• niedziela, 22 października 2017 r.

The new science of out of body experiences. Susan Blackmore


At its worst, scepticism is just debunking – showing other people that their explanations for apparently mysterious phenomena are wrong; at its best scepticism rejects such wrong explanations not by debunking but by providing better ones. Recent research on out-of-body experiences (OBEs) is a great example of the latter. In 2002, Swiss neurosurgeon Olaf Blanke accidentally induced an OBE by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in a patient with epilepsy, and since then research has leapt ahead. This brain area constructs our body schema: a detailed and constantly updated model of our body oriented in space, and contributes to three aspects of self-modelling – our point of view, sense of embodiment and ownership. These have been independently manipulated using virtual reality to induce full body illusions that share many features of naturally occurring OBEs. At last the OBE has gone from being a weird, fringe topic loved by the media but shunned by serious scientists and philosophers, to one that is actively contributing to our understanding of the nature of self and consciousness. This is an example of how scepticism can be of positive use to people who have strange experiences and want to understand them.

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