Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Fantasy Tales of the Left Brain

“What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.” ―Roger Wolcott Sperry who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the dual brain.

It is a very common position among UFO researchers that research should precede with intelligence,
analysis, knowledge, comprehension, three-dimensional thinking, judgment, reasoning, and the five senses of reason. All the attributes listed are attributes of the ego dominated left brain. This research position has rarely if ever been challenged, despite the fact that it has failed to produce any answers.

On the face of it the notion seems like a reasonable method to solving the UFO riddle, but left brain research into new ideas has a serious drawback. The drawback has to do with the left brain’s ability and tendency to weave together stories to fill in gaps when there is an unknown or the data does not support the thinkers strongly held paradigm. In other words the left brain has a built in ability and tendency to bullshit. Researchers using a strictly left brain approach become victims of the biology of their left brain.

The work on the different attributes and drawbacks between the left and right brain are fairly well established by Dr. Roger Sperry who pioneered the “two brains in the brain” theory and was awarded a Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1981.

The best description of the differences in the two hemispheres may have been provided by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who was a Harvard trained neuroanatomist, the youngest board member ever elected to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the driving force behind the Harvard Brain Bank, and named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008.

The advantage of Dr. Taylor opinion of the left right brain issue is that in 1996 she experienced a left brain hemorrhage that after four hours had completely shut down her left brain and cast her into the world of the right brain where she remained for five weeks before the left brain began to come back on line. Taylor is therefore talking about the issue not as a second hand doctor listening to others or trying to interpret brain functions based on experiments with rats in a laboratory. Taylor was an experiencer who carefully documented her experience in a book called “My Stroke of Insight” after she had recovered.

In speaking of her insights into the left brain she wrote,

One of the most prominent characteristics of our left brain is its ability to weave stories. This story-teller portion of our left mind’s language center is specifically designed to make sense of the world outside of us, based upon minimal amounts of information. It functions by taking whatever details it has to work with, then weaves them together in the form of a story. Most impressively, our left brain is brilliant in its ability to make stuff up, and fill in the blanks when there are gaps in its factual data. In addition, during its process of generating a story line, our left brain is quite the genius in its ability to manufacture alternate scenarios. And if it is a subject you really feel passionate about, either good or awful, it’s particularly effective at hooking into those circuits of emotion and exhausting all the “what if” possibilities.

As my left brain language centers recovered and became functional again, I spent a lot of time observing how my story-teller would draw conclusions based upon minimal information. For the longest time I found these antics of my story-teller to be rather comical. At least I realized that my left brain full-heartedly expected the rest of my brain to believe the stories it was making up…I need to remember, however, that there are enormous gaps between what I know and what I think I know. I learned that I have to be very wary of my story-teller’s potential for stirring up drama and trauma.[1]

This first hand expert testimony is backed up by other researchers who have done work with split brain patients where the connection between the left and right brain has been cut to treat epilepsy. Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Who's in Charge? has identified the story teller in the left brain described by Taylor from her firsthand experience. Gazzaniga called the storyteller 'the Interpreter,' and stated that it is a very powerful force in the human condition. According to Gazzaniga the interpreter jumps in to make sense of memories, when it has no direct access to those memories or the context in which they were made. It does this to create coherence.

The Taylor also spoke of the right brain where she had weeks to experience without any input from the left brain,

The right brain is open to new possibilities and thinks out of the box. It is not limited by the rules and regulations established by my left brain that created that box. Consequently, my right brain is highly creative in its willingness to try something new. It appreciates that chaos is the first step in the creative process. It is kinesthetic, agile, and loves my body’s ability to move fluidly into the world…it understands that we are all connected to one another in an integrate fabric of the cosmos, and it enthusiastically marches to the beat of its own drum.[2]

The left brain approach to research has led to an unchanging left brain paradigm of separation and individuality as opposed to Oneness. The left brain believes in a world where nothing beyond the random physical world exists. It is a world of the conscious mind as opposed to the unconscious mind. It is argumentative, needs to be right and is unchanging. Therefore when faced with a new paradigm such as UFOs,  the left brain begins to do what it does very well; create stories to fill the gaps and maintain the paradigm of a random physical universe.

·         In the UFO field left brainers at the CIA advanced theories such as the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes explain the UFOs of the 1950s and 1960s. “They weren’t UFOs: They were us and our spy planes.” This is simply the left brain story weaving. There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea but the left brain has to fill in the blanks.

·         There have been many reports that were written off by government officials claiming a UFO sighting was swamp gas, a plane, or a weather balloon.

·         Look at the stories that surround the great Roswell UFO crash of 1947. It was identified as a weather balloon with no evidence to back it up. Then it became a Mogel balloon flight launched in secret to monitor possible Soviet nuclear tests. It really didn’t matter that there was no flight on the day the story says it was launched. When President Clinton challenged the Air Force  to explain the reports of the alien body reports that were circulating by Roswell witnesses, the Air Force investigators came up with the story that six-foot wooden dummies dressed in Air Force uniforms in 1953 were the cause for 1947 Roswell witnesses reporting they saw four foot gray aliens.

·         Skeptical investigators in the Rendlesham UFO case, where numerous UFOs were being sighted in the sky and on the ground, came up with the explanation that witnesses must have been watching a near-by lighthouse.

·         In 1952 numerous overflights witnessed by eye and by radar over the White House were explainable by a weather inversion.

·         Left brained rational skeptics like Carl Sagan, Donald Menzel, Michael Shermer, Phil Klass, and James Oberg have been very vocal in providing alternate storylines for UFO sightings, and making the point that the evidence fails to match up with evidence required by rational thinking scientists.

These examples are not surprising as they either involve government officials who are protecting classified material or don’t want to put the government into a position where they will be forced to spend billions of dollars on a mystery where others such as the Russians and Chinese will simply sit back and gather what is learned to add to their classified investigations into the phenomena, or the explanations were put out by left brained skeptics who were prepared to fill every gap in their materialistic view of the world challenged by paranormal reports. As a scientist and vice-president of Hewlett-Packard commented to Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ after he saw a paper they had written on remote viewing in the IEEE, “This is the kind of thing I wouldn’t believe, even if were true!”[3]

What is a mystery is the number of researchers and UFO groups that approach the UFO mystery in a strictly left brain approach and end up falling into the trap of the left brain which operates on what Taylor described as “minimal amounts of information” and “functions by taking whatever details it has to work with, then weaves them together in the form of a story. Most impressively, our left brain is brilliant in its ability to make stuff up.” Consider these examples keeping in mind that the USAF UFO investigation called Project Blue Book had 22% of all cases it investigated as unknowns.

·         UFO skeptic Michael Shermer highlighted the problem in an article on UFOs he did in Scientific America. He stated speaking of the book put out by UFO researcher Leslie Kean, “According to Kean, ‘roughly 90 to 95 percent of UFO sightings can be explained’ as ‘weather balloons, flares, sky lanterns, planes flying in formation, secret military aircraft, birds reflecting the sun, planes reflecting the sun, blimps, helicopters, the planet Venus or Mars, meteors or meteorites, space junk, satellites, sundogs, ball lightning, ice crystals, reflected light off clouds, lights on the ground or lights reflected on a cockpit window,” and more. So the entire extraterrestrial hypothesis is based on the residue of data after the above list has been exhausted. What’s left? Not much.”

Like many researchers, Kean approaches the UFO mystery with a left brain approach to investigation. She invites researchers to approach the evidence “from the perspective of an agnostic – objectively, with an open and truly skeptical mind.”[4]  The approach is scientific in hopes that science will take note and start to take the subject seriously, even though only 4% of scientists in the National Academy of Sciences believe in any paranormal phenomena. It is hoped that when hard line left brained scientists admit they were wrong UFO research will no longer be the Rodney Dangerfield of subjects. The left brain however uses this desire to fit in, with the left brain world which garners the respect in the modern world, to its advantage.  Needing to be skeptical Kean arrived at a figure where up to 95% are explained as something other than paranormal. (This is 4x as skeptical as the official government report). The 95% figure is totally unsupported by anything more than guessing at what each sighting is. The whole process becomes the left brain storytelling to fill in the gaps in knowledge, or as Taylor described it, “to make sense of the world outside of us, based upon minimal amounts of information; it (left brain) functions by taking whatever details it has to work with, then weaves them together in the form of a story.” Kean is not the only researcher that uses this very conservative high number for sightings that can be explained as prosaic.

·         Another example is UFO reporting segments run on many of the UFO podcasts. People like to hear about sightings so in many cases there are a few minutes set up at the beginning of the show to talk about the latest UFO sightings. Because these hosts want to be accepted by the left brain skeptical scientists who have no intention of even listening to the evidence, they portray their approach as using intelligence, analysis, knowledge, comprehension, three-dimensional

thinking, judgment, reasoning, and the five senses of reason. By using this approach their left brain feels that it has to fill in the gaps and makes up stories that do great damage. Podcasters will say without even doing an investigation “that sounds like a Chinese lantern to me” or some other off the cuff thought. The witness is left to feel like an idiot for reporting it.

This attribute of the left brain leads to some interesting new observations.

·         When it comes to the reports made by UFO witnesses, people reporting ghost or mystical experiences, psychics, energy/faith healers the general rule has been that there will be a lot of deception and that such reports should therefore be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. The evidence seems to point to the fact that the person investigating the case of sighting is much more likely to “make stuff up, and fill in the blanks when there are gaps in its factual data.” It is the investigator and not the witness that must be watched carefully due to this biological left brain deficiency.

·         When skeptics attach UFO cases explaining them as some bizarre explanation that makes no sense, we can now observe that this is part of the process. They are simply the victim of the left brain that has storytelling as part of the process of rationalization and analysis.

·         In many cases UFO podcasters have become the death knell of the UFO sighting report. The number one reason people don’t report UFO sightings is not because they think the government will come after them, or that the media will not cover it. The reason they don’t report is that they fear ridicule from people they know are just guessing or being skeptical and know nothing about what they saw.

·         Roger Sperry pointed out in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the research of the two side of the brain vindicates the importance of experience in the modern scientific dominated world. “The whole world of inner experience,” he stated, “long rejected by 20th-century scientific materialism, thus becomes recognized and included within the domain of science.”

·         Finally, because the main way the UFO mystery is studied is through the scientific method, we must remember that science is very left brained relying on analysis and rational thought. Therefore, it uses a lot of storytelling to explain reality. When there are gaps in the story it comes up with things like black holes, parallel universes, dark energy, dark matter and a whole host of other fictional characters. In addition it creates words that fill in for gaps in knowledge such as placebo, singularity, hallucination, nature, genetic memory, and instinct. The biggest of these fictional characters is the famous “laws of physics” or “laws of science.” Steven Hawking famously used the phrase when stating that a concept of God was not necessary. “What I have done,” wrote Hawking, “is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science.”

This however raises the obvious question about this left brain storytelling. Who is this fictional character called the laws of science? It sounds like a group of super heroes, or like the millions of Hindu Gods. There is the scientific God of gravity, the God of electromagnetics, the God of Conservations and Symmetry, the God of quantum mechanics, the God of Thermodynamics, and on and on. 

The storyteller might be challenged to answer some God questions about the story of the laws? For example - Who is the law of gravity? Where and when was he born? Where did he get his power? How does he communicate his law to the Universe? Why does the Universe have to obey him? How does he enforce his law? If he is eternal does he ever wonder where he came from? Does he wear a cape?

The answer is that none of the thousands of laws have a known origin? There is no answer as to why the law is conveyed or obeyed in all part of the Universe. The laws are just descriptions of some aspect of reality. They are like describing the story of Moses dividing the Red Sea – long on description but devoid of an answer as to how the trick is done.

They are simply stories that are used to fill the gaps of ignorance told by the guy with the gift of the gab that shows up at every cocktail party. They do not explain the mystery and  must be kept in perspective for what they really are – stories.

[1] Jill Bolte Taylor. “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey,” Gale Cengage Learning 2006, p. 229.
[2] Ibid p. 225.
[3] Russell Targ and Jane Katra, “Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing,” P. 38.
[4] Leslie Kean, “UFOs:Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record,” Crown Publishing, 2010, P.13.

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