March 23, 2014 1 Comment
I have never before used my blog to rant about someone else’s writing. But I came across a rather humorous attempt at scientific reporting that is unfortunately all too common in its tone, inaccuracies, and presumptive style and I just can’t resist.
The article appeared in Gizmodo’s supposedly edgy spinoff blog SPLOID and purports to reveal an amazing new discovery that for the first time explains scientifically how out of body experiences (OBEs) are produced by the brain.
Here is a partial list of logical flaws in this report:
1. “This is the very first time that this type of experience has been analyzed and documented scientifically” – Researcher Celia Green must be having a good chuckle at this considering that she analyzed and documented hundreds of OBE accounts over 45 years ago.
2. “this may be the first documented case of someone who can get into this state at will” – Robert Monroe must be guffawing from one of the remote rings, given that he and William Buhlman each had hundreds of experiences and were able to predictably initiate OBEs decades ago.
3. “This is not an astral trip, like those described by mystics. There’s no paranormal activity of any kind.” – This is where the article really crosses over into fiction. Really? No paranormal activity of any kind? You’re sure about that? Let’s consider an analogy. The argument that the author gives for this claim is that since the fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) showed brain activity in regions “associated with kinesthetic imagery” that the experience must come from the brain. First of all, “associated with” is hardly the kind of phrase that would warrant a definitive conclusion. Second, science is not about definitive conclusions. Science is about evidence and theories, not conclusions, facts or proofs. The most definitive thing the science can provide is falsifiability when an observation negates a particular hypothesis. However, in this case, it is the opposite – the University of Ottawa study is simply generating evidence that one person’s OBE correlates to some activity in a particular region of the brain – certainly not the stuff of facts, proofs, or even much of a theory. The referenced paper is appropriately restrained in its conclusions, unlike the Gizmodo article, which takes silly leaps of logic. So anyway, back to that analogy. Let’s say that we break open my cell phone and attach some test equipment – an oscilloscope or logic analyzer – to some contact point in the circuitry. My friend sends me a text message and, lo and behold, the test equipment activates. Oooh, that must mean that the text was initiated from that part of the cell phone circuitry, rather than from the mind of my BFF. NOT!
4. “The fact is…scientists believe that these out-of-body experiences are a type of hallucination triggered by some neurological mechanism.” Sorry, Jordan, not clear where you get this “fact.” You have made a sweeping generalization of the beliefs of all scientists. Have you checked with all of the scientists? Or did you mean to say “some scientists?” Because most scientists with open minds would argue to the contrary.