Saturday, 22 November 2008

Brain Blast!

Well I have to admit that I am quite ashamed not to have been more frequently "on the blog" since early October. Thanks to Jane for nudging me - she had to resort to Facebook to find out what's been happening with me! (Though in truth I've been too preoccupied for even that the last couple of weeks.)

The thing that has been keeping me so quiet has been my presentation to the Swindon Philosophical Society, which finally took place last Friday 14th November (a date which has been etched on my brain for months, and which has elicited a nervous response in me every time I've thought of it!). I did quite a lot of research, beginning, according to my journal, about mid-September. It then took an entire week to write and rework.

My topic was "The effects of science and technology on human imagination and creativity". It wasn't my title, though I decided to rise to the challenge of presenting it anyway. Once I'd crafted my core argument all the background reading, listening and watching was interesting and fun, especially as it touched on my pet interests of neurology, psychology, consciousness, and whatever spiritual conclusions we might draw from all that.

The scope of my talk ranged across the following subjects: the real relationship between science and creativity; the effects of science in revealing the secrets of human imagination; research into psychic phenomena; and how science is or isn't responding to the hunger to know more about consciousness.

I pointed to the difference between "Logical, Scientific Rigour", which tends to close down further inquiry into "that which cannot be seen"; and "The Over-Active Imagination", which tends to cherry pick amongst scientific hypotheses to knit together a seemingly coherent, seemingly scientifically valid world-view, one that just happens to tally with their own wishful thinking.

In conclusion I highlighted the value of finding a balanced mode of thinking between the wild extremes of scientific skeptism and the over-active imagination. Over-active imaginations look gullible in comparison with skeptical scientific rigour, but, without the cynicism, the imagination is a powerful guiding force for scientific inquiry.

It was the topic of psychic phenomena which attracted the most lively discussion. I decided to take the line that much of western science finds psi inadmissable for some good reasons - which I named. However, my implicit portrayal of science being rather dismissive of psychic research prompted some strong reactions, quoting the thousands of dollars that have been invested by scientific foundations into this type of study.

Had I argued the opposite - that science must actually consider these areas worthy of investigation, because of the funding that has been allocated to them, I'm sure the scientists in the room would have objected on the grounds of scientific inadmissability. So it was a no-win situation.

Of course, in hindsight the best argument would have been to declare science to have been admirably open-minded in providing research funding - but that none of the research had returned conclusive evidence.

Nevertheless I would still have maintained that this impasse may well have resulted from skewed readings of the data: either by those with over-active imaginations which saw things in the data that weren't really there; or by those with a predisposition to doubt in a more or less cynical way, while allowing the funding to provide the smoke-screen, the pretence of open-mindedness.

In fact this would have illustrated beautifully my point about the need for balanced thinking, and a cooperative way for psi researchers and scientists to work together. Hmmm...

Anyhow, the evening turned out to be a splendid success. A full house, some new members, lively discussion and lots of people going on to the pub to continue the debate. Well and truly a brain blast, and a valid excuse for being absent from blogging for a little while!