Science

Trees Have Social Networks, Too!

This New York Times article about a German best-selling book reminds us once again that our scientific understanding of life and consciousness leaves so much room for finding new explanations. A German forest ranger describes the amazing social connectedness of trees and their support for each other on what he calls “the Wood Wide Web.” Is it any surprise that humans’ ability to reach across boundaries of life and death might be more profound than we know?

Link to our page with this item, which will have a link to the NYT times story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/world/europe/german-forest-ranger-finds-that-trees-have-social-networks-too.html?mwrsm=Email

Dr. Robert Lanza’s Theory Explains What Mainstream Science Hasn’t

BY CAROL HANNER

TheHandontheMirror.org

This article could easily go on and on about Robert Lanza’s successes in the field of stem cell research and medical advances that tackle some of the most debilitating illnesses people can face. His successes are all the more impressive given his rise from a troubled childhood in a professional gambler’s family to Fulbright Scholar to one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2014.

But he hasn’t stopped there.

Dr. Lanza has offered what he calls his own Theory of Everything – dubbed biocentrism — that tackles even bigger questions: what is reality, what is consciousness, how did the universe come into existence and what happens when we die?

Not that he has all the answers yet to those eternal questions, but he proposes to reframe the scientific world’s approach to explaining reality. And he makes a strong case for his theory in his book Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. A followup book,Beyond Biocentrism, is scheduled for release in May 2016.

Dr. Lanza posits that consciousness is the source of the universe, not the other way around. The universe is not a thing into which life evolved after a Big Bang created the universe. Instead, consciousness IS the universe, and all that we see in it arises from consciousness.

This squares with what is called the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory, which says that the observer creates reality from a pool of potentiality that doesn’t spring into being until consciousness activates it. Repeatable research has confirmed the observer’s impact on scientific experiments, particularly the famous double-slit experiment showing that a photon of light sent through two slits will be affected by the experimenter’s presence and even his or her intentions.

The theory also resolves some big sticking points in other theories, the biggest, perhaps, being exactly how the perfect conditions for life could evolve randomly out of the universe. The Big Bang envisioned by physicists couldn’t have created the universe if the explosion had been the tiniest bit slower or faster, scientists say. The simplest explanation is that life, or consciousness, created – and still creates – the universe, so no random luck is necessary to explain all the amazing chemicals, processes and perfect timing that had to fit together for us to exist. And yes, he acknowledges and discusses various religious perspectives, from Buddhism to Intelligent Design, which says God, not blind luck, is the one who did this.

This ground-shifting perspective isn’t easy to wrap your head around, but Dr. Lanza walks through complex physics principles with explanations understandable to a non-scientist, though not without some concentration required. He offers masterful analogies that ease the reading, and he shares some of his personal story, too, to give us a breather from the brain teasers.

Growing up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, young Robert Lanza dealt with a difficult family life on the bottom rungs of the blue-collar town. His father was a professional gambler. Neither of his sisters graduated from high school. But the boy’s intelligence and imagination served him well. At age 13, he altered the DNA of a chicken to make it a different color, and his experiment was published in Nature.

In high school, he was determined to meet a Nobel winner and almost miraculously found one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who gave him a job and became a mentor. He received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, won a Fulbright Scholarship and was part of the team that first cloned a human embryo. He collaborated with famous psychologist B.F. Skinner, the father of modern behaviorism, and Jonas Salk, who created the polio vaccine.

In 2001, Dr. Lanza was the first person to clone an endangered species (the Gaur, wild cattle). He was the first to successfully generate stem cells from adults using somatic-cell nuclear transfer (thereapeutic cloning.) He has a long list of firsts in the scientific and medical worlds, and he has created groundbreaking treatments for eye diseases such as macular degeneration. He is currently chief scientific officer at Ocata Therapeutics (formerly Advanced Cell Technology) in Massachusetts and is an adjunct professor at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which has a strong program in regenerative medicine.

Dr. Lanza’s theory of biocentrism rests on the idea that physicists keep running into roadblocks as they try to figure out the universe’s origins. Every theory has holes that leave some parts of observed reality unexplained. Dr. Lanza argues that biology is where the answers will come, but says scientists have a hard time figuring out to make such a major mind shift. How do they start from the mind-bending idea that particles exist only in a state of readiness until consciousness births them into reality. But his theory resolves some conflicts that physics can’t.

And what about consciousness beyond the body, beyond death? Dr. Lanza explicitly steers away from what he calls New Age ideas of astral travel or disembodied spirits, but he also rejects the idea that when we die, we just go away into nothingness. That doesn’t mesh with the accepted reality that energy does not go away but only changes form.

So can we maintain our consciousness and experience reality without a body? He thinks the brain is necessary for all perception, like the radio needed to translate sound waves that carry voices. But consciousness must go somewhere in some form. Only more study and understanding can explain exactly where.

Naturally, a new theory requires research. Many questions remain. If our consciousness impacts reality at the micro-level of quantum physics, how does that reconcile the physical laws of nature? What is this collective agreement that all humans share in perceiving the physical world around us? If we are all connected, exactly how?

Biocentrism could open up a whole new area of study. And for those who have had experiences that science dismisses as impossible, perhaps this theory holds potential answers someday to what happens when we die.

10 Scientific Studies Show How Consciousness Affects Our Physical World

If you’ve read The Hand on the Mirror, you know that Janis supports valid scientific inquiry into extraordinary events that can’t be explained. The findings in these studies fit the bill. Did you know that thoughts can affect the shape of water crystals, with positive thoughts leading to symmetrical crystals and negative thoughts producing asymmetrical, less organized crystals? (You’ll also recognize a few of the studies highlighted in The Hand on the Mirror, including the classic “double slit” experiment that supports the quantum physics theory that an observer affects reality simply by observing.)

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/03/08/10-scientific-studies-that-prove-consciousness-can-alter-our-physical-material-world/

Digging Into How Consciousness and Perception Interact

By Kallio Ilkka
Independent scholar, Helsinki, FINLAND

After an impressive load of experimental evidence, everyone nowadays knows that consciousness isn’t necessary for perception. Hence, it’s natural to ask what it is that consciousness is necessary for. Perception is always about the now and present. Consciousness thus seems to be needed for experiencing the temporally and spatially absent, essentially the past and future.

In fact, it’s impossible to be conscious of the present at all. Consciousness always lags perception by about half a second, Benjamin Libet experimentally found out. A percept itself, then, is never a conscious experience, only the possibly following thought about it is. Phenomenality’s or experientiality’s being a sufficient condition for consciousness is thereby ruled out whereas it is necessary for consciousness and all other experience by definition.

As the past is gone and the future waiting in the wings, one can’t experience them directly but only through their indirect conscious representations. Like David Rosenthal has persistently argued, conscious experiences are of one representational order higher than is required of perception.

A temporally bidirectional mental structure about absence, consciousness may equal Endel Tulving’s episodic memory shown by Demis Hassabis to be essential for thinking about future as well. Consciousness is never primarily about physical things but always about mental constructs – like past and future – that may or may not be grounded in physical reality.

Our physical bodies have somehow become capable of creating mental constructs to compound our originally purely physical experience. Alas, within consciousness studies mental constructs are habitually conflated with their intentions. Peter Carruthers distinguishes himself by having at least remarked upon this theoretically fateful overlooking of the Brentanian difference between the perception-based physical and the consciousness- based mental contents of the mind.

We tend to conflate the mental person with its physical body, ourselves’ included and in particular. Consciousness is imputed to the body, although only the constructed person is capable of experiencing mental entities, i.e. being conscious. Furthermore, it’s only ever conscious of other things in its own ontological category, the class of mental constructs, never of anything physical.

The physical and the mental are not two independently existing classes of substances or even of properties. Nor do they share a mysterious identity. The physical is the perceptible. The mental – though constructed by the physical body – is what is only seen with the mind’s eye, i.e. what resides in the mental space of consciousness.

It’s pointless to argue for physical reduction of the mental as that Rylean category mistake in reverse wouldn’t explain but would eliminate the constructed consciousness altogether. Even Daniel Dennett and the Churchlands might not revel in the new-found Zombieland.

Julian Jaynes explained how the mental construct of consciousness, the progenitor of all the rest, might first have come about on the basis of metaphor. As our financialized society is increasingly being built on belief- dependent mental constructs, aka Searlean institutional facts, it matters what we think of them, the more so the more basic ones are in question. The problem of consciousness is a matter of life and death.


Editor’s Note: You can also read other abstracts from the conference, but be warned that many are scientifically dense: http://www.helsinki.fi/tsc2015/materials/TSC_Book%20of%20abstracts.pdf

Psychiatrist: Science must study more than neurons

Carol Hanner – thehandonthemirror.org

HELSINKI, Finland — Let’s say you’re nothing but a pack of neurons, firing away in a machine called a brain.

That’s the conclusion that neuroscientist Francis Crick offered in 1994, and it’s a view of consciousness – called radical materialism – that dominates among his colleagues today. (And if consciousness can’t exist outside the brain, then life ends when the brain dies. Which means we must discount near-death experiences of the afterlife or communications from the dead. Their brain is gone, so they are gone.)

Ede Frecska has a response to the reductionist view of human consciousness, and he offered it in a presentation in June in Helsinki, Finland, at a conference entitled “Toward a Science of Consciousness.”

So Crick says we’re just a pack of neurons?

“I would say politely to him — maybe you, but not me,” said Dr. Frecska, who is chairman of psychiatry at the University of Debrecen in Hungary. Humans are much more than that, Dr. Frecska suggests, and he challenges some of the conventional views of scientific Western thinking.

Dr. Frecska is a psychiatrist, psychologist and psychopharmacologist who has published more than 50 scientific papers and book chapters on schizophrenia and affective illness. His recent research focuses on psychointegrator drugs and techniques, and his theoretical work focuses on the interface between cognitive neuroscience and quantum brain mechanics.

About 700 participants gathered in Helsinki for a weeklong conference that presented hundreds of research papers on an array of topics surrounding consciousness, from neuroscience to philosophy to a full day of pre-conference lectures on Eastern versus Western research. The annual conference originated at the University of Tucson in Arizona and is held in Arizona every other year. (For more information, go to http://www.helsinki.fi/tsc2015/#.)

Quantum physics has radically changed physicists’ views and theories of the origins of the universe, but decades later, quantum theory still hasn’t had the same significant influence on neuroscience, Dr. Frecska said in his article.

In his journal article called “Nonlocality and Intuition as the Second Foundation of Knowledge,” Dr. Frecska presents a simple thesis: Humans have two forms of input into our information processing and how we sense and define “reality,” and we need to study both of them.

The first method is the one we are most familiar with – the perceptual-cognitive process, called rational thinking. We use information gathered from our immediate environment through our senses and processed by our brain in our ordinary waking state of consciousness.

The second is the less familiar. Dr. Frecska calls this the “direct-intuitive” process, or visionary thinking, which is the domain of shamans and mystics and creative artists. It takes place mostly in altered states of consciousness or in our subconscious and reaches beyond our immediate environment. This is where quantum physics comes in. That scientific view includes nonlocal connections, meaning something that happens in one geographical place can be shown to influence or connect to something in a totally different place, without the two touching each other directly in physical space.

Dr. Frecska argues that this “dichotomy of knowledge” between rational thought and visions can explain the difference between science and spiritual teachings and can form a foundation for research into psychic or paranormal phenomena.

The information gathering and processing that we do in our waking state happens on the surface level, and there is a documented process in our brains as we age called synaptic pruning. We have many millions of neurons when we are born, but as we create memories and form ideas, the brain “prunes” or eliminates the unused neurons until we reach adolescence and have a more fixed set of connections. (Which can explain why younger children can learn languages more easily.)

The “vision” processing, on the other hand, happens at a deeper level that we do not regularly reach in our waking state. Shamans and spiritual leaders through the ages have used meditation and other techniques to reach this visioning level.

Dr. Frecska suggests in his article that “besides the rational approach, there is another way to nature’s secrets, what one may call the intuitive, contemplative, or visionary method of accessing knowledge, and it has physical foundation. Both paths to knowledge are relatively independent of each other and complementary to the other as well.”

He sees this in musicians. They use a rational musical language to express themselves, but the source of the information, the creative influence, comes from somewhere else. Where is that?

“I’m very reluctant to identify specific areas where this happens, but we need a framework for putting these two types of knowledge together,” Dr. Frecska said.

By accepting that there are two types of knowledge acquisition and integrating them, science and spirituality can come closer to reconciliation and an understanding of how consciousness works, Dr. Frecska suggests.

And perhaps, eventually, we will understand what happens to consciousness when we die.

James McGrath on the question of skepticism

Dr. James F. McGrath considers whether he has gone too far in the direction of dismissing afterlife communications, and he commends Janis for addressing why so many see these common events as unworthy of scientific study. Dr. McGrath wrote this piece on Exploring our Matrix, a blog on patheos.com. He is the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis. He blogs about religion, the Bible, science fiction, evolution and lots of other topics.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/06/hand-on-the-mirror.html

The Atlantic puts near-death experiences in perspective

This well-researched, analytical article in The Atlantic magazine presents an open-minded, comprehensive review of research into near-death experiences. It takes the question to its logical bottom line, which is whether NDEs can help understand consciousness itself. Author Gideon Lichfield writes: “All of this makes NDEs perhaps the only spiritual experience that we have a chance of investigating in a truly thorough, scientific way. It makes them a vehicle for exploring the ancient human belief that we are more than meat. And it makes them a lens through which to peer at the workings of consciousness—one of the great mysteries of human existence, even for the most resolute materialist.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/the-science-of-near-death-experiences/386231/