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So George has a surname, now...

An interesting article which goes some way towards obtaining the compulsive mindset of the militant "skeptic".

The fact that such an article has been written is, in itself, another indicator of the subtle sea-change that is taking place amongst the well-educated public.

The recent TED debacle was a good example of this: the "skeptics'" attempts to censor talks by Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock were not met with support from most of the TED followers, but with dismay. And in the online debate which followed, "skeptics" found that their usual glib - and often pompously offensive - arguments were no longer being accepted as even remotely adequate.

Well-educated laymen are coming to view "skeptics", not as representatives of the apex of human development, but as denizens of Planet Vulcan - people with grossly over-developed linear thinking.

In other words, Joe Public is beginning to sense that the "skeptics" are simply another group of people, rather like religious fundamentalists, who have difficulty in coping with the complexities and uncertainties of the real world. They do not speak for science, and as Thomas Sheridan noted, there is no need to pay much attention to them.

On a broader theme, I think there is a gradual dawning of awareness that science and scientists do not have the final word on conscious experience and the nature of reality - that artists, writers, musicians, poets, shamans and mystics have at least as much to offer in this regard.

"The left brain is devoted to specific tasks and objectives, while the right brain acts as a kind of peripheral awareness."
Here's my way of putting this difference in a nutshell: left-brain = "spotlight consciousness"; right-brain = "floodlight consciousness."

Here are some remarks that cast our anti-fringe opponents in an unflattering light, by Louis S. Berger, in his Substance Abuse as Symptom, Analytic Press, 1991, pp. 121–22:

I want to mention, almost as an aside, another side of this issue of normalcy. There seems to be one variant of midrange pathology, not extensively studied or well understood (especially in developmental terms), that blends into the woodwork, so to speak, and is difficult to discern. I am referring to persons who one might say are excessively "normal". These people, called by some workers "normopaths," “anti-analysands," "robot analysands," or "pseudonormals" suffering from a "normotic illness," have been described by various authors, including Bollas (1989), McDougall (1980, especially chap. 13; 1985, p. 156), and McWilliams and Lependorf (1990).

These are persons who, when looked at superficially or casually seem to function adequately but who on deeper, more careful examination are seen actually to be drastically cut off from their affective lives, and the result is a peculiar, horrifying "normality." When one becomes sensitized to this other pole of severe pathology, one sees how prevalent it is in the "normal" population: "The fundamental identifying feature of this individual is his disinclination to entertain the subjective element in life, whether it exists inside himself or in the other" (Bollas, 1989, p. 319; from “Normotic Illness” in Fromm & Smith (eds.), The Facilitating Environment, pp. 317-44). The author goes on to present an evocative and chilling description of the normotic personality; it sounds like an apt description of a significant part of our population.

As far as I know, this class of persons has not been studied diagnostically by means of mainstream frameworks and instruments (e.g., the MMPI, behavioral checklists), but I would not be surprised if these kinds of people would appear to be just fine when evaluated by such surface-oriented, structured tools.
In sum, the possibility is very real that in empirical or experimental studies, the control group of "normals" is itself significantly pathological.

For anyone interested in Thomas Sheridan I suggest the critique of him by Joe Quinn at http://www.joequinn.net/2012/08/from-internet-troll-to-psychopathy-exp.

Well I am not a big fan ofmany of nuerosceince claims as much of it is hype. MRI lights do not prove causality.
Also there is the issue of nuero plasticity where experince can actually alter the brains function and structure. So maybe it is a chicken or egg situation. I do not know if you got a chance to glance at the kindle book I sent you,but there is a section in there on relationship of skepticism and atheism to parental realtions and negative experiences with religion. Three books in particular I found interesting Kirkpatrick, L. A. (n.d.). Attachment,Evoloution and the Psychology of Religion. Mahoney, M. J. (1976). Scientist as Subject the Psychological Imperative . New York: Ballinger.

Interesting article, Amos. It's not entirely surprising to me. I glanced at some of Sheridan's other writings and was not favorably impressed. He strikes me as an angry person with a rather conspiratorial view of world events. He also strikes me as being overly sure of himself, prone to making sweeping pronouncements without adequate citation.

Nevertheless, I found the basic idea presented in his "ODD" post pretty interesting. I was unaware of the inhibitory theory about the corpus callosum, and his suggestion that people with overdeveloped left-brain dominance can become trapped in a mental prison rings true to me.

I wouldn't endorse the rest of what he has to say - certainly not any notion that channeling is "the work of the devil," if that really is his view.

According to two of my scientist children Neuroscience is or has less statistical credibility in in many of it's conclusion than many of the PSI researchers have obtained. both the physicist and the nuero endocrine physician are psi believers. Or better put afterlife believers.Psychiatrists and neurologists are extremely annoyed at the thunderous pronouncements of neuroscience compared with the sparsity of pharmacological and other medical technology ,to aide TBI victims and psychosis.

They sent me this http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nrn3475.html It seems Nature agrees.

" I have long marveled at the ability of intelligent people to embrace the idea that they are essentially sacks of viscera programmed by DNA - "meat puppets" lacking free will, personal identity, or even consciousness." - Michael

Until about six years ago, when I would hear skeptics of the CSICOP class talk, I would find myself wondering what was wrong with me. Why was I so mentally weak, wanting to believe that there was more to life than data? Why did I want to insist on believing in a Higher Purpose to life? Every time I would find objective evidence of a spiritual dimension, a James Randi type would come along and blow the wind out of my sails.

Then God invented the internet :-)

Suddenly I could go from one website to another, and start pitting arguments against to each other right before my eyes in real time. Self published books written by serious minds became abundantly available. Small publishing houses were flourishing. Blogs on both sides of the fence (and in between) started popping up everywhere. It was like an intellectual/spiritual gold rush.

The funny thing is, I found the best spiritual evidence in the militant reductionist materialist's own responses to reputable paranormal researchers. I noticed that they were running out of arguments, reacting with the same hoary claptrap over and over. I started seeing more hubris and insults, and less logic and reason in the debunker's positions.

One of the truisms I learned to trust in life is that when I have to resort to cursing and vulgarity, I've lost the argument. When I'm pissed in the midst of a discussion, there's an ulterior motive in my position and I can't logically defend myself. Who ever gets mad, loses - it's common sense. But then, according to Sheridan's article, common sense takes both sides of the brain.

Works for me.

Interesting post! Sounds about right to me.

Sheridans' theory is similar to the arguments presented in 'Left in the Dark' by Tony Wright see www.leftinthedark.org.uk .His is not an argument about the mindset of skeptics but about possible retardation of brain power & conscoiusness over last 100,000 years or so but I think the resemblances are sriking.

Roger, "These people, called by some workers "normopaths," “anti-analysands," "robot analysands," or "pseudonormals" suffering from a "normotic illness...."

I love it! Never heard of it before, but have thought about it and, now that I know someone else has covered the concept I feel....well...more normal.

If you liked Sheridan's article, I suggest you watch this short RSAnimate video of a McGilchrist talk on the Divided Brain: http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate/animate/rsa-animate-the-divided-brain

Sheridan cites McGilchrist at the end and, having read McGilchrist's book, it's clear the article is heavily indebted to him. McGilchrist has done much to renew an interest in the function of the hemispheric division. He offers a nice critique of the problems and oversimplifications of the earlier theories (reason v. emotion), a compelling alternative (narrow v broad attention), and some powerful applications of his own.

@steve em

Your scientist children are absolutely correct! These days when I read skeptical criticism of psi research, I am astonished at the scientific ignorance on display by the "skeptics". Do they (the skeptics) have any idea how science works? Do they know anything about statistics? Do they have any clue that researchers in mainstream fields routinely get away with sloppiness which would never be accepted in parapsychology publications? Are they not aware that parapsychology is the only field which has instituted reforms to protect against the file drawer effect?

Well said. I have nothing against skeptics - I'm still skeptical about psi - but it seems obvious to me that hardcore skeptics use their skepticism to feel superior to others in a really cheap way. And whatever the truth is, it is incredible to believe that we are just walking, talking DNA-carrying robots. If that were so, why do we feel grief when those close to us die, or even when people NOT close to us die or are injured? Science is also showing that "even" animals feel grief and empathy. There is more to this than meets the eye.

Re "normotic personality disorder": I forgot to mention the maxim, "Don't make a fetish of normality."

There is little scientific support for what Sheridan proposes and he provides no references to back it up. Functional MRIs, SPECT scans and other high-tech visualizations of the human brain really provide nothing related to those human attributes of mind such as personality, intellect, memory, love, compassion, anger, hatred, jealousy, creativity, insight and intuition among other intangible and difficult to define mind states of the human experience. Brain scans show molecular activity and blood flow in the brain. While it is true that the brain controls the physical body with the left side of the brain controlling the right side of the body and conversely the left side of the brain controlling the right side of the body, I believe that it is still unproven that attributes of consciousness, volition and memory reside in any part of the brain as determined by brain scans.

I understand that in cases of hemispherectomy of the right or left side of the brain, children especially, experience no change in their personality or memory after they have had half of their brain removed. Apparently many of them go on to excel in creative and intellectual as well as physical endeavors. Of course there is a period of physical rehabilitation but that is primarily to allow physical control of the body to be redirected to the remaining half of the brain. In these cases, there is no left side/right side of the brain. Anything the brain does is done by only by the remaining side. There is no dominant or non-dominate side of the brain, no creative side, no intolerant and highly narcissistic left hemisphere as Sheridan states.

(Does he really believe that brain neurons can be “narcissistic” or “intolerant”, self- deluding, grandiose and arrogantly self-righteousness? Does he really think that the cells in the right side of the brain are “looking out for human predators”? Does he really believe that we have “bully” cells in our left hemisphere? Surely these are just weak metaphors!)

And yes, better educated people seem to be easier to hypnotize, but not necessarily because of their education. People who are easier to hypnotize are cooperative, are capable of following directions or suggestions of the hypnotist. Those who are difficult to hypnotize are infants and young children under 4 years old, psychotics, those with paranoia, those with an IQ under 70 and the elderly and hard of hearing. According to the National Guild of Hypnotists , “ every normal person is hypnotizable”. Those who are reportedly easy to hypnotize include people in the military (They follow directions!), very religious people or cultists, and those who have a sense of awe and expectancy regarding being hypnotized as well as those who trust or revere the hypnotist, e.g., a doctor, that is, they believe in hypnotism.---they are willing to cooperate.

Kathleen - And whatever the truth is, it is incredible to believe that we are just walking, talking DNA-carrying robots. If that were so, why do we feel grief when those close to us die, or even when people NOT close to us die or are injured? Science is also showing that "even" animals feel grief and empathy. There is more to this than meets the eye.

Evolutionary psychology is of course a branch of the "walking, talking meat-robot" materialist philosophy. The claim of evolutionary psychology is that the emotion of grief evolved. It is supposed to be innate or instinctual in us because of endless generations accumulating gene modifications toward an automatic mechanism that is ultimately reproductively advantageous.

One proposed way is that it is supposed to be to prevent the loss of a relative or ally, where relatives have your genes in them, and allies can help you spread your genes. Fearing and avoiding the pain of grief by helping relatives and allies survive then supposedly enhances the chance of spreading your genes. So it is reproductively advantageous to have an instinctual grief mechanism.

A second way is supposed to be that through grief at the loss of an ally we instinctively show ourselves to be good allies and have a better chance of picking up new allies that will help us spread our genes.

Of course this kind of theorizing ignores the fact that the grief response may result in an inability to cope, wasting away, getting sick, and dying of a broken heart. This has been reported in some animals like chimpanzees. Hardly enhancing spreading of the genes,

This sort of thinking seems to be repellent and dehumanizing, even if it may be superficially plausible. It quite likely is mainly a tribute to the ingenuity and imagination of man, like with the elaborate stories invented by Freudian psychotherapists doing analysis based on the dreams of their patients.

One interesting aspect of Sheridan's hypothesis, which I didn't cover in the main post, is how it may relate to Julian Jaynes's book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind." This is a highly entertaining and provocative book, even if Jaynes's theory is almost certainly wrong in its details.

Where Jaynes goes astray, I think, is in claiming that the "breakdown" occurred relatively late in history, and that people like Hesiod and Homer were still largely unconscious and ruled by the dictates of the right hemisphere. But if we assume that the breakdown occurred much earlier, in prehistoric times, the theory may have merit. And it would be consistent with the idea that the left brain inhibits the activity of the right brain, especially in more educated, verbally-oriented people.

Another interesting book in this regard is "The Alphabet Vs. the Goddess," by Leonard Shlain. As with Jaynes's work, the book is highly speculative, and many of its details are probably wrong - but there may be a grain of truth in the idea that literacy, which encourages left-brain dominance, can create distortions in thinking that have led to violent suppression of those identified with the feminine side of human nature (e.g., the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries).

Regarding the issue of brain states vs. mental states, I think it's well established that, in most people, the left hemisphere is more closely associated with verbal and logical-reasoning skills, while the right hemisphere is more closely associated with pattern recognition and intuition. Correlation is not causality; the ultimate source of the mind can't be determined by MRI scans. But correlation does indicate how the brain may process consciousness.

Are neurons bullies? No - but the type of thinking associated primarily with the left brain is likely to encourage a bullying mindset. To put it more simply, the ego seems to be associated with the left brain, and the ego is certainly capable of being a bully.

Of course, these correlations do not hold true in cases where a person has only one cerebral hemisphere, or even (to some extent) in cases where a person is left-handed. But those are not typical cases. 90% of the population is right-handed, and people who've had a hemispherectomy are vanishingly rare.

Interesting comment Michael. Does the original work reference left handedness if not, what's your view of the implications for left handers?

"what's your view of the implications for left handers?"

It's generally believed that left-handed people are more creative and intuitive than the general population. I don't know if studies back this up, but if it's true, it would be consistent with the idea that a dominant left hemisphere (which controls the right side of the body) can suppress our more creative/intuitive/spiritual side.

Interesting, speaking as a left-hander. I know one can't extrapolate anything from a single case but I've never considered myself the least bit creative.

The whole left handers people are more creative and intuitive is an interesting one.

I've always been fascinated by my own native game Australian Rules Football... which is a highly skillful and fast thinking game. It is generally accepted that players that are "left footers" have more skill and are "classier" than players that are "right footers".

Commentators often will say this and accept it but nobody has gone into the science of why. I believe it is because their cognitive and intuitive skills (Australian Rules Football is a VERY intuitive game) are not as clouded by their overthinking analytic side of their brain.

In baseball, left-handed pitchers (southpaws) are considered flaky, on the whole.

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