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Michael Shermer flat out ignores the existence of Veridical NDEs/OBEs and especially Veridical Visual NDEs of persons BORN BLIND, and the Susan Blackmore model of the visual cortex causing a "tunnel effect" through the eyes has been debunked, as a patient born blind named Vicki who had a Visual NDE saw the tunnel, and her eye nerves had been severed from birth.

Also, not everyone sees the tunnel right away or even at all, and many times it will appear superimposed over objective reality or up in the sky or off to the side during their OBE sometime after it began, they will often hear a sound that sounds like windchimes before the tunnel appears. Also, isn't it convienent that deceased relatives and spiritual figures always show up at the other side of that tunnel, if it were merely a biological effect?

Another thing, Melvin Morse has pretty much explained the whole thing regarding stimulating the right temporal lobe to induce mystical and obe experiences... - THE RIGHT TEMPORAL LOBE AND ASSOCIATED LIMBIC LOBE STRUCTURES AS THE BIOLOGICAL INTERFACE WITH AN INTERCONNECTED UNIVERSE

Michael Shermer thrives on IGNORING alternative explainations and the whole of evidence that fit the whole facts rather than just parts of them.

As for NDEs, the following are the most crucial of what he has ignored...

There are numerous well documented cases of people having near death experiences / out of body experiences, even during a flat EEG where brain and heart activity have ceased, returning with factual information which they had no prior knowledge of, and numerous cases in which the experiencers returned to life with information unavailable to them at the time of death. These include being able to accurately tell the doctors what they were doing while they were clinically dead, what clothes they wore, and what procedures and instruments they used, including accurate blow by blow accounts of their own resuscitation from a bird's eye point of view, all of which is later verified to be true. Often times they also describe what was happening out in the hallway, who was sitting in the waiting room, and conversations being said at these same locations, all while they were clinically dead elsewhere, all of which is likewise later verified to be true. There are many cases of NDErs being able to accurately perceive objects, people, and situations, and hear conversations said there, far away from their body while clinically dead that are indeed later verified to be true.

There are also accounts of experiencers meeting deceased relatives during an NDE that the person did not yet know was dead, such as a relative or a friend, and finding out that they were in fact deceased after the fact, and learning information from them that they could not have otherwise known. There are many accounts of children NDErs learning about relatives and siblings who had died before their own birth that they never met or were never told about, etc. People who have been blind since birth being able to accurately perceive visual surroundings during their experience. Being informed of knowledge far beyond their personal capacity. Etc.

The most convincing aspect of these, is that many of them were recounted, recorded, and documented IMMEDIATELY or VERY SOON after the patient regained consciousness to the doctors, nurses, staff, and family members, not long after the fact.

Interestingly, there have in fact been successful Experiments in actually testing Veridical NDEs...

* Many doctors, nurses, medical staff, paramedics, and family members have been interviewed by NDE Researchers to obtain cross-referanced verifiable information between the stories of the patients concerning their Veridical NDEs and the cross-referanced experiences of the medical staff involved with them.

* Dr. Michael Sabom did a study on over 57 cardiac patients who had clinically died and were brought back, 32 of whom had experienced Veridical OBEs and had described in great detail their own resusitations during cardiac arrest, and 25 of whom had not experienced an OBE during their cardiac arrest. He had two groups, the experiencers who saw in their OBEs and the non-experiencers who did not, describe their resusitations. To his suprise, 80% of the non-experiencers misdescribed the procedures. On the other hand, all of the experiencers did not make a single mistake.

* Dr. Pim Van Lommel did a more indepth study with 344 cardiac patients independently of Dr. Michael Sabom with similar results.

* Dr. Kenneth Ring did a study on Veridical NDEs of 31 persons who were born blind and found that they could veridically "see" events while their OBE unfolded the same way sighted people's do. His book is called "Mind Sight".

* Etc.

Oh, and of course, not to mention...

* The Monroe Institute's OBE Experiments, Charles Tart's OBE Experiments of having an experienced OBEr accurately read a five-digit number from an unreachable/unseeable location, Robert Morris' OBE Experiments with Keith Harary who reported accurately on sitters, letters, and positions, in a sealed labrotory 20 yards away, clinical testing of OBEs in which strain gauges were triggered at a distance apparently by the test subject's roving presence, and in which an animal reacted consistently as if the subject were in the room when he was reportedly having an OBE while asleep in the next room, the US Government's 20 year long Program "Stargate" on "Remote Viewing" which had amazing positive veridical results, as well as misses.

Our memories and personality are stored in the patterns of neurons firing in our brains, so when those neurons die it spells the death of our memories and personality, similar to the ravages of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, only final. - Michael Shermer
We don't know this to be true. We don't know where memories are stored. No one does. It's all theoretical. Dr. Pimm Van Lommel and myself believe it to be outside the brain, and the brain to be little more than a sender a reciever of information. Dammage the reciever and information retrieval is compromised.
from an interview with Dr. Pimm Van Lommel:
According to Van Lommel, near-death experiences can only be explained if you assume that consciousness, along with all our experiences and memories, is located outside the brain. When asked where that consciousness is located, Van Lommel can only speculate. “I suspect there is a dimension where this information is stored—a kind of collective consciousness we tune into to gain access to our identity and our memories.”

Thanks, Eteponge and Art, for your thoughtful comments. Now that I've had time to read this thing, I'll add my own two cents.

My basic reaction is that Michael Shermer's arguments would probably seem convincing to someone who doesn't know much about the subject matter. Shermer cites a lot of facts or apparent facts in a rapidfire way. Unfortunately a lot of what he says is misleading or wrong.

Luckily, Deepak Chopra does a good job of responding to these errors and omissions. There are only a couple of things that might be worth adding to his generally excellent rebuttal.

First, Shermer claims that all mediumistic abilities can be explained by cold reading and warm reading, ignoring the numerous experiments that have been undertaken precisely to rule out these forms of trickery.

Second, in addressing near-death experiences, Shermer fails to mention the most salient fact, as noted by Eteponge -- that people who report these experiences often provide detailed, specific knowledge of things that happened while they were deeply unconscious or even clinically dead.

Third, Shermer cites skeptic Ray Hyman's criticisms of the ganzfeld research, but neglects to mention that when Hyman's own, more stringent protocols were implemented, the ganzfeld experiments continued to produce results above levels of chance.

What is most interesting to me about Shermer's presentation is the tone of scientistic evangelism that permeates it. "Eventually even the grand mystery of consciousness will be solved by the penetrating tools of science," Shermer declares. How he knows this is itself a mystery, since the "hard problem" of neurology, the relationship between mind and brain, remains as intractable today as it was a century ago. (Art is quite correct to say that we just don't know where consciousness is located.) Shermer himself refers elsewhere to "the failed pipedreams of ever-alluring reductionist schemes to explain the inner workings of the mind," apparently not realizing that his own position amounts to a promissory note for the future delivery of yet another reductionist scheme.

Shermer assures us, "I want to believe ... Really I do," but says that his "former evangelical fervor [is] now directed toward the wonders of science and nature." He was an evangelical Christian before converting to atheism and skepticism. What he doesn't seem to understand is that he has merely traded one form of fundamentalism for another. He has gone from being a religious fundamentalist to being a scientistic fundamentalist. One can imagine him being just as tendentious, polemical, and rationalistic in defense of a very narrow interpretation of Christianity as he now is in defense of a very narrow interpretation of science. Essentially he ignores everything outside the limited parameters of his worldview.

Shermer's closed-mindedness and his willingness to overlook any data inconvenient to his cause make debating with him a waste of time. As Chopra says, "Debating tactics offer entertainment value but are a dubious way to get at the truth."

Sometime ago there was a debate on the Coast To Coast AM Paranormal Radio Show between Michael Shermer and several renowned Paranormal Researchers, and Michael Shermer quite frankly got his skeptical arse kicked.

The Researchers provided their Veridical Evidence & Research Findings, and Michael Shermer just kept blindly retorting with silly stuff along the lines of, "If this stuff is real, why haven't Psychics found Jimmy Hoffa, Osama Bin Laden, Won the Lottery, etc?" The Researchers retorted by pointing out that Michael Shermer was merely convienently IGNORING everything Veridical that they HAD DONE, the stuff that they had just presented of the Research that they have done so far, and just concentrated on any number of things that haven't been done yet.

Essentially, IMHO, Shermer's retorts were nothing more than a game of, Jump through these hoops that I make up, or whatever veridical evidence you currently have is worthless and meaningless, despite the facts and circumstances surrounding them.

Here is an overview and partial transcript...

IMHO, even IF a Psychic found Jimma Hoffa's body, or found Osama Bin Laden, or Won the Lottery, the Skeptics could EASILY come up with a simple cop-out retort against it.

* Jimma Hoffa's body found by a Psychic? It's very likely that an inside informent who wanted to get it off their chest or knew the whereabouts from involved relatives or inside friends, who doesn't want their own identity revealed due to fear for their own safety, merely slipped the information to the Psychic in question who agreed to take all the credit for it for themselves as guided through their "Paranormal Insights". Occam's Razor wins! Case Closed. Next?

* A Psychic found Osama Bin Laden? Same story as the first one, inside information passed on to the Psychic by a secret source fearing their own safety if they are revealed who used the Psychic to hide their identity and let them take the credit for themselves as guided through their "Paranormal Insights". Occam's Razor wins! Case Closed. Next?

* A Psychic wins the Lottery? Amazing coincidence, a peculiar anamoly, stranger coincidential things have happened in this world. Occam's Razor wins! Case Closed. Next?

See? Took me under a minute to think up three stock answer skeptical cop-out retorts in the case that something that of that nature ever happens.

One thing that I've always found bizarre about the Dying Brain Hypothesis is why would a dying brain waste precious and rapidly depleting neurological resources to send it's owner on an incredibly vivid, so NOT-just-a-dream acid trip instead of using those resources to keep all systems functioning as long as possible, it just doesn't make any sense natural selection-wise, why bother to evolve this survivalistically-unsound capability at all, where's the evolutionary advantage in it, does Godless Mother Nature actually care about us enough to make our transition into infinite nothingness less harrowing?!

If I may reiterate:
No one has ever been able to explain away to me the amazing parallels between near death experiences and the things that Michael Talbot wrote about in The Holographic Universe. I've read hundreds of NDE's where they've made statements that exactly parallel what one might expect in a holographic universe. How or why this is so is beyond me, but it definitely says to me something amazing and wonderful about life.

"This was very pleasant and comforting and went on for microseconds or billions of years, I have no idea since time just wasn't an operative construct and had no meaning or relevance to existence. I literally had the feeling that I was everywhere in the universe simultaneously." - excerpt from Mark Horton's NDE,

When Dr. Kenneth Ring taught a course about near death experiences at the University of Conneticut he required his students to read The Holographic Universe. He devotes a whole chapter to it in his book "Life At Death." Dr. Melvin Morse devotes several pages to it in his book "Where God Lives", and most recently Dr. Oswald Harding wrote a book called Near Death Experiences: A Holographic Explanation.

I think the answers to life's most perplexing question, "why are we here?", can be found in quantum physics and the holographic paradigm. We're here to experience separation, and we do it in a myriad of ways, because there is no separation on heaven, and it may be very difficult or even impossible to develop a sense of "self" in heaven due to it's holographic nature.

crap! I forgot to turn off the bold! If I didn't make another post the next poster's post would have all been in bold. Very strange.

Michael Shermer no doubt is closed-minded in his materialist worldview. I have come across a blog of Keith Augustine that i think needs rebuttal.

Keith Augustine argues that the production theory is the best way to desribe the facts of neuroscience attacking Chris Carter's article on does consciousness depend on the brain.

From Keith Augustine: Does Consciousness Depend on the Brain?

Chris Carter has recently posted an article challenging the idea that consciousness depends (for its very existence) on the brain. I've read it carefully and am underwhelmed. I have two general comments.

First, though Carter summarizes the evidence for mind-brain dependence well in the beginning, he has merely asserted--and comes nowhere near demonstrating--that William James' "transmissive hypothesis" (a variant of what Paul Edwards' called "the instrument theory," the notion that the brain is merely an instrument of the soul) is "Just as consistent with the observed facts..." Saying so is one thing. Showing it is another. Nothing in this paper does the latter.

Second, it is simply false to characterize the explanatory value of materialism and dualism, with regard to the overwhelming evidence for mind-brain dependence, as on a par. Materialism clearly explains such evidence better in demonstrable ways.

Indeed, over 80 years ago, philosopher C. D. Broad's intellectual honesty compelled him to concede as much. In a chapter titled "Empirical Arguments for Human Survival" in his 1925 classic on the philosophy of mind, The Mind and Its Place in Nature, before defending his own idiosyncratic form of dualism he dubbed "compound theory," Broad writes:

"The view that the mind is existentially dependent on the organism and on nothing else is compatible with all the normal facts, and is positively suggested by them, though they do not necessitate it. And it is the simplest possible view to take. The theory that the mind merely uses the body as an instrument is difficult to reconcile with the normal facts; and it is doubtful whether there are any well-established [paranormal] phenomena that require it."

Carter fails to address any arguments to the effect that materialism (broadly conceived to include property dualism) explains the evidence for mind-brain dependence much better than any form of substance dualism--arguments even present in his main target: Corliss Lamont's The Illusion of Immortality. For instance, Carter writes:

"James then explores the various possibilities for the exact type of functional dependence between the brain and consciousness. It is normally thought of as productive, in the sense that steam is produced as a function of the kettle. But this is not the only form of function that we find in nature: we also have at least two other forms of functional dependence: the permissive function, as found in the trigger of a crossbow; and the transmissive function, as of a lens or a prism. The lens or prism do not produce the light but merely transmit it in a different form. As James writes

Similarly, the keys of an organ have only a transmissive function. They open successively the various pipes and let the wind in the air-chest escape in various ways. The voices of the various pipes are constituted by the columns of air trembling as they emerge. But the air is not engendered in the organ. The organ proper, as distinguished from its air-chest, is only an apparatus for letting portions of it loose upon the world in these peculiarly limited shapes."

In The Illusion of Immortality, Corliss Lamont directly rebutted the prism analogy, which could easily be modified to cover the organ analogy as well:

"If the human body corresponds to a colored glass ... then the living personality corresponds to the colored light that is the result of the glass.... Now while light in general will continue to exist without the colored glass ... the specific red or blue or yellow rays that the glass produces ... will certainly not persist if the glass [is] destroyed" (p. 104).

Yet Carter does not say a word in reply. And what about the simple point Paul Churchland raises in the introduction to his 1984 Matter and Consciousness:

"If there really is a distinct entity [an immaterial soul] in which reasoning, emotion, and consciousness take place, and if that entity is dependent on the brain for nothing more than sensory experiences as input and volitional executions as output [the transmissive hypothesis], then one would expect reason, emotion, and consciousness to be relatively invulnerable to direct control or pathology by manipulation or damage to the brain. But in fact the exact opposite is true. Alcohol, narcotics, or senile degeneration of nerve tissue will impair, cripple, or even destroy one's capacity for rational thought.... And the vulnerability of consciousness to anesthetics, to caffeine, and to something as simple as a sharp blow to the head, shows its very close dependence on neural activity in the brain. All of this makes perfect sense if reason, emotion, and consciousness are activities of the brain itself. But it makes very little sense if they are activities of something else entirely" (p. 20).

Carter goes on to say that all that the mind-brain dependence evidence shows is concomitant variation, not that mental activity is produced by the brain. But, as Hume has argued, if the issue is one of probability, this is precisely what concomitant variation implies: "The weakness of the body and that of the mind in infancy are exactly proportioned; their vigour in manhood, their sympathetic disorder in sickness, their common gradual decay in old age. The step further seems unavoidable; their common dissolution in death." Indeed, John Stuart Mill even recommended the "method of concomitant variation" as one of the most reliable ways to reason from effect to cause, that is, to infer the most probable common cause of a number of effects.

Let's look at Hume's example. As brain complexity increases, mental abilities also increase (in Hume's example, when you chart brain growth from infancy to adulthood; but also when differences in the intelligence of species with brains of varying complexity are compared). At the same time, as brain complexity decreases--in the progressive stages of Alzheimer's disease (Hume's "gradual decay"), say, or by progressively destroying more and more of the brain--mental acuity also decreases.

Mill's method of concomitant variation recommends that we look for a prior condition that correspondingly varies with all events of certain type in order to identify that condition as a potential cause of events of that type. In this case, the question becomes: What always varies with the varying mental capacities of (say) different organisms? The answer: The complexity of their brains. As brain complexity goes up, mental abilities increase. As brain complexity goes down, mental abilities decrease. Brain complexity, then, causes mental ability. In short, the brain causes (or "produces") the mind. If the William James' transmissive hypothesis were correct, and the brain essentially only acted as a "transceiver" for consciousness, there is no reason to think that ever increasing mental complexity would require, in step, ever increasing brain complexity. A chimpanzee or a human being can type on a typewriter, but the greater complexity of what the human being types doesn't require any increase in the complexity of their "instrument"--the typewriter. But increasing mental acuity does appear, without exception, to require increasing brain complexity. That observation is precisely the opposite of what one would predict if substance dualism were true, and exactly what we would expect if consciousness was a property of the brain.

Despite the clarity of this point, Carter concludes: "[T]he dependence of consciousness on the brain for the manner of its manifestation in the material world does not imply that consciousness depends upon the brain for its existence" [emphasis mine].

It seems to me that there is an intentional ambiguity here: what does Carter mean by 'the manifestation of consciousness'? The most natural interpretation of 'consciousness manifesting itself in the physical world' is the behavior of conscious beings. But, as Corliss Lamont argued: "A severe injury to the head ... may change an ordinarily cheerful man into a sullen and morose one subject to sudden fits of homicidal mania. If the brain and body are simply the instruments of the soul, we have to say in such a case that this personality is really still brimming over with joy and benevolence, but that unfortunately these sentiments can only express ["manifest"] themselves in dark glances, in peevish complaints and in violent attacks" (p. 100).

Evidently, then, 'the manifestation of consciousness' cannot refer to behavior, because it is demonstrable that manipulating the brain does not merely modify behavior, leaving the mind itself intact, but modifies mental functioning itself. LSD affects how you think, not merely how you behave. So what can Carter possibly mean by 'the manifestation of consciousness'?

>Materialism clearly explains such evidence better in demonstrable ways.

But materialism can't explain psi phenomena. If these phenomena are genuine, materialism is in trouble. (Which is, I think, why materialists belittle or ignore the evidence for psi.)

>Corliss Lamont directly rebutted the prism analogy

No analogy is perfect, but I prefer the TV analogy. Turn off the TV and the signal continues. The particular pattern of light and sound, as decoded by the receiver, is gone, but all the information that comprises the pattern is still in existence in the signal itself.

>And the vulnerability of consciousness to anesthetics, to caffeine, and to something as simple as a sharp blow to the head, shows its very close dependence on neural activity in the brain.

Damaging the circuitry of a TV set will impair its ability to display an image, but the TV signal is unaffected.

>As brain complexity increases, mental abilities also increase

Why? Because the brain can decode the signal with greater efficacy. To vary the analogy, a powerful radio can pick up more signals than a weak radio. Or to return to TV, a cable-ready TV can pick up more channels than one that is not cable-ready.

>Brain complexity, then, causes mental ability.

Correlation is not causality. Brain complexity is directly proportional to mental ability, but is this complexity necessary to produce consciousness or to receive and decode consciousness?

>If the brain and body are simply the instruments of the soul, we have to say in such a case that this personality is really still brimming over with joy and benevolence, but that unfortunately these sentiments can only express ["manifest"] themselves in dark glances, in peevish complaints and in violent attacks

In this case, the signal is undamaged, but when it is received by the brain and decoded, the reception/decoding is distorted or incomplete. In our earthly lives, our thoughts are mediated by our brains, so brain damage will affect our thoughts. But this does not tell us the ultimate source of consciousness. Remember, a damaged TV may display a blurry picture and produce garbled sound, even though the signal is as clear as ever. Bad TV reception does not equal a bad TV signal.

>what can Carter possibly mean by 'the manifestation of consciousness'?

He means the pictures and sound on the TV set, rather than the TV signal.

Of course, if psi phenomena are not genuine, then the "production theory" of consciousness must be preferred. But if psi phenomena are genuine, then the "transmission theory" fits the facts much more neatly. So it comes down to an evaluation of the empirical evidence. Keith Augustine apparently assesses the evidence as weak or nonexistent; I would assess it as strong and, in some cases, dispositive. Time will tell ...

I doubt we'll ever be allowed to know 100% absolutely for certain that there is "life after death." I think it's that way for a reason. Suffering the death of a loved one is the ultimate separation experience. Nothing else comes close. Experiencing separation teaches the soul what it means to be a separate, unique, individual. That sense of "self", which may not be possible on the "other side" due those overwhelming feelings of connectedness and oneness that so many near death experiencers say they felt.

Here is a link of M. Shermer on a podcast called "Skeptico"

Towards the end, he accuses the host of having an agenda of promoting the ideas of Rupert Sheldrake. It is sort of funny because Shermer produced a show for Fox Family entitled, "Exploring the Unknown". He has apparently admitted that this show had an agenda and could be called "Debunking the Unknown"

Who has the agenda?

What I find absolutely hilarious is when Skeptics will refuse to tackle anything that is presented or sourced by a Pro-Paranormal Enthusiast regarding the Paranormal, because, accourding to them, "we're biased, insulting, and have an agenda", and then they will turn right around and quote and referance and source whatever James Randi or Michael Shermer or Joe-Blow-Skeptic has to say regarding the same subjects as if they are totally unbiased, eternally nice and rosy and never insulting or condenscending, objective infallible secular gurus. Hypocrites much? I've seen this happen a number of times.

"I don't trust [insert pro-paranormal enthusiast here] because they are biased, insulting, and have an agenda! Therefore nothing they say or source can be trusted! On the other hand, [insert anti-paranormal secular guru or joe-blow-skeptic here] says [this and that] and [that and this] regarding this same subject, and since they are a Skeptic, they are automatically faaar more credible and can be fully trusted as being totally correct, unbiased, fair, and end-all-objective!"

Anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

I recall on one perticular forum, a topic about Spontanius Human Combustion came up. Skeptics pointed out some Mythbusters episode and some Skeptic Websites about how they "debunked" it by burning a pig over a period of many many many hours with the "wick effect" to incinerate it into ashes, in an attempt to replicate the effect and "debunk" the phenomenon.

However, a smart forum member linked a Pro-Paranormal Website that quite logically and objectively debunked the "wick effect" accusation by pointing out that there are a number of solid cases where the person was left alone only for several short minutes inbetween the time they were alive to their complete incineration into ashes, and even a number of solid cases where they burst into flames around multiple eyewitnesses, and how the flames in these cases would not touch anything surrounding the body (merely char the surface with blackness), even highly flammable stuff around the body would not ignite, even the chair they were sitting in would not be consumed, and some parts of the body would sometimes be left totally untouched while others are reduced to ash. The website referanced many such cases and gave many great arguments.

The Skeptic's answer? That website cannot be trusted because it is pro-paranormal. If the information therein does not come from multiple peer reviewed "trusted" science journals, or a "trusted" renowned skeptic website, or some "trusted" mainstream scientific double-blind experiments, nothing contained in the pro-paranormal articles can be trusted at all, and all information therein is automatically considered completely unreliably and untrue, case closed. But oh, the Skeptic websites can be fully automatically trusted without that, just because they are skeptical, really, really they can!

I'm totally serious, that's essentially what he said, rather than actually dealing with what was actually being presented, he resorted to ridiculous cop-outs like that as a "rebuttal".

So, how can a high school drop-out carnival stage magician's website, or a TV Show made by two arrogent stage magicians, or the comments of an editor of a "Skeptic Magazine" be more credible than a Paranormal Researcher's Website or Sources, who alot of the time have actual scientific credentials and can cream the arguments of the Skeptics as if they are pre-school level? Hmmm, I haven't quite figured that out yet.

Bottom Line To Skeptics: Deal with what is actually being said and argued, rather than resorting to cheap character assasinations and refusing to accept the content of sources from the other side of the argument that cream yours just because it conflicts with your own side and subjective world view. Just deal with it rather than avoiding it. Oh, wait, you CAN'T, that's why you avoid it. How amusing.

Personally, I think Chopra is hurting "paranormal" research. His books are really just sensationalistic New Age mumbo jumbo and it's obvious that he's out to make a quick buck from gullible Westerners. I wish there were more sober, careful researchers like Ian Stevenson.

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