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Mar. 16 2010 - 9:15 pm | 1,980 views | 1 recommendation | 21 comments

My Debate Date with Deepak (and friends)

Sunday, March 14, 2:00 pm, Caltech—the big showdown, the great debate, the tag-team wrestling match of the century finally happened: Shermer/Harris v. Chopra/Houston, and the hyperbole was warranted as the sparks were flying. You can watch the edited edition of “Does God Have a Future?” next Tuesday night, March 23, on ABC Nightline (11:30 pm, 10:30 central; check your local listings), and the complete unedited version on ABC.com after the show airs. There were 1,100 people in Beckman Auditorium, and apparently another 4 million will watch the debate on television and the Internet.

Dr. Michael Shermer, left, and ABC News anchor Dan Harris listen to Dr. Deepak Chopra during ABC's Nightline debate about God. Featuring Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of How to Know God and Dr. Jean Houston, a prominent scholar, philosopher and writer facing off against Dr. Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine and contributor to Scientific American and Dr. Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, the panelists will debate the tension between God and Science. Is there scientific proof that God exists or has science made it so that God is no longer relevant? The panel discussion was held at The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and was moderated by ABC News anchor Dan Harris, Sunday, March 14, 2010. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Eric Reed/SXCITY)

You won’t want to miss this show because my “wingman” Sam Harris (as he was introduced by the ABC moderator but who is in reality no one’s wingman) was stunningly brilliant. He came up with some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard in a debate. To wit: after I challenged Deepak on what I consider to be his misuse of quantum mechanics, and Sam followed up by noting that none of us were really qualified to speak with authority on quantum mechanics, Deepak fired back louder and with more enthusiasm his previous point about quantum consciousness and nonlocality proving the existence of mind separate from brain. Sam rejoined: “Deepak, repeating a statement louder and with more emphasis does not make it any less false.”

I would like to thank Deepak for bringing ABC Nightline into what would otherwise have been just he and I in a Skeptics Society sponsored event, and I must say that both he and Jean Houston were exceptionally polite and warm before and after the debate, and although Deepak got pretty heated early in the debate over my calling his approach “woo woo”, I too was emotional in emphasizing my points because, after all, this was not suppose to be a love fest—if we did not disagree on many important points there would be no point in calling it a debate.

On the “woo woo” issue to which Deepak took much exception, he fired back at me fairly aggressively, which I pointed out was not very “spiritual” of him, to which he said “you bring out the worst in me Michael.” I don’t mean to bring out the worst in anyone; that would be counter to a scientific approach to analyzing claims, and believe it or not I actually like Deepak as a person.

So allow me to offer just one point here on a very specific claim about micro quantum effects applying to macro world events. Deepak believes that the weirdness of the quantum world (such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that the more precisely you know a particle’s position, the less precisely you know its speed, and vice versa) can be linked to mysteries of the macro world (such as consciousness). This is based on the work of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, whose theory of quantum consciousness has generated much heat but little light in scientific circles. Here is the theory.

Inside our neurons are tiny hollow microtubules that act like structural scaffolding. The conjecture (and that’s all it is) is that something inside the microtubules may initiate a wave function collapse that leads to the quantum coherence of atoms, causing neurotransmitters to be released into the synapses between neurons and thus triggering them to fire in a uniform pattern, thereby creating thought and consciousness. Since a wave function collapse can only come about when an atom is “observed” (i.e., affected in any way by something else), neuroscientist Sir John Eccles, another proponent of the idea, even suggests that “mind” may be the observer in a recursive loop from atoms to molecules to neurons to thought to consciousness to mind to atoms to molecules to neurons to….

In reality, the gap between sub-atomic quantum effects and large-scale macro systems is too large to bridge. In his book The Unconscious Quantum, the University of Colorado particle physicist Victor Stenger demonstrates that for a system to be described quantum mechanically the system’s typical mass m, speed v, and distance d must be on the order of Planck’s constant h. “If mvd is much greater than h, then the system probably can be treated classically.” Stenger computes that the mass of neural transmitter molecules, and their speed across the distance of the synapse, are about three orders of magnitude too large for quantum effects to be influential. There is no micro-macro connection.

During the debate Deepak claimed that the moon is nothing more than a soup of teeming quantum uncertainty. No. Subatomic particles may be altered when they are observed, but the moon is there even if no one looks at it.

More to come on the debate in days to come. Stay tuned, and in the meantime tell me what you think about the work of Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston.


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  1. collapse expand

    As usual, Deepak spoke with great passion and compassion, and managed to make himself sound knowledgeable and thought-provoking, despite many of his sentences seeming to consist of little more then disparate, strung-together “sciencey” words. His quantum soup comment was the one that elicited shocked outcries and even boos from the audience because it made the least sense of anything he said. Although I was particularly fond of “Your consciousness likes brains to express itself” in response to your explanations about oxytocin causing happiness.

    Overall, while he maintained his usual demeanor, I found what he was most successful at was proving that he shares absolutely NOTHING in common with his God-following believers, as he didn’t appear to actually believe in God or religion. He seemed happy to carry on the misunderstanding that he does, but he seems just as interested in dropping religion (although I daresay his Utopian belief that religion and God are already over are sadly false) as your side, and replacing the classical definition of God with some barely-coherent gobbledygook mesh of science and pseudo-science, with dashes of metaphysics and uncertainty thrown in. I think if he’d stick to evidence-based assertions instead of fantastical inventions in his mind, he’d be much closer to your side than that of the religious followers for whom he was supposedly debating.

    As for Jean Houston, I must pay her exceptional compliments for her story-telling abilities. She spoke beautifully, and with amazing detail and energy, recounting stories from throughout her life in ways that made us wish we could have been there to experience them. She’s incredibly adept at remembering quotes word for word, and delivering them with power and grace, and she can throw out a television-worthy sound-byte like few others. It’s unfortunate then that she never seemed to actually say anything that amounted to an answer to any question asked of her, or that added any new information to the debate. I kept waiting for the moral of her story to tie into the subject, but always in vain. What a pity.

    Thank you very much for making this debate happen, though, as I found it very informative. And thank you for bringing in Sam who did a fantastic job of defusing some of Deepak’s seemingly-strongest arguments. He’s a civilized pit bull.

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    I am really looking forward to watching the debate in full on abc.com. I greatly enjoy and appreciate the work of both you and Sam Harris. Keep up the good work! I also love Skeptic magazine. It is a great publication!

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    I forgot to mention as a side-note something slightly interesting. A few years ago you did a debate with the now infamous Kent Hovind. I believe it took place in Pasadena. Well, the moderator who was present is named Bill Morgan, and on March 7th of last year I debated him at a church in Garden Grove regarding the question, “Does science provide evidence for the existence of a god?”. Obviously it was a much smaller venue, and not nearly as important as your events, but I just figured I would share it. I feel a slight kinship with you in an odd, and trivial way. Thanks again for all you do!

  4. collapse expand

    I will certainly be looking forward to watching the debate in full. I also appreciate you for standing up and making a case on the importance of accountability in ones statements and that truth and accuracy in understanding our universe do in fact matter. Actually it more than just “matters”. It is my opinion the future of humanity will depend on it. I am sure at times you guys (Shermer, Harris, Hitchens and many others) must feel like you are banging your heads against a wall. But from where I am sitting…your efforts appear to be having an affect…especially on the youngsters. So please keep it up…I wish I could do more to help.

    Thanks
    Al

  5. collapse expand

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment directly on your perspective. The fundamental issue is graphically portrayed in the language you use. Whenever someone must resort to demeaning, humiliating, or making fun of another’s ideas they have dismissed themselves as a worthy opponent. It is what is most abhorrent to me about human nature and may well prove to be the reason for the demise of this branch of the tree of life… homo sapien sapien as an evolutionary dead end. I would much rather ‘live’ in Chopra’s world of infinite possibility, than a world controlled by language that is ruled by predator/prey dynamics. I am hoping that we are on the cusp of a bifurcation of consciousness so folks like you can continue to have it your way as it does seem that you like it that way, and others like me can go the other way and, yes, still challenge perspective as each of us has a unique one, but do so in a way that opens door/windows rather than attempting to close them.

    • collapse expand

      I’ve personally never quite understood the benefit of that open window when there’s a brick wall on the other side of it. We don’t close off genuine paths. If anything, we are continually finding and investigating new and fascinating ones. We just don’t waste our time hammering away at ones that exist only in the imagination, at least outside of art.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    I am anxiously awaiting the Nightline broadcast. I’ve put it on a sticky note on my laptop and my television. Thanks for bringing to light some of this unabashedly, shameful foolery that makes millions of dollars from people who want answers.

  7. collapse expand

    Dear Michael,

    thank you for having this dialogue with Deepak and friends, I am very much looking forward to watching it.

    I don’t know Jean’s work that much, but Deepak’s work has been invaluable on my path, it has helped me understand the growth of my own consciousness.

    What I’d like to say, Michael, is that a debate like this is naturally limited to intellectual arguments, to holding on to one’s own point of view and trying to prove it right. It is normal when debating, and I appreciate the way you considered your humanity and civility before you decided to focus on winning.

    I am convinced that you can not agree with Deepak’s point of view on God and reality based on your intellectual research only, because his God and your (non-existing) God are in different places in consciousness. You two actually speak about two different worlds…

    So I would like to offer you my cooperation if you should like to explore things in another way- through experience. I am a professional energy healer, and quite used to work in what Deepak calls the quantum field. If you should be at all curious about the possibility of your body being affected by someone who is not physically present in the same location as you, I would be glad to help. This would not have to do with the existence or non-existence of what you call God, but with the possibility that mind is not confined to physical body/brain, which is a start. I am no scientist, so …I would leave the scientific conclusions to you :) If they take you all the way to God or not… you will find out for yourself. What I offer you is my sincere help to experience something that you then can research from an intellectual point of view.

    We could work on something simple, like a minor health problem or physical discomfort. If you would perceive any effects at all in your own body because of something someone does far away (I am in Europe), then you could maybe have new questions and angles to your research. Your findings would be personal and private, no one including me needs to know what you experience.

    If you would like to try it, contact me at info(at)openone(dot)net. I wish you a great day!
    Aurora Carlson

    • collapse expand

      Aurora,

      Why don’t you prove all us skeptics wrong. Simply apply to the JREF’s Million dollar challenge and prove your healing ability and mastery of quantum mechanics while earning a lot of cash? Here is the link…http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge/challenge-application.html

      However I doubt you know anything about classical physics – much less quantum mechanics. Energy healer? Color me skeptical…

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Dear Brad, thank you for your comment. I am not interested in proving anything, and you are welcome to remain skeptical. I suppose you have not had any experience with energy healing, so it is only healthy that you do not believe in something you do not have personal experience of. My offer to Michael is not about proving anything, it is about offering an experience if he should be curious.
        Be well and have a great day!

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Perhaps this somehow makes me a lesser person, but it would be difficult for me if, surrounded by nay-sayers and disbelievers, taking countless potshots at my natural talents and career, treating me like a fool and a charlatan, to turn down any chance to prove them wrong. Maybe that makes you somehow more noble, but even then were I not the only one making the claims, to take the opportunity to prove that for my friends and colleagues who share those abilities just seems like something I couldn’t pass up.

          That, and even if I were selfless enough to forgo the shot at a million dollars (I have debt, I have bills, I have desires I can’t fulfill on my income), it would still provide the opportunity to donate the reward to charities I’ve been unable to support. Or, perhaps I could use the funds to be able to make my services available to many more needy people, and get the message of my abilities out to those who wouldn’t have been privy to them. Maybe set up some kind of outreach organization for others with my talents to find and help those in need and be compensated through a non-profit group of sorts.

          Again, perhaps there are elements of passing up an opportunity like that that I’m missing out on. Perhaps my lack of connectedness with the universe, or God, or your and Deepak’s unusual re-interpretation of quantum theory keeps me from understanding the wisdom in taking these options, and I’m sorry if I’m missing out on such enlightenment. My loss, I suppose.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Dear Jarett, this is not about being enlightened and noble or not- you seem to be sincere and well-intentioned in your questions, so I will gladly try to explain my view.

            Trying to prove anything to those who have decided it isn’t possible doesn’t attract me at all – maybe because I have learned to use my energy effectively. I do prove things all the time- I had to start by proving to myself that it was possible to improve the health of a person through energy work, because a person’s mind needs to participate for progress to happen. My work needs to be a constant proof of its validity- how else would I be able to help people, if the treatments wouldn’t actually prove their own efficacy? And also, I ned to prove to myself all the time that my growth to even wider truths is possible- which takes inner work.

            But that is the only kind of proof I need. My intention is to help people, and there is no lack of people seeking and receiving help. I prefer to put my energy on helping them and indirectly also spreading the -experience- of a reality more expanded than what many people believe.

            And I am in no way alone about it, I know many other healers doing as good a job as I am and better, and I myself teach people how to do what I do. So the truth is that the knowledge of how to affect material reality from a place “prior to” matter is not at all that uncommon as you might think. We all have the ability, but why on earth would I put energy into convincing anyone who isn’t interested?

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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      See aura…this is why we are skeptical. In your post you state that you are “quite used to working in what Depak calls the quantum field”. That is a very specific claim. One that you have no hope of supporting. Even if I grant you that you somehow help others…you have no evidence to show that your help was derived from some quantum process. You could just as easily state that you help people by channeling the special magical powers of leprechauns and unicorns as well. The only difference between the claims is that we have a good idea that Leprechauns and unicorns are not real so we dont take that claim serious. However attach the word quantum to your “energy healing” and you get to take advantage of the general ignorance of the “mysterious quantum world”. You cannot make a serious claim on something just because it “may be possible”. That would be an idea or a hypothesis and you could not make a claim such as “energy healing IS due to quantum processes”. At best you could say “Maybe the healing work I do COULD be due to some quantum process”. Those two statements are WORLDS apart. One of those requires no evidence…the other ABSOLUTELY requires you to provide evidence for the claim you make…because you make it with a certainty.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Dear Alljonz,

        I did make a mistake, I should have said ” I am used to working in what my understanding is of what Deepak calls the quantum field”. And my understanding of what I do is that I affect matter from a place where matter isn’t yet manifested fully, in the place where it is so refined still that it has not yet formed its final patterns yet.

        That is my definition of quantum field, but is it anything like what you call “quantum field”? I don’t know, and as I’m not a scientist, I won’t give my time to learning quantum physics. I am fully busy with doing what I am good at- exploring what is happening and how I can maximize the effects. If it is working, then I frankly don’t care what science calls it, I want to know exactly what I do and how I do it, and how I can perfect it even more to help even more people. And of course I have a frame of knowledge for all this, but I work in the language of traditions older than our Western contemporary science. Which is okay with me :)

        And if anyone in the world of modern science is honestly interested in researching and finding modern scientific explanations for what I experience daily, then I and surely many like me will be only happy to offer all they have. If we all come from a sincere desire for finding the best and highest, then a merging of the concepts and progress of science with the experimential findings of spiritual seekers would be in the intrest of everyone. All the best to you!

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          While I’m happy to see you correcting your wording to recognize that you can only assume this is the mechanism by which your abilities work (I wish Deepak himself would make that same adjustment), your final paragraph puzzles me. It seems to directly contradict your statement in your previous reply to me. In a nutshell (correct me if I’m understanding wrong), you suggest that your interest is only in helping others, and proving to the disbelievers doesn’t fit within those interests. And yet here you’re saying you’d be happy to assist those in the world of modern science in researching the subject and finding scientific explanations.

          So which is it? The difference seems to me to be a matter of credulity. You’re interested in working only with those who presuppose your same conclusion about your abilities and their validity. But this isn’t how any proper form of science works. Science does not, and cannot if it’s to be successful, start from a believer’s standpoint and seek only to explain the conclusion that has already been reached. Instead science comes from a hypothesis (“I can heal people remotely with my thoughts and energy”) and tries to disprove it. Scientists throw everything they can at the hypothesis to see if it’s false. If all of their good-faith efforts to falsify the hypothesis fail, they can then move on to the stage of assuming the hypothesis to be accurate and move on to trying to understand the mechanics of how it works.

          It seems to me that you wish to skip the invaluable first step in the process, the one in which your claims are doubted (the same step all scientific research must and has gone through), and go straight to the one that’s normally retained for only the principles that have effectively passed the tests and gained the respect of the scientific community. If even the greatest, most deeply respected scientists in the world are not granted this free pass for their ideas, I can honestly tell you it’s unreasonable for you to expect the same.

          The JREF challenge, or even the $50,000 IIG challenge from the CFI, are a fantastic and legitimate first step for this scientific process. Each start with a very reasonable preliminary test which is simply meant to encompass a simplified, less involved version of the first stage of that scientific process. Should a person manage under pre-determined, mutually agreed-upon terms to pass this exam, they move onto something more rigorous and far more scientific. From there, if they were to prove themselves, the scientific world would jump at the chance to experiment at what would be an incredibly exciting and essentially brand new branch of science. There would be research grants galore, Nobel prizes, notoriety, and careers to be gained. You can see why contrary to the belief that minds are closed about this sort of thing, scientist would be clamoring over something like this if it were proven. But from the number of false starts throughout history, nobody’s willing to jump to assume anything anymore without that first step. Too many careers and too much time and money get wasted that way.

          I hope you’ll reconsider the challenge with this in mind, realizing it truly is the first step toward the modern scientific understand you’re hoping to help with, and I can honestly say I’d be deeply excited if you won and proved there’s even more to this already incredible universe than we realized.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            How fascinating, Jarrett, thank you for explaining how scientific researchers conduct their research. So you mean that they throw in all the disbelief they can find and try all they can to prove something wrong, and if they can’t, then the hypothesis is true… how fascinating…

            You see, my own research doesn’t happen like that. It is more like what a child does when it learns to walk. You never see a child doubting all it can that it has an ability to walk. You don’t see the child intellectually presuming it has that ability either. Like a sprouting seed, it stretches upward, it feels an irresistible impulse to evolve, it keeps getting up no matter how many times it falls, until the “hypothesis” of walking is true. What I’m researching is the joy and fulfillment of my own growing abilities.

            The difference between me and a child though is that as an adult, I have a better developed critical mind which wants to know what is happening, which is incapable to understand the entirety of this life force and overall intelligence driving every plant up and out from its seed, which has had to witness my transformation many times without understanding logically, and has at times been bewildered by the awesome new capacities it has discovered.

            So my mind is not driving the process, but yes, many times it gets in the way. Still, if I had a mind that was focused strongly and only on denying in the way you describe, then it would be very hard to even evolve. I have seen children who have sadly been confined to their cribs and had not grown physically or learned to walk even after ten years of life. The same would happen with our new evolving abilities.

            The unfolding of such capacities in a human being is tightly related to the expansion of the mind, and is encouraged or hindered by the willingness or barriers set in the mind. We are after all using our very mind to research the capacities and unknown power of the mind.

            Dear Jarrett, what I’m trying to say is that these new functions of the human mind could be the next step in our evolution as a species. We are discovering that our mind has capacities beyond what we thought, which are emerging at this “age” of humanity just as naturally as walking, talking and all the rest we have already mastered. This unfolding is happening faster if we allow it. And maybe some of us are here to just go ahead and do it, and others are here to focus on understanding mentally why and how we are doing it… but it is the expansion of our own mind and capacities we are witnessing and researching.

            And what we are discovering exactly is that how we observe affects what is observed…

            That is why scientists who focus all they’ve got on doubting will create exactly what they expect, but might miss that they are creating their results themselves. And as I see it, the only chance to get out of the reality they have decided to stay in is to have the experience of something else. But for that, they have to have a mind open enough, curious enough, to look for more.

            Thank you for a refreshing discussion :) All the best to you!

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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          In reply to your last message at 12:45AM on 3/20/10, which reaches the thread limits and doesn’t allow a direct reply:

          While I appreciate your understanding, and your explanations of your process, I think you may be missing the point of the scientific process, focusing on what you’re seeing as a negative, and not missing the beautiful gain.

          See, this process that you’re seeing as dismissive is anything but. While you’re concentrating on the focus on disproving, the reality is it’s this very process that’s led to essentially every marvelous scientific discovery and breakthrough throughout recorded history. It’s this process that’s put us on the moon, that’s discovered the very quantum theory you’re fascinated by, that’s given us the ability to fix the eyesight of people from a minor stigmatism to some forms of blindness, that’s cured devastating diseases, that’s given us the ability to travel around the world in mere hours, that’s given us the ability to collaborate our knowledge across that same world within seconds like you and I are doing right now, that’s given us amazing tools to create art, and music, and literature in ways we couldn’t do before. You see, far from dismissing, this process helps us create and helps us hone our skills and crafts by separating the real, the tangible, the true, the useful from the deceptions and confusion that are so incredibly easy within the complex and unusual workings of our brains and how they perceive our world.

          But I described only one side of the coin of this branch of scientific study (and I’m honestly leaving out many, many other aspects), as it was the side for which I’m advocating right now. The other side of that coin is YOU, or people in your position. The person who poses the hypothesis is not necessarily always the one trying to disprove it. Often the person who poses it is seeing something that not necessarily everyone else yet can. That requires a certain point of view, a certain slant of light, a certain perspective, heck a HUNCH, to see that the rest of the world may have missed, or may not quite understand enough to believe. And it’s that person who makes all the effort to put together all the proof, all the supporting evidence, all the reasons why their hypothesis is true (although again, this usually requires making some effort to prove they’re not making mistakes or assumptions), and then the rest of the community tests it. This is what’s known as peer review. And yes, that testing is an effort to disprove it, out of necessity, but the thing is, if the hypothesis is TRUE, it CANNOT be disproven. Period. If it has a real and tangible effect, it simply cannot possibly be disproven. Perhaps the process may find that it works in a more narrow way than the advocate initially thought, or produces a slightly different result using an unexpected mechanism, and it may change the scope of the research, but if it’s true, it will NOT be disproven. And at this point the advocate for the hypothesis has been vindicated (and likely awarded in many ways), and the world has gained a new piece of knowledge that can be combined with the vast scientific knowledge that already exists to expand the abilities of this incredible race we call human.

          So no, scientists who doubt will not automatically find what they’re expecting and find something true to be false. That’s simply not possible. If the person putting it out there makes the effort to properly identify the new concept, and that concept is GENUINE and REAL, it doesn’t matter how much doubt the people testing it put forward, it will pass all the tests and be proven. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story? There’s something incredibly poetic and beautiful in someone beating all the odds and coming out ahead despite everything. And that poetry exists within science EVERY DAY. It’s the cornerstone of it, and it’s truly refreshing and invigorating to watch it. Albert Einstein was held to near ridicule over his theory of general relativity until the scientific process managed to prove he was right. We all know Darwin’s uphill battle, and yet as everyone tried to chip away at the competing theories fell by the wayside and only his (with plenty of modifications) stayed true against all the efforts to disprove it by the doubters. Just like love always wins in the movies, truth always wins in science.

          But at the end of the day, the open mind argument you use is honestly kind of a silly one. Because while the scientists may be skeptical of new claims, and may do their due diligence by trying to disprove them, at the end of the day their minds are EASILY changed by a very simple concept: evidence. But I find inevitably the person demanding the open mind is far more stubborn, and unwilling to accept any amount of evidence against their belief. It may be simply a difference on outlook, but I genuinely believe this leaves the scientists with the far more open position. Then again, one has to be careful. If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out. ;)

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Jarrett, your passion and enthusiasm are so awesome that I had to sit here and enjoy them for a while :) May you always be this alive and vital!

            You make good points, and I am honestly as grateful and inspired by all the scientific discoveries and progress as you are. I have nothing but admiration for the work of scientists who have brought humanity as far as this. And I apologize if I gave the impression that I consider their research methods negative. That is not what I mean. Let me see if I can explain further…

            You see… the methods that have worked up to now don’t necessarily have to be the best for exploring a deeper reality which interests so many of us at this point in our evolution. These methods are correct and appropriate for researching a certain level of reality- the obvious, gross, manifested one. On this level, truth is either or, this or that, and can be proven or disproven, period. Let us call it level A.

            On the level of reality I am speaking about, truth is both and, this and that, and can potentially be both proven and disproven. Let us call it level B.

            The scientific methods you describe are fantastic and work perfectly well on level A. They help our rational mind understand left from right, up from down, right from wrong and true from false. This is fantastic and reassuring to the rational mind… the human rational mind requires this kind of orientation to thrive and feel secure. But A is also a level of reality that requires gross, material intervention and much effort in order to change. If you see a tumour (and you’re a doctor!), you have to cut it out with your hands and a surgical knife.

            But then there is level B… that is where I work. The human mind can learn to access a level of reality where things are not fully materialized- the tumour is there and not there at the same time. From this level, the mind can affect the manifested outcome trough the way it observes, choosing the tumour to be “not there”. This is a much more subtle level of reality, and – which is the most important part- it requires access to a more subtle level of the mind.

            This subtle level of the mind is most easily reached if the surface, rational mind is relaxed and non-active. The rational mind is the one constantly structuring reality into right-left, up-down, you-me and true-false, it is the mind working on level A. In order to reach level B, the rational mind has to relax and let go. When it does that, it makes possible access to level B- and we call what happens then vision, insight, inspiration… or hunch as you so spontaneously called it. There is from where the great breakthroughs have come in all ages, with the subsequent cooperation of a well prepared surface/rational mind like Einstein’s, a surface mind capable to understand the new insight. But the breakthroughs don’t come from the surface mind, they come from level B, where we know things in another way – non-verbally and intuitively. At that level it also becomes possible to alter reality independent of space and time, as both space, time and matter are not yet fully manifested.

            That is why I was suggesting, Jarrett, that the mindset and methods used until now have their validity and usefulness, but may not work for the research of what we are discussing here. There is so much more that I could go into, but this post is getting long, and the sun is shining :)

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Response to 7:55am comment on 3/20/10:

          Sorry for the delayed response, but I’ve been too busy to check for additional comments.

          While I appreciate your response and deeper explanation of your meaning, I’m puzzled by two questions:

          What is your evidence that this level B exists? I hear people such as yourself and Deepak refer to concepts such as this, and yet there’s never an explanation of where this knowledge comes from. It seems similar, to me, to people of many religions who claim to know something, but can’t provide any reason. And what they know contradicts what the person in the next religion knows. Maybe it’s from their holy book, but they can’t explain how they know THEIR holy book is the right one. I’m just trying to understand that if your knowledge is so hard to pin down, how do you know it?

          That question’s nearly rhetorical, but feel free to respond anyway. I’m curious what your response might be. The next question’s the important one, though, and almost the only response I bothered with:

          Do your abilities within level B have a result? If they have an observable result, then they can be tested scientifically. If they don’t, then they can’t. But on the same token, if they don’t, then they’re irrelevant.

          You seem to be focusing on the fact that the process, for which I’m still wondering where the knowledge derives, can’t be observed by normal science (although what you describe is clearly modeled after quantum theory, which IS something scientists have ways to observe), and yet it’s still valuable because it allows you to heal people. Well, if the people are healed, that’s an observable result. Science can therefore test for observable results, and via very simple double-blind studies can confirm that the method works. Perhaps by your logic science may not be able to explain HOW it works or WHY it works, but science would be able to observe THAT it works, and lend credence to your mindset.

          Even if the results were unpredictable there would still be a positive blip in the statistics from the study, proving something’s going on. But if the results can’t be observed, then the question becomes ARE there results? If no, then how can one claim it worked?

          In response to another comment. See in context »
  8. collapse expand

    Honestly I felt like Deepak did an excellent job of representing the most successful and misleading kind of woo woo that is out there today. It can be especially convincing to those who are desperately looking for a reason to tie modern scientific research to their fanciful ideas about death and consciousness and existence in general.

    Jean on the other hand rarely said anything that had anything to do with what was actually being discussed and would continually pull the conversation in a different and much more confusing direction just as things were getting most interesting. She is honestly one of the worst speakers I can ever recall seeing at any of these debates. I have a personal policy of never skipping past opposing viewpoints while watching a debate but with Jean I ended up breaking that policy for the first time in many many months.

    Great debate overall and although you did very well, I would have to agree that it was Harris who stood out as the true rockstar of the event.

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    About Me

    Dr. Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. His latest book is The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics. His last book was Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and he is also the author of The Science of Good and Evil and of Why People Believe Weird Things. He received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine he has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!).

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