Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Social climber
joshua tree
Jun 3, 2013 - 10:22pm PT
I was just picturing Ed in the Lotus position trying to black out the white noise. Jus Play'in !

Ed ur posts are the Best! (for an atheist that is..) Keep up the good work!

Much appreciated from my end!! I've learned alot in the last year, especially about being argumentive and not combative.

Social climber
joshua tree
Jun 3, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
The new research, published today in the British journal Nature, indicates that brain regions responsible for sexuality may not be dictated solely by genetics, as some researchers have suggested, but also may be strongly shaped by what an individual does.

Indeed, for some parts of the brain involved in sexual responses, experience can make all the difference, the study determined.

By itself, the finding is a remarkable observation in the neurobiology of behavior, brain experts said. But added to the volatile debate over the biological origins of homosexuality and sexual orientation, it takes on a charged social and political dimension as well.

"It adds fuel to the fire," said UCLA neurobiologist Roger A. Gorski, who studies sexual differences in the human brain. The study "has specifically looked at sexual behavior and shown there is an effect" on the brain.

In an experiment with laboratory animals, Berkeley psychology professor Marc Breedlove discovered that the brain cells controlling movement in male rats could be changed by altering their sexual behavior.

He compared animals that were sexually active with those that were not. He focused on a bundle of nerve cells at the base of the spinal cord, called the SNB complex, that is active during copulation by controlling the penis.

To eliminate the effects of differing hormone levels on their behavior, the male rats were castrated and then were implanted with testosterone capsules to keep them interested in sex. One group was put in a cage with female rats given hormones to be continually receptive, while a control group was kept with unreceptive females.

Measured at the end of a four-week period, the nerve cells of the sexually active male rats were much smaller--and therefore perhaps more sensitive and responsive, Breedlove suggested--than the control group that did not engage in sex.

"These findings give us proof for what we theoretically know to be the case--that sexual experience can alter the structure of the brain, just as genes can alter it," Breedlove said.

"It is possible that differences in sexual behavior cause, rather than are caused by, differences in brain structure."

Marian Diamond, an authority at UC Berkeley on how learning affects the brain, and other neuroscientists said that Breedlove's work reflects a growing scientific appreciation for how readily the adult brain can alter its cells and neural circuits in response to changes in the world around it.

"When we learn or when we acquire new abilities, those abilities are encoded in changes in neural structure," said William T. Greenough, an authority at the University of Illinois on the neurobiology of learning. "It is well known that practice makes perfect in terms of sexual stamina in humans."

(Source: Campus Reform)
Under the student health care plan at the University of California (UC) – Berkeley, students can receive coverage of up to $75,000 for sex-change operations and other related therapy, documents obtained on Monday by Campus Reform reportedly indicate.

According to the “2012-13 UC Berkeley Student Health Insurance Plan Benefits Booklet,”the publicly funded university will provide up to 90 percent of the controversial procedure, which comes out to about $75,000.

Also covered under UC Berkeley’s health care plan are students who would like to have “hormone therapy” and “gender confirmation (reassignment) surgery.” Better yet, the university will also pay for some “certain travel costs” associated with a sex-change operation because there are only a “limited number of providers” near the school.

The Leadership Institute’s Campus Reform has more details:

The costs for a sex change operation alone, without additional travel costs, can exceed $50,000. Many private health care providers do not pay for these operations due to their cost and questionable health benefits.

The documents also reveal that the university health plan will cover up to 90-percent of costs [for] abortions.

Despite multiple inquiries the UC’s administration did not reveal the number of sex-change operations or abortions provided under the plan or when the plan was amended to include these controversial operations.

When students are accepted into the university, they are automatically enrolled in its student health care plan and must apply for a “waiver” to be exempt from buying into it.

Art depicting life, or life depicting art??

Politics says, let a man make up his own mind and his conscious will follow.
God says, let man make up his mind by what his conscious says.
Science says, let man make up his mind by what his pocketbook says.

Who's right?

Jun 4, 2013 - 09:10am PT
If position matters when meditating then there is no separation of mind from the body, duh...DMT

Were you expecting some kind of separation? I don't exactly know how to say this properly, but at one level, it's all just phenomena, and all phenomena are equal. Body, mind, consciousness, tables, our so-called lives, memories, etc. are phenomena. They all manifest, but their substantiality is problematical. Looking for their substantiality, you never seem to get anywhere final.

I work with infinities constantly in mathematics [Jogill].

We all work with infinities every single day, but most of us don't see them as such. There's not a thing that isn't infinite in more ways than we can say. It's really easy to see. I'd say you work with mathematical abstractions, John. (I'd like to see anyone work with an infinity--directly--and know it.)

The back-and-forth about states is familiar in spiritual discussions. "I'm doing this work, so I should get somewhere" (a state of mind?). I mean if there is no where to get to, if there are no boons to acquire, then what's the point?

States are (again) phenomena, there is no where anyone gets to, and there is really no work to get done. You're already there. Get yourself into the bleachers, and find a comfortable seat.

People think that any spiritual realization should be announced and verified by trumpets, bliss, visions, and keys to some doorway. That's a mythical view (which is ok, but limited just like any other view is). They seem to indicate what is important to people.

"Then why do any of it?" No reason at all appears to be the best reason, but reason is another incomplete and narrow view. You get involved because you can't help yourself; the universe forces you. You are consciousness becoming aware of consciousness. So is everyone else. Every being is in the same boat. How you go about your awakening is your business. Spiritualism is simply code for: "Wake the f*ck up!" Abrir los ojos!

For this audience, one might start to question or examine concepts and semantics. You know more than you can say, and everything you truly know did not come from concepts. Concepts came from what you truly know--experience. That simple stick-man drawing of Mommy up on the refrigerator that your daughter drew came from her experience. All concepts must. Look to the source. What's at the base of everything? Start watching that closely.

Expecting some kind of enacted myth to spring up, or some final concept to explain all the loose ends are really indications of what is dear to you. If Truth is what is really important to you over Everything Else, then you'll find your way to it. But be ready to jettison all that cargo that you thought was valuable and worth holding on to. It's going to be a violent ride, ladies and gentlemen, and most of us aren't going to make it.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:21am PT
"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?" --- John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:26am PT
It's going to be a violent ride, ladies and gentlemen, and most of us aren't going to make it.

That is I believe the single most underappreciated part of this whole thread. Just look at the violent unheaval we saw when I suggested that people even briefly separte from their evaluating minds. It was like I was suggesting castration, or somethng worse.

Fact is, to chage at all involves psychological speed wobbles big time. Last night at the sangha we did a group guided meditation on our body becoming a corpse and eventually dust, since this is exactly what happens - no exceptions. This is a traditional exercise meant to ferrit out and embrace our preverbal fear of death. Some of these speed wobbles are intentionally induced.

The idea that a modern meditation practice is a passive joy ride is so only if you are basically doing relaxation exercises at home. Join a group and they're likely going to be digging into rocky terrain every time out.

That's why I call it "Subjective Adventures." It's like free-soling around your own mind and heart.

Or you can think about it . . .

Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:35am PT
I was wondering about the white noise in the brain too, thought it might be yet another effect of the big bang theory.

I have no idea about how meditators can alter their brainwaves or how the different brain frequencies relate to anything. But, after checking with googlepedia, it looks very interesting:

Neural oscillation is rhythmic or repetitive neural activity in the central nervous system. Neural tissue can generate oscillatory activity in many ways, driven either by mechanisms localized within individual neurons or by interactions between neurons. In individual neurons, oscillations can appear either as oscillations in membrane potential or as rhythmic patterns of action potentials, which then produce oscillatory activation of post-synaptic neurons. At the level of neural ensembles, synchronized activity of large numbers of neurons can give rise to macroscopic oscillations, which can be observed in the electroencephalogram (EEG). Oscillatory activity in groups of neurons generally arises from feedback connections between the neurons that result in the synchronization of their firing patterns. The interaction between neurons can give rise to oscillations at a different frequency than the firing frequency of individual neurons. A well-known example of macroscopic neural oscillations is alpha activity.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 4, 2013 - 09:40am PT
Back when I had alpine climbing aspirations I got in with a psychologist who was working with a friend on the Canadian Olympic team. One thing we did was a quick 'meditation', if you will, whereby we could rapidly warm up our fingers and toes. It only took a minute or so and I could do it just standing on the side of a mountain. I don't know what 'wave state' I was going into but it was very effective. My hypothesis is we were tapping into relaxing the autonomic nerves that control blood vessel dilation and contraction. It was certainly more prosaic than meditating for enlightenment but having functioning toes and fingers is very nice, especially when your life depends on it.

Jun 4, 2013 - 11:21am PT
FYI, "white noise" here is a common NF term referencing exscessive spiking in the signal other than that caused by artifact (eyes blinking) and so forth. Here, the brain is literally out of phase with itself and is performing the mentel equivalant backfiring. As you might or might not know, many so-called psychiatric conditions have an EEG footprint of synchronous large amplitude spike-wave discharges. Eliminate and reduce these spikes (brain plasicity allows this) and many of the symptoms often vanish.

Said spikes are your "white noise," that being needless and counterproductive electrical activity that needs to get tuned out.

It isn't that hard to check, JL.


In signal processing, white noise is a random signal with a flat (constant) power spectral density. In other words, a signal that contains equal power within any frequency band with a fixed width.

Your "synchronous large amplitude spike-wave discharges" are not white noise. Your tendency to misunderstand or misuse some terms and ideas undercuts your believability in other areas.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jun 4, 2013 - 11:45am PT
Your "synchronous large amplitude spike-wave discharges" are not white noise. Your tendency to misunderstand or misuse some terms and ideas undercuts your believability in other areas.

You know, or should know, that my use of the word "white noise" was not the first example you cut and pasted from Wikipedia, but the second: "The term (White Noise) is also used for a discrete signal whose samples are regarded as a sequence of serially uncorrelated random variables."

The thing to understand - and I trust you do want to understand - is that the synchronous large amplitude spike-wave discharges are in my example, randomly distributed and undercut the more stable wave states associated with smooth and coherent cognitive processing. In this way, the "white noise" is like random static you hear with poor radio reception. Once you use a "squash protocol" common in neurofeedback, and flatten out those spikes, you literally dial or tune in the brain.

It's you who are trying to undercut me at every stage, nitpicking terms instead of making any attempt to see the bigger picture. Why not leave off on this and try and contribute something useful to the conversation, instead of pot shotting from the peanut gallery? It's safer there, I agreee, but this kind of counterpunching, masquerading as truth seeking, is in fact passive aggressive and adds little to coversation but bile and discord.


Jun 4, 2013 - 12:00pm PT
Fact is, to change at all involves psychological speed wobbles big time

That's probably true. But what if one is quite satisfied with their lives, content with the illusion of "self?" Why then take these difficult steps to attain the infinity of emptyness? I am not at all convinced that that experience demonstrates our "true selves" - but it may trigger a sensation, a feeling, of existential profoundness that has a neurological basis similar but greatly enhanced to the occasional feeling I have in dream-like states where I am ecstatic that I have solved a particularly thorny nemesis of a problem . . . only to awaken and discover upon reflection and analysis that my "solution" was BS.

However, I am not criticizing your meditative efforts, only pointing out the obvious: some of us are content with our rational world. And, yes, not everything can be treated mathematically.

And, yes, Mike, my infinities are abstractions. When I translate them to the computer, they are gone, for , to a computer, all decimal expansions terminate.

Jun 4, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
. . . some of us are content . . .

(How lucky you are.)

As an educator, I hear that all the time. "I'm happy. Why change?"

There should be no reason at all, except if you feel yourself being pulled forward to some distant omega point. Unless my students are Hindi, I don't say that. Instead, I tell my students (god love them) is that when they get just exactly they want, they'll find themselves coming up wanting. I think that problem goes all the way to the end of the line. Attractions and aversions. Ugh. Our lives are run by them.

(Most folks report a dull feeling of dissatisfaction (dukkha) in their lives, and it never seems to leave them until their final minutes.)

Hey, waitaminute. . . come to think of it, this is where I got on this train way before the "What Is Mind?" thread when someone asked whether meditation would be good for climbing. I think I said that spiritual meditation had some other personal inciting motivations. I think I made reference to Phillip Kapleau Roshi, who said that a person begins to sense two related things. One, a growing feeling that they are being duped somehow by something or someone. Two, that which they see around them begins to look absurd and unreal.

But if you don't have those experiences, then you don't. Sounds like a great excuse for a party. You appear to be in exactly the right place.

Funny how that happens.

Jun 4, 2013 - 03:32pm PT
One, a growing feeling that they are being duped somehow by something or someone. Two, that which they see around them begins to look absurd and unreal

Shades of Philip K. Dick . . . Funny, I never noticed.

Why is it I now feel the need to apologize for being satisfied?

Instead, I tell my students (god love them) is that when they get just exactly (what) they want, they'll find themselves coming up wanting

I suppose this is some sort of criticism of being satisfied in life - if so it falls short. Satisfaction is more about adjusting to "wants" and not letting them predicate your actions.


Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jun 4, 2013 - 03:40pm PT
That's a good point, John, and Mike. Some of us were stymied by what was being presentd as the bottom line, as some kind of enduring truth, and in our guts we sensed a grater land out there Somewhere.

Two things became very clear once we stopped just thinking about it and started the rigors of the work. One, we could NEVER have guessed what was involved before the fact, and two, religiomyths like "enlightment" were detriments and road blocks that had to be negotiated to make any real progress.


Jun 4, 2013 - 03:47pm PT
Good points Mike and John.

Human nature has an entertaining complexity. It's good we're not all alike!

Dr. F.

Big Wall climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 4, 2013 - 05:13pm PT
Maybe you should link to it.^^
I don't remember the occasion

I'm still not convinced that you can't evaluate something
Something or nothing, there are ways to that we can take a look at it.
to say that there is something that Can't be experienced/observed/measured may be true, but if you can't prove that it is real, then we can say it doesn't exist, and it's up to you to prove it exists.

So far, there has been no proof, only words.

at the core, it is saying that it's all about God, finding purpose in an otherwise meaningless life, because God set it up for us to reach him!
That we are special in some way, a rejection of us being a product of a natural evolution, an avocation of Intelligent design, by God.

Do the rest of you Now get the spell check here on ST??
It started a ~week ago, maybe it's just my computer


The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jun 4, 2013 - 05:53pm PT
Why not leave off on this and try and contribute something useful to the conversation, instead of pot shotting from the peanut gallery? It's safer there, I agreee, but this kind of counterpunching, masquerading as truth seeking, is in fact passive aggressive and adds little to coversation....

Bottom line is if you talk nonsense about things you don't really understand, you're going to get called out for it sooner or later, whether by an expert or a quick fact-check. You know you've got a tough crowd here, so do yourself a favor by cutting back on your signal-to-noise deficit, and the "big picture" will be a lot clearer to everyone.

Jun 4, 2013 - 09:47pm PT

Is this what you were talking about?


My post about white noise is a contribution to this discussion, though a small one. You are free to ignore it, criticize it, or take it into consideration.

I have no interest in undercutting you. I know that you are a smart well-read person with experience and insight into meditation. I say what I want to about your posts and you say what you want. That is all that is happening, here.

Jun 4, 2013 - 10:47pm PT
Why is it I now feel the need to apologize for being satisfied?

Oh, no, no, no. My bad. What could be more perfect than contentment with the way things are? (I thought for sure that you were going to say that a feeling of duplicity and out-of-place weirdness are sure signs of paranoia.)

What I wrote is not a criticism of satisfaction, John. It's the Buddha's First Noble Truth. (I'll bet you really knew that.)

And thanks for the help with my grammar.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 5, 2013 - 12:48am PT
Back to jogill's question about meditation sickness. In the various spiritual traditions, there are many kinds of meditation sickness - the desire for escapism, meditating for material gain, and so on. The most dramatic form of meditation sickness however, involves energy patterns gone wrong. I would suspect from what is said above about neural oscillations that part of this could be oscillations in the spinal cord which are prematurely set in motion or with too much energy for the inexperienced.

In meditational language these are premature arousals of a mysterious force labeled the kundalini in the Indian traditions. It is said to reside at the base of the spine and to only be able to rise, once blockages in the spine (chakras) are cleared. If it rises before this clearing, it gets blocked, builds up to dangerous levels and can create sensations of heat, pulsating internal energy, nausea, dizziness, and if persisting over a prolonged period, mental illness. The cure is having a more advanced meditator (the traditional role of the advanced guru) who can redirect the energy back down to the base of the spine until the proper time for its re-arousal.

All of this sounds completely fantastic to those who have never experienced it but I can attest from personal experience that it exists. Luckily I had a guru who laid hands on the top of my head and pushed the energy back down through some unknown process which involved countervening energy, not the use of physical force. Now today, I read an article in the NYT about the alignment of the organs in a developing embryo which involve oscillating cilia moving in a clockwise direction and immediately wondered if some remnant of this does not continue to reside in the spinal cord and account for the clockwise motion of the kundalini energy?

Jun 5, 2013 - 10:06am PT
Ha-ha, Jan.

I've been at it for decades, and I've not heard of the term "meditation sickness" before.

I think "meditation sickness" accounts for 2-3 years of meditation effort sometime ago for me. I had one of those kundalini experiences (just happened), and the experience was so impressive that I tried to find it and run the program again and again. Very addictive stuff. Wonderful feeling. I wanted to yell out, "woo hoo!" It felt like my spine was a warp drive engine like you see in Star Trek movies, with pulsing energy flows running from the base of my spine right up into my head. Boom, boom, boom, boom. My spine straightened up on its own, and I felt like I was about to levitate. Then everything got an aura to it, no matter where I looked. All this happened during a group meditation outside under a big redwood, and the first thing I said when we finished to the teacher was, "Hey, can I do this whenever I want?"

Funny, really.

I also get the most remarkable set of experiences when I eat lots of spicy foods late at night.
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