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Jon Cleland Host



you wrote:

Jon – To me, your arguments seem to come from a need to fit everything into a particular worldview – one that assures us that there is “nothing out of the ordinary.”


No, quite the opposite.  I’d love to find out about things that are unknown or not explained – in fact, I’m sure that such things exist.  My need is fairness/reasonableness.  In other words, to accept or investigate possibilities as openly as possible – avoid the human tendency to dismiss other worldviews without reason, and accept only that support my prejudices.  Specifically, I can’t accept all interpretations of experiences (because they contradict each other), so I have to find a way to choose which to look into – and that way can’t be just by gut prejudices, but must be based on fairly applied criteria if I’m to keep it as unbiased as possible.  This goes back to the list I gave in post #4511 – did you read that?  Which of those 1-6 approaches, do you think we should use?


And I am sure you see my arguments as the opposite – that I am trying to make something out of nothing. 


Yes, it does seem that way (sorry!).  The bigger question is that if such is done to support things like ghosts, then why do you not also accept, say, St. Paul’s revelations, or the many experiences supporting the reality of Mormonism?   Why favor some views, if not due to one’s personal prejudices?


I appreciate you sharing your personal (“mystical”) experience. …. To me, however, such experiences could be the result of anomalous (nonlocal) information being sensed by some area of the brain. Experiences such as this are quite common, albeit irreproducible of course, and therefore connote be subject to replication.  


Perhaps they are.  I’m sure you agree that ALL need not be picking up real information.  For instance, the experience of Brigit Nelson – is it picking up the real situation of alien babies?  If not, then how could we reject her claim unless we have some criteria to apply to experiences?  I have criteria that I use.  Do you?  If so, then what are they?  If not, then how can you reject Paul and Brigit?

Here’s my thoughts on your experience. ….


Thanks.  I may have been picking up real information – but I also may have been just experiencing something my mind was doing on its own.  Which brings us back again to the criteria we use to determine which way to see this.  

 Are out-of-body experiences real? Are all apparitions just delusions? How would we even begin to validate one interpretation versus another?


Indeed, how?  For many of them, the experiences do suggest objective tests.  For instance, one could put a piece of paper with a 4 digit, random number on it onto a flat plate attached a couple inches below the ceiling of an operating room.  An out of body experience by someone on the operating table might thus allow the person to see the number, and report it after wards.   Do we agree that such would be a good way to determine if the OOBE was one of consciousness leaving the body, vs one that may have been simply “in someone’s head”.    Do we agree that this would be an example of a way to attempt to validate one interpretation over another?



 I believe it is possible to turn the scientific method inwards to study phenomenological states. However this sort of work is still in it’s infancy (at least in Western science) with very few conventions or even consensus regarding the validity of such a practice.  


Just as in any other area of science, it’s not a subjective thing – if objective statistical tests can be applied, then it could be scientifically valid.  If not, then it’s hard to see how it could be valid.

Neuroscientists are recruiting Buddhist monks, for instance, to study neural correlates of subjective states since the monks are trained to sustain these unique states of consciousness (including “cosmic consciousness” or mystical states).


Yes, I recently read about the objectively verifiable data here regarding meditation in Scientific American.  It’s pretty cool!

Many come out of these “unity experiences” feeling that the universe is indeed “alive” or infused with consciousness or intelligence and everything is interconnected. The experiences can seem hyper-real, ….In any case, I think these  experiences are worthy of study and will teach us a lot about ourselves. 


Yes, that’s certainly what it felt like to me.  These experiences are also seen with temporal lobe epilepsy – an active area of research now.  It seems to me that a good way to investigate whether or not these put us in touch with a greater reality is to see if they can provide information that can be verified in another way.  Right?


Out-of-body experiences including NDE’s, telepathy, precognition, “cosmic consciousness” experiences of meditators, etc. etc.  


But again, how to determine which interpretation?  We again can’t just gullibly accept all of them as interpreted, because we’ve seen time and again that they are contradictory (and often admitted later to be completely fabricated, such as in the case of Malarkey, etc.).  When looked at with the requirement of validation, they rarely show anything.  


Polls have shown that 18% of Americans claim to have seen a ghost, and 45% of us believe in ghosts:

 Irrelevant.  A poll in 1500 in Europe would have shown that over 80% were certain that demons are real, that they fear Jesus Christ, and that they regularly inhabit people.  Even today, polls show that 20% of the world’s population literally believe that space aliens have disguised themselves as humans and live among us.  


So, as scientists, shall we sweep this under the rug? Casually dismiss it as delusion?


Of course not.  Instead, we need to apply criteria to all these- right?  We don’t want to just accept those that fit our personal prejudices, and reject the others – that’s not reasonable.


I feel that inhibiting legitimate research into these fields is actually inhibiting the progress of science. 

Do you disagree?


I do disagree.  As we’ve seen, these fields are receiving tens of millions of dollars of attention, and literally hundreds of attempts to replicate them.  If anything, it seems to me, just from the numbers, that  they are receiving more attention and research money than the evidence has supported, not less.


The scientific “party line” is that the universe is “dead” and all matter/spacetime is governed by well-known deterministic (or random quantum) physical laws that do not allow for any sort of underlying bias, intelligence, or anomalous informational influences.


This has not been my experience at all.  The scientists I know are among the most open minded and especially curious people I’ve ever met.  They include people with all kinds of religious and non-religious beliefs (the most common religious beliefs in the scientists I know are Christian beliefs) I’ve never heard this “partly line” said or taught in scientific circles – not the schools I’ve been in, nor in the labs I’ve been in.  What I have heard is that any claim needs to be supported by evidence – because otherwise we’d have to accept all claims, which are contradictory.  

I have, at least dozens of times, heard others accuse scientists of having that “partly line” you give above.  And nearly all of those times, it has been in the context of an argument where someone is promoting pseudoscience, and using the above as a strawman to explain why their pseudoscience is being rejected.   Most often, this is by creationists, as they are the most prevalent pseudoscience here in America.  


A lot of us scientists do wonder – even out loud – about the possibility of influences and intelligence in the Universe.  The simple fact that we ask for evidence for claims of it only shows that we know we can’t blindly accept the claims of everyone who says that they’ve found that intelligence (often in this or that religion, sometimes not).