Showing posts from February, 2012

Change is on the horizon

My attention this week has turned to a subject much spoken about but seldom considered thoughtfully: change. The Internet has been ablaze with discussions about consciousness shift, 2012, the Mayan calendar, climate change, the end of the world, and what not. The video clip below is just an example. How seriously can we take all this? Yet, when I say change, I do mean much more than the ordinary oscillations of the world 'out there.' I mean fundamental change of a nature and magnitude not witnessed for generations; a change in the nature of life and of our very way of looking upon reality. The most obvious harbingers of change are straight-forward extrapolations of current social and environmental patterns: the monumental increases in consumption, waste, and resource extraction; climatic impact, including global warming; population growth; increasing signs of vulnerability in our economic system; etc. It is unthinkable that our current way of life, and associated values, can b…

Evolution, self-directed neuroplasticity, and quantum entanglement

I recently took part in an online discussion regarding whether recent scientific discoveries about self-directed neuroplasticity and quantum entanglement might be relevant to the theory of evolution. Since I've written about these topics before, both in my books and in this blog, I've decided to weigh-in for what it's worth. Indeed, at first sight, evolutionary biology seems to have no relation with either entanglement or neuroplasticity. Yet, I will argue below that there is indeed a very rational and clear link.

Let us first look at self-directed neuroplasticity. A book by UCLA Professor Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz summarizes the results of his experiments with patients suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). See video above for an overview. The observations were that, through mindful meditation or other forms of self-directing one’s intention and attention, a patient could physically alter his or her brain in such a way as to counter the OCD. At first sight, this …

Dreams as resonating consciousness

A reader has pointed out to me that, in an earlier article, I may have inadvertently and implicitly suggested that NDEs, psychedelic trances, or hypoxia-induced transpersonal experiences are more transcendent (and therefore more valid) than dreams, since the former do not correlate well with brain activity, while the latter does. Because this is a misunderstanding of my current position, I feel compelled to clarify it here, even though the clarification will require that I tackle subtle philosophical points I am still working on and plan to refine over the coming months or years. So please look upon the below as a working draft. Nonetheless, this is one of the more important articles I have written in this blog, since in it I will go deeper than usual into my view of reality. Please take a deep breath before diving in with me.

Regular readers know that I consider ordinary reality a kind of synchronized, shared 'dream,'a la the movie Inception. As such, reality is entirely in t…

Having it both ways in materialism

The online discussions that followed my previous article have brought my attention to a peculiar point about how the reigning idea that consciousness is (generated by) brain activity is supported today. Uniquely among the sciences, neuroscience seems to be able to use not only knowledge, but also lack of knowledge to defend its current materialist assumptions about the mind-body problem. Allow me to elaborate on this a bit more.

Science operates on the basis of models of nature. A model contains a set of abstract elements that represent entities of nature, these elements being related to one another on the basis of mathematical equations. The dynamics implied by these equations determine how the elements of the model vary with respect to one another. These variations should then correspond accurately to observations of nature, otherwise the model is incorrect. For instance, we model temperature variations in a material by the intensity of vibration of the molecules composing the mater…

Response to Dr. Christof Koch

In a recent interview he gave to Skeptiko, neuroscientist Dr. Christof Koch has criticized comments I had made in an earlier Skeptiko interview. Here is my original statement, as played back to Dr. Koch during his interview:

"The current paradigm says that conscious experience is an epi-phenomenon, or a by-product, or in any case generated by brain activity. So you should be able to always find a tight correlation between conscious states as reported by the subject and measurable brain states as measured, for instance, with an fMRI scanner. Usually this correlation is there, which indicates that there is a tight relationship between the brain and consciousness ... But there are instances, like this study that you alluded to in the U.K., where this correlation is not there in a very spectacular and repeatable way ... The only thing they could measure in the fMRI was a dampening down of brain activity in certain key areas. No excitation anywhere. Now, this breaks the correlation. T…

Hacking the brain

A reader asked me a question that I find interesting and relevant, so I wanted to write a brief article summarizing my thoughts on it. His question is this: Since my philosophical position is that the brain is a mechanism for localizing consciousness, thereby modulating conscious perception without generating it (see this article for an overview of my position), we should be able to 'hack' the brain so to turn off parts of it and induce non-local, transpersonal experiences in a repeatable manner. Therefore, the reader asks, why can't we do it, for instance, through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)? Why can't we use strong magnetic fields to turn off parts of the brain and "leave our bodies," so to speak? As background, the short video below dramatically illustrates the effects of TMS.

 As one can see in the video, TMS can impair our ability to perform the simplest tasks, depending on which area of the brain it turns off. This is consistent with the hy…