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Eco, Ego, Eros: Thoughts On Philosophy, Spirituality & Science

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When I got to the Science and Nonduality conference the first person I encountered was Wolfgang Baer, a physicist from San Diego who told me about his theory of consciousness at the heart of quantum particles –possibly as a newly discovered or theorized binding force of atoms. I then went to see Cassandra Vieten, President and CEO of IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences), speak about Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in which she described the “shift” that takes places in various phases as what “everyone knows” changes to something radically new which then becomes what everyone “knows.”

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The underlying theme: the recognition that a science without acknowledgment of consciousness is a science essentially without a center.

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tam coverSo when I decided to speak to Cassandra and do my usual networking shtick she was sitting with another young guy whom I tried to be polite to but my focus was elsewhere.  The following night that young guy, Tam Hunt, recognized me in the bar. After some bantering over drinks I was moved to ask him if he’d ever read the book Replay by Ken Grimwood—a cult piece of obscure fiction that I have read twice and which my best friend and I used to discuss endlessly. I was blown away that Tam had also read Replay. I am no longer blown away because having gone through Tam’s book of essays I now have an understanding of how much he has exposed himself to, and absorbed deeply.

One way to read these essays is almost as an encyclopedia of modern thought—and the last part of the book is actually a series of interviews Tam has had (in person and by email) with many of these thought leaders. For example he has buttonholed Lawrence Krauss, author of a Universe from Nothing and got the following quote:

“Science encourages awe and wonder, and the sense that there is more to the universe than we directly experience. The advantage of the spirituality of science is that it is real.”

I was going to review Krauss’ book myself but I looked at the index for the word “consciousness” and when it wasn’t there, I moved on. Krauss takes the “scientism” position that truth is the result of empirical evidence but never questions the role of the observer because it’s inconvenient to do so. Like many atheists (Dawkins, Bill Maher) he skewers the low hanging fruit of religion and then uses words like “awe” and “reverence” without examining the “qualia” of such a response deeply.

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Tam’s questions are first rate and it’s no surprise because he’s a practicing environmental attorney.

His essays are introduced by a foreword from by Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science, and author of The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach and Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. Koch says, “The book keeps on returning to its central thesis –that all matter is endowed with consciousness, that every outside in the universe has an inside, only accessible to the system itself. That “inside” is what it feels like to be that system, whether it’s a human brain with roughly 100 billion nerve cells, or the 100 million of the mouse or the nervous system of the tiny round worm C. elegans, no larger than the letter ‘l’, with 302 nerve cells. Of course, what the system is capable of experiencing will scale somehow with the complexity of the chunk of excitable matter that gives rise to the mind in the first place.”

This level of insight got to me, because the “inside” is what scientists like Krauss assiduously avoid, and which forms the basis for the scientific revolution IONS and Cassandra Vieten are promulgating. But how to approach it?

Tam writes the following;

“The panpsychist view is that each little speck of matter throughout the universe is both a speck of matter and a speck of mind. And as matter complexifies, so mind complexifies.

This is not anthropomorphism as much as it is a legitimate “psychomorphism” because we realize that mind must indeed be part of the very fabric of reality if we are to explain our very existence as human beings. We are here. We have minds – or, to be accurate, we are mind.  What we call matter and mind are two aspects of the same thing, the outside and inside of matter, respectively. We are part of nature.” (page 11)

This last is the 800 lb. gorilla of modern science—we cannot study reality “objectively” from the “outside” because we are inexorably involved in our own perception as consciousness.

In the essays in the first part of the book Tam examines what he calls “Absent-Minded Science” examining the work of many thought leaders, including noted philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett. Here is Tam’s “cross-examination” of Dennett:

“The tension in [Daniel] Dennett’s position is that by acknowledging (necessarily, it would seem) the reality of conscious experience, Dennett can’t also argue that purely externalist objective explanations of consciousness say all that can be said about conscious experience. Rather, if conscious experience is real, it is surely different than simply describing – in as much detail as one likes – the electrochemical processes of a human brain. No matter how much detail we provide about electrochemical processes, such descriptions will never say anything at all about the quality of the subjective experience.” (16)

Tam himself, not surprisingly has some interesting insights especially regarding physics:

“Physics takes the approach of asking the universe to “just please hold still for a second so that we can study you.” But it never does. The universe is always in motion, always becoming. Time is always proceeding forward. It is, then, a mistake to conceptually separate matter from time and to believe that this conceptual separation is indicative of reality.“  (page 22)

This points us back to the inescapable truth that Time is a function of Mind. On page 68 Tam makes a nice summation:

“Mind is inextricably part of nature and if we are to explain this undeniable fact we can no longer ignore mind in our scientific explanations.”

His “Panpsychist” theory is not really new. Similar “pantheists” would include Emerson and Spinoza, both of whom are covered in this book. But Tam brings us back to quantum physics nicely:

“…no modern panpsychist that I know of argues that a chair or a rock is conscious – despite the bad jokes often lobbed at panpsychists. Rather, the molecules that comprise the chair or rock presumably have a very rudimentary type of consciousness but the larger objects themselves (again, presumably) lack the kind of interconnections required to become unitary subjects.  The subjects we know best are humans – each of us, in fact, knows exactly one subject intimately: ourselves. Clearly, then, some aggregates of matter do in fact produce a complex unitary subject and we call this our “mind.”  The “hard problem” of consciousness is figuring out the relationship between mind and matter and why some matter gives rise to unitary subjects and why others don’t? Why am I conscious, and you, and my cat, but not the chair or the rock?” (page 26)

This became the gist of our discussion in the bar, where I was intrigued by the generational aspect of our different perspectives.  I mentioned a Twilight Zone decades ago about a lonely guy on a remote asteroid far out in space who fell in love with a female robot. Viewers back then saw it as a “Twilight Zone” because such a “relationship” was unfathomable –from their (and my own) anthropomorphic perspective the difference between alive (animate) and inanimate was clear and incontrovertible.

Now decades later, when we have sequenced DNA, it no longer is so clear. As Tam writes, is a virus animate or inanimate?  He makes the point that virus seem “alive” only when they are within a host –and he mentions Prions.

“Prions are self-replicating molecules responsible for various diseases such as “mad cow disease.” Prions are even simpler than viruses and self-replicating RNA. Prions consist of nothing more than a very simple protein enfolded in a certain way.”  (page 54)

Our conversation and these facts made me wonder about my own prejudice regarding the innate specialness of organic life (based on carbon as opposed to silicon and instructed by DNA) and recalling Gurdjieff’s key question –what is the significance of organic life on earth and human life in particular? It would seem from reading this material that Tam might agree that awareness comes into being at certain levels of complexity as all (conscious) matter organizes toward “order.”  Might we say that awareness is an emergent property of certain complexities of consciousness?

One might ask whether there is a reverse counter-evolutionary “intention” toward entropy or disorder? But the key point that Tam makes quite eloquently is that it is “inconceivable” that somehow mind could arise from nonmind. This is in alignment with my own fascination with DNA as “software” –because clearly such an intellectual product (like the program Microsoft Word I’m using to write this article) could not have come about by “accident.”

So how does one “explain” DNA? Among other interesting ideas, Tam identifies natural selection as a “tautology” –or a circular nonexplanation of “evolution.”  He says, very convincingly, “So it turns out that the phrase “survival of the fittest” really means “survival of those who survive,” or “the fittest are the fittest.” (page 42)

Delving into Eastern thought, Tam also makes the fascinating point that our logic isn’t the only kind of logic. He points out that “Tetralemmatic [Eastern] logic has four legitimate conclusions: true; false; true and false; and neither true nor false.” (page 62)  It would be interesting to try to write a computer program that is “tetrary” rather than “binary” wouldn’t it?

Tam’s other interesting concept is Integrated Information Theory (IIT).  I personally love this which is attributed to one of Tam’s sources, Giulio Tononi:

“Information” means that a particular experience is one out of many possible experiences, which differs from every other one in its particular way. Imagine, let’s say, a complicated, buzzing street scene in New York or, conversely, just lying on the beach in Southern California and watching the sky, purely blue, hearing nothing, totally relaxed. The second experience is a very simple experience, just pure you, and the New York scene is very complicated. Well, according to the theory, they’re both equally informative even though it may seem like there is a lot more information coming at you in the New York street scene. Not because of how many pieces there are in each, but because they both are that particular experience by the fact that they rule out all the other possible experiences you could have had in that moment. Imagine watching a movie. For every frame of the movie, you have a different experience. No effort whatsoever. It’s the simplest thing in the world for us.”  (page 352)

This brings us full circle to the beautifully stated problem with physics –the “frame” of the movie is purely theoretically and conceptual.  In “reality” there is no stopping it, and all aspects are inherently equal in “information” –or ultimately another way, completely “empty” of meaning without the presence of a “mind.” IIT suggests that we can quantify the integrated information in any given system (a quantity called phi), which is a measure of the consciousness present in that system.

This is also intriguing to me because Phi is also the constant of the Golden Mean, or Fibonacci sequence, memorialized in ancient structures like the Great Pyramid which leads me to believe that this sort of “panpsychism” –or seeing mind expressed in mathematical perfection –has been viewed with awe within “reality” since before our own civilization ever moved out of caves.

I would sum up by saying that Tam is a thought leader to be reckoned with both for his breadth of knowledge and ability to articulate. My criticism of this book would be its organization; it is clearly a compendium of essays.  At a minimum it could use a table of contents and an index. There are also several areas of focus that could each sustain a book of their own.  But what this collection of ideas does do effectively is stimulate thought and inquiry of a depth I seldom encounter.  I for one look forward to seeing where Tam Hunt goes from here.

———
This article is a book review of ‘Eco, Ego, Eros: Essays in Philosophy, Spirituality and Science’ by Tam Hunt. To purchase and/or find out more about the book please visit the following link.

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Vancouver Council Votes Against Mandatory Mask Mandate: They’re Not Required

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Vancouver, Canada will not have a required mask policy in civic facilities, and instead will simply recommend that people wear them.

  • Reflect On:

    Should governments recommend what they feel we should do and present the science instead of forcing certain measures on the population that many people and health professionals clearly disagree with?

What Happened: The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada will not mandate masks inside city buildings and will “strongly encourage” people to wear them instead. This is a bold move as many cities across the globe have mandatory mask measures in place.

The proposal by Counc. Sarah Kirby-Yung, which would have required masks inside city buildings, was opposed by more than a dozen speakers who pleaded with the city council to vote against it.

“Please consider our forefathers fought for our freedom, and if we release that choice, it’s the first step towards a dictatorship,” said one speaker according to City News. “Masks are used as weapons and they have certainly been used as weapons against me and others to silence and marginalize us and it’s not fair.”

According to Coun. Christine Boyle, public health experts encourage wearing masks, but a mandatory policy is not needed.

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Positive Association Found Amongst COVID Deaths & Flu Shot Rates Worldwide In Elderly

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A recently published paper has found a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and influenza vaccination rates in elderly people worldwide.

  • Reflect On:

    Why does vaccine hesitancy continue to grow worldwide? What's going on? What information/factors are contributing to this hesitancy?

What Happened: A recently published study in PeerJ  by Christian Wehenkel, a Professor at Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango in Mexico, has found a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and influenza vaccination rates in elderly people worldwide.

According to the study, “The results showed a positive association between COVID-19 deaths and IVR (influenza vaccination rate) of people ≥65 years-old. There is a significant increase in COVID-19 deaths from eastern to western regions in the world. Further exploration is needed to explain these findings, and additional work on this line of research may lead to prevention of deaths associated with COVID-19.”

To determine this association, data sets from 39 countries with more than half a million people were analyzed.

The study was published on October 1st, and two weeks later a note from the publisher appeared atop the paper emphasizing that correlation does not equal causation, and that this paper “should not be taken to suggest that receiving the influenza vaccination results in an increased risk of death for an individual with COVID-19 as there may be confounding factors at play.”

The paper provides evidence from others which have recently been published that ponder if the flu shot could increase ones chance of contracting and dying from COVID-19.

For example, this study published in April of 2020, reported a negative correlation between influenza vaccination rates (IVRs) and COVID-19 related mortality and morbidity. Marín-Hernández, Schwartz & Nixon (2020) also showed epidemiological evidence of an association between higher influenza vaccine uptake by elderly people and lower percentage of COVID-19 deaths in Italy, which directly contradicts the author’s own findings and suggests that the flu shot may help prevent COVID-19 related deaths.

He goes on to mention another study:

In a study analyzing 92,664 clinically and molecularly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazil, Fink et al. (2020) reported that patients who received a recent flu vaccine experienced on average 17% lower odds of death. Moreover, Pawlowski et al. (2020) analyzed the immunization records of 137,037 individuals who tested positive in a SARS-CoV-2 PCR. They found that polio, Hemophilus influenzae type-B, measles-mumps-rubella, varicella, pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13), geriatric flu, and hepatitis A/hepatitis B (HepA-HepB) vaccines, which had been administered in the past 1, 2, and 5 years, were associated with decreased SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.

So, its important to mention that correlations between the flu vaccine have also found that it may decrease ones chance of deaths from COVID-19.

But are there studies that have shown an increased chance of death or contracting other respiratory viruses as a result of getting the flu shot? Yes.

That’s also discussed in the paper. For example, he mentions a paper published in 2018:

In a study with 6,120 subjects, Wolff (2020) reported that influenza vaccination was significantly associated with a higher risk of some other respiratory diseases, due to virus interference. In a specific examination of non-influenza viruses, the odds of coronavirus infection (but not the COVID-19 virus) in vaccinated individuals were significantly higher, when compared to unvaccinated individuals (odds ratio = 1.36).

The study above found the flu shot to increase the risk of other coronaviruses among those who had been vaccinated for influenza by 36 percent. The study was conducted prior to COVID-19, so it’s not included and only applies to pre-existing coronaviruses. The study also found an even higher chance of contracting human metapneumovirus amongst those who had received the flu shot.

Below are some more studies regarding the flu shot and viral infections that hint to the same idea.

  • 2018 CDC study (Rikin et al 2018) found that flu shots increase the risk of non-flu acute respiratory illnesses (ARIs), including coronavirus, in children.
  • A 2011 Australian study (Kelly et al 2011) found that flu shots doubled the risk for non-flu viral lung infections.
  • 2012 Hong Kong study (Cowling et al 2012) found that flu shots increase the risk for non-flu respiratory infections by 4.4 times.
  • 2017 study (Mawson et al 2017) found vaccinated children were 5.9 times more likely to suffer pneumonia than their unvaccinated peers.

Why This Is Important: We live in an age where vaccinations are heavily marketed. We’ve seen this with the flu shot time and time again and we are also living in an age where a push for more mandated vaccines seems to be growing.

Dr. Peter Doshi is an associate editor at The BMJ (British Medical Journal) and also an assistant professor of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He published a paper in The BMJ titled “Influenza: Marketing Vaccines By Marketing Disease.”  In it,  he points out that the CDC pledges “to base all public health decisions on the highest quality of scientific data, openly and objectively derived,” and how this isn’t the case when it comes to the flu vaccine and its marketing. He stresses that “the vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and that “the threat of influenza seems to be overstated.”

This is a touchy subject that dives into medical ethics and the connections that big pharmaceutical companies have with our federal health regulatory agencies and health associations. Vaccines are a multi billion dollar industry.

At a recent World Health Organization conference on vaccine safety, it was expressed that vaccine hesitancy is growing at quite a fast pace, especially among doctors who are now becoming hesitant to recommend certain vaccines on the schedule. You can read more about that and find links to the conference here.

We have to ask ourselves, why is this happening? Is it because people and professionals are becoming aware of certain information that warrants the freedom of choice? Should freedom of choice with regards to what we put in our body always remain? Are we really protecting the “herd” by taking these actions?

In a 2014 analysis in the Oregon Law Review by New York University (NYU) legal scholars Mary Holland and Chase E. Zachary (who also has a Princeton-conferred doctorate in chemistry), the authors show that 60 years of compulsory vaccine policies “have not attained herd immunity for any childhood disease.” It is time, they suggest, to cast aside coercion in favor of voluntary choice.

When it comes to the flu shot, I put more information and science as to why so many people seem to refuse it, in this article if interested.

The University of California is currently being sued for mandating the flu shot for all staff, faculty and students. A judge has prevented them from doing so as a result until a decision has been made. You can read more about that here.

In South Korea, 48 people have now died after receiving the flu shot this season causing a lot of controversy. You can read more about that here.

The Takeaway: There are many concerns with vaccines, and vaccine injury is one of them. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act has paid more than $4 billion to families of vaccine injured children. A 2010 HHS pilot study by the Federal Agency for Health Care Research (AHCR) found that 1 in every 39 vaccines causes injury, a shocking comparison to the claims from the CDC of 1 in every million.

Should these statistics alone warrant the freedom of choice? Should the government have the ability to force us into measures, or would it simply be better for them to present the science, make recommendations and urge people to follow them? When the citizenry is forced and coerced into certain actions, sometimes under the guise of good-will, there always seems to be a tremendous amount of uproar and people who disagree. Why are these people silenced? Why are they censored? Why are they ridiculed? Why don’t independent health organizations receive the same voice and reach that government and state “owned” or organizations do? What’s going on here? Do we really live in a free, open and transparent world or are we simply subjected to massive amounts of perception manipulation?

When it come to the flu shot there is plenty of information on both sides of the coin that point to its effectiveness, and on the other hand there is information that points to the complete opposite. When something is not 100 percent clear, freedom of choice in all places should always remain, in my opinion.

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Some South Korean Doctors & Politicians Call To Stop Flu Shots After 48 People Die

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The number of South Koreans who have died after getting flu shots has risen to 48, but health authorities in South Korea have found no link between the vaccine and the deaths.

  • Reflect On:

    Is the flu shot as safe as it's marketed to be?

What Happened: It’s that time of year and flu shot programs are rolling out across the globe. The number of South Koreans who have died after getting the flu shot has now risen to 48 and some South Korean doctors and politicians have called to stop flu shots as a result, according to Reuters. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has decided not to stop the program, and that flu vaccines would continue to be given and will reduce the chance of having simultaneous epidemics in the era of COVID-19.

Health authorities in South Korea have explained that they’ve found no direct link between these deaths and the shots. KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyung said, “After reviewing death cases so far, it is not the time to suspend a flu vaccination programme since vaccination is very crucial this year, considering…the COVID-19 outbreaks.”

According to Reuters, “Some initial autopsy results from the police and the National Forensic Service showed that 13 people died of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and other disorders not caused by the vaccination.”

The South Korean government is hopeful to vaccinate approximately 30 million of the country’s 54 million people.

Concerns Some People Have With The Flu Shot: One concern many people seem to have is the worry of a severe adverse reaction.

Dr. Alvin Moss, MD and professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine emphasizes in this video:

The flu vaccine happens to be the vaccine that causes the most injury in this country. The vaccine injury compensation program, 40 percent of all vaccinations in this country are flu shots, but 60 percent of all the compensations are for the flu vaccine. So a disproportionate number of  vaccine related injuries are the flu shot.

Moss is one of many who believe that the flu vaccine is not as effective as it’s been marketed to be. For example,  A study recently published in Global Advances In Health & Medicine titled “Ascorbate as Prophylaxis and Therapy for COVID-19—Update From Shanghai and U.S. Medical Institutions outlines the following:

Recently outlined A recent consensus statement from a group of renowned infectious disease clinicians observed that vaccine programs have proven ill-suited to the fast-changing viruses underlying these illnesses, with efficacy ranging from 19% to 54% in the past few years.

Dr. Peter Doshi is an associate editor at The BMJ (British Medical Journal)  published a paper in The BMJ titled “Influenza: Marketing Vaccines By Marketing Disease.”  In it,  he points out that the CDC pledges “to base all public health decisions on the highest quality of scientific data, openly and objectively derived,” and how this isn’t the case when it comes to the flu vaccine and its marketing. He stresses that “the vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and that “the threat of influenza seems to be overstated.”

These are just a few examples out of many claiming that the flu shot has not really been effective, opposing others that claim it is.  Mercury that’s still present in some flu shots also seems to be a concern.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act has paid more than $4 billion to families of vaccine injured children. A 2010 HHS pilot study by the Federal Agency for Health Care Research (AHCR) found that 1 in every 39 vaccines causes injury, a shocking comparison to the claims from the CDC of 1 in every million.

Professor Heidi Larson, a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project stated at a World Health Organization (WHO) conference that more doctors are starting to be hesitant when it comes to recommending vaccines.

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers, we have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen… still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider…

This is no secret, and actions against mandates are being taken. The University of California was recently sued for making the flu shot mandatory. That trial will begin soon, and you can read more about it here, and find information regarding the claim that the flu shot can help in the times of COVID-19.

The Takeaway: We are living in an age of extreme censorship of information, no matter how credible or how much evidence is provided, information that goes against the grain always seems to receive a harsh backlash from mainstream media as well as social media outlets. Why is there a digital fact checker patrolling the internet? Should people not have the right to examine information openly and freely and determine for themselves what is and what isn’t?

As far as vaccines are concerned, despite the fact that there are many safety issues the scientific community  is bringing up, a push for vaccine mandates continues and the idea that we are protecting other people is usually the narrative that’s pushed hard. Vaccine skepticism is growing at a fast pace among people of all professions, and people aren’t stupid. There’s a reason why more and more people are starting to question what we’ve been told for years, and those reasons should be acknowledged and openly discussed amongst people on both sides of the coin.

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