No, Not Evidence of Cosmic Alignment

Posted: November 10, 2013 in Consciousness, Culture, Idle Nonsense, Science

Saw a curious YouTube video, courtesy of Slipped Disc, Norman Lebrecht’s blog at Arts Journal:

I puzzled for a short while about how independent mechanical devices could sync up. The first commentator at Slipped Disc identifies the phenomenon as entrainment, which is accurate except that the comment refers to music therapy. With metronomes, however, there is no nervous system at work as with entrainment in humans. Rather, this video merely demonstrates a property of physics, also called entrainment, whereby interacting oscillating systems achieve mode lock or sync to the same period. In fact, the Wikipedia link in the previous sentence includes a CBS News report assuring everyone that it’s merely physics. This property was observed 350 years ago. Let me draw attention to the fact that the floating tray on which the metronomes sit moves sufficiently (left and right in the video) to allow the devices to interact. In truth, it took me only a little poking around to uncover the physics of it.

I mentioned entrainment in a previous blog about mirror neurons, but for the phenomenon to be psychological in origin, there must be a biological substrate. I’ve made similar points that human-style consciousness cannot be present without human physiology. Perhaps other styles of consciousness are present in dolphins, pigs, elephants, insect hives and colonies, trees, and other living things, but to suggest that there is a cosmic consciousness seems to me a leap made by the credulous. Similarly, some comments at the YouTube site(s) for the above video say that metronome entrainment is evidence of god at work or some other cosmic woo woo. What is a relatively simple scientific demonstration to some cannot dislodge the conviction of others that something mystical is happening. But then, I’ve already admitted my mind is influenced more by sober evidence (or lack thereof) than leaps of faith mistakenly described as evidence.

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