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Your Paracast Newsletter — July 5, 2020

Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
The Paracast Newsletter
July 5, 2020

Explore Monster Legends Through History with "Dr. Z" on The Paracast!

The Paracast is heard Sundays from 3:00 AM until 6:00 AM Central Time on the GCN Radio Network and affiliates around the USA, the Boost Radio Network, the IRN Internet Radio Network, and online across the globe via download and on-demand streaming.

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This Week's Episode: Gene and Randall present Dr. Emily Zarka (a.k.a. Dr. "Z"), who writes for and hosts for "Monstrum," an online series from PBS's Storied channel on YouTube that looks at complex histories and motivations behind some of the world's most famous monsters. The discussion covers strange creatures throughout history including the modern era, such as Mothman. She also discloses her own paranormal encounters. Emily's teaching experience includes literature, composition, film and media, and humanities classes. She is part of the faculties of both Arizona State University and Mesa Community College.

J. Randall Murphy's Ufology Society International: Ufology Society International (USI) - Explore the UFO Phenomenon

Dr. Emily Zarka's Site: HOME | emilyelizabethzarka

After The Paracast -- Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on July 5: Gene and Randall focus on trivia and pop culture in this special color commentary episode. You'll hear Gene explain how monster movies and magazines about monster movies combined to direct Gene, as a teenager, to his career as a radio talk show host. And will any of the recorded interviews of personalities in the UFO field, which Gene did decades before The Paracast debuted, ever be found? The focus also movies to two versions of World UFO Day and whether each has any significance. Randall presents stories about UFO sightings of hundreds of years ago that, in many respects, mimic the characteristics of sightings from the modern UFO era. And there's also a bit of music trivia.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Check out our new YouTube channel at: The Official Paracast Channel

Meaningful Questions
By J. Randall Murphy

Most of us at some point or another have been asked, "How are you?" and we simply respond with something like, "I'm okay. How about you?" But if we want to answer that question with more than a superficial response, it's not as easy as we might imagine. This is because no matter what answer we give, another "how type" question can always be asked about that until we are left wondering what the question was really about in the first place.

For example, we might assume that how we win a race only requires that we run faster than our opponent. Superficially this is true. However Achilles paradox reveals that if we give a turtle a head start, logically it should always win. Worse yet, it reveals that movement should be impossible and therefore must be some kind of illusion. Yet movement happens anyway, and running faster explains nothing about how to actually do that.

The mind-body problem and the hard problem of consciousness are philosophical examples of "Explain How" and "Explain Why" type questions that lead us down a similar rabbit hole. They may seem profound, but are only useful to the extent that they get us thinking about the situation with minds and bodies. A more useful activity than dwelling on how or why type questions would be to describe as best we can the situations they pertain to.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that observation is of primary importance in the scientific method. Without observation we cannot describe what it is we're attempting to understand. We might be tempted to say that not everything that is scientific can be observed, but we need to remember that observation is essentially a convenience term for detection. It doesn't literally mean you have to see it with your eyes.

The problem with consciousness is that although we experience it subjectively, we have yet to find a way to objectively detect it. Presently we’re left to assume that consciousness is something other people, and probably many animals experience. But we cannot be certain, and this uncertainty has left many a philosopher stuck in a cycle of how and why questions, rather than advancing research toward a consciousness detector.

The main players in the search for a consciousness detector are neuroscientists, and one thing that they and the rest of us who experience consciousness can be reasonably certain of, is that our brain is a consciousness detector. It is the only tool in the known universe that we know of that is able to detect consciousness.

Therefore it's no wonder that those interested in the science of consciousness are those who are focusing on the brain. The only problem with the brain-based approach is being able to establish independent verification. For example a patient may claim that they are experiencing consciousness, but doctors have no independently objective way to confirm that.

In this effort, it makes no difference whether or not the brain is the cause of consciousness. Once we can describe in detail the situation with brains that detects consciousness, we'll be halfway to determining if it is also causal.

It may be the case that the brain isn't causal, but happens to always correlate with consciousness. At first this may seem all too convenient a rule for the universe to impart. However it may not be the case that it is a rule so much as the result of a particular kind of situation that happens when brains and consciousness are in the same space. Consider the following analogy between a brain and a water condenser:

A water condenser doesn't cause or create water. It doesn't in and of itself even change much while it is working. But the result is that water comes out of it. Now let's suppose we had never encountered water before and don't know about water vapor. Liquid water emerging from a water condenser might seem to be like some mysterious ectoplasm, with the condenser as the cause.

I'm not saying here that consciousness exists in some ethereal state that brains are able to condense into awareness, but it might be something analogous to that. In other words, maybe brains aren't causing consciousness. Maybe they're filtering consciousness out of the environment, and only those environments where this filtering can happen are where such brains can naturally evolve.

I have not seen this concept proposed anyplace else. If you (the reader) run across an identical approach by someone else published prior to this article, please let me know. In the meantime, for convenience sake I'll refer to it as the Neuro-Filtering Hypothesis (NFH). It is not a classical materialist approach. It is not a panpsychist approach. Nor is it a phenomenological approach. It doesn't seem to fit any existing model.

The NFH is what I would call a neo-physicalist approach. It is an example that avoids "How" or "Why" type questions. Instead, it provides a framework for describing a possible situation that may help us identify meaningful relationships between consciousness and the rest of the environment. In my opinion, as an armchair philosopher, this might offer passage to the next level in the game.

Until then, don't think too hard about the response you are going to give next time someone asks, "How are you?" or you may find yourself tempted to step through a looking glass, enter a wardrobe, or crawl down a rabbit hole. If you don't want to use a mundane reply, here are three alternatives you might want to try, compliments of Lewis Carroll:

We're all mad here!

Curiouser and curiouser!

Ah, that's the great puzzle!

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