I decided to post this at the top, as your very interesting original thread was turned into yet another diatribe by Mike (this one will too, but I'll try anyway)
I've always been interested in the effects of psychotic drugs on people's experience of reality. Short of actually trying them myself, I'm always trying to learn as much as I can about the subject. But the more I learn, the less I understand. If people are being sincere about what they experience while on drugs, then reality is far more complex than we can possibly think of. Of course they may all be making it up, and the only way for me to know for sure is to try it myself. Maybe when I'm too old not to worry about the consequences...
" Fear, love, hope, anger ... modern brain research suggests that these are simply the presence or absence of certain chemicals in our brain. Retinal rods & cones, smell sensitive nerves, taste buds ... these are just the sensory organs which give us our perception. Neurons, chemical hormone messengers, electronic impulses exchanged between adjacent synapses ... this is consciousness in a nutshell. "
Now here you are missing what most people who have not taken the drugs are also missing. If modern brain research suggests that the brain has a tremendous ability to make up a lot of stuff that looks real, how long do you think it will be before post-modern brain research comes up to suggest that even stuff like matter, energy, space, time, not to mention the brain itself, are "simply" the presence or absence of certain chemicals in our brain?
It's hard to find someone who understands how silly it is to question the validity of human experience. Sure, our experiences are far from being a reliable source of information about reality, but you just can't classify some experiences as "real" and some as "illusion" on the basis of your ability to make sense of them. Either there is something more to our experiences, or there's nothing at all and it's all a grand scheme of deception.
Notice how many people who have those drug experiences actually come to believe it's all an illusion. To me that is as much nonsense as the scientific "explanations" of those experiences. There has to be something more. There has to be a good explanation of why the brain can make up a universe but refrains from doing so most of the time. Too many people take for granted that our senses work like videocameras or tape recorders, passively registering an outside world whose appearance cannot possibly change depending on how we look at it. If anything, modern brain research suggests the opposite - the world is a concept fabricated by the brain out of raw data which makes no sense at all. If you could see reality as it really is, you would see nothing of the stuff you usually associate with it. Maybe that's what some of the drugs do to people: destroy their ability to create pictures out of photons, to create sounds out of air vibrations, to create a sense of touch out of electrical impulses traveling through their nerves.
Just the other day I was chatting with my wife about epilepsy, about the fact that people in the past used to believe an epileptic person was being "possessed by the devil" or some hocus pocus like that, but nowadays we "know" epilepsy is caused by "random firing of nerve cells". I told my wife how neurologists can provoke an epileptic seizure in anybody by stimulating certain portions of their brain. As soon as I said that, I realized my silliness in believing that the ancient explanation was hocus pocus. For brain research not only has confirmed that epileptics are in fact "possessed by the devil", but they actually know how the devil makes a person have a seizure!
The picture of a red, horned guy, holding a trident in one hand and an electrode in another, making a poor man shake uncontrollably, is the picture of the silliness called "modern brain research".