Friday, February 08, 2019

why self-help books are NOT to be dismissed & why parapsychology is anti-establishment

placebo domino:

"The tendency for prophecies to be self-fulfilling is well known in the realms of economics, politics, and religion. It is also a matter of practical psychology. Various ways of using these powers are the bases of countless self-help books, showing how avoiding negative attitudes and adopting positive ones help to bring about remarkable successes in politics, business, and love. Likewise confidence and optimism play an important part in the practice of medicine and healing—and in sports, fighting, and many other activities" Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (Riverhead Books, 1995). 

"A survey of a wide range of drug trials has revealed that placebos are, on average, about a third to a half as effective as specific medication—a big effect for blank pills that cost almost nothing. But placebos are not just blank pills. They can also be forms of blank counseling or psychotherapy, or even blank surgery... in medical research, placebo effects are generally regarded as a nuisance. But perhaps the negative attitudes of physicians to placebos is just as well, since it is the other side of the coin of their faith in the special efficacy of their own techniques, which therefore tend to work better—because of the placebo effect!" Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.

"In his analysis of the many documents we have about such practices, Levi-Strauss underlines that the fallaciousness involved in them is at the same time acknowledged and simply ignored, brushed aside, by the shamans themselves. What matters to the shamans is the effect they produce in the imagination of the sick, no matter if the instrument they use is a fake one. Actually a clear distinction of what is fake and what is not fake is obstinately eluded by the very characteristics of the procedure... [Walter Cannon's] classic paper “Voodoo Death,” begins exactly with a reference to Portuguese colonizers such as Soares de Souza, who “observed instances of death among the [Brazilian] Tupinambás Indians induced by fright when men were condemned and sentenced by a so-called medicine man” (Cannon, 1942: 169). Although Cannon attributed the cause of such effects to the superstition of the primitive mind (primitive men really believe in witchcraft), he nonetheless acknowledged these effects to be real, and he was very impressed by them, for they can be quite astonishing. Healthy people can die in less than twenty-four hours, if they believe with enough strength that they have been bewitched or if they discover they have eaten some (normal and not poisonous) food they associate with certain well- established taboos in their culture (Cannon, 1942: 170). It should be understood however that the superstition in question would be better characterized not as a naive belief in some falseness at the expense of what reality would truly be. What the shamans do is to theatrically blur fiction and ordinary reality in order to conjure some power coming from what would be a more fundamental source of reality which is not visible and cannot be immediately given. They could thus, correspondingly, accuse someone such as Cannon of actually being more superstitious than they are, exactly because of Cannon’s inability to treat ordinary and visible reality as the fiction it truly is when compared to what would be its fundamental source," Alessandro Zir, Luso-Brazilian Encounters of the Sixteenth-Century (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 2011).


"In the physical sciences, although there has been very little empirical research on experimenter effects, there have been many sophisticated discussions of the role of the observer in quantum theory... if the active influence of the experimenter's mind is taken seriously, then many possibilities open up—even the possibility that the observer's mind may have psychokinetic powers," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.

"If [subjects with psychic powers] are anxious, uncomfortable, or treated in a formal and detached way by the scientific investigators, they do not perform so well. In fact they may show no significant psychic powers at all... The pioneering parapsychologist J. B. Rhine actually quantified this effect in a series of trials with a gifted subject, Hubert Pearce, having noticed that when someone called in to see Pearce at work his scores at once dropped down," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.

"There is a good reason for the conventional taboo against parapsychology, making it a kind of outcast from established science. The existence of psychic phenomena would seriously endanger the illusion of objectivity," Rupert Sheldrake, Seven Experiments.

"An experimenter preparing his apparatus, getting his animals ready, and then leaving them with some feeling of assurance that the experiment will run and the animals will appropriately 'do their thing' cannot but remind us of certain aspects of magic, ritual, or perhaps petitionary prayer... Such circumstances may provide an optimum opportunity for psychokinetic intervention," R. G. Stamford, "An experimentally testable model for spontaneous psi occurrences" (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 66, as quoted by Sheldrake in Seven Experiments).

"Generally speaking scientists are no Carries, though there might have been a few registered but far less noxious cases such as Wolfgang Pauli and the Pauli effect," Alessandro Zir, The Sixteenth-Century Corpus of the Portuguese Colonizers of Brazil (Dalhousie, PhD thesis) [the paragraph of this sentence (which refers also to Ludwik Fleck) unfortunately wasn't incorporated in the book Luso-Brazilian Encounters published in 2011 by FDU Press].

Wolfgang Pauli
as a young student
(picture taken from
the Internet/CERN)

A tale of how bitterness caused by envious people can make an off guard good fellow to crack:
"Cantor was embarrassed to be associated with a second-rate school... He expected to be called any day to take up a professor ship at the University of Berlin. But Kronecker sensed that if he mounted a strong opposition—and made the attack personal—eventually Cantor would crack... Kronecker was vilifying Cantor, calling him a charlatan and a corrupter of youth, and referring to his work as 'humbug.' Cantor was besieged, lonely, angry, and frustrated... Cantor became more enraged. He sought to retaliate against Kronecker, and in despair came up with a bizarre plan. He was now convinced that he could never obtain a professorship in Berlin since Kronecker, entrenched and powerful, would always stand in his way. So Cantor decided to apply for a professorship anyway, for the mere purpose of annoying his enemy... Cantor wrote Mittag-Leffler of his ploy and its results: 'I knew precisely the immediate effect this would have, that in fact Kronecker would flare up as if stung by a scorpion, and with his reserve troops would strike up such a howl that Berlin would think it had been transported to the sandy deserts of Africa, with its lions, tigers, and hyenas. It seems that I have actually achieved this goal!' But Kronecker's turn to strike back at Cantor. Kronecker wrote to Mittag-Leffler asking to publish in his journal, Acta Mathematica. Kronecker was shrewdly trying to push Cantor out of the only mathematical journal that had a sympathetic editor interested in his work. Cantor suspected that Kronecker's paper would constitute an attack on his own work published in Acta Mathematica, the journal he considered his home turf, and would discredit him there, where it would hurt him the most. In frustration and fear, Cantor wrote to his friend Mittag-Leffler threatening to stop sending him his work... As it turned out, Kronecker had no paper to send, he had simply pretended to want to publish in the journal in order to upset Cantor... Cantor's response eroded his relationship with one of his few remaining fiends, Mittag-Leffler... The strain of these battles, which Cantor never stood a chance of winning, was taking its toll on his health. In May 1884, Cantor had his first nervous breakdown, lasting over a month..." Amir D. Aczel, The Mystery of the Aleph (WSP 2000).

Rupert Sheldrake's TED talk:

"When I received a grant in 1968 from the Royal Society to go and study tropical plants in Malaysia, at the University of Malaya, I traveled through India on the way there. I found India a very exciting place to be, and as I traveled through that country I encountered gurus and ashrams and temples, which opened my eyes to a range of phenomena I was completely unfamiliar with. When I got back to England I got interested in exploring consciousness, and I had various psychedelic experiences, which convinced me that the mind was vastly greater than anything I'd been told about in my scientific education," Rupert Sheldrake's interview (TBS);

See also:
two sentences, the dogma of semantic uniformity & alchemy;
the odd transformation of Der Herr Warum;
- the only three types of ingenuity;
the most auspicious tetrahedron;
what is REAL space? what is REAL number?

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