Unraveling the Mystery of the Self:
From Descartes to the Human Consciousness Project℠
The mystery of the 'self' is a subject that has both captivated and eluded artists, philosophers, and scientists alike for centuries. Simply stated, the human mind or self constitutes the inexplicable and intimate entity that makes each and every one of us into the unique beings that we are today. Or to put it in slightly different terms, the self is that entity which endows each of us with our unique personalities, thoughts, traits, and emotions, while also providing us with a level of complexity which transcends that of any other creature on our planet.
Although starting out as an unconventional area of scientific study in the latter part of the 20th century, today the "mind-body problem" or the "problem of consciousness" has evolved into one of the most intriguing and challenging topics of scientific research. The "problem" revolves around understanding how electrochemical brain processes may also generate the mysterious substance and intimate inner world of the complex "self" and our thoughts. Despite increasing interest and extensive research, scientists at the dawn of the 21st century still do not understand how our sense of self arises, nor can they adequately explain the nature of the complex relationship between the mind and the brain.
In this lecture, Dr. Parnia briefly chronicles the major schools of thought set forth throughout history to account for the existence and nature of the self, beginning with ancient thinkers in classical Greece to 17th century philosophers such as Descartes to the latest scientific theories and experiments. The presentation will culminate with the announcement of the establishment of The Human Consciousness Project, a major new scientific initiative between physicians and scientists at universities and medical centers throughout Europe and the United States that aims to scientifically unravel the seemingly unsolvable mystery of the self and the enigmatic relationship between the mind and the brain.
Why God Doesn't Use Biostatistics:
Science and the Study of the Mind, the Body, and Spirituality
With the rapidly expanding field of research exploring mystical and spiritual phenomena as well as altered states of consciousness, there have been many perspectives as to the validity, importance, relevance, and need for such research, in addition to the ultimate issue of how such research should be interpreted with regard to epistemological questions. Ultimately, this information may bear important practical implications for researching the mind/body connection, consciousness, and spirituality, while also providing important perspectives on larger societal issues pertaining to religion and belief systems. It is crucial therefore to explore the methodological issues that currently affect the field and how best to address them so that future investigations can be as robust as possible while rendering this research more conventional.
Focusing on the physiological and neurobiological studies that have been performed on the mind/body relationship, altered states of consciousness, and religious and spiritual phenomena, as well as the potential issues associated with such studies, much of the research builds on health-related aspects since it is helpful to understand the ultimate expression of these phenomena as they affect a person's life and health. Nonetheless, physiological studies are also critical for understanding how clinical results are derived and for examining the specific nature of spirituality and its affect on the body.
Dr. Newberg will review five dimensions of this research as they relate to the neuroscientific study of religious and spiritual phenomena, with a critical perspective on methodology and statistical analysis: (1) appropriate measures and definitions (2) subject selection and comparison groups (3) study design and biostatistics (4) implications for consciousness studies and mind/body interactions, and (5) theological and epistemological implications. Ultimately, Dr. Newberg will show why it is difficult to use standard methods in this field and how this situation is challenging science to develop new methods for exploring the complex interaction between the mind, body, consciousness, and spirituality.