Heretical Science

Is Humanity a Self-Aware System? How Might We Know?

When asked, on Waking Cosmos, about the prospects of AI become self-aware, Dean Radin suggested [quote to follow], any system with a sufficient number of connections might become self-aware.

Which got me thinking… humanity is a system. It has billions of nodes and trillions of connections. Humanity meets Dean’s thought-experiment criteria for being self-aware.

But, you might think, if humanity were self-aware, then certainly we would know! Let me ask you this? Does an individual neuron know that the brain it inhabits is self-aware? Or does the neuron just do what neurons do… perceive and respond? And if we are the human analog of a neuron, isn’t that all we’re doing?

If that’s the case, it might be problematic for each individual to become aware of the collective’s self-awareness. How might we go about divining that information?

Self-aware systems act with intent. Neurons don’t fire arbitrarily, there is volition (at least sometimes) behind them. A reasonably clever neuron could look for indications of intent within the system. Synchronicities, chance encounters; it’s hard to shake the sense that there is intent behind such occurrences.

Might these be evidence of a self-aware system?

Heretical Science Positive Thinking Quote of the Day

Our Greatest Failing

Alan Lightman begins his article, “Nothing but the Truth; Science’s and Greatest Weakness Is Also Its Greatest Strength”  (Popular Science, May 2015) with an anecdote about Richard Feynman. “40 years ago, the legendary physicist Richard Feynman gave the commencement address at my graduation from the California Institute of technology… Feynman told us that before we went public with new scientific results, we should consider every conceivable way we might be wrong. It was a tall order.” 1Alan Lightman, “Nothing but the Truth,” Popular Science, May 2015

References   [ + ]

1. Alan Lightman, “Nothing but the Truth,” Popular Science, May 2015
Heretical Science Positive Thinking

Altering Gene Expression With Thought

Marc Folcher and other researchers from the group led by Martin Fussenegger, Professor of Biotechnology and Bioengineering at the Department of Biosystems (D-BSSE) in Basel, were able to tap into brainwaves and convert genes into proteins (gene expression) using a new gene regulation method.

Heretical Science

Defend Your Position

“If you are sure of your facts, you should defend your position.” – Cecilia Payne
Cecilia Payne was an astronomer and astrophysicist who discovered how to understand the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundance of hydrogen and helium. Her thesis was attacked by a superior claiming it could not possibly be true that hydrogen is 1 million times more abundant in stars than on earth. This attack prompted her to add a final sentence on to her thesis acknowledging that it cannot be true.
Four years later superior realized his mistake. To his credit he gave her due credit for her discovery. After this was over, she said about this experience:
“If you are sure of your facts, you should defend your position.”

Heretical Science Skepticism

Know Who to Ask About ESP

Never ask a man if sexism exists.
Never ask a white person if racism exists.
Never ask Scott McGreal over at Psychology Today if there is a scientific taboo against ESP.
Ask four-time president of the Parapsychology Association, Dean Radin:

Heretical Science Remote Viewing

On Courtney Brown’s “Farsight Planet 2014: Great Pyramid of Giza”

On 3/14/14 remote viewer Courtney Brown launched his new project “The Great Pyramid of Giza: The Mystery solved”. He hyped the launch for about 6 weeks on his FaceBook page, with frequent postings of “implications” 1Courtney has since removed this page from his site. Backup courtesy of On Jan 22 on his Facebook page, Courtney characterized the announcement:

“Something important is going to happen sometime next month, February 2014. Nothing can stop it now. There will be an announcement, and the world will change on the date of that announcement. Part of that announcement will happen on this Facebook page, right here. In the beginning, only a few will understand the significance of the announcement, and what it means for all of humanity currently living on this planet. Some will laugh, and some will cry. But in time, the world will come to know that life on Earth changed significantly on that day in February 2014. A mystery that has confused our civilization for thousands of years will find an answer. And from that answer, a new direction for the future growth of our species will arise.”

Wow. The world changed forever. I don’t think I’d be mischaracterizing Courtney’s tone and scope of his announcement as being of prophetic proportions. I was not surprised on March 15 when I checked out his project and found he failed to deliver on that promise, though not for lack of trying. The interesting work of Daz Smith and Dick Allgire is marred by Courtney’s flawed analysis, inability to cite possible confounding factors, and unscientific rhetoric (see his YouTube video); the certainty of his analysis is unfounded.

References   [ + ]

1. Courtney has since removed this page from his site. Backup courtesy of
Heretical Science Positive Thinking Remote Viewing

We don't serve time travelers here

From Dean Radin’s excellent talk, Was Buddha just a nice guy?

Heretical Science Positive Thinking

Gene Mutation, Thus Evolution, is Not Random

When we think of Darwinian evolution, one supposition come to mind: gene mutation (evolution) is random.

Heretical Science Positive Thinking Quote of the Day

The Job of Clever People

“The job of clever people is to ask difficult questions. The job of very clever people is to ask deceptively simple ones.” —The Economist 1The Economist, September 7, 2013, The man who showed why firms exist

References   [ + ]

1. The Economist, September 7, 2013, The man who showed why firms exist
Heretical Science Skepticism

Pseudoscience, Pseudo-skepticism and Rejection Bias

Everyone has heard of pseudoscience— unscientific ideas masquerading in the guise of science. But its corrolary is less well known. Pseudo-skepticism is also unscientific ideas masquerading in the guise of science. Pseudo-skeptics are also known as debunkers but I prefer the former term as it rightly notes that pseudoscience and pseudo-skepticism are two sides of the same coin. One can roughly be summed up as unfounded acceptance; the other, unfounded rejection.
Just as negative and positive polarity share a common source of magnetism, these two mindsets also have a common attitudinal base. They are both hasty thinking in support of one’s current beliefs. They both halt deliberation at the comfortable conclusion. They are both averse to thorough consideration of uncomfortable possibilities.
Given its relative obscurity, pseudo-skepticism requires further examination. Skeptic’s latin roots skeptic are:

Late Latin scepticus  thoughtful, inquiring (in plural Scepticī the Skeptics) < Greek skeptikós, equivalent to sképt (esthai) to consider, examine (akin to skopeîn  to look; see -scope) + -ikos -ic

As with pseudoscientists, pseudo-skeptics tend against thoughtful consideration and towards certainty.
To make the analogy of ‘leaving no stone unturned’ in search of truth, there are stones we like to turn over (perhaps they are lovely or lightweight) and stones we avoid turning over (maybe they are covered in slime or are too hard to lift). Both pseudoscientists and pseudo-skeptics exhibit the same human frailty: they fail to turn over every stone. Pseudo-skeptics tend to deny the possibility that they might be exhibiting the same frailty that they readily accuse others of (in psychology this is known as projection). In fact, they might even deny the possibility of the very existence of pseudo-skepticism. It would be just as silly to believe that there is only positive polarity in magnetism as to believe there is only pseudo-science and not pseudo-skepticism.

How To Identify a Pseudo-Skeptic has assembled a chart comparing True vs. Pseudo Skeptics (site offline, credit to wayback machine for preservation). Here are a couple of examples of the pseudo-skeptical mindset from their site:

“Does not question anything from established non-religious institutions, but takes whatever they say on faith and demands that others do the same.
Does not ask questions to try to understand new things, but judges them by whether they fit into orthodoxy.”

Pseudo-Skeptic Case Study: James Randy

James Randy makes a fair example of the attitude of ‘failing to turn over every stone’ of the pseudo-skeptic. In a National Geographic show about crop circles 2 National Geographic: Is It Real? Season 1, Episode 1 , Randy declared (to counter the possibility that crop circles might be made by UFOs), “if you were someone in a UFO and you wanted to leave us a message, wouldn’t you go to the lawn of the White House and make a crop circle?”
An assertion so easily countered demonstrates that Randy is favoring his comfort zone over true inquiry. How does Randy know that aliens haven’t contacted the White House? Does he think the White House would surely have told him of such a visit? Of course, whether or not aliens have contacted the White House is moot. Randy’s point is aliens wouldn’t communicate that way. How does he know how aliens might choose to communicate with us… is he an alien? Would you expect a baboon to successfully deduce how a higher intelligence might choose to communicate with baboons? Perhaps advanced civilizations tread carefully with primitives, preferring unintimidating ways of slowly hinting at their presence, realizing that gradual acceptance over generations is the optimal way to introduce a new planet in to the interstellar community.
These are not logical stretches, they are fairly obvious objections to Randy’s assertion. To not see the weak ground of his own claims indicates a hastily drawn conclusion. Randy is a classic pseudo-skeptic. His indignant posturing is a telltale sign of projection, which in turn is denial. He is that which he vehemently accuses others of.

Rejection Bias

One area in science relevant to this conversation is confirmation bias, or the “tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs”. Just as magnetism requires distinct terms for each state of polarity— positive and negative— so too, we need separate terms to distinguish the polarities of bias: towards and away from. Rejection bias, therefore, is the tendency of people to reject information that does not match their beliefs.
Pseudo-skeptics would do well to see their commonalities with pseudoscientists. It would give them a sense of compassion for the mindset, as they would see in themselves how easily comfort can distort inquiry. They would also see a clear path towards improving their own mindset by noticing when they are falling in that trap, that they may avoid it.

References   [ + ]

1. skeptic
2. National Geographic: Is It Real? Season 1, Episode 1