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Theism/atheism debates

Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Tempo Gain » 25 Feb 2016, 12:47

Interesting conversation between two philosophers, one being Daniel Dennett.

https://ricochet.com/podcasts/is-religi ... sm-debate/
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Tempo Gain » 26 Feb 2016, 01:45

This book is getting a lot of press. Looks pretty interesting

Atheism has ancient roots and is not ‘modern invention’, claims new text
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Mucha Man » 26 Feb 2016, 02:34

finley wrote:
Tempo Gain wrote:This? Pretty interesting.

I wasn't aware there's still research activity on the subject, but it was originally discovered a long time ago when US researchers had a lot more leeway to do horrible experiments on mental patients (60s-70s). Some patient had electrodes implanted in his brain for some unrelated reason (possibly epilepsy research) and the medics were poking around in there. Stimulating one particular area produced "intense religious experiences", IIRC.

I don't remember the precise details - I did my degree 25 years ago.


“I get attacked by everyone,” says Patrick McNamara, associate professor of neurology at Boston University and author of The Neuroscience of Religious Experience. “Atheists hate me because I’m saying religion has some basis in the brain and fundamentalist Christians hate me because I’m saying religion is nothing but brain impulses.”

:lol:

It's definitely tough being a scientist, and I'm not being facetious.


Actually you should read the book. He doesn't say anywhere that religion is nothing but brain impulses.

In fact he argues that religious experiences are sui generis and a fundamental part of being human as they are literally built into brain functions. It's one reason he disagrees with people like Sam Harris who want to remove god from spirituality. Non-religious based spiritual experiences, as well as that cause by mental disease are either not as intense or as transformative.

This is a seriously well thought out book. One fasinating part is how he explains religion as useful for creating a unified highly functioning Self (which may be its evolutionary role). Despite what many atheists think, the parts of the brain where we experience religion and God are not the emotional primitive parts but those parts associated with executive function and the ability to form a coherent sense of self.

Again religioun may have evolved as a way to unify and focus the self (our sense of self is now consider a narrative we create out of possible selves; and think of how many religious figures speak of themselves as divided and conflicted before experiencing god) which would have made those early societies who were better at religion more organized and effective. Nowhere does he suggest this is always for the good: religion he states, is just as potent as helping unify a people for war as anything positive.

I'm about a third in. Brilliant book.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 26 Feb 2016, 15:20

Mucha Man wrote:One fasinating part is how he explains religion as useful for creating a unified highly functioning Self (which may be its evolutionary role). Despite what many atheists think, the parts of the brain where we experience religion and God are not the emotional primitive parts but those parts associated with executive function and the ability to form a coherent sense of self.


That's a scientific claim, so does he provide proof of that in the book? Secondly if that's a proven fact, does he have any proof that other powerful but non religious experiences don't show up with similar activity in that same part of the brain?
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Mucha Man » 26 Feb 2016, 15:50

BrentGolf wrote:
Mucha Man wrote:One fasinating part is how he explains religion as useful for creating a unified highly functioning Self (which may be its evolutionary role). Despite what many atheists think, the parts of the brain where we experience religion and God are not the emotional primitive parts but those parts associated with executive function and the ability to form a coherent sense of self.


That's a scientific claim, so does he provide proof of that in the book? Secondly if that's a proven fact, does he have any proof that other powerful but non religious experiences don't show up with similar activity in that same part of the brain?


This is a book for other scientists and religious studies academics not really a generalist tome. So yes everything is cited and he provides abundant links to other studies.

I should clarify that the limbic system is part of the whole religious brain circuit as obviously religious experiences can produce great pleasure.

As to the second question, yes. Non-religious but powerful experiences do not appear to have the same intensity and certainly not the same power to transform the Self and produce lasting changes to behavior. I haven't got to the chapter where he fully lays out the research however.
“Everywhere else in the world is also really old” said Prof. Liu, a renowned historian at Beijing University. “We always learn that China has 5000 years of cultural heritage, and that therefore we are very special. It appears that other places also have some of this heritage stuff. And are also old. Like, really old.”

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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 26 Feb 2016, 17:38

And what would an "obviously religious" experience be?

And is he / you implying that a non religious person who has close ties with family and a strong support group of friends who experiences high levels of personal accomplishment and actively tries to understand the world around them both scientifically and ethically, they don't have the same sense of self and behavior as the people who think God done it?
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Mucha Man » 26 Feb 2016, 18:21

BrentGolf wrote:And what would an "obviously religious" experience be?


An experience where you felt the presence of god for example and were filled with intense awe, joy, peace, love and felt a great expansion of your being, especially in the presence of a religious ritual or practice.

Check out James "Variety of Religious Experiences". Your question is frankly bizarre to me. What would be an obvious experience of falling in love? Or friendship. There are some pretty basic human experiences we take as starting points and religious feelings are one of them.

You would likely have no problem with a study on the religious experiences of epileptics, or those on the influence of lsd or peyote so why be coy now? People without mental problems have incredibly profound religious experiences. Anyone curious about the human condition should be interested to know why and how and what this says about us.


And is he / you implying that a non religious person who has close ties with family and a strong support group of friends who experiences high levels of personal accomplishment and actively tries to understand the world around them both scientifically and ethically, they don't have the same sense of self and behavior as the people who think God done it?


No. And you are conflating belief in god as the originator of the universe with an experience of god. Not the same thing. I am an atheist but I have felt the profound presence of god (I mean an experience that is only adequately described in religious language and that just doesn't feel like any other) on many occassions. It's one of the reasons I don't feel much affinity with the new atheism, though Sam Harris at least seems to have a fairly rich inner life.

In any case there is an interesting section in the book where he describes experiments using fMRIs to scan the brains of carmelite nuns reciting te Lords Prayer and non-believers recalling childhood rhymes and songs and memories. They aren't even close in intensity.

This makes sense subjectively to me, but also would seem to be confirmed by literature and art. I can't think of any writing on any human experience, outside of the early period of falling in love, that matches the intensity of recollections of religious experiences.
“Everywhere else in the world is also really old” said Prof. Liu, a renowned historian at Beijing University. “We always learn that China has 5000 years of cultural heritage, and that therefore we are very special. It appears that other places also have some of this heritage stuff. And are also old. Like, really old.”

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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby Mucha Man » 26 Feb 2016, 18:31

Parts of brain in religion circuit:

Amygdala and hippocampus and other parts of limbic system, the anterior temporal lobe, and the orbitofrontal, dorsomedial, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices.
“Everywhere else in the world is also really old” said Prof. Liu, a renowned historian at Beijing University. “We always learn that China has 5000 years of cultural heritage, and that therefore we are very special. It appears that other places also have some of this heritage stuff. And are also old. Like, really old.”

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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby BrentGolf » 26 Feb 2016, 20:12

Mucha Man wrote:An experience where you felt the presence of god for example and were filled with intense awe, joy, peace, love and felt a great expansion of your being, especially in the presence of a religious ritual or practice.


Don't get me wrong, I know what you would define as a religious experience. I guess I'm just asking you how on earth this was tested? The author / you are making clearly scientific claims, so are you also saying that we have hooked people up to electrodes or MRI scanners or whatever and studied them as they were "finding God" right there in the laboratory? I would imagine that is quite a rare thing indeed. Who finds themselves in the presence of God when a bunch of scientists are testing them?

How to re-create that for proper peer review I wonder... :ponder:


In any case there is an interesting section in the book where he describes experiments using fMRIs to scan the brains of carmelite nuns reciting te Lords Prayer and non-believers recalling childhood rhymes and songs and memories. They aren't even close in intensity.


No I wouldn't imagine they would be, but why does that matter to the initial claim you made?


What would be an obvious experience of falling in love? Or friendship. There are some pretty basic human experiences we take as starting points and religious feelings are one of them.


Yes they are basic and universal, but however you define them I promise it wouldn't repeatably happen in a laboratory. I don't think the moment we fall in love has been scientifically tested, and I don't think truly finding God has either.


You're doing the same thing that others have criticized Sam Harris for. You're using scientific words like: "Amygdala and hippocampus and other parts of limbic system, the anterior temporal lobe, and the orbitofrontal, dorsomedial, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices" and conflating that with science.
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Re: Theism/atheism debates

Postby MikeN » 26 Feb 2016, 22:35

Mucha Man wrote:
BrentGolf wrote:And what would an "obviously religious" experience be?

An experience where you felt the presence of god for example and were filled with intense awe, joy, peace, love and felt a great expansion of your being, especially in the presence of a religious ritual or practice.


That would be one type.

As would running through the streets screaming "Death to the Christ-killers", setting off a suicide bomb in the name of Allah, or cutting out a captive's heart at the top of a pyramid- speaking of the varieties of religious experience.

I wonder if the author has measured, for example, the feelings of someone who realises the truth of the Brotherhood of Man (or these days, the Solidarity of Humanity) after being exposed to the dream of the Great and Glorious Revolution?

Or that Hitler is the embdiment of the Volk, destined for Eternal Greatness? Or has dedicated themselves to the cause of ending the Subjugation of Women; the Liberation of Oppressed People of Color; of being willing to fight and die for the Basque Homeland; independent Kurdistan; Tamil Elam (the original suicide bombers)?

Another thing to remember about religions is that they themselves are the result of thousands of years of cultural evolution, and of constantly changing to adapt to new social, economic and political environments, with many failed varieties falling by the wayside, and the ones which survive do so by adopting new forms of belief.

And of course the side question, is any of this true?
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