Thursday, December 20, 2012

PSI events and evolutionary psychology

In an earlier blog I asked the reader to consider the idea that we can better understand the PSI event by putting it in the context of natural selection.  I am not dismissing the research on PSI that looks at the phenomenon as it relates to question of physics, pharmacology, religion or psychology.  Those disciplines bring to the study  their individual tool bags of studied and documented structures and processes that can be applied to similar traits found in parapsychological events.  My point is that biological processes can also shine some new light on examples of PK, telepathy or precognition.  It would be very enlightening to thoughtfully apply an evolutionary psychology perspective to anomalous cognition events.

I believe anomalous cognition occurs, that ESP is happening.  I am not here to debunk or explain away parapsychological phenomenon.  I do want to understand it better,  and examining some of the strange events with the light of biological processes can be very helpful.  For example, when the mind disassociates, and local sensory and memory data is not longer getting the job done, PSI data becomes much more valuable and will be perceived.  Other mental processes also occur, these are evolved adaptations that occur along side the increased perception of PSI data, and because they are both unusual, and are occurring at the same time, they are commonly thought of as one thing.    Experientially, because the weird event has no other associations (that's why we say its weird) then in the mind all the stuff happening gets lumped together.  Unfortunately, when I go to examine the processes involved in the PSI perception it gets all mixed together with the dissociation processes of the brain, and that is a problem.  I want to see the PSI process more clearly, and to do that, I need to see the basic biological, natural selection processes of the human mind more clearly.

My overall goal is answer the big questions, but I am happy if I simply get some discussion going regarding what Natural Selection can tell us about how PSI works.  I am not a trained biologist so I am happy to hear from anyone if my ideas about Natural Selection are wrong.  The statements I make about biological processes are very simple and basic biology 101 stuff, not controversial.  The basic rules of Natural selection are simple.  The process of natural selection needs 1) Gene heritability, 2) Reproduction that passes on genes, and 3) Gene variability.

Your experiences are mediated by your physical parts, and those physical parts with their sensory structures got here via natural selection.  It is known that there are psychological processes that you are born with, that are built into your DNA such as the ability to use language or walking.  One such evolved trait in humans is a mental world where you create a virtual simulation of life.  This allows you to make plans, to remember events, to solve problems and practice real-world activities in a virtual setting.  The process of natural selection also takes place in this virtual world.  The mind is constantly taking in new pieces of information and testing them against problems that you can expect to encounter.  This seems to be the primary evolved function of dreaming.  Because we have these adapted structures, just like our physical adaptations, our mental adaptations also have a structure in place through learning.  Your mental landscape is not a tabula rasa when you enter it every time, there are default frameworks in place to work with, just as your hands and fingers are there when you wake up each day. 

Another built in brain trait is self-identification.  For obvious survival reasons, its useful to be able to identify what in your sensory environment is you and what is not you.  The brain is constantly filtering for this.  It mainly uses local incoming sensory data and compares it with stored identity info.  This is why you often hear people describe how sensory deprivation or drug induced brain changes also make them feel "expanded" or disassociated from their normal identification of self.  Strong self-identity is correlated to environmental stability. 

As humans have evolved a social environment along with their material one, many brain adaptations have developed along with it.  We seem to have built in mental processes for identifying other entities, such as our specialized brain functions for perceiving faces.  We have evolved a reflex to anthropomorphize, just like we evolved a reflex to self identify, its a built-in, default setting for our mind.  Its easy to see how adapting strong social skills would benefit an organism's reproductive potential.  Again, it makes sense that a basic perceptual structure exists in our minds, in our brains, to allow us to quickly identify a set of environmental stimuli as a person, and work from there.  As much as I dislike the use of the simplified model "human brain is like a computer", it does make sense that using basic frameworks, as is done in computer virtualization software, would make sense for mind processing as well.  It's a good example of convergent evolution.

These are just two mental processes that shed some light on some parapsychological phenomena.  There seems to be default experiential frameworks the mind uses to form experience, and they are in basic framework shared as humans, just as our environment that shapes them is shared, but are individualized by individual experience.  Jung's archetypes can be seen as evolved conceptual structures.  The "others" that Jacques Vallee discusses in his book Dimensions are probably basic mind frameworks, default settings for "other" that the normal waking mind use as a basic framework of perception.  This basic framework has evolved along with people's social environment.  As the range variety of what makes up "other entity" has expanded, the default setting in the brain has had to regress to include the new variety.  When some disassociating event occurs, when things can't "make sense", the mind defaults back to the most basic framework, and people see little gray people, or floating bodies, or religious icons.  Now these default perceptual entities may start providing PSI information, just like people in my dreams tell me how to fly, the default mental environment will take information and try it out.  Sometimes the information available to be worked into dreams or dissociated states is PSI information.

It is logical to assume that solutions to problems are more likely to be found if a basic framework is presented to consciousness, instead of no experience of anything.   We can say dreamers do better than non-dreamers just like we understand memory priming improves performance, so we would expect human minds with a basic virtual landscape to survive better than those without.  Priming exists.  Dreams exist. 

So by examining paranormal phenomenon within the constraints of biology/natural selection we can perhaps more clearly discern what is happening in some disassociative events.  My point here is that the experience of entities, such as aliens or ghosts or saints, can be separated from anomalous cognition for study.  And if you add in, from my previous blog, the requirement that PSI be capricious and unavailable for intentional use, then it may be true that PSI events are biologically programmed to be connected with associative events to make sure they stay out of reach of conscious application.  If that is the case, we would do well to look for PSI correlations in behaviors that are not consciously controlled such as autonomic events.  Fortunately, that is exactly the direction much of parapsychological research is going.

No comments: