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Reductionism And Materialism Are Not Scientific Givens - Second Chapter


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Hello Folks

 

It's been awhile since I've visited here at ex-c. Hope you are all doing well.

 

Some time ago I started a topic in the Colosseum: Reductionism And Materialism Are Not Scientific Givens. It turned into quite the conversation. That was almost 3 years ago. Just the other day I came across an interview that seemed like Chapter II to Reductionism And Materialism Are Not Scientific Givens.

 

The interview was on Skeptiko. For those of you who don't know, Skeptiko bills itself as ....

a leading source for intelligent, hard-nosed skeptic vs. believer debate on science and spirituality. Each episode features lively discussion with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics.

 

In reading through this interview, I was reminded that 3 years after starting this topic that Reductionism and Materialisim are STILL NOT scientifc givens. So... I am posting the link and some excerpts here ... just as a way of continuing a discussion with some great people. biggrin.png

 

 

Dr. Melvin Morse On Why Doctors Don’t Listen to Near-Death Experience Accounts

Interview with pediatrician and near-death experience researcher discusses why it has taken the scientific and medical establishment so long to accept near-death experience accounts. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with near-death experience research and author of, Closer to the Light, Dr. Melvin Morse. During the interview Morse discusses why science has not fully accepted the near-death experience:

 

I personally like the way the interview begins:

 

Alex Tsakiris: Today we’re joined by a pediatrician, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington, and a near-death experience researcher, whose work has literally touched the lives of millions of people. Dr. Melvin Morse is best known for his groundbreaking book, Touched by the Light, describing the near-death experiences of children. Dr. Morse, welcome and thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.

Dr. Melvin Morse: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m honored to be on your show. I think that your show is one of the most provocative and interesting shows. I love the whole concept of Skeptiko. You’re a true skeptic.

 

Alex Tsakiris: Well, let’s see. We’re going to have to grill you, now. I was really going to take off the gloves but now you’ve kind of riled me up here.

Dr. Melvin Morse: [Laughs] Remember, a skeptic is a true inquirer and I consider myself to be a skeptic. I’m tired of this half-kneed, caustic skeptic versus believer debate which is really just a rehashed science of the 19th century arguing against failed philosophies of the 17th century.

Alex Tsakiris: Right, and it’s as we’ve explored, after a while when you dig through it, it looks like a lot of theatre and then you have to wonder what is really behind the theatre. What is going on that folks are trying to distract us from?

 

I like the way this begins - because right away I know this interview is not going to be just another debate between fundies from both sides of the fence. It tells me that these two people are searching for simple truth, simple reality and that they are both willing to acknowledge the validity of each other's position.

 

 

 

Dr. Melvin Morse: It was a little different when I got back to Seattle Children’s Hospital. I mean, everybody was just openly skeptical. The psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital told me, “Well, this is some sort of weird fascinoma. It must be because she was Mormon or something. I’m a psychiatrist. I work for the patients in the Enhanced Care unit. If people are really having experiences when they die, I would be the one that would know about it. People would tell me.”

And we actually designed our study to show that these experiences were not real. We specifically designed it to look at issues like: Are these experiences caused by lack of oxygen to the brain? Are these experiences the result of an anesthetic agent called hyalophane that we often use in resuscitation, which is known to have a dissociative effect? Some side effect of the morphine and various drugs that we give patients? We really were looking more at that aspect of it.

When I did the research I was primarily interested in that she could remember anything about her resuscitation. The spiritual aspects of it really did not interest me or the research team. We were mostly thinking that maybe this could give us some clue as to what is memory. Where is memory localized in the brain, etc.? We had a very rigorous study designed, as you would expect coming out of the University of Washington. And to get something like this, the human subjects for our research, the review board was difficult.

 

I’ll add that we very carefully matched all of our study patients, who were primarily survivors of cardiac arrest, we carefully matched them with patients who were the same age and the same social circumstances who also had a lack of oxygen to the brain, who also were treated with the same medications. But—the important but being—as we as physicians knew, these patients were not near death.

So by comparing these two groups, we found to our total surprise that patients who came to the point of death, clinical death through cardiac arrest or what-have-you, by and large remembered their experiences and described some aspects of what we call near-death experiences.

 

Whereas the other children who also had a lack of oxygen to the brain, who were also hospitalized in the intensive care unit—let’s face it. You take your average four-year-old child and you intubate them, mechanically ventilate them, then put them through the rigors of an intensive care environment, they think that they’re going to die. And their parents think they’re going to die.

And yet we knew they would not die, given today’s medical care. Those patients did not report this type of experience. Our control patients were the ones that followed what I’d been trained in neuroscience. They typically didn’t remember anything about being in the hospital. Their short- and long-term memory was pretty much wiped out because of the comas.

 

Alex Tsakiris: You know, this thing about memory is really fascinating and it brings up a detail of the near-death experience science that I want to pull on a little bit. That’s that your study found very, very high incidents of reports of near-death experiences among your group, as you just alluded to. Of course, this goes against a lot of the research that’s been done with adult near-death experience survivors.

There are a lot of folks who are on the skeptical side. I recently interviewed NDE skeptic Dr. Caroline Watt from University of Edinburgh and she and her colleagues have tried to make a lot of hay of the low incidents of near-death experience reports in, for example, Dr. Pim Van Lommel’s study.

 

Let me toss one other thing in there because I think your study points to this issue of memory. I don’t hear that enough from near-death experience researchers that they teased out—hey, we talk about this experience and we never really talk about how it’s a remembered experience and maybe you’ve discovered one of the keys as to why children remember it more.

 

Dr. Melvin Morse: Well, before I get into that, though, there is so much misinformation that is going on. There is an enormous amount of misinformation. Pim Van Lommel and I met in the early 1990s and we really designed our studies to be complementary and very, very similar in nature.

 

But the difference is that I was a critical care physician and primarily working in the intensive care unit and I was working with the head of the intensive care unit, the head of child neurology. So we were able to monitor these patients as to their clinical status.

 

Pim Van Lommel worked with eight different centers which is great because he was able to have greater numbers than our research but I went over his cases with him. It’s clear that many of his patients would have been control patients in our group. In other words, we studied just the sickest of the sick. We studied patients that would not be expected to live—that had a one in four hundred chance of making a full recovery. Pim Van Lommel’s study, his patients, he just looked at cardiac arrest and those who survived cardiac arrest, amazingly enough whereas children by and large don’t.

 

The fact that he had much lower numbers is really just an artifact of the study group that he looked at. If he had only studied the profound cardiac arrests, patients who were not expected to live at all, he would have had the same higher results. The implications of this research are that we are unconscious. We’re unconscious a day before we die. We’re unconscious a half-a-day before we die. We’re unconscious ten minutes before we die. Then right at the moment of death, we regain consciousness.

 

That’s been shown in Jim Whinnery’s research, who took fighter pilots at the point of death. There’s no getting around it. I think that people are nitpicking and they’re just scraping around the edges of the thing and they’re ignoring the reality which is that we regain consciousness and see other spiritual awarenesses when we die. That’s a scientific statement as far as I’m concerned in the year of 2012.

 

 

Dr. Melvin Morse: See, we’re trained as physicians to not permit any of that into science. I’ve been giving lectures on this information for really a narrow point of view. Not talking about spiritual aspects of it, just vaguely alluding to that the near-death experience involves a spiritual event. People have come up to me after those lectures at various children’s hospitals and medical settings and they’ve said it’s really unprofessional to discuss spiritual matters in science. I think there is this sort of idea that science cannot tackle spiritual issues.

 

 

I want to just emphasize one thing we said but quickly skipped over. Your point is so powerful. You’ve really gone to the heart of the issue. I want people to understand or to consider when we’re talking about neuroscientists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, medical scientists in general, and they say with a straight face that these experiences could simply be the unraveling of the brain at the point of death, that it could simply be the various biochemical and the disintegration of the brain at the point of death, they know full well that that’s impossible.

 

That’s more impossible than the near-death experience because these experiences, regardless of their content, are extremely complex. If they were just brain-based, they involve your entire cerebral cortex and a functioning emotional center to your brain, and the functional memory aspect to your brain, all working together in coordination to create the experience. That is not something that can happen in a diseased, near-death brain.

 

The gods of neurology that I worship say that coma wipes clean the slate of consciousness. Well, that clearly is not true and they know it’s not true. So I agree with you. I think that it’s the spiritual content itself is what’s causing this cognitive dissidence. And certainly I have it. I was always afraid that if I ever talked about the spiritual aspects of it that I would never be in a published paper in the medical literature.

 

.....

 

 

Dr. Melvin Morse: Oh boy, so many thoughts on what you’re saying. One is that I think it required patience. I think that these stories are so dramatic and they’re so profound that there is a part of me that just wants to go out and say to everybody, “All right, so I wrote four books. All four of them were international bestsellers. And yet it didn’t change things at all.”

 

I know Raymond Moody; I’ve known Raymond for years. So stories aren’t enough and I don’t think that the research is enough. But I do think it takes patience because there is a lot of now supporting evidence that I think has already made a difference in understanding spirituality.

 

For example, the same area of the brain that we’re talking about, the area of the brain which communicates with the divine, with the spiritual realities, the same area of the brain that Kevin Nelson acknowledges, that lets a lot of us communicate with spiritual realities. Except he takes the same journey as me. He goes right to the edge of the cliff but then he walks backwards.

Anyway, that same area of the brain has now been shown to be responsible for something called “functional neurogenesis.” So what is functional neurogenesis? Functional alludes that our thoughts and how we live our lives creates new brain cells. Neurogenesis is the making of new brain cells. And those new brain cells are formed in that very area of the brain. Then they migrate throughout the brain to change it. This has now been shown in real time, interestingly enough, with sophisticated studies, etc.

 

But this explains why we have a—I have a foundation at the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness. One of our board members lost 80% of her brain after a stroke and yet she made a full recovery. Well, okay, so now we’re learning that our thoughts change our brains. That was neuroscientific heresy 20 years ago. That was neuroscientific heresy 10 years ago.

 

It’s the same area of the brain that connects us with God—for lack of a better word. But this information is not well known yet and this information is not integrated into our greater scientific understanding of how the brain works. I’ll give you another one. Here’s something that everybody can relate to.

 

I know people are not familiar with remote viewing, the idea of seeing something at a distance but the idea that we have a non-local aspect to our consciousness. In other words, that we connect. When I say we connect to this God or this divine, well, that’s the all-knowledge. That’s the timeless, spaceless, all-knowledge universe. So that’s the reality that the physicists believe in. That’s the reality that most medical scientists actually believe in.

Robert Lanza, the cloning guy. He writes about how the brain uses time and space as tools but they are not inherent parts of reality. Anybody who’s watched the major league baseball game is already aware of this because a pitcher throwing a ball at 100 miles an hour, the only way that a batter can actually hit that ball is because our brains are non-local in nature. In other words, the impulses of seeing the ball, those impulses going to the back of the brain creating the vision of the ball and then telling the muscles to react, there’s not enough time.

 

It’s been well-shown now that you have to be able to—in plain talk you have to be able to psychically sense where that ball is going to be. So this is happening all the time but these little pieces of information are not yet blended.

I do think that there’s a sense that we have to be patient but then I also think this whole skeptic versus believer debate that we talked about at the onset of this interview and you alluded to what are their motives? Well, I think their motives are clear. They’re making money off of it. I think it’s become an industry in itself to have the debate over and over again.

 

"I think it's become an industry in itself to have the debate over and over again".... what a provocative thought.....

 

I look forward to the thoughts of all those here at ex-c.

 

In Peace - OM

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I think the core issue does reside in a certain presupposition that everything can - and should - be reduced to a materialistic understanding in order to gain insight and understanding into areas like these. This is where a reductionist approach, which is valid of course in the empirical sciences, oversteps itself into a philosophy that nothing beyond that glance can possibly exist or be understood legitimately. I see the core of this issue to be an inability to see anything that can be called 'spiritual' outside the context of mythological framework of the past (and inherited present as well). It's the baby and the bathwater issue. Throw out the baby of spirituality with the bathwater of myth. Why? Because an empirical science cannot adequately penetrate something that cannot be reduced to its components.

 

It's like a conversation I had with a woman not long back where she said 'there is no evidence anywhere in reality for anything called God". I replied, "What if reality itself is God?" Her response? "I can't wrap my head around that". "Exactly," I answered. It's not that we cannot apply science as a tool to understanding the spiritual, but that would be science in the broader sense of the word, as opposed to an empirical-analytical science that we use in looking at the material world. That particular science (which most assume is what science is) is also inadequate to penetrate the domains of the mental spheres. That same woman also denied that things like the human psyche were real, and that everything could be reduced to the brain, 'mind' doesn't exist, it's just brain, etc.

 

This comes back to a topic that I supposedly "hijacked" because I took it into what I saw was in fact its logical direction in speaking of spiritual experience as 'just in the head'. You may wish to look at that here: http://www.ex-christ...s-after-all/��I think the bottom line is again, that to acknowledge the spiritual for many today, it somehow means in their minds that "Myth was right!". No. Again, no. That is not at all the correct assumption. Myth is an expression, and that's all. It doesn't mean what goes on behind why myth is used to express it, isn't itself real.

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Hello Antlerman:

 

I think the core issue does reside in a certain presupposition that everything can - and should - be reduced to a materialistic understanding in order to gain insight and understanding into areas like these. This is where a reductionist approach, which is valid of course in the empirical sciences, oversteps itself into a philosophy that nothing beyond that glance can possibly exist or be understood legitimately. I see the core of this issue to be an inability to see anything that can be called 'spiritual' outside the context of mythological framework of the past (and inherited present as well). It's the baby and the bathwater issue. Throw out the baby of spirituality with the bathwater of myth. Why? Because an empirical science cannot adequately penetrate something that cannot be reduced to its components.

 

I can understand what you are saying. But... as with many things in life... this phenomenon isn't so "black and white". For instance.. empirical scientists are willing to spend enormous amounts of time and money researchng such speculative theories as the multiverse and string theory.

 

Please do not mis-read what I wrote above. In my mind something like a multiverse is entirely probable. But... it can not be proven. In fact emprically speaking it is impossible to confirm the existence of other universes, because we are confined to our own universe. Any conceivable experiment or observation is impacted by the wall of our own universe. Still ... empirical scientists ... reductionists are fully able to accept the validity of multiverse theory and study.

 

String theory predicts other dimensions. Again - in my mind it is entirely probable that other dimensions exist... but is it provable ... can one go to another dimension and observe it? And if so... how would the observation effect impact the dimension being observed??? And yet... billions and billions of dollars of research in the areas of string theory and the search for a multiverse testify to the science community being able to embrace something that can not be directly observed and directly tested.

 

And yet... consciousness is a part of who we are. It is something we all experience ... In addition... the evidence for a non-local conscioius experience within the human animal is no less empirically plausable than the possible existence of other diminsions or other universes.

 

Back to the original post and the interview between Skeptiko and Dr. Melvin Morse:

 

 

Dr. Melvin Morse: It was a little different when I got back to Seattle Children’s Hospital. I mean, everybody was just openly skeptical. The psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital told me, “Well, this is some sort of weird fascinoma. It must be because she was Mormon or something. I’m a psychiatrist. I work for the patients in the Enhanced Care unit. If people are really having experiences when they die, I would be the one that would know about it. People would tell me.”

 

 

And we actually designed our study to show that these experiences were not real. We specifically designed it to look at issues like: Are these experiences caused by lack of oxygen to the brain? Are these experiences the result of an anesthetic agent called hyalophane that we often use in resuscitation, which is known to have a dissociative effect? Some side effect of the morphine and various drugs that we give patients? We really were looking more at that aspect of it.

 

When I did the research I was primarily interested in that she could remember anything about her resuscitation. The spiritual aspects of it really did not interest me or the research team. We were mostly thinking that maybe this could give us some clue as to what is memory. Where is memory localized in the brain, etc.? We had a very rigorous study designed, as you would expect coming out of the University of Washington. And to get something like this, the human subjects for our research, the review board was difficult.

 

I’ll add that we very carefully matched all of our study patients, who were primarily survivors of cardiac arrest, we carefully matched them with patients who were the same age and the same social circumstances who also had a lack of oxygen to the brain, who also were treated with the same medications. But—the important but being—as we as physicians knew, these patients were not near death.

 

So by comparing these two groups, we found to our total surprise that patients who came to the point of death, clinical death through cardiac arrest or what-have-you, by and large remembered their experiences and described some aspects of what we call near-death experiences.

 

Whereas the other children who also had a lack of oxygen to the brain, who were also hospitalized in the intensive care unit—let’s face it. You take your average four-year-old child and you intubate them, mechanically ventilate them, then put them through the rigors of an intensive care environment, they think that they’re going to die. And their parents think they’re going to die.

 

And yet we knew they would not die, given today’s medical care. Those patients did not report this type of experience. Our control patients were the ones that followed what I’d been trained in neuroscience. They typically didn’t remember anything about being in the hospital. Their short- and long-term memory was pretty much wiped out because of the comas.

 

This study was designed by skeptics to prove the skeptic's own world-view and yet ... at the end of the study... the skeptic rethought his world-view. This is just one study. In the original Reductionism And Materialism Are Not Scientific Givens. thread there are links to other scientifically conducted studies of non-local consciousness as well. This line of research, into the possiblity of non-local human consciousness, is producing testable and verifiable results for peer-review publications.

 

And yet - this area of study - the study of a human condition (one that directly impacts our experience of ourselves, our ability to heal) is not taken as seriously - in the science community - as the study of other universes we will never be able to observe and other dimenisons we will never be able to enter (in this lifetime anyway).

 

Why is science so reluctant to explore the depths of our own human conciousness and yet willlng to spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to verify the existence of universes and dimensions we will never be able to prove?

 

I've my own thoughts on this... but will hold back till others chime in.

 

In Peace - Open_Minded

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