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If "God's So Good and God's So Great".......
March 18, 2007
10:27 pm
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LA Rosa
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Tez

Yes, it's such a shame to see people turn off and close their minds... especially concerning a subject that has such a strong hold and impact over their lives that they'd prefer to not even see it at all. Nevertheless, for anyone who does have the inclination to be more objective, this is specifically for you, although I feel sure it will be interesting for anyone who takes the time to read it.

Obviously, I've decided to put it into more than just the two segments... three should do it though. It's something that I believe needed to be looked at in a practical manner for anyone who is genuinely wanting to see this whole God-religion business from someone (actually a professor of psychology at Harvard University) who will explain it more from the psychological perspective.

Just hope that it'll be read by at least someone who's wanting to give it a fair go and can understand how they got taken in by it all. Anytime someone can just let down their religious-type defenses... it could be for the last time. Let there be much light... and there really can be.

Thank you Tez, and I'll get onto the last part very soon.:)

La Rosa

March 19, 2007
12:59 am
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The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion. - pg 3

What about the other side of these transactions, namely the consumers? Why do they buy it? One reason is that in most cases we 'should' defer to experts. That's the very nature of expertise. If I have a toothache, I open my mouth and let some guy drill my teeth. If I have a bellyache, I let him cut me open. That involves a certain ammount of faith. Of course, in these cases the faith is rational, but that deference could, if manipulated, lead to irrational defernce, even if the larger complex of deference can be adaptive on the whole.

There are also emotional predispositions which evolved for various reasons and make us prone to religious beliefs as a by-producct. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict summed up much of prayer when she said, "Religion is universally a technique for success. Ethnographic surveys suggest that when people try to communicate with God, it's not to share gossip or know-how; it's to ask him for stuff: recovery from illness, recovery of a child from illness, success in enterprises, success in the battlefield." This idea was summed up by Ambrose Bierce in 'The devil's Dictionary', which defines 'to pray' as 'to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.' This aspect of religious belief is thus a desperate measure that people resort to when the stakes are high and they've exhausted the usual techniques for the causation of success.

Those are some of the emotional predispositions that make people fertile ground for religious belief. But there also are cognitive predispositions, ways in which we intellectually analyse the world, which have been very skillfully explored by the anthropologist Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, and Scott Atran. Anyone who is interested in the evolutionary psychology of religion would enjoy Pascal Boyer's 'Religion Explained' and Scott Atran called 'In God We Trust'. Hamer's 'The God Gene' is also good, but I'm more sympathetic to Boyer and Atran.

The starting point is a faculty of human reason that psychologists call intuitive psychology or the theory of mind module theory here not referring to a theory of the scientist, but rather to the intuitive theory that people unconsciously deploy in making sense of other people's behaviour. When I try to figure out what someone is going to do, I don't treat them as jusy a robot or a wind-up doll responding to physical stimuli in the world. Rather, I imput 'minds' to these people. I can't literally know what someone else is thinking or feeling, but I assume they are thinking or feeling something, that they have a mind, and I can explain their behaviour in terms of their beliefs and there desires. That's intuitive psychology. There is evidence that intuitive psychology is a distinct part of our psychological make-up. It seems to be knocked out in a coalition called autism: autistic people can be prodigious in mathematics, art, language and music, but they have a terrible time attributing minds to other people. They really do treat other people as if they were robots and wind-up dolls. There's also a concerted effort underway to see where intuitivw psychology is computed in the brain. Parts of it seem to be concentrated in the ventromedial and orbital frontal cortex, the parts of the brain that kind of sit above the eyeballs, as well as the superior tempal sulcras further back.

Perhaps the ubiquitous belief in spirits, souls, gods, angels, and so on, consists of our intuitive psychology running amok. If you are prone to attributing an invisible entity called 'the mind' to other people's bodies, it's a short step to imagining minds that exist 'independently' of bodies. Afterall, it's not as if you could reach out and touch someone else's mind, you are always making an inferential leap. It's just one extra step to say that a mind is not invariably housed in a body.

In fact in the 19th century anthropologist Edward Tyler pointed out that in some ways, there is good empirical support for the existence of the soul, or at least there used to be, until the fairly recent advent of neuroscience, which provides an alternative explanation for how minds work. Think about dreams. When you dream, your body is in bed the whole time, but some part of you seems to be up and about in the world. The same thing happens when you're in a trance from a fever, a halllucihogenic drug, sleep deprivation, or food poisoning.

Shadows and reflections are rather mysterious, or were until the development of the physics of light with its explanation of those phenomena. But they appear to have the form and essence of the persson but without any of their actual matter.

Death, of course, is the ultimate apparent evidence for the existence of the soul. A person may be walking around and seeing and hearing one minute, and then the next minute be an innate and lifeless body, perhaps without any visible change. It would seem that some animating entity that was housed in the body has suddenly escaped from it.

So before the advent of modern physics, biology and especially neuroscience, a plausible explanation of these phenomena is that the soul wanders off when we sleep, lurks in the shadows, looks back at us from a surface pond, and leaves the body when we die.

To sum up. The universal propensity toward religious belief is a genuine scientific puzzle. But many adaptionist explanations for religion, such as the one featured in the 'Time' last week, don't, I think, meet the criteria for adaptations. There is an alternative explanation, namely that religious psychology is a byproduct of many parts of the mind that evolved for other purposes. Among these purposes one has to distinguish the benefits to the producer and the benefits to the consumer. Religion has obvious practical effects for producers. When it comes to the consumers, there are possible emotional adaptations in our desire for health, love and success, possible cognitive adaptations in our intuitive psychology, and many aspects of our experience that seem to provide evidence for souls. Put those together and you can get an appeal to a mysterious world of souls to bring about our fondest wishes.

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March 19, 2007
6:42 pm
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Hi La Rosa.

Steven Pinker wrote:

"It's just one extra step to say that a mind is not invariably housed in a body."

From this statement and what went before, I'm inclined to believe that Pinker believes that the mind is a fabrication of "intuitive psychology" and that it is equally such a fabrication to believe that the mind can exist outside the body.

The problem that I see here is that there appears to be solid, undeniable empirical, anecdotal evidence for the mind existing, functioning, sensing and 'travelling' independent of the existence of a functioning body and brain.

Of course for practical purposes such evidence can only really be anecdotal. 'Flatlining' people to perform scientific experiments is somewhat frowned upon in civilized circles for obviously ethical reasons. However such PSI anecdotes can be verified with some degree of accuracy in many cases.

One such 'factual' anecdote reported by a research scientist was that of a young child in India who badgered his parents to take him to a certain village to see his 'wife' from a 'previous birth'. He claimed that he had been murdered by a certain villian and wanted to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.

The parents finally acceded to this child's request. The young boy met his supposedly former wife and immediately started disclosing very personal things to her that only her dead husband could have known. This dead husband had hidden a cache of coins by burying them in the ground under their house. The young boy pointed to the spot and the coins were dug up. The boy then took the local authorities to the murderer who upon having the exact details of the murder exposed, broke down and confessed all. Since there was no biological connection between the family of the murdered man and this young boy, a biological explanation for these previous life memories is out of the question. Obviously the Hindus seize upon such documented instances as proof for their belief in reincarnation of the 'soul'. This is ignorance seeking a 'supernatural' religious explanation for that which we as yet cannot explain 'naturally'. Another possible explanation is that the mind is not restrained to the body and can communicate with other minds. It could well be that the mind of the young lad had tapped into both the mind of the widow and the murderer as well as the deceased man.

What the 'mind' is and its dependencies are as yet not well understood by science, if at all.That the mind depends upon the brain for its existence is as much a belief as is the belief that the mind's existence, but not necessarily content, is independent of the brain.

Scientism, as opposed to true science, is a belief system that seeks to deny the existence of paranormal and supernatural phenomena altogether. The beliefs of scientism involve throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I see the domain of science making intrusions into the domain of such beliefs about mind. Quantum physics seems to hold the key for linking science with theories of mind that lie presently just outside the domain of science. Professor Charles Tart and many other men of science have made valliant efforts against much opposition from skeptical scientism adherents to apply true science to such strange phenomena.

We take our mental paradigm for granted as being the only paradigm that there is. But this is far from the truth. We have been socialized into this paradigm of thinking that makes others seem absurd. This is not an argument for furthering religious superstition. It is an argument for funding and encouraging scientific research into the nature of the mind and its apparent PSI capabilities. Metaphysics, that lonely orphan, needs bringing back into the scientific domain and given both respectability and an allocation of a sizable portion of scientific budget.

Thanks for the very interesting paper.

March 21, 2007
7:45 am
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Hi Tez

First of all, please let me apologise for my error in missing out the word 'inferential' from the quote that should've read...

"It's just one extra inferential step to say that a mind is not invariably housed in a body."

Of course, there is certainly much more to be learned about the mind. As a professor of psychology, Steven Pinker has accepted the existence of the mind, understanding that it's another of our species' plausible adaptations. That it's 'housed in a body', I do not take as implying that it cannot wander... however, granted, it certainly does not go into the mind's full potential in this particular paper. Pinker is using intuitive psychology according to what he has learned... for the purpose of pointing out some of the differences between legitimate versus illegitimate adaptations, it also touches upon the evolutionary and conitive aspects, and says...

"To answer the why is Homo sapiens so prone to religious belief? You first have to distinguish between traits that are adaptable, that is, products of Darwinian natural selection, and traits that are byproducts of adaptations, also called spandrels or exaptations...."

"To distinguish an adaptation from a byproduct, first you have to establish that the trait is in some sense innate, for example, that it develops reliably across a range of environments and is universal across the species...."

"The second criterion is the causal affects of the trait would, on average, have improved the survival or reproduction of the bearer of that trait in an ancestral environment -- the one in which our species spent most of its evoluionary history, mainly the foraging or hunter-gatherer lifestyle that predated the relatively recent invention of agriculture and civilisation." etc etc etc.

he says...

"When I try to figure out what someone is going to do, I don't treat them as just a robot or wind-up doll responding to physical stimuli in the world. Rather, I imput 'minds' to those people. I can't literally know what someone else is thinking or feeling, but I assume they are thinking or feeling something, that they have a mind, and I explain their behaviour in terms of their beliefs and desires. This is intuitive psychology. There is evidence that intuitive psychology is a distinct part of our psychological make-up."

That doesn't sound as though there's any inference that the mind is a fabrication of 'intuitive psychology' or that it is equally such a fabrication to believe that it can exist out side the brain. It does imply that he works with people who are living. Obviously he is not in the field of metaphysics. Although he's focusing on intuitive psychology, and working with what he has available, I certainly do not think that Steven Pinker is opposed to that lonely orphan metaphysics or is in the scientism brigade. He has even mentioned that...

"There's also a concentrated effort underway to see where intuitive psychology is computed in the brain . Parts of it seem to be concentrated in the ventromedial and orbital frontal cortex, the parts of the brain that kind of sit above the eyeballs, as well as the superior tempal sulcras further back."

So as they're still working on understanding more about intuitive psychology... it would seem outrageous to suggest that it has actually fabricated 'the mind'. It is quite plausible to believe that as we a species have evolved, certainly including our brain along with so many other parts of us, so why not our mind too? The mind beind viewed as a plausible adaptation, does not seem to mean that intuitive psychology is assuming to have actually fabricated it, as I see it. Perhaps I've missed something?

He also says...

"Perhaps the ubiquitous belief in spirits, souls, gods, angels, and so on, consists of our intuitive psychology running amok. If you are prone to attributing an invisible entity called 'the mind' to other bodies, it is a short step to imagining minds that exist 'independently' of bodies. Afterall, it's not as if you could reach out and touch someone else's mind, you are always making an inferential leap. It's just one extra inferential step to say that a mind is not invariably housed in a body."

That doesn't sound as though he has any objections to having anything brought out into the open. One more thing about our mind being 'housed in a body'... 'if' my mind is actually 'my' mind, then surely it could be said that 'my' mind is 'housed' in my body - whether it just be a temporary home base before it goes wandering, or if it is actually unnecessary for 'it' to wander anywhere?

Anyway Tez, one of the very mind-expanding statements you've written here, that I really do appreciate is...

"That the mind depends upon the brain for its existence is as much a belief as is the belief that the mind's existence, but not necessarily its content, is independent of the brain."

...even though at this stage at least, I think it sounds very reasonable to assume that a person's mind could be dependent upon their brain, perhaps to help it process data. It begs the question of what good is a mind if it doesn't come 'home' for your brain to process? What evolutionary purpose would it be fulfilling? Mmmmm? Actually, Steven Pinker has other things to say about the mind... if you think you might be interested? Of course, he's only a psychologist.

Wherever you draw the line though, it is obviously a personal matter... sometimes it seems to be an individually fine line indeed, perhaps comparative to the fine line between genius and insanity. But, certainly no matter however fine it may be, it must surely still be a flexible one. One that may also be a plausible adaptation as we become increasingly aware, as we develope a better understanding of those things needing more understanding. It's an ultimately crucial reason 'why' metaphysics does deserve to be given its due respect, and certainly in terms of being given healthy and encouraging financial support. I'd rather know than need to doubt, so that I can take whatever inferential leap or step required... and I do believe that metaphysics can only be of help to us.

Appreciatively, La Rosa

March 21, 2007
9:13 pm
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LA Rosa

On the 21-Mar-07 you wrote:

"That it's 'housed in a body', I do not take as implying that it cannot wander... however, granted, it certainly does not go into the mind's full potential in this particular paper."

This statement seems to me to imply that you believe that the source of the mind is 'housed in a body'. Am I correct in assuming that you believe this? Do you believe that the brain is the source of the mind?

That the mind depends upon the brain for its existence is as much a belief as is the belief that the mind's foundation is independent of the brain.

You appear to me to believe that the mind depends upon the brain for its existence.

I certainly believe that the opposite is true; that the mind's foundation for its existence, but not necessarily its content, is independent of the brain.

I think that it is this different understanding of the word 'mind' that underpins our differences in our interpretations of Steven Pinker's words.

If one believes that the 'mind' depends upon the brain for its very existence, then PSI experiences are very hard, if not impossible, to explain - especially pre-cognition.

Where is the 'viewer', the 'observer', the 'experiencer' to be found? World renowned neuroscientists appear to me to be at a loss to answer this question. Dr Joseph LeDoux maintains the answer lies in the architecture of the synapses. He wrote a very interesting book containing his research called The Synaptic Self(Le Doux 2002). He opens the book with the words "The bottom line point of this book is "You are your synapses." ... ".

How can such synaptic patterns and chemistrys,that are supposedly the self, the mind, that can:

1. establish telepathic communication links over thousands of miles, and

2. Precognize, and

3. Teleport to other places, and

4. be clairevoyant, and

5. be claireaudient,

be explained in terms of brain functioning?

March 22, 2007
10:08 pm
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Here's an interesting 'cut and paste' from an article from the 'What The Bleep Is Going On' team.

"What is the major “debate” for our time? Is it whether or not to recycle? Is it global warming? Is it stem cell research? No. The real debate is about something that seems very simple and incredibly basic.
Is there a non-physical Reality? Another way to ask the question is: Do things exist that are not perceived by our five senses or the mechanical extensions we have created to augment them?
Since the ascendancy of science around Newton’s time, and the success of the Industrial Revolution, the notion of anything non-physical being real has been relegated to the world of dreamers, religious fanatics, and charlatans.
While the triumphs of science have been earthshaking, it seems to me this narrow view is a replay of the arrogance that once proclaimed, “We are the center of the Universe.” The only difference is now we are saying: “There is no reality beyond what we humans glimpse through the windows of our sense perceptions.” We have limited the entire Universe within the confines of what we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
Having created the What the BLEEP movies and gotten a very adverse reaction from the mainstream media, as well as the societal and scientific realms, it seems that putting forward the hypothesis that there is more to the Universe than meets the eye is like bringing up religion or politics at a dinner party – a very bad idea. Certainly it is a very revolutionary idea. There is not one field of human endeavor that would not be influenced by such a different view of Reality.

Strangely, this is the view 21 st century humanity finds itself facing. Quantum mechanics has been telling us for over seventy-five years that everything we see is actually part of one vast ocean of infinitesimally small particles that also take the form of invisible waves. Not only is this “reality” beyond the perception of our five senses, intrinsic to quantum mechanics is the fact that everything physical is connected within this vast sea. This is revolutionary indeed. Once we embrace this in everyday thought, everything changes.

The scientific community is, by and large, antithetical to extending the quantum viewpoint to ordinary life. Yet the scientific method - the very backbone of science – is beginning to be applied to do just that, bring light to this subject and expose cracks in the edifice of scientific materialism. Applying the scientific method, studies now show that: praying for someone can statistically increase the chance of healing; focused human intention can affect quantum events in a way that is considered impossible; and information embedded at the Planck Scale may be the background carrier of reality that transcends time, space, and the physical senses.
The mainstream scientific world does its best to ignore the ramifications of these discoveries. And yet the true glory of science is that it does move itself forward. Early discoveries and theories of quantum mechanics were so preposterously wild few scientists could accept them as true. But despite the “impossibility” of their discoveries, the evidence eventually was overwhelming, and a radical new way of addressing the physical Universe came into being.
The new reality is already here. To help speed up the process of getting this information out to the world, we have just added a New Science Media Resource Directory to our website:

http://www.whatthebleep.com/newscience/

This section is designed to be used by individuals and media professionals interested in finding good sources and background material about some extraordinary and world renowned scientists involved in groundbreaking experiments and discoveries. In it you will find both old faces and new.
Our physical world is just the tip of the iceberg, and the Universe is vaster than currently imagined. The scientists presented in this section, using the tried and true methods of rigorous experimental inquiry, are pointing out the limitations of a strictly materialistic worldview, and ultimately re-introducing consciousness into the Universe.

In the past, science struggled to keep the scientist out of experiments in some idealized state of separation. Now quantum physics and the Observer Effect keep shoving the experimenter – the human being - back into the picture. For centuries, the inner experience of “ourselves” has been segregated from what is considered “reality.” Even our most ever-present perception – that fact that we exist – has been relegated to the world of fancy, or, as some neurologists will have it, to the realm of epiphenomena. The scientists showcased here are moving science beyond the belief that human consciousness is just an unexpected by-product of brain cell function. It seems to me that these scientists, seeking to bridge the inner and the outer, are the true explorers of the 21 st century.
... ... "

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