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Researchers zap Dan Aykroyd's brain; actor unzips own fly.
September 18, 2002 6:04 PM   Subscribe

Researchers zap Dan Aykroyd's brain; actor unzips own fly. Swiss scientists have simulated an out-of-body experience in a female epilepsy patient, by using electrodes to stimulate the angular gyrus section of the brain. Anyone have other examples of (supposedly) parapsychological phenomena struck down by the (supposedly) harder sciences?
posted by bingbangbong (29 comments total)

 
I'll step up to the plate here and admit I have no idea what you're trying to say in that first bit.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:19 PM on September 18, 2002


Has there ever been a case of someone having his brainwaves analysed while being "out of body"?
posted by titboy at 6:21 PM on September 18, 2002


I'm with mcd. What's with the Dan Ackroyd reference?
posted by kayjay at 6:33 PM on September 18, 2002


I'll step up to the plate here and admit I have no idea what you're trying to say in that first bit.

You are not alone, crash. The closest I've come is an obscure Ghostbusters reference that doesn't really seem applicable.
posted by Galvatron at 6:35 PM on September 18, 2002


I think it's because Aykroyd used to host a syndicated show on paranormal events. I've seen the promos but that's about it.

At a loss to explain the unzips his own fly part.
posted by Tacodog at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2002


Maybe bingbangbong was having an out-of-body experience while he was writing this post!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:41 PM on September 18, 2002


This is the greatest thread ever. I don't know how I lived without it.
posted by holloway at 6:42 PM on September 18, 2002


OK, OK. I just remembered the part in Ghostbusters when it appears as though Ackroyd is about to get a blow job by a succubus...his zipper slowly moves down by itself. This "paranormal experience" (if it happened in the real world) might be explained by electrical impulses:

Electrodes trigger out-of-body experience
Stimulating brain region elicits illusion often attributed to the paranormal

posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:55 PM on September 18, 2002


There's a little too much electric stimulation going on already. Just put the probes down and back away.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:06 PM on September 18, 2002


Scientists have also simulated hearing music and voices by electrically stimulating various points in the brain. In fact, they can simulate vision for the blind to a certain degree using electrical simulation methods. Does that 'strike down' hearing or vision?
posted by squant at 7:14 PM on September 18, 2002


Anyone have other examples of (supposedly) parapsychological phenomena struck down by the (supposedly) harder sciences?

Proving the origin of something doesn't "strike it down." Sounds like it is just another ability we have that (unfortunately, imho) cannot be controlled voluntarily.

(on preview: what squant said)
posted by whatnot at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2002


What!? No one's brought up the Penfield Mood Organ yet!? I demand you all immediately dial 666: pleased acknowledgment of y2karl's superior wisdom and total coolness in all matters. .
posted by y2karl at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2002


Sure. The presence of mild magnetic fields (pdf) produces the feeling of having someone in the room--often misinterpreted as a spirit or alien.

Hypnogogia is when your body is asleep and you've lost motor control, but your brain is just a teensy bit awake. This causes feelings of extreme paranoia, a sense of presence in the room, and a crushing feeling. This is sometimes mistaken for a precursor to an out-of-body experience or paranormal encounter.

The truth is out there.
posted by frykitty at 7:58 PM on September 18, 2002


Re: Ackroyd's awful paranormal show -- I've seen it, and it is, indeed, unimaginably horrible. I found myself sitting on my hands, to prevent them from clawing my own eyeballs out. Desperately bad television.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on September 18, 2002


More on Persinger and the "sensed presence" in this thread.
posted by homunculus at 10:38 PM on September 18, 2002


Aykroyd's show, Psi Patrol, did get somewhat better from its first season -- it could hardly help doing so, there being nowhere to go but up -- but I haven't accidentally seen it in some time. Is it even still on the air? The last one I saw was actually a moderately decent time-travel yarn, more sci-fi than paranormal; I remember being surprised when I found out what show I'd been watching.
posted by kindall at 10:40 PM on September 18, 2002


Now that I'm on fire / have been flamed, the Aykroyd reference was a combination of:

a) the paranormal show
b) the Ghostbusters scene with the succubus blowjob
c) the electrical masturbation thread

Lookit! I'm postmodern, yo!
posted by bingbangbong at 10:49 PM on September 18, 2002


*pumps fist in victory*

Should I be proud because I got (b)?
posted by Galvatron at 11:30 PM on September 18, 2002


Proving the origin of something doesn't "strike it down."

Knowing that these so-called near-death experiences are caused by electrical/chemical stimulation to portions of the brain, what need is there to cling to a belief that they are caused by the soul leaving the body?
posted by mikrophon at 6:53 AM on September 19, 2002


what need is there to cling to a belief that they are caused by the soul leaving the body

it is not a belief, just a different perspective. Maybe the paradigm of a "soul" that occupies a "body" will become antiquated. But the notion that science and spirituality are diametrically opposed and/or mutually exclusive is pretty tiresome. It impedes progress on both fronts.
posted by whatnot at 8:31 AM on September 19, 2002


it is not a belief, just a different perspective

I'm not sure I understand. Is this relative truth vs. absolute truth? Sometimes rainbows are caused by prismatic refraction of light through water particles, other times it's a reminder of God's covenant with man that God won't flood the world again?

It impedes progress on both fronts.

How so? Religion, mythology, "spirituality" . . . all this came out of human apes trying to wrap their brains around something they didn't understand, i.e. sometimes when one is near death, one experiences the sensation of hovering above one's own body combined with a feeling of detachment from said body. Other times, one sees dark tunnel and a point of light and the the faces of loved ones at the end. This had to be a pretty tough thing for early man to understand. One's soul separating from one's body and floating away, some time's toward an "other side" or "better place" a satisfying explanation.

But now, we have the real story. Observable, repeatable evidence of what is really going on. So my question is, with this evidence in hand, what is the merit of holding fast to a belief for which the sole evidence is, "Well, it just feels right to believe this."
posted by mikrophon at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2002


Aykroyd's show, Psi Patrol,

I meant Psi Factor, of course.
posted by kindall at 10:01 AM on September 19, 2002


ah, ok--let me see if I can be any clearer. Probably not, but here goes:

all this came out of human apes trying to wrap their brains around something they didn't understand
Yes, but isn't scientific reasearch the exact same thing? Aren't we still just trying to wrap our brains around something we don't understand?

Part of the problem is that once the scientific community pinpoints the cause of a particular phenomenon, it's "case closed." There is no consideration for things that can't be measured and quantified. Why do we perceive it as an out-of-body experience? Fear of death? An escape mechanism? Is the brain entertaining itself since the body is no longer providing input? Is our consciousness really only tenuously connected our bodies?

No one can be sure, and science will only pursue these questions if the answers can be measured. You said it yourself: Observable, repeatable evidence of what is really going on. Things that can't be quantified are still relevant, aren't they?

When I read about studies like these, I am always left wanting. I am not a religious person nor a scientist. I am just curious. Both spirituality and science fulfill real needs in the lives of many, but neither one has all the answers. Bickering about which is right (not that you are) only wastes time.
posted by whatnot at 10:37 AM on September 19, 2002


isn't scientific research the exact same thing?

Absolutely. But here, in my opinion, is where science differs with, parapsychology, spirituality, what-have-you: When science arrives at a "better" (i.e. "observable, repeatable") explanation, the older, less rational observation is usually thrown out. People used to believe in spontaneous generation of life (rats out of hay-stacks, flies out of garbage-heaps) but then it was demonstrated that there unseen reproductive processes at work, spontaneous generation was thrown out. It rarely works this way with "paranormal" beliefs.
posted by mikrophon at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2002


I'm afraid I didn't make this last point clearly. What I'm saying here is, you don't see too many people still saying, "Well, I suppose that explains why rats come out of haystacks sometimes, but why must we completely discount all instances of the spontaneous generation of rats from haystacks?" This would be irrational. Yet you will still have people saying that these recent findings explain some types of out of body experiences, but that we shouldn't discount all types of such experiences.
posted by mikrophon at 11:22 AM on September 19, 2002


I see what you mean. Maybe the analogy is more like this:

Once I know how rats really reproduce, I don't apply it globally to all species. Different species reproduce in different ways out of necessity. Rat reproduction is just one example of reproduction, a piece of a larger picture.

Maybe some of us question scientific findings the same way scientists questioned spontaneous generation. Science explains a lot of things, but it is only one method of understanding.
posted by whatnot at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2002


Rat reproduction is just one example of reproduction, a piece of a larger picture.

Right, but what I'm saying here is, it's pretty safe to rule out specifically spontaneous generation in all cases.

Maybe some of us question scientific findings the same way scientists questioned spontaneous generation.

Actually, scientists do this, or at least they are supposed to. The approach is usually to come up with a hypothesis that seems to explain things and then try to prove it wrong. If you can't prove it wrong, then it's worth holding onto. Very little is "Law" in science, so every idea is subject to the same scrutiny. Demon Haunted World has some great bits about this.

Science explains a lot of things, but it is only one method of understanding.

And this is where I differ with many people. I think that there are things which have not been explained as natural phenomenon, but nothing that cannot/will not be explained in scientific terms. Just like spontaneous generation, out-of-body experiences, deja vu, &c. Seems like a mystery at first, but at its heart, there is a natural explanation.
posted by mikrophon at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2002


... but nothing that cannot/will not be explained in scientific terms.

Yeah, I think this is where we disagree. Fair enough. (insert happy emoticon here)
posted by whatnot at 1:19 PM on September 19, 2002


Marshall: "It doesn't show that people with paranormal beliefs are wrong"

The researchers in the study don't seem to interpret this in the same way as the skeptics in this thread. Neither do I.

Personally, I'm glad we can observe and repeat the out of body experience in a lab now. I'm glad they found the part of the brain that's responsible for keeping track of whether the soul is in or out.

Does it prove that there is a soul and that it can leave the body? Nope. Does it prove that there is no soul, so we can't experience it leaving our body? Nope.

Does it prove that stimulating a part of the brain creates experiences similar to what other people call out of body experiences? Pretty much.

Does the discussion in this thread so far prove that people tend to fit new information into their pre-existing world view? Yes! No. What do you think?
posted by squant at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2002


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