The End Of Faith, Or The End Of Hate, And Fear?

Total Posts:  1453
Joined  22-01-2005
20 February 2005 05:54

Ray, you said, “you can not “love thy neighbor as thyself” any more than you can orgasm your neighbor as yourself.”  A nice rebutal of that over used cliche often muttered as the foundation of christianity.  I guess you and your neighbor could mutally orgasm each other and in the same sense you might learn to mutually love your neighbor as well, but that generic expression of “love” for your neighbor (all mankind) is just as pointless as “fear of the lord is the beginning of love.”

I strongly agree that psychology, as a science, got off on many a wrong foot - and we are still feeling the effects of those errors.  However, your further explication of the nature of consciousness as investigated with today’s tools and gadgets, gives us a promise of a much better future in actually explaining some of our behaviours.  Have you heard of the work of V.S. Ramachandran?  I watched a NOVA episode a few years ago where he practially explained “religious ecstacy” with an analogy on certain brain seizures and their impact on the patient.  The episode was on a 2001 series “Secrets of the Mind.”

Also, about your claim that we can only assess the nature of consciousness by taking the whole body into account and not just the brain, led me to recall the work of the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1940s-1960s).  His investigations into the nature of perception forced him to conclude that the use of the word ‘consciousness’ as referring to the “product of a brain” was an erroneaous assumption that somehow allowed us to proclaim that there is such a thing as ‘mind’ (in line with Descartes’ (1640) notion of “a thinking substance”). Merleau-Ponty preferred to say “the conscious body” intimating that consciousness was necessarily the activity of a whole being and that to work from the assumption that it was exclusively a brain phnomenon was to get off on the wrong foot.

In a non-scientific sense, the word ‘remember’ is often defined as a capacity for a brain to re-access (like a computer) previous events that are stored in its “memory.”  However, if one takes the word seriously, what it suggests is that in the case of ‘remembering’ the brain is reversing the normal inputs of data from the sensory organs to the brain by sending messages backward to those same organs in order to reactivate a memory - hence the word RE - MEMBER.  So when one gets a visual memory (of a face) the brain is actually sending particular messages (a person’s name) back into one’s optical nerves and in essence it is the eyes (like in a dream) that help to fix this re-membered vision.  What this suggests if that it is a symbiotic relationship with the brain and the whole body that act to create that activity we call consciousnesss.

This kind of new idea has immense consequences for defining common terms such as ‘self’ and ‘mind.’  The odd thing may be that ‘mind’ is really a verb (as in , “will you mind the store for me while I’m gone’) - but when referring to ourselves, it is the action of how the brain “pays attention to” the sensory perceptions of the whole body including emotions, intuition, intellect. etc. and how this attention plays out in the actions of the person in question.  Undoubtedly, the brain is the central processing unit (for lack of a better term), but to assume that “everything important happens in the brain” is to adopt an extreme position.  I think that this sort of mind-body convergence is the ultimate place where scientific research will find the most productive results - and in synch with some of Sam Harris’ conclusions perhaps Buddhism (or Buddhist practices)will be vindicated by science at some time in the future.

I have never taken a course in psychology so perhaps i’m off in a different kind of wonderland here, but these are just my intuitive feelings about the whole field.


Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
20 February 2005 08:02

Advocatus Diaboli:

Sorry about the Budwiser but I have none to give because I hate Budwiser,…err,but that’s another rant.


Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
20 February 2005 11:57

Has anyone ever noticed that people of faith only have it for the return that they may receive. Billy Graham’s faith would be well deminished if the faithful focks had no money to send. Those who send the money think there is a reward-a cure for their addiction or forgiveness for their past sins. There are not many selfless christian like people in reality.

Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
22 February 2005 04:31

>>>Getting kind of chummy aren’t we?

Hi Ray,  You wrote “Dear” in your post for me. (not one post here, at this board, included that word as a greeting)I thought you were using satire, considering the topic, the joke about the Hallmark Card, etc. So I responded,  with dearest, kind of one uppin’ ya. (it was fairly funny)

Not only that—-as you know from your psych studies, what others “read into, or project"onto words, and their intent, is an important factor. Anyone can use the word “dearest,” to mean they value another.  We can use that word, when speaking to a child, an elderly person, a friend, a family member, a patient, EVEN, a stranger. (some people, even talk to their pet, using the words “my dearest little Lassie.”)

The Budweiser thing, was a joke as well, from a commercial, (it was a “play” on words) about someone saying they loved someone when all they really wanted was their Budweiser, hence, they said it, for a self gratification reason only. It seemed another fitting “joke,” considering the topic. (I’m used to being the only one who laughs at my jokes btw grin I don’t like Budweiser either, I’m really not a drinker.


Just a comedian. wink

Moving on-

>>I have read and studied much in the area of psychology. (end)

Had my face in a few psych books a time or two, as well.

>>>I think that you can see from what I said above that I don’t think much of the idea of showing or practicing love. (end)

That seems a little confusing, considering some comments you made in an earlier post, but I think it’s the terminolgoy. I’ll keep pondering, what you shared though.

I’ll check out the book you mentioned, thanks. You made some great points, many I agree with, and admit, they are most interesting. The few points where I differ, a bit, I’ll touch base on, in another post, soon. (too many points to tackle in just one post)

What you said here though (below) really grabbed my attention, and would like to touch on this area, for now.

Quote, Ray >>>Treatment is now chemical in nature and drugs or behavioral therapy are used…

Yes Ray, I’m well aware of this. (I have friends, who work in the field of mental health, also a relative who was the head of an MRI dept. and, I’m aware of the dynamics regarding behavioral therapy, plus, I read from time to time. wink (even hi-jacked the discarded JAMA’S grin from the MRI Chief, which btw, bored him, about that time in his career, go figure))

Sadly though, not everyone can afford medicine, nor the behavioral therapists fee’s

It seems you’re saying, that science can, and will someday, make a “love pill” of sorts?

If that’s what you’re saying, I see area’s that would need to be addressed. Just a few, to start. (in no particular order)

testing-efficacy, (waiting period )

Ethics board (waiting period)

Affordability of drug (probable waiting period)

Murphy’s law (waiting period wink

(the obvious, “others”)

Main point- - - Waiting.

The “rapture” issue discussed with Champion, has that “waiting period.”

Medical discoveries, (science) also, has that “wating period.”

So we wait, both sides of the coin, so to speak, science, religion.

What do we have, until then?

The “Now”

The now of hurricaines, earthquakes, disease, crime, “freak accidents,” etc.

Still, science holds out “hope”, religion, also, holds out hope, via way of rapture, resurrection, reincarnation…

Now I see science, and religion, as strangely, in the same boat. Maybe, not so strange. (they are not enemies, at that juncture. They are united in a sense) (??)

The BIG question, for many, is “what is life about, why are we here,
what happens when we die.”

So I see your point, that “love” is not the answer to all of life’s questions.

But I suppose, it “could” be, on a “spiritual level” (for lack of another word)

I just don’t know, how one could put that under a microscope.

(Some friends, years ago, lovingly (chemically wink nicknamed me Kermit, (from the Muppets) because I am a curious critter, I don’t envy anyone getting involved with my posts)

So I have much chemical- compassion for you Ray. grin

Found this quote on the web…

“Yet our deficiencies in love are only another grim expression of selfish DNA.”

What do you think about that quote Ray?

May you have a great, chemical balanced day!





PS We both mispelled Budweiser! That speaks volumes.

Total Posts:  3255
Joined  24-12-2004
22 February 2005 05:17

[quote author=“Anonymous”]Has anyone ever noticed that people of faith only have it for the return that they may receive.

What I find far more notable (and far more status quo) is the fact that they only apply their alleged faith very selectively . . . almost as if it’s being used ad hoc to justify their unwarranted beliefs, but not genuinely embraced as the virtue they allege it to be.

Oddly enough it seems the faithful don’t really seem to put much more stock in faith than we skeptics—they only seem to think, generally, that it only works when it’s attached to their favorite religious franchise.


Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
22 February 2005 06:29

Walking away from my cradle “faith”, which I was academically schooled in for 16 years and practiced diligently for 50 years, was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had.

The first biggest load I shed was the necessity of judging others according to the precepts of my church.  The second and most enduring load I shed was that I could not love my god without a constant background fear of his arbitrary and vindictive reprisals for transgressions, even if I had not yet committed them.  The third load was having to believe what was unbelievable.  For example, how could a god of infinite love keep a soul in hell suffering infinitely?  Inflicting such suffering is hate, not love; and besides, if god were so mad at us, he would cease to think about us and we would just cease to be.  Poof, no us, no hell

Without a hell, there was no need for the mediaries (priests, rabbis, mulahs, ministers, etc) who would run interference with this arbitrary, vindictive god; hence no real need to me for organized religion, unless I wanted to be with the people and participate in the rituals.

To be honest, walking away from such deeply ingrained “faith” was frightening at first because of the concern for my immortal soul.  But now I would never give up this freedom to really love god and all his creation.

I try not to judge those who are bound in fear-based religions because I have been there.  However, I do see as Sam Harris does, that these beliefs are leading us to serious irreversible consequences, possibly to WW III.  God help us. 

Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
22 February 2005 08:36

Hey Advocatus,

I hope that’s a better salutation.  I really was kidding with the dearest thing.  Dear Whoever is just my usual way of starting.  Now that you mention it, it does seem a bit much.  I guess I am just too old school in my ways.  I actually did think that you might be putting me on and that is why I responded with the chummy line.  I guess we both sort of misread the other. 

My response to the Budweiser ( I before E except after C or as sounding as A as in neighbor or weigh—- or in Budweiser I guess) was also a joke I was also trying to poke a little fun at my sort of long-winded response.  My drinking is usually limited to a glass of wine (usually Merlot) with dinner.

I totally agree about the waiting period problem because efficacy and safety demand it.  I think many who have great hopes for stem cell research have not taken this into account.  The people of California may get very ticked and disillusioned with science because of the grand promises made in order to get that funding resolution passed.

I really don’t think love is the answer to any of life’s questions because there is no way to determine what love is.  The best one can do is to say it’s a feeling but feelings are not answers they’re feelings.

As for the big questions like “What is life about?” or “Why are we here?” or “What happens when we die?” I think the only sensible answer is “I don’t know.  Life could be about nothing, there might be no reason we are here and when we die we might just be dead, the end.”  There is not enough data to answer these questions and there may never be.  Considering this I recommend just making the best of what is available to you now and enjoy the experience as much as your brain chemistry will let you.

“Yet our deficiencies in love are only another grim expression of selfish DNA.”  I Love (tongue in cheek) this quote.  Many years ago I read a book called “The Selfish Gene” written by Richard Dawkins that pretty much showed that this quote says it all.  It’s another book I highly recommend.

Thanks and I hope your brain chemistry continues to produce a harmonious interaction with your environment.

Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
25 February 2005 15:03

Hi Ray…not much time to be on line for awhile, (at least for posting) but I did promise to touch base with you, on some of your other thoughts.  (reply, may be slow in coming, and excuse the spelling, dashing this off)

>>>I don’t think you will ever catch the rabbit of un-changing, enduring unconditional love. (end)

2 min. or so, after posting,I realized, that “rabbit,” was not the best word choice. (but I couldn’t edit)

To rephrase-To meet those, that already have that “type” of love, and to be that type, also. To a “degree,” I am, moreso, than years ago. (and that’s without use of chemicals wink Yet far, from the measuring stick.. to die, for an enemy.The change, due, imho, to an “Aha”, seeing us (all) as equal in value, at different stages on our journey, (judge nothing before it’s time) and not feeling superior, judgemental. There was nothing I “did” to get the “Aha” moment, so I cannot brag. (would that show up on a “machine?”)

Having had some time to meditate, ponder on this unconditional love subject, this example came to mind, where I think we “already” see this unconditional love in operation.

Think for a moment,  about parents, who value, care deeply for their little baby “Billy.” They nurse him to health, when he is ill, they smile proudly, still in awe, about this new little man. They attend school functions, take him to appointments, teach him to drive, and hope for his future. They worry, as he grows older, wondering where he is, who he’s with, when he’s coming home, is he safe, etc.

Billy goes “bad.” Ends up in prison. A horrible crime! The parents are shocked, filled with grief, over their loss, yet they know society must be protected from him.

But is their love for him gone? No. They think of him often, they visit the prison, they take money, clothes, fresh baked goodies, etc. They still glance at his picture, hanging on their wall at home, they long for the next visit.

Other parents, given the same scenerio, would dis-own the child, son, daughter.

Short of a brain injury, (etc.) these parents continued to love. (value)

So we see, love was not conditional. These parents, are one example (one of many)  of un-conditional love. Their love was not changing. It was the same love they always felt. It was enduring.

>>> It is now obvious that the brain is a biochemical machine that works with and at the same time responds to the endocrine system to produce human consciousness, emotions and understandings. (end)

Ok, for discussions sake, this can be our foundation of sorts.

>>> As I see it love is the physical response of our brain and endocrine system to our environment.

How would an “Aha” fit in there? The phrase “He had a change of heart?” He is a changed man. How is this chemical, in nature?

Or the man, who wrote the song, Amazing Grace. (using this example, because it’s a well known one, other examples, could apply here, as well) He was not so much interacting with his environment, but reading a text, something “clicked” for him, he saw men as equal, and he soon afterwards, abandoned his participation, in slave trade. (could we say, there is an external, and, internal “environment?”)

If a young couple,(in “love”) got stranded in a sub-freezing blizzard, (environment) would they suddenly stop loving each other? We have too many, far too many reports, of self sacrifice, “other focused” acts expressions, to prove otherwise. But have a stab at it Ray. wink

>>>It is a subjective “feeling” that can not (yet) be physically shared with others (end)

I suppose “shared” would need defined. (yep, I’m a stickler for definitions, though I’d never ask anyone to define the word “is.” wink

Is it really subjective? (are there different types of love?) Isn’t there an agreed upon, sort of universal accepted definition, of love? (though here, I can see room for differences, when looking at some tribal practices, putting bones thru your childs nose, because you love them, etc. but even that, would need to be broken down, analyzed, first)

It seems we do “share” feelings though. If someone comes in to work Mon. morning, in a grouchy mood, (dis-positon) a really, really, grouchy mood, they usually share it, with anyone within ear shot !

Notice the word dis-position. Interesting. (position)

If one is “feeling” generous, they give, they “share” with others.

Same with hate. (although hate can stay hidden, someone can smile to your face, but inside, they hate your guts)  Can love, stay hidden as well? If it did, would it really, be love, for I’m thinking love MUST express. Of all the feelings, it seems love operates more as a “verb, kinda.” More, by expression, rather than repression.

Aggressivenss, a feeling, or more of a trait? And if a trait, is that inborn, can it be learned, can it be repressed?  If it could be repressed, for how long?

>>> I think many humans strive to achieve the feeling of love because it just plain “feels” good and the reason it feels good is because the conditions that bring it on generally have survival value.

Well, we can’t have that! Feeling good, lol. And to heck with survial too.

Survival, “only” for self? Thinking of Ghandi here, did he love those he sacrificed for? He was willing to die. You may be meaning, survival for “someone” anyone. In that case, I would understand your thoughts, and agree. But Ghandi’s body, probably didn’t “feel”  good, after starving, so one can hurt in their body, but feel good in their “brain?” What about the mind-body connection here?

A parent, shielding a child from a bullet, yet knowing they will both be killed, cannot be expressing this action, for survival. They shield the child, to protect his view, but not his life. Nor the life of the protector.

>>>I think that there is scientific evidence to suggest that many mammals experience “feelings” and that these “feelings” have evolved because they have survival value. (end)

Could be, (shrug) but I do KNOW, that all my pets loved me! (at least, I wanted to believe they did grin  So then, my love for the animal, was assurance, for their survival?There are always accidents, etc. Where would this fit in with your conclusions? We “love” even knowing beforehand (accidents) that survial is not always the final outcome.

>>>In any of the systems that operate in the human body things can go wrong and this can lead to problems. Cell growth and replacement is necessary and fundamental to survival but it can cause scaring and loss of function and if it gets out of control (cancer) it can kill the organism. In the brain things can happen to cause brain cells to produce a brain chemistry which can generate aberrant behaviors and feelings in humans.(end)

Have to agree there. Some things, that cause (and effect) these things to go wrong, are due to poor diet, stress, inward type,  air, water pollution, outward types, sun exposure, other toxins, bacteria, virus, etc. Yet, even though one could minimize many of these stressors in their daily life, stay realtively healthy, for a long period of time, they could still end up getting hit by a car, and die.

>>>Today we call these behaviors and feelings symptoms of mental illness. Because science has produced new information and understandings of the brain a condition like sever depression is no longer seen as laziness or poor attitude and schizophrenia is not considered to be demonic possession except by the most uninformed or superstitious among us. Because of their ignorance of what the brain is and how it works humans of the past had mistakenly assumed that almost all individuals (it was obvious in extreme cases that this was not true) had total control over all their behaviors and if an individual behaved inappropriately they did so willfully or because some sort of evil spirit had taken them over. Today because of advances in psychology we know that the causes of behaviors and feelings in humans are the result of an organism’s genetic make up interacting in a complicated way with the environment. (end)

Not really off topic, but what are your thoughts Ray, about John Nash? Supposedly, he was schizophrenic, but recovered ,without the use of meds. Mis-diagnosis? Fluke? (I know he took the meds for a time period)

I’ve also read reports, of those with a similar, or same diagnosis, but they revovered,“simply” by strict food (diet) change. You think so? (foods, are chemicals, and have fewer side effects) That type of “treatment” is a slower process though, and we know how fast paced our society has become. (and yes, it’s extremely sad, how the mentally ill patients were treated at one time,shudder)

>>>Today it is no longer appropriate treatment to analyze how much a patient hates their mother or father. Treatment is now chemical in nature and drugs or behavioral therapy are used in an attempt to alter a patient’s brain chemistry and thereby alleviate the symptoms of illness.  (end)

Here’s where I disagree a bit. With pills, you can “chemically lobotomize” a patient, “contain” their behavior, but that’s a little like just putting the pit bull, in a cage. They can STILL, hate their mother or father. Even science can prove hate, (negative emotion) has an adverse effect upon the body. On top of that, the “trust issues” of the patient, are not dealt with, exclusively, with the use of meds. Do we just make “zombies” of the worst cases where hate (unforgiveness?) has a “play” in the “whole” matter? We can, we do, it helps protect the rest of society (most of the time) but how is that helping “the patient?”

>>>Look at all the people that were once in love but are now divorced.

Maybe they weren’t really in love. Or maybe one, carried the love part, the other, was in the relationship for other reasons, “different types of needs.”

Though divorce causes a lot of pain, there are times (abuse) when this must occur. For the victims saftey, children, etc. The other, could still Love (absence of hate, wishing them harm) the abuser, but the trust issue, makes it impossible, to stay married.

Other valid reasons, cause divorce, yet, many remain friends. That value, love, was still directed towards the other, even though they could not harmonize goals, structures, etc. People hop into marriage, way too quicly anyways.

>>>Anyone who has maintained a long term relationship knows how much work and effort it takes to do so. Relationships based solely on the feelings of love will not last because the brain will become habituated to those chemicals and the feelings will fade and/or change. (end)

Thats why I’m asking about “types” of love. A chemical rush, of course, would ebb, and flow, change. But we see with the “Billy” example, for some people, the love did not fade, or change. You may though, say that a thought, must proceed a feeling. The thought, produces the chemical, which gets expressed “as” the feeling?

Maybe that’s why we say “Hold that thought!” grin

But do you really “need “to"think” each time you see your “dearest” wink cat, do you have to consider, at each viewing, about” if” you love it, each and every time? If you say yes, it’s no wonder people are tired all the time, they are thinking way to much! (lol)

>>>The condition of loving someone is just a temporary internal state produced by brain chemistry. (end)

But what about “Billy?”

(which reminds me Ray, have you seen the movie, “What About Bob?” one of my fav’s!! Rib-hurting-laughter-inducing. (Starring Bill Murray)

>>> You can not “love thy neighbor as thy self” any more than you can orgasm your neighbor as yourself.  (end)

I’m pondering this. Some parts, along the lines of…is an orgasim, just genital, or in the “mind?” I’ll have to get back on this one. (I don’t have all the answers…ah shucks, you found me out)

>>>Love is not a solution to any of the social, political or economic problems humans have. (end)

One mind, might help. grin

Love, (value) wouldn’t put a little crimp, in the greed department? The prejudice dept? Theft dept? The lie dept? Trustability dept? Hmm, I dunno Ray, you might wanna to rethink this.

>>>It might help an individual cope with some of life’s problems at a personal level but beyond the individual it has no power or effect.

It I don’t hate my neighbor, it could indeed, go beyond individual, it would “spill” out, via my “actions” towards others. Is hate kind, forgiving, thoughtful, helpful, considerate…? Of course, one can “fake” they love their neighbor. But they couldn’t have a real, honest, open, mutual flow, kind of relationship, in that mode.

Oh, and if science could make that “love pill” and make some in, large quantity, then the US, could drop some “love juice”, on the muslim fundie’s, then there’d be no problem, right?

So love, would OVERIDE belief?

Gosh, what would that cost?

One last thing (since I can’t post often, for awhile, I’ll drop it all here, in this post
grin take your time.

What are your thoughts on this? (below)

The “Chinese Room” argument
UC Berkley, John Searle


In the case of “Old Stump”, described by James, a background personality was apparently unaffected by an illness that produced concurrent delirium in the surface personality.

Such cases, appear to strain conventional theories of overall brain function.

from the Esalen site,

Inadequacies of Contemporary Mind/Brain Theories

Enjoy your Merlot!


Interested in others thoughts along these lines, as well, though I can’t respond to all, I would read them.

Total Posts:  69
Joined  12-02-2005
07 March 2005 05:13

Helo Bob

Thanks for the nice reply

1. Yes, you can lead your neighbor to the cup of orgasm but he/she can never drink of yours. I think this best says what I wanted to communicate about love. It’s an internally experienced thing and extremely difficult to communicate and impossible to share except in metaphor.

2. Yes I am slightly familiar with the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. His ideas came to my attention in a philosophy class, (another path I tried mistakenly thinking it would lead to truth about the universe), investigating ethics and the nature of consciousness. The views of Plato, Descarte and Kant were contrasted with Merleau-Ponty’s, B.F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud and Abraham Maslow. It was interesting to contrast a scientific view with a philosophical one and showed clearly that psychology and philosophy were not much different (in the 1960’s) in the nature of evidence in support of their investigations and conclusions.
3. Great progress has been made in the last few decades into the nature and origin of consciousness. I would recommend the following books

The Astonishing Hypothesis by Francis Crick (now deceased) of Watson & Crick DNA fame.
How The Mind Works by Stephen Pinker
How Brains Make Up Their Minds by Walter Freeman
Consciousness An Introduction by Susan Blackmore
Mind A Brief Introduction by John Searle

These are all based on some of the latest research, excellent reads and Blackmore and Searle both do an excellent job of exploring the mind body connection. The ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty show up several times in Freeman’s book.

My current understanding and conclusion about consciousness is that it is a constructed thing. The brain sort of constructs reality, consciousness, memories, and many other things from the information coming in through the senses. I think that the body must be taken into account in order to understand how the brain makes its constructions because the body contributes not only sensory data to the process but also has an influence through the chemicals (like hormones) it produces. It is a truly inter-active process with the brain affecting the body and the body in turn affecting the brains processes. I therefore agree with your suggestion that consciousness is an “activity” that results from a “symbiotic relationship” between brain and body. I am not too sure that I would agree that the “whole body” gets into the act though.

4. You bring up memory and all I can say is “Boy what a topic.” In addition to the books cited above I would recommend

Language, Memory and Thought by J. R. Anderson
Working Memory by A.D. Baddeley
How Brains Think by H.W.Calvin

Memory and how it works is such a big topic that I could spend hours and
hundreds of pages telling you what I have discovered (mostly through reading over the years). I will say that I find the idea of the brain sending messages back through the sensory system quite unsupported by the evidence. The evidence seems to me to indicate that memory like many things in the brain is a construction. There has developed two schools of thought as to how and from what memories are constructed in the brain. There are the Cognitivists that say information is stored in selective patches, like places on a map (a sort of memory
bank), and then retrieved and put together (constructed) to form what is
commonly called a memory. Then there are the Pragmatists that say there is no such thing as a memory bank and that information is stored as a continual set of synaptic connections and chemical interactions and that a memory is constructed from an assemblage of these connections and interactions. I consider myself mostly a Pragmatist.

5. I am a great fan of NOVA and do recall the program you have cited. Vilayanur Ramachandran is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California. His main area of interest is the phantom limb perception phenomenon. While doing this research he claimed to have discovered evidence for a “God Module” in the brain which could support the conclusion of an evolutionary mechanism for the development of religion in humans. The idea that the brain was somehow involved in the production of spiritual experiences was not exactly news in the world of brain research. It had been known for some time
from the study of epilepsy that even non-religious epileptics experienced
profound religious experiences more than the general population. This was especially true in the case of temporal lobe Epilepsy. Other scientists who are investigating these phenomenons are Michael Persinger at Laurentian University in Montreal, Andrew Newburg at the University of Pennsylvania, Pehr Granqvist at Uppsala University in Sweden and
Dr. Mario Beauregard at the University of Montreal. This whole area of research is very controversial. Some researchers, like Persinger, have come to the conclusion that the temporal lobes of the brain are responsible for phenomenon like UFO sightings, the experiencing of ghosts and haunting, out of body experiences, near death experiences and even the experiences of religious figures like Joan of Arc, Mohammad and the apostle St. Paul.

I am sorry I took so long to reply I have been very busy lately and also have had many letters to write. I also wanted to cite sources that could be looked up and investigated by anyone that cared to. I had to go to my personal library, the internet and the public library in my area to get some of the references given above. Unlike some of the people who post to this site I just don’t have the kind of memory that can pop up names and titles of books at will. This is probably one of the reasons I find the Pragmatists view of memory so appealing.


Total Posts:  1453
Joined  22-01-2005
07 March 2005 17:34

I guess you and I are off on a tangent that might seem irrelevant to others?  I would have to agree with you on siding with the pragmatist camp when it comes to explaining human cognition.  I actually read all of Merleau-Ponty’s books and many others from those who have adopted or have criticized his work.  I became quite taken with his philosophy of perception in the course of that period.  What I found most interesting is how he would concentrate on a sense organ that most of us consider minimally affective and would bring out the importance of it.  I enjoyed his explication of how the skin plays a formative and vital part in our cognitive lives, especially from the time of birth to the time we learn to walk. He claims that it is the skin that initially suggests ideas to us that form the core of later, more complex concepts freedom (from restraint - even as one emerges from the womb), heat/cold (as one emerges from womb), and later concepts such as soft/hard, up/down, etc., are all initially validated for the infant through primarily skin-informed sensations. For Merleau-Ponty the skin (our largest sense organ and most intimate) is the primordial way in which the world enters into us and the way that we learn to cope with the world. His idea of Flesh as a meaning informing medium was a powerful idea for me.

On the memory thesis that I wrote about - that the brain sends out the same data to the eye (when, for instance, the name “Oprah” is announced),  that the eye (or the whole optic nerve apparatus) had sent previously to the brain when a picture of Oprah was seen - is not a validated theory in cognitive research because it is just my own idea and has probably never been articulated (at least not since some neolithic person ‘coined’ the word “re-member”).  What I meant here Ray, was to try and make the state of dreaming more of a brain-body experience.  I was imagining that when we dream there is a sort of dance going on between our sense organs and our brain, and in the process stories get told as this dance unfolds in its own strange and unique way.  When we dream (while asleep) the sense organs are not really receiving any (or very minimal) stimuli - yet if a noise is heard or a warmth is felt, it is often accommodated into the dream.  I was thinking that when you and I are having a conversation about something abstract, (say, the Oprah program) - we are in effect sharing our dreams (while awake) through language. When you say “Oprah” to me, my brain shoots out the appropriate oprah stimili back to the optic nerve so that in effect I can visualize her as you speak.  I don’t think that I am actually “seeing her” in my brain, but that it is a dance (to the music of language) that my brain and my body play out - giving me my conscious experience of the conversation. I believe that this is a plausible theory of cognition - maybe I should talk to a PhD student in a neuroscience or cognitive philosophy department about it??  Maybe not?

Anyway, thanks for the list of pertinent reading material. I will certianly read some of your suggestions.  I’m acquainted with John Searle and F. Crick and have admired their work in other areas - so they will definitely deserve a reading.  The books on memory might also help to fill in the gaps of my general understanding.  It’s a real pleasure to have someone take a posting so seriously as to research reading material for the writer - thanks for your assistance Ray.


Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
07 March 2005 23:18

Interesting stuff on this post, even if we seem to have two different discussions going on. Quick response:

Idaho guest: Hearty congratulations on your release from the institution of religion - you served a long sentence, but at last you are free to enjoy your life. One thing I disagree with is you reluctance to ‘judge’ those who are in organised religions.

Being ‘judgemental’ is very uncool these days. Nobody is supposed to judge anyone else - it is invariably a negative thing. ‘Don’t be so judgemental’ etc. But if we don’t judge others and thier beliefs and actions, by what basis can we run our lives and our societies? If we accpet that we can’t judge anyone else, then we have no basis for our morality. Nobody can ever be bad or good, because those are judgements.

So this idea that it is not right to judge people is a load of bollocks (let’s see if Sam’s censor let’s that word through). In fact, in our everyday lives we judge people all the time, and anyone who says they don’t is not being honest with themselves. How can we have a debate about the validity of religion without judging the religious? Personally, I think anyone who believes in god is not very intelligent - there you go, I said it, I was judgemental, strike me down. And all the other secular thinkers who contribute to this website feel the same or similarly, otherwise they would not spend their time writing arguments that contradict what religious people say.  Howl in self-righteous indignation all you like, but deep down all you secular liberals out there think that religious zealots are crazy (i.e. not very smart). Am I right, or what?

Canzen: As one of the most thoughtful contributors to this website, the above also applies to you ( smile ). But your piece on consciousness was very good. I have long believed in the unity of ‘mind’ and ‘body’, an idea that goes back to my teenage years, when I was unfortunate enough to develop cancer. Thankfully, I recovered and everybody (including my oncologist) said it was because I had a positive mental attitude. This never really felt right to me, and one day I had an epiphany (...of the secular variety, I hasten to add), which was this: I didn’t recover because I had a positive mental attitude; I had a positive mental attitude because I was recovering. In other words, my body ‘told’ my ‘mind’ not to worry, all would be well, because it knew what was going on down at the cellular level. It sent a signal to my ‘mind’ to chill out. Of course, mind and body are the same thing, so I use these labels only to translate the expereince into everyday terms, but you get the idea. Incidentally, this epiphany came to me when I was asked to talk to a group of cancer patients about ‘staying positive’ - I felt like a real fraud, because this idea made no empirical sense to me from my own experience. Telling cancer patients to stay positive is an extremely cruel thing to do, because you are giving them the responsibility to heal themselves. If they don’t heal, they will feel like they failed, that they were weak. And all because our incorrect paradigm of ‘mind’ and ‘body’ leads us to an incorrect assumption of cause and effect. It’s the other way around, or more accurately, its a complex interactive system of feedbacks.

Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
08 March 2005 03:26

Hello All

[quote author=“Nietzsche”]
Personally, I think anyone who believes in god is not very intelligent - there you go, I said it, I was judgemental, strike me down. And all the other secular thinkers who contribute to this website feel the same or similarly, otherwise they would not spend their time writing arguments that contradict what religious people say.  Howl in self-righteous indignation all you like, but deep down all you secular liberals out there think that religious zealots are crazy (i.e. not very smart). Am I right, or what?

I think intelligence helps when it comes to seeing through the bull, but it is not a prerequisite.  Its easy for us as reasoning folks to stand up here on our hill and shake are heads in wonder at the huddled drueling masses below, watching while they do all their weird and worthless crap.  But the intelligence it takes to be an atheist is very minimal.  We are all born atheists.  Its only because of our intelligence and imagination that we are able to understand and invent those myths.  I’ll never forget my son at the age of 5, a few days after watching a show on volcanos, telling me that the scientists might be wrong and that the fire and lava could be caused by angry monsters under the earth.  He even went so far as to describe and draw them and hypothesize as to the source of their grudge.

We here come from one of two camps.
There are those who were raised to think freely by free thinking parents.  These minds were never brainwashed and clouded by convoluted myths and stories of eternal life.  They were taught to reason early.  Anyone with even an average IQ thrives in this environment.  They appear and feel more intelligent simply because their minds have been exercising with a full range of motion.

Then there is the camp where Idaho and myself come from. 
I’d say that what got me out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my mid teens was youthful angst . What kept me out had more to do with courage and an uncommon resilience to the pain of loss than intelligence (for example, I had to look up the word intelligence to know how to spell it).  I had friends who understood and shared my resonings and left the faith with me.  But they all went back.  It was amazing how quickly they went back to regurgitating all the nonsense.  Its hard to give up your family, culture and friends for the rest of your life.  But the hardest thing to do is to deal with death for the first time.

I dont know about any of you, but to me the thought of death and non-existence is maddening.  As shitty as life is, its hard to believe that its followed by something as shitty as death. The terror is almost unbearable.  Maybe I just got the news too late in life.

Total Posts:  36
Joined  07-03-2005
08 March 2005 03:40

That last post was from Tom (just in case this one shows up as guest also)

Total Posts:  2957
Joined  02-12-2004
08 March 2005 03:55


You make an interesting point about how we are all born atheists and learn to be religious. I also like your story about your 5 year old boy - if my kid said that, I’d say how smart he was.

But there’s a big difference between the creative intelligence it takes to dream up the likes of Harry Potter and the unquestioning stupidity that it takes to go on believing in him just because somebody in a funny robe told you to when you were a kid.

I may be a rational empiricist, but I can also appreciate art, literature, culture, music, nature and so on. These things can be beautiful when they capture or illustrate a certain feeling or emotion. But that’s it. They have no more significance than that and things start to get crazy when people choose to attribute more significance to them than they intrinsically possess. Your child’s drawing of monsters has meaning because it records for you the sense of pride you have in your kids development - but, left to our own devices, we humans have a dangerous habit of building myths around these symbols.

The ability to create these myths might be an essentially human trait (you’re not fully human unless you experience them), but that does not make them true. Far too many people have difficulty in distinguishing between the enjoyment of a myth for its ‘human experience’ qualities and the underlying validity of the myth itself. I guess lots of people just figure ‘if this religion makes me feel good, it must be true’ and never think about it again for the rest of their lives.

Not sure where I’m going with this….

Total Posts:  1229
Joined  22-12-2004
08 March 2005 04:24

I prefer to think of the religious as culturaly and and educationaly disadvantaged, this is because I am a politically correct liberal raised in the 60s by some rocket scientist parents.

It goes against my childhood teaching to call people stupid.

And as we can see here, some people eventually start thinking and wake up!

But it personally doesnt matter to me what everyone believes, as long as they are not following some agenda that will interfere with my rights or the survival of my species.  Once they cross that line into insanity, they are fair game.