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Dawkins on Haiti

Richard Dawkins is in fine fulminating form today in The Times. In a piece titled 'Hear the rumble of Christian hypocrisy' he lays into the 'religious mind' that exploits natural events for 'petty moralistic purposes'. He's talking about Haiti, of course, and the ludicrous televangelist Pat Robertson opining that the earthquake is divine retribution for a 1791 pact that the Haitians made with the devil to help rid them of their French masters (don't ask).
As with the Indonesian tsunami, which was blamed on loose sexual morals in tourist nightclubs; as with Hurricane Katrina, which was attributed to divine revenge on the entire city of New Orleans for organising a gay rally; and as with other disasters going back to the famous Lisbon earthquake and beyond, so Haiti's tragedy must be payback for human 'sin'. 
I often get the feeling Dawkins rather likes people like Pat Robertson for saying what they think loudly and brutally, a kindred spirit. His real target is the 'nice, middle-of-the-road' religious type who disowns the frothing fundamentalists while at the same time supporting what he believes to be equally nonsensical propositions about 'creation groaning under the weight of sin', and a 'god-man' having to atone for it by letting himself be tortured and executed. 

No one does righteous indignation quite like Dawkins:
Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for "sin" - or suffering as "atonement" for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.
Magnificent stuff. I wouldn't express myself in this way, but I agree with a lot of what Dawkins says about religion. So much of it is mad, incomprehensible or of doubtful value. Yet he and some other militant atheists share a curious literal mindedness with the fundamentalists, each looking to scientific facts or the scriptures as a source of absolute truth and certainty.

Those like me who don't follow any particular creed have to rely far more on an inner moral intuition to guide us about what is right and wrong, as of course atheists and humanists themselves do. If we read religious literature at all we pick and choose, taking inspiration from what makes sense and discarding the obviously obsolete or nonsensical. Interestingly, and whether or not you take them seriously, this is exactly what channelled 'spirit teachers' say we should do.

And yes, this relativist approach is adopted - necessarily - by 'nice middle of the road' theologians and clergymen. At my local church I've frequently listened to some blood-curdling passage being read from the Bible  - eg. Abraham setting out to slaughter his son at God's command - and then heard the vicar, a kindly decent man, and equally aghast,  devote his sermon to explaining why it's not really like that, and why, on the whole, we should not pay too much attention to that sort of thing.  Yet at the same time he accepts as gospel a lot of propositions, mostly dreamed up by Paul, Augustine and various committees, that I have difficulties with.

My sense about why religion is important is informed largely by religious and paranormal experience, of the kind that critics like Dawkins think is obvious spurious, on the grounds that what goes on in our heads is a matter of chemical reactions - nothing more. That's the big conclusion of Darwinism, and it doesn't surprise me that he hammers on at it. For instance I recall he says somewhere in The God Delusion that no one should attach any significance to mystical experience who has 'the slightest understanding of the powerful workings of the human mind'.

Unlike Dawkins, I want to know why the mind behaves in the way that it sometimes does. That seems like a scientific attitude, and I believe my approach to religion to be empirical, as his is.

I accept that paranormal experience has not been proved in any formal scientific sense, but I think the evidence, both anecdotal and experimental, is pretty persuasive of a process that cannot be explained in terms of current scientific understanding. I also think it poses a serious challenge to the idea that what we call the mind is merely brain activity and nothing more.  Why do people have near-death and mystical experiences? Sceptics can find flaws in the 'proofs' offered by paranormalists, but there's no convincing explanation - Sue Blackmore's efforts notwithstanding - of how such a curiously structured set of imagery, sensation and experience can occur so widely, leaving people with the conviction of having experienced God.

What does surprise me is that the challenge is not recognised, and that it plays almost no part at all in the debate about religion.  That's one reason why the literature of parapsychology deserves to be better known and understood.

Comments

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and how exactly does any of dawkin's self-righteousness HELP haiti??

Undr does make a good point in a way. How many atheist organizations have directly aided Haiti so far? Serious question anyone know?

Go to Non-Believers Giving Aid at the Richard Dawkins website:

http://givingaid.richarddawkins.net/

This appeal is being promoted across sceptical websites and blogs.

As to how many atheist orgaisations are involved, this is from the same website:

Those participating are Atheist Alliance International, Atheists Helping the Homeless, Atheists United, The British Humanist Association, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Freedom From Religion Foundation, The International Humanist and Ethical Union, James Randi Educational Foundation, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, New Humanist Magazine, Pharyngula, Rationalist Association, Reasonable New York, The Reason Project, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Secular Student Alliance, Skeptics in the Pub, The Skeptic Magazine, The Skeptics Society and Unreasonable Faith.

I believe that Skeptic Magazine set up a 'Non-Believers Giving Aid' for Haiti. As a militant atheist and anti-theist, I give aid because I empathize with my fellow primates. This has been conditioned by evolution. We're a social species.

As for Dawkins's materialism and monism, I think it has more evidence going for it than the claims of the paranormalists. As you acknowledge, claims about paranormal events never get beyond the anecdotal or the circumstantial. Might this be because there's a perfectly rational explanation?

Dawkins rightly highlights what a powerful piece of software the brain is. He also points out, in his most recent book, 'The Greatest Show on Earth', how fallible human eye-witness testimony is. It looks likely that the mind is a mere product of the brain. Moreover, claims that we survive the physical death of our brain are deeply implausible.

Is there any point debating with someone who considers themselves a 'militant atheist'?

Thanks for the input on how many Atheist organizations have contributed.

Few comments on Wesley's comments.

Human testimony tends to be very reliable. Not perfect mind you but reliable. We simply would not have survived our early history if it wasn't.

What is the mind? How much does the mind weigh? Where is it located? How does something immaterial interact with something material? How does something material create something immaterial? Where did it come from? How did it reach human level?

Define implausible and why you think this way. I think arguments from plausible verse implausible really come down to personal prejudice. To truly be able to answer that question we have to know well everything. Therefore I just prefer to go the evidential route myself.

Have you looked at the evidence we do survive our deaths?

How would your brain generating the mind view explain this study?

http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/science/is_the_brain_really_necessary.htm

or this case

http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=2009

The Governments are a major source of aid to others in situations like Haiti. Everyone contributes to the funds they use whether they like it or not. Like religious organisations I am sure the motivations are complex.

I am sure atheists and non-religious people also contribute to charities like Oxfam and Christian Aid and other religious organisations too (though I would not support CA or any other faith-based charity if there was a non-religious alternative).

I don't think whether a person is religious or not has anything to do with helping others and I definitely don't accept that being religious means a person is any more or less compassionate than a non-believer.

I think Dawkins makes some fair points about religion but there is nothing in his comments that has not been said many times by others.

Good post Paul. I've never much thought that "fear of going to hell" is a particularly good reason to act ethically. One should want to act ethically because it's the right thing to do, not because you've been told to act a particular way by a priest (or Richard Dawkins or anyone else for that reason).

But of course, what is right? Is there such a thing as right and wrong at all? Should we even care? There's a whole field of philosophy devoted to the subject and (as you might expect) no lack of controversy and disagreement... You can't even go with what you "feel" is right thanks to those pesky brains that make some of us more inclined to psychopathy or certain types of autism that do all kinds of fun things to your natural sense of empathy etc...

Hi Breanainn - thanks for your comment. I suppose it depends on our motive.Perhaps there is a 'who or a what' as a final arbiter - I don't know. Personally, in the meantime I will try to do what I think is the right thing and suffer the consequences in due course. :)

The problem with religious morality has always been the Euthyphro dilemma. I also think another criticism of divine command theory is that per say, we have nothing we can point at that is clearly evidence of divine communication.

Well Major, I suppose there isn't any point in debating a militant atheist - at least not if you're hoping to change their mind.

Kris, see the example in Dawkins's book of the fallibility of human eye-witness testimony. It's a shocking study.

Why do I think that the claim that we survive the physical death of our brain is implausible? Well, if mental states and activities can exist independently (i.e. our incorporeal consciousness after bodily death), then we have to wonder what the brain is for, exactly.

Consciousness is a gift of blind processes.

Look at the way Dawkins puts down Pat Robertson ("but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance") and you get a revealing insight into the psychology of the militant materialist - what I call the "superiority complex". These types are always on the hunt for people to look down on. Those who have the temerity to disagree with them are either idiots or knaves. Of course, this is an attitude deeply embedded in academia generally, but people like Dawkins have raised it to the status of a personality disorder. He is an intellectual fascist par excellence. The materialist theory of mind is the glue that holds the scientific elite together and gives its aficionados their feeling of specialness and superiority over the rest of us. (Read what Dawkins spews over the breakfast table and tell me I'm wrong.)

In truth, some of the things Dawkins claims to believe are far more outlandish than anything in the Bible. Here are a few of them: mind is a category mistake, there are no mental events, there is no free will, all events have been pre-determined by the Big Bang, complex systems have arisen through chance, etc, etc. BTW, if Dawkins really believes there is no free will, why does he bother trying to bludgeon others into submitting to his beliefs?

Dawkins is nothing short of contemptible. His claim that "the paranormal is bunk" shows him to be a liar, pure and simple. The existence of psi is a scientifically established fact. Period. Those who deny it and have studied the evidence are liars. Those, like Dawkins (I suspect), who deny it while sedulously avoiding studying the evidence, are liars, too. They wilfully and recklessly turn their eyes from the obvious. Like Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen, they look through the telescope with their blind eye and see no ships.

Dawkins demeans his position by appearing on stage with the sleazy showman (and serial proven liar), Randall Zwinge, in the capital of sleaze, Las Vegas. Those naive enough to take Dawkins seriously as an upstanding figure and apostle of reason should remember that. It was a trip into the gutter that he should never be allowed to forget.

I have to say that I am a little amused by the materialist who claims “empathy” with his “fellow primates” in Haiti. A strange kind of natural selection that leads a cult group comprised almost exclusively of white, middle-class men to have empathy with Haitians. Maybe “primates” was a Freudian slip?

A question: If elite scientists like Dawkins lie about the paranormal (as they do with Goebbels-like repetitiveness), why should anyone trust what scientists have to say on issues like global warming, nuclear power, vaccination, etc?

The damage these morally bankrupt, ego-maniacal bullies do to the authority of science is incalculable. Time for a rebellion, anyone?

Wesley

Being close minded is not a virtue, regardless of what view you take. The only way to grow is to be open minded to new ideas. You will stumble on the way but the processes is worth it. However let me give you a few suggestions on how to view this issue.

a.) what is, is. The universe is what it is. It personally does not care about our philosophies one bit.

b.) if the so called paranormal happens it happens and it is fact normal, just as of now unexplained.

c.) evidence trumps philosophy. Evidence for evolution existed before it became widely accepted and it kicked over the view of a literal creation. Don't you think it would be a silly ass indeed who insisted fossils could not exist just because his view said divine creation made all animals at once. Yet some did, heck some do.

We have the same thing going on now with parapsychology. By any reasonable means it has demonstrated it's claims, even more informed skeptics will admit that. They also admit they refuse to accept it because they think it is unexplainable therefore it cannot be. How silly is that?

Here is the problem with yours and Dawkin's argument on witnesses testimony. You need a highly reliable brain for obvious reasons. Imagine 100K years ago in Africa, what would happen if we had people who hallucinated animals, hallucinated weather, you get the picture. This animal would quickly die. Natural selection would create a process in which we have highly reliable senses.

The problem with your argument is that it seems to be this.

a.) some eyewitnesses testimony is flawed
b.) therefore all eyewitness testimony is potentially flawed and therefore we should assume all eyewitnesses testimony is flawed.

The problem is we do not organize our lives that way. We organized our lives the opposite way. Without the basic principle of the reliability of eyewitnesses testimony society would collapses.

Does this mean we should take all testimony at face value? Of course not. However for reasons I mentioned earlier I think we are stuck with accepting the authenticity of testimony unless it is shown to be flawed.

You should sit down and read those articles I posted on the brain. In some cases we have virtually brainless people ( literally missing 90%) who functioned normally, had normal IQs. I admit these cases are super rare but consider. For these individuals the brain simply cannot produce the mind.

I could simply argue the brain is vestigial, however I will not take that line of reasoning. Consider this analogy. Let say you took a TV and took it apart. You are trying to find the image on the screen. You simply cannot find it. The reason is obvious to all in this case. The image is not their. The TV acts like a receiver. It displays the signal but the signal is not located there.

It seems we have a similar situation with the brain. We have evidence that mind can exist outside of the brain and we have cases where simply speaking the brain could not have generated the mind. No scientist has ever found exactly where the memory and the mind are stored in the brain. Experiments with animals have shown you can remove parts of the brain and they still will retain their basic memories, even if they have a hard time functioning. So a possible way to view the brain is as a receiver.

Please ask me about Alzheimers next :)

Hi Wesley

If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying if the mind is not produced by the brain then the brain is redundant?

I don't follow the argument. If we accept for a moment that the brain does not produce the mind but the mind does control the body then is it not reasonable to infer that the brain may be some kind of interface between the mind and the body?

There has been quite a bit of debate about this, some of it on here, but I have not yet seen anything raised which eliminates this idea at least as a possibility.

Kris is wrong about people who are missing large parts of their brains having a normal IQ. The link he gave earlier doesn’t lead anywhere useful, but some further investigation reveals that John Lorber’s work on the subject was not taken up by mainstream science. People with the very rare hydrocephalus that he refers to have an IQ typically around 75 - enough to be able to function without being classified as subnormal, but not exactly genius level, either.

If anyone wants to know why personal testimony is unreliable, one should read the psychology literature, not the parapsychology literature.

Can anyone explain why the TV analogy is worth anything? I’ve come across this often, but the analogy is absurd. Head trauma can cause a massive personality change, for instance, but drop your TV set and you will not find it suddenly showing science programmes on the sports channel. Remove ninety percent of your TV’s electronics and you will not have a functioning TV.

It’s interesting to note that the first people to actually be arrested in Haiti since the earthquake are a group of Christians:

http://freethinker.co.uk/2010/01/31/barmy-baptists-arrested-in-haiti/

Hmm… breaking the law for Jesus.

And if “The existence of psi is a scientifically established fact” as Sesenco says it is, can he/she supply the relevant references to the bona fide peer reviewed science journals that have established that fact? I doubt it.

Anyway, Dawkins is OK. At least he can put a cogent argument together.

Oh Joy

Harley is playing the same old game again, however it is always easy to kick him over. Again. And again. Of course Harley will deny this but all I have to say is read the previous discussions between me and Harley and you be the judge.


He always commits the fallacy of the excluded middle.

I said nothing about people missing parts of their brain ALWAYS having normal IQs. I observed that sometimes in a few cases people who are missing a large part of their brain have a somewhat normal IQ.

Not the same things.

I think once again Harley does not understand his own point of view. In these cases of people missing a tremendous amount of their braining their IQ should be vegetable level under mainstream views, not 75 which while low is far from profound retardation. This is a tremendous problem for Harley's views but frankly he doesn't understand his own views well enough to know that. If the brain produces the mind destroying the brain or at least a large percentage should remove a similar proportion of the mind and probably destroy it. If not why not? A 75 IQ is very problematic for Harley's argument while a 130 IQ with no brain destroys it. See the links.

So in the end it is neither everyone with a large amount of their brain missing has a somewhat normal IQ or no one with a large amount of their brain missing has a somewhat normal IQ. It is in fact C, some do, but not all. Once again the excluded middle position.

Why don't mainstream scientist take Lorber's study seriously. Well, Harley said so. However just for amusement I decided to check my copy of Irreducible Mind and see if they used it. They used it on page 263. Why shock shock it is in fact used by scientists and it even made it into published studies. I guess they never consulted Harley on what is mainstream science. This is another example of Harley's favorite fallacies, argument through assertion.

Seeing Harley offers no argument per say on the lack of reliability of human testimony I cannot comment besides to tell people read my comments on this. This contains once again one of Harley's favorite logical fallacies, that of argument through assertion.

Well I can happily explain why the TV analogy is worth something. If I crack a TV monitor the picture becomes distorted . However has the signal changed. Not at all? See the analogy now. If the brain is injured the personality is altered,however the mind remains the same. Next. Wasn't that easy.

My link doesn't lead anywhere useful. Why you ask? Harley said so. Click it is all I got to say.

Truthfully I can care little for Dawkins. If he thinks that it is more then likely human testimony is flawed instead of accurate I say I highly disagree with him for the reasons I stated earlier. He can discuss that with historians and the legal justice system. If he has a bee in his bonnet with Christianity that is his business. I for one am not Christian.

Lastly, Harley, why did you even post that article about Christian fraud in here. What in blazes does it have to do with the paranormal? Might I suggest you post it at say www.theologyweb.com.

They might care to discuss, we don't

I know this was directed too Sesenco but I figured I would field this one just a bit. Harley is using a very old trick with his question about peer reviewed science journals. It is something persecutors throughout history have done. When you have an unpopular view you do not let that view have any mainstream audience. Say in this case publishing in a mainstream scientific journal. Then seeing the view is unpopular you blast that view for being intellectually weak and dishonest for not publishing in say a mainstream scientific journal. "Gee if it was such a sound view surely they would publish here....." Nasty little trick isn't..

Of course this is exactly what happens to paranormal researchers and skeptics have no problem at manipulating this situation to their advantage. Completely dishonest.

The best way to answer this question is to just explain the trick and then to point fence sitters to things such as the Rhine Study, Ganzfield or even Remote Viewing.

Harley has just made me do something that I am always loathe to do. Defend Baptists.

The children they "kidnapped" are orphans. Probably their parents are dead for the simple reason if they were alive they would have probably found their children. For the simple reason people in such a country tend to live in close proximity to their families. So they tried to establish an orphanage for them. Those creeps!

I admit what the Baptist did was a little knuckle headed but no one ever accused Baptist of being bright. But they honestly meant well.

I know atheist dollars are flowing into Haiti but Christian dollars and Christian volunteers are flowing into Haiti too. Enlighten me about all the freethinking volunteers who went to Haiti Harley expressly because of their freethinking principles? Maybe a few but I bet there are a lot more Christians there.

Maybe you should stop thinking everyone who disagrees with your pet philosophies is either an idiot or wicked Harley. You might learn something.

Kris, Lorber's study is quite old. Modern brain mapping can reveal extensive brain material around the perimeter of the skull in hydrocephalus cases, comparable to a normal brain. Old techniques would miss this.
Ps. nice to see you on this blog (assuming you're the same Kris on MP's blog?)

Hey Michael

Lorber's study is a older but not that old. Is it from the stone age? The problem with that argument is while I have little doubt x-rays are more accurate now then they were then were they that inaccurate? Of course not.

Okay better x-rays might have picked up a bit more brain brain material, but seriously how much more would they pick up. Obviously you cannot have an equal amount of brain material cause it would displace the fluid.

I would have to see more about claims of people with hydorcephalus having a normal amount of brain tissue, as everything I have read about this says the opposite and as I mentioned earlier where did the fluid go?

While wiki is not always reliable from what I am reading on there it is truly a case of missing brain matter. I think your view would have been noted at least.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocephalus

Same Kris

Earth to Kris:

There is a fatal flaw in your line of reasoning; namely, it’s cobblers.

You attribute to me things I have not said; you infer things I have not implied; I have not called anyone here stupid; and I have not accused anyone of being dishonest.

I always assume that contributors to this blog are honest and sincere, even if I think they are wrong. I would not even accuse you of being dishonest – but it is clear that your ignorance stands proud as its own monument. Unfortunately for intelligent people here who support the paranormal, yours are the comments that some sceptics will jump on with glee as representing typical woo. It’s too bad that people like you are the cause of others being tarred with the same brush.

I’m not going to rebut your claims; it would take too long, you would not understand, and people would think I’m being silly for falling for your nonsense. Although I disagree with others here (e.g. Paul and The Major), at least their comments are intelligent and reasoned and I respect them for that. If anything paranormal is ever proven to be a fact, we can all be sure it will not be because of anything you have contributed to the debate.

One point I will take up is that I also did not suggest “Christian fraud” or kidnapping; if you really want to know why I mentioned Christians being arrested in Haiti, the clue is in the title of Robert’s original post. It referred to what has been happening there recently. The paranormal per se (not “per say” as you say) was not the main issue.

The only thing I will concede to you is that you have made me think it really could be possible that some people can function - at a limited level at least - with a ninety percent brain deficiency.

Let me translate this.

I cannot rebut what Kris said. Therefore I will make an big excuse on why I will not do that. ( and I will hope people will forget all the other times I did in fact write rebuttals)

If Harley could kick someone over he would. He has tried on numerous occasions.

I want everyone to notice this. Typical pseudo skeptic. Will skip and dodge data again and again and will make up excuses for that behavior. Uses every logical fallacy in the book.

Harley I want you to keep posting here. I want people to see the lack of critical thinking that is typical of the pseudo skeptic mindset.

Now Harley when you can come back with a single real argument I will happily reduce it to ashes, again and again.

Kris,

It appears that in these hydrocephalus cases, the white matter (glial cells) are displaced and the grey matter (neurons) are compacted together and pushed to the periphery. This doesn't necessarily indicate a loss in the NUMBER of cells, but only in the volume of the brain. Here we have a plausible explanation for the retention of modest intellectual capability, without resorting to esoteric models of cognitive functioning. Would you agree?

should have said that the white matter is absent, allowing compaction of neurons to the periphery.

ps....thanks for the links.


First off

Harley, pay attention to Michael here. He is actually making a rational argument using evidence. Learn from him.

I don't think I can bite just yet Michael.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glial_cell

First. It seem glial cells are necessary for some neurological thought process. So we can't get rid of them just that easily. But for argument sake lets say we can.

Read this

In the human brain, there is roughly one glia for every neuron with a ratio of about two neurons for every three glia in the cerebral gray matter.[1]

So 40 percent of the brain is neuron and 60 percent is glial.

So in these extreme cases with 90 percent of the brain missing you have a situation that looks at best like this.

No glial cells and only a quarter of the normal amount of neuro cells remains is the best case scenario you have. So now you have a case where a 1/4 of the normal amount of neuron cells have made a functional mind and in a case below an above average mind.

I will admit your argument has merit but I think extreme cases that have been discussed present a difficulty for traditional views on conscious.

Lets look at this case again.

http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/?id=2009

This man has an above average IQ with charitably only a quarter of the necessary amount of neurons for a functional brain. I think you see the problem.

Thanks though I am glad you shared this with me. Iron sharpens Iron :)

Okay I misread the article. The problem is actually worse for you I think.

Here is my new post starting with this statement from the article

The human brain contains roughly equal numbers of glial cells and neurons with 84.6 billion glia and 86.1 billion neurons.[1] The ratio differs between its different parts. The glia/neuron ratio in the cerebral cortex is 3.72(60.84 billion glia; 16.34 billion neurons) while that of the cerebellum is only 0.23 (16.04 billion glia; 69.03 billion neurons).

So we have a one to one ratio.

Let us consider again the rare cases of a person missing 90% of their brain.Let us be charitable to your case and take as much of that missing brain from just the glial cell part. You are still missing 4/5s of the neurons that should be necessary for consciousness. This is a tremendous problem traditional views on the mind for reasons that should be obvious.

I think the only way your argument can work Michael is if Glial cells are 9 times the size of neuron cells. That would allow for a missing mass of ninety percent without affecting the true amount of neuron cells. Failing that your argument does not work.

Well reasoned Kris, but one thing jumps out from these statistics; there are nearly 70 billions neurons in the cerebellum! Could extreme functional relocation occur here and account for the observed normality of the more extreme cases? Remember, the brain can develop amazing plasticity over time.

I agree, it's really stretching things, and no wonder the medical community ignore the implications.

nope doesn't work :) Last time I looked the cerebellum is part of the brain :)

The math is against you.

At best case scenario you only have ten percent of the necessary amount of neurons necessary for a mind left.

I think the problem with plasticity is that like anything it has limits. But this has to have rational limits, just like chopping of a leg you would not expect ever for a new leg to grow back. It basically is a fancy way of saying the brain can heal itself.

And how would plasticity repair the brain from something it was born with?

agreed, but in the catscan image from your link of the French civil servant, it is obvious he has a cerebellum, and I suspect most other hydrocephaly cases. In any event I wouldn't rule out plasticity quite so quickly. I must admit I'm playing devil's advocate, has I want to stretch the limits of the argument. Having done so, it is fairly implausible to maintain a strict materialist position after considering these cases, but maybe not impossible.

This is probably my ignorance here but isn't the cerebellum mainly engaged in motor control and not functions such as personality, memory and consciousness?

indeed, but there is as yet, no known limit to the brains ability to re-route lost functions elsewhere. Who knows how far plasticity can go, especially given the duration of these cases; up to late middle age in some.

I suspect plasticity is difficult to measure in this case and as such it can go as far as one chooses to imagine :)

Arguing about the size of brain is one thing, but it is only a small part of the argument. Often, the brain uses the senses to gather information. But where there is remote viewing or claivoyance or psi powers, the senses apparently located in the brain are not used. Ergo, the brain is not the only source of information.

If you believe the brain is the only source of informaion, you must of necessity deny all testimony about remote viewing, telepathy, precognition etc. It must be a shame to deny yourself so much human testimony -effectively to call so many people deluded or liars.

The Lorber study analyzed people affected by hydrocephalus. This literally “means water on the brain” and is in fact cranial fluid. Cranial fluid fills the skull to a degree ranging from a little to 95% of it. Of course having this fluid displaces brain matter in an equal ratio. However this is not to imply a direct shrinkage. By this I mean the brain is not directly shrunk in direct ratio to the amount of cranial fluid. In a hypothetical case 30% of the cerebral fluid could be located in just the cerebrum, leaving the rest of the brain. Other cases with a greater amount cranial fluid would of course displace more of the brain material. The most common amount of brain matter displaced seems to be the cerebrum.

I think your argument about the cerebellum has some merit for this reason.

a.) it is only 10 % of the total volume of the brain but it is about 50% of its total mass. It contains about 80 percent of the total neurons in the brain.

So in theory you could wipe out 90% of the brain and still retain 80 percent of the neurons.

However, the problem with this argument is that some people have cranial fluid filling 95% of the brain, in this case you are by default having to hit neurons in the cerebellum. So in this case we need to remember that the cerebellum is 85 % neurons and 15 percent glial cells . So shrinking it in half you have now done the following

You have gone from 16 billion glial cells and 69 billion neuron cells to 8 billion glial cells and 34.5 billion neurons. That is a hammer blow to the total amount of neuron cells in the brain.

Next you need to remember the total amount of neuron cells in the average brain is as follows.

cerebellum-69 billion
cerebral cortex- 16 billion

So you have a total of 85 billion neuron cells

so now you have remaining 34.5 billion neuron cells out of the original 85 billion ( remember the 95% would have destroyed the cerebral cortex) which is approximately 40 percent remaining. So that 40% has to now create the mind. Here is the problem:

You would expect all the patients in this case to be retarded. However the evidence is that they are not. This is what the Lorber Study reported:

Of the last group ( the group with 95% or more), which comprised less than 10% of the study, half were profoundly retarded. The remaining half had IQs greater than 100. Half are not what normal models of the mind would predict. ( last sentence my words ,not Lorbers)

Let’s go back to the study again and relook at the math student:

Later, a colleague at Sheffield University became aware of a young man with a larger than normal head. He was referred to Lorber even though it had not caused him any difficulty. Although the boy had an IQ of 126 and had a first class honours degree in mathematics, he had "virtually no brain". A noninvasive measurement of radio density known as CAT scan showed the boy's skull was lined with a thin layer of brain cells to a millimeter in thickness. The rest of his skull was filled with cerebrospinal fluid. The young man continues a normal life with the exception of his knowledge that he has no brain.

From what it would seem here is a case where an individual was missing his cerebellum too. So now then where is consciousness created? You literally have nothing.

However this is not all of your problems. You need to consider the following
For all this discussion of the cerebellum we have skipped over a major fact. The cerebellum is NOT the part of the brain responsible for higher thought, language, learning, memory and voluntary movement that is in fact the role of the cerebrum. This is most often the part of the brain first destroyed by hydrocephalus. The cerebellum is responsible just for balance and coordination. So your argument requires a part of the brain to take over a role that it is not designed for. That would bring us to the issue of plasticity.

The argument from plasticity has merit but it also has rational limits.

Healing in mammals is not the same thing as replacement. For example if my leg is amputated, eventually the stump will scar. However a new leg does not grow back. Using this analogy we would not expect plasticity to grow back destroyed regions of the brain and that is exactly what we find.

Let’s consider the very rare cases of people being born without any legs. Often times these poor individuals learn to walk on their hands. However this walking is never the same quality as people who walk using their legs. So we see while a body part can engage in secondary roles it does it in a subpar manner. This is what one would expect of the brain if the cerebellum was taking over but that is not what happens in all the cases. And remember we have at least one case where a person has no cerebellum to take over.

So I do not think the argument from plasticity works here.

Another issue your argument hinges on is that glial cells have no use in the mental process. However that is debatable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glial_cell

Here is what it says.

"Recent research indicates that glial cells of the hippocampus and cerebellum participate in synaptic transmission, regulate the clearance of neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft, release factors such as ATP, which modulate presynaptic function, and even release neurotransmitters themselves."

So if that is correct your argument that we do not need glial cells per say is wrong and your entire argument collapses.

on the more funny side of things....

Keep this dang cat away from me!!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7129952/Cat-predicts-50-deaths-in-RI-nursing-home.html

LOL. An interesting discussion.

In addition to Kris's observations; I do think the comment Doug made is particularly important - we can debate the structure and purpose, weight, density and composition of the brain, however in my case at least, it isn't an area where I have particular knowledge so I would be reduced to finding reports by specialists and interpreting it for myself - on the other hand there is a great deal of evidence to support the phenomena Doug refers too.

Whether one thinks the Brain is the originator of consciousness or not one would still have to explain how these other phenomena are produced (if not by non-physical means) unless one simply dismisses them as impossible and therefore the result of fraud, error, misreporting or gullibility.

I agree with Doug too.

For me I felt I had to respond to Michael's reasonable objections to my argument. I think in the end I made a reasonable explanation why they do not seem compelling against my argument.

You know what I loved about it though. It was in house. It was two supporters of parapsychology critiquing each other. It shows in it's minor way a few views of mine.

Paranormalist tend to be better informed about many issues in science then pseudo skeptics.

Paranormalist have no problem critiquing each other. We do give each other automatic waivers.

Yes it makes a nice change I agree. lol

I have to wonder what education level pseudo skeptics have ..... ;)

Well they are being led by a high school drop out.... Hum....

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10950526/

But hey the rest of their leadership is highly qualified in science you know with degrees in psychology... That sure triumphs such peddling things such as having Noble Prize winners, Physicists, and Biologists and Statisticians who support us....snicker snicker

____________________________________________

My previous post meant to say we do not give each other automatic waivers.

Hi Kris

I agree with your comment about waivers. I am much happier discussing these issues in a forum where individuals are honestly seeking the truth and to learn as opposed to the company of those who assert that their view is correct and hence any argument against it must be wrong.

Frankly unless the subject matter requires specialist knowledge I don't think the logic of an ordinary person is necessarily of any less value than that of a professor (of whom there seems to be an increasing number with dubious titles these days).

Sometimes it appears to me that, for some, it is just a question of thinking of an appropriate reason to dismiss rather than seeking to truly understand.

I find in the subject under discussion there are few certainties to be had without direct personal experience and this appears to be difficult to come by at present.


Good point Kris.

I've often wondered about the education levels of our closed minded skeptic friends.
Myself, am educated to Ph.D level, and a lot of my friends from university are at least sympathetic to parapsychology.
Interesting question!

I serve in a military intel unit.

I have a Bachelors degree in History and a Masters in Education. I am pursuing another Masters in Math.

It does not take a lot of brain to be a pseudo skeptic. All you have to do is the following.

a.) claim to be smarter
b.) say woo woo
c.) ride the coat tails of someone who is actually educated
d.) when confronted with something you cannot refute just pretend you are above such nonsense.
e.) NEVER ADMIT DEFEAT. This is the key right here.

I do value the authority of the specialist but ultimately arguments rise and fall on their own merits in the end.

I do value the authority of the specialist but ultimately arguments rise and fall on their own merits in the end

I value the authority of specialists in their own area (I think that's what you meant).

well I value the arguments of specialist in any area provided they can support theirs with evidence :) Only fair to treat them the same as anyone else :)

However I am willing to give them a bit of the benefit of the doubt in their stated areas of expertise till shown reason why not too.

interesting indeed

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100203/ap_on_he_me/us_med_vegetative_brain

This would be very interesting if it could be shown the mind was still intact even with such shattered brains. This would work well with the transmission theory I think.

.......but the only way you could discern a "mind" is through techniques than assume the materialist model is correct. I don't see any way through this impasse.

Interesting thought though, and it's all over the BBC news in the UK. (actually on now!)

oooops, that should be "that assume"

If the mind could do objective responses then it is safe to assume it is there.

However this does not help the production model at all.

After all shouldn't a brain as shattered as these not be able to make minds? If not, why not?

I'm going to have to think about this one Kris. I'm not sure it offers support for either model.

This can't hurt the transmission view but it can hurt the production view. The issue hinges on how much mind is left. If you have a full mind with a shattered brain that will be difficult for the production view.

I don't think the techniques assume the materialist model is correct. They measure a physical phenomenon - which is the brain at work. I don't think anyone argues that the Brain has no role in consciousness; I think the argument is about the nature of the role.

So the results of the scan do not, as far as I can see, have any bearing on whether the mind is produced by the Brain or simply operates through it.

On the other hand, it appears to me, that if it can be shown that the person in the vegetative state is able to comprehend and express that understanding, despite significant damage to the brain, then it would provide some support for the mind-through-brain idea.

I don't know what kind of damage the Brains had suffered or how extensive it is so it is difficult for me to assess how much to read into it.

If you highly damage a TV it can still pick up a signal, however weak it appears.

If you highly damage a VCR it certainly cannot play a tape though.

This is really one we cannot lose, we just have to win it.

If somehow it can be shown that these minds still retain memory that almost certainly demonstrates memory ( and ipso facto the rest of the mind) is not stored in the brain.

The obvious logic is if you destroy an object that you claim is producing something and that something in question is still being produced, you probably have not destroyed the source.

I like it Kris.

I follow your logic Kris but the debate hinges on the word "destruction". Could not one materialist argument be: 'since there is some activity, the brain isn't destroyed. We do not know how much capability was actually left as our understanding is not sufficiently advanced, therefore it does not prove that the transmission model is correct - it is simply that we are still learning more about the Brain's capabilities'.

I think the problem there is that one can reasonably that the brain wouldn't have enough energy to do anything useful. For example strictly speaking empty batteries are not empty. The power in them is just so low it cannot be used.

This is a game changer.

http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=53647

If the mind was produced by the brain then when the brain crashed so should the mind.

If the mind is a transmitted single it could still exist even with shattered brain.

Skeptics will argue this is evidence that the mind can still exist and that explains NDEs.

But that won't work. We have enough NDES on record where the patient saw and heard events that the nature of the surgery would have prevented them from knowing what was going on through normal means.

In general there are two explanations for the origins of the mind.

a.) Production Theory.- This states that the mind is produced by the brain.

b.) Transmission Theory- This states that the mind is independent from the brain and the brain acts more like a filter.

Both views have parallels in day to day existence.

The production theory would be like a lamp. The bulb produces the light. Turn off the lamp and the light goes away. Reduce the electricity to the lamp and the light dims. The bulb blows out the light ends. Perfectly normal with production and I would challenge anyone to find some sort of production that does not work this way.

The transmission theory is like a prism. It filters light. I crack the prism it affects the amount of light that goes through. I cover the prism no light comes through. I remove the prism and more light comes through.

On the day to day experiences both theories are equally explanatory. However the theories do make key predictions that do make them separate.

Production theory predicts.

a.) If you damage the brain you damage the mind. Enough damage you destroy the mind. Rationally you cannot have extremely damaged anything that continues producing the substance in question.

b.) No brain, no mind.

If their is no light bulb in my lamp it will not produce light. Simple as that

Transmission theory predicts

a.) the mind can exist at the same level independent of the brain.
b.) damage to the brain will not directly damage the mind , just the minds ability to appear.

Both theories can be falsified.

Production theory can be falsified by the following

a.) finding normal minds with either no brains or
b.) finding normal minds with damaged brains

Transmission theory can be falsified by the following.

a.) demonstrate the production theory or
b.) no positive evidence for it.

Lets look at the state of things now. I for one think the production theory has been falsified.

Individuals with no brains have normal minds.

I. Lorber Study shows that this has happened
II. Alzheimer's Patient's whose memories return to them at the moment of their death.
III. Patients in vegetative states who have normal minds.

The above falsifies production and demonstrates transmission. Transmission is now proven because it made accurate predictions.

However I am not naive enough to think this is the end of the production theory. Materialist and pseudo skeptics are going to continually redefine the production theory in a way that makes it unfalsifiable. They will state yes their are rare exception with people having no brains who have normal minds, but just because production theory cannot explain it now does not mean it ever will...Just because alzheimers does not destroy the mind ( as demonstrated by dying alzheimers patients who memories return) , just demonstrates the mind can be created from the slimmest amount of the brain.... patients who are in vegetative states who have remaining minds now become proof of just how powerful the production explanation is.... Using such explanations though removes the production theory from the realm of science and into the realm of belief. Every falsification of this theory now becomes further evidence for it.

It is like the old joke, the Pope never makes mistakes, we just misunderstand him...

Hi Kris - this is an interesting discussion, thanks. You're posting more than I am :)

I like the lamp and prism analogies. Not sure about your claims regarding falsification, though. The Alzheimer's example is pretty good, but won't be definitive, as you say. The secular response to veridical perception in out-of-body states demonstrates that these arguments never get settled. On the other hand, I don't think your points a and b amount to falsification of the transmission theory, just excuses for not taking it seriously. In fact I'm not sure transmission actually *can* be falsified...

Transmission can easily be falsified. Demonstrate the transmission theory

excuse me demonstrate the production theory

Kris – you really need to learn the difference between “theory” and “hypothesis.”

There is no such thing as “transmission theory” or “production theory.”

A theory, in scientific terms, can be termed as an explanation of the facts. A hypothesis is a speculative explanation of an observation; but it has to be tested and confirmed through peer reviewed academic journals, as well as being replicated by independent scientists.

You are fond of quoting Dean Radin, but I don’t think you understand what you are saying when you quote him. From my perspective, Dean Radin is a qualified scientist who, for some reason, has gone over to non-science, for reasons best known to himself. For the fact that Radin is qualified in science, I will reserve judgement about why he is now supporting pseudoscience, but I will wait to see whether real science will ever support his ideas.

You are keen on quoting Radin, but I think even he would not support your idea that anecdotes and personal testimony are valid evidence of anything. I might disagree with his “findings” but at least he is trying to support them with something that appears to be “sciency” for want of a better word.

You have said clearly that anecdotes are valid evidence because people are reliable in their testimony. You are simply wrong. It has been said before: “If a million people believe a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.”

One other thing: think before you write. Your last two posts:

“Transmission can easily be falsified. Demonstrate the transmission theory” [Oops…]

“excuse me demonstrate the production theory” [I suddenly realised my mind was not engaged when I made that statement]

I wonder if I have broken Aristotle’s Law Of The Undistributed Middle (again) somewhere there. I’m sure you will enlighten me.

Oh joy....

I thought Harley had not decided to respond to me anymore....

I want everyone to notice all the things Harley has offered no comments on. My views on the Lorber Study etc. My views on the nature of production versus transmission. Okay many people have used the term transmission theory and production theory, but now lets call it a hypothesis. Does it affect anything I have to say on these subjects ? Not really.

To the best of my knowledge I have yet to quote Dean Radin at all cause simply put I do not know much about his research. However I ordered one of his books earlier tonight so that will change. Truth be told in this discussion you are the first one to bring him up in.

I have to wonder if you actually live your life as if personal testimony is unreliable... Do you doubt your eyes when you do a transaction online or read email? Do you doubt when someone tells you on the news a bank was robbed? Do you doubt the Toyota break issue? If someone you knew called you and warned you not to go outside cause a madman is shooting people I wonder if you would ignore it? Would you buy an item from someone on ebay who had 99% positive feedback of 80% positive feedback? All this is testimonial and observation based and I have a hard time thinking you wouldn't use all of this testimonial evidence like the rest of us do.

Snicker Snicker, you want me to accept the testimony of the individual who said “If a million people believe a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.” Should I accept this testimonial evidence grin grin. what should I do :)

But in this case that quote is not talking about testimonial evidence, that quote is more talking about things such as modern day Flat Earthers. If a million competent people reported to me very similar stories about seeing say life after death experiences I for one would be inclined to at least give them the benefit of the doubt if they could back it up with other evidences.... Maybe I am wrong but there I said it.

I don't really know Dr Radin but I suspect he lives his life in such a way that testimonial evidence tends to get the benefit of the doubt. Cause that is how the rest of people live, except for silly skeptics trying to defend silly arguments. And even then silly skeptics just claim to live that way.

No in all fairness I don't you engaging in the fallacy of the excluded middle this time. Your chosen fallacy this time seems to be you are assuming what you are trying to prove.

You assume Dr Radin is a scientist who is engaging in non scientific research because he is researching the paranormal. You assume it is unscientific cause you believe it is unscientific. Anyways what is real science as opposed to fake science? Would you care to per say explain the clear line of difference instead of just asserting it.

However I think his reasons for going over to " nonscience" can be easily known by anyone who purchase his books on either amazon or half.com. I don't think he has gone out of his way to make things per say mysterious.

Yes I goofed a post and quickly correct it. So what?

I have to make a few more comments.

First in the end Harley wants me to accept Dawkin's testimony that testimonial evidence tends to be unreliable snicker snicker....

But I have to confess I am warming up to Harley. Say what you will he is determined. He has a never say die attitude. He could be the frog in this picture.

http://ingridventer.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/never-give-up-frog.jpg

Either he won't admit to being wrong at all or he is truly determined to lead us three dedicated paranormalist to the path of reason...

That is kinda like the atheist who tries to deconvert 700 club members damn balzy and ambitious no matter how you view it.

I like Harley. I really mean it.

Harley, to claim parapsychology is a pseudoscience instantly limits the validity of your other arguments.

Read up on the subject please.

It is fascinating.

"I want to see scientific evidence for the paranormal. Except by any scientists examining paranormal claims as they've gone over to psuedo science."

"Witness testimony is unreliable. Someone told me so."

Just to be a nitpick. Lets per say say parapsychology did not meet the strict definition of science. Would that automatically make it wrong? I would like to see someone explain that.

I don't think Harley would say it would make parapsychology wrong. I suspect he would say it invalidated any results achieved by its practitioners as far as he was concerned unless they conformed to some methodology he was happy with i.e. he would not accept their findings as fact.

I am not sure what the 'strict definition of science' would have to be to satisfy Harley. I am sure he will tell us.

Let say it flunked the ultimate scientific test, that it made a theory that could allow you to reproduce the event at will and manipulate it. The blunt answer will be so what? Does that now throw out NDES? The Rhine Study. A huge etc.

You cannot reproduce a specific crime ( for example Joe Smith shooting John Smith) or specific historical events ( say the battle of Antietam )but that does not stop us from analyzing them and coming to conclusions about them. Why would the paranormal be any different?

Harley tries to prove too much with too little. That tends to be a weakness in his arguments.

But something should be noted. We can reproduce the paranormal at will, at least on the very small scale. We can produce ESP.

All you need is a deck of zener cards, a lot of people and a lot of time. If you get that, provide proper controls, eventually you will get hit rates of about 33-34% instead of the chance explanation of 25%. Small I admit but still, there you have it, the paranormal has been reproduced and can be reproduced by anyone.

quick correction a 20 percent chance. I have been typing too fast.

Perhaps I should let Harley answer for himself ;) I don't want to appear to be an apologist for him.

For me at any rate the volume of evidence for survival is significant. Does it constitute proof? I think that depends what standard of proof we require. Personally I think it is proved on the balance of probabilities but not beyond reasonable doubt but that's only my own viewpoint.

Will it ever be proved beyond reasonable doubt? On an individual basis yes I suspect it will for me anyway. On a general basis I don't know. I can't see why not though given the right evidence.

Could it be proved in such a way that it is undeniable by anyone? I don't think there is much that can be proved to that level if people set their mind to deny it.


Kris, you keep using 'per say' in your comments. Do you mean the Latin phrase 'per se' which means 'by itself'?

Or maybe you mean something entirely different?

Where are these damn comments? Seriously. I can't see them. Am I just being retarded or is it a browser issue? I get to Michael's "oops" and then the comments end for me. Of course, if anyone replies to this comment, I won't be able to see it either, but damnit, I'm venting my frustration. I need my fix of contention!

I misspelled that one Zerdini. You learn something new every day :)

Indeed one does, Kris! :)

Breanainn, there is a little arrow at the bottom of the page that you have to select. Oh, hang on, you will be unable to read this. Now there's a conundrum people!!

It's OK, I emailed him. It got me too, the first time.

Wish Typepad would make it more obvious. We can't be the only users to be flummoxed. Or perhaps someone knows a fix?

It's easy to miss the little arrow at the bottom of the page. Perhaps if they put the word 'next' or 'next page' instead of the arrow it might help.

I should really clean my monitor... Tiny little icons can easily get mistaken for dirt.

Michael – I don’t claim that parapsychology itself is pseudoscience; it is, however, a fringe science, and not taken very seriously by mainstream science. What I regard as pseudoscience is the type of “science” done by people who do not follow established scientific methodology. In a different thread on this blog, I pointed out that Gary Schwartz, for example, has taken part in his own experiments, and that doing so invalidates his findings (which it does). But Kris argues, for example, “Okay lets say Schwartz sat in one time for an absent sitter. So what? Mind you now I am not convinced that is an error but if it is it a trifling one.”

A scientist who changes protocols during an experiment, and/or takes part as a subject in his own experiments is no longer doing science, and can justifiably said to be doing pseudoscience.

Paul – we’ve argued a number of times about what constitutes evidence, and whether anecdotes and personal testimony are valid evidence. I’m not convinced that what counts as evidence in a court of law has any bearing in the “court of science” as it were. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems absurd to me that a person can be found not guilty in a criminal court, where proof “beyond reasonable doubt” is required, but later be found guilty of the same offence in a civil court where the decision is made on “the balance of probabilities.” When a decision made on a very high evidential standard can be overturned (in effect) by another court on relatively low standards of evidence, there is something odd going on.

But it seems that the same thing happens elsewhere – science demands very high standards of evidence for any paranormal claim, but for some people, scientists whose standards of evidence for the paranormal is much lower get a free pass. If you think that it’s OK for Schwartz and others to change protocols half way through an experiment, and even take part as his own test subject, then you are not going to understand why mainstream science does not accept their paranormal claims.

Kris – I concede that you have not quoted Dean Radin verbatim, but you have certainly (along with others here) referred to Radin and his book, The Conscious Universe as some kind of justification for your arguments. And now you say, “…I have yet to quote Dean Radin at all cause simply put I do not know much about his research. However I ordered one of his books earlier tonight so that will change.”

Right. You “do not know much about his research.”

You don’t know what I’m getting at when I criticise anecdotes and testimonial evidence. A friend of mine told me his rear windscreen wiper system was damaged in the recent cold weather when the wiper blade stuck fast to the ice on the glass, but its motor still went through its cycle. That’s an anecdote, alright, but it is not an extraordinary claim. Windscreen wipers exist, and such mishaps are not unlikely in unusual weather conditions. But when it is claimed that paranormal events occur, through some mechanism totally unknown to science, that is an extraordinary claim, and requires a high level of evidence to support it. Someone’s observation of an unusual event does not, in itself, explain that unusual event. It’s not good enough to say, “I saw something I cannot explain, and therefore it is supernatural. Just believe me.” And if some scientist “validates” the claim using slipshod methods, that, too, is not acceptable.

Major – it seems we’re still arguing about anecdotes and witness testimony. You ascribe to me the idea, as you put it, “"Witness testimony is unreliable. Someone told me so."”

In a way, yes, someone did tell me so. Dean Radin himself, as it happens, in his book, The Conscious Universe, where he roundly condemns those people who use anecdotes and personal testimony to support their beliefs. Here’s what the man himself says:

“The problem with many popular psi-related claims, especially claims for health-related products and devices, is that it doesn’t take much digging to discover that sound, scientific evidence for the claim is either entirely absent, fabricated or based solely upon anecdotes and testimonials.”

You can check that here:

http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/New/Examskeptics/field_guide.html

It’s an entire chapter from Radin’s book. Just scroll down to the last paragraph in the section titled “The necessity of doubt.” It’s near the top and easy to find.

So it seems that even Kris accepts that Schwartz’s research is flawed, but he thinks that flaws in research are acceptable as long as they support what he believes is true.

And everyone here claims that anecdotes and personal testimony are valid evidence, even though Radin himself scoffs at the idea; and remember that Radin’s name is regularly trotted out here to justify paranormal claims (notwithstanding the fact that Kris is not familiar with his work). Is everyone else here as closely familiar with Radin’s book when they cite him?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t mind if the existence of the paranormal is ever proven; if it is, it will be a scientific fact the same as any other. But anecdotes, personal testimony and flawed research will not do it. I don’t kid myself that I am going to convince anyone here that the paranormal does not exist, but I might be kidding myself if I think I am going to convince anyone that a high standard of evidence is required.

Well like any Harley post it never does quite get the facts right, has many silly arguments but then again it wouldn't be a Harley post if it was any other way. But then again I like Harley and I don't want him to change. Much like that old pair of underwear I think I will keep him around.


Harley still seems annoyed about the Schwartz thing. Once again I will ask Harley to explain why we should chuck all his data for at most for what is a peddling error ( especially the data gather before the error) and I will ask him if any other science experiment requires perfection. The problem is Schwartz just sat in on an experiment, then things went back to normal. Truly is this a big deal? I haven't read the book yet but if this is the best skeptics can throw at it it does climb to the top of my list of books to be read.


Of course Harley misrepresents my views on why I think Schwartz's research should not be thrown out on error. I wouldn't throw out any research on a single error unless someone could prove that one error flawed the entire study. That is just being both fair and pragmatic, how much more would scientist have to spend on research if they truly embraced this view. I just don't really see how this possible error does that.


Harley doesn't get the issue at all. While human testimony is not perfect, we are stuck with the idea of it being reliable. Human society collapses if we don't. Harley's beloved science collapses too. But as I will point out again and again no one seriously lives this way unless they wear tin foil hats. This is one of those silly skeptical arguments that is used on occasion to make cheap rhetorical points at the expensive of throwing out all human inquiry. But hey it does work for a debate cause no one actually remotely plans to live that way in real life.


If I have referred to Radin I will be curious as to where I did this. You will seriously have to show me that one cause I truly do not remember if I did. I think you just threw that out and didn't think you would get called on it.

I have noticed something, Harley keeps lecturing about science but never once has he really shown why our views on science are wrong. I would be very curious for any journal that demands perfection of a study. If you can name one please show it. I would also be curious for Harley's scientific background.

Of course paranormal research is slipshod. Why? Harley says so. I wish I could embrace a style of arguing that allowed me to be evidence free. Please tell me the research flaws in the Rhine Study Harley. Also as for chance, the odds against the results of the Rhine studies being chance have been calculated in the billions.

Of course knowing what is extraordinary or ordinary requires a perfect knowledge of the universe. It used to be extraordinary to think the Earth rotated around the sun. But it always did despite the extraordinary nature of that claim in the eyes of the medievals. I don't think Harley will understand why but his argument is a form of question begging.

I do thank you kindly for that link Harley. It shows to me once again paranormalist do not take things at face value, but examine them. Thank you for making the point we have been making for awhile.

Oh I agree that a high standard of evidence is needed. However I think the issue is we don't agree on what a high standard is. As I like to say I will let people read our discussions and decide who is more reasonable between the two of us.

Are the experiments of Pierre Curie to be disregarded due to the fact that he tested on himself, such as his demonstration to the Royal Institution in 1903 of the burning effects of radiation?

It is recorded that Louis Pasteur seriously considered testing his rabies vaccine on himself but was soon faced with an urgent case which would act as the ultimate test. Although he never followed through, such an 'unscientific' mind seems to now be lauded as a great thinker of his time.

Apparently, Isaac Newton regularly tested devices on himself.

All to be discredited, apparently.

All anti science woo masters I say. Throw out their research and anything that came from it.

Harley

Whether you like it or not personal testimony from witnesses is evidence. Such evidence is considered in some places to be enough to execute a person or confine them for life. These decisions are made by reasonable rational people such as yourself.

As we have discussed many times, the weight one ascribes to such evidence is a personal matter depending on a number of factors such as our own experience, our knowledge of and relationship to the person recounting their experience, and the circumstances of that experience.

Is such evidence scientific? In the sense that a person is reporting what they see, it isn't unscientific. Clearly though it isn't a laboratory experiment.

Does such evidence constitute scientific repeatable proof? No it doesn't. If a large number of people report similar experiences though, I think it is reasonable to infer that some phenomenon is occurring though not the cause. It is not reasonable to assume fraud and dismiss it, though that is one potential cause.

Does it matter that the phenomena are not repeatable in a scientifically monitored and controlled environment? Only if the person asking for proof requires such evidence to convince them.

Much of the evidence supplied for mediumship for example was obtained in controlled environments and witnessed by highly reputable scientists. Was it repeatable? One only has to read Lodge and Crookes to see that it was. Does this mean you should accept it is proven? No, you are entitled to your own view and if the scenarios reported are susceptible to error then you are entitled to give that such weight as you see fit. Ultimately what you or I think of the evidence reported will not alter the facts one bit (assuming we can ever be certain of them).

Although I would not argue with your perspective, I do find it dismissive and that it does not properly take account of the research that has been done. It appears to me that you are convinced that the phenomena reported are not genuine and therefore no evidence other than that in which you cannot find a flaw in will be acceptable to you.

That's your choice. Is your position a reasonable one to adopt? I don't think so, I think it is too extreme, but that's only my opinion and you are entitled to your own view.

It appears to me that those who have investigated phenomena have often been impressed in a way that those who only read the reports can never be. If this is an area of genuine interest to you (as opposed to academic debate) I wonder what research you have conducted personally and what was the outcome?


passing this on for the sweetness factor

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAF01WG6FyQ

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