Skip to comments.ON A RESONANCE THEORY OF THOUGHT AND SPIRITUALITY
Posted on 08/02/2003 4:43:59 PM PDT by betty boop
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This article from Prof. Raman is an extraordinarily elegant outline of where I think I want to go with this. Your feedback is invited and much appreciated!
An excellent treatise.
I have to disagree with the quote above.
I have had more than one experience of knowing what someone else was thinking...relatives, friends and strangers.
We all have. But you knew I would state that.
Hold that thought, RightWhale. May God bless you for noticing that what we think can have actual physical impact on the world around us, natural/physical and social/special.
IMHO FWIW this is precisely the question that thinking people need to be thinking about, these days.
Your confidence in new-agey suppositions is awe-inspiring.
If you like that one there are at least a hundred more like it in any New Age "library", including variations pinning their imaginations on crystals, photons, quantum fields, ghosts, karma, Universal spirit, chakras, chi, psi, Akashic record, magick, archetypes, the stars, auras, etc.
So far, they've all been remarkably unsuccessful at "changing the face of science forever".
Truly I hope you will tet68. You are an important presence at this table, and I welcome your thoughts and the benefit of your experience at all times.
You wrote you didn't like this, Jim; though you were inclined to be sympathetic with the statement of the argument "up 'til then".
When I read this piece for the first time, instantly (just as you did), I flashed on the problem of brain-to-brain trasnmission, as presently described by state-of-the-art science. Yet suffice it to say that presently the public record reports a vast variety of "brain experiences" that cannot be explained at all by present scientific methods.
Thinking the problem through further, the man did say "sign" is as valid a mode of communication as language, writing, et al. He hasn't shut the door on your concern at all.
I hope we can explore such questions on this thread, and that you would be willing to contribute your insights.
Because not to see the difference between them is to deny a fundamental truth of reality -- which is, the two terms never were equivalent in the first place. They describe two distinct, fundamental orders of being, whose mutual relation makes possible the universe in which we live and move and have our being.
Since the ancient Greeks, the two orders have been described as the "physical" and the "noetic" (from nous, mind, reason). To certain Greeks, mind was omnipresent in all aspects of universal nature.
I regard that as a classical cultural clue that it might be profitable for us humans to revisit and consider these days. Especially given the presently-prevailing objective condition of general cultural disorder and mayhem.
Can't say more now. Thanks so much for sharing your view, js1138.
Truly wonderful question, wwcj. Beyond Raman, I've noticed that usage in the works of many Eastern European scientists these days, as well as scientists from places like India, who regularly make "spirituality" a general class of direct human experience.
My most favorite Eastern European of all is the Hungarian astrophysicist, Attila Grandpierre. An early contributor to Integrative Science, Grandpierre routinely refers to such things as "reason" and "knowledge" and "experience" and "feeling" and even the state of "ecstasy" as being members of the master set, "Spiritual Things."
Maybe it's a problem of Hungarian-to-English translation. Maybe the distinction is critical to understanding his argument.
The point is to keep the definitions clear. Hopefully the on-going clarification of precisely such definitions will be relevant to the purposes of the present discussion.
That would be refreshing.
You are telling us you suddenly found Jesus?
I believe you need to work on your reading comprehension. No, that's not what I'm "telling" you.
Or is it more like you see another threat to your evo-religion.
Evolution is not a religion, no matter how many times you mislabel it one, and I fail to see how the hypothesis in this thread would be a "threat" to it, even if it were true. So no, that's not my reason for doubting that this particular hypothesis is an "impressive work" which will "change the face of science forever".
My reason, as I believe I made clear enough to most readers, if not to you, is that this is just a vaguely stated retread of dozens of other hand-waving non-explanatory "explanations" of consciousness/thought/soul/etc. which have been made by over-enthusiastic folks for ages.
So since you've got such a poor track record at it, perhaps you should stop trying to speculate about my "ulterior motives" and instead concentrate just a tad more on what I've actually written.
You should embrace all science,
and if you really were interested in true science,
you would be ecstatic to see your theory of choice be subjected to any and all falsifications.
History is strewn with beard tugging scoffers that held up the progress of humanity because they were so entrenched in their own industry they viewed anything else as a threat.
True enough, but I suspect that my list of who qualifies as such is going to be considerably different than yours.
That ain't science, bud.
Absolutely, which is why I have raised objections in the past when you've viewed actual science as "a threat" to your own "entrenched" preconceptions.
But there are plenty of threads where that discussion is already ongoing, it's poor behavior for you to try to drag it into this one (in violation of the FreeRepublic posting guidelines, FYI), and if you want to pick a fight on it, choose another thread, this one should be reserved specifically for the issue that Betty Boop wishes to discuss, which contrary to your presumptions is only very peripherally related to the topic of evolution, if at all, since the "brain structures" that allegedly allow the brain to tap into the postulated UTF/PTF could have evolved to do so, for all we know. So this isn't the "challenge" to evolution you seem to want it to be.
Speaking of which, since you took the liberty to question my own motives, you shouldn't mind me returning the favor. It looks to me, from here and your past behavior, as if you're less interested in doing actual science or uncovering answers about the universe than you are in grasping at anything which you hope could challenge "orthodox" science. You frequently reject well-established and well-supported theories, while at the same time cheerfully swallowing any out-of-the-blue fringe idea without a shred of supporting research or evidence just because it's in defiance of established theories. You seem to get a kick out of trying to shake up those you conspiratorially see as wicked "establishment" scientists protecting the status quo, which you've got a real antipathy for. Contrary to your pretenses of caring about following the scientific method, you're actually gleeful about anything that assails it.
Now, why don't we get back to discussing Betty Boop's actual topic?
At this point, it's better described as a "hypothesis" rather than a "theory".
And if it was proposed to "explain" those phenomena, it fails. I don't see how it "explains" anything. Applying new names or acronyms (e.g. PTC, UTC) to things which already have names (e.g. "thoughts") doesn't add any explanatory power. On the contrary, it muddles them. Instead of "thoughts" in a "mind" we have "(unnamed activity)" in a "Universal Thought Field" -- does that really help anything? Does it add any understanding? Does it allow us to make new predictions and test them?
(a) Thought is the subtlest emergent entity from the human brain.
This may be a translation problem, but I'd object to the choice of the word "subtlest" here. First because it's too vague, second because thought is rather obvious, not subtle, and third, there could well be many "emergent entities from the human brain" which are below our level of notice entirely and thus much more "subtle" than thought itself. Perhaps "enigmatic" would be a better choice.
As of now, though it is taken to arise from complex biochemical (neuronal) processes in the brain, we have no means of detecting any physical aspect of thought.
Rather misleading. We have many means of "detecting physical aspects of thought", including PET scans which monitor characteristic brain activity as people think various types of thought. Now whether that's the actual thought in action, or the alleged material "link" to the UTC/PTC, it's still a "physical aspect" of the thought process, and it can indeed be detected.
(b) All sensory experiences (light, sound, smell, taste, sound) result from an interaction between an external agent (photon, phonon, etc.) and some aspect of the brain.
Er, not really. The described interaction takes place outside the brain itself, in organs (eyes, ears, etc.) which convert -- in perfectly understandable physical and chemical ways (i.e., materially) -- the effects of sound or light or touch or chemicals (taste/smell) into coded nerve impulses. *Those* (the nerve impulses) are the agents which actually trigger thought and sensations when they are transmitted into "some aspect of the brain".
HYPOTHESIS: (a) It is proposed that, like the electromagnetic field, there is an extremely subtle substratum pervading the universe which may be called the universal thought field (UTF).
And what "triggered" this proposal? Why postulate that a "field" is involved, as opposed to any number of other things? And why does the author postulate that it "pervades" the universe (as opposed to say, is present only in the vicinity of "field generators" like brains)? He tries to analogize to electromagnetic fields and so on, but those do not "pervade" the universe either.
This may even be trans-physical, i.e., something that cannot be detected by ordinary physical instruments. Or it may be physical and has not yet been detected as such.
What sort of "explanatory theory" is this which can't even nail down its hypothetical "field" that much?
Furthermore, he says that if it's "transphysical" that it "cannot be detected by ordinary physical instruments". As opposed to what, extraordinary ones? Is he saying that this "field" is truly beyond any physical detection, or not? If it is, then how does the physical brain interact with it? If not, what makes it "transphysical" after all?
The author seems to invoke a lot of buzzwords without a clear idea of what he means when he uses them. He needs to clarify his words and ideas (to himself first, I'd say) a *lot* more before he can claim to have a "theory", or even a "hypothesis" -- so far he's just in the realm of "imprecise idea".
(b) Every thought generated in the brain creates its own particular thought field (PTF).
If he's going to propose being quantitative like that, he needs to *be* quantitative, and he's not. So there's a one-to-one correspondence between "PTF" and a "thought", eh? I'd sure like to see him try to define "thought" to the point where this might be, you know, testable. How many "thoughts" in the Gettysburg Address, for example? Does that trigger one PTF or dozens? If one, is it a "bigger" PTF than the PTF generated by the thought, "Jack slept"? If dozens, how many exactly? And how do they remain "linked" into a speech with a coherent theme?
And if thoughts "create" a PTF which goes floating around in the UTF, why do we need a UTF or PTF to explain anything at all? He already admits the thought pre-exists before the PTF gets spawned by it. He's not explaining thoughts by postulating a PTF, since his model is that *first* the thought exists in the brain, and *then* a PTF results from it.
Does this "explanatory" idea really "explain" anything?
Theory based on the above hypotheses:
It's all hypothesis at this point. Someday, if it gets enough supporting evidence and research results, *then* it would be a theory.
(a) Just as EM waves require the complex structure of the brain to be transduced into the experience of light and color, the UTF requires the complex system of the human brain to create local thoughts. In other words, when the UTF interacts with certain regions of the brain, thoughts arise as by-products.
Wait a minute, in the last paragraph he said that thoughts in the brain make a PTF, which is some sort of (quite unspecified) entity in the UTF, now he's turning around and saying that the UTF (in a manner unspecified -- PTF again, or something else?) triggers thoughts in the brain as well. It appears the brain, capable of forming its own thoughts on its own (but spawning PTFs thereby into the UTF as a byproduct) can also have thoughts "suggested" by disturbances in the UTF -- but the thoughts are still *in* the brain.
(b) Interactions between PTFs and brains generate other PTFs.
And the effect of all this PTF jostling is purported to be what, exactly? And more to the point, *how*?
Indeed every thought is a different reaction-result to either the UTF or to a PTF.
How exactly did the thought, "ouch, I've cut my finger" happen to get into the UTF in the first place so that I could eventually "receive" that thought from the UTF, if "indeed every thought" is a "reaction-result" to the UTF/PTF?
According to Raman, a thought has to be in a mind in the first place before it can spawn a PTF into the UTF. But if "every thought" is sourced from the PTF/UTF "field", how do any of them get there to start with (*especially* those which deal with physical, local events like "I've cut my finger", or "I wonder why the dog's barking").
Raman's notion needs work. A *lot* of work.
(c) There is an important difference between UTF and PTF.
UTF does not require a material medium for acting upon a brain.
Because? How did Raman come to this "conclusion"?
But a PTF cannot be transmitted from one brain to another without a material medium, such as sound, writing, signs, etc.
Then there's a perfectly good pre-existing word for what Raman wants to relabel as "PTF". It's called "information".
(d) In some instances, as with molecular resonance,
Oh look, another unsupported physics analogy.
certain brains are able to resonate with the UTF in various universal modes.
Perhaps he would care to define the words "resonate" and "universal modes" (as well as enumerate the "various" ones to which he alludes) as he chooses to use them here.
"Resonate" has a very clear and unambiguous technical meaning. If that's what Raman means, he needs to describe what exactly is resonating with what, and how. If not, he needs to pick a better word, or define a new one instead of misleading the reader by using a word for another sort of pheonomenon entirely.
Such resonances constitute revelations,
How, exactly? There's that pesky "explanatory" requirement again. Just saying "you resonated and that's where your revelation originated" doesn't actually explain squat.
magnificent epic poetry, great musical compositions, discovery of a mathematical theorem in a dream, and the like, as also mystic experiences.
What does Raman have against the notion of thinking the mundane way , without "resonating" with a "pervasive field"? How the brain processes its information isn't very well understood, of course, but at least there's the branch of science of information theory which shows that shuffling information (with no "fields" involved) can achieve some of the kinds of things the human brain does. It's not like we're at a complete loss to explain such things using current models. And nothing in the brain has looked like any kind of "field receptor", it's all made of neurons which, by gosh, seem to all be little information processors. We may not understand how they work in total aggregate, but any individual neuron takes nerve pulses in at the dendrites, and based on its current chemical threshold, does or does not trigger an outgoing pulse at the axon. Information processor, anyone?
(e) This perspective suggests that there can be no thought without a complex brain (well known fact);
So does the original perspective of the brain as an information processor, without any external "fields" involved.
and more importantly, that there exists a pure thought field (UTF) in the universe at large which may be responsible for the physical universe to be functioning in accordance with mathematically precise laws.
Then again, it "may" not be.
This appears to be empty speculation, without even an attempt to tie it to any "explanatory" analysis (much less procedural -- i.e. no process is offered by which these "fields" and "phenomena" supposedly operate).
And thus we get down to the meat of the issue: What testable predictions does this speculation make? What logical results would it have that would distinguish it from possible opposing ideas, which can be tested?
And just as importantly, how could it be falsified? What predictions does it make which can be put to trial, and if the results are found to be contrary to the predictions of the model, would disprove it?
ANALOGIES: The following parallels with other physical facts come to mind:
Danger, Will Robinson... Analogies are good for helping people understand something similar to the thing being explained, but are a poor substitute for actually defining your ideas explicitly in the first place. Raman hasn't even demonstrated that his "fields" even exist, much less that they do or do not work in any particular way. To drag in "analogies" now, when things may not even be at all like the things he compares them to, is very premature.
(a) Phosphorescence & luminescence: When radiation of shorter wavelengths falls on certain substances, the substances emit visible light immediately or after some time. Likewise when the UTF falls on a complex cerebral system, it emits thoughts of one kind or another.
"Emiting" light is a pretty simplistic process. Trying to obscure the complexities of "generating thought" by waving your hands and saying, "well, it's like emiting light", is irresponsible at best.
(b) One of the subtlest entities in the physical universe is the neutrino, which does not interact with ordinary matter through gravitation, strong, or electromagnetic interaction. Being involved only in the weak interaction, it is extremely difficult to detect it.
But it *can* still be detected.
The UTF is subtler by far than the neutrino,
And may be a lot more non-existent.
and may therefore (if it be purely physical) it may be far more difficult to detect.
Things that don't exist can be pretty hard to detect too. Is the author preparing his excuses in advance? "Well, if you haven't found it, you just haven't looked in the right way yet, no need to abandon my idea just yet..."
Final grade: Needs work.
If we go back a century to W. James the pragmatist, don't we have the theory that the "validatiy" or reality of any "spiritual" or religous experience must be measured, first, by its fruits? What fruits does this theory propose?
The part where I pointed out its similarity to countless prior "explanations" of thought which invoked some "underlying essence" at work (e.g. chi, quantum fields, etc.) without actually explaining anything, and thus were unsuccessful at "changing the face of science forever", and thus the odds for this one doing so aren't too hot either.
I do believe I was quite clear.
And while you're at it, justify why YOU brought up religion, so the lurkers aren't duped into thinking it was my idea.
Why must I "justify" something I didn't do?
"While *you're* at it", please explain to the lurkers why *you* had the idea of mislabeling my point as somehow bringing up religion, when it did not.
My point quite clearly involved only comparing the current "resonance theory" to prior "crystal theory", "chi theory", "Akashic record theory", "aura theory", etc. All of these were (poor) attempts to "explain" the mysteries of thought/mind/soul/whatever by passing the buck to some even more mysterious "essence" in which thought "resided" or "sourced" from. Some of them may have been more "mystic" than others, but that doesn't make the my point about the inadequacy of their explanatory power somehow a "religious" point, nor are most of them "religious" in the normal sense of the word (personally, I would maintain that none of them are). I quite clearly (to all but you, apparently) restricted my comment to their inability to "change the face of science forever" as scientific "explanations".
When you're done, you can get back to discussing Betty Boop's actual topic.
I'm way ahead of you.
Jo-Lo Gobble-Gobble Jo-Lo Gobble-Gobble Jo-Lo......repeat until enlightened.
Final grade: Flush mind after reading.
I'll let that speak for itself... And for you.
I suspect the intent was to turn it into a tinfoil thread in hopes those that followed you would pick up your lead and post more tinfoil cracks.
As is often the case, you suspect wrongly.
This is serious science, son.
Oh? Where, exactly? Make sure you know what things mean before you use them in sentences.
With serious players and a high potential for serious consequences for the rest of science, and that's probably what is bothering you.
Again, you've got a really poor track record when it comes to making presumptions about me. Your accusations reveal a lot more about your own proclivities than they do about mine.
And for reasons I've already outlined, I don't feel there is any good support for your optimistic (perhaps a better word would be "eager") feelings about the "high potential" for this sort of thing to make even a ripple in the scientific world, much less "serious consequences".
Oh, and remember, lotsa wordy re-spins don't make ya right.
Believe me, your posts are almost always excellent reminders of that point. Just not quite in the way you intended.
He postulates a special field for mental or spiritual things. It may turn out at the end of the development of this inquiry that the postulated field is identical with something we already know in a scientific way.
Looking at this field from outside presents the usual array of science memes, but looking at it from inside, where we actually are, presents something that is the flip side of science. Sometimes I like to mention that the real world is not the physical world, it is the legal world [Logos.] Lately I might say that the moral/legal world is the first world and the world you see as you drive down the highway is illusory. But neither of these is the world of thought, or is it?
Where are you Timothy Leary? Outside, looking in?
So that's my analysis of the article: pick a hypothesis that won't get cut to ribbons by Occam.
Hi wwcj! Please be patient with me! This article by Prof. Raman is the sketchiest, bare-bones presentation of a speculation on consciousness as a universal field. It's great merit (from my point of view) is that, while recognizing the physical basis of consciousness in biological entities, it does not make consciousness an epiphenomenon (or simple by-product) of that physical basis exclusively; i.e., brain activity. The Universal Thought Field (UTF) and the Particular Thought Fields (PTFs) of individuals are able to interact on this model. Personally, I disagree with Prof. Raman's statement that PTF-to-PTF communications require physical media such as writing, language. The UTF itself may mediate this sort of communication.
As to defining what consciousness is, as I mentioned there seems to be a tendency among Eastern European scientists today to just generally regard anything that falls under the head "consciousness" as a spiritual phenomenon because they want to make plain its non-physical nature.
Of course, over here if you say "spiritual," everybody starts thinking "religion," and then you usually get into the same-old silly dust-up between atheists and believers, and the thread blows up. I hope that will not happen here. For while Prof. Raman's paper certainly does not rule out religious belief or religious experience, as a physicist, such speculations go beyond his pay grade. They are not his topic here.
I'm working on a more extended reply, wwcj. Boop will be back later. Thank you so much for writing!
Post-Gita religion is something else, social in intent, a set of effective rituals, purely mechanistic behavior. Pre-Christian Mediterranean religion, if it was indeed religion by our modern understanding, was highly symbolic ritual, individual in intent. Christianity allows both of these approaches simultaneously. The spiritual entity is a religious object, but not exclusively religious. The spiritual entity can be seen as a material thing as proposed in the essay at the top of this thread, the essence of this material thing yet to be determined.
It is marvelous to know that someone else has been thinking through the same things as me, on the basis of seemingly similar experiences and their reflection, and pretty much gets to the same place I get to. I thought your essay was simply beautiful. Thank you so much!
p.s.: You have also "set up" the thinking of another person whose insights on these subjects I hope to incorporate into a reply in progress, Hungarian astrophysicist Attila Grandpierre -- who really "puts flesh" on Raman's "bones."
[If I can ever get to write it!]