Monday, March 23, 2009

Near death experiences in the news

In The Times Online (December 14, 2008), Bryan Appleyard offers a look at the current state of study of near-death experiences:
NDEs are so common, so vivid and so life-transforming — survivors frequently become more compassionate, religious and serene as a result of what they experience — that scientists, philosophers, priests, psychologists and cultists all want a piece of the action. Their problem is that the human mind is unreachable. We can’t see what’s going on in there. Even if we could rush cardiac-arrest patients into an MRI scanner, we’d only see lights in the brain. We wouldn’t know what they meant. But now NDEs are to be scientifically investigated in a US and UK study involving 25 hospitals. This is co-ordinated by Dr Sam Parnia at Southampton University and is designed to find 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrests — "clinical death" — who tell such stories.
While we are here: Hannity's America "Beyond Belief" (February 18, 2008) features Bill Wiese (November 23, 2008), who had a vivid dream of hell.

Hey, all I can say about hell is, if you know you are doing stuff that's, like, wrong, stop. Stop now. Why wait till you have this kind of a dream to see that you have a problem? Love yourself more, and you will love other people more. That's what "Love your neighbour as yourself" means, okay?

See also: Selected moments from the Beyond the Mind-Body Problem symposium - afternoon; and Mind-Body panel 2: Bruce Greyson - "Brain and mind don't seem to be the same thing;

"Near death experiences: Large project to study up to 1500 cases; Near death experiences: Interview with near death researcher in Time Magazine; Sci Phi show podcast features researcher on near death experiences; Near death experience gaining recognition in medical journals; Reader asks: By what mechanism are near death experiences transmitted?


Cognitive science: The glad, sad, mad computer - or anyway, merry chrysanthemum!

As Joseph Dumit (STS, University of California Davis) will tell it tomorrow at York University tomorrow (Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 12h30 - 14h0), Paul A. Delaney Gallery (320 Bethune College):
True Demons of Cognition: When Computers were Glad, Sad, and Mad yet Logical; or, a Brief History of Experimental Epistemology at the End of Cognitive Science

This talk proposes that we are approaching the limits of a cognitive neuroscience approach that adopts a too-simple model of circuits to account for emotions, pathology, meditation, and subjectivity. During the 1950s and ‘60s, experimentation with circuits co-produced computers, cognitive psychology, cybernetics, psychiatry, anthropology and psychoanalysis, with sometimes disturbing results. This work valued circuits for their innate, pathological irrationality, and for the way in which they portrayed time (subjective, logical, existential and even psychoanalytic) as something that fed back into a better understanding of the wiliness of machines. Such conceptions of time, however, proved short-lived. They were erased, curiously, by the advent of a cognitive psychology that took computers as models of (human) rationality, and which subsequently generated an image of computers as taken-for-granted objects, completely understood.
I am not sure what any of this means. The human brain is nothing like a computer, and efforts to make it appear so are efforts at creating illusions. I have long thought that the brain is more like an ocean, in the sense that you can drop down a probe, and turn up something you never expected. And every brain is different, so there are billions of oceans out there. A research heaven, if only the researcher were immortal.

Merry Chysanthemum? Oh, that's the computer's first Christmas card. Gives you some idea what to expect.

See also:

Mind: Yet another effort to explain to materialists why minds are not like computers; Getting computers to pretend to converse is an extremely hard computational problem; Artificial intelligence: Conversing with computers or with their programmers?; Computers: Most engineers must have that they themselves are not robots; Artificial intelligence: A look at things that neither we nor our computers can discover; Can a conscious mind be built out of software?; Mind vs. meat vs. computers - the differences; Let the machine read your mind (We offer an installment plan!); Mind-computer blend: Who believes in this?; Artificial intelligence: Making the whole universe intelligent?; Brain cells release information more widely than previously thought.

(Note: Thanks much to kind PayPal donors. As media move online, it is best to support the news you want to see. - Denyse)

Hat tip: The Sheepcat

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AntiMatters - new edition

Here's the latest AntiMatters review, from the Sri Aurobindo Centre in Pondicherry, India, edited by Uhlrich Mohrhoff.

To Darwin: A Birthday Manifesto
Abstract PDF
David Loye
Transformations and Transformers: Spirituality and the Academic Study of Mysticism
Abstract PDF
G. William Barnard
The Forgotten September 11 and the Clasp of Civilizations
Abstract PDF
Richard Hartz
Untold Potentialities: India and the World in the Third Millennium
Abstract PDF
Richard Hartz
Spiritual Physics
Abstract PDF
Ulrich Mohrhoff
An Aurobindonian Discourse
Abstract PDF
Ulrich Mohrhoff