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Archive for the ‘Consciousness’ Category

  • Memo to Neuroscience: “We Are Not Brain Puppets”

    Posted on: October 23, 2014

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    By Deepak Chopra, MD

     

    The notion that human beings walk, talk, think, and do things because our brains control us is a fringe idea, easily refuted with a few moment’s thought and rarely taken seriously. But it got a boost from an Op-ed piece in the New York Times last week under the title, “Are We Really Conscious?” Thousands of readers were exposed to an argument that has been around for decades, holding that the brain is a machine analogous to a computer, and its working parts (neurons) operate through strict cause and effect. Therefore, when we believe that we have free will, we are as mistaken as marionettes controlled by invisible strings.

     

    The author of the Op-ed piece, a Princeton psychology professor named Michael S. A. Graziano, states the extreme case for brain-as-machine: We are fooling ourselves to believe we are conscious. He also states, quite falsely, that this mechanistic view is the only viable explanation for consciousness currently to be found in science. Actually, there are a number of annual conferences on the topic of science and consciousness, and it’s fair to say that Graziano’s strict materialistic view, although a pet theory in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), rarely comes up in these conferences. But with the name of a prestigious university attached, his Op-ed piece will start a discussion, so here’s my contribution.

  • A Science of Miracles — No Longer Optional? (Part 2)

    Posted on: October 15, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD

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    For most people, miracles are something left behind in childhood. They require innocent belief, not adult rationality. The camp of vocal skeptics and atheists provide a crossroads, in fact, where one way leads to irrationality, the other to rationality, as if this definitively defines where the truth lies. If you don’t take the way of rationality, you will wind up in the realm of superstition, primitive myths, magical thinking, and bogus miracles.

     

    Why, then, did Einstein make his famous remark that either nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle? Because he saw deeper into reality than the simplistic either/or of skeptics and atheists. As we saw in Part 1 of this series, there is no credible scientific theory that describes how the mind interfaces with reality. This means that there is no theory that proves the existence of miracles or disproves it. Until we can fully explain consciousness, we can’t fully explain the events that occur in consciousness.

     

    It sounds startling, but science can’t explain ordinary experiences, much less supernatural experiences. No one knows how thoughts arise, why intuition exists, where creativity comes form, or most important of all, how the porridgy gray matter of the brain, which is totally dark and silent, produces the sights and sounds of the three-dimensional world. The simplest and most profound miracle that everyone encounters every day is this miracle.

  • A Science of Miracles – No Longer Optional?

    Posted on: October 6, 2014

    A Science of Miracles—No Longer Optional?

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    By Deepak Chopra, MD

     

    In its ambition to explain every aspect of the natural world, modern science has sidestepped very few problems. Some mysteries are so difficult that they defy the scientific method. It’s hard to conceive of experiments that will tell us what happened before time and space emerged, for example. But two mysteries have been consistently sidestepped for decades out of prejudice. One is the nature of consciousness, the other the reality of phenomena loosely categorized as mystical or supernatural.

    However, now that there is a burgeoning science of consciousness, fermenting with much theorizing, arguments, and controversies, it may be necessary to solve all kinds of fringe phenomena, in particular miracles, that have long been considered the province of superstition, credulity, and outright fraud. (This is the hardened position of the vocal skeptics’ camp, but their impact on the practice of science is too minimal to deal with here.)

  • Sonima’s Wisdom and Me

    Posted on: October 3, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD
     
    The cutting-edge programs of the Sonima Foundation are based on an ancient wisdom principle. True wisdom occurs spontaneously, and in this case, I remember the story of how one child discovered it very early.  Alfred Stieglitz, who became one of the greatest photographers of the twentieScreen Shot 2014-10-03 at 1.48.38 PMth century, grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father had fought for three years in the Union army before buying himself out so that he could be home to see his first child grow up.
     
    One winter the boy was seen slipping out the back door, which at first seemed only a bit odd. It was the dead of winter and freezing cold. But when he kept doing it, his parents investigated. It turned out that Alfred was slipping money to a bedraggled vagrant without telling anyone.
     
    The family wasn’t rich, and his father rebuked him. “Why are you giving your money to a stranger?”
    “Don’t you see?” Alfred replied. “I’m doing it for myself.”
     
    The same wisdom principle, that in helping others we help ourselves, could change the world. That’s why I feel so dedicated to the Sonima foundation, because they have taken an idea close to my heart—the wellbeing of children—and expanded it. Through a groundbreaking health and wellness program, the foundation is creating the leaders of the future who will be healthy in body, mind, and spirit.
     
  • Can Sam Harris Wake Us Up? (Part 2)

    Posted on: September 29, 2014

    By Deepak Chopra, MD

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    Most of us recognized ourselves in the mirror this morning.  The person looking back at us has a familiar name, a family, a job.  He (or she) carries around a long menu of likes and dislikes, along with a personal history from the moment we emerged from the womb. It would amaze the vast majority of the human race to be told that this person in the mirror is an illusion. Sam Harris’s new book, Waking Up, delivers this startling notion loud and clear, and his aim, in a nutshell, is to debunk the illusion of the personal self, which he says is the key to becoming real.

    No one can predict if the message will stick. “No self” has been around for centuries as a basic tenet of Buddhism. (Refer to Part 1 of this post for more details.) Harris dresses it up in brain science, but looking for Buddha in the brain is as futile as looking for Mozart in a piano. It’s obviously specious reasoning, but in Harris’s profession of neuroscience, everything comes down to the brain. Devout Christians find sermons in the stones; brain scientists find them in the anterior cingulate. 

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