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Vacation over — Oh well, I enjoy writing about psychology, spirituality and religion

Last night I was pooped and went to bed unusually early. Waking up unusually early, I felt it was a good time to update earthpages.ca. I enjoyed working on the above. As I research and revise these entries, I’m not only brushing up on my general knowledge but also on my ability to (hopefully) communicate fresh ideas to as many people as possible.


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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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So I guess I’m “uneducated” for believing in spiritual powers?

I usually don’t like the Huffington Post too much. The articles often seem sort of safe, mainstream and politically correct. But this article, well, I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it’s mostly about promoting a film, I’m not sure. If so, it’s a film I admittedly haven’t seen. So my comments are based solely on the article.

When I read articles like this I usually think skip it, it would take too long to critique. Too many reservations. And how much good will it do to write down my opinions, anyhow?

English: A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an i...

A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an infant as his parents look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So maybe I’ll just leave it at that. And if anyone wants to discuss this through the comments area, please feel free to do so. Every now and then I get tired of trying to dismantle a thick, brick wall.

If people want to believe that mental unwellness is predominantly some kind of medical ailment, let it be. I wonder, however, how many folks adhering to that belief will really get better. As one Catholic priest I discussed this with once said, “Satan likes to use psychiatry.”

Not that I want to get caught up in a polarized discussion between materialist psychology on the other hand, and uncritical Catholic orthodoxy, on the other hand. I think both perspectives could learn from each other. But unless I have totally misunderstood the intent of this Huff article, it seems to give emphasis to one side of the debate, which for me is inadequate.


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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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Chinese researchers conclude yoga benefits diabetes patients

Special to Earthpages.org

Researchers at China’s Binzhou Medical University, Xuzhou Central Hospital and Donghua University have concluded that yoga benefits adult patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), said to be one of most frequently encountered metabolic syndromes worldwide.

An abstract of the article “Effects of Yoga in Adult Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis” published online at Journal of Diabetes Investigation stated: “A meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the efficacy of yoga in adult patients with T2DM”.

Researchers (Jie Cui, Jun-Hong Yan, Li-Ming Yan, Lei Pan, Jia-Jin Le, Yong-Zhong Guo) summed up in this article accepted on June 29: Based on the evidence, yoga significantly reduces fasting blood glucose (FBG) levels and alters other significant clinical outcomes in patients with T2DM. These results support the idea that yoga-based training is a possible alternative exercise for T2DM management.

In this study, researchers performed a meta-analysis of 12 randomized controlled trials involving 864 patients in United Kingdom, India, Cuba and Iran to determine the effectiveness of yoga in patients with T2DM. The available evidence suggested that yoga can significantly decrease patient FBG, postprandial blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and increase their high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

Meanwhile, Hindu advocate Rajan Zed called the Chinese institutions looking into the efficacy of multi-faceted yoga among diabetic patients “a step in the positive direction”. Zed urged all major world universities to explore various benefits yoga offered.

Yoga, referred as “a living fossil”, was a mental and physical discipline, for everybody to share and benefit from, whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, noted.

Mr. Zed further said that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

According to US National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study”, about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self image.  Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.


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Time for “religion” and “spirituality” to bury the hatchet

When it comes to a God, religion speaks of a higher being that is distant from humanity, one that lives in what may be another world, such as heaven. Spirituality stresses that God is within all of us, and there is no separation between humanity and this greater being. (Source: Article in above tweet)

Every time I see this distinction I get the impression that the person making it doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

For instance, during Catholic Mass it might seem that some people woodenly go through the motions. To an observer they might appear to mumble words and sit or stand from sheer force of habit.  But a mere observer has no idea what’s going on inside their souls.

Speaking for Catholics, some of my acquaintances tell me about their ongoing personal experiences with God, graces, and the spiritual intercession of saints. God is very close for these Catholic churchgoers. Also, the belief about the Eucharist, which many Catholics receive daily, is that the heavenly Christ appears in the flesh, right here on Earth. And for many, that is not just the belief but also the inner experience.

Sometimes when I’m going to Mass and see some unhappy looking passersby near the Church, I’m tempted to say, “Hey Jesus Christ is arriving here in about 10 minutes! Interested?” But I don’t, of course, because I have a pretty good idea what the answer would be.

I bet if a full person, replete with head, arms and legs were to appear out of nothing and broadcast his showtime later that day, the venue would be packed with crowds overflowing out on to the street.  But because the Eucharist is a miraculous and subtle transformation/presence of inner substance but not of gross outward form, only some appreciate it, for whatever reasons. And I get the impression that most non-Catholics, especially non-Christians, just think the whole idea is silly.

Anyhow, I digress. The point is, it does no good to make a black and white distinction between religion and spirituality. Not only is it theologically misinformed but from my experience and from talking with other believers, it is misinformed on an experiential level.


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Another view of reincarnation

The story this tweet points to may seem convincing that the belief in reincarnation is real or at, least, something worthy of serious study. I agree that it’s an idea worth looking at. But I question how people interpret stories like these.

Reincarnation Parade in Hannover 19 August 200...

Reincarnation Parade in Hannover 19 August 2006. Infront of Hannover RatHaus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human beings are interpreting animals. Something comes to us, either from inside or outside, and our minds interpret what it means. I stress the word interpret because it seems many lay and scientific people, alike, tend to overlook this obvious point.

Okay, so we interpret reality. Fine. But how might that apply to the belief in reincarnation?

I’ve written about this over the years at Earthpages.org and Earthpages.ca in several places. So I’ll try to boil it down here.

Basically, we have no idea if the alleged memories, even if factually correct, are coming from a child’s past life. There are other possible explanations. Here are some, off the top of my head:

  • a dark or evil spirit who never was human knows about this data and implants it in a child’s head
  • a departed spirit our soul who actually lived a human life implants the data in the child’s head – but that spirit our soul differs from the child’s spirit or soul

These other explanations might sound far-fetched to some. But isn’t the idea of reincarnation just as far out?

I think so. — MC

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