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Pretending to Believe?
Posted: 14 May 2009 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 14 May 2009 01:15 AM

. . .
So the reason the brain imaging folks don’t get the difference between knowledge and belief may very well be that there is no difference, at least as far as the brain is concerned.

Just keep in mind that current imaging techniques are fairly new and that a lot of analytical testing will be needed before truly useful and reliable information about subtleties of individual human brains will become available. And we’re talking about a subtlety here.

Imagine the kind of information that would be available to an alien race of creatures, even if they’re amazingly brilliant, by measuring light intensities on Earth from a distance. Sure, they might be able to make some valid broad generalizations about the activities and habits of humans, but it would probably take them a while to figure out how our stock markets work, or that personal computers are primarily tools of the porn industry.

All I’m suggesting is that we exercise caution rather than jump to conclusions completely beyond our ken.

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Posted: 14 May 2009 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Salt Creek - 14 May 2009 10:50 AM

I think the place where the rubber really meets the road for “belief” is with matters like “brand loyalty”, “buyer’s remorse”, and “morning-after syndrome”.

I think that what is being bandied about in studies of so-called “religious belief” falls under the rubric of “intimidation” and/or “brown-nosing”.


In other words, if I’m reading you right, believers are deeply invested in their “beliefs” whether they truly believe them or not—they’ve gotten hooked on the kool-aid.

Byron

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Posted: 14 May 2009 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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SkepticX - 14 May 2009 02:26 PM
Salt Creek - 14 May 2009 10:50 AM

I think the place where the rubber really meets the road for “belief” is with matters like “brand loyalty”, “buyer’s remorse”, and “morning-after syndrome”.

I think that what is being bandied about in studies of so-called “religious belief” falls under the rubric of “intimidation” and/or “brown-nosing”.


In other words, if I’m reading you right, believers are deeply invested in their “beliefs” whether they truly believe them or not—they’ve gotten hooked on the kool-aid.

Byron

I just think we should stop talking about beliefs, and start talking about investments. Put the fucking money where the mouf is.

I mean, assigning something from some MRI to the activity of “belief” is not doing that. Either the plane flies or it doesn’t. It can fly badly, and still limp back to the airfield so that somebody learns something. The MRI stuff is, how you say, a bunch of shit. It’s like MRI imaging of someone listening to a symphony. Only there’s no symphony. Just a “phony”.

People who are delighted with this kind of “research’ are also delighted with research that shows nine out of ten dentists recommending Dentyne chewing gum for their patients who chew gum.

The reason that people want research to show that “belief” is really happening is that those same people are worried someone with equally-strong beliefs is going to want their head on a pike. Believe me, they know what they’re talking about. And why.

They are scumsucking charlatan shitbags, but that is not our lookout.

[ Edited: 14 May 2009 10:41 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 14 May 2009 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Isn’t Sam Harris involved in this sort of brain activity mapping?

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Posted: 14 May 2009 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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wahoo:Isn’t Sam Harris involved in this sort of brain activity mapping?

Yes, wahoo he is. And I would venture to guess that the data derived from this particular fMRI experiment has more import to those involved in the neurosciences than someone like the Salted One. However, I would also venture to guess that the reason Antisociald. posted this info. in the first place was to show that Mr. Creek was wrong in his previous statement that all believers are just pretending to believe, when the data supports otherwise: that some people are not pretending to believe in god’s existence; they truly DO believe he/she/it actually does exist.

Can you say male primate posturing?
Antisocialdarwinist: “Ha ha! I’m right and you’re wrong Salt Creek!”
Salt Creek: “Who gives a flying fuckshit in hell about this fluff-stuff anyway.”

Personally, I can see some practical applications to this technology—and it’s an ‘f’’ as in functional M (magnetic) R (resonance) I (imaging), not the older MRI machine. It’s a new toy for neuroscientists. Let them play… they might invent a better lie detector to aid in criminal investigations or find better ways to treat broken brains.

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Posted: 14 May 2009 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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wahoo - 14 May 2009 04:44 PM

Isn’t Sam Harris involved in this sort of brain activity mapping?

You’re asking a question you obviously know the answer to, so I take it you’re trying to say that something about it surprises you.

Are you surprised to see that not everyone agrees with Harris’ neuro-mission, which any decent tribe would do? Or are you surprised not to see Harris typing up a storm on this forum, attempting to crack the world-renowned barrier (unknown-zone and Salt Creek being perhaps the most vocal) against his research progress and success?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
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Posted: 14 May 2009 08:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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Unknown,

I know what fMRI is.  I don’t know to what extent Harris is involved with research in this field. 

I am a bit surprised by your (and Salt Creek’s) reaction though.  It’s a test, with uses and limitations, like any other type of physiologic test.  Why the rant?

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Posted: 14 May 2009 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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isocratic infidel - 14 May 2009 08:39 PM

Can you say male primate posturing?
Antisocialdarwinist: “Ha ha! I’m right and you’re wrong Salt Creek!”
Salt Creek: “Who gives a flying fuckshit in hell about this fluff-stuff anyway.”

You misspelled the first instance of the word, “an” in your signature (“IF Science is and “ism” it’s an IS-ism”), which is like wandering around in public with your fly open while making outrageous claims about how clever you think you are.  Which makes you look ridiculous and completely invalidates your opinion.

The study was relevant to something we talked about, so I posted it.  Had it shown that Salt Creek was right about believers pretending, I would have posted it with a good deal more glee because it would have made “believers” look even more ridiculous than they already do.  Like pointing out that they were wandering around with their flies open.

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Posted: 14 May 2009 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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There are certainly people who pretend. If I wanted to get away with awful deeds, I’d become a priest. Yes, even post-pedo scandal. It’s still too easy to do the communing with the divine shtick while being a scumbag of any variety or degree.

[ Edited: 14 May 2009 09:33 PM by Argo]
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Posted: 15 May 2009 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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wahoo - 15 May 2009 12:52 AM

Unknown,

I know what fMRI is.  I don’t know to what extent Harris is involved with research in this field. 

I am a bit surprised by your (and Salt Creek’s) reaction though.  It’s a test, with uses and limitations, like any other type of physiologic test.  Why the rant?

Some of the limits seem not to be apparent until you start to disassemble certain words. Words such as faith and belief tend to describe little more than illusion. I don’t expect you to agree with that opinion, wahoo. But consider how faith-based and belief-based opinions get formulated and are maintained in people’s heads. Such an opinion may tend to arrive “ready-mixed” and semi-permanent in a person whose intelligence is limited, but what about someone such as you or any of your friends and colleagues? A faith-based opinion for such a person can be a lifelong struggle. Even through the course of one day, it can seem to hang on to reality with a variety of hooks, changing, searching, clinging, letting go. You know as well as I do that it’s not easy maintaining consistency in one’s faith in what can’t be seen or heard—only felt. To believe something is for this reason a very different thing from knowing something, and a momentary snapshot of your brain is not necessarily informative regarding any subtlety whatsoever.

Words describing intangible concepts tend to be unduly idealistic, in the sense that a word such as believe only represents an approximation of actual, real-time mental processing. The mental process behind it is partly or largely hidden from view of any given subject/believer or scientifically-oriented examiner. Such words/concepts are by definition slippery, otherwise they wouldn’t be considered abstract or intangible. The essentially subjective nature of our mental operations leave investigators with flawed information because verification is elusive.

I’d love to see a new type of lie detector reliable enough to be useful in courtrooms. Maybe such an invention is possible. What I fear is that brain-scanning technology will yield such amazing results that its users will overshoot its valid use. People, certainly including those with M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, like being certain. We live in a yes/no world much of the time. I appreciate your describing fMRI as a tool with limitations. Maybe I’m worrying too much, but I doubt it. I fear that not everyone in your field shares your skepticism. If a scientist tells a reporter that he knows where in the brain a religious person’s beliefs lie, that frightens me. Why not equivocate just a bit? Why not express strong doubt for a few years or decades until mountains of peer reviews from a variety of fields have arrived on the scene?

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 15 May 2009 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Analyze the studies and then describe the difference between a person who is being sincere about a statement where validation is possible, as opposed to being sincere about a statement where no validation is possible.

What you may decide, in the latter case, is that all that sincerity, plus a shiny coin, will buy both of you a gumball to share. Take turns chewing, and try not to get it in your hair when passing the wad back and forth using only your tongues, in a manner of speaking.

A while back, a not-stupid theist who calls himself Parable here tried to deconstruct the notion of sincerity. There was a lot of wasted motion.

Lie detector tests work (to the extent they work at all) because other evidence is available. We don’t really convict or absolve anyone on the exclusive basis of a polygraph. They’ve gotta be in the interrogation room for some other reason, like the way people denounced one another to tribunals during the French Revolution.

In the context of taking religious nuts seriously (for that is all they really want - other than to tell nonbelievers what’s wrong with them), bandying about an MRI scan is a way of hooking people who know nothing about science but take it seriously (i.e., they “believe” in science). I bet they even “sincerely” believe in science. And that’s what troubles me more.

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Posted: 15 May 2009 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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Salt Creek - 15 May 2009 11:25 AM

Analyze the studies and then describe the difference between a person who is being sincere about a statement where validation is possible, as opposed to being sincere about a statement where no validation is possible.

What you may decide, in the latter case, is that all that sincerity, plus a shiny coin, will buy both of you a gumball to share.

I couldn’t agree with you more. What has me concerned is that plenty of gumballs will be polished to a bright shine and sold to the public, even if such findings amount to utter absurdity. And they will be absurd.

I have no way of knowing what sort of bullshit artistry will result from fMRI inventiveness of interpretation. I suspect that religious studies will not be a lasting fascination to many neuro-folks other than Harris. What else will come of claiming to have successfully objectified the inherently subjective? Today, that’s an unknown, worthy of great skepticism.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 15 May 2009 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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unknown zone - 15 May 2009 11:56 AM

I have no way of knowing what sort of bullshit artistry will result from fMRI inventiveness of interpretation. . . .

A couple of things that come to mind are amazing advances in:
- Political election strategy
- Marketing
- Salesmanship

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 15 May 2009 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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unknown zone - 15 May 2009 11:56 AM
Salt Creek - 15 May 2009 11:25 AM

Analyze the studies and then describe the difference between a person who is being sincere about a statement where validation is possible, as opposed to being sincere about a statement where no validation is possible.

What you may decide, in the latter case, is that all that sincerity, plus a shiny coin, will buy both of you a gumball to share.

I couldn’t agree with you more. What has me concerned is that plenty of gumballs will be polished to a bright shine and sold to the public, even if such findings amount to utter absurdity. And they will be absurd.

I have no way of knowing what sort of bullshit artistry will result from fMRI inventiveness of interpretation. I suspect that religious studies will not be a lasting fascination to many neuro-folks other than Harris. What else will come of claiming to have successfully objectified the inherently subjective? Today, that’s an unknown, worthy of great skepticism.

Based on this argument we ought to worry about quantum mechanics being real science because of all the woo woo people come up with using it.  Face it, Salt sincerely believes that the only real science is what he does, and is jealous of the funding fMRI researchers get.

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Posted: 15 May 2009 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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burt - 15 May 2009 12:24 PM

Based on this argument we ought to worry about quantum mechanics being real science because of all the woo woo people come up with using it.  Face it, Salt sincerely believes that the only real science is what he does, and is jealous of the funding fMRI researchers get.

Not any more jealous than I am of Hollywood A-list producer/directors who make a far better living than 99.99% of scientists of any stripe. When someone like Burt is a capable mathematician in his twenties, and burns himself out on acid in his thirties or forties and ends up shilling for pseudo-science like “consciousness studies”, we just see the dry husk of an academic hack trying to hang on…

We do not worry about quantum mechanics being “real science” because of loci such as the electronics industry, where A-list directors also make a better living than eggheaded academic hacks.

Burt wants to hop on the bandwagon of publishing that took off with “The End of Faith”. The remainder shelves of bookstores are full of that crap, and there are few blockbusters. But burt is capable of writing only leaden prose and leaning on the reflected glory of Doris Lessing and Neal Stephenson, and needs a ghost writer in more ways than one. Think you’re going to be on the A-list, Burt? We know you have confidence in yourself. But you should be making nice to people who can write.

[ Edited: 15 May 2009 09:06 AM by Traces Elk]
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