Talking to Sebastian Dieguez

Under the Sea, Under the Sea
(Dieguez desperately fighting for his world-view paradigms...)

These below are my comments to Sebastian Dieguez reply to Jime Sayaka (blog subversive thinking). The original link for Sebastian's reply is this one.

Ok, I decided to make my brief comments in the whole of Dieguez reply to ST (run by Jime Sayaka). My comments in blue (note that I have removed the hyperlinks from the original text)

Subversive Thinking responded (some time ago) to my comments on his critique of my review (of which some words here) of Irreducible Mind. I will in turn answer to it, quite at length, but first I want to thank ST for his time and say sorry if I even minimally hurt or shocked him in any way. Personnally, I don't mind about irony and sarcasm at all in a discussion, I'm more annoyed by sanctimony, self-righteousness, whining and boring people altogether. But more on this later. Ok, so now to the lion's pit. I write in black, Subversive Thinking's comments are indented and red (warning, this is the reverse from the previous post, sorry for the inconsistency but that was just easier), external quotes are in green.

I explained in my review and in my first comments that IM's argument amounts to a "soul of the gaps" (i.e. the "transmission" hypothesis of mind-brain relationships).

Note, Sebastian, that the logic from the authors here is that a soul fits in the gaps, but many other alternative “theories” do not fit in it. That is why this is not precise to label this approach from them as a soul of the gaps. When we talk of soul of the gaps or God of the gaps we are referring to something different. We are saying this: “Hey, this does not have an explanation, so God may be the cause.” Borrowing an example from this very discussion but using it according to my logic: “Spontaneous cancer remission has no cause that I know of, therefore it was God that miraculously cured my friend from his cancer!” Note that in this situation there is no pattern that leads you to prefer God over alternative theories. You are making this choice based on faith. But imagine this other (hypothetical) scenario: “Gosh, these innumerable and fantastic advanced physic’s equations are coming out of nowhere on the screen of my computer; they are hundreds of years advanced from what we know. It must be coming from some god-like intelligence out there!” (remember the movie “Contact”, after the book by Carl Sagan?). In this example we have a pattern that helps us in trying to create a “theory” to explain the phenomenon. IM is closer to this last example (though the authors’ conclusions and theory may be wrong).

ST insists that this particular “theory” is a logical "conclusion" from the available data, and not an "assumption" at all.

Sorry, I ended up adding to the “lots of repetitions” and “more of the same”… :-)

This is like saying that Intelligent Design is a logical conclusion from the available data.

And actually it is…! You can take it from me. I am a biologist who has thought it over lengthily, and who has read a lot from the contending parties on this matter. But this has to be further elaborated (and expect nothing more than strict mainstream evolutionary thinking from me on this matter).

Sorry, but no, dualism in any of its forms (and “transmission” is certainly a brand of dualism)

I am not really trying to dwell on that PhD student stuff. But anyway, I like to share viewpoints regarding proper attitude and remarks and not proper attitude/remarks. Do not see that, please, so much as preaching, but rather as an exchange of viewpoints. You said above, “any of its forms.” Some people say, and I agree, that scientists (at least while they are trying to behave as scientists) should avoid words that convey totality. There is a nice phrase that says “Always and never are two words you should always remember never to say.” Alongside this, I have heard more than once (and I agree) that “true scientists speak in probabilities” (instead from in yes and no).

does simply not follow from what one finds in IM. A “transmission” theory of mind-brain relationships simply needlessly multiplies the number of entities necessary to make sense of the data.

You see, monism, dualism, and pluralism are concepts that keep coming and going throughout the history of human thought. IMHO, these concepts are not to be despised. Instead, we should look at them with respect, care and wisdom. They all have kernels of truth in them (IMO). And especially neuroscientists should be quite welcoming towards the idea of multiplication of entities. Have you, Sebastian, ever entered consciously into your dreams and tried to talk to the dream people from your very own mind? Well, I have (and also many other people have too). And what we find in us is truly amazing, and far from “unitary” (monistic).

Consider an example: either people or aliens are responsible for a particular crop-circle, it does not help at all to put forward the possibility that aliens are remotely controlling enslaved human beings to make crop circles from outer space.

Why are you doing away with aliens, to begin with? If you show that child prodigies are explainable through present-day neurological knowledge, then this specific phenomenon ceases to require an alternative explanation (be it dualistic, demonical, etc). That is the point. That is what I meant when I replied to Jime at the link below:

I said: “At a preliminary reflection, I think only survival seems necessarily to outstrip the potential powers of the body.” What I meant was that I actually saw very little “irreducibility” in what the authors presented. Even psi (say, telepathy) may exist and yet be reduced to ordinary well-known neurology.

At any rate, as long as “transmission” remains such a poorly elaborated alternative to materialism, then one is allowed to adopt any other indeterminate guesswork about how the universe works (divine intervention, an alien trickster, magic wand-like super ESP, and so forth). All of this is utterly unwarranted if one is serious about making scientific progress.

The authors of IM follow Myers in his strategy of building a "bundle" of converging evidence, assuming like him that there is a continuum of normal, unusual and psychical phenomena that suggests a stratified view of the human mind, each layer sort of producing its own phenomena depending on the more of less "permeability" of hidden forces, or something. But this is entirely artificial,

Not really. The point is that they see something more than "monism." They see sometimes a dualism and sometimes a pluralism. Just like I do when I go into my dreams (or perhaps just like Minsky does when he talks about "multimind" or of "society of mind").

there is no obvious reason why stigmata, the placebo effect, genius, NDEs and mystical experiences should all point to the same conclusion, even if there were anything genuinely paranormal about them (which is precisely the question at stake).

Yes, there is an obvious reason. They are all... Mind! The question is: are they paranormal? I do not know. Chances are they are not. But chance may be illusory and misleading.

Anyway, I’m not here to re-review this book. So let’s take ST’s comments one by one. After making much of my alleged confusion between “assumption” and “conclusion”, he writes:

Dieguez fails to discern between knowing the existence of a fact and knowing the explanation for a fact. This conflating is astonishing in a PhD. student.

See what I mean when I say sanctimonious and boring? This “PhD” thing will come up several times in the discussion, so let me say right away to ST that I like discussion and dialogue (vigorous or not), but I don’t take lessons from complete strangers about the moral and scientific standards a PhD student should hold. If ST doesn’t have a PhD, then I suggest he tries to obtain one so that he can put his particular standards to good use. If he already has one or is doing one, then good for him, he must be proud and very serious about it.

Well, the good thing is that I do not have a PhD and most certainly I am not going to have one. So I can be spared this dispute... :-)

In any case, what he’s doing here is transparent: he simply says that everything that is described in IM are facts, but because not all of them have an explanation, then I simply prefer to ignore them. That’s must be because I’m stubborn, ignorant, and fearful of change. Well, I don’t buy this rhetoric and I dislike it. So let me repeat: the paranormal aspects described in IM (veridical perceptions during NDEs, mediumship, apparitions, ESP in general, etc.), are not facts, have not been established as facts, and do not seem to be in any progress of being accepted as facts anytime soon.

I would be very cautious in talking about these matters. There are good cases of NDE. Pam Reynolds is arguably the best. ESP in Ganzfeld is, IMO, already established (and this is my most extreme claim in this whole issue). These two examples I can talk about because I know enough. The mediumship of Mrs. Piper seems indeed to be the "white crow" that William James talked about. But this last example I do not know enough. And surely Sebastian does not too. So why should we talk (and come to verdicts!) about things we do not know? I, for one, refuse to do it.

Therefore, what needs to be explained, is what is going on with the persons who report such things, the scientists who claim to have observed them and the persons who believe them. This might be ultimately misguided, but it is a reasonable and parsimonious approach (and even the only one who can actually help establish the paranormal as real).

I fear I am (together with Jime) being directed to a mental institution... :-).  I must deserve it!

Then he goes on to provide examples of things that exist but that have no explanation:

-Consciousness is known (by introspection), but nobody has presented any adequate model to explain how on earth matter produces it. That is, we don't have an explanation for consciousness.

-Spontaneous remission of cancer is a known (and infrequent) clinical fact. But no one knows the explanation for such fact (and there is not oncological theory that predicts it, because cancer is considered a progressive fatal disease if left untreated).

-The placebo effect is a well known fact in medicine, but no adequate explanation for it exists. In fact, given that the placebo effect is, by definition, caused by the belief of patients (and therefore, by their subjectivity) some materialists have tried to dismiss it.

Well, I humbly kind of disagree from the "examples" above. First, I agree with consciousness, even though this has to be more elaborated. But spontaneous remission of cancer and placebo effect are most likely pretty much explainable through conventional science. In both cases, the action of the so called neuro-immune-endocrine system is most likely at play.

He could go on and on actually. Nothing in the universe is completely explained.

We should, IMHO, be wary of terms like "nothing" and "everything," as I mentioned earlier (for example: arguably, the decay of subatomic particles IS fully explained...). But in general lines, I agree with Sebastian.

That’s not how science works. But let’s take these examples in turn. I think that consciousness does exist, but only insofar as intelligence, jealousy or patriotism also exist. These are bad examples of what one would consider a “fact”. First, you have to go through the trouble of defining consciousness, otherwise you might as well claim that the soul exists through introspection. But more importantly, this definition will inevitably color your assessment of the neuroscientific data. Some views of consciousness simply beg the question by stating right off that it will never be explained by science.

Sometimes this is not question begging, but rather pure and robust inference. This Link.

I’m not interested in such an approach. I was at the latest Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness in Berlin (13th ASSC), and believe me, people are working hard on this topic and making progress on many fronts. Now, the scientific study of consciousness is very recent in the history of science, and there is still a long way to go.

Obviously we need to define well what is meant by the alleged "scientific study of consciousness." Yet, in some of its versions, it is true that this study is recent (as informed to us by Antonio Damasio in "The Feeling of What Happens" - 2000).

But even so, it is encouraging to compare the results and progress of cognitive neuroscience in this area to that of psychical research and parapsychology, which have been at it for more than a century. You only have to learn a little bit about what happens in the brain during binocular rivalry, backward masking, synaesthesia, blindsight, hallucinations and so forth. We do know a lot. The phenomena I just listed have been unambiguously established and are beginning to be explained. Can you say with a straight face that ESP and survival have been established in the same way?

You have to study the alleged evidence (for ESP or for psi) very deeply. However, I agree that the simple (and straightforward) answer to this question above is "No." Yet, Psi in Ganzfeld...

Then there is the example of spontaneous remission of cancer. Think of the differences with the previous example. This is something altogether different: what counts as “spontaneous”, what counts as “remission” and what type of “cancer” exactly? How big is the pool of such events to allow for systematic research? What type of explanations has been previously advanced? Etc. I’m not going to do the homework now, this is not my field, but I’m unimpressed by the comparison of this example to, say, the reality of distant healing through prayer (as unashamedly discussed in IM).

Then there’s the placebo effect, which is also discussed in IM, as if somehow this interesting phenomenon should lead one to believe in dualism or survival. The topic has been a hot one in medical science for the last 15 years or so. There are tons of research and reviews on the topic. There are many issues of definition, methodology, interpretation etc., but it is certainly false to say that “materialists” dismiss it. Otherwise, why should literally every study conducted by materialist medical scientists include a “placebo” group?

So there you go, three very bad examples to distract one from the only problem we are dealing with: please establish ESP, veridical perceptions during OBEs-NDEs and communications from the deceased as facts, and then look for an explanation.

Sebastian, it is true that you do have a point here, and a good one too. But can you, with a straight face, tell me that one can get a PhD in neuroscience refusing to look at the evidence for: binocular rivalry, backward masking, synaesthesia, blindsight, hallucinations and so forth? Yet one can get a PhD in neuroscience and in psychology refusing to look at the evidence for communication with the dead and for ESP in Ganzfeld. And these people that are allowed and encouraged to refuse to look at this evidence are, at the very same time, encouraged and rewarded for stepping forward and declaring that there is no scientific evidence for these phenomena that they know absolutely nothing (or close to it) about. Can you, Sebastian, with a straight face   tell us that this is not double standards?

I do have a problem with the arrogance of IM in dismissing the successes and constant progress of cognitive science

I do not quite recall them doing it...

without proposing a clear and testable alternative.

As I mentioned in another text, it is my sincere belief that, according to the very view of the authors themselves, YOU (Sebastian) are the clear and testable alternative (by scientifically looking at phenomena like OBE and NDE using the tools of neuroscience). YOU are the very forest complaining that they (the authors) did not present any tree...

But this is not my main concern. My main concern is that any such alternative theory is not warranted,

You are referring to the paranormal views.

because the paranormal as not been established

Question begging. Look deeply at Ganzfeld.

and the real world behaves exactly as if there was no paranormal in the first place.

Circular reasoning that is going to take you only where you already are (that is what circular reasoning is meant to anyway...).       
If I get you back to 1920, you, Sebastian, would be saying that the world behaves exactly as if there was no dark energy in the first place. And actually this dark energy, as we know now, is more than 70 percent of what truly there is. A better way to rephrase your thought would be, IMHO, the world behaves exactly as if there is what there is. And we perceive what we can. That is it. And you know it.

I am reminded here of a 70’s picture showing Uri Geller covered by electrodes and measuring machines at SRI, as if the explanation of fraud and chutzpah was to be found in his physiology.

And you know what that was? It got published in Nature, in one of the bravest and most honest moments in the history of science (read the editor's opening letter about it).

The example of the placebo effect is immediately followed by this gem (oops, that is another  gem...  )

That "the mind can affect the body's biochemistry" is what we'd expected IF dualism is true.

I couldn't disagree more. Why does ST think that dualism is overwhelmingly rejected by scientists? He surely must realize that the main problem with dualism is precisely the lack of explanation for how "the mind can affect the body's biochemistry". By definition, this problem does not exist for materialism: it is simply a thing we must study carefully. You see, if the “mind” really is nothing but brain processes, then its effect on the body’s chemistry is not such a big problem after all. But then, I’m only being a rude PhD student, what do I know.

IMHO, both views are possible. Dualism and monism could work quite fine.

So, Dieguez's argument, if applied consistently, would be useful to refute and dismiss much of the data accepted by mainstream science. His argument that an explanation is needed would serve to dismiss spontaneous remission of cancer or consciousness. His argument that the data is controversial would serve to refute consciousness too (since there is controversy about if consciousness exists at all, as argued by some eliminative materialists and even by Dieguez who consider it an illusion of the brain)

This is nonsense. I’m not the one suggesting that one should look for a miraculous and revolutionary non-materialist approach to consciousness, spontaneous remission of cancer or the placebo effect. Persons like ST and the authors of IM are. Because these are gaps in our full understanding of the material world, they jump to the conclusion of the “soul of the gaps” (so one is left with a choice to make: either “promissory materialism” or “the soul of the gaps”: take your bets).

And I want to say something about the use ST makes of the notion of “controversy” here. Consciousness research is controversial in the same sense that there is controversy in any field of science (evolution, physics, animal behaviour, sociology…). That type of controversy is good and scientists just love it, it allows them to compete against each other and therefore accelerate progress. The mistake comes perhaps from also calling such things as parapsychology and creationism “controversial”. This is too weak a word. These things should better be qualified as “esoteric”, “stupid”, “nonexistent” or “false”. This should go without saying, but then believers are convinced that research on ESP and research on consciousness somehow stand on the same ground. This obviously leads to many misunderstandings, so here I brought two simple examples : (i) Uri Geller claims (or claimed) to bend spoons with the power of his mind alone, (ii) there exist some accounts of levitation. So, should we try to confirm scientifically these observations, or right away bring our measurement devices to try to explain how such feats are done? If you don’t do the job to the satisfaction of all parties, if then you nevertheless claim that these “observations” disprove “materialism”, and if eventually you argue that there must be a better explanation but then merely say something vague about the soul or whatever, then you have effectively established yourself as a crackpot. The examples and comments of ST are irrelevant here. Before you try to explain something, there has to be a something.

In the following sentence, ST thinks he caught me in a blatant demonstration of bias.

Thus, Dieguez doesn't reject paranormal phenomena due to a lack of explanation or a lack of a theory for it, but because it's inconsistent with materialism. And this point was explicitly conceded by Dieguez in this comment in Michael Prescott's blog: "Materialism has not been destroyed by the cross-correspondences or by NDEs, because materialism is simply unaffected by the multiplication of GHOST STORIES" (Note how Dieguez conflates paranormal evidence with ghosts, conflating a genus with its species. An amazing and inexcusable intellectual, logical and conceptual confusion for a Ph.D student!. In fact, such a deficient comment suffices to avoid further debate with Dieguez but, seeing as this an interesting topic, I'll continue with my reply)

Read that sentence in green again, it is not a "concession" of any kind, that’s simply a truism. I don't know what is controversial here: materialism, taken as the ongoing activity of scientists in the world, physicists, biochemists, neuroscientists and so forth, works just fine and is unaffected by reports of NDEs and trances of automatists. Or else just try asking any living scientist ("mainstream scientist", if you want, not Radin, Schwartz or Sheldrake) if she ever tried to reconcile her findings with the existing data on Mrs Piper’s mediumship, for instance, or if she merely felt there was any need to do so in the first place. I realize this is a disturbing observation for someone who really believe in the paranormal, but it is uncontroversial that science works just fine without taking psychical science and parapsychology seriously. Day after day, week after week. It is not only that parapsychology and psychical research have not and do not hurt « mainstream » science in any way, but more generally that given the current state of knowledge, the progress made has been so enormous and thrilling that it simply would be stupid to turn everything upside-down merely on the basis of dubious "evidence" (i.e. GHOST STORIES).

I live my life as if there is no quantum mechanics, and also so most of sciences (they all, for all practical purposes, disregard quantum mechanics - despite often using tools developed through our knowledge of quantum mechanics, like advanced computers, lasers, etc). No wonder ghost stories are left aside, regardless of their reality. (I myself leave them aside too!).

I know, like Prescott, ST is shocked by my use of the term GHOST STORIES (which I write in all caps, yes). ST chastises me for confounding "paranormal evidence" with "ghosts". This is "conflating a genus with its species" he says, and (again) this is inexcusable behavior for a PhD student. Maybe ST is totally unable to read between the lines, or he is utterly impervious to any sense of humor, but the relevant thing here is not my alleged sloppiness in basic logic. The question remains: does ST actually believe in ghosts? If ST believes in apparitions, hauntings, mediumship, and poltergeists, then yes, he believes in GHOST STORIES. I personally don’t, but go figure, I’m just a misbehaving PhD student.

It just dawned on me that we do not have a picture of the misbehaving PhD student. So, let me provide it:

Ok. Now that we know who he is, let's proceed.

He follows by quoting how I characterize the transmission hypothesis as an argument from ignorance, and he writes this:

False. An argument from ignorance consists in concluding X in the absence of the evidence for or against X.

ST doesn’t know what an argument from ignorance and/or from incredulity is. One can find different definitions of these fallacies, but what he says is not one of them. The version I was talking about is the most widespread one, I think, and it only demands that you replace “in the absence of” by “because of the absence, or perceived absence of” in ST’s definition above. But I don’t want to be too blunt here, after all ST, as far as I know, might not even be a PhD student.

What follows, sadly, is more of the same:

But the authors [of IM] are not concluding from the absence of evidence, but from the POSITIVE evidence in favor of X (e.g. paranormal evidence). If you dispute the evidence for X, then there is a debate; but controversial evidence is not the same that the total absence of evidence.

Dieguez conflates controversy about the evidence for X, with the absence of evidence for X. Another logical and conceptual mistake.

ST seems to follow the teachings of creationists. He takes advantage of the ambiguous notion of “controversy” (see above). We could go on for hours, but none of the claims of parapsychology has been established. None. On the other hand, fraud, misobservation, misreporting, wishful-thinking and methodological sloppiness do exist, and happen to be fairly well represented throughout the history of psychical research and parapsychology (how come? One wonders).

These vices are common in almost any branch of ordinary science too.

It’s actually all the same since Myers (at least): pick up GHOST STORIES and tons of very sloppy and bad research, mixed it up with interesting but irrelevant medical wonders that are not ostensibly paranormal at all, and claim that you have made a big bundle with all of this.

Since Sebastian seems to know a lot more than I do about Myers et al, I think he is the one that I should ask this now: is there also (in this Myers's bundle) good research from the part of people (scientists) who claimed to have found evidence for, let's put it this way, "paranormality" or "afterlife survival"? This is a true question from me. I do not know. Was there also good research or was it all crap?

Each stick of the bundle is weak, but the bundle itself is strong.

Gosh, sometimes it does work. Like in good metaanalysis. (but I am not saying that it works in the example in question).

Well, I don’t find this argument persuasive. In fact, I find it hilarious. (I know, laughter and mockery are not appropriate behaviours for a PhD student). I have a better metaphor for the sum of paranormal “evidence”: it’s not a bundle, but a house of cards. Only the cards are a wild assortment coming from very different decks, and for the moment they are merely scattered around the floor.

By the way, this whole usage of mine of the term GHOST STORIES is not purely idiosyncratic (except for the caps). It was acknowledged by Trevor Hamilton in his biography of Fred Myers. It took me a while to find out where I had read that precious quote, but here it is, from p.194 of Immortal Longings [this follows from a remark about the fact that some persons, including Emily Kelly, were surprised upon first reading Human Personality to find out that there was little discussion of survival per se in there, and much about all kinds of abnormal psychology]:

“Myers, in fact, decided that he would have to address wider issues [than merely survival], including the mind-body problem and human abnormal psychology, as well as the results of research into mediums, if he was to develop a satisfactory and persuasive theoretical framework to which others might give, at least, provisional assent or interest. Otherwise, his and the Society’s work would be treated as just a better written and better evidenced set of Ghost Stories than those of the past (my emphasis, please note the use of capitals in Ghost Stories by Hamilton).

With all due respect to Mr. Hamilton (whom I got to know right now...), there is a difference between the motivations (conscious and unconscious) of an author and the work done by this author. To speculate about Myers's motivations is interesting. But, in a strict sense, it is off-topic. And it provides no grounds for praising or for poisoning the author's end-product.

Indeed, that was perhaps bound to happen, even with the presence of psychological mysteries in the book (and these stories are actually not better written, and perhaps not even better evidenced, than those one can find, for example, in the recently reissued Oxford Book of Ghost Stories edited by Cox and Gilbert, OUP 2008).

ST then writes:

Since Dieguez is so "evidence-based", I challenge him to provide evidence for his claim that "the authors never tire of saying that everybody is wrong except them". I await this evidence.

But IM is entirely written in this vein. That’s the main point of the book, to challenge “current mainstream neuroscience”. Now, cognitive neuroscience is a huge enterprise, with thousands of scientists around the world working hard and publishing tons of papers in dozens of specialized journals. If all these persons simply don’t take into account the insights of Bergson, James, Myers and Kelly et al. about mind-brain relationships, then IM is effectively saying all along that everybody is wrong except them (plus a few others, of course, one should not forget about Mario Beauregard and the deluded Denyse O’Leary, which ST obligingly interviewed for his blog). Let me also reprint here the quote that ST himself has conveniently taken from IM in his previous post about my review:

“The authors of this book are united in the conviction that they [“the views of the vast majority of contemporary scientists”] are not correct—that in fundamental respects they are at best incomplete, and at certain critical points demonstrably false, empirically. These are strong statements, but our book will systematically elaborate and defend them".

Yes indeed, these are strong statements, which basically translate as: “thousands of scientists are wrong, we can prove it and therefore we are on the right tracks and they’re not.” Is this an “uncharitable” reading, or a “strawman fallacy”? Did I meet ST’s “challenge” here? I think so, but perhaps that was a little bit too easy.

Ok, Sebastian, it is my view that you are misciting (again) the authors in your quote above. Well, who is to gain with this? Certainly not you, nor the authors, nor your readers. So, unless you have decided to run Armageddon in this Little Blue Marble of ours, I can see no point in this course of action. Let me quote the authors in a way that seems to me to be less biased. The phrase you quoted above is from page xxi (introduction). I  will start my quote in page xx, and proceed up to xxiii (colored, underline, and bold emphasis are mine; italics is from the authors).

These techniques have yielded a torrent of new information about the brain. Scientists and philosophers confronting the mind-body problem even as recently as a century ago knew only in a relatively global and undifferentiated fashion that the brain is the organ of mind. Today we know a great deal more, although our knowledge undoubtedly remains in many respects extremely primitive relative to the brain's unimaginable complexity. We know a lot about the structure and operation of neurons and even lower-level constituents. We also know a lot about the structural organization of the brain, its wiring diagram, and thanks mainly to the new imaging technologies we have begun to learn a fair amount about its functional organization, the manner in which complex patterns of neural activity are mobilized and coordinated across spatially separated regions of the brain in conjunction with ongoing experience and behavior.

The empirical connection between mind and brain seems to most observers to be growing ever tighter and more detailed as our scientific understanding of the brain advances. In light of the successes already in hand, it may not seem unreasonable to assume as a working hypothesis that this process can continue indefinitely without encountering any insuperable obstacles, and that properties of minds will ultimately be fully explained by those of brains. For most contemporary scientists, however, this useful working hypothesis has become something more like an established fact, or even an unquestionable axiom. At the concluding ceremonies of the 1990s "Decade of the Brain," for example, Antonio Damasio (1999) encapsulated the prevailing view:

In an effort that continues to gain momentum, virtually all the functions studied in traditional psychology—perception, learning and memory, language, emotion, decision-making, creativity—are being understood in terms of their brain underpinnings. The mysteries behind many of these functions are being solved, one by one, and it is now apparent that even consciousness, the towering problem in the field, is likely to be elucidated before too long (1).
That an enormous amount of methodological and substantive progress has been made by scientific psychology in its first century can hardly be denied, and I do not mean to deny it. But what sort of root conception of human mind and personality has so far emerged from all this effort? There are many rapidly shifting cross-currents and variations of detail amid the welter of current views, but to the extent that any provisional consensus has been achieved by contemporary mainstream scientists, psychologists and neuroscientists in particular, it is decidedly hostile to traditional and commonsense notions and runs instead along roughly the following lines: We human beings are nothing but extremely complicated biological machines. Everything we are and do is in principle causally explainable from the bottom up in terms of our biology, chemistry, and physics—ultimately, that is, in terms of local contact interactions among bits of matter moving in strict accordance with mechanical laws under the influence of fields of force.(2). Some of what we know, and the substrate of our general capacities to learn additional things, are built-in genetically as complex resultants of biological evolution. Everything else comes to us directly or indirectly by way of our sensory systems, through energetic exchanges with the environment of types already largely understood. Mind and consciousness are entirely generated by—or perhaps in some mysterious way identical with—neurophysiological events and processes in the brain. Mental causation, volition, and the "self" do not really exist; they are mere illusions, by-products of the grinding of our neural machinery. And of course because one's mind and personality are entirely products of the bodily machinery, they will necessarily be extinguished, totally and finally, by the demise and dissolution of that body.

Views of this sort unquestionably hold sway over the vast majority of contemporary scientists, and by now they have also percolated widely through the public at large.(3). They appear to be supported by mountains of evidence. But are they correct?

The authors of this book are united in the conviction that they are not correct—that in fundamental respects they are at best incomplete, and at certain critical points demonstrably false, empirically. These are strong statements, but our book will systematically elaborate and defend them. Our doubts regarding current psychological orthodoxy, I hasten to add, are at least in part shared by others. There seems to be a growing unease in many quarters, a sense that the narrowly physicalist contemporary approach to the analysis of mind has deflected psychology as a whole from what should be its most central concerns, and furthermore that mainstream computationalist/physicalist theories themselves are encountering fundamental limitations and have nearly exhausted their explanatory resources. The recent resurgence of scientific and philosophic interest in consciousness and altered states of consciousness, and in the deep problems which these topics inherently involve, is just one prominent symptom, among many others, of these trends.

Even former leaders of the "cognitive revolution" such as Jerome Bruner, Noam Chomsky, George Miller, and Ulric Neisser have publicly voiced disappointment in its results. Chomsky in particular has railed repeatedly and at length against premature and misguided attempts to "reduce" the mind to currently understood neurophysiology. Chomsky (1993), for example, pointed out that empirical regularities known to 19th-century chemistry could not be explained by the physics of the day, but did not simply disappear on that account; rather, physics eventually had to expand in order to accommodate the facts of chemistry. Similarly, he argued, we should not settle for specious "reduction" of an inadequate psychology to present-day neurophysiology, but should instead seek "unification" of an independently justified level of psychological description and theory with an adequately complete and clear conception of the relevant physical properties of the body and brain—but only if and when we get such a conception. For in Chomsky's view, shared by many modern physicists, advances in physics from Newton's discovery of universal gravitation to 20th-century developments in quantum mechanics and relativity theory have undermined the classical and commonsense conceptions of matter to such an extent that reducibility of mind to matter is anything but straightforward, and hardly a foregone conclusion.

Several contemporary state-of-the-art surveys in psychology—for example, Koch and Leary (1985), Solso (1997), and Solso and Massaro (1995)—provide considerable further evidence of dissatisfaction with the theoretical state of things in psychology and of a widely felt need to regain the breadth of vision of its founders, such as William James. Solso and Massaro (1995) remark in their summing-up that "central to the science of the mind in the twenty-first century will be the question of how the mind is related to the body" (p. 306) and that "the self remains a riddle" (p. 311). David Leary's (1990) essay on the evolution of James's thinking about the self begins by documenting the remarkable degree to which the Principles had already anticipated most of the substance of subsequent psychological investigations of the self. He then goes on, however, to emphasize that later developments in James's own thought—developments completely unknown to the vast majority of contemporary psychologists—contain the seeds of an enlarged and deepened conception of the self that can potentially secure its location where James himself firmly believed it belongs, at the very center of an empirically adequate scientific psychology. From still another direction, Henri Ellenberger (1970) ends his landmark work on the discovery of the unconscious with a plea for reunification of the experimental and clinical wings of psychology: "We might then hope to reach a higher synthesis and devise a conceptual framework that would do justice to the rigorous demands of experimental psychology and to the psychic realities experienced by the explorers of the unconscious" (p. 897).

1-  This quotation and others in this book that do not list a page number were taken from sources published on the internet without specific pagination.
2- Newton's law of universal gravitation, insofar as it implies instantaneous action at a distance, appears to conflict with this characterization of physical causation, and indeed this feature greatly troubled Newton himself. The idea that matter could influence other matter without mutual contact was to him "so great an Absurdity that I believe no Man who has in philosophical matters a competent Faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it" (Newton, 1687/1964, p. 634). Newton himself presumed that this difficulty could eventually be removed—as indeed it was, more than two centuries later, with the appearance of Einstein's theory of relativity.
3- Just as this introduction was being drafted, a lengthy cover story on "mind/ body medicine" appeared in the September 27, 2004, edition of Newsweek. This article exemplifies throughout the attitudes I have just described, and it culminates in a full-page editorial by psychologist Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works (1997), decrying what he terms "the disconnect between our common sense and our best science." Pinker further advises Newsweek's massive readership that contrary to their everyday beliefs "modern neuroscience has shown that there is no user [of the brain]. "The soul' is, in fact, the information-processing activity of the brain. New imaging techniques have tied every thought and emotion to neural activity." These statements grossly exaggerate what neuroscience has actually accomplished, as this book will demonstrate.

So, I ask now to Sebastian: what is the problem with this quote above? (with the content of this table above). You may show that I am wrong, but I do not see any true problem in it. Further, IMO, they are including "you" (Blanke et al) in the group that is doing what has to be done ("The recent resurgence of scientific and philosophic interest in consciousness and altered states of consciousness, and in the deep problems which these topics inherently involve, is just one prominent symptom, among many others, of these trends.").

Let’s move one. What follows is ST trying to explain how I misunderstand the “transmission” hypothesis:

The transmissive theory of mind-brain connection accepts a reciprocal interaction between brain states and mental states. Normal perception is functionally dependent on the brain, and this is consistent both with materialism and the transmission hypothesis, because both of them accept brain causation on mental states. But the transmission theory, additionally, offers room to understand phenomena that materialism cannot explain (like the phenomena explained in the IM).

Yes thanks, that’s a helpful summary of what I was saying all along. Except that, unlike ST, I find this whole thing ridiculous. Without the “phenomena that materialism cannot explain”, which is again the very issue at stake here, the “transmission” hypothesis is just a useless and maximalist (non-parsimonious) way to interpret data (a bit like theistic evolution, or aliens commanding humans to make crop-circles, or the more classic demon in the engine, if you want). Moreover, it is misguiding to claim that the transmission hypothesis accommodates without problems the findings from neuroscience. This is often claimed in IM, but it is wrong. This is why I asked ST to explain basic phenomena in terms of “transmission”, like binocular rivalry or synaesthesia, and I could add data on split-brain patients, on semantic dementia, hormonal modulation of affects and behaviour, and so forth. There is no simple way for the “transmission” hypothesis to explain these things without turning to ad hoc or fanciful explanations.

I really cannot understand why you consider these phenomena beyond the explanatory potential of "transmission theory" (or better, spiritist theory - the idea that our true selves reside in spirits that will survive the death of our bodies). All these phenomena are perfect in line with the spirit theory. The only one that does present a problem is split-brain (and enormously more strikingly so, phenomena like multiple personalities). And these further examples can be accomadated within the framework of other versions of the transmissive theory (like my one - Brahmanist Panpsychism or Pantheism).

The result is that ST and the authors of IM need the paranormal to be true if the “transmission” theory is to be taken seriously at all. That’s a first step, but even then, they are at a complete loss (as was Myers) to describe it succinctly and to derive any experiment that could test it. But of course, the evidence is so scarce, embarrassing and unconvincing, as compared to the evidence for “materialism”, that believers prefer to assume that it is amply sufficient and that scientists and skeptics simply are unfamiliar with the relevant literature or prefer to look away. Of course, they could simply do better research, find clear evidence, and publish it in a scientific journal. But they prefer to think that scientists are a nasty and dogmatic bunch (thousands of scientists around the world!), as well as, of course, ignorant and/or fearful. This is not so far from a conspiracy theory, and the scary thing is that I’m not so sure they would take offense with such a comparison (after all, Donald Ray Griffin was well into psychical stuff before he turned to his 9/11 whacko “theories”).

In fact, the existence of such anomalous phenomena is so annoying for materialists, that Dieguez has to use rhetoric and ridicule as an argument (what an example of rationality!). Regarding Dieguez's use of rhetoric and ridicule, he conceded in Michael Prescott's blog: "The “abridged version on my pseudoscience shelf” was a rhetorical device to ridicule the import of Myers, and to anger precisely those that see so much in him" Is that a rational argument? Is that kind of discourse worthy of a Ph.D student? Is the use of a "rhetorical device to ridicule..." a proper methodology of a serious and rational reviewer? I leave the readers to decide that.

Well, I can’t see why mockery and rationality are not compatible. However, reading his comments, I certainly do now accept that being boring and gullible are fully compatible. But I’ll also leave the readers to decide that. Furthermore, it is worth reminding that we are talking about parapsychology and Fred Myers here (and not about Mozart): mockery is de rigueur.

The bottom line is that Dieguez has not presented any factual and rational argument against the authors of ID. Lacking scientific arguments, he instead resorts to the rhetoric, ridicule and other irrational fallacies.

That can’t be the “bottom line”, because it wasn’t my point to present factual or scientific arguments against the authors of IM (notice ST’s very interesting typo here, he writes ID instead of IM). They wish someone would start nit-picking stuff among their myriad pages, but what I did was more appropriate, I think: I simply laid out what the book is.

Quite an ontological attitude...

So I have reviewed the overall message and direction of the book in the restricted amount of space I was given, and I gave my opinion about it. The goal was not to debunk the contents of the book, but rather what it’s trying to do.

Now ST unearthed a comment I left on Prescott’s blog (itself referring to another sentence I left on my own blog as a comment), to illustrate my smugness and dishonesty:

Another example of Dieguez's "rational and scientific argumentation" is this comment in Michael's blog: "As for the stance I hold regarding "debates" with believers of all kind, it is true: I prefer a good laugh rather than a serious and useless fight."

If Dieguez is logically consistent, he would have to laugh at believers in materialism too (since his position includes "believers of all kind"). But the logical question is: is laughing a logical and rational argument? Dieguez is so sure that his position is right that he can't deal with other people opinions in rational terms; instead, he prefers to use ridicule, ad hominem and other fallacies.

God this is so boring. Do I really have to explain this quote of mine? Well, I’ll give it a shot. I’m sure ST, and many other believers, must have realized at some point that this type of debate as been going on and on for decades, and that a simple discussion around one particular book will not settle it at everyone’s satisfaction. So, why not lighten up a little bit and enjoy our differences in a frank and relaxed debate? We know our respective positions, right? We both think that the other is wrong, right? So let’s laugh a little bit at the whole situation. And yeah, I laugh at “materialists” too, on a daily basis as a matter of fact. I read scientific papers and I very often exclaim things such as “there you go, we’re one step closer to solving the riddles of the universe”. My snark is not unilateral, but then one has to know me to be aware of this. I accept critiques along the lines of “belief in promissory materialism” and so forth. The point is that it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m “sure that my position is right”, what matters is that I find no evidence in IM that my position is wrong.

One last word about the use of ridicule: ST is the one who believes in GHOST STORIES, not me. We nasty children love to mock such beliefs. One would think he should be used to it by now.

After that, ST takes issue with stuff I wrote about the authors of IM taking the success of parapsychology for granted. They have an appendix listing books and reviews on parapsychology (even reincarnation!), and whenever they make a wild claim about telepathy and such, they refer the reader to it. ST writes:

What is the problem with reincarnation? It makes perfect sense from the biological point of view. (I need to elaborate this further).

Their point of citing the literature is to back up their assertions (therefore, not arguing from ignorance!). But Dieguez, uncharitably (and intentionally?) misrepresents the argument as suggesting we have to accept the literature at face value. Another example of Dieguez's uncharitable reading and straw man fallacy.

No, this is not a strawman fallacy at all. The appendix on parapsychology is not there to “back up” arguments at all, it was explicitly put there because the authors do not wish to discuss parapsychology (or “psi”) in the book, and so they merely say that they endorse this literature (although they say it is “still controversial” and “imperfect” and that they don’t endorse equally everything in it). This, in my book, is basically saying that one should take paranormal superpowers at face value if IM is to make any sense. Otherwise, psi and the appendix would not be needed for their argument.

ST then jumps into another wagon and starts explaining why, if the evidence for the paranormal is so strong, scientists do not accept it and do not even care about it. I granted ST that if this could help him feel better about himself, he could just go ahead and blame the nasty and ignorant academia. Here’s his response:

Actually materialism, naturalism, atheism and the fear of the "supernatural" is responsible.

Yeah, that’s what I thought. So it is a conspiracy (presumably, these same factors are also to blame for the absence of creationism and astrology in the classroom, therefore I’m soon expecting a documentary featuring IM’s authors called Banished!).

To back up this claim, which I granted anyway because I have no interest in this particular brand of paranoia and self-aggrandizement so common in crackpots, he quotes a “materialist philosopher”. This would be Thomas Nagel, grand guru of mysterianism, which is enough said as far as I’m concerned (remember, “What it is like to be a bat?”, that’s clearly the favorite paper of “materialists”). Two more philosophers are then quoted, as ST loves arguments from authority (I’m just hoping he didn’t extract the quotes from The Spiritual Brain—which is essentially made of such quotes—, that would be most embarrassing). But more generally, the idea that skeptics and scientists are “afraid” of the paranormal is preposterous. Read my lips: “I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE PARANORMAL”. See?

Let's test it...:

Are you scared now? No? And what about now: . God Damm it! Well, click this link and surely you will be scared.

It doesn’t hold. Moreover, I’m not claiming around that believers in the paranormal are afraid of materialism. That’s because I don’t have to, I’m content with the observation that they have nothing to back up their wild claims.

But of course, once one goes there, then everything is permitted and you can simply say that your opponent is irrational for emotional reasons and draw this nail further and further:

you won't see such self-critical and honest concessions of the flaws of materialism in a "Ph.D student" like Dieguez (whose best argument in favor of materialism is that it hasn't been undermined by ghost stories!)

Read again that last sentence in parentheses. Take a good look at current science and its astonishing successes, its continuous progress in numerous fields, and ask yourself why it works so well despite the existence of GHOST STORIES. I know I’m repeating myself here, but the overall resistance of science to the supernatural is indeed a perfectly valid argument for materialism. Again, you can imagine how the world and life should look like if all of IM were true. Instead, what we find over and over again, is that isolated and bizarre “paranormal” events are always just ambiguous or controversial enough so that they turn out to be entirely irrelevant for a sound understanding of reality (but still allows the believer’s will-to-believe to keep rolling).

ST then quotes from Hyman’s assessment of the SAIC experiments, which is clearly off topic here (but then ST likes dropping names very much). I don’t care about this particularly embarrassing phase of parapsychological research at SRI, which has utterly failed to provide evidence of anything paranormal, again. I’m annoyed, however, but not surprised, by the tendency to cherry-pick a few appeasing sentences by Hyman in an otherwise wholly negative assessment of a project that was aimed at training super-heroes. What ST fails to notice, interestingly, is that Remote Viewing, which was the topic of the SAIC project, is not addressed at all in IM. Why?

Probably because you would complain that it was too tedious...

Thankfully, what follows is funnier. Remember that ST confronted me with a video where Michael Shermer, a skeptic, found evidence supportive of Vedic astrology in a non-scientific televised show. ST is of course unable to perceive the ridicule of this whole situation, but I enjoy it a lot. So I said: yeah sure, go for it, Vedic astrology is for realz because Shermer, like, proved it, you know. And I added for good measure that I found unforgivable that Vedic astrology is not mentioned in IM at all (by the way, how does the “transmission” theory accommodate with astrology? We might never know). But here’s how ST reads all of this:

This is an amazing concession. According to Dieguez, Michael Shermer found evidence for vedic astrology! And he concedes that "So yeah, it totally seems that thanks to the science of Vedic Astrology, one can approximate some individual's personal features merely by knowing his or her date and place of birth" (My God, I'll be referring to this "skeptical" concession all the time in this blog! By the way, note that Dieguez doesn't admit any consequences for materialism and mainstream science by his concession of positive evidence for Vedic Astrology. This will give you an idea of the logical coherence of Dieguez)

Yes, write it down, Sebastian Dieguez accepts the evidence for Vedic astrology, as he is entirely devoted to whatever Michael Shermer says or does, and believes that 10 minutes long TV shows are better than real scientific reports. So you can quote me all you want on this: VEDIC ASTROLOGY IS TRUE (although I don’t even know what it is). I now demand that “mainstream” neuroscientists, as well as the authors of IM, stop immediately their misguided ramblings, and devote themselves to this venerable science. Which raises the question: does ST actually believe in Vedic astrology? And does he think that Shermer is to be trusted when he finds evidence for crackpot notions, but not when he debunks anything else?

I enjoy this so much that I will go one step further. ST asks:

My question for Dieguez is: Do you consider the evidence (gotten by skeptic Shermer) stronger than the evidence for psi (e.g. as explicitly conceded by Ray Hyman)?

Yes, I’m happy to concede this. Again, I am now a full convert in Vedic astrology, all the rest is utter nonsense. Tomorrow, I will talk with my thesis advisor and present him with Shermer’s video. If he doesn’t allow me to switch my topic on the spot to Vedic astrology, I will resign immediately and move to India. So there.

What follows is more whining about my attitude and about the sin of “debunking”. This is only more literal reading from ST, who gets very serious with skeptics but all mellow with certified nutcases like Denyse O’Leary. There’s nevertheless something funny coming, after ST quotes some of my ramblings about the paranormal and how I characterize it as GHOST STORIES:

Ghost stories again...? Man, it's impossible to argue with a person who cannot discern any difference between telepathy, psychokinesis, NDEs, stigmata and even mediumship from "ghosts".

Because of course, it’s much easier to discuss with someone who actually believes in ghosts, as well as GHOST STORIES. Anyway, something more interesting comes after this, where ST dismisses my argument that IM relies in many places on the explanatory gap and the naïve folk psychology of free will. He says that this is irrelevant:

The question is whether materialism can account for free will or not, and if its implications are morally acceptable or not.

This misses the point badly. My concern is not about morality, but about the naïve conception that volition and consciousness somehow pre-exist to brain processes. The extended quote from Keith Augustine is interesting but totally irrelevant in the present context. But it gets even more confused:

It is irrelevant whether most people believe in objective moral values or not; the point is that materialism and naturalism cannot account for them.

Materialism cannot account for free will and morality? Ok, so please feel free to never attempt to do any science on these topics. You would not be helpful.

Just by the way... I think materialism cannot account for free will. And dualism cannot too. And even God, if He exists, cannot too. As a matter of fact, I think free will does not and cannot exist. It is not an illusion. It is simply non-existent at all. But that is my view (and note that I believe in the afterlife and in God...).

Then, inevitably, because I said that free will and consciousness are “illusions”, ST is more than happy to explain to me how I defeated myself with such an assertion (like I never heard that argument before):

That comment is self-refuting. If consciousness and thinking is an illusion, then your arguments (which are based on ideas in your consciousness) are illusions too. And we can't predicate the values of "truth" or "falsity" to illusions, because our own conceptual adjudication of such epistemic and logical values would be an illusion too. You can't defend your data on rational grounds, if previously you concede that your own mind is an illusion. You're using an illusion (your consciousness) to justify another illusion (the scientific data obtained by the illusory consciousness of scientists).

Very well done. The problem is that my illusions actually seem to match the real world and help me navigate in it and make sense of it in an honest and humble way (i.e., I don’t think that the purpose of the universe is all about me). And I can also make predictions that work out. On the other hand, ST seems to imply that naïve realism is actually a viable option and that he is not prey to the constructive, anticipatory, pattern seeking and interpretative processes in his brain. Good for him, that will certainly help him understand how the mind really works.

Let’s turn now briefly to NDEs, a favorite topic of mine. That’s about the only direct reference to the contents of IM that I actually made in my review: I dismissed the argument that NDEs are “paradoxical” in the sense that they provide evidence of “enhanced cognition” during a time where the brain is not supposed to be able to support such mental processes. I simply replied to this along these lines: if dysfunctional brain activity cannot account for the type of experiences lived during a NDE, why should no brain activity at all be a better explanation?

Well, that is a good point ("if dysfunctional brain activity cannot account for the type of experiences lived during a NDE, why should no brain activity at all be a better explanation?"). I must confess that, earlier, I had not relized the elegance, simplicity and strength of this phrase.

Here’s what ST responds:

Because if there is no "brain activity at all", how the hell are you going to have mental experience? If the mind is a product of brain functioning (like materialists like Dieguez think), then the mind ceases to exist when the brain ceases to function. It's a purely logical point, and it is amazing that Dieguez can't see it. If you don't have any brain functioning, how do you explain the mental experience had during that period?

I’m not sure how to put this without sounding too harsh. Let’s try this: ST simply missed the point.

Sebastian, I think this is one such instance where we must put our swords (Ockham's Razor) aside for a while and realize we are dealing with two quite different worldviews (theories) that get quite troubled when they meet face to face to explain this specific phenomenon. Your phrase that I hailed above makes good sense, and so does Jime's reply to it, even though they sound bitterly paradoxical in regards to each other. I think the way to bring these two assertions in line would be this: If (IF) - according to neuroscientific knowledge - dysfunctional brain activity cannot account for the type of experiences lived during a NDE, then the explanation for the experiences must be sought beyond the so called neuroscientific knowledge. Then we have alternatives:

a- Dysfunctional brain activity can indeed account for the experiences during NDE. (there is an unknown mind-souce but brain based)
b- There are actually no experiences during the time the brain activity is dysfunctional. The experiences actually happen before or after the dysfunctional moments.
c- Dysfunctional brain activity cannot account for the experiences during NDE. (there is an unknown mind-souce but not brain based - a spirit-like agent)

I am suspicious about b. I think the truth lies either in a or in c. But, as scientists, I think we need more data before favoring c over a (even though this is my view - but this is my view as a belief, not as a scientific assertion).

The authors of IM, and also Parnia and Fenwick, do not claim (unlike many other believers) that NDEs occur while the brain is entirely shut down (or “flatlining”). It seems that they have carefully read the data, they even have finally opened Sabom’s book and actually read the Pam Reynolds account, and they came to the conclusion that there is no such evidence at all.

When Sebastian says "finally" ("they even have finally"), what he actually means is: from at least as early as year 2000! (Can Experiences Near Death Furnish Evidence of Life After Death? Emily Williams Kelly, Bruce Greyson & Ian Stevenson. Omega Jounal of Death and Dying, vol 40(4) pp. 513-519, 1999-2000).

Rather, they try to be more cautious and say that during cardiac arrest NDEs, the brain endures such pressure that it must not be able to form clear concepts, memories, etc. This simply begs the question, of course, for no one knows when an NDE occurs exactly (except when some external stimuli is incorporated in the hallucinated scene, always when the brain is working), and no one knows what happens in the brain during an NDE anyway. Moreover, as the authors of IM make clear in their book, we don’t even know for sure what type of brain state we should deem able or unable to support mental processes in the first place. So my point was: if they grant that the best one can say about NDEs from a paranormal perspective is that they occur during states of brain impairment that are not compatible with consciousness and memory formation, then why should no brain activity at all be de facto a better explanation?

If neurology is a hundred percent sure that a given brain state cannot have, associated to it, consciousness, then, if there is consciousness during that brain state it must be based on something different than that specific brain. But sorry, I am just repeating myself.

Why not accept that in some cardiac arrest patients, the brain impairment, or the brain recovery allowed by CPR, is such that it precisely produces very vivid vestibular and visual hallucinations? After all, we already know that brain disorders produce NDE-like experiences, don’t we?

You tell us. You are the Blanke's "et al"... (by the way, I have been indicating Blanke's papers for some years now (this link).

Ok, here I skip some further misconceptions and circular reasoning from ST, in order to stay in the NDE domain. Here’s what I wrote in my response to his previous post: “If NDEs are a peek in the afterworld, I don’t see why only a tiny minority of cardiac arrest survivors report them, and I don’t see either why so many who report them were actually not near-death at all.” And here is his response:

Because those who report them have been detached from their bodies, and such separation occurs only occasionally, not constantly in each person. This is why most people don't experience a NDEs (and this is what we would expect if the IM arguments are true).

I don’t even know where that comes from. It would be good if ST could explain how it is not circular to claim that those who had an NDE where separated from their bodies, while those who had no NDE were not. Also, one wonders why this process should occur only “occasionally”, and on what grounds, if NDEs really are what believers think they are. Moreover, I can’t see why this vindicates the “IM arguments” in any way. But maybe ST, like me right now, is getting a little bit tired.

He then proceeds to some question begging about how “psi” exists in everybody and not only in “psychics”, is therefore all over the place, and comes in different intensities because it’s just like any other human skill. How does he know all that? He doesn’t say, but refers me to a book by Dean Radin, the man who explains on his blog that skeptics are to blame for witch burnings.

Oh My, why does Sebastian keeps doing it ?! He is, again, misciting authors. Dean Radin did not say this. What he did say about skeptics vs witches is (this link): "While Western scientists exploring the bleeding edge of the known are not in danger of being literally burned, there is ample evidence for a persistent societal discomfort. This is most easily seen by observing the vast majority of the general public who are vitally interested in all things psychic vs. the far fewer than 1% of academics who are known for having any interest at all in these phenomena. Will we ever be able to set aside our collective fears and embrace both the joy and the uncertainties of exploring the unknown?"

Of course, he says that none of this is begging the question, but “an inference from the data”. I don’t want to aggravate my case as a failed PhD student, so I will refrain to take this particular point further (suffices it to say that no, psi is not all over the place, deal with it).

So, let’s now turn to the final points. I really want to know what scientists like me should do if everything in IM turns out to be true. So I asked: should I become a parapsychologist? If not, what should scientists do? Here ST wants to sound reassuring (after all, we scientists are paralyzed by fear, so we need a little patting on the back from time to time):

They should develop models of mind-brain connection that are consistent with all the data. Actually, the IM book tries to give some ideas (e.g. regarding the transmission theory) to account for the data. It doesn't mean that the transmission theory is correct, or the only alternative; the point is to think of alternative models to understand the mind-body connection, in a way to account for all the known phenomena (including the "anomalous" one, which cannot be accounted for by materialism, and have to be dismissed by the use of ridicule, rhetorical devices and speculations about ghosts stories)

Good. I can give some recommendations too: show us good evidence that we need an “alternative model” at all (not rogue phenomena or “bundle” of useless sticks, just good data please), then work out a clear theory, make predictions, make new experiments, publish them, and so forth. Also, dig in the neuroscientific literature and explain why an “alternative model” would make more sense of the data. When you’re done, publish another book in yet another century, with an enclosed CD of Irreducible Mind in it. If I’m still around, I’ll be glad to review it.

We’re near the end. ST thinks that I’m now so tired and devastated by his arguments that I can’t see through his pathetic attempt at shifting the burden of proof. I merely explained that the “transmission” theory, by the own account of IM’s authors, is not clear at all and demands further theorizing. That’s where they introduce my favorite lines of the book, when after some 800 pages

800 pages? Where have the extra 100 pages gone now?   (
nine chapters, each more than 100 pages long)

they say that the theory that will lead to a new psychology for the 21st century is not yet available, but will be the subject of another book as soon as it is worked out. So I’m not the one who has to explain why the theory is empty here. There simply is no theory, just a vague reference to the Victorian musings of bearded men that had no TV and sought amusement in séances, plus the familiar quantum obfuscation. But then ST is deaf to all my noise, and merely observes:

My point is that a rational review should specify the objections to the theory being addressed. Asserting that the concept is empty, or that the authors make many false claims is not an argument, if you don't back up your assertions with evidence.

One has only to read the following sentence to see how he rejects my characterization of IM as a “soul of the gaps argument”:

The transmission theory is not the "soul of the gap argument". It's an hypothesis that tries to account for phenomena that materialism cannot explain.

ST obviously spent too much time with Denyse O’Leary: he now talks like ID creationists (can it be a coincidence, or even a “meaningful coincidence”, that the term “irreducible” is used in the same way by Kelly et al. and by creationist Michael Behe?).

So let’s turn to the conclusion:

In my view, Dieguez has not understood the IM book. His failure of understanding is a result of his prejudices, conceptual confusions (e.g. telepathy = ghost stories), ignorance of the flaws of materialism, logical inconsistences, and emotional attachment to his worldwiew.

In any case, maybe this exchange will help Dieguez to reflect and reconsider some of his positions (even though I doubt it will happen).

ST is mistaken here. I learned a lot thanks to him. I am now a proud believer in Vedic astrology, has he forgotten?

In our next installment, I will turn to more interesting comments by another critic of mine, Julio Siqueira. Expect more of the same and a lot of repetitions.

Well, if at least Sebastian can help me to find the missing 100 pages from my copy of  Irreducible Mind ,  I will be forever indebted to him!

Or, instead, he just may keep doing his good science work (with Blanke's team) that he is already doing (and, obviously and unfortunately, I am *not* referring to his critique of Irreducible Mind...), and he will keep receiving my admiration and support for truly embracing the only possible action a true scientist can take after reading Irreducible Mind, that is: to follow the data where it leads, even if it leads to disproving the afterlife altogether.

Very Best Wishes for Sebastian and for Jime, and thank the two of you enormously for this highly constructive, if rather quarrelsome, exchange of viewpoints,

Julio Siqueira