Saturday, July 24, 2021

Experimental Evidence for ESP Is Well-Replicated

While examing the Science subreddit on ( the other day, I noticed there is a new meta-analysis about ESP experiments.  The meta-analysis is an interesting case example of presenting evidence for paranormal phenomena in pretty much the most hard-to-unravel way possible. If he works very hard, and uses some geeky little computer tricks, it is possible for a reader to get to the core data that is compelling evidence for extrasensory perception. But it is almost as if the authors were trying to minimize the chance of readers discovering such core data.  In this post I will discuss that core data in a way that saves you from doing all that hard work. 

The meta-analysis ("Anomalous perception in a Ganzfeld condition - A meta-analysis of more than 40 years investigation" by P. Tressoldi and Lance Storm) discusses ESP experiments using what is called the Ganzfeld protocol.  A ganzfeld experiment is one in which a test for extra-sensory perception is combined with sensory deprivation achieved through methods such as cutting a ping-pong ball in half and taping it over someone's eyes, and having someone wear an earphone transmitting white noise. In these ESP experiments, the expected chance hit rate (matching of a user's selection and a random target) is 25%. Ganzfeld experiments have a long history of scoring a "hit rate" well over the expected chance result of 25%. 

What we want to know upon reading the new meta-analysis is: how high a "hit rate" did the experiments score? Unfortunately, the authors have made it ridiculously hard to discover this key number. The meta-analysis authors mention "hit rates" far about 25% reported by other meta-analysis papers. But nowhere in their paper do they report the "hit rate" found by their meta-analysis. 

Instead, the authors report what statisticians call an "effect size." The concept of an effect size will not be clear to non-scientists or non-mathematicians.  But everyone can understand that if a long series of ESP experiments reports an average "hit rate" far above the expected-by-chance "hit rate" of 25%, then you have powerful experimental evidence for ESP. 

There is a way to get the "hit rate" reported by this meta-analysis, but it requires some geeky tricks that few readers would naturally achieve. If you click the link here provided by the paper, you will find a page with a series of links on the left side. If you click the third link in this series, you will see a table with some experimental results. But you will not see the full set of experimental results used in the meta-analysis.  You will see only 50 rows. There is then a link that says, "This dataset contains more than 50 rows. To see the remaining content please download the original file."  There is a link that allows you to download a spreadsheet file (GZMADatabase1974_2020.xlsx). Part of it is shown below.

ESP Results

What if you don't have a spreadsheet program on your computer? Then you're out of luck, and can't discover the key number of the "hit rate."

There is no excuse for presenting such road blocks to the reader. Web sites since the early 1990's have been perfectly capable of displaying the simple tabular data that is in this spreadsheet, by using the HTML protocol used since the early 1990's, a protocol fully capable of displaying tabular data. There is no reason why such tabular data could not have been fully displayed in the meta-analysis paper, so users would not have to fool around with external links and downloads.  And there's no reason why the paper could not have included a single sentence summarizing the number of trials, number of successful hits, and hit rate. 

But what happens if you are lucky enough to have a spreadsheet program on your computer, and you can download the spreadsheet, and view the experimental data? Then you still won't get the key number of the average "hit rate" reported by the meta-analysis.  For the spreadsheet table doesn't include a line summarizing the results in the table. 

But by using some hard-core geeky tricks, we can remedy this situation. You have to do this (something that would not occur to 1 reader in 100):

  • In cell G115 of the spreadsheet, type this: =SUM(G2:G114)
  • In cell H115 of the spreadsheet, type this: =SUM(H2:H114)
  • In cell K115 of the spreadsheet, type this: =AVERAGE(K2:K114)

Now finally, we get the "bottom line" numbers, shown in the last line of the screen shot below. From 1974 to 2020 there were 113 ESP experiments using the Ganzfeld protocol, which involved a total of 4841 trials and 1520 successful "hits," which was an average success rate of 31.5%, much higher than the rate expected by chance, which is only 25%. 

ESP experiments

Why haven't our meta-analysis authors communicated to us this very clear "bottom line" result, which anyone can understand is a result that is extraordinarily unlikely to have occurred by chance? Why have they only informed us of their results using only an "effect size" that few layman understand? It is as if the authors were doing everything they could to obscure the evidence for ESP they have found.  Indeed, the authors have failed to even use any of the terms commonly used for describing ESP experiments. They have not used the words commonly used in the literature, words such as "psi," "ESP," "extrasensory perception," "telepathy," "clairvoyance" or "mind reading." Instead they have merely used the vague term "anomalous perception," as if they were trying to minimize the number of times their meta-analysis would be found by people doing a Google search for information about ESP. 

Although some of the people gathering such evidence are clumsy about clearly communicating their impressive results, the experimental evidence for extrasensory perception is very strong and very well-replicated.  Using the Ganzfeld technique, ESP researchers have achieved a high-level of experimental replication. But the Ganzfeld results are by no means the best evidence for ESP.  The best evidence consists of (1) earlier tests reported by people such as Rhine and Riess, in which some subjects reported results we would never expect any subject to get by chance even if every person in the world was tested for ESP every week (see here, here and here for examples);  (2) two-hundred years of observational reports of clairvoyance, in which some subjects were vastly more successful than any person ever should have been by chance or coincidence (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for examples). 

No one has any neural explanation for how a brain could produce psi effects such as ESP. Evidence for ESP is fatal to the claim that the human mind is merely a product of the brain.  This is why people who maintain that claim have again and again so stubbornly refused to admit the existence of ESP. They almost always take a "head in the sand" approach, simply refusing to examine the evidence on this topic.  Such mindless non-scholarship is a very strong "red flag" suggesting their beliefs about the brain and mind are fundamentally wrong.  Two of the biggest "red flags" you can have suggesting that someone's beliefs are dogma rather than scientifically warranted are (1) a refusal to seriously study a very large body of important observational reports relevant to such beliefs; (2) a frequent tendency to occasionally make untrue statements about factual matters related to your belief claims.  Very many professors following the "brains make minds" dogma frequently display both of these "red flags."  

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Most Scientists Don't Follow Formal Evidence Standards, Unlike Judges

The site is a typical "science news" site: a strange mixture of hard fact, speculations, often-dubious opinions, spin, clickbait, hype and corporate propaganda, all under the banner of "science."  I noticed an enormous contrast between one of the site's articles appearing yesterday, and another article appearing today.

The link that appeared yesterday was a link to a very give-you-the-wrong-idea article by scientist Adam Frank, one with the swaggering title, "The most important boring idea in the universe."  This idea that Frank says is so important is the claim that "scientific knowledge" rests upon "mutually agreed standards of evidence." 

Frank attempts to persuade us that after arguing for a long time, scientists agreed on "standards of evidence" that they are now faithfully following. He writes the following:

"There were lots of wrong turns in figuring out what counted as meaningful evidence and what was just another way of getting fooled. But over time, people figured out that there were standards for how to set up an experiment, how to collect data from it, and how to interpret that data. These standards now include things like isolating the experimental apparatus from spurious environmental effects, understanding how data collection devices respond to inputs, and accounting for systematic errors in analyzing the data. There are, of course, many more."

The idea that Frank tries to plant is a false one. Scientists never agreed upon some "standard of evidence" that would be used in judging how experiments or observations should be done or whether scientific papers should be published or publicized.  There is no formal written "standard of evidence" used by scientists. Conversely, courts do actually make use of formal written standards of evidence. 

When you go to, you will find the Federal Rules of Evidence used in US federal courts.  The page here lists about 68 numbered rules of evidence used in this evidence standard. Here are some examples:

  • Rule 404: "Evidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait."  (There are quite a few exceptions listed.) 
  • Rule 608: " A witness’s credibility may be attacked or supported by testimony about the witness’s reputation for having a character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, or by testimony in the form of an opinion about that character. But evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the witness’s character for truthfulness has been attacked."
  • Rule 610: "Evidence of a witness’s religious beliefs or opinions is not admissible to attack or support the witness’s credibility." 

There are more than 60 other rules in the Federal Rules of Evidence. US Federal Courts have a formal written set of evidence standards. But scientists have no such thing.  The impression that Frank has attempted to insinuate (that scientists operate under formal standards of evidence that they carefully worked out after long debate) is not correct.

There are no formal detailed written evidence standards in any of the main branches of science.  In biology, poorly designed experiments following bad practices are extremely common.  In theoretical biology and physics, it is extremely common for scientists to publish papers based on the flimsiest or wildest of speculations. When we read scientific papers such as those speculating about a multiverse consisting of many unobserved universes, we are obviously reading papers written by authors following no standards of evidence at all. It's pretty much the same for any of the thousands of papers that have been written about never-actually-observed things such as abiogenesis, dark matter, dark energy or primordial cosmic inflation.

In fields such as paleontology, elaborate speculation papers can be based on the flimsiest piece of ancient matter or the tiniest bone fragment; and many papers in that field are not based on specific fossils.  Then there are endless chemistry papers not based on actual physical experiments but on "chemical reactions" merely occuring on paper, a blackboard, or inside a computer program. Countless papers in many fields are based on mere computer simulations or abstruse speculative math rather than physical experiments or observations. 

On the next day after the site published a link to Frank's article, it published a link to an article that very much contradicted his insinuations that scientists are adhering to sound standards of evidence. The link was to an article on entitled "How Much Scientific Research Is Actually Fraudulent?"

Here are some quotes from the article:

"Fraud may be rampant in biomedical research. My 2016 article 'Broken Science' pointed to a variety of factors as explanations for why the results of a huge proportion of scientific studies were apparently generating false-positive results that could not be replicated by other researchers. A false positive in scientific research occurs when there is statistically significant evidence for something that isn't real (e.g., a drug cures an illness when it actually does not). The factors considered included issues like publication bias, and statistical chicanery associated with p-hacking, HARKing, and underpowered studies....A 2015 editorial in The Lancet observed that 'much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.' A 2015 British Academy of Medical Sciences report suggested that the false discovery rate in some areas of biomedicine could be as high as 69 percent. In an email exchange with me, Ioannidis estimated that the nonreplication rates in biomedical observational and preclinical studies could be as high as 90 percent....Summarizing their results, an article in Science notes, 'More than half of Dutch scientists regularly engage in questionable research practices, such as hiding flaws in their research design or selectively citing literature. And one in 12 [8 percent] admitted to committing a more serious form of research misconduct within the past 3 years: the fabrication or falsification of research results.' Daniele Fanelli, a research ethicist at the London School of Economics, tells Science that 51 percent of researchers admitting to questionable research practices 'could still be an underestimate.' "

Such comments are consistent with my own frequent examination of neuroscience research papers. When examining such papers, I seem to find that Questionable Research Practices were used most of the time. Almost always, the papers include study group sizes that are less than the reasonable standard of having at least 15 subjects in every study group, meaning there is a high chance of a false alarm. Most of the times, the papers fail to show evidence that any blinding protocol was used. The detailed elucidation and following of a rigorous blinding protocol is an essential for almost any experimental neuroscience study to be regarded as reliable. Few papers follow the standard of pre-registering a hypothesis and methods for data gathering and analysis, leaving the researchers free to follow an approach rather like "torture the data until it confesses" to what the researcher is hoping to find. 

torture data until it confesses

What this means is that the great majority of times you read about some neuroscience research on some science news site, you are reading about an unreliable result that should not be taken as robust evidence of anything. 

bad neuroscience practices

Frank mentioned "best practices," trying to insinuate that scientists follow such practices. He fails to tell us about the large fraction of scientists that follow shoddy practices.  Frank attempted to portray scientists as "follow strictly the good rules" guys acting like judges in a court. But it seems that a large fraction of scientists are like cowboys in the Wild West pretty much doing whatever they fancy.  And so many of the gun blasts from such cowboys are just noise. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

When You Read "It Is Widely Believed," Suspect a Dubious Belief Custom

We can classify several different types of scientific truth claims, along with some tips on how to recognize the different types. 

Type of truth claim

How to recognize it

Citation of established fact

Typically occurs with a discussion of the observational facts that proved the claim.

Citation of a claim that is not yet established fact

Typically occurs with phrases such as “scientists believe” or “it is generally believed” or an appeal to a “scientific consensus.” The claim of a “scientific consensus” is often unfounded, and there may be many scientists who do not accept the claim.

Citation of a claim that has little basis in observations, and that there may be good reasons for doubting

Often occurs with a phrase such as “it is widely believed,” or maybe a more confident-sounding phrase like “it is becoming increasingly clear” or “there is growing evidence.”

Claims that memories are stored in synapses fall into the third of these categories. To show that, I may cite some of the many times in which writers or scientists suggested that memories are stored in synapses, and merely used the weak phrase "it is widely believed" as their authority. 

  • "It is widely believed that synaptic plasticity mediates learning and memory"  (link)
  • "It is widely believed that synapses in the forebrain undergo structural and functional changes, a phenomenon called synaptic plasticity, that underlies learning and memory processes" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that synaptic modifications underlie learning and memory" (link).
  • "As with other forms of synaptic plasticity, it is widely believed that it [spike-dependent synaptic plasticity] underlies learning and information storage in the brain" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that memories are stored as changes in the number and strength of the connections between brain neurons, called synapses" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that modifications to synaptic connections – synaptic plasticity – represent a fundamental mechanism for altering network function, giving rise to phenomena collectively referred to as learning and memory" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that encoding and storing memories in the brain requires changes in the number, structure, or function of synapses"  (link).
  • "It is widely believed that long-term changes in the strength of synaptic transmission underlie the formation of memories" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that the brain's microcircuitry undergoes structural changes when a new behavior is learned" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that long-lasting changes in synaptic function provide the cellular basis for learning and memory in both vertebrates and invertebrates (link).
  • "It is widely believed that the brain stores memories as distributed changes in the strength of connections ('synaptic transmission') between neurons" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that the long-lasting, activity-dependent changes in synaptic strength, including long-term potentiation and long-term depression, could be the molecular and cellular basis of experience-dependent plasticities, such as learning and memory" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that a long-lasting change in synaptic function is the cellular basis of learning and memory" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that the modification of these synaptic connections is what constitutes the physiological basis of learning" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that memory traces can be stored through synaptic conductance modification" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that memories are stored in the synaptic strengths and patterns between neurons" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that long-term changes in the strength of synaptic connections underlie learning and memory" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that long-term synaptic plasticity plays a critical role in the learning, memory and development of the nervous system" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that learning is due, at least in part, to long-lasting modifications of the strengths of synapses in the brain" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that long-term memories are stored as changes in the strengths of synaptic connections in the brain" (link). 
  • "It is widely believed that activity-dependent modification of synapses is the brain's primary mechanism for learning and memory" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that synaptic modifications are one of the factors underlying learning and memory" (link).
  • "Learning, it is widely believed, is based on changes in the connections between nerve cells" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that memories are stored as changes in the number and strength of the connections between brain cells (neurons)" (link).
  • "It is widely believed that memories are stored as changes in the strength of synaptic connections between neurons" (link). 
  • "It is widely believed that memory formation is based on changes in synapses" (link).

There is no good evidence that any memories are stored in synapses or stored through a strengthening of synapses or stored by a modification of synapse weights, or stored anywhere in the human brain through any means. No one has any understanding or any credible coherent theory of how learned information or episodic memories could ever be stored using synapses or any other part of the brain. We know of the strongest reason for rejecting all of the claims in the bullet list above, which is that the average lifetime of the proteins in synapses is only about two weeks or less.  The proteins in synapses last an average of only about a thousandth of the longest length of time that humans can remember things (50 years or more). Moreover, humans can form permanent new memores instantly, which could never occur if forming such memories required synapse strengthening (something that would take minutes or hours, because it would require the synthesis of new proteins). 

The examples in the bullet list above are simply an example of a speech custom. Scientists and science writers have got in the bad habit of saying something like "it is widely believed that memory formation occurs through changes in synapses." The fact that such a large fraction of the writers repeating this myth use the same language phrasing (including the phrase "it is widely believed") shows that what is going on is mainly people parroting what other people have said, rather than independently reaching intelligent judgments based on facts.  I may note that in not a single one of these cases has any of these writers even claimed a scientific agreement, or even a majority of scientist opinion.  Claiming that something is "widely believed" is to make a claim much weaker than claiming "almost everyone believes" or "most people believe." When people haven't got much of a case, they use phrases like "it is widely believed." 

In general, when you hear or read someone using the phrase "it is widely believed," you should suspect a dubious belief custom or a misguided belief.  For example, if someone says "it is widely believed you can't trust men from that country," he is saying something that means very little. And if someone says, "it is widely believed that the thirteenth day of the month is unlikely," you are probably just hearing an old wives tale.  Because they all use the weak shaky phrase "it is widely believed," every statement in my bullet list above should be treated as a "red flag" indicating a lack of good evidence. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Neuroscientists Keep Using Misleading Coloring in Brain Visuals

In my July 2018 post "The Brain Shows No Sign of Working Harder During Thinking or Recall," I looked at quite a few brain scan studies looking for neural correlates of thinking or recall, and showed how such studies show no evidence that brains work harder when you are thinking or remembering anything. Below I will discuss some other studies not listed in that post, studies looking for signs of increased activity when a person is engaging in some kind of recall, recognition or heavy thinking. 

  • A study published in November 2018 was entitled "BOLD Activity During Correct-Answer Feedback in Cued Recall Predicts Subsequent Retrieval Performance: An fMRI Investigation Using a Partial Trial Design." Some fMRI scans were made of dozens of subjects during a verbal recall task. Figure 4 of the paper shows a graph displaying signal changes of no greater than about .3 percent. This is about 1 part in 1000, no greater than we would expect to see by chance. The results are quite consistent with the claim that memories are not stored in brains.  No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during recall. 
  • An August 2020 paper was entitled "Aging alters neural activity at event boundaries in the hippocampus and Posterior Medial network."  Hundreds of subjects were shown a movie and had their brain scanned. Ignoring Figure 1, which doesn't deal with recall, and looking at Figure 2, which does deal with recall, we see that the average signal change was only about 1 part in 1000, and that the greatest reported signal change (in the highest outliers) was only about 1 part in 300. No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during recall. 
  • A 2010 study not mentioned in my July 2018 post is the study "Age-related effects on the neural correlates of autobiographical memory retrieval."  The study did brain scans of 14 young and 14 old people during recall of things that had happened in their lives. None of the results reported in the paper's graphs (such as Figure 1) show a percent signal change greater than 1 part in 1000. The results are quite consistent with the claim that memories are not stored in brains.  No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during autobiographical recall. 
  • A January 2021 study was entitled "Neural correlates of recursive thinking during interpersonal strategic interactions." Figure 3 of the study shows no percent signal change greater than about 1 part in 300.  The results are consistent with the idea that thinking is not produced by the brain, and no significant sign has been found that brains act differently during thinking. 
  • A 2018 study not mentioned in my July 2018 post is the study "Neural correlates of free recall of 'famous events' in a 'hypermnestic' individual as compared to an age- and education-matched reference group."  The study scanned the brains of 11 people while recalling famous events. Figure 3 shows that the percent signal change was no greater than about 1 part in 500. The results are consistent with the claim that memories are not stored in brains.  No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during recall of famous events. 
  • A 2015 study not mentioned in my July 2018 post is the study "Amygdala Activity During Autobiographical Memory Recall in Depressed and Vulnerable Individuals: Association With Symptom Severity and Autobiographical Overgenerality."  We are told, "Sixty healthy control subjects, 45 unmedicated currently depressed individuals, 25 unmedicated remitted depressed individuals, and 30 individuals at high familial risk of developing depression underwent functional MRI while recalling autobiographical memories in response to emotionally valenced cue words."  Figure 1 of the paper has a graph showing that the percent signal change was less than .2 percent, less than 1 part in 500. The results are consistent with the claim that memories are not stored in brains.  No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during recall.
  • A 2014 study not mentioned in my July 2018 post is the study "Mean signal and response time influences on multivoxel signals of contextual retrieval in the medial temporal lobe." Brain scans were done "while participants retrieved pair, spatial, and temporal source memories." 17 subjects had their brains scanned during such recall.  Figure 3 shows that the percent signal change was less than .1 percent, less than 1 part in 1000. The results are consistent with the claim that memories are not stored in brains.  No significant sign has been found that brains act differently during recall.
  • A 2019 study not mentioned in my July 2018 post is the study "Common and Distinct Functional Brain Networks for Intuitive and Deliberate Decision Making." The study is unable to show brain imaging evidence for brains causing thinking, because its graphs (Figures 4, 5  and 6) show no percent signal change greater than 1 part in 300. 
As we can see from examples like the ones above and the more numerous examples ones in my earlier post, brains look the same when you are doing nothing as they do when people are thinking hard, learning and remembering. So how is it that neuroscientists manage to create the impression that particular parts of the brain are more active during particular mental activities? They use two main tricks:

(1) The trick of wrongly using the words "activated" or "activation" when referring to differences in activity that are only about 1 part in 1000, the kind of difference you would expect to occur by chance. Such language is profoundly misleading.  All parts of the brain are active at all times, and there is no appreciable effect of certain brain regions "turning on" during particular mental activities. 
(2) The trick of visuals that depict brain activity differences of only about 1 part in 1000 in bright red, thereby suggesting a very big difference when there is only an extremely slight difference.  You can read here about how such a trick is performed. 

We can imagine a racist using similar coloring tactics to mislead us. Getting data showing negligible temperature differences between races of only 1 part in 1000, the racist might show us a diagram of different races, depicting some particular race with bright red heads, in an attempt to persuade us that the members of that race are "hot-headed" and prone to get angry.  

Eye pupils vary by 500% under different light conditions, and heart rate differs by as much as 300% between resting and heavy exercise. That shows you that eye pupils are really involved in vision, and that hearts are really involved in supplying the body with blood.  The thousand-times weaker variation in brain activity between mind resting and heavy mind activity does nothing to establish claims that brains produce thinking or that brains store memories. 

The tricks and fallacies of those trying to prove that brains make minds are similar to the tricks and fallacies of the people who called themselves phrenologists in the nineteenth century. In that century, a system called phrenology was very popular.  It was all based on the idea that particular mind functions and personality traits were concentrated in particular areas of the brain, and that you could tell something about a person's mind or personality by feeling little bumps on his head. If you click on the link here, you can find many long works attempting to prove this extremely erroneous idea. In fact, following that link will show that in its vast archives of old books has more than 500 books devoted to teaching the bunk that is phrenology. Most of the writers of such books  thought they were teaching the "latest and greatest" neuroscience when they taught phrenology nonsense.   A wiser future age will look back on the main papers of today's self-described "cognitive neuroscientists" the way we look back now on the phrenology volumes of the nineteenth century. 


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Memory Recall Reality Versus the "We Can't Remember Well" Bunk of Professors

 Nowadays it is as if many professors had an action principle of "degrade, debase, demean and dehumanize." In many ways, such professors attempt to portray human beings as so much less than they actually are.  Below is a list of some of these ways.

  • Many professors describe human beings as animals, an opinion that has no scientific warrant, as humans have many unique intellectual characteristics possessed by no other organism. There is no merit in claims that humans must be called "animal" on the basis that they must be placed in either an "animal kingdom" or a "plant kingdom." Organism classification schemes are arbitrary social conventions, and if scientists were to classify organisms in the most reasonable way, they should use three kingdoms for large organisms: a plant kingdom, an animal kingdom and a human kingdom. 
  • Many professors try to describe human beings as being "apes" or "ape-like." Such descriptions have no warrant in anything ever discovered. There is an ocean-sized gulf between the minds and behaviors of men and apes, so there is no reasonable basis for calling humans "apes" or "ape-like." 
  • Some professors teach the evil nonsense of free-will denial, thereby attempting to depict human beings as not possessing one of the most fundamental characteristics that they do possess. 
  • Very many professors deny evidence for paranormal phenomena, ignoring a vast mountain of evidence that humans can exhibit extrasensory perception and have neurally inexplicable spiritual experiences.  This is another attempt to depict human beings as not possessing some of the fundamental characteristics that they do possess. 
  • Contrary to the reality that physically human beings are examples of gigantically organized systems more impressive from an engineering standpoint than anything humans have ever constructed, many professors will ignore such a reality, and describe a human body as something disorganized, perhaps calling a human body "some meat" or "a bag of chemicals" or "an accumulation of copying errors."
  • Contrary to the reality that humans have a great diverse wealth of subtle intellectual powers such as imagination, insight, philosophical reasoning and esthetic appreciation, some professors may describe a human mentally as "just a stream of sensations" or "just a set of responses to stimuli." 
  • Against all evidence, many professors try to depict humans as being very forgetful creatures who cannot remember very well.
Very oddly, many of the people mentioned above describe themselves as "humanists." It would be more accurate to refer to such people as dehumanists. A dehumanist may be described as anyone who attempts to dehumanize human beings by depicting them as being less they are. 

In all such cases, such dehumanizing professors speak like racists, but speak in a way worse than a racist speaks. A racist can be described as a person who attempts to degrade, debase, demean and dehumanize some particular group of humans, such as people with some particular ethnic background.  Those who do the things listed above are doing something similar, but rather than attempting to degrade, debase, demean and dehumanize some particular race, they are attempting to degrade, debase, demean and dehumanize all humans.  

The consequences of racism are the same as the consequences of dehumanization. When racists are in power, we may have things such as slavery or voting rights suppression or apartheid.  When those who practice dehumanization are in power, we may have things like the bloody horrors of Stalinism that killed millions in senseless purges or gulags or the bloody horrors of Maoism that killed too many millions to be counted, or the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia that slaughtered millions.  The man who believes that his fellow humans are "just animals" or "just apes" or "little more than apes" may happily slaughter such people, telling himself that his acts are little different from slaughtering animals for food. 

The reasons behind  most of the items on my list above are rather obvious.  Professors advancing theories of natural human origins have the problem that there is a gigantic gulf between the mind and behavior of animals and the mind and behavior of humans. Having no credible explanation for how this gulf could have been crossed, all that professors can do is to distort the truth by trying to make this gulf look small.  So their strategy is kind of "make the humans look like animals, and make the animals look like humans."  Such a strategy cannot be pursued honestly, but only through deceptive language. 

The reason behind the last item on my list above is not so obvious. Why would professors want to portray humans as creatures with weak memories who cannot remember well? We will find the answer when we consider the silly, featherweight ideas that professors advance to try to explain human memory. When asked to explain how a human is able to remember things, our professors will mutter phrases such as "synapse strengthening."  They never explain how it is that a strengthening could cause the formation of a memory. The very idea of storing information by strengthening something makes no sense. When humans or computers store information, they may do it by writing something, but they don't do it by strengthening something. 

The idea of memory formation by synapse strengthening involves a claim that a memory forms by repeated exposures, kind of the same way that a dent in your wall might form by you repeatedly punching the same spot over and over again.  A person believing in this groundless idea is forced to believe that a memory must first appear in a very weak and fragile form, and can only persist after repeated strengthenings.  

While new muscle skills may arrive in some way involving some type of strengthening,  human learned information and episodic memories do not arise in such a way. Humans can instantly form life-long memories of things they have experienced only one time. Humans can learn new facts after being told them only one time. You did not need to have your teacher tell you on three different school sessions that Abraham Lincoln was killed when an assassin shot him while he was at the theater. You probably learned that fact the first time you were told it, and retained that memory since the time you learned it.  Similarly, the first time you slipped on ice and fell flat on your face, you permanently learned that ice can cause humans to fall. You did not need three such experiences to learn that fact. 

If memories arrived by synapse strengthening, that would be a very inefficient type of thing,  resulting in poor or nonexistent memories of things you learned only once or long ago.  Since the proteins in synapses have lifetimes of only a few weeks, we would expect that no memories would survive for very long if our memories were stored in synapses.   Therefore, the professor advancing the dogma of memory formation by synapse strengthening is a person who will tend to believe that humans cannot remember things very well.  Such a belief is contrary to all human experience, which is that humans can instantly form permanent new memories, and reliably remember them for 50 years or more. 

An old man's remembrance of something that occurred 60 years ago

A recent experimental psychology paper illuminates how greatly  the fantasy world of the dogmatic cognitive neuroscientist differs from the reality of human memory. A group of 68 memory scientists were asked this question:

“Imagine the following scenario: A healthy 30 year-old adult attends an audio-guided museum tour as part of a memory experiment. Memory for the tour is tested using free recall (i.e., the person says everything they can remember about the event) 48 hours later. For the following questions, an 'encoded detail' is a discrete bit of information that the participant heard and/or saw (e.g., a painting of a yellow sailboat). It does not refer to incidental or irrelevant information that was not attended (e.g., the floor tile was  black). 'Accurate' refers to the factual correctness of recalled details (e.g., 'a painting of an orange sailboat' would be incorrect, if the sailboat was in fact yellow).

1) What proportion of encoded details would be freely recalled after 48 hours? 
2) What proportion of these freely recalled details would be accurate after 48 hours?"

The same scientists were also asked: "Now, imagine the same scenario, but memory for the tour is tested (again using free recall) two years later.” A Scientific American article discussing the study says this: "While recollections of these events were very good—more than 90 percent correct on average—the experts predicted they would be only 40 percent correct."  

What we have here is a most gigantic failure of neuroscience theory to predict reality correctly.  Based on silly, vacuous speculations about "synapse strengthening" being what causes memory retention, our neuroscientists have adopted the idea that human memory should be very weak and unstable. The reality is that human memory works vastly better than it would work if their theories are correct. 

Proven to us by a large variety of common mental phenomena utterly beyond the credible explanation of neuroscientists, and also a vast reality of paranormal experience that has been well documented by credible observers for centuries, the reality of human souls is a reality as weighty as an ocean. Whenever a professor tries to make that reality disappear by the use of dehumanization rhetoric, it is like some little boy trying to make the ocean disappear by repeatedly filling his little plastic bucket with ocean water, and dumping that water on to the beach. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Soul Might Explain Instincts, but DNA and Brains Cannot

The discovery of DNA was one of the great triumphs of science. But ever since this discovery there has been a strange trend which we may call “DNA inflation,” “DNA exaggeration,” or even “DNA apotheosis.” The trend has been to carelessly describe DNA in ever more grandiose terms, regardless of the actual facts. One of the central myths about DNA is the idea is that it is some kind of blueprint for an organism. Another common claim is that DNA is a recipe (or a library of recipes) for making an organism. It is also sometimes claimed that DNA is like a computer program for generating our bodies.

But such statements are not warranted by the facts. Judging from the facts, we must conclude that while DNA uses a code of symbolic representations (the genetic code), DNA is not a blueprint for making a human, is not a recipe for making a human, and is not a program or algorithm for making a human.

There are several facts that dictate this conclusion:
  1. DNA does not store information in some general purpose language in which complex body plans might be stated. DNA stores information using a minimal, stripped-down “amino acid” language capable of listing only the chemical ingredients (amino acids) that make up a protein. Other than the word “stop,” the only “words” that you can state in DNA are words such as tryosine, valine, proline, lysine and serine, words that specify amino acids. Given such a limitation, no one can explain how DNA could possibly contain a three-dimensional blueprint for a body or a list of instructions for constructing an organism.
  2. If it were true that DNA had instructions for making the three-dimensional form of a body, we know of nothing below the neck of a female that would be capable of interpreting and understanding such instructions. Using 200 types of cells, each so complex and dynamic they have been compared to factories, the human body is a marvel of multi-level hierarchical organization, and is more physically complex than anything humans have ever constructed. Any instructions for making a human would be fantastically complex. Extremely complex instructions require something smart enough to interpret them, and just as there is nothing in a cell capable of interpreting something written in English, there is nothing in a womb that could be capable of understanding and executing three-dimensional assembly instructions if they were written in DNA. The idea that organisms arise because of a DNA blueprint is therefore a childish notion, like the notion that you could ride a balloon to the moon. 
  3. Despite cataloging the entire human genome, and exhaustively analyzing it, scientists have not discovered any part of DNA where a blueprint of the human body or a recipe for making humans is stored. For example, we have found no part in DNA where it specifies that humans should have two arms, two legs, ten fingers, ten toes and one neck; and we have found no part in DNA where it is specifies that heads and eyes should be rather round, or where it specifies the shape of the heart or the ear.
  4. If body plans were stored in DNA, we would expect a human to have vastly more genes than much simpler organisms. But the opposite is often true; for example, humans have fewer than 25,000 genes, but the rice plant has between 32,000 and 50,000 genes.
  5. The human genome is not big enough to store the body plan of a human, something that would require many more bytes than the mere 700 megabytes in human DNA.

So it is not true that a human baby develops from a fertilized egg because some instructions for making human are read from DNA. So how is it that morphogenesis occurs? How is it that a fertilized egg is able to progress to become a newborn baby? This is a great mystery of nature we do not at all understand. Such a mystery is an embarrassment to many types of thinkers, who want to think that biological life is something that has been pretty much figured out by scientists. Such thinkers will try to hide the fact that there is a gigantic secret of life we are quite ignorant about, and they will promote the incorrect idea that DNA is “the secret of life,” as if there were no gigantic secrets of biological life we don't understand.

There are actually six gigantic mysteries of life we do not understand:
  1. The mystery of morphogenesis, of how a fertilized ovum manages to progress to become a newborn baby. The mystery is unsolved because DNA does not specify how to build a human being or any of its 200 types of cells.
  2. The mystery of protein folding, the mystery of why newly formed linear sequences of amino acids (called polypeptide chains) form very rapidly into complex three-dimensional shapes needed for them to be functional.
  3. The mystery of the origin of life.
  4. The mystery of the origin of species and complex macroscopic biological functionality, which is not at all explained by the vacuous idea of random mutations and so-called "natural selection" (which is a misleading term because "selection" is a word referring to choice by an agent, and those who appeal to "natural selection" are referring to something that does not involve such choice).
  5. The mystery of the origin of consciousness and higher mental functions.
  6. The mystery of what causes organisms to have instincts.
Let us look at the question of instincts. Ever-prone to depict themselves as understanding things they do not understand, our scientists sometime suggest that we understand what causes instincts. They may suggest that instincts come from an animal's DNA. The idea is every bit as untenable as the idea that DNA contains instructions on how to build an organism.

Let us consider some examples of instinct. When a baby is born, it has an immediate urge to suck on its mother's breast. This is an instinct. But how could such a tendency ever be represented in DNA, which can only state groups of amino acids? There is no way in which DNA can express the shape of a breast or nipple, nor could it express any idea such as “move your mouth to this shape when you see it.”

Another instinct is the maternal instinct. Most mammals will have an instinct to protect their young. But how could such an instinct be expressed in DNA? Can we imagine, for example, that the DNA of a bear contains some little image of a bear cub, along with some type of message saying to protect this type of animal? Not at all, given the severe expressive limitations of DNA, something that is basically capable of listing only the chemical ingredients of proteins. A message such as “protect them” is utterly incapable of being expressed by the primitive “chemicals only” bare-bones language used by DNA.

In the animal world, we see many incredibly complex instincts. For example, spiders have instincts to build spider webs, bees have instincts to make complex hives, and some birds have incredibly complex instincts. According to one site, “The monarch butterfly makes a multigenerational 4000 mile annual trip in which descendants of the third or fourth generation know exactly where the first generation started.” tells us this:

"The monarchs begin their southern migration from September to October. Eastern and northeastern populations, up to 500,000 monarch butterflies, migrate at this time. Originating in southern Canada and the United States, they travel to overwintering sites in central Mexico. The butterflies arrive at their roosting sites in November. They remain in their roosts during the winter months and then begin their northern migration in March. No individual butterfly completes the entire round trip. Female monarchs lay eggs for a subsequent generation during the northward migration.  Four generations are involved in the annual cycle."

There is no plausible scenario by which such complex instincts could be represented in DNA.  Nor can we explain such instincts by anything in a brain. Sometimes people appeal to "hardwiring" in a brain. No one has ever discovered any effect by which particular types of wiring in the brain can explain complex behavior. "You're hard-wired to do this" is usually just fantasy talk.  The analogy of "hard-wiring" was stolen from the behavior of early electrical equipment.  A particular arrangement of wires in early telephone switchboards might create one particular communication effect that would not occur under a different arrangement. There is no evidence that particular arrangements of wire-like axons in the brain explain particular behaviors. 

Consider the case of sex and a human male. A typical young human male will have a very strong instinct to have sex with a human female. But about five percent of the human male population will have no such instinct. Instead, this five percent will have a strong desire to have sex with the male of the species. How can we explain this by imagining that the male instinct for sexual intercourse with females comes from DNA? We would have to imagine that some “do this” instructional information in 95% of males was not present in 5 % of the males. There is no genetic evidence that this is the case. Nor is there any evidence that the brains of homosexuals are wired differently than the brains of heterosexuals. 

In humans the ability of an infant to quickly pick up the language of its parents may be considered an instinct. Linguist Noam Chomsky has stated the “poverty of stimulus” argument, that the exposure to language that an infant gets is very inadequate to explain how quickly the infant picks up language. Linguist and psychologist Steven Pinker wrote a book called The Language Instinct, but he presented little or no evidence that DNA can explain language acquisition. On this topic professor of linguistics Vyvyan Evans stated this:

"For a Universal Grammar to be hard-wired into the micro-circuitry of the human brain, it would need to be passed on via the genes. But recent research in neurobiology suggests that human DNA just doesn’t have anything like the coding power needed to do this. Our genome has a highly restricted information capacity. A significant amount of our genetic code is taken up with building a nervous system, even before it gets started on anything else. To write something as detailed and specific as knowledge of a putative Universal Grammar inside a human infant’s brain would use up huge informational resources – resources that our DNA just can’t spare. So the basic premise of the language instinct – that such a thing could be transmitted genetically – seems doubtful."

Humans have innate language abilities that are very much like an instinct, but neither DNA nor brains explain this.

It is sometimes suggested that epigenetics might help explain instincts. Epigenetics is basically methyl molecules that attach to the outside of certain base pairs in DNA. But such molecules have all the same expressive limitations of DNA itself. There is no way in which behavior patterns can be expressed in either a genome or an epigenome.

The existence of instincts seems to be evidence for souls, not just in humans but in all animals that display instincts. If we imagine that an animal has a soul, we need not imagine that such a thing is some kind of blank slate. It may be that when particular types of souls start out in an organism, they have particular types of inclinations. Such soul characteristics may be the root cause of instincts.

DNA cannot explain instincts, and since current ideas of so-called natural selection depend on the idea of a change in genomes, natural selection also fails to explain instincts. As Gustave Geley stated in his very erudite book From the Unconscious to the Conscious“Now the origin of instincts is no more explicable by natural selection or by the influence of the environment than the formation of species.”

Friday, May 14, 2021

If The Brain Had a Memory Storage Code, We Would Have Found It Long Ago

One of the dogmas of modern biologists is that memories are stored in the brain. No one has ever produced any direct evidence establishing this claim, and there are many strong reasons for disbelieving it. One of these reasons is the lack of any plausible theory that explains how humans are able to instantly remember specific pieces of information when given some prompt such as the photo of someone's face or that person's name. Another reason is that there is no plausible theory that explains how humans could remember things for 50 years, such as humans can. The most popular theory of memory storage is that memories are stored in synapses, but we know that the proteins in synapses have short lifetimes, and they last for less than a month. No one has given a credible explanation of how memories could be stored for 50 years in synapses if there is such high protein turnover in synapses.

But despite these very grave difficulties, our neuroscientists keep telling us that our memories are stored in the brain. Neuroscientists do not claim that this alleged act of memory storage is some simple flow like the flow that occurs when you pour milk from your milk carton into your cereal bowl. Instead, neuroscientists claim that something called “encoding” occurs. We are told that the things we learn or experience are somehow translated into neural states, perhaps by some process that involves chemicals, electricity, or microscopic changes in the brain. But no neuroscientist has ever given anything resembling an exact description of how this encoding could occur.

The article on “Encoding, memory” tells us that “The process of encoding is not yet well understood, however key advances have shed light on the nature of these mechanisms.” But no such advances have actually occurred. The article then mentions “the modification of neural synapses, modification of proteins, creation of new synapses, activation of gene expression and new protein synthesis.” But none of these things shed any light on how human experiences or learned concepts could ever be encoded as neural states, chemical states or electrical states. The wikipedia article in question gives us only bluffing and digressions, without doing anything to convince us that scientists have any understanding of how memories could be encoded as neural changes, chemical changes or electrical changes.

One reason for doubting that memories are encoded in brains is that such a thing would require for there to exist (still undiscovered) a set of encoding protocols so complex that they would be a miracle of design if they existed. Encoding always requires some set of translation rules. For example, human DNA uses a set of translation rules called the genetic code to encode information; American writers use the encoding protocols of the English language and the alphabet to encode information stored on paper; and computers use the encoding protocol known as the ASCII code to encode information stored in a computer. As argued here, it would seem that a brain could only store memories if it used a whole series of encoding protocols far more complex than the ASCII code or the genetic code; and the origin of so many sophisticated protocols would be impossible to naturally explain.

Consider only a few of the types of things that can be stored in a human memory:
  • Memories of daily experiences, such as what you were doing on some day
  • Facts you learned in school, such as the fact that Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater
  • Sequences of numbers such as your social security number
  • Sequences of words, such as the dialog an actor has to recite in a play
  • Sequences of musical notes, such as the notes an opera singer has to sing
  • Abstract concepts that you have learned
  • Memories of particular non-visual sensations such as sounds, food tastes, smells, pain, and physical pleasure
  • Memories of how to do physical things, such as how to ride a bicycle
  • Memories of how you felt at emotional moments of your life
  • Rules and principles, such as “look both ways before crossing the street”
  • Memories of visual information, such as what a particular person's face looks like

How could all of these very different types of information ever be translated into neural states or synapse states so that a brain could store them? If such encoding were to occur, it would be a miracle of complex design.  Very oddly, the same people who tell us (without any sound basis) that such an encoding occurs are the same people denying design in biological organisms. 

There is another very strong reason for doubting that memories are encoded in the brain: if the brain used a system of memory encoding, we would have already discovered direct evidence of such a code; but we have not discovered any such thing. Specifically:
  1. If brains actually stored encoded information, we would see regularities and repetitions that would be signs of encoded information, such as we see in the nucleotide base pairs of DNA, where encoded information is stored; but we see no signs of any such repetitions or regularities that might be the hallmarks of encoded stored memories in the brain.
  2. If brains actually stored encoded information, there would have to be many genes that support such encoding, such as the hundreds of genes that support the transfer RNA molecules needed to carry out the protein encoding used by DNA and the genetic code; but we see no signs of any such memory-encoding genes in the human genome.
Let me explain the first of these points. Encoded information has regularities and repetitions that allow someone to tell that it is encoded information. For example, before Europeans were able to read hieroglyphics, they were sure that it was some type of encoded information, because of the large amount of repetition of symbols. When scientists first started to unravel DNA, they quickly figured out it was some type of encoded information, because there was a very high amount of symbol repetition. If we were to get radio signals from intelligent extraterrestrials, it might be years before we would be able to decipher such signals. But soon after we received signals, we would at least be able to tell that they were from intelligent beings and the signals contained encoded information, because of the great number of regularities and repetitions we would see in the signals.

It therefore stands to reason that if some part of the brain (other than DNA) contained encoded information, we would be able to see physical evidence of such an encoding. When scanning neurons and synapses with our electron microscopes, we would see regularities and repetitions that would be the sign of encoded information. But we see no such thing. If you look here, you can see electron microscope photographs of tiny synapses smaller than a neuron. You will see no sign of anything that looks like encoded information. Advanced chemical analysis also have shown no signs of anything that had the regularities and repetitions that are the hallmarks of encoded information.

Some may claim that the brain has encoded memory information, but that it's just too tiny for us to see. Such a claim has little credibility. Scientists were able to discover the microscopic encoded information in DNA in the 1950's. Can we believe that 65 years later science and medical technology is not advanced enough to discover encoded memory information in the brain?

We know exactly what is in synapses, because we can view them with very high-resolution electron microscopes. Below we see a 2013 close-up electron microscope photograph of a synapse head, from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (link).  At the bottom we see a unit that has a length of 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter). 

synaptic vessicles

There is no sign of any encoded information in such synapses.  We see none of the symbol repetition or token repetition that is a sign of encoded information. The little round things are balls of chemicals called vesicles.  The vesicles are almost all the same size and shape.  The vesicles are not stable, and travel across the dark line shown in the center of the photo (which is called a synaptic gap), as a nerve impulse travels.  No one has credibly proposed any method by which such vesicles could represent stable encoded information.  If we were to look at the same synapse head the next day, the arrangement of vesicles would be much different. Synapses bear no resemblance to any system for storing permanent learned information or long-term memories lasting for years.  Synapses no more resemble a system for storing encoded information than do the snow drifts outside of a house in Alaska. 

There is another place that we would expect to see a large sign of a neural code for memories if it existed. If such a thing existed, we would expect that there would be genes supporting such a facility. But no such genes have been found.

Let's consider a comparatively simple case of encoded information stored in the body, the case of the encoded information in DNA. DNA mainly consists of nucleotide base pairs, and particular combinations of such pairs represent particular amino acids. This very simple type of use of encoded information requires hundreds of genes, what are called tRNA genes. 

If human brains were to actually be translating thoughts and sensory experiences so that they can be stored as memory traces in the brain, such a gigantic job would require a huge number of genes – probably many times more than the 500 or so "tRNA" genes that are used for the very simple encoding job of translating DNA nucleotide base pairs into amino acids.  But we see no sign of any such memory encoding genes in the human genome.

There is a study that claims to have found possible evidence of memory encoding genes, but its methodology is ridiculous, and involved the absurd procedure of looking for weak correlations between a set of data extracted from one group of people and another set of data retrieved from an entirely different group of people. See the end of this post for reasons we can't take the study as good evidence of anything. There is not one single gene that a scientist can point to and say, “I am sure this gene is involved in memory encoding, and I can explain exactly how it works to help translate human knowledge or experience into engrams or memory traces.” But if human memories were actually stored in brains, there would have to be many hundreds or thousands of such genes.

The pie chart below shows human proteins by function:

human proteins by function

This is a Wikipedia Commons file, and the page for the file gives the following table with the data used for the chart:

FunctionNumber of genesPercent of genome
extracellular matrix protein720.40%
cytoskeletal protein4412.60%
transmembrane receptor regulatory/adaptor protein840.50%
cell adhesion molecule930.50%
nucleic acid binding14668.50%
signaling molecule9615.60%
enzyme modulator8575.00%
viral protein70.00%
calcium-binding protein630.40%
defense/immunity protein1070.60%
transfer/carrier protein2481.40%
membrane traffic protein3211.90%
transcription factor206712.00%
cell junction protein670.40%
structural protein2801.60%
storage protein150.10%

Notice that there is no mention at all of any such category as "memory encoding proteins," nor any mention of "memory storage proteins" nor any mention of "memory retrieval proteins."  The 15 proteins listed as "storage proteins" have nothing to do with memory storage. The article on storage proteins describes them merely as "biological reserves of metal ions and amino acids." 

If human episodic memories and human learned knowledge were to be translated into brain states, such a marvel of translation would require a massive number of proteins dedicated to such a task. But no such proteins have been discovered or identified. 

Let's imagine a woman named Joan who is dating a man named Jack. Jack claims that he's one of the nation's most successful corn farmers.  But one day Joan notices something very suspicious. At Jack's home there are no signs of any of the things that Jack would need to have to be a successful corn farmer. Joan notices that Jack's home merely has a modest back yard, and does not have any large field for growing corn. Joan notices that Jack does not own a tractor for planting corn or any other piece of farming equipment,  and that in Jack's garage there are no signs of anything like food storage bins or seed sacks.  Joan should suspect that Jack is not telling the truth when he claims to be one of the nation's most successful corn farmer.  

Jack is similar to neuroscientists, and Jack's home and land is similar to the human brain.  The human brain does not have the things it would need to have if the neural memory storage claims made by neuroscientists are correct.  If it were true that the human brain stored memories, the human brain would need to have all of the following things:
  • Some specialized physical biology in the brain capable of writing memories.
  • Some specialized physical biology in the brain capable of reading memories.
  • Some specialized physical biology in the brain capable of reliably storing memories for decades.
  • Some specialized physical biology in the brain capable of retrieving memories instantly based on the most fragmentary hints.
  • A huge number of proteins in the human body dedicated to accomplishing the incredibly difficult task of translating human episodic memories and human learned information into neural states or synapse states.
None of these things exist in the human brain. So the claims of today's neuroscientists are very much like the claims of Jack, claims that are contrary to the physical facts. Just as Jack's home bears no resemblance to a very successful corn farm, the human brain bears no resemblance to a device for permanently storing and instantly retrieving learned information.