Mod+ 245. PETER RUSSELL, SCIENCE IGNORES CONSCIOUSNESS

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, May 20, 2014.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

    Do we need to rethink some of our basic assumptions about science, given what we now know about consciousness, which may be the elephant in the room? Can we measure anything in science if we can't measure consciousness? Do all of our measurements need to be asterisked to draw attention to the fact that consciousness hasn't been factored in?
     
  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Do we need to rethink some of our basic assumptions about science, given what we now know about consciousness, which may be the elephant in the room? Can we measure anything in science if we can't measure consciousness? Do all of our measurements need to be asterisked to draw attention to the fact that consciousness hasn't been factored in?

    First let me say that I can't remember a better podcast than this one; I thoroughly enjoyed it and will certainly be investigating Peter Russell's site. A saner scientist I can't bring to mind: how I wish they were all like him.

    It's a nice image: think of reading a book that says something like, "the acceleration due to gravity on the earth is 9.81 metres per second per second", and coming across a little asterisk beside that statement, which leads to a footnote that says something like:

    *Gravity is how we conceive of the apparent attraction between massive bodies: as a force that imparts an acceleration to a falling body. We have no idea what a force is or what mass is. We have no idea how a force could produce acceleration. These are all just concepts that help us model what we call gravity. Matter of fact, we have no idea whatsoever what any so-called physical entity really is: the entirety of our physics is just a model, just a way of conceiving of reality that helps us manipulate aspects of our world.

    This is immensely useful, and it's amazing that reality can be modelled at all; but let's not forget that it's only a model, and hope that one day we will be able to get past models and perceive reality as it actually is. Don't you, dear physics student, imagine that reality is the model. Don't ever forget that, will you? Because it is a model, our conceptions of it necessarily change over time, but reality itself, whatever it is, carries on regardless.

    With that important caveat in mind, you can go back to reading more about what we think of as gravity without allowing yourself to take physics as reality rather than just a way of conceiving of reality. A more fundamental question is, what is it that seeks to construct conceptions of reality in the hope of refining them to the point that actual reality becomes apparent? It is consciousness itself, about which we know next to nothing except that it exists. Without consciousness, there would be no physics, and, quite possibly, no reality. The assertion that there is reality means we can't ignore consciousness.
     
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  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Peter Russell's video "The primacy of consciousness":

     
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  5. Steve

    Steve Member

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    I was delighted with this interview, Peter Russell has always been someone I've admired.

    To answer the question. I think that until science takes consciousness seriously it will not make fundamental progress. Has it really made any leaps since the beginning of the last century when Relativity & QM were uncovered ? It was at this point that the leap to consciousness needed to be made and a century later we are still waiting for it.

    I think we are starting to see it filter through into the mainstream, and maybe it will be a relatively quick process that sees the new ideas merge with the old to morph into a new paradigm. Einstein alone in his day might have had the influence to change a paradigm? There are no more Einsteins in todays world, the all - conquering 'Science' has taken the place of individuals.

    Here is Peter's website, he has a lot of stuff on meditation, I used it and have encouraged others to do so when they have shown an interest.

    www.peterrussell.com
     
  6. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    This is the kind of podcast I really enjoy!

    I will write some more when I have digested his discussion a little more.

    David
     
  7. Alex

    Alex New

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    brilliant :)
     
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  8. Lex

    Lex New

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    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned in this interview that just as there was shift in science when "changed" from a Newtonian Model to an Einsteinian model, this idea of consciousness could potentially be the next [or somewhere down the line] big paradigm shift. At some point in the future [not any time soon] science and spirituality will merge into, essentially the same thing. Meaning, once we've achieved a certain level of understanding about the nature of reality, there won't really be any conflict between the two.

    I think for me one of the biggest struggles is to marry the idea of "conscensus reality" [meaning we're really only seeing things the way they are because we've all agreed to do so], and actual reality [meaning what is it fundamentally that is out there]. The further you take consciousness down the rabbit hole, the more it appears that there's really, for all intents and purposes, NOTHING material out there, it's just your mind projecting matter onto a bunch of vibrations or waves. If "vibrations" or "waves" is all that really exists, how can you say ANYTHING is truly measurable, except for [maybe], those vibrations or waves that are the fundamental building blocks of existence? Fun stuff.

    And yet, we all seem to live our day to day lives like this existence is real. And we sure do like our technology and gadgets and all that stuff that science and engineering created through the use of measurement about our physical reality. So, I think, ultimately, it's a matter of perspective. Sure, current science is good for understanding the laws of the construct we call physical reality, but it isn't not going to do much good once we transcend this construct.
     
  9. (apologies for the copious amount of links that follow, I just find people think I'm some hippie pulling stuff out of thin air if there's no corroboration)

    I think once you accept consciousness, you have to acknowledge a serious problem in materialism. Trying to say consciousness comes from non-conscious matter is akin to saying something comes from nothing. Sam Harris admits it would have to be miraculous if matter/energy can produce consciousness.

    As such one doesn't even need paranormal research to offer a strong argument against materialism - Andrew Clifton does it by using subjective experience alone.

    If one accepts that materialism cannot account for consciousness, you then have to consider Idealism and Panpsychism, or some substance/being which serves as the unifying firmament for both Mind and Material. Not to mention you have questions relating to a variety of potential flaws in Neo-Darwinian accounts of evolution, the observer-participancy suggested by recent QM experiments, and the oddity of the placebo effect.

    And once you acknowledge the importance of consciousness you have a lot of questions. Lowe doesn't even believe the "Easy Problems" are Easy, and thus there are no easy problems where Mind is concerned. Sheldrake's morphic resonance ideas arose from philosophers arguing against memory ever being able to be stored in the brain, and that instead time doesn't work the way we think it does. McGinn suggests consciousness relates to space in some fundamental way.

    Given the ways Mind might tie into time & space if the scientific community is forced to unequivocally acknowledge some form of paranormal phenomena I personally think it would upend many of our assumptions about reality. I know some people believe things like telepathy might be explained via fields of energy or entanglement, but as I've said in other posts I think it would fundamentally reshape our understanding of the universe and ourselves.

    I think adherents to the materialist faith recognize the potential danger and employ the kind of shady tactics that caused one of CSICOP's founders to resign in disgust.
     
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  10. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    An open letter to Peter Russell (emailed to him and posted on the Skeptiko forum)

    Dear Peter,

    I listened to and very much enjoyed Alex Tsakiris's recent interview with you, and have visited your site, where there's also much to enjoy.

    I noticed that you seem to be a supporter of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, whereas I am extremely sceptical, suspecting that most of the warming since around 1880 has been natural, and that the issue has been over-hyped. I don't want to have a great argument with you about that, since otherwise our world views are similar; rather I want to mention the fact that this important issue, should I prove to be correct, has different implications for a putative meta-paradigmatic shift.

    Environmentalism on the face of it has laudable aims, but I think that with the CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) hypothesis in particular, it is showing signs of having become a surrogate organised religion, with some of the characteristic intolerance of that. I know you were brought up a Christian, as was I (at around the same time), and that we both rejected the dogma whilst discovering a yearning for the spiritual. You certainly don't strike me as intolerant, but many supporters do; and I myself used to simply accept the orthodoxy until I started investigating the science when "Climategate" broke. However, even James Lovelock--the father of Gaia theory and modern environmentalism--has himself become somewhat sceptical.

    I don't think that science is the issue, so much as scientism. I believe that so-called consensus is considerably less prevalent than promulgated in a couple of methodologically dubious "scientific" papers. I also think Kuhn would have agreed that consensus tends to prevent rather than promote paradigm shifting, and hence, instead of adopting it as a positive influence upon hastening the approach of de Chardin's Omega Point, I think its exposure as being bogus is what may well provide a catalyst. Of course, there is enormous resistance to that from the scientific establishment, which by and large is invested in the support of CAGW and has much face (not to mention political influence and funding) to lose should the issue turn out to be a latter-day (and even more destructive) version of Lysenkoism.

    I agree with you about the influence of the Internet. Without it, evidence running counter to orthodoxy could not have become so widely or quickly known. We no longer have to rely only on the word of academia, politicians and the mainstream media, all of which have axes to grind and a buck to make out of frightening the general populace with tales of coming Armageddon unless we change our consumerist ways. I'm all for being less consumerist, but I don't need to be propagandised to exercise restraint. I try to do so because I agree with you that it's spiritually healthier not to be too attached to "thingness".

    A Sufi dictum has it that things that appear to be in opposition may in fact be working in harmony; and as you mention in one of your videos, the ambiguity in the Chinese conception of crisis includes an aspect of opportunity. We may not always be able to perceive the ways in which the universe is unfolding, and misinterpret some of those as threats rather than opportunities--perhaps indispensable necessities.

    I think we can both agree that models aren't reality, but climate science relies heavily on them, and empirical data is increasingly contradicting them. Sooner or later, I believe the crisis point will be reached, and at that point--if I'm right--a huge blunder will be exposed. That said, I'm an optimist: I think that whatever happens, the trend is going to be towards what we both hope for: the next great meta-paradigmatic shift. Hopefully that will usher in an age of greater commonsense and a reformation of the way we currently practise science and think about reality. Also, an age in which powers that be will cease trying to use fear to control people, each of whom I believe to be a noble manifestation of the desire of Source Consciousness to come to know Itself better.

    Namaste,

    Michael Larkin
     
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  11. Matt²

    Matt² New

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    Alex, not only was this interview catapulted into the top 3, but these types of discussion, IMO, are what actually increases the momentum of the zeitgeist shift.

    I could sense a deeply personal and genuine desire to move past the road blocks placed before humanity.

    Truly a consciousness expanding occasion.

    Thanks...
     
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  12. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    A good discussion with Peter Russell.

    On the point of science. I cannot really make out what Alex means by 'science'.
    The notion we should abandon science would make no sense whatsoever in my understanding of that word.
    Science means knowing; and modern science is essentially a method of knowing. The scientific method works...Alex would not be having his discussion with Peter otherwise. Quibbles about measurement are not an argument against the method. Even if absolute measurement is impossible in principle (which I believe is the case) nonetheless the scientific method is unaffected.

    What Alex seems to mean by science, I would call scientism. Science is a method; scientism is an ideology. Present day reductionism is an ideology.
    Scientism is a cultural artifact and historically grounded - not scientifically grounded.

    Like Alex I oppose the present day distorted forms of scientism and their baleful and anti-human influence in the academy and in society.
    But I distinguish absolutely between science itself and current scientisms...or any scientisms.
     
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  13. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    Yeah, brilliant! One of the very best Skeptiko interviews for sure.

    I want to make a special comment on a moment where I disagree a bit with Russell. I think that over-emphasis of relaxation and detachment and under-emphasis of concentration and involvement is not a best way of spiritual practice (and theory). I'm certain - well, as much as agnostic like me can be "certain" about anything! - that achievement of genuine integrity is only possible if one reach the dynamic, processual balance between relaxation and concentration, detachment and involvement.

    Gloryfying of relaxation - to the point of personal dissolution and merging with the Whole - is the general meta-theme of Eastern spiritual theory and practice, which strongly influenced Russell's position, as well as positions of many, if not most, spiritual seekers worldwide. However, the less known alternative is Western spiritual theory, such as Hermeticism and Thelema; the complex of West-related paths which may be described as magick. Unlike Eastern mystique, Western magick strongly values concentration and involvement, and generally aims not at achieving ethernal blissful peace of (No-Self) Oneness, but rather on self-directed evolution toward Higher Self (or True Self), which will let one to engage in the Game of Life on a new level of freedom, complexity and diversity. Of course, relaxation and detachment are also needed to achieve such a state - but only their combination with concentration and involvement will let one live in the point of synergy where you can engage in thinking, feeling and acting without being caught and chained by them. The point where you can control and guide your life with your free and conscious will.

    That is what make magick-related path intrinsically "pro-life" - in the sense of advocating engaging in existence, not just sitting in the permanent state of do-nothing blissful rapture. Such unending "inner peace" was quite cynically described both by classic magicians like Alastair Crowley and Israel Regardie and by spiritual-philosophical-scientific polymaths like John Lilly, Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson. They all insisted that the finding of the inner peace, while necessary, is just a step on the path; the next step is return to the vital and mental activity, but with the new level of clarity and freedom which will allow one to practice "meta-programming" - the self-directed transformation. Such high-level, controlled and liberated engagement in the Game of Life can give one the heights of fun which is not reachable within the Permanent Peace.

    After all, we are living now, and I don't think that our birth into the Game of Life was a kind of cosmic matake and a burden on us. Like Hjorton, with whose position I strongly empathatize, I think that the Game of Life is indeed a Game, which we can and should live through for our fun and interest! The blissful Eternity can always wait; we will not lose it anyway; we will be back to it one way or another. Or, to be more precise, we are there, in Eternity - permanently and forever; we just changed our perception in the way which let us forget our Eternal nature and engage in somatic, social and semiotic games of our lives. And, I suspect, it was our True Will to be so - because the point of existence is to play, not to stay. Leaving the Ethernity for Life let us engage in diverse activities and transformations, which is the source of ever-changing fun!
     
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  14. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    Hello Vortex

    It is a shame you include Thelema in the Western tradition. Whatever about the baleful legacy of Crowley; The so-called law of Thelema is:
    "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".

    This is essentially identical to Kants categorical imperative:
    "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law".

    Seems plusible enough on the surface...but this issuing of license to personal will carries a profound danger.
    Hitler for instance would have wished that killing Jews and other undesirables were a universal law.

    I agree with the general point about the importance of concentration and engagement; but not as opposed to detachment; rather as its complement; both are necessary.
     
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  15. While I see the benefits of the Western Magick tradition, I think this idea of Eastern Enlightenment being gained by sitting around is a bit suspect. IIRC there are varied schools of thought in the varied Asian cultures as to one's place in the world. The varied sages in Buddhist/Hindu/Taoist mythology have major roles to play in the shaping of humanity's place in reality after all, and the West has its own monastic traditions - one example being the anchoress Julian of Norwich who coined "All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

    I just wonder how much of this impression of Eastern traditions is based less on reality and more on what's been marketed to the West?

    Like David Eire it would seem to me that one should seek to balance reflection and engagement, and that this balance may not necessarily be simultaneous but instead a movement between extremes for some. Of course endless reflection may deprive one of life's myriad joys, even as excess engagement leads to hedonism and possibly death.
     
  16. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    I did not say that Eastern way is only "sitting around in bliss", and Western way is only action. I just noticed that that East - with its unquestionable diversity - has a bit stronger leaning towards "inner peace" ideas than West. To be precise, being "blissed out" seems to me to be more characteristic of common Western (mis)interpretations of Eastern ideas, than of Eastern ideas themselves...

    However, it is still a fact that the pace of development of Western civilization is unique and outstanding - all non-Western civilizations were much slower (even if they has entered the chase after the "stimulation" by Western expansion, and now develop quickly).
     
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  17. Wendybird

    Wendybird New

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    Sciborg, you've hit the nail on the head -- yes, it's a balance of both reflection and engagement. I call it the cycle of "Be-Do" (or do-be-do-be-do-be-do for those who enjoy PDQ Bach. :) And when you can achieve true balance, you can be a master of your life.

    All of nature is a cycle of in-out, flow-ebb, as natural as breathing or the tides. One needs to spend time in be-mode -- sitting, meditation or reflection or prayer, whatever you want to call it. And that includes the quiet to listen for guidance/insights from the higher self, or Spirit (you name it), and also for setting intention and creating what one wants to manifest in one's life -- you're at point A, now set your intention to BE whatever you desire as Point B - but quantum leap to get there: BE point B in your mind and emotions, feel it, etc. Then comes the Do part of the cycle, which is the action part -- getting out in the world and taking action. But the tricky is part is not over thinking it all, or desiring point B from a place of lack or need (then you get more of that state of mind: lack/need). When you get the balance right, then the magick happens, and life seems to flow effortlessly.

    Sometimes when I've been in the do-mode for too long (or too much in my head vs. my heart), all kinds of "B" words will come to me from my subconscious or higher self (the subconscious is the gateway). B words like book, bee, bauble, etc. -- all are reminders for me to get into my mode of just being for a while. Doing is for the physical existence, but we need to "just be" also, for centering/grounding, receiving guidance/insight, and setting intention/creating in the imaginal realms before what we want can manifest in the physical.

    Do be do be do... be.
     
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  18. Wendybird

    Wendybird New

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    Oh, also want to mention that this interview with Peter Russell was AWESOME, one of the best on Skeptiko, up there with some of the best NDE guests. More like this, Alex!

    It's truly interesting when the physicists actually get that consciousness is something fundamental, and you cannot not include consciousness in the mix of what we perceive as reality. If every human on the planet truly understood how our collective consciousness affects our reality, if we all thought as one mind toward one agreed on outcome, and truly believed we could change things and make that outcome a reality, I bet we could do it. If this is a consensus reality, then consensus could actually change reality.

    Alex, I hope you are also working on getting an interview with Henry Stapp. :)
     
  19. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I agree. I'm wondering why there are so few contributions to the thread, though?
     
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  20. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I don't know - I listened to it twice, and I started to feel that while it made me feel good, there wasn't that much content :(

    David
     
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