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JustMe
Skeptic Friend

64 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  13:14:36  Show Profile Send JustMe a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Most neuroscientists have long dismissed these near-death experiences as tricks of the brain, leaving theologians and philosophers to ponder life's existential questions. But now a group of unconventional researchers curious about human consciousness are approaching the mystery of the mind as a test of science. Their question: How do brain cells that generate electricity and proteins also produce human thought and free will? They are looking for an answer among the people who step across life's line and come back.

This year, the world's largest study of near-death experiences will begin in 25 hospitals in Britain and the United States to test the recollections of cardiac patients who are brought back to life. The study is being led by Sam Parnia, a British critical-care specialist and a leading researcher on near-death experiences, who has brought together an international team of scientists and physicians for the Human Consciousness Project. Their exploration of the link between consciousness and the brain was the subject of a symposium at the United Nations last fall.

These experiments meet with skepticism — and some eye-rolling — among most neuroscientists, who believe the matter is settled: The brain and mind are one. Consciousness researchers argue that science may have been too quick to box humanity into brain matter. (Mostly, they try to avoid the word "soul" to dodge the inevitable tangle of religion and the afterlife.) What if the mind exists independently, a subatomic particle of consciousness that modern science has yet to find?

"The mind may be an undiscovered scientific entity," Dr. Parnia proposes. "When you start to really study it, rather than looking at the old perceptions of near-death experiences and religion, you realize there's more to it than meets the eye. I believe that this may hold the key to discovering the nature of consciousness, and its relationship to the brain."

Full article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090313.wdeath14/BNStory/Science/home?cid=al_gam_mostview

HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  13:26:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Frankly, this reminds me of the last-ditch efforts of the ID Creationists to prove the existence of their God with sciency arm-waving.

These latest guys are even careful to avoid the word, "soul," just like the IDiots usually take care not to say "God" -- at least in professional circles. And they're working against established scientific results, though certainly not against a mass of solid knowledge quite as vast as evolution.

Still, if they can do some controlled, real science and publish in peer-reviewed journals, I'd be as interested in their results as I would be if the IDiots ever did any.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/14/2009 13:26:55
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  13:42:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Erin Anderssen is a lousy writer, for not figuring out that Mario Beauregard already has his answers in hand, having co-authored The Spiritual Brain with mindless creationist hack Denyse O'Leary. Because Beauregard's claims to not be religious are doubtful at best, Anderssen's reporting of Parnia's similar claims are also questionable.

And one of the two neuroscientists on the whole Human Consciousness Project advisory board is Beauregard, forcryingoutloud. I predict that when these studies are done, they will report results positive enough to need "more study," but when looked at with a critical eye, the methodology will be all hosed up and/or the data will show nothing.

The worst part is that it sounds like they're going to have doctors concentrating on study protocols during emergency situations, so I also predict that this study will result in a higher percentage of death among its patients than is normal. I'd love to see the applications and results of the ethical review it must have passed.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  15:08:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What if the mind exists independently, a subatomic particle of consciousness that modern science has yet to find?

My go to person for stuff like the above is Susan Blackmore.

Why quantum coherence cannot explain the NDE

Blackmore:
Concerning the physics, Grush and Churchland argue that microtubules cannot provide the conditions of purity and isolation required by Penrose's theory, nor could effects be transmitted from one microtubule to another as is required for explaining the unity of consciousness in the way Penrose requires. In addition the theory provides no explanation of how the quantum effects could interact with effects at the level of neurons, neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, when the microtubules are supposed to be isolated from their environment.

Grush and Churchland (1995) conclude that “... the argument consists of merest possibility piled upon merest possibility teetering upon a tippy foundation of ‘might-be-for-all-we-know's... we judge it to be completely unconvincing and probably false.” (Grush & Churchland 1995 p 12). Churchland puts it even more strongly: “Quantum coherence in the microtubules is about as explanatorily powerful as pixie dust in the synapses.” (Churchland 1998, p 121).

They also ask why such a flimsy theory has proved so popular. Perhaps, they suggest, it is because some people find the idea of explaining consciousness by neuronal activity somehow degrading or scary, whereas “explaining” it by quantum effects retains some of the mystery.

Susan Blackmore - "The Grand Illusion of Consciousness

This is an almost one hour talk on of consciousness. It's really good.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  15:09:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Jeeze, Dave! No wonder I was getting IDiot vibes from this stuff. Same Disco Institute boilerplate tactics -- and even the same Denyse O'Leary!


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/14/2009 15:10:42
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  15:26:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

Jeeze, Dave! No wonder I was getting IDiot vibes from this stuff. Same Disco Institute boilerplate tactics -- and even the same Denyse O'Leary!
I actually clicked JustMe's link expecting to find Beauregard's name, and there it was only two words away from the end of what JustMe quoted. This crap is getting to be too predictable.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  16:13:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From the article:
"These experiments meet with skepticism — and some eye-rolling — among most neuroscientists, who believe the matter is settled..."

Uh huh? They say, "most" - "neuroscientists" - in other words, real scientists who studied the brain for years are skeptical of mumbo-jumbo claims? Well good. Why not?

Reminds me of the other conservative non-sequitur argument: "Do you want government to run a health care system, like the post office?" -

Oh, you mean basic accessible safety net health care for '41 cents a letter', looses some money though provides a viable broad basic service for a wide variety of citizens? Well, yeah, I do.

Diversity, independence, innovation and imagination are progressive concepts ultimately alien to the conservative mind.

"TAX AND SPEND" IS GOOD! (TAX: Wealthy corporations who won't go poor even after taxes. SPEND: On public works programs, education, the environment, improvements.)
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 03/14/2009 :  21:21:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The experiments are fairly rudimentary: In addition to monitoring brain activity, researchers will plant pictures near the ceiling that are not visible from the ground, and test the subjects' memories by uttering random words in the room.

If patients report an out-of-body experience in which they claim to watch their operation from above — that is, if their consciousness separates from their dying brain — then the reasoning is that they should be able to identify the pictures.
And if they can't identify the pictures, then the researchers will admit that the soul hypothesis has failed and loudly proclaim that no such thing exists, right? Right? Surely this will be the end of the debate, right?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  06:39:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
But, the second part of the experiment only means that the patients remain certain level of consciousness and can recall what he heard after the facts.
That the whole conciousness does not shut down is not very controversial, it is how sleeping people can integrate external features into their dreams.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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the_ignored
SFN Addict

2557 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  08:20:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send the_ignored a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"The Spiritual Brain"...phphph.

PZ Myers has analyzed and refuted it already.


>From: enuffenuff@fastmail.fm
(excerpt follows):
> I'm looking to teach these two bastards a lesson they'll never forget.
> Personal visit by mates of mine. No violence, just a wee little chat.
>
> **** has also committed more crimes than you can count with his
> incitement of hatred against a religion. That law came in about 2007
> much to ****'s ignorance. That is fact and his writing will become well
> know as well as him becoming a publicly known icon of hatred.
>
> Good luck with that fuckwit. And Reynold, fucking run, and don't stop.
> Disappear would be best as it was you who dared to attack me on my
> illness knowing nothing of the cause. You disgust me and you are top of
> the list boy. Again, no violence. Just regular reminders of who's there
> and visits to see you are behaving. Nothing scary in reality. But I'd
> still disappear if I was you.

What brought that on? this. Original posting here.

Another example of this guy's lunacy here.
Edited by - the_ignored on 03/15/2009 08:21:42
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  09:09:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by the_ignored

"The Spiritual Brain"...phphph.
Yeah, the folks on AtBC call it "The Spatula Brain."

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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JustMe
Skeptic Friend

64 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  11:26:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send JustMe a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

And if they can't identify the pictures, then the researchers will admit that the soul hypothesis has failed and loudly proclaim that no such thing exists, right? Right? Surely this will be the end of the debate, right?




From the article:

If no one can identify the visual or verbal cues, Dr. Parnia says, the experiment will confirm the "false memory" theory; however, if they are recalled, he says, the study will demonstrate that consciousness is something that can exist, if for only a short time, outside the physical brain.

"The concept of soul is nothing more than self," Dr. Parnia says. "And self may be nothing more than the brain. Or it may be something else. But it's not magical. It's just undiscovered."


There are definintely worse guys that could be on the case. That said, the protocols seems a bit screwy to me. Not 'seeing' the pictures could just mean that whatever wasn't 'looking' at them. Hearing the verbal cues could just mean sensory perception and/or clinical death happens differently than we currently understand.
Edited by - JustMe on 03/15/2009 11:35:21
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JustMe
Skeptic Friend

64 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  11:56:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send JustMe a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

I actually clicked JustMe's link expecting to find Beauregard's name, and there it was only two words away from the end of what JustMe quoted. This crap is getting to be too predictable.


I have no strong opinion on any of this either way, other than to say I don't object to this kind of research. With that mind, it wouldn't be unusual to see the same names associated with any specific line of inquiry. It's akin to saying "Jeez. Dawkins again? This crap is getting to be too predictable." It doesn't really work.

As a reader without much background in the area I would have liked to know that these doctors have both written books seeming to embrace the theories they are setting out to prove without having to read it on a skeptic site or looking it up myself. I agree that's a bit of a fail on the journalist's part.

The sum of my experience is a close family member who had a typical NDE after they lost her for a few minutes in a difficult child birth, this article, and a neuroscientist prof who believed NDEs were brain artifacts whose qualities could be correlated with the faith of the subjects. He said, in reductionist summary, "The Catholics are ones who see everything! The Jews see nothing." And I called out "I've been saying that for years!" But I was just kidding.
Edited by - JustMe on 03/15/2009 11:58:57
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  14:05:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by JustMe

I have no strong opinion on any of this either way, other than to say I don't object to this kind of research.
I don't object to it, either, so long as it's done correctly and responsibly. Dr. Beauregard, to put it mildly, is a crank who thinks he's already proven the existence of the "soul," despite his book being full of bad logic and poor assumptions. This does not bode well for this upcoming research being done correctly and responsibly. You even said that the protocols seem screwy, and you're absolutely correct. A negative result will likely prompt ad hoc excuses instead of acceptance of the null hypothesis.
With that mind, it wouldn't be unusual to see the same names associated with any specific line of inquiry. It's akin to saying "Jeez. Dawkins again? This crap is getting to be too predictable." It doesn't really work.
Hey, if your only hint is a headline like "atheist to give speech at university," I agree that 9 times out of 10 it'll be Dawkins. All I had to go on was the fact that there was an NDE study going on, and that I already knew that Beauregard is a neuroscientist who had a book claiming to prove the existence of a "soul," co-authored with a creationist loon. How many other studies has he been involved with? Does he have a long history of running them? As long a history as Dawkins does giving speeches about atheism?

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  14:08:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
By the way, what's worse is that Beauregard, like O'Leary, is an anti-materialist and so shouldn't be expected to do science correctly in the first place. The very fact that there are protocols, and those protocols seem to rely entirely upon material methods, says that Beauregard is lying to himself and others already, before the study even begins.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  18:07:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by JustMe

I have no strong opinion on any of this either way, other than to say I don't object to this kind of research. With that mind, it wouldn't be unusual to see the same names associated with any specific line of inquiry. It's akin to saying "Jeez. Dawkins again? This crap is getting to be too predictable." It doesn't really work.
Generally speaking, ad hominims are a rhetorical fallacy, and a dishonest debating tactic.

But there are exceptions. Imagine being a storekeeper, and seeing the same guy who has repeatedly robbed your store come through the door once again. It would not be unfair to call the police the moment you see the guy.

Noting that consistent past behavior is a damned good predictor of future behavior is not bad thinking. This applies whether the hominim under consideration is the hypothetical robber, Richard Dawkins, Mario Beauregard, or Denyse O'Leary.

In this case, one is justified to assume that Beauregard is probably up to his old tricks.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 03/15/2009 18:07:54
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