One of the things that annoys me about humans is that many of us look for evidential loopholes to avoid unwelcome conclusions. It reminds me of the lawyer who’s able to get an otherwise solid case thrown out of court because the cops didn’t have a search warrant. Of course, I’m human, which means there’s a good chance I’ve done this, too, so please don’t read this as some sort of “holier than thou” thumbing of the nose.
Lately, one of our resident skeptics has taken to taunting me:
…I suspect that you are minimizing the importance of relying upon quality evidence with minimal bias and confounding factors, because all of your evidence is likely tainted by these elements. [dguller]
Oh really now? A bit strange coming from someone who admittedly doesn’t have any idea about paranormal energy, methinks, but that’s beside the point. Despite the fact that this claim is false–and note that dguller failed to include any evidence which would sustain the charge of minimizing the importance of quality evidence, which means that according to his own standards, we should assign his claim a “very low likelihood” of being true–today, I’ll present a study that controlled for bias and confounding factors: a randomized double-blind study published in Western Journal of Medicine [v.169(6); Dec 1998], demonstrating the medical and psychological benefits of distant healing (DH) in a population with advanced AIDS.
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I often chuckle at the lengths some skeptics stoop to in order to preserve their confirmation bias. On Eusapia Palladino, the James Randi Foundation writes:
Born in southern Italy, spirit medium Palladino was accepted by many scientists, particularly those like Charles Richet and Schrenck-Notzing, who were devout believers in all spiritualistic claims. She specialized in levitation of tables.
A cantankerous, vain, difficult person, she became an international celebrity, and sometimes sat for tests, though she was often caught cheating on these occasions and on other non-controlled sittings as well. The prominent investigator Hereward Carrington (né Hubert Lavington, 1880-1958) brought her to America, became her manager, and took her on tour. In America she continued to be caught cheating, and Carrington came to the conclusion that she sometimes cheated (when she was caught), but that the rest of her performance (when she was not caught) was genuine.
Part of her success was probably due to her petulant attitude, which she used to discourage proper examination of her performances. As with others in her trade, she needed to control the circumstances around her and managed to do so very effectively, throwing temper tantrums and walking out of tests when things were not to her liking. She was also noted among investigators for her seeming lack of acquaintance with soap-and-water, being the source of a heavy variety of unpleasant body odors, especially in the closed séance room. She provided her examiners with plentiful reasons to regret having taken on such a formidable woman.
In spite of all this, and her repeated exposures, Carrington remained thoroughly convinced for the rest of his life that Palladino was genuinely in touch with Summerland.
Really? Really?? The article lists no author, only a link to Randi’s book, so I’m going to presume Randi wrote the article. If I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll correct this.
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I recently read an essay titled My Ghost Theories by Barbara McBeath. I found much of what she said pertinent to the ongoing discussion of anomalous phenomena myself and others were having last year. For example,
Researching and studying the subject of ghosts for so many years, and having my share of ghost experiences, I know that this is something that cannot be researched in the lab. The scientists and serious researchers must go out into the field and study this where it takes place. This may be one reason why such a large part of mainstream science seems to have ignored this phenomenon. It is something that cannot be studied in the enclosed and controlled laboratory. This phenomenon seems to occur on it’s own terms and conditions. And, another thing – to me there are so many amateur and professional ghosthunters and researchers who appear that they feel the need to claim to be psychic, just so they can give some answers. I acknowledge that there are some people that have psychic abilities, but very few can back up what they say, so it does not prove anything. So, like I said, some ghost researchers may have had many ghost related experiences, but there are no experts – just a whole lot of personal beliefs and theories!
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In Pt. III, we introduced Marianne George (Cultural Anthropologist, Ph.D, University of Virginia).
The context of that discussion was simultaneous dreaming, and it ended with Marianne deciding that republishing her paper in its entirety would be the best approach. She added that if I were to do so, she’d be Well! I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly glad she’s given us this opportunity, as it’s not everyday we get to talk to the scientists who actually publish the papers we read and cite in our discussions of (a)theism.
Although Marianne saved me the work of having to relay her words to you, which also nicely eliminated the possibility of me getting any of her words wrong, I’d still like to address the relevance of Sleepdream #3 to our ongoing discussion on consciousness. For those who’d like to skip my thoughts and go straight to the source first, please do: you’ll find links to Marianne’s paper (in its entirety) at the end of this post.
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In Pt. I, we read about Ingo Swann and pondered remote viewing. In Pt. II, we discussed a veridical precognitive experience I had while working as busboy in an upscale club. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Marianne George, who received a Ph.D in anthropology from the University of Virginia. George conducted fieldwork amongst the Barok tribe of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (PNG) from 1979-1985. The Barok use the word griman to describe an animated or purposeful interpretation of a common phenomenon: dreaming.
Different cultures place varying importance on dreams. In America, where we tend to view things only in the crudest of intellectual dichotomies, dreams basically reduce to a sort of “steam-release” for the day’s neural (over)activities. Now, I do not intend to argue that there is no such element to dreams. I’m also well aware that people who place “undue” emphasis on dreams are often labeled superstitious eccentrics, then conveniently filed away in the “kook” drawer. On the other hand, if we are to honestly face all of the evidence, it becomes clear that we cannot classify all dreams as mere steam-release for our brains. Indeed, some are compelling evidence for the “all-encompassing reality” upon which the religious and spiritual traditions are founded.
The following incident occurred in 1979 when Marianne was living among the Barok in New Ireland, PNG.
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I made a chart to help visualize and clarify key concepts in our current discussion on consciousness. By no means is this chart intended to be exhaustive, but I think we’ve covered the basic categories of so-called AMP (anomalous mental phenomena), alternatively delta phenomena or psi. A red X indicates an alleged point of incoherence or contradiction between the respective phenomena (represented by rows) and model of consciousness (represented by columns). A green checkmark indicates an alleged point of coherence or support for the respective model of consciousness.
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To conduct good critical thinking, it’s necessary to ask the right questions. Whether we are evaluating anecdotes of spontaneous events or scientifically studied phenomena, we should remove or at least recognize as many of our assumptions as possible, and a good way to do this is by questioning our interpretations of the evidence. The last thing I want to do in discussing these phenomena is convey the impression of a superstitious or reckless inductor grasping at straws to prove his point.
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I've heard people talk about the value of "walking in doubt" lately. I certainly think there's a grain of truth in that statement — but then again — there's a grain of truth to, "Reagan was a good President." Saturday, commenter left a response to The Non-Existent Upstairs Neighbors that corroborated some of the same phenomena we've been discussing lately:
I myself am experiencing similar events. I live in Los Angeles, in an old house built way back in the early 30's or 40's. I live alone and I hear foot steps in my attic, in the hall way, and tapping/ thumping noises coming from the other rooms (mostly from the master bedroom). There were two counts in the summer when there was no air, no breeze and the back door closed on its own. Even with a strong breeze, the door wouldn't shut close, it would have been pushed open by the wind. There was no explanation that I can think of on why and how the back door closed shut. I feel that my house could be haunted, definitely. I haven't seen a ghost materialize, at least not yet, and I don't want to see one. I feel a presence constantly, like someone is watching you from behind. Its a very disturbing feeling to look and no one is there, its very chilling every time. I ignored it for sometime, but now its getting annoying and quite freeky. Every time I hear the foot steps, taps, and thumps, I think it might be an intruder, so I check out the sound with my weapon drawn, every time… Where is this "noise" coming from then?
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I typically don’t keep jobs too long. At last count I’d worked over 50 jobs by the time I was 30. I was 19 when the following incident happened, and it was my fourth job.
I’d been working for a few months at a private club atop the county’s most prominent skyscraper. It was really a fun gig, to say the least. The day shift basically consisted of lunch for the elite. I was an upscale busboy, complete with a suit, a “crumber” and the whole kit. The clientele consisted of everybody from real estate moguls to business tycoons to sports team owners. Even some Hollywood types. There was a private gym up there where some of these types would congregate for various non-athletic activities, if you catch my drift. The club and the gym took up the entire top floor and you could see out over the Pacific or out over the mountains. Sunsets in wintertime were amazing. The whole setup was just so high-class and… just weird.
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Last Thursday we made what I felt were some necessary emendations to the cerebro-centric consciousness hypothesis (CCH). Today we’ll do the same for its primary competitor.
By consciousness I refer to a base set of abilities, including but not limited to expression, intuition, volition, emotion, and intellect. Here we introduced the CCH’s primary competitor as the immaterial consciousness hypothesis, with the basic premise being that consciousness can exist outside of a physical body. After much thought, I’ve decided to do away with that name in favor of the tripartite model of consciousness (TMC), with the basic premise being that consciousness is not an exclusively biological or cerebro-centric phenomenon. Under the TMC, three distinct yet overlapping elements merge to create human consciousness: spirit, soul, and body.
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