Category Archives: Consciousness

The experimental evidence for psi

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According to “The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review.” by Etzel Cardeña in American Psychologist, May 24 , 2018.

This article presents a comprehensive integration of current experimental evidence and theories about so-called parapsychological (psi) phenomena. Throughout history, people have reported events that seem to violate the common sense view of space and time. Some psychologists have been at the forefront of investigating these phenomena with sophisticated research protocols and theory, while others have devoted much of their careers to criticizing the field. Both stances can be explained by psychologists’ expertise on relevant processes such as perception, memory, belief, and conscious and nonconscious processes. This article clarifies the domain of psi, summarizes recent theories from physics and psychology that present psi phenomena as at least plausible, and then provides an overview of recent/updated meta-analyses. The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms. The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them. The article concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field including the use of project and data repositories, conducting multidisciplinary studies with enough power, developing further nonconscious measures of psi and falsifiable theories, analyzing the characteristics of successful sessions and participants, improving the ecological validity of studies, testing how to increase effect sizes, recruiting more researchers at least open to the possibility of psi, and situating psi phenomena within larger domains such as the study of consciousness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

 

Brains seem quantum — why is that so controversial? Good enough for plants, but not brains?

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According to Lisa Zyga in “In quantum theory of cognition, memories are created by the act of remembering”

“There are two lines of thought when it comes to using quantum theory to describe cognitive processes,” James M. Yearsley, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at City University London, told Phys.org. “The first is that some decision-making processes appear quantum because there are physical processes in the brain (at the level of neurons, etc.) that are quantum. This is very controversial and is a position held by only a minority. The second line of thought is that basic physical processes in the brain at the level of neurons are classical, and the (apparent) non-classical features of some human decision-making arises because of the complex way in which thoughts and feelings are related to basic brain processes. This is by far the more common viewpoint, and is the one we personally subscribe to.”

Why wouldn’t we have evolved to use physical processes in the brain that are quantum? Plants exploit quantum effects for photosynthesis, the fuel source for brains, so why wouldn’t billions of years of evolution be equally effective in optimizing neural function?

Why do I want to believe this?

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Following up to “I’ve learned a lot from blogging“, “Stop being reasonable“, “Journey out of error“, “You can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into“, and “How to challenge your own beliefs?“.

According to this

The problem is that, at heart, we are not rational creatures. We are intensely emotional creatures. Our beliefs are of an emotional nature; it is only when we try to convince others of the superiority of our ideas that we try use reason. But it is even more complicated than that. Most of our emotions are hidden from us. Yes, we are aware of those few emotions that break through to our conscious awareness, but they are just the tip of our emotional iceberg, the great bulk of our emotional entity is hidden below awareness. So we are at the mercy of forces we cannot even directly measure.

But, judging by advertisements and Republican political campaigns, if you really want to convince someone, reason is not actually a very effective tactic. We should apply reason, not against other people’s beliefs, but against our own.

Because we tend to believe what we want to believe, don’t ask yourself “Why do I believe this?”, but instead “Why do I want to believe this?” On the surface, maybe it seems, “No, I don’t want to believe that, I’m forced to by the reality of this world.” Look harder, and you’ll realize that it’s seldom the case. We believe things for motives.

“Often, the things which are most familiar to us turn out to be the hardest to understand.”

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According to E. T. Jaynes

In trying to understand common sense, we shall take a similar course. We won’t try to understand it all at once, but we shall feel that progress has been made if we are able to construct idealized mathematical models which reproduce a few of its features. We expect that any model we are now able to construct will be replaced by more complete ones in the future, and we do not know whether there is any natural end to this process.

The analogy with physical theories is deeper than a mere analogy of method. Often, the things which are most familiar to us turn out to be the hardest to understand. Phenomena whose very existence is unknown to the vast majority of the human race (such as the difference in ultraviolet spectra of Iron and Nickel) can be explained in exhaustive mathematical detail — but all of modern science is practically helpless when faced with the complications of such a commonplace fact as growth of a blade of grass. Accordingly, we must not expect too much of our models; we must be prepared to fi nd that some of the most familiar features of mental activity may be ones for which we have the greatest difficulty in constructing any adequate model.

US as symbolically impoverished culture

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According to Carlos Eire

And now I understand much better the role that symbols play in religion, not just in Christianity but in all religions. You know, symbols encode, deep deep truths and allow us to perceive them in a non-rational way. And by non-rational, I don’t mean irrational. I actually mean that these symbols speak to us at a level that is deeper, and affects us and shapes our personality much more than any logical discourse could. You know, the United States is a very symbolically impoverished culture. So most Americans have trouble understanding symbols and how symbols affect them. But people who are in advertising have it all figured out.

They know. They know. They know exactly what us religious scholars know about how symbols affect people and they use them to sell stuff to us.

Metanoia — losing the self for serenity and adventure

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According to Mary Eberstadt

And what about the “real” Karol Wojtyla, as lesser writers telling his life story might have promised? “The interior lives of great men,” Weigel observes, “are often cloaked in mystery,” and far from being an exception, it is his biographer’s belief that John Paul II proves the rule here. In the end, he cites as Wojtyla’s indispensible inner core the Catholic understanding of metanoia, or complete turning to God and losing of self. The paradox of John Paul II’s life, concludes Weigel, is that “all this emptying of self leads to the richest imaginable human experience: a life unembittered by irony or stultified by boredom, a life of both serenity and adventure.”