Can science prove that dreaming really exists?

I know that something physical like rapid eye movement, or a certain brain wave pattern can be observed, recorded, and proven by science…but aren’t dreams just an unreliable eyewitness account? People don’t really dream do they? Don’t they just think that they’ve dreampt? Science can’t be used to prove that they’ve had a dream can it?

Contestant #3

Contestant, your questions confuse different ways of talking about dreams… Let’s take 'em one at a time:

The existence of dreams has been established scientifically beyond reasonable doubt. It is only the content of an individual’s dreams that are largely subjective.

Yes, they do.

No, they don’t.

Yes, it can.

Did you honestly need to ask such absurdly basic questions?

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re trying to accomplish here. I like to call it “syllogistic smuggling”. You’re desperately trying to suggest that dreams are beyond the reach of science while at the same time asserting that they’re real. You then want to jump to the false and invalid conclusion that if dreams exist but can’t be “proved” by science then any manner of paranormal drivel can likewise be “true” but be beyond scientific scrutiny. It was an pretty lame attempt at an end run around reason…

By the way, everyone, doesn’t it seem that this forum is filling up with threads that belong in the General Questions forum? I didn’t think “Great Debates” was intended for miscellaneous petty topics.

What an absurd question. There has been lots of sleep research done, and it’s been shown rather reliably that, when a person shows REM and his/her brain waves show a certain pattern, you can wake them and they’ll tell you that they were dreaming. The fact that there is no physical dream material is irrelevant. You might as well question whether people taste.

Thanks for playing Contestant #3, but you don’t get a copy of the home game. Goodbye!

ambushed said:

Sounds exactly like C3 to me. I would have just classified it as “trolling,” personally, and I do still think it falls in that category (along with the previous 2 threads he started in here) – but I also think you are right in what he is trying to do with it.

I don’t think it’s intended for “petty” topics, but topics which will have long debates that probably don’t reach a particular factual conclusion. So this question about dreams probably does belong in the General Questions area – at least it would if he really wanted an answer. Frankly, the same could be said about evolution/creation, UFOs, etc. But the point is that some people will continue to argue whether or not the evidence is on their side, and so rather than take up space in the General Questions area, which is where Straight Dope type questions are supposed to be, they created this area.

“The best medicine for misery is neither myth nor miracle, but naked truth.”
– Richard Walker, The Running Dogs of Loyalty: Honest Reflections on a Magical Zoo

Maybe the moderators can start a new section called “Jerking off”, for posters like C3 that just like to argue for the sake of argueing.

Ambushed proclaimed:

“The existence of dreams has been established scientifically beyond reasonable doubt.”

Oh really. I’ love to see evidence of anything other than brain waves and rapid eye movements. People SAY that they’ve dreamed. Some people SAY that they don’t. In the end, all we have is their word on it. No science can prove that people dream…or that they don’t.

We are left with either believing or disbelieving what someone thinks that they have experienced.

Science has severe limitations. Science is not perfect or all knowing. Science is still full of opinion and conjecture.

Contestant #3

Absolutely correct. If someone says “I just dreamed” then we are forced to accept what they said on trust, or not at all. Likewise, if someone says “I saw a UFO”, we may accept that statement on trust.

But if someone says “I had a dream that was caused by the electromagnetic field in my room” then we have no reason to believe them based on their experience alone. Further research would be required to find out the reasons behind this persons dream. Likewise, if someone says “I saw a UFO and it was an alien spacecraft” there is no reason to take that statement as fact without additional investigation.

Yes, yes, and sort of. Science does have limitations, which is why scientists continue to research and experiment. Science is not perfect(as nothing is), and does not profess to be all-knowing. No one is claiming these things. Opinion and conjecture enter science in the form of just that: opinion and conjecture. Hypotheses are subject to rigorous testing and empirical study before they are accepted as viable theories. Newton did not ask us to believe in gravity and inertia, he produced experiments and data that confirmed his hypotheses. The facts, as Hynek says, must stand for themselves.

C3, honestly, if you want my continued rallying and shameless support for your ridiculous alternative assertions, you have to draw the line somewhere. The realm of the inner mind, I think, is probably a good place to put that line. Examples:
OKAY: Do electrons really exist?
NOT OKAY: Is there really such a thing as deja vue (sp, yeah, I don’t care.)

Take 500 mcg of melatonin, get a good night’s sleep and call me in the morning if you still have a hard time believing in dreams.


I’m sorry to tell you this, but your entire world is just a daydream I am having right now. You don’t exist. You think you exist, but only because I want you to. Everything you have ever known was merely a memory I gave you just now. Can you prove that anything ever happened, or do you (and all the other people I created in my head) just think it happened? If you think I’m lying, prove it. Just don’t try to use science or logic, I made that up, too.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

Thanks, David, for your gracious assistance and for clearing up my confusion on the kind of threads intended for the Great Debates.

Isn’t it mildly amusing that even after our warning that we’re on to him, C#3 goes blindly by and cluelessly lets the other shoe drop anyway? sheesh!

ambushed said:

As long as he gets people to respond, he’ll keep doing it. That’s what a troll does. Even the best of us sometimes can’t resist it. :slight_smile:

I’ve been trying to just reply to the people who are interested in actual discussion. But even then, he manages to find somewhere to jump in and try to push buttons. I tell ya, he must lead an incredibly boring life if he has nothing better to do…

“The best medicine for misery is neither myth nor miracle, but naked truth.”
– Richard Walker, The Running Dogs of Loyalty: Honest Reflections on a Magical Zoo

Some of you guys crack me up! Science is your religion and just like a religious fanatic, you push your belief system down the throats of others. At least he fanatically religious have a consistant story to stick to. What you poor fools cling to today will be disproven tommorrow and we will be laughing at your current beliefs 50 years from now!

Your desparate need to be able to explain, prove, and justify everything “scientifically” closes your tiny little minds to visions, premonitions, spirits, miracles, ghosts, and aliens because you haven’t experienced them or because they can’t be recreated in a sterile lab environment.

Your smug arrogance makes me want to puke.

I’m no more a troll than you are. I’m someone who believes differently than you. Someone that listens to his “gut”, his “heart”, and his instincts.

I think that just as many people think like me as think as you do. These message boards are the safe haven of the self-proclaimed “skeptics” and “intellectuals”. I invade your tiny little fortress with the alternative points of view and you just can’t stand it!

Without me (and others like me) these boards become one big sickningly sweet mutual admiration society.

Troll that!~

Contestant #3

C3 doesn’t even understand the term “self-proclaimed”!
Science and religion are so different from each other that to say “Science is your Religion” is as accurate as saying “Potatoes are your Studebakers”. Science is gathering facts and forming theories that include all the facts gathered. Religion is believing in a magic invisible genie that can do anything.
Any questions?

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
Hunter Thompson

Hey, C3, why don’t you tell me what good a spirit, vision, alien, or premonition ever did for anybody.

Did a spirit cure polio or smallpox? No.

Did an alien invent the automobile, or the telephone? No.

Did a premonition win World War II? No.

Did a vision tell us how to control bubonic plague? No.

Superstition never did anything good for anyone. Science has. Live with it, and get over it.

And vice versa.

“[He] beat his fist down upon the table and hurt his hand and became so
further enraged… that he beat his fist down upon the table even harder and
hurt his hand some more.” – Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

Science is a framework which facilitates the systematic discovery of truth. What children call opinions are nothing but varying degrees of deviation from the truth; as such, their place in science is that of stepping-stones, page markers, rest stops as the truth is closed in upon.

If you insist on calling others “poor fools”, I suggest you learn to spell simple words such as consistent.
BTW, who has consistently persecuted forward thinkers such as Copernicus, Galileo, Scopes, et al. for failing to swallow the outdated dogmas being stuffed down their throats? I’ll give you a hint–not scientists.

Let’s see…

When the “poor, foolish” scientists come across evidence that indicates something they believe is incorrect, they adjust their world to accommodate the new evidence, unlike the “consistant” religious fanatics who will ignore/discard the evidence so they don’t have to admit that they were wrong.

Isn’t that just pathetic of them? Imagine, admitting that you can learn!

“We’re gonna have lawyers here. It’ll be a fun time.”

I think the pope said that in response to Galileo’s ridiculous assertions that Copernicus was right. Those science-geek egg-headed morons!

Ok, people, ENOUGH!

I have to say something in defense of C#3 this time… He is right, and I quote:

Science can’t be used to prove that they’ve had a dream can it? …Science has severe limitations. Science is not perfect or all knowing. Science is still full of opinion and conjecture.

Bravo C#3!

You have here demonstrated that dreams are provable by means other than Science, and YOU are the living prove!


Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

Yes, Contestant, science can prove that dreaming exists, as you conceded. It cannot, however, offer any proof as to the content of a dream.
If, therefore, you were planning to write: “Hey, space aliens came to me in ream and told me about a marvelous alternative panacea that would work if only the NRA were renamed, and I have scientific proof!”, forget about it.

“Gold cannot always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold”