Showing posts from January, 2012

Our future sanity

In an earlier article in this blog, which I titled Our modern madness, I argued that our present day consensus that reality exists 'out there,' separate from our minds, is an enormous leap of faith from a logical standpoint. Notice that, although there is empirical, scientific evidence that reality and mind are one and the same thing, my argument in that article has been eminently based on common-sense alone (therefore, my use of the word 'madness'). That has raised several questions and criticisms online. Here, I'd like to elaborate further on my earlier article, tackling the key questions and criticisms brought up.

The notion that reality is a kind of shared, compound thought is called idealism. On the other hand, the notion that reality exists 'out there,' independently of our minds, is called realism. My claim has been that idealism is a more sceptical, parsimonious, and cautious worldview. Here, I'd like to expand on why I think this is the case. I…

Disembodied trippers

As regular readers know, I have cited before a very interesting study recently done in the UK on the effects of psilocybin (the active ingredient of magic mushrooms) on the brain. The study caught my attention because preliminary reports suggested that the researchers observed only reductions in brain activity while subjects were having unfathomable psychedelic trips. This, of course, is counter-intuitive: If the hallucinations are not being caused by drug-induced brain activations, where does the trip come from? Now, finally, the complete scientific paper containing the results of the study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Summaries have also been published in Nature and in Scientific American. Here, I'd like to discuss these results in a little more depth than I did before.

To me, what is of significance in this work is not the psychedelic connection, but the idea that extremely intense subjective experiences can occur without…

The materialist "theory" of consciousness

In a recent talk he gave at the 2011 Singularity Summit (see video below), neuroscientist Christof Koch, the world's leading consciousness researcher from a scientific perspective, has named Giulio Tononi's "theory" of consciousness as the best current attempt at a causal explanation for how consciousness emerges from the otherwise unconscious matter of the brain. This is significant, for it identifies the best line of argument available today in the current paradigm. Therefore, defeating this argument defeats the best that materialism currently has to offer as far as consciousness. In this article, I hope to raise significant doubts about whether Tononi's "theory" is a causal explanation for consciousness at all.

As one can see in his article, Tononi looks at the amount of information integrated by a given brain process (which he calls a "complex"). This amount is ultimately represented by a variable "phi," derived from the topology…

Scientific dogmatism and chance

Today I was watching an episode of a 1994 series of BBC documentaries called "Heretics of Science," specifically episode 5, about Prof. Robert Jahn, former Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science of Princeton University. Prof. Jahn is the founder of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory, original home of the Global Consciousness Project. The documentary is quite balanced. It gives a fair assessment of Prof. Jahn’s work and his conclusions in favour of the mind-over-matter hypothesis; and then paints a dramatic picture of the nearly religious dogmatism of the scientific orthodoxy when confronted with such paradigm-breaking evidence. I wanted to share some thoughts with you on this, as well as on the relationship between scientific dogmatism and the tricky interpretation of statistical data.

In the documentary, Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg makes an astonishingly dogmatic pronouncement about Prof. Jahn’s work. He does not at all cri…

Wanted: a new paradigm for neuroscience


In an earlier article in this blog, I discussed the extensive empirical evidence available today of the fact that the most intense subjective experiences correlate with a dampening – or even cessation – of brain activity. Examples of this are Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), mystical experiences induced through hyper-ventilation (which causes constriction of blood vessels in the brain), psychedelic trances, and Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs) induced through G-LOC, brain damage (caused, for instance, by surgery or strokes), and even cortical deactivation through the use of high-power magnetic fields. This pattern of empirical evidence seems to contradict the current, materialist paradigm that consciousness is merely the result of brain activity. After all, how could the most intense conscious experiences correlate precisely with a reduction (and even elimination) of brain activity? There are two tentative rebuttals to this from the point of view of the materialist paradigm. In this a…