10 Nov

Horatio’s back

I suspect some malign power has slipped something into our drinking water to turn us all stupid. Just cast your eyes over the following report:

Swiss researchers carried out an experiment to make artificial ‘ghosts’ They were investigating why some people feel a ‘creepy presence’ And in the research they found it was just a trick of the brain  The sensation was re-created by researchers using a robot to interfere with the sensory signals in the brains of blindfolded volunteers. The illusion came from a programmed delay between the brain’s processing of the body’s movements

“This confirms that it is caused by an altered perception of their own bodies in the brain,” said Professor Olaf Blanke.

No it doesn’t, Professor Blanke.

The fact that scientists can replicate artificially the experience of those reporting to have seen a ghost no more disproves the reality of ghosts than the artificial creation of the sensation of eating pork pie and mushy peas disproves the existence of real pies and peas.

The mistake is the confusion of ontology with neurology.

All our experiences take place in our brains, from the view of Mont Blanc to our acute dislike of Strictly Come Dancing. The relation between what takes place in the brain and what is out there – if there is anything out there, or even if there is an out there – is one of the most abiding problems of philosophy. And Professor Blanke and his mates have not solved it.

Please don’t compound the mistake by assuming that I’m arguing for the existence of ghosts. I’m not. I’m merely stating what ought to be obvious, even to neuroscientists and all materialists: that my (and your) neural activity neither explains nor explains away what actually is or might be.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.