Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Mar 1, 2013 - 07:23am PT
Oh yeah, all these religions are time-tested truths. They get more credibility over time because no one can disprove them. Its more like Dawkins says, viruses of false ideas that have taken hold and have a life of their own. The driving force for all of it is people's fear of death. One of the main promises of religions is immortality. They all promise it in one way or another. Thats the hook. It's not that people are trying to determine how the universe was created and this is their theory. They're scared of death and have no meaning in their lives so con men move in to tell them what they want to hear.

On the other hand though I don't think you're going to find the meaning of life by studying the mechanics of how the brain works. That may be the machine that makes consciousness possible but there's no denying that you feel like an independent being, you're "you" and you have no way to explain this feeling, which people want to interpret as some kind of supernatural soul. Sorry, but just as I am sure you're conscious now, even though I can't directly measure it, I'm also sure that when the lights go out, you won't be. You're not going to live on as some abastract entity like the pythagorian theorem. You won't exist at all. That's the part that freaks people out and why they'll follow anyone who promises them a better deal.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 1, 2013 - 07:33am PT
Please note that I was not talking about whether these religious beliefs are true or not. As a social scientist I was talking about their differential roles in society and their long term effects.

Religion can be studied from many vantage points, the truth of their teachings being only one such vantage.

Mar 1, 2013 - 11:59am PT
Thanks for the direction to that material, Ed. The first link sets the scene with a huge study of how the tiniest of changes in our DNA can change our mentality. The several types of calcium channel have pivotal roles in nerve and muscle.

Then the test of placing people with no previous diagnosis of mental disorder into a psychiatric setting to see if the system can tell the difference. How little we really know, or how little use we make of what we do know?

An example of Catch-22, in my opinion; we had a nursing home resident who had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was given large doses of sedatives morning, noon, and night. In nursing school we were told to see the person, not just the diagnosis, but when we went to our Clinical Nurse Specialist to ask if it would be reasonable to have the sedatives reduced we were told that it could not be done, because the person was bipolar. That diagnosis was a life sentence. The meds alone would make a person behave oddly but because the person was behaving oddly they couldn't be taken off the meds.

Some facilities do gradually reduce medications when they get a new patient and then add them back if the symptoms they were supposed to control reappear.

Mar 1, 2013 - 12:03pm PT
You're not going to live on as some abastract entity like the pythagorian theorem.

Unless you were Pythagoras.

Smiley face

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 1, 2013 - 02:38pm PT
Tom: So can this be done?? Oh Yeah!

I understand it can be done - no one I know is questioning that assumption - what is being questioned is whether it can be done in / by 2018.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 1, 2013 - 02:41pm PT
Jan: So how to measure the difference if we don't believe in any religion or don't know the difference between them and don't want to check it out. The answer in this case is not based on respective dogma but rather, their societal outcomes.

Now I'm confused. It seems like a simple enough proposition to me: minor semantics aside, either you believe in reincarnation or you don't. What do "societal outcomes" have to do with that basic proposition?

Mar 1, 2013 - 03:07pm PT
either you believe in reincarnation or you don't


Either it is a fact or not.

Believing it is or not doesn't work.

But, regardless, it's a bonfide fact whether you believe or not.

All you can do otherwise is deny it.

That won't work either .....

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 1, 2013 - 04:10pm PT
We can go to Mars, but 2018 is too soon to do a good job at it.

I've heard it said that a trip to Mars will be a one way trip. I'd take that trip in a heartbeat. It isn't like our species hasn't been sending others to certain death for millenia. I would call it a fair bargain.

Once you leave the Earth's magnetosphere, you will enter a very harsh radiation environment. Solving that will be difficult. Ed, sure you can shield with lead or even your water supply, but some radiation will still get through, and over a long period a human body will get quite whack from high energy cosmic rays. These aren't little gamma rays. They can be big particles such as a proton, moving close to the speed of light. Cosmic rays are extremely energetic. Ed, please explain...

I agree with Ed that manned spaceflight isn't a good value for your dollar. NASA's launch schedule over the past year or two has included a number or Earth orbiting missions that closely monitor things such as climate and weather. The results are stunning, and if you like Nova on PBS, there was a recent 2 hour episode on this.

One of my friend's is now working with NASA and others on hurricanes. The new satellites are seeing structure in hurricanes that is entirely new, which is odd, because hurricane's are studied to death.

Nature is like that. From the time that Galileo built his first telescope and looked at the sky, every generation of more powerful telescopes has been showing us more and more.

I'm worried that if the right wing nuts take over, it will be the end of pure research. It has been getting harder and harder to get NSF funding for quite a few years now. At the same time, the military wastes untold billions of dollars on their research.

The military isn't just the military itself. It is all of the contractors who employ tens of thousands of people. Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex is true. Just drive around Laurel, Maryland, on the outskirts of the NSA, and check out Boeing, Lockheed, and other contractors. They have their own exits on the interstate.

Our budget for spy satellites is huge, perhaps as much as NASA's launch budget. Just google up NRO and you will see the spy satellite arm of the U.S. Then go to NASA or Vandenburg and check out the launch schedule. They list which ones are classified. What is in them is unknown to us.

In my mind, every dime spent on a military is embezzled from us.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 1, 2013 - 04:23pm PT
Werner: [Reincarnation,] either it is a fact or not.

Well lookey there will ya, something we agree on!

Ed: The costs of sending people to Mars seems to outweigh the benefit in my mind.

It's the same deal with most manned fighter missions.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 1, 2013 - 04:26pm PT

Apollo 8 actually did a burn and did 10 orbits of the moon. They did another burn to return to Earth after that.

I believe the only figure 8 trip that was a true slingshot was with Apollo 13.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
Mar 1, 2013 - 04:59pm PT
No doubt scientology's belief in reincarnation bears some similarity to Buddhism. But why go with a recent, ever changing, politically controversial, form of reincarnation which is languages, continents, and millenia away from the original? In this regard, religion and science are at odds. Perhaps because religion is so much older, most things have been thought of and tried already. Innovation is not likely to improve on the past. In science of course, after 300 years, there is much to be discovered still and innovation does provide better answers

In other words, religion in all its forms is just another commodity that is packaged into something you find desirable which you buy. If reincarnation has a stronger appeal to your ideals (freuds ID) than say eternal life in heaven then you narrow the choices down and if those unsavory scientologists don't quite have enough "historical legitimacy" then you're going to have to go to those mysterious groovy eastern things. Like all consumer products, the religions with greatest marketing program and customer loyalty have the greatest "authority".

Cigarettes at one time were as much an unassailable "authority" of american culture as gun ownership. All was fine and dandy until one day it was discovered that they were an addictive poison and much of the percieved benefits had to do with nothing more substantive than illusion and mythology. In fact, once clinically and objectively deconstructed, the only real benefit left standing was that all that illusion and mythology supported a vast economic / political engine that if destroyed would mean a whole lot of people would be out of a job, but then when factoring the health costs that so -called benefit pops like a balloon as well. The mythology, illusion and political power of the Tobacco industry is not quite as powerful an "authority" as it once was and interestingly enough, the world didn't end.

The fact is, as Werner started to point out, it dosn't matter what you believe it only matters what is fact. That may be not true now so long as belief does not critically conflict with real world facts, but sooner or later it will if the facts are not on your side. Werner then followed this self evident truth with the statement "reincarnation is a fact" which unless I am much mistaken about the degree of evidence that supports it, is a self evident untruth.

Well maybe some day we will be able to test and demonstrate how factual such a notion is, and of course until then such a "belief" is fairly harmless and cannot be denied with certainty anyway, so like cigarettes once were regarded, there is currently no need to get all bent out of shape about it.

The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Mar 1, 2013 - 05:40pm PT
There are some obscure commentaries on the Tibetan Book of the Dead that I read a long time ago but can't remember a citation for; they made a distinction between the exoteric and esoteric nature of the whole bardo cosmology. In so many words, the exoteric teaching was described as a metaphor, a symbolic work of art that presumed a literal truth to the reincarnation doctrine, while the esoteric one, that the monks kept to themselves, was more concerned with non-transcendental psychological realities, all the little deaths and rebirths that we experience every day. These commentaries were from the early 1900s, but judging from this Dalai Lama's contemporary public statements, it seems like this is still the case. He hardly ever talks about baroque doctrine, is more focused on the here and now, and how our mindsets and behaviors matter for their own sake, not in terms of the allegory. That was tailored for a specific audience, and we're not it.

Mar 1, 2013 - 08:25pm PT
Hilbert Space. I had to look that one up. My math and physics is limited to ten hours of physics and three calculus classes. I never heard a mention of Hilbert Space...ever...until JL started talking about it. Did you pick that one up in your carpool, JL?

I didn't encounter Hilbert space until I took two courses in functional analysis in graduate school. It is kind of a trippy thing to say, isn't it?
Hilbert space . . . The physicists picked it up and off they went.

JL does seem well acquainted with the concept, doesn't he?


Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 1, 2013 - 10:45pm PT
From my experience, difficult concepts are best conveyed in simple words.

When you start nabbing complicated concepts and tossing them around like raindrops, you are almost certainly going to step on your dick.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 1, 2013 - 11:29pm PT

It's obvious that there is nothing about religion that you like. If someone says their religion has the truth, you jump on them for ignorance and bigotry. If they don't advocate one or the other based on dogma but on social effects, you accuse them of using religion like a commodity. And then to further commodify religion you compare it to cigarettes and poison. Werner steps in and says that reincarnation is a fact, and instead of lauding him for looking for truth instead of social effect, you predict that his belief will collide with fact to the detriment of truth and society. Pretty hard to please it seems.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Mar 1, 2013 - 11:30pm PT

I think, you are interpreting the Tibetan book of the dead to suit your western secular outlook, which is ok because as you point out, it is still useful at that level as a psychological guide to the unconscious.

However, Buddhist teaching has always stressed that the spiritual world exists in three dimensions, of which the bardo is one part of the second dimension. All three interpenetrate so that there is no separation of the spiritual and physical and all three realms are present continuously. The Dalai Lama definitely teaches this but not at western conferences full of secular science types. If you want the full dose, go to his multi day Kalachakra ceremony in India every year. Mostly Tibetans there but plenty of Indians and Westerners also.

What I like about eastern teachings is that they don't talk about one way or straight and narrow path, but allow for multiple levels within levels. Everybody and everything has a place. Ed is a jnana yogi and you are specializing in the nirmanakaya level of the bardo. It's all cool.

Of course a very large part of the reason eastern thought is so tolerant is the belief in reincarnation. If we all have multiple lifetimes to get it right, there is no pressure to convert or force people onto a specific path. Belief systems do have social effects.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Mar 2, 2013 - 02:22am PT
I see no difference between the Zendo and Scientology, other than Zen is older.

It's these kind of remarkable statements - based on no direct experience whatsoever - that makes me leave off the thread for days at a time. Instead of asking questions about what someone has no idea about at all - other than what they might have picked up on he net - we now have Zazen and Scientology on equal footing.

If you only knew.

Re Hilbert Space: This one is fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRn_GNcglKo

Captain...or Skully

Mar 2, 2013 - 02:25am PT
You're guessing. Ha!

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Mar 2, 2013 - 03:11am PT
can an Idea change the world for the better?

Is a good Idea an unstoppable force?



Social climber
An Oil Field
Mar 2, 2013 - 04:16am PT
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

That was a Carl Sagan example of a meaningless question.
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