Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences P6



Final point here is I suggest that toward a first revolution in the mind sciences; I would suggest that we haven’t had one because there’s been too much dogma suppressing the empirical study of mental phenomena themselves, as opposed to the physical correlates. But now there’s a possibility, as we have access to Buddhism and Hinduism, the Sufi tradition, psychology, neuroscience – we no longer are isolated. Here at Google, you know this maybe better than anybody else. You are on the globe. Your physical plant happens to be in Mountain View, but it could be in the Amazon. Right? We are now living in a globe where we can integrate like never before.


Integrate these rigorous first-person and third-person methodologies, from the contemplative, the psychological, the neuroscientist, in collaboration between cognitive scientists – the whole broad range – and contemplatives who have exceptional mental skills and insights resulting from rigorous sustained mental training in observing and experimental with states of consciousness. So there would be a challenge, to break down the barriers, to throw out dogma and uncorroborated assumptions, and open up a new renaissance of empiricism in the scientific study of the mind that would be profoundly contemplative and experiential and yet rigorously scientific.


That could revolutionize the contemplative traditions; it could revolutionize science; and it could bring this unfortunate rift between religion and science, creationism and the school district that makes most of us gag, and so forth, breaking down those barriers, and see about integrating East and West, ancient and modern, and cast a fresh light on the nature of the mind and on human identity. It’s a possibility. That’s my hope.


If anybody has questions or observations or debates, anything is welcome. Yes?


SPEAKER: [Inaudible 00:55:19] ask a similar question [inaudible 00:55:22] came back to [inaudible 00:55:26] instead of looking so much at Buddhism, looked at the split within the Greek thought as one of the original ways to be able to look at resolving this. Then there’s also, of course, Ken Wilber, who [inaudible 00:55:39] a particular place, look at all the traditions. Can you just comment on why Buddhism [inaudible 00:55:47] just one way, or…


WALLACE: It’s just one way. I was using that in a short presentation. I was saying, “here’s a good sampling.” This was not promoting Buddhism versus Hinduism or the Muslim tradition or the Daoist tradition. Not at all. I was saying, this is a good example, from the very rich, well-developed, intellectually very sophisticated contemplative tradition.


But the Santa Barbara Institute, which I founded, is not a Buddhist institution. It is an inter-contemplative tradition, drawing from the wealth of East and West contemplative traditions from all over the world, interfacing these with the best of science. So it’s not plugging any one tradition, and it’s certainly not trying to validate Buddhism or any particular school. Very much to the contrary. These great contemplative traditions have been after universal truths, and not just trying to corroborate Buddhist ideas, and I’m not interested in that at all.


So I think, going back to Greek thought, back to Plato, back to Pythagoras, themselves, to the notion of noetos, which is a type of mental perception by means of which we can directly observe non-sensual mental phenomena – that’s a Greek notion, but we’ve forgotten it. So I don’t want to leave anybody out. That is, indigenous people, East and West, bring it all together, because the stakes are high now. We’re dealing with something that is central to everybody’s existence, and that is consciousness.


So let’s throw out dogma of all sorts, sectarianism, biases of all sorts, and not leave anybody out. Not leave out the contemplatives, not leave out the neuroscientists, for heaven’s sakes. Not leave out anybody. And really start fusing and taking advantage of the technology, including transportation, that we have now, so that we can really draw from this wealth of wisdom and insights and multiple methodologies. This epistemic pluralism I think is absolutely the key.


Two more questions. Here’s one.


SPEAKER: If you want to approach consciousness in a scientific way, which I assume you –


WALLACE: Absolutely.


SPEAKER: – are for, you need some idea of what it means to prove or disprove something. How do you do that in the absence of physical observation?


WALLACE: Very good. The question is, if this is going to be scientific – and of course, science gained its laurels by studying objective things, that you can look at it from a third-person perspective; quantifiable, but measurable out there, right? So if one lab does it, another one can corroborate it and it’s pretty clear. Mental phenomena are subjective. There we are. They’re, as John Searle says, “irreducibly, ontologically first-person.”


But I think a good analogy for this – the question deserves not a two-minute answer; it deserves conferences and really detailed investigations, so we don’t come up with cheap answers. Cheap answers are easy. But if we take as an example mathematics. Mathematics is not scribbling things on a board. That’s the outer display of it, but anybody who doesn’t know mathematics can memorize the equations and write with the best of them, with no understanding at all.


When I studied higher mathematics in my training in physics, it’s subjective. It’s working through a proof, it’s thinking, and you may do something out here on the board, you may not, but the real juice of mathematics is something that’s taking place internally. How can mathematicians ever speak with each other? How can they know who is great? Well, they get a similar training. They go through an undergraduate, they go through the graduate, they go through post-doc.


After awhile, they know who gets the Fields Medal. It’s not just that he wrote things on the board; it’s through dialogue. You say, “We speak a similar language here. Everybody else can’t understand what we’re talking about, but you and I have gone through eight years of training and mathematics, and we know the elegant proofs. We know shoddy mathematics. We know the sharp stuff.” So even though it’s largely internal, they develop a language, a common training, so they can communicate amongst themselves in ways that outsiders cannot fathom.


Let’s imagine – this is hypothetical in a way that is also historical in another – and that is, I spent a lot of time with Tibetans, living in Tibetan culture. We have contemplatives there who will go for 10,000, 20,000 hours of training, with a common basis of ideas and training, contemplative technology, and so forth, and they develop a refined professional language. That they can speak amongst themselves, and they know what they’re talking about, because like the mathematicians, they share training and developing, they share a vocabulary.


And we know this is true: in the Tibetan tradition, all the great contemplatives, the great scholars, they know who the cream are. It was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, it was Ling Rinpoche, it was Kalu Rinpoche. These people, the peers know. To an outsider, it looked like a really sweet monk, really nice guy. Good charisma. But the professionals know it’s more than that. This guy really has the skivvy. This man really knows what’s going on. I would not ask you to accept that because I’m saying it, but I am saying this issue has been grappled with.


If we take a more prosaic example, wine connoisseurs. That is, when I drank, I got my pallet ruined when I was 18 because I got drunk on Red Mountain wine, whiskey, and beer in the same time, and that totaled my tongue for life. I can’t tell any good vintage from another. But I’ve hung out with people who have had that training. It’s three years formal training, and then years of getting experience. So two wine connoisseurs will come together and say, “Was it a 1948 or ’49, and what part of France was this raised in?”


The taste of wine is very subjective. You can’t pick up the taste of wine with some external technology that will tell you this is a $500 bottle as opposed to a $5 bottle. No technology will tell you that. But they train, and then they use things like bouquet and so forth, words I don’t even know what they’re talking about; but they have a specialized vocabulary, and they know who the brilliant wine connoisseurs are and who are just mediocre. It’s a specialized vocabulary that they know what they’re talking about, and outsiders like me, I don’t have a clue.


Wine testing, that’s very empirical; the mathematical is very internal. If we try to draw inspiration from those only by analogy, then perhaps we can get some idea. But again, the danger – there’s all kinds of potholes here, a minefield, and that is they’re all being brainwashed in the same way. That was how introspection fell to its knees and died, is that different labs were simply corroborating their own assumptions, and the trainees, the observers, their observations were so laden with the theories and assumptions of their mentors that they weren’t getting this inter-lab corroboration. So it fell apart.


But they gave up too soon, and they didn’t go through a 10,000 or 20,000 hours’ training. Not Wilhelm Wundt, not Titchener at Cornell, not James at Harvard. This requires training. If it’s going to be professional, don’t give them five hours of training or a week of training; how about three years of training, ten years of training? Train in the mind ten hours a day.

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Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences P5



I’m suggesting here the empirical observation of mental phenomena – not just the behavioral and neural correlates, the phenomena themselves. Picking up the challenge of William James may dispel the illusions of knowledge of modern physicalism regarding mental phenomena. Physicalism assumes, it insists emphatically, there is nothing in the universe apart from physical phenomena and their emergent properties. Who said? Why should the whole of reality fit into a human conceptual construct? After all, we are the ones who define physical. Nature didn’t define it for us.


The very notion of the physical has shifted from the time of Descartes through Galileo, through Newton, through Maxwell, through Max Planck, through Einstein, through Stephen Hawking. It’s a moving target. Everything is reducible to physics? Great. Which physics? The physics of yesterday or today or 100 years from now? Where does the moving target stop? At what point can you physicists say, “Okay, we’ve got it under wraps now. We know what the physical are, and mental phenomena have to fit into that box”?


The day you’ve stated that, you’ve just stopped doing physics, and you’ve become a medieval scholastic. We now know what is physical, and nature happily fit into our conceptual construct. The whole of nature fit into our box, and we call it physical. That’s not scientific; that’s dogmatic. So perhaps the empirical observation of mental phenomena may dispel this illusion of knowledge, not from medieval scholasticism but from modern scholasticism.


Happily, our Euro-American, Australian, and now our modern – because it’s in Singapore, it’s in Bangkok, it’s in Argentina, it’s in Brazil; it’s not just the West now – it’s the vision of modernity. Happily, we are not the only intelligent life in the universe, our Euro-American civilization. Happily, there have actually been other civilizations on this planet that have had statistically the same scattering of geniuses as our Euro-American civilization. But they weren’t us. They weren’t in the Mediterranean basin. They didn’t come out of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They didn’t come out of the Greek heritage, Plato and Aristotle.


Other civilizations, like that of China for 5,000 years, India for who knows how many thousands of years. Might they have come up with anything that we haven’t? It’s one of those questions you don’t often ask, at least not in academic. I’ve been there. It’s not one of the questions that comes up. Which is assuming that we trump everybody. But India, classical India, they – unlike Galileo, unlike the founders of our scientific revolution – they were not seeking a God’s-eye view of objective reality. They were not assuming an absolute demarcation, a bifurcation between subject and object, and trying to observe the purely objective world from an absolutely outside perspective, God’s own perspective.


That just wasn’t on the agenda for the Indians. For these classical Indian truth-seekers, they were seeking to understand the world of experience, not some objective world independent of experience. In science, we call it loka. If that’s your agenda, to understand the world of experience, not a God’s-eye view of something that transcends experience – in German philosophy, by the way, it’s called lebenswelt, from the phenomenological tradition of Husserl and Heidegger – if what you’re primarily wishing to understand is the world of experience, then the study of the mind has to be first and foremost central to your inquiry into the natural world, because the world of experience doesn’t even exist without consciousness. There is no world of experience without somebody experiencing it.


So for the Indians, the study of the mind was the first thing they tackled. In modern science, it was kind of like the last thing they studied. Consciousness itself didn’t even come up in psychology for almost 100 years. Only in the last 10 or 15 years has consciousness become a legitimate object of inquiry for cognitive neuroscientists, for psychologists. When I studied cognitive psychology at Stanford, consciousness was not there. It wasn’t even in the index. And introspection was mentioned only in the preface, when they said “We tried it; didn’t work,” and they moved right on.


The Indians, happily, are not part of our Mediterranean basin box. They had their own areas, and this is one of them. The Sanskrit term is samadhi, and I’m proposing here that it’s a type of telescope of the mind. These revolutionary truth-seekers – and they were revolutionary, because they were kicking away from an old, tired, dusty religious system called the Brahmanic tradition, heavily institutionalized, ritualistic, dogmatic, close-minded. They said “enough.” These shramanas, or these truth-seekers, roughly maybe 3,000 years ago, they set out to understand the world of experience with a primary emphasis on mind.


The first thing they discovered is, if you’re going to try to observe mental phenomena, your observation of it has to be introspective, but your attention is wobbling all over the place. It was ADHD 3,000 years ago. You’re either getting dopey and falling asleep at the wheel, or your mind’s scattered all over the place. How can you make rigorous observation of the mental phenomena if your attention is wobbling all over the place, oscillating between dullness and agitation?


The first thing they did – and they were very good at it by the time that Buddha came along 2,500 years ago – is they developed extraordinarily effective techniques for refining and focusing attention. Rather like a telescope, firmly mounted on a tripod, polished lenses, large aperture, so you can make stable, vivid observations, now not of stars, because they weren’t that interested, but they were fascinated to study the mind. They developed a telescope of the mind, the like of which we have never developed. Modern science since William James has not made any progress at all.


That was the groundwork laid, like the Dutch lens makers who started off before Galileo. There was this historical individual, Buddha Gautama, and I would say he was to India what Galileo was for the West. He took a preexisting technology, but it was a contemplative technology of refining attention, and he applied it in unprecedented ways. Instead of simply going into a state of samadhi, experiencing bliss and equanimity and euphoria and so forth, he stabilized the mind and then he used it to explore states of consciousness, ordinary states, extraordinary states – but rigorous, careful, empirical observation of mental states of consciousness, and made extraordinary discoveries.


At least, that is the claim. Not for us to take as religion – that would be boring – but to take his hypotheses, “They said they discovered this,” just like any good scientist. You hear somebody over there in Beijing made a discovery in their lab; good, can we replicate it? That’s the first thing that comes up. Somebody in Korea said they’ve cloned a dog, they’ve done this or this; good, let’s replicate it. Whoops, that was a phony. So write them off, get back to work. But this is what scientists are doing all the time. Somebody makes a claim? Replicate it.

This is exactly what the Buddha encouraged. He said, these are my discoveries; but don’t just take my word for it. See if you can replicate it. And here is the experimental procedure. Here’s the overall framework: first of all, cultivate a way of life, your whole way of behaving in the world, that is conducive to social flourishing, so that here at Google, you can all get along together happily, harmoniously. You know how that happens; it’s called ethics. No ethics, you’re going to be all ripping each other’s hair out. Without ethics, no harmony. With ethics, you’ve got a chance.


But also, our relationship with the environment at large; with Mountain View, with the state of California, the planet Earth, there’s a way that we can live in harmony with our natural environment, without sucking it dry and leaving the husks to our children. It’s called ethics. Environmental ethics. So that was the foundation.


Upon the basis of that, developing mental balance, refining the mind, refining attention. Developing exceptional levels of mental health and wellbeing. With that basis, then becoming a true contemplative scientist, and using a refined attention to explore states of consciousness, giving rise to a sense of spiritual flourishing, or some would call liberation.


I’m suggesting something dramatic, something revolutionary here. You’ll notice I said nothing original at all. It was William James, it was Wilhelm Wundt, it was Buddha suggesting this is the way to go to understand the nature of the mind. Don’t be satisfied by just studying the physical correlates. You’re always going to get that which is around consciousness, but not the nature of consciousness. Should we be skeptical of that?


The answer is yes, said Richard Feynman, the great Nobel laureate in physics. He said “One of the ways of stopping science would be only to do experiments in the region where you know the law.” Play it safe. If you want to understand consciousness, stick to the brain. You’ll get tenure. You’ll publish in peer reviewed journals. Go introspection route, and oh, you are on thin ice. But he said “Experimenters search most diligently, and with the greatest effort, in exactly those places where it seems most likely that we can prove our theories wrong.”


There’s a theory: the mind is just the brain. The mind is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. The mind, mental phenomena, are physical. Maybe it’s true. But the good skeptic – not the one that’s skeptical of other people’s views; the person who’s skeptical of his own assumptions – says let’s put that one to the test. He says, “In other words, we are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”


Science is known for skepticism; religion is known for dogmatism. But what did the Buddha say here, this great Galileo of India? In response to a bunch of skeptics, he said you are skeptical about what you should be skeptical about. He said “Do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Do not be led by authority of religious texts or by mere logic and inference, nor by considering appearances” – just taking a casual look, taking all appearances at face value – “nor by delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea ‘this is my teacher,’” what he said must be right. “But when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome, destructive, and detrimental, then reject them. And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.” In other words, be a skeptic. He encouraged his own followers to be skeptical.


Occam’s Razor was used to great effect coming out of the medieval era into the Renaissance. As Occam said, the principle is, “It is vain to do with more assumptions what can be done with fewer assumptions.” What I’m suggesting here is we have too many assumptions in the scientific study of the mind. Let us use Occam’s Razor to shave off the assumption that mental phenomena are physical. It’s just an assumption. Cristof Koch pointed out, they don’t look physical. Why should they be?


If we shave off that assumption, what have we lost? What less do we know? I would suggest, nothing. We still know the neural correlates; we know just about as much about the brain and behavior as we did before. We’ve just shaved off an assumption that’s never been corroborated. Throw that one out, and now apply a fresh method of inquiry, of introspection, to actually observe mental phenomena. And what might we gain? The answer is, we don’t know until we try it.


As we draw this to a close, we come back to William James, who suggested, in terms of this interface, science, religion, and empiricism, he said: “Let empiricism once become associated with religion, as hitherto, through some strange misunderstanding, it has been associated with irreligion, and I believe that a new era of religion as well as philosophy will be ready to begin. I fully believe that such an empiricism is a more natural ally than dialectics ever were, or can be, of the religious life.” In other words, introduce empiricism into religion as much as science, throw out dogma on both sides of the fence, and let’s see what the fireworks display.

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Dental Veneers • Porcelain Veneers (Podcast)

“Dental Veneers & Porcelain Veneers”

Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Vinograd. My areas of specialty are biological, holistic dentistry and painless dentistry, and I’d like to speak about porcelain veneers (dental veneers). I’ve been practicing for about 30 years, and in my earlier days when we had problems with discolored teeth (and I’m talking about deeply discolored teeth). We’re talking about teeth that will not bleach out with some of the materials that we have today but more intrinsic discoloration, abrasions from people who actually grind severely, chipped broken teeth, uneven unusually shaped, especially. I’m talking about the front of the mouth, mostly in aesthetic areas, and obviously, we’ve seen people with big diastema, the big spaces between the teeth.

The Aesthetic / Emotional Impact of Porcelain Veneers

I used to not really pay much attention to the aesthetic value of porcelain veneers (dental veneers). I was always more interested in the biological point-of-view. However, over time, I’ve changed my mind because I’ve seen people really have a change of heart about themselves, really have a change in the quality of their lives by looking better. I’ve seen it in the personality. I’ve seen it in the way that they actually interact with the world. So, I definitely feel differently today.

Placing Porcelain Veneers (the latest techniques)

Now, in the past, one of the problems that we had is that we had to do incredibly invasive dentistry to resolve some of these problems. We basically had to grind down a bunch of teeth and put crowns on them. Sometimes, it was worth it, but most of the time, it was just a lot of very aggressive dentistry. With time, materials have changed, and now we are having, at our disposal, the use of bonding materials that are very, very strong. So, techniques have changed dramatically.

What Are Dental Porcelain Veneers?

with and without dental veneers
Porcelain veneers / dental veneers are thin shells that are placed on the front of the teeth, and they’re actually porcelain shells that on their own, tend to be very strong. However, if you put enough pressure on them, they can break. However, once the (porcelain veneers / dental veneers) are bonded on the teeth, they become incredibly resistant, resistant to fracture, resistant to mastication, and they tend to be quite long-lasting.

The Holistic Approach to Porcelain Veneers

So, porcelain veneers/ dental veneers have really changed the way that we practice dentistry and what we can offer to our patients. Initially, dental veneers used to be made out of composite, and they were very time intensive. They were not as long-lasting, and they tended to stain more. So, people have moved away from those quite a bit. Obviously, as a biological dentist, I prefer not to use the composites because they have much more of a Carbon footprint and toxicity than your porcelain- baked porcelain veneers, dental veneers.

So, the procedure is usually to reduce the tooth slightly in the front. Sometimes, you don’t even have to reduce it at all. We have some dental veneers now that are as thin as 0.3 mm, and, so, in some cases, we can actually just place the porcelain veneers without actually having to touch a tooth. Most cases, you have to make some small changes and even opt to have half a millimeter reduction in the front of the tooth, which is quite a bit less than what we had to do previously to resolve some of these problems.

Dental Veneers / Porcelain Veneers: A Great Solution

So, porcelain veneers now allow us to bring people great smiles, and correct some of these problems with spacing, unevenness, and broken teeth in the front without having to create a bigger problem by being so invasive.

Once the teeth have been minimally prepared, we actually send them to the lab, and when we get them back, sometimes a week or two later, we can transform somebody’s smile.

So, this is all for today, and we’ll touch upon other topics in a future time.

Note: , DDS, is a Holistic Dentist (San Diego), specializing in Holistic Procedures, Biocompatible Dentistry, Biological Dentistry, and Painless Dentistry.


Call (619) 630-7174 to make an appointment for a free consultation with Dr. Vinograd.
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Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences P4



But for any empiricist, it’s a crucial point that we have no objective means of detecting consciousness. There’s a word for a type of technology that doesn’t exist. It’s called a psychometer. It would be like a Geiger counter that you would point to a rock and to a plant and to an amoeba and to a baby during the first trimester, and during the last trimester, and to an old person who’s got Alzheimer’s and becomes vegetated, and so forth. You bring out your little psychometer and it would go (clicking sound). Nope, the computer’s not conscious. Then to the insect-eating plant and the rat and the cockroach, etc., and you would get it on like a Geiger counter, “oh, it’s 10 psychometers” or something, psychological units. That’s how conscious it is.


It would be marvelous to have such technology. The only problem is we don’t have it. That’s why there’s such an enormous debate still about abortion. No person wants to kill babies. These are not evil people on either side of the fence, but nobody’s got a clue when that thing in the womb is conscious. Is it 12 days? Is it as the Muslims say, 120 days? Is at the Roman Catholics say, at conception? Who’s got a clue empirically? We don’t have any objective means of detecting the presence or absence of consciousness in anything: mineral, plant, animal, humans, etc. That makes it tough to have a science of consciousness.


What are the neural correlates of consciousness? That is, whenever we have a conscious being – you’re conscious. I’ll bet my life on it, you are conscious. And yet, what are the neural correlates? What’s invariably happening when you are consciousness? We don’t know. They’re called the NCC, the neural correlates of consciousness. Haven’t been identified yet. Let alone consciousness. We don’t even know what the neural correlates of consciousness are.


Here’s a crucial one: what are the necessary and sufficient causes of consciousness? We don’t have to speak about it in the abstract. Let’s say visual perception. We know a lot about the visual cortex. It’s the area of the brain that is really pretty well mapped out. We know in a human being, the visual cortex is necessary for us to see color, for visual perception to take place. So we know the visual cortex, the optic nerve, the retina are necessary for the generation of visual perception in human beings.


But do you need a visual cortex if you’re developing some artificial intelligence and you want it to be conscious, but you’re not going to give it a brain, a gushy brain, you wanted to work it out with silicon chips? Is a visual cortex necessary in an instrument of artificial intelligence? We don’t know. We don’t know what the sufficient causes are. Whether it’s sufficient just to have a visual cortex and photons coming in. We don’t know what the necessary or sufficient causes are for visual perception, let alone any other kind of consciousness.


So any assumptions about what happens to consciousness at death are just assumptions. Because to know, to speak with confidence and knowledge, “consciousness terminates at death,” you would have had to identify the necessary and sufficient causes. At least the sufficient causes, and they aren’t there. But we don’t know what they are, so frankly, we don’t know what happens to consciousness at death.


We finally come to what David Chalmers, the philosopher of mind, called the “hard problem,” and that is the chemicals and electricity inside the skull, they’re really ordinary. They’re just what chemists have been studying for decades and decades. There are no mystical neurons; there’s no mystical chemicals or electrons in there. It’s really ordinary stuff. So how is it that neurons generate subjective experience? What is it about those chemicals and electricity that enables them to generate subjective experience, mental states, or even influence mental states?


We know from the placebo effect that when you go to a doctor and you receive a tablet and you believe it will help, the placebo effect is going to kick in big time. Just your belief, your expectation, your desire and trust will have enormous impact on your body, your brain, your immune system. The pharmaceutical industry knows this very well. How is that possible, that you can go from an idea, a faith, a belief, and it actually influences physical health? We don’t know.


So when we add up all of that ignorance, it becomes hard to say that we actually have a science of consciousness. It falls in the retinal blind spot. But nevertheless, we cover over that retinal blind spot with assumptions, or what I would call “an illusion of knowledge.” John Searle, very distinguished philosopher of mind, expresses this illusion of knowledge, although he’s expressing it as knowledge, when he writes: “There is a simple solution to the mind-body problem.” Isn’t that a relief? It’s a simple problem.


The news gets better: “This solution has been available to any educated person since serious work began on the brain nearly a century ago, and in a sense, we all know it to be true.” That should be a relief. “And here it is: mental phenomena are caused by neurophysiological processes in the brain.” Of course. We know that. Knock out your visual cortex, you don’t see any longer. Knock out hippocampus, other things don’t happen. Frontal cortex, other things. We know that. But wait a minute. There’s a catch: “mental phenomena are themselves features of the brain.” Mental phenomena themselves are physical.


Wait a minute, when did we learn that? Where was the empirical evidence that showed equivalence between mental phenomena and neural events, rather than neural events taking on the role of causal agents generating resultant mental phenomena? Who demonstrated equivalence? The answer is nobody. But he’s saying everybody knows it. How does everybody know something that nobody knows, and to which there’s no empirical evidence at all of equivalence?


Happily, one of the foremost people on the frontlines of scientific research into consciousness, Cristof Koch, outstanding cognitive neuroscientist – he’s the one leading the charge of trying to find the neural correlates of consciousness – he unmasks this illusion when he states: “The character of brain states and of phenomenal states” – by that he means mental phenomena, desires, emotions, and so forth, mental phenomena – “the character of brain states and mental states appear too different to be completely reducible to each other.”


Look at brain states; they don’t have any mental qualities at all. Observe mental states, phenomena, processes; they don’t have any physical properties at all. Bring out all your instruments of technology; they do not detect a single mental event. So why on earth are we equating these when they don’t even have any overlapping qualities? In fact, neural events, being causal, take generally about 100 milliseconds to generate the resultant mental state. They don’t even exist at the same point in time.


So he’s calling a spade a spade here: they’re so different, it now seems unlikely that they can be reducible to each other, namely that mental phenomena are nothing other than brain states. He said: “I suspect that the relationship is more complex than traditionally envisioned.” Traditionally envisioned is mental phenomena are just physical. “For now, it is best to keep an open mind on this matter.” I love it when scientists say that. Let’s just acknowledge that we’re ignorant. We don’t know the nature of mental events. We don’t know that they’re physical. Let’s keep an open mind.


But practically speaking, what should we do now? “Let’s concentrate on identifying the correlates of consciousness in the brain.” So it’s back to business as usual. It’s not picking up the gauntlet that William James threw down; it’s going back to the safe: observing the quantifiable, the physical, the objective. As if you were going to really fathom the nature of consciousness by simply studying the neural correlates that contribute to the generation of consciousness. He’s a really good neuroscientist, so we can’t blame him for saying let’s focus on the brain, but that doesn’t mean all of us should. William James said, please, when are you going to start listening to me?


Daniel Boorstin, a very distinguished American historian, wrote an excellent book called The Discoverers, the history of mankind’s discovery for the last 5,000 years. In the preface of this book, he makes a very important point. He said: “Throughout human history, illusions of knowledge” – thinking we know something that we don’t really know at all, but absolutely being convinced of it – “illusions of knowledge, and not ignorance, have proven to be the principal obstacles to discovery.” Ignorance is clean and it’s honest. “I don’t know; can we find out?” An illusion of knowledge is, “I already know, and we don’t need to ask.” “Mental phenomena are physical. Any more questions?” That’s an illusion of knowledge, as Cristof Koch makes quite clear.


So what I’m proposing here is I try to envision the first revolution in the mind sciences. We haven’t had one. It started in 1879. Where was the revolution? At what point was nothing the same because our understanding of the mind has radically shifted, like it did with Darwin with respect to life, Galileo with respect to the planet Earth and its place in the universe? What I’m suggesting here is we need a renaissance of empiricism.


If we look back to the time of Galileo, the empirical examination of physical phenomena dispelled the illusions of knowledge of medieval scholasticism with respect to or regarding physical phenomena. They thought in the 16th century, the 15th century, that knowledge of the universe was pretty well complete. They had the Bible, which is God’s own word, they had Aristotle, the philosopher; Thomas Aquinas fused these into one complete, perfect system. Except for it was riddled with illusions of knowledge, and Galileo started tipping over that cart. It’s never been uprighted since. It was Galileo and then it was Newton, and then it was one after another, and they kept on showing that which you thought was complete is not only not complete, but it’s radically flawed, because you are mistaking illusions of knowledge for actual knowledge.

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Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences P3



Again, when I was studying this at Stanford, when I was studying philosophy of mind, we learned that actually that whole school of behaviorism that dominated American academic psychology for 50 or 60 years can be refuted with a joke. It’s tough when a whole system can be refuted with a joke, but it can be: a man and a woman make love. The man rolls over, lights up a cigarette, and he says, “It was great for you; how was it for me?” (laughter) That should pretty well do it for behaviorism.


But we can ask, how is it that brilliant minds, psychologists at Harvard, Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, how could they settle for 50 or 60 years on something so bizarre and so radically anti-empirical?


I asked my professor of philosophy of mind at Stanford this: “The refutation of this was a piece of cake. It was a one-page refutation. Any sophomore, even with a hangover, could’ve written it. How come they didn’t get it? These were smart people. Why didn’t they get it?” The professor smiled at me with a whimsical grin and said, “After all, it was a matter of fashion.” Well, that’s a nice way of saying groupthink. That’s a nice way of saying “lemmings.” Introspection fell by the wayside. It was thrown out the back window, and they didn’t look back. So this challenge of William James and Wilhelm Wundt – bring introspection and make it scientific – has been ignored and has been ignored to this day.


I’m finding a parallel here, if we go back to Galileo, his telescope, the kind of trouble he got himself into. There was a medieval theological resistance to Galileo’s empiricism, to his using the telescope and discovering things that violated the principles of a literal reading of the Bible and the metaphysical assertions of Aristotle. Because until Galileo, for the most part, people interested in the stars were astrologers. They would do folk astronomy; they’d look up at the stars, but what they were really interested in is the terrestrial correlates of celestial phenomena. That is, should I get married tomorrow or next month? When shall I sow my crops? When was my birthday? So working out your horoscope. That’s what they were really interested in. That’s where the professionals were, in drawing up the horoscopes. They left astronomy at pretty much a folk level.


When Galileo said “Look, I’ve got a telescope. I’m making some fantastic discoveries here,” the most conservative of the clerics, the churchmen of his time, refused to look through his telescope, saying “We don’t need to. If you discover things through your telescope that contradict what we already know to be true from the Bible and Aristotle, what you’re saying is false. It must be an aberration, an artifact of your lenses. And after all, it’s merely an illusion. Why should we bother? We don’t need to because we already have the Bible and Aristotle. Who are you, Galileo? You think you’re an Aristotle? You think you’re God? Why should we listen to you? We’ve got the Bible and Aristotle. What do we need you for, and your empirical observations?” So they refused to use it and they refused to accept the discoveries. They grounded him. They put him under house arrest. They said, “Go to your room and stay there for the rest of your life.” Like mom and dad getting really irritated at their teenage kid.


But now we have the Galileo of the modern times, we have William James saying, “We have a whole new kettle of fish here. We have a domain of the natural world.” In other words, this is not a supernatural infusion from God; these are natural phenomena, these mental phenomena. Let’s follow Galileo’s cue and observe them carefully. What do we have in response, from the behaviorists, from the cognitive psychologists, and the cognitive neurophysiologists, which are very prominent these days? What do we have here? We have a focus on the behavioral and neural correlates of mental phenomena.


But introspection as a sophisticated, refined means of observation? By and large, a refusal. By and large in psych departments, neuroscience departments, if you introduce “Hey, how about some refined introspection?”, they’ll say, “Sorry, we’re busy. We’re busy, we’re studying the brain. We’re studying hippocampus. We’re studying aspects of psychology. We don’t need it. If you claim to have some discoveries from introspection, whatever. But we’re busy. And after all, introspection gives rise to only the appearances of the mind. They’re illusory, after all, so why should we bother? Let’s get back and study the hardware, and let’s start a new neuroscience lab.”


But there’s a certain limitation to this orientation of insisting that everything that is real must be physical, everything boils down to physics. That is, just do a waltz through history here: think about Copernicus. Think about the Ptolemaic mathematicians who are crunching the numbers, coming up with one epicycle, one eccentric after another. Great mathematicians; really not that great for observing celestial phenomena.


If you can imagine confining your understanding just to mathematics – you’re sitting in a room and you’re a great mathematician – there’s nothing in pure mathematics that defines mass or energy. It’s not there. Not in pure mathematics. There’s noting that defines the emergence of physical phenomena in the universe. There’s nothing in pure mathematics that predicts that there ever would be a universe. In pure mathematics, there’s nothing that explains the emergence of matter and energy; when would it happen, when was the Big Bang, when did you start getting particles and so forth and so on? You have to step outside of mathematics, as Galileo did, and combine the mathematics with empirical observation.
But now we shift over into the realm of physics, and imagine for the time being that you only know physics, but you don’t know anything about biology or psychology. Confine your understanding just to physics: classic mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, the whole range of physics. I would suggest – you’re going to see the parallel here – there’s nothing in physics per se that defines life. If you don’t know anything about biology, there’s nothing in physics that defines life or alive and dead, healthy and sick.


These words don’t mean anything in physics. That’s where my scientific training was. Those words don’t crop up. Life and death, healthy and sick, flourishing and so forth, they don’t crop up. There’s nothing in physics that defines life. There’s nothing in the laws of physics – classic mechanics and all the way through – that predicts that at some point in the universe, life would emerge. There’s nothing there. It happened, but physics didn’t tell you it would happen, and once it has happened, physics on its own does not explain life.


Let’s shift to biology. Now we’ve got mathematics, physics, and biology. But if you confine your understanding to biology alone, with its physics and mathematics behind it, there’s nothing in biology that defines consciousness. Consciousness is not defined in biological terms. There’s nothing in biology that predicts the emergence of consciousness. At one point in evolution of life in the universe – or on our planet, where we know it takes place – at what point did consciousness happen and why? There’s nothing in biology that predicts it; nothing in biology that defines it; and once it’s there, biology does not explain consciousness in living organisms.


Now let’s finally move to psychology. Finally we’re in the mind sciences, and we’re studying attention and volition and perception and memory and so forth. But in psychology alone, there are people throughout the planet, in the United States and everywhere else, for millennia, who have been having religious experiences. Call it spiritual, call it religious, but a sense of the transcendent, something larger and so forth, this is happening. It’s been happening a long time. It’s happening to this day.


But there’s nothing in psychology per se that predicts that this would ever happen, that defines religious experience in its own terms rather than reducing it to something very prosaic like “hysteria,” “form of neurosis,” “form of psychosis” and so forth. In drawing it down to psychology, you miss what was there that was distinctively spiritual or religious. Psychology by itself does not define, predict, or explain the emergence of religious expedience. And yet there it is. It happens.


So this would be an argument, not against math, physics, biology, or psychology, but it’s arguing for epistemic pluralism. That is, let’s get out of this rut of thinking that everything can be explained in terms of the more primitive and recognize we need different modalities of inquiry. That everything does not boil down to physics or to biology.


In this physic-less worldview, which in many ways has so much going for it – we know about what happened during the nanoseconds after the Big Bang. That is spectacular. We know about the nucleus of an atom. Quarks, with charm and color and so forth. That’s spectacular. We know about the constitution of galactic clusters 10 billion light years away. That is amazing.


But what about consciousness, that which makes all of science possible? It’s the blind spot. I would call it metaphorically the retinal blind spot in the scientific vision, where the optic nerve touches the back of the retina. You know what happens there: what we should have is be walking around with two dark spots in our visual field, right? We should have that, because there’s no information coming in from those spots. But what does our cunning brain do? It covers over the area about which you know nothing at all. It covers it over with the environment. So if you’re looking at a brown wall, it covers it with brown. If you’re looking at a purple wall, it covers it over with purple. It covers over that which you don’t know at all with that which is familiar, and gives you an illusion of knowledge. Interesting.


What is there in the retinal blind spot of the scientific vision of reality? I would suggest it’s consciousness. We have no scientific definition of consciousness. That’s a bad start. If consciousness is a natural phenomena, for heaven’s sake, let’s have a definition. How can you study it if you don’t even define what you’re studying? That’s a problem.

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Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences P2



In a similar fashion, Darwin spent about 25 years in very meticulous, rigorous, careful observation of biological phenomena. Of course, in the Galapagos, we all know about that, that no, it wasn’t just the Galapagos; he was doing years of study, observing, observing, observing. Then in 1859 he came up with his great monumental work, The Origins of the Species. That would not have happened had he not been meticulously observing the biological phenomena. It wasn’t just staying home at his estate and thinking really deeply about biology. It wasn’t by doing really good physics. It was by observing biological phenomena carefully, and then drawing from that and developing his spectacular theory of evolution.


Then we get to 1890. We get to the closing years of the 19th century, first decade of the 20th century. The person I believe is of equal stature: William James. I have to admit, he’s one of my heroes, so look out. I really love this guy. Because he was brilliant; he was an M.D., he was a biologist, he was a spectacular philosopher, he wrote the greatest American treatise on religious experience ever, The Varieties of Religious Experience. He was a psychologist. He started the first neuroscience lab, experimental psychology lab in the United States at Harvard. He was a brilliant philosopher, religious studies scholar, scientist, M.D., biologist, psychologist, and he was so dogma-free. That’s what I love about this guy. He wasn’t buying into any dogma, but he was an empiricist. In fact, he started a school of philosophy called radical empiricism.


William James came to the mind, and this is something that had been postponed for 300 years, from the time of Copernicus. Can you imagine 300 years of the development of science, of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, etc., etc., 300 years before they actually started the scientific study of the mind?


That should throw you back for a moment, if you’ve not quite thought of it in those terms. This is bizarre. The mind is that with which you’re doing all the science. It would be like somebody giving you an instrument and saying, “Use this instrument, you’ll discover a lot of things,” and waiting 300 years before you actually look at the instrument itself. That is weird. But there were very good reasons for it, and today we have too short a time to really explore them in depth.


But of course, for those first 300 years, the natural sciences, established the reputation – a spectacular reputation, well-earned reputation, for studying objective, quantifiable, physical phenomena. Objective, quantifiable, physical phenomena. So you can bring in the full weight of mathematics, the technology which is there, starting from the telescope, moving right through all the extraordinary advances in technology.
But mental phenomena – emotions, thoughts, mental images, desires, memories, expectations, the whole array – visual perception, auditory, mental perception, dreams – these are not objective; they’re subjective. They’re not quantifiable; they’re qualitative. They’re not clearly physical. The last time you had a dream, look at the contents of the dream and ask, what physical attributes do the contents of your dream have? The answer is none.


Or your emotions. Your desires, your hopes and fears, your feelings. Your thoughts and mental images. They don’t have any physical attributes at all. You observe them. They’re not physical. At least, they certainly don’t appear physical. If they are physical, then they’re really concealing something.


William James was presenting perhaps the greatest challenge in the history of science, with its 300 years of spectacular success. Because he himself was a biologist, an M.D., we have gotten extremely good using scientific method to explore the objective, quantifiable, physical; and now, can we take this same expertise, this same methodological rigor, and apply it to that which is by nature subjective, qualitative, and perhaps non-physical?


He said, let’s do it in the old-fashioned way, and that is let psychology be above all the study of mental phenomena as we experience them immediately. And for that, like physics, like biology, let us catalyze a revolution in the mind sciences. Let us start and do it the old-fashioned way: carefully, meticulously, rigorously observe the phenomena themselves. He proposed this. They didn’t do it. They tried it, they namby-pambied around with it for about 20 or 30 years, and then they stopped.


William James wasn’t the only person. William James started the first experimental psychology lab at Harvard in 1879, and here was his mission statement, in terms of methodology: he said “Introspective observation is what we have to rely on first and foremost and always.” He continues, “The word ‘introspection’ need hardly be defined – it means, of course, the looking into our own minds and reporting what we there discover.” In other words, just as Galileo was an empiricist and Darwin was an empiricist, when we finally get around to the mind, let’s be equally empirical and study the phenomena themselves.


In presenting this, he did not at all disparage or try to marginalize studying the mind by way of behavior. The whole behavioral sciences, inferring states of consciousness, mental processes, and so forth, by way of behavior. Extremely valuable. He did not disparage that. So we’re looking at the fruits, the effects of mental processes, by studying behavioral output. Excellent.


Then of course, they knew back then that the brain is crucially important in generating mental states, processes, and so forth. So causally, look at the mind indirectly by looking at the neural causes giving rise to mental phenomena; look at the mind indirectly by looking at the behavioral output or effects of mental phenomena; but first and foremost and always, look at the mental phenomena, and let your science be based upon the actual careful observation of the phenomena themselves.


In the same year that William James started this first experimental psychology lab at Harvard, Wilhelm Wundt, the German psychologist in Germany – in the same year, he started his own experimental psychology lab. He echoed a very similar theme. He said, “The service which it [the experimental method, or what we call the scientific method] can yield consists essentially in perfecting our inner observation, or rather, as I believe, in making this really possible, in any exact sense.”


Anybody can introspect a little bit; are you happy right now or sad? Interested or bored? Agitated or calm? You don’t need to look at your behavior. You don’t have to go to an EEG or to an fMRI and ask, “How am I doing? Tell me what my brain scan tells me.” To some rudimentary level, right now, you can have some idea of what’s going on in your mind. Are there a lot of thoughts arising? Are you falling asleep? And so forth. Emotional states, cognitive states, the focus of your attention, the scatteredness of your attention.


But what both William James and Wilhelm Wundt, these two giants on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, were suggesting is take your folk psychology, your folk, untrained introspection and start refining it, honing it, intensifying it. Make this a sophisticated method of inquiry. This is the battle cry. This is the great challenge for the mind sciences.


Didn’t happen. Didn’t happen. 1913, especially in America, John Watson at Johns Hopkins University – William James was just cooling off in the grave, and another movement came in. It was almost like a palace coup. John Watson in 1913 said from now on, the scientific study of the mind is going to avoid all psychological subjective terms. We will not use the terms “belief” and “emotion,” “thought,” “perception.” We’re not going to use any of those subjective terms at all. They have no place in psychology.


This is bizarre. We’re going to have a science of the mind, but by the way, we won’t use any mental terminology at all. We’re going to treat the mind as if it’s a black box containing only dispositions, proclivities for behavior, and we’re going to confine ourselves to studying the non-mind by way of behavior. In other words, we’re going to flatten, like stamping on a tin can, we’re going to flatten the study of mental phenomena, treat them as if they don’t exist, and reduce psychology to the study of behavior. It’s back to the good old-fashioned way of objective, quantifiable, and physical, rather than picking up the gauntlet that William James had thrown out and said it’s time to start something afresh. Attend to the mental phenomena. John Watson said, “No thanks.”


These radical behaviorists – this is going on from 1913, building up momentum, the ’20s, the ’30s, the ’40s, ’50s – 1953, 40 years later, B.F. Skinner comes out and says mental phenomena do not exist. There’s no such thing as emotion, mental images, thoughts, desires, hopes and fears. They don’t exist at all. In fact, “consciousness” is a word that refers to nothing at all. It’s a superstition. Your jaw should be dropping down to your kneecaps at this point. What? He said, well after all, they can’t exist. They don’t have physical attributes. What?


This is the absolute trumping of dogma over experience. Because they’ve decided now – B.F. Skinner, writing in 1953, the only things that exist are physical. The only things that exist are physical, and the properties of the physical. Mental phenomena clearly don’t have any physical attributes; therefore, they don’t exist. Appearances to the contrary – well, tough luck on appearances. He kept on saying that, until 1974. He never learned. He wasn’t some yahoo at Podunk State University; he was a full professor at Harvard University, and saying these things, looked like he’s brain-dead. It really should astound us that such a highly intelligent person – I say with respect – can say such a ridiculous thing.


It compares to Descartes’ statement, also operating under the dogma – now it’s a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century – when he equated consciousness with the human immortal soul: only human beings have immortal souls; animals don’t. If you equated consciousness with an immortal soul, you now in one-step logic, have to come to the conclusion that animals are not conscious. Because they don’t have an immortal soul, they don’t go to heaven or hell; therefore, your dog has no consciousness, which means no feelings. Try to swallow that one if you can. Even back then, they thought, “What, Descartes? We thought you were a pretty smart guy, but what?” But which is more – pardon me, but idiotic? To say your dog has no feelings or you have no feelings?

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Toward the First Revolution in Mind Sciences

INTRODUCTION: Alan Wallace is not a typical monk. He’s a monk who cannot sit still in one place. So even while he was a monk, he went on to get a degree in physics. Then he went on to study neurosciences and psychology, and eventually he got one of those PhD thingies, as some of you might have, and then he went on to become a professor at UCSB. Then he decided he couldn’t sit still in UCSB, so he went on to found his own institute, and he decided to take everything he’s ever learned in life to try to advance the mind sciences.


When I heard about his work, I figured this would be interesting to Google, mind sciences and everything, so I invited him to come visit, come eat with us, and share a talk. Before I bring Alan Wallace up, just a reminder to all Googlers, please do not ask him any questions that contains information that is Google confidential. Thank you. With that, Alan.


WALLACE: Well, it’s quite a delight for me to be with you today. I’ve known about Google, like the rest of us, for a long time. Delighted to be in the matrix here and to share some of my passions pertaining to understanding the nature of the mind, its potentials, the nature of consciousness.


As Mang [sp] mentioned, I’ve had a rather diverse background, but I have been blessed with extraordinary teachers in the Tibetan tradition, other Buddhist traditions, but also marvelous instructors in physics, philosophy of science at Amherst College, and then doing a very diverse PhD program at Stanford University, where it was ostensibly in religious studies, but taking courses in philosophy of physics and cognitive psychology, philosophy of mind.


Trying to bring all of these together, to integrate them – my background of being raised in the West but then living for years in Europe and quite a few years in Asia, trying to integrate, to synthesize, so that these various aspects of my own life as a Buddhist monk for 14 years, but also physics student and so forth, could be all integrated, and so that the various aspects of my own last 56 years on the planet would be all one integrated unit, so no part was isolated from the others. That actually took a long time, because I have, again, been exposed to so many diverse worldviews, ways of life, and so on.


What I’d like to share with you this afternoon is a vision of a possibility of a first revolution in the mind sciences. This very notion is based on an assumption that certainly can be contested. Probably everything can be. But the starting assumption here is that among the natural sciences, we had the first great revolution in the natural sciences starting with Copernicus, building up momentum with Kepler, Galileo, and coming to its fulfillment, to its fruition, with Newton. So the first great revolution we had in the natural sciences wasn’t physics and astronomy. I would say from my own perspective, it started with Copernicus, but with Newton it came together. He brought it all together. That’s when that revolution stopped, and then we simply had a lot of excellent science, a lot of excellent physics after that.


Then we move over to another discipline: the life sciences are plugging along, plugging along, and then 1859, Darwin comes out with his masterpiece. So he started the first and the only great revolution we’ve had in the life sciences. I say it started with Darwin. It started building momentum in the 1870s with Gregor Mendel, a Christian monk with genetics, of course; and then it was building momentum, building momentum. Key point, one century after Darwin: 1959, Crick and Watson DNA. We finally found now the mechanics; how does this happen? The natural selection; how can species mutate? Darwin didn’t tell us. Mendel gave us a hint. Crick and Watson pointed, “there’s the machinery.”


Following that, we’ve had this extraordinary growth, this spectacular growth in the study of genetics. I would say that great revolution, starting in 1859, has come to a culmination. It’s over. It was with the human genome project. We’ve mapped it. Something like 99% now. Well done. Now, of course, the study of biology of genetics will continue; but it was 140 years. Interestingly enough – it’s probably just a coincidence, but it was 140 years also from Copernicus through Newton. Took 140 years for the revolution to start and then go voila! there it is.


We’ve also had a second great revolution in physics, and it started with Max Planck in 1900. It picked up momentum in 1905 and 1915 with the special and general relativity theories from Einstein. It was truly a revolution. By revolution, I mean – to use the familiar phrase – the paradigm has shifted. Your fundamental orientation towards the subject matter has shifted and it will never be the same. From the geocentric to the heliocentric; from pre-Darwin to post-Darwin. Nothing is the same. You cannot look at human existence, you cannot look at the planet, in the same way anymore. Fundamentally, your axis has rotated.


That second great revolution in physics, it’s not over. 106 years, if we start in 1900 when Max Planck came out with the notion of quantum. It’s not over. There are some core, crucial, fundamental issues in quantum mechanics in particular that have not been solved, the most important of which I would say is the measurement problem. How is it that you move from a mathematical abstraction of a probability function – which is hardly physical; it’s a pure abstraction – but prior to making a measurement, that’s what you have. You have a probability function, a Schrödinger wave equation. Then you make a measurement, and voila, now suddenly you have an electron that is here. It still doesn’t have simultaneous exact momentum and location, but at least it’s a real electron, photon, what have you.


But what is it about the active measurement that moves you from a realm of possibility to a realm of actuality? Somehow, the observer is involved, but in what way? What does it take for a measurement to take place? What’s required? Do you need consciousness? Could a robot do it? We don’t know. The measurement problem – I think it was identified about 1930 or so. It’s unsolved. It’s big. We don’t know. What is the role of the observer in the natural world, that takes us from potential to actuality?


But of course, another major unresolved question in this 20th century physics is you have two extraordinarily elegant, profound, powerful theories, and that is quantum mechanics on the one hand and general relativity on the other. Neither one is going away; they’re too good. But they’re not integrated. They’re not integrated. That would be the grand unified theory, and nobody’s come up with it. So that revolution is in progress, the second great revolution in physics.
But now we go to the mind sciences. I’d like to get a little bit of historical perspective here, to point out one element that I think is absolutely an indispensable catalyst to bring about a revolution in any field of science, and that is the development of extraordinary, sophisticated, advanced methods of empirical observation. If you don’t have that, the revolution’s not going to take place. That’ll be my premise. You’ve got to observe the phenomena you’re really interested in, and you’ve got to observe it beyond folk astronomy or folk psychology or folk biology. Get professional.


When I think of this first great revolution in the physical sciences, I don’t think of Copernicus. He was a brilliant mathematician; he was not a brilliant experimenter; he was not a brilliant observer. He’d get up on the roof of his monastery, look at the stars with the best of them; he didn’t do anything innovative there. His mathematical theory, that was innovative. So they called it the Copernican Revolution. Kepler himself was not a great observer. He got all his data from Tycho Brahe, who was a very powerful observer, very brilliant Danish astronomer. But Kepler, like Copernicus, was a great mathematician.


It was Galileo that brought in the full package. Galileo was the observer; he was the engineer; he was the one that reinvented the telescope, which actually had been invented in Holland. He tried to order one; somebody nipped it on the way. He Googled and got one on the way, and then they nipped it in the mail. (laughter) So he was there, bummed out, he didn’t get his telescope, because somebody nipped it. He said, “The heck with it, I’ll make my own.” So he did.


He made himself a 20 power telescope, and he did something unprecedented. The telescope was already there, but Galileo was the innovator, and he used it in unprecedented ways. Instead of just goggling, looking at the girls across the street in Holland, he directed it upwards. Everywhere he looked – can you imagine how thrilling this must have been? That everything he looked at, he was discovering something nobody had ever seen before. He took his telescope and directed it to the moons and he saw craters for the first time in humanity’s history. Turned it to Jupiter, he saw the moons for the first time. Turned it to the sun, he saw sun spots. Turned it to Venus, he saw the phases of Venus. Wouldn’t that be thrilling?


That’s what was needed. He, too, was a mathematician, but he was an experimenter. He was rolling balls down a ramp to see whether they went at constant velocity or they accelerated. He did actually drop objects off the Tower of Pisa. I’ve been there and asked the people at the University of Pisa. He did it all. And he also brought it out into the world. He didn’t write in Latin, like so many of his contemporaries; he wrote in Italian. He brought it home. He was the full package. He was the consummate first great scientist that brought it all together.


Among the things he did, which was seminal, which is indispensable for this triggering of the first great revolution in the physical sciences, was his use of the telescope. He was making observations like nobody had ever done before. The mathematics was there. The observation, that was crucial. Otherwise, what they were doing with Copernicus’s heliocentric system was “Very cool mathematical system, but we already have one, thanks very much. Ours covers the data, it accounts for the appearances; so does yours. So whatever, it’s a matter of choice.”


But it’s not a matter of choice when you start seeing the phases of Venus. It’s not a matter of which one do you like, like do you like ice cream or do you like fudge brownies. By this rigorous observation of material phenomena, he was the one, I think, more than anybody else, that launched the true revolution, the first great revolution, and it was in the physical sciences.


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The Healing Power of Mindfulness P8


QUESTION: People are saying that life is more complicated and more stressful now, and I believe it. I don’t have anything to measure it against. And also the same with war, that people go to war and they come back having experienced things that they might not have lived through in other wars. There are scientists working on PTSD and trying to help people heal from those things that they might not have lived through. So sometimes I think about how if the world is becoming more stressful or complicated and our answer is “change yourself; change your relationship with that stress,” it seems – I’m not sure. I don’t know how to say it, but…


KABAT-ZINN: I got it. Thanks, that’s the other half of my talk. (laughter) Thank you for bringing that up. Let me just very quickly say, this isn’t about changing yourself. It’s exactly the opposite of changing yourself. It’s recognizing the beauty in yourself already, no change necessary. Now imagine if the Congress actually were mindful. (laughter) Actually, there is a Congressman in the Congress now, Tim Ryan from the 17th district in Ohio, who is doing everything he can to bring mindfulness into the mainstream in political and economic circles. You’ll see his name around from time to time, 5th term Congressman.


But the much larger thing – and I wrote 100 pages about mindful politics and coming to our senses – this is not about forgetting about social change or transformation. But in order to really have profound social change that’s in alignment with humanity and with kindness, we have to look at our own minds, because even the social change agents are driven by greed, hatred, and delusion, just like all the rest of us.


So until we learn how to at least recognize the toxic or the acquisitive, aggressive, violent aspects in ourselves, then we can do all we want to transform the institutions and even the laws, but human beings, being what they are, what we need to do is transform the species. Or I wouldn’t say transform the species; I would say have the species come into its own. Because we call ourselves Homo sapiens sapiens. In Latin, sapere is the verb “to taste” or “to know.” So Homo sapiens sapiens is the species that knows. And knows that it knows, in other words, awareness, yes, and meta-awareness, awareness of awareness.


That would be wisdom. If we actually were wise, then we would see what war does to societies. We would understand that with the kind of precocity and weapons and firepower and everything, we need to find other ways of resolving human conflict. But where’s that going to come from? It’s going to come out of the same human heart and the same human mind, and out of corporations, which after all mean “bodies.” The corpus, or the body, politic. That’s made up of human beings.


So we do need to tune the instrument on lots of different levels, including the law and jurisprudence, in order to actually privilege awareness over a dualistic, adversarial condition where it’s really winners and losers. And a huge amount of harm and social injustice gets done, and then we learn to sort of tolerate it, thinking, “Well, 100 years from now, it’ll be better.”


This is not going to happen overnight. I have a very long time horizon. I like to say – one Zen master put it this way: “Never forget the 1,000 year view.” I actually have it pretty much in the 1,000 year view. Then if it happens in 100, so much the better. Even where we would site nuclear power plants, if we were building nuclear power plants say in northern Japan, for instance,  where would you site them, knowing the geology of the Pacific Rim and northern Japan? Oh, maybe not too close to the water. I don’t know. You need an awful lot of mindfulness to actually come up with something like that.


So it has infinite number of implications, and I apologize for actually not having spent more time on this talk going there. It is all in coming to our senses, and there’s an awful lot happening in the world nowadays around that.


We’ll take one more and then we’ll stop. Or two more, if two people are standing up, I’ll take – are you standing up for a question? You’re just the microphone holder. Do you want to sing or something? (laughter) This is your moment. American Idol. (laughter)


QUESTION: I can make it brief.


KABAT-ZINN: You want to sing?


QUESTION: I’m a resident at the hospital here, and I know you’re getting involved with trying to bring this into more mainstream medicine. I’m hoping it’s not going to be like 150 years –


KABAT-ZINN: Oh no, no, it’s already in mainstream medicine. Just not here.


QUESTION: What I wanted to ask you about – right. It’s definitely not encouraged for us to take care of ourselves, and the amount of stresses and appointments and phone calls, and now EDH, our new computer system –


KABAT-ZINN: I heard about that.


QUESTION: I’m in psychiatry, and 30 minutes to adjust meds and also the person wants to talk to me and all of that. It’s completely stressed me out, but I can only imagine – and I have pretty great attendings and great faculty, but if I were to say, “You know what? I’m going to go to Shambhala to meditate” – because I do meditation in Shambhala, and I’ve read a lot of –


KABAT-ZINN: You mean the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado? Or here?


QUESTION: In White River Junction there’s one. But I’ve taken courses in level 1 and level 2. But if I were to say that, “You know what? I’m going to go for lunch, and we’re not really doing anything. I’m going to go meditate for an hour and then I’m going to be so much more there for my patients,” it probably, even with these kind, good mentors, it’s not going to fly. I advise my patients on these things, but still the medical professionals are supposed to be these superhuman people that I’m not.


KABAT-ZINN: Right. In a talk like this, I can in some sense only point to how deeply the penetration has gone. However, what you’re saying is, “not deep enough.” By any stretch of the imagination. And it takes a long, long time to shift a culture that has its own self-interests. A long time.


QUESTION: Just like I’m sure it takes a long time for these people to get to your clinic, because I know the chronic pain patients we’re seeing, we’re not advising any of what you guys –


KABAT-ZINN: Yeah, but you could set up an MBSR. Maybe there is – is there an MBSR clinic?


QUESTION: Not even close.


KABAT-ZINN: Well, that’s not that radical to do. Are you in psychiatry?




KABAT-ZINN: Yeah, it’s not that radical to do. Maybe medicine should do it, if psychiatry has an aversion to the mind-body connection. (laughter) (applause) I even know gastroenterologists who are working with veterans who have PTSD, and pulmonologists. This transcends specialty.


QUESTION: There are some, and you would hope psychiatry would be the most open to it.


KABAT-ZINN: Well, I don’t know if I would hope, but if you hope it, then make it happen. The psychiatry of the future, where does it lie?


QUESTION: Not in medication.


KABAT-ZINN: Well, where does it lie? I’m being serious with you now.


QUESTION: I think in the neurosciences.


KABAT-ZINN: No, no, I’m looking for something much simpler. It lies with you.


QUESTION: Oh. (laughter)


KABAT-ZINN: It lies with that impulse to have come to this talk. It lies with that impulse to go to the Shambhala Center and clear your mind and then be more present. If you want the medicine of the future to be different, or the psychiatry of the future to be different, don’t look around for someone else to do it. You do it. When will you be good enough? Never, because part of your mind will tell you, “You don’t have enough power, you don’t have enough influence, you don’t have enough this” – you’ve got plenty. As a medical resident, as a psychiatry resident, you’ve got plenty. If people don’t want to do it, that’s too bad. But you can take the initiative.


And I’m not joking. We’re really talking about a rotation in consciousness here, and the institutions change when people are willing to actually own how you take it. You’ve had enough medical training to actually be able to make cogent arguments that a lot of the way the healthcare system is set up, I’m guessing, just from what you’ve said, is toxic to the people that you’re most trying to help. What kind of a setup is that? Even if you have a better medical record system. (laughter)


Okay, this will be the last one.


QUESTION: Oh, no, there’s somebody really ahead of me. I just wanted to let people know that we do have Upper Valley Mindfulness Associates. We’re psychotherapists, and we’re in our sixth year of offering mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.


KABAT-ZINN: Wonderful. Yeah, another thing I didn’t really get to talk about too much, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. But yeah, I’m sure there are resources in this area, lots of them, like the Shambhala Center. Are there any MBSR teachers here, in the community? There you go. Say.


SPEAKER: [Inaudible 01:49:43].


KABAT-ZINN: Now wait a minute, someone just said, “No, there’s nothing at Dartmouth Hitchcock.” But MBSR is at Dartmouth Hitchcock?


SPEAKER: [Inaudible 01:49:56].


KABAT-ZINN: You say the doctor doesn’t – between the two of you, you have an insurrection. (laughter) How many other people are here with that? Oh, so now you have a revolution. (laughter)


Listen, that’s how institutions change. And you can do it with tremendous intelligence, with tremendous propriety, with tremendous intentionality and kindness, so that it’s not like you’re going to go and just be obnoxious and tell everybody else what they’re doing wrong, but to actually offer a new option that – I’m not joking, folks, people are dying for. People are dying for it, metaphorically and literally. There’s never been more scientific evidence in favor of moving in this direction.


In some sense, what I’m saying is the responsibility for the future of not only medicine, but our society, is a distributive responsibility. As I like to say, the world needs all its flowers, and you’re one, whether your mind is like depressive rumination, “He means everybody else in the room but not me.” No, I mean you.


If you don’t recognize the flower that you are and the genius that you are and the beauty that you are, and take it someplace where it can illuminate some tiny little corner that may be insignificant, but isn’t – you think it is, but it isn’t – and just apply what you care most deeply about there, that’s how the “care” gets back into healthcare. We’re not talking about health insurance reform; we’re talking about healthcare reform, and we haven’t seen the beginning of healthcare reform. (applause)


And when we do, it will be a participatory medicine. It will be recruiting the interior dimensionality and resources that every single human being, by virtue of being born a human being, has to one degree or another, and that degree is huge. We need to learn how to recruit it, because anything else will just be technology and it will be all doing-based, and none of it being-based. We’re not called human doings; we’re called human beings.


At that, I’m going to stop it, because again, it’s late. But thank you very much for your attention. (applause)

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Update: Plum Tree With Fishwater


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Dr. Daniel Vinograd, DDS |
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