Showing posts with label brain processes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brain processes. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Brain Preparing for Death

NDEs that is extremely high stress experiences, OBEs, anoxia, awe, wonder and are common human experiences.  Not all humans have all such experiences, but most have experienced many of them.  One might argue logically that how they are interpreted is a clear indication of the fundamental basis of their human experience.  If any God or supernatural entity is the basis of their human experience all will be attributed to that entity.  If not other explanations, including WTFWT, will be considered. If God has never been a reasonable answer to any question it is not likely to be even considered as an answer to WTFWT.  If it remains as an important experience some natural explanation even a speculative one will be found and God will remain a belief for others irrelevant for an atheist who by the way may or may not be a materialist.  

A NDE is commonly described as one's life flashing by as if in a time lapse movie, which is the brains way of either finding a solution to the predicament or preparing a dream like state for death.  Believers attribute this dream like state as heaven or hell, and the anoxia induced light at the end of the tunnel as God.  Believers in reincarnation attribute the dream like state as preparation for the next life.  I know of one atheist who sees the dream like state as indefinite in length as dreams often are, which may last apparently eternally.  He is aware that the appearance of eternal is false, or perhaps has a holographic existence on the fabric of space-time.  But in any event, each person experiences that which will allow the brain to shut down to a calm rest in peace. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pure Thought

Jun 21, 2015 -- 10:54AM, Blü wrote:
And can you offer a testable (hence falsifiable) hypothesis about the manner in which thought on its own could exist, could be informed, could change, could remember, could reason, could formulate and articulate (or otherwise communicate) information (&c)?

If so I'd be delighted to pursue your question.

Another way to detect thought is through EEG. The thoughts produced and measured by MRI admittedly a physical process can be observed to be synchronized by mirror neurons, musical expression, and synchrony of movements in animals and people.  These thought patterns can control computers, prosthetics, etc. and the computer interface can process the information to incorporate feedback to refine control like being able to pick up a raw egg.  

Is it not possible that another brain can process, change, remember and reason on, and store the information of this synchronized information?   The information must be physically created originally by a brain, but is the result not observably "pure thought?"  

My observation is that God is nothing more than repeated and memorized fictional reality data created over time by people and incorporated into religious ritual and dogma. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Yesterday is up. No, it is East.
What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.
Where yesterday is depends on your native language in the title Mandarin and Kuuk Thaayorre (aboriginal Australian) respectively.  I don't know about you but as an English speaker it is behind me.

If you describe a key or a bridge in English, the words you choose have the characteristics of the gender of the word in your native language if that native language is gendered.

A sentence in Japanese where many things seem to me to be personalized I remember from my capital budgeting days is "The air conditioner for our office wants to leak, we are not permitted to repair it, but the building will close its eyes if we do so."

A fascinating article. Linked to study.  Well worth the time. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Thoughts from The Believing Brain.

I have just started The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer. This post is a collection of quotes and reactions not to be taken too seriously. It is definitely not a review, and should not be quoted as such.
"The brain is a belief engine.
Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow: Belief-dependent realism." p5
Pattern seeking certainly, but a belief engine? I think not.
"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons." p36
Certainly true for many smart people that are not trained to be skeptical about beliefs in general. There may in fact be two types of people, believers and for lack of a better term philosophical non-believers. Or in Heinlein's terms learners.
I have no beliefs. Belief gets in the way of learning. Lazarus Long Time Enough For Love, Robert A Heinlein, 1973 p20.
Chapter 3 The journey of a believer from nowhere to religion to fundie skepticism. The will to believe will not be denied. I hope he does more with his thinking up to the conversion in 12th grade.
Chapter 4 Patternicity
People believe weird things because of an evolved need to believe unweird things. p62
He is assuming that there is no evolutionary pressure to sort out the weird things from the unwierd, since the cost of believing in weird things is assumed to be zero. This may be true for the evolutionary scenario for individuals, the theory being that there is no cost for being skittish of wind in the grass compared with the cost of a lion in the grass. But in a sense this is a Pascal Wager argument. If one shies at every odd movement, one will never get the hunting or gathering done. There must be a BS detector built into the belief system even at the primitive level.
The rest of the chapter is a series of experiments in pattern seeking in uncertain situations. In the Ono experiments the subjects were in effect told to find patterns. "If you do something you will get points on the counter." The Catania and Cutts experiment also created the impression of pattern possibility. Encouraging pattern seeking behavior involving the two buttons.
Chapter 5 Agenticity.
Typical of a skeptic believer Shermer picks extreme examples to mask the underlying reality of the natural duality of the human mind. As if you have to be in extreme conditions to be aware of the inner control segment of the mind. True most of us don't hallucinate doubles or OBEs or God for that matter, but the society imprints the necessary and life maintaining control mechanisms on the subconscious mind that we seldom are aware of. Including the necessary social controls necessary for getting along with "our people." It also takes care of the extreme staying alive situations by essentially shutting down the vaunted rational cortical control and going back to the basics of breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.

He includes the obligatory skeptical look at some of the weirder manifestations of this duality. Sort of like the cartoon ex-drunk sweeping the drinks off the bar. Too much time spent on paranormal psychic garbage, which are God substitute ways of staying in contact with and attempting to manage the inner control mechanism.
It was just one of many readings [of conversations with the dead] (at ninety dollars a pop) conducted [by one of the gurus for the psychic crowd.]
The position of shaman... is lovely work, if you can stomach it. Lazarus Long.

Chapter 6 Part 1. The neurological argument for the mind. He starts by demolishing a straw man argument of a mental force argument for the mind, weak argument weak rebuttal. The description of the working of neurons is detailed, and informative, about the right mix of science and gee whiz for the educated layperson who is the presumed target for the book. The discussion of dopamine as the belief mediator it detailed and persuasive. I am skeptical of experimental protocols using groups of skeptics and believers as subjects, as the skeptics seem to be believers in skepticism, that is ESP and the paranormal is crap. As a true non-believer, I wonder if some of the pattern finding activities might show different results for those with a finely honed pattern finding facility with an excellent BS detector as well. Apparently more to come on this issue. A nice few pages on patternivity, creativity and madness. Using 3 Nobel prize winners Feinman of A bomb fame, Mullis of Polymerase Chain Reaction fame, and Nash whose game theory equilibrium is certifiably crazy. Feinman sane and creative Nash Schizophrenic and creative and Mullis somewhere in the middle, a definite believer in weird things, but somehow able to sort out the weirdness useful enough for a Nobel. I am not convinced that the craziness is not in the eye of the beholder, Shermer in this case.
Chapter 6b Good discussion of mind-brain that makes me wonder about whether all monists are believers in the sense of either the mind belongs to God or it belongs to me as actions of the brain. Quot\ing Paul Bloom: "We are natural born dualists." He then goes on to defend monism as an unnatural state of affairs, which I find involved belief. He then goes on to explain the Theory of Mind (TOM) which is the way we think about how we think and how others think. Tying it all together with agency, mirror neurons, and story creation. According to Sam Harris experiment on 14 subjects some "believers" some not. We perceive all things as true and evaluation of falsity is a separate function. Even religious statements for believers and non alike p135-7 I wonder if any "real" non-believers, (acreds) that is non-believers unrelated to religious beliefs were a part of the experiment. I would be curious to see the raw data and see if there was an "anomalous" result that was thrown out. Probably not as I find acreds to be a very small segment of even the secular and especially the skeptic population.
P143-4 Making a lot of stew from the oyster of the Harris poll. Where are the unbelievers in the dthe 6 pretty well cover the waterfront. ata? Ok for believers in afterlife he gives some plausible reasons. Pick one and you can explain anything.

148-50 way too much attention and debunking given to ESP theory of the afterlife. To be expected from a believing skeptic. Lots of what is the mechanism and reliance on the data protocols of esp skeptics. Look for esp under the streetlight of heavy emotional content: Lovers and musicians and dancers.
P152-6 Long discussion of NDEs and drug induced OBEs which he as expected confirm his belief in monism.
It may be true that the brain is 9integral with the mind, but as I read the data a natural dualism explains things better.

Amusing but basically useless CNN panel including all of the usual suspects Depak Chopra, Sanjay Gupta, and a few NDE survivors and reincarnations for color. I won’t watch the replay.

The wrap up of the chapter is the counter argument that lack of afterlife simply makes this life important. As I use it all the time myself in almost the same words he has to be right.

It is nice to see that believers and acreds can come to the same conclusions occasionally.
P171 In his discussion of VMAT2 gene which seems to give 'Self forgetfulness' and "transpersonal identification" and "mysticism". The link to nicotine addiction seems plausible to me, absent other influences which was the basis for the study, the link to God p172 seems like a leap of faith. It would seem that eg Mormon eschewing of nicotine, caffeine, and other addictive substances, would lead to the opposite conclusion that VMAT2 would lead away from God belief to self actualization.
p 170 the link of DRD4 to risk seeking behavior seems unrelated to God belief to me, not sure what Shermer is trying to get to here. It would seem that risk aversion is more closely related to God beliefs, and therefore low DRD4=high dopamine fix naturally would lead to no risk belief in God.

I wonder about this psychobabble self-transcendence. "Becoming totally absorbed in an activity, feeling connected to the larger world, and an unwillingness to disbelieve in unfashionable things like ESP (my restatement of the last) sounds like simple rational intelligence to me not spirituality. Dopamine makes you feel good about the way you look at the world. If you look at it without beliefs or prejudices, and concentrate on things that make the larger world a better place of course you will get a dopamine high. Any relationship to God beliefs is clearly Shermers belief in a believing brain.

pp172-184 Conventional skeptical analysis of God belief as created by humans to fill a God hole in their brain. Certainly true for a large portion of the population who will disagree with the human creation part and assert a Creator.

p186 "It is time to step out of our evolutionary heritage and our historical traditions and embrace science as the best tool ever devised for explaining how the world works. It is time to work together to create a social and political world that embraces moral principles [Whose?]and yet allows natural human diversity to floursh." "Religion cannot ...." Although he denies it typical liberal skeptic BS.

Chapter 9. Conventional skeptical look at the alien as replacement for God. Now that religion has lost its elevated position. He uses it to buttress his premise that the belief comes first and justification later. It works just fine.

Chapter 10. Standard debunking of conspiracy theories focusing on 9/11. Not enough focus on why conspiracy theorists think the way they do.

Chapt 11 Politics. He begins with Jost's Meta-study of conservatives linking conservatism to psychological management of uncertainty and fear. I am less comfortable with the endorsement of inequality. Haight points out the group binding and support of essential institutions as part of the conservative pattern. He Lakoffalso mentions the Political Mind, Lakoff and The Political Brain, Weston p234 with the liberal trope (This God forbid) rationality, intelligence, & optimism. This conflicts with Shermer's belief bias toward Libertarianism. He confirms this by the association of university profs with liberalism. Duh they all are smart, flexible and rational enough to get a PhD. [Also at least in my experience they have left behind their religious beliefs if they ever had any. The selection process is reinforced by the conservative religious bias against education.] Interesting factoid, USA Today is the most centrist media. Probably due to its primary market in the hotel and travel areas where money talks and the well off are either liberal or successful conservatives generally at least well educated.

He then conflates p237-40 belief based morality with politics using Haight and Graham's 5 innate and universal moral parameters. 1. Harm/Care. 2. Fairness/Reciprocity. 3. In-Group/Loyalty. 4. Authority/Respect. 5. Purity/sanctity.

P 240 "Liberals question authority, celebrate diversity, and often flaunt(sic) faith and tradition in order to care for the weak and oppressed" ?????

"Religion and Government are the two systems for social control and watchdogs" to control the free riders. Shrmer then wastes a few pages with different studies using different words to confirm his belief that liberals weight H/C, F/R higher than G/L A/R & P/S with conservatives the opposite.

He then spends several pages setting up the justification for his Libertarian BS. (Which according to the thesis of the book came first.)

Chapter 12 101 ways our brains fool us into thinking we are right. He starts with one of my favorites post hoc odds. "A talk show you will never see: Our guest has had several dreams about the death of prominent people none of which have happened. Stay tuned maybe the next one will be confirmed" p260-1 describes a delightful experiment in which 15 Dems and 15 GOPs were wired up and presented statements by Bush and Kerry in which they contradicted themselves. The cognitive areas of the brain were out of the circuit, the emotional areas and conflict resolution areas were hot and everybody got a dopamine fix when their candidate was right.
He goes on to describe all the usual suspects Hindsight bias and self justification bias getting prominent attention, along with a host of other biases people use to avoid thinking about what they are observing.
The obligatory debunking of ESP. [not convincing] but a good discussion of the return to the mean fallacy. The SI Cover jinx is simply back to normal for the athlete after a flurry of good stuff that made the cover. Extraordinary things happen given enough time and attention. It is important to recognize they are just that: things on the tails of the bell curve.

I get the impression that in Chapter 13 Shermer is trying to justify his belief comes first in the face of the fact that the inductive paradigm of science has the potential to put the data before the belief in spite of our inherent tendency in his thesis of belief first. He properly points out that in Terra Incognata the absence of belief is liberating, and frees science to create de novo theories, unclouded by belief. But he seems a bit uncomfortable with this conclusion and points to belief based interpretations of data by Columbus and even Galileo in his interpretation of the Saturn data. It seems he is fighting a confirmation bias of his own Belief first belief. Which is threatened by the Scientific Method. He claims to be examining this in the final chapters. We shall see.

Chapt 14a Even astronomers can be victims of confirmation bias, but eventually science prevails, as a lead in to the orgins question.
Chapt 14b. Apparently an extended confirmation bias of Goddidntdoit. Shermer presents a bunch of origin of the universe theories as if they have more value than Goddidit. He messes around with the theist argument of the cosmological constants being just right for our existence as if there needs to be an explanation. Or as if no explanation is conceding the Goddidit argument. Amusing speculations to be sure as a confirmation bias that Goddidntdoit. But what is wrong with the universe exists, I exist, it all works. The only reasonable answer to why? is don't know, don't care.

From Beliefnet:"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons."

—Micheal Shermer--"

In his most recent book The Believing Mind, Times Books, 2011 Shermer makes a strong case that the human brain is necessarily a belief engine. His case is that pattern seeking and assigning agency to the patterns is a survival trait built in to the brain. His claim is that we believe first and think about it later, if ever.

In my experience this is as true of atheists and skeptics (including Shermer) as it is for religious believers. As many will testify dragging a belief say about UFOs out and trying to ask whether the belief is justified or not is extremely difficult for most people. Whether you are for 'em or ag'in 'em can you really decide you just don't know? My experience is that most people can't on any belief based subject which is to say, if Shermer is right, all subjects. It as if "I just don't know" just doesn't have a home in the human brain. "That's right!" has many homes OFC and ACC and lots of reward mechanisms in the ventral striatum in the brain. P 260. This makes a lot of sense, in the modern world "I don't know" gets in the way of many necessary decisions. Which stock to buy, which way to bet on a business decision, etc, as they say, it is better to go with the gut, i.e. the belief systems in the brain, and just do it.

I of course can't speak for Shermer but one of the reasons I enjoyed the book is that he makes a hard scientific case, that is materialistic and rational, for woo-woo. Maybe I am belief disabled, or I had the wrong upbringing and went to the wrong school, but I have never been able to understand how extremely intelligent and rational people can believe weird things. I think I understand it better now, but I am still an outsider looking in.

Whew, finally done. Formal review on Thinking on the Blue Roads

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Self is brain function

If Man is the Measure- Beliefnet

Here's the deal. Do you believe in freedom, or not? Is self merely an epiphenomenon? Is self merely a result of brain function?

If it is, then, is there or is there not such a thing as a (personal) feed-back loop? In concert, what about what we have discovered about brain plasticity? In concert, what is the placebo effect?

Can self 'operate' on itself? ..........Or is this an illusion?

"Self is brain function. It certainly can and does operate on itself. The self like any other brain process generates stimuli for other areas of the brain, including the more primitive areas of the cerebellum and brain stem. These areas send back other stimuli that may be interpreted by the self as relevant to activities it may be contemplating.

The placebo effect is simply the cognitive areas of the brain providing stimuli to the control centers of the brain that certain actions are appropriate, an increase in body temperature, a nap that might be otherwise ignored etc.

In order to survive before the advent of medicine the human needed considerable control over the autonomous nervous system. We still have it. A very intelligent family practitioner I know well, commented on some odd medicine that worked for me, 'If you believe in your doctor, everything she tells you to do works.' As a result of that advice, the only thing I believe in is my doctor. Which by the way was a chosen belief."

Human Cognition

Human Cognition: Can Materialism explain it?- Beliefnet

That is exactly what we see; therefore, until this changes, materialism has been vindicated thus far as the ontology which most accurately describes our universe.

As long as you are willing to stipulate that materialism does very poorly in describing a probably insignificant blip in the universe called human cognition. At this point all materialism can say about cognition is that somehow neurochemicals and electrical impulses in neurons create or possibly detect cognition. I readily admit my cognitive bias that cognition is created in the mind/brain, but materialism must by definition be agnostic.

In particular I would like the materialists to explain how a top level string quartet manages the rubato, retards, fermatas, and other musical effects to produce a performance that can make a listener cry, or in one case of a Quatuor pour la fin du temps, sob uncontrollably. Or how a listener can control the attacks of a professional Rock band. All of which I have personally observed.

Or explain

With a dramatic bow of pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s head, rich sounds of the piano, violins, cello and viola broke the concert hall silence as he and a string quartet played Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44.

The standing ovation lasted nearly five minutes, so long that the 20-year-old from Japan returned to the stage twice to bow, grinning from ear to ear.

The audience may have loved Friday’s performance, but not everyone may have known its significance. Tsujii—who was born blind—had to figure out how to cue the other musicians. That was especially important with the Schumann piece, because all instruments must start playing simultaneously in the first movement.
Japan Today

Yeah, sure. The quartet all mentally counted the 3472 microseconds from when his blind eyes crossed the horizontal and they all came in on the 3473rd. There was something else going on here. The leader, in this case Tsujii caused the syncing of the brain waves of the quintet so they could all attack at the same instant. A trained human ear can hear at least millisecond differences in the attack of stringed instruments. With a good ensemble it never does.

As a high level ensemble singer I know who is syncing the brain waves, the conductor, and when hesh loses concentration, the performance falls apart. I remember one performance of the Faure Requiem where the conductor was somewhere in never-never-land. He was waving the stick OK but the entrances especially on the Kyrie were painfully out of sync.

It is my theory, I have no experience to back this up, is that the leadership in a small ensemble like a string quartet, passes smoothly from one performer to another, perhaps on the importance of the part at that point, and they all follow that lead.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Brain: Fact or Faith - Same old same old

The Brain Processes Facts and Beliefs the Same Way | Newsweek BeliefWatch: Lisa Miller |
"Harris, Kaplan, et al. put 30 people in fMRI machines. Half of them were committed Christian believers, the kind of Christians who would immediately agree with the statement 'Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.' Half were committed atheists, the kind who would agree with the statement 'The belief that Jesus ascended to heaven is clearly false.' Up on a screen before them, participants would read declarative statements. Some were statements of religious belief, some of religious disbelief. Some were statements about more ordinary facts. Participants had to push buttons—indicating true or false—as the researchers watched their brains light up. Belief in God, disbelief in God, and belief in simple empirically verifiable facts all lit up the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs your sense of self. We are, in some sense, what we believe."

It ain't quite as simple as Newsweek would have you believe, but the disconnect between fundies and scientists seems to reside in the same area of the brain. A religious belief and a science fact lie in the same parts of the brain as self image. No wonder we can't talk to each other.