Home » Intelligent Design » Epicycling Through The Materialist Meta-Paradigm Of Consciousness

Epicycling Through The Materialist Meta-Paradigm Of Consciousness

If we were to think of the height of the Eiffel tower as representing the age of our earth then the existence of humanity would be nothing more that the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob. This was the opening perspective offered by Professor of Philosophy Sean Kelly whose inaugural lecture at this year’s Annual International Bioethics Forum on the science of consciousness kick started a series of talks by a preeminent cast of academic thinkers and speakers. Kelly’s ensuing factual inventory set the tone for others to follow. During their brief history, humans have become a force that has incontrovertibly impacted our planet. 95% of that skin of paint of human existence occurred before the advent of agriculture. And during that time humans have shown that they are the only beings with a capacity not only for complex language but also for storing information outside of themselves in the form of books and multimedia. No other species dwells upon historical time like we do.

University of Minnesota ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, who spoke immediately after Kelly’s ‘opener’, concurred. Complex language, he noted, depends on synesthesia-style relationships between spoken words and a corresponding set of symbols that imbue our daily experiences with meaning. When this phenomenon emerged no one knows for sure although the deepest historical evidence to-date, that of the Blombos Cave in South Africa, suggests that it may have existed as early as 75,000 years ago.

University of Wisconsin cognitive scientist Antoine Lutz later presented his summarization of Rene Descartes’ Dualistic theory as part of his much-awaited talk. And his delivery of the historicity of cognitive philosophy was received with rapturous applause by an expecting audience. Descartes considered the pineal gland in the brain to be the center of integration of both the body and the non-material mind. Modern science has of course dismissed Descartes’ vision of this much-trumpeted ‘seat of the soul’ by showing the brain to be a highly distributed system of separate functions and reciprocal connectivities. In fact the ‘global work space’ of the human brain is made of 109 neurons with 10,000 connections. Current neuro-imaging techniques provide a very approximate sketch of this work space which is thought to perform thousands of neurological processes every second. With all of its neuroplasticity, the brain is evidentially built to change in response to experiences. Hot off the press in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences this week is a paper outlining how the brain acts “like a carpenter digging through a toolbox to pick a group of tools to accomplish the various basic components that comprise a complex task” (1,2) (Although I would add at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than any carpenter could ever hope to reach).

Throughout this year’s forum there was a noticeable disquiet over how best to define consciousness in terminology that could be assimilated into a scientific framework. Historically Immanuel Kant was the first to argue rationally that the human mind puts forward ‘categories of understanding’ that define how we view the cosmos. Over a century later the German philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote of the Axial age- a 400 year period of grand synchronicity when philosophers and sages across the globe pondered over the existence of transcendent meaning and spirituality in our world. Forum speaker Sean Kelly chose to talk about consciousness as the permeable boundary that separate us from our surroundings while British author Peter Russell focused on the inherent self-awareness that characterizes consciousness in humans and, to a much lesser extent, monkeys and dolphins. During the panel discussions some merely posited that consciousness inevitably emerges as an evolutionary phenomenon. Of course this latter end-point does nothing to satisfy the explanation-ravenous appetites of the truly scientifically-minded. We may rightly ask why evolution would produce conscious beings that are able to engage in religious experiences?

Functional MRI and contemporary biochemistry are telling us a lot about brain function and providing foundations for understanding at least the molecular facets of consciousness. Purdue University Distinguished Chair of Medicinal Chemistry Robert Nichols took the forum rostrum in earnest and supplied us with a compendious examination of how the brain thalamus processes our senses and gates information that is then sent to columns of pyramidal cells in the frontal cortex. A region of the brain known as the Locus Coeruleus acts as a ‘novelty detector’ that focuses our attention at any given moment to the events happening around us. We can now map out regions of the brain involved in sensory gating by using a class of compounds called entheogens such as psilocybin that act on serotonin 5HT2A receptors in the frontal cortex. Entheogens also shut down that Raphe region of the brain stem which during our ‘awake’ hours is rapidly firing electrical impulses and selectively releasing serotonin. Entheogens, noted Nichols, break the mental framework and therefore help the brain to temporarily live ‘outside the box’. Some Silicon Valley scientists are rumored to have used similar compounds to achieve new heights of innovative thought.

How have entheogens further aided consciousness research? Johns Hopkins behavioral biologist and Bioethics Forum speaker Roland Griffiths has used psilocybin in his own attempts to mimic mystical experiences. In 1962 Harvard psychiatrist Walter Pahnke performed his famous ‘Good Friday’ experiment from which he concluded that psilocybin occasioned mystical mimetic experiences. Griffiths revisited Pahnke’s work in an investigation involving 37 test subjects who were in one sense or another involved in religious practices. Interestingly all individuals reported experiencing feelings of awe, peace, and ineffable joy. 70% of these test subjects reported that the ingestion of Psilocybin had given them one of the top five most memorable and positive moments of their lives. Psilocybin treatment leads to a preferential processing of positive emotional expression (eg: happy faces) and therefore presents a therapeutic avenue for treating clinical depression.

In 1964, Eric Kant became the first to use entheogens to treat depression in advanced-cancer patients. Later Pahnke showed that these same compounds could be used to improve the psychological outlook for the terminally ill. More recently Franz Vollenweider, the serving Director of the Heffter Research Centre for Consciousness Studies in Switzerland, documented some of the altered states of consciousness (ASCs) that subjects have described as part of his own pioneering experiments. Descriptives such as oceanic self boundlessness, oneness and unity with the universe form part of the eleven ASC dimensions that are commonly found in the associated peer-reviewed literature. Vollenweider’s presentation at the forum was perhaps the most data-rich of all showing, amongst other things, how the intensity of ASCs is significantly affected by underlying personality traits.

At a fundamental level consciousness is a phenomenon that is deeply mysterious and to-date has escaped even the most concerted attempts at a simple explanation. According to Peter Russell we are in the throes of a revolution in thought not unlike that which caused the rejection of Ptolomeic epicycles during the Copernican era. The meta-paradigm that exists in science today views the world as one that is fully explainable through recourse to space, time and matter. And yet, notes Russell, this meta-paradigm of materialism through which we are epicycling in no way predicts the advent of conscious beings such as ourselves. Truth be told Russell’s own brand of pan-psychism, a doctrine that holds that even the atom is in some lesser degree conscious of itself, is little more than a fanciful cerebration with a materialistic flavor. Thankfully there have been formidable intellectual resistances against it.

Further Reading
1. Sign Language Study Shows Multiple Brain Regions Wired For Language, Science Daily, April 30th, 2010

2. A.J.Newman, t. Supalla, P. Hauser, E.L. Newport, D. Bravelier (2010) Dissociating Neural Subsystems For Grammar By Contrasting Word Order And Inflection, Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, Vol 107, p. 7539

Full details of seminars and presenters who attended the 9th Annual International Bioethics Forum:
Taking the Measure of the Magic Mirror, held on April 22-23, 2010 can be found at: http://www.btci.org/

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

32 Responses to Epicycling Through The Materialist Meta-Paradigm Of Consciousness

  1. Truth be told Russell’s own brand of pan-psychism, a doctrine that holds that even the atom is in some lesser degree conscious of itself, is little more than a fanciful cerebration with a materialistic flavor.

    Or perhaps it’s the “true” nonmaterialism, while monotheism (what with its tendancy to anthromorphism) is “fanciful cerebration with a materialistic flavor”.

    I personally find the whole question moot — either we can describe a phenomenon in scientific detail or we can’t. Maybe hurricaines work by describable mechanisms that are “really” supernatural. Maybe ESP exists but is “really” natural.

    But if “supernatural” is defined such that no rigorous predictions can be made from it, I fail to see the point.

  2. 2
    Merthin Builder

    From the OP:

    If we were to think of the height of the Eiffel tower as representing the age of our earth then the existence of humanity would be nothing more that the skin of paint on the pinnacle knob.

    The image is attributable to Mark Twain:

    “Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.” – Was the World Made for Man?

    Of course, the numbers have all increased by more than an order of magnitude (depending upon what one considers the advent of humanity), with the human animal confined to an even smaller percentage of geological time.

    I’ve always liked Gould’s image:?

    “Consider the earth’s history as the old measure of the English yard, the distance from the king’s nose to the tip of his outstretched hand. One stroke of a nail file on his middle finger erases human history” – Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle, 1987

  3. Actually the very short time window available for ANY advanced civilization to exist in the universe is a point that argues strongly for Theism:

    Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974),13 noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).14 Carter formalized this enormous imbalance between the time required to produce the possibility for human life and the brevity of the species’ (potential) survival as the “anthropic principle inequality.”15

    In response, some researchers speculated that the human species might represent an anomaly, an exception to the rule (e.g., a late bloomer or a more fragile species) among many possible intelligent life forms elsewhere in the cosmos. However, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions.16 Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency.

    Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now.17
    http://christiangodblog.blogsp.....chive.html

  4. Robert Deyes,

    Russell’s own brand of pan-psychism, a doctrine that holds that even the atom is in some lesser degree conscious of itself, is little more than a fanciful cerebration with a materialistic flavor.

    I’d object to this for two reasons.

    1) The ‘materialistic flavor’ is meager at best, which is why the recent turn towards the meat of panpsychism and variants hasn’t been one of devouring by naturalists, but closer to force-feeding.

    2) Fanciful cerebration it may well be. But it’s also scores more reasonable than materialism. Another Russell, one more famous, rejected naturalism and embraced something similar.

    Of course, considerations like these also point at something the reviewer of Galen Strawson’s “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?”> noted:

    Traditional Dualists, rather than the target audience of realistic materialists, may be the ones who will appreciate Strawson’s labors the most. For surely the dualist is right to think that if Strawson has shown that the realistic materialist must choose between eliminativism, pure panpsychism, or Spinozistical panpsychism, dualism looks better than ever.

  5. One of my AI (artificial intelligence) specialties is games of perfect knowledge. See here:

    worldchampionshipcheckers.com

    In both checkers and chess humans are no longer competitive against computer programs, because tree-searching techniques have been developed to the point where a human cannot overlook even a single tactical mistake when playing against a state-of-the-art computer program in these games.

    On the other hand, in the game of Go, played on a 19×19 board with a nominal search space of 19×19 factorial (1.4e+768), the best computer programs are utterly incompetent when playing against even an amateur Go player.

    When it comes to true intelligence — even something as seemingly simple as evaluating the grammatical correctness or meaning of a trivial sentence — the best computer programs are less than worthless.

    I turn off my Microsoft Word grammar checker, because it is wrong almost all of the time, and its suggestions are almost universally laughably stupid.

    The notion that random errors filtered by natural selection created the human mind — which is capable of creating language and interpreting it — is laughably stupid raised to the 768th power.

  6. Lenoxus -

    I am currently working on a paper which conceptualizes how one might use non-material causation in a scientific framework. If you (or anyone else) is interested, please email me at [email protected] with a statement that you won’t redistribute my paper to others or steal the ideas and I’ll send you my current version.

  7. Thanks Gil, I didn’t know that computers were so quickly overwhelmed by the probabilistic base they had to work with.

  8. 8
    Merthin Builder

    “Entheogen” – i.e. literally a substance that engenders an experience of God – is a coinage devised years ago by Jonathon Ott and others in an attempt to re-construe hallucinogens such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. It would be a bit of a surprise to find it argued on UD that use of these substances can disclose important insights into the nature of consciousness and and its relationship to the human brain.

    LSD is the most potent of these substances, as micrograms of the compound results in profound changes in awareness in ways that defy description.

    It always seemed to me that the fact that the insinuation into the human brain of a physical substance consisting of a dozen or so atoms arranged into a well-understood structure can trigger such profound changes in consciousness establishes beyond a doubt the fact that consciousness is grounded in and is a property of the physical and functional organization of the brain. Hallucinogens temporarily modify that functional organization, and hence modify consciousness.

    Otherwise, how else is one to understand the impact of these wholly physical substances?

  9. Merthin Builder-

    Does the arrangement of those atoms explain the types of experiences that the user becomes subject to? Is it not the case that the chemical is acting on an already present consciousness?

  10. Complex language, he noted, depends on synesthesia-style relationships between spoken words and a corresponding set of symbols that imbue our daily experiences with meaning.

    Does it make sense? What is meant under “set of symbols”? I am afraid that – at least in many abstracts or higher categories (or even prepostion or so called syntagmata) – there are no other symbols for them than words themselves.

    So the sentence in fact reads:
    Complex language, he noted, depends on synesthesia-style relationships between spoken words and a corresponding set of words that imbue our daily experiences with meaning.

    And now it sounds like genuine circular darwinian reasoning!

    The question is if the laguage “evolves” the same way darwinists assume species evolve.

    Schopenhauer’s opinion was that languages just degenerates. At the beginning they are perfect, there are lot of declinations (I mean indo-european languages) which just disappeares over the longer period of time.

    Latin and Slavonic languages have 7 declinations, German 4, English 2(‘s in Genitive). The meaning is expressed by positions of words in sentences.

    That’s why Gildgodgen #5 is partly right. To intepret automatically human language may be sometimes utterly impossile.

    Because some languages like Latin, Greek or Slavonic are synthetic languages, some sentences like these are possible (in Slovak):

    “Traktor predbehol autobus”.

    It can mean either:
    “The bus overtook the tractor”
    or
    “The tractor overtook the bus.”

    Unless you know context you cannot decide what overtook what.

    On the other hand German and English must have a subject in sentences. I say just “Prsi” (verb).
    In Eglish one says ” It rains”.
    “IT” is just pure grammatical category – I would like to know what an automaton will assign to “IT” – which in this case obviously doesn’t exist.

  11. 11
    Merthin Builder

    Phaedros -

    Does the arrangement of those atoms explain the types of experiences that the user becomes subject to? Is it not the case that the chemical is acting on an already present consciousness?

    The stereochemical arrangement of such a compound determines which structures and processes of the brain it interacts with – which receptors in which areas, for example, and what excitatory or inhibitory role those structures ordinarily play. It is the modification of the functioning of those structures and processes, and their ongoing role in generating human consciousness, that determines, in part, what types of experiences the user is subject to. In the instance of hallucinogens, those changes in neurobiological functioning can result, temporarily, in profound changes in level and kind of awareness.

    It is important to note, however, that the meanings of those experiences also originate with the person having them, construals that shape their ongoing experience in real time to a surprising degree. These experiences are sometimes so potent and surprising that people spontaneously and sometimes permanently reorganize the gestalt of their understanding of themselves and their ordinary experiences, and, indeed, of the role played by their ongoing construals (beliefs and expectations) in shaping their ordinary experiences, of which the individual may not previously have been aware. For example, they may previously have believed they were directly perceiving reality “out there” with no biological mediation or interpretive turn. It can be a stunning revelation to learn otherwise.

  12. nullasalus wrote:

    Of course, considerations like these also point at something the reviewer of Galen Strawson’s “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?” noted:

    Traditional Dualists, rather than the target audience of realistic materialists, may be the ones who will appreciate Strawson’s labors the most. For surely the dualist is right to think that if Strawson has shown that the realistic materialist must choose between eliminativism, pure panpsychism, or Spinozistical panpsychism, dualism looks better than ever.

    Unfortunately for the theist, it is property dualism, not substance dualism, that benefits from these considerations.

  13. Merthin Builder you stated:

    It is the modification of the functioning of those (material) structures and processes, and their ongoing role in generating human consciousness, that determines, in part, what types of experiences the user is subject to.”

    So you actually believe that 3D material reality generates consciousness?!?

    Yet this materialistic belief of yours is now shown to be a false view of reality from the foundation of 3D material reality itself!!! :

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Wigner

    The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.

    This following experiment highlights the centrality of consciousness in the Double Slit Experiment as to the wave collapse and refutes any “detector centered” arguments for wave collapse:

    Delayed choice quantum eraser
    http://onemorebrown.wordpress......um-eraser/

    of note; Consciousness must be INFORMED with local certainty to cause the wave to become a particle. We know from the Double Slit Experiment, with delayed erasure, that the simple fact of a detector being present is NOT sufficient to explain the wave collapse. If the detector results are erased after detection but before conscious analysis we see the wave form result instead of the particle result. This clearly establishes the centrality of consciousness to the whole experiment. i.e. The clear implication from the experiment is that consciousness is primary, and detection secondary, to the collapse of the wave function to a 3-D particle. Consciousness must precede 3-Dimensional material reality.

    In fact NDE studies have blown this view of your completely out of the water:

    The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The NDE of Pam Reynolds – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045560

    A Reply to Shermer – Medical Evidence For NDEs – Pim van Lommel M.D.
    Excerpt: And if we switch off the TV set, the reception disappears, but the transmission continues.,,,Could our brain be compared with the TV set that electromagnetic waves (photons) receives and transforms into image and sound, as well as with the TV camera that image and sound transforms into electromagnetic waves (photons)? This electromagnetic radiation holds the essence of all information, but is only conceivable to our senses by suited instruments like camera and TV set. ,,,as soon as the function of brain has been lost, like in clinical death or in brain death, with iso-electricity on the EEG, memories and consciousness do still exist, but the reception ability is lost. People can experience their consciousness outside their body, with the possibility of perception out and above their body, with identity, and with heightened awareness, attention, well-structured thought processes, memories and emotions. And they also can experience their consciousness in a dimension where past, present and future exist at the same moment, without time and space, and can be experienced as soon as attention has been directed to it (life review and preview), and even sometimes they come in contact with the “fields of consciousness” of deceased relatives. And later they can experience their conscious return into their body.
    http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel.....sponse.htm

    For a more nuanced refutation of your materialistic belief you may read this:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

    Basically Merthin Builder,,,,

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    William Shakespeare – Hamlet

  14. 14
    Merthin Builder

    Bornagain77

    So you actually believe that 3D material reality generates consciousness?!?

    What I said is that LSD and similar substances alter brain functioning, thereby altering consciousness.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William Shakespeare – Hamlet

    Of course. Maybe I can learn something from you.

    What is your explanation of the fact that ingesting a few hundred micrograms of a physical compound composed of a few dozen atoms profoundly modifies conscious experience, if not by modifying brain functioning?

  15. Actually Merthin Builder maybe we can learn something together; you asked:

    “What is your explanation of the fact that ingesting a few hundred micrograms of a physical compound composed of a few dozen atoms profoundly modifies conscious experience, if not by modifying brain functioning?”

    Well Merthin Builder, as I have already shown, 3-D material reality is dependent on consciousness to have a “3D material reality” in the first place. Since the point was established by rigorous science no less, then the explanation for the LSD phenomena is NOT EVER going to be found in any materialistic rationalization is it?
    That a “material” substance would effect how consciousness perceives reality (3-D or otherwise) is not even a surprise in that we alter our perception of reality with other substances all the time. The only surprising thing with LSD is the extinct to which our perception is effected; But exactly how does such a small amount of a drug have such a pronounced effect on consciousness: Well it turns out that, in relation to Van Lommels T.V/camera metaphor for consciousness, the reception of the stimuli/signal from our brain/camera to our consciousness is severely interfered with:

    Study Explains Why Psychedelic Drugs Produce Different Neurological Effects
    Excerpt: In a related finding, the research team also unraveled another neurochemical mystery. Previously, scientists had suspected that hallucinogenic drugs acted on the serotonin 2A receptors by traveling to the cerebral cortex, a key structure in the brain associated with multiple complex brain functions, including memory, attention, language, and consciousness.Using genetically-altered mice developed by their collaborators at the Laboratory of Mouse Genetics and Behavior led by Jay A. Gingrich, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Columbia University, the two groups found that the serotonin 2A receptor was acted on in the cerebral cortex, but not by cells traveling to the cerebral cortex. “This clarified the pathway so that we could really narrow down where this serotonin 2A receptor activity was taking place,” Dr. Sealfon says.
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/62243.php

    Thus that explains whay such a small amount of LSD can have such a pronounced effect:

    In further note:

    The interesting thing about LSD is that it exponentially increases the difficultly of differentiating what is “real” from what is imaginary, so it is like the worst case scenario for trying to draw any meaningful conclusions about whether a spiritual experience is real or not while under its influence.

    The dramatically heightened power of imagination/hallucination, brought about by LSD, can be somewhat illustrated by this mandelbrot set video:

    Order in the Chaos – Synchronicity through Fractals
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuyRCfhCZT0

    Yet by the same token many LSD experiences have reported having the same “shared hallucinations” that were deeply mystifying to explain, as to how do you explain two people, or even a group of people, having the same illusions at the same time?

    Interesting as these questions are, the fact is that since these experiences are “incurable of their wound” from the imagination” of the mind, then they are of very little value as to telling us, with any level of certainty, the true nature and character of the “spiritual” realm. For more concrete evidence of the “spiritual realm” I rely on broad, culturally, based studies of many Near death experiences, so as to greatly diminish the effect any one persons Imagination may have on the results.

  16. 16
    Merthin Builder

    BA:

    Thank you for your response, and the link.

    Unfortunately, the Medical News Today summary badly garbles the actual content of the research in question, and reports conclusions that are precisely opposite that of the actual article. (Actually, the portion of the article you quote simply makes no sense, apparently due to a typo.)

    Here is the summary from the actual article, from the journal Neuron:

    Hallucinogens Recruit Specific Cortical 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways to Affect Behavior

    Javier Gonza ? lez-Maeso,1,7 Noelia V. Weisstaub,3,4,5,7 Mingming Zhou,4 Pokman Chan,1 Lidija Ivic,1 Rosalind Ang,1 Alena Lira,4 Maria Bradley-Moore,4 Yongchao Ge,1,2 Qiang Zhou,1 Stuart C. Sealfon,1,2,* and Jay A. Gingrich4

    Hallucinogens, including mescaline, psilocybin, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), profoundly affect perception, cognition, and mood. All known drugs of this class are 5-HT2A receptor (2AR) agonists, yet closely related 2AR agonists such as lisuride lack comparable psychoactive properties. Why only certain 2AR agonists are hallucinogens and which neural circuits mediate their effects are poorly understood. By genetically expressing 2AR only in cortex, we show that 2AR-regulated pathways on cortical neurons are sufficient to mediate the signaling pattern and behavioral response to hallucinogens. Hallucinogenic and nonhallucinogenic 2AR agonists both regulate signaling in the same 2AR-expressing cortical neurons. However, the signaling and behavioral responses to the hallucinogens are distinct. While lisuride and LSD both act at 2AR expressed by cortex neurons to regulate phospholipase C, LSD responses also involve pertussis toxin-sensitive heterotrimeric Gi/o proteins and Src. These studies identify the long-elusive neural and signaling mechanisms responsible for the unique effects of hallucinogens.

    These researchers created genetically modified mice such that the 5HT receptors of interest were present ONLY in the cerebral cortices of those mice, and were absent from subcortical structures. Nevertheless, administration of hallucinogens to those mice activated in them all of the markers of hallucinogenic psychoactivity. Mice that, in contrast, had receptors in question genetically restored to subcortical structures (e.g. those associated with the thalamus), but not to the cerebral cortex, showed no indication of psychoactive response. This challenges theories that attribute the psychoactivity of these substances to interaction with those subcortical structures, as subcortical 5HT activation is not required for an hallucinogenic response.

    The balance of the article, which I have only skimmed (it is lengthy and quite technical), concerns the selective physical effects of those hallucinogens at these cortical 5HT receptors and the further physical consequences of that activation – signaling pathways, selective activation of genes, etc. There is nothing else in the article that addresses the small quantities of these substances required to exert profound psychoactive effects.

    You put yourself at risk by relying upon secondary sources alone.

  17. We have a very long way to go in explaining not just the larger questions of what the mind is all about, but in making sense of the particular. The case of the famous Indian mathematician of the 20th century, Srinivasa Ramanujan continues to interest scholars. While mathematicians were among the only scholars who studied his life, others, historians included have joined them. George Ghevarghese Joseph (or George George Joseph) is an historian of mathematics and author of the popular “Crest of the Peacock” an account of the history of non-Western mathematics from the time of the Babylonians, through Egypt, India, China and several other regions of the world. Naturally being a Keralite himself, George has delivered on his promise to produce a book on the celebrated Kerala School of Mathematics, a scholarly tradition that thrived for about 300 years from the 12th century, in the region that runs across much of the modern southern Indian state of Kerala. In an interesting interview here, http://economictimes.indiatime.....?prtpage=1, George talks about his latest book and the many connections that it explores. He offers the startling hypothesis on how Ramanujan may have become interested in mathematics in the first place. His mother may have sparked Ramanujan’s interest (leaving us to ask how a woman from an orthodox Sri Vaishnava family within the confines of a tradition bound southern town – Erode, and then Kanchipuram – could have mastered the complicated mental maths required to analyze horoscopes!

    But George leaves us with a zinger that I copy without a cringe, “So, how did Ramanujan produce such remarkable mathematics with his limited formal education? I think that part of the explanation may lie in his culture and upbringing. A source of embarrassment to many of his admirers both in India and in the West was his tendency to credit his discoveries to the intervention of the family goddess, Namagiri.”

  18. Merthin Builder-

    Here’s a pertinent quote from C.S. Lewis which might get you on your way, “If I ?nd in myself a desire which no experience
    in the world can satisfy, the most probable
    explanation is that I was made for another
    world.”

  19. @Merthin Builder. You said:

    “It always seemed to me that the fact that the insinuation into the human brain of a physical substance consisting of a dozen or so atoms arranged into a well-understood structure can trigger such profound changes in consciousness establishes beyond a doubt the fact that consciousness is grounded in and is a property of the physical and functional organization of the brain”

    That is a very extravagant claim to make. A more accurate way of stating it would be:

    “[all else in the statement remain the same]…the fact that consciousness interacts with physical and functional organization of the brain.”

    The moment you subject the mental under the physical ontologically, is the moment you abandon science and venture into metaphysics.

    I don’t see what the big deal is here. The mind and the brain interact and influence each other (both ways).
    That is a fairly established fact.

    The issue whether reality is a bottom mental, physical or both (dualism), however is still subject of debate.

  20. Merthin Builder, I don’t get it, What exactly are you trying to establish with your post? Do you really want to try to defend that consciousness is merely a “emergent” property of the brain? If so please state so clearly. Though I didn’t go into the subtleties of where the signaling pathways in the brain are effected, that was not the point of my objective, My point was to answer your question as to why such a small amount of a substance can have such a pronounced effect on consciousness. That the signaling pathways to be effected, or is that affected, in the brain/mind are found to be in the “higher level” and to be associated with “memory, attention, language, and consciousness” was quite sufficient for me to see how such a small quantity could have such a pronounced effect on our consciouness. Do you not think you cannot also go into traffic light control room and turn all the traffic lights to green (stuck in the on position as is the signaling pathway in the brain with the LSD) and also have a pretty wild effect/affect on how reality appears “out there”? And why do you not think that this should not have a pronounced effect? and, again, Exactly what point are you trying to establish by focusing on this?

  21. Phaedros here is that CS Lewis quote put to music:

    Brooke Fraser- “C S Lewis Song”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHpuTGGRCbY

    chinta, this math prodigy may interest you:

    The Human Calculator – Ruediger Gamm – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200252

    here are some more interesting savants:

    Autistic Savant Stephen Wiltshire Draws the City Of Rome From Memory
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200256

    Derek Paravicini on 60 MINUTES – Autistic Savant – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4303465

    Kim Peek: Idiot Savant (“Rain Man”)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhcQG_KItZM

    Also of interest Jeffrey Schwartz has had much success in treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from the “mind first” perspective:

    Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz – Focused Attention Changes Behavior – United Nations Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycnIO4o9vbE

  22. Thanks bornagain I’d never heard that song before. I like it a lot.

  23. Phaedros, yes I like her a lot to, she is a breath from heaven, no?

    here is another one of my favorites from her:

    Hillsong – Lord of Lords
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLVWnjVxcyY

  24. Merthin Builder, I still would like to know exactly where you wanted to go with your line of reasoning, if you could unpackage it for me I would appreciate it. I get the strong drift you are trying to maintain the wrong position that we are purely material beings, But you denied that yet I resolutely hold the that we are indeed,,,
    ,,, Spirits in the material World – Police
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO9_tOdwF8A

  25. BA77 I am not about to get into an argument about “who is the greatest”. Ramanujan was not a run-of-the-mill autistic/idiot savant. , and I say that without any prejudice. He has been compared in the words of Bruce C. Berndt: ‘Paul Erd?s has passed on to us G. H. Hardy’s personal ratings of mathematicians. Suppose that we rate mathematicians on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100, Hardy gave himself a score of 25, J.E. Littlewood 30, David Hilbert 80 and Ramanujan 100.’ This was a man who used to work on combinatorics for fun! There are geniuses like Ramanujan now and then. Like Gauss who could correct his father’s arithmetic at the age of three! Ramanujan’s classfellow at Cambridge, PC Mahalanobis, who went on to found the Indian Statistical Institute in 1937 (which served as a model for many statistics departments in the US in the ’50s) was a doctrinaire socialist and expressed his frustration at Ramanujan’s penchant for mystical insights. For more on the Sri Vaishnava culture, could we have a few words from Bill? I am a Smartha and although I understand Vaishnava sampradaya as a co-similar Hindu (I disagree but have no problems with it) Bill has spent a term at the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies which is run by the Vaishnava adherents and he would have experienced their culture form a different perspective.

  26. chinta, I never claimed Gamm was the “greatest” mathematician, I just offered you the Ruediger Gamm video for I thought you would find it interesting.

    The Human Calculator – Ruediger Gamm – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200252

    Now if I were to argue at to what man in history was the greatest mathematician (as difficult as that would be to figure out),,, my personal vote would go for Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) to be placed very near the top if not at the top:

    Leonhard Euler
    Excerpt: Euler is considered to be the preeminent mathematician of the 18th century and arguably the greatest of all time. He is also one of the most prolific; his collected works fill 60–80 quarto volumes.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonhard_Euler

    Eulers Number – God Created Mathematics
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4003905

  27. BA77,
    I am not either making any claims about who was great and who was greater. It is generally agreed that Gauss, Jacobi and Euler are the greatest ever and of Gauss it is said that no one knew and explored as much mathematics as he did. I am trying to point out how mathematical inspiration has arisen in cultures that are as a rule not discussed here on UD. In the case of Ramanujan, his calibre is all the more surprising because there was a language barrier he had to cross – from his native Tamil into English. It is said that he until 10 the only text books he had ever used were the elementary arithmetic textbooks of a typical grade schooler, all in Tamil. Of course he did not live long enough, dying at 32. But his devotion to Namagiri continued all his life.

  28. chinta, not to burst your bubble, but there is a substantial bit more “proof” of Christ’s reality, and impact on science, than Namagiri’s.

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3993426/

    Scientists of the Christian Faith: A Presentation of the Pioneers, Practitioners and Supporters of Modern Science
    http://www.tektonics.org/scim/sciencemony.htm

    These following videos show, that as far as the historical evidence is concerned, Jesus assuredly rose from the dead.

    The Historicity Of The Resurrection Of Jesus – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYdzUYyIKMM

    Does God Exist? – Argument From The Historical Jesus – Kirk Durston – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4171869

    Without such corroborating proof Chinta that gives significant weight to plausibility to such a claim, It is a bit like you saying that Bill Gates is filthy rich because he likes grape koolaid, instead of the fact he owns Microsoft.

  29. chinta,

    I like this particular essay:

    Christianity and the Birth of Science
    Excerpt: If an appreciation for math and the cause-and-effect workings of nature were sufficient to generate modern science, how does one explain the historical fact the the founders of modern science were all found in a *particular* culture that just happened to be shaped by a Judeo-Christian world view? Instead of measuring energy in joules, why don’t we measure it in platos or al-Asharis?
    Of course, the cynics would claim these men were not *really* Christians. That is, they really didn’t *believe* in Christianity, but they professed such beliefs because they did not want to be persecuted. This is the “closet-atheist” hypothesis. But it doesn’t square with the facts.
    Many of the founders of modern science were also very interested in theology. If you read Pascal, this is obvious. Mendel was a monk. Newton often said his interest in theology surpassed his interest in science. Newton did end his Principles with:

    “This most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God.”

    As Charles Hummel notes,

    “Newton’s religion was no mere appendage to his science; he would have been a theist no matter what his profession.”

    Boyle set up Christian apologetics lectures. Babbage and Prout contributed to an apologetics series called the Bridgewater Treatises. Aggasiz, Cuvier, Fleming, Kelvin, and Linnaeus were what we now call ‘creationists.’ When I speak about Biblical beliefs that paved the way for science, I will use both Kepler and Pasteur to highlight two specific examples.

    Furthermore, many of these founders of science lived at a time when others publicly expressed views quite contrary to Christianity – Hume, Hobbes, Darwin, etc. When Boyle argues against Hobbe’s materialism or Kelvin argues against Darwin’s assumptions, you don’t have a case of “closet atheists.”
    http://www.ldolphin.org/bumbulis/

    As well chinta, The Bible is the only Holy book in the world to correctly postulate a completely transcendent origin of the universe, whereas the Hindu religions believe in a cyclical (oscillating) universe that kept in keeping with their belief in reincarnation:

    Refutation Of Oscillating Universe – Michael Strauss PhD. – video:
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4323673

    Evidence For Flat Universe – Boomerang Project
    http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Art.....-flat.html
    http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Art.....megal3.gif

    Hugh Ross PhD. – Evidence For The Transcendent Origin Of The Universe – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347185

    Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4170233

    “It is also very interesting to note that among all the “holy” books, of all the major religions in the world, only the Bible was correct in its claim for a transcendent origin of the universe. Some later “holy” books, such as the Mormon text “Pearl of Great Price” and the Qur’an, copy the concept of a transcendent origin from the Bible but also include teachings that are inconsistent with that now established fact. (Ross; Why The Universe Is The Way It Is; Pg. 228; Chpt.9; note 5)”

    etc.. etc..

  30. BA77,

    I was mistaken. I assumed that you would be interested in a more universal approach to the study of intuition and inspiration. Let me assure you that I do discuss these matters. But I won’t now, not here and not today. Thanks to Bill & friends for the bandwidth.

  31. Well chinta, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, it is just that I’ve defended this position for a little while and so I have a little understanding as to what it takes to defend such a claim as you are trying to establish. Should you not relish to opportunity to defend your evidence, if you have any, that your god is in fact real since I merely pointed out the broad weaknesses of your Hindu claims for inspiration. In my eyes that is about as “universal” into the study of “inspiration” as we can get to consider such matters.

  32. Merthin Builder,

    It’s not just drugs that alter consciousness. Everything that happens to someone has an affect on their consciousness. All painful and pleasurable experiences alter the brain and the consciousness of people.

    The argument is that the brain is a necessary but not sufficient factor in consciousness, or at least consciousness as we know it. In this way, the brain is like an eye. Without the eye, conscious experience would be much different. But the eye does not explain consciousness any more than a camera and a harddrive do.

Leave a Reply