You Are A Machine

By Sean Carroll | December 14, 2011 3:04 pm

For any remaining mind/body dualists out there: neuroscientist Patrick Haggard builds magnetic coils that he can hold close to your head, and use them to control your body via signals to your brain. “Transcranial magnetic stimulation” would be the technical term. (He thinks it means you don’t have free will, because he’s a neuroscientist and not a philosopher.)

The machinery can’t force Prof Haggard to do anything really complicated – “You can’t make me sign my name,” he says, almost ruefully – but at one point, Christina is able to waggle his index finger slightly, like a schoolmaster. It’s very fine control, a part of the brain specifically in command of a part of the body. “There’s quite a detailed map of the brain’s wiring to the body that you can build,” he tells me.

We sometimes say “the Large Hadron Collider is the most complex machine ever built,” but I’m not sure how it would directly compare to a human being. All part of the great bootstrap up to greater complexity, which will continue for a while until it all inevitably deteriorates into empty space.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science
  • http://www.scottaaronson.com Scott Aaronson

    Just to assign proper credit here, I believe schoolyard bullies long ago discovered a more rudimentary means of controlling other people’s body movements—a means often accompanied by such exclamations as “Haha, you’re hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!” On the other hand, I don’t think the bullies’ motivation was to refute mind/body dualism. :-)

  • Mitchell Porter

    “For any remaining mind/body dualists out there”

    This says nothing about dualism. Consider Descartes’s theory: the body is a machine, there is a separate soul, it interacts with the body through the pineal gland. Showing that you can make the body execute motions by stimulating other parts of the nervous system “confirms” the body’s machinelike character, but does nothing to address his hypothesis.

  • http://isaacdomagalski.blogspot.com Isaac D.

    I don’t think that a soul exists, but if there is, it seems as though these magnetic coils can overwrite what the “soul” tells the body to do. That might not necessarily refute dualism by itself, but I think that it does do a good job of shooting it in the foot.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    As Scott Aaronson pointed out, mind/body dualism was long ago refuted by schoolyard bullies.

  • Travis Garrett

    “All part of the great bootstrap up to greater complexity, which will continue for a while until it all inevitably deteriorates into empty space.”

    Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure about that. As a teaser, consider the following 2 questions:

    1) Is it possible, in principle, to fully simulate a human brain inside a sufficiently powerful computer? Feel free, for instance, to use all of the resources in the solar system to build the simulation’s underlying hardware (i.e. to reproduce what iterative trial and error has managed to build with just a couple kilos and ~ 20 watts).

    2) How big is the universe?

  • Zach

    If everything will inevitably deteriorate into empty space, isn’t that nihilistic? Why bother if in the ultimate scheme of things, whatever we do doesn’t matter the least bit? Does it matter how complex our civilization will become if it’s ultimately doomed for total annihilation?

  • Mitchell Porter

    Zach, are you saying that if you ever die, even if it’s a million years from now, your life now will have meant nothing?

  • Richard D. Morey

    He is a philosopher – he just happens to be a natural philosopher. His take on free will is perfectly reasonable, given the way that concept has been traditionally thought of (ie, not just wordplay).

  • IW

    I for one welcome our magnetic overlords – as long as it doesn’t all go south….

  • Daniel

    Yeah, I’m still here. I believe the body and brain is very deterministic but it’s obviously reprogrammed when we consciously put values on our thoughts and experiences. Try and see for your self. The “soul” might not be ontologically different from the brain but it’s also not physical (I believe it has some properties that can’t be described by math).

    A real physicist should try to explain the mind though. It’s your job. Who else?

  • http://www.naturalism.org Tom Clark

    “This runs shockingly contrary to the sense of freedom that we feel in terms of controlling our actions, on which we base our whole sense of self and system of morality. ‘As far as I know,’ says Prof Haggard, ‘all societies hold individuals responsible for their actions.'”

    Yes, and realizing that we are, very likely, deterministic biological machines might well influence attitudes and beliefs about *how* we should hold each other responsible. See for instance Greene and Cohen’s paper, “For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything” at http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~jgreene/GreeneWJH/GreeneCohenPhilTrans-04.pdf and “Holding mechanisms responsible” at http://www.naturalism.org/glannon.htm

  • Doubter

    If a machine malfunctions, you fix it. If it can’t be fixed, you discard it. The same would hold for “people as machines”, except that we don’t know yet how to fix them, and since dismantling people would be inhumane, we incarcerate them. Even if we think we know how to fix people, we should be very cautious, otherwise we will repeat the mistakes of doing prefrontal lobotomies, shock treatment, involuntary sterilization, etc.. Thus “you are a machine” changes nothing, it is a stupid philosophers’ games, and artificial controversies. Whether or not “you are a machine” don’t we still have poverty to alleviate, challenges to face like global warming and any number of other more useful pursuits like real problems in science?

  • http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/ James Goetz

    Hmm, I suppose Haggard’s logic is that if magnetism can influence the human brain, then humans cannot have any level of free will.

  • ObsessiveMathsFreak

    If people are machines which are not responsible for their actions, and who therefore cannot be held accountable for those actions, then equally people cannot be rewarded for their actions either.

    Applying the latter logic tends to halt application of the former fairly quick.

  • Richard D. Morey

    Re: 14
    If people are machines which are not responsible for their actions, and who therefore cannot be held accountable for those actions, then equally people cannot be rewarded for their actions either.

    This does not follow. “Held accountable” is a moral statement, and requires no action. I can can hold you accountable for your actions, and that just means I find you morally culpable. However, rewarding is an action. I can, for instance, reward a rat for a particular action in order to influence their behaviour. This does not mean that I believe a rat that has performed the action to be morally superior to other rats; the reward is merely a way of moulding behaviour.

    I don’t know why everyone freaks out and thinks that anyone who doesn’t believe in “free will” must not believe that we are justified in responding to other peoples’ actions. Humans, being animals (and machines), are still responsive to external influences. Our drive to be happy and to create an environment in which we are safe and comfortable, and our ability to do so by providing incentives for particular kinds of behaviour, have absolutely nothing to do with free will.

  • Count Iblis

    The fact that we tend to deny that we are machines (we can get away with doing that) makes religion still viable despite science and technology. The moment we could no longer deny that we are machines, e.g. when all humans in biological form have been replaced by electronic versions, few people will still believe in God.

    Or would a robot who knows that there are only transistors in his head go to church on Sunday?

  • MKS

    Sean,

    I didn’t know where to put this and I’m sorry that it is off-topic but I thought you might be interested in reading aboot this

    “Temporal Patterns of Photon Emissions Can Be Stored and Retrieved Several Days Later From the “Same Space”: Experimental and Quantitative Evidence”

    by Michael A Persinger, Blake T Dotta

    http://www.neuroquantology.com/index.php/journal/article/view/467

  • Alex

    More evidence that Sean does not understand mind-body dualism. This has absolutely no ramifications for dualist theories of mind whatsoever. Please read a relevant book on philosophy of mind and stop embarrassing yourself, Sean.

  • Alex

    Ironically enough, Scott Aaronson’s initial response with the schoolyard bully example is as much of a refutation of mind-body dualism as is Haggard’s transcranial magnetic coercion. Namely, none at all.

  • Philip Rittenhouse Jr.

    Well I don’t know how much more this could effect philosophy when you consider the fact the earth itself has a magnectic field not to mention solar flares. If a couple of magnetic coils can effect a person is it possible the earths magnetic fields effect people on a constant basis? Can a solar flare create havoc in people the way it can effect our electronics. I don’t know to me it seems even a passing comet with a strong enough magnetic field may effect people in ways we don’t understad. With everything that goes on in the universe it makes one wonder if some of the ancient myths and legends refering to the “heavens” controlling or effecting our destinies have some sort of truth in them.

  • Bruce of Canuckistan

    @20 Philip

    The effect of “Transcranial magnetic stimulation” is due to the field’s rate of change, which induces a voltage across conductive brain tissue. From what I’ve read, the strength involved is in the range of 1 Telsa, changing over a period of 10ms or so. So about 10,000 times stronger than the earth’s field, and changing 10x faster than you could snap your head around.

  • Daniel

    Somehow this post didn’t trigger a lot of materialistic responses. Now it’s finally shown that we are machines, so why don’t they come here and celebrate?

  • marshall

    I don’t follow this. Of course we are machines, in that we are made out of stuff. That’s been known for 200 years (the early experiments in respiration are proof enough for me). And external forcings can get you to do things involuntarily. That, too, has been known a long time. None of that says, by itself, what kind of machine we are. In particular, it doesn’t prove that we are congruent to a Turing machine, nor does it prove that we can best be controlled by Skinner type behaviorism.

  • http://www.hiredavid.com les ‘a photographer in dallas who wanted to be a physicist’ wollam

    Have you seen the size of that paddle? Have you ever watched ‘The Mentalist?’ Can you say ‘fraud’, ‘grifter’, ‘charlatan’, or even ‘esteemed scientist having fun?’ Wow! His finger moves and there is a jump in electrical patterns. A scientific breakthrough of the first order! No way he could possibly be doing it himself. Amazingly not subject to the ordinary scientific demands of reproduction in other labs, or peer review publication.

    I may be wrong, but it’s worth considering that maybe Haggard is off in left field and laughing.

  • http://www.hiredavid.com les ‘a photographer in dallas who wanted to be a physicist’ wollam

    Sean–
    Another example of an electromagnetic field causing bodily muscles to contract- shine a light into someone’s eyes and their pupils contract. Determinism reigns. But the question remains, who is holding the flashlight and why are they shining it in my eyes?

  • Andy

    I get a kick out of the way scientists can so cavalierly dismiss the soul or freewill, and talk as if they’re so cocksure that we’re just machines and that the universe is deterministic. For when they put away their lab toys and go home to their families or out with friends–they live as if determinism is untrue. They live on the basis of conscience, knowing that certain things are truly good and certain things are truly evil. This intuitive knowledge can’t simply be disregarded–unless we purposely wish to destroy civilization.

  • floodmouse

    @ Post #3: “It seems as though these magnetic coils can overwrite what the “soul” tells the body to do.” – Argument by analogy: A television set can be controlled by either pushing a button on the set, or by using a remote control. Pretend your body is the television set. The existence of a remote control that has been programmed to jam your frequency does not invalidate the existence of an independent organizing principle inside your body (call it the “soul,” if you will). Obviously a human body is more complex than a TV set by orders of magnitude so the organizing principle is a little more complicated.

    @ 14. ObsessiveMathsFreak: “If people are machines which are not responsible for their actions, and who therefore cannot be held accountable for those actions, then equally people cannot be rewarded for their actions either. Applying the latter logic tends to halt application of the former fairly quick.” – !!! :)

  • Matt

    @ Post#26: And I’m getting a kick out of the way non-scientist misrepresent scientists in their naive view of the evil scientist’s cold materialistic heart. :)

    The thing is, whether or not we have a free-will (in whatever ill-defined manner you wish to think of such) has absolutely no bearing on one’s ability to act “based on conscience” (ie. non-sequitur).

    Lest you can travel back in time and look whether you could have chosen differently, there is no way to distinguish between a deterministic and non-deterministic mind in any practical way. Since based on everything we know from science there is no reason to assume any kind of non-deterministic behaviour in the macroscopic world it’s only natural to think that behaviour is determined by natural laws. This article is just another example of how changing the chemistry (or in this case magnetic stimulation) of the brain, changes the mind which is exactly what one would expect. Same way as drugs, brain injury or any other kind of meddling with the brain can alter one’s personality.

  • http://ngender.net/jgd Greg Davidson

    It would be more correct to say that we are software running ON a machine. And still more correct to say that the “Being” of Human Being is a viewpoint or collection of viewpoints associated with such software. There is a lot of good work investigating all of this in the Cognitive Science and Cognitive Philosophy literature, my favourite being Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”. The delightful collection “The Mind’s I” is a great introduction to the area. Neuroscientists often look to me like people who apply oscilloscopes to a computer running a large software system and try to explain it as a phenomenon of transistors[neurons]. Yes, Firefox’s execution can be reduced to a phenomenon of transistors (or logic gates[synapses] or even lower-level physics) but low level models explain little of use to software engineers. Exactly how the abstract viewpoint of consciousness emerges from the information processing going on in the brain is a mostly unsolved scientific/philosophical puzzle. Perhaps we’ll have to build a conscious system before we really understand one.

  • http://ngender.net/jgd Greg Davidson

    Ah, the prefect reference for this thread:
    http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/16895/MWP_LS_2011_01.pdf
    “My brain made me do it” (When neuroscientists think they can do philosophy.)

  • Daniel

    Matt,
    Ok, I define free will as the ability to apply conscience on our cognitive processes. You claim that my definition means that free will has nothing to do with conscience. That doesn’t make sense :)

    You suggest we travel back and view our cognitive processes. As you say, by observing a process we can’t distinguish between determinism and indeterminism. That’s because the question about determinism is metaphysics and not science. The demarcation between metaphysics and science is important, especially on this blog. Scientists do science but they are also free to do metaphysics. A scientist needs to know the difference. Some scientists, like Sean, are involved in a lot of metaphysical problems, and that’s why I love to listen to him (although I rarely agree with him).

    The problem of free will is a metaphysical problem. Popper claims that metaphysical beliefs are important in science because that’s what influence the way we construct new hypotheses. The question about free will is a also psychologically important and there’s plenty of evidence for that. But of course, science also influence metaphysical beliefs. For example, I watched Sean show how Newton, Einstein and Schrödingers equations leads to different views about the time. That’s great, but ultimately a statement about the fundamental nature of time is metaphysical (since it can’t be falsified I believe).

    If we come up with a scientific theory of everything some people would believe that we don’t need much metaphysics. I think that’s wrong, I think we need more metaphysics and I think it’s evident when you consider everyones scattered and confused viewpoints. It would help if the ones who don’t like metaphysics don’t try and it would help if they were informed they don’t need to bother about those questions.

  • Bill

    Machines are made. Humans are grown. KISS!

  • joe

    I love it when a scientist straps a subject in a chair, controls everything about the environment and experience that stimulates the subject, and then concludes that free will is an illusion.

  • noen

    Travis Garrett said:
    1) Is it possible, in principle, to fully simulate a human brain inside a sufficiently powerful computer?

    A simulated brain is to real brains as simulated weather is to a thunderstorm. The strong AI hypothesis, that consciousness can be reduced to purely syntactic operations, is false because syntax is insufficient for semantics. The cognitive model for consciousness is also probably false. It seems very unlikely that our brains calculate the parabolic arc of a baseball before catching it.

    This experiment does not refute dualism. Dualism refutes dualism. It does not have a non question begging account for how souls could causally interact with bodies.

    Daniel said:
    I define free will as the ability to apply conscience on our cognitive processes.

    This is confusing to me since one’s conscience, one’s moral precepts, are themselves cognitive processes.

  • Daniel

    noen,
    It is claimed there are syntactic cognitive processes. If those exists it is not the same as the nonsyntactic mind. That’s what I would like to claim and you seem to agree.

  • Alan

    You are a machine? Hmm… says Alan Turing.

    COMPUTING MACHINERY AND INTELLIGENCE by A. M. Turing
    http://www.loebner.net/Prizef/TuringArticle.html

    This has a remarkable passage (written in relation to possible objections, by Turing, as to whether machines will ever pass his “Turing Test”).

    “I assume that the reader is familiar with the idea of extrasensory perception, and the meaning of the four items of it, viz., telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in. Once one has accepted them it does not seem a very big step to believe in ghosts and bogies. The idea that our bodies move simply according to the known laws of physics, together with some others not yet discovered but somewhat similar, would be one of the first to go. [NOTE this comment] This argument is to my mind quite a strong one.”

    So it looks as though brains/minds don’t function to order as machines (or our bodies?) Turing is seriously doubting this widely held assumption. Why do we cling to it especially as there are other converging lines of evidence that suggest otherwise?

    An interesting series of studies in the late 1990’s, well investigated by a team of scientists, (and many well before) confirm this and it looks as though the great Turing was quite prescient in this regard. See The Afterlife Investigations:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qSEi_sfaSU

    Now I wonder whether my PC will haunt me when I scrap it! Wooooo…!!!! (actually no fear I’m sorry to say).

  • noen

    @ Alan —- Turing was wrong. There was not good statistical evidence for telepathy, those studies have since been shown to be badly constructed. Rupert Sheldrake is hardly unbiased. His claims have similarly failed to meet scientific standards. Even if a video on YouTube says otherwise. (I know, surprising isn’t it?)

    “Why do we cling to it especially as there are other converging lines of evidence that suggest otherwise?”

    Because there is in fact no such evidence. Just as there is no evidence for aliens piloting UFOs or for ghosts or for any of a number of other goofy things people believe in. And in the absence of any evidence there is simply no reason any intelligent person should accept psi phenomenon or UFOs or the others.

  • Alan

    Turing wrong? Yourself right? I doubt his comments on this issue were lightly made.

    And there is some reading you MUST do. Firstly my link above:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qSEi_sfaSU – The Afterlife Investigations, physicists, electrical engineers, psychologists and many others were witnesses –

    has Dr. Sheldrake and Dr. Carr as actual witnesses to these phenomena – you just don’t know this. See here BTW for Dr. Carr, a 1 Jan 2012 appraisal of Stephen Hawking:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/01/stephen-hawking-at-70#start-of-comments

    and this article by him: http://parapsykologi.se/artiklar/Carr_08.pdf, considered views by him on a subject he has studied over many years.

    These phenomena are what some would call “supernatural” but they are not. They are part of this natural universe.

    The Belgium Triangle UFOs here also are still unexplained. See here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4JsPSKYypk

    Happy New year.

  • Matt

    Daniel wrote: “The problem of free will is a metaphysical problem.”

    You’re already assuming your conclusion by defining free will as something “unphysical”. You’re just begging the question without establishing WHY free will is a to be considered such.

    Actually, your definition of free will: “I define free will as the ability to apply conscience on our cognitive processes.”
    Is not a definition at all, because you fail to define “conscience” or even explain how conscience is something removed from cognitive processes. The definition you put forth does nothing to clarify what you mean.

    @Alan: All you’re doing is providing an argument from authority (though, the people you’re quoting, ie. Sheldrake et al, don’t posses any of that anyway). You should realise that, in the comments of science blog, people will demand better sources than youtube videos and newspaper articles. How about scientific papers? Alas, if there were convincing evidence for the existence of such phenomena it would be a mainstream scientific enterprise. It isn’t. Thus, you’d need to provide evidence for a global conspiracy.

  • Alan

    @Matt
    Just for you: J.Proc.Soc.Psychical Research Vol.58, pt 220 (1999) but it’s been re-issued see here: http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/category/newstags/spr-supported-projects.

    Matt, I hope you realise that if you are going to criticize scientific observations made by physicists, some from NASA if you read this study, psychologists, engineers and others with academic training who were witnessess you are going to have to investigate yourself properly the claims of these scientists. I don’t wish to sound overly but your comments are from non-authority. Alas, if you carefully watch the documentary again you will see detailed statements by scientists on these phenomena. Q: Why did you only character attack Dr. Rupert Sheldrake above?
    Nobody mentioned conspiracy BTW. Concentrate on the phenomena seen please – in the Report and in the documentary.
    (please: NO Brian Dunning!)

  • noen

    Alan, your links don’t work. Besides, if you can’t defend your beliefs on your own and all you can do is point to a UFO video on YouTube then your beliefs aren’t really *yours* are they?

    Think for yourself Alan. Don’t just APE people who agree with you. When people challenge you to back up what you say and then all you do is point to UFO videos on YouTube, well….. that’s not really even thinking.

    Thinking rationally involves working your way from well founded premises towards a logical, rational conclusion. It isn’t feelings, those are emotions and while important, emotions cannot tell us anything about the real world.

    You seem surprised that I said Alan Turing was wrong but you see…. part of being an educated rational person is that we *don’t* worship personalities. Turing was a genius but he got some things wrong. So was Einstein but was also wrong about some things (QM). It’s important to be… you know… right. And there is a way of determining which ideas are most likely to be right or not and to date there is simply no good evidence for psychic phenomenon, or UFOs.

    BTW, Brian Dunning should be your role model. He is fantastic and his Skeptoid podcast is filled with valuable facts and research. There are other podcasts on how to think critically. I highly encourage you to check them out.

  • noen

    Addition: Alan has linked twice to copyrighted material. The same video only this time with the FBI warning clearly visible can be seen here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoMR_Oj6Qrs

    Alan should be banned. Those who posted the video on YouTube should be arrested and prosecuted for their criminal activity.

  • Alan

    noen etc.

    The Afterlife Experiments video above was posted by the distributors. The one you linked directly above is a totally different one. My other links work OK ; – )

    FYI I have met Tim Coleman, the documentary director/producer at this event: http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=30
    and I was on good speaking terms at meetings in the late 1990’s with two of the authors of the Scole Report.

    As to my beliefs? Well, on speaking to scientists who SAW these phenomena I don’t have beliefs for these. I know non-physical intelligence is real and manifested in these investigations.
    Does this then follow that computers can have a consciousness like ours? Probably not, because non-corporeal spirits can exist related to once physical bodies. I said above “it looks as though brains/minds don’t function to order as machines” but this doesn’t preclude complex “thinking” in machines – but these machines won’t have souls, a spirit etc.

    So why have WE got them and they never will? Maybe it’s like this – life develops in (and is composed of) the space/quantum “soup” which is fundamental to it, a known fact of physics. So what is ultimately developing is an intelligence constantly forming within and composed of this system, a mix of energy, q-fields, multidimensions and maybe some total unknowns even physics can’t measure.
    But a computer is made by US, bit by bit, as hardware/software according to rules totally apart from the process in which we develop in this “system”. So you will never expect it to have soul, spirit etc. – just some ideas.
    As to physics, well I have a couple of degrees (while back), know QED works, QCD works, electroweak works, the Higgs exists etc., there’s probably a multiverse, but there’s a whole lot more going on in all this, wayyyyy down in matter/energy/space, that hasn’t been touched yet.

  • noen

    “The Afterlife Experiments video above was posted by the distributors.” — Both had identical footage for the beginning. I didn’t watch it but if you say it was posted by the distributors (didn’t seem to me like it was) then I guess that’s ok for now.

    “Well, on speaking to scientists who SAW these phenomena” — Saw what phenomena? I am not going to sit through an hour long conspiracy theory trash “documentary” in order to know what your argument is. If you can’t state your beliefs and defend them then it is simply not worth my time.

    “I know non-physical intelligence is real and manifested in these investigations.” — No, you know no such thing. You *believe* in….. what i don’t know…. but you do not have the right to claim it as knowledge until you have proved it is in fact the case. You have not done so.

    “but this doesn’t preclude complex “thinking” in machines” — Looks like you’ve set up a heads I win tails you lose situation. You believe non-corporeal spirits exist, in spite of the fact that’s incoherent, but any evidence I come up with to the contrary you can immediately dismiss as machines engaging in complex “thinking”. This is not valid reasoning.

    “what is ultimately developing is an intelligence constantly forming within and composed of this system, a mix of energy, q-fields, multidimensions” — Incoherent gobbledeegook. The fact that you can repeat jargon you’ve heard doesn’t mean you actually understand it. Just intoning the magical word “quantum” because you think it bestows you with a patina of intelligence doesn’t constitute a valid rational argument. Which you have yet to give.

    “So you will never expect it [computers] to have soul, spirit” — I don’t think that what we call computers will ever become conscious for specific reasons but at the same time I do think brains are entirely physical objects and consciousness is something they do. Just not in the same way that your PC “thinks”. However words like soul or spirit are literally incoherent. They make no sense even in their own terms and are self contradictory.

    How can a non-causal entity cause material brains (or anything at all) to act?
    How does an immaterial material (what souls are supposed to be composed of) make ANY sense?

    “As to physics, well I have a couple of degrees” — Argument from authority fallacy. The fact that you have completed a university degree program doesn’t ensure that you know what you’re talking about or that you are right. You have yet to present an actual argument to which I can reply. All you’ve done is to point to hour long pseudoscience documentaries in a failed attempt to back up your claims. That doesn’t cut it.

  • Alan

    The Afterlife Experiments [Investigations]…
    “I didn’t watch it…I am not going to sit through an hour long conspiracy theory trash “documentary”…it is simply not worth my time.” [BTW you can see it was posted by the distributors, the link is there – I’m just telling you!]
    So these scientists, many, have seen non-physical intelligence with their own eyes and some make comments about this in the documentary but you will not even watch them speak? The light phenomena were recorded as well.
    Hmm…Come on noen, make the leap!

    I’m going to post a link here which shows these have been seen historically, so the phenomena satisfy “reproducibility” (that’s science although one must accept something extra, the possibility of “light” intelligence, or you risk outright dismissal of the phenomena). The great Sir William Crookes, wrote here:

    https://webspace.yale.edu/chem125/125/history99/8Occult/CrookesPsychic.pdf

    Look under “CLASS VIII Luminous Appearances”. You’ll see the lights are the same as seen in the documentary and show again the existence of non-physical intelligence – they have also been seen on many occasions over the last century. I know it’s difficult for you and I can understand your cognitive dissonance.

    “How can a non-causal entity cause material brains (or anything at all) to act?
    How does an immaterial material (what souls are supposed to be composed of) make ANY sense?”
    You are defining yourself into trouble, I hope you can see this – it’s classic “cart before the horse thinking”. By saying “how can a non-causal entity cause material brains” your “definition” limits possibilities. It’s the phenomena first noen – then devise your theory – that’s also science, but with my qualification above as well – otherwise again one is only left with outright dismissal. And there’s this, if you were there you too would have seen all this, so what to do?

    My idea on life developing in relation to and within the space/energy of which it is composed (I hope you know that space is fundamental) is an attempt to totally distinguish it from the rules by which we construct mere computers as objects, but which *only* run and “think” (??) by software programs and Intel chips. So this connects us, I believe, fundamentally with space, differently from mere computers. As I said, just an idea, start with the properties of space and go from there, maybe information and space are important? Try to calm down.

  • noen

    “So these scientists, many, have seen non-physical intelligence with their own eyes” — I am curious how one sees something that one cannot see. The closest real example would be neutrinos. We can know they exist because they are predicted by theory and because we *can* detect them with great difficulty.

    How do you detect something which cannot be detected? Please explain.

    “I’m going to post a link here which shows these have been seen historically, so the phenomena satisfy “reproducibility” (that’s science although one must accept something extra, the possibility of “light” intelligence, or you risk outright dismissal of the phenomena).”

    Sorry but… (1) 19th century spiritualism is NOT reproducible and the mediums of the day were exposed as frauds. (2) The idea that light is intelligent is incoherent and at varience with observation. I’m pretty sure my table lamp is not that “bright”. It won’t even fetch me my coffee in the morning. (3) Citing Sir William Crookes is yet again argument from authority fallacy. The fact that a great 19th century scientist believed in spiritualism doesn’t make it true.

    “You’ll see the lights are the same as seen in the documentary and show again the existence of non-physical intelligence”

    I see no such thing. I see William Crookes’ *claim* that HE saw them and I recall (1) how easy it is to fool scientists, as Uri Gheller did, (2) that many spiritualist mediums were exposed and their methods used to deceive their clients revealed (3) how susceptible someone grieving over the death of a loved one can be and finally (4) his results of these investigations, unlike his scientific discoveries, have NOT been reproduced.

    “You are defining yourself into trouble” (immaterial material, non-causal causality) — No, it’s really very simple. If my brain is not where consciousness resides and my soul or spirit is the entity that decides to raise my arm and not my brain then how is this done? Souls and spirits are supposed to be immaterial and exist outside of our causal universe. How then can a non-causal entity cause me to raise my arm? How can souls be immaterial? Are they made of something? If they are then they are material because the word material simply means to have component parts. They can’t be made of energy because we know that energy IS matter and matter IS energy so souls must be…. what? There is nothing else.

    “It’s the phenomena first noen – then devise your theory” — But there is no phenomenon to investigate. All investigations have exposed spiritual mediums as frauds. All claims of para phenomenae have ordinary physical accounts that better explain anomalous data.

    “And there’s this, if you were there you too would have seen all this, so what to do?” (1) This is not an argument and (2) Maybe, but that only means I could be duped by frauds like anyone else. Psychic mediums *have* been caught red handed and (3) I think that if I have been there I could have exposed the mediums defrauding William Crookes because I would not desperately want to contact my deceased loved one.

    “My idea on life developing in relation to and within the space/energy of which it is composed […] is an attempt to totally distinguish it from the rules by which we construct mere computers as objects, but which *only* run and “think” ”

    This is incoherent and/or trivial. Yes all life has developed in relation to space and energy which are basic components of the universe. But there is no reason to distinguish life from everything else because we can fully account for how life evolves without positing “spirits”. We do not need the idea of an Élan Vitale to animate dead matter. Organic chemistry fully accounts for how we live, consume food and have the energy to move around.

    “Try to calm down.” — I am calm. Your claims are easily addressed and refuted and I am not upset in the least. You have not posed any real difficulty to me at all as anyone with even a high school understanding of science can easily refute your claims.

    Have a nice day.

  • Alan

    Noen

    Scole experiment (multiple witnesses, noen)/Sir William Crookes (and colleagues, noen) obs./other similar light obs. over at least 100 years (see SPR Library records). Most readers here and yourself would probably agree your disagreement comments above fall into four statements:

    Possibilities:
    1. Fake (inc. mass and or individual conspiracy, holographic projection/tactile prod. equip. – Scole) – none suggested/found over 3 years. Also see expert magicians (2) comments on “irreproducibilty” of phenomena.
    2. Mistake (inc. mass delusion, hallucination…) – none suggested over 3 years.
    3. Poor control (external influence, e.g. external, to cellar, holographic projection/tactile prod. equip. etc. – Scole) – not detected/seen over 3 years.
    4. Other – I’m open to suggestions… ; – )

    Example (multiple witnesses, note): One obs. (Prof. David Fontana): stated a moving light entered one part of his body, exited the palm of his hand which he actually felt exit. Another investigator was ill in another session in the cellar, which he stated, whereupon the light entered his chest and exited another part of his body.
    Report comment: “Settle on and apparently enter the chests of investigators, who reported internal sensations immediately thereafter, then leaving from a different part of the body.”

    Hypothesis H: H(n) = (1,2,3,4…) = True: 1 (fake), 2 (mistake), 3 (poor control), 4 (other), single/combination of the above, n = noen.
    But Obs = P, P = independently/multiply witnessed phenomena; proviso 3 years “clean” obs. (crucial): accepted these cases by many.
    But Obs —> H(n) = not True.
    Thus H(n) has been falsified.
    H(n) = not True is sufficiently correct, all Scole/Crookes/other “clean” investigations for other Obs.
    Note: (1,2,3) seem to be only routes available for observers who find Scole/Crookes/other unpalatable.
    Thus H(n) = not True —> non-physical intelligence, human interference ruled out.

    QED.

  • noen

    The Scole experiment: “Unfortunately, the Scole Experiment was tainted by profound investigative failings. In short, the investigators imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators. What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any scientific investigation of the phenomena.”

    And: “Believers in the Scole Experiment are likely to point to specifics in the Scole Report and say something like “But according to the detailed notes, the medium never moved his hands,” or something like that. But we have to remember that, assuming the Scole mediums were using trickery, the authors of the Scole Report were merely witnesses who were taken in by the tricks.”

    Skeptoid: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4179

    THE MEDIUMS BANNED VIDEO CAMERAS!

    Ok, that took me all of 30 seconds to refute. I imagine we will spend the next several paragraphs with you trying to BS your way our of that but the conclusion is set in stone. The Scole experiment was unscientific and the mediums could have easily tricked those involved.

  • Alan

    Noen

    You missed Tim Coleman’s (who directed the documentary) comments on the Dunning remarks, also at:

    http://skeptoid.com/episode.php?id=4179&comments=all#discuss

    see this comments section. I met him a short while back in London and he certainly emphasized to me the reality and credibility of everything and everyone.

    “This skeptical analysis is well intentioned, but so full of inaccuracies it completely discredits itself. I produced and directed the documentary – The Afterlife Investigations – in which I thoroughly examine all the evidence for the Scole Experiment. I spent several years interviewing all the leading participants and I got to know them all well. As unbelievable as the activities at Scole are I found no evidence of fraud. The authors [Brian Dunning] arguments like – I consulted with a colleague who told me its possible to remove a luminous arm, therefore all experiments which used this control at Scole are fraudulent – are childish in their logic. Given the space I could demolish this entire analysis – but its easier if you watch the documentary http://www.theafterlifeinvestigations.com

    I honestly ask you how to reproduce ALL what was seen – none given yet by *anyone* over 13 years later. Actually the Scole cellar was “set in stone” BTW (not your conclusion), locked from the inside and under a house in Scole, Norfolk, UK!

    http://www.theafterlifeinvestigations.com/

    On scrutiny, your comments above (camera ban = insufficient) deny:

    Obs = P, P = independently/multiply witnessed phenomena; proviso 3 years “clean” obs. (crucial): accepted these cases by many.
    Addendum: Obs witnessed UK, Europe, California (twice – with NASA scientists) + historical Obs. (similar Obs.)

    Thus Obs —> H(n) = not True, n = noen.

  • http://makingenoughsenseofthecosmos.blogspot.com/ Andrew Wood

    A non-Cartesian mund/body duality can be demonstrated in a theoretical account that also explains – along with much else – quantum wave/paricle duality in terms of a cause and its effects upon objects in motion.

  • noen

    “A non-Cartesian mund/body duality can be demonstrated in a theoretical account that also explains […] quantum wave/paricle duality ”

    No it can’t.

    (1) there is no such thing as non Cartesian dualism. If you believe in dualism you are a Cartesian of some kind. (2) Saying things doesn’t make them so. You have to actually make the argument and not just claim that one exists. (3) Repeating magic jargon gleaned from popular books on QM that you’ve read doesn’t mean you understand them or that your application of the term makes any sense. Wave/particle duality does exist but it is totally unrelated to the philosophical dualism Descartes advocated.

  • http://makingenoughsenseofthecosmos.blogspot.com/ Andrew Wood

    “(1) there is no such thing as non Cartesian dualism. If you believe in dualism you are a Cartesian of some kind. (2) Saying things doesn’t make them so. You have to actually make the argument and not just claim that one exists. (3) Repeating magic jargon gleaned from popular books on QM that you’ve read doesn’t mean you understand them or that your application of the term makes any sense. Wave/particle duality does exist but it is totally unrelated to the philosophical dualism Descartes advocated.”

    Sounds merely like the opiniated and unjustifiable assumpotions of a closed mind to me.

    Try wikipedia on mind-body dualism for a start.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind-body_dualism

    I say a dualism that that has nothing to do with the pineal gland and that does not postulate the mind to be a detachable “immaterial substance” implying a soul that with a heavenly or hellish afterlife, is quite straight forwardly deducible from the evidence of q1uantum physics, and by relating a certain quantum hypotghesis to certain simply describable problems of mind and consciousness.

    This being a causal conception of subjectivity that can be backed up by an equally straightforward general theory of the behaviour of living organisms.

    Prove me wrong.

  • noen

    “Try wikipedia on mind-body dualism for a start.” — I am fully aware of the history and that the beginnings of Cartesian dualism have their roots in the Greeks. Everything does. But Descartes is the acknowledged originator of dualism and indeed the mind/body problem itself. If you ever happen to attend university and you are asked on a test who is the founder of dualism any answer other than Descartes is *wrong*.

    “I say a dualism […] does not postulate the mind to be a detachable “immaterial substance'” — You should try reading some philosophy some time and attending university level lectures. Reading Wikipedia just doesn’t give one the whole story. That way you could avoid saying laughably ignorant things like the above.

    The immaterial soul “is quite straight forwardly deducible from the evidence of q1uantum physics” — That’s quite a strong claim. By all means please show us your proof. But what you have given so far is not an argument, deductive or otherwise. All you have done is to state claims that you *say* you can prove. Well then please do so.

    “Prove me wrong.” — You have it backwards. It is you who needs to give an argument for your position and you have not provided one. I cannot disprove your assertions. They are mere assertions.

    The moon is made of green cheese — Prove me wrong.

  • Alan

    The author here, a senior nuclear physicist, advocates the development of non-Cartesian dualism: http://www.newdualism.org/why.htm and here: http://www.newdualism.org/newtheory.htm

    “Non-Cartesian Dualisms of mind/body and divinity/nature…seeking to understand how minds and bodies are distinct, but intertwined and causally connected at many levels.”

    He also takes certain afterlife evidence seriously which is interesting.
    His approach reminds me a little of David Bohm’s (I did his quantum theory course at Birkbeck) who advocates various “levels” informing one another continuously and the idea of active information as an example of this in his ontological QT interpretation (quite valid BTW as it reproduces *all* QT results).

    Here too: Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach with the author above as a contributor.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Psycho-Physical-Dualism-Today-Interdisciplinary-Approach/dp/073912384X

    So the idea of some kinds of “forms”, which can under certain circumstances have their own independence and which interact with what we call “physical” (and of course be part of them for our normal purposes), is being tackled head on.

  • http://makingenoughsenseofthecosmos.blogspot.com/ Andrew Wood

    “I say a dualism […] does not postulate the mind to be a detachable “immaterial substance’” — You should try reading some philosophy some time and attending university level lectures. Reading Wikipedia just doesn’t give one the whole story. That way you could avoid saying laughably ignorant things like the above.”

    As a matter of fact I have studied philophy at university and on my own account, and at no time was I told” (1) there is no such thing as non Cartesian dualism. If you believe in dualism you are a Cartesian of some kind.”

    I have also taken a university course on quantum physics and studied it in depth on my own account.

    The big trouble is both in the philosopy of mind and in the interpretation of the quantum evidence one is assailed by many and various a priori opinions, and especially from proclaimed experts. And of the connection between the quantum evidence and mind you can only find woolly arguments anywhere.

    My claims of a definite quantum-mind connection is based from my own independently developed cause and effect theory that requires an extended methodical and systematic argument that I’m still working on after some 29 years. Although the basics of what might be called a general theory of natural organisation are quite clear and simple, given an unorthodox quantum hypothesis.

    But I hope to show some time fairly soon, in a paper I”m presently working on, that a lot of problematic philosophy and scientific theory can be resolved by sufficently justifying and representing enough details of a nonlocally acting cause from its observable and detectable effects upon matter and energy, and on all scales in the natural world.

    I can describe new experiments of kind that could be performed to support this theory, but having worked quite independently for so long on my own account, I need contacts with the appropriate academics, which I’m currently attempting to make.

  • noen

    “The author here, a senior nuclear physicist” — Argument from authority fallacy. Nuclear physicists are crappy philosophers. The fact that someone has a degree in nuclear physics doesn’t make him an expert in philosophy nor does it mean the goofy theory he came up with all by himself is correct.

    He says: “The challenge discussed at this website is to develop a Non-Cartesian Dualism. — We can begin by acknowledging that complete theory of dualism should show how dual substances may be intertwined and contiguous at many levels and at many scales.”

    He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If one proposes that the world consists of two substances you simply ARE a Cartesian dualist. He may think he has improved on Descartes idea by comparing it to the Mandelbrot set but that is still good old fashioned substance dualism and it is still easily refuted by the usual arguments.

    Coming up with ideas on how dualism *could* be reinterpreted under QM doesn’t really solve dualism’s inherent LOGICAL flaws. How can a non-causal substance causally interact with matter? When I form the intention to raise my arm in my MIND, how does my mind, which is according to dualism non material and non causal, manage to CAUSE my arm to be raised? How does the concept of a non material material, what minds are presumed to be made of, make a lick of sense?

    Here is where he goes wrong:

    “The fundamental idea for ‘Generative Dualism’ is that, where there are two discrete degrees ‘mind’ and ‘body':”

    Sure, that’s straight up classical Cartesian dualism. There are only two things in the universe, minds and bodies. Ok so far.

    “1. The dispositional features (propensities) of the body are generated (derived, produced) from the actions of dispositions of the mind.”

    Begging the question fallacy. You cannot assume what you are trying to prove. My “dispositional features”, the fact of my arm being raised, is generated or *caused* by actions of the mind. Well yeah, that is the dualist’s claim. What he and you need to do is to show how it is that a non causal entity, the mind, can cause a material entity, my arm, to be raised. You are not allowed to just declare that, according to your super duper brand new theory about dualism that is like totally brand new and fancy, that actions in the body are “generated” (caused) by minds. THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO SHOW.

    “He also takes certain afterlife evidence seriously which is interesting.”

    It may be to you but it just means he’s a goof to me. There simply is NO EVIDENCE for an afterlife. And yes I know about super special near death experiences that you’ll no doubt want to trot out here. They have all been debunked.

    “His approach reminds me a little of David Bohm’s “ — The idea that the brain is a hologram doesn’t solve your problem because holograms are material objects. Penrose and Hameroff have failed to show how quantum events occurring at extremely brief time scales could possibly interact with big slow neurons. It can’t be done, quantum events are just too small and fast to be captured by the macro world of proteins and neurons.

    “So the idea of some kinds of “forms”, which can under certain circumstances have their own independence and which interact with what we call “physical” “

    HOW!??? How does pure form (ideas, which occur in the mind) interact with the physical world? HOW?????? According to him minds and brains are intertwined like values in the Mandelbrot set. So what? What difference does that make? HOW do they interact?

    B.N. Pointing to websites where I have to read several pages just to find out what your argument is, isn’t really *arguing*. It’s just pointing like a child and asking “What about that? Ok, What about this other thing huh? What about that?” I shouldn’t have to do your work for you. You have a responsibility to understand the argument you believe in and be able to sum it up clearly and concisely and then defend it with rational arguments. It isn’t my job to present your case for you, that’s your j0b.

  • http://makingenoughsenseofthecosmos.blogspot.com/ Andrew Wood

    ” It isn’t my job to present your case for you, that’s your j0b.”

    Never said it was.

  • Alan

    Noen

    The evidence above I gave above (Scole etc.) including physical phenomena seen by dozens, inc. scientists nails non-physical intelligence (NPI) as real. The only argument *stated*, never considered seriously by anyone involved deeply is fraud. Never shown – ever. Your last refuge above was electronic video cameras not being allowed – a childish defence considering the *range* of what was seen.
    NDE studies, well I don’t think you are aware of Dr. Melvin Morse’s studies, Prof. Pim Van Lommel, Dr. Peter Fenwick, the current massive AWARE study by an international team of doctors (results pending). All address your issues here but results point to powerful veridicality here for some experiences. The shared experiences where several are witnesses may be too much for you.
    So from two directions, totally different, evidence for NPI.

    As to how mind makes your arm move, who knows? There are models, Dr. Henry Stapp has tried a quantum Zeno effect approach and devoted a lot a time to this. Interestingly he is the consulting physicist on the AWARE study and has also made an *actual statement* on survival on his website. So there’s an actual model for you (a HOW) to chew on, for a problem you seem to regard as intractable.

    “quantum events are just too small and fast to be captured by the macro world of proteins and neurons”. You are a little behind here.

    http://www.ias.surrey.ac.uk/workshops/quantumbiology/ and in fact Vlatko Vedral has argued quite well I think, with experimental data, how you get macroscopic biological effects from quantum processes.

    The reason I posted the “Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach” book is precisely because new forms of dualism may be able to avoid Descartes’ problems (which are thought to be invalid anyway – not surprising as he only had classical physics to hand).

    You misread on Bohm BTW above – his ideas before he died were pointing at possible autonomous levels, which could still interact with lower levels, and his active information idea (within known quantum physics) showed an example of this. So there are ideas which may show how simple dualism can be extended – it’s an active field, in physics and philosophy.

  • noen

    “The evidence above I gave above (Scole etc.) including physical phenomena seen by dozens, inc. scientists nails non-physical intelligence (NPI) as real. “

    It most certainly does not. You gave no evidence. The Scole experiment was conducted with no controls, no safeguards at all. People who make their living through fraud were allowed complete freedom to do as they please and *surprise!* were able to dupe gullible scientists.

    “The only argument *stated*, never considered seriously by anyone involved deeply is fraud.”

    The fact that those involved never considered they might be victims of fraud does not prove there was no fraud.

    “Your last refuge above was electronic video cameras not being allowed – a childish defence considering the *range* of what was seen.”

    The fact that people saw a range of odd lights whose true origin might have been exposed by video cameras does not prove that video cameras could not have exposed the true nature of those lights nor that they must be unembodied minds.

    “NDE studies, well I don’t think you are aware of ….. (results pending)”

    Citing unpublished studies by people already highly suspect of if not still active in fraud does not constitute evidence.

    “All address your issues here but results point to powerful veridicality here for some experiences.”

    (1) Saying that someone else has answered all my objections does not constitute YOU answering my objections. (2) Again, saying something is so does not equal it actually being so. And yes, I am aware of those people and I am also aware of the criticisms by Shermer and others and I find their critique more credible.

    “As to how mind makes your arm move, who knows?”

    Dualists need to provide an account for how non-causal entities can produce causal effects. You can’t because the very concept is self contradictory and therefore MUST be false. You are not allowed to hand wave my request to give a logical coherent explanation for how dualism could work. I reject dualism because it is, in it’s very formulation, incoherent and self contradictory. You need to respond honestly (1) to maintain your own personal integrity and (2) keep some semblance of being an educated person living in the modern era.

    I have given you a good deal of my time by now. I have addressed your claims and given honest criticism. I have not engaged in personal attack or ad hom. You need to respond in kind. You are in fact doing damage to your own personal integrity in your own eyes when you engage in dishonest or specious argument.

    It seems unlikely what I say will ever sway you. Do you have iTunes? I suggest that you subscribe to “Critical Reasoning for Beginners” from Oxford University by Marianne Talbot available through iTunesU. Highly recommended.

    “Dr. Henry Stapp has tried a quantum Zeno effect approach and devoted a lot a time to this. “

    Well goody for him. Perhaps he could come around and explain his ideas. It doesn’t seem like you ever will.

    He “has also made an *actual statement* on survival on his website.”

    Everyone on the planet has a website AND an opinion. Sorry but stating one’s opinion does not constitute an actual argument and citing someone else’s opinion as proof that your opinion is true is not valid. You seem to think that just pointing to the opinions of important people (or people *you* think are important) some how justifies your beliefs. It does not.

    OWN your beliefs. Don’t steal them from other people. Ground them in clear rational argument backed up with real evidence (find out what counts as evidence) and defend them logically. Then you will have something!

    From your link to Vlatko Vedral:

    “Centres of quantum theoreticians and experimentalists on both sides of the Atlantic are struggling to understand how fragile quantum mechanical phenomena previously thought to be confined to highly rarefied laboratory systems at temperatures close to absolute zero, manage to survive in the wet, warm biological world.”

    Uh yeah, that is the question. It’s highly controversial. What is your argument in favor? I have given mine against, that QM events are too fast and at too small a scale to have an effect on us here in the middle scaled world. Just pointing to someone who agrees with you does not equal YOU giving me your reasons in favor of the proposal.

    “The reason I posted the “Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach” book is precisely because new forms of dualism may be able to avoid Descartes’ problems “

    Ok, you’ve read the book, I haven’t. How does the author respond to the traditional refutations of dualism? You can’t seriously expect me to read the book, divine your agreements with it, compose a summary and then present it here? That’s not my job, that’s YOUR job. YOU need to do that and I am not required to move on until you do. I will simply keep repeating my critique, that dualism is self contradictory and incoherent. Pointing at authoritative people or books or studies is you being unresponsive.

    “as he only had classical physics to hand”

    Quantum mechanics does not validate dualism, classical or “new”.

    “You misread on Bohm BTW above – his ideas before he died were pointing at possible autonomous levels, which could still interact with lower levels”

    (1) it isn’t my job to give your argument for you. If you wish me to correctly understand it you must make it clear and not depend on other people to make it for you. I did my best but I don’t know what “levels” refers to. Levels of what? HOW does a higher level of spirit stuff interact with lower levels of matter?

    “his active information idea”

    What is active information? I know what information is but this sounds like a back handed way of getting “spirit stuff” in the discussion without examining what it is. What is spirit stuff? What is it made of? How does it interact with matter? If it is composed of particles moving in lines of force that causally interact with other particles (matter) then you have not solved your problem. All you’ve done is propose there exists some other stuff *in this universe* that can account for conscious minds. Worse, you have no evidence for this new substance.

    I don’t have to do that. I can fully account for what is called the mind. Mental events are brain states. Simple! I do not have to invent some new stuff to give an explanation and by the law of parsimony my account is therefore the correct one.

    “So there are ideas which may show how simple dualism can be extended”

    And maybe some day someone will come by who can give an argument as to why I should accept dualism.

  • noen

    BTW, we have a name for quantum biology, it’s called biology.

  • Alan

    You are very strange. You see fraud everywhere – if you watch the documentary you see light phenomena *on film*, in your face, on recorded tape. And you call professors and doctors investigating NDEs “people already highly suspect of if not still active in fraud”.
    You call two husbands and two wives frauds – the Scole mediums.

    “Mental events are brain states. Simple!” Then what is this? Witnessed by scientists and others in a bare stone cellar:

    “The first phenomena that I saw were small points of golden light dancing in the corner of the room…they danced animatedly upwards and downwards…Shortly following this, there appeared a ball of diffused light, which I estimated to have a diameter of about 20 cm, close to the ceiling in the same corner…as the lights. The ball had no physical boundary: it was simply a three-dimensional orb of diffused golden light. It hung suspended for a moment in the corner about 30 cm beneath the ceiling. Slowly the orb moved toward the centre of the room, pausing above the centre of the table round which we were all sitting. It lowered itself by about 17 cm, remained still, then retreated slowly upwards and backwards into the corner…There were no beams of light to the orb, and the light was not reflected onto a surface; it moved independently in space. This occurred twice in succession, and I became aware of an overwhelming feeling of gentleness and love which seemed to accompany this phenomenon or, more accurately, which this phenomenon seemed to embody.”

    It seems to be an intelligent light form and is typical of non-physical intelligence observed.
    Where is your comment “Mental events are brain states. Simple!” In tatters frankly because many observations indicated a relation to *this* life, a life lived previously by humans.

    Where did it come from? Why does it choose to appear in front of six people? Is there a relation between this and people (natural questions – all these, questions people find it difficult to ask including myself). That is intelligent behaviour! You would see this as well. Would you deny your eyes? And the rest? Writing on closed plastic films? Levitating crystals? Sitters in shirt sleeves and light dresses throughout? How did they all manage it noen? Over several years.

    Ockham’ Razor, the Law of Parsimony: the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false.

    What is the simplest explanation for this, as fraud is ruled out? Well, NPI is what it is – origin unknown and the conclusion of the investigators. Needs a theory.

  • noen

    “You see fraud everywhere “ — I see the potential for outright fraud because there is money to be made duping people into giving you their money. I also see the potential for self delusion. It’s called critical thinking.

    “You call two husbands and two wives frauds – the Scole mediums.” — Yes I do.

    “Then what is this?” — It’s anecdote, it’s a narrative, a story and stories are not evidence.

    “Where did it come from?” — From the hands of those who perpetrated the deception. Any magician will tell you those effects are trivial to perform.

    “That is intelligent behaviour!” — Yes it is. Con artists are intelligent people.

    “Would you deny your eyes?” — I have noticed that when I watch Star Trek there are not really FTL space ships, phasers and teleporters. I have also noticed that there are many optical illusions that can deceive my eyes. So yes, part of intelligent critical thinking is to doubt your first perceptions. They are sometimes wrong.

    “What is the simplest explanation for this, as fraud is ruled out?” — Fraud isn’t ruled out. Your incredulity that someone would accuse psychics and spiritual mediums of being frauds does not make them honest.

    We are done here. It is clear you are incapable of arguing your case. You simply repeat the same unsubstantiated claims over and over without the slightest attempt to give a rational account of them. I’ve explained my side and I’m happy with that.

  • Alan

    Wow – this is getting scary. “Any magician will tell you those effects are trivial to perform.”

    Expert magician comments here by James Webster (witness and Associate and Silver Medal Holder of the Inner Magic Circle – UK), Professor Richard Wiseman (noted UK sceptic), Professor Arthur Hastings of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Verdict: impossible to reproduce.

    http://www.thescoleexperiment.com/artcl_01.htm

    So somehow, a pair of husbands and wives, in light shirts and dresses, in front of dozens of witnesses including scientists who were experienced investigators (and others), *you say* duped them all over 3 years and at multiple locations (BTW the four travelled to the US – California – at their own expense). Incredible.

  • Matt

    *sigh* If I may briefly sum up what noen already said… maybe it helps to boil thinks down.

    Anecdotal evidence sucks. Eye witness testimony is unreliable. In fact, it’s pretty much the weakest evidence that is still allowed in court. In science, it isn’t. Sometimes they’re used as PRELIMINARY hint that something might be going on (especially in medicine), but then a large well controlled study must be performed to bear things out and in most cases they turn out to be wrong, statistically insignificant.

    It’s like arguing that a, OH MY GOD, pilot saw an UFO. Pilots are cool guys. Therefore aliens are invading the earth…
    Pilots are humans and human perception sucks. Not only does human perception suck, human memory isn’t even a static recording. Every time you access a memory it changes.

    Quite simply, if you do not have reproducible evidence… well, bad luck.

    And while we’re at it. You shouldn’t misrepresent what other people say. Professor Richard Wiseman, who is indeed a noted skeptic, who wrote many great books, had the following to say after the session he attended: “It was a load of rubbish!”

    Which nicely sums up my opinion of the scientific strictness of the report.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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