Thursday, March 29, 2012

Science jumping to conclusions? Never!

I was reading an article from 2006 that seem to draw a conclusion that certain perceptions of patients were triggered by electrical stimulation of specific brain regions.  Because they were able to cause and remove at-will supposed perceptions similar in kind to spiritual insights (such as out of body or ghostly encounters) by controlling an external electrical signal, they concluded that the stimulation of a specific brain region was the cause.  The problem with this conclusion is that they ignore the stimulus as a potential cause as it too was a trigger.  This is a major issue that I have with jumping to conclusions by selectively perceiving what the experimenter wants to perceive.

What is perception and what is experience?  Our body, and the brain specifically, is designed to take input and do something with that data, but what is that something?  This is done all the time both consciously and unconsciously (through the body consciousness).  But when someone proclaims that the brain is the source of a perception or experience, they are ignoring the input itself!  This happens because they jump to the conclusion that the brain is the source of mind and thus is causing the effect.  Many people jump to conclusions such as this all the time, while ignoring the assumptions they hold to draw their conclusions.  Religion is most extremely guilty of jumping to conclusions without recognizing the real causes, but science also does this to the extreme.  Take for example the theory that all life are mutations from an initial single-celled organism.  How does one come to such conclusion based on the premise that because we are multi-celled creatures and the cells divide, we must therefore have come from a simpler template such as a single-celled amoeba merely because all living cells divide?  This is the typical case for associating effect with a cause with no evidence except association based on assumption.

In the example of the brain stimulation causing perceptions similar in kind to an out-of-body experience, if the electrical stimulation did not occur, they would not perceive such an experience.  So why isn't the conclusion that the electrical stimulation is the cause of the perception and not the location of the brain?  Why jump to the conclusion that the brain is the source of such perception?  This is what I mentioned in my previous post about aspects of experiments that are ignored as being a source of causation (such as the electrical signal and even the patient and experimenter).  The electrical signal is also a part of the experiment and is a major contributor to the effect.  But because the experiment was focusing on locating brain-activity cause and effect, the conclusions thus follow that the brain is the cause for any effect.  They ignore the trigger itself as a possible cause.  This happens because whenever we think we understand or know something, we assume since we understand it that it is too trivial as a cause and thus forget it is there or take it for granted.

In addition, the process that the brain goes through in converting a signal into a cognitive perception is unknown.  To conclude that a stimulus at a specific location in the brain is the cause of an effect assumes that there is no further processing of the signal prior to perception.  How is the brain/mind connection associated and how does the process of thought work?  No scientist knows, and yet they jump to conclusions based on surface-level experiments, polluting the knowledge-base with unfounded conclusions and misdirection.  Many times this occurs due to human ego, the desire for notoriety, but it is also the reason why ignorance continues against the spiritual science.  One does not need to look too deep to see how science can be more business than the pursuit of true knowledge.  How different is this compared to churches and religious organizations proclaiming works of faith in the pursuit of worldly material?

Whether or not the patient's experience triggered by the brain stimulation is the same as a "naturally occurring" experience, this can never be proven, so therefore the conclusion is again meaningless.  It's easy enough to describe an experience similar to a "real" experience, but unless the patient is the one who compares these experiences (the laboratory induced experience versus a natural experience they may have had) all one can say about the effect is that the stimulation was an input that was interpreted as being similar to a natural experience.  Another problem with verbal descriptions stem from the translation of thought to words.  If you ask anyone to describe a dream or psychological event, you'll find that it is nearly impossible to not only remember all the details but certain aspects cannot easily be described in words.  So how then can you obtain reasonable conclusions through experiments of mind simply by stimulating the brain and asking the patient for their subjective description of experience, as if all aspects of human experience is mapped to some portion of the brain and can be described in common words and common experience?  Everyone has a different perception of the same event because everyone perceives and interprets things differently.

It is obvious that science has a long way to go before it is able to unlock the mystery of the brain/mind connection.  The most difficult aspect of brain/mind to discover through modern science will be to map cause and effect.  Did the brain activity cause thought or did thought cause the brain to respond in effect?  Unless the experimenter can communicate via telepathy with the subject, one cannot measure time delay between thought and brain activity because any external thought response as a physical signal must go through the brain.  In order to move ahead, science must stop jumping to simplistic conclusions based on assumptions and instead consider the notion that the mind is not a portion of the physical brain.  Maybe the brain is simply a medium converting the physical sensory data into some other unknown data.  The question is where does thought occur?  How does input become data to be processed?  Many more such questions must be answered before anyone can proclaim any wisdom of the mind.  In the meantime, let's not pretend that we know something about reality, when we're just as clueless today in modern science as we are in modern religion.

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