TED Conversations

Hadar Cohen

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Is the heart overlooked when it comes to intelligence?

The center of the nervous system, the brain, has been popularly defined as the fundamental core of intellectual activity. Yet, in my Bioelectricity class with Professor Nina Tandon, we learned about recent research suggesting that information processing in the body may in fact be more distributed.

For example, there is increasing evidence suggesting that the cardioelectromagenetic field can actually affect human beings in close proximity.These signals are stronger in amplitude when in direct contact, but are still detectable up to several feet away from the source. Through these interactions, the heart transfers energies between human beings. The heart can therefore be characterized as the engine for distributing and controlling energy of the human body.

These extraordinary results illustrate that the heart is not only responsible for blood regulations, but is also a very powerful intelligence system.

This made me wonder, could intelligence be distributed through the body in ways we might not expect? Could this information sent to the brain perhaps even influence emotional states? Or provide insight into some of the unexplained links between "mental" and "bodily" diseases (eg Alzheimer's and cardiac disease etc)?

See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3547419/
and http://books.google.com/books?id=pvkpdNHhI6cC for more details

Given that the heart and other organs are frequently excluded from the
intellectual discussion, I would like to ask the Ted community, how do
these new findings affect how we view intelligence? How will our
interactions with each other differ if we view more of our bodies as


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  • Apr 15 2013: I wish reply chains could go on longer than they do. Pabitra, I think there are several problems that I have with this article and ones like it. First, a lot of the references cited came from something called "subtle energies", which seems highly suspicious to me, and I still don't know what it is. Second, the mechanisms they talk about constantly mix science and pseudoscience (for example, the talk about practitioners adopting a "sincere caring attitude, and thus introducing increased coherence into their cardiac field.") Furthermore, "If we define energy as the capacity to produce an effect, these experiments suggest that an exchange of energy has occurred. It has also been demonstrated that many of these therapeutic effects occur without physical touch, indicating that energy of some kind is radiated or broadcast between practitioner and patient". This is incredibly vague, and doesn't give me any good idea of the mechanisms even adding all the Electromagnetic field stuff into the equation.

    Mainstream science journals hold the position that the the evidence for any kind of "energy healing" is lacking, and the studies that do see evidence have been criticized for using bad methodology and "selection bias".
    • Apr 15 2013: Noah yes the 'evidence' is missing. One day though when I'd say the world is more at peace and perhaps do we dare to hope world hunger gone, this 'metaphor' proof might be found.

      There is a large teaching hospital probably the best in my State of Victoria Australia. It has just put in a cancer building of 10 storeys high ... it also includes alternative therapies as well as cancer drugs. Only just been opened and they are collecting the data if and hopefully why the both together might work. First instigated by singer Olivier Newton-John for whom it is named.

      The was a heart surgeon there I think and after scrubbs, he would pray (not prey) over his patients ..... his success rate was many times better than any other surgeon.

      No explanation to that either ... not yet that is
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      Apr 15 2013: Dear Noah,
      I am aware what is mainstream science, how it works and validated. But I think there are substantial branches of studies that are arguably outside of mainstream science but are credible by their own processes. Some are observational, some behavioral and some statistical. The scientific process of inquiry and scientific evidence are quite well defined and the publication might not apparently meet that standard but I prefer to keep myself open to all new work and observations from these and believe that will not harm mainstream science in any way.

      I also find 'real science' a rather rarefied claim. There is science and there are other things.
      Btw, I notice that you feel uncomfortable with semantics of propositions. Unfortunately, science still needs language for communication and language does not follow scientific and evidence based practice. You can check descriptions of postulates by very mainstream scientists about a century back. I did, and it appeared to me that it came from a pseudo-scientist.

      I think science is unable to handle the whole idea of healing, let alone energy healing. Some may take a position like how long do we wait till mainstream science finds scientific evidence for nursing and healing to be having positive effect on patients, while tons of personal experience affirming that to be something tangible.
      • Apr 15 2013: One kind of research/science needs the other. So called proven science of today is often something else or discredited 20 years down the track.

        One kind of 'research' cannot stand alone. If Science is to progress it needs to be mindful and encompass 'alternative' belief/science !

        Great to think Ms. Cohen has the competence to realise this. Bravo.
      • Apr 15 2013: I think you're aware of the placebo, which is exactly why we have "tons of personal experiences". And the effect disappears when we take the placebo away. You say "I think science is unable to handle the whole idea of healing, let alone energy healing", but if the only way we are going to get an effect is to not study it, something is wrong.
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          Apr 16 2013: Are you seriously saying all our personal experiences are placebo? Placebo meaning a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient?
          Kindly elucidate how science has studied, explained and refuted/proved the process of nursing and healing. Or are you saying nursing and healing are placebo, too?
      • Apr 16 2013: The placebo effect is when a person's health improves just by them thinking it will. That's why when they do drug testing, they give the control group a placebo (a pill that does nothing) so that they can rule out the possibility of the placebo being the reason the drug works. The placebo has been studied extensively, and effects are great, especially when all it needs to do is make a patient feel better (particularly in energy healing, homeopathic medicine, or other alternatives.)
    • Apr 15 2013: I agree. Im appalled at how many people just except this kind of garbage upon faith. I sware pseudo-scientific journals are the Bible of the New Age religion. The same people who like to think they embrace science, really are only distorting it and not even applying its wisdom and method properly. People want to believe in something, If the traditional faith are not working, people will create a new creed with a seemingly higher legitimacy, and thats what this stuff is.
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        Apr 15 2013: Thank you. But I am surprised that you are appalled. That to be credible and authentic you have to be somehow scientific is a dogma in itself and it has been created by generations of practitioners of science. To prevent seemingly impossible things to be accomplished out of new age fluff, science and scientists have been stereotyped as nerds, just check Hollywood potboilers to see how just impressive machines, funny sounds and assembly of blinking consoles along with some jargon thrown in can make utterly ludicrous ideas seem authentic.The onus of the distortion is squarely on societies and cultures who worshiped machines, productions and material results.

        I think you are aware that science can well cease to be an inquiry, can grow into a belief system (which some call scienticism) and warp even the brightest of minds. Newton started one. It took half a century to take the non-deterministic views of natural sciences seriously.

        I hope I made it amply clear that i do not accept there is anything such as real science. There is science and there are other things. In my humble opinion, I am unable to discard any inquiry just because it did not follow scientific process and EBP. Therefore Ms. Cohen's question is quite legitimate to me and I am confident I can separate out the voodoo from a reasoned research and you need not worry.
        • Apr 16 2013: " That to be credible and authentic you have to be somehow scientific is a dogma in itself and it has been created by generations of practitioners of science"- First, thats how science was born as ive mentioned in a differant comment.. Science was born out of conflict with dogma and superstition. Science is a verb, not a noun. The principle behind science is to make claims based on empirical evidence rather than faith or superstition... seems to be a universal and infallible idea for Logic.

          Scientists can become dogmatic but not "science." Because real science is based on real facts and real evidence. Newtonian physics is deterministic but for the purpose of his research into the macro-universe yes to this day it is still deterministic. If it wasnt you couldnt have any applied science of physics for example if laws governing our macro-universe where probabalistic than rockets airplanes cars our own motions etc.. couldnt be possible to formulate without a constant re-adjustment. The new paradigm of relativity replaced the classic views because now they had perspective on light, waves, space-time, the particle universe etc... but it didn't change the way physics was already understood relative to the everyday
          matter we constantly interact with.. of course you shouldn't discard a theory if it had not yet been verified by science but you shouldn't be Certain of something that hasn't been proven, and definately, and this is what bugs me, no body could discard the oceans of scientific evidence that has already been accepted to re-enforce some "idea" or philosophy they have.
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        Apr 16 2013: I appreciate your passion. However, I have very different ideas about almost everything you are saying.
        1. Though it helped greatly to remove, Science was NOT born out of conflict with dogma and superstition. Probably you are mistaken by the scientific revolution that took place in 16th and 17th century Europe. Empirical investigations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales, Aristotle, and others), and scientific methods have been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham, and Roger Bacon). More ancient references of science can be found in Hindu philosophies. Science originated as a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. I see it as an incrementally developing human inquiry rather than a revolutionary idea out of a war or fight.
        2. It is good that you see science and scientists as different. ‘Scientist’ is a relatively modern term coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Previously there were only natural philosophers. But I am very confused with your statement “Scientists can become dogmatic but not "science." Scientists can be dogmatic, but what is that dogma, then?
        3. Universal and infallible idea of Logic is not the forte of science, not exclusively. It better not be because had it been so you would have required no evidence. Logic, as proclaimed, is good enough to establish a truth.
        4. I think science is a noun, not verb in dictionaries. As a body of knowledge it should be a noun. Science can appear a verb when scientific and critical thinking is a teaching tool but even then the idea is controversial.
        • Apr 16 2013: Definately, what you said was the most thought out thing and i respect that. I guess the nature of Language is fallible. I think at some points you are not grasping whats im saying.. and not because it beyond you but because words are semantic. Indeed you are right on certain fronts but i believe you attempt to find the grey areas in what can be interpretted by my words and start an argument. For example the whole scientific revolution thing and Aristotle. I mean yes depending on a broader definition of science you where right however your deliberately ignoring the context in which im writing and my point. I was wrong in using "certainty" because it come across too absolute and yes science is fluid, however science is not build on assumptions.. the conclusions drawn are from sold evidence. Also much of what i convey is a matter of Fact that you can research not perspective.. atleast if your being objective. You totally did not catch what i was attempting to convey about Classical Physics and quantum mechanics. I feel no need to really explain but a huge problem in todays physics is understanding... how matter in the microcosm acts through probabalism and in the macro-universe it has through determinism. How does matter made of matter behaving undeterministically.. act deterministically? Digest what I say!
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        Apr 16 2013: 5. You are making a distinction between everyday ‘matter’ we constantly interact with and other things that relativistic or quantum physics deals with. Is that a special physics? Your chain of universality and infallibility of logic seems to break down here. I hope you know that a million observations of white swans will not make the proposal ‘all swans are white’ true but a single observation of a black swan will establish the proposition ‘all swans may not be white’. If the knowledge of quantum indeterminacy, relativism and probability did not change the physics the way everyday matter is understood, it appears that science does compromise with practicality and let us know things the way we can comprehend. It does not make everyday matter science beyond question, isn’t?
        6. I am seriously confused about the certainty that you are implying to be coming from scientific proof. If I have understood anything about science, it NEVER proclaims certainty of anything, not even with oceans of scientific evidence. Science remains falsifiable. That is why millions of students study science, piece through works of people before them, aspire to challenge and falsify one little bit and that’s how science progresses. No one has spoken last word about science.
        7. Science does not require crusaders like Keith Weissman or Pabitra Mukhopadhyay to be saved from pseudo-science because it is far too great a human quest and far too inclusive than you may care to think.
        I think you will benefit from reading the works of Thomas Kuhn.
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          Apr 17 2013: "If I have understood anything about science, it NEVER proclaims certainty of anything, not even with oceans of scientific evidence. Science remains falsifiable."

          Nicely put Pabitra.
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        Apr 17 2013: Thanks Allan! I too have come to like what you say, most often. :)
        • Apr 17 2013: Certainly it remains falsifiable.. but scientific claims are clearly different than philosophical claims. If there wasnt "constants" in science, building rocket ships and doing surgery would be pretty hard. think about what your saying its not a matter of philosophical debate. Look at all that has come to fruition because of science. Its self-evident that there are absolutes and laws that govern this existence.. Applied science would be irrelavent if everything was always in flux
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        Apr 17 2013: Ok Keith. Give me an applied science based observation of the momentum and position of an electron at any given instant.
        • Apr 17 2013: That science is a work in progress. i tried telling you already.. matter on the micro-scale behaves differently than on the macro-scale. Much of our lack of understanding of the particle universe lays in the extreme difficulty in studying such phenomena. We have to build billions dollar enormous accelerators to do it ineffiecently. However on the macro-scale we have many laws and absolutes mapped out and understood. How else do you think we can send rockets to mars and achieve great medical knowledge? Not philosophy! A doctor must be certain of his practice... he doesnt remain in your bubble of philosophical doubt
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        Apr 17 2013: I tell you how Keith. You can check it. When we send rockets to mars and watch it in monitors, we eat our whole fingernails. You know why? Because we, so certain about science, shit in our pants fearing every second that it will burst into oblivion. Any second.
        Doctors are even a worse lot my friend. They perform surgery and say, the operation is successful but the patient died. In other instances, medical doctors, the product of macro level science per excellence, pray. Can you believe it? They pray!
        • Apr 17 2013: Well its still accomplished bucko! Science is a growing field. I never said we knew everything. Nasa bite its nails and doctors to because they are aware of unaccounted for variable and bad math.. Yes rocket ships have crashed before due to miscalculations. However how many open heart surgeries have successfully been done? Not because of uncertainty but because of a significant body of data and research. Without a significant degree of certainty what has been accomplished the last 100 years would be impossible. Think about it.. would a doctor do a heart transplant if he wasnt at least certain that there was an exact science behind it. yes theres a margin of error but if the laws where constantly changing no body would be confident in applying research to its practical application.
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        Apr 17 2013: Sure. I am feeling sleepy so let's conclude.
        Science is a growing field. This exact science is entirely based on statistical success. In last 100 years every day science has separated from micro level science where physics still works. It's not a philosophy anymore.
        • Apr 17 2013: I still think you have wrong idea but whatever. Micro-level physics is just the least determined science thus far. also Macro-level science has been re-affirmed thousands of times in the areas it is certain of its claims. obviously all fields of study are continually growing. WHen science is Applied in practice its doing so based on proven results.

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