• Therapist or medium? A look at “Induced After-Death Communication”

    IADC coverIt should come as no surprise to my regular readers that I a) am a clinical psychologist and b) despise pseudoscientific nonsense. As such, when I come across woo in my field, I feel a special fire begin to burn deep inside me and it’s not because I missed taking my Pepcid. Instead, it’s from having the field I have devoted the past 16 years of my life to dragged through the mud and made to look silly by those who are not actually practicing evidence-based psychology. Case in point:

    Induced After-Death Communication

    The above link takes you to the official IADC website, where you can learn about both it and it’s “discoverer” (his words, not mine) Allan L. Botkin, Psy.D. Basically, he states that by using a variation on the “purple hat” / pseudoscientific therapy called EMDR (which I wrote about earlier), he can cause patients to experience an after-death communication (ADC) with a dead loved one. He’s not saying that it actually is someone communicating with the dead, but he’s not saying they aren’t, either. Here’s someone explaining it a bit more:

    In IADC therapy, the person who is grieving the death of someone is asked to focus directly on the sadness during the eye movements. The typical IADC involves the patient seeing the deceased person, and that deceased person is telling him or her that everything is okay and not to grieve. In a number of cases, the deceased has related information previously unknown to the patient. The therapy works with people of all beliefs, including atheists and sceptics. The end result is the majority of patients overcoming their grief.

    Well, that seems simple enough. Do some therapy, see a dead loved one, get better. Couldn’t be easier, right? According to the official website,

    We can very rapidly, reliably, and easily induce an IADC® in about 75% of people who go through the induction. (See required conditions at the end of this page.)

    Many patients report the same experiences described by people who have had a near-death experience (NDE) or after-death communication (ADC), although we suggest that the experience of feeling a reconnection is the critical activity, without implying the source of the perception.

    I have a couple of issues with these statements. First off, who knows how they derived this 75% number. No support other than a statement (no peer reviewed research, or outside confirmation) is given. Second, Botkin (and perhaps others who use this technique) do not actually try and say what causes this experience (“the source of the perception.”). In another article, we learn that

    Botkin is reasonably certain that the many patients who have benefited from this therapy are not dreaming, imagining, fantasizing, or otherwise hallucinating, but he prefers not to speculate as to whether or not patients are actually in touch with the spirit world.

    Allan Botkin
    Allan Botkin, PsyD

    That makes it seem as if he is just hedging his bets, perhaps in an attempt to be taken more seriously by the scientific world. He has even put a bit of distance between himself and the co-author of his book Induced After-Death Communication: A New Therapy for Healing Grief and Trauma, one R. Craig Hogan. This may be due to Hogan’s decidedly spiritual take on matters, including a book called Your Eternal Self and his being the “director of the Center for Spiritual Understanding and on the boards of the Academy of Spiritual and Paranormal Studies and Association for Evaluation and Communication of Evidence for Survival.” On a fun side note, the IADC book was even endorsed by Dr. Raymond Moody, best known as the man who coined the term “near death experience” (NDE). Moody, of course, is also well known as being a major proponent of belief in an afterlife, as well as a fan of past-life regression. Maybe it makes sense that Botkin distanced himself a bit from such folks if he’s trying to present things as being scientific.

    Botkin claims that for 70% of people who undergo IADC (conducted in just 1-2 sessions), “it works.” Apparently that means:

    The IADC® experiences we have induced in thousands of patients result in dramatic life changes that heal grief and trauma in a very short time and are sustained long-term. The technique has worth because it works; it doesn’t need for us to agree on a belief system or theory about the source of the phenomenon to support it.

    In other words, it works because it works; we don’t need to know why or how. This number of therapy responders is a bit lower than Botkin himself presents in his one and only published article on IADC. In it, he reports 98% of his sample experienced an ADC, and that 96% of those believed it to be a spiritual experience in which they contacted the dead. He then goes on to present numerous case examples to demonstrate that it worked. No actual pre- to post-measures of symptom reduction or any sort of long-term follow-up, just case studies. But, he has been interviewed on Coast to Coast AM (twice!), so there’s that.


    Given the less than conventional claims made about IADC, I thought it would make a good example for an exercise in critical thinking. Although there are numerous ways to think critically, I think a good base set is the following six principles (to dig more in-depth on these, I’d recommend watching a video of a talk I gave on them), which I will apply to what we know about IADC.


    1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    Several pretty extraordinary claims are found when examining IADC, with no corresponding extraordinary evidence. The first and most outrageous is that, through a modified version of EMDR, people are communicating with the dead. Even if Botkin does not actually claim that IADC causes someone to be able to communicate with the dead, there are plenty of other people using the technique that say just that. Given the distinct lack of empirical evidence that there even is an afterlife, much less that we can communicate with people in it, there would have to be very compelling evidence that Botkin and colleagues could present to back up such a claim.

    Another extraordinary claim is that “most” people get better from their grief in 1-2 sessions. This would actually be relatively easy to collect data on and measure, but apparently neither Botkin or others using IADC have done so. Instead, there are just case studies presented (a prototypical action among pseudoscience). Without evidence, this is just a claim with nothing to support it. The extraordinary claim  aspect here is the short duration, as we know that for most people dealing with traumatic events or complicated grief, several months of therapy are needed to make substantial progress.


    2. Falsifiability

    In order for a claim to be scientifically meaningful, it needs to be capable of being disproved. Wonderfully illustrated by Carl Sagan and his garage dragon, we would need to see if the claims of IADC could be shown to be untrue. It would be relatively easy to test aspects such as reduction in symptoms and long-term benefits (both of which are standard to do in clinical research). Ruling out the after-death communication part, though, is trickier. Since this is apparently a subjective experience, and the therapist is not “speaking” for the dead person (which would allow us to test things much easier), but instead “helping” the client do so, the entirety of proof rests in someone’s head. Given that we don’t have Professor X-like abilities to experience another person’s perception, I am afraid that we could not falsify this claim, rendering it unscientific.


    3. Occam’s razor/ Parsimony

    The principle of parsimony means that the most likely explanation for an event is the one with the fewest assumptions underlying it (although one must be careful in wielding it). Let’s take a look at the assumptions underlying IADC.

    A) There is an afterlife.

    B) People still living can pierce the veil (as it were) and speak to the dead.

    C) This EMDR-derived procedure allows this to happen quickly and easily for a vast majority of people.

    D) Speaking to deceased love ones quickly and permanently alleviates distress and grieving.

    As I have said before, that’s a mighty big bucket of assumptions you’ve got there. Given that we have no solid evidence for the first two, and only case reports for the third and fourth, it might be more parsimonious to go with a less assumption-filled explanation of events. For example, the following are things we know to be accurate statements.

    A) Some people experience high levels of grief and seek out anything they can to assist in feeling better.

    B) Some people are highly suggestible, particularly when in emotionally-compromised states.

    C) The placebo effect can be very strong, especially in the suggestible.

    D) The majority of people who would go to someone for a procedure like IADC are probably highly suggestible and in an compromised state of mind, which would cause a particularly strong placebo effect.

    No unsupported assumptions in list number two! So, based on a principle of parsimony, we can reasonably conclude that the second list is more likely to be accurate.


    4. Replicability

    A key to knowing that something is true and accurate is being able to get the same results over and over again. Whether it’s medication, a physics experiment, or the principles of natural selection, scientists repeatedly test their results (and the results of others) to determine if something is real or just happened by chance. It’s the hallmark of good science and key to turning results from a “hmm, that’s interesting” into a “see, this is really happening.” Take the numbers of people that Botkin claims are able to be induced and helped by his therapy. He could be right, but we would need an independent research team using the same IADC protocol and tracking those results to be sure. Otherwise, all we have is his word (and the one published article) that it is happening how he says it is. Personally, if I had developed a wondrous new treatment, I would be all over testing it out, having others test it out, and confirming that it works great. That’s how people get recognition for their hard work in the scientific community.


    5. Ruling out rival hypotheses

    The 1892 version of an IADC session?

    In applying this principle, we need to make sure that we are wedded to one explanation for a series of events, but instead entertain alternative explanations that are equally (or more) plausible. Good scientists purposefully set up experiments to rule out rival hypotheses, not just confirm favored ones. In this way, we don’t fall prey to the confirmation bias (or at least not as much). For supporters of IADC, their hypothesis is that (somehow, it’s never really explained) a modified form of EMDR allows people to communicate with their dead loved ones, which then makes their grief decline very rapidly. Alternative hypotheses do not seem to be in any way entertained (it’s a little hard to know, since the people using this aren’t actually conducting research on it). The closest that I’ve seen about IADC from practitioners of it is Botkin’s assertion that he does not speculate that people are actually speaking to the dead or not, just that it “works.”

    Perhaps the first rival hypothesis that will spring to the mind of most critical thinkers is this: is IADC simply a 21st century version of a seance? I’m very inclined to believe that is much more plausible than the answer put forth from its practitioners.


    6. Correlation is not causation

    The infamous “Killer Ice Cream”

    Just because two things are related does not necessarily imply that one causes the other. A standard example I use to illustrate this is the following: as murder rates rise, so do ice cream sales. It’s a very strong correlation, seen year after year after year. No reasonable person, though, would make either of the following statements – “Well, the more ice cream you eat, the more you want to murder!” or “After a good murder, you just need to eat a ton of ice cream!” Obviously, something else must be driving both ice cream and murders up at the same time (that thing is, of course, hotter temperatures). This is the “third variable problem.” As regards IADC, it may be true  that massively grieving people go into three IADC sessions and their grief becomes alleviated afterwards. This does not, though, immediately mean that going through IADC is what caused them to get better. To determine if a new medication or therapy works, we have to test it against a placebo, simply because people often get better simply by expecting to get better, regardless of whether or not the treatment is having any active effects (this seems to be at least partially behind the popularity of alternative medicine). It could be that people who do IADC are truly caring, humane individuals and that the process of  interacting with them (regardless of the “speaking to the dead” aspect of things) helps many individuals move past their grief and embrace their loss in a healthier fashion.


    Based on the above analysis, IADC falls far short of having the evidence that most open-minded (but not so open their brain falls out) scientific skeptics would need to accept it as a real phenomenon. Instead, it seems to be just another in a long line of pseudoscientific psychotherapies that we have seen over the decades.

    Category: Mental HealthPseudosciencePsychologyReligionSkepticism


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com

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      29 May 2014 at 2:05pm
      Therapist or medium? A look at [...]Hi,I ran across this page about a ...
    • depression treatment
    • I’m skeptical about clinical psychology. Possibly my views are out-of-date because I’m relying on studies done fifty years or more ago that showed no significant difference between groups that received remedial treatment and groups that received none.

      I have an alternative hypothesis. I think that the ability to counsel patients and bring them mental relief is not a science but a skill innate to the practitioner. Some people are just really good with other people. For example my sister-in-law is a psychologist who uses astrology. She could be using radioactive earthworms or a fragment of the Shroud of Turin and it would make no difference. It’s not her methodology, it’s her personal qualities.

      When my wife left me, I took it very badly. While I was at the doctor on an unrelated matter, he remarked that I seemed to be very stressed, and I told him about the divorce. He gave me some very good advice. He said that instead of blaming myself or blaming my ex, I should think about her differently. He suggested I imagine that instead of our marriage ending in divorce, it had ended because she died in a traffic accident, and up to that point, the marriage had been perfect. I should remember only the good things and forget all the bad times. He counseled me for maybe five minutes and I was fixed. I think of my ex now as one of the most wonderful things that ever happened to me.

      Finally, I think we should mention Richard Feynman’s famous remarks in his “Cargo Cult” address. The kind of people who are likely to respond to a woo treatment are self-selected. Skeptics like me would walk out straight away and find another psychologist.

      • While I would agree (and the research shows) that personal characteristics of a therapist contribute a large percentage to client success, there are decades of research now showing that the use of specific types of therapy are extremely useful in alleviating symptoms of mental illness. So, you should instead say that you are “skeptical of certain psychologists” (like the ones who use non-evidence-based practice), not of the field as a whole.

        I frequently give talks on evidence-based practice and what it is and what it is not. Here’s the lecture notes from one of them – http://www.caleblack.com/pdfs/ASMA%2009%20-%20EBPP%20020709.pdf

    • Ian Wardell

      “Given the distinct lack of empirical evidence that there even is an afterlife”.

      Given the world is physically closed there’s also a complete lack of empirical evidence of consciousness in this physical world too.

      • Care to expand on that, Ian? It’s a fairly vague statement.

        • Ian Wardell

          It’s not remotely vague. There is no evidence for the existence of consciousness in this physical realm. In order to deny this one would have to subscribe to a form of reductive materialism. But the existence of consciousness entails the falsity of any form of reductive materialism.

          The point is this. To say there is no empirical evidence for the existence of consciousness after the demise of our physical bodies is vacuous. In no shape or form does it entail or suggest that consciousness doesn’t survive. And indeed there is a great deal of (non-empirical) evidence suggesting it does.

          • When you say non-empirical evidence, what exactly do you mean by that?

            • Ian Wardell

              Well . .I suppose I could elaborate a bit on my thoughts. Bit pressed for time at the moment though. I’m always very busy at the weekend, but possibly I will post tomorrow.

            • Clayton Flesher

              Wow, I got through them all. I’m going to bed.

              Btw, Berkeley is great and worthy of respect, even if nobody takes his ontology too seriously. Please stop abusing him to justify your own unsupported mystical speculations. He was the consummate empiricist.

              If you want a genuine philosophical examination of the relationship between science and naturalistic metaphysical philosophy (and I’m going to be charitable and assume you do), then there are a number of great resources out there. I’d recommend starting with Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized and working your way out from the philosophers they discuss in the second chapter.

              I also want to point out that there is a good reason why Berkeley was kind of a dead end in philosophy. There isn’t anywhere to go with his ontological position. You can’t really refute him, but you don’t need to because people who followed him went in other directions that were more fruitful and led to new philosophical and (gasp!) scientific discoveries. You’re welcome to believe a version of his view that is consistent with the body of contemporary scientific knowledge (if you don’t look at it too hard), but there’s not really any good reason to do so.

              Just to be a real pain and play your own straw man game, in conclusion I’d like to point out that in your very first comment you raised the possibility that the world is physically closed. If that’s the case, then idealism is false because it can’t possibly interact with physical reality. Just saying.

            • Clayton Flesher – I love the fact that the review by Pigliucci STILL manages to trashtalk Rosenberg with a couple of sentences. Man, he dislikes him!


            • Clayton Flesher

              Well, there’s a lot there to dislike. Rosenberg and other physical reductionists are problematic if you claim, like they do, to be motivated by the findings of contemporary physics.

              The irony is that Ian would probably find a lot to agree with in that book if he’d take the time to read it.

            • Oh, I’m not disagreeing, I just find it funny that Pigliucci seems to have almost set out a personal vendetta against him!

            • Ian Wardell

              Clayton, you’ve made a lot of comments, but there’s nothing really worth responding to since in common with the rest of the people on here who have debated me, you’ve said nothing substantive.

              Berkeley is a dead end in philosophy? Yeah he produced arguments demonstrating the incoherence of absolute spacetime etc (which were scandalously ignored) and his metaphysic is wholly compatible with modern science (unlike his contemporaries materialism).

              Idealism is not compatible with the notion the world is physically closed? I mean really why are you making so many posts when you clearly have no understanding of these issues?

              I’m anti-science? No, you guys don’t understand what science is, you conflate it with your metaphysics. I might as well with greater cogency argue that the materialists (or “naturalists”) are anti-science since they reject Berkeley’s metaphysic.

              Naturalism? Notoriously vague and people mean very different things by it. Same goes for the word “supernaturalism” which so-called “skeptics” are inordinately fond of.

              Jonathan thanks for the link to the argument against the existence of a soul. I will read and possibly comment below the link.

              And this really is my final post.

            • Clayton Flesher

              I’m sorry that you didn’t find any of my statements substantive or any of my points worth considering. Maybe you’re right, and none of us are worthy of your continued engagement.

              If so, I’d encourage you to take your ideas and attitude to some other places where you can interact with academic philosophers and people incredibly well-read in the literature. Places like Partially-Examined Life Citizen Commons and Scientia Salon will give you the opportunity to chip away some more at the wall of contemporary philosophy and science you dislike so much.



              Berkeley’s metaphysics, not his broader approach to philosophy, was a dead end. Come on man, nobody is denying his influence on Kant, Hume, etc. He’s great, but nobody but the very occasional Berkeley scholar takes his metaphysics seriously.

              My point wasn’t that Berkeley is bad or that you’re a bad thinker for taking him seriously (though I do think you’ve shown some poor thinking on here). My point is that philosophy, like much of science, is about exploring the interesting questions. If there isn’t any way to make progress from a philosophical position, people won’t bother engaging with it.

              Metaphysics, at its best and why Berkeley was so good, is about trying to make sense of the logical implications of what we understand about how the world works. Berkeley got that, and in his time he tried, and to some extent succeeded, in doing that. But science and metaphysics both have moved on to more fruitful pastures.

              As has been alluded to several times on here, you’re stuck in 19th and early 20th century metaphysics and philosophy of mind in all of your arguments. The vast majority of philosophers I’m aware of in the contemporary philosophy of mind debates or contemporary metaphysics are not reductive materialists OR idealists/dualists.

              Those are incredibly narrow options, and until you engage with some of the rainbow of alternatives, your black and white approach to both are going to harm you in any conversation with people who are philosophically well-read.

              Maybe you’re stuck on these dichotomies because you think they’re the only two viable, if not live, options. If that’s so, fine. But then you have to justify that position with an argument. You can’t just assert it to be the case and expect us to take it as given. Give us a reason for why you don’t take the vast majority of philosophy of mind or metaphysics written after the early 1900s seriously.

              I don’t really think idealism is incompatible with a physically closed world. That you jumped on that and pointed out is a straw man sort of illustrated my broader point.

              My point is that this is the approach you’re taking to naturalism. There is a narrow interpretation of idealism that probably is incompatible with a physically closed world, but I’m not uncharitable enough to pretend like that’s the account of idealism you take seriously. Because, you know, that account would be obviously false. The same charitability should apply to blanket opinions about naturalistic accounts of consciousness. I mean really why are you making so many posts when you clearly have no understanding of these issues?

              I think you’re anti-science not because you take Berkeley seriously. I think you’re anti-science because you take seriously kinds of empirical evidence that contemporary science doesn’t for perfectly good reasons in part outlined by Caleb in this post. (ie childrens’ accounts of the afterlife) Those kinds of things were examined scientifically, and to a lesser degree continue to be so, and they were found to be not worthy of inclusion in the repertoire of things science takes seriously.

              This isn’t because the afterlife can’t or doesn’t exist. This is because the quality of the evidence provided is so poor that it isn’t worth limited resources pursuing.

              I’d love to hear your philosophical account of science.

              You’re right that naturalism means different things to different people. The fact that you recognize this and still insist on painting everyone who doesn’t agree with your philosophy of mind statements as a reductive materialist is gobstopping.

            • Ian Wardell

              Caleb, before responding it would be helpful if you were to tell me what your metaphysical position is regarding the mind/body problem?

            • I’m a scientist and non-supernaturalist (what with the distinct lack of evidence for anything supernatural and all), so there’s not a “mind-body problem.”

              The mind is what the brain does.

            • Ian Wardell

              Well let’s leave the word “mind” out of it. What about consciousness? Is that also what the brain does?

            • I would say that what the brain does is a large part of it, but newer research shows that our perceptions of the exterior world are actually influenced by many different aspects of the body.

              Either way, no body = no consciousness.

            • Ian Wardell

              How do you imagine research can answer a metaphysical issue? If it could it wouldn’t be a metaphysical issue. The mind/body problem would be a scientific problem. But it’s not, it’s a philosophical and indeed metaphysical problem.

              OK this makes you a reductive materialist. That being so you indeed can be certain of the existence of your own consciousness, but the existence of the consciousness of others too.

              Unfortunately reductive materialism is simply untenable. Consciousness has absolutely nothing in common with the object or physical state or physical process it is said to be identical with. Physical objects, states or processes have properties such as mass, location, charge or are wholly characterised by structure and dynamics. And of course they are objective and discernible form the 3rd person perspective. Conscious experiences, on the other hand, are characterised by the qualitative and wholly lack any physical properties.

              Moreover consciousness has no location (or at least we can only say it has a location by transparently begging the question and asserting it has a location since it is one and the same thing as the brain event).

              Therefore to say they are the same is vacuous — it’s not actually saying anything. If they neither share the same location nor have any properties in common whatsoever, then *by definition* they are not identical.

              The existence of phenomenal consciousness *necessitates* the falsity of reductive materialism. This of course does not rule out the possibility of non-reductive materialism being correct, and certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility that the brain creates consciousness. But it is false to say they are one and the same thing or process or state.

              Anyway, in common with other scientists, Dawkins, Hawkings, Krauss etc, it appears you think that philosophical questions can be addressed by science. This reveals a lack of understanding of the underlying issues and I see little point in pursuing this conversation.

            • I certainly don’t believe that all questions can be, right now, answered via empirical means (e.g., testing them using variations of the scientific method). This doesn’t mean, though, that some questions are somehow “off limits” merely by calling them “metaphysical.” How many questions over the past 2000 years that were metaphysical in nature have been addressed via science as it progresses?

              Question: if consciousness were to “lack any physical properties” then why can changes to your physical state (e.g., ingesting drugs, starvation, being ill, developing a psychosis after a TBI) cause changes in consciousness?

            • Ian Wardell

              Are you implying that for X to affect Y, they must be the same sort of stuff? I don’t see why that follows.

              Or are you asking if consciousness doesn’t need the brain to exist, then why do we have brains at all?

              If the latter I’ll just repeat what I put in a blog entry:

              I would suggest that it could be the case, as hinted at by mystical
              experiences, that disembodied consciousness is vastly greater in scope
              than our everyday consciousness. But in the embodied state the brain
              acts as a reducing valve or “filter” which severely curtails the range
              of consciousness. Arguably this would serve the useful purpose of
              filtering out the perception of other realities and other conscious
              states which are not necessary, or which hinder our ability to function
              in this physical reality. This hypothesis would broadly be consistent
              with phenomena such as the occasional reports of people recovering their
              mental faculties near death, near-death experiences and other mystical
              experiences, and also accounts such as those found in the “Tibetan Book
              of the Dead”.

              Link here:

              “How many questions over the past 2000 years that were metaphysical in nature have been addressed via science as it progresses?”

              Umm . . none?

            • Clayton Flesher

              How about the argument that for X to be able to affect Y it seems plausible to they are the same stuff. Why does everything have to be logical proofs? I don’t think anyone on here is claiming that X affects Y logically entails anything about the nature of anything. Only that it provides a kind of evidence. That you seem to deny or ignore this is an issue for you, not us.

              As for our brains being filters for disembodied consciousness…sure…that’s logically possible. But there’s absolutely zero good evidence that it is the case. You can recognize that I mean to imply that the evidence you’ve cited isn’t very good.

              I’ve already cited (above) several metaphysical questions that have been addressed by science. Addressed is not the same thing as conclusively settled with no other logical possibility.

            • “I would suggest that it could be the case, as hinted at by mystical experiences, that disembodied consciousness is vastly greater in scope than our everyday consciousness. But in the embodied state the brain acts as a reducing valve or “filter” which severely curtails the range of consciousness. Arguably this would serve the useful purpose of filtering out the perception of other realities and other conscious states which are not necessary, or which hinder our ability to function in this physical reality. This hypothesis would broadly be consistent with phenomena such as the occasional reports of people recovering their”

              Wow. Argument from assertive splurge. You are presupposing so many things here. Disembodied consciousness? Really? Do you edit for the Fortean Times?

            • Thomas Taylor

              “ almost everything of your rather long post is extraneous to my preceding post.” most of my post was using your own quotes and making sure we are defining our constructs the same… I am sorry you were not able to pick that up with the citations to where I pulled the definitions from and all.

              “ If you do not understand what I said, then simply say so . .” you have failed to clarify anything you have been asked so far to expand upon. So far you have alluded to not trusting empirical claims and not knowing what systems thinking is (the basis for modern physics, biology, economics, and nonlinear mathematics). Explaining that you were flawed in hiding behind the “reductive materialism” (A term related to TOM that requires 2 things to assert 1) the argument must be a reduction to the basic components and 2) it must be material (physical)) when I was using an entire abstract linguistic system to explain it to you makes that completely relevant, I apologize that I attempted to allow you to see the flaw and correct it.

              “I have no interest whether you are a “systems person” (whatever that might mean).” You accused me of being a reductionist, I am not sure where the confusion is on me refuting that accusation but I assure you that your ignorance of what systems thinking is vs reductionist thinking is easily corrected by googling systems vs reductionist. Hiding behind ignorance is not a good way to debate anything.

              “Hope you don’t have in mind Libet’s experiments in mind here . . It is
              incoherent to suppose consciousness is causally inefficacious.” Did you fail to read the entire paragraph on psychology? Ok, I will make this simple for you… go to http://www.google.com and type in Unconscious Thought or Social Automaticity. By your choice of words anything associated to either of those would be left behind.

              I do apologize that my post are “rather long” but I don’t see clear well explained thoughts to be a negative thing.

              “You have failed to understand my previous post.” I read what you say not what you think, if you need a thesauruses to better choose your words I will gladly link one for you.

              P.S. You made the claim that I did not understand you so I am doing a little research.

              You have 75+ post with nothing real or unique. You offer explanations all the time with no follow through when called out on them.

              You run a blog of your own but have the comments section shutdown http://existenceandreality.blogspot.com/

              You like begging for likes on Facebook… It’s is pathetic and needy but I guess it will get people to come to the blog.

              And you often hide or attempt to shut down post when questioned using phrases like “ I see little point in pursuing this conversation.”

            • Ian Wardell

              As I said I don’t think there’s any point in any further discussion.

              The “likes” comment on facebook was tongue in cheek knowing that a link to this discussion will bore people rigid. I never ask for likes.

              That’s an old blog. All my blog entries are on this one below:

            • Thomas Taylor

              There you go hiding again…

              “Ian Wardell Have responded to Thomas Taylor. Make sure you “like”!” nope you never ask for likes

              Just saw the new blog, you need to update your Facebook link it leads to the old one.

            • Ian Wardell

              Well, that’s the only time ever and it was a humorous remark.

              Never realised facebook linked to any blogs of mine. Thanks will remedy that.

            • Ian Wardell

              Okie dokie, have fixed. 🙂

            • Thomas Taylor

              Ok… I admit that I did not understand you. You started this debate to push preconceived ideas with no intention of ever thinking outside your narrow box. You are in fact right it is worthless to carry this on as you posted your idea back in 2008 (http://ian-ardell.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-min=2008-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2009-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=1)

              “(1) I have presented the essence of my proof on various discussion boards. Not one person appears to understand it! Possibly this might have something to do with the fact that the discussion boards I participate in are predominantly peopled by philosophical materialists. Or it could just be the case that my argument is hopelessly flawed! However, I don’t think it is :-)”

              I only have one thing that I hope you can look at as it may help you greatly http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/05/26/classical-rhetoric-101-logical-fallacies/

            • Ian Wardell

              Er, well actually people who subscribe to a “life after death” often get irritated with me because I sometimes argue against the evidence.

              I’m not convinced there’s a “life after death” although it is very difficult to explain away the evidence from young children seeming to remember previous lives.

              I do though think reductive materialism is transparently false and that should the brain produce consciousness then strong emergence seems to be the only viable option.

              I’m sorry I’ve irritated you. However it remains the case that neither you or Calum have said anything substantive. Materialists/skeptics rarely do.

            • Thomas Taylor

              How have you not posted on http://www.skepticink.com/believingbullshit/2012/11/24/berkeleys-idealism-explained-simply/

              I am loving your blog… your Berkeley addiction is fun to read about. BTW you know this stuff only holds if you completely reject science right?

            • Thomas Taylor

              You said I did not understand you, I did research and now I am starting to fully understand you. You build strawmen to argue with and run from the real ones .

            • Ian Wardell

              If anything the discoveries of science, and particularly modern science, or more consonant with Berkeley’s metaphysic than any materialist metaphysic.

              I’m surprised you have any interest in reading my blog.

              Took a quick look at that link. He’s got it pretty much right about Berkeley’s philosophy. I think though it is slightly misleading to say that God observes physical objects and keeps them in existence. Rather the physical world is a conception in God’s mind which we participate in.

            • Thomas Taylor

              Many people would be shocked about how much I read… and what
              subjects. I feel your predictions for 2014 were way to safe to count as predictions and your concept of the afterlife seems to come from a Robin Williams movie but those are your call. Many of your strawmen you draw up do not match with reality.

            • Ian Wardell

              Never seen that movie.

              I think you’ll find that exciting and unsafe predictions tend to be wildly wrong to say the least!

              Anyway, pleased that you agree with my predictions.

            • You are not dealing with Thomas very well, it appears.

            • All you do is assert your conclusion, and then when someone disagrees, you shut them down by shouting reductive materialism about, without actually establishing your case.


            • Ian Wardell

              All I do is assert my conclusions?? Have you not even noticed my lengthy responses?

              And that’s a bit rich since all you’ve done so far is to make unsubstantiated assertions in your previous 2 comments!

              Oh not Sean Carrol again . . {sighs}. Yet another scientist who lacks philosophical understanding.

            • Thomas Taylor

              “When I use the word “evidence” I most emphatically do not
              mean proof, or anything like it. Nor am I necessarily referring to scientific evidence. I simply mean that we have phenomena that on the whole adds support for the “life after death” hypothesis. It is nevertheless arguably possible that all the evidence can be given orthodox explanations.” ~Ian Wardell

              This seems to be the viewpoint you are sticking to in this thread. At this point even if you present evidence for something it is very unlikely it would have any type of validity. You refute yourself with another quote.

              “You cannot show that nothing is something, any more than you can show that the meaning of any other word is other than how it is defined.”

              I really think at this point you don’t even know what you believe.

            • Ian Wardell

              Those 2 quotes have nothing to do with each other and were lifted from 2 different blog entries of mine. They certainly do not contradict each other in any shape or form whatsoever.

              For people who might be puzzled by the 2nd statement I’m referring to the fact that physicists have redefined the word “nothing” to mean something. Hence when they claim it is perfectly possibly for the Universe to have come from nothing, they actually mean “it is perfectly possibly for the Universe to have come from something”, which is not quite so controversial.

            • Thomas Taylor

              My bad I forgot, I need to break things down very simplistic for you. The first quote was as I stated “[S]eems to be the viewpoint you are sticking to in this thread.” (Maybe you forgot… your quote was “Anyway, I don’t believe there’s any further purpose in any further communication. You have failed to understand my previous post.”)The second quote is just hilarious as anyone that has read this thread saw you very clearly refuse to define your terms when questioned about it in my second post (you know, the one with the dictionary citations).

              And for anyone wondering the quotes are references to his blog where he subscribes to 18th century philosophy and entertainingly uses a bunch of strawman arguments to attempt to discount science using teleportation analogies and poor logic. Oh and shuts down any argument against him using variations of the phrase “This communication is at an end.” http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk

            • Clayton Flesher

              Yeah, I actually agree with you about that. I’m not a fan of Krauss’ book either.

              That said, there’s no reason to think that nothing as understood philosophically has ever existed, despite the assertions by people like William Lane Craig that such is the implications of the Big Bang.

              Krauss would have been better off to argue that we have no reason to believe there ever was ‘nothing’ than to try to salvage the concept.

            • Krauss ain’t good at arguing philosophy, but, as you say, that is not to say his conclusions might, in some way, be right.

            • Clayton Flesher

              Sean Carroll is one of the few physicists doing a good job of engaging with and listening to professional philosophers. Please don’t denigrate the few people in science trying to seriously take on philosophical approaches to thinking about their field.

              Just because you’re anti-science doesn’t mean Sean Carroll is anti-philosophy or uninformed about philosophical problems.

              I can guarantee he’s engaged in conversation with, and read more contemporary philosophical papers by, academic philosophers than you have based on the tone and quality of your arguments on this blog.

            • You beat me to it. To see that series of videos I linked is to understand that. Someone who is prepared to engage with representation in theory of the mind is someone prepared to do some legwork.

            • You do indeed assert, and smuggle in assumptions which are simply unwarranted or undefended.

            • Length ≠ lack of assertion.

            • Thomas Taylor

              You just tied up my week with one link… Bravo.

            • They are WELL worth getting into. A superb and fascinating stimulus.

            • Clayton Flesher

              No body = no consciousness is not reductive materialism. It is compatible with a spectrum of philosophical positions about mind, including reductive materialism.

              I take your point about the mind being a philosophical, as opposed to scientific question, but you’re off the rails if you think science can’t inform metaphysical questions and vice versa.

              Physics in particular, has drastically informed metaphysics throughout history, and many questions that were once metaphysics have become scientific questions.

              If you don’t think, for example, that science informs the discussion of metaphysical topics like free will and the nature of space and time, you’re out in the cold.

              Caleb did not say that the mind reduces to the body, and I’d probably argue with him if he did. But to say that research showing that, for example, some aspects of our conscious experience are seated in our stomach, isn’t relevant to philosophical discussions of consciousness is problematic.

              We can be reasonable to argue that aspects of consciousness is seated in particular parts of our brain, because we alter our conscious experiences based on what we do to those parts of our brain, and different aspects of our consciousness based on what we do to others.

              The fact that you can drastically change a person’s personality and the way they experience reality both in their own body and the broader world based on what you do to the physical or chemical structure of their brain is strong empirical evidence that the mind is largely seated in the brain.

              Even dualists don’t deny this, they just think that the brain is largely the conduit by which consciousness interacts with the world. Do I really need to explain the problems with this approach?

          • Thomas Taylor

            I think the problem here can be solved with a little grammar…
            Consciousness is a verb not a noun, it does not physically exist we can only use it as a description of an interaction between biological systems. A quick example of this use of verbs can be found in banging your head into a wall. The wall exists and your head exist but at no point does “banging” exist. If this experiment is done properly a concussion may occur. In this instance your brain exists and its swelling is measurable but there is no point in which some object named concussion pops into existence.

            “In no shape or form does it entail or suggest that consciousness
            doesn’t survive” as consciousness is a human constructed verb requiring the interaction of biological systems it would be odd to think that it would exist without the systems that interact to create it. Can “run” exist without some animal performing said action? Can you put it in a jar and look at it? I find that often verbs are not subject to the same rules as nouns.

            “a great deal of (non-empirical) evidence suggesting it does.” I too question your definition here. Empirical, based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. So Non-empirical evidence by default would be outside of observation and could not “exist” in such a way to make a suggestion.

            • Ian Wardell

              You’re just stating the reductive materialist position but without actually arguing for it. And of course I agree that should reductive materialism be correct then it would be nonsensical to suppose the self/soul or consciousness could survive, at least in the sense of “inhabiting” some afterlife realm (although of course reductive materialism would not be incompatible with something like reincarnation). Unfortunately, given that consciousness exists, it seems to me that reductive materialism is transparently false (I could elaborate upon that should you so desire).

              The analogies you use are of course false analogies. They would be analogical to what consciousness *does* but not what consciousness *is*. So the analogy would be appropriate for what we might label “functional consciousness” i.e the causal role consciousness plays in this physical reality. It is *not* analogical to what consciousness *is* i.e the entirety of ones mental life and experiences.

            • Thomas Taylor

              “You’re just stating the reductive materialist position but without actually arguing for it.” It should come as no surprise that people on a skeptics blog would be materialist, if you feel the need to debate this I can link any blog on this site. That said, I am a systems person not a reductionist but it was a close call. It seems that you like this reductive materialist tag as you keep hiding behind it. I chose not to cite a bunch of information as you seem to prefer non-empirical evidence so I thought I would attempt to keep it more on your terms and use linguistics. If you would like to “argue” for this stance I would be glad to entertain the debate.

              “should reductive materialism be correct then it would be nonsensical to suppose the self/soul or consciousness could survive, at least in the sense of “inhabiting” some afterlife realm (although of course reductive materialism would not be incompatible with something like reincarnation).” You’re flawed in tagging simple linguistics as reductive materialism. If you wish to use a construct in a nontraditional way you need to redefine said construct. Consciousness is the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind (Farthing 1992). If you want to, you could even make it an abstract noun by defining it as full activity of the mind and senses, as in waking life(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/consciousness),
              but this even requires a physical sensory object to exist.

              “Unfortunately, given that consciousness exists, it seems to me that reductive materialism is transparently false (I could elaborate upon that should you so desire).” Please do because this seems to be an assumption that you have already claimed is not provable.

              Even among people who prefer to think of consciousness as a noun there are major issues they run across. The entirety of deterministic
              belief structures depends on the idea (at least at a base level) that consciousness is post hoc. From what I have gathered this applies to you. If the future is written in a book or is in any way set and a “divine being” has a plan for you then you have to be acting according to said plan. This means any choices you make either alter deific plans or were already incorporated into them.

              In psychology consciousness has classically been included in cognition. This is because on its own it is full of too many holes to be useful. If you wish to read up on this just look into any of the literature on the unconscious thought or Social Automaticity. The concept you refer to as “self” is also just as flawed.

              “The analogies you use are of course false analogies. They would be analogical to what consciousness *does* but not what consciousness *is*.” As I stated, it *is* an interaction between biological systems. “Ian is running” and “Ian is conscious” are both equally valid sentences but “Ian is house” and “Ian is car” are not. This is not reductionism it is just how it is.

            • Ian Wardell

              Thomas Taylor, almost everything of your rather long post is
              extraneous to my preceding post. If you do not understand what I said, then simply say so . .

              I have no interest whether you are a “systems person” (whatever that might mean). The pertinent point is that your point in your previous post was presupposing “reductive materialism”.

              You say:

              “The entirety of deterministic
              belief structures depends on the idea (at least at a base level) that consciousness is post hoc”.

              Hope you don’t have in mind Libet’s experiments in mind here . .
              It is incoherent to suppose consciousness is causally inefficacious. Also the fact that the future might exist is wholly compatible with the notion that consciousness is causally efficacious. Indeed the future already existing is even compatible with free will (and I mean free will as commonsense imagines it).

              Anyway, I don’t believe there’s any further purpose in any further communication. You have failed to understand my previous post.

            • Ian, I’m relatively certain Thomas understood your post and the wiggle-waggling around within it. To say, “you fail to understand” when it’s pretty obvious that he knows about consciousness (particularly from a cognitive science perspective) is a bit of a dodge.

            • Ian Wardell

              Well, if he did understand me, then he’s pretending not to.

              Cognitive science is an irrelevance in this discussion. It is a philosophical issue *not* a scientific one.

            • False dichotomy, bud. Why is this the realm of philosophy but not science?

            • Ian Wardell

              Because no conceivable discovery in science, at least under the supposition that consciousness is derivative of matter, could cast light on the mind/body problem. All science could ever do is discover correlations between particular conscious experiences and brain events. But what accounts for the fact we are conscious? If the brain does indeed produce consciousness, then it seems to me we are obliged to subscribe to *strong* emergence. And of course “strong emergence” resides outside of the realm of science.

              It might be helpful here to repeat what I’ve said on a previous occasion:

              Normally we would consider that the parts of some object can explain its properties or behaviour as a whole. For example, consider a clockwork clock. By looking at the components of that clock – namely the cogs, the springs, and the wheels – and how they all interrelate together, we can actually understand how the hour, the minute and the second hands move. We would not expect the clock to exhibit any phenomenon that could not in principle be discerned from a thorough understanding of the properties and arrangement of its parts. For example we would not expect it to sound an alarm at every hour if it did not possess the appropriate mechanism. We would expect — lacking such a mechanism — that it would be physically impossible for it to sound an hourly alarm.

              But suppose it did sound any hourly alarm anyway. We could take it apart, examine all the parts more closely, realise that they are nothing other than what they seem, put it all back together, and hey presto, it still sounds the hourly alarm. In this case the alarm would be scientifically inexplicable even though it apparently is a product of the clock since the alarm only sounds when the clock is assembled. But nevertheless even though the clock somehow causes the alarm, reductionism fails because there is no explanation for why there is an alarm sound at all. In this case the hourly alarm would be a strongly emergent phenomenon.

              As far as I am aware we never ever encounter such strong emergence, with the possible sole exception of consciousness.

              To understand this consider that physical events are always something which can be quantified and which can therefore be measured. And, at least in principle, we can trace the chains of physical events. So event A causes event B causes event C etc.

              So in the case of a clockwork clock we can see the gears and wheels in motion, and each event in the physical chain of cause and effect will lead to another event, eventually resulting in the movement of the clock’s hands.

              So the movement of the clock’s hands is a weakly emergent phenomenon.

              It is extremely important to understand that each event in the chains of physical cause and effect is something which can be quantified and measured.

              So to consider our clock, every single event, including the very last event in the chain of physical cause and effect — namely the movements of the hands, is something which we can see, can quantify, can measure.

              It’s the same for our brains. We can follow the chains of physical cause and effect until we get to the very last event in the chain (or chains). This will be some event we can quantify and measure. It might be the physical event in the brain which precipitates in me the experience of seeing greenness.

              But the experience of greenness is not a further physical event since we cannot quantify and measure it. We can quantify the physical event in the brain corresponding to the experience of greenness i.e that physical event which causes or elicits the experience of greenness. But we cannot measure and quantify the experience of greenness in itself. And the same of course applies to the entirety of our consciousness.

              So assuming the brain does indeed produce consciousness then this is *strong* emergence. It only exists because of the preceding chain(s) of physical cause and effect, but it cannot be derived from them. Each of the other events in the chain is characterised by physical processes. But the experience of something like greenness is not characterised by a physical process, it is not something which can be quantified or measured, and indeed it is not something which can be objectively observed (only the subject experiences his own consciousness).

              So far as I’m aware this makes consciousness unique. If it is produced by the brain then it is the only strongly emergent phenomenon. And it is therefore not scientifically explicable. And of course this might give rise to the question of whether it is produced by the brain at all.

            • Clayton Flesher

              There are plenty of options on the table for emergence other than consciousness.

              The origin of life comes to mind as an example of something that might be on par with consciousness as emergent. Agency as well.

              You don’t need stuff like that, though. I can recall Massimo Piggliucci discussing how much trouble scientists have giving a reductive account of phase transitions in something as simple as water.


              I don’t buy reductionism because I don’t buy the idea of downward causality. I think there are emergent properties in the universe. Lots of them, not just consciousness. Maybe even some we haven’t discovered yet.

              Btw, I believe this in part because of empirical evidence. Since, you know, it plays a role in philosophical discussions and to deny as much is just to be obtuse.

            • Clayton Flesher

              I don’t take Libet’s experiments too seriously or think they imply much about the causal efficacy of consciousness, but it is absolutely not incoherent to suppose that consciousness is not causally efficacious. I’d love to see you try to make that argument.

              Epiphenomenalism isn’t popular and most philosophers of mind see it as something to be avoided, but I’m not convinced it is incoherent.

              I want to point out that there are accounts of deterministic belief structures where consciousness is not post hoc assuming that they don’t subscribe to some simplistic reductive determinism.

            • I agree with you Clayton. I find epiphenomenalism quite attractive in many respects.

            • You can at best only argue for agnosticism with that logic since you can neither present non-materialist evidence to support your position. Cuts both ways.

            • Ian Wardell

              Jonathan, your response doesn’t address anything I have said.

            • Clayton Flesher

              Actually, Jonathan, who happens to be a philosopher (or at least a philosophy grad student last time I checked, you finish that degree yet Jona?), directly addressed the heart of the problem with non-empirical accounts of mind.

            • Indeed, sir. Degree, book, blog, public talks and all!

            • Furthermore, it is clear that even if one grants some kind of dualism, then the mental supervenes on the physical.

            • Ian Wardell

              All we can say is that they affect each other. If you think that the mental necessarily supervenes on the physical, then provide an argument. Do not simply state it.

            • Oh, c’mon. Drugs, psychology, dementia, tumours, brain injuries, headaches, hemisphere severance. Dualism fails to adequately explain these phenomena in a non-supervenient way.

              Do you really want me to come over a stick a screwdriver into your brain and see if it doesn’t affect your consciousness?

            • Clayton Flesher

              I think the problem here is that Ian is confusing naturalism, which I find it reasonable to assume Caleb subscribes to since I know him personally and have spoken to him multiple times, with a very narrow form of metaphysical reduction. In fact, I doubt Caleb, who isn’t a philosopher, has a firm opinion about reductive materialism one way or the other.

              There seems to be a false dichotomy going on here. Ian acts like strict reductive materialism is the only option on the table for people who don’t find plausible claims about the supernatural or souls, but last time I checked the vast majority of philosophers who work on or specialize in philosophy of mind are not, in fact, strict reductive materialists. There seems to be a bit of a straw man being erected here.

              I’m not saying that naturalistic accounts of consciousness aren’t problematic. They probably are, but not less problematic than non-naturalistic accounts. What with the ability for conscious experience to interact with and be affected by the physical world and all.

          • Clayton Flesher

            Yeah, this is false as well.

            I’ve already dealt with the evidence for the existence of consciousness. Nobody really denies it exists. It’s taken as a given.

            You don’t have to be a reductive materialist to be a naturalist or to take naturalistic accounts of consciousness seriously. In fact, I’m not a reductive materialist and I do take naturalistic accounts seriously, One account that is naturalist but not reductive is Searle’s biological naturalism.

            I have no idea if consciousness is strictly limited to brains, but I think it is pretty plausible from other empirical evidence that it often resides in the brain and can be affected by environmental influences.

            Since I’m not interested in defending reductive materialism, I won’t comment on whether or not consciousness falsifies it.

            I am curious how Ian tries to argue that consciousness exists if he doesn’t have some kind of evidence he can gesture towards that isn’t in some way empirical. I’m curious what this non-empirical evidence he points to that he finds so persuasive. I guess I’ll keep reading the comments. Maybe he’ll present it.

            • Indeed. Unless he denies being able to evidence consciousness in others, he must be physically observing some kind of consciousness phenomena, empirically speaking. Perhaps @Interesting_Ian:disqus needs to define consciousness.

      • Clayton Flesher

        This first statement just isn’t true. We have plenty of empirical evidence of consciousness if you mean consciousness as it is usually defined by philosophers.

        The fact that this online conversation is happening at all is empirical evidence of consciousness.

        The interesting question isn’t whether consciousness exists, that’s given. One interesting question, among others, is whether or not consciousness can be accounted for naturalistically or there needs to be some non-naturalistic explanation, assuming it has an explanation at all.

        I’m inclined to find evolutionary accounts of consciousness persuasive, but I’m biased so take it for what it’s worth.

        As for the hard problem, I don’t think we’re anywhere near solving that, but I’m not an expert on either philosophy of mind or neuroscience, so I’m not prepared to give an informed opinion.

        If this first comment is any indication, Ian probably isn’t either.

        • And whether, indeed, there IS a hard problem (ie eliminativist approaches etc).

    • Clayton Flesher

      Sigh, I see I have my work cut out for me. I’m going to sift through Ian’s comments and do my best to respond to what I agree and disagree with. Be patient with me, though. It’ll take quite a while and I’m getting started late. Expect a long break between comments at some point.

    • Thomas Taylor

      For any people that want to follow the conversation in the comments it has continued on to http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/03/21/argument-against-soul/#comment-1370093638

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    • WLSL

      Six months ago I had a spontaneous ADC. It was very real and no one can tell me otherwise. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how healing it was. So, I did a little Googling to see if this had happened to anyone else ( that’s how I learned it was called an ADC ). A little more reading about ADC’s led me to IADC and I found a therapist an hour away who was trained in IADC. I quickly made an appointment hoping to experience seeing my daughter again. I know without a shadow of a doubt that it….was….real. It was NOT imaginary. EMDR and IADC are the real deal. There is absolutely nothing pseudo about it, although I understand how folks who don’t know much about a subject, nor want to understand it, are rapid ( and rabid ) to discount it. Understandable. Just keep in mind that many years ago, doctors and psychologists told suffering patients that multiple sclerosis was all in their heads, too. And just because you might ask, I take no medications other than a small does of thyroid hormone. Nothing psychotropic whatsoever, nor alcohol or drugs.

      IADC is real. I hope to not come across as being rude, but just because you have 16 years experience in your field doesn’t mean diddly squat. I’m a teacher and I know that new learning is lifelong and doesn’t end because I’ve got x number of years under my belt. IADC is something you really need to embrace because it’s real, and it’s the most healing therapy I’ve ever received. If you honestly care about your patients who grieve deeply and truly want them to heal and feel better, you would be doing a huge disservice by witholding this form of therapy from them because it doesn’t jive with what you believe.

      • Thanks for your response. First, I am very sorry that you lost your daughter. I have a son and can’t even imagine what that must feel like.

        Second, while I appreciate that you feel your experience was real and helpful, that is not really enough to move someone like me (who demands verifiable, repeatable evidence) into the “IADC is a miracle cure” camp. Would you take the word of someone who said they had been abducted by aliens as valid simply because they were a good person? Or would you look at other, more plausible reasons for why they thought they had such an experience?

        I could use hundreds of other examples from other pseudoscientific therapies and alt-med treatments, but the long and short of the matter is this: anecdotes are not evidence. They are a place to start, but from there we need to then pursue rigorous studies examining the validity of claims.

        IADC has not done this, despite it’s wondrous claims of curing grief. So, I would argue that I would be doing a huge disservice to my grieving clients by sending them into a therapy that is built on a huge number of unsubstantiated claims with little evidence to show it works.

        • Breezy


          I respect your desire for scientific proof but what I don’t understand is how you can argue with someone’s personal feelings. If someone who has lost their daughter *feels better* following IACD treatment, they *feel better.* You can’t tell them that they’re only imagining that they feel better or argue that they merely “believe” they feel better. The poster above is stating that IADC greatly helped them and that is very important.

          For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that IADC therapy results in the mind manufacturing these ADCs or that it is a placebo effect as you suggest. So what? If it brings relief to those suffering, what difference does it make? The goal is relief of often horrific pain–the goal is comfort–so that the recipients might be able to find some peace and move forward in their lives. I personally have no idea what people seeking IADC therapy are experiencing, but the fact that they feel much better afterward is the point. And if there are thousands of reports of people saying it works or it helps, that alone warrants taking it seriously, instead of trying to refute people’s experiences.

          • I don’t think there is any conflict between saying “you feel better” and “you probably don’t feel better for why you were told you feel better.” For me, if something is due to a placebo, then that’s important information to know. Why? Because of costs. Costs of treatment, both monetarily and in terms of time; costs to health from not seeking effective treatments. The 12 step model is a great example of this: millions of people go to AA/NA and the like each year, spending lots of time each year on a a treatment which – the best we can tell – has outcomes no greater than literally doing nothing (i.e., after one year, a person who starts going to AA has the same chance of not being a problematic drinker as the person who has had no treatment at all).

            I think it is much, much better for people to know WHY they got better than to just get better. This leads us to be able to help others with the same problems.

            • Breezy

              Again, the goal is relief. You might want to know WHY it works, but if it works, it works, and people have a right to know about it. Placebo effect is a REAL effect. If you could cure cancer with a placebo effect, would you tell people not to do it because it’s “not real”? If what caused the placebo effect cost a lot of money, should people opt for the cancer instead?

              I know a few recovering alcoholics and they swear that AA, their meetings and their sponsors are what have enabled them to stay sober.

            • If the main goal is relief and betterment (which it should be), then it absolutely does matter if something is a placebo versus an active effect. If something is a placebo, then it may only have worked for a particular person, at that particular time. Or the effect could simply be a regression to the mean. If we then spend time and money giving that false treatment to others, then huge amounts of resources and life are wasted.

              And while the improvements seen via placebos are real, they are almost always simply improvements in subjective, rather than objective, areas. In other words, I take a placebo-based treatment (which I can’t know is a placebo, so I’m being lied to, which is a whole other can of worms) for my asthma, and I report that I can breathe easier and have fewer attacks. However, objective measurement of my lung functioning shows no improvement, and careful behavioral tracking of my attacks shows they aren’t any less frequent. Should we still be selling such a treatment, simply because I “feel” that it works?

              Again, AA is a great example. So yes, AA does work for some people (with work being defined as “they don’t drink problematically”). But it turns out that research shows that it doesn’t work for almost everyone that starts it. So, should we want to develop a treatment which we know works, and works well, for a large number of people? Or should we instead say “Well, it works for some people, a tiny minority of them, so give it to everyone!”

              As for your “cancer curing placebo” thought experiment, it’s really not very useful. If there was a so-called placebo that actually cured problems, then it wouldn’t very well be a placebo, would it?

              That’s the major issue with IADC. You’ve got the proponents of it declaring how amazing it works, but then failing to do a follow-up to actually show that in controlled trials. If I had developed a treatment which could effectively treat traumatic grief in 1-2 sessions for 70% or more of people, you can be damn sure I would be running a clinical trial.

    • J L Davidson

      Why don’t you try ADC and report back to us?

      • Why would I try it, JL? That’s the equivalent of you saying “Why don’t you try a homeopathic remedy for your cold and report back to us?” Even if I felt better afterwards, that would show nothing from an empirical/scientific point of view. Instead, you would need a sound treatment design with a placebo arm and multiple participants to be able to say that IADC works.

    • EdSadowski

      Fascinating discussions! It’s good to have reality checks and reminders to be skeptical, as you have done so brilliantly. We need to be wary of all the snake oil out there. Having said that, if it’s harmless snake oil, and I am aware that it could be snake oil, but it helps me deal with life, so be it. I think there are studies where even when people are aware they’re taking a placebo, it still works! You’re right, anecdotes are a starting point. Even in a court of law, a preponderance of circumstantial “evidence” can win the case. I think the arguments below support a pragmatic approach, that, even lacking tightly-fitting scientific “proof,” we cannot dismiss the value of things if they don’t appear to cause harm and seem to help some people. We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. At the same time, you are teaching us invaluable lessons that we should always take everything with a huge grain of salt and favor and respect science as the ultimate arbiter of “truth.” By the way, my English major self wants to say, use its instead of it’s (it is) in some of your writing. Again, great work, as we need to balance our lives with huge doses of protective skepticism to stay enlightened. Long live an evidence-based life!

    • LynnJohnson

      I just read Botkin’s book. I am a psychologist. Your points are mostly distortions. Botkin said that you do not have to believe in an afterlife. You admit that, yet your article is internally inconsistent. Under parsimony you asset 3a “there is an afterlife” as a presupposition. Wrong, Botkin believes that but he doesn’t assert that as a necessary condition in his book. His argument is “try it and see.” You are engaged in mind-reading and straw man reasoning, not a good thing.

      I have always felt nauseous about “extraordinary claims” since the statement itself is an extraordinary claim, yet no evidence was ever given by Sagan or others that it is true. It is simply an _ex cathadra_ statement: “I am an Astronomer so I get to make foolish claims” Plus, the obnoxious skeptics (a redundancy, grin, wink) get to determine the quality of the evidence, so no matter what, it is never enough. Moving the goalposts.

      I do agree that Botkin has not use outcome measures, and should have. No problem. But aside from me and a handful of other clinicians, most therapists do not document what they achieve. They rely on verbal report. See Scott Miller’s work. (I might border on tu quoque here!)

      There are good arguments (c.f., Bruce Wampold) that placebo in psychotherapy outcome studies is actually impossible, so your point there is questionable at best. But suppose you do three sessions with a deeply grieving person, and he does, and suppose he gets the results and you don’t? Your point is somewhat good; there could be three sessions of CBT as a control group. That isn’t placebo. It would be a random assignment design. The whole placebo obsession in our field is frankly delusional.

      To be fair to you, I tried IADC on myself and it did nothing for me, but I know from other experiences I am very low on hypnotizability (whatever that is) and am not a placebo responder. So you might be right. I just found your tone off-putting and choir preaching.

      • Lisa