Open Thread

Here is an open thread to talk about whatever…….

The floor is yours.

By the way, anyone can request an open thread at any time, if you want to discuss something. I did try this once before and there weren’t many takers and so I’m opening this one on request and we’ll see how it goes.

39 comments on this post.
  1. Simian:

    Thanks Stuart! :-)

    So Tim and I can expand on our discussion of conciousness. As we left it, Tim said
    “…there are some arguments and certain experiments that seem to strongly indicate that the two [mind and body] are separate, additionally there is other witness testimony with regard experiences which I would be happy to discuss with you if I may?
    I’m not a dualist, but I haven’t really thought a lot about it, so I think I’m open to persuasion.

  2. Tim:

    This is going to be interesting, especially as most evidence either way will be of the circumstantial variety rather than direct. But such is the nature of the topic.

    I’ll start with a bit about the mind by Edgar Andrews (BSc, PhD, DSc, FInstP, FIMMM, CEng, CPhys.) from his book “Who Made God?”, then after this get towards the more experiential stuff.

    When he talks about the mind, he refers to the fact that the mind can ‘change the performance and activity of the brain’. As examples he cites cases where people are given placebos but thought that they were performance enhancing drugs, or another occasion a group of people given what they were told was an expensive bottle of wine to taste, and some time later given an identical bottle of wine but this time told it was cheap plonk.

    The placebos helped the athletes to out perform everyone else, and the wine tasters claimed the the expensive wine tasted far better than the cheap one. Oblivious to the fact that both wines had been identical. This kind of thing I don’t think could be considered conclusive as far larger studies would need to be conducted, but it does indicate the fact that the mind has a certain over-ride over the brain in certain situations. He concludes that if the mind can affect the brain in this way, then it indicates that the mind is unlikely to be a product of the brain itself.

  3. Simian:

    I don’t find this inference at all convincing.

    Various studies have already shown the brain has control over the body processes affected by placebos, by physical means. Pain, motor fatigue, and fever are directly managed by the brain as a matter of course. Other processes usually regulated by the body such as the immune system are also controlled indirectly through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

    The administration of placebo can have a direct impact on the generation of relevant signals by the brain. To assume that the placebo effect requires the intervention of a separate agency significantly underestimates the sophistication of the physical brain.

    In the case of the wine tasting, again the brain has a powerful influence on how physical stimuli are interpreted, and is easily tricked. This is an everyday occurence and is unexceptonal. Our brains constantly rationalise and classify stimuli, often leading to less than accurate reactions, but sufficient for the long term core requirement for the survival of our genes.

    Dr Andrews’ argument is also circular – It necessarily assumes the unproven premise that the mind and brain are separate entities without (at least in this extract) any evidence to support the premise.

  4. Tim:

    His arguments were not convincing arguments I agree. As I said before it’s like the chicken/egg argument and which came first. with ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’ and ‘maybes’ from either side. I liked the comment –

    “Our brains constantly rationalise and classify stimuli, often leading to less than accurate reactions, but sufficient for the long term core requirement for the survival of our genes.”

    The reason I liked it is this: The ability to rationalise and classify stimuli. You have hit on something that a machine-like brain or computer would not be able to do, such as the ability to experience sadness, loss, colours, joy, desires, free choice and so on. If our brains were all we are and therefore nothing but matter then there would be nothing to suggest that any of our conclusions were the correct ones. Also determinism. None of us are responsible for anything that we do but are simply a consequence of our genetic make-up. Subject to the laws of physics and nothing more. The ontology of physics is not enough to explain consciousness. And why would our genes want to survive? They are simply matter, without any desires, hopes or aspirations. These are the logical conclusions of monism.

    Then we come to the experience of those without, or with significant parts missing from, the brain. Children that have survived yet are able to experience emotions and minor motor skills.

    And then of course there are those that are reported as being clinically dead, and yet retain memories of that time, clear well structured thought-processes, reasoning, acquiring of information which at that time they should not have had access to.

  5. Simian:

    Tim,
    Regarding the ability to rationalise or classify stimuli. This can be explained as a rational outcome of an incredibly complex machine (the brain) that analyses inputs, assigns relevance and weight according to personal experience, and reacts in a predictable way. We do not fully understand how the brain does this. Maybe we never will. But from all that we already know, there is little reason to doubt this.

    It may help to remind ourselves just how complex is the human brain – consisting of about one hundred billion neurons firing, and up to half a quintillion (one followed by 14 zeros) connections between them. And this has taken 4.5 billion years to develop to its current level of sophistication. This is no simple computer, but rather Darwinian selection operating over an extraordinarily long period of time – a period which, when compared to a human lifespan, might just as well be virtually infinite – These are mindbogglingly large numbers, but ones that have resulted from many, many very small changes, over a very, very long time.

    It is against this scientific background that it does not seem so strange that the human brain is capable of seemingly extraordinary abilities. Is it surprising that we do not yet fully understand them!

    You questioned the notion that of none of us are responsible for anything that we do because we are simply a consequence of our genetic make-up.
    But we are our genes. That’s a simplification. It’s not just our genes, but if we take that as a description of those basic building blocks of which we are created – As the sum of our genes we are responsible for our actions. Why would we not be?

    You said: And why would our genes want to survive?
    The simple answer is natural selection. If our genes did not have the traits for long term survival, we would not be here having this discussion. It is perfectly possible to imagine genes that did have the impetus to pass on their traits to future generations, but these would not survive and so the only ones left are those that do. Not so strange really.

    You mention people with non-functional parts of the brains still being able to function. Yes, there are a number of scientific reasons for this. Firstly, it appears that parts of the brain are able to take the place of damaged parts, just as modern computers are now able to do. Think, for instance, of how it is possible to retrain undamaged parts of the brain after a stroke to perform the functions previously performed by the damaged part. Secondly, other individuals are less fortunate, and this explains some aberrant behaviour, such as psychopathy.

    Your analysis of those who you describe as reported as being clinically dead… is problematic. What after all is ‘clinically dead’? If someone’s breathing and heart stop, then unless someone artificially starts them again, the person will die. But it takes time for sufficient irreversible damage to occur, such that resuscitation is no longer possible. There are varous physiological explanations for the experiences recounted by those who have been resusitated in this situation. Interestingly, the experiences recounted tend to vary according to culture and period in history. There is no reliable evidence that these are related to a glimpse of an afterlife, although there is wish fulfilment that this should be so.

    (I think I must be becoming dyslexic. I keep writing brian instead of brain – So if the odd Brian turns up, you’ll understand why… ;-) )

  6. Simian:

    Oops – Typo in para 5 that changes the sense completely… It should read: …It is perfectly possible to imagine genes that did not have the impetus to pass on their traits…
    My brain is fallible! :-(

  7. Simian:

    Sorry Tim, but there’s so much food for thought in your last comment that it’s hard to tackle it all in one go, so here are some more observations!
    Referring to your comment: “If our brains were all we are and therefore nothing but matter then there would be nothing to suggest that any of our conclusions were the correct ones.

    It begs the question: “What are the ‘correct’ conclusions?”

    It is likely that we are all descendend from a very small group of ‘humans’ in the Rift Valley, who then spread throughout the World, so it is inevitable that all humans have inherited many common traits, which are perhaps even hard wired. So,what is ‘correct’ in this sense, is that which conforms to what we as the human group of animals tend to see as correct, because it is seen to be in the interests of human society. It does not require external intervention to determine what is correct. Again it’s down to Darwinian selection. Things that are not ‘correct’ in societal terms do not prosper.

  8. Tim:

    Lol @ the typo’s. It happens, but unless it significantly alters the meaning of what you say then don’t worry about it.

    ” We do not fully understand how the brain does this. Maybe we never will. But from all that we already know, there is little reason to doubt this.”

    Why? You said that we don’t fully understand it and maybe we never will, but then you come to a conclusion i.e. there is little reason to doubt this, which doesn’t truly follow on from what you’d previously written. The dualists would come to a different conclusion, that there is every reason to doubt it.

    Regarding genetic studies, they are actually a little more complex than people realise, as I discovered when studying biomolecular science for one of my degrees. There is so much disagreement concerning mutation, regression, and the time-frames detailing these studies, that it is impossible to obtain a consistent and clear picture from the relevant literature. This is very much an unquantifiable area because of all the variables which can affect the redevelopment and behaviour of mutation rates. Some mutations are more likely than others, they may happen more than once, they may even revert to original formats. An artificially created environment would predict an orderly linear model, which in reality flies in the face of natural processes. Disorderly, non-linear systems are far more common within nature due to their sensitive dependance and reliance upon feedback within the system and most of these variables are not understood.

    So you can see that saying ‘it’s our genes, it’s what they want to do’, it’s not as simple as that.

    As a side note you also have to ask the question why certain genetic inheritances don’t affect everyone identically? e.g. monoamine oxidase enzyme which is involved in the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters. Women are less predisposed than men, and not all men succumb either. A particular study I read was conducted on healthy volunteers, with no criminal record.

    The fact that even in this group some subjects were not antisocial shows that we are talking about higher risks, not predestination.

    It stands to reason, that if we were simply our brains, and our brains were just a computer, then the results should be the same for everyone, in the same way that a virus can be passed from one PC to another with devastating results. It is clear that the human will, the mind, the sense of right and wrong, also plays a part.

    In reference to ‘what is clinically dead?’, let’s not try and move the goalposts here, lol. You’re either dead or you aren’t and changing the definition of death so that a materialist explanation can be used to account for everything just ain’t right, lol.

    “There are varous physiological explanations for the experiences recounted…” And all of them have been found to be severely lacking. Of course, if we had the record of someone that had every ounce of blood removed from their brain, their heart stopped, and were actually clinically dead in order to facilitate an operation on the brain itself, then that would count for something towards duality, yes? Better still, suppose someone had been blind from birth, had no visual memories to draw from and when they dreamed only dreamed memories of sound and touch. Suppose such a person when outside their body after being pronounced clinically dead reported being able to see visually for the first time ever in their lives, but then once again went back to being blind when resuscitated and returned to their body. Such a person would also severely impact on materialist claims and provide enormous support for duality, yes? There are such people.

    P.S. Let’s use the spelling ‘brian’ from now on just to confuse anyone reading this. “Who is this ‘Brian’ they keep talking about?” LOL

  9. Simian:

    Yes, you were absolutely right to pick me up on my comment about ‘…little reason to doubt this…’ Sloppy!

    How great to be able to have a civilised debate on the internet with someone who has such a different take on belief. Thank you Tim for your patience, despite your comment a while back about not having any! Perhaps I should come clean that I have no relevant recognised qualifications to opine on this. Just a lifetime of intellectual curiosity and an addiction to reading and debating… At various times in my life I’ve been a soldier, a helicopter pilot, and a banker; and I’m currently studying to become a psychotherapist. I’ve been in hospital a number of times for various serious injuries, and spent time in a psychiatric ward for severe clinical depression. So I’ve seen a bit of life, but the more I learn, the more I realise there is still so much more to learn…

    What perhaps I should have written was that it was my opinion, based on what I have read, and the conviction that we were perhaps close to understanding this. And yet the last furlong admittedly looks like it is going to be incredibly tough to cover, if indeed we make it.

    I should also add that I am not aware of equally persuasive scientific arguments for dualism, and I can’t see how we get around problems such as how immaterial and material interact, unless we resort to saying, we don’t know, but they just do… I don’t find that satisfactory.

    Regarding genes: I did say it was an oversimplification, and I used it as a sort of umbrella term for Darwinian ‘fitness’. I’m not sure we can actually say that our genes ‘want’ to do anything. But I think we can agree that mutations do occur, and that some are more successful at replicating than others. And yes, there will be many other factors at work, and even micro environmental differences, which lead to diversity, and there will be regression etc. etc… – but the principle surely still holds?

    Indeed, one could say that diversity itself was a desirable attribute for long term survival. I find it pretty scary that all the bananas we eat are apparently genetically identical, because they are all propagated by cloning rather than from seed. If they sucumb to a disease we can’t treat there is no back-up! Particularly as I have a weakness for bananas (well you’d expect that from a Simian!) This may of course be an urban myth. Not sure where I picked up the story.

    With regard to certain genetic inheritances not affecting everyone identically – I’m not sure where you’re going with this. I don’t think it argues either for or against one or other viewpoint. We can agree we are more than genes. But that does not in itself admit to a supernatural cause.

    I don’t agree that it stands to reason that the results should be the same for everyone with a similar genetic defect. To compare this with a computer virus is surely to compare a bicycle with an Apollo space capsule. There is so much more complexity involved.

    I would not disagree with your assertion that the human will, the mind, the sense of right and wrong… overplays the genetic predisposition and causes the differences. But where we differ is what we believe gives us this sense of right and wrong, or our sense of morality.

    Regarding clinical death… My point is that in order for a person to be able to subsequently recount what they had experienced it is necessary that the brain does not lose the ability to function. Brain death is currently irreversible (normally through oxygen starvation, which can apparently take some time after outward signs of life cease). Even if respiration and heartbeat are subsequently restored, the person ceases to be able to interact with the outside world.

    Or are you suggesting that someone can actually be brought back to life from brain death? I don’t think that idea is supported by experience, is it?

    Regarding accounts by people who have had these experiences, perhaps you could point me towards some examples, such a blind people ‘seeing’ at the point of death etc. I would suggest that these are ‘near death’ experiences, on which there is some research which tends to point to hallucinations and other phenomena caused by lack of oxygen to the brain and other physical causes.

  10. Tim:

    Well it’s me that should be thanking you for your patience actually. People don’t usually listen, but you do. Kudos on being a helicopter pilot, very difficult job, and you have my respect for that and for serving. You are also obviously intelligent so you should try to get to University if you can, you’d love it. It’s the only place in my life where I have felt accepted as I am, and at home.

    With regard genetic characteristics, let me tell you a bit about myself. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, many of the symptoms and characteristics of which I have fought against my entire life. The thing is, I only discovered I had it last year, so the internal battles in my head – I want to do one thing but my brain telling me to do another – did not come from any knowledge of my condition at all. The constant questions in my head: Why am I different? Why can’t I do what other people do? Trying to be like other people because I wanted to be like other people, and sometimes what I wanted would win out (whisky helped, lol) and sometimes my brain would win out much to my anger and disappointment.

    I think that there are certain elements of this discussion where the evidence is always going to be on the fence so to speak i.e. it could be argued one way, it could equally be argued the other. So what I would like to do is cut straight to the episodes of those experiencing consciousness despite being classed as clinically dead, and we can tackle that subject as it actually gives us something more concrete to examine.

    I am going to give some links to two famous case, with for each case there being an online written account coupled with a short youtube clip for the people involved. I hope you enjoy them, and they should give you much food for thought:

    1a. Pam Reynold’s written account

    1b. Pam Reynold’s short video

    2a. Vicky Noratuk’s written account

    2b. Vicky Noratuk’s short video

  11. Tim:

    Ooops, put an addendum for Pam Reynold’s account up by mistake, although it needs to be read also. This link should provide the account in detail:
    Pam Reynold’s more detailed

    Or you might prefer this one:

    Pam Reynold’s Near Death Experience

  12. Simian:

    I’m not sure what to say Tim… Perhaps I should ask you if you were convinced by them, and if so, convinced about what?

    I was struck by how very mundane the experiences described appeared to be. If one was to be given a glimpse of an afterlife, then surely it would not be so nearly identical to an idealised version of one’s own past life and aspirations, and any physicality would necessarily be of a different kind. Much of the imagery strikes me as a sort of simplistic Sunday school idea of divinity. I also looked at other accounts and they were all similar in their reflection of the culture in which the subject lived.

    There is a much wider study on this particular phenomenon currently in progress, led by Sam Parnia at Southampton University, and which is due to report in 2012. I think that could be very interesting, though I’m not sure if it can be conclusive. It’s at: http://www.horizonresearch.org/ and worth a read.

    So, I am not at all convinced by these accounts. But as you’ve said previously, these are not the sorts of things about which it is likely any evidence can be found that will completely support or refute them. Perhaps we could try something else?

  13. Tim:

    Mundane? Far from it and, in the absence of anything short of physical proof which by its nature is never going to be found, meeting all the requirements that anyone could ask for. Yet still it gets denied, The only response is, it’s mundane.

    Explain the flatline, the inconsistencies of the arguments that materialists give, the clear consciousness, the witness testimony as to what was seen and heard by the patients and so on.

    There is actually no scientific argument that proves these experiences are anything other than what they appear to be. All arguments given by the cynics are 100% pure speculation. And the more they try to argue their case, then the more complicated their arguments/speculations become. My father was a scientist. He used to say that the more complicated something becomes then the more likely it is to break down and become unworkable. Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.

    “I also looked at other accounts and they were all similar in their reflection of the culture in which the subject lived.”

    Not necessarily so. The interpretation of what they experienced reflects their culture, but beyond that, no.

    And no, Sam Parnia’s study is not going to be conclusive. I remember the BBC interviewed me about my experience at the commencement of his study. Out of a forty-five minute interview with me the BBC showed probably one minute of it. Snipped and cut to reveal what they wanted people to see.

    The thing is, you don’t want to accept them, so you dismiss them by calling them ‘mundane’. Tut tut Simian, I expected better of you. I didn’t expect you to accept them from your own perspective, but I did expect you to admit that the materialists are completely unable to explain them.

  14. Simian:

    But, Tim, this is all subjective. To me they are mundane. To others they might not be. I’m just underwhelmed by the content of the visions. They seem so unrevealing; so lacking in extraordinary insight; so similar to perceptions by everyday living humans. I guess I expected more.

    I don’t deny these people had these personal subconcious experiences. I just disagree with the interpretation. I don’t say I’m absolutely sure I am right. I am just telling you what I think. And I do think my hallucination partial explanation is simpler than divine intervention.

    The fact that they appear not to be explained does not in my view prove that they are glimpses of an afterlife. That to me is wish fulfillment. I will admit that it is conceivable, just as anything immaterial is conceivable, but that does not make it so. There’s no corroborating evidence, and therefore the argument is far from watertight. I presume you, on the other hand, would very much want them to be truly a glimpse of the afterlife. Can you deny that? Does this influence your views?

    Yes, of course I am influenced by my core beliefs, as are we all. None of us is immune. I do try very hard to keep an open mind, but this is so flaky in my estimation. I’ve discovered the internet is full of similar ‘experiences’ and that people are even making money out of it. It might be instructive to do a study of all these various claims. It does appear to be a lttle like alien abductions. There is no doubt that many of the people claiming to have had this experience do totally believe in what they say, and their descriptions are fascinating. That does not make them factual.

    I think for the moment we may have to agree to disagree on this one and try something else. In the meantime I am going to do some more research. I admit that it’s not something I’ve spent time studying in the past.

  15. Tim:

    I agree that there are a lot of flaky people around, especially on the Internet, but that does not automatically disqualify something that someone says simply because they are thought of as flaky. But I am going to stay with this as you seem unable to accept some aspects of it which need to be highlighted.

    Firstly with regard subconscious activity. When someone is unconscious then there can be no subconscious activity because the brain has shut down. Speaking from personal experience, after a hefty thwack on the head I came round about ten minutes later, completely unaware of who or where I was. I was in a lot of pain as well, but the ten minutes spent unconscious? Completely blank.

    So that dispenses the argument that it is the subconscious at work or any kind of hallucination. Medically both arguments are impossible. And if all the blood was drained from Pamela Reynolds brain, then how do you think she managed to even think anything, especially as the brain monitor recorded no brain activity whatsoever. And how was a woman blind from birth and with no visual memories to draw upon able to see at a time she was clinically dead? Your preconceptions are also colouring how you interpret this as well. It was mundane because it was not what you expected to see?

    Additionally, witness testimony reliably confirmed the fact that they had seen and heard what they claimed to have seen and heard so long as they were in the hospital rooms receiving treatment. You are quite happy to accept what you regard as reliable testimony in other situations and with regard other events, so why not this?

    In my case I had gone through a considerable crisis of faith of the previous couple of years and was on the verge of moving from agnosticism to full blown atheism. So, wish fulfilment? Highly unlikely. Additionally, there were no cultural components of what I saw and heard, negating that idea as well.

    To demand empirical proof and only empirical proof is not the correct way to analyse anything. It is a demand that is both illogical and unreasonable. If criminal courts demanded empirical proof every time someone was charged with a crime then an awful lot of people would go free. The crime scene investigators merely determine what is left at a scene. How and why it got there is for the lawyer to decide, and the lawyer is not a scientist.

    A materialist demands material proof that non-material things exist. “But we can’t give you material proof because by its very nature non-material things are non-material.”
    “Aha! See? I won the argument then. Non-material things don’t exist.”
    “We can give you other types of verification which are acceptable from a rational and logical perspective coupled with witness testimony.”
    “No. I demand empirical proof.”
    Ad infinitum.

    Logic and reason are king, not empirical evidence.

  16. Simian:

    Medically both arguments are impossible.
    Probably nothing is impossible if non material things exist Tim!

    The real answer is that we really don’t know the answers, as I’m prepared to admit. I think to make the leap to assuming that these must be glimpses of an afterlife are completely unjustified by what we do know of the real world and our (or at least my) concepts of an afterlife.

    We cannot even be sure that these phenomena occur during a period of no brain activity, rather than at the end and restart of brain activity. I’m personally aware of just how hugely distorted my perception of time can be under certain extreme circumstances.

    I am also aware that I can’t account for any apparent knowledge of things occuring during no apparent brain activity, and I accept this is an open question, which I am looking at. But to be honest it seems it’s just down to personal testimony. I’ve been involved with enough criminal investigations to understand that humans are inherently unreliable in their recall of even the most basic facts or sequence of events, and that they often overlook things that provide a different explanation.

    I don’t reach what you would call a logical conclusion that these phenomena have a divine non-material cause. I do not see what is logical about making this assumption. I cannot categorically say that what you assume is impossible, and more than I can disprove the existence of God. We have each reviewed evidence, and we have each come to a different conclusion on what, on the balance of probability, is actually happening.

    But neither of us has perfect knowledge – far from it. There may be witness testimony to what is related by the subject, but what are they actually witnessing? They are getting a secondhand account of something that only the subject can know, and with that translated into an inadequate means to explain something that is apparently out of this world.

    Logic and reason are king, not empirical evidence.
    These concepts are not mutually exclusive Tim! Yours is a subjective statement – and it may sound slick, but what does it really mean? Are we to reject empirical evidence if our minds tell us that an alternative solution is logical and reasonable? No. what we do is to find out why there is this disconnect. I’m not even sure how you’d go about doing that in a case like this.

    Thinking broader picture – it would be unreasonable to expect me to change my whole belief system on the strength of this, unless I could accept it as real in terms that I can believe. I still regard it as flaky. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s honest.
    If hypothetically it could be proved beyond all reasonable doubt that this was a purely natural phenomenon, would that one fact make you lose your faith? I presume not.

    We started this discussion about ‘what conciousness is’. Haven’t we maybe got hung up on a specific side issue that is a not going to get us any further in this quest?

  17. Tim:

    “The real answer is that we really don’t know the answers, as I’m prepared to admit.”

    Yes! At last we agree on something, lol, which is all I have been trying to get you to say. There is a good argument for duality, materialism does not hold all the cards, and this is what I have been trying to demonstrate by the use of those two specific experiences.

    With regard logic and reason, mine isn’t a subjective statement. As I said to Jay, to deny something because there is no reproducible empirical data means that whole swathes of human history must be consigned to the dustbin. If there was empirical data which pointed one way whilst logic and reason pointed another, it would be logic and reason which pointed out the disconnect and urged us to investigate further.

    The reason I believe what I do is not shaped by one thing alone. I know that what I believe is true because I have taken all things into account, science, historical data, coupled with mine and other peoples experiential data. It is not built upon one shaky foundation that could collapse at the slightest touch.

  18. Simian:

    Tim. I think you’ll find all along that I’ve said I cannot be sure of anything. I don’t deny duality as a possible eventuality. I just don’t personally see that it is likely, or that it is necessary. Having a good argument for duality is not the same as having an absolute argument for duality, and we just disagree.

    Neither do I don’t agree this implies that we must consign whole swathes of history to the dustbin without good empirical evidence. History is inherently subjective. We choose to accept certain versions of history according to our interpretation of what is available to us, and our personal preference. Ultimately it does not really matter whether Julius Caesar invaded Britain around 54BC, so it’s no big deal to accept it as a reasonable conjecture, from which consequences flowed. What matters more is the actuality of the Roman invasion and occupation of Britain, for which there is excellent evidence.

    Just after the war in the Falklands one of my jobs was to show people around the battlefield at Goose Green, so that lessons could be learned. This was a relatively small scale and very recent, well documented battle, and evidence was still strewn around the battlefield; and yet when I had people come round who had taken part in that specific battle, no two of them could agree on the precise details of what had happened at specific moments, because their views were all necessarily subjective. Being just the other side of a small ridge across the battlefield could fundamentally alter one’s perception of what happened, and how. What hope then for ‘accurate’ recording of more complex and/or distant events, or those recorded at 2nd or 3rd hand, or many years after the event? Henry Ford’s statement “History is bunk!” could not be more true, if indeed he even said it! But it’s all we have of the past, and we work with what we’ve got, whilst bearing in mind that it is subjective.

    I agree that a disconnect between logic, reason and empirical data requires us to investigate further. I don’t think it requires us to accept that logic and reason trump evidence. Without evidence how can we be certain that our logic and reason are valid?

    I hope I did not imply that your faith could collapse at the slightest touch. I don’t believe it can. The point I was making was that, just as your faith would not collapse because of an unfavourable outcome to this particular train of investigation, neither would my materialist view; and so perhaps this not worth flogging to death, and we should maybe explore other aspects of consciousness.

    It seems to me that human emotions, and such concepts as right and wrong can all be explained in physical processes and interactions, without a need for a separate immaterial mind, and an external rule maker. I also believe that higher order primates share many of these attributes. We are not fundamentally different from these other animals. Does this mean that animals also have separate minds and brains? I don’t think so.
    We just happen to be right at the top of the exponential curve of evolution, and by the nature of the curve we keep accelerating away from our nearest rivals.

  19. Tim:

    I disagree with your view of history so I’d like to dwell on that a little here.

    One very important reason for historical studies is that people who don’t know where they come from tend not to know where they are going. Additionally there is the fact that those that ignore it tend to repeat it. Classic case is the present day, where our current crop of politicians are demonstrating a repeat of the past before our very eyes, and yet they are completely oblivious to it no matter how many people point this fact out to them. Todays European Union is similar in many respects to the Athenian Empire, and will probably go the same way, hopefully.

    As an aside, a friend of mine was at Goose Green, and I can still in my minds eye see him on TV as he marched into Port Stanley. Very proud of him. Very jealous of him too, as he was in 2 Para and there is no way on Earth that I could ever have passed the confidence test the Paras had to undergo in training. I’ve seen it and it was terrifying! Funny thing is, although I hate heights and they bring me out in sweats I adore flying.

    But to go back to historical analysis, multiple attestations are what are preferred by historians as, provided they agree on the core details they do provide an accurate record. What happened, where and when it happened, why it happened. Accounts that differ in the details are common and are only to be expected as different people, as you correctly point out (policemen, lawyers and judges would also agree), see things from different perspectives and also some see details that others miss. Hence the need for logic and reason.

    Although Julius Caesar’s account of his invasion is all we have, there is no archaeological evidence, it is borne out by other later writers and subsequent events in Roman history. Then came Claudius’ invasion the following century for which we have plenty of data, which had probably been significantly helped by Julius Caesar’s initial forays in the first place. All these things which occurred in the past helped shape who and where we are today.

    But data is one thing, it is logic and reason that analyse and interpret that data. Let’s take a couple of examples:

    The Battle of the Little Big Horn. There was the Americans version, and there was the Indians version (probably not PC to call them that but it’s quicker and easier to type so I’ll stick with it, lol). People preferred the Americans version for obvious reasons. Then an archaeologist decided to do an archaeological analysis of the site and subsequently discovered that the archaeological data concurred significantly with the Indians version of events. History re-written. Although some still prefer the Hollywood version.

    The Battle of Hastings. The Normans aim was to trash the Anglo Saxons so their version of events went a large way to doing that. Until William died. Historical studies now show the Anglo Saxons in a considerably better light than they had been painted due to other sources of information previously considered. We now know how close they came to winning that battle, and the possible subsequent changes to world history that would have occurred had they won. My opinion is that they wuz robbed! But then I’m biased, lol.

    If you took some evidence for something (anything, it doesn’t matter what) and gave it to a bunch of chimpanzees they’d probably try to eat it, then crap on it, then throw it around and try to play with it, finally getting bored with it and wander off leaving it alone. Data doesn’t have a voice, it just sits there. It has to be examined and then interpreted and understood by logic and reason. Two of my professors (both atheist/agnostic by the way, both of them scientists, and who both recommended I do a Doctorate) at two different Universities would disagree with your evaluation and agree with mine. Without logic and reason nothing could be understood.

    With regards your final paragraph, does this mean you believe in determinism then? We are nothing more than what our brains determine? Why do I know I should stop doing something, or behaving in certain ways? If I was simply my brain and nothing more then those thoughts would not even begin to occur to me. I would be what I am and see nothing wrong with it. How come I can’t tell my brain to stop being addicted to nicotine? My mind knows it’s wrong and that I should stop, but my brain over-rides this and demands I continue because it wants its fix.

  20. Simian:

    Tim – I’m not sure with which part of my views on history you disagree. I agree the points you make about history. I just don’t agree the logic and reason part of your argument.

    It seems to me that your examples of Lttle Big Horn and Hastings tend to prove my point: In each case an apparently reasonable and logical account of the battle was passed on by the people who wrote the histories (and histories are almost invariably written by the eventual ‘winners’). It was only when new empirical evidence was found that disproved this plausible account that our views changed. Without the right data, no amount of logic or reason will provide the correct answer.

    Even with this new evidence, we cannot know that we have the full, or even the correct interpretation, because of time, politics and subjectivity. But I agree we can still learn lessons, even from imperfect data. And I can attest to people not learning from others’ mistakes. I have see it happen in banking. Those of us who were a little longer in the tooth tried to tell people it was going to happen, but young testosterone charged hotheads regarded our ideas as outdated, over cautious and in some cases just plain wrong. And of course there were no thanks when we were proved correct by events. History goes on repeating itself….

    Which evaluation is it about which your professors would agree with you and not with me? I agree that we need to apply reason and logic to the interpretation of data, but surely the credibility of the resulting view depends on the data. No amount of reason and logic can overcome the shortcomings of intangible or imprecise data.

    Determinism: I think your view tends to under-rate the brain’s purely physical capacity for analysis and optimisation. It’s an exceedingly complex computer. Pick any emotion or reaction and there is a plausible logical reason for it that assists the onward ttransmission of genes and, for want of a better word, memes. Why might you ask do people exhibit altruism that can have no direct benefit to them or their kin, such as sending money to feed starving children in Africa? Well, if we assume that the tendency to altruism within our family/kin/tribal group was found to be beneficial to the group and therefore to our offspring, then it is an attribute that survives. Now we have moved out of caves and a minute by minute struggle for personal survival, but the attribute is still with us, as are so many attributes from our past, such as the fight or flight reaction – which is often so unhelpful in the office environment!

    This modern behaviour provides us with an outlet for this deep seated desire. Any number of other behaviours that appear to be irrational can be traced back to rational antecedents in the past.

    I still regret that we ever got off all fours. Perhaps if we hadn’t I would not suffer so much from back pain! ;-)

  21. Tim:

    Just a quick note. I’ll get back to your reply this evening as, invigorated as I am from last nights long sleep I had, lol, I could carry on all day but there are things I have to get done. Such as post some evening dresses to my daughter as her husband who is stationed in Germany at the moment (he changed regiments in order to continue on there) has functions to attend and she has nothing to wear, lol.

    So, I’ll be back tonight.

  22. Simian:

    I didn’t directly answer your question about determinism Tim: It’s not a simple question to answer. Put it this way: Let us suppose purely hypothetically that there is another absolutely identical person called Simian, and that his life up to this precise point has been exactly the same as mine in every possible respect.

    Then I am confident that this other Simian will do next precisely the same thing that I do next. Does that mean future events are predetermined? Does this negate free will? I don’t think we can tell. We both perhaps had the same free will and because we were identical chose the same thing. Or we were both victims of the same predestination. Take your pick.

    My view is that we are nothing more than the result of a combination of our physical form and limitations, our past, and our interactions with things and with other people with which we have been, and are, in contact.

    How do I know how to behave? Well, humans have developed into social animals over thousands of years. This favours a genetic make-up that makes me behave in a way that maximizes my success in this society, and from an early age I am taught further how to improve my chances, by those who have themselves been taught and have learnt by their own experiences. I end up behaving in a predictable way within my society; given all the helpful (and sometimes unhelpful) things that have made me what I am.

    If I were born in Somalia I would have very different influences moulding what I regarded as appropriate, and might behave very differently as a result of my environment.

    Fro what you say, your brain is in conflict with itself over nicotine. There is no separate ‘you’ and your brain. ‘You’ are the product of your brain and body. It’s a battle between the pleasure nicotine gives you now (and the avoidance of withdrawal symptoms) and the future harm you are aware that it will cause. You have apparently opted for present pleasure over harmful future consequences, and you will continue to do that until something tips the balance and changes your mind. Nothing magical.

  23. Tim:

    Let me recap.

    You said: “Henry Ford’s statement “History is bunk!” could not be more true, if indeed he even said it!”

    So I said: “I disagree with your view of history so I’d like to dwell on that a little here.”

    Then you said: “Tim – I’m not sure with which part of my views on history you disagree.”

    To which I say: Come again?

    And my point about logic and reason being king rather than empirical evidence was based upon the fact that you would not accept something, regardless of the fact that logic and reason gave it good support, because it lacked empirical data. To quote what I said:

    “To demand empirical proof and only empirical proof is not the correct way to analyse anything. It is a demand that is both illogical and unreasonable. If criminal courts demanded empirical proof every time someone was charged with a crime then an awful lot of people would go free. The crime scene investigators merely determine what is left at a scene. How and why it got there is for the lawyer to decide, and the lawyer is not a scientist.

    A materialist demands material proof that non-material things exist. “But we can’t give you material proof because by its very nature non-material things are non-material.”
    “Aha! See? I won the argument then. Non-material things don’t exist.”
    “We can give you other types of verification which are acceptable from a rational and logical perspective coupled with witness testimony.”
    “No. I demand empirical proof.”
    Ad infinitum.”

    With regard the NDE’s, you were very dismissive of them, in fact extremely dismissive, and rather in a hurry to get off the subject/avoid it. Dismissive of people’s testimony and extremely judgemental rather than a curiosity with regard what happened and the possibility to investigate further. Why? Mundane, and of course the old chestnut, no scientifically reproducible (empirical) evidence. And your excuse for them, hallucination, was provably wrong. In fact, that little piece of information was simply dismissed with:

    “Probably nothing is impossible if non material things exist Tim!”

    I said: “I didn’t expect you to accept them from your own perspective, but I did expect you to admit that the materialists are completely unable to explain them.”

    In fact you said: “I think for the moment we may have to agree to disagree on this one and try something else. In the meantime I am going to do some more research. I admit that it’s not something I’ve spent time studying in the past.”

    Agree to disagree? That does not sound like: “Tim. I think you’ll find all along that I’ve said I cannot be sure of anything.”

    Additionally you were also very dismissive of something which you later admit you had not spent time studying in the past. So you don’t know anything about a subject, but were quite willing to dismiss it as unreliable and mundane.

    These do not sound like the words of someone that is open to alternative points of view no matter which kinds of evidence can be used to support them. I never argued that logic and reason trumped evidence every time. What I have been arguing is that people who lay such store for materialist claims, demanding empirical proof and only empirical proof before they will accept anything that runs contrary to their own personal world view, are living in a world of contradiction because we live lives governed by logic and reason every day. Where the argument necessitates the use of logic and reason because no empirical data is available then logic and reason it is.

    Referring to my statement you said:“Logic and reason are king, not empirical evidence.”

    “These concepts are not mutually exclusive Tim! Yours is a subjective statement – and it may sound slick, but what does it really mean?”

    It is not a subjective statement and neither is it meant to be slick. It is a perfectly good and rational statement. Where there is no empirical scientific data then logic and reason must be accepted no matter what is under discussion. In fact, if it was not for logic and reason our society would not exist in the first place. The mistake that non academics make is the belief that for something to be right, it has to be science that finds the answers.

    You seem to think you know an awful lot about the brain. In fact from the way you write it appears you know even more than the doctors do. Have you considered writing a paper? lol Of course, don’t forget to submit your objective scientific empirical evidence to support your findings.

  24. Simian:

    OK Tim. I can tell your patience is wearing thin, which is one of the reasons I suggested changing topic. It was not because I wanted to brush it under the carpet. In fact, the more I look into this the less inclined I am to accept your separation of mind and body idea. We are not getting anywhere. Is it all my fault? Are you making your case well enough?

    I’ll address each of your points above in turn. I’ll try to be brief:

    1. The view of History query: I made a number of observations about our interpretation of history in the comment to which you refer. I wanted you to clarify exactly which part you disagreed with. I am now clear.

    2. Regardng logic vs empirical proof etc etc.: I am not demanding and relying on only empirical proof, but it would be nice to have data from a more reliable and verifiable source. You as an academic should surely be able to understand my difficulty. And in fact criminal courts find it very hard to convict anyone without physical evidence, and many accused do go free for the lack of evidence, no matter how strong the verbal testimony. The courts are all too aware that witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Given the choice between witness testimony and hard physical evidence, which do you suppose would be more persuasive to the jury?

    3. You said “With regard the NDE’s, you were very dismissive of them, in fact extremely dismissive, and rather in a hurry to get off the subject/avoid it. Dismissive of people’s testimony and extremely judgemental rather than a curiosity with regard what happened and the possibility to investigate further. Why? Mundane, and of course the old chestnut, no scientifically reproducible (empirical) evidence. And your excuse for them, hallucination, was provably wrong. In fact, that little piece of information was simply dismissed with:
    “Probably nothing is impossible if non material things exist Tim!”

    I think you have missed the fact that I was trying to be conciliatory and acknowledging that I make mistakes. Ah well. I am trying to see this from your point of view, but either I’m being extremely thick, or you are not describing or explaining your position well enough.

    I am still dismissive of NDE’s as a glimpse of the afterlife. All you have shown me so far to support your case is a report written by the subject (V. Noratuk) that may be written in all sincerity, but in my view does not stand up to scrutiny; and a report that was included in a book by a conservative Christian doctor and then rehashed 10 years later with added Christian elements, apparently because the original book was considered to be light on Christian message. I have no proof of this, but that’s what a detailed review of the book said. Should I accept that, or wait for harder evidence before accepting it?

    And do you expect me as a result to say “Wow, I am converted! This is real, and duality is real!” Would you change your mind about this on the basis of those testimonies? I’m sure no court of law would be able to convict based on ‘evidence’ like that! And it is mundane. And I don’t find, given the evidence that you have produced that the hallucination theory is provably wrong. Maybe it works for a Daily Mail reader, but not for people who demand a less flimsy case on which to base a fundamental change of view.

    4. You said that where the argument necessitates the use of logic and reason, because no empirical data is available then logic and reason it is; and that logic and reason are king, not empirical evidence.

    What is it that so convinces you that these testimonies are a factual account of an alternative reality – when it contradicts everything that you witness in your normal life? Where is the logic and reason?

    Maybe you have had an experience yourself which supports this? But you have to remember that I have not. So we come at this from very different starting points. I can almost see you shouting at the screen in frustration at this stupid person who cannot see your point. I would genuinely like to understand, but so far you have not convinced me. You have spent most of the conversation criticising me for things I have said, rather than attempting to address the questions I have posed. Can you see that the frustration might not all be on your side?

    I think for whatever reason, you’ve misinterpreted my point about your statement about logic and reason being king. Maybe I have not made it clear enough. Let me put it a different way – I can use logic and reason to disprove the existence of God, just as you may use them to prove the existence of God. We don’t need empirical evidence. But does this really get us any further, or is it a sterile academic exercise just to prove how clever you/we are?

    I don’t think your last few sentences are worthy of a response. Uncalled for, not polite, and not at all helpful. And in fact incorrect. I am disappointed.

  25. Simian:

    Tim,
    You might also like to read this recent article:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15494379
    What do you think?

  26. Simian:

    One more thing Tim. Why is it that you are not keen on Susan Blackmore?

  27. Tim:

    The only things that I have been trying to draw attention to is the fact that your replies tend to be disordered, unstructured, and contradictory. You recite opinions as if they were proven facts, you describe something as ‘flaky’ that doctors (e.g. Dr Sam Parnia) considered serious enough to warrant years of study attempting to understand. You agreed with the statement that history is bunk, and then wonder why I disagreed with you. And so on and so forth.

    All I see is what is written before me in black and white, which is as I previously stated, and then you tell me it is my fault for misunderstanding you. You read what I write however and think you can read between the lines attempting to understand what is going on in my head and couldn’t get it more wrong almost every time.

    I frequently encountered this problem with people that thought the mind and the brain were one and the same thing. I recall having a conversation with a very experienced psychotherapist a number of years ago. He asked me something and I replied “OK, yes that’s fine.” His response was to tell me that I was angry. “Pardon? How did you think that?” I asked. “Because you used the word ‘fine’” he answered. Every time I think of that I crack up and cannot stop laughing. My GP found it highly amusing when I told her too.

    The only psychologist that has ever been able to help me, and he did help me quite considerably, was the one that was neither atheist nor agnostic. He was an Orthodox Jew. He was the only one that actually knew how to help me. Someone I know recently revealed to me that they had been undergoing psychological help for some time, and it transpires that the only psychologist that was able to understand and help them was…a Christian one.

    The only thing you have got right about me is the fact that I was losing patience, but then my short fuse has never been a secret and is something I have openly referred to now and again.

    Jay was referring to Creationists and me in the same breath. Apparently I have a problem with archaeology, simply for pointing out the fact that it is one of the Humanities, it is not a Science. And we all know that the only reason that atheists refer to others as Creationists is because it is viewed as an insult, witness the frequency with which that accusation is bandied about. The aim is to make out that the person is an ignorant red-neck, ignorant white trash. And yet I was accused of being abusive. How curious. I very frequently encounter this attitude online by people towards me when it is quite clear that, contrary to what they might think, they do not know nor understand fields of study that I can prove I do.

    Personally I thought my last paragraph was quite funny, but then I am different to you, and my mind works differently to yours as is shown from your response. But I do get the feeling that it touched a raw nerve however. And that made me smile.

    Would it touch a raw nerve in me if a helicopter pilot berated me for presuming to tell him how to fly a helicopter despite the fact I have never been in one in my life? Of course not. I’d be told to F off and rightly so. Would it touch a raw nerve if I was thrown out of a hospital for attempting to point out to trained surgeons where they were going wrong in their procedures, and insisting I could do a better job than them, simply because I had read several books on first aid? I think we all know the answer to that. I think the expression I am looking for, not just to you but to all others that attempt to disagree with me is – show a little respect.

    With regards Dr Susan Blackmore, ahe is an avowed atheist and member of the Skeptics Society, never ceases trying to ‘proselytize’ and is a classic case of ‘don’t confuse me with the facts as my mind is already made up’. She demonstrates an unwillingness to consider any alternatives and appears to have a clear motive in wanting people to believe exactly what she believes. And let’s not forget, despite what her supporters claim she has never been able to prove that her theories are correct. She has however been proven wrong time and again, for example witness her claims about NDE’s being a result of blood hypoxia and hallucination. Medically proven wrong by independant medical practitioners, and yet she still comes out with that same old crap.

    To reproduce certain events to a proper scientific standard they must be reproduced in exactly the same way and give exactly the same experience, down to the last detail. Only then can you say it’s the same thing, and as well as being simple ethics it’s also plain common sense.

  28. Simian:

    Not ignoring you Tim. It’s been a very tough day. Just going to look at your comment.

  29. Simian:

    Tim,
    I have re-read the whole discussion. I’d like to recap so that I am clear on your position, and then to state mine:

    In essence I understand from what you have written that you know that there is an immaterial mind that is separate from the physical brain. You know this both because of relevant personal experience, and because of reliable witness testimonies concerning the experiences of others that support your views.

    Empirical evidence is not required for your knowledge to be confirmed. Reason and logic suffice.

    You have been singled out to be blessed with seeing things that not many have seen. You have not seen God, but your experience and evidence confirms the experience of millions of other people who share your knowledge and understanding.

    You also know that those who dispute the facts you present have no rational reasons to support their case, and no logical and reasonable alternative. Naturalist arguments are insufficient to explain everything. Only by accepting the metaphysical can we address the inadequacy of naturalist arguments.

    You are critical of people who imply that a matter is settled because they think so, when you know them to be wrong.

    Almost no-one knows what is going on in your head, though they frequently imply that they do. Only one (religious) psychotherapist understood you. You frequently encounter people on line who think you are abusive but that is because their knowledge is significantly less than yours in relevant subjects.

    You dismiss the views of psychologists such as Susan Blackmore not just because they cannot support their findings, but also because their atheistic stance significantly colours their judgment.

    Have I got that right? Have I missed anything?

    On my side let me say that I accept that if someone has demonstrably had a vision whilst their brain is unable to create this vision, then I thnk it is unexplained by our current knowledge of physical causation, and consequently suggests that something else is responsible for this vision. I do not know what that is, but I do not think that the case is proved that this is necessarily a glimpse of an afterlife, or a purely spirit world.

    I am distrustful of the testimonies you quote, not becauue I doubt the truthfulness and sincerity of the witnesses, but because I am aware just how easily the human mind is led into making connections where there are none, or making the wrong connections, or of ‘filling in the gaps’ with assumptions, and thinking of them as facts. But I cannot prove the testimonies are wrong, anymore than they can be proved to be correct.

    Where do we go from here?

  30. Caral:

    Hi Simian,
    Just wondered if you are familiar with Dr Sam Parnia’s work?

    Apologies if AWARE and the Human Consciousness Project has been mentioned, I’ve not followed the whole thread.

  31. Tim:

    Yes, thank you Caral, you have pretty much got that right. My problem is not with people that they disagree, but that they have a close-minded attitude to anything beyond a limited purview. If we all took that attitude then we’d never learn anything, as learning is about being open to new ideas.

  32. Simian:

    May I remind you Tim that you categorically dismissed Sam Parnia’s work with the bald statement that it would not be conclusive, even though the report is not due out until next year.

    Is this an open minded attitude?

  33. Simian:

    Tim,
    May I ask in what subjects were your 3 degrees, from which universtity(ies), and in which years you graduated?

    And would you describe your own OBE and why it changed your understanding about life?

  34. Marvin:

    Explanations often take the form of an analogy or metaphor, pointing out parallels between the thing to be explained and something else we are familiar with. In this computer age, many have suggested that it might be useful to compare the mind/brain relationship to the relationship between a computer program and the computer hardware on which it depends to run. While this is a crude analogy, it is an example of a process which can be extremely complex which is not describable in terms of the detailed make-up of the hardware. For example, examining the logic gates in a computer will not tell you anything about, say, the environment that a robot is navigating through, or the spoken language it is responding to. And in a simpler example, we know that a program can run on both a PC and a MAC computer, which have different hardware but the same operating system.

    Some of the leading figures in the field of A.I. have suggested that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon. If an organism, or machine, has a sufficient type and degree of complexity, including a rich internal model of the world, and has purposes and the ability to develop and achieve goals, then it might become conscious naturally, starting with a representation of itself being included in its model of the world. This then leads to the notion of degrees of consciousness.

    Such fun.

  35. Tim:

    You don’t understand things do you Simian. It was not a categorical dismissal of his work, and would hardly be considering the fact that I endorse the examination of such studies. It was a reflection of the fact that such studies when reliant upon physical data are highly unlikely to be conclusive from a scientifically reproducible perspective.

    And in answer to your following comment, no. I would tell Stuart these things for his eyes and his alone, but valuing my privacy as I do I am not holding anything of mine up that others could misuse, nor other people ridicule considering the fact that even the little I have revealed has subjected me to such. I might be naive but I’m not stupid.

  36. Tim:

    And considering the fact that you use a pseudonym and hide your real self away, I find your bare-faced request for me to make public very personal information totally and completely out of order.

  37. Simian:

    Tim,
    Over the course of our debate you have accused me of a variety of shortcomings, and insinuated that I am intellectually out of my depth, all without justification; and actually without full knowledge of my qualifications. You have felt no need to address some valid questions or comments, and yet you accuse me of side-stepping or glossing over yours.

    I’m generally a very polite and easy-going chap, but if someone consistently patronises and insults me, I feel I have the right to reply, and to delve into the reasons why they feel the need to behave in this way.

    The comment which prompted me to make this accusation was:
    And no, Sam Parnia’s study is not going to be conclusive.
    And that as far as you were concerned was sufficient. No further discussion. Given the context of my original comment and the thread we were developing, I would submit that this is a very dismissive remark.

    And now you have said:
    It was a reflection of the fact that such studies when reliant upon physical data are highly unlikely to be conclusive from a scientifically reproducible perspective.
    You might want to read that second comment again. It lacks logic. What did you mean to say?
    You may be fully aware of the points you are trying to make, but you do not always communicate them effectively. As you so rightly state, I cannot see inside your head.

    I presume you can understand why I asked for those details? In your public blogger profile you proudly write:
    I have three degrees, in the Arts and the Sciences. I was recommended for several funded PhD’s, but … was unable to take any of the chances offered to me. I turned down membership of Mensa as it just felt silly and pointless…
    …I had an OBE which changed my understanding about life and our being here, altering my perception of the Universe around us.

    You are clearly proud of your intellect and academic achievements, and appear to believe that they provide you with superior authority regarding this topic.

    You write things such as:
    Two of my professors (both atheist/agnostic by the way, both of them scientists, and who both recommended I do a Doctorate) at two different Universities would disagree with your evaluation and agree with mine.
    As if that clinched the argument….

    or:
    The mistake that non academics make is the belief that for something to be right, it has to be science that finds the answers.

    …???

    or:
    The only things that I have been trying to draw attention to is the fact that your replies tend to be disordered, unstructured, and contradictory. You recite opinions as if they were proven facts… Er… Proof?

    or:
    …I was accused of being abusive. How curious. I very frequently encounter this attitude online by people towards me when it is quite clear that, contrary to what they might think, they do not know nor understand fields of study that I can prove I do.

    or:
    You don’t understand things do you Simian.
    So it’s ok for you to insult me, but not ok for me to question your justification is it?

    Given this, would you not agree that the nature of your qualifications is relevant?
    Perhaps you would just like to state what your degree subjects are without any reference to where and when?

    Furthermore, you attest to personal evidence as a core part of your argument for ‘knowing’ that you are right. Surely you can therefore see why I would wish to understand why? Hence my question.

    Tim, I use a pseudonym for the same reason I’m sure that you and others do – mainly I want to protect myself from the unwanted attention of nutters. Since when is the name ‘Tim’ more revealing than ‘Simian’. There are rather more ‘Tim’s than ‘Simian’s blogging…

    Furthermore, as our webmaster will attest, I only changed my name from ‘Jim’ to ‘Simian’, because there were two ‘Jim’s contributing comments to this blog.

    The words You recite opinions as if they were proven facts… come to mind…

  38. Simian:

    For interest, there is a very comprehensive analysis and rebuttal of the non-physical explanations for NDEs at:
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#pam

  39. Simian:

    …I am different to you, and my mind works differently to yours as is shown from your response. But I do get the feeling that it touched a raw nerve however. And that made me smile.

    …I think the expression I am looking for, not just to you but to all others that attempt to disagree with me is – show a little respect.

    Tim:
    You appear to take pleasure in thinking you have touched a raw nerve, and yet it seems to be you who has had a raw nerve touched. It may surprise you that I take no pleasure in doing this. I simply want you to understand that from my perspective (a) it is not the case, and (b) on the contrary, it appeared to betray this sensitivity on your part. You ask for a little respect, and yet you do not see the need to show that courtesy to others; and appear to believe that insulting your opponents and attempting to bully them into submission wins your argument. Well, that does not work with me. I have let many of your insults pass, but there comes a point when it risks reducing the argument to an insult throwing contest.

    If you look back again at my last few comments you may notice that I have tried to sum up relatively dispassionately what I believe to be your position. I invited comment so that we could clear the slate use that as a starting point for further more productive debate. I have also tried to demonstrate to you that respect is a two way attribute which is necessary to an informed and rational debate. It is insulting to be on the receiving end of rudeness and a lack of respect, as you’ll doubtless agree.

    I do hope you read the relevant parts of the reference I quoted in my last comment above. You may not agree with the findings, but surely you must admit that mine is not just an ill informed and illogical scepticism.

    Of course my views will be informed by my core beliefs, just as yours are – but although you may not think so, I have genuinely tried to understand the other side of the argument, and I have dutifully read the evidence you provided, and many other sources. My conclusion is that the argument is still insufficient to make me modify my view. You may argue that this means I have a closed mind. I would disagree.

    I think you can make a case for dualism, and many have done so quite effectively. I just do not think that this strand of investigation is the best way. It is far from the strongest argument.

    If you wish to continue the debate let’s start again with a different argument for dualism. If not, then I hope you will try to understand why I reacted the way I did to your comments, and I hope you will find my comments ultimately helpful.
    Jim