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Tit for Tat – One silly scientific claim gets an amorphous religious response

Many scientists do not seem realize that they are influenced by a tremendous bias having to do with two related ideas: The principle of parsimony and  Occam’s razor. Basically, the bias prevalent among scientists today is: If something can be explained with less, this is better than using more.

Cartoon about a fortune teller contacting the ...

Cartoon about a fortune teller contacting the other side. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a way I can understand this. Consider the sham fortune teller who is dead wrong with his or her prediction so creates all sorts of ad hoc explanations to try to explain their goof. But in another way, I think this reductive bias can lead to problems, especially in the area of mental health.

I have discussed the topic of science elsewhere and really don’t feel like going into it all again. A lot of effort usually gets met with blank stares. So I’ll just link to my entry about science at earthpages.ca and add the following quote which doesn’t really solve the problem of making religious experience scientific, but does point out that the current scientific attitude is based more on fashion than fact.

The medieval formula ‘philosophy the handmaid of theology’ and the associated idea of theology as ‘the queen of the sciences’ are seldom taken seriously today…Yet neither philosophy nor science have ever refuted the claim during the past seven hundred years. It has been dismissed by fashion, not by reason. If God is, and is our ultimate end, then the science of God must indeed be the queen of the sciences.¹

¹ Source, and a few more paragraphs explaining what this quote is about: https://javipena.com/2015/04/29/theology-the-noblest-science-thomas-aquinas/


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Forget loving the alien… AI raises new questions about consciousness, the soul and love

Back in the 80s David Bowie’s song, “Loving the Alien” anticipated an idea which would become more mainstream with the proliferation of specialty TV and radio channels: Would it be possible for a human being to fall in love with an alien?

Today’s hot question again reflects pop culture and recent tech. Aliens are old hat. But computers, well, that’s a whole new vista. We’re seeing a lot more stories about the possibility of artificial intelligence possessing actual consciousness. And sci-fi movies and novels about human beings and machines falling in love are on the rise.

Whether or not AI really possesses consciousness is something we may never know. One could say that AI is just organized energy. And so are we. Therefore both have consciousness created by our respective degrees of energy organization.

Others, usually religious people, insist we have souls but machines do not. And the soul, they say, is the true center of consciousness. So soulless machines simply mimic consciousness.

But how do these religious believers know that God would not bestow souls on machines?

Can religious traditionalists be 100% sure?

Artificial Intelligence (John Cale album)

Artificial Intelligence (John Cale album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we look into the human body, it really is an electro-chemical apparatus. Those nerve impulses scientists are always talking about, well, they are transmitted through electrical changes within the body.

So fear not. If you happen to be falling in love with your computer or talking car, you just might not be a social misfit compensating through imaginary love.  And even if we never know for sure, the future no doubt will see closer links among men, women, and machines.


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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.

The following 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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