Month: February 2011

128. Dr. James Fetzer On Survival of Consciousness and Near-Death Experience (NDE) Science

The author of, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, discusses why NDE evidence doesn't measure up. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with philosophy of science and human consciousness scholar, Dr. James Fetzer. During the interview Mr. Tsakiris and Dr. Fetzer discuss evidence for the survival of consciousness, and whether this evidence undermines our current model of mind=brain consciousness: Alex Tsakiris: So let's take a big step back and say that when someone has a flat EEG they are not supposed to have any conscious experience, let alone the kind of conscious experience near-death experiencers are reporting. What you say might be definitionally true and all that, but we just have to deal with the fact that people are having a conscious experience when they shouldn't be having it. And that's highly suggestive that consciousness doesn't operate the way that we thought. It isn't a product of the brain but is somehow separate from the brain and continues after the brain is severely compromised, if you want me to say it isn't dead. Dr. James Fetzer: Well, as soon as you begin talking about an ordinary concept of consciousness you have to acknowledge that consciousness involves responses to stimuli in the environment that we access through our different senses, taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. Therefore, if we're going to talk seriously about a form of consciousness that persists after death, we're going to have to account for how it's possible to have sensory experiences for an entity that is no longer embodied. In other words, if you no longer have your senses, if you no longer have a capacity for taste, touch, sight, smell, or hearing, how can you possibly have any conscious experiences after you're dead? What we do know, Alex, is that when the brain is deprived of oxygen, the kinds of experiences that are typified by the reports of those who have these near-death experiences occur. Alex Tsakiris: That's absolutely not true, Jim. You just haven't delved into the. Dr. James Fetzer: Alex, that's all just fine and dandy and I did not previously express any concerns about it. You have been pressing me on this point and I'm explaining to you that based on classic criteria from the philosophy of science, your proposition of the survival of consciousness after death is a paradigm case of an empirically untestable claim. Dr. James Fetzer's website Play it: Download MP3 (28:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. On this episode of Skeptiko we return to a topic that I've addressed many times before, and that is near-death experience science and how it squares with the mainstream science model of consciousness. That is, of course, that consciousness is solely and completely a product of the brain. Now I've wrestled this issue to the ground before, but it was really fun to dialogue with someone who I greatly respect and admire for his ability to courageously follow the data wherever it goes on a whole variety of topics that are certainly very, very controversial. Here's my interview with Dr. Jim Fetzer:


127. Dr. David Eagleman Explores the Afterlife and the Limits of Consciousness

The author of, Sum: 40 Tales From the Afterlife, discusses his work as a neuroscientist and author. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Baylor College of Medicine Neuroscientist and author, Dr. David Eagleman. During the interview Dr. Eagleman  discusses why survival of consciousness and near death experience (NDE) research isn't a prominent topic among neuroscientists, "I think it should be front and center. I mean, my impression is that scientists have different personalities and some are quite conservative and they like to stick with the party line. Now, I should specify that what the party line is at this moment in history is reductionism or materialism, which means you are just built out of your pieces and parts and that's it. When those pieces and parts break and go away, then you go away. That's a perfectly reasonable hypothesis and may well be right. I'm not criticizing that hypothesis, but I am saying that there are other possibilities, as well." Eagleman continues, "I go all around and give talks to my colleagues at universities all around, and what I see in some universities in some places is you're not even allowed to talk outside of that paradigm. Anything that gets said is really pooh-poohed. So I really admire these guys who are looking for the paradigm-busters." Dr. David Eagleman's website Play it: Download MP3 (18:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. On this episode of Skeptiko, I have an interview with someone I've been trying to get on Skeptiko for a couple of years. Dr. David Eagleman, as you'll learn, is a neuroscientist from the Baylor College of Medicine who wrote a book a couple of years ago all about the afterlife, but the book was a novel. The book got quite a bit of publicity. I actually heard about him first on NPR, the National Public Radio here in the U.S. The book became a best-seller and he went on to do all sorts of amazing stuff.


126. Andy Paquette Claims 20 Year History of Precognitive Dreams

The author of, Dreamer: 20 Years of Psychic Dreams and How They Changed My Life, discusses his psychic and precognitive experiences. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview discussing precognition and the psychic dreams of author Andy Paquette. During the interview Mr. Paquette discusses the differences between real life precognition expereinces and labratorty experiments on ESP like those of Dr. Daryl Bem, "Well, the funny thing about asking me a question like that is that while I am aware of some of those things, I became aware of them after I already knew that precognition happens because it happened to me in much more dramatic ways than was ever recorded in the lab. On the other hand, the reason he is studying it in the first place is because there are people like me who've had more dramatic examples of precognition. We've recorded them or passed them on to other people and this eventually makes researchers curious." Paquette continues, "Now the problem with testing in the lab as I see it, is that you're trying to duplicate an effect that has a very specific reason for coming into being without knowing what that reason is and without having any way to recreate those conditions because you don't understand the reason to begin with. This, in my mind, is the reason why laboratory results tend to be very weak. It's because they're not really duplicating the right circumstances that cause these kinds of things to happen. So what happens is they kind of nick the edge of this thing that they're researching, and even that little tiny slice they get is enough to support a hypothesis of precognition. However, it's not as dramatic as the kind of real-life, spontaneous examples such as the ones that occurred with me." Visit Andy's website Help pilot Dr. Rupert Sheldrake's Play it: Download MP3 (31:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. Before we get started with today's interview I just want to make a quick little announcement here. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, whom many of you know through his work, his many books, his very interesting website, and his appearance on the Skeptiko show, is launching a telephone telepathy experiment here, available in the U.S. and Canada. He's looking for some folks to help him pilot this study.