Category Archives: Neuroscience

Science vs. religion: How to evaluate evidence. Original title: What Did The Atheist Say To The Elephant?

This blog post is entitled “What Did The Atheist Say To The Elephant?”

Nevertheless this scholarly essay-like post should be tagged as belonging to the religion vs. science debate.

So the elephant (or elephant metaphor) isn’t the important thing here. Instead, it’s much more about evidence and how to interpret evidence of divine beings a.k.a. gods or Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs).

I’ve written a long comment to Charles Rogers’ blog post. And that comment I’m going to insert as an introduction and complement on my own blog.

Here is my comment almost in extenso:

In the introduction you wonder what an atheist would say after he had examined your elephant. You suggest that maybe the atheist would say: “There is no elephant.”

No, I don’t think so. If I were the atheist, I would instead say the following (fasten your safety belt because it will be a very long, and partly bumpy, ride):

Now I enter the podium to give my “TED Talk”:

Listen. folks! No one knows enough to prove – in an objective way – what this object (called, by some, an elephant) is we have in front of us.

Yet your claims of what some of you have found and concluded, by examination of the object, are of the absolute kind. You show no relativism at all in your theory buildings. That I would call a preposterous and presumptuous take on this special matter.

If your hypothesis (your theory building) can be shown to be wrong in some detail (or some details), then your hypothesis can’t be totally correct. And then it’s no longer an absolute hypothesis; It has become a relativistic one.

That is, for sure, not good for the credibility of a hypothesis claiming to represent the absolute TRUTH.

Therefore, if I can show you, maybe even convince you, by demonstrating in a theoretical way that some details your hypotheses rely on can’t be correct, then that in turn must mean – and the conclusion be – that I have invalidated your hypotheses and that you are obliged to elaborate more in order to face the challenges they don’t meet at the moment.

Wait, don’t leave me now. I’ve got more to tell you. Please, be seated again, don’t leave.

Let’s look at your hypotheses from yet another angle. If you agree that you are all damn sure just your interpretation of the object is the only correct one, then you also insist that only you are the one who has got the absolute TRUTH about this object we all have examined here today.

So, what does that implicate? If more than one of you insist just they have found the absolute TRUTH, of course all of you (claiming that you’ve found the absolute truth) can’t be right. N’est-ce pas (Isn’t it)?

Now I want to paraphraze Christopher Hitchens. He used to say this: Let’s suppose there are 3,000 religions in the world. If 2,999 of them are deemed false by you, would it not then be more honest if you admitted that this indicates that also the 3,000th religious faith probably is a false one?

Or why should just your religious faith be the one winning the top lottery prize?

Some of you (who claim you’ve found the absolute TRUTH) MUST, are bound to, be wrong, Only one can, by definition, win the top lottery prize. Either you win it – or you don’t. Tertium non datur (meaning there is no middle alternative in which more than one can win. But at the same time it’s possible that no one wins the top lottery prize because it’s possible the winning ticket remains in the tombola).

The conclusion must therefore be like this: Two existing religious claims of having found the absolute TRUTH can’t both be correct at the same time, i.e. either the claim X is right and claim Y is wrong – or claim X is wrong and claim Y is right. And, as said in the paragraph above, of course nothing prohibits that both claim X and claim Y are wrong at the same time.

Oh, I see that some of you seem to be ready to leave the room now. Please, don’t! Instead continue listening, folks, because I’ve got some more interesting things to say.

Have you heard of something called science – and scientific research?

Good!

Then you should know that science is not about claiming to have found any absolute TRUTH. All real science is relativistic. It conveys no absolute TRUTHS. That’s how science works.

Rather, it accumulates empirical evidence for or against various hypotheses. By doing this, science can show – even demonstrate – that some phenomena must be incompatible with the laws of physics (at least in the way we currently understand them).

And believe me, we understand those physical laws better and better.

This also shows the great advantage of science: It accumulates empirical evidence for or against various hypotheses.

So, If I can show you that religious (faith) ideas are incompatible with the laws of physics as we currently understand them today, by having accumulated empirical evidence for them during hundreds of years, then the probability is very high that they actually are correct, since they are supported by all this evidence.

Please notice I’m now talking of probabilities, not absoluteness. That’s how science works.

In fact we all rely on and have trust in probabilities.

For example. let’s say I invite you to play the lethal game of Russian roulette (just as an example, don’t try this at home) and offer you two different revolvers, one with one of its six chambers loaded with a round and the other six-shooter loaded with five rounds. Then I’m pretty sure you’ll choose to use the revolver with only one round in its six chambers. N’est-ce pas?

So probability is something we all have to deal with in our daily lives. And we rely on what probability tells us.

As a matter of fact, because scientific data are based on not only observations but also on experimental data, we should be allowed to regard science to be more reliable than religious faith, since such faith is based solely on subjective emotions and feelings, and we know today that emotion-based knowledge is very unreliable (just as memories and testimonies are).

In short, there is a constantly increasing amount of evidence supporting the view that those people who believe in gods (i.e. have a religious faith) probably have fallen prey to unreliable inner experiences/feelings, false memories, unreliable testimonies from others, different kinds of biases (like confirmation bias, wishful thinking and so on).

So religious faith and science are like two boxers in the boxing ring. In one corner you find a boxer who trusts the laws of physics (finding them very reliable because they have been tested so many times by so many different scientists and by such an enormous number of rigorous and high-precision experiments that they leave no room for religious beings driven by as yet undiscovered kinds of energy).

In in another corner of the boxing ring you find the religiously true believer, who says, “I trust my gut feelings and they tell me to believe there is a divine entity governing and/or guiding our lives.

Their boxing gloves contains arguments. These arguments are used to knock out the opponent.

The scientific boxer is supported by a coach who tells him: IF there still are undetected forms of energy “out there”, that must mean those new kinds of energy have to interact with the already known energy forms. But this – as you have seen – does not happen. Take the GPS as an example. Thanks to the GPS we can find out pretty exactly where we happen to be on the surface of Earth. If there were still undetected energy forms, they should interact with the GPS. But we can’t find any traces of such interactions.

And the coach continues: Spoon-bending is another good example. Spoons are made of atoms (exactly as all other objects are). Today’s physicists know exactly how much energy is available in a spoon. They also know the masses of the atoms (forming a spoon). They also know the kinetic energy of thermal motions within the metal the spoon is made of.

In short, and taken together, we can say without hesitating the least, that any new particles, or hidden energies, that might exist within a spoon would have been detected long ago in experiments made by physicists all over the world. BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE.

The scientific boxer becomes dull of confidence that he’s going to win the boxing match.

The coach of the religiously true believer tells his client. Just believe in God. And if you also pray to God between the rounds, you can’t lose. God never desert His believers. And if He does, and you lose the boxing fight, then there is a meaning behind that godly decision, maybe to make you a humbler man or something like that.

Now I reach the end of my lecture.

Therefore I decide turn to KK, the medicine man of this RWT community/group, directly.

Dear, KK, My answer to your question how an atheist would describe the elephant-like object can be summarized in the follopwing way:

I believe the four well-known natural physical laws are correct. They have been validated in millions of experiments over the years.

These four natural physical laws leave no room for beliefs in divine entities.

So either the physical laws are correct (using that adjective in the scientific way). and the belief that we are surrounded or at least influenced by divine entities is wrong.

Or else all the accumulated knowledge that physics has gained and validated so far (during many centuries) must be thrown in the dust-bin and be considered more or less worthless.

It this were the case, then today’s physicists would advise us not to rely on the GPS. And the physicists should admit that, of course, spoons can be bended spontaneously, by themselves, and that, also of course, a broken window can be whole again (by reversing the time arrow) etc.

I myself find it much easier to believe in Santa Claus than to believe that all accumulated and validated data in the field of physics should be thrown in the dust-bin.

Concerning your elephant metaphor, KK, i tell you this: I didn’t get the opportunity to examine the whole elephant-liek object, neither did the other examinators get that opportunity. So I avoid expressing my thoughts of what constitutes the elephant-like object. And I find it impossible to make a complete and all-encompassing statement about your elephant-like object. No absolute TRUTHS can be said of that object.

Therefore I choose to criticize all the other examinators for trying to launch absolute explanations of what the object really is. By doing that, they are not honest people. Cf. the saying “Lying for Jesus”, Even the church fathers had a long tradition of lying for Jesus. See for example:https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=A7x9UnwBIBVWwgIAURU_Ogx.;_ylu=X3oDMTByaGwzcXNvBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDOARjb2xvA2lyMgR2dGlkAw–?qid=20090125072821AA3Fv7m

I hope you are satisfied with my answer, KK.

BTW, I recommend you to read this article: http://www.livescience.com/52364-origins-supernatural-relgious-beliefs.html. It’s about the plausible origins of supernatural/magical and religious beliefs. A very interesting article, also summarizing today’s knowledge of the matter.

Please, tell me your thoughts of what can be read in that article.

Charles Clanton Rogers

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Six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe. At the risk of offending someone, I suggest That Moses, Jesus, and other iconic giants describe a part of the elephant.[1]  What did the Atheist say after his examination? “There is no elephant”?

I wrote, “The Individual, the Family, the Tribe.”(2)

http://therogerspost.com/2015/10/03/individual-tribe/

My friend and sparring…

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REBLOGGED from I Doubt It: If you think Bigfoot is an interdimensional being, you’ve lost your footing.

Thank you, Sharon Hill, for this excellent and unveiling blog article!

I just have to share it with my followers.

Sharon shows her readers how magical and/or religious(like) thinking can end up in superstition of the most supernatural kind.

She discloses woo bullshit thinking and ditto reasoning at its best (or I should probably rather use the adverb “worst” here).

Anyhow, in her article she gives many examples of how true believers in woo bullshit both act and react. True believers are clearly emotion-driven. They use, also as adults, the same information processing system (in their brains) that prevails during childhood. Logical thinking is none ot their businesses.

(If interested, read more about the brain’s two information processing systems – a.k.a. IPSs – here: https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ . But now back to Sharon Hill.

Here are some quotes taken from her blog article.

She concludes:

1) Actively engaging in supernatural creep means you’ve crossed a line. No longer looking for a reasonable explanation, you have become unreasonable, uncritical, and lost in the spooky fog. No satisfactory answers can be found that way. You’ll only fall down deeper into the rabbit hole.

2) [The whole thing is] rather religious, if no rational evidence or discussion will work. I’ve heard it suggested more than once that UFOlogy, Bigfootology and ghostology are very much like religion. Spiritualism actually was one and there are several alien-themed religions and those based on nature spirits. It’s a short leap when belief is the priority.

Those are conclusions I myself can – and want to – subscribe to.

Sharon Hill really deserves great honor and praise for daring to speak out her mind on this woo-ish matter. So I want to finish this “introduction” by saying, BRAVO! Thank you so much for your brave and disclosing blog, Sharon!

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The Individual, Family, and Tribe: An Essay about the Evolutionary Origin of Homo Sapiens.

This is a quite impressive – yes, I would call it an excellent – blog post about the evolutionary origin of our own species, Homo Sapiens.

The blogger, Charles Rogers, ponders, above all, the question: Who are we? But he is also interested in this question: Why are we like we are?

Related to that second question is this one: Why are we constantly striving to trying to find the “Holy Grail”, i.e. the meaning of our lives? (The answers can probably be found inside ourselves, in our brains, how they are wired. And that wiring is, in turn, best explained by looking back at our evolutionary origin/history.)

Charles Rogers is constantly looking for the answers of such questions by reading a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction ones. He is obviously eager to come across what others have found in their quest of explanations.

Among his references can be found – just to mention only a few of them – a philosopher (Friedrich Nietzsche), a neurologist and psychiatrist/psychologist (Viktor Frankl), a professor of chemistry (Addy Pross), and, above all, the world famous neuroendocrinologist, professor of biology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery, Robert Sapolsky.

So it should go without saying that this blog post is very interesting to read and mull. It’s not only concerned with the question: From where do we, Homo Sapiens, originate?

Another important question is this one: What is the meaning of our lives?

Charles Rogers’ own take on this seems to be: “It is clear to me that the basic ‘Why’ is our family and our tribe.”

That is, we are strongly connected/related to each other. (That’s why Mr. Rogers himself, a professor emeritus, uses his own blog in order to build (symbolic) bridges thereby trying to make it easier for people all over the world to connect with each other.

So I’m not at all surprised to find this quote among his “mantras”: “We think we are separate, but we are one.”

Unfortunately I miss at least ONE important aspect of the human evolutionary history in this blog post. I want more facts and opinions of the evolution of religion, man’s perpetual companion.

But maybe Mr. Rogers will discuss that matter in another blog post later on? Let’s hope that will be the case.

Suffice it to say, in this comment of mine, that evolution seemingly has wired the human brain to look for, and easily find, a more or less strong correlation between teleological thinking and preference for religious motives.

In short, our human brains intuitively perceive purpose-driven design in the world around us.

The stronger this quest for (finding a) purpose is, the stronger our pro-theist preferences become.

If we can’t see whose purpose/intention it is that/when something happens, we are extremely prone to invent Hidden Causal Agents (HCAs) to find the reason behind all that happens to us and in our environments.

If you are interested, you can read more about these ideas here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking . And/Or here: https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ .

Charles Clanton Rogers

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Introduction:

“We think we are separate, but we are one.”  

 “He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How” (1)

It is clear to me that the basic “Why” is our family and our tribe.

I. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (2) : You can live without someone who says: you are mine; You can not live without someone who says: ‘I am yours”  May you be blessed with at least one such person in life!”  The family and tribe is at its best when several individuals feel this ownership to one another. Ishiguro on platonic love is reviewed in the two links:

http://therogerspost.com/2015/09/14/never-let-me-go/

http://therogerspost.com/2015/09/16/never-let-me-go-2/

II. Addy Pross, What is Life, (3)  How Chemistry Becomes Biology.   

  th-7

In the beginning, non-living carbon-based chemicals joined to become “living” nucleic acids (DNA) manifesting a new force.This effect is characterized by an irrepressible self-replication…

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Just face the facts, there is no soul, there is no afterlife. It’s your wishful thinking that deceives you.

In the autumn of 2014 Dr. Sam Parnia’s long awaited AWARE study about the authenticity of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) as evidence of a surviving soul was published.

Dr. Parnia’s study can, at best, be described as very disheartening and depressing for those believing that NDEs are evidence of a soul that survives the bodily (physical) death.

Almost exactly a year ago I posted this blog focusing that interesting subject, see: https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/as-i-said-before/

Now, a year later, I think it’s about time to have a new look at the NDE phenomena and how they can be explained without involving religious bullshit concepts like god(s), soul(s) or afterlife.

Let me start by asking you this question: Are you acquainted with a blog named “Imperfect Cognitions”?
Anyhow, it’s a site where all kinds of delusional beliefs, hallucinations and distorted memories are discussed:
In today’s newsletter from “Imperfect Cognitions” I found this blog post, written by Hayley Dewe, a PhD student from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. The title is: “Debunking Dualist Notions of Near-Death Experiences”.  You find her article here:  http://imperfectcognitions.blogspot.se/2015/09/debunking-dualist-notions-of-near-death.html .
Hayley Dewe’s research is based in The Selective Attention and Awareness laboratory, directed by Jason Braithwaite. Her research focuses on the neurocognitive correlates of anomalous (for example hallucinatory) experience, specifically pertaining to the ‘self’, embodiment, and consciousness.She explains NDEs in the following way:

NDEs are striking experiences that typically occur when one is close to death or exposed to life-threatening situations of intense physical and/or emotional danger (first coined by Moody 1975, Life after Life. New York: Bantam Books). This unusual experience includes a variety of aberrant components such as: sensations of peace and vivid imagery, bright flashes of light, the sensation of travelling through a dark tunnel towards a bright light, a disconnection from the physical body (a shift in perspective: the Out-of-Body Experience), and the sensation of entering a light / visions of an ‘afterlife’ etc.

And she continues:

From a parapsychological (or survivalist / supernatural) perspective, NDEs are understood as mystical and spiritual experiences that expose the individual to another world (or afterlife). This is taken as evidence for the survival of bodily death (i.e. dualism); that the mind/consciousness is not dependent on the brain.

In stark contrast is the scientific/neuroscience perspective. Here, it is argued that NDEs are hallucinatory phenomena, generated by a disinhibited and highly confused, dying brain (known as the ‘dying brain account’).

After this introduction she argues that:

#1: There are a host of logical fallacies and methodological discrepancies within the parapsychological literature.
#2: There appears to be no objective study validating the presence of an entirely inactive human brain with the simultaneous occurrence of an NDE!
#3: Even if there were evidence of a completely inactive brain, and subsequent recollection of an NDE, how could one pinpoint the precise time frame during which the NDE components occurred? That is, the NDE itself may well have occurred before levels of brain activity became ‘inactive’ (or ‘flattened’), or even experienced and recalled afterwards, during recovery.
#4: No component of the NDE is actually unique to the ‘near-death’ experience.
#5: As a matter of fact, you needn’t necessarily be ‘near to death’ to experience NDE phenomena.
So the only reasonable and likely conclusion seems to be: Dualist / Survivalist arguments of NDEs are, at the very best, flawed.
And I myself want to add here: They are not only flawed. They are completely wrong, built as they seem to be on wishful magical and religious bullshit thinking .
In short: THERE IS NO SOUL! Forget what you’ve read or heard about that religious bullshit concept.
And if souls don’t exist, the corollary must be: YOU’D BETTER FORGET ABOUT THE BELIEF IN AN AFTERLIFE, TOO.
For more details, see: https://www.skeptic.org.uk/magazine/onlinearticles/497-braithwaite-dying-brain (Towards a Cognitive Neuroscience of the Dying Brain), and:  https://www.academia.edu/10060970/Occams_Chainsaw_Neuroscientific_Nails_in_the_coffin_of_dualist_notions_of_the_Near-death_experience_NDE_  (Occam’s Chainsaw: Neuroscientific Nails in the Coffin of Dualist Notions of the Near-death Experience [NDE]).
In the coming weeks or months I hope to have time to blog about the non-existent soul and non-existent afterlife.
But for the time being I have to confine myself to recommend all (true) soul believers – that is those who refuse to abandon their bullshit ideas of soul and afterlife – to study the contents in blog posts like these: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/sean-carroll-we-dont-have-immortal-souls/ , http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/05/23/physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-soul/#.Vgrou3qqqko , and http://jayarava.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/there-is-no-life-after-death-sorry.html .
Need I say more? Yes, I think I also need to say that true believers are not so easily convinced that soul and afterlife are typical religious bullshit concepts. Sacrosanct beliefs, anchored in religious faith, are unfortunately extremely difficult to eradicate. For more details, see: https://victorianeuronotes.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/are-brainwashing-techniques-in-the-bible-and-strategically-used-in-churches/ .

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About Woos, Woo-Personality, H.I.S.S., ASPs, HSPs, the Enteric Brain, and our Immune System.

Ever heard of David Ritchey? He wrote a book – entitled “The H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P. Understanding the Anomalously Sensitive Person” – that was was published in 2003.

That’s a whole book about the woo-personality or, rather, about people inclined, and highly willing, to believe in magical and (pseudo)religious mass delusional woo-bullshit.


Click this link, http://www.davidritchey-author.com/hoa-contents.htm , and you can see what topics and subjects are discussed and analyzed in David Ritchey’s intriguing book about woos – or, as he prefers to call them, schizotypals. This link is about the content in the 14 chapters of the book. 

For example, in chapter 4 you can read about biological predispositions toward sensitivities. The reader learns about phenomena like anomalous cerebral laterality, left-handedness, biochemical factors behind the schizotypal personality syndrome and so on. 

David Ritchey is fond of mapping woo-ish temperament types. He often refers to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, according to which many woos and magical believers are INFJs, i.e.Introverted and/or Intuitive Persons dependent on their Feelings (Emotions) when it comes to making Judgments (Decisions).In chapter 8 David Ritchey analyzes some common cognitive dysfunctions and malfunctions among woos, for instance the big prevalence of language and learning disorders among woos (many of them are dyslexic and/or dyscalculic).

Chapter 9 is about emotions and emotionality. The emotional acuity of the woo-personality can also be called HSP, meaning Highly Sensitive Person(ality). And HSP is strongly positively correlated to ASP (Anomalously Sensitive Personality/Persons).

Among ASPs altered states of consciousness (ASCs) are prevalent (at least relatively speaking). The same goes for dissociative disorders. And, of course, hallucinations and delusions are frequently experienced by an ASP.

 

Now click this link, http://www.davidritchey-author.com/hoa-findings.htm , and you can read a short summary of David Ritchey’s findings about personality traits and characteristics in people having a typical woo-personality. 


Ritchey calls attention to the following six findings:

#1. Various factors including Biology (“nature”), Trauma and Abuse (“nurture”) and Temperament Type Preferences (“personality”) can predispose an individual to be an Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP).

#2. If an individual is anomalously sensitive in one realm (the “Physiological,” for example), s/he is very likely to be anomalously sensitive in the other realms (“Cognitive,” “Emotional,” “Altered States of Consciousness” and “Transpersonal Experiences”) as well.

#3. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: be female, be hypopigmented (blond hair/blue eyes), be Non-Right-Handed (left-handed or ambidextrous), be artists, be born as one of a set of twins/triplets/etc. and have an other-than-conventionally heterosexual sexual orientation.

#4. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: have an Introverted (rather than Extraverted) Orientation, have a preference for an Intuitive (rather than Sensate) mode of Perceiving and have a preference for a Feeling (rather than Thinking) mode of Judging.

#5. The Anomalously Sensitive Person is likely to: have unusually sensitive immune systems, be highly reactive/responsive to sensory stimuli, exhibit learning/attention styles that differ from the norm, be very attuned to the emotions of both themselves and others, be especially facile at accessing Altered States of Consciousness and to frequently have Transpersonal (“metaphysical,” “paranormal,” “psychic”) Experiences.

#6. The HISS data support the position of those negativists who hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of temporo-limbic epilepsy. The HISS data also support the position of those positivists who hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of kundalini arousal. The HISS data also support those who have no position and hold that anomalous sensitivity is indicative of anomalous sensitivity.

I came to think of David Ritchey’s woo-typology study when I just a little while ago read this article,

http://www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/microbes-and-the-mind . entitled “Microbes and the mind: Who’s pulling the strings?”. 


Neuroscientifically Challenged is a blog I strongly recommend for those of you who are interested in how both functional and dysfunctional/malfunctional brains work.
The blog article I received today from Neuroscientifically Challenged is about how microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites are able to influence the neurobiology and behavior of their hosts (in this case humans). Researchers have pretty long been aware of a powerful connection between the gut, or gastrointestinal tract, and the brain;
This connection is called the gut-brain axis.
This powerful connection explains why strong emotions can have a great impact on the functioning of the gastrointestinal system – and vice versa.
In mammal bodies there are probably hundreds of millions of neurons OUTSIDE the brain and and the central nervous system (CNS).  This kind of  “external” neuronal structure has been dubbed the enteric nervous system (ENS).

Such neurons can be found around the heart but mostly, of course, in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus to anus (so who knows, maybe there is, after all, at least some veracity of the saw “He must be thinking with his ass”?).

Anyhow, the connections between the brain and the enteric nervous system are extensive, and the two can communicate through neuronal, endocrine, and immune system signaling.

And that’s why I came to think of David Ricthey and his book. Ricthey found that the Anomalously Sensitive Person (ASP) is likely to: have unusually sensitive immune systems, They often suffer from directly autoimmune diseases and so-called autoimmune-related disorders.

Therefore it shouldn’t come as any surprise that for woos (i.e. HSPs, ASPs) diagnoses like Fibromyalgia and. Chronic Fatigue are relatively common.

Neither of those two diseases (diagnoses) are genuine autoimmune disorders, strictly speaking, but they have both a marked and pronounced connection to many (other) autoimmune diseases that are categorized as genuine and are therefore associated with a dysfunctional/malfunctional immune system

Other directly or indirectly autoimmune-related diseases/disorders that seem to be more common than statistically expected among woo people are different types of personality disorders (for instance Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Latent schizophrenic Personality Disorder etc.), mood affecting disorders (such as depression, GAD, OCD OCHD, Tourette’s Syndrome and so on) and Attention Deficit Disorders (like ADD or ADHD).

Woos also often seem to be diagnosed with more specific disorders/diseases like Urticaria, Vitiligo, Psoriasis, Porphyria, IBS, Celiac disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Narcolepsy, Sleep Paralysis, Lyme disease,Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Endometriosis, and Alopecia areata.

Please note that most of these correlations are just anecdotal so far. This research area is still to be referred to as a “terra incognita”.

If you want more information about this kind of correlations, have a look at; http://www.davidritchey-author.com/HISS%20Questionnaire%20(VIIA).pdf . By clicking that link, you can see an abbreviated version of David Ritchey’s so-called  H.I.S.S. Questionnaire (with almost 100 questions to be answered by the respondent).

H.I.S.S. stands for Holistic Inventory of Stimulus Sensitivities.

A not so emotionally laden example of hypersensitivity is hyperacusis or hyperacusia.

That diagnosis means an abnormal acuteness of hearing due to increased irritability of the neural mechanism of your auditive sense. The disorder is characterized by a more or less strong intolerance for ordinary sound levels. For instance, you can get temporary “crazy” just because your neighbor decided to start his lawn mower at 8 a.m. or even earlier, on a Sunday morning.

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Explanatory Theories of Religion And Religious Thoughts (by Cris Campbell)

Have a look at  Explanatory Theories of Religion ( http://genealogyreligion.net/explanatory-theories-of-religion ). I found that article on Cris Campbell’s blog. 

There are many explanatory and evolutionary theories of how magical and religious thoughts (and different religions) emerged among our ancestors.
In this reblogged article we can read about Cris Campbell’s take on that topic. 

Cris holds advanced degrees in anthropology, philosophy, and law. He’s apparently very interested in the origin of magical and religious thoughts. And he obviously knows a lot – and I really mean a great deal; he’s a scholar! –  about the many hypotheses and theories that try to explain how it became possible for our ancestors to invent divine spiritual beings of different kinds.

His blog readers get a very good resume of how this “religification process” may have looked like. Here are some quotes taken from Cris Campbell’s blog article:

This is not, of course, a simple question and no single theory provides a definitive answer. Since 1990 (i.e., the beginning of the modern era of evolutionary theorizing about religion), scholars have proposed so many different varieties of “cognitive byproduct” and “social adaptive” theories that simply surveying, sorting, and analyzing them is a considerable challenge. Synthesizing them is an even greater challenge and, given their differing premises, may be impossible.
[…]

Seeking clarity, last year I decided to conduct an intensive review of all previous theories (i.e., those predating 1990) that could variously be characterized as: (1) explanatory, (2) developmental, and/or (3) evolutionary. The latter category can be confusing because many scholars working within a post-Darwinian evolutionary paradigm tend to conflate biological withcultural evolution. Such scholars may also prefer non-Darwinian explanations, but they are still working within an evolutionary or developmental paradigm. When this occurs, I refer to them as “evolutionist.”

My richly rewarding review resulted in a great deal of writing, most of which has appeared here in scattered posts over the past year. Now that the review is nearly finished, I want to gather all those posts and links on a single page. The theorists are listed mostly in chronological order of their appearance. I chose this arrangement not just for convenience. One thing I discovered is that the scholars working within the developmental-evolutionist tradition were fully aware of previous work and were responding to their predecessors or contemporaries. If you read these scholars’ original works in serial order, you will find yourself eavesdropping on a brilliant conversation that lasted for well over 100 years.


BTW, here’s an interesting TED Talk video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7vH4rgdmxw .

The speaker is Yuval Noah Harari, author of the book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. For a short review of that book, have a look at   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/21/sapiens-brief-history-mankind-review-yuval-noah-harari  

Harari suggests that our ancestors became “human” when they acquired the ability to think in symbolic “terms”, i.e. to create imaginary realities and not only accept the physically real reality. 

As an atheist I especially like Harari’s take on money and gods. Suggest to a chimp that if he gives me one of his bananas, I’ll give him some paper money in return, and the chimp would, maybe, wonder if you’ve gone insane.

The same thing goes for gods and heavens. If you pay tithes to your church, your priest/minister promises you that he’ll do all he can to help you entering Heaven through its Pearly Gates.

A chimp would NEVER buy that concept, that imaginary and creative symbolic idea.

Neither would I.

But many fellow religious True Believer humans seem to accept that kind of deal without any hesitation at all.

How about you? 

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Rosa Rubicondior has written and published a book entitled The Light of Reason: And Other Atheist Writing.

Rosa Rubicondior: So I’ve Written This Book….
At last!

In response to numerous requests, Rosa Rubicondior has finally produced an ebook, based on a selection of her Atheism and Science blogs. The inspiring title is “The Light Of Reason: And Other Atheist Writing”.

I’m darn sure this ebook will enlighten many atheists’s lives.

The articles are arranged into four sections, each dealing with a different aspect of Atheism and science and the interface between science and religion.

Those sections are:

#1: Religion and Atheism, which looks at the reasons why Atheism is the position of choice for critical thinkers and people who allow the evidence to determine their beliefs and who suspend judgement in the absence of evidence.

#2: Evolution and Other Science, which deals with aspects of science which normally feature in creationist and other religious apologetics and about which most creationists are ignorant or at least feign ignorance.
#3: Religious Apologetics, dealing with the common apologetic fallacies (and believe me, there are plenty of them to be ridiculed.
#4: Silly Bible, exposing the utter nonsense and implausibility of the stories found throughout the Bible.
I guess section #4 will become my personal favorite part of Rosa’s ebook since the Bible (a.k.a. the Holy Scripture) is really a silly book, with lots of even more stupid narratives – like the talking (and maybe lisping) and upright walking Serpent in the Garden of Eden. 
 
Hey, hold the horses! Wait a sec. An upright walking Snake? Yes, obviously it must have been that way; i.e. after the Fall God seemingly felt revengeful (although what happened in the Garden of Eden couldn’t have come as a surprise to Him) and therefore commanded all snakes from now on to become crawling reptiles on the ground. Otherwise it’s very hard to understand and accept what can be read in Genesis 3:14: And the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life:” 
 
(Hence, before that the snakes weren’t crawling on the ground.)  
 
Back now to Rosa’s ebook. There is no plot to follow in it, so so the table of contents each article can be read independently of the others. 
 
Click the link above to get more information about Rosa Rubicondior’s ebook. 
 
I haven’t yet bought Rosa’s ebook, so the table of contents is unknown to me. But I’m pretty sure this article will be included, http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.se/2015/04/origin-of-adam-eve-myth.html .
 
The Kindle version of Rosa’s ebook consists of 747 (!) pages, so you’ll get a lot of knowledge for a small amount of money. Don’t hesitate to buy it. I bet your atheist life will be much funnier to live afterwards, because Rosa Rubicondior is an unusually “divinely” gifted writer.

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The Unreliable "Feeling of Certainty"

A personality trait common in many (pseudo)religious people (like woos) is an intellectual vice called feeling of certainty (a.k.a. feeling of knowing).

Beliefs (especially strong ones) are normally caused by imperfections in our capacities to process information and draw conclusions.

Examples of intellectual vices (a term coined by Linda Zagzebski, a US philosopher) are gulliibility, carelessness, closed-mindedness, negligence, idleness, rigidity, obtuseness, prejudice, lack of thoroughness, and insensitivity to detail.

Read more about intellectual vices – a.k.a. bad thinking – here: http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/intellectual-character-of-conspiracy-theorists/ .

Today we know that differences in intellectual character may help to explain why some people, facing the same situation, will end up believing X, while others believe Y (or vice versa).

The feeling of certainty/knowing is closely related to gullibility. and can be defined as a propensity to believe things for which there is no good evidence, and/or dismiss claims for which there is excellent evidence.

So there are two important ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true. And the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Both ways lead to woo-ism (i.e.magical and/or religious thinking).

Even worse, if people are made to feel uncertain, then they regress their adult cognitive faculties by strengthening and increasing the brain’s pattern detection system. And that means they return to the the child’s information processing system based on emotional, intuitive, prelogical magical and religious thinking.

In other words, one of the biggest cognitive problems we face in this world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves while wiser people are so full of doubt.

But at the same time, don’t forget what Winston S. Churchill once said, “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

διά πέντε / dia pente

What most people do not know is that certainty is a feeling. It’s probably on the same level as jealousy or anger. It’s a reaction to certain stimuli. Yet just like anger, the stimulus doesn’t have to actually exist to create the feeling. Imagine your significant other cheating on you, or imagine someone you love crying or getting injured. These scenarios are not true yet the feeling we get when we imagine it is no less real.

Check this out. I will give you the “feeling of knowing” right now:

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close…

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Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 2

This is a very interesting article by Valerie Tarico about God’s mostly anthropomorphic bodily appearance and nearly always humanlike mind.

Here are some examples of what we learn by reading Valerie’s text:

1) We learn that the orthodox Jesus story, as it appears in our gospels, follows a specific sacred or mythic template that existed in the Ancient Near East (actually long before Christianity or even Judaism). Cf. what is said about The Hero’s Journey, a pattern of narrative, once identified by Joseph Campbell, that is applicable in both secular storytelling and religious myths.

2) Our supernatural notions are shaped by built-in structures in our brains.

3) Those “default” systems/networks in the brain are unconsciously (and, in a way, you may say compulsively) searching for recognizable patterns for events and experiences in our surroundings. These processes allow us to generalize, i.e. from just a few bits of data or details we are able to construe some kind of wholeness (a more or less consistent pattern).

These pattern-seeking neural processes are usually summarized as apophenia or patternicity (apophenia can be defined as the experience of seeing and identifying meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, while patternicity is the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise.

4) The found patterns – they are closely related to memories – have to be filed somewhere in the brain. That’s why the brain has got different filing systems.

We invent labels to tag each object (i.e. element or property), so that similar objects (i.e. the same sort of memories) can be directed to and saved in the same file(s). Those built-in filing systems are steadily increasing and refined over time.

5) Valerie also tells us that the labels usually start out blank. But actually some of them don’t. We all seem to have a couple of “preprinted labels” (cf. C.G. Jung and his idea that there are so-called innate archetype patterns residing in the “collective unconscious” of all humans).

But Valerie prefers to give the labels more mundane names, like “Humans”, “Non-humans”, “Animals”, “Plants”, “Man-made objects”, “Natural objects” and the like.

6) A very important pattern-seeking process (maybe the most important of them all) is about facial recognition. This (facial recognition) system can sometimes overfunction (giving rise to a phenomenon called pareidolia), and sometimes be underfunctioning (causing face blindness, prosopagnosia).

And now, at last, we are approaching the religious aspects and consequences of how our brains are wired. In short, Valerie Tarico tells us that the neural wirings in the brain can explain why most religions imagine and teach that their divine beings are both bodily anthropomorfic and also feeling, thinking, reasoning, and (at least partially) acting like we humans usually do (for example eating food that we put on a sacrificial altar, being angry, disappointed and so on).

AwayPoint

Why God has a Human Mind 

Jesus was a human, fathered by a god and born to a virgin. He died for three days and was resurrected.  His death was a sacrifice, an offering or propitiation.  It brings favor for humans. He lives now in a realm where other supernatural beings interact with each other and sometimes intervene in human affairs.

Gradually the mainstream of the American public is becoming aware that none of these elements is unique to Christianity.  Symbologists or scholars who specialize in understanding ancient symbols, tell us that the orthodox Jesus story, as it appears in our gospels, follows a specific sacred or mythic template that existed in the Ancient Near East long before Christianity or even Judaism.  In part this is due to the flow of history.  Religions emerge out of ancestor religions.  Though the characters and details merge and morph, elements get carried through…

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19. What evidence is there that humans have a spirit? Part 1: The Science of the Soul

This article I found at the blog “500 Questions”. It’s about concepts like “spirit” and “soul”.

The article has the following subheading, “The Science of the Soul”.

That subheading looks like an oxymoron to me. I’d not even call it “The Pseudoscience of the Soul”.

To me the soul concept is so full of bullshit, contradictions and misunderstandings that it should be tossed into the rubbish-heap immediately.

BTW, here’s an article discussing the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity in their view of the soul, http://www.123helpme.com/islamic-beliefs-on-the-soul-view.asp?id=163194 .

I quote from the end paragraphs of that article,

Muslims and Christians both believe that a person is not just made from his or her mind and body, there is also the soul. They both believe that each person has an immortal soul (cannot die) which cannot be seen and makes people different from each other, however Christians believe that only humans were given souls as they were in the image of God whereas Muslims believe that humans, plants and animals have souls too. Christians believing that animals don’t have souls allows them to eat meat normally, but because Muslims believe that animals do have souls, they have to sacrifice the animal properly in order to eat the meat. Christians believe that people were made in the image of God meaning that God put something of his own divine and everlasting nature into each person, which is the soul, but Muslims don’t believe that exactly as they believe animals and plants have souls too. Both Muslims and Christians both believe that the soul was put into the body during birth, and the soul leaves the body at death.

Muslims and Christians both believe that a person is not just made from his or her mind and body, there is also the soul. They both believe that each person has an immortal soul (cannot die) which cannot be seen and makes people different from each other, however Christians believe that only humans were given souls as they were in the image of God whereas Muslims believe that humans, plants and animals have souls too. Christians believing that animals don’t have souls allows them to eat meat normally, but because Muslims believe that animals do have souls, they have to sacrifice the animal properly in order to eat the meat. Christians believe that people were made in the image of God meaning that God put something of his own divine and everlasting nature into each person, which is the soul, but Muslims don’t believe that exactly as they believe animals and plants have souls too. Both Muslims and Christians both believe that the soul was put into the body during birth, and the soul leaves the body at death.

In other words, almost the same bullshit is taught to Muslims and Christians.

500 Questions about God & Christianity

As much as we talk about the idea of the spirit, you’d think it was a well documented fact, but is there any empirical evidence that proves spirits actually exists?

The Science of the Soul

Since science usually limits itself to studying that which can be observed, measured, and experimented upon, there’s seemingly little work that can be done in the area of the spirit; but there have been a few studies (oft labeled “pseudo-science” by skeptics) that infer the existence of a spirit, such as near death experiences, out of body experiences, communication with the dead, the mind/brain connection, reincarnation, etc.

That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dig in…

21 Grams – Weighing the Soul

In the 1880s, pictures of ghostly images caught on film were once used as evidence for the soul. And later, in 1911, the x-ray machine was even used to try and photograph the…

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