Monthly Archives: October 2015

A common non sequitur

A blog post containing good examples of illogical conclusions so easily drawn by woos and others using the magical & religious thought processing system in our brains (a.k.a. IPS #1, the Information Processing System #1; for details, see https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ ).

Skeptical Exaddict

Recently I found an interesting non sequitur posed to an “atheist and freethinkers” Facebook group I belong to. Interesting because it’s an argument I’ve seen before. I commented that it was a non sequitur, and the OP didn’t know what that is. (Neither did I until recently, but Google is my friend.)

So what is a non sequitur? It’s Latin for “does not follow”. Very simply, it’s a bad logical argument where a conclusion is drawn that is not derived from the arguments presented. There are many different kinds of logical fallacies that result in non sequitur statements, but they do seem to follow a basic pattern, which is that some inference happens between the arguments and the conclusion; there’s a disconnect and some sort of implicit assumption going on, which is unstated.

For example: The sky is blue. My pen is blue. Conclusion: Who wrote the sky?

See…

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Meth-induced voices in your head start with pareidolia

Interesting information – and facts – about, for instance, hearing voices, pareidolia, apophenia and EVP.

Also about the link between changed dopamine levels (mostly higher levels) in some parts of your brain and proneness to experiencing and believing in woo bullshit, spiritual beings and so on.

Skeptical Exaddict

I’ve never written about this topic on this blog, although it was a frequent subject on my old blog. Maybe it’s time…

This subject is fascinating to me now, though it wasn’t always that way. In active addiction it was scary. It was something that I lived with for a few years, but what I find most interesting is how it started.

Firstly, you need to know what pareidoloia is. It’s defined as seeing patterns where none exist, and while that explains it technically, it doesn’t really make it clear what the psychological phenomenon actually is. Visual pareidolia is when we think we see shapes like faces in inanimate objects, like Jesus on a piece of toast, or a face on Mars.

But pareidolia is also when we think we hear voices or recognisable sounds through white noise. An example of the less well known auditory pareidolia is when…

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On Pascal’s wager

A brilliant rebuttal of Pascal’s wager.

Skeptical Exaddict

Pascal’s wager is something I had never heard of until yesterday. It is an excellent example of a false dilemma, also known as a false dichotomy.

Essentially, it states that it is better to believe in God than to risk eternity in Hell. From the rational wiki link, it can be summarized as:

  1. If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: thus an infinite gain.
  2. If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: thus an infinite loss.
  3. If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: thus a finite loss.
  4. If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: thus a finite gain.

It can be…

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Words Can Literally Change Your Brain & Perception Of Reality

A little while ago I wrote this post on my own blog: https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/magical-thinking-springs-up-everywhere-and-language-is-its-accomplice-how-language-can-and-does-deceive-us/ .

Now I notice that also my knowledgeable cyberfriend Victoria Neuronotes has written a post about how words literally can change the brain wirings and the way we perceive and interpret what is going on in the world (called reality) we all live in.

Not only are words able to offend or encourage, they also deceive and prime our brains. They influence our salience, that is our (mostly) unconscious need/habit to decide (also unconsciously) what is more valuable – or less valuable – to us.

Words also contribute to make us more biased. Especially religious people are very good at paraphrasing. That’s why they so easily can worship a God like the Abrahamic evil and punishing God and even claim, in a spirit of ecumenical and monotheistic understanding, that the God of the Muslims, Jews and Christians actually is the same God – a claim that is logically false. (Also consider the difference between monotheism and monolatrism/monolatry, where monolatrism is the recognition of the existence of many gods, but with the consistent worship of only one of all these deities, while monotheism is the doctrine or belief that there is only one real and true God.)

Victoria NeuroNotes

In 2011, on New Year’s Eve, I started thinking about all the years I spent in church listening to preachers talk dirt about humanity. I recalled the years I had a negative self-image. I knew why.

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Is this where you get your morals? (Methods of murdering children according to the Bible)

How to punish disobedient children – the biblical style.

Just let them perish IN THE NAME OF GOD.

And God will feel content.

Amen!

Skeptical Exaddict

I don’t normally write much on Sundays… This is the day I spend with my son. I only pick him up around 11AM, but since I can’t sleep late in the unpleasant heat of this clammy Johannesburg climate, here goes…

MurderChildrenBibleStyle

Note that they missed one that I know of: Psalm 137:9 – Smash them against the rocks!

Full disclosure: I have not read the buybull for 25 years, when I was conscripted to waste a year of my life in the apartheid white South African army, and the parish priest recommended the book of James, so that was all I read. Thus I can be accused of that old doozy: Taking the verses out of context.

Question: In what context is it ever acceptable to be killing children?
Answer: None!

So I don’t care for the context. In any case, Christians often like to accuse anyone pointing…

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How smells can influence and bias your mind (not only the smell of fear). Why ghost believers and ghost busters often have scary feelings.

Your brain is able to literally smell the sense of fear. It’s not a sixth sense. Nothing paranormal or supernatural at all.

Instead, this unconscious ability can help explain, for example, why ghost believers, if being in the same allegedly haunted house, often trigger each other to share the same spooky experience. 

As a matter of fact, the smell of fear is very contagious (cf. the mass hysteria phenomenon, in which a large group of people exhibit the same state of mental agitation). 

In many animals this ability to smell the chemicals of fear is pretty advanced. Just think of dogs who nowadays are trained for detecting cancer, bomb chemicals, truffle, dope – you name it. 

It’s all about the vomeronasal organ (VNO), an auxillary olfactory organ located in the brain. The VNO contains sensory neurons specialized to detect chemical stimuli. These neurons target the amygdala, the brain’s fear center. 

The vomeronasal system is important for reproduction and social behavior (think of pheromones, chemical substances secreted externally in order to influence the physiology and behavior of others belonging to the same species). 

The presence of a VNO structure in adult human beings is still debated, expecially how functional such a VNO in adult human beings might be. For details, have a look at this paper: http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/4/433.full . 

Here’s a quote from the abstract: [There are] conflicting evidence for and against human VNO function but chemical communication does appear to occur among humans. However, several examples reported in the literature do not meet the proposed definition for communication by pheromones: ‘chemical substances released by one member of a species as communication with another member, to their mutual benefit’.

And here are three more articles about this interesting topic: 1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/3545435/The-smell-of-fear-is-real-claim-scientists.html  (Title: The smell of fear is real, claim scientists); 2) http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/10/20/4333431.htm (Title: Sharing the scent of fear); and 3) http://www.livescience.com/24578-humans-smell-fear.html (Title: Humans smell fear, and it’s contagious). 

Many woos are convinced that they can detect paranormal scents. For instance the scent of a ghost. Here is one of the best articles I’ve found on that matter:  http://www.assap.ac.uk/newsite/articles/Paranormal%20smells.html (Title Paranormal smells). Highly recommendable reading! 

Among the bizarre olfactory phenomena mentioned in that article are phantom smells, for example phantosmia. This is a form of olfactory hallucination, i.e. the perception of a smell in the absence of any physical odors.

If there is a misinterpretation of an existent physical stimulus,the proper medical term is parosmia. Such olfactory dysfunctions (a.k.a. dysomias) are characterized by the inability of the brain to properly identify an odor’s “natural” smell. 

These distortions of smell are not as common as phantom smells, but parosmia is still something that must be taken into consideration whenever a certain odor is associated with a haunting. 

Among ghost hunters a well-known sub-category of parosmia is known as troposmia or cacosmia. 
 
What then happens in the ghosthunter’s brain is that the natural odor is transcribed into what is most often described as an unpleasant aroma, typically a burned, rotting, fecal, or chemical (like sulphurous) smell. (So its not a totally odd idea to believe some ghost “souls” seemingly must have been dwelling in Hell before returning to the surface of Earth in order to pay us a visit.) 
 
Nevertheless, sometimes there might instead be instances of pleasant scents. so-called euosmia (which perhaps may induce thoughts of an afterlife in Heaven).
 
Because foul odors are so easily associated with negative hauntings, falsely smelling a foul odor may cause a bias in perception of a haunting.
 
Smells are known to become trapped in fabrics, wooden structures, even masonry and so on. The scent ions may be released years later, if the right humidity, temperatures, or barometric pressures are at hand. 
 
So, just to summarize: Neither conscious nor unconscious odors are proof of any ghost activity. But smells are able to influence and bias your mind, especially if you are a woo that has primed your brain to process information in a magical and religious way by clinging to the intuitive, illogical and preposterous information processing system a.k.a. IPS #1, the way a child’s mind is processing information. For more details, see:  https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ .

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17 not-so-stupid questions for Atheists

I found this nice and lovely post on Tiffany’s Non-Blog (run by Tiffany267, a “professional” bullshit debunker and, at the same time, pearl finder); see: https://tiffany267.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/questions-for-atheists-asked-and-answered/

Tiffany267 tells her followers that the original post can be read here: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/17-not-so-stupid-questions-for-atheists/

She also gave this motivation for “reblogging” the post: “One of my favorite atheist bloggers shared this list of questions targeted to atheists and some wonderful responses. Please enjoy!”

I just say: Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I – and seemingly Tiffany267 – did.

From now on I’m following this “Question With Boldness” blog.

Question With Boldness

Godless Mom was contacted by a christian student with a series of questions.  And, surprise, instead of being “gotcha” questions, they seem to be actual genuine questions, a real effort to understand non-belief.  So I’ll answer them here, and also cross-post them in the comments to the original blog entry, here:

http://godlessmom.com/questions-for-atheists-from-a-college-student-answer-them-yourself/?utm_content=buffera2f92&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Other bloggers and commenters have answered them, but I’m going to give my own answers without comparison to theirs.  So I apologize if this comes out as repetitive.

1. Why are you an atheist?

Because I don’t have enough evidence to warrant belief in any god.

2. Have you ever believed in a Higher Power?

Sure, I was raised liberal Protestant, and it was just the assumption everyone made.  God’s in charge, Jesus loves you, so let’s sing some more songs about love.  I was the kid that was involved in everything – Sunday school, youth group, youth…

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A paper showing a link between belief in gods and intolerance of strangers (outside your own group). LESS belief in gods equals MORE tolerant behavior towards strangers (immigrants).

By directing magnetic force – so-called TMS, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation – towards the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) of the brain, scientists from the University of York have found a relatively strong link between religious faith and intolerance. Anyone surprised?

The targeted region of the brain is associated with detecting and solving problems that threaten the individual’s security. The threat in this study was being reminded of death and mortality. Thinking of death and mortality normally lead to stronger beliefs in divine beings and afterlife.

But after the targeted brain region – pMFC – was temporarily shut down, the subjects were instead less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas. In fact, they reported 32.8 per cent less belief in God, angels, or heaven after having their pMFC turned down! And at the same time they were also 28.5 per cent more positive in their feelings towards an immigrant who before the TMS treatment had criticised and derogated their native country.

The explanation? People often turn to ideology when they are confronted by problems. That is, they embrace – by trial and error learning and/or priming – a system of ideas and ideals, and this system then becomes their primary tool to reduce the fear factor (anxiety)  in their lives. Individuals of the same group (community) often learn from each other how to handle what causes fear and/or anxiety (in this case initiated by worry of death/mortality).

So belief in divine beings – as well as intolerance towards strangers threatening the harmony witihin a group of people – can be seen as a spin-off effect from ordinary problem solving. 

Read more about this interesting experiment here: http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/09/03/scan.nsv107.abstract (or here: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0kj9w0km#page-1 ).

Finally the abstract:


People cleave to ideological convictions with greater intensity in the aftermath of threat.
The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) plays a key role in both detecting discrepancies between desired and current conditions and adjusting subsequent behavior to resolve such conflicts.Building on prior literature examining the role of the pMFC in shifts in relatively low-level decision processes, we demonstrate that the pMFC mediates adjustments in adherence to political and religious ideologies.

We presented participants with a reminder of death and a critique of their in-group ostensibly written by a member of an out-group, then experimentally decreased both avowed belief in God and out-group derogation by down-regulating pMFC activity via transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The results provide the first evidence that group prejudice and religious belief are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, and point to a shared cognitive mechanism underlying concrete and abstract decision processes.

We discuss the implications of these findings for further research characterizing the cognitive and affective mechanisms at play.

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Important question: When did the rebellion in Heaven take place? Original title: Incompetence or malevolence: the failure of the Christian narrative.

John Zande, the man behind the blog “The superstitious naked ape”, is one of my favorites in the blogosphere.

Not only is he clever, but he also often finds new angles to debunk and refute silly God arguments.

In this blog post he argues that Lucifer (a.k.a the Serpent in the Garden of Eden and the Devil) had defected from God and therefore been cast out from Heaven down to Earth. So Adam and Eve were not the first sinners ever among the entities created by God Almighty. In fact, God’s own divine and elaborated creation plan was already soiled by Lucifer’s pride, envy and wish to be equal to God.

The weakest link in John Zandes reasoning is the answer to this important key question is: When was the Devil cast out from Heaven?

Unfortunately the Holy Scripture is a bit vague about the exact date the rebellion in Heaven happened.

The following is known: 1) Lucifer is an angel. 2) All the angels were created before the earth (Job 38:4-7). 3) Satan must have fallen before he – disguised as a Serpent – tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-14).

Conclusion: Satan’s fall must therefore have occurred somewhere after the time the angels were created and before he tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise.

But whether Satan’s fall occurred a few minutes or millennia before he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden is unfortunately not specified in the Scripture.

But we know that many church fathers and Christian philosophers and theologians have pondered this important question.

For example, Saint Augustine relates the fall of the evil and rebellious angels to the book of Genesis: “And God saw the light that it was good, and he divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4).

We also know that Thomas Aquinas picks up this allegory from Saint Augustine, and identifies the separation of light from darkness as the day (date) the evil and rebelling angels were separated from the good, loyal and obedient ones uo in Heaven.

And who am I to question what Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas consider being the truth about when the rebellion occurred in Heaven?

So John Zande seems to be right in his conclusions. His views expressed in this blog post are -as we can see – supported by two so extremely respectable and revered persons that the Catholic Church once honored them as not only saints but also as Doctor of the Church, thereby indicating that both Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas still today are considered the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and/or philosophers ever!

Need I say more?

Read more about Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas, and their dating of Lucifer’s fall, here: http://taylormarshall.com/2013/11/how-did-lucifer-become-satan-thomas-aquinas-answers.html .

lucifer_212759“God’s creation was perfect; there was no sickness, pain, or death. But this perfect creation did not last long.” (Ken Ham)

The Christian narrative is erected upon the basal claim that Man corrupted Yhwh’s perfect Creation and is therefore diseased and in need of a cure. That cure is, of course, Jesus, who sacrificed himself, to himself, to save humanity from himself.

It’s a stunningly ridiculous plot, the absurd work of ferociously unimaginative men, and it is made all the more outrageously idiotic by the fact that the bible doesn’t even support the cardinal claim upon which Christianity is built: that Man corrupted Creation.

By the bibles own chronology of events, the angels were created before the earth, and the earth before man (Job 38:4-7). Evil, however, entered Creation before the earth, and therefore before man… an event witnessed in the fall of Yhwh’s most beautiful creation, Lucifer…

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Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

The existence of a Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is often denied by true believers and others who support religious beliefs and think that religious faith is good for humanity.

But the RTS is, indeed, for real. Many tears have been shed because of that sort of traumas.

So, please, read Valerie Tarico’s take on this important topic very carefully.

Also read Marlene Winell’s take (in three parts) on that same subject on the Ex-Christian blog:

Part 1 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/06/religious-trauma-syndrome-its-time-to.html .

Part 2 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/07/understanding-religious-trauma-syndrome.html .

Part 3 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/11/trauma-from-leaving-religion.html

It’s not going to extremes calling religion a poisonous method that obstructs and complicates people’s endeavours to find a high quality of life. It also hinders you from becoming a really “free” thinker, one who is allowed to study any books s/he likes.

Many philosophers, politicians and scientists have expressed their gloomy ideas of religion and its future.

For example, Karl Marx said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

Frederick II once said: “Religion is the idol of the mob; it adores everything it does not understand”.

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich”.

Friedrich Nietzsche said. “In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point”.

He also said: “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad”.

Albert Einstein (who didn’t believe in any personal God of the Abrahamic kind) said. Science without religion is lame, [but] religion without science is [also] blind.
At the same time he also said: “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity”.

If Albert Einstein had been alive today, I think he would have stated: Things about religion seemingly have to become worse before they at last can be transformed to a non-poisonous life philosophy. There is still a very long way to go for today’s religions all around the world.

BTW, talking of promoting science and reason, have a look at this blog post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/about-thinking/201510/what-can-we-learn-ben-carsons-brain .

From that blog post we learn that, unfortunately,neither intelligence nor (high) education is able to promote ‘good thinking’.

And finally, my own take on this:

Religious cults are nowadays mostly confined to having to rely on ‘God of the Gaps’ arguments. The primary goal for today’s cult leaders has become to try to convince their ignorant and incredulous followers that science is, always, wrong, meaning that it’s, also always, better to believe in what holy scriptures like the Bible and Koran say is the truth. That strategy is also known as intellectual dishonesty.

ValerieTarico.com

Religious Trauma Syndrome- AnguishAt age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help…

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