology that the evidence better be just as dramatic and, so far, it isn't.

Still, once I got past Nagel's missteps on Darwin, I found his arguments to be quite brave, even if I am not ready to follow him to the ends of his ontology. There is a stiff, cold wind in his perspective. Those who dismiss him out of hand are holding fast to a knowledge that does not exist. The truth of the matter is we are just at the beginning of our understanding of consciousness and of the Mind.

Think about the difference between Galileo's vision of "the real" and Einstein's. At this point in our study of the Mind, are we really so sure of what can, and what cannot, be simply dismissed? Nagel may ultimately be wrong, but he is correct in articulating one limit in the range of what might possibly be right.
 
#18
Posted this in the comments to Kripal's blog post:

Thanks for the post, Jeff. Jerry Coyne should be embarrassed to publish such an article. As you point out, anyone who thinks parapsychology experiments always fail is simply not conversant with the literature. In almost any other field of inquiry such ignorant statements would not be taken seriously, and yet, we have academic heavy-weights like Steven Pinker tweeting that Coyne’s post represented “sanity.” Sanity it is not, more like ill-informed invective.

I have a few comments on Coyne’s article. First, his assertion that “when the brain expires, so does consciousness” is beginning to be challenged by EMPRICAL evidence. The evidence in question is a result of Sam Parnia’s AWARE study. It suggests that consciousness is not annihilated during cardiac arrest. The results are under peer review, but publication in a major medical journal is expected later this year.

Coyne does not seem to understand your suggestion about trauma as a catalyst for
robust psychic events. He writes, “And of course Kripal doesn’t explain why those “messages from beyond” have to [italics are Coyne’s] involve trauma.” Either he misreads you, or is deliberately misrepresenting you. As someone who has read your monographs, I find his insinuation that you are clueless about the alleged psychic abilities of mystics, saints, and yogis to be spectacularly ill-informed.

I also don’t think Coyne is aware of how common the experiences you describe are
among the general population. Peter Fenwick’s studies of hospices in England and Holland, for example, suggest that so-called Death-Bed Visions and After Death Communications are actually quite common. Their ontological status notwithstanding, these things do happen, and they happen all the time!

Finally, Coyne seems to be ignorant of the significant minority of philosophers who doubt physicalist accounts of mind. Nagel is far from a voice crying in the wilderness. See, for example, the edited volume “The Waning of Materialism”.
One thing I'd add is that many of those people would probably say that free will is an illusion. If this is so, they shouldn't be angry or demeaning to people who think differently, after all, they don't really have a choice in the matter of what they think because they have no free will.
 
#19
One thing I'd add is that many of those people would probably say that free will is an illusion. If this is so, they shouldn't be angry or demeaning to people who think differently, after all, they don't really have a choice in the matter of what they think because they have no free will.
I've often thought the same thing, particularly with Coyne. He's said numerous times on his blog that murderers and other criminals are not "morally" responsible for their actions since there is no free will; Yet he heaps scorn on religious believers and people interested in the paranormal. Seems inconsistent to me. After all, if his view is correct, they had no more choice in the matter than he did.
 
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#20
I've often thought the same thing, particularly with Coyne. He's said numerous times on his blog that murders and other criminals are not "morally" responsible for their actions since there is no free will; Yet he heaps scorn on religious believers and people interested in the paranormal. Seems inconsistent to me. After all, if his view is correct, they had no more choice in the matter than he did.
I think someone quoted chomsky here. But it was something like, "if you want to know what a person truly believes, judge him by what he does not what he says"
Also, I wonder what would happen if you pointed out that inconsistency to him and his fan base.
 
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