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Any life scientists here?

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Any life scientists here?
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4/3/14 4:41 AM
I'm working toward my PhD in a life science related field and I would like to connect with other life scientists on here. Any neuroscientists for example?

I don't exactly know what I'm expecting from a such connection. But after experiences in meditation I've become interested in the idea of scientific studies of the things that bring us here. Ideally speaking, whatever experience people report, there should be an objective measure of it. I know that is very far into the future (if it is ever going to happen), but we can dream, right?

When talking about these things it seems easy to start to sound crazy to the general science community. (And the scientist in me says maybe that's a good thing) But it seems to me that in an ideal long term future, science will/should go into these areas that are experienced by many people first hand. I know there are studies on meditation that are currently being carried out. Maybe they are a start, but they don't cut it for me for some reason.

I'll even start with a question and see what happens. Let's say you want to measure consciousness. How do you do it?

Or, how cool would it be if we could objectively show the relationship between body sensations and mind's reactions to them.

The point of my post is less to talk about these ideas but more to just to see if there are any life scientists here.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/13/14 6:14 AM as a reply to K. O..
M. C.:
Let's say you want to measure consciousness. How do you do it?


first by defining what conciousness is, not a simple feat.

note: this by a non accredited scientist :-)

tm

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/13/14 7:13 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
first by defining what conciousness is, not a simple feat.


You are right, it is not easy. I know of studies on consciousness where the scientists explicitly avoid defining what consciousness is, due to our lack of understanding.

But how about this. I know it is not a definition in the strict sense, but "It is what we lose when we go to sleep, and what we gain when we wake up".

The interesting thing to me is, it is a concept that we know so well experientially, but so little intellectually, or objectively.

RE: Any life scientists here?
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3/13/14 7:39 AM as a reply to K. O..
...yeah.. and then there's the difference between what you are describing and the "conciousness" referred to in the scheme of the five aggregates...

then to your question..how to measure it. is that an important question? Professor Amit Goswami's take on consiousness being the absolute basis in the heirarchy of this holographic reality is IMO a really good starting point in such discussions but i understand the scientist's need for quantifying all phenomena.

tom

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/13/14 2:05 PM as a reply to K. O..
M. C.:
But how about this. I know it is not a definition in the strict sense, but "It is what we lose when we go to sleep, and what we gain when we wake up".

Nope. On retreat I continued noting practice in my dreams at times.

I'm reading The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
by Thomas Metzinger
Very enjoyable so far.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/14/14 4:35 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
M. C.:
But how about this. I know it is not a definition in the strict sense, but "It is what we lose when we go to sleep, and what we gain when we wake up".

Nope. On retreat I continued noting practice in my dreams at times.

I'm reading The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
by Thomas Metzinger
Very enjoyable so far.


Hi Dreamwalker,

I just saw your message. Glad you are enjoying it. Feel free to discuss if further! Definitely a book I would recommend, particularly for the pragmatic dharma crowd.

In response to M.C, I would say that the main problem in thinking about consciousness are not from a lack of understanding, but faulty assumptions about the concept of consciousness. One of this is the idea that it is a "thing" that can be measured.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/15/14 2:20 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
One of this is the idea that it is a "thing" that can be measured


It may or may not be a "thing". If it is not, can there be a science of non-things? By that I mean can there be a way to objectively, systematically and reproducibly observe and characterize these non-things?

Or is that paradoxical? Does the idea of objectivity go against the very nature of consciousness? For example, if consciousness is something that only exists within individual experience, than that would be the case. If not, should there not be a way to objectively detect and observe it? Even if it is a kind of detection and observation that may be very different from what we are used to.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/15/14 3:32 AM as a reply to K. O..
M. C.:
One of this is the idea that it is a "thing" that can be measured


It may or may not be a "thing". If it is not, can there be a science of non-things? By that I mean can there be a way to objectively, systematically and reproducibly observe and characterize these non-things?



Yes, there can be such a science. It already exists! We can "objectively show the relationship between body sensations and mind's reactions to them" - it is what is done in psychology, cognitive neuroscience and consciousness studies.

M. C.:

Or is that paradoxical? Does the idea of objectivity go against the very nature of consciousness? For example, if consciousness is something that only exists within individual experience, than that would be the case. If not, should there not be a way to objectively detect and observe it? Even if it is a kind of detection and observation that may be very different from what we are used to.


Yes the idea of objectivity goes against the very nature of consciousness, but we can objectively detect and observe conscious states of the brain. i.e., the brain when asleep or under anesthesia looks very different from when it is awake.

As I said, a lot of the problems come from reification of consciousness as a thing - so (IMHO) it isn't some "thing" that exists within individual experience. You are setting up a container metaphor here. Instead, it is individual experience. We live in a universe where certain kinds of brains in certain kinds of configurations have individual experiences. Which is a pretty amazing state of affairs.

M. C.:
When talking about these things it seems easy to start to sound crazy to the general science community. (And the scientist in me says maybe that's a good thing) But it seems to me that in an ideal long term future, science will/should go into these areas that are experienced by many people first hand. I know there are studies on meditation that are currently being carried out. Maybe they are a start, but they don't cut it for me for some reason.


The future is now! I would say science IS already going into these areas that are experienced by many people first hand. See, for example, the work on OBE's that Metzinger discusses. So my perception is that the reason they don't cut due to those (potentially) false assumptions about consciousness you have, i.e. you want something from a science of consciousness which is not possible given the nature of consciousness.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/15/14 4:02 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
We can "objectively show the relationship between body sensations and mind's reactions to them"


If you know of studies that does precisely this, I'd be very interested.

I will check out Metzinger's work. I'll also look more into cognitive neuroscience.

RE: Any life scientists here?
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3/15/14 4:48 AM as a reply to K. O..
M. C.:
We can "objectively show the relationship between body sensations and mind's reactions to them"


If you know of studies that does precisely this, I'd be very interested.

I will check out Metzinger's work. I'll also look more into cognitive neuroscience.


I don't know exactly what you are looking for, as my interpretation of that would point to entire fields of research, rather than a specific study.

To give you a flavour, you could check out the kinds of studies in a journal like

http://www.journals.elsevier.com/consciousness-and-cognition/

Consciousness and Cognition
Consciousness and Cognition, An International Journal, provides a forum for a natural science approach to the issues of consciousness, voluntary control, and self. The journal features empirical research (in the form of articles) and theoretical reviews. The journal aims to be both scientifically rigorous and open to novel contributions.
Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
• Implicit memory
• Selective and directed attention
• Priming, subliminal or otherwise
• Neuroelectric correlates of awareness and decision-making
• Assessment of awareness; protocol analysis
• The properties of automaticity in perception and action
• Relations between awareness and attention
• Models of the thalamocortical complex
• Blindsight
• The neuropathology of consciousness and voluntary control
• Pathology of self and self-awareness
• The development of the self-concept in children


And here is an open access review article which gives an idea of the "state of the art" in the field:

Consciousness in humans and non-human animals: recent advances and future directions

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3814086/

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
3/15/14 6:06 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Yes, I was referring to a more specific experiment that shows exactly that. I didn't think there is one. The field is probably not there yet.

RE: Any life scientists here?
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3/15/14 6:19 AM as a reply to K. O..
Exactly what?!! My point is, as worded, the question is incredibly broad, and the field has been addressing that question (or other versions of the same kinds of question) for many years. If, for example, you want to better understand how the mind responds to sensory stimuli, then you pick up a textbook on sensory neurophysiology,

RE: Any life scientists here?
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4/3/14 4:01 PM as a reply to K. O..
I'm in the life sciences, and am a biologist at a biomedical device company. We're probably about the same age, but I decided not to go grad school (yet?), for better or worse. I'm doing my own research though which is pretty cool, and am happy to report that I haven't found that lacking a grad degree is limiting to my upward mobility (yet?). My ideas regarding consciousness and reality are quite far from the scientific mainstream though. I generally don't talk about these things with my co-workers for the reasons you mentioned. I was formerly a tech in a physiology lab that did a lot of cellular neurophysiology.

It is possible to study subjective events like consciousness with science. For example, we have an epistemically objective science of pain which is an ontologically subjective event. However, science does not currently study consciousness (except for a few brave souls on the fringe). Psychology, cog sci, neuroscience, etc. study the physical events of the brain, and the neural correlates of consciousness.

I do not think it is possible to ontologically reduce consciousness to physical events. To me, these seem like fundamentally different things. My studies of philosophy and more importantly my own phenomenology have brought me to the mindset that reality is more like mind, fundamentally, than it is like matter. This viewpoint not only diverges strongly from mainstream science, but from many of the viewpoints here on this forum. Many here seem to take a more 'neurophysiological' approach to meditation and it's effects. That's not a judgement, it's a fine belief system. It just doesn't mesh with my experience anymore.

RE: Any life scientists here?
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4/4/14 2:07 PM as a reply to dat Buddha-field.
hi D B F!

Thanks for joining the discussion. A few thoughts below!

>> It is possible to study subjective events like consciousness with science. For example, we have an epistemically objective science of pain which is an ontologically subjective event. However, science does not currently study consciousness (except for a few brave souls on the fringe).

?? How would a science of consciousness differ from the science of consciousness we have now?

>> Psychology, cog sci, neuroscience, etc. study the physical events of the brain, and the neural correlates of consciousness.

>> I do not think it is possible to ontologically reduce consciousness to physical events. To me, these seem like fundamentally different things.

That's the kicker. I think that is where many people get led astray. So I think it makes more sense to think about episteomlogical dualism instead of ontological dualism when talking about consciousness (I think i get this from Flannagan). And so, I would say, that your intuition that they are different "things" is the problem that you need to overcome (and to even to talk about consciousness being a "thing"), in that your intuitions aren't a reliable guide to understanding the problem of consciousness.

>> My studies of philosophy and more importantly my own phenomenology have brought me to the mindset that reality is more like mind, fundamentally, than it is like matter.

Phenomenologically speaking, all you that experience is phenomenology, the only reality you experience is mind, so can you know that mind is more like than matter? As you don't experience matter, you experience mind.

>> This viewpoint not only diverges strongly from mainstream science, but from many of the viewpoints here on this forum. Many here seem to take a more 'neurophysiological' approach to meditation and it's effects. That's not a judgement, it's a fine belief system.

Yep, we all have fine belief systems! Its hard to say, while it might be fair to say I have that approach, I would say the opposite, that most people in general, like yourself, are dualists, and I think that is true of the majority of people here.

Saw

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
4/5/14 2:00 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
>> How would a science of consciousness differ from the science of consciousness we have now?

A science of mind would be more open to working with phenomenology and would be open minded. For example, having OOBE travelers and NDE havers try to verify some sort of verifiable information. Those kind of experiments combined with fMRI (when possible) would be a very basic start.

>>That's the kicker. I think that is where many people get led astray. So I think it makes more sense to think about episteomlogical dualism instead of ontological dualism when talking about consciousness (I think i get this from Flannagan). And so, I would say, that your intuition that they are different "things" is the problem that you need to overcome (and to even to talk about consciousness being a "thing"), in that your intuitions aren't a reliable guide to understanding the problem of consciousness.

>>that most people in general, like yourself, are dualists, and I think that is true of the majority of people here.

First off, I'm definitely not a dualist. If I had to categorize myself I would say idealism is more appealing. Honestly though, and no offense, this is not a debate I want to have. I've had this debate many times in the past and know exactly how it goes.

What my practice has shown me is that reality doesn't fit nicely into small conceptual boxes drawn by philosophers past. Reality is far stranger than either you or I can conceive, and I happen to think that reality is pretty damn weird! I encourage you to stay open minded about how much consciousness is capable of, and see where your practice takes you.

RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
4/5/14 5:07 AM as a reply to dat Buddha-field.
dat Buddha-field:
>> How would a science of consciousness differ from the science of consciousness we have now?

A science of mind would be more open to working with phenomenology and would be open minded. For example, having OOBE travelers and NDE havers try to verify some sort of verifiable information. Those kind of experiments combined with fMRI (when possible) would be a very basic start.

>>That's the kicker. I think that is where many people get led astray. So I think it makes more sense to think about episteomlogical dualism instead of ontological dualism when talking about consciousness (I think i get this from Flannagan). And so, I would say, that your intuition that they are different "things" is the problem that you need to overcome (and to even to talk about consciousness being a "thing"), in that your intuitions aren't a reliable guide to understanding the problem of consciousness.

>>that most people in general, like yourself, are dualists, and I think that is true of the majority of people here.

First off, I'm definitely not a dualist. If I had to categorize myself I would say idealism is more appealing. Honestly though, and no offense, this is not a debate I want to have. I've had this debate many times in the past and know exactly how it goes.

What my practice has shown me is that reality doesn't fit nicely into small conceptual boxes drawn by philosophers past. Reality is far stranger than either you or I can conceive, and I happen to think that reality is pretty damn weird! I encourage you to stay open minded about how much consciousness is capable of, and see where your practice takes you.


Ok, no debate. All I would say that I equate open mindedness with being willing to believe things for which there is little grounds for believing, due to little evidence or theoretical incoherence. So in the case of science, being open minded is generally a bad thing and not to be encouraged. Following that lead, for my personal practice, I am pretty closed minded, but I wouldn't necessarily encourage you to be the same - if you want to be open minded, then go for it!

edit: just to add, regarding dualism, is that talking about mind vs. matter, and that consciousness and physical events seem like ontological different things is to my mind classic dualism - but what I like about Buddhist philosophy of mind, is that Buddha figured out that talking about the mind or consciousness as a "thing" was probably a mistake, and that it makes more sense to see mind as "process".

double edit:

And yes, reality is indeed far stranger than I can imagine! Who needs astral projection, when you can just look in the ocean...





RE: Any life scientists here?
Answer
4/6/14 3:09 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Ok, no debate. All I would say that I equate open mindedness with being willing to believe things for which there is little grounds for believing, due to little evidence or theoretical incoherence. So in the case of science, being open minded is generally a bad thing and not to be encouraged. Following that lead, for my personal practice, I am pretty closed minded, but I wouldn't necessarily encourage you to be the same - if you want to be open minded, then go for it!


For me personally, I try not to be close minded because, to me, it seems like a form of aversion. Being open-minded doesn't equate with an over-zealousness of belief, but I see it more as a non-attachment to belief. Overall though, intricate belief systems and conceptual structures are something I'm trying to move away from.

edit: just to add, regarding dualism, is that talking about mind vs. matter, and that consciousness and physical events seem like ontological different things is to my mind classic dualism - but what I like about Buddhist philosophy of mind, is that Buddha figured out that talking about the mind or consciousness as a "thing" was probably a mistake, and that it makes more sense to see mind as "process".


Saying mind and matter are fundamentally different things is dualism I suppose, so I would qualify my initial statements by saying I don't buy into the conventional definition of matter. Like I said before, I see reality as more like mind, which isn't just a process, but THE process. Likewise, "matter" is just a process of mind. Saying that consciousness and "matter" are fundamentally different is just kind of the standard argument about why ontological reduction of consciousness isn't possible. I just think it's interesting that so many faithfully believe that conventional "matter" is what exists fundamentally when, like you say, no one has ever experienced it.