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Excellent video about Neurotheology

I’ve panned Dr. Andrew Newberg in the past for making seemingly simplistic claims. But it’s very possible I was wrong to do so. Either that, or his thinking and scientific humility has developed dramatically. This video reveals an Andrew Newberg that I really didn’t know existed. As Yoda might have said, “Pleasantly surprised, I was…”

But seriously. This video is a must for anyone interested in the interface of spirituality, religious practices, and the brain. Follow the link in the above tweet and scroll down the page to watch.


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With all the recent bad news, I thought this might be an appropriate counterbalance

I wonder how many violent or suicidal individuals would have turned out differently had their parents read and followed the advice in the above tweet.


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Two Very Different Takes On Psychiatry

When I first found the website Mad in America I was quite enthused. I’d done my doctorate in psychology and religion. And one of the papers I wrote for a methodology course had to do with deconstructing different beliefs about the human self from a cross cultural perspective.

This involved stepping back and assessing the ideas of “truth,” a particular “personality disorder” as defined by the APA and the notion of “mysticism.” There seemed to be some overlap among psychology, society and mysticism. And I was keenly interested in exploring those sometimes contentious connections.

In doing so I never romanticized the plight of those who psychologically suffer. I know that these people really do have a tough and often confusing time. The question is why. And also, whether our culture and its classification and treatments are making this suffering better or worse.

Both of the following tweets address these questions but the slant is quite different for each.

Today, Mad in America seems like an overly biased web site in that it’s usually emphatically negative about psychiatry. I don’t think that’s balanced.

Having said that, Mad In America does play a role in alerting us to some of the abuses in psychiatry and the pitfalls of an uncritical acceptance of the psychiatric worldview. But again, I don’t think it tells the whole story. Life is complicated. And people do suffer and some are suicidal or violent. The latter two, especially, often need intervention not only for themselves but to safeguard the human rights of others.

This video, on the other hand, grew on me as I went through it. At first, I expected just another mouthpiece for the latest gee whiz stories about psychiatry which, in my opinion, are often deeply and unconsciously influenced by cultural assumptions and recent trends.

But that’s not what this video is about. I urge anyone interested to watch it. I think we’d be much better off as a species if more psychiatrists displayed this blend of optimism, an appreciation of history and, above all, scientific humility.


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The myth of the happy, healthy and normal

A red flag usually comes up when I see stories like this. True, most of us enjoy being social and human beings are, so the sociologists tell us, social by definition. But to reduce love to a hormone and happiness to social interaction is, in my view, inadequate. This isn’t just an American thing, although the article does refer to the APA and the APA does exert a strange kind of hegemonic power throughout many countries. Instead, I think it reflects a bias to overlook the spiritual in favor of the social and the material.

Back in graduate school I wrote a short paper about the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung. I critiqued his view of the so-called “normal” self. For Jung, the ideal was to integrate four functions of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition, along with two orientations of introversion and extraversion.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While writing my critique, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche came to mind. If Nietzsche was perfectly “integrated,” would he have given such tremendous insights to humanity? I personally doubt it. But really, it’s a moot point. Nietzsche was who he was. And that’s what made him write the often brilliant and, yes, skewed and unfortunately sexist stuff that he wrote.

Jung’s psychology is more open-minded and nuanced than the current state of psychiatry. But even so, I find it lacking. So again, when I see stories like this, I feel that I have to say something to help prevent this kind of lame thinking from becoming further legitimized and reproduced as “truth” in society.

They say that sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you. But that’s not true. Ideas influence how people act toward one another. And when ideas become institutionalized, they gain even more power to help or harm.—MC


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Big Pharma fraud – exposing the new “religion” of science

There are two main ways to critique medical science. On the one hand, we can look at the actual science that’s being done. We can analyze the truth claims that many doctors make, using the analytical tools (e.g. sociology, philosophy) that we have at our disposal. The other way, which some may say is related, some may say is not, is to look at the actual, overall practice of medicine.

Science is a human enterprise. It is not something locked up in a test tube, immune to disease and corruption. This is something I have mentioned many times throughout Earthpages. The response usually isn’t that great, mostly, I think, because science for the most part is the new human religion. And people don’t like to have the fraudulent aspects of their religion exposed. It upsets them, inviting them to rethink many taken-for-granted beliefs that they were once comfortable with.

In saying that science is a new religion, I simply mean that it involves a lot of belief and in many cases, blind faith. I am not saying that science is no good, just as I would not say that religion is no good. But I would argue that both could be improved. Neither is perfect.—MC


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“Do we all worship same God?”—a multi-faith discussion to be held in Nevada

View of Reno, Nevada, with the University of N...

View of Reno, Nevada, with the University of Nevada, Reno campus in the foreground. (ca. 1982–1993) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

South Reno United Methodist Church (SRUMC) in Reno, Nevada, is hosting multi-faith discussion on the topic of “Do we all worship same God?” on June 12; involving Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i, Native American and Atheist leaders.

Interfaith advocate Rajan Zed, who is producing the event for SRUMC, points out: In view of various conflicts around the world arising because of differing approaches/ideas about God, we are planning to bring diverse religious leaders and community together to openly, honestly and friendly discuss the issue—Are we, as different religions, worshipping the same God or does each religion worship an altogether different God?

Per Oxford Dictionary of World Religions: God cannot be described in language, since God is far apart from humanly apprehended categories in time and space…anything which is said about God is approximate, provisional, corrigible, and mainly wrong…The logic of God, therefore, remains, that if God does indeed turn out to be God, it is God that God will turn out to be.

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI reportedly stated on September 14, 2012: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe in one God, the Creator of all men and women. What about the God of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Daoism, Baha’ism, Shinto, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, etc.?

Dr. Kenneth G. Lucey, Religion Professor at University of Nevada, will be the moderator. All are welcome to this free event to be held at SRUMC, which will take questions from the audience also.

SRUMC, whose tagline is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”, which is “rooted and grounded in love” and whose website states:”God is doing amazing things in and through SRUMC”; was officially chartered in 1989. It also runs a faith based preschool and Dawn M. Flower and Becky J. Stockdale are the pastors.

The United Methodist Church must find an alternative to divestment from Israel

Bishop defies Church to perform gay marriage

Methodist church investigates pastor who conducted same-sex wedding

HRC Arkansas Works to Create Safer Worship Spaces for the LGBTQ Community

N.C. Methodist Church Marries Same-Sex Couple in Defiance of Church Doctrine


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Artificial Intelligence will have to learn like the rest of us

Interesting idea in the tweeted article:

It would take far too long to program every speech thread required for normal human conversation, so machines will have to ask the right questions when faced with uncertainty, and learn from the human answers.

That sounds great. But what about morality. Can a machine learn right from wrong? Or decide whether or not to save a child or a bumblebee from a natural disaster? I’m not sure. Part of the answer, I think, depends on whether or not AI would have some kind of soul or higher consciousness that transcends its circuits. Before we say that it doesn’t, it’s probably best to just say “we don’t know” and leave it there.

Myself, it seems like our car and computers have a personality of their own. Sure, I’m probably just projecting my own thoughts and feelings onto the machines… but … they are just organized energy… and so are we. So can we really be sure?

Something for future philosophers and, perhaps, social rights activists to ponder down the road.

–MC

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