Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Machine or soul?

There is an interesting thread to atheist thinking that goes something like this:
1) There is nothing about us that cannot be explained (in time) in biological terms, including our thought processes and even our personalities. We are simply a biological body/machine, no soul or metaphysical component.
2) Because our actions/thoughts reactions/decisions can be explained (traced to the ‘programme’ we have written for ourselves as we grew up) we are without freewill and therefore in effect sophisticated, apparently autonomous, bio-computers. Implicitly such creatures have no soul, ipso facto no God.

Now some of this seems to make a lot of sense at first. Apparently our brain controls us; some of this control is hard wired (instinctive) such as the fight/flight response. Some of the way we are is determined by our experiences and what we have learned and expresses itself at the sub-conscious or conscious level. Exactly which is which – the old nature vs. nurture debate – is really not of specific interest to me here. It is the consequences that are of interest to me.

There are clear evolutionary advantages in being less dependant on hard wiring and being able to learn – or more specifically to be taught - how best to conduct ourselves. Waiting for, say, our knowledge of how to make fire to become hard wired is clearly less advantageous than being able to pass the knowledge on from generation to generation and within or between communities.

So the evolution of a superior capacity for learning and teaching has been good for us and has led to our ability to dominate other life forms on this planet. Together with learning however comes the ability to do things that may be bad for our (or others) survival in the short or long term, as either individuals or as a species.

I would like to focus on us as individuals and ask if our ability to think is open ended (i.e. we can exercise freewill) or is it constrained by the dictates of evolution and is our “thinking” a deterministic outcome of our “programming”.

In biological terms, if we are still “evolving” - I prefer developing - it is through the accumulation of knowledge and our ability to adapt our environment to us, rather than our biology to the environment. Now is the ability to learn/teach the final step in the evolutionary ladder. Theists believe not, believing that there is a further step in the development of a soul that is eternal and supersedes the physical body – seems like a logical progression to me.

The challenge to this theory is that the atheists argue that we are stuck at the biological computer stage. In support of this position they present research that demonstrates our advancing knowledge of how the brain works – its storage of memories and its decision making and in some cases what they hypothesise is the seat of consciousness.

But what is actually being advanced by those arguments? As I see it, nothing more than an explanation of how the bio-computer that is our brain works and we should draw no metaphysical inference from the science.

What it does ask though is where (if at all) is the dividing line/role between soul and machine?

As this is already a long post I will cut it off here with this most contentious question left hanging. In truth the answer to this may elude us and to debate may be futile, but as we draw a clearer line between machine and soul we should better understand both.

Hamba kahle – peace

63 comments:

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

That's an interesting post and I agree with a lot of it.

You say that creatures having no soul would show that there is no God, but I disagree. It would be perfectly possible for a God to exist without any souls.

As far as freewill goes, I think we have good reasons to believe that our decisions are affected by the following, whether or not a soul exists:
1) DNA
2) upbringing
3) experiences in life
4) unconscious stimuli such as vitamin levels and gases in the atmosphere.
5) thermodynamic fluctuations in the brain.

Do you think that genuine freewill (as provided by the soul) is distinguishable from all of these?

The contentious point of your argument is this:

"there is a further step in the development of a soul that is eternal and supersedes the physical body – seems like a logical progression to me."

That seems profoundly illogical to me. It strikes me that they should first go through an intermediate stage of being able to fly. Don't you think so? What you say sounds like an unchecked assumption and therefore has a high probability of being in error.

It also contradicts the evidence. We know that if the part of the brain which is responsible for language is physically damaged, the person loses the ability to process language. The same goes for other areas of the brain responsible for memory, control of emotion and so on. We also know that when a person dies, the whole of their brain suffers extensive and permanent physical damage. This means that each of those areas of the brain suffer physical damage which implies that the person loses each of the corresponding abilities. In other words, they lose all the abilities which actually make them a person.

That's why we need to make the most of this life.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil, thanks for you reply
You say that creatures having no soul would show that there is no God, but I {Neil] disagree. It would be perfectly possible for a God to exist without any souls. … now you really have challenged my thinking! While I could agree it would be irrelevant to the argument – the corollary - a soul implies a God is the important bit.

I am happy with your 1-5 list

Do you think that genuine freewill (as provided by the soul) is distinguishable from all of these … that’s where I hope the discussion goes, but my thinking has not matured to that point yet.

If we can establish that there are decisions that would not reasonably be taken by the bio-machine then I would rest my case.

You challenge my contentious point which I describe as seems like a logical progression to me as being profoundly illogical. Now just “not obvious” I can roll with, but “profoundly” … ?

No I don’t think flying or any physical adaptation would logically be ‘next’. The ability to learn, teach and hence manage our environment (OK we are screwing it up right now – not the point) is of far more value in promoting development of humanity than added physical characteristics.
We can fly and travel deep below the seas, even into space etc.

The ultimate step in ‘evolution’ would be to not die – eternal life – freeing ourselves from the constraints and consequence of screwing up this planet – I offer no proof, only present it as a logical progression more desirable for the species than continued physical adaptation/development.

You have brought out the nub of atheist argument when you refer to brain death in other words, they lose all the abilities which actually make them a person..

As I see it you have raised two key points –
1) The above where the brain has all the abilities which actually make them a person
And the earlier:
2) Genuine freewill, distinguishable from the bio-computer.

Perhaps they are one point – that it would be the soul which distinguishes us from the bio-computer and hence the brain is not the sole factor to actually make them [us]a person.

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear,
What it does ask though is where (if at all) is the dividing line/role between soul and machine?
another question is how much does biological influence play a role in our decision making?

I say enough to make it irrational for A GOD, not the law, to hold anyone accountable especially for non-belief.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I'm glad I've given you something to think about. Here's another thing. I don't think the existence of souls implies a God any more than the existence of arms or legs imply a God. I think the most that can be said is that some particular notions of God imply the existence of souls. For example, a God who judges souls would require souls in order to judge them.

I agree with you that if you can show that there are decisions that couldn't be taken by a bio-machine then a purely physical view is not viable. Be warned that a very wide range of behaviours can be explained by my list. I'll certainly be interested to hear your views on that.

It looks like I over-stated by case a bit. I take back the "profoundly illogical" and do apologize. Thanks for clarifying your reasoning. The issue of flying highlights the following point - that evolution and development are governed by what is feasible to do, not just what's desirable. It's not feasible for us to grow wings and so we build machines with wings to enable us to fly. If it is not possible to attain eternal life then it cannot be the next step in the list and so your next step in the list of gaining eternal life assumes that it is possible to do so.

You state that it is desirable for the species but I'm not convinced that's true. I take it you're not talking about physical eternal life here. It seems to me that life after death has absolutely no effect on life before death; At least I've never talked to my great-great-grandfather (Belief in life after death is another matter though). As a result, there will be zero evolutionary pressure for a species to attain eternal life and so genetic drift would cause a species to tend to lose the ability if it ever had it.

You wrote:
"The above where the brain has all the abilities which actually make them a person"

That isn't quite my argument. My argument is not which abilities the brain has but which abilities require the brain. That's a subtle but important difference. It doesn't actually show that there is no soul, but rather that even if there is a soul then we still lose all of our abilities when we die.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Lee, good to see you here!

Your point how much does biological influence play a role in our decision making? is of course crucial to the question of a soul. Neil raise it too – I will not be able to dodge it!

You follow on with the question of being judged. We seem to agree it is inappropriate to be judged for that which we do not control. So let’s explore that at bit.

If our actions/decisions are all determined by our brains – that is to say the deterministic outcomes of our individual ‘programme’ (accumulated knowledge/experience etc) then should we be held accountable in law for any of what we do?

Hamba kahle -peace

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil, still keeping me thinking.
You raise tow points – why evolve to eternal life & how much do we need the brain to do?

First – and let’s face it this is an intellectual exercise, but fun – if we have reached an apex of development with the ability to control/adapt the environment then the goal of ensuring our survival long term only appears to have been met. We are still limited by an environment that may prove uncontrollable (we seen to working on that right now) = risk BUT more importantly we are limited by death which is still a certainty. Anti-aging treatments aside we don’t have this in our sights yet. So why not seek eternal life?

Second: My argument is not which abilities the brain has but which abilities require the brain. That's a subtle but important difference. It doesn't actually show that there is no soul, but rather that even if there is a soul then we still lose all of our abilities when we die. I see your point.

Yes we lose our abilities when we die. We lose some of those abilities when we suffer brain damage. The brain is the working part of the machine - analogy, horse and rider joined together till death. Brain = horse, rider = soul. Horse can do every thing that needs doing without the rider (climb hills, jump fences, eat grass, look for water etc)- and the rider can go along for the ride. But when the horse gets sick rider is limited in what can be done.

Certainly we require the brain to go about our day-today activities. For the sake of argument (or perhaps as another analogy), accept that acquiring a soul (= eternal life) is an evolutionary step. Then prior to a soul we were able to go about life and do what needed doing = massive requirement for brain based abilities. Now add soul, brain does not lose any functionality but adds a new dimension.

You got me curious with Belief in life after death is another matter though care to elaborate?

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
If our actions/decisions are all determined by our brains – that is to say the deterministic outcomes of our individual ‘programme’ (accumulated knowledge/experience etc) then should we be held accountable in law for any of what we do?
why not?
There are two issues here regarding behavior and punishment. One is "spiritual" and the other is utilitarian.
Since humans can't "know the heart" or "know the mind" or "know the number of hairs" on someones head, we have to try to motivate an offender not to offend again. The law has boundaries over what constitute offenses. They are designed to maintain civil order and sustain society.

gods laws are not. Believing in god or not is different that bilking an elderly couple out of their retirement, or shoplifting. Murder is accountable in both domains.

so in order to sustain society, offenders have to be motivated not to offend again. That is how "punishment" or "rehabilitation" is justified when somoeone can't help themselves, gets caught up in the moment, makes a bad decision or is just a big fat jerk.

In a sense starting with adam, the bible is effectively a "blame the victim" scenario.

akakiwibear said...

Lee, since we know we differ on the spiritual aspects let’s focus on the temporal for a while. I would like to get your views on the substance of the topic rather than your pot shots at God's justice.

I am interested to hear your views on the extent of our responsibility for our actions.

Reading your posts elsewhere I have formed the opinion that you consider all our actions to be determined by the brain and that they are the result of the cumulative 5 inputs that Neil lists.

Do you therefore see a person as personally responsible in any way for their behaviour?

I can understand that you see punishment from the perspective of behaviour modification so in order to sustain society, offenders have to be motivated not to offend again. So having been punished, if a person continues to offend are we (greater society – penal system – what/whoever) at fault for not applying the correct motivation?

Which brings me back to my question - Do you see a person as responsible in any way for their behaviour?

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
Which brings me back to my question - Do you see a person as responsible in any way for their behaviour?
to some degree. to what degree? I'll say to the degree that we are conscious. (hows that for ambiguity!)
We only have a small window of awareness into the workings of our brain. Our brain runs our body and we don't have to think about it, we are not aware of it. There are a whole slew of automated processes going on that we can't control if we want to. We can't hold our breath till we die, we can't wish our heart to stop, we can't wish ourselves dead, we can starve ourselves to death, but that takes a kind of self discipline that very few have, we can take some action to end our lives by violence, but that takes some type extraordinary effort as well.

However much we are aware of the total number of processes in our brains is how much we are responsible for our actions.

there is a lot of unconscious decision making and thinking going on that we are not aware of. biases and "intuition" are good examples. The book "blink" popularized however mucked up the concept, others such as Gerd Gigerenzer and Robert Burton do a better job of explaining it.

to give an analogy would be like trying to roll a rugby ball in a straight line. As much as you want it to get to point "A" it may or may not due to the way it is made.
You don't have to worry about what actions your body takes to enable your hands to get hold of the ball, even though you want to catch it. All you have to do is want to catch it. But even that want is influenced by the physiology of the brain, and your motivation can be inhibited by emotional problems such as depression.

Since our wants originate in our three pound meatball behind our face, it is ridiculous to be so confident as to say that "so and so deserves eternal punishment for his decisions". However it is not ridiculous to say that, so and so needs some 'treatment' for some defined period to try to change thier behavior.

I'll let you have the last word on this since I want to get on with my next DC article.

you've got a nice place here and as always, its been a pleasure!
take care.

akakiwibear said...

Lee,
Delighted to have your host. As ever, gracious of you to leave me the last word when I am sure you have seen where your prevarications are leading.

But you did commit yourself However much we are aware of the total number of processes in our brains is how much we are responsible for our actions.

What I take you mean is that if we are aware we are responsible – now you may not reply to this – but if we are responsible then we must have been free to have made the choice we made.

Clearly if we do not act freely (recognising any pressures on us, in the circumstances we make up our own mind) then we should not be responsible. You imply responsibility is linked to awareness which implies choice.

At which point in the bio-computer model does the freedom to choose start or stop?

If the bio-computer model holds true then we never exercise freedom of choice, so we should never be held responsible for our actions. Is that your position?

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

hi kiwi,
I couldn't resist. One more shot for fun.

you want me to quantify how much we are responsible?
.666%
;-)
see ya!

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

Lee's bailed out so I'll take the baton. We hold people accountable in law for the following reasons:
(a) To modify their behaviour.
(b) To hold them up as an example to modify other people's behaviour.
(c) To protect society.
(d) To give back to those who have lost.

Having said that, (c) would apply whether or not we consider the person to be capable of being responsible and (d) is just an attempt to turn back the clock.

So we're left with (a) and (b) - we hold people accountable in order to influence the choices made by them and other people like them. The underlying assumption is that people will make their choices based on what punishment (if any) awaits them. They know about the punishment through the experience of being told that punishment awaits them.

In other words, we're justified in holding people accountable in law if their choice is influenced by item 3 on my list (experiences of life). It has got to be their choice, but it doesn't have to be based on freewill.

You ask whether it is a person who is responsible for continued offense or whether it is society for not applying the correct motivation. I think the answer is both. Again, responsibility implies a choice. It doesn't imply a free choice.

Do you think you would be justified for punishing your computer if it misbehaved? I think I would be justified, but such behaviour would be irrational and futile. It chose to misbehave but it won't modify its behaviour in response to punishment.

You ask "why not seek eternal life?" My answer would be that I don't think we can attain it. Simple really.

I like your horse rider analogy. It doesn't address the specific abilities though. What abilities do you expect will be retained by the soul? People who suffer brain damage often undergo memory loss. The more severe the damage, the more their memory is impaired. This indicates that memory is not a function of the soul. If, as you say, the soul adds abilities to the brain then we should expect those abilities to remain when someone suffers brain damage.

Let me now explain my comment about belief in life after death. Imagine someone offers to give you a chocolate cake if you do some work for them but they don't actually have the chocolate cake. In response to the offer of a cake, you do the work but then the cake doesn't turn up. The point is that you did the work because you believed that you were going to get the cake. Now imagine that someone will really give you a cake if you do the work for them, but they don't tell you about it. You don't do the work because you don't believe that you will get a cake. This demonstrates that it's belief in the cake which causes people to act.

The cake is eternal life. The work is whatever you have to do to get eternal life. People who believe that they will get eternal life respond to that belief in various ways. They don't respond to whether they will actually get eternal life because they don't find out about that while they are still alive.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Neil,
There seem to be two threads here – the responsibility one and the original brain function one (my horse/rider analogy)
To the first – responsibility -, you make an important point when you say:
responsibility implies a choice. It doesn't imply a free choice..

Choice is seldom free in the sense that it is without influences, pressures or inducements. Freewill is our ability to make the choice in a non deterministic way. What I mean is that the outcome is not determined by the accumulated knowledge/experience etc – it is certainly influenced by it, but we can choose to act contrary to our “programme”.

To exhibit decision making that is non-deterministic would in my mind be evidence of a soul. Therefore if we ascribe actual responsibility for their choices to people then it seems that we acknowledge that they have exercised their freewill. As you say it would be irrational to punish my computer.

Now it is important to avoid the fallacy that the soul absolutely directs all decision making – that would diminished the functionality of the brain. At the most the soul can be an influence – one of the factors taken into account. Horse & rider – horse may choose to bulk at the jump. What we are looking at is an element in the decision making that does not fit with bio-computer model.

To the second – functionality -, I see the nub in what abilities do you expect will be retained by the soul? People who suffer brain damage often undergo memory loss.
Clearly if we attribute some brain function to the soul all would fall into place – but it would be irrational to do so. The brain is a fully functional device; it evolved to be just that, the interface with the soul is added later. The brain may lose all functionality while the soul remains intact.

By definition the soul is eternal (another debate, but it must be a given for this one – if there is a soul it is eternal).
So, horse dies rider moves on.

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Kiwi,
To exhibit decision making that is non-deterministic would in my mind be evidence of a soul.
okay, I'll buy that, so now how do you go demonstrating that non-deterministic decision making is going on? thats a hypothesis right? how do you test it. It seems to me christians should spend more time in the lab trying to prove their hypothesis rather than building megachurches.

Until you can differentiate between the two, you do not have a case.

There is much more evidence to show that peoples behavior is changed due to chemical and physical stimulae, directed talk therapy, brain washing, education, religion, aversion avoidance, what have you, and since all of it originates in neurons, you have to show that some external influence plays a role in manipulating the brain state.

The common thread in all this in the brain is self interest, in case you hadn't noticed. A person will change their behavior, or at least want to change their behavior if it is in their self-interest. Seeking god included. Some have diseases that prevent them from benefiting from methods to change behavior, but at least, in most cases the desire to change would be there.

So get busy and think up some tests for your hypothesis.

akakiwibear said...

Lee, you raise 3 points:
1) Need to demonstrate non-deterministic decision making
2) Extensive evidence for brain driven behaviour
3) Brain (bio-computer model) acts in its own self interest.

1) A characteristic of a deterministic decision is that for any given set of inputs the output will always be the same. Now we generally agree the inputs (roughly Neil’s 5) and I accept that it matters not that we can’t actually map these inputs yet.

However, human behaviour does not conform to a deterministic decision model – for example we change our minds; sometimes immediately, before the inputs change.
We demonstrably make judgemental decisions – those that are made under conditions of uncertainty - the opposite of deterministic.

2) We agree that many of the processes within the brain have been observed – one should not confuse explaining the ‘what happens’ with explaining the ‘why’ or underlying cause.
For example we explain the effects of gravity with physics, but we still don’t understand what gravity actually is or how it acts on matter (we see the effects on matter but don’t know how the effect comes about – and we all hope the LHC accelerator may help).

You go some way towards identifying the underlying cause with your next point.

3) You present an interesting rule for the bio-computer model The common thread in all this in the brain is self interest, in case you hadn't noticed. A person will change their behavior, or at least want to change their behavior if it is in their self-interest. which in effect says, in case you had not noticed, that any behaviour which is contrary to this rule faults the bio-computer model. I agree.

So examples of people exercising choice to act against their own self interest fault your bio-computer model – like someone sacrificing themselves for a stranger, the example of Maximilian Kolbe comes to mind.


Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

We demonstrably make judgemental decisions – those that are made under conditions of uncertainty - the opposite of deterministic.
okay I'm with you, so? Does that suggest something other than biological processes? I've got a whole bunch of experiments and case studies to show that biological process account for decision making, moving the body around etc.

For example we explain the effects of gravity with physics, but we still don’t understand what gravity actually is or how it acts on matter (we see the effects on matter but don’t know how the effect comes about – and we all hope the LHC accelerator may help).
okay, I'm with you, but why wouldn't we expect something spiritual is being misunderstood as gravity? We don't for the same principles that we shouldn't expect anything spiritual about ourselves.


So examples of people exercising choice to act against their own self interest fault your bio-computer model – like someone sacrificing themselves for a stranger, the example of Maximilian Kolbe comes to mind.
no, you've got it wrong. Would I give my life for my wife because I love her as an act of self-sacrifice or would I give my life for my wife because I don't want to live with the knowledge that I could have done something to save her? If the latter is true and I go back in time and give my life for her, there is no self-sacrifice.

Some research on heroic acts show that they acted instictively without any thought of self-sacrifice as if it were something biolically programmed in, like being startled at a loud noise or shouting when experiencing harsh pain or flinching when something comes at the face.

You have not shown any research or evidence to demonstrate that the soul hypothesis has any validity at all, and I mean AT ALL.

Show me the data for research on the soul and lets compare it to data for biological processes as an explanation for our "animation".

Lee Randolph said...

hi kiwi,
what are the defined parameters of a soul?
What is the definition of a soul?
What makes up a soul?
What does a soul do?
What does a soul not do?
Do other sources agree on the answers?

Once we define the parameters of a soul, then we can try to detect it, observe it, measure it, predict it, EVALUATE it.

Until such time, no one has any business considering it useful information.

akakiwibear said...

I've got a whole bunch of experiments and case studies to show that biological process account for decision making, moving the body around etc. how does this address the question of deterministic and judgemental decision making? I did not dispute that the brain could take decisions and move the body around

why wouldn't we expect something spiritual is being misunderstood as gravity? I never said it is being misunderstood as gravity I used an analogy to gravity to illustrate a concept where by we can understand the effect something has without knowing how the effect is brought about.

I respect your devotion to your wife and understand your point If the latter is true and I go back in time and give my life for her, there is no self-sacrifice. but you miss my point when I said make the sacrifice for a stranger.

Show me the data for research on the soul and lets compare it to data for biological processes as an explanation for our "animation" so you resort to the “if you can’t produce conclusive proof it does not exist” argument . Come now we both know that there is no conclusive proof one way or the other and you continue to miss the point I made in the analogy to gravity.

I don’t challenge the research that shows certain parts of the brain are active during certain processes – I would be surprised if my body acted without any brain activity as I trust you would be. But you ignore the point that the bio-computer model which you subscribe to produces a deterministic machine – humans do not behave in a totally deterministic way; that model does not explain our behaviour and is therefore flawed.

not shown any research or evidence to demonstrate that the soul hypothesis has any validity at all, and I mean AT ALL Do I need to? My argument is that your model is flawed and you have not rebutted that position.

However, it is easy to put your AT ALL to rest, but I suspect you don’t really mean that – do you mean conclusive evidence; or do you actually mean any credible evidence? If the former then we both know that we would not be having this discussion if it existed – either for or against.

Hamba kahle – peace

akakiwibear said...

Lee you ask so many questions which perhaps reflects how closed you are to concepts out of your ‘scientifically proven” comfort zone.

Let’s take your last question Do other sources agree on the answers?. Since when is it a universal prerequisite of knowledge for all to agree? We do extend that requirement to the arts or to law or even to medical diagnoses and treatments – yet you want to apply it the metaphysical!

It matters not a jot that there are multiple views on the nature of the soul. Does the diversity of views on the nature and remedy for the current global financial crises make its existence any less real?

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
first off, i enjoy talking with you. Just wanted you to know that.
anyway....back to bizniz.

I think you are misrepresenting my position. I just went along with you labeling my position as “bio-computer’ model because I thought you understood my position. Now as you keep saying that “bio-computer” model and deterministic and non-determistic, I don’t know what the heck you are talking about. Early on I said the following
okay, I'll buy that, so now how do you go demonstrating that non-deterministic decision making is going on?
Without really understanding what you were talking about.

So now can you explain to me what it is you think I am saying?

Now on to your comment.

Okay, I know no one misunderstands gravity as being supernatural. That’s not what I meant. But what I mean is that using the principles which prevent us from believing gravity is supernatural, we should apply those principles to the soul such that we do not believe there is anything supernatural about us.

We do not know how gravity works but we don’t believe its supernatural
We don’t know how people work but we do think there is something supernatural.

The difference between the two is the bible. Without the bible, you would not have any reason to believe we were supernatural unless you want to concede that you be just as happy being a Hindu.

so you resort to the “if you can’t produce conclusive proof it does not exist” argument .
No, you misrepresent me again.
try this, list the evidence to support a biological basis for humans, and then list the evidence for spiritual basis for humans. what you wind up with is one huge column of data that “CONVERGES” on the hypothesis that the body is not dependent on a soul and one column for the soul that is virtually empty.

See, accuracy of a fact is like triangulating a target. From one perspective it may seem right, and your aim may be somewhat accurate, but you increase the likelihood that you will be more accurate the more perspectives you check it against.
In math its called cross-checking. In court its called cross-examining. Surely you get it.

But you ignore the point that the bio-computer model which you subscribe to produces a deterministic machine – humans do not behave in a totally deterministic way; that model does not explain our behaviour and is therefore flawed.

Again I don’t follow the bio-computer model, but I will say this. That right down to the molecular level, forces compete against each other and influence each others behavior. Brownian motion was discovered and explained by Einstein. Brown noticed that a grain of pollen moved randomly on water. Einstein posited that the random motion was caused by atoms striking against it and someone else confirmed it in the lab.

Your choices will be affected by chemical changes that you aren’t even aware of. Your perceptions change from day to day and you are not aware of them because they affect your point of reference. Depressed people make different choices when they are depressed than when they are taking thier medication. Preachers wives will kill thier husbands with a shotgun when they get fed up with abuse.

You don’t need a soul to explain any of this and I don’t see how a soul fits into the picture at all except because the bible say it does. Once again get rid of the bible and you’d have no clue about the idea of a soul unless you’d be just as happy being a Hindu.

Look people aren’t bad or good, they just are and they make decisions. Why they make the decisions they do is the question and it’s a fallacy to think that it is caused by either “soul” or “no-soul”, or if I’ve misrepresented you “evil” or “good”.

Do I need to? My argument is that your model is flawed and you have not rebutted that position.
If winning is all you care about, then fine, my model is flawed, but that does not change the fact that evidence does not support in any way or fashion the existence of a soul, and you have not even given me a link to a research paper to look at showing the likelihood of a soul.

If the former then we both know that we would not be having this discussion if it existed – either for or against.
You must be joking. I can lead you to water but I can’t make you drink.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I think I misunderstood you with the horse rider analogy. You actually said that we lose our abilities when we die. So, I asked the wrong question. I should have asked: What is life without abilities? I would call that death.

You picked up on my comment that it is irrational to punish a computer and you placed it in a different context. I gave a reason for not punishing which is that a computer will not respond to punishment. You seem to be implying that it is irrational because a computer does not have freewill. Do you have a reason for believing that?

Do you think it would be rational to punish a being who does not have freewill? Let me introduce Deterministic Dan. He lives an independent life and works in a welding shop. However all his choices are determined by his make-up and his experiences (both conscious and unconscious). He is capable of rational though and his behaviour is far more sophisticated than the simple following of instructions. Is it ever right to punish Dan in your view?

I'm quite surprised that you came up with people changing their mind as a demonstration of non-deterministic behaviour. My clock changes its mind about what time it is. My computer changes its mind about what should be on the screen. You say that people change their minds without the inputs changing, but the inputs do change.

Between making the two decisions, the person will experience the passing of some time (as my clock example demonstrates) during which there will be various sensations, some of which they will be aware of and some of which they will not. As Lee pointed out, the thermodynamic fluctuations are always changing. They are also chaotic so they cannot be predicted. So there are plenty of reasons for a deterministic person to change their mind.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Ah the problem of having been away is that I have a lot to comment on.

I see that having picked a challenging topic you are indeed testing me.

Let me start with a digression invited by Lee Once again get rid of the bible and you’d have no clue about the idea of a soul unless you’d be just as happy being a Hindu … well perhaps not as happy but at least content. There are a lot of core similarities with Christianity, for instance the Trinity – or Hindu ‘Trimurti’ of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are not different Gods, but manifestations of the one Supreme Iswara.

Lee, I think you are seeing the topic through your DC eyes which tend to focus rather narrowly on evangelical Christianity as though it characterised theism. To address the topic in an open minded way I think a more catholic (small ‘c’ catholic that is) approach called for.

Perhaps the preponderance of believers in a soul across diverse cultures and traditions of learning is one element of the triangulation you seek. Are all the learned scholars who believe in a soul wrong, is their intellect for naught, are they fools to have dismissed the “wisdom” of atheists? Now the minority may be right when exploring a new concept for which there is little history of scholarship, but the probability that they are right on topics that have withstood thousands of years of scrutiny and study … ?

Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

Neil What is life without abilities? I would call that death - so would I. In the horse and rider analogy, the horse is dead, the rider (soul) not, it has its own intrinsic abilities separate from the horse.

You ask Is it ever right to punish Dan in your view? No I don’t think it is rational to punish Deterministic Dan! Lee may call it behaviour modification rather than punishment to deflect from the immorality of it but it would still be wrong. Since Dan has no soul he should be terminated unless utilising the resource is required to turn him into a contributing member of society is economically justified. It is an economic nonsense in an atheist world devoid of souls to invest scarce resource in those that do not contribute to the goals of the controlling powerful - wait, how does our deterministic bio-computer acquire and manage abstract judgemental concepts like morality, power and influence .. and why pursue them?

Now I notice that you have simply turned my question on punishing one without freewill back on me – I too ask Is it ever right to punish Dan in your view?

Neil – I was hoping you would not challenge me on the time lapse involved in changing ones mind – yes there could be new data and it could be biologically derived. That is a flaw in my argument – a fatal one … ?

Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

Lee,
I think I understand you point about proposing a bio-computer model. In effect there are only two options.

We are either bio-computers - my catch all term for a determinist system whose outputs are totally explained (even if we can’t do so now) by its inputs from this world – Neil’s 5 captures the concept – or our outputs cannot all be tracked back to our biological inputs implying a soul or some set of extra inputs. The computer’s IF condition, THEN outcome, ELSE other outcome; is a simplistic version of deterministic decision making. Acknowledging that it can be more complex is OK, but it has to be input based and therefore repeatable – same inputs, same outcome.

Now the problem with a bio-computer model is that it seems unable to take judgemental decisions, or those for which it does not have sufficient inputs or where the outcome may be contrary to that expected from the inputs. As an illustration, a chess computer will always make the same move at the identical point in a game unless programmed (an input) to choose differently or at random. Now a problem the authors of chess programmes face is that the computer evaluates the options open to it and chooses the best. Depending on its computational ability its ability to extrapolate is limited and sometimes it has to choose between two apparently equal options. The programmer provides the rules for it to get out of this situation, but the computer does not exercise judgement – the outcome is determined by the inputs. We are not like that – we make judgement calls, we choose between defrauding little old ladies and watching TV and we do so in an environment of uncertainty, beyond our experience and with unpredictable outcomes.

OK so we both know that neither of us can conclusively prove the truly judgemental nature of our decisions one way or the other – but perhaps another point of triangulation is established when people take decisions that are clearly in their own worst interest with no apparent gain for them- I cited Maximilian Kolbe earlier as an example of non-deterministic decision making.

Lee, you invite me to try this, list the evidence to support a biological basis for humans, and then list the evidence for spiritual basis for humans and draw the appropriate conclusion.

Firstly recognise that the length of the lists is irrelevant! A length of a list of activities the horse can undertake without a rider (eat, sleep, walk etc) does not demonstrate there is no rider, whereas a single action by the horse reliant on the rider demonstrates the rider exists.

So …. for your assertion, that there is no soul, to stand you have to dismiss every one of my points – including the virtual points created by ‘triangulation’ - whereas I have only to establish reasonable grounds for a single case that supports the existence of the soul – I really have it easy, you atheists need so much faith!

However, I will stay with easy in the hope of avoiding the complex. Research by Dr. Sam Parnia (from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, who is currently a Fellow at New York's Weill Cornell Medical Centre) over 5 years investigated near death experiences (NDEs) and out of body experiences (OBEs – I though the queen gave them away?).

The research specifically found that some patients could relate what happened during times when they were clinically brain dead – no brain activity i.e. unaware, eyes closed, lights out + no one home. While the research found that not every NDE or OBE fitted this model a few did. There seems to have been a link between how near the N part of NDE was to the D part as to the nature of the E part. But even one case of a person being able to “recall” (of course the study addressed being told afterwards etc) what happened when they were devoid of brain activity demonstrates something exists beyond the brain, I will settle for soul.

This research (reviewed and accepted for degree purposes) has triggered a new project across more hospitals to capture a larger sample – the results are keenly awaited. Out of interest more on the topic on SELECTION OF PEER REVIEWED PUBLISHED SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES . Some of this research is interesting in that it demonstrates significant difference between electrically induced OBEs (the ‘what’ happens – where in the brain) and what are described as complete NDEs and between drug induced experiences and those recognised as significant NDEs.

Enough for now?

Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

OOPS I got that link all wrong!!! SELECTION OF PEER REVIEWED PUBLISHED SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES

or http://www.horizonresearch.org/education-science-articles-available.html

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Kiwi,
I'm going to concentrate on my latest DC article before I start nit-picking your comment, but I will leave you with food for thought. The origin of the idea of soul can be traced to the philosophy of "essence" that plato used to derive his philosophy of forms. The premises he used were unproven assumptions, a hypothesis if you will, out of which he made his slippery slope that you are at the bottom of.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I don't think there's as much scholarly support for an separate soul as you might think. A lot of "soul" talk can be understood in terms of minds - the product of the machine we call the brain. So, no, I don't call these scholars fools. In any case, it's not my place to insult people.

Concerning the horse and rider... I'm getting confused. What particular abilities does the rider (the soul) have? So far, you just seem to be arguing that it has the ability to be non-deterministic. That doesn't seem enough to call "life".

Are you serious about your treatment of Dan? You'd kill him? I don't see the basis for your morality there. It's not right to punish but it's okay to kill?

I think that in some circumstances it is moral to punish Dan. Suppose Dan has a rule that he will avoid behaviour which is likely to be punished. In that case, we are justified in threatening punishment to ensure that he acts in a good way. Having threatened punishment, we need to carry it out because otherwise Dan may think that we're just bluffing.

As for time, I think it's fatal to your argument. Whenever you make two decisions, there will always be some length of time between them. In that length of time, you will experience things which will have an effect on your decision. To clarify this, I've written a computer program called "The Oracle" which can be asked any question, providing the answer is either yes or no. I assure you that the program is completely deterministic. If you reload the web page and ask exactly the same questions, you will get exactly the same answers. However, if you ask the same question twice in succession, you may get different answers. Reloading the page causes The Oracle to forget everything and in effect be born again. Humans don't have a reload button.

You say that deterministic processes must be repeatable, but that is not true. The Oracle is not repeatable (unless you press the reload button, but that's cheating). In any case, it's impossible to provide a human being with exactly the same inputs. For a start, they are likely to have a memory of the previous time.

I challenge your assertion that a bio-computer cannot make judgemental decisions. The Oracle can make judgemental decisions (as I understand the term). Ask it "should I watch TV rather than defrauding an old lady". I'm afraid The Oracle doesn't have much of a moral character, so it has a lot of learning to do. It can however answer questions in an environment of uncertainty. Ask it "will it rain in the next week".

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwi,

So …. for your assertion, that there is no soul, to stand you have to dismiss every one of my points

uh, no I don't. Christians make the claim that the soul exists, there is no evidence to support it, it is a unsupported hypothesis,

The phenomena of the "light" can reproduced in the lab. It happens as your brain loses blood and oxygen. I happens to some test pilots during their training.
Out of body experience was reproduced in a lab in sweden last year.

All controlled tests that I have ever heard of have never accumulated any substansial evidence to show that there is a disconnect between the mind/body/soul what have you.

In these tests the claimants are interviewed about specific details of the room that they floated around in and they do no better than guesses.

I'll read some of your links, but I follow science as close as some people follow sports, and I have never heard of a firm case of out-of-body experiences, and I presume that if it happened, it would be all over the place, because its the news everyone wants to hear (unless you want to say that a relatively small percentage of atheists are controlling the worlds information)

But while I'm perusing your evidence, here is a short inexact history of your soul,

first a principle of history. The greater civilization influences the lesser, Jews were the lesser civilization, and they got run over for centuries by their neighbors.

as early as the 6th century bc
- orpheus - legendary figure, said to have pioneered civilization, descended and returned to hades, benefactor of man, magician, harpist, improved hermes lyre, purification rituals,

- orphics
- - orpheus (legen, persephone, dyonysus (bacchus) decended into hades and returned, believed men had a soul derived from a killed dionysus that was put into man when he was made from the ashes, performed purification rites

- Pherecydes of Syros (circa 540bc) - he taught pythagoras, continued the tradition of teaching the immortality of the soul,

- thales 624 BC–ca. 546, had a theory of soul, and said "“That for which we blame others, let us not do ourselves”,
sound familiar? Sounds like a Jewish law or something.

- pythagoreans (?580-490?), similar to the orpheans, known for their theory of the transmigration of the soul among other things, performed purification rites, developed a morality that would ensure they could live among the gods, miracle worker, his mother was prophesied to give birth to a wise man beneficial to mankind, believed that numbers were the source of everything, taught his followers morality using cryptic sayings having hidden meanings, His teaching were regarded as divine revelation, improved music scales,

- socrates (469 BC–399 ) had a theory of the soul

- plato (428-347) continued with the forms and theory of the soul, and influenced gnostics

- aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) continued with the theory of the soul and influenced everyone.

- Alexander the Great (356 - 323) spread greek ideas and civilization far and wide.

- neo-pythagoreanism revival occurred between 200BC and 200 CE, do those dates ring a bell? they should. Jesus falls right in the middle.

- Apollonius of Tyana (15 - 98CE), neo pythagoraen, miracle worker,

The greeks believed their renowned wisdom came from divine revelation. In those days, everyone was getting things from divine revelation or the 'muse'. This divine revelation is a sneaky way of adding authority to an unfalsifiable idea like the following I recorded on a trip back in my time machine.

Bruce: "why should I believe you?"
(argument ad baculum on the way....)
Brucealeethus: "because it was revealed from the gods and you don't want to piss off the gods do you?"
Bruce: "why that hard to believe!"
Brucealeethus: "Are you calling me a liar? I've never done anything to you! Why are you so rude to me! I've never been so offended in all my life!"
Allenaeus: "Bruce, really, you are out of line, Brucealeethus wouldn't be so upset if he were not telling the truth, and you can't prove he didn't get it from divine revelation so he deserves the benefit of the doubt if not worship".

(I get this 'turning the tables' trick pulled on me in real life pretty often in much less metaphysical scenarios)

The origin of the idea of the soul coincides with the "axial age" (800-200bc) but the problem with Karl Jaspers theory is that he doesn't seem to take into account the historically huge commercial trade that went on in that region if not the battles between civilizations.

It seems Christianity has large greek root.

So, unless you can show why the assumption that any of us have an "essence" or a "form" or that the mind is not derived from the biology of the brain, then I'm afraid you have no argument.

You know as well as I do that arguments depend on evidential support or they stay in the realm of rhetoric. You my friend are firmly in the realm of rhetoric and are sitting at the bottom of a 2600 year long slippery slope.

akakiwibear said...

Neil you say Concerning the horse and rider... I'm getting confused. What particular abilities does the rider (the soul) have? Now that is a tough one; I don’t really know the demarcation of roles. In terms of the analogy I would hazard it to be extending the horse to act beyond its immediate self interest. For example, on its own horse would wonder around grazing or perhaps go off in search of a mate. With a rider it may travel to and from home to a variety of specific destinations each day to meet the objectives of the rider (say the rider were the village doctor). Of course the horse could refuse to go to certain places (it may fear crossing a bridge, or jumping a fence), so the rider is not in absolute control, merely in a guiding (may be ignored) capacity.

If you believed in a soul what role do you think it would reasonably play?

Neil you ask Are you serious about your treatment of Dan? You'd kill him? I was being deliberately provocative, but the position has merit. I agree with you that the threat of punishment may serve the purpose of directing behaviour – but where it fails what is the moral position AND why should we be moral? There is a clear evolutionary problem around the evolution of a collective self interest (or morality) over an individual amoral self interest – evolution requires that organisms can reproduce, whereas a collective identity clearly cannot.

Neil you challenge with You say that deterministic processes must be repeatable, but that is not true Why not, surely, a deterministic process is by definition repeatable. If we choose the highest interest rate when investing – that is deterministic and we will always choose the same highest rate – choosing the highest real rate of return after risk is factored in is judgemental. Belief in gravity is deterministic, belief in God (or not) is judgemental – hence both require faith or an admission that one does not actually believe but has merely adopted a position of convenience.

You excessively exploit my case’s confessed weakness with As for time, I think it's fatal to your argument. I don’t agree with fatal, difficult yes. For it to be fatal you would have to demonstrate that the very short lapsed time would have to have precipitated sufficient change in the deterministic inputs to change our minds. However there are two flaws to that:
a) If I choose to invest in share A rather than B the most significant change of any relevance is that I have made a decision. I am now faced with a new decision, should I change my mind – or a new opinion that ‘A’ was a bad decision. However as I have received no more information regarding the relative merits of A and/or B the deterministic aspect of the decision has not changed, only the judgemental one.
b) The change of mind is still a judgemental decision. The weakness in my case only exists if the output decision is deterministic and the subsequent change of mind is also deterministic. Two conditions necessary to demonstrate that to be true – neither of which can be established with confidence – (i) that the decision was in fact deterministic in the first place & (ii) that the changes to the inputs during the lapse of time are sufficient to produce the revised decision. If deterministic, would the share example not oscillate between A and B?
The Oracle is fun but seems to be little different from flipping a coin – it demonstrates no real knowledge, getting common facts wrong, answering the same factual question phrased differently in different (or mutually exclusive ways) ways etc. Is this decision making – I think not, it is simply guessing … but seductive for some when lured by the 50/50 hit rate. I hope you keep a log of the questions they must be fun to read!!
Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

Lee uh, no I don't. Christians make the claim that the soul exists, there is no evidence to support it, it is a unsupported hypothesis, actually not, unless you disregard all evidence that is contradictory to your view.
You seem to do this for example with:
(i) Out of body experience was reproduced in a lab in sweden last year. No, actually not – a different experience was produced using a conscious subject. Ehrsson’s work was that of creating a virtual reality for a fully aware subject – he used physical and visual cues to stimulate the test subject. This is very different from an OBE which occurs with an NDE when the patient is effectively “dead”. One should be more sceptical of media hype.

(ii) Of a little more validity (from your point of view) is the Swiss (and other) research where the brain was electrically stimulated to induce an apparent OBE. This research shows where in the brain an OBE may originate IF IT ACTUALLY SIMULATED AN OBE – however, the OBE that was simulated in these experiments was significantly different from those resulting from NDEs in a number of key ways: - viewed only part of body - observed a shortening of their limbs – had sensation of movement.

Lee you say In these tests the claimants are interviewed about specific details of the room that they floated around in and they do no better than guesses. Not so. The work of Parnia shows:
1) That some accounts cover not surroundings but events that occurred while the patient was “dead” and that it was established that the events were not related to the patient and since they covered foreseeable events; such as an accurate description of a doctor unknown to the patient – before or after the NDE – unexpectedly entering the room so there is no basis for a guess.
2) There is a clear separation in the accuracy of the descriptions of the events given by those who had NDEs and those who were merely unconscious during the events. Those who were merely unconscious related events similar to what they may have seen on TV and what they related did not accurately tie back to their own situations – you suggestion that they were guessing seems to be correct for this group; they had not had a valid NDE/ OBE.

You go on to say, while admitting that you do not follow science All controlled tests that I have ever heard of have …. is this simply argumentum ad ignorantiam? You justify your position with I presume that if it happened, it would be all over the place, well Parnia’s research is newly published and is expected to be verified in the new extended research project. BUT it is hardly surprising that the findings are not being trumpeted about – they are still to be repeated and anyway they present an unverifiable explanation (a soul) rather than proof of a soul. We can either bury our heads in the sand and ignore the soul as a possible explanation because it is contrary to our notions or we can treat it as a viable option and explore it further – but even if future research confirms Parnia’s findings (that some people can “recollect” what happened when they were “dead”) I would not expect atheism to admit its error and accept the soul as an explanation. Atheism, like theism is a faith based position and is therefore unlikely to be changed by logic, rather by emotion – however theists do hold the rational high ground.

Thank you for the history.
You sayYou know as well as I do that arguments depend on evidential support or they stay in the realm of rhetoric. You my friend are firmly in the realm of rhetoric and are sitting at the bottom of a 2600 year long slippery slope. ah .. so because an idea is old it must be wrong … ? .. or perhaps over time the great philosophers have simply not been able to unseat it – perhaps you had a point but it eluded me.

Certainly in terms of evidence I conceded at the outset that there was no conclusive case for or against – so we have to depend on our wits to sift what is available. What I see you doing is arbitrarily dismissing that which is contrary to your position and presenting no reasoning for your own position other than that I cannot conclusively prove mine … oh and historically there has been an evolving view of the soul! I think you need to do better than that.

What I have done in ( i) & (ii) and 1) & 2) above is demonstrate that there is evidence and that you have wrongly characterised/dismissed the evidence – my challenge to you is to validly demonstrate why it should be dismissed from being part of the ‘triangulation’ approach you were so keen on earlier … in other words based on the findings of Parnia’s and other research why should the observed effects not be attributed to the existence of a soul? In what way are the findings contrary to the theology around the soul?

Hamba Kahle

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"In terms of the analogy I would hazard it to be extending the horse to act beyond its immediate self interest."

That's interesting. However, it doesn't seem like the sort of ability which would, by itself, constitute any sort of life...

To answer your next question, if I believed in a soul, I think it would provide thinking facilities and would be deterministic. I don't think non-determinism is the right sort of thing to provide consciousness.

"I agree with you that the threat of punishment may serve the purpose of directing behaviour - but where it fails what is the moral position [...]"

I'm glad we agree on that. That's just the point I was trying to make. So, in some situations it's justifiable to punish a deterministic being. Where it fails, we have a problem, whether or not the being is deterministic. I think that's a separate discussion and it all depends on how it fails.

"a deterministic process is by definition repeatable."

Maybe there's a misunderstanding here. A deterministic process is repeatable if you start with a clean slate. However, presenting the same inputs twice in succession does not necessarily produce the same outputs because a deterministic process can depend on the whole sequence of inputs leading up to the output and presenting the inputs once is different form presenting them twice.

When it comes to something as complex as a human, presenting the same sequence of inputs twice is impossible from a practical point of view. You'd have to repeat all the experiences from conception onwards.

"However as I have received no more information regarding the relative merits of A and/or B the deterministic aspect of the decision has not changed, only the judgemental one."

I'm beginning to think that you're not talking about determinism at all, but you're using the word for something else. A deterministic process isn't limited to the relevant information. It can use all the information available to it, even information which it doesn't make sense to include. The process doesn't have to be rational.

"The change of mind is still a judgemental decision."

That's okay. Deterministic processes can decide judgemental decisions. The Oracle can. See below.

"The weakness in my case only exists if the output decision is deterministic and the subsequent change of mind is also deterministic."

That would be one weakness in your case. Another would be if you were unable to show that the output is non-deterministic.

"The Oracle is fun but seems to be little different from flipping a coin"

Damn! You noticed.

"it demonstrates no real knowledge,"

I note that knowledge is a deterministic aspect of life.

"getting common facts wrong,"

It was just exercising its freewill.

"answering the same factual question phrased differently in different (or mutually exclusive ways) ways etc."

You'd like it to be more deterministic then?

"Is this decision making – I think not, it is simply guessing … but seductive for some when lured by the 50/50 hit rate."

It's certainly decision making. After all, a coin is how football teams decide who plays at which end of the field. I take it you mean some special sort of decision making...

This leads me on to another point which is that non-determinism looks just like randomness. Suppose we have a being which is composed of two parts. One part is deterministic (the body) and the other is non-deterministic (the soul). When we present a known set of inputs, we won't know for sure what the output will be because part of the being is non-deterministic. Looking at this situation, we can say that it's more likely to choose A than to choose B. We can even put numbers on it and say that if we tried it out many times from the same starting position (impossible in practice for a human, but possible for a simpler system), then 78% of the time it would choose A and 12% of the time it would choose B. However, we can't say anything else about it just from observing it because the only thing we find out is the outcome. We can't say that the output depends on any inputs because in this scenario we're keeping the inputs fixed. The thing is that saying that something happens 78% of the time is just a probability, so the non-deterministic part of the being looks to behave in a random way from the point of view of anyone observing the being.

"I hope you keep a log of the questions they must be fun to read!!"

:-)

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Kiwi,
regarding the data you presented in your last comment to me,
you are putting these data into a different category than other researchers. They consider it "out of body". I think that if you want to recategorize it it belongs in a subcategory, not a category of its own. NDE mean Near Death Experience, not Completely Dead Experience. Near Dead is not effectively dead because effectively dead is dead. If you are able to reproduce a sensation in the brain such as the feeling of someone watching you, then you have demonstrated that the sensation is independent of the event. The same with OBE'S. You should look for podcasts, articles and books from susan blackmoore who had an OBE thirty years ago and has studied her way out of mysticism and into psychology and neuroscience as better explanations.


About Parnia, he got enough of data to convince some organization to give him some grants to pursue serious research beginning in sept. Persuading people to give you money is different that proving that the product is worth the money. As I said, people want an afterlife and have a bias in favor of it so we can infer that they are more likely to accept slight evidence in favor of it than slight evidence against it. don't read more into that than there is.

You go on to say, while admitting that you do not follow science

Go back and read what I wrote more carefully "I'll read some of your links, but I follow science as close as some people follow sports, " that means that I like and follow science a lot.

All controlled tests that I have ever heard of have …. is this simply argumentum ad ignorantiam?

Its not an argument its an opinion, are arguments and opinions mutually exclusive? as I predicted, you are sharp enough to distinguish between them. I didn't think it would be a problem.

We can either bury our heads in the sand and ignore the soul as a possible explanation because it is contrary to our notions or we can treat it as a viable option and explore it further – but even if future research confirms Parnia’s findings (that some people can “recollect” what happened when they were “dead”) I would not expect atheism to admit its error and accept the soul as an explanation.
Not only do you ad hominem me, you ad hominem a whole group. Hypothesis are sound if they aren't falsified. His hypothesis is not sound until it has undergone testing that would lead his peers and or experts in the field to believe its sound. You are exaggerating its significance.

Atheism, like theism is a faith based position and is therefore unlikely to be changed by logic, rather by emotion – however theists do hold the rational high ground.
Maybe to some, but it is a stupid thing to do isn't it? why would I want to publicize something perceived to be negative about me if I wasn't sure about it and able to defend it using sound principles?

so because an idea is old it must be wrong … ? .. or perhaps over time the great philosophers have simply not been able to unseat it – perhaps you had a point but it eluded me.
well the point was that if the hypothesis of the soul is true, and it was divinely revealed, then those to whom it was revealed said it came from the Greek gods.
Therefore Pagan.

And those that strip it of its greek godiness used it to support ideas that they didn't fully understand. It fit well in that period of the discovery of logic and mathematics. of the discovery that you can quantify and measure intangibles. The ancient astronomers, astrologers and priests needed cognitive tools to explain the patterns they were seeing in the sky, the developed more sophisticated mathematics out of necessity. "numbers are the essence" yada yada.

Thales learned from the Egyptian astrologers, carried on their mystical habits,
Pythagoras did the same, was captured and taken to Babylon and added Babylonian mystical traditions to his complement and went to Italy to form the Pythagoreans. Pythagorus was quoted by plato as saying “at its deepest level, reality is mathematical in nature”.

Aristotle carried on the mathematical pursuits in his philosophy by categorizing the different concepts, which turned out to be very significant for the development of mathematics. He differentiated arithmos (routine number manipulation) and logos (logical mathematical reasoning). As you know, logos means “word”, but in the ancient world there were different facets to its meaning.

in the Book of John, it shows up again.
En arche en o logos
In the beginning was the word,
but according to how Aristotle used it , the phrase would look more like
“in the beginning was logical mathematical reasoning” which echoes what pythagoreas supposedly said.


What I see you doing is arbitrarily dismissing that which is contrary to your position and presenting no reasoning for your own position other than that I cannot conclusively prove mine … oh and historically there has been an evolving view of the soul! I think you need to do better than that.
you have a belief based on an unsound hypothesis, and you think I am being unreasonable for not buying into it.
That’s rich! That is a classic argument from ignorance.
You have a Christian belief that can be shown to have pagan roots and you still give it the same weight as if it originated from a confessed Christian.
that’s rich too!
That is a classic "moving goal post" fallacy.

What I have done in ( i) & (ii) and 1) & 2) above is demonstrate that there is evidence and that you have wrongly characterised/dismissed the evidence
the evidence is not as strong as you think it is, that is why the serious study starts in September. I predict It won't pan out by Parnas standards. I predict it will be inconclusive but he will need more money to perform research. Job security.

– my challenge to you is to validly demonstrate why it should be dismissed from being part of the ‘triangulation’ approach you were so keen on earlier … in other words based on the findings of Parnia’s and other research why should the observed effects not be attributed to the existence of a soul? In what way are the findings contrary to the theology around the soul?
uh….Because there are other hypthesis about them that have just as much weigh?

Physical limitations of the brain such as forgetfulness, not being able to multitask very well, show how much cognition is linked to biology. If you leave your body at all, why can’t you do it all the time? What is it about death that brings it on, and why are people ‘permitted’ to come back? What is the point of leaving the body at all if not to complete the trip to the other side? The answer is rooted, like cognition and awareness, in the biological properties of the brain. Without the biological framework, there is no awareness. This can be and has been demonstrated time and time again, and the results are not equivocal.

Like I said before, you are firmly in the domain of rhetoric.

I'm going to take a break now and go work on my next article for DC. As always I appreciate the dialog and I'd like to continue after I have met my DC commitment for November. We are supposed to publish at least once a month, weekly is preferred, except for authors [they get "the premium package" ;-)]

Lee Randolph said...

hi kiwi,
i found the "mind body symposium" podcast with parnia as the keynote speaker. I'm downloading them now so we can talk about it later.
here is the link.
http://www.mindbodysymposium.com/Speakers-Panelists/Sam-Parnia-MD-PhD-MRCP.html
LINK

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I must admit that I don't know much about OoBEs and NDEs. I must admit that if the study did find that people who are having a NDE/OoBE can see things which are not visible from their body then I would have to rethink my position.

However, there is something very strange about OoBEs if they are caused by the soul. The thing is that OoBEs are described as if the soul had eyes which are just like the body's eyes. It's strange enough that the body has eyes given that the soul can see. It's even stranger that people don't report that all the colours are different when they are seeing through the souls eyes. After all, the souls eyes are somewhat different from the body's eyes so we should expect things to look different (and not just 'clearer').

The colours which we see with the body's eyes are dependant on the absorption spectra of the pigments in the eyes. Clearly the soul's eyes can't be using those pigments because otherwise the doctors would see the soul. And yet the soul's eyes see the world in the same colours as the body's eyes. Camera designers need to spend a lot of effort on designing filters to get the colour balance right. It's a remarkable coincidence that the soul doesn't see the world in ultra-violet or infra-red or with reds and blues swapped over.

That's something which is completely explicable if the OoBE is a product of the imagination. People see what they expect to see.

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

excellent point neil.
I wish i'd made it!
;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
I listened to the keynote address by parnia and looked into him, and found an abstract of one of his papers.

and in his abstract it says
"All survivors of cardiac arrests during a 1 year period were interviewed within a week of their arrest, regarding memories of their unconscious period. Reported memories were assessed by the Greyson NDE Scale.... hidden targets were used to test the transcendental theories on potential out of body claims. Those with memories were compared to those without memories. RESULTS: 11.1% of 63 survivors reported memories. The majority had NDE features."

That greyson fellow for which the greyson scale was named, is head of "the parapsychological Association" which says it is affiliated with the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, yet on the AAAS website, there is no information about them retreivable in their search tool. And he didn't mention that fact that in his earlier study, only four of those were labeled as NDE, which means that only 6.3% were thought to be NDE.

11.1% of 63 is 7, and 6.3% is 4, and there was no mention of how they determined that 11.1% was better than chance. It looks to me like someone is playing on peoples weakness for understanding probability.
4/63 doesn't seem better than chance in my opinion especially when we are dealing with hard to define terms and an inherent margin of error.

- Why is it endorsed by the United Nations but not mentioned as an affiliate by the AAAS?

about the keynote,
- he uses the equivocation fallacy about "without freewill, people cannot be held accountable for their actions" (not defining his terms for 'freewill' and 'accountable'),
- he seemed to contradict himself when he says that after ten seconds electrical signals in the brain stop, brain damage starts happening within minutes of deprivation of blood and oxygen, and says that people have memories after being revived after twenty-thirty minutes to an hour. How much brain damage occurs during twenty minutes of death? I thought it was a lot of damage based on my yearly red Cross basic life saving recertification. I don't see how someone with twenty minutes or more of brain damage can fuction once they've been revived.
- I can hear him 'cooking the books' in his lecture. 10-20% of NDE have lucid memories, a sub group can tell "exactly" what was going on in the environment (not likely even in a non-NDE), and then talking about thousands of INTERVIEWS. That infers hundreds of reports of NDE's rather than the few they labeled as NDE'S in his relatively controlled study.
- He didn't seem to mention the possibility that the assumption about electrical activity and death may be wrong and that the NDE's are able to hear, feel, smell, see and record memories while incapacitated

I've often wondered what Guillotine vicitims think about after thier head has been cut off and how long they can keep thinking.

akakiwibear said...

Neil I'm beginning to think that you're not talking about determinism at all, but you're using the word for something else.
– I am referring to deterministic decisions rather than deterministic processes – subtle difference – and use the definition of deterministic as that which has no component of randomness … i.e. is to all intent and purpose predicable is we fully understand it. This is the usual definition.

Neil – you may well have hit the nail on the head with One part is deterministic (the body) and the other is non-deterministic (the soul) . I would certainly accept this as a valid separation of roles between ‘body’ and ‘soul’.

However when you say so the non-deterministic part of the being looks to behave in a random way from the point of view of anyone observing the being. you are, in my mind, drifting off target.

The deterministic part is easy – always the same outcome. Any variance in outcome (inputs held constant) is non-deterministic. Now the real question is, is the non-deterministic part random or deliberate – that is judgemental.

If random (following normal or any other distribution curve) we should be able to establish a fixed probability for a given event – choose A. Problem is, as you point out is that with people the test appears impossible as inputs vary with each trial … … but do the significant inputs?

There is a different way to approach this. If a given decision presents itself as deterministic (choose to invest at the highest interest rate) and yet is executed differently by different people then we can propose that the deterministic decision making process is being overridden by a judgemental one.

My point is that if we can arrive at the non-deterministic outcome when that outcome is obvious then we are behaving in a non-deterministic way, or acting under the influence of … ? … the soul?

Certainly we would have to rule out a malfunction of the deterministic bio-computer for this to be valid, but I am sure you could write the parameters of an experiment that covered that.

Hamba kahle – peace

akakiwibear said...

NeilThat's something which is completely explicable if the OoBE is a product of the imagination. People see what they expect to see. your argument looks good at first read, but not on closer inspection.

You assume that the soul perceives through the same 6 senses we recognise. Why? The is no rational basis for that at all.

However, if we are to interpret what the soul “sees” then the “images” would have to be rendered into a form that we could recognise and mange in our brains.

Hamba kahle – peace

akakiwibear said...

Lee but I follow science as close as some people follow sports, " that means that I like and follow science a lot. it just goes to show how we should not make assumptions – I, like many people, don’t follow sport.


I have a business trip to get through, so I would like to address your other comments in more detail later … but a quick one for now …

I would not normally quibble over semantics, but your but according to how Aristotle used it , the phrase would look more like “in the beginning was logical mathematical reasoning” which echoes what pythagoreas supposedly said. takes a serious liberty with 'logos', which while open to fairly wide interpretation does not quite lend itself to your case in quite the way you use it. For myself I go with Heraclitus.

However you raise an interesting aside – 1 John states that the knowledge of God (my use of logos) always existed, so why should we assume that its revelation to Christians was a first? Were the pagan gods an alternative path (discarded, once travelled) to finding the one God? Do I detect your DC 'evangelical' blinkers again?

Hamba kahle - peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi Lee,

It turns out that the Parapsychological Association is an affiliate of AAAS. See their website "About AAAS" -> "Affiliates" -> "P".

"people have memories after being revived after twenty-thirty minutes to an hour."

You mean the subject must have undergone resurrection? ;-)

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

Good catch Neil,
I also don't like Parnias assumption that humans spirituality is correlated with our superior reasoning and ability to communicate.

It seems he hasn't looked into much animal cognition research. In my mind, all animals (to include humans) or living things ride somewhere on a bell curve with each of us having different perceptual capabilities and cognitive abilities and some of that depends on the physiology that supports it, meaning that it is no wonder that dogs or chimps don't talk for the simple reason that they don't have the physiology to support it. Perhaps if they had the physiology for it, and did not speak, then a case could be made that our superior intellect correlates to spirituality.

What i mean is that their presumptions seem to be circular where the definition of spiritual seems to depend on being human apart from everything else that we share with other forms of life.

they presume that humans have a special place in the creators heart.

another thing I don't like is that the Templeton foundation is involved. They are notorious for giving out a cash prize larger than the Nobel for research that supports spirituality.

and another thing, is one of the 'scientists' literally RANTED angrily during the morning session and then was rebuked by one of the speakers following for being confrontational.

if they have a hypothesis and they test it by trying to falsify it, more power to them, but if they only test it in ways that will lead to affirming the consequent, then its just more propoganda.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Kiwi,
1 John states that the knowledge of God (my use of logos) always existed, so why should we assume that its revelation to Christians was a first? Were the pagan gods an alternative path (discarded, once travelled) to finding the one God?
now you are trying to move the goal post so that your wild speculative kick will go through it.

That knowledge was said to have been revealed by gods that were known to have been greek, have names and walk among humans.

It doesn't fit the parameters of the problem, or if it does, then its very deceptive and.....

irrational.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"and use the definition of deterministic as that which has no component of randomness"

So something which is non-deterministic must be that which does have a component of randomness. I'm happy with those definitions.

"Problem is, as you point out is that with people the test appears impossible as inputs vary with each trial … … but do the significant inputs?"

I think all the inputs are potentially significant. That's why I included (4) and (5) in my original list. We can't rule any out without a good reason to. If we just pick the inputs which we think should be significant then we are testing whether the person is rational not whether they are deterministic.

"is executed differently by different people then we can propose that the deterministic decision making process is being overridden by a judgemental one."

You think that if people are deterministic then they should all behave in the same way? Not at all. Different people have different levels of knowledge. They have associated with different people which has led to them having different views. They have different DNA which means they have different biases. Again, what you say makes sense if you replace the word "deterministic" with the word "rational".

"Certainly we would have to rule out a malfunction of the deterministic bio-computer for this to be valid"

I can only think that this "malfunction" is a deviation from rationality. Is that right?

"You assume that the soul perceives through the same 6 senses we recognise. Why? The is no rational basis for that at all."

If you read descriptions of OoBEs, they talk about looking down from the ceiling. Looking is the action of sight which is one of the 6 senses. It's not me who assumes that the soul perceives through the 6 senses, but the people who report OoBEs.

"However, if we are to interpret what the soul “sees” then the “images” would have to be rendered into a form that we could recognise and mange in our brains."

Yes. But it would be likely to come out looking like this since the process is different. But people don't report that sort of thing and I think it highly likely that they would if it happened.

Peace, Neil.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Lee,

I listened to the podcasts. I have to say that the afternoon sessions were much better than the morning ones. Dr. Henry Stapp, the guy who was talking about quantum mechanics, had some very fancy ideas, but I fear they weren't grounded in reality. His argument seems to be based on the assumption that the wave-function collapse must be caused by a consciousness. He should look into the work of Max Tegmark who proposes that it's caused by de-coherence.

Dr. Esther Sternberg spoke well, especially when she pointed out that they way to convince people of the truth of a theory is to present the evidence. She actually sounded like she'd made a contribution to science and was telling people how to go about it.

As for the ranting guy. He was just embarrassing. And the audience clapped! I guess he judge it right somehow.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Lee – once again a lot of water under the bridge, so I will try and collect my comments.

You sayI think that if you want to recategorize it it belongs in a subcategory, not a category of its own. , OK that recognises that there are different manifestations of OBEs and I freely acknowledge that some – those not associated with NDEs – can be simulated but have to recognise that they have different characteristics.

This is an important distinction - the simulations do not equal the experiences that imply life continues beyond death.

I've often wondered what Guillotine vicitims think about after thier head has been cut off and how long they can keep thinking., yeah, me too! If you have ever actually seen a headless chicken running about I suspect you would agree that it is weird – yes they do bump into things. A guillotine victim winking at you may also cause some discomfort ;)

Without the biological framework, there is no awareness. This can be and has been demonstrated time and time again, and the results are not equivocal. You have a neat trick of extrapolating a truth to embrace more than it should ... we have certainly demonstrated time & again that there is awareness within the biological framework – have we really proven that there is no other source?

But then you dismiss Parnia et al – a new one for you to attack below! I do note that you don’t really invalidate the actual findings, you just seem to go bypass them.

Parnia's pod cast - wow he takes a while to make a point! All up - not conclusive, I agree, but food for thought

Also interesting is this regard is the work of Penny Sartori whose 5 year study in Wales found among other things:

One man, whose life signs completely went, said he floated above his body and saw everything.
"He described our attempts to revive him in perfect detail, even talking about a doctor who came in while off-duty then left.
The patient's eyes were not even open when this happened and he was not only unconscious he was clinically dead."

More specifically the study (which was small – so go on dismiss it out of hand rather than add it to the accumulating weight of evidence) found:

None of the OBErs in this study viewed the hidden symbols placed on the monitors. However, this study has shown that one patient reported a very accurate OBE during a period of unconsciousness.

Also … When contrasted with the control group, who had undergone resuscitation but did not report an OBE, many discrepancies were discovered. Having been asked to re-enact their resuscitation, the control group’s reports were very inaccurate and demonstrated misconceptions and errors between the actual procedures performed, as well as equipment used. Many of these patients either had no idea as to how they had been resuscitated or made guesses, based on what they had previously seen on television.

That one patient raises a valid doubt that there is no soul!

However there is more than just the one! I see a convergence of a lot of independent work that presents a case to at the very least acknowledge that there are grounds for believing there is a soul. Agree?

Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

Lee, I am delighted by you responses relating to the origins of Christianity, John states that the knowledge of God (my use of logos) always existed, so why should we assume that its revelation to Christians was a first? Were the pagan gods an alternative path (discarded, once travelled) to finding the one God?
now you are trying to move the goal post so that your wild speculative kick will go through it.
. While you think I am moving the goal posts, I think we are on different playing fields.

Certainly the classic DC position is that fundamental evangelical Christianity (fec for short) defines Christian theology and any shift from there is to shift the goal posts.

I am not locked into the fec model of God. It is the model I came out of primary school with and have discarded/outgrown it. My questions about the who/what/how of the existence of God go beyond challenging the fec model.

To present the fec model as the definitive understanding of God is naive. Your own comments present an evolution in religious and theological thinking from pagan days forward. God’s revelation to us has been progressive and matched to our socio-cultural development. The 'prophets' in many guises have been vehicles for updating the revelations.

When we discovered that our brain was not our soul we could conclude that either (1) there is no soul or (2) that our soul and brain are not the same thing - I should resist pointing to the flawed deduction in (1), it would be crass, … but …

To avoid further distracting this thread – I would like to focus the soul & machine question - I will set up the pagan origins question as a new post and I welcome your input.

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Neil,
I agree with you, and about the quantum guy, I've heard him "tolerated" in other podcasts with other physicists.

I have discussed consciousness with a anesthesiologist and he was at such a loss at how spirituality obtains from what he knows about the brain that he directed me to some websites related to quantum theory and consciousness. Might have been stapps. To me religion seems to derive from "self-preservation". A denial that one can die, stop existing. Very biological at its heart, in my view.

Generally, in my view, the quantum dodge is a extension of an argument from ignorance. They take the position "we know its true because it can't be proved false and here's something else that IS POSSIBLE that the skeptic has to deal with before we budge". Kind of like kiwi did to me earlier.
"So …. for your assertion, that there is no soul, to stand you have to dismiss every one of my points"

to me, the whole endeavor, is sponsored by the UN because it has specious merit so no one else wants to touch it, supports a political agenda of the UN and the scientists are fishing for the templeton prize to keep them afloat in their pet project.

Lee Randolph said...

HI kiwi,
i just want to say, before I forget, that while I do want to keep the discussion going, please forgive me if I don't make timely responses for a while because I have been neglecting my commitment to DC a bit and I want to support them better than I have over the past month.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
I'll have to take this in little pieces because I don't have a lot of time right now.

lee: I've often wondered what Guillotine vicitims think about.... after thier head has been cut off and how long they can keep thinking.,

kiwi: yeah, me too! If you have ever actually seen a headless chicken running about I suspect you would agree that it is weird – yes they do bump into things.

i want to take a minute to introduce you a concept that I pieced together from a podcast on emergent behaviour related to robotics. The guest was saying that positing that each cell has a little "intelligence" that works in concert in a kind of tit-for-tat naturally occurring cooperation and some unintended property of itself has be co-opted to function in some way such that it appears that what it does is what it was meant to do.
he explained it in simpler terms like this.
take a metal ruler and bend it at a 90 degree angle. now it can be used as a catapault, but that was not the intent, it simply has the properties that lend itself to that function.

I'm beginning to believe (on little evidence i might add) that the body has its own emergent consciousness and our consciousness derives from or exists in parallel to that.

A similar track to this is my belief (albeit in specious evidence) that humans are the most intelligent creatures simply because we have the most adaptive physiology. In other words, heres a thought experiment (so go easy), if we could go back two million years and put primate brains in dog bodies and dog brains in primate bodies, then the primate bodies would probably do just as well with the dog brains and arrive at a similar spot two million years later. I think genetic coding has a lot to do with it, such as the mutation in the foxp2 gene that occurred in humans, but overall I think it is a sound 'speculation' and is supported by the fact that animal congnition is emerging as field of science.

so how this realates to the topic,
- that conscious emerges from a biological framework and its complexity depends on the mechanism,
- and humans are not the only ones that experience consiousness,
- that one of the strengths of the soul idea is the fact that consciousness is ill defined
- and that the soul theory seems to derive from an ancient lack of understanding of "emergent properties".
- and is rooted in the instinct of "self-preservation".

and what is the purpose of the word verification? we get along just fine without it at DC and arguably we have a more hostile clientele. in a word, its annoying!

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,

You have a neat trick of extrapolating a truth to embrace more than it should ... we have certainly demonstrated time & again that there is awareness within the biological framework – have we really proven that there is no other source?
HA! You just "should" on yourself! [sorry couldn't resist ;-) ]
Thanks for the compliment [;-p]
Lets see, if we measure consciousness, and then we apply beer, we can see that the performance of consciousness tracks the performance of the brain pretty well. Likewise with brain disorders and damage. Not a big intellectual leap. I'd say its a more conservative leap than you are taking.

One man, whose life signs completely went... saw everything.
"He described our attempts to revive him in perfect detail...he was not only unconscious he was clinically dead."

This is completely anecdotal and you are not considering the equivocation about death that is going on here. brain damage occurs within minutes of lack of oxygen and blood. If there is no brain damage, there is no lack of oxygen and blood, therefore, the patient is obviously at reduced capability but that does not rule out the ability to be "locked in" with closed eyes where the brain can take in input but not react. Show me something that rules that out and I'll take it more seriously but until then, the sticking point for me is the equivocation of the term DEATH.

None of the OBErs in this study viewed the hidden symbols placed on the monitors. However, this study has shown that one patient reported a very accurate OBE during a period of unconsciousness.
I won't dismiss on my criteria, I'll dismiss on the criteria of the researchers. the point of the symbols was to differentiate between the real OBE'S and the non-real ones. Using the reasearch criteria, that was not a real OBE.
This is another example of you moving the standards around to fit the evidence.
You are moving the goalpost around through equivocation so you can affirm the consequent. Hows that for describing a fallacy? I squeezed three of them in that sentence.

However there is more than just the one! I see a convergence of a lot of independent work that presents a case to at the very least acknowledge that there are grounds for believing there is a soul. Agree?
no, I see a lot of anecdotal evidence intended to support an ancient unfounded hypothesis. and here you are defining the rule by the exceptions. If it was a real phenomena, there should be more statistically significant events rather than events every now and then in an uncontrolled environment.

Until they can get the results to be higher than at least double the margin of error, they aren't going to get anywhere and I'm not going to think there is anything to it.

Lee Randolph said...

gotta go, be back later.

akakiwibear said...

Lee, let me try to sum up.
+ There is anecdotal evidence that there are OBEs.
+ Distinction is made between types of OBEs (based on vision perspective, accuracy and/or clarity of recall and there is apparently correlated to ‘depth of NDE)
+ Some types can be synthesised (virtual OBEs) others simulated (electrode stimulation)
+ The synthesised & simulated experiences are different (per their characteristics) form natural occurring OBEs associated with ‘deep’ NDEs
+ Some types present accurate accounts of events during a NDE – others do not
+ There is prima facie evidence that some OBEs are accurate accounts (Sartori) beyond the perception zone of the patient – unconscious, limited/no brain activity, eyes closed or out of visual range.

I hope we can agree the above – it is the conclusions we draw that separate us – mine obviously being correct.

I see your take on the evidence hinging on:

1) The evidence is anecdotal no, I see a lot of anecdotal evidence what other sort would there be? This is about what people experience, they have to relate it = anecdotal. The alternative would be third person ESP - try getting that research grant through!

BUT the validity of their accounts is tested for accuracy against what actually happened.

2) The research data is inconclusive If it was a real phenomena, there should be more statistically significant events rather than events every now and then in an uncontrolled environment. - if it were conclusive we would not be having this discussion. This is about judgemental decision making.

That the accurate recall ‘deep’ NDE OBE phenomenon is rare is hardly a surprise – that there is a lack of statistics is due to the lack of rigorous research – something being corrected.

The key point is that there are events which due to the circumstances indicates an accurate perception of events when lack of brain function and visual opportunity precludes that perception. However that is very nicely explained by a soul.

3) You have prejudged the outcome, for example intended to support an ancient unfounded hypothesis - your narrow frame of reference will not admit the possibility of a soul. So you resort to attacking the research and researchers rather than trying to fit the puzzle together – to achieve the triangulation you claim to seek.

You accuse me of shifting the goal posts another example of you moving the standards around to fit the evidence perhaps you see this as a sort of post hoc ploy of mine.

Now I acknowledge that as this discussion has progressed my thinking has matured – that is after all why I initiated the topic – if you choose to confuse refining ones ideas with changing the goal posts so be it. It is as futile a position as my criticism of you as being closed to the evidence.

I note that you are happy to develop your own hypotheses on scant evidence. That is how we get to the truth – propose, exchange, evaluate, adapt, revise, review.

4) the sticking point for me is the equivocation of the term DEATH This is a very good point and I think Parnia added to the confusion on this point. It seems obvious that once the brain cells have degenerated they can’t start to work again.

I think the key is the NEAR part of NDE. Maintaining blood flow in a “brain dead” person is common place – the “brain dead” does not seem to refer to the state of the cells but the level of activity.

You focus on the lack of oxygen – the researchers (Parnia’s confusing comments aside) focus on the lack of brain activity. When they measure no activity they conclude that nothing is happening – there may be electricity connected to the house but the lights are off and the shades are down.

Let me move a few more goal posts for you. On the question of not seeing the concealed objects I would have been surprised and will be if the new study finds that people do see them. As I said in my reply to Neil we are not dealing with vision in the conventional sense – the persons body (eyes, nerves brain etc) is not seen to physically lift and head off for the top corner of the room. So IF the person “sees” anything then it MUST arise from a metaphysical perception that is somehow converted into the memory as images we can process and understand.

I argue that there is no basis to assume that this metaphysical perception works like vision does – logically it may only be able to perceive other metaphysical activity/objects. So I expect the OBE to see people and what they are saying and doing – I may even expect them to perceive what people are feeling/thinking – I would not expect them to see inanimate objects, I would expect those to be constructed into the image we understand from memory in the same way our conventional visual memory reconstructs scenes.

Now I accept that I may be proved wrong, but I think the focus on seeing hidden pictures is a problem with the methodology of the future research.

Hamba kahle – peace

akakiwibear said...

Lee, I am interested in your view I'm beginning to believe (on little evidence i might add) that the body has its own emergent consciousness and our consciousness derives from or exists in parallel to that.

The cell level consciousness appears to be akin to the collective intelligence of swarming creatures – bees, birds etc – but at a more fundamental level. I agree with a lot (most) of what you say.

My read of swarm theory seems to attribute the collective intelligence to an apparently (but suspected not to be) random rotating leadership. For robotics this means you only have to programme them to follow the leader rather than manipulate each one – so for example we could get them to clean something if the ‘leader’ started.

Yes the swarm does exhibit a form of collective consciousness and it can act in the interest of the swarm ahead of the individual (although some suggest that the hardwiring only provides for the collective self interest – they don’t have selfish behaviours in their instincts). Certainly the swarm has awareness – does it have a group self awareness? Some argue yes because the individuals want to be part of a collective, others say its just instinct to join and swarm.

My own developing theory (on equally little evidence, but on collective convergent theorising) is that God (the spiritual realm in general???) may well be a form collective consciousness. I welcome the apparent consistency from cellular level to metaphysical level – and no I can’t prove it … but I like it! It does a lot for the Trinity concept, Hindu and Christian.

On a separate tack I am genuinely intrigued by how these collective systems (cells, swarms, even DNA) evolved.

For collective intelligence/consciousness to work there has to be some form of communication between the individuals at some level. Communication requires one party to develop/encode the information signal, a medium for transmission (chemical – visual – whatever) and the other party to receive and understand/decode it. This requires the simultaneous evolution in two or more separate individuals of multiple apparently unrelated elements that work together as a system, (i & ii) the encode rules and distinctly different but compatible decode rules (iii & iv) distinctly different but compatible ability to embed/extract coded information into/from a transmittable medium (v & vi) the ability to send and receive the transmission medium and (vii) the transmission mechanism must exist between the individuals (but separate from the individuals themselves or they become one individual).

Transmission without information is irrelevant, information without the ability to transmit it is futile and being able to send without being able to encode is a waste of time etc… . If one component evolves before the others it would have no application and be of no value and not worth evolving. Also since the components only have value as complete system there is no reinforcing feedback along the way - if you have rules and a means to encode you still have nothing useful.

Even Dawkins at his best (and he is an excellent evolutionary biologist even if he is an abominable theologian) does not have an answer here and puts it into the ‘too hard’ basket of that which we don’t understand yet. Unfortunately, when applied to the DNA information transmission system it lies at the very heart of procreation let alone evolution and we know evolution works so the elements did all get together in a working system or we would not be here.

I await an explanation from any source.

hamba kahle

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"The synthesised & simulated experiences are different (per their characteristics) form natural occurring OBEs associated with ‘deep’ NDEs

I don't think so. The case of a lady in Switzerland involved what seems like an OBE associated with a NDE only this time it was stimulated by an electrode. The article talks about her seeing her legs shortening, but that was when a different electrode was stimulated. Different stimulus gives different response.

"The evidence is anecdotal no, I see a lot of anecdotal evidence what other sort would there be?"

Sets of controlled studies performed by different researchers but with consistent results?

"This is about judgemental decision making."

I don't go in for judgemental decision making. I apply Occham's Razor instead.

"I think the key is the NEAR part of NDE. Maintaining blood flow in a “brain dead” person is common place – the “brain dead” does not seem to refer to the state of the cells but the level of activity."

What this means depends on the way in which activity is measured. Often this is done using an EEG which makes measurements using electrodes on the scalp. This won't pick up activity in the inner brain regions.

Having said that, OBEs do require me to revalidate my position. I don't know what's going on when people report seeing relatives which they didn't know had died. So the materialist view has some trouble there. But the soul position has trouble elsewhere. After all, the materialist view isn't just made up by someone who wanted to deny God. It's backed by science.

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi kiwi,
if I hastily accused you moving goalposts, my apologies. You are right. Knowledge is defessible by new information. I shouldn't throw up any barriers to your discarding of your position.
;-)

anyway, one last nugget for thought before I 'disentangele' myself here.

- what happens to unborn naturally aborted fetus's?
- How old is the soul in a new born?
- What happens to your soul when you sleep?
- What happens to your soul when you get mood altering drugs?
- what happens to your soul when you make unrelated decisions based on the heat of a coffee cup you are holding? (i'll find the link and post it later)

fact:
your decisions are rooted in your biological framework and they are more unconscious than conscious. Go read up on your endocrine system, and autonomous body functions.

Fact:
the idea of the soul predates christianity and more than likely judaism.

Fact:
people can and will say anything, it doesn't mean its true

Fact:
The evidence that all facets of your mental states are derived from you brain push spirituality to the fringes.

Kiwi, you talk about evidence, but there is so much DISCONFIRMING evidence in favor of NO SOUL that you really have no right to insinuate that I'm closed minded by not giving any validity to the evidence you present.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the discourse, but I'm not sure I'll revisit this here. I am sure that I'll make an article at DC using my comments as raw material. I just don't know when.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Lee, A final check list of your “facts”

your decisions are rooted in your biological framework and they are more unconscious than conscious. I have no problem with that - the horse & rider analogy

the idea of the soul predates christianity and more than likely judaism. OK, - your point is what? You don’t like old ideas? Theology can’t develop with time? I appreciate that it is easier for you pick holes in a Sunday School Christianity frozen in time a few thousand years ago … but that is not really getting to the point is it?

people can and will say anything, it doesn't mean its true yes and so …. ? – oh perhaps you are shooting the messenger … or questioning the integrity of the researcher who compared the accuracy of the account with what actually happened?

The evidence that all facets of your mental states are derived from you brain push spirituality to the fringes. depends on your definitions, self serving ones work best ;) … all facets for example – that is too wide to be rationally defensible …?

I have enjoyed your participation – please feel free to return. I am surprised that you did not take a swipe at my Of pagan statues, Zeus and other gods - I would have thought it right up your street – or was too practical an approach?

Hamba kahle

akakiwibear said...

Hi Niel,
Addresses the electrode question but it remains interesting in that it identifies a possible site in the brain where these experiences manifest themselves ???

Lee: "The evidence is anecdotal no, I see a lot of anecdotal evidence ..”
Kiwi: “what other sort would there be?"
Neil “Sets of controlled studies performed by different researchers but with consistent results?”
My point was that even in a controlled experiment you would still have to rely on the patient recounting what they experienced – it has to be anecdotal. Comparing the account with what was observed is the control.

the materialist view isn't just made up by someone who wanted to deny God. It's backed by science. True, but the materialist view is limited to what can be backed up by science – it is a subset of knowledge.

Have we exhausted our ability to shed new light on this topic and are now falling back into our default proof positions????

Hamba kahle - peace

Lee Randolph said...

here's that link I promised.
Scientific American: Warm hands, warm heartBeing physically warm seems to be associated with emotional warmth. Cynthia Graber reports.

unconscious decision making baby, thats where it all ends! We are just along for the ride with an exaggerated sense of control.
;-)

I am surprised that you did not take a swipe at my Of pagan statues, Zeus and other gods - I would have thought it right up your street – or was too practical an approach?

alas, too much with too little time.

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

" Addresses the electrode question but it remains interesting in that it identifies a possible site in the brain where these experiences manifest themselves ???"

The paper says that "Although they reconfirmed a possible neuroelectrical mechanism involved in at least some OBEs, they did not explain the cause of the spontaneous phenomenon.". In other words, we're still looking for what presses the button marked "OBE", but we know how things work out once that button has been pressed. Is that what the soul has been reduced to? Something which decides when to start an OBE going?

"My point was that even in a controlled experiment you would still have to rely on the patient recounting what they experienced – it has to be anecdotal."

When we're looking at the content of NDEs/OBEs, the evidence is necessarily anecdotal in nature since only one person had the experience and there is nothing to compare it against.

However, when we're looking at the ESP abilities which people are alleged to gain when they undergo severe trauma, we can be scientific about things. Yes, we have to listen to what people say, but that doesn't invalidate the conclusions if the experiences have been checked against an independent source. In that case, I wouldn't call the evidence anecdotal.

When Lee said that the evidence is anecdotal, I guess he meant that it's just a case taken from here and a case taken from there and that it's not statistically significant. Is that right, Lee?

Peace, Neil.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Neil,
When Lee said that the evidence is anecdotal, I guess he meant that it's just a case taken from here and a case taken from there and that it's not statistically significant. Is that right, Lee?
yes, from what I can remember of the context.

my view is that anecdotal evidence is fine depending on the context.
If my wife says she went to bingo on wednesday, thats one thing, but if I have reason to doubt her thats another.

does that clear it up?

akakiwibear said...

Ok Neil,
Yes, we have to listen to what people say, but that doesn't invalidate the conclusions if the experiences have been checked against an independent source. In that case, I wouldn't call the evidence anecdotal.

So the verification of what the person said occurred (while they had no brain activity) by those who were there makes the evidence credible? If not why not?

Hamba kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

I have been wrong - certainly my terminology seems to have been!

I have been learning about the differences between Pauline and Thomistic theology.

Thomas Aquinas had a simple model of body & soul. Based on this model much of what Lee says about brain function = soul makes sense.

However Paul talks about body, soul & spirit His use (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:16) of spirit equates to my use of the word soul. This tri-part model goes a long way to satisfying Lee's linking of soul to brain (in Paul's model that is would be right) what it then leaves is the spirit which is our metaphysical component.

Interesting that it's all been thrashed through before!!
hamba kahle - peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

There are two things which impress me when I hear them and I don't hear them enough. They are "I don't know" and "I was wrong"

Thank you for helping to set that straight.

Peace, Neil.