Controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, & their critics.

Discussion in 'SCIENTIFIC and ANECDOTAL research' started by Deborah, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. Deborah

    Deborah Executive Director Staff Member

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    The interview can be read here.
     
  2. Nightrain

    Nightrain Senior Registered

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    By coincidence I was probably listening to the taped interview at the same time you were last night. Did you notice, when Alex brought up Dr. Sam Parnia, in reply to Chris Carter's assessment of materialist scientists, he said, "In our interview he’s very much at least presenting a picture that he’s open to a non-Materialist explanation, this dualistic mind/brain thing. So I don’t think we can paint these things with such a broad brush.". Chris Carter did not have the same take on Dr. Parnia, and during the apparent argument Alex later seemed to contradict himself when he quoted Dr. Parnia saying, "I don’t know how you qualify saying “I’ve done this research for 10 years. I’ve compiled 500 cases and it may be, and I suspect it is, an illusion-a trick of the mind.”. I had a hard time understanding what the two were arguing about.


    I read about Dr. Parnia, and it seems that many proponents of post life existence don't trust some of his dismissive methods when some patients try to relate their NDE experiences. A lot seems to hinge on whether such patients remember seeing an object on the ceiling, which has been placed there for the explicit purpose of the test. What bothers me is that anyone going through the trauma of death is going to have a lot more on their mind than some arbitrary object hidden near the ceiling.
     
  3. dking777

    dking777 Senior Registered

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    After I read this - I was inspired to write out a blog that ties in an ADC, reincarnation and NDE experience - rolled together during an incident that happened at the age of 12.


    I posted it on my blog and titled it "Cigar Box ADC."


    DK
     
  4. thephilosopher

    thephilosopher Senior Registered

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    I have finished a book called The Source Field Investigations by David Wilcock. On page 166 of this work, Dr. John Lorber, an expert on hydrocephalus (water on the brain), describes a young student with an I.Q. of 126, nevertheless had a brain consisting of a one-millimeter thick layer against the inside of the skull. The student graduated with a first class honors degree in mathematics despite having virtually no brain. (!)


    Richard
     
  5. Delonada

    Delonada Senior Registered

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    The problem with many scientists today is that they are very dogmatic in their view. There can only one answer, and only singular variables. One thing I've been studying is biochemistry and how materials affect the body, and it is quite surprising to see how many people subscribe to a certain research paper, whereas other research paper show that the mainstream research paper is wrong.


    In other words, scientists follow what is popular, and not what is scientific, and this can be seen in people rejecting near death experiences and reincarnation as nothing more than a fool's fancy as these are things that go against the popular science.
     
  6. Aaab

    Aaab New Member

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    My experience is that science requires funding and science follows the money. Scientists do not bite the hand that feeds them.
     
  7. Mr. Mike

    Mr. Mike Active Member

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    It seems to be that most scientists are incredibly naive about how the world really works and can be just as dogmatic and closed minded as any true believer in religion. It's almost unbelieveable to watch highly intelligent people ridicule subjects like this or at the most will only entertain an idea that has thorough peer review scientific studies behind it. Good luck inviting them look through that telescope in their own!

    That's a good way to put it. My brother is a scientific genius (easily in the top 0.5% of the population in Physics and Chemistry) and told me how a highly respected Physicist made a fringe claim and was universally ridiculed for it and basically blackballed from the profession. I learned at a very early age that most people, scientist or not are more concerned about their paycheck over ideals and unless the latest science magazines or publications are talking about it, they'll keep their mouths shut even if they know it's something worth studying. So much for the scientific method!


    Sadly, things are no better since the Wright brothers' days where they were ignored by mainstream science for YEARS after getting that first flight off the ground. If you haven't witnessed it first hand, it can be absolutely incredible seeing how blind many scientists are to new ideas and how unscientific they can act to dismiss them.
     
  8. Purple Cow

    Purple Cow New Member

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    Scientists seem to be taking a bit of a beating here, so I figured I'd stand up for 'em a bit. For the sake of full disclosure, I do neuroscience research.


    Whilst I agree that scientists can indeed be quite dogmatic and conservative at times, there are other things to consider when trying to understand why things like near death experiences and reincarnation don't get the scientific attention that some people here appear to think it deserves.


    First to address some of the criticisms put forth thus far:

    This isn't quite right. I'm not sure what is meant by "popular" but scientists typically study either a) what they are interested in and/or b) what will get funded, because science is very expensive. There likely isn't a lot of scientific research on NDEs or reincarnation because there isn't much, if any, funding out there to do that sort of research. The money mostly flows from government institutions (NIH, NSF, DOD), so if you want more tax dollars spent on NDEs and reincarnation, then talk to your congressperson. Otherwise the research is dependent on charitable foundations or donors, which are few and far between.


    In addition, the scientific case/evidence for these as legitimate phenomena in themselves is not very convincing. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and frankly, as best I can tell, the evidence simply isn't there (but please point me to some scientific studies as I would really like to see some good evidence). Anecdotes simply are not all that convincing to scientists as there are all sorts of biases that can influence and alter one's memories. That's why we rely on scientific instruments and quantitative/statistical techniques, because however imperfect they may be, it is better than relying on human memory.

    You make an interesting point here. However, I think you may be mistaken in assuming that scientists are compromising their ideals by not discussing or studying things like NDEs, reincarnation or parapsychology (which is what I assume you are referring to). The vast majority of scientific research would not be affected by discoveries in the field of parapsychology. Would understanding NDEs help us to cure autism? Or develop high temperature superconductors? Or generate better climate models? Maybe somehow one day it might, but it's an extraordinarily large leap to see how studying such phenomenon would actually impact much of current scientific research.


    And with respect to "not studying something unless the latest publications are talking about it". This is absolute rubbish. Every scientist knows that if you want to make a big impact on a field then you need to be ahead of the curve, pushing into terra incognita and defining the parameter space for others to work in. It's just exceptionally difficult to do and there are only so many extraordinarily talented scientists (and funding agencies willing to take a risk as well) to do this sort of research.


    That being said, there is a famous quote from Max Planck about scientific progress: "Science advances one funeral at a time". If these NDE and reincarnation phenomenon are going to be considered scientifically legitimate, actual scientific evidence (i.e, reproducible, not due to chance/coincidence, falsifiable, etc.), and not anecdotes, are necessary. Whilst I always keep in mind the axiom that "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence", the burden of proof is on the one making the claim, and frankly, I haven't come across any convincing evidence (but would be more than open to it if it existed! I've been trying to convince myself of some of these things, but the evidence is just so poor).


    Sorry for the long first post, I hope it stimulates some discussion.
     
  9. usetawuz

    usetawuz Senior Registered

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    "I've never seen a purple cow, and never hope to see one..."...no offense intended, but your name seems to pull just that sort of comment and I couldn't resist!


    As far as scientific reason is involved it seems to me that what I experience and what can be proven are two very different things.


    While I have no issue with any scientific and verifiable understanding of what I experience I have yet to obtain a scientific acknowledgement or understanding of my experiences...and I wait...
     
  10. Nightrain

    Nightrain Senior Registered

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    I agree wholeheartedly that Scientists have taken it on the chin regarding the wrong assumption that they are overly dogmatic, or materialistic. After all, they are—like the rest of us—bound by the same legitimate pressures and handicaps of living in a dogmatic and materialistic world. They have families, mortgages and professional positions to protect and maintain. I think that much of the unwarranted criticism arises not only from the propaganda expounded by academic institutions which espoused Science as the great emancipator of human thought, but also from the opposite camps which viewed Science as a threat to Religion and Spiritualism.


    There is also the very real issue that much of what is considered "paranormal", or outside the usual perceived experience is of little practical use for war, commerce or sheer survival. The closest we have come to using taxpayer resources for any practical purpose (that we know of) involved the SRI and Fort Mead operations which involved the use of psychics and remote viewing to uncover specific Soviet operations, a failed Chinese atomic bomb test, and the location of a kidnapped American general in Italy. While critics claim that the practical benefits of these results were marginal, the only real reason that these operations were curtailed was that the Cold War had ended. Of course, the fact that this activity became public through the freedom of information act probably didn't help, either.

    Here is where I do think that current Scientific philosophy is being hijacked by dogma to a certain extent; for extraordinary prejudice requires extraordinary catchphrases. The one, above, which was fondly propounded by the late, great Carl Sagan, is a good case in point; in which it is used to excess in cases where adequate evidence for "paranormal" phenomenon HAS been found and replicated. By "adequate" I mean evidence which surpasses the same requirements that have allowed certain pharmaceuticals and medical methods to be put into place worldwide. Such non-anecdotal evidence can be easily gleaned through the writings of Dr. Dean Radin, Charles Tart, Chris Carter and many others.


    When it comes to anecdotal evidence, I do feel that some of it deserves to be considered in the same way as crime investigators consider evidence; in that it may be circumstantial, but indicative of distinct possibilities. To ignore such clues is to put on blinders which inhibit discovery.


    I would go further to say that I believe there is also an underlying prejudice among Scientists, which is borne of the very real fear that Religion might raise its head again and submit Science and Logic to the terror of the Inquisition as it did so effectively only a few hundred years ago. The memory of what happened in those times is repeatedly instilled in the minds of every student of Science, and the names Galileo, Bruno and others are ever present in their minds; such that whispers of Spiritism and Eternal Life cause many of them to quake in utter reaction to the point of establishing their own lines of defensive dogma, which we now call Scientism.


    Fortunately, there are enough Scientists who are aware that there is a large middle ground between the physical and the mataphysical; such as would allow a healthy merging between what is possible and what is proven. In fact, many scientist have disavowed the very word "proof", because they know what is proven today may be dis-proven tomorrow. Any Scientist who says that something is impossible is only showing evidence for a lack of Scientific method.
     
  11. Deborah

    Deborah Executive Director Staff Member

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    Welcome Purple Cow,


    Thank you for posting your thoughts. I enjoyed the read.


    One of my favorite sites is Closer to the Truth. Have you heard of it? A long list of researchers and professors looking into consciousness, God and the cosmos. :) :)


    One of my favorite threads here on the forum is Harvard and Yale ~ Reincaration and the Book of Life. Within it you'll find posts to viable researchers looking into NDE's, Past Lives and consciousness.


    And of course information about Ian Stevenson.Dr. Ian Stevenson, was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia Medical School, and has been researching reincarnation since 1960.


    Again. Welcome and thank you for posting, great food for thought. :cool
     
  12. Purple Cow

    Purple Cow New Member

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    Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss "all the evidence" as I certainly haven't had the opportunity to read it all, only what I've been able to find using Google and looking through the archives of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. It has been difficult to find legitimate websites and information about these things, so thank you for some leads, I'll certainly look into them. Also, I should say, there is some parapsychology that I've read that is reasonably convincing (e.g, the experiments from the PEAR lab come to mind). However, I'm a bit more interested in the evidence for NDEs and reincarnation given their implications.

    Well, in a perfect world no scientist would ever use the word "proof" in discussing science (this is one of my pet peeves in my scientific interactions). Mathematicians do proofs, scientists don't. There is no such thing as scientific "proof" of ANY theory, it's just not possible. Scientists provide evidence in support of or against a hypothesis. You can't prove anything in science, you can only disprove a hypothesis. I'd be happy to expound upon this point further if there's any interest, but it is just one of the finer points of the philosophy of science that many are unaware of (including many scientists themselves!).

    So this is probably the one bit of evidence I've pursued the furthest in my very brief exploration thus far into reincarnation, as he seems to be held up as providing some of the only scientific evidence suggestive of reincarnation. While I have yet to read either of his two monographs (Twenty Cases and Reincarnation and Biology) I have read some of his writings that he's published in some scientific journals as well as his short book "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect" and Jim Tucker's "Life Before Life". I've come away mostly disappointed thus far I have to say. I had high hopes in reading "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect" thinking it would provide enough evidence for me to hunker down and spend the cash and time to read his monograph, but it actually did the opposite.


    My main issue is that in his descriptions of his cases Stevenson seems to never (or rarely) consider the possibility that the presumed matches could be due to chance. In all his 3000 or so cases he has, is there not one "good" case? i.e, one in which they identify a child making statements before the previous personalities family has been contacted? That way they can a priori determine the validity of the statements under controlled conditions and determine whether or not they might be true of some other previous personality. And how likely are the statements to correspond to another family by chance? There is little to no discussion of this (I recall he noted that once, when they were looking up hospital records of someone who claimed to have died as young woman in a particular manner, they looked +/- 5 years of records in the hospital and could not find any other reasonable matches; this is exactly the type of thing he needed more of! It was the one highlight from "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect"). This is what I find to be most frustrating in reading his work. It's great that he cross-references the child's statements with both families (although it's difficult to determine exactly how much leeway is given in determine whether or not a statement is true or false; perhaps this info is in the monographs), but some sort of quantification of the likelihood the statements correspond with other families by chance is necessary and appears to be completely lacking. Actually, the most convincing thing I've read on it so far was "Old Souls" as the author, Tom Shroder, seemed to take the same stance I would if I was in his shoes...


    Whilst I don't mean to completely discount his work, from what I've read thus far it's not overwhelmingly convincing (and I want to be convinced as I think it's fascinating). Nonetheless, I think the phenomenon he describes is absolutely worth pursuing further, but I have this nagging feeling that perhaps there is a reason a "perfect" or close to perfect case has not presented itself (when, from his work, one would hypothesize that it should). Which may very well be because such a case doesn't exist because there is a more mundane explanation that we simply haven't thought of yet (although I certainly hope not)...
     
  13. Nightrain

    Nightrain Senior Registered

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    I think it's great that you have shown enough interest to read Ian Stevenson's work as well as Shroder's. I know that it's difficult for a well-trained scientific mind to accept much of what is written about Reincarnation, because it certainly doesn't fit in the same category as empirical research, nor can it be tested in the laboratory.


    However, the Scientific mind can also be Philosophical; and wonder, therefore, whether well-documented evidence of Telepathy (Dr. Dean Radin), Precognition (Dr. Daryl Bem), and Near Death Experiences (Dr. Pim Van Lommel) seem to point directly to an entangled mind or consciousness, which also seems to correlate with aspects of Quantum Physics.


    It would seem that your curiosity is leading you in this direction, and that you are willing to entertain such possibilities that you may find definitely correlate in interesting ways with the additional possibility of Reincarnation. Allow me to also suggest two books by Carol Bowman "Children's Past Lives" and "Return From Heaven", and any one of Dr. Brian Weiss' books.
     
  14. pixarfan

    pixarfan Member

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    You may like Ian Lawton's "The Big Book of the Soul: Rational Spirituality For The Twenty-First Century," as it provides a thorough (and also skeptical) view of the current scientific evidence for and against NDEs, reincarnation, etc. Each topic is examined through weak cases, inconclusive cases, and strong cases, with fact-checking and rebuttals from a variety of sources. Contradictions are addressed, and there is a long list of citations in the back should you wish to peruse them further. It's still written in a layman-accessible way except for the "holographic soul" chapter in the back, which I personally found hard to understand, but that's just me.


    However, if you'd prefer 800 pages of straight-up academia loaded with citations from peer-reviewed journals, you may enjoy "Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century" by Edward F. Kelly and Emily Williams Kelly.
     
  15. ReincarnationS1

    ReincarnationS1 New Member

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  16. Mr. Mike

    Mr. Mike Active Member

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    Hi Purple Cow:


    I appreciate you sharing your point of view. I certainly don't want to make this a black and white issue, only what I personally have observed. I may be way off the mark, but I can only use my own experiences as a reference.

    It has been my experience that everybody (not just scientists) love to say that they want to be ahead of the curve but in reality I have found that not too many are interested in leaving their comfy, well paying positions to push the boundaries. I have plenty of first hand experience with this but it would go too far off topic to present here. All I can tell you is that if you present an idea that upsets economic interests, you will quickly learn how the world really works and few scientists are capable of understanding that as far as I have seen.


    It's refreshing to read your open minded attitude but sad to say it is not something I am used to seeing in the scientific community. Maybe I've just had bad experiences but I've done enough banging my head against the wall for now.
     
  17. Purple Cow

    Purple Cow New Member

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    I think you are right here to an extent. At the same time, pushing boundaries is non-trivial. It takes talent, hard work and luck. Plus, there is a lot of very good and useful science that is done and needs to be done that is more mundane. Like most people, the majority of scientists are content to work within their comfort zone with respect to experimental techniques and ideas. Doing good science is already very challenging and time consuming, even on the best of days. Not everyone has the ideas or the stomach (or the monetary support!) for all the failure one has to go through before making a truly significant breakthrough. There is no guidebook on how to push the boundaries; if there were it would have already been done!

    Thanks Mr. Mike. You are not wrong to have that impression, as most of my colleagues would think I'm nuts even posting on a forum such as this. But there are some open minded scientists out there that are willing to take a gander at these sorts of things now and again when time permits. Personally, I think determining the legitimacy of NDEs and reincarnation are important in broadening our understanding of the human condition. If these phenomenon are legitimate and can be systematically studied, it would open up a new frontier in comprehending our place in the Universe. And THAT is exciting!
     
  18. Purple Cow

    Purple Cow New Member

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    Thanks, these are some really great leads. I've put in an order for Lawton's book to start.


    Cheers!
     
  19. Purple Cow

    Purple Cow New Member

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    Some updates etc.


    So I've had a chance to look into some suggestions from this forum and had some additional information to add to defend us scientists a bit more.


    So I've read about half of Ian Lawton's book "The Big Book of the Soul" and have not been very impressed. He's quite biased and intellectually dishonest throughout. It is not even close to evenhanded or scholarly. Nonetheless, I do have to say thanks for this recommendation because it does have a lot of references that I can follow-up and evaluate on my own, so it's a good place to start for such information...so thank you.


    On a completely separate note, I just wanted to provide some evidence that scientists are not as "close minded" and "ignoring all this unequivocal evidence" regarding the paranormal, as some folks here would seem to suggest. In the last couple of years there has been a bit of a buzz in the psychology world as a well known social psychologist has published a series of experiments in which he argues that he has demonstrated the existence of pre-cognition (a draft of the article is here). However, the issue that has come up is that no one has been able to replicate the effects thus far (there is a recent article kindly published in a publicly available journal here) suggesting they are likely to just be artifacts.


    If you are curious as to how the scientific discourse works I urge you to take a look at these articles and in particular the language the author's use (FYI the second article is shorter and easier to read). It is very unbiased, and open to various possibilities as explanations. Perhaps this will shed some light on how practicing scientists work and discuss findings; while the writing can be dry, it at least attempts to be honest (usually...).


    The point in my posting this is simply to demonstrate that many scientists are indeed open minded enough to spend significant portions of their time and resources exploring "non-traditional" para-normal phenomena. If these were legitimate phenomena, then they could be studied; otherwise the most reasonable interpretation is that they are just artifacts or statistical noise (at least in this case)...
     
  20. usetawuz

    usetawuz Senior Registered

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    This is where I fall off the wagon...what I have and continue to experience have had distinct and absolute effects on my life...they are, for me, legitimate phenomena. They are not artifacts or statistical noise in my case as they have been part of a pattern which has drawn me into specific events and experiences through which I have learned things that for me have been amazingly beneficial. I can tell when I am encountering another such sequence of events or sense the significance of a situation and I simply let the objective, rationale or situation become clear.


    With that said, how can science hope to measure or examine with an eye to legitimizing something for which there is nothing to measure or examine? This is all a sense or a feeling or an understanding...some level of existence and knowledge that supercedes what we can currently quantify. And that inability to quantify or lack of current scientific understanding doesn't mean it isn't happening...it simply means the technology and understanding has not caught up with the events....and it certainly doesn't mean the experiences are illegitimate. At some point, if anyone still doubts such phenomena and is interested in scientifically legitimizing them, I assume humanity will find a way to obtain some level of scientific assessment which would establish a proof...but in the meantime I propose we live and learn, with or without scientific legitimacy.
     

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