Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Dec 10, 2012 - 10:58am PT

Now I can see what they were, transcendental mental experiences, and in the end, they can't be labeled anything more significant than a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Dr. F., that alone may help people who need serenity in their lives. Furthermore, with serenity, the mind slows down and calms itself enough to observe its own practice and functions. (Things happen very quickly in the mind.) Seeing how the "monkey mind" (Largo's term) operates can encourage one to see thoughts and feelings for what they are--basically insubstantial, ungraspable, and chaotically reactionary objects with lives of their own. That can then bring one to the following questions (i) "who's really in charge here?" (ii) "what IS real in this mind I experience?" (iii) "What AM I, really?" Healyje's interesting explanations point to those very questions, I think. Werner's post provides a simple set of conclusions in accordance with Healyje's ideas. That is, meditation is only an instrument to look within, and with it, you might see that one's world is a personal projection.


Occasionally your posts are almost gentle, and I think they work better for you when they are (I think). For what it's worth.


As I read it, your long explanation above tends to assume the same level or structure of consciousness long past in Man as men and women have realized today (a rational, logical, mental set of operations). Many people don't think that ancient man had the idea of causality.

Some people think that ancient man's cognitive capabilities were more associative or unconscious than the ones man has today. Emotions drove behaviors, and they were key in determining man's identities. Man saw him or herself more as appendages (parts) in small tribes and as a part of Nature along with other life and non-life forms. Man did not have enough of a sense of individuality, will, or autonomy to see himself as distinct from all that which revolved around him.

As for emotions driving behaviors, emotions are increasingly seen as evolved instinctual knowledge structures surfacing into consciousness. Instincts and emotions ARE cognitions. Currently, we think that consciousness is an externally oriented, self-reflective understanding. There is no solid reason to doubt the efficacy of non- or inchoate-knowledge structures like emotion or instinct. They got man this far successfully. Indeed, we have no way of evaluating whether instincts, emotions, or more imaginative image-based forms of cognition (e.g., myths) are less efficacious than another other structure of consciousness. We only THINK they are. (Of course, 'thinking' is our current ideal of cognition.)

Of course, someone like me is going to say that if a person can see that evolution of consciousness, as described above, then there is no reason to imagine that the current state of Man's consciousness is the end of the line. Running a trend line could lead one to think that (i) there are other structures of consciousness in our specie's future that we cannot readily imagine, and (ii) some of those foolish and primitive structures of consciousness may also be equally effective and important as our current means of cognition and understanding. 'Dissing' other structures of consciousness (e.g., tribal views, religions?) may be itself equally foolish and without real justifications. (I don't mean yours here, Healyje.)

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:02am PT
As if on cue:

NYTimes: Jamming About the Mind at Qualia Fest

By ARIEL KAMINER / December 9, 2012

Backed by his Zombie Blues band, David Chalmers is a vision of primordial rock ’n’ roll: a growling, howling menace with wild hair and a leather jacket. But the lyrics he shouts are inside references to debates about the nature of consciousness, and the audience that gathers for the performance is in on all the jokes.

The opportunity to hear Professor Chalmers, one of the most celebrated philosophers of mind and a visiting professor at New York University, will next arise on Monday night at the third annual Qualia Fest, a lineup of seven bands, most of whose members hail from the realms of philosophy and neuroscience.

Those two fields were once miles apart. In recent years, however, and particularly in New York, an area of overlap has emerged among theorists and practical researchers. Someday that overlap may produce clear answers about the human mind. But it has already produced a whole mess of bands. Qualia Fest, which this year will take place at the Bowery Electric starting at 7 p.m., is their Woodstock.

It is the brainchild, if you will, of Richard Brown, a philosopher at the City University of New York. Back when he was a graduate student, he started playing music with some fellow academics in a colleague’s basement. Those jam sessions became the New York Consciousness Collective, and moved to a monthly gig at the Parkside Lounge on the Lower East Side. Along the way, the musicians coalesced into a few discrete bands.

Among them are the Whims, whom Fletcher Maumus, a guitarist and vocalist in the band who teaches philosophy at Brooklyn College, characterizes as Beach Boys by way of the Ramones; and Quiet Karate Reflex, in which Alex Keifer, a doctoral candidate of the CUNY Graduate Center, uses a modified 8-bit Game Boy as a musical instrument.

Many of the musicians play in more than one of the bands; Professor Brown plays in four. (“There’s not a lot of philosophy drummers,” he said. “I get a lot of work.”) That overlap gives the undertaking a friendly, clubby feel.

Erik Nylen, a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Neural Science at N.Y.U. and the keyboardist for the Space Clamps, says the music provides a way for philosophers and neuroscientists to communicate with one another.

“For example, when Richard and I talk about our research, we can’t really go that deep into particulars of the questions we ask — we each speak bits and pieces of each other’s languages, but neither of us are fluent in both.” On stage, however, “we are communicating on a much deeper level than we would ever be able to otherwise.”

Qualia are subjective sensations, and references to the study of consciousness are laced throughout the performances. The Amygdaloids, led by Prof. Joseph E. LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science, use their songs to try to explain various ideas about the mind. The Space Clamps, who call their music “bubble gum funk,” take a more lighthearted approach, as in their song “History of Science.” (“Who invented gravity? Space Clamps! Who invented electricity? Space Clamps!”)

Professor Chalmers says the action is not confined to the stage. “If you get a few philosophers together, they’re never terribly far from arguing about philosophy. Getting a few drinks into them doesn’t hurt. If the music is loud, you might get a bit of shouting.”

Professor Maumus had similar memories. “It’s a fascinating scene,” he said. “ ‘Good set, you guys are good. What’s your take on Kripke’s dualist argument?’ Not the kind of thing you typically expect to hear being discussed between sets at a rock show.”

Sara Steele, the lead singer of Space Clamps, who studies auditory perception at N.Y.U. and has performed wearing a futuristic gold cat suit, said the best part is when the music gets everyone dancing, “in a carefree bouncy sort of way, with lots of oscillation.”

Toward the end of the long night comes the moment the crowd has waited for, when Professor Chalmers takes the stage. The zombie in his band’s name is a hypothetical being that philosophers like to speculate about — a creature that looks just like a human but lacks consciousness. Playing on that theme, and shouting over a Muddy Waters riff, the professor begins: “I act like you act, I do what you do, but I don’t know what it’s like to be you.” He does only one song, but it can last close to an hour as members of the audience come onstage to perform their own verses, about topics like singularity or synesthesia.

“I always thought of it as something that would happen very much in the moment, just for a few of us,” he said, “so I was a little surprised the first time it showed up on YouTube. In the sober light of day it’s pretty atrocious.”

Many of the other performers are, in fact, accomplished musicians. But despite all their credentials, Qualia Fest is a surprisingly unpretentious event. “You’re bound to see a better act if you go to Webster Hall,” Mr. Nylen, the predoctoral fellow, said. “But I think we have a better time than any of them.”

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:10am PT
If you are doing psychoanalysis however, or other kinds of deep therapy which are the equivalent of meditation...

then you are not talking about science. Science by definition requires testable hypotheses. Psychology produces testable hypothesis. Psychoanalysis produces psychobabble.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:16am PT
I don't know if I entirely agree with that per se in that I suspect over the years lots of psychology hypotheses have their roots in the 'explorations' of psychoanalysis.

Lake Tahoe
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:20am PT
I have two dogs. One was chasing the other around a house. They went around once and then the big dog that was doing the chasing turned around and started going the other direction. He was not at all surprised when they met head on. The little dog was.

Anticipation is not a part of consciousness as we know it. At a minimum, it is a part of consciousness as my dog knows it.

The big dog also rings a bell when he needs to go out to pee. We didn't train him to do it, we showed him the bell once when he had to pee and he knew to use it from then on.

The little dog just sits and stares at me when she needs to go out. It's creepy. I wish that she would learn to ring the bell.


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:32am PT
Anticipation is not a part of consciousness as we know it. At a minimum, it is a part of consciousness as my dog knows it.

Well, there you have it. I would disagree and still posit anticipatory behaviors as the avenue by which our consciousness evolved and think your dogs very much 'point' to that conclusion.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:56am PT
Anticipation is not a part of consciousness as we know it.

Dave, was that a typo? Did you mean to say anticipation IS a part of our consciousness? just as it sure appears to be in dogs.

I've had a number of dogs over the years, too. No doubt in my mind that they were all conscious in numerous metrics and definitions. No doubt they could anticipate. (I don't think as mere zombies, either, lol!)

In agreement if it were a typo, one I could fully relate to by experience with my dogs.


mechrist, welcome to the discussion!
Donald Thompson

Trad climber
Los Angeles,CA
Dec 10, 2012 - 11:58am PT
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and premotor areas.
This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior.[1] The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.[2]
The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function. Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social "control" (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes).
Many authors have indicated an integral link between a person's personality and the functions of the prefrontal cortex.[3]


This structure in the brain is the most developed in humans than any other animal, along with the cerebrum in general.
With this baby sitting under the hood how can we avoid anticipatory thinking, and its interrelation to society and personality?


This is unrelated but I have a feature on my iPad that allows one to audibly speak into the microphone and ask a question.
I asked for "Clothing stores" and it gave me a perfectly decent list of stores nearby. I automatically showed my good-natured gratitude by saying " thank you"

This example belongs in the file of psychologists who have begun to study the emotional relations of humans to artificial intelligence.

Social climber
joshua tree
Dec 10, 2012 - 02:46pm PT

"Assuming that everyone with an interest in the mind is a religious fanatic isn't very useful either."

i would say the same about the materialist fanatic also!

i being religious beleive i have a broader awarness of the world. i think
we humans share a unique conscience that rears itself when we are about
to make a decision. And we make decisions, abiding or unabiding to the thoughts, are more importantly the feelings of other people.

The Brain is conceived from our DNA program. Along with the rest of our
bodily parts.The Brains job is to keep everything running in unisun. this
is all hardwired in the hardware. THis is why we dont have to think about
raising our heartrate when we run. But why does our heartrate rise when
we watch a scary movie?

The Big Question, where does our character come from? Our sense of humor,
our commonsense, our generosity?

Do you think the DNA that instructs the color of our eyes. Also predicts
the amount of generosity an individual will posses,or how funny a person is?

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Dec 10, 2012 - 03:58pm PT
Your two favorite examples of evidence-based faith or experience-based faith?

Mine are:

(1) Looking in my sideview mirror as a driver, seeing that the road behind me is clear and then pulling a u-turn without directly looking. That's faith!

But it's evidence or experience-based faith. (Not blind faith, not religious faith, the worst-case sort of faith).

(2) Hanging on a half-inch rope thinner than my finger hundreds of feet off the deck while rock climbing. My life in the hands of fate and faith - exilarating to the hilt!

Again, it's not blind faith - the kind that's historically valued in our religious institutions; rather it's evidence or experience-based faith that's earned through learning and training, in other words life experience in how the world works.

Note that both cases illustrate a faith (i.e., a trust) in the constancy of causality, in the regularity of natural laws, in the macro predictability of deterministic systems earned by learning and life experience.

When people use the word "faith" I always try to think about it in context and figure out what kind of faith they mean.

Dec 10, 2012 - 04:52pm PT

Your NYTs article is hysterical. Couldn't stop smiling. TFPU.

Trad climber
from the backseat of Jake& Elwood Blues car
Dec 10, 2012 - 05:26pm PT
christmas humor and such

Credit: luggi

Jewish olympic swimmer

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Dec 10, 2012 - 06:15pm PT
Dalai Lama
Those who have little interest in spirituality shouldn’t think that human inner values don’t apply to you. The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health. Our human intelligence tells us which of our emotions are positive and helpful and which are damaging and to be restrained or avoided.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Dec 10, 2012 - 06:33pm PT
The inner peace of an alert and calm mind are the source of real happiness and good health. Our human intelligence tells us which of our emotions are positive and helpful and which are damaging and to be restrained or avoided.

I agree and it doesn't sound like he's suggesting religion or spirituality are requisite in any way.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 10, 2012 - 06:54pm PT
lots of psychology hypotheses have their roots in the 'explorations' of psychoanalysis

It is the same in most social sciences, but particularly psychology and anthropology. People on this thread are always asking where's the data? Observation of humans is our data. Of course some go out to do fieldwork with a preconceived theoretical framework, Marxist social scientists being a good example, but in both anth and psych the more different the culture or behavior, the less known-theory based on western science, accurately describes what is going on.

This was discovered by the first field anthropologist when Malinowski described the Trobriand Islanders as being at variance with the then widely accepted Oedipal complex. And every graduate student is told that at least one working hypothesis they take to a non western village will probably be blown away during their first week of actual fieldwork.

Humans are endlessly inventive, so inventive that the only universals anthropologists have been able to find after 200 years of looking is some sort of incest taboo (all societies forbid mothers and sons, all else is allowed by somebody somewhere) and that all societies can be grouped into one of six subsistence levels. This is a far cry from the hope 150 years ago that someday we would be able to predict human behavior by plugging in variables just like a chemical formula. It also gives us an indication of why the problem of consciousness is so difficult.

Already on my master's thesis I discovered this inventiveness when I compared various high altitude societies in regard to inheritence patterns and the problem of limited resources. In the absence of modern contraception, the solutions ranged from religious celibacy, late marriage and the marriage of only the oldest two children in a family (European solutions) to several brothers sharing a wife (Himalayan solution).

What really happens in social science is much more interesting than any preconceived notions of what will be found.


Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Dec 10, 2012 - 06:58pm PT
this thread continues to convince me of several points:

we humans don't know much, understand little, and have much to learn

the scientific method is a useful tool for studying certain aspects of reality, but is severely limited and often myopic...like a high powered telescope with a narrow field of vision that lets you learn something about the surface features of the moon; but can hardly compare to the experiences of a person actually going there and walking around and looking around

some adherents to the scientific method seem to use the limitations of science to justify and reinforce great personal myopia regarding their awareness of reality, thus allowing themselves to dwell within their very limited comfort zone, and similarly control others

i think some of the greatest scientists are very humble and do not exhibit such myopic delusions of grandeur in their level of understanding

there is so much that we don't understand, scientifically or otherwise, that to pretend some sort of broad understanding of reality is just simply hubris, and is doomed to eventually face severe reality adjustments

it is interesting to look at human progress in terms of sudden breakthroughs to new levels of understanding on a grand scale

i suspect we are facing right up against some such breakthroughs

i also suspect that early examples of such breakthroughs will basically be hoaxes perpetuated as false flag operations by those attempting to control the situation and consolidate their control over populations

these ones are not the wise ones, and do not have at heart the welfare of the general population, but only their own selfish interests

suspect any apparent breakthroughs of knowledge or technology that serve to limit personal freedoms; as the implications of the real breakthroughs are to greatly expand personal freedoms, abilities, and understandings


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:00pm PT

The Dalai Lama is increasingly de-emphasizing religion and speaking instead of human universals.
This is a reflection I believe, of his many conferences with western scientists interested in contemplative practices but not in religion.
Dr. F.

Ice climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2012 - 07:06pm PT
why don't you tell us what we don't know
What are all these unanswered questions?
What is there that we don't understand?
Do we really need to understand everything?

or is just acknowledging it's existence enough,
or observing how something works, isn't that enough to understand the fundamentals, and we really don't need to understand every bit of it to make predictions and theories about the item in question.

Because as far as I Can see, we know alot, and what we don't know is often exaggerated.

Of course most of the unanswered questions arise when we add God, spirits and souls to the mix, which makes sense, since we can't even define what these things are, or if they exist.

Social climber
So Cal
Dec 10, 2012 - 07:17pm PT
Because as far as I Can see, we know alot, and what we don't know is often exaggerated.

The essence of hubris exposed.

Beware Nemesis!
Dr. F.

Ice climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 10, 2012 - 07:20pm PT
Beware of the idiots that think we don't know anything!!

Moronic stupid idiots, that believe lies and talking points over facts
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