Arquivo da tag: Consciência

Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence? (BBC)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved.

When this “observer effect” was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science: that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what can “reality” really mean?

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”

Some of those researchers felt forced to conclude that objectivity was an illusion, and that consciousness has to be allowed an active role in quantum theory. To others, that did not make sense. Surely, Albert Einstein once complained, the Moon does not exist only when we look at it!

Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.

Might it be that, just as quantum objects can apparently be in two places at once, so a quantum brain can hold onto two mutually-exclusive ideas at the same time?

These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind. But if nothing else, these possibilities show just how strangely quantum theory forces us to think.

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”. Imagine shining a beam of light at a screen that contains two closely-spaced parallel slits. Some of the light passes through the slits, whereupon it strikes another screen.

Light can be thought of as a kind of wave, and when waves emerge from two slits like this they can interfere with each other. If their peaks coincide, they reinforce each other, whereas if a peak and a trough coincide, they cancel out. This wave interference is called diffraction, and it produces a series of alternating bright and dark stripes on the back screen, where the light waves are either reinforced or cancelled out.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits

This experiment was understood to be a characteristic of wave behaviour over 200 years ago, well before quantum theory existed.

The double slit experiment can also be performed with quantum particles like electrons; tiny charged particles that are components of atoms. In a counter-intuitive twist, these particles can behave like waves. That means they can undergo diffraction when a stream of them passes through the two slits, producing an interference pattern.

Now suppose that the quantum particles are sent through the slits one by one, and their arrival at the screen is likewise seen one by one. Now there is apparently nothing for each particle to interfere with along its route – yet nevertheless the pattern of particle impacts that builds up over time reveals interference bands.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits and interferes with itself. This combination of “both paths at once” is known as a superposition state.

But here is the really odd thing.

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

If we place a detector inside or just behind one slit, we can find out whether any given particle goes through it or not. In that case, however, the interference vanishes. Simply by observing a particle’s path – even if that observation should not disturb the particle’s motion – we change the outcome.

The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: “observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position.” In other words, Jordan said, “we ourselves produce the results of measurements.”

If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.

And it gets even stranger.

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

If nature seems to be changing its behaviour depending on whether we “look” or not, we could try to trick it into showing its hand. To do so, we could measure which path a particle took through the double slits, but only after it has passed through them. By then, it ought to have “decided” whether to take one path or both.

The sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse

An experiment for doing this was proposed in the 1970s by the American physicist John Wheeler, and this “delayed choice” experiment was performed in the following decade. It uses clever techniques to make measurements on the paths of quantum particles (generally, particles of light, called photons) after they should have chosen whether to take one path or a superposition of two.

It turns out that, just as Bohr confidently predicted, it makes no difference whether we delay the measurement or not. As long as we measure the photon’s path before its arrival at a detector is finally registered, we lose all interference.

It is as if nature “knows” not just if we are looking, but if we are planning to look.

(Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute Physics/Science Photo Library)

Eugene Wigner (Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)

Whenever, in these experiments, we discover the path of a quantum particle, its cloud of possible routes “collapses” into a single well-defined state. What’s more, the delayed-choice experiment implies that the sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse. But does this mean that true collapse has only happened when the result of a measurement impinges on our consciousness?

It is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked

That possibility was admitted in the 1930s by the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner. “It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness,” he wrote. “Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

Wheeler even entertained the thought that the presence of living beings, which are capable of “noticing”, has transformed what was previously a multitude of possible quantum pasts into one concrete history. In this sense, Wheeler said, we become participants in the evolution of the Universe since its very beginning. In his words, we live in a “participatory universe.”

To this day, physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.

Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrosesuggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

What if, Penrose asked, there are molecular structures in our brains that are able to alter their state in response to a single quantum event. Could not these structures then adopt a superposition state, just like the particles in the double slit experiment? And might those quantum superpositions then show up in the ways neurons are triggered to communicate via electrical signals?

Maybe, says Penrose, our ability to sustain seemingly incompatible mental states is no quirk of perception, but a real quantum effect.

Perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness

After all, the human brain seems able to handle cognitive processes that still far exceed the capabilities of digital computers. Perhaps we can even carry out computational tasks that are impossible on ordinary computers, which use classical digital logic.

Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for “orchestrated objective reduction”. The phrase “objective reduction” means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble.

Orch-OR draws on Penrose’s suggestion that gravity is responsible for the fact that everyday objects, such as chairs and planets, do not display quantum effects. Penrose believes that quantum superpositions become impossible for objects much larger than atoms, because their gravitational effects would then force two incompatible versions of space-time to coexist.

Penrose developed this idea further with American physician Stuart Hameroff. In his 1994 book Shadows of the Mind, he suggested that the structures involved in this quantum cognition might be protein strands called microtubules. These are found in most of our cells, including the neurons in our brains. Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition.

But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

It has been suggested that the idea of quantum superpositions in microtubules is supported by experiments described in 2013, but in fact those studies made no mention of quantum effects.

Besides, most researchers think that the Orch-OR idea was ruled out by a study published in 2000. Physicist Max Tegmark calculated that quantum superpositions of the molecules involved in neural signaling could not survive for even a fraction of the time needed for such a signal to get anywhere.

Other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings

Quantum effects such as superposition are easily destroyed, because of a process called decoherence. This is caused by the interactions of a quantum object with its surrounding environment, through which the “quantumness” leaks away.

Decoherence is expected to be extremely rapid in warm and wet environments like living cells.

Nerve signals are electrical pulses, caused by the passage of electrically-charged atoms across the walls of nerve cells. If one of these atoms was in a superposition and then collided with a neuron, Tegmark showed that the superposition should decay in less than one billion billionth of a second. It takes at least ten thousand trillion times as long for a neuron to discharge a signal.

As a result, ideas about quantum effects in the brain are viewed with great skepticism.

However, Penrose is unmoved by those arguments and stands by the Orch-OR hypothesis. And despite Tegmark’s prediction of ultra-fast decoherence in cells, other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings. Some argue that quantum mechanics is harnessed by migratory birds that use magnetic navigation, and by green plants when they use sunlight to make sugars in photosynthesis.

Besides, the idea that the brain might employ quantum tricks shows no sign of going away. For there is now another, quite different argument for it.

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

In a study published in 2015, physicist Matthew Fisher of the University of California at Santa Barbara argued that the brain might contain molecules capable of sustaining more robust quantum superpositions. Specifically, he thinks that the nuclei of phosphorus atoms may have this ability.

Phosphorus atoms are everywhere in living cells. They often take the form of phosphate ions, in which one phosphorus atom joins up with four oxygen atoms.

Such ions are the basic unit of energy within cells. Much of the cell’s energy is stored in molecules called ATP, which contain a string of three phosphate groups joined to an organic molecule. When one of the phosphates is cut free, energy is released for the cell to use.

Cells have molecular machinery for assembling phosphate ions into groups and cleaving them off again. Fisher suggested a scheme in which two phosphate ions might be placed in a special kind of superposition called an “entangled state”.

Phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells

The phosphorus nuclei have a quantum property called spin, which makes them rather like little magnets with poles pointing in particular directions. In an entangled state, the spin of one phosphorus nucleus depends on that of the other.

Put another way, entangled states are really superposition states involving more than one quantum particle.

Fisher says that the quantum-mechanical behaviour of these nuclear spins could plausibly resist decoherence on human timescales. He agrees with Tegmark that quantum vibrations, like those postulated by Penrose and Hameroff, will be strongly affected by their surroundings “and will decohere almost immediately”. But nuclear spins do not interact very strongly with their surroundings.

All the same, quantum behaviour in the phosphorus nuclear spins would have to be “protected” from decoherence.

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

This might happen, Fisher says, if the phosphorus atoms are incorporated into larger objects called “Posner molecules”. These are clusters of six phosphate ions, combined with nine calcium ions. There is some evidence that they can exist in living cells, though this is currently far from conclusive.

I decided… to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions

In Posner molecules, Fisher argues, phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells. That means they could influence how the brain works.

The idea is that Posner molecules can be swallowed up by neurons. Once inside, the Posner molecules could trigger the firing of a signal to another neuron, by falling apart and releasing their calcium ions.

Because of entanglement in Posner molecules, two such signals might thus in turn become entangled: a kind of quantum superposition of a “thought”, you might say. “If quantum processing with nuclear spins is in fact present in the brain, it would be an extremely common occurrence, happening pretty much all the time,” Fisher says.

He first got this idea when he started thinking about mental illness.

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

“My entry into the biochemistry of the brain started when I decided three or four years ago to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions,” Fisher says.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea

Lithium drugs are widely used for treating bipolar disorder. They work, but nobody really knows how.

“I wasn’t looking for a quantum explanation,” Fisher says. But then he came across a paper reporting that lithium drugs had different effects on the behaviour of rats, depending on what form – or “isotope” – of lithium was used.

On the face of it, that was extremely puzzling. In chemical terms, different isotopes behave almost identically, so if the lithium worked like a conventional drug the isotopes should all have had the same effect.

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

But Fisher realised that the nuclei of the atoms of different lithium isotopes can have different spins. This quantum property might affect the way lithium drugs act. For example, if lithium substitutes for calcium in Posner molecules, the lithium spins might “feel” and influence those of phosphorus atoms, and so interfere with their entanglement.

We do not even know what consciousness is

If this is true, it would help to explain why lithium can treat bipolar disorder.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea. But there are several ways in which its plausibility can be tested, starting with the idea that phosphorus spins in Posner molecules can keep their quantum coherence for long periods. That is what Fisher aims to do next.

All the same, he is wary of being associated with the earlier ideas about “quantum consciousness”, which he sees as highly speculative at best.

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Physicists are not terribly comfortable with finding themselves inside their theories. Most hope that consciousness and the brain can be kept out of quantum theory, and perhaps vice versa. After all, we do not even know what consciousness is, let alone have a theory to describe it.

We all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation

It does not help that there is now a New Age cottage industrydevoted to notions of “quantum consciousness“, claiming that quantum mechanics offers plausible rationales for such things as telepathy and telekinesis.

As a result, physicists are often embarrassed to even mention the words “quantum” and “consciousness” in the same sentence.

But setting that aside, the idea has a long history. Ever since the “observer effect” and the mind first insinuated themselves into quantum theory in the early days, it has been devilishly hard to kick them out. A few researchers think we might never manage to do so.

In 2016, Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge in the UK, one of the most respected “quantum philosophers”, speculated that consciousness might alter the behaviour of quantum systems in subtle but detectable ways.

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

Kent is very cautious about this idea. “There is no compelling reason of principle to believe that quantum theory is the right theory in which to try to formulate a theory of consciousness, or that the problems of quantum theory must have anything to do with the problem of consciousness,” he admits.

Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble

But he says that it is hard to see how a description of consciousness based purely on pre-quantum physics can account for all the features it seems to have.

One particularly puzzling question is how our conscious minds can experience unique sensations, such as the colour red or the smell of frying bacon. With the exception of people with visual impairments, we all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation and there is nothing in physics that tells us what it should be like.

Sensations like this are called “qualia”. We perceive them as unified properties of the outside world, but in fact they are products of our consciousness – and that is hard to explain. Indeed, in 1995 philosopher David Chalmers dubbed it “the hard problem” of consciousness.

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

“Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble,” says Kent.

This has prompted him to suggest that “we could make some progress on understanding the problem of the evolution of consciousness if we supposed that consciousnesses alters (albeit perhaps very slightly and subtly) quantum probabilities.”

“Quantum consciousness” is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away

In other words, the mind could genuinely affect the outcomes of measurements.

It does not, in this view, exactly determine “what is real”. But it might affect the chance that each of the possible actualities permitted by quantum mechanics is the one we do in fact observe, in a way that quantum theory itself cannot predict. Kent says that we might look for such effects experimentally.

He even bravely estimates the chances of finding them. “I would give credence of perhaps 15% that something specifically to do with consciousness causes deviations from quantum theory, with perhaps 3% credence that this will be experimentally detectable within the next 50 years,” he says.

If that happens, it would transform our ideas about both physics and the mind. That seems a chance worth exploring.

The world’s greatest literature reveals multi fractals and cascades of consciousness (Science Daily)

Date: January 21, 2016

Source: The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

Summary: James Joyce, Julio Cortazar, Marcel Proust, Henryk Sienkiewicz and Umberto Eco. Regardless of the language they were working in, some of the world’s greatest writers appear to be, in some respects, constructing fractals. Statistical analysis, however, revealed something even more intriguing. The composition of works from within a particular genre was characterized by the exceptional dynamics of a cascading (avalanche) narrative structure.

Sequences of sentence lengths (as measured by number of words) in four literary works representative of various degree of cascading character. Credit: Source: IFJ PAN 

James Joyce, Julio Cortazar, Marcel Proust, Henryk Sienkiewicz and Umberto Eco. Regardless of the language they were working in, some of the world’s greatest writers appear to be, in some respects, constructing fractals. Statistical analysis carried out at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, however, revealed something even more intriguing. The composition of works from within a particular genre was characterized by the exceptional dynamics of a cascading (avalanche) narrative structure. This type of narrative turns out to be multifractal. That is, fractals of fractals are created.

As far as many bookworms are concerned, advanced equations and graphs are the last things which would hold their interest, but there’s no escape from the math. Physicists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Cracow, Poland, performed a detailed statistical analysis of more than one hundred famous works of world literature, written in several languages and representing various literary genres. The books, tested for revealing correlations in variations of sentence length, proved to be governed by the dynamics of a cascade. This means that the construction of these books is in fact a fractal. In the case of several works their mathematical complexity proved to be exceptional, comparable to the structure of complex mathematical objects considered to be multifractal. Interestingly, in the analyzed pool of all the works, one genre turned out to be exceptionally multifractal in nature.

Fractals are self-similar mathematical objects: when we begin to expand one fragment or another, what eventually emerges is a structure that resembles the original object. Typical fractals, especially those widely known as the Sierpinski triangle and the Mandelbrot set, are monofractals, meaning that the pace of enlargement in any place of a fractal is the same, linear: if they at some point were rescaled x number of times to reveal a structure similar to the original, the same increase in another place would also reveal a similar structure.

Multifractals are more highly advanced mathematical structures: fractals of fractals. They arise from fractals ‘interwoven’ with each other in an appropriate manner and in appropriate proportions. Multifractals are not simply the sum of fractals and cannot be divided to return back to their original components, because the way they weave is fractal in nature. The result is that in order to see a structure similar to the original, different portions of a multifractal need to expand at different rates. A multifractal is therefore non-linear in nature.

“Analyses on multiple scales, carried out using fractals, allow us to neatly grasp information on correlations among data at various levels of complexity of tested systems. As a result, they point to the hierarchical organization of phenomena and structures found in nature. So we can expect natural language, which represents a major evolutionary leap of the natural world, to show such correlations as well. Their existence in literary works, however, had not yet been convincingly documented. Meanwhile, it turned out that when you look at these works from the proper perspective, these correlations appear to be not only common, but in some works they take on a particularly sophisticated mathematical complexity,” says Prof. Stanislaw Drozdz (IFJ PAN, Cracow University of Technology).

The study involved 113 literary works written in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish by such famous figures as Honore de Balzac, Arthur Conan Doyle, Julio Cortazar, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexandre Dumas, Umberto Eco, George Elliot, Victor Hugo, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Wladyslaw Reymont, William Shakespeare, Henryk Sienkiewicz, JRR Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf, among others. The selected works were no less than 5,000 sentences long, in order to ensure statistical reliability.

To convert the texts to numerical sequences, sentence length was measured by the number of words (an alternative method of counting characters in the sentence turned out to have no major impact on the conclusions). The dependences were then searched for in the data — beginning with the simplest, i.e. linear. This is the posited question: if a sentence of a given length is x times longer than the sentences of different lengths, is the same aspect ratio preserved when looking at sentences respectively longer or shorter?

“All of the examined works showed self-similarity in terms of organization of the lengths of sentences. Some were more expressive — here The Ambassadors by Henry James stood out — while others to far less of an extreme, as in the case of the French seventeenth-century romance Artamene ou le Grand Cyrus. However, correlations were evident, and therefore these texts were the construction of a fractal,” comments Dr. Pawel Oswiecimka (IFJ PAN), who also noted that fractality of a literary text will in practice never be as perfect as in the world of mathematics. It is possible to magnify mathematical fractals up to infinity, while the number of sentences in each book is finite, and at a certain stage of scaling there will always be a cut-off in the form of the end of the dataset.

Things took a particularly interesting turn when physicists from the IFJ PAN began tracking non-linear dependence, which in most of the studied works was present to a slight or moderate degree. However, more than a dozen works revealed a very clear multifractal structure, and almost all of these proved to be representative of one genre, that of stream of consciousness. The only exception was the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, which has so far never been associated with this literary genre.

“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” says Prof. Drozdz.

The most multifractal works also included A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Rayuela by Julio Cortazar, The US Trilogy by John Dos Passos, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, and Joyce’s Ulysses. At the same time a lot of works usually regarded as stream of consciousness turned out to show little correlation to multifractality, as it was hardly noticeable in books such as Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust.

“It is not entirely clear whether stream of consciousness writing actually reveals the deeper qualities of our consciousness, or rather the imagination of the writers. It is hardly surprising that ascribing a work to a particular genre is, for whatever reason, sometimes subjective. We see, moreover, the possibility of an interesting application of our methodology: it may someday help in a more objective assignment of books to one genre or another,” notes Prof. Drozdz.

Multifractal analyses of literary texts carried out by the IFJ PAN have been published in Information Sciences, a journal of computer science. The publication has undergone rigorous verification: given the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, editors immediately appointed up to six reviewers.

Journal Reference:

  1. Stanisław Drożdż, Paweł Oświȩcimka, Andrzej Kulig, Jarosław Kwapień, Katarzyna Bazarnik, Iwona Grabska-Gradzińska, Jan Rybicki, Marek Stanuszek. Quantifying origin and character of long-range correlations in narrative textsInformation Sciences, 2016; 331: 32 DOI: 10.1016/j.ins.2015.10.023

What if Dean Radin is right? (The Sceptic’s Dictionary)

by Robert Todd Carroll

Dean Radin, author of The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena (HarperSanFrancisco 1997), says that “psi researchers have resolved a century of skeptical doubts through thousands of replicated laboratory studies” (289) regarding the reality of psychic phenomena such as ESP(extrasensory perception) and PK (psychokinesis). Of course, Radin also considers meta-analysis as the most widely accepted method of measuring replication in science (51). Few scientists would agree with either of these claims. In any case, most American adults—about 75%, according to a 2005 Gallup poll—believe in at least one paranormal phenomenon. Forty-one percent believe in ESP. Fifty-five percent believe in the power of the mind to heal the body. One doesn’t need to be psychic to know that the majority of believers in psi have come to their beliefs through experience or anecdotes, rather than through studying the scientific evidence Radin puts forth in his book.

Radin doesn’t claim that the scientific evidence is going to make more believers. He realizes that the kind of evidence psi researchers have put forth hasn’t persuaded most scientists that there is anything of value in parapsychology. He thinks  there is “a general uneasiness about parapsychology” and that because of the “insular nature of scientific disciplines, the vast majority of psi experiments are unknown to most scientists.” He also dismisses critics as skeptics who’ve conducted “superficial reviews.” Anyone familiar with the entire body of research, he says, would recognize he is correct and would see that there are “fantastic theoretical implications” (129) to psi research. Nevertheless, in 2005 the Nobel Committee once again  passed over the psi scientists when handing out awards to those who have made significant contributions to our scientific knowledge.

The evidence Radin presents, however, is little more than a hodgepodge of occult statistics. Unable to find a single person who can correctly guess a three-letter word or move a pencil an inch without trickery, the psi researchers have resorted to doing complex statistical analyses of data. In well-designed studies they assume that whenever they have data that, by some statistical formula, is not likely due to chance, they attribute the outcome to psi. A well-designed study is one that carefully controls for such things as cheating, sensory leakage (unintentional transfer of information by non-psychic means), inadequate randomization, and other factors that might lead to an artifact (something that looks like it’s due to psi when it’s actually due to something else).

The result of this enormous data that Radin cites is that there is statistical evidence (for what it’s worth) that indicates (however tentatively) that some very weak psi effects are present (so weak that not a single individual who participates in a successful study has any inkling of possessing psychic power). Nevertheless, Radin thinks it is appropriate to speculate about the enormous implications of psi for biology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, religion, medicine, technology, warfare, police work, business, and politics. Never mind that nobody has any idea as to how psi might work. That is a minor detail to someone who can write with a straight face (apparently) that:

lots of independent, simple glimpses of the future may one day innocently crash the future. It’s not clear what it means to “crash the future,” but it doesn’t sound good. (297)

No, it certainly doesn’t sound good. But, as somebody once said, “the future will be better tomorrow.”

According to Radin, we may look forward to a future with “psychic garage-door openers” and the ability to “push atoms around” with our minds (292). Radin is not the least bit put off by the criticism that all the other sciences have led us away from superstition andmagical thinking, while parapsychology tries to lead us into those pre-scientific modes. Radin notes that “the concept that mind is primary over matter is deeply rooted in Eastern philosophy and ancient beliefs about magic.” However, instead of saying that it is now time to move forward, he rebuffs “Western science” for rejecting such beliefs as “mere superstition.” Magical thinking, he says, “lies close beneath the veneer of the sophisticated modern mind” (293). He even claims that “the fundamental issues [of consciousness] remain as mysterious today as they did five thousand years ago.” We may not have arrived at a final theory of the mind, but a lot of the mystery has evaporated with the progress made in the neurosciences over the past century. None of our advancing knowledge of the mind, however, has been due to contributions from parapsychologists. (Cf. Blackmore 2001).

Radin doesn’t grasp the fact that the concept of mind can be an illusion without being a “meaningless illusion” (294). He seems to have read David Chalmers, but I suggest he and his followers read Daniel Dennett. I’d begin with Sweet Dreams (2005)Consciousness is not “a complete mystery,” as Radin claims (294). The best that Radin can come up with as evidence that psi research has something to offer consciousness studies is the claim that “information can be obtained in ways that bypass the ordinary sensory system altogether” (295). Let’s ignore the fact that this claim begs the question. What neuroscience has uncovered is just how interesting and complex this “ordinary sensory system” turns out to be.

Radin would have us believe that magical thinking is essential to our psychological well being (293). If he’s right, we’ll one day be able to solve all social problems by “mass-mind healings.” And religious claims will get new meaning as people come to understand the psychic forces behind miracles and talking to the dead. According to Radin, when a medium today talks to a spirit “perhaps he is in contact with someone who is alive in the past.From the ‘departed’ person’s perspective, she may find herself communicating with someone from the future, although it is not clear that she would know that” (295). Yes, I don’t think that would be clear, either.

In medicine, Radin expects distant mental healing (which he argues has been scientifically established) to expand to something that “might be called techno-shamanism” (296). He describes this new development as “an exotic, yet rigorously schooled combination of ancient magical principles and future technologies” (296). He expects psi to join magnetic resonance imaging and blood tests as common stock in the world of medicine. “This would translate into huge savings and improved quality of life for millions of people” (192) as “untold billions of dollars in medical costs could be saved” (193). 

Then, of course, there will be the very useful developments that include the ability to telepathically “call a friend in a distant spacecraft, or someone in a deeply submerged submarine” (296). On the other hand, the use of psychic power by the military and by police investigators will depend, Radin says, on “the mood of the times.” If what is popular on television is an indicator of the mood of the times, I predict that there will be full employment for psychic detectives and remote viewers in the future.

Radin looks forward to the day when psi technology “might allow thought control of prosthetics for paraplegics” and “mind-melding techniques to provide people with vast, computer-enhanced memories, lightning-fast mathematical capabilities, and supersensitive perceptions” (197). He even suggests we employ remote viewer Joe McMoneagle  to reveal future technological devices he “has sensed in his remote-viewing sessions” (100).

Radin considers a few other benefits that will come from our increased ability to use psi powers: “to guide archeological digs and treasure-hunting expeditions, enhance gambling profits, and provide insight into historical events” (202). However, he does not consider some of the obvious problems and benefits that would occur should psychic ability become common. Imagine the difficulties for the junior high teacher in a room full of adolescents trained in PK. Teachers and parents would be spending most of their psychic energy controlling the hormones of their charges. The female garment and beauty industries would be destroyed as many attractive females would be driven to try to make themselves look ugly to avoid having their clothes being constantly removed by psychic perverts and pranksters. 

Ben Radford has noted the potential for “gross and unethical violations of privacy,” as people would be peeping into each other’s minds. On the other hand, infidelity and all forms of deception might die out, since nobody could deceive anyone about anything if we were all psychic. Magic would become pointless and “professions that involve deception would be worthless” (Radford 2000). There wouldn’t be any need for undercover work or spies. Every child molester would be identified immediately. No double agent could ever get away with it. There wouldn’t be any more lotteries, since everybody could predict the winning numbers. We wouldn’t need trials of accused persons and the polygraph would be a thing of the past.

Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and other signs of intelligent design will become things of the past as billions of humans unite to focus their thoughts on predicting and controlling the forces of nature. We won’t need to build elaborate systems to turn away errant asteroids or comets heading for our planet: billons of us will unite to will the objects on their merry way toward some other oblivion. It is unlikely that human nature will change as we become more psychically able, so warfare will continue but will be significantly changed. Weapons won’t be needed because we’ll be able to rearrange our enemies’ atoms and turn them into mush from the comfort of our living rooms. (Who knows? It might only take a few folks with super psi powers to find Osama bin Laden and turn him into a puddle of irradiated meat.) Disease and old age will become things of the past as we learn to use our thoughts to kill cancer cells and control our DNA.

Space travel will become trivial and heavy lifting will be eliminated as we will be able to teleport anything to anywhere at anytime through global consciousness. We’ll be able to transport all the benefits of earthly consciousness to every planet in the universe. There are many other likely effects of global psychic ability that Radin has overlooked but this is understandable given his heavy workload as Senior Scientist at IONS (The Institute of Noetic Sciences) and as a blogger.

Radin notes only one problem should psi ability become common: we’ll all be dipping into the future and we might “crash the future,” whatever that means. The bright side of crashing the future will be the realization of “true freedom” as we will no longer be doomed to our predestined fate. We will all have the power “to create the future as we wish, rather than blindly follow a predetermined course through our ignorance” (297). That should make even the most cynical Islamic fundamentalist or doomsday Christian take heed. This psi stuff could be dangerous to one’s delusions even as it tickles one’s funny bone and stimulates one’s imagination to aspire to the power of gods and demons.

******      ******      ******

update: Radin has a follow-up book out called Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Like The Conscious Universe, this one lays out the scientific evidence for psi as seen from the eyes of a true believer. As noted above, in The Conscious Universe, Radin uses statistics and meta-analysisto prove that psychic phenomena really do exist even if those who have the experiences in the labs are unaware of them. Statistical data show that the world has gone psychic, according to the latest generation of parapsychologists. You may be unconscious of it, but your mind is affecting random number generators all over the world as you read this. The old psychic stuff—thinking about aunt Hildie moments before she calls to tell you to bugger off—is now demonstrated to be true by statistical methods that were validated in 1937 by Burton Camp and meta-validated by Radin 60 years later when he asserted that meta-analysis was the replication parapsychologists had been looking for. The only difference is that now when you think of aunt Hildie it might be moments before she calls her car mechanic and that, too, may be linked to activity in your mind that you are unaware of.

Radin’s second book sees entanglement as a key to understanding extrasensory phenomena. Entanglement is a concept from quantum physics that refers to connections between subatomic particles that persist regardless of being separated by various distances. He notes that some physicists have speculated that the entire universe might be entangled and that the Eastern mystics of old might have been on to something cosmic. His speculations are rather wild but his assertions are rather modest. For example: “I believe that entanglement suggests a scenario that may ultimately lead to a vastly improved understanding of psi” (p. 14) and “I propose that the fabric of reality is comprised [sic] of ‘entangled threads’ that are consistent with the core of psi experience” (p. 19). Skeptics might suggest that studying self-deception and wishful thinking would lead to a vastly improved understanding of psi research and that being consistent with a model is a minimal, necessary condition for taking any model seriously, but hardly sufficient to warrant much faith.

Readers of The Conscious Universe will be pleased to know that Radin has outdone himself on the meta-analysis front. In his second book, he provides a meta-meta-analysis of over 1,000 studies on dream psi, ganzfeld psi, staring, distant intention, dice PK, and RNG PK. He concludes that the odds against chance of getting these results are 10104 against 1 (p. 276). As Radin says, “there can be little doubt that something interesting is going on” (p. 275). Yes, but I’m afraid it may be going on only in some entangled minds.

On the bright side, Radin continues to ignore Gary Schwartz and self-proclaimed psychics like Jon Edward, Sylvia BrowneUri Geller, and Ted Owens. He still has a fondness for remote viewers like Joe McMoneagle, however, who seems impressive if you don’t understand subjective validation, are willing to ignore the vast majority of his visions, and aren’t bothered by vagueness in the criteria as to what counts as a “hit” in remote viewing. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Radin predicts that some day “psi research will be taught in universities with the same aplomb as today’s elementary economics and biology” (p. 295). Perhaps psi research will be taught in the same classroom as intelligent design, though this seems unlikely as parapsychology attempts to reduce all supernatural and paranormal phenomena to physics. Maybe they could both be taught in the same curriculum: things that explain everything but illuminate nothing.

note: If the reader wants to see a more complete review of Radin’s work, please read my reviews of his books. Links are given below.

further reading

book reviews by Robert T. Carroll

The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena
by Dean Radin (HarperOne 1997)

Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality
by Dean Radin (Paraview Pocket Books 2006)

The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together by Charles T. Tart, Ph.D. (New Harbinger 2009)

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife 
by Mary Roach (W. W. Norton 2005).

The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death
by Gary Schwartz (Atria 2003)

Ghost Hunters – William James and the Hunt for Scientific Proof of Life After Death
by Deborah Blum (Penguin Press 2006).

books and articles

Blackmore, Susan. (2001) “What Can the Paranormal Teach Us About Consciousness?” Skeptical Inquirer, March/April.

Blackmore, Susan (2003). Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.

Good, I. J. (1997). Review of The Conscious UniverseNatureOctober 23, with links to responses by Radin, Brian Josephson, and Nick Herbert.

Larsen, Claus. (2002). An evening with Dean Radin.

Pedersen, Morten Monrad. (2003). Book Review of Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe

Radin, Dean. (1997). The Conscious Universe – The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. HarperCollins.

Radin, Dean. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Paraview Pocket Books.

Radford, Benjamin. (2000). “Worlds in Collision – Applying Reality to the Paranormal,” Skeptical Inquirer, November/December.

Last updated 01-Aug-2015

Como falar sobre a crise hídrica na sala de aula (Porvir)

24/10/2014 – 12h57

por Marina Lopes, do Porvir

A falta de água pode servir de gancho para discutir sobre gestão de recursos hídricos e consumo consciente

Nos últimos meses, as discussões sobre a água e o consumo consciente ganharam espaço em razão do período de seca nas regiões sudeste e nordeste e com a crise no abastecimento que atinge o estado de São Paulo, maior metrópole do país. Atualmente, o Sistema Cantareira, principal responsável por abastecer a região, opera com apenas 3% do volume dos seus reservatórios. Diante desse cenário, como o professor pode discutir o tema em sala de aula? O Porvir conversou com alguns especialistas e reuniu uma lista com dicas de recursos digitais que podem auxiliar os educadores.

Segundo o geógrafo Wagner Costa Ribeiro, da Universidade de São Paulo, a escola precisa mudar a forma como trata sobre os recursos hídricos nacionais. “A criança e o adolescente não podem ter o mito da abundância da água reforçado.” Para ele, o Brasil tem um nível bastante elevado, mas essa água está distribuída de maneira desigual. “Ela é abundante na escala nacional, mas é muito escassa em locais como a região metropolitana de São Paulo”, apontou Wagner.

Educacaocrisehidrica Como falar sobre a crise hídrica na sala de aula

O especialista acredita que a crise vivida na cidade representa um problema de gestão, já que nos últimos anos não foram adotadas medidas voltadas para a ampliar os sistemas de captação, diminuir perdas durante o armazenamento e estimular reuso da água. “Infelizmente, nada disso foi realizado. Em um período mais seco, não temos ações de contingência”, afirmou.

O momento de crise, onde parte da população fica sem água nas torneiras durante horas ou até dias, pode servir para despertar a discussão sobre o uso da água. “A ideia é que o consumo consciente seja um hábito trabalhado desde a infância”, defendeu Denise Conselheiro, coordenadora do Edukatu, rede de aprendizagem sobre consumo consciente. Segundo ela, isso garante que as próximas gerações tenham essas práticas muito mais incorporadas ao seu dia a dia.

De acordo com a representante do Edukatu, para falar sobre esse tema na escola, o professor deve recorrer ao uso de atividades lúdicas e a uma linguagem divertida. “A abordagem precisa ser diferente”. Além disso, é preciso trazer as questões sobre o uso da água para o cotidiano do aluno, como o risco de desperdício dentro da própria escola.

Uma sugestão de atividade, apresentada por Wagner Costa Ribeiro, da USP, é de pedir para os alunos levarem a conta de água para escola. Na sala de aula, o professor pode comparar o consumo de cada família com a média geral da turma. A partir daí, ele consegue discutir maneiras de promover o uso racional dos recursos hídricos. No ensino médio, ele também pode acrescentar o debate sobre o modelo de gestão hídrica adotado na cidade.

A partir de buscas em sites como a Escola Digital, o Portal do Professor (MEC) e o Edukatu, o Porvir reuniu algumas dicas de recursos digitais que podem auxiliar os professores a falarem sobre o tema. Confira a lista:

Água em números

Com a linguagem de um infográfico animado, o vídeo apresenta dados da distribuição de água no planeta, consumo e desperdício em situações do dia a dia. A animação mostra que um buraco de três milímetros no encanamento, por exemplo, pode desperdiçar 3.200 litros de água por dia.

Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Disponível on-line
Fonte: Escola Digital

Como prevenir a seca

Produzido pela equipe do site Planeta Sustentável, o infográfico apresenta alternativas para o uso racional da água. A arte também divide o consumo de acordo com o segmento – agricultura, indústrias ou uso doméstico. Segundo os dados apresentados no infográfico, o setor agrícola é responsável por 70% do consumo global.

Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Disponível on-line
Fonte: Escola Digital

Quadrinhos sobre a água

A história em quadrinhos fala sobre a importância da água e como ela está distribuída no planeta. A partir dos diálogos entre os personagens, o aluno pode perceber que a água existe em abundancia no globo, mas apenas uma pequena parte dela é própria para o consumo.

Etapa: ensino fundamental
Disponível on-line
Fonte: Escola Digital

Atividades sobre o uso da água

Disponíveis para download, o conjunto de atividades reúne jogos e testes sobre o tema água. O material tenta conscientizar o aluno sobre a importância de promover o uso racional dos recursos hídricos.

Etapa: ensino fundamental
Disponível offline
Fonte: Portal do Professor

Atividades sobre a importância da água

O recurso digital reúne materiais que falam sobre a importância da água no meio ambiente. Além disso, as atividades também tratam sobre a constituição hídrica do planeta e como ela é disponibilizada para o consumo humano.

Etapa: ensino fundamental
Disponível offline
Fonte: Portal do Professor

Como a água chega até as nossas torneiras?

A imagem ilustra o caminho que a água percorre, desde quando é retirada da natureza, até o momento em que chega às torneiras de uma casa. Também é possível ver alguns processos de armazenamento de água nas estações de tratamento.

Etapa: ensino fundamental
Disponível offline
Fonte: Portal do Professor

Percurso da Água no Edukatu

No Edukatu o professor conta um percurso de aprendizado inteiro dedicado ao tema água. O material está disponível em duas fases: na primeira, ele apresenta recursos digitais que ampliam o conhecimento sobre a temática de forma lúdica; na segunda parta, é apresentado para o educador a proposta de desenvolver um projeto de intervenção no ambiente escolar, podendo incluir ações de conscientização sobre o uso racional da água.

(obs: para ter acesso ao material, o professor deve realizar um cadastro no site)

Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Disponível on-line
Fonte: Edukatu

* Publicado originalmente no site Porvir.


Consciência pode permanecer por até três minutos após a morte, diz estudo (O Globo)

Cientistas entrevistaram pacientes que chegaram a ter morte clínica, mas voltaram à vida


Cena da novela "Amor Eterno Amor" da Rede Globo retrata a experiência de quase morte estudadas pelos cientistas da Universidade de Southampton Foto: ReproduçãoCena da novela “Amor Eterno Amor” da Rede Globo retrata a experiência de quase morte estudadas pelos cientistas da Universidade de Southampton – Reprodução

RIO – Aquele túnel com uma luz brilhante no fundo e uma sensação de paz descritos por filmes e outras pessoas que alegaram ter passado por experiência de quase morte podem ser reais. No maior estudo já feito sobre o tema, cientistas da Universidade de Southampton disseram ter comprovado que a consciência humana permanece por ao menos três minutos após o óbito biológico. Durante esse meio tempo, pacientes conseguiriam testemunhar e lembrar depois de eventos como a saída do corpo e os movimentos ao redor do quarto do hospital.

Ao longo de quatro anos, os especialistas examinaram mais de duas mil pessoas que sofreram paradas cardíacas em 15 hospitais no Reino Unido, Estados Unidos e Áustria. Cerca de 16% sobreviveram. E destes, mais de 40% descreveram algum tipo de “consciência” durante o tempo em que eles estavam clinicamente mortos, antes de seus corações voltarem a bater.

O caso mais emblemático foi de um homem ainda lembrou ter deixado seu corpo totalmente e assistindo sua reanimação do canto da sala. Apesar de ser inconsciente e “morto” por três minutos, o paciente narrou com detalhes as ações da equipe de enfermagem e descreveu o som das máquinas.

– Sabemos que o cérebro não pode funcionar quando o coração parou de bater. Mas neste caso, a percepção consciente parece ter continuado por até três minutos no período em que o coração não estava batendo, mesmo que o cérebro normalmente encerre as atividades dentro de 20 a 30 segundos após o coração – explicou ao jornal inglês The Telegraph o pesquisador Sam Parnia.

Dos 2.060 pacientes com parada cardíaca estudados, 330 sobreviveram e 140 disseram ter experimentado algum tipo de consciência ao ser ressuscitado. Embora muitos não se lembrassem de detalhes específicos, alguns relatos coincidiram. Um em cada cinco disseram que tinha sentido uma sensação incomum de tranquilidade, enquanto quase um terço disse que o tempo tinha se abrandado ou se acelerado.

Alguns lembraram de ter visto uma luz brilhante, um flash de ouro ou o sol brilhando. Outros relataram sentimentos de medo, afogamento ou sendo arrastado pelas águas profundas. Cerca de 13% disseram que se sentiam separados de seus corpos.

De acordo com Parnia, muito mais pessoas podem ter experiências quando estão perto da morte, mas as drogas ou sedativos utilizados no processo de ressuscitação podem afetar a memória:

– As estimativas sugerem que milhões de pessoas tiveram experiências vivas em relação à morte. Muitas assumiram que eram alucinações ou ilusões, mas os relatos parecem corresponder a eventos reais. E uma proporção maior de pessoas pode ter experiências vivas de morte, mas não se lembrarem delas devido aos efeitos da lesão cerebral ou sedativos em circuitos de memória.


Read more:

Near-death experiences? Results of the world’s largest medical study of the human mind and consciousness at time of death (Science Daily)

Date: October 7, 2014

Source: University of Southampton

Summary: The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals concludes the following. The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences. In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events. A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits. Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death. The recalled experience surrounding death merits a genuine investigation without prejudice.

The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals are in. Among those who reported a perception of awareness and completed further interviews, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections in relation to death that were not compatible with the commonly used term of near death experiences. Credit: © sudok1 / Fotolia

The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals concludes the following. The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences. In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events. A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits. Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death.

Recollections in relation to death, so-called out-of-body experiences (OBEs) or near-death experiences (NDEs), are an often spoken about phenomenon which have frequently been considered hallucinatory or illusory in nature; however, objective studies on these experiences are limited.

In 2008, a large-scale study involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria was launched. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study, sponsored by the University of Southampton in the UK, examined the broad range of mental experiences in relation to death. Researchers also tested the validity of conscious experiences using objective markers for the first time in a large study to determine whether claims of awareness compatible with out-of-body experiences correspond with real or hallucinatory events.

Results of the study have been published in the journal Resuscitation.

Dr Sam Parnia, Assistant Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Director of Resuscitation Research at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA, and the study’s lead author, explained: “Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning. If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as ‘cardiac arrest’; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’. In this study we wanted to go beyond the emotionally charged yet poorly defined term of NDEs to explore objectively what happens when we die.”

Thirty-nine per cent of patients who survived cardiac arrest and were able to undergo structured interviews described a perception of awareness, but interestingly did not have any explicit recall of events.

“This suggests more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall,” explained Dr Parnia, who was an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Southampton when he started the AWARE study.

Among those who reported a perception of awareness and completed further interviews, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections in relation to death that were not compatible with the commonly used term of NDE’s. These included fearful and persecutory experiences. Only 9 per cent had experiences compatible with NDEs and 2 per cent exhibited full awareness compatible with OBE’s with explicit recall of ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ events.

One case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest. Dr Parnia concluded: “This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating. In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.

“Thus, while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, (due to the very low incidence (2 per cent) of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called OBE’s), it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.”

Further studies are also needed to explore whether awareness (explicit or implicit) may lead to long term adverse psychological outcomes including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr Jerry Nolan, Editor-in-Chief of Resuscitation, stated: “The AWARE study researchers are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Parnia S, et al. AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study. Resuscitation, 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.09.004

Teoria quântica, múltiplos universos, e o destino da consciência humana após a morte (Biocentrismo, Robert Lanza)

[Nota do editor do blogue: o título da matéria em português não é fiel ao título original em inglês, e tem caráter sensacionalista. Por ser este blogue uma hemeroteca, não alterei o título.]

Cientistas comprovam a reencarnação humana (Duniverso)

s/d; acessado em 14 de setembro de 2014. Desde que o mundo é mundo discutimos e tentamos descobrir o que existe além da morte. Desta vez a ciência quântica explica e comprova que existe sim vida (não física) após a morte de qualquer ser humano. Um livro intitulado “O biocentrismo: Como a vida e a consciência são as chaves para entender a natureza do Universo” “causou” na Internet, porque continha uma noção de que a vida não acaba quando o corpo morre e que pode durar para sempre. O autor desta publicação o cientista Dr. Robert Lanza, eleito o terceiro mais importante cientista vivo pelo NY Times, não tem dúvidas de que isso é possível.

Além do tempo e do espaço

Lanza é um especialista em medicina regenerativa e diretor científico da Advanced Cell Technology Company. No passado ficou conhecido por sua extensa pesquisa com células-tronco e também por várias experiências bem sucedidas sobre clonagem de espécies animais ameaçadas de extinção. Mas não há muito tempo, o cientista se envolveu com física, mecânica quântica e astrofísica. Esta mistura explosiva deu à luz a nova teoria do biocentrismo que vem pregando desde então. O biocentrismo ensina que a vida e a consciência são fundamentais para o universo. É a consciência que cria o universo material e não o contrário. Lanza aponta para a estrutura do próprio universo e diz que as leis, forças e constantes variações do universo parecem ser afinadas para a vida, ou seja, a inteligência que existia antes importa muito. Ele também afirma que o espaço e o tempo não são objetos ou coisas mas sim ferramentas de nosso entendimento animal. Lanza diz que carregamos o espaço e o tempo em torno de nós “como tartarugas”, o que significa que quando a casca sai, espaço e tempo ainda existem. ciencia-quantica-comprova-reencarnacao

A teoria sugere que a morte da consciência simplesmente não existe. Ele só existe como um pensamento porque as pessoas se identificam com o seu corpo. Eles acreditam que o corpo vai morrer mais cedo ou mais tarde, pensando que a sua consciência vai desaparecer também. Se o corpo gera a consciência então a consciência morre quando o corpo morre. Mas se o corpo recebe a consciência da mesma forma que uma caixa de tv a cabo recebe sinais de satélite então é claro que a consciência não termina com a morte do veículo físico. Na verdade a consciência existe fora das restrições de tempo e espaço. Ele é capaz de estar em qualquer lugar: no corpo humano e no exterior de si mesma. Em outras palavras é não-local, no mesmo sentido que os objetos quânticos são não-local. Lanza também acredita que múltiplos universos podem existir simultaneamente. Em um universo o corpo pode estar morto e em outro continua a existir, absorvendo consciência que migraram para este universo. Isto significa que uma pessoa morta enquanto viaja através do mesmo túnel acaba não no inferno ou no céu, mas em um mundo semelhante a ele ou ela que foi habitado, mas desta vez vivo. E assim por diante, infinitamente, quase como um efeito cósmico vida após a morte.

Vários mundos

Não são apenas meros mortais que querem viver para sempre mas também alguns cientistas de renome têm a mesma opinião de Lanza. São os físicos e astrofísicos que tendem a concordar com a existência de mundos paralelos e que sugerem a possibilidade de múltiplos universos. Multiverso (multi-universo) é o conceito científico da teoria que eles defendem. Eles acreditam que não existem leis físicas que proibiriam a existência de mundos paralelos.


O primeiro a falar sobre isto foi o escritor de ficção científica HG Wells em 1895 com o livro “The Door in the Wall“. Após 62 anos essa ideia foi desenvolvida pelo Dr. Hugh Everett em sua tese de pós-graduação na Universidade de Princeton. Basicamente postula que, em determinado momento o universo se divide em inúmeros casos semelhantes e no momento seguinte, esses universos “recém-nascidos” dividem-se de forma semelhante. Então em alguns desses mundos que podemos estar presentes, lendo este artigo em um universo e assistir TV em outro. Na década de 1980 Andrei Linde cientista do Instituto de Física da Lebedev, desenvolveu a teoria de múltiplos universos. Agora como professor da Universidade de Stanford, Linde explicou: o espaço consiste em muitas esferas de insuflar que dão origem a esferas semelhantes, e aqueles, por sua vez, produzem esferas em números ainda maiores e assim por diante até o infinito. No universo eles são separados. Eles não estão cientes da existência do outro mas eles representam partes de um mesmo universo físico. A física Laura Mersini Houghton da Universidade da Carolina do Norte com seus colegas argumentam: as anomalias do fundo do cosmos existe devido ao fato de que o nosso universo é influenciado por outros universos existentes nas proximidades e que buracos e falhas são um resultado direto de ataques contra nós por universos vizinhos.


Assim, há abundância de lugares ou outros universos onde a nossa alma poderia migrar após a morte, de acordo com a teoria de neo biocentrismo. Mas será que a alma existe? Existe alguma teoria científica da consciência que poderia acomodar tal afirmação? Segundo o Dr. Stuart Hameroff uma experiência de quase morte acontece quando a informação quântica que habita o sistema nervoso deixa o corpo e se dissipa no universo. Ao contrário do que defendem os materialistas Dr. Hameroff oferece uma explicação alternativa da consciência que pode, talvez, apelar para a mente científica racional e intuições pessoais. A consciência reside, de acordo com Stuart e o físico britânico Sir Roger Penrose, nos microtúbulos das células cerebrais que são os sítios primários de processamento quântico. Após a morte esta informação é liberada de seu corpo, o que significa que a sua consciência vai com ele. Eles argumentaram que a nossa experiência da consciência é o resultado de efeitos da gravidade quântica nesses microtúbulos, uma teoria que eles batizaram Redução Objetiva Orquestrada. Consciência ou pelo menos proto consciência é teorizada por eles para ser uma propriedade fundamental do universo, presente até mesmo no primeiro momento do universo durante o Big Bang. “Em uma dessas experiências conscientes comprova-se que o proto esquema é uma propriedade básica da realidade física acessível a um processo quântico associado com atividade cerebral.” Nossas almas estão de fato construídas a partir da própria estrutura do universo e pode ter existido desde o início dos tempos. Nossos cérebros são apenas receptores e amplificadores para a proto-consciência que é intrínseca ao tecido do espaço-tempo. Então, há realmente uma parte de sua consciência que é não material e vai viver após a morte de seu corpo físico. ciencia-quantica-comprova-reencarnacao-3

Dr. Hameroff disse ao Canal Science através do documentário Wormhole: “Vamos dizer que o coração pare de bater, o sangue pare de fluir e os microtúbulos percam seu estado quântico. A informação quântica dentro dos microtúbulos não é destruída, não pode ser destruída, ele só distribui e se dissipa com o universo como um todo.” Robert Lanza acrescenta aqui que não só existem em um único universo, ela existe talvez, em outro universo. Se o paciente é ressuscitado, esta informação quântica pode voltar para os microtúbulos e o paciente diz: “Eu tive uma experiência de quase morte”. Ele acrescenta: “Se ele não reviveu e o paciente morre é possível que esta informação quântica possa existir fora do corpo talvez indefinidamente, como uma alma.” Esta conta de consciência quântica explica coisas como experiências de quase morte, projeção astral, experiências fora do corpo e até mesmo a reencarnação sem a necessidade de recorrer a ideologia religiosa. A energia de sua consciência potencialmente é reciclada de volta em um corpo diferente em algum momento e nesse meio tempo ela existe fora do corpo físico em algum outro nível de realidade e possivelmente, em outro universo.

E você o que acha? Concorda com Lanza?

Grande abraço!

Indicação: Pedro Lopes Martins Artigo publicado originalmente em inglês no site SPIRIT SCIENCE AND METAPHYSICS.

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Scientists Claim That Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves To Another Universe At Death


A book titled “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe“ has stirred up the Internet, because it contained a notion that life does not end when the body dies, and it can last forever. The author of this publication, scientist Dr. Robert Lanza who was voted the 3rd most important scientist alive by the NY Times, has no doubts that this is possible.

Lanza is an expert in regenerative medicine and scientific director of Advanced Cell Technology Company. Before he has been known for his extensive research which dealt with stem cells, he was also famous for several successful experiments on cloning endangered animal species. But not so long ago, the scientist became involved with physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics. This explosive mixture has given birth to the new theory of biocentrism, which the professor has been preaching ever since.  Biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe.  It is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around. Lanza points to the structure of the universe itself, and that the laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, implying intelligence existed prior to matter.  He also claims that space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding.  Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us “like turtles with shells.” meaning that when the shell comes off (space and time), we still exist. The theory implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist.   It only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body. They believe that the body is going to perish, sooner or later, thinking their consciousness will disappear too.  If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies.  But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local. Lanza also believes that multiple universes can exist simultaneously.  In one universe, the body can be dead. And in another it continues to exist, absorbing consciousness which migrated into this universe.  This means that a dead person while traveling through the same tunnel ends up not in hell or in heaven, but in a similar world he or she once inhabited, but this time alive. And so on, infinitely.  It’s almost like a cosmic Russian doll afterlife effect.

Multiple worlds

This hope-instilling, but extremely controversial theory by Lanza has many unwitting supporters, not just mere mortals who want to live forever, but also some well-known scientists. These are the physicists and astrophysicists who tend to agree with existence of parallel worlds and who suggest the possibility of multiple universes. Multiverse (multi-universe) is a so-called scientific concept, which they defend. They believe that no physical laws exist which would prohibit the existence of parallel worlds. The first one was a science fiction writer H.G. Wells who proclaimed in 1895 in his story “The Door in the Wall”.  And after 62 years, this idea was developed by Dr. Hugh Everett in his graduate thesis at the Princeton University. It basically posits that at any given moment the universe divides into countless similar instances. And the next moment, these “newborn” universes split in a similar fashion. In some of these worlds you may be present: reading this article in one universe, or watching TV in another. The triggering factor for these multiplyingworlds is our actions, explained Everett. If we make some choices, instantly one universe splits into two with different versions of outcomes. In the 1980s, Andrei Linde, scientist from the Lebedev’s Institute of physics, developed the theory of multiple universes. He is now a professor at Stanford University.  Linde explained: Space consists of many inflating spheres, which give rise to similar spheres, and those, in turn, produce spheres in even greater numbers, and so on to infinity. In the universe, they are spaced apart. They are not aware of each other’s existence. But they represent parts of the same physical universe. The fact that our universe is not alone is supported by data received from the Planck space telescope. Using the data, scientists have created the most accurate map of the microwave background, the so-called cosmic relic background radiation, which has remained since the inception of our universe. They also found that the universe has a lot of dark recesses represented by some holes and extensive gaps. Theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton from the North Carolina University with her colleagues argue: the anomalies of the microwave background exist due to the fact that our universe is influenced by other universes existing nearby. And holes and gaps are a direct result of attacks on us by neighboring universes.


So, there is abundance of places or other universes where our soul could migrate after death, according to the theory of neo-biocentrism. But does the soul exist?  Is there any scientific theory of consciousness that could accommodate such a claim?  According to Dr. Stuart Hameroff, a near-death experience happens when the quantum information that inhabits the nervous system leaves the body and dissipates into the universe.  Contrary to materialistic accounts of consciousness, Dr. Hameroff offers an alternative explanation of consciousness that can perhaps appeal to both the rational scientific mind and personal intuitions. Consciousness resides, according to Stuart and British physicist Sir Roger Penrose, in the microtubules of the brain cells, which are the primary sites of quantum processing.  Upon death, this information is released from your body, meaning that your consciousness goes with it. They have argued that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in these microtubules, a theory which they dubbed orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR). Consciousness, or at least proto-consciousness is theorized by them to be a fundamental property of the universe, present even at the first moment of the universe during the Big Bang. “In one such scheme proto-conscious experience is a basic property of physical reality accessible to a quantum process associated with brain activity.” Our souls are in fact constructed from the very fabric of the universe – and may have existed since the beginning of time.  Our brains are just receivers and amplifiers for the proto-consciousness that is intrinsic to the fabric of space-time. So is there really a part of your consciousness that is non-material and will live on after the death of your physical body? Dr Hameroff told the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole documentary: “Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state. The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large”.  Robert Lanza would add here that not only does it exist in the universe, it exists perhaps in another universe. If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says “I had a near death experience”‘

He adds: “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

This account of quantum consciousness explains things like near-death experiences, astral projection, out of body experiences, and even reincarnation without needing to appeal to religious ideology.  The energy of your consciousness potentially gets recycled back into a different body at some point, and in the mean time it exists outside of the physical body on some other level of reality, and possibly in another universe. Robert Lanza on Biocentrism:


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Physicists, alchemists, and ayahuasca shamans: A study of grammar and the body (Cultural Admixtures)

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Are there any common denominators that may underlie the practices of leading physicists and scientists, Renaissance alchemists, and indigenous Amazonian ayahuasca healers? There are obviously a myriad of things that these practices do not have in common. Yet through an analysis of the body and the senses and styles of grammar and social practice, these seemingly very different modes of existence may be triangulated to reveal a curious set of logics at play. Ways in which practitioners identify their subjectivities (or ‘self’) with nonhuman entities and ‘natural’ processes are detailed in the three contexts. A logic of identification illustrates similarities, and also differences, in the practices of advanced physics, Renaissance alchemy, and ayahuasca healing.

Physics and the “I” and “You” of experimentation


A small group of physicists at a leading American university in the early 1990s are investigating magnetic temporality and atomic spins in a crystalline lattice; undertaking experiments within the field of condensed matter physics. The scientists collaborate together, presenting experimental or theoretical findings on blackboards, overhead projectors, printed pages and various other forms of visual media. Miguel, a researcher, describes to a colleague the experiments he has just conducted. He points down and then up across a visual representation of the experiment while describing an aspect of the experiment, “We lowered the field [and] raised the field”. In response, his collaborator Ron replies using what is a common type of informal scientific language. The language-style identifies, conflates, or brings-together the researcher with the object being researched. In the following reply, the pronoun ‘he’ refers to both Miguel and the object or process under investigation: Ron asks, “Is there a possibility that he hasn’t seen anything real? I mean is there a [he points to the diagram]“. Miguel sharply interjects “I-, i-, it is possible… I am amazed by his measurement because when I come down I’m in the domain state”. Here Miguel is referring to a physical process of temperature change; a cooling that moves ‘down’ to the ‘domain state’. Ron replies, “You quench from five to two tesla, a magnet, a superconducting magnet”.  What is central here in regards to the common denominators explored in this paper is the way in which the scientists collaborate with certain figurative styles of language that blur the borders between physicist and physical process or state.

The collaboration between Miguel and Ron was filmed and examined by linguistic ethnographers Elinor Ochs, Sally Jacoby, and Patrick Gonzales (1994, 1996:328).  In the experiment, the physicists, Ochs et al illustrate, refer to ‘themselves as the thematic agents and experiencers of [the physical] phenomena’ (Osch et al 1996:335). By employing the pronouns ‘you’, ‘he’, and ‘I’ to refer to the physical processes and states under investigation, the physicists identify their own subjectivities, bodies, and investigations with the objects they are studying.

In the physics laboratory, members are trying to understand physical worlds that are not directly accessible by any of their perceptual abilities. To bridge this gap, it seems, they take embodied interpretive journeys across and through see-able, touchable two-dimensional artefacts that conventionally symbolize those worlds… Their sensory-motor gesturing is a means not only of representing (possible) worlds but also of imagining or vicariously experiencing them… Through verbal and gestural (re)enactments of constructed physical processes, physicist and physical entity are conjoined in simultaneous, multiple constructed worlds: the here-and-now interaction, the visual representation, and the represented physical process. The indeterminate grammatical constructions, along with gestural journeys through visual displays, constitute physicist and physical entity as coexperiencers of dynamic processes and, therefore, as coreferents of the personal pronoun. (Ochs et al 1994:163,164)

When Miguel says “I am in the domain state” he is using a type of ‘private, informal scientific discourse’  that has been observed in many other types of scientific practice (Latour & Woolgar 1987; Gilbert & Mulkay 1984 ). This style of erudition and scientific collaboration obviously has become established in state-of-the-art universities given the utility that it provides in regards to empirical problems and the development of scientific ideas.

What could this style of practice have in common with the healing practices of Amazonian shamans drinking the powerful psychoactive brew ayahuasca? Before moving on to an analysis of grammar and the body in types of ayahuasca use, the practice of Renaissance alchemy is introduced given the bridge or resemblance it offers between these scientific practices and certain notions of healing.

Renaissance alchemy, “As above so below”


Heinrich Khunrath: 1595 engraving Amphitheatre

Graduating from the Basel Medical Academy in 1588, the physician Heinrich Khunrath defended his thesis that concerns a particular development of the relationship between alchemy and medicine. Inspired by the works of key figures in Roman and Greek medicine, key alchemists and practitioners of the hermetic arts, and key botanists, philosophers and others, Khunrath went on to produced innovative and influential texts and illustrations that informed various trajectories in medical and occult practice.

Alchemy flourished in the Renaissance period and was draw upon by elites such as Queen Elizabeth I and the Holy Emperor of Rome, Rudolf II . Central to the practices of Renaissance alchemists was a belief that all metals sprang from one source deep within the earth and that this process may be reversed and every metal be potentially turned into gold. The process of ‘transmutation’ or reversal of nature, it was claimed, could also lead to the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, or eternal youth and immortality. It was a spiritual pursuit of purification and regeneration which depended heavily on natural science experimentation.

Alchemical experiments were typically undertaken in a laboratory and alchemists were often contracted by elites for pragmatic purposes related to mining, medical services, and the production of chemicals, metals, and gemstones (Nummedal 2007). Allison Coudert describes and distills the practice of Renaissance alchemy with a basic overview of the relationship between an alchemist and the ‘natural entities’ of his practice.

All the ingredients mentioned in alchemical recipes—the minerals, metals, acids, compounds, and mixtures—were in truth only one, the alchemist himself. He was the base matter in need of purification from the fire; and the acid needed to accomplish this transformation came from his own spiritual malaise and longing for wholeness and peace. The various alchemical processes… were steps in the mysterious process of spiritual regeneration. (cited in Hanegraaff 1996:395)

The physician-alchemist Khunrath worked within a laboratory/oratory that included various alchemical apparatuses, including ‘smelting equipment for the extraction of metal from ore… glass vessels, ovens… [a] furnace or athanor… [and] a mirror’. Khunrath spoke of using the mirror as a ‘physico-magical instrument for setting a coal or lamp-fire alight by the heat of the sun’ (Forshaw 2005:205). Urszula Szulakowska argues that this use of the mirror embodies the general alchemical process and purpose of Khunruth’s practice. The functions of his practice and his alchemical illustrations and glyphs (such as his engraving Amphitheatre above) are aimed towards various outcomes of transmutation or reversal of nature. Khunruth’s engravings and illustrations,  Szulakowska (2000:9) argues:

are intended to excite the imagination of the viewer so that a mystic alchemy can take place through the act of visual contemplation… Khunrath’s theatre of images, like a mirror, catoptrically reflects the celestial spheres to the human mind, awakening the empathetic faculty of the human spirit which unites, through the imagination, with the heavenly realms. Thus, the visual imagery of Khunrath’s treatises has become the alchemical quintessence, the spiritualized matter of the philosopher’s stone.

Khunrath called himself a ‘lover of both medicines’, referring to the inseparability of material and spiritual forms of medicine.  Illustrating the centrality of alchemical practice in his medical approach, he described his ‘down-to-earth Physical-Chemistry of Nature’ as:

[T]he art of chemically dissolving, purifying and rightly reuniting Physical Things by Nature’s method; the Universal (Macro-Cosmically, the Philosopher’s Stone; Micro-Cosmically, the parts of the human body…) and ALL the particulars of the inferior globe. (cited in Forshaw 2005:205).

In Renaissance alchemy there is a certain kind of laboratory visionary mixing that happens between the human body and the human temperaments and ‘entities’ and processes of the natural world. This is condensed in the hermetic dictum “As above, so below” where the signatures of nature (‘above’) may be found in the human body (‘below’). The experiments involved certain practices of perception, contemplation, and language, that were undertaken in laboratory settings.

The practice of Renaissance alchemy, illustrated in recipes, glyphs, and instructional texts, includes styles of grammar in which minerals, metals, and other natural entities are animated with subjectivity and human temperaments. Lead “wants” or “desires” to transmute into gold; antimony feels a wilful “attraction” to silver (Kaiser 2010; Waite 1894). This form of grammar is entailed in the doctrine of medico-alchemical practice described by Khunrath above. Under certain circumstances and conditions, minerals, metals, and other natural entities may embody aspects of ‘Yourself’, or the subjectivity of the alchemist, and vice versa.

Renaissance alchemical language and practice bares a certain level of resemblance to the contemporary practices of physicists and scientists and the ways in which they identify themselves with the objects and processes of their experiments. The methods of physicists appear to differ considerably insofar as they use metaphors and trade spiritual for figurative approaches when ‘journeying through’ cognitive tasks, embodied gestures, and visual representations of empirical or natural processes. It is no coincidence that contemporary state-of-the-art scientists are employing forms of alchemical language and practice in advanced types of experimentation. Alchemical and hermetic thought and practice were highly influential in the emergence of modern forms of science (Moran 2006; Newman 2006; Hanegraaff 2013).

Ayahuasca shamanism and shapeshifting


Pablo Amaringo

In the Amazon jungle a radically different type of practice to the Renaissance alchemical traditions exists. Yet, as we will see, the practices of indigenous Amazonian shamans and Renaissance alchemists appear to include certain similarities — particularly in terms of the way in which ‘natural entities’ and the subjectivity of the practitioner may merge or swap positions — this is evidenced in the grammar and language of shamanic healing songs and in Amazonian cosmologies more generally.

In the late 1980s, Cambridge anthropologist Graham Townsley was undertaking PhD fieldwork with the indigenous Amazonian Yaminahua on the Yurua river. His research was focused on ways in which forms of social organisation are embedded in cosmology and the practice of everyday life. Yaminahua healing practices are embedded in broad animistic cosmological frames and at the centre of these healing practices is song. ‘What Yaminahua shamans do, above everything else, is sing’, Townsley explains, and this ritual singing is typically done while under the effects of the psychoactive concoction ayahuasca.

The psychoactive drink provides shamans with a means of drawing upon the healing assistance of benevolent spirit persons of the natural world (such as plant-persons, animal-persons, sun-persons etc.) and of banishing malevolent spirit persons that are affecting the wellbeing of a patient. The Yaminahua practice of ayahuasca shamanism resembles broader types of Amazonian shamanism. Shapeshifting, or the metamorphosis of human persons into nonhuman persons (such as jaguar-persons and anaconda-persons) is central to understandings of illness and to practices of healing in various types of Amazonian shamanism (Chaumeil 1992; Praet 2009; Riviere 1994).

The grammatical styles and sensory experiences of indigenous ayahuasca curing rituals and songs bare some similarities with the logic of identification noted in the sections on physics and alchemy above. Townsley (1993) describes a Yaminahua ritual where a shaman attempts to heal a patient that was still bleeding several days after giving birth. The healing songs that the shaman sings (called wai which also means ‘path’ and ‘myth’ orabodes of the spirits) make very little reference to the illness in which they are aimed to heal. The shaman’s songs do not communicate meanings to the patient but they embody complex metaphors and analogies, or what Yaminahua call ‘twisted language’; a language only comprehensible to shamans. There are ‘perceptual resemblances’ that inform the logic of Yaminahua twisted language. For example, “white-collared peccaries” becomes fish given the similarities between the gills of the fish and designs on the peccaries neck. The use of visual or sensory resonance in shamanic song metaphors is not arbitrary but central to the practice Yaminahua ayahuasca healing.

Ayahuasca typically produces a powerful visionary experience. The shaman’s use of complex metaphors in ritual song helps him shape his visions and bring a level of control to the visionary content. Resembling the common denominators and logic of identification explored above, the songs allow the shaman to perceive from the various perspectives that the meanings of the metaphors (or the spirits) afford.

Everything said about shamanic songs points to the fact that as they are sung the shaman actively visualizes the images referred to by the external analogy of the song, but he does this through a carefully controlled “seeing as” the different things actually named by the internal metaphors of his song. This “seeing as” in some way creates a space in which powerful visionary experience can occur. (Townsley 1993:460)

The use of analogies and metaphors provides a particularly powerful means of navigating the visionary experience of ayahuasca. There appears to be a kind of pragmatics involved in the use of metaphor over literal meanings. For instance, a shaman states, “twisted language brings me close but not too close [to the meanings of the metaphors]–with normal words I would crash into things–with twisted ones I circle around them–I can see them clearly” (Townsley 1993:460). Through this method of “seeing as”, the shaman embodies a variety of animal and nature spirits, or yoshi in Yaminahua, including anaconda-yoshi, jaguar-yoshi and solar or sun-yoshi, in order to perform acts of healing and various other shamanic activities.

While Yaminahua shamans use metaphors to control visions and shapeshift (or “see as”), they, and Amazonians more generally, reportedly understand shapeshifting in literal terms. For example, Lenaerts describes this notion of ‘seeing like the spirits’, and the ‘physical’ or literal view that the Ashéninka hold in regards to the practice of ayahuasca-induced shapeshifting.

What is at stake here is a temporary bodily process, whereby a human being assumes the embodied point of view of another species… There is no need to appeal to any sort of metaphoric sense here. A literal interpretation of this process of disembodiment/re-embodiment is absolutely consistent with all what an Ashéninka knowns and directly feels during this experience, in a quite physical sense. (2006, 13)

The practices of indigenous ayahuasca shamans are centred on an ability to shapeshift and ‘see nonhumans as they [nonhumans] see themselves’ (Viveiros de Castro 2004:468). Practitioners not only identify with nonhuman persons or ‘natural entities’ but they embody their point of view with the help of psychoactive plants and  ‘twisted language’ in song.

Some final thoughts

Through a brief exploration of techniques employed by advanced physicists, Renaissance alchemists, and Amazonian ayahuasca shamans, a logic of identification may be observed in which practitioners embody different means of transcending themselves and becoming the objects or spirits of their respective practices. While the physicists tend to embody secular principles and relate to this logic of identification in a purely figurative or metaphorical sense, Renaissance alchemists and Amazonian shamans embody epistemological stances that afford much more weight to the existential qualities and ‘persons’ or ‘spirits’ of their respective practices. A cognitive value in employing forms of language and sensory experience that momentarily take the practitioner beyond him or herself is evidenced by these three different practices. However, there is arguably more at stake here than values confined to cogito. The boundaries of bodies, subjectivities and humanness in each of these practices become porous, blurred, and are transcended while the contours of various forms of possibility are exposed, defined, and acted upon — possibilities that inform the outcomes of the practices and the definitions of the human they imply.


Chaumeil, Jean-Pierre 1992, ‘Varieties of Amazonian shamanism’. Diogenes. Vol. 158 p.101
Forshaw, P. 2008 ‘”Paradoxes, Absurdities, and Madness”: Conflicts over Alchemy, Magic and Medicine in the Works of Andreas Libavius and Heinrich Khunrath. Early Science and Medicine. Vol. 1 pp.53
Forshaw, P. 2006 ‘Alchemy in the Amphitheatre: Some considerations of the alchemical content of the engravings in Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatre of Eternal Wisdom’ in Jacob Wamberg Art and Alchemy. p.195-221
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Waite, A. 1894 The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Aureolus Philippus Theophrastrus Bombast, of Hohenheim, called Paracelcus the Great. Cornell University Library, ebook

Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time (IO9)


Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time

Anesthesia was a major medical breakthrough, allowing us to lose consciousness during surgery and other painful procedures. Trouble is, we’re not entirely sure how it works. But now we’re getting closer to solving its mystery — and with it, the mystery of consciousness itself.

When someone goes under, their cognition and brain activity continue, but consciousness gets shut down. For example, it has been shown that rats can ‘remember’ odor experiences while under general anesthesia. This is why anesthesiologists, like the University of Arizona’s Stuart Hameroff, are so fascinated by the whole thing.

“Anesthetics are fairly selective, erasing consciousness while sparing non-conscious brain activity,” Hameroff told io9. “So the precise mechanism of anesthetic action should point to the mechanism for consciousness.”

The Perils of Going Under

The odds of something bad happening while under anesthetic are exceedingly low. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Indeed, anesthesiology has come a long way since that historic moment back in 1846 when a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital held a flask near a patient’s face until he fell unconscious.

But as late as the 1940s, anesthesia still remained a dicey proposition. Back then, one in every 1,500 perioperative deaths were attributed to anesthesia. That number has improved dramatically since that time, mostly on account of improved techniques and chemicals, modern safety standards, and an influx of accredited anesthesiologists. Today, the chances of a healthy patient suffering an intraoperative death owing to anesthesia is less than 1 in 200,000. That’s a 0.0005% chance of a fatality — which are pretty good odds if you ask me (especially if you consider the alternative, which is to be awake during a procedure).

It should be pointed out, however, that “healthy patient” is the operative term (so to speak). In actuality, anesthesia-related deaths are on the rise, and the aging population has a lot to do with it. After decades of decline, the worldwide death rate during anesthesia has risen to about 1.4 deaths per 200,000. Alarmingly, the number of deaths within a year after general anesthesia is disturbingly high — about one in every 20. For people above the age of 65, it’s one in 10. The reason, says anesthesiologist André Gottschalk, is that there are more older patients being operated on. Anesthesia can be stressful for older patients with heart problems or high blood pressure.

Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time

(Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

But there are other dangers associated with anesthesia. It can induce a condition known as postoperative delirium, a state of serious confusion and memory loss. Following surgery, some patients complain about hallucinations, have trouble responding to questions, speak gibberish, and forget why they’re in the hospital. Studies have shown that roughly half of all patients age 60 and over suffer from this sort of delirium. This condition usually resolves after a day or two. But for some people, typically those over the age of 70 and who have a history of mental deficits, a high enough dose of anesthesia can result in lingering problems for months and even years afterward, including attention and memory problems.

Researchers speculate that it’s not the quality of the anesthetics, but rather the quantity; the greater the amount, the greater the delerium. This is not an easy problem to resolve; not enough anesthesia can leave a patient awake, but too much can kill. It’s a challenging balance to achieve because, as science writer Maggie Koerth-Baker has pointed out, “Consciousness is not something we can measure.”

Rots the Brain

Deep anesthesia has also been linked to other cognitive problems. New Scientist reports:

Patients received either propofol or one of several anesthetic gases. The morning after surgery, 16 percent of patients who had received light anesthesia displayed confusion, compared with 24 percent of the routine care group. Likewise, 15 percent of patients who received typical anesthesia had postoperative mental setbacks that lingered for at least three months—they performed poorly on word-recall tests, for example—but only 10 percent of those in the light anesthesia group had such difficulties.

To help alleviate these effects, doctors are encouraged to talk to their patients during regional anesthesia, and to make sure their patients are well hydrated and nourished before surgery to improve blood flow to the brain.

But just to be clear, the risks are slight. According to the Mayo Clinic:

Most healthy people don’t have any problems with general anesthesia. Although many people may have mild, temporary symptoms, general anesthesia itself is exceptionally safe, even for the sickest patients. The risk of long-term complications, much less death, is very small. In general, the risk of complications is more closely related to the type of procedure you’re undergoing, and your general physical health, than to the anesthesia itself.

The Neural Correlates of Consciousness

Typically, anesthesia is initiated with the injection of a drug called propofol, which gives a quick and smooth transition into unconsciousness. For longer operations, an inhaled anesthetic, like isoflurane, is added to give better control of the depth of anesthesia.

Here’s a chart showing the most common applications for anesthesia (via University of Toronto):

Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time

It should really come as no surprise that neuroscientists aren’t entirely sure how chemicals like propofol work. We won’t truly understand anesthesia until we fully understand consciousness itself — a so-called hard problem in science. But the neuroscience of anesthesia may shed light on this mystery.

Researchers need to chart the neural correlates of consciousness (NCCs) — changes in brain function that can be observed when a person transitions from being conscious to unconscious. These NCCs can be certain brain waves, physical responses, sensitivity to pain — whatever. They just need to be correlated directly to conscious awareness.

As an aside, we’ll eventually need to identify NCCs in an artificial intelligence to prove that it’s sentient. And in fact, this could serve as a viable substitute to the now-outdated Turing Test.

Scientists have known for quite some time that anesthetic potency correlates with solubility in an olive-oil like environment. The going theory is that they make it difficult for certain neurons to fire; they bind to and incapacitate several different proteins on the surface of neurons that are essential for regulating sleep, attention, learning, and memory. But more than that, by interrupting the normal activity of neurons, anesthetics disrupt communications between the various regions of the brain which, together, triggers unconsciousness.

Cognitive Dissonance

But neuroscientists haven’t been able to figure out which region or regions of the brain are responsible for this effect. And indeed, there may be no single switch, particularly if the “global workspace” theory of consciousness continues to hold sway. This school of thought holds that consciousness is a widely distributed phenomenon where initial incoming sensory information gets processed in separate regions of the brain without us being aware of it. Subjectivity only happens when these signals are broadcast to a network of neurons disbursed throughout the brain, which then start firing in synchrony.

Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time

(New Scientist)

But the degree of synchrony is a very carefully calibrated thing — and anesthetics disrupt this finely tuned harmony.

Indeed, anesthetics may be eliciting unconsciousness by blocking the brain’s ability to properly integrate information. Synchrony between different areas of the cortex (the part of the brain responsible for attention, awareness, thought, and memory), gets scrambled as consciousness fades. According to researcher Andres Engels, long-distance communication gets blocked, so the brain can’t build the global workspace. He says “It’s like the message is reaching the mailbox, but no one is picking it up.” Propofol in particular appears to cause abnormally strong synchrony between the primary cortex and other brain regions — and when too many neurons fire in a strongly synchronized rhythm, there’s no room for exchange of specific messages.

Rebooting the Global Workspace

There’s also the science of coming out of unconsciousness to consider. A new study shows it’s not simply a matter of the anesthetic “wearing off.”

Researchers from UCLA say the return of conscious brain activity occurs in discrete clumps, or clusters — and that the brain does not jump between all of the clusters uniformly. In fact, some of these activity patterns serve as “hubs” on the way back to consciousness.

“Recovery from anesthesia, is not simply the result of the anesthetic ‘wearing off’ but also of the brain finding its way back through a maze of possible activity states to those that allow conscious experience,” noted researcher Andrew Hudson in a statement. “Put simply, the brain reboots itself.”

Relatedly, a separate study from 2012 suggested that post-surgery confusion is the brain reverting to a more primitive evolutionary state as it goes through the “boot-up” process.

Quantum Vibrations in Microtubules?

There’s also the work of Stuart Hameroff to consider, though his approach to consciousness is still considered speculative at this point.

He pointed me to the work of the University of Pennsylvania’s Rod Eckenhoff, who has shown that anesthetics act on microtubules — extremely tiny cylindrically shaped protein polymers that are part of the cellular cytoskeleton.

Why Anesthesia Is One of the Greatest Medical Mysteries of Our Time

Jeffrey81/Wikimedia Commons

“That suggests consciousness derives from microtubules,” Hameroff told io9.

Along with Travis Craddock, he also thinks that anesthetics bind to and affect cytoskeletal microtubules — and that anesthesia-related cognitive dysfunction is linked to microtubule instability. Craddock has found ‘quantum channels’ of aromatic amino acids in a microtubule subunit protein which regulates large scale quantum states and bind anesthetics.

I asked Hameroff where neuroscientists should focus their efforts as they work to understand the nature of consciousness.

“More studies like those of Anirban Bandyopadhyay at NIMS in Tsukuba, Japan (and now at MIT) showing megahertz and kilohertz vibrations in microtubules inside neurons,” he replied. “EEG may be the tip of an iceberg of deeper level, faster, smaller scale activities in microtubules. But they’re quantum, so though smaller, are non-local, and entangled through large regions of brain or more.”

Indeed, brain scans of various sorts are definitely the way to go, and not just for this particular line of inquiry. It will be through the ongoing discovery of NCCs that we may eventually get to the bottom of this thing called consciousness.


The history of anesthesiaBite Down on a Stick: The History of AnesthesiaThere was a time when all the pain alleviation involved in surgery was a little cotton wool in the…Read more

Anesthesia unlocks a more primitive level of consciousness – If you’ve ever been put under anesthesia, you might recall a disoriented, almost delirious…Read more

Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in ‘Microtubules’ Inside Brain Neurons Supports Controversial Theory of Consciousness (Science Daily)

Jan. 16, 2014 — A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in “microtubules” inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. (Credit: © James Steidl / Fotolia)

The theory, called “orchestrated objective reduction” (‘Orch OR’), was first put forward in the mid-1990s by eminent mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, FRS, Mathematical Institute and Wadham College, University of Oxford, and prominent anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, MD, Anesthesiology, Psychology and Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona, Tucson. They suggested that quantum vibrational computations in microtubules were “orchestrated” (“Orch”) by synaptic inputs and memory stored in microtubules, and terminated by Penrose “objective reduction” (‘OR’), hence “Orch OR.” Microtubules are major components of the cell structural skeleton.

Orch OR was harshly criticized from its inception, as the brain was considered too “warm, wet, and noisy” for seemingly delicate quantum processes.. However, evidence has now shown warm quantum coherence in plant photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense of smell, and brain microtubules. The recent discovery of warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, PhD, at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and now at MIT), corroborates the pair’s theory and suggests that EEG rhythms also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations. In addition, work from the laboratory of Roderick G. Eckenhoff, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that anesthesia, which selectively erases consciousness while sparing non-conscious brain activities, acts via microtubules in brain neurons.

“The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe, the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?” ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current review. “This opens a potential Pandora’s Box, but our theory accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of reality.”

After 20 years of skeptical criticism, “the evidence now clearly supports Orch OR,” continue Hameroff and Penrose. “Our new paper updates the evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or “qubits,” as helical pathways in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and reviews 20 testable predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 — of these, six are confirmed and none refuted.”

An important new facet of the theory is introduced. Microtubule quantum vibrations (e.g. in megahertz) appear to interfere and produce much slower EEG “beat frequencies.” Despite a century of clinical use, the underlying origins of EEG rhythms have remained a mystery. Clinical trials of brief brain stimulation aimed at microtubule resonances with megahertz mechanical vibrations using transcranial ultrasound have shown reported improvements in mood, and may prove useful against Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury in the future.

Lead author Stuart Hameroff concludes, “Orch OR is the most rigorous, comprehensive and successfully-tested theory of consciousness ever put forth. From a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.”

The review is accompanied by eight commentaries from outside authorities, including an Australian group of Orch OR arch-skeptics. To all, Hameroff and Penrose respond robustly.

Penrose, Hameroff and Bandyopadhyay will explore their theories during a session on “Microtubules and the Big Consciousness Debate” at the Brainstorm Sessions, a public three-day event at the Brakke Grond in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, January 16-18, 2014. They will engage skeptics in a debate on the nature of consciousness, and Bandyopadhyay and his team will couple microtubule vibrations from active neurons to play Indian musical instruments. “Consciousness depends on anharmonic vibrations of microtubules inside neurons, similar to certain kinds of Indian music, but unlike Western music which is harmonic,” Hameroff explains.

Journal References:

  1. Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose. Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theoryPhysics of Life Reviews, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002
  2. Stuart Hameroff, MD, and Roger Penrose. Reply to criticism of the ‘Orch OR qubit’–‘Orchestrated objective reduction’ is scientifically justifiedPhysics of Life Reviews, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.11.00
  3. Stuart Hameroff, Roger Penrose. Consciousness in the universePhysics of Life Reviews, 2013; DOI:10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002

Manifesto de neurocientistas sobre a consciência animal


Comportamento animal

Quase humanos (Veja)

Neurocientistas publicam manifesto afirmando que mamíferos, aves e até polvos têm consciência e esquentam debate sobre direitos dos animais

Marco Túlio Pires

Chimpanzé alimenta um filhote de tigre dourado, em mini zoológico na cidade de Samutprakan, Tailândia

Chimpanzé alimenta um filhote de tigre dourado, em mini zoológico na cidade de Samutprakan, Tailândia: percepção de sua própria existência e do mundo ao seu redor (Rungroj Yongrit/EFE)

Os seres humanos não são os únicos animais que têm consciência. A afirmação não é de ativistas radicais defensores dos direitos dos animais. Pelo contrário. Um grupo de neurocientistas — doutores de instituições de renome como Caltech, MIT e Instituto Max Planck — publicou um manifesto asseverando que o estudo da neurociência evoluiu de modo tal que não é mais possível excluir mamíferos, aves e até polvos do grupo de seres vivos que possuem consciência. O documento divulgado no último sábado (7), em Cambridge, esquenta uma discussão que divide cientistas, filósofos e legisladores há séculos sobre a natureza da consciência e sua implicação na vida dos humanos e de outros animais.

Leia mais: A íntegra, em inglês, do manifesto que afirma a existência da consciência em todos os mamíferos, aves e outras criaturas, como polvos

Apresentado à Nasa nesta quinta-feira, o manifesto não traz novas descobertas da neurociência — é uma compilação das pesquisas da área. Representa, no entanto, um posicionamento inédito sobre a capacidade de outros seres perceberem sua própria existência e o mundo ao seu redor. Em entrevista ao site de VEJA, Philip Low, criador do iBrain, o aparelho que recentemente permitiu a leitura das ondas cerebrais do físico Stephen Hawking, e um dos articuladores do movimento, explica que nos últimos 16 anos a neurociência descobriu que as áreas do cérebro que distinguem seres humanos de outros animais não são as que produzem a consciência. “As estruturas cerebrais responsáveis pelos processos que geram a consciência nos humanos e outros animais são equivalentes”, diz. “Concluímos então que esses animais também possuem consciência.”

O que é consciência?

Filosoficamente, é o entendimento que uma criatura tem sobre si e seu lugar na natureza. Alguns atributos definem a consciência, como ser senciente, ou seja, sentir o mundo à sua volta e reagir a ele; estar alerta ou acordado ou ter consciência sobre si mesmo (o que, para a filosofia já basta para incluir alguns animais “não-linguísticos” entre os seres com consciência).Fonte: Enciclopédia de Filosofia de Stanford

A ciência considera como consciência as percepções sobre o mundo e as sensações corporais, junto com os pensamentos, memórias, ações e emoções. Ou seja, tudo o que escapa aos processos cerebrais automáticos e chega à nossa atenção. O conteúdo da consciência geralmente é estudado usando exames de imagens cerebrais para comparar quais estímulos chegam à nossa atenção e quais não. Como resumiu o neurocientista Bernard Baars, em 1987, o cérebro é como um teatro no qual a maioria dos eventos neurais são inconscientes, portanto acontecem “nos bastidores”, enquanto alguns poucos entram no processo consciente, ou seja, chegam ao “palco”.

Estudos recentes, como os da pesquisadora Diana Reiss (uma das cientistas que assinaram o manifesto), da Hunter College, nos Estados Unidos, mostram que golfinhos e elefantes também são capazes de se reconhecer no espelho. Essa capacidade é importante para definir se um ser está consciente. O mesmo vale para chimpanzés e pássaros. Outros tipos de comportamento foram analisados pelos neurocientistas. “Quando seu cachorro está sentindo dor ou feliz em vê-lo, há evidências de que no cérebro deles há estruturas semelhantes às que são ativadas quando exibimos medo e dor e prazer”, diz Low.

Personalidade animal – Dizer que os animais têm consciência pode trazer várias implicações para a sociedade e o modo como os animais são tratados. Steven Wise, advogado e especialista americano em direito dos animais, diz que o manifesto chega em boa hora. “O papel dos advogados e legisladores é transformar conclusões científicas como essa em legislação que ajudará a organizar a sociedade”, diz em entrevista ao site de VEJA. Wise é líder do Projeto dos Direitos de Animais não Humanos. O advogado coordena um grupo de 70 profissionais que organizam informações, casos e jurisprudência para entrar com o primeiro processo em favor de que alguns animais — como grandes primatas, papagaios africanos e golfinhos — tenham seu status equiparado ao dos humanos.

O manifesto de Cambridge dá mais munição ao grupo de Wise para vencer o caso. “Queremos que esses animais recebam direitos fundamentais, que a justiça as enxergue como pessoas, no sentido legal.” Isso, de acordo com o advogado, quer dizer que esses animais teriam direito à integridade física e à liberdade, por exemplo. “Temos que parar de pensar que esses animais existem para servir aos seres humanos”, defende Wise. “Eles têm um valor intrínseco, independente de como os avaliamos.”

Questão moral – O manifesto não decreta o fim dos zoológicos ou das churrascarias, muito menos das pesquisas médicas com animais. Contudo, já foi suficiente para provocar reflexão e mudança de comportamento em cientistas, como o próprio Low. “Estou considerando me tornar vegetariano”, diz. “Temos agora que apelar para nossa engenhosidade, para desenvolver tecnologias que nos permitam criar uma sociedade cada vez menos dependente dos animais.” Low se refere principalmente à pesquisa médica. Para estudar a vida, a ciência ainda precisa tirar muitas. De acordo com o neurocientista, o mundo gasta 20 bilhões por ano para matar 100 milhões de vertebrados. Das moléculas medicinais produzidas por esse amontoado de dinheiro e mortes, apenas 6% chega a ser testada em seres humanos. “É uma péssima contabilidade”, diz Low.

Contudo, a pesquisa com animais ainda é necessária. O endocrinologista americano Michael Conn, autor do livro The Animal Research War, sem edição no Brasil, argumenta que se trata de uma escolha priorizar a espécie humana. “Conceitos como os de consentimento e autonomia só fazem sentido dentro de um código moral que diz respeito aos homens, e não aos animais”, disse em entrevista ao site de VEJA. “Nossa obrigação com os animais é fazer com que eles sejam devidamente cuidados, não sofram nem sintam dor — e não tratá-los como se fossem humanos, o que seria uma ficção”, argumenta. “Se pudéssemos utilizar apenas um computador para fazer pesquisas médicas seria ótimo. Mas a verdade é que não é possível ainda.”

A inteligência dos polvos

O vídeo mostra diversas situações em que o polvo consegue resolver problemas. Desde a captura de presas em diferentes tipos de recipientes até escapar de locais extremamente difíceis. As situações mostram que o animal é capaz de formular soluções para problemas específicos, o que denota, na opinião dos neurocientistas, um estado de consciência inteligente.

*   *   *

“Não é mais possível dizer que não sabíamos”, diz Philip Low (Veja)


Neurocientista explica por que pesquisadores se uniram para assinar manifesto que admite a existência da consciência em todos os mamíferos, aves e outras criaturas, como o polvo, e como essa descoberta pode impactar a sociedade

Marco Túlio Pires

Epilepsia: especialistas estimam que 2% da população brasileira tenha a doença

Estruturas do cérebro responsáveis pela produção da consciência são análogas em humanos e outros animais, dizem neurocientistas (Thinkstock)

O neurocientista canadense Philip Low ganhou destaque no noticiário científico depois deapresentar um projeto em parceria com o físico Stephen Hawking, de 70 anos. Low quer ajudar Hawking, que está completamente paralisado há 40 anos por causa de uma doença degenerativa, a se comunicar com a mente. Os resultados da pesquisa foram revelados no último sábado (7) em uma conferência em Cambridge. Contudo, o principal objetivo do encontro era outro. Nele, neurocientistas de todo o mundo assinaram um manifesto afirmando que todos os mamíferos, aves e outras criaturas, incluindo polvos, têm consciência. Stephen Hawking estava presente no jantar de assinatura do manifesto como convidado de honra.

Philip LowPhilip Low: “Todos os mamíferos e pássaros têm consciência”. Divulgação.

Low é pesquisador da Universidade Stanford e do MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), ambos nos Estados Unidos. Ele e mais 25 pesquisadores entendem que as estruturas cerebrais que produzem a consciência em humanos também existem nos animais. “As áreas do cérebro que nos distinguem de outros animais não são as que produzem a consciência”, diz Low, que concedeu a seguinte entrevista ao site de VEJA:

Estudos sobre o comportamento animal já afirmam que vários animais possuem certo grau de consciência. O que a neurociência diz a respeito?Descobrimos que as estruturas que nos distinguem de outros animais, como o córtex cerebral, não são responsáveis pela manifestação da consciência. Resumidamente, se o restante do cérebro é responsável pela consciência e essas estruturas são semelhantes entre seres humanos e outros animais, como mamíferos e pássaros, concluímos que esses animais também possuem consciência.

Quais animais têm consciência? Sabemos que todos os mamíferos, todos os pássaros e muitas outras criaturas, como o polvo, possuem as estruturas nervosas que produzem a consciência. Isso quer dizer que esses animais sofrem. É uma verdade inconveniente: sempre foi fácil afirmar que animais não têm consciência. Agora, temos um grupo de neurocientistas respeitados que estudam o fenômeno da consciência, o comportamento dos animais, a rede neural, a anatomia e a genética do cérebro. Não é mais possível dizer que não sabíamos.

É possível medir a similaridade entre a consciência de mamíferos e pássaros e a dos seres humanos? Isso foi deixado em aberto pelo manifesto. Não temos uma métrica, dada a natureza da nossa abordagem. Sabemos que há tipos diferentes de consciência. Podemos dizer, contudo, que a habilidade de sentir dor e prazer em mamíferos e seres humanos é muito semelhante.

Que tipo de comportamento animal dá suporte à ideia de que eles têm consciência?Quando um cachorro está com medo, sentindo dor, ou feliz em ver seu dono, são ativadas em seu cérebro estruturas semelhantes às que são ativadas em humanos quando demonstramos medo, dor e prazer. Um comportamento muito importante é o autorreconhecimento no espelho. Dentre os animais que conseguem fazer isso, além dos seres humanos, estão os golfinhos, chimpanzés, bonobos, cães e uma espécie de pássaro chamada pica-pica.

Quais benefícios poderiam surgir a partir do entendimento da consciência em animais? Há um pouco de ironia nisso. Gastamos muito dinheiro tentando encontrar vida inteligente fora do planeta enquanto estamos cercados de inteligência consciente aqui no planeta. Se considerarmos que um polvo — que tem 500 milhões de neurônios (os humanos tem 100 bilhões) — consegue produzir consciência, estamos muito mais próximos de produzir uma consciência sintética do que pensávamos. É muito mais fácil produzir um modelo com 500 milhões de neurônios do que 100 bilhões. Ou seja, fazer esses modelos sintéticos poderá ser mais fácil agora.

Qual é a ambição do manifesto? Os neurocientistas se tornaram militantes do movimento sobre o direito dos animais? É uma questão delicada. Nosso papel como cientistas não é dizer o que a sociedade deve fazer, mas tornar público o que enxergamos. A sociedade agora terá uma discussão sobre o que está acontecendo e poderá decidir formular novas leis, realizar mais pesquisas para entender a consciência dos animais ou protegê-los de alguma forma. Nosso papel é reportar os dados.

As conclusões do manifesto tiveram algum impacto sobre o seu comportamento? Acho que vou virar vegano. É impossível não se sensibilizar com essa nova percepção sobre os animais, em especial sobre sua experiência do sofrimento. Será difícil, adoro queijo.

O que pode mudar com o impacto dessa descoberta? Os dados são perturbadores, mas muito importantes. No longo prazo, penso que a sociedade dependerá menos dos animais. Será melhor para todos. Deixe-me dar um exemplo. O mundo gasta 20 bilhões de dólares por ano matando 100 milhões de vertebrados em pesquisas médicas. A probabilidade de um remédio advindo desses estudos ser testado em humanos (apenas teste, pode ser que nem funcione) é de 6%. É uma péssima contabilidade. Um primeiro passo é desenvolver abordagens não invasivas. Não acho ser necessário tirar vidas para estudar a vida. Penso que precisamos apelar para nossa própria engenhosidade e desenvolver melhores tecnologias para respeitar a vida dos animais. Temos que colocar a tecnologia em uma posição em que ela serve nossos ideais, em vez de competir com eles.