Blog powered by Typepad

« Breathing fire | Main | A message from J.E. Kennedy »


The interview with Dr. Churchland is certainly odd. I didn't admittedly read the whole page, but I did read the discussion on the influences on the brain and how that affects consciousness. The one line of thinking is that hormones, sleep, our physical state (tired or energetic) affect the brain, which then affects consciousness. This is taken to "prove" that consciousness comes from the brain. But I don't quite agree that it proves anything. The physical may affect the non-physical, but does it change it? Do we really turn into maniacs because of hormones or monsters because we're tired? It may affect us, and change our behavior somewhat, but not that much. It's like even though a bad TV may result in a distorted picture, does that mean the signal itself is bad?

From the Wikipedia entry on Dr. Patricia Churchland:

She is associated with a school of thought called eliminative materialism, which argues that commonsense, immediately intuitive, or "folk psychological" concepts such as thought, free will, and consciousness will likely need to be revised in a physically reductionistic way as neuroscientists discover more about the nature of brain function.

I seriously doubt a lady like this has much contact with the NDE community, and I imagine she totally misinterpreted the name "Skeptiko". Like most closed-minded people, it looks like her world is a self enforced echo chamber.

Rabbitdawg, Alex documented that he had been entirely upfront with Churchland about the nature of his site. Other than her neglecting to read the things he had sent her in preparation, there isn't a rational excuse for her not knowing.

I read the transcript and listened, I noticed a definite change when Alex noted that she had misrepresented Van Lommel's well documented opinion on NDEs. That was when I thought she began her bizarre bail out maneuver. It is the kind of thing that would be held to entirely discredit her ideological opponents if they'd been caught doing that and that's why I think she stopped it. Not that a lot of what she did say was nonproblematic. I'm pretty appalled that a philosophy professor would say some of the things she did. She'd have gotten blown away in my Freshman Rhetoric class. Clearly there's a big problem with materialists being cut slack in philosophy departments, these days.

Kathleen, if I'd been able to ask Churchland about that, I'd have asked her why, for example, people aren't permanently changed by getting drunk or taking a drug. Even long term delusion during a mental illness doesn't change the person who comes out of it. There would have to be a permanent change for those to support her preferred view of it. A central person remains, even a sense of being the same remains over the course of a lifetime. I'm the same person who I was even when I was much different at the age of five.

As I recall, Michael Shermer misrepresented Von Lommel's study in an article for Scientific American. He said the study supported a biological basis for NDEs, when Von Lommel's actual conclusion was the opposite. I doubt this was intentional on Shermer's part; most likely he just hadn't read the paper very carefully.

My guess is that Churchland picked up the idea there, and never looked at the primary source (Von Lommel's paper).

Thanks for an interesting discussion about subjective and objective reality. Rather a nice way of looking at it. Made sense to me.
I always listen to Skeptiko and sometimes I think Alex is a little too provocative with his interviews. However the fact is that Churchland has a particular worldview and when Alex started to challenge it she bailed out in a wimpy way. It would have been more courageous of her to interact with him and debate it. Lets face it, the jury is still out on this whole area so if she is not even prepared to seriously debate another way of looking at consciousness then what is she doing as a Professor. She has a closed mind.

If Churchland is relying on Michael Shermer's characterization of Von Lommel instead of on the primary source, that, in itself, constitutes a major violation of academic processes. Shermer is hardly a scholar and is entirely unreliably unbiased. He has a history of misrepresenting people, such as Rupert Sheldrake, for obviously ideological purposes. Since he's a professional skeptic, I'd say he has misrepresented people when he had a financial interest in the results.

Frankly, it's appalling that a philosopher would be so obviously unprepared to defend, not only her allegedly scholarly writing but even her citation of others. Her past writing should be fact checked now. This often turns out to be a habit when people go back and look. Look at Marc Hauser.

It sounds as if Morse is intent on becoming an expert on near-bath experiences...

Someone posted the interview with Churchland at Dr Feser's blog and there was a lot of discussion about it:

The comments to this entry are closed.