The Field

The Conjurer’s Fallacy

Does Chi energy exist? This video suggests that it does:

This video, on the other hand, seems to have been made to challenge the testimony in the first:

While I agree with the premise that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof I think that this is an example of what I would call the ‘conjurer’s fallacy’, the notion that any feat, claimed to be paranormal, that can be reproduced by conjuring has been produced by conjuring. There is more to the video about Dynamo Jack than the burning of a newspaper and it is the whole testimony rather than a part of it that is suggestive of a paranormal energy.

Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake argues in his Science Delusion talk that consciousness is fundamental to the universe; not ‘all in the brain’.

He identifies 10 materialist dogmas that science subscribes to:

1. Nature is mechanical or machine like.
2. Matter is unconscious.
3. The Laws of Nature and its Constants are fixed.
4. The amount of Energy and Matter are fixed.
5. Nature is purposeless.
6. Heredity is based on material in the genes.
7. Memories are stored in the brain.
8. Your mind is inside your head.
9. Psychic phenomena are impossible.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

Sheldrake shows that these dogmas can and should be challenged. Suggests that nature has ‘habits’ rather than ‘laws’; both are metaphors but maybe one is a biological metaphor and the other a mathematical metaphor.

Sheldrake’s thesis is that minds are “field-like” and extend beyond our brains. In another fascinating talk Sheldrake argues that minds reach out in every act of perception and our attention can be felt by others so we can sense when others are looking at us.

Excercise, Meditation and Health

This article sparked some thoughts about meditation, both my own meditation and meditation in general.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that adults who practiced mindful meditation or moderately intense exercise for eight weeks suffered less from seasonal ailments during the following winter than those who did not exercise or meditate.
 
The study appeared in the July issue of Annals of Family Medicine. Researchers recruited about 150 participants, 80 percent of them women and all older than 50, and randomly assigned them to three groups. One group was trained for eight weeks in mindful meditation; another did eight weeks of brisk walking or jogging under the supervision of trainers. The control group did neither. The researchers then monitored the respiratory health of the volunteers with biweekly telephone calls and laboratory visits from September through May—but they did not attempt to find out whether the subjects continued meditating or exercising after the initial eight-week training period.
 
Participants who had meditated missed 76 percent fewer days of work from September through May than did the control subjects. Those who had exercised missed 48 percent fewer days during this period. The severity of the colds and flus also differed between the two groups. Those who had exercised or meditated suffered for an average of five days; colds of participants in the control group lasted eight. Lab tests confirmed that the self-reported length of colds correlated with the level of antibodies in the body, which is a biomarker for the presence of a virus.
 
“I think the big news is that mindfulness meditation training appears to have worked” in preventing or reducing the length of colds, says Bruce Barrett of the department of family medicine. He cautions, however, that the findings are preliminary.
 
Scientific American

What’s interesting in this article is not just the conclusion that meditation has verifiable health benefits but that it is apparently more effective that exercise. However this is hardly the ‘big news’ that the article claims; the benefits of meditation have been known many years. The proponents of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in particular have pointed to research detailing the effectiveness of their particular technique:

I was introduced to TM many years ago when I was in my twenties. I continued to use it occasionally but was never a persistent or consistent practitioner. I have tried other forms of meditation also but again without consistency. Dr Hageiln’s exposition on TM appears quite partisan in extolling the virtues of TM above that of other meditation techniques but from what I’ve read TM is the most researched meditation technique.

There is a comparison of meditation techniques on the Institute for Applied Meditation website. This article promotes ‘Heart Rhythm Meditation’, which I had not heard about previously, but nevertheless provides thumbnail outlines of the other meditation forms. These are of course quite incomplete but the notes are a useful starting point. The Secrets of Yoga website offers a comparison between meditation styles that is a bit more detailed somewhat less partisan.

Follow-up Reading: A Glimpse into the Meditating Brain.

Consciousness

I watched this video of a lecture by Ingo Swann. Interesting despite the limited attention span I seem to have these days. I remember reading about Swann and ‘remote viewing’ many years ago; he is one of the world’s most famous psychics. Here he reminds us that science cannot tell us how consciousness arises and cites Roger Penrose.

Penrose says that consciousness is not (only) ‘computational’ but arises from the physics of the world. I don’t understand what that means but what Penrose is saying is that science does not understand consciousness because it is looking in the wrong place; that it is a problem for physicists not biologists and computer scientists. Swann is saying science cannot understand consciousness in general and psychic phenomena in particular because they are outside the physical realm that science deals with. Mind is ‘experiential’ and is intuitively understood. Swann points us to Patanjali’s sutras and makes the point that Sanskrit is a more appropriate language in which to discuss mind because it is more experiential while English is more material. The Patanjali connection is really interesting and I need to reread the sutras.

Although Swann says that science or the scientific method cannot comprehend the mind so mind science cannot be approached by science alone he references research which he sees as indicative of psychic phenomena and predicts that defence agencies will be looking into telepathy as they looked into remote viewing in the 1970’s.