Category Archives: Reason vs. Faith a.k.a. Sense vs. Sensibility

The brain’s default network: Anatomy, function, and relevance to disease. Plus three other important networks in your brain.

This is a very good and easy to understand article about the Default Mode Network (DMN) in our brain.

It is in the DMN the process of scene construction takes place, a kind of mental simulation of reality rather similar to what William James used to call the “stream of consciousness”.

Also read this article: http://emergentcognition.com/2015/11/17/scott-barry-kaufman-scientific-american-the-real-neuroscience-of-creativity/ . About how creativity is implemented in the brain.

In that article you can read about another default network in your brain: the Default Imagination Network (DIN).

The DIN is involved in constructing dynamic mental simulations based primarily on personal past experiences. It provides us with alternative perspectives and scenarios to the present “view”. The DIN is, in turn, dependent on how we are primed (i.e. what we are taught/conditioned to believe and/or how we interpret what we see, hear, experience and so on).

The DIN cooperates with two other neural networks: 1) the Executive Attention Network (EAN), and 2) the Salience Network (SN).

The EAN is all about attention vs. inattention. It helps us to focus and concentrate – or stop focusing/concentrating.

The SN tags the events (both external and/or internal) that we experience (become aware of), either consciously or unconsciously, and tells us how relevant (= salient) any information is with regard to solving the task at hand.

All three networks can, of course, be influenced by how our brains are primed. That’s why a believer in demons or angels interprets his experience as evidence of existence of spiritual other-worldly religious beings, whereas the UFO believer is convinced he has had an encounter with aliens.

Emergent Cognition Project

A shared human experience is our active internal mental life. Left without an immediate task that demands full attention, our minds wander jumping from one passing thought to next—what William James (1890) called the “stream of consciousness.” We muse about past happenings, envision possible future events, and lapse into ideations about worlds that are far from our immediate surroundings. In lay terms, these are the mental processes that make up fantasy, imagination, daydreams, and thought….

While remembering, envisioning the future, and conceiving the mental states of others are different on several dimensions including temporal focus (e.g., past versus present) and personal perspective (e.g., self versus another person), they all converge on similar core processes (Buckner & Carroll 2007). In each instance, one is required to simulate an alternative perspective to the present. These abilities, which are most often studied as distinct, rely on a common set of processes by which…

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The Bomb in the Brain. About Child Abuse: A Danger to World Stability.

Very important information about possible effects of child abuse (of both the mental – like neglect or bullying – and physical/sexual kind).

Many good links.

Nevertheless, I want to add this link too: https://spiritandanimal.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/the-bomb-in-the-brain-the-effects-of-child-abuse-information-clearing-house-ich-3/

The video is entitled: The Bomb in the Brain – The Effects of Child Abuse.

NeuroNotes

Physical as well as psychological abuse of the child is not only harmful but highly dangerous. Not only for the individual but under certain circumstances for whole nations. ~ A. Miller, Ph.D

Watch (Warning – video contains graphic material)

It is now clear that what a child experiences in the first few years of life largely determines how his brain will develop and how he/she will interact with the world throughout his life.—Ounce of Prevention Fund

Our brains are sculpted by our early experiences. Maltreatment is a chisel that shapes a brain to contend with strife, but at the cost of deep, enduring wounds. —Teicher

According to the World Health Organization,  ‘World Report on Violence and Health’,  children who grow up in a violent environment are more likely to be victims of child abuse. Those who are not direct victims have some of the same behavioral…

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Hormone from Hell? About the neurotransmitter dopamine.

A very good – and easily understandable – summary of in what ways we are influenced by the neurotransmitter dopamine.

I only want to add: This competent blogger has yet another blog, called Victoria Neuronotes. You should follow that blog too.

NeuroNotes

| 1K pharm  |  Dopamine is a small molecule. Nothing too complicated really. Two neighboring hydroxy groups on a benzene ring with an amino group just around the corner. But, oh! What a molecule. It is a neurotransmitter produced in various parts of the brain and has five known target receptors. According to the Wikipedia entry for the compound: “Its main function as a hormone is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.” But, that belies a whole host of issues for which dopamine is responsible. Dopamine, after all, has a role to play in behavior and cognition, in voluntary movement, in motivation, in our level of concentration, working memory, learning, sleep patterns, our moods, sexual gratification, punishment, and, of course, reward.

Reward

We all know it when we receive it. It’s that most pleasurable feeling, that emotion that drives us…

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Death Cult Christianity

I just found another blog post to reblog. This time written by The Brazilian atheist John Zande, a very skillful anti-theist debater and blogger.

In this blog post John Zande analyzes Christianity from a death cult perspective. His post is full of valuable facts and data put together, by him, in a very praiseworthy way.

Maybe he should have analyzed also the concept of Christian martyrdom.Therefore I’m now going to add some facts about that aspect.

To start with, two links that might be of interest:

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_martyrs ; and

2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapsi_(Christianity) .

Today we shake our heads when we see or hear about Muslim suicide bombers killing themselves at the same time as they kill innocent people (often seen as religious enemies, non-believers, wrongdoers, apostates etc).

Since the suicide bomber does this evil act in the name of Allah, he or she is promised, by an imam or cleric, to get/have instant access to all the enjoyments in Paradise immediately after his/her death.

But we must not forget that also Christians have practiced martyrdom by killing people belonging to other religions (maybe especially Islam).

By defending Christian religion and values and/or attacking those who refused to see Jesus as the Christ hypostasis of the God Trinity you could become a martyr, if you died (was killed) while trying to do this.

Here is another good article about Christian martyrs: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/10/christian_martyrdom_when_did_christians_stop_trying_to_die_for_god.html .

A quote from this article: “[…,] even Christian authorities have abandoned the prohibition against voluntary martyrdom. The diaries of medieval crusaders clearly indicate that they viewed themselves as martyrs, and Pope Urban II offered the fallen complete absolution and immediate passage to heaven. (The status of crusaders as voluntary martyrs is somewhat controversial, because they may have viewed themselves as draftees in a defensive war.)

Let me summarize like this: The concept of “Lying for Jesus” is still today rather well-known. But the idea of “Dying for Jesus” seems to have fallen into oblivion. So it’s about time to resuscitate that notion to show there are more reasons than the ones cited by John Zande to call Christianity a death cult religion. (I myself even consider the Christian Communion to be a cannibalistic ritual.)

David at Applied Faith has a post up, How Evangelicals Can Look Not-So-Crazy about the End Times, concerning the imminent arrival of the Christian End Times

“We’re in a climate where Christians are being mass-murdered and driven out of the Middle East. Russia is violently propping up the Shia regime in Syria, Iran may already have a nuclear weapon, and the United Nations routinely persecutes Israel. Many Christians believe that Islam is evil, and the followers of Muhammad may spawn The Anti-Christ.” 

As you might however have gathered from the article’s title, his worry is not the pending annihilation of our home planet and the eradication of all life at the hands of his particular Middle Eastern god, Yhwh, but rather the somewhat annoying fact that evangelicals, like himself, are broadly considered “crazy” by the general public when they start hollering the end is neigh. It’s an honest complaint, and…

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About woo-ism, psychiatric symptoms and immune system disturbances

Autoimmune and inflammatory activities in the brain seem to be linked with psychiatric symptoms. Have a look at this article: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/25/451169292/could-depression-be-caused-by-an-infection

I even suspect there may be a positive correlation between woo-ism (believing woo experiences must be true/genuine/real phenomena PLUS also displaying a higher disposition towards experiencing such paranormal – and psychic – phenomena).

It’s undeniable that there exists an overlap between mental and physical illness. They have many symptoms in common.

Furthermore, lately researchers have detected a network of vessels that seem to be able to directly connect the brain with the immune system, so it’s not farfetched to assume that neuroinflammatory and/or neurodegenerative diseases are associated with immune system dysfunction.

For details, see: http://www.nature.com/articles/nature14432.epdf?referrer_access_token=M_gEqyTF4woL1TO0pPtt_dRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0PP9svrp_06Oir1YyDWe7ejvVLL2VbrH_EwNtYJfrQFs76c429WdrHUa3kC6-ROdf0a_sf0Wq3y-_lXvDuWqqE81teEmgu9jJgiCo644XrZpoQFLHRhQL_oQbZPSnuILCbsmK4rEXRW91jKrI6Im8RIguooFs6WobJt6z2yuX7A2pJD0k4VDG0jAeie6V4PmjIrmox96-6NYWQfQMxCVLxb&tracking_referrer=www.npr.org .

There are also many indications that stressors of any kind, especially in childhood, can activate our immune system. A hyperactive immune system alarm goes hand in hand with autoimmune diseases. And woo believers are known to have more autoimmune disorder diagnoses than non-woo believers.

Examples of such stressors are physical abuse, sexual abuse, feelings of neglect and grief, nutritional deficiencies, sleep deprivation, and much more. A childhood full of stressors like these might pave the ground for woo beliefs later on.

This finding is, in turn, completely compatible with the positive correlation between woo believers and mental disorders like depression, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. And those diagnoses are, in turn, suspected to be caused, partly, by an infection that has activated the immune-inflammatory system of their bodies.

So it’s easy to imagine that both stressors (like those I just mentioned) and Infections during childhood – maybe already in the womb – might work in concert with genetics to make that individual (already as a fetus) sensitive to not only psychosocial factors but also to become prone to believe in, and experience, paranormal phenomena.

BTW, Here’s a book I can recommend to all those interested in the woo-personality traits: http://www.davidritchey-author.com/hoa.htm .

The author David Ritchey summarizes his findings here: http://www.davidritchey-author.com/hoa-findings.htm . The following six points are listed (especially point #5 is of extra interest here):

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.

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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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