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A Note on Science and NDE
(A scientific model why memory aka consciousness cannot reside solely in the brain)

A Note on Science and NDE, By Simon Berkovich, Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at the George Washington University.*

Below is an introductory discussion of more theoretical papers exploring the idea that DNA information in living organisms is not complex enough to explain the quantity and diversity of information processed in and by the organism as a whole, and by the brain in particular.

Instead, it is postulated that the DNA information serves as a unique identification key for a given organism, like a "barcode."  As such, the brain is merely a transmitter and receiver of information, but not the main place for storage or processing of information (i.e. memories) http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0111093.  (see also http://www.seas.gwu.edu/~berkov/Theory.htm http://www.seas.gwu.edu/~berkov/Experiment.htm)

The idea that Life and Mind processing of information involve activities beyond ponder able matter flourished in the nineteenth century with the development of the aether theory.  In the widely acclaimed book of 1873, "The Unseen Universe," Stewart and Tait wrote:

"We attempt to show that we are absolutely driven by scientific principles to acknowledge the existence of an Unseen Universe, and by scientific analogy to conclude that it is full of life and intelligence - that it is in fact a spiritual universe and not a dead one."

In the twentieth century, the paradigm shift of science has focused on relativity, such that the idea of aether has been abandoned.  However, relativity has two interpretations.  The most commonly quoted is Einstein, who states that the absolute frame of reference does not exist. Alternatively, according to Lorentz and Poincare, the absolute frame of reference does exist but is undetectable[1].  Although this may seem like a scholastic exercise in distinguishing between something that does not exist and something that exists but is undetectable.  This is a pivotal point in the advancement of the knowledge about life.  

For physics, adhering to either of these interpretations is inconsequential. For biology, on the other hand, there are large consequences depending on which view of relativity is espoused - particularly regarding attributes of the informational infrastructure of the physical world.  

The current scientific picture of the world hangs on the assumption that life is merely a result of complex transformations of molecular structures. Under this scientific assumption, many biological phenomena including the near death experience should not exist.  What is missing, in this assumption, is that the functioning of living systems has little to do with physics and chemistry.  Primarily, it is a problem of organization of information control.  For instance, if a living system is governed by an information processing mechanism, it must follow regular principles of organization of information - particularly, when this stipulation relates to the brain.  

Why should a biological organism go along with the laws of physics and be exempt from obeying the fundamental requirements of information processing?  These requirements are unquestionable.  But biological science usually avoids looking at informational processing on an engineering level since the needs of information processing cannot be satisfied by using conventional physics. In other words, the current scientific paradigm for biological organisms can not sustain a routine engineering analysis used by the methodology of information systems design.  

Biological information processing must comply with "the basic law of requisite variety" which states that achieving of appropriate selection "is absolutely dependent on the processing of at least that quantity of information." Any biological work on information processing must respect this law, "or be marked as futile even before it has been started." [2]  

The observed diversification regarding the biology of life and mind cannot account for the physical limitations of brain structure.  The amount of information in the human genome - about 30,000 genes - is supposed to be the "blueprint" of human development.  In the digital world, this amount of information would be hardly enough to portray a blur digital picture of a living being.  In comparison, worms have 18,000 genes.  The human brain consists of a relatively small amount of very slow switching elements.  It is readily apparent that the way genes are constructed, they simply cannot hold all the information necessary to explain the human body.  Consequently, using the analogy of the brain to an information processing device, it is impossible to account for information in the vast array of possibilities that the brain uses.  The situation is that "When you try to prove an obvious thing it becomes less obvious." Cicero . 

Organisms are characterized by DNA, much like library books are characterized by catalogue numbers.  Therefore, the DNA can contain a general description of the organism without having to contain detailed instructions pertaining to structure and functionality.  This means that DNA contains marker information.  However, information on the way the body is built and how parts of the body should function is contained elsewhere.  

The "barcode" interpretation of DNA furnishes a natural explanation for two anomalies commonly known as paradox N and paradox C.  Using the barcode analogy for paradox N, an organism can be built from an information deficient genome.  Moreover, the barcode analogy addresses paradox C and explains why more complex organisms have less complex genomes. (Plants have more DNA than animals!).  The DNA molecules get control signals through communication, so shorter structures acquire an operational edge.   In simple words, DNA is a label name and to a certain extent a shorter name is an advantage.  Analogously, the information processing capabilities of the brain do not depend on its size.

With this as a background, the main point of http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0111093 explores the idea that the DNA information in living organisms is not a repository of the control information for organism development.  The DNA role as a "barcode" determines the biological individuality of organisms and hence enables their functioning as elements of a system - "the Internet of the physical Universe". 

This theory is consistent with information processing of consciousness which was suggested by Pim van Lommel, in the major NDE study released in a prime British medical journal, The Lancet 12/01. [3]   Van Lommel's closing discussion pertaining to NDEs leaves the possibility open that the brain is merely a receiver and that memories are stored elsewhere.  If the barcode theory holds and memory is stored elsewhere, then the way we look at consciousness when separated from the body has some profound implications on the way society and religion is organized.  

The role the DNA structures in nature can be compared to the role of Social Security Numbers in the society.  (see also http://www.aps.org/meet/CENT99/vpr/laybc31-02.html and http://www.aps.org/apsnews/0699/069905.html)  From my extensive studies, I would suggest that the controlling role of DNA on information for organism development and functionality of memory comes from outside of the physical body.  This means that a different paradigm exists regarding the informational infrastructure of the physical world.  In other words, the human brain is not a stand-alone computer but rather a terminal at the "Internet of the physical Universe." 

The most difficult problem, from the standpoint of physics, is looking at how memories are stored in the brain and is not likely to be "affected by the discovery of the final theory."  The hidden meaning of this statement according to Weinberg, one of the world leading physicists, is that the explanation of the brain organization would somehow come independently of the development of modern physical theories.  However, the logical conclusion should be that there is a flaw in the foundations of physics as long as it does not account for the major phenomenon of nature like that seen in workings of the human brain.  

Modern physics can only say that such an effect as NDE cannot exist.  In other words, from the standpoint of modern physics NDE is regarded as "anti-scientific."  However, it is evident that no progress in biology can be achieved without challenging the very fundamental notions in the construction of the physical Universe.  This is done in my paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0111093.  If the prediction of my theory - an intrinsic anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) - is verified, then the global picture of the physical world must be reconsidered.  

At any rate, modern physics runs into its own problems.  This is especially true with the alleged discovery that 65% of the universal consists of an enigmatic "dark energy."  Dark energy represents an addition to 30% of a mysterious "dark matter."  Dark energy is merely a fictitious parameter that is introduced to keep up with Einstein's theory of general relativity. Physicists are not ready yet to admit that this theory can be wrong.  The cosmological model of the Universe based on Einstein's theory of general relativity would no longer be a valid model.

 My theoretical model shows that the Universe is filled with information for the control of living beings rather than with useless (from the standpoint of biology)  "dark" matter and "dark energy."  The model gives another meaning to these "dark" entities. The current view on cosmology is lifeless, it can only hope that life should somehow pop up on top of material processes.

 Thus, a comprehensive theory of Life and Mind should contemplate extra-corporeal organization of cognitive information processing featuring the brain as a "network computer" on the "Internet" of the physical Universe.  The conventional paradigm of modern science leaves no room for the rational explanation of NDE.  With the suggested model of extra-corporeal organization of biological information processing, the phenomenon of NDE can undergo a meaningful rational scrutiny.

 *Simon is a Professor of Engineering and Applied Science in the Department of Computer Science of the George Washington University .  He obtained a MS degree in Applied Physics from Moscow Physical Technical Institute in 1960 and PhD degree in Computer Science from the Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computer Technology in 1964, Moscow , Russia .  To his credit, he has extensively published in peer reviewed scientific literature in Physics, Biology, and Computer Science.  His brings to the scientific community expertise in algorithms and computer systems design.  For many years he has been involved in the investigation of informational aspects in the organization of physical and biological systems.

Thanks to Jody for her editorial assistance!


[1] See e.g. J.S. Bell, "How to teach special relativity", in "Speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge , 1987, pp. 67-80

  [2] Ashby W. R. Principles of the self-organizing system.  In Foster H.V. and Zopf G.W. (editors), Principles of Self-Organization, Pergamon Press Oxford , 1962

 [3] Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET Vol 358 December 15, 2001 , 2039-45. 

 


Copyright1999 by Dr. Jeff and Jody Long

 

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