The shortcomings of the ‘brain as radio receiver’ model

Folks who believe in an immaterial soul (also known as ‘substance dualists’) face a daunting challenge. Why, if our mental and emotional functions are carried out by the immaterial soul, are they so completely affected by changes to the physical brain?

A common dualist response to this challenge is what I call the ‘brain as radio receiver’ model. In this model, the brain is something like a radio receiver, with the soul as the transmitter. The brain is constantly picking up signals from the soul and converting them into nervous impulses that are passed on to the rest of the brain and the body. When the brain is damaged or temporarily impaired, say by drinking, then the signals are no longer received clearly. The transmission isn’t affected, but the reception is.

This is a woefully inadequate model, for reasons that I’m sure we’ll discuss thoroughly in the comments. However, it’s understandable why someone who wants the soul to exist (particularly for religious reasons) would be attracted to it. What’s surprising is that David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who should know better, sees value in the model. At the end of his book Incognito, he writes the following:

As an example, I’ll mention what I’ll call the “radio theory” of brains. Imagine that you are a Kalahari Bushman and that you stumble upon a transistor radio in the sand. You might pick it up, twiddle the knobs, and suddenly, to your surprise, hear voices streaming out of this strange little box. If you’re curious and scientifically minded, you might try to understand what is going on. You might pry off the back cover to discover a little nest of wires. Now let’s say you begin a careful, scientific study of what causes the voices. You notice that each time you pull out the green wire, the voices stop. When you put the wire back on its contact, the voices begin again. The same goes for the red wire. Yanking out the black wire causes the voices to get garbled, and removing the yellow wire reduces the volume to a whisper. You step carefully through all the combinations, and you come to a clear conclusion: the voices depend entirely on the integrity of the circuitry. Change the circuitry and you damage the voices.

Proud of your new discoveries, you devote your life to developing a science of the way in which certain configurations of wires create the existence of magical voices. At some point, a young person asks you how some simple loops of electrical signals can engender music and conversations, and you admit that you don’t know — but you insist that your science is about to crack that problem at any moment.

Your conclusions are limited by the fact that you know absolutely nothing about radio waves and, more generally, electromagnetic radiation. The fact that there are structures in distant cities called radio towers — which send signals by perturbing invisible waves that travel at the speed of light — is so foreign to you that you could not even dream it up. You can’t taste radio waves, you can’t see them, you can’t smell them, and you don’t yet have any pressing reason to be creative enough to fantasize about them. And if you did dream of invisible radio waves that carry voices, who could you convince of your hypothesis? You have no technology to demonstrate the existence of the waves, and everyone justifiably points out that the onus is on you to convince them.

So you would become a radio materialist. You would conclude that somehow the right configuration of wires engenders classical music and intelligent conversation. You would not realize that you’re missing an enormous piece of the puzzle.

I’m not asserting that the brain is like a radio — that is, that we’re receptacles picking up signals from elsewhere, and that our neural circuitry needs to be in place to do so — but I am pointing out that it could be true. There is nothing in our current science that rules this out.

Eagleman is wrong about that. The ‘brain as radio receiver’ model isn’t scientifically viable. In the comments, let’s discuss all the reasons why. Any intrepid dualists who would like to defend the model are also welcome to participate, of course.

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157 thoughts on “The shortcomings of the ‘brain as radio receiver’ model

  1. William J. Murray:
    BruceS,
    I’m not saying other countries don’t have science or great scientists; I’m saying that countries outside of the west do not entirely share it’s materialist bias.

    PJ O’Rourk had a one word rejoinder: dentistry.

    No other product of materialistic science affects so many person-hours of our existence. Some other branches of medicine save more lives, but they don’t have as much impact on our well being.

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  2. BruceS: I doubt non-scientific approaches which claim consequences or which rely on explanations which contradict well-established science.

    What are these “non-scientific approaches”? Feelings?

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  3. I would say that one of the measurable effects of mind is its capacity to trivially produce, on the spot, virtually infinite amounts of complex, specified information.

    I assume you are referring to language. I guess you have some good company, because Chomsky also thought the production of language was something akin to magic. He famously opined that the facility of language was irreducibly complex and could not have evolved stepwise.

    I suspect Chomsky will share a wing with Penrose in the museum of failed conjectures by world class experts. Incredulous is no way to go through life. It does not an argument make.

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  4. For example, mind as a side-effect of brains doesn’t explain Pam Reynolds’ experiences she had while clinically brain dead.

    Pam Reynolds did not have her ‘experience’ while clinically brain dead. Her experience appears to be a classic case of anesthetic awareness according to the clinical reports and timeline of the procedure.

    http://neardth.com/pam-reynolds-near-death-experience.php

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  5. keiths: Take it easy, Mike. I’ve already explained what I’m asserting:
    You were under the impression that
    Quantum coherence effects are measured at temperatures below liquid helium temperatures (about 4 Kelvin). There are no such “wave functions” to be collapsed at room temperature.
    That’s not correct, and I offered the Nature Physics paper as a striking counterexample.

    Obviously none of my comments on high temperature superconductivity or that simple little calculation provided any clarification for you. I don’t have a simpler calculation at my fingertips to offer.

    I had hoped that the net contribution of some semi-quantitative physics/chemistry stuff would support the arguments against dualism and emphasize where the future research has to go. Those kinds of scientific/technical offerings used to be welcomed on this site; and a number of people often provided them.

    I still have no idea what you think you are accusing me of; however, if you think that paper is an argument against something you lifted out of the context of what I have been saying, then I can top it. Oxygen and hydrogen orbitals are well defined quantum states at temperatures hundreds of times higher than room temperature. Those quantum states account for the 105 degree bonding angle between the two hydrogen atoms in a water molecule. They also account for the hexagonal ice lattice.

    However, I claim it would be foolish to assert that because this quantum coherence exists in the atoms of which water molecules are assembled that therefore ocean waves are a coherent quantum state. Not even the standing waves in the whistles of a teakettle or a steam engine are coherent quantum states.

    That little calculation should have at least alerted you to the fact that there is a length and temperature range in which quantum and classical effects are of comparable size. That length scale is in the nanometer range. Above those lengths and temperatures, quantum effects decay exponentially. If such quantum coherence effects are to be maintained at longer lengths and higher temperatures, then there are rather severe constraints on the nature of the system both in the density of atoms and in the strengths of their interactions.

    The particular protein they were modeling in that paper has some of those constraints; but the coherence lengths are still restricted to distances on the order of 15 angstroms. You should have picked that up from the paper. The paper is not a “gotcha” against something you think I said.

    I will offer one last observation in agreement with walto about your apparent need to WIN at games nobody else is playing. I have seen this behavior several times now.

    This site used to engage a lot more scientific, technical, and mathematical folks who seldom or no longer show up here. The discussions were unapologetically technical and high level; and they were fun and educational.

    I have been away for a while and look in only occasionally now; but it appears that many of these threads – yours in particular – are indistinguishable from those posted by the people over at UD. I have my guesses as to why that might be the case; but I certainly don’t think UD is a standard that should set the tone and levels of discussion here.

    Apparently Elizabeth no longer runs this site; and the site has since become a mirror image of UD. And I, like the others who are no longer here, have no desire to participate in those kinds of UD games.

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  6. BK: Pam Reynolds did not have her ‘experience’ while clinically brain dead.Quite the contrary and it appears to be a classic case of anesthetic awareness according to the clinical reports and timeline of the procedure.
    http://neardth.com/pam-reynolds-near-death-experience.php

    I had twilight sleep when I was ten years old. that would be around 1955. My experience was pretty “religious” in that I still remember it visually. Pretty impressive, actually. Ether used to be a recreational drug.

    I’ve had several surgeries since, but they give you drugs to prevent remembering anything.

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  7. For example, mind as a side-effect of brains doesn’t explain Pam Reynolds’ experiences she had while clinically brain dead. Mind as side-effect of brain doesn’t explain various research conducted since the late 1900′s into mediumship and other paranormal phenomena, including NDE’s, nonlocal, apparently disembodied intelligences and research into reincarnation.

    However, if you exclude from “we” everyone who disagrees with you, and define “know” as only those conclusions accepted by the current scientific establishment consensus here in the west, then I suppose such a statement (properly contextualized) can be considered by some to be correct.

    If some phenomena and observations are not explained, Making Stuff Up That Fits Doctrine doesn’t do much to explain it either. Redefining “we” and “know” in ways that fit doctrine is not very explanatory either.

    It’s pretty clear that the brain is not nearly as well understood as it could be, and that the tools we have are much too crude for anything detailed. Vastly improved tools would be an enormous help if we’re actually curious about what’s going on, but essentially useless if our foregone conclusions are not subject to test or conditional on test results.

    And many dualists think the opposite – that materialists are have an ideological need to ignore and deny what is plainly there

    But the point is, lacking suitable tools, nothing is plain at all. Everything is highly indirect and subject to multiple interpretations. I will cheerfully admit that “materialists” have a bias toward testable hypotheses.

    I interpret Lewontin as saying that science is not competent to investigate pure woo, because it rests on the presumption that reality includes no woo, and uses tools that WORK. Accordingly, if there is any genuine magic going on here, science is bound to misinterpret it. The question is always whether the scientific explanation is useful and produces testable (and verified) predictions.

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  8. Lewontin is perfectly clear that invocation of unconstrained causes is useless.

    Not wrong, because such invocations cannot be wrong.

    Useless.

    History. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s the way to bet.

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  9. BruceS: There are many situations where a first-rate scientist in one field pushes crackpot theories in another field. But Penrose is a world class mathematical physicist, and he is pushing at least four borderline theories in his area of expertise: a generally discredited view of what Godel’s results mean for human intelligence, a unique theory of quantum collapse and gravity, a platonic universe at the Planck scale, and quantum effects in microtubules. Not to say anything of his rejection of standard cosmological inflation in favor of his own alternative view of the Big Bang.

    Years ago I and Gabby Weinreich were walking out of a talk given by Nobel laureate Brian Josephson at the University of Michigan. The talk was about “The wave function of life”. It was some real quantum woo.

    Gabby made an apt comment, saying, “When you win the Nobel Prize you are allowed to spout total bullshit for hours and everybody will just sit and listen with rapt attention.”

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  10. Richardthughes: What are these “non-scientific approaches”? Feelings?

    Well, homeopathy and astrology and “The Secret” were more what I had in mind.

    But I guess if someone said “I had a feeling the dice would come out that way” and they meant they could consistently predict dice rolls, then that would count too.

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  11. BruceS: Well, homeopathy and astrology and “The Secret” were more what I had in mind.
    But I guess if someone said “I had a feeling the dice would come out that way” and they meant they could consistently predict dice rolls, then that would count too.

    We’ve been lectured at great length by theists on this forum about the inadequacies of scientism, without any discussion at all about what benefits would be provided by alternative methods of knowing.

    Something about Hitler and Stalin, I think.

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  12. Regarding the “ways of knowing” debate, I think it’s worth pointing out that there are lots of ways to produce insights, including hunches, dreams, recreational drug use, and methodical thinking, and of course some of these are more productive than others.

    When it comes to verifying those insights, though, nothing beats good old-fashioned empirically-based reasoning.

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  13. If some phenomena and observations are not explained, Making Stuff Up That Fits Doctrine doesn’t do much to explain it either.

    Or, one could call the above a case of dismissing explanations that do not fit doctrine. Your metaphysical doctrine is spelled out by Lewontin and others.

    Redefining “we” and “know” in ways that fit doctrine is not very explanatory either.

    Except I’m not redefining it; I’m pointing out your convenient uses of the terms in the first place. Who is “we”? How are you defining “know”? You appear to be using the terms as fallacious appeals to vague popularity and/or authority.

    It’s pretty clear that the brain is not nearly as well understood as it could be, and that the tools we have are much too crude for anything detailed. Vastly improved tools would be an enormous help if we’re actually curious about what’s going on, but essentially useless if our foregone conclusions are not subject to test or conditional on test results.

    You mean, like the foregone conclusion that we must reach materialist conclusions, as spelled out by Lewontin?

    I will cheerfully admit that “materialists” have a bias toward testable hypotheses.

    That’s not the bias Lewontin expressed. BTW, “testable hypothesis” as fundamental method of science is a concept invented by theistic dualists, and is rooted in dualis, not materialist, philosophy.

    I interpret Lewontin as saying that science is not competent to investigate pure woo, because it rests on the presumption that reality includes no woo, and uses tools that WORK. Accordingly, if there is any genuine magic going on here, science is bound to misinterpret it. The question is always whether the scientific explanation is useful and produces testable (and verified) predictions.

    Except that’s not what he said.

    Obviously, since modern science was invented by dualistic theists who made most of the major historical scientific discoveries, many of them actually being religious fundamentalists (at least by today’s standards), the deep belief that, as you characterize it, “magic and woo” are fundamental and omnipresent aspects of reality doesn’t keep good science from being conducted, nor does it keep scientific progress from happening. In fact, without such “magic and woo” axioms, science failed to fully flourish anywhere else in the world – it was only under the “magic and woo” – based reality views of the religious west that scientific thought and advance took off.

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  14. BK: Pam Reynolds did not have her ‘experience’ while clinically brain dead.Her experience appears to be a classic case of anesthetic awareness according to the clinical reports and timeline of the procedure.

    http://neardth.com/pam-reynolds-near-death-experience.php

    You should have researched futher:

    Dr. Michael Sabom is a cardiologist whose book entitled Light and Death includes a detailed medical and scientific analysis of an amazing near-death experience of a woman named Pam Reynolds. She underwent a rare operation to remove a giant basilar artery aneurysm in her brain that threatened her life. The size and location of the aneurysm, however, precluded its safe removal using the standard neuro-surgical techniques. She was referred to a doctor who had pioneered a daring surgical procedure known as hypothermic cardiac arrest. It allowed Pam’s aneurysm to be excised with a reasonable chance of success. This operation, nicknamed “standstill” by the doctors who perform it, required that Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. In everyday terms, she was put to death. After removing the aneurysm, she was restored to life. During the time that Pam was in standstill, she experienced a NDE. Her remarkably detailed veridical out-of-body observations during her surgery were later verified to be very accurate. This case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of veridical evidence in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments and procedures used and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was clinically and brain dead.

    http://www.near-death.com/experiences/evidence01.html

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  15. Here’s the problem: if you’re going to make your case against dualism by the effects that brain states have on consciousness/personality/intelligence/etc., then you are logically bound to accept the same kind of evidence that points to the contrary. Pam Reynolds had flatlined brain activity. The blood was drained from her head. She as clinically dead. She reported in detail things that occurred to her during the operation as well as her afterlife experience.

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  16. ETA: In short, I don’t think you should characterize knowledge geographically.

    I didn’t characterize knowledge geographically. I characterized general scientific biases geographically.

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  17. No major region of the world failed to contribute to the invention of science.

    The fact that it was delayed in flourishing is the work of religion and politics.

    Empiricism was taught in pre-Chin China and nearly eradicated by the first emperor. Scientific thinking was taught in ancient Greece and preserved by pre-modern Muslims.

    India invented some of the most productive mathematical ideas, including Arabic numerals and zero.

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  18. wjm

    You should have researched futher:

    you should have read the contents of the link I posted. In that link you will find the inadequacies of Sabom’s account of Pam Reynolds alleged experience.

    for example:

    Induction of general anesthesia
    This is where the account of Dr. Sabom gets a bit shaky, as it is evident he is unfamiliar with the requirements for safely inducing general anesthesia in someone with a giant basilar artery aneurysm. Placing an endotracheal tube in the trachea causes an enormous rise in blood pressure (click here to read an article on this subject), which could cause her aneurysm to rupture like an overdistended ballon, with fatal or other disastrous consequences. This is why anesthesiologists always administer a high dose of a powerful morphine-like drug such as fentanyl or sufentanil in addition to rendering people unconscious prior to inserting an endotracheal tube. Skill does not reduce the rise in blood pressure due to this procedure – only high doses of morphine-like drugs. Yet we read in the book of Dr Sabom:

    shabom:

    Pam had been awake when brought into the operating room at 7:15 that August morning in 1991. She remembers the IVs, “so many of them,” followed by “a loss of time” as the intravenous pentothal worked its calming magic on her. According to Spetzler’s surgical report, her body was lifted onto the operating table and her arms and legs securely tied down. Her eyes were lubricated to prevent drying and then taped shut. An endotracheal tube was skillfully guided through her mouth into her windpipe, and general anesthesia was begun. (page 38 in Light & Death)

    Wow! Propose this “anesthetic” procedure to anyone experienced with neuroanesthesia and they will begin to laugh hysterically and uncontrollably. After recovering, and changing their soiled underwear, they will ask if you are mentally entirely in order, and proceed to tell you that this is an absolutely sure-fire way to get a giant aneurysm to burst and bleed. This is one of the inconsistencies in the otherwise quite reasonable report of Sabom, and is almost certainly a product of unfamiliarity with anesthesiology. The 1988 article of Dr Spetzler and his colleagues provides an reasonably accurate discussion of the anesthetic procedure and drugs used – thiopental, vecuronium, nitrous oxide, isoflurane, and sufentanil (see page 870 in the 1988 article by Spetzler). These drugs were still in common use up till the year 2000 (personal practice experience as anesthesiologist during this time period).

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  19. William J. Murray:
    Here’s the problem: if you’re going to make your case against dualism by the effects that brain states have on consciousness/personality/intelligence/etc., then you are logically bound to accept the same kind of evidence that points to the contrary.Pam Reynolds had flatlined brain activity. The blood was drained from her head.She as clinically dead.She reported in detail things that occurred to her during the operation as well as her afterlife experience.

    I don’t see Ms Reynolds’ story being particularly supportive of a dualist concept. For one thing, if she was “technically brain dead”, as you claim, then how does she (or anyone for that matter) know from where her memories of the time-frame come or what time they were generated? Did her spirit have a watch? As the reports actually note, her flat-line time was greatly exaggerated by the NDE proponents; her claims actually track to when she was under general anesthesia.

    Many surgical patients report “memories” of their surgery (I’m one in fact), only to find out that the what they “remember” didn’t actually occur at all, but was a dream of the event made up by the brain after the event. The brain makes up a good chunk of it’s memories and we have a gestalt of both actual physical stimuli and “brain-fill” as a result. There’s nothing magical about it or “out-of-body”; it’s all just a product of neurological impulses.

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  20. wjm

    Pam Reynolds had flatlined brain activity. The blood was drained from her head. She as clinically dead. She reported in detail things that occurred to her during the operation as well as her afterlife experience.

    William, Is this an accurate timeline?

    From the reports of the surgeon and anesthesiologist involved in the actual surgery this is not an accurate representation of the timeline and what is alleged to have occurred appears to be an artifact of the retelling of an inaccurate portrayal of events.

    As Petruska points out the events she is outlining relate to the initiation of general anesthesia and her return to consciousness after the surgery was over. None of the account relates to the time when her heart was stopped and blood flow cutoff from her brain.

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  21. Mike,

    Obviously none of my comments on high temperature superconductivity or that simple little calculation provided any clarification for you. I don’t have a simpler calculation at my fingertips to offer.

    What’s to clarify? You made a statement, I pointed out that your statement was incorrect, and I referred you to a paper that demonstrates this. You learned something new. That’s a good thing!

    I had hoped that the net contribution of some semi-quantitative physics/chemistry stuff would support the arguments against dualism and emphasize where the future research has to go. Those kinds of scientific/technical offerings used to be welcomed on this site; and a number of people often provided them.

    They are perfectly welcome here. What I can’t figure out is why you’re directing them at me, given that I’m not defending dualism.

    However, I claim it would be foolish to assert that because this quantum coherence exists in the atoms of which water molecules are assembled that therefore ocean waves are a coherent quantum state. Not even the standing waves in the whistles of a teakettle or a steam engine are coherent quantum states.

    Is there someone in this thread who has asserted otherwise?

    I can’t figure out who you are arguing against, Mike. You’re directing your comments at me, but the views you’re arguing against bear no resemblance to my own.

    To get things back on track, how about the following: if you disagree with something I’ve written, then quote it and explain exactly why you think it is wrong.

    The paper is not a “gotcha” against something you think I said.

    That’s right. The paper is not a “gotcha”, but a refutation; and not of “something I think you said”, but of something you actually wrote.

    I will offer one last observation in agreement with walto about your apparent need to WIN at games nobody else is playing. I have seen this behavior several times now.

    As I wrote to walto:

    If I think my position is correct, I defend it. I’m neither intimidated by credentials nor cowed by arguments from authority.

    On the other hand, if I’m wrong, I don’t try to win at all costs. I admit my error and move on. It happened in this very thread, when you challenged my Snoopy example and I conceded your point.

    Mike:

    I have been away for a while and look in only occasionally now; but it appears that many of these threads – yours in particular – are indistinguishable from those posted by the people over at UD. I have my guesses as to why that might be the case; but I certainly don’t think UD is a standard that should set the tone and levels of discussion here.

    What an odd thing to say! Are you serious?

    Apparently Elizabeth no longer runs this site; and the site has since become a mirror image of UD. And I, like the others who are no longer here, have no desire to participate in those kinds of UD games.

    If you’re uncomfortable with having your views challenged, then TSZ might not be the right site for you. If you want to take your ball and go home, that’s your privilege. However, I would encourage you to stay and participate in the give-and-take. After all, you learned something new in this very thread about quantum coherence at room temperature. Anyway, you’ll get some valuable practice at expressing and defending your views.

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  22. William,

    Here’s a comment I made to gpuccio at UD:

    gpuccio,

    There’s much to respond to in your comment, and I hope to do so tonight when I have more time.

    For now, let me point out an odd aspect of near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences that dualists typically ignore.

    Human perception depends on an elaborate and expensive sensory apparatus. Our visual system, for example, encompasses a number of complicated structures from the eye at one end to the visual cortex at the other. These structures are costly (in terms of energy intake) to build and maintain, but they are worth the expenditure because they help us to navigate our world successfully.

    Those who have experienced NDEs and OBEs report that their visual and auditory perception continues during the experience. Yet dualists claim that the brain is no longer functioning (at least in some of these cases) during NDEs. And in the case of OBEs, the subject often “travels” to a different location or vantage point and allegedly perceives things that could not be perceived from the place where the body is located.

    In both of these cases, perception continues even though our physical sensory apparatus is inoperative.

    My point is this: If the spirit (or soul, or whatever you want to call it) is capable of perceiving the physical world without the assistance of the body; and if each of us has such a spirit inhabiting his or her body; then we should be able to see and hear without the need for eyes, ears, and sensory processing areas in the brain.

    Dualists who accept the reality of NDEs and OBEs need to explain why our bodies include such expensive sensory systems if they are redundant, serving no purpose that is not already served by the soul itself.

    In a nutshell: why have eyes if your soul can see without them?

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  23. Mike,

    I should also point out that if you’re unsatisified with the quality of the OPs here, then you are free to write your own. If you don’t already have authorship privileges, the moderators will grant them to you.

    I would encourage you to take advantage of that.

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  24. keiths said:

    My point is this: If the spirit (or soul, or whatever you want to call it) is capable of perceiving the physical world without the assistance of the body; and if each of us has such a spirit inhabiting his or her body; then we should be able to see and hear without the need for eyes, ears, and sensory processing areas in the brain.

    Dualists who accept the reality of NDEs and OBEs need to explain why our bodies include such expensive sensory systems if they are redundant, serving no purpose that is not already served by the soul itself.

    In a nutshell: why have eyes if your soul can see without them?

    To be clear, I have a different view of what the soul is than many western dualists. I have more of an Eastern mysticism view of what makes up a human being. In my view, souls don’t “see” anything – they directly perceive because, ultimately, soul is “everything”, and it is not the same as “sight”. Soul becomes embodied to experience a perspective (liberally speaking) – meaning, it takes on bodies to limit what it can perceive, to become individualized experience. Your question in my philosophical terms is related to other kinds of embodiment that have sensory capacity like physical sight.

    In my worldview, embodiments are like diving bells, space suits or scuba gear. They are “gear” that is manufactured to be able to easily and continuously interact with and experience the corresponding areas of reality (or dimensions, realms, vibrational worlds, etc., take your pick). IOW, while it is possible to experience the physical world with, say, one’s astral body, the two are not tuned up to match, so to speak. There are limitations to how long and how deep a scuba (astral) diver can go.

    So, the astral body (commonly referred to as the heavenly body or the idealized body you experience after you die) is not tuned to stay in as deep as the physical world for very long or to have good interaction with it. This is what makes mediumship/ghost experiences so dodgy in terms of consistency/consensuality. To experience the physical world well, or to stay here long, or to interact properly, you have to put on the suit.

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  25. William,

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that our “astral bodies” can perceive everything directly, that they choose to limit their perceptions by entering physical bodies, and that their physical bodies need sensory systems to partially compensate for the perceptual abilities they voluntarily give up by entering bodies.

    The obvious question: what’s the evidence for all of this?

    And why is it that a blind person who really wants to see can’t avail his or her self of the astral body’s perceptual capacity when needed?

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  26. William J. Murray: I didn’t characterize knowledge geographically. I characterized general scientific biases geographically.

    Indeed you did.

    I interpreted “general scientific biases” as how societies viewed science: eg for use in medicine, for educating their children, for allocating public resources to do research, as a body of knowledge and profession to be respected, for use in day-to-day life. And on that grounds I think all of the world is pretty close (eg if you bet Chinese traditional medicine, I’ll see you with homeopathy and raise you anti-vaccine movements in the west and middle east).

    I am not sure what you are actually referring to, but perhaps you mean belief in the soul? I think that too is worldwide, except possibly for Northern Europe.

    It is true that the Christian/Muslim concept of the soul is different from the Dharmic religious concept, and I don’t think the soul is that important to Confucianism (or Judaism for that matter), but this is not a western/non-western split.

    Is there something else you meant?

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  27. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that our “astral bodies” can perceive everything directly, that they choose to limit their perceptions by entering bodies, and that their bodies need sensory systems to partially compensate for the perceptual abilities they voluntarily give up by entering bodies.

    No. Astral bodies are just another form of embodiment. Eastern philosophies refer to them as more vibrationally refined than physical bodies. An astral body is not a soul. The soul is, in essence, god. God can only have individual experience through an embodied aspect of itself, which we call souls.

    The obvious question: what’s the evidence for all of this?

    I doubt there’s any information you would accept as evidence.

    And why is it that a blind person who really wants to see can’t avail his or her self of the astral body’s perceptual capacity when needed?

    This is usually where I tell you that your questions don’t have validity in my worldview. I’ll explain why in this case.

    In the first place, I don’t hold reality to be all or even mostly consensual, so I don’t know that there are no such situations where the blind access their astral sight to see while here. So your question assumes something I don’t consider to be assumable.

    Second, the soul not only takes on embodiment to experience; it takes on contextualization. There is no individualized “self” experience without “other”. Soul is, as I said, ultimately everything. I conceptualize the soul as primal demiurge, an intent to experience. What it “intends to experience” is identifiable by the nature of its self/other relationship, which is akin to a story. The soul is – ultimately – both the self and the other; it is not – strictly speaking – what is identified as the “self”. The particular embodiment is a way of experiencing the primal intent of the soul in accompaniment with the context. An analogy would be dreaming, where you – the author of the dream – have created both the context and the characters and a main character with certain features; it’s all “you”, to one degree or another.

    So, you ask why a blind person cannot access their astral body perceptions in order to have sight. Beyond simply disagreeing that they cannot, my answer would be simple – for the same reason they are blind in the first place; that is part of the fundamental nature of the intended experience.

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  28. Bruce said:

    Indeed you did.

    No, I did not. Your interpretations do not equal my characterizations. That’s the difference between the implied and the inferred. Just because you infer something doesn’t mean I characterized it that way.

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  29. William J. Murray:
    Bruce said:

    No, I did not. Your interpretations do not equal my characterizations. That’s the difference between the implied and the inferred.Just because you infer something doesn’t mean I characterized it that way.

    Sorry, I was not clear. By “indeed you did” I just meant that was the phrase you used.. I did not mean to imply more than that.

    Could you help me by being more explicit on what you did mean if it is not the two issues I mentioned in the rest of my reply?

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  30. William:

    I didn’t characterize knowledge geographically. I characterized general scientific biases geographically.

    Bruce:

    Indeed you did.

    William:

    No, I did not.

    🙂

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  31. keiths:
    William:

    Bruce:

    William:

    I took “indeed you did” to be in response to the first part of the quote, where it would be a disagreement. If it was in response to the 2nd part, then he was agreeing with me and I misunderstood it.

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  32. Obviously, since modern science was invented by dualistic theists who made most of the major historical scientific discoveries

    Already, we can’t communicate. The invention of science was done by application of a logical process. What you’re doing is saying that since some of these people had whacko beliefs, therefore the process is essentally whacked. This is incorrect.

    many of them actually being religious fundamentalists (at least by today’s standards), the deep belief that, as you characterize it, “magic and woo” are fundamental and omnipresent aspects of reality doesn’t keep good science from being conducted, nor does it keep scientific progress from happening.

    You make the same error. WHO CARES what the individuals involved believed about something unrelated? The important question is, are their claims supportable empirically?

    In fact, without such “magic and woo” axioms, science failed to fully flourish anywhere else in the world – it was only under the “magic and woo” – based reality views of the religious west that scientific thought and advance took off.

    Exactly wrong. It was those who REJECTED magic and woo who made the discoveries and evolved the method. You are giving your superstitutions credit for what they adamantly opposed, but ultimately lost the battle. This is profoundly dishonest, like giving a President credit for the manifest benefits of a law he fought, vetoed, and lost anyway.

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  33. William:

    I took “indeed you did” to be in response to the first part of the quote, where it would be a disagreement. If it was in response to the 2nd part, then he was agreeing with me and I misunderstood it.

    Bruce clearly indicated that he was referring to the second part of the quote.

    William:

    I didn’t characterize knowledge geographically. I characterized general scientific biases geographically.

    Bruce:

    Indeed you did.

    I interpreted “general scientific biases” as how societies viewed science…

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  34. William J. Murray: I took “indeed you did” to be in response to the first part of the quote, where it would be a disagreement.If it was in response to the 2nd part, thenhe was agreeing with me and I misunderstood it.

    OK, but I am still unclear about what you did mean by “western science bias” Specifically the “western” part.

    I think that positive attitudes towards science and its (technological) fruits, or beliefs in a soul of some type, are pretty even worldwide. I don’t think there is a “western” science bias. I agree there is a plain “science bias” to rely on science for knowledge about the the shared world that scientists study (the last qualification to allow for knowledge about things like morality).

    I enjoyed but was mostly mystified by your description of your beliefs in a note to Keith. Have you heard of Bohm’s Implicate Order. It also mystifies me, so I cannot really say how similar it might be to your thoughts, but there does seem some overlap He was definitely a western scientist, for what its worth.

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  35. keiths:

    The obvious question: what’s the evidence for all of this?

    William:

    I doubt there’s any information you would accept as evidence.

    That’s obviously untrue, but let’s suppose you’re right and that I’m hopelessly biased. What evidence would you offer an unbiased, rational person who cares about the truth and wants to pursue it?

    keiths:

    And why is it that a blind person who really wants to see can’t avail his or her self of the astral body’s perceptual capacity when needed?

    William:

    In the first place, I don’t hold reality to be all or even mostly consensual, so I don’t know that there are no such situations where the blind access their astral sight to see while here.

    If that actually happened (verifiably), all of us would have heard about it by now, and Nobel Prizes would have been awarded.

    Second, the soul not only takes on embodiment to experience; it takes on contextualization. There is no individualized “self” experience without “other”. Soul is, as I said, ultimately everything. I conceptualize the soul as primal demiurge, an intent to experience. What it “intends to experience” is identifiable by the nature of its self/other relationship, which is akin to a story. The soul is – ultimately – both the self and the other; it is not – strictly speaking – what is identified as the “self”. The particular embodiment is a way of experiencing the primal intent of the soul in accompaniment with the context. An analogy would be dreaming, where you – the author of the dream – have created both the context and the characters and a main character with certain features; it’s all “you”, to one degree or another.

    This sounds like a rather elaborate fantasy with no empirical basis. How would you test it, and what evidence is there for it? How does it fare when compared to the physicalist model?

    So, you ask why a blind person cannot access their astral body perceptions in order to have sight. Beyond simply disagreeing that they cannot, my answer would be simple – for the same reason they are blind in the first place; that is part of the fundamental nature of the intended experience.

    I specified that the blind person wants to see:

    And why is it that a blind person who really wants to see can’t avail his or her self of the astral body’s perceptual capacity when needed?

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  36. William,

    On another thread, you wrote:

    My process is, IMO, scientific – I gather empirical facts that I experience, I make models and I empirically test them.

    Could you explain how you employed that “scientific” process to arrive at this and this?

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  37. keiths:
    Robert Byers:

    If the brain is the site of memory, then memory vanishes when we die.Are you comfortable with that idea?You’re a Christian, if I remember correctly, but I don’t know your specific views on the afterlife.

    We do have a memory as the loss of memory is so obvious in old age and so on.
    So I conclude we are so trapped in our memory that upon death our soul must take with it some special way of taking memorized things. Yet not the material memory.
    I believe also Jesus was stuck in a human memory and thus the reason he had to learn so much on earth as the bible teaches.
    Anyways its easily all explained as a soul dealing with a hugh memory machine.
    The triggering mechanism for the memory and so the memory only can misfunction.
    One does need another way to take memories with us rto the afterlife however.

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  38. keiths:
    William,

    On another thread, you wrote:

    Could you explain how you employed that “scientific” process to arrive at this and this?

    I explained it in that post:

    I gather empirical facts that I experience, I make models and I empirically test them. I don’t, however, insist that my useful interpretations of those facts and the success of those models get me any closer to understanding “reality” in the external-objective sense. Nor do I insist that they would or even should work for everyone else in their experience.

    The model I have of various kinds of embodiments and what the “soul” is comes from years of personal experience,which includes personal, corroborated instances of OOBE, lucid dreaming, interactions with alternatively-embodied consciousnesses (demons, spirits), and years of practice and personal empirical research regarding intention, belief, faith, and physical manifestation techniques wrt self-identification and the corresponding appearance of contextual structures.

    Once again, I don’t claim my model to be true, I only claim it doesn’t contradict what I experience and it is useful in achieving (and predicting how to achieve) my goals.

    The existence of other kinds of embodiments of consciousness can be tested via astral travel/meditation techniques, as well as via mediumship and various spirit-calling techniques. The existence of soul as I described is more of a logical necessity to ground the other things that are more empirical in nature – I don’t think the soul can be experienced in any reasonable definition of the term. Probably the closest we come to experiencing “soul” is what many call the experience of “flow”, unconditional love or grace – where you lose yourself and have become one with the process you are involved in and feel at peace, connected, enmeshed in the universe.

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  39. The model I have of various kinds of embodiments and what the “soul” is comes from years of personal experience,which includes personal, corroborated instances of OOBE, lucid dreaming, interactions with alternatively-embodied consciousnesses (demons, spirits), and years of practice and personal empirical research regarding intention, belief, faith, and physical manifestation techniques wrt self-identification and the corresponding appearance of contextual structures.

    All completely private and non-reproducible. It’s a big yawn, William, unless you can fix a cavity by willing it.

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  40. keiths asks:

    That’s obviously untrue, but let’s suppose you’re right and that I’m hopelessly biased. What evidence would you offer an unbiased, rational person who cares about the truth and wants to pursue it?

    I’ve advised many people to start at http://www.victorzammit.com and pursue the evidence outlined there. It’s a decent clearing house for starter information & links for this kind of stuff. If the wish to start experimenting with intentional manifestation, I advise them to watch “The Secret”, or listen to some Abraham tapes, read Science of Mind materials, or just start experimenting with some basic “show me” intentions.

    If that actually happened (verifiably), all of us would have heard about it by now, and Nobel Prizes would have been awarded.

    Whether or not it is verified in a manner you would find acceptable has no bearing on whether or not it has actually happened.

    I specified that the blind person wants to see:

    I answered this question:

    So, you ask why a blind person cannot access their astral body perceptions in order to have sight. Beyond simply disagreeing that they cannot, my answer would be simple – for the same reason they are blind in the first place; that is part of the fundamental nature of the intended experience.

    You just don’t understand the answer. Soul-intended is not the same as “I want”. Soul intends; mind (at a higher level than consciousness) interprets & manifests; personality (including conscious wants) is part of that manifestation. IOW, the state of wanting something you do not have is the mind’s manifested interpretation of the demiurgic intent of the soul.

    To change the manifestation (wanting something you do not have and for whatever reason cannot seem to acquire), one must change how the mind goes about interpreting at a deeper level than conscious thought. There may be some aspects of experience that cannot be changed without entirely abandoning “who you are” as an individual. Some aspects of personal experience go very deep.

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  41. Petrushka says:

    All completely private and non-reproducible.

    Of course it’s reproducible. Millions of people reproduce these things in their experience every day. You and anyone else are entirely free to test out the various techniques and apply the various principles and models any time you wish to research and explore on your own.

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  42. Bruce S said:

    Have you heard of Bohm’s Implicate Order. It also mystifies me, so I cannot really say how similar it might be to your thoughts, but there does seem some overlap He was definitely a western scientist, for what its worth.

    I think my views are largely consonant with Bohm’s implicate order, with god being my term for Bohm’s cosmic intelligence.

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  43. William,

    Do you recognize just how poor the thinking is behind The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?

    Also, the question we asked you about faith healing also applies to “intentional manifestation”: If it works, why has nobody been able to regrow an amputated limb?

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  44. Do you recognize just how poor the thinking is behind The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?

    What difference does that make if the principles apparently work for me? BTW, I was doing this long before either of those movies came out.

    Also, the question we asked you about faith healing also applies to “intentional manifestation”: If it works, why has nobody been able to regrow an amputated limb?

    Where did I claim that faith healing could cure everything or change everything about the physical body? Why can’t faith healing reverse the aging process? Why can’t faith healing make ugly people beautiful? Why aren’t there any reports of faith healing doing something that there are no reports of faith healing ever doing?

    Obviously, keiths, there are limitations involved or else everyone could consciously intend to be healthy, beautiful and immortal and **poof**, it would be so. There are tons of materials out there – including classes, courses, books, magazines, websites, etc. – dedicated to describing and teaching about the kinds of limitations one encounters in this area and how to overcome those that can be overcome – some are individual, but som may be virtually universal to the physical human condition.

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  45. In fact, the success rate of bullshit healing is exactly the same as the success rate of doing nothing at all.

    Bullshit healing works to the extent that people are willing to forget the failures and remember the successes.

    In short, it is harmless when applied to situations for which there is not effective medical treatment and criminal when applied instead of effective treatment. It’s really that simple.

    As the scope of effective medicine expands, the scope of bullshit healing shrinks. It will probably never disappear.

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  46. keiths:

    Do you recognize just how poor the thinking is behind The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?

    William:

    What difference does that make if the principles apparently work for me?

    It depends on what you mean by saying that the principles “apparently work” for you. If you simply mean that they make you feel good, but that you don’t care if they actually work, then you are practicing mental masturbation. That’s fine, but don’t expect to sway rational people who care about the truth. They will justifiably toss your model onto the trash heap.

    On the other hand, if you think that the principles actually work for you and for others, then you are entering the province of reason and empirically-based thinking. Your beliefs can actually be tested, and your model can be compared to other models, including physicalist models. I don’t see any evidence that you’ve done this kind of systematic comparison. (If I’m wrong about that, then please share your comparison with us.)

    keiths:

    Also, the question we asked you about faith healing also applies to “intentional manifestation”: If it works, why has nobody been able to regrow an amputated limb?

    William:

    Obviously, keiths, there are limitations involved or else everyone could consciously intend to be healthy, beautiful and immortal and **poof**, it would be so.

    I’d like to know how your model explains those limitations.

    Biologists can explain why human limbs don’t regrow. How do you explain it in terms of your model? What is the evidence?

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  47. Keiths,

    Please keep in mind that I never say that soul exists. I also say that soul is only a name for the identification of the real you. There is no such thing as soul other than you, your physical body and mind.

    When I use the name soul please think of you. It is not an existence other than you. Don’t think of anything other than you. I have to use the term soul in my explanation since it is used in your argument.

    I have found from the presentations made by those who disprove the existence of soul and God that they have many wrong information about soul and God. I do not know how they get those wrong information. That is why they show the evidences from the damage brain, split brain, Alzheimer’s disease and evolution theory. Really those evidences have no relevance to disproving an existence of “you” other than the brain. It is not my intention here to prove the existence of soul. I don’t need to do that because I know that I exist. That is enough. My intention here is to show the wrong information from which your questions arise
    .
    This is your question:
    Folks who believe in an immaterial soul (also known as ‘substance dualists’) face a daunting challenge. Why, if our mental and emotional functions are carried out by the immaterial soul, are they so completely affected by changes to the physical brain?

    My answer:

    This question arises from a wrong idea or information. It is said that if our mental and emotional are carried out by the immaterial soul…………………………………………..

    I say that our mental and emotional functions are not carried out by an immaterial soul whether it exists or not exists. The question contains wrong information. Our sense of experiences and our mental functions are altered when the brain is altered by any damage or by any chemicals in the brain. It is a fact. So it is a wrong question from a wrong information.

    We need a brain to have sense of experiences. Brain involves in the arising of sensations. The soul (you) receives the sense of experiences like taste, smell, pain, hunger etc. If the brain is damaged we can’t receive sense of experiences or we may get distorted sensations. It is very simple.

    If we ate a damage food we feel a bad sensation. Similarly if the brain is damaged we may get a distorted feeling or we may not get any feelings. If our eyes are damaged we can’t see clearly or we can’t see at all. All the external factors like food, light, climate etc and organs like tongue, eyes, ears and the brain jointly participate in the arising of sensations. There is a process and there is a result. The brain does the process. Result of the process is sensation which is for the soul (you). The soul (you) feel the sensation by receiving it. See difference clearly. If the brain is damaged how can the brain involve in the process? Those who deny the existence of soul have the wrong information that soul is responsible for the arising of sense of experiences. Soul is not responsible for any sense of experiences. It arises through the brain and you feel them. Soul is a name of your real existence. You don’t need to think of soul. Think of you without the name soul.

    Those who try to prove the non existence of soul pointed out the brain damage as a common evidence. When I say this it doesn’t mean that soul exists. They argue with wrong information. So their arguments or their evidences have no meaning at all. They involve in unnecessary arguments against false information. Another important point is that there is no existence of soul other than you. So, there is no need to prove that it doesn’t exist.

    See the following comment made by you on another subject.

    “I think it’s pretty obvious that we exist, and it’s also pretty obvious that we don’t possess immaterial souls.”
    Really we don’t carry any immaterial soul. We don’t carry anything except our physical body and our mental structure which is our mind. It is also a statement due to wrong information. We don’t carry even material souls as atheist think.

    Soul retains memory and soul is responsible for memory. This is also wrong information.
    Soul (you) does not maintain the records of memory. The brain does that. Soul (you) receive information from the brain.

    “A common dualist response to this challenge is what I call the ‘brain as radio receiver’ model. In this model, the brain is something like a radio receiver, with the soul as the transmitter. The brain is constantly picking up signals from the soul and converting them into nervous impulses that are passed on to the rest of the brain and the body. When the brain is damaged or temporarily impaired, say by drinking, then the signals are no longer received clearly. The transmission isn’t affected, but the reception is.”
    The above para contains wrong information.
    I (soul) don’t either receive or send any signals. I don’t aware of any signals. I only receive the sense of experiences through the brain. You have full of wrong information. Because you are not aware of yourself.

    Even an illiterate man who doesn’t know anything about brain receive the taste sensation when he put some food in his mouth. It comes automatically. He doesn’t send any signals. He may not even know that he has a brain. He doesn’t need to study Neuro science or to become an atheist or theist or materialist. You should know what is really happening in the brain. So please tell me how all kind of different sensations arise from the neurons which are basically material molecules?

    A.Sriskandarajah

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