Friday, August 19, 2011

Reality and the Extended Mind - Part 1



A portion of a film by Adrian Nelson

15 comments:

DNaill said...

I believe that time is more a large pool than a straight line, which would allow "future" events to bleed into the "present"; our minds are built for this and therefore pick up on the "future" stimuli's sort of ripple effect, like hairs standing on end before a lightning strike.

Tony Fraser said...

Excellent film preview Dr radin. I have a question to ask though. It's more about the skeptics poo-pooing PSI research and survival research. What is their motivation to want to have everything mechanistic and materialistic, that they try so hard to discredit any evidence that challenges their view on the universe? With PSI research I have heard countless reports of people attacking Rupert Sheldrake in Particular and criticism against you. With Survival research I read a post on the dawkins forum effectively calling Ian Stevenson senile. It just amazes me how people resort to ad-homenum attacks. to finish I just wondered what you thought the motivation behind the skeptic movement is?

Many thanks for your time

Dean Radin said...

This webpage is a good place to start on the whys of skepticism: http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/homepage.html

From my casual study of hardcore skeptics, I would say that one commonality leading to such extremism is someone who had uncritically accepted a religious belief in their youth, then something happened to crush their faith, they subsequently felt disillusioned or betrayed, and so they became hardened to never again accept anything without overwhelming proof. This is an understandable coping mechanism, but in strong cases it can also lead to depression, pessimism, cynicism, or nihilism. None of these outcomes are psychologically healthy, and there is evidence that they are also morally destructive.

When such people find that there are others like them, they naturally form affiliations to support their new beliefs. And then they unwittingly fall into the same trap that got them there in the first place. They uncritically revere their saints (the fawning over celebrities at skeptical conferences is reminiscent of swooning at religious revivals), and they learn that in some circles (e.g., journalism and academia) declaring oneself as fiercely skeptic is socially rewarded. So there are motivations to maintain this stance.

Note that this sketch does not pertain to genuine skepticism. The distinction between true and false skepticism can be seen most clearly when critical thinking skills -- which I regard as essential -- morph into mindless sneering.

DNaill said...

Dr. Radin, I have a friend who matches your description of "hardcore skeptic" to a very fine degree. He was a devout Christian who even thought of seminary school, and then he did some homework and discovered things that I've known since high school. Now, he believes there is no possibility of god or anything non-material; when I mentioned I grew up in a house that is very much haunted, he all but called me an idiot. He has since latched onto every high profile skeptic throughout history and will accept no evidence of PSI or paranormal activity.

Dean Radin said...

Life is uncertain, and at times it is unfair, scary, and brutal. This reality leads nearly everyone to search for some sort of stability or certainty. In some, that need can become overwhelmingly stressful, so the mind settles into a less stressful state of devout belief. The belief might be in God, or gods, or atheism, or political parties, etc. If one belief disappoints, then another will do. It doesn't really matter because the underlying need to believe is not a rational process. It's an emotional need, and emotion nearly always trumps reason.

Tony Fraser said...

Thank-you for the reply; the anti religious sentiment seems to be very likely. Christof Koch is an example. From his wikipedia page (I know a very reliable source) states he was raised in a religious household. Similarly, Micheal Shermer was once a devout Christian and Susan Blackmore a PSI proponent. My theory of why people hate the parapsychology research is that they have such a narrow minded view of a higher power i.e. God of the bible/koran/torah etc just like many religious people do that they fear that PSI evidence is evidence for a vengeful and angry god (which is rediculous) because their veiw is so narrow. This is probably a false theory but it is one I have heard mentioned before and it seemed a reasonable idea

DNaill said...

My own search in the areas of belief/religion feel more to me like those little, round B*B games where you roll the little game around and try to land the B*Bs in the divots: when I hit on something that feels right, it literally feels right (like a B*B landed in the divot). But I agree that many people seem to grasp at something rather than search. I think there are a variety of people: some need based, and some simply curious, and still others not really needy or curious at all; it is those who are "certain" of things that are somewhat aggravating.

Eric Lyman said...

+1 for the scenario involving a once religious friend turned hardcore cynic :(

Anthony Mugan said...

Anthony Mugan:
A couple of tentative thoughts around the discussion on skeptisim.
This is an area I continue to puzzle over. Whilst I think Dr Radin's comment has much merit there may be a couple of other aspects.
There is a curious symmetry to extreme opinions or beliefs. This can be seen in political ideologies which, whilst claiming to be opposites, often provide a very similar experience to anyone living under them. We can a psuedo-religous like aspect to both the extreme skeptic (who seems to believe that nothing knew will ever be discovered) and the extreme opposite where some individuals seem to accept ideas without good, objective, evidence. Personality types that 'need to believe', perhaps in terms of pychological security seem prone to these extreme positions.
A second aspect is the nature of normative science, which effectively prevents fundamentally new ideas from being accepted until the previous paradigm has hit a crisis and the new ideas are fully developed enough to fully incorporate the previous paradigm and solve the problems that caused the crisis...quite a tall order. Whilst there are certainly pyschological and sociological aspects to this, there is a net benefit in that ideas must be exceptionally secure before being accepted. What can appear as complete irrationality in rejecting strong evidence can also be seen as an ultra-conservative threshold for 'accepted' knowledge. This is hard on those of us who feel certain phenomena, including psi, now have exceptionally secure data in terms of their basic existance. The fact remains, however that we have yet to provide a model which predicts psi from physical theory (and that model must be fully consistent with all other data). It will not therefore be accepted yet, and so be it. it is up to pragmatists such as ourselves (and others such as the intelligence community, and perhaps in the future business) to sort it out and then present the finished product to mainstream science, gift wrapped and ready to go...

Any thoughts would be most interesting! (ps - i am an exception to the rule - ex Catholic, now an atheist, but try to follow the data critically but rationally whereever it goes).

Marcus T. Anthony said...

Loved the video.

As for hard core skeptics, I think it is important not to focus attention on conflict. What we focus upon expands, and a certain victim consciousness can ensue. Lawrence LeShan takes a similar view in his book "A New Science of the Paranormal". I really like his attitude. It seems to me he has just accepted that he has a genuine contribution to knowledge to make, and is not going to get around apologising for it. For Dean and parapsychologists, there is a professional requirement to deal with these people, but for most other people there isn't.

The reality is that hard core skeptics are not as common as you think (they are a small minority), and by giving them too much attention your view of the world becomes distorted into a conflict/ego us-vs-them drama.

Tony Fraser said...

on a completely different note, What experience have you had with the Churchland's.
I have been having a brief look at their work and their philosophy they are proponents of eliminative materialism. Their view seems to eliminate free will, feelings and even conciousness itself. I wonder if they have ever launched an attack on PSI research before. The reason why I'm posting this is that I was reading irreducible mind and they're mentioned a fair bit.

Many Thanks

Marcus T. Anthony said...

@Tony Fraser, when I read stuff like the Churchland's, I have to wonder whether they have ever actually sat down to meditate, or even done any inner work at all. Or do they spend every waking moment plugged into computers, crunching data and analysing journal papers? I am reminded of Susan Blackmore's position that the paranormal cannot tell us anything about consciousness, although at least Blackmore seems to acknowlewdge consciousness exists, even though she thinks it isn't very important.

Theophrastus said...

In the case of precognition, the video raises the question why the world works in a way so contradictory to the way we experience it. Does anyone have an explanation for that?

I also want to point out a passage from the British analytical philosopher, AJ Ayer, on causality, which has an obvious bearing on this. It's in his book The Problem of Knowledge (I can't give page ref's as I don't have it to hand). There's a short section (about five pages), where argues with great clarity that there is no logical reason why causality should not work backwards, i.e. from future to past. He remained open minded on whether it actually does, but also suggested that the reason we experience causality as we do is due to the way memory functions - we remember the past but not the future. Again there is no logical reason why this must be so.

Ayer was famous as philosophers go and logically very sharp. He had no truck with religion, but he was I think fair-minded and sceptical in the genuine sense.

As precognition challenges our assumptions about causality, one thing we need is a much clearer understanding of cause and effect. I'd like to know what others make of his argument.

Malthus said...

Very, very, very related:
telepathy inside our own brains?
http://www.kurzweilai.net/unexplained-communication-between-brain-hemispheres-without-corpus-callosum?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=c5e3abd30a-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email

Marcus T. Anthony said...

@Malthus, cross-hemispheric, non-local connectivity can only be expected if we ditch the insistence that 'mind' purely local. You can find neuroscientists discussing the same issue here: http://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/ljzzb/does_the_unexplained_communication_between_brain/

I do note that the comments posted on these discussions are mostly critical of the idea that electro-magnetic fields are involved in the 'transmission' of consciousness. Of course it may be true that the process is not electro-magnetic, but that the 'telepathic' process is working nonetheless, via some 'mechanism' that is not understood, or not being considered. I still find it incredible - much more incredible than the idea of the extended mind - that mainstream science is so far out of touch with 'reality' when it comes to understanding consciousness. But then again, most of my own understanding comes from two decades of introspection, meditation, and work on the emotional body. Almost nobody in mainstream science is engaging the psyche and the body in a way that enables them to experience non-local mind at a first-person level. And those who are doing the work are afraid to talk about it, thanks to what Dean calls "the psi taboo." All this is frustrating, as there are many people who feel they have an important contribution to make to the understanding of consciousness, but they are effectively forbidden to speak.