Monthly Archives: September 2014

Christof Koch & Florian Mormann on the neural correlates of consciousness

The brain and consciousness specialist  Christof Koch defined already in his “The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach” (from 2004) the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) as the minimal set of neural events and structures sufficient for a specific conscious percept or a conscious (explicit) memory.

Together with famous epileptologist Florian Mormann Dr. Koch has written a post on Scholarpedia, targeting the same topic. It’s a very interesting article, well worth reading (and believe me, it’s not that difficult to understand). Click on this link: http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Neural_correlates_of_consciousness .

As an “aperitif” I list that article’s subheadings:

I beg you, if you are interested in what consciousness is and how it evolved, don’t hesitate to read this article. Just click the link here above.

Here is a quote from the article:

Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness

It is implicitly assumed by most neurobiologists that the relevant variables giving rise to consciousness are to be found at the neuronal level, among the synaptic release or the action potentials in one or more population of cells, rather than at the molecular level.

A few scholars have proposed that macroscopic quantum behaviors underlie consciousness. Of particular interest here is entanglement, the observation that the quantum states of multiple objects, such as two coupled electrons, may be highly correlated even though they are spatially separated, violating our intuition about locality (entanglement is also the key feature of quantum mechanics hoped to be exploited in quantum computers). The role of quantum mechanics for the photons received by the eye and for the molecules of life is undisputed. But there is no evidence that any components of the nervous system – a 37o Celsius warm and wet tissue strongly coupled to its environment – display quantum entanglement. And even if quantum entanglement were to occur inside individual cells, diffusion and action potential generation and propagation, the principal mechanism for getting information into and out of neurons, would destroy superposition. At the cellular level, the interaction of neurons is governed by classical physics (Koch and Hepp 2006).

MY COMMENT: Many woos believe that consciousness is able to survive brain death. But that claim is contradicted by what can be read in that quote from Koch & Mormann’s Scholarpedia article. And the physicist Max Tegmark agrees with them, see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mind . A quote from that Wikipedia article:

Criticism by Max Tegmark [against the quantum mind proposition]

The main argument against the quantum mind proposition is that quantum states in the brain would decohere before they reached a spatial or temporal scale at which they could be useful for neural processing, although in photosynthetic organisms quantum coherence is involved in the efficient transfer of energy, within the timescales calculated by Tegmark.Quantum biology.This argument was elaborated by the physicist, Max Tegmark. Based on his calculations, Tegmark concluded that quantum systems in the brain decohere at sub-picosecond timescales commonly assumed to be too short to control brain function.

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Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Actually Followed the Bible

A good summary of permitted and prohibited sexual relations according to the Bible can be seen here: http://bostonbravery.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bible-marriage.jpg .

Valerie Tarico describes and analyzes in her blog – see: http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/captive-virgins-polygamy-sex-slaves-what-marriage-would-look-like-if-we-actually-followed-the-bible/ – how God Almighty looks upon sexual relations and marriage according to the Pentateuch.

The big question is: Do Christians follow those rules and laws today? And if we don’t – how is it so?

We must remember what Jesus said according to Matthew 5:17: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

(Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. Her blog is really worth following, especially if you’re an atheist or heretic.)

ValerieTarico.com

Adam and Eve and SerpentLet me tell you a secret about Bible believers that I know because I was one. Most don’t actually read their Bibles. If they did, they would know that the biblical model of sex and marriage has little to do with the one they so loudly defend. Stories depicted in the Bible include rape, incest, master-slave sexual relations, captive virgins, and more. Now, just because a story is told in the Bible doesn’t mean it is intended as a model for devout behavior. Other factors have to be considered, like whether God commands or forbids the behavior, if the behavior is punished, and if Jesus subsequently indicates the rules have changed, come the New Testament.

Through this lens, you find that the God of the Bible still endorses polygamy and sexual slavery and coerced marriage of young virgins along with monogamy. In fact, he endorses all three to the point…

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Mandrakes and Dove Blood: Biblical Health Care Anyone?

How to cure illness and diseases according to the Bible. Prayers seem to be a panacea, i.e. a cure for nearly all ills. But what about saliva, dove blood or mandrakes? Why have those therapies become outmoded? Don’t people believe in the Bible any more?

ValerieTarico.com

Mandrake root for fertilityDespite a defeat in District Court this week, the Catholic Bishops and their conservative Protestant allies are forging ahead with lawsuits against Obamacare. Their goal? To ensure that American health options are dictated by religion rather than medical science. With an infallible pope and an inerrant Bible as guides, they are convinced that they know what God wants.

Obviously, not all Christians agree. If they did, contraceptive use in this country would be somewhat below that of Nigeria. It wouldn’t matter whether coverage was included in health plans at Christian hospitals and universities because nobody except the occasional misplaced heathen would use it. The contraceptive mandate is a problem for the patriarchy only because most Christians have their own deeply personal understanding of God’s will and they want to live in accord with that understanding. In other words, the contraceptive mandate is an issue for the Bishops and their allies…

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If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?

Valerie Tarico asks in this blog a question to her readers/followers: Let’s suppose that the Bible were law in your country. Would you then be sentenced to death?

Of course all atheists would be executed because of blasphemy; that goes without saying. But what about other people? Is there any now living human who hasn’t broken at least one of the divine laws and therefore should be killed? For example by having premarital sex or by not obeying his or her parents? I’m afraid that we should all be stoned to death or executed in some other way.

We know from the Bible that God has eradicated humanity once, in the Flood, except for eight people. But why doesn’t that same God kill all of today’s divine law breakers? Why making laws and then don’t care a bit about implementing and using them?

It’s not only non-believers, apostats and homosexuals who qualify for the death penalty. Or is it?

ValerieTarico.com

This week the Supreme Court declined to review a Texas murder case in which a juror brought a Bible into the sentencing process – showing that the Bible recommends death for anyone who kills another person with an iron rod (Numbers 35:16).

Let me say for the record that I’m not against the death penalty, and in this case it sounds like the defendant fit my criteria, too. I know I’m ruining my liberal credentials here, but I frankly don’t have any moral problem with the jury condemning him to death. However, to do so based on the sanctification of a Bronze Age legal code is somewhat horrifying–especially given the list of other “crimes” that are recommended for capital punishment in the Bible.

Yes, yes, the court assures us that even though bringing the Bible into the sentencing was improper, there is no evidence that it swayed the jury. Rest…

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William Lane Craig and his Divine Command Theory (DCT)

Rosa Rubicondior is one of my favorite bloggers. She doesn’t like Professor William Lane Craig (WLC). Or maybe rather his arguments in favor of a caring and loving God/Creator.

Neither do I.

In one of her latest blog articlea, see: http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.se/2014/09/only-real-gods-agree-with-william-lane.html , Rosa discusses WLC and his somewhat bizarre – to say the least – Divine Command Theory (DCT). This theory says that whatever God does or commands is always free of sin and the best thing for us human beings to do and fulfill. If we think it’s immoral to fulfill some of God’s wishes/commands, then we don’t understand God’s intentions and goals with His creation plan.

Here’s a quote from Rosa Rubicondior’s blog:

Confused Christians can now sleep soundly in their beds because William Lane Craig has revised his special Divine Command Theory (DCT). DCT says that morality is doing exactly what God commands without regard to the effects it might have on other people because God knows best and can take life if and when he wishes. All you have to do is obey God’s command and whatever you do will be moral. William Lane Craig devised this theory to justify the genocidal murder of the Canaanites in the Bible and so elevated genocide to the level of a moral crusade, provided God told you to do it.

Another blog I highly commend is Why Evolution IS True (WEIT), owned by Professor Jerry A. Coyne (not to confuse with the cat with the same name ;o)  ).

Here are three blog articles on WEIT also discussing WLC and his views and conclusions based on the DCT:

1) http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/william-lane-craig-answers-a-distressed-reader-if-isiss-god-were-mine-should-i-do-what-he-says/ ;

2) http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/william-lane-craig-defends-his-ridiculous-claim-that-animals-dont-suffer/; and

3) http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/william-lane-craig-and-the-incoherence-of-and-prevalence-of-belief-in-hell/ .

Anyone thinking that WLC is a good advocate of the Christian God and His morally impeccable, uncorrupted and sinless deeds should read the four blog articles I linked to here above.

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Very interesting article: The Neural Substrates of Religious Experience. By Jeffrey L. Saver, M.D. and John Rabin, M.D.

That article is strongly commended by me. Click this link: http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/data/Journals/NP/3847/498.pdf .

Let me quote from the abstract:

Religious experience is brain-based, like all human experience. Clues to the neural substrates of religious-numinous experience may be gleaned from temporolimbic epilepsy, near-death experiences, and hallucinogen ingestion. These brain disorders and conditions may produce depersonalization, derealization, ecstasy, a sense of timelessnes and spacelessness, and other experiences that foster religious-numinous interpretation. Religious delusions are an important subtype of delusional experience in schizophrenia, and mood-congruent religious delusions are a feature of mania and depression. The authors suggest a limbic marker hypothesis for religious-mystical experience. The temporolimbic system tags certain encounters with external or internal stimuli as depersonalized, derealized, crucially important, harmonious, and/or joyous, prompting comprehension of these experiences within a religious framework.

(Published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 1997; 9:498-510)

Also two very interesting tables can be found in the article.

TABLE #1 = Historical-religious figures suggested in the medical literature to have had epilepsy. (For example Joseph Smith, Saint Paul, Prophet Muhammad, and Emanuel Swedenborg – just to mention a few of them.)

TABLE #2:= Features tending to distinguish mystical and psychotic states. (Frequent themes of illness and/or deviance are hallucinations, often visual ones, religiously imbued word choices, experiences of being a self-negating vessel for higher power(s), feelings of personal grandiosity and omnipotence, experiences of ecstatic, joyful, Indifferent or terrifed moments, reduced social function, withdrawal behavior, disordered speech output like glossolalia – i.e. speaking in tongues – containing neologisms and bizarre associations (predominantly, at least partly, in a known language), often some kind of thought blocking and so on.)

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15 hallucinatory patterns or classes of figures + Hypothesis explaining the brilliant light experiences in NDEs

TWO ARTICLES worth reading, especially for UFO non-believers and atheists.

ARTICLE #1: Click this link: http://www.oubliette.org.uk/Three.html  An article about entoptic phenomena including the findings of Max Knoll and his research team, who investigated the spontaneous creation of phosphenes by electrical stimulation of the surface of the brain (the cerebral cortex).

Knoll found that pulses in the same frequency range as brain waves (from 5 cycles per second to about 40) were most effective in producing phosphenes. He tested more than 1000 people and about half of these subjects could see geometric figures. By varying the frequency of the pulses the patterns also changed. The patterns induced were divided into 15 classes or groups of figures (plus a number of variations within each class/group/category). Even more interesting is the fact that for each person tested the spectrum of phosphenes (i. e. the kind of pattern at each frequency) was repeatable, even after six months.

MY OWN HYPOTHESIS is that these classes of geometric patterns probably can explain many (most?) UFO observations containing some kind of geometrical pattern observations (like stars, triangles, diamond shapes, lattices, spirals and so on) in the sky. For more information, see for example this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entoptic_phenomenon .

ARTICLE #2: Click this link: http://bokkon-brain-imagery.5mp.eu/web.php?a=bokkon-brain-imagery&o=LtVfeyyeI8 . That article has the following title: Hypothesis about brilliant lights by bioluminescent photons in near deat experiences (and is written by István Bókkon and Vahid Salari).

To explain their hypothesis I quote from the article’s abstract: [M]eeting brilliant light in NDEs is due to the reperfusion that induces unregulated overproduction of free radicals and excited biomolecules among them in numerous parts in the visual system. Unregulated free radicals and excited species can produce a transient increase of bioluminescent photons in different areas of the visual system. If this excess of bioluminescent photon emission exceeds a threshold, they can appear as (phosphene) lights in our mind. In other words, seeing a brilliant light in NDEs may due to bioluminescent photons simultaneously generated in the recovery phase of numerous areas of the visual system and the brain interprets these intrinsic bioluminescent photons as if they were originated from the external visual world. [End of quote]

MY OWN HYPOTHESIS is that phosphenes created by bioluminescent photons in the retina and the visual cortex can explain the brilliant light experiences in NDEs. That is: There’s no need of supernatural (= religious) entities in order to explain this light phenomenon.

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Why I Can’t Agree With the Bible: Exodus: Part 1

This blog series called “Why I Can’t Agree With the Bible: Exodus” consists of three parts.

Each article is full of relevant questions and objections to the story outlined and told in Exodus.

Hera are some examples of the questions asked:

Why did the Pharaoh want all the boys killed when he wanted to keep the Israelites in Egypt? Why was he fine with the girls living?

How did the daughter of Pharaoh know that Moses was Hebrew? Why did Pharaoh let his daughter keep a Hebrew baby? How did Moses know he was a Hebrew? How did Moses’ murder become known? And why did he kill the man?

Why did God come to people in person in Genesis, but he came to Moses in the form of a burning bush? Why does Moses ask God what his name is? If Moses and God were alone when Moses talked to God, how does anybody know what happened? Why did Zephora’s cutting off her son’s foreskin do anything? Why did her son have a foreskin? What about their other sons?

All those questions – and many more which I don’t mention here – come from Part 1 of the series. The following two parts are also full of questions and objections. So it’s close at hand to consider the Exodus story being cram-full of religious bullshit.

hessianwithteeth

In the beginning of Exodus, the Israelite’s filled Egypt with their number. The new Pharaoh feared the Israelites would leave Egypt, so he enslaved them. The story of the enslavement of the Israelites is very silly. There are a lot of questions left unanswered. There were only two midwives to help all the Israelite women who were pregnant despite the fact that the Israelites filled the land? How did the Pharaoh find out that the midwives let the boys live? Why did the Pharaoh want all the boys killed when he wanted to keep the Israelites in Egypt? Why was he fine with the girls living?
The story of Moses leaves a lot more questions unanswered. How did the daughter of Pharaoh know that Moses was Hebrew? Why did the slave suggest getting a Hebrew woman to nurse him? Why didn’t she suggest tossing him in the Nile? Why did…

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VIDEO: Does the Universe Have a Purpose? feat. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Does the universe have a purpose or an intentionality, i.e. a goal? If so, what (or who) then is the Hidden Causal Agent (HCA)?

Many religious believers call that HCA God. But if God created the whole universe for us humans to take care of and find pleasure in, why did this Creator God choose to wait around 13.7 billion years before creating us in His own image (in imaginem Sui/Dei)?

This means that we human beings have existed just 0.0001 percent of the time gone since God created our universe.

Or you can look at it in this way: Life on planet Earth is 3.5 billion years old. Why did God wait so long before creating Adam and Eve?

What can the divine explanation be? Does it mean that God seemingly suffers from procrastination? Or can it be that the concept of a creating God is just pure religious bullshit?

Find out the answers in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pL5vzIMAhs&list=PLED25F943F8D6081C . The video’s title is “Does the universe have a purpose? feat.Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

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A new proof of God: The argument from The Matrix

On his blog, Professor Jerry Coyne refutes some assertions made by Dr Bernardo Kastrup about God, consciousness and theology.

Dr Kastrup argues 1) that the Universe is the reflection of God’s consciousness, 2) that theology should be seen as an attempt to plumb God’s consciousness in scientific terms; and 3) that there is no reality independent of our human consciousness (a view shared by for example Deepak Chopra).

Or in Dr Kastrup’s own words, “After all, nature — from atoms to galaxy clusters — is an image of God’s mental activity, just like a brain scan is an image of a person’s subjective experiences.”

To that Professor Coyne responds in the following way; i) “[T]he universe preceded the evolution of consciousness of its creatures”, ii) “[W]e can make and test hypotheses about what it was like. The fact that some of those hypotheses are verified tells us that there was a universe before we knew of it, and it had properties that were independent of our consciousness.”

About Dr Kastrup’s claim that theology has valid methods for understanding God’s “consciousness” by studying the creation act as seen in Nature, Professor Coyne says, That’s Natural Theology, a discipline that became obsolete with Darwin, though it has had a revival of sorts with arguments about “fine tuning” and “The Moral Law”.

And finally Professor Coyne chooses to quote what Voltaire once said, De plus, l’intérêt que j’ai à croire une chose n’est pas une preuve de l’existence de cette chose. Or, in English, The interest I have in believing in something is not a proof that the something exists.

To find more of Professor Coyne’s persuasive and compelling refutation arguments, read his blog article in extenso.

Why Evolution Is True

Well, there’s this website whose name (which includes “Science and Nonduality”) has some strange characters in it, so I’ll just give a screenshot that links to the site:

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 7.00.10 AMPart of the site’s aim is to “ignite the dialogue between science and spirituality,” which already erects my fur.

And on that site, someone named Bernardo Kastrup has decided to go after my view that studying theology is a useless endeavor. I agree with Dan Barker that it’s a “subject without an object,” a thesis I discussed a while back.

Kastrup, who was trained as a scientist (see below) but then jumped the rails and abandoned materialism, has decided that I’m dead wrong—that theology has an object after all, and that he can prove it. He tries to do so in a post called “In defense of theology: a reply to Jerry Coyne.” It’s one of the most convoluted arguments for God I’ve ever…

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