Does Psychiatry Have a Split Personality?
Medicine based on the application of the principles of the natural sciences and especially biology and biochemistry
Robert Epstein: Depression is an abnormal mood state that has many elements to it. One of the obvious ones is that you feel kind of down and you feel sad, but there are other possible elements. For example, you could have a problem with your appetite, either eating very little or maybe overeating. You might have a problem sleeping. There are many different possible elements to depression, but fundamentally, it's a lower mood state; it's a state of real sadness.
Robert Epstein: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who, I hope, know a lot about medicine because they got the M.D., who then go on and specialize in psychology. So they tend to know a little less about psychology, but I mean, that's a specialty they've gone into, just like you could be an M.D. and specialize in cardiology. Psychologists are people who have extensive training in psychology and have virtually no training at all in medicine.
How Does Basic Science Defend America?
Scientific research that deals with general principles often fundamental principles rather than practical application . Of or relating to essential structure, function, or facts.
Scientific research to explore an interesting fact of nature often done solely for the exploration, the elegance, or the beauty of the discovery. Research not directed toward the exposition of reality or solution of practical problems.
Scientific research put to practical use, such as the technology of lasers being applied to the making of CD's, fax machines and xerox machines.
Who Gets to Validate Alternative Medicine?
Hyla Cass: Alternative medicine, until now, has been defined as those modalities that are outside of the purview of conventional medicine. So acupuncture, homeopathy, guided imagery, mind-body medicine--those are all considered alternative and it's kind of a funny term because I don't think they should be alternative. I think it's just part of medicine. It happened to have been omitted, lost from the medical schools, but I think what we really need to practice is everything. And that doesn't mean, by the way, that everybody should do everything. I don't do acupuncture. I don't do homeopathy, but I want to have access to those practitioners who do, so I can refer my patients and feel comfortable sending them to people that I know are practicing a high standard in those areas.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The official term used by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to describe everything that's outside of standard medicine.
Popular term denoting the kind of medicine practiced by a physician who uses the best from standard medicine and the best from alternative medicine. The controversial aspect of this nomenclature is that how does the practitioner know what's "best" if not all treatments have been scientifically tested?
Dan Labriola: Naturopathic medicine is a primary healthcare provider profession whose motto is Vis Medicatrix Naturae, which is helping nature heal. Our underlying fundamental approach to health care is to support and provide for the body's natural healing power rather than trying to simply do interventions.
William Jarvis: Anecdotal evidence is anything based on personal experience, regardless or how convincing it is. Scientific evidence is something that has an objective basis that can be repeated again and again under the same circumstances, versus the subjective experience that felt good at the time, seemed to be okay, but for some reason, it just doesn't seem to happen again.
Is Consciousness Definable?
Christof Koch: It's a bit difficult to rigorously define consciousness. Right now I'm conscious. You're conscious. You're looking at me. You can attend to my voice. I assume you're conscious. But to really, you know, define it in the very formal ways, always impossible.
There are always exceptions involving, you know, sleep walking and dreaming and near-death experiences and all those things. So I think right now it's not terribly fruitful to try to define it in a more rigorous way. When you take an awake subject and the subject behaves appropriately, unless there's some reason to suspect that the patient is in some special state, I think it's reasonable to assume that the patient, or the subject, is conscious.
Stuart Hameroff: I think consciousness is a specific, physical process, a particular type of collapse of the wave function that gives rise to experience, perception, and choice-our inner life of experience. So I think it's a real process, a real physical process. It's impossible to observe. I can't really tell that you're conscious, that you're not a zombie, just like I can't absolutely tell that my patients are unconscious during anesthesia. I assume they are, and everything tells me that they are, but there's no real way to tell because I couldn't tell that they were conscious in the first place.
Consciousness is unobservable, and it's very much like a quantum system, which is unobservable, because if you interact with it, it changes it. So I think consciousness is an isolated set of quantum state collapses going on in the brain.
Leslie Brothers: How can you tell the difference between believing that you're conscious and really being conscious. Now, if I believe I'm playing the game of Monopoly, and I'm playing it, I'm playing it. You know? There's no difference between believing that you are and being it. And I say if there's no way to tell the difference between believing that you're conscious and being conscious, then what's being conscious? It might just be believing that you're conscious. It's an illusion that creates its own reality.
Joe Bogen: When we say we want to try to explain consciousness, we mean in terms of the kind of stuff that you can see, you know, wires and juices and stuff like that. If you want to explain consciousness the way a lot of people talk about it, which involves all kinds of cognitive stuff and how you generate abstract ideas and et cetera, now you're just creating a much bigger problem.
What we want to explain is that little crucial core of what almost everybody is talking about. No matter how complicated their concept of consciousness is they almost always include what I'm talking about, that's just this little kernel in here, you see, of subjectivity. But to explain that is not going to be nearly so hard as trying to explain all this other stuff that everybody wants to talk about when they use the word consciousness. So if you're restricted to that then I don't think it's an unreasonable ambition.
Joe Bogen: Perception is used differently by different people. For example, Professor Koch here at Caltech, who is the most prominent person here with respect to consciousness, when he says perception he means a neuronal activity pattern that you're conscious of. A lot of people, on the other hand, would say that a percept is a neuronal representation in brain of some outside information gathered by a sensory organ, like your eye or your ear. So what happens when there's a scene out there, you're going to have in your head a whole bunch of nerve cell activity that corresponds to that scene. I mean, a lot of that you're not conscious of. I make myself deliberately become conscious of this lampshade way over here in the edge of my vision, which I was not conscious of, until I started to talk about this subject.
Whether you apply the word perception, to forming this pattern of nerve cell activity that corresponds to the scene, or whether you want to restrict it to the patterns of which you're conscious, that's just a question of how you want to use the word. And I prefer to use the word differently than Christof Koch does. I think that I have perceptions of which I am not conscious.
Sensations, flavors, emotions, feelings. A property (like redness) as it is experienced as distinct from any source it might have in the physical world.
Joe Bogen: Dreaming is consciousness that is a stream of qualia,, thoughts, perceptions and so on, which are not accompanied by activity. Action has been somehow cut off. That is, the impulses to do the action are probably coming down out of your head, but there's something in the brainstem that inhibits all that. Occasionally, it fails and then you see people, you know, walking around, or you see dogs, you know, look like they're running in their sleep, but most of the time there's no output, and it's almost independent of input.
So here you have a stream of consciousness which doesn't depend on what's going on around you very much, although we know that what people dream about seems to depend on whether they're cold or there's water dripping someplace or stuff like that. But the main thing about dreaming is that it's consciousness without the usual output or input.
FUNCTIONAL BRAIN IMAGING
Christof Koch: For the public at large, it's a development of functional brain imaging that I can now take any subject, normal subject, put them in a normal scanner; ask him to, let's see, look at a colorful picture; and ask him to look at the same picture, black and white; and then I can look at the difference in the brain states and that allows me to look at, specifically in this example, the parts of the brain that are active when the person perceives color.
Is the Universe Full of Life?
Astrobiology is the study of life in the universe. It provides a biological perspective to many areas and links such endeavors as the search for habitable planets, exploration missions to Mars and Europa, and efforts to understand the origin of the universe.
Neil de Grasse Tyson: We know from basic optics that the bigger is your telescope the more the resolution you have when observing some object in the cosmos and resolution is simply your ability to determine detail. When I first looked at the moon through binoculars, I had more resolution through the binoculars than I had with my unaided eye because I was able to see more detail. The bigger the telescope, the bigger is your resolution and you need this if you want to, for example, see structure on the surface of a planet that's otherwise too small to notice. You want as big a telescope as you possibly you can. Here's the problem, big telescope mirrors or lenses are unrealistic, but you can cheat and the way you cheat is you say all right I'm not going to make a telescope mirror this size, I'm going to make a smaller telescope, plant it here and make another small telescope and plant it here. Simulating the diameter of a larger telescope that's that size and in so doing, I take the light that came to this telescope and the light that came that one and combine them in such a way that you're image thinks it came through a telescope mirror that's the size of the entire area and so when you do this, you have simulated a larger telescope and the way you bring together those signals is called interferometry.
GAMMA RAY BURSTS
Shri Kulkarni: I study these objects quite a bit. Gamma ray bursts are events that roughly take place a few times a day. They're bursts in gamma rays and we now believe they come from great distances. You won't see them on Earth at sea level but if you go up in space, and you have any instrument which can sense gamma rays, they're very, very bright events. It doesn't take much to see a gamma ray burst at all.
Shri Kulkarni: The best definition of a spectrum is in one from Newton's work. He has light rays coming on to a prism and you get a nice rainbow. So a spectrum is basically splitting the light into its constituent fluxes and that tells you some detailed information about what that light is made up of.
Can Religion Withstand Technology?
Donald Miller: Well, fundamentalism is one of those really sticky words, which if we just think of it conceptually, it often times refers to some reaction by a group of people who are being left out of the march of progress. And people often times idealize a golden age that they want to return to. And typically this golden age is something where they fantasize there were religious absolutes, where people were more moral, more pure, less adulteress and so forth. And so I think we have to be very careful about this sort of mythical use of religion and fundamentalism in that sense often times is a flight from modernity.
Muzaffar Iqbal: In every religious tradition, there is what we call the normative tradition, the norm. In the case of Islam we fortunately have throughout the centuries, the two primary sources which are living sources, the Koran and the practice of the prophet Mohammed. These resources have never gone into oblivion. They have always been living sources. And there is a huge amount of literature on what constitutes the normality practice of Islam. So those people who are extremist and who claim to be following the norm of Islam, the onus is on them to explain how they justify their position in the face of 1,400 years of scholarship that has very clearly defined ways of revolution, for example, when the foreign enemy has attacked, the ways of behavior in every single situation. So it's not just my position that differentiates what defines the norm. It's the living sources of Islam themselves. As I said, the concept of being a martyred religion, the concept of being the middle heart is so deeply embedded in the very normal acceptation of the tradition.
Donald Miller: Well the term fundamentalism was born in the early part of the 20th century. I think it was actually coined about 1920. But technically it comes out of a response of some Christians to a modernizing influence of theologians who wanted to look at scripture in more critical historical ways. I do think there's a sense in which we're getting more polarization among peoples, whether it be among Jews, Christians, Muslims, or even Buddhists. And in that sense we probably are having more backlash effects. And I would predict that that probably will continue and an argument has been made, which I actually agree with, that there are probably greater similarities between liberal protestants, liberal Catholics, liberal Jews, liberal Muslims, then there are on the flipside of with Christians who are fundamentalists or Christians who are liberal or Jews who are liberal or Jews that in one way or another are more conservative.
SOCIAL SCIENCE & RELIGION
Don Miller: I'm a sociologist of religion and have done a number of different projects that look at the social science side of religion, much more than the theological side. So I'm fond of saying that I don't really examine the issue of truth, but instead people's perception of truth or what is true for them.
Michael Shermer: a skeptic is somebody who is a scientist. It's somebody from Missouri who says, "show me. That's nice. Show me the evidence. How do you know this is true?" We're basically asking questions about quality of the evidence. The source of the claim. How your belief system came about. And really this is just science. Skepticism is literally thoughtful inquiry. That's the original meaning. And the kind of thoughtful inquiry that's most effective today is the scientific method.
Michael Shermer: Scientism is a world view that takes the empirical methods of science seriously, that attempts natural explanations for all phenomenon, does not turn to supernatural or superstitious explanations. and most importantly, is open minded and flexible to changing answers to questions because science is always changing.
Testing New Drugs: Are People Guinea Pigs?
Alexander Capron: Informed consent is--there are two ways of looking at it. The original way it arose was as an obligation of disclosure on physicians. In the second view, informed consent doesn't refer to the obligation of the researcher but rather sort of a more subjective state of mind of the subject or the patient, that they have an understanding, that they have become informed before they consent. The former is certainly realizable and the emphasis there is on the obligation, the duty, to make a disclosure which is understandable. The latter may be realized or may not be, and it would obviously vary person to person. For both of them, of course, the emphasis should not be on the piece of paper. And sometimes we have a form that says "Informed Consent" at the top and you have a signature, you say, "That's the informed consent." No, that is you could say, sort of a memorandum, a recording of what should have been a process, of which this piece of paper is only one part.
A discipline dealing with the ethical implications of biological research and applications especially in medicine.
The use or operation of a computer in simulating theoretical or existing conditions. For example, "dry testing" of drugs by supercomputer simulations, or simulating the human brain to run experiments that can't be tried on a human being.
Refers to the time period after the 28th week of gestation and ending the first week after birth. Some sources extend the perinatal period until the fourth week after birth.
Robert Temple: Well, morbidity means illness of some kind. The term we use in our ethical discussion is "irreversible morbidity." You know, you go blind, you have a stroke, you have an amputation -- something that doesn't go away , it doesn't kill you -- mortality would kill you. There are other morbidities. Being depressed is a morbidity, but that goes away.