Can we believe eyewitnesses… did this 17th century monk levitate? |312|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 3, 2016.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I think there should always be a sliver of doubt - after all, certainty might conceivably be the result of delusion, as in those people who are certain they are Jesus Christ!

    This is a somewhat abstract discussion, and probably not worth pursuing further :)

    David
     
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  2. tim

    tim New

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    The two NDErs I've been talking to, Obiwan are both certain and they were not remotely interested before as far as I know. I think whether or not we survive as a question is nothing compared to the question "what are we doing here" or "what is it all about." I don't have any conviction about that. I kind of look at survival as being possibly an obvious inherent property of energy. I'll leave it there though because I'm derailing the thread.
     
  3. Obiwan

    Obiwan Member

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    I think we part company here :). I am happy for your experience to amount to knowledge for yourself.
     
  4. Nicole

    Nicole New

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    Okay, let’s think a bit deeper. I see humans as fundamentally good people, which comes to light every time a community rallies around a disaster and helps out the affected; anywhere down the scale to holding a door open for the person entering behind or making another person’s day through a random act of kindness.

    However, in our everyday life when everyone goes about their day and there is no galvanizing event bringing us together, we live in our own small universes and very separate lives. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we are tempted to assume that this is done in spite and get upset.

    When someone posts an opinion on this forum that does not go along with the status quo of the site, they get attacked, sometimes viciously, and if the person does not back down, they get banned. I have observed very few people genuinely interested in understanding another person’s point of view and how they may have formed a certain opinion or belief or even engage in real dialog.

    In short, we seem to be a race traumatized by the harshness of this 3D experience and have not yet learned to get along with one another. (Heck, most of us can’t understand or live with ourselves, never mind with family members or neighbors.) We have come a long ways given the level of violence humanity exhibited only a few hundred years ago, but we are far from treating each other as equals and with respect, not matter how much we may disagree with someone’s religious or political beliefs etc.

    I would say humanity, as a race, is still in childhood. Most of us do the best we can, given the cards we are dealt with, and with every new generation changes in behaviors and attitudes become observable.

    I do not pretend to know what psi is and why it functions the way it does or doesn’t. However, purely from a logical point of view, it would seem to me that for humans to have access consistently and reproducibly to ‘powers’ such as levitation, telepathy, throwing fireballs etc. would be the equivalent of handing matches to a three year old. We are not yet mature and responsible enough to handle them.

    The way to grow up, based on my experience, is to deal with what life puts in front of us, no matter how uncomfortable or outrageous it may appear at the moment, see it as a learning opportunity and a mirror of what needs addressing within us. Sometimes this means becoming more assertive and set clear boundaries when another engages in behavior that affects us negatively, other times it’s knowing when to walk away, practice consideration or forgiveness. The list goes on. This is what I mean by becoming more integrated. The only power we really have in life is the power to choose our attitudes towards it. Incidentally, this is the core message Viktor Frankl teaches us.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl

    Given the above, is it possible, that all the psi phenomena are not meant to be understood, reproduced or seen as proof of anything at this point in time, other than a pointer towards a different possible reality? That some of us are driven to grapple with this question and get some mystical experiences thrown into the mix as an equivalent of a carrot dangling in front of us, just to keep us going and continue to evolve? That a far greater life experience is possible, if we are simply willing to do the work and grow up?
     
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  5. Trancestate

    Trancestate Member

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    The bubble metaphor seems appropriate here. Michael Grosso employs it too, and speculates that it constitutes a sort of "dream space". In chapter 8 (Speculations on the Physics of Levitation) of his book, he writes:


    I have to disagree with you here. While we cannot discount the possibility of multiple-witness visions as the source of some levitation reports, there are simply too many accounts in the literature that reliably attest to the physicality of levitation. For example, in some cases witnesses tried (often unsuccessfully) to prevent levitators from rising. Levitators have also emerged from ecstasy to find themselves stranded on the upper branches of trees, and needed help in getting down. And levitators have interacted with objects in their environment. All three of these aspects were reported in Joseph's case, as Pam Heath points out:

    In my view, levitation is just one of many anomalous phenomena in which the known laws of nature are opportunistically obeyed or violated, according to the needs and psychological disposition of the experient.

    Doug
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2016
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  6. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    Can a single focused observer overcome a group of observers?Subconscious intentionality vs. Regular attention?

    Also, I had no idea that Christian saints and Vodoo worshipers shared their fear of climbing down trees with cats. Most interesting.
     
  7. brooke

    brooke New

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    That's fair. I was trying to be a little tongue-in-cheek and make a joke about the forum itself, but that's fair either way. :)
     
  8. I know I harp on this notion a lot (so apologies in advance!) but an alternative might be that the final causes of the physical world are shifted from their usual behavior. So rather than some Platonic law being broken, think of it more as usual habits (as Sheldrake would say) being persuaded to change.

    In fact, if one is trying to do anything Psi related (including magick) I wonder if it helps to just forget about this notion of usually immutable laws. Gonna ask Gordan White about that...
     
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  9. brooke

    brooke New

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    I agree, but this is hardly specific to religions. There are many people here (Alex included), who seem to hold that psi is 100% proven and not really open for debate anymore, and that to continue debating the point is to be "stuck on stupid". This is the biggest failing of Skeptiko, in my opinion. The debate is not over just because Alex says it is, and says that anyone who doesn't agree is stupid or silly. That said, it's his platform, so clearly the debate is over on Skeptiko. The 100% certainty angle has basically neutered this forum and chased virtually every dissenting opinion away. What remains is a shell of what was here before the debate was declared over.

    Who is taking a wholly materialist viewpoint, other than people who want to characterize the viewpoints of their critics? Are there really lots of scientists out there who will say "We have it all figured out, and it's just materialism and there is no room for any other explanation. Case 100% closed."? Exactly who are these pure materialists? And if they do not exist in a 100%, wholly materialist framework, then why characterize them that way?

    Again, who exactly is asserting pure materialism? Certainly not I. And if pure materialists do exist, what do these pure materialists say about dark matter, or dark energy, or the two-slit experiment, or entanglement, or the big bang, or what exactly matter is, or any number of other things that are not explained perfectly by pure materialism? Of course there are people who subscribe to materialist ideas, and take those ideas too far, but I think lumping them all in together as "pure materialists" is an insecure way to make an argument. Why not deal with the argument in front of you (that perhaps psi is not real and is simply an artifact of personal narrative and data collection), rather than create a label to dismiss the criticism (pure materialist, those who are stuck on stupid, etc)?

    I think that there are certainly people working in magic who may have psychic abilities, but I doubt that they are using these abilities in any kind of pronounced way in their performances, since the effects that psychics produce are oftentimes so minor and unpredictable, and the needs of a magic act are usually the exact opposite.
     
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  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I don't claim to be 100% convinced of ψ - and I more or less conflate ψ and life after death, in the sense that a new way of looking at consciousness sets us back to square one!

    I think Alex's problem is that he really has interviewed a lot of prominent materialists, and they haven't performed very well. The most extreme example was Patricia Chuchland, but there have been other consciousness experts that had read none of the literature on NDE's for example. Others seem to want to explain everything in terms of fraud and error.
    You and Paul, and several others are here. There is absolutely nothing to stop you starting a thread that extols the virtue of materialism just as much as you like. Honestly, I have only banned people who feel the need to fool about, or abuse others.
    Well as I say, feel free to re-invigorate it! I guess your problem is that you yourself are not 100% materialist. However, despite what you would claim, a lot of the most vocal opponents are 100% materialists. The problem is that if you are 95% materialist, what does it mean? I mean if ψ operated very rarely, but unequivocally, how does that fit in with the scientific picture?

    I mean everyone recognises that a lot of things simply follow the laws of physics and chemistry.

    My take on the situation, is that materilists may indeed have some doubts as you describe, but they hate to describe their doubts because others will condemn them for it - Dawkins, Dennett, Coyne, etc. They just keep their heads down.
    The standard view seems to be that at normal temperatures and pressures, matter (including brain tissue) simply obeys the laws of Quantum Mechanics. This produces a deterministic world with some pure quantum randomness.
    Well assuming materialism includes QM, which it absolutely has to - the classical description of matter simply fails, for example, atoms would radiate electromagnetic energy and collapse - that covers the two-slit experiment and entanglement. Dark matter is a fudge to try to make the equations of gravity fit the observed reality.

    As I see it, QM describes a very alien world, and its interpretation is still up for grabs, but the vast majority of people who work in the field, don't claim publicly that it relates to ψ.
    You see, to me, your first sentence means that you recognise that ψ is sometimes real, and that puts you yourself outside materialism.

    I guess some of Alex's arguments push materialism to its limits. For example, if you genuinely believe that nobody has any free will because they are simply brains evolving under a stochastic form of Schroedinger's equation (biological robots in a meaningless universe), then maybe you don't say it unless really pushed.

    I agree, it is hard to see how routine ψ can be used for magic, but I do wonder if there are a few people who can produce ψ effects reliably, and use it to do magic rather than face the hassle associated with claiming it is real - but maybe there aren't.

    David
     
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  11. Well this whole extended meta-commentary on the show is off-topic - perhaps we can funnel it into a new thread? - but I don't really see what debating a thousand more people in the skeptical camp - whether that's philosophers like Churchland or scientists like Graziano - on the show is going to accomplish.

    It would be interesting to interview either people who aren't materialists but doubt Psi *or* people who are convinced Psi is real but are materialists.
     
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  12. I think this leads to other questions - why do we need to grow up? Why weren't we created to be at the mature state, whatever that is?

    And it seems at least some of our negative behavior comes from our evolutionary heritage? So if we're supposed to mature why did we first evolve from an environment that is "red in tooth & claw"?

    Perhaps most disconcerting is that why aren't we being guided as to how to grow up or why this is important? Why do we instead live in an environment that seems designed to orient us to a materialist or at least limited panpsychic worldview? (Of course there are hints, like that in the weirdness of QM, that suggest there's more.)

    My go-to example is what if inside our skulls there was a little ball of light rather than extensive brain matter. Wouldn't that at least be a strong reminder that we are Yoda's "luminous beings" rather than "crude matter"? On the other hand, perhaps this would've ensured the old religions of the world stayed dominant, that as a species we couldn't take on some potentially necessary skepticism....which then leads to the question of why this skepticism might even be necessary....

    What, exactly, is out there in the spiritual worlds (if they exist) that we need to wary of?
     
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  13. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I tend to agree - those in the materialist camp seem to skim over the problems with their position, or use another tactic, such as dodging about - combining ideas that don't make sense, or inventing forms of free will that are also deterministic!
    They would be very hard to find!

    I do take on board Brooke's complaint that there isn't much really sceptical debate on here, but I think it is because we don't let people just rant and insult others. I think it is really hard to make a case for materialism if you can't rely on rhetoric.
    These are things that puzzle me too! However, I keep thinking of computer games, where people regularly get shot up, and come back for more!
    I don't know what the ancients thought of brain matter - maybe it seemed to prove the existence of spirit because it looked so useless!

    David
     
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  14. Actually there are a variety of materialist parapsychologists or at least ones like Eric Wargo who think there are materialist explanations for at least some of Psi. The second volume of the recent May & Marwaha ESP compilation and the Parapsychology Handbook both have them.

    Regarding the other side of the coin, people who are not materialist but not necessarily believers in parapsychology (or at least not every aspect) - I think there are a growing number.

    Rather than drag this out here I'll compile a list and post it in Future Guests.
     
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  15. billw

    billw New

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    Yep, I have Email somewhere in one of my inboxes from Ed May from about 10 years ago, where he stated that he could explain how brains remote viewing via some materialist mechanism (I thought it had something to do with 'shannon entropy' but I certainly could be mistaken). Yet I asked several physicists at the time who said "no way." My inclination these days is "good luck with that." I'd be very interested in how it would explain things like reincarnation memories, including those with birth defects/scars corresponding to past life situations as documented by Stevenson, and also to jointly witnessed apparitions, just to name a couple.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
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  16. malf

    malf Member

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    If "psi" exists, either "materialism" can explain it "in some way we don't fully understand", or "immaterialism" can explain it "in some way we don't fully understand". (Incidentally, the same goes for consciousness generally). Gentlemen, place your bets....
     
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  17. What goal do you have in mind to explain Psi or Consciousness in a way we do understand?

    Because knowing consciousness was a fundamental irreducible primitive would be an explanation, at least in so far as we accept primitives of any kind into our picture of reality?
     
  18. malf

    malf Member

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    Is having a goal helpful? The 'goal' of Skeptiko appears increasingly to have become "to justify a belief in survival of consciousness" and everything is folded into that worldview.

    Maybe. I've never found that particularly compelling as "consciousness" appears (to me) to have too many different components, and too many levels of maturity, to be truly fundamental. You might want to sketch out precisely what you mean by consciousness ;)
     
  19. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    And yet, based on Von Neuman, it not only interacts, but effectively influences the most fundamental aspects of the universe. Shame that...
     
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  20. These are different kinds of goals we're talking about. What I mean by goal is what you think it means to understand something, and what would it take for you to believe that we had reached that goal?

    Do you feel we understand combustion (not necessarily fully, but to some degree)? Why?

    What are the different components and levels of maturity that you see in consciousness? Why do these aspects - components and levels - preclude consciousness as a fundamental?

    Can you name an aspect of reality you do think of as fundamental?

    Consciousness, to me is the combination of having thoughts + qualia, and possibly a first-person viewpoint that is the focal point of the first two criteria.
     

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