How on earth has a thread on communicating with god, religious brain circuits, super beings and their worldly concerns, or finding moral values in anarchic nature gotten so weird?
Religious threads tend to do that.
I bought the book that was mentioned. Personally, not overly impressed. I find myself skating over whole paragraphs of hand-waving of the sort BrentGolf dismisses as pseudoscientific. And he's right. The authors conveniently mark these out by starting with 'we believe that', 'we suspect that', 'it seems likely that', etc etc. I've got nothing against hand-waving per se, but it's frustrating to see so little experimental data and so much opinion. Science isn't about what seems likely. It's about what fits the facts, and hasn't been disproved by experiment.
Making things worse is that the authors don't seem to be very good at actual experimental design. For example, early on they describe making people meditate for 12 minutes a day, giving them memory/cognitive skill tests before and after. Since the results 'after' are better, they conclude that it's the meditation what done it. Unfortunately they had no control group. They should have had another group of people sitting quietly for 12 minutes, or perhaps going for a walk around the block; something other than meditation. Ideally, they should have had a third group of people who did exactly what they normally did, with all other aspects of the experimental protocol in place (tests, consultation with the experimenters, etc). The point of group A is to find out how important the meditative movements/sounds are to the effectiveness of the ritual, and the point of group B is to control for the well-known effect whereby people always improve their results simply because they're part of an experiment.
On the questionnaire experiment, where they are gauging religious attitudes, I wanted to scrawl "conclusions not supported by data" all over their research paper. They say:
"I wanted to know how tolerant people were when they encountered individuals with different religious beliefs ... we discovered that nearly 30% of those queried had difficulty accepting others who held different religious beliefs. In fact more people were willing to marry someone of a different race than someone with a different religious orientation".
They then quote the actual questions.
Are other religions correct, even though they differ from my own?
Would you marry someone outside your religion or spiritual belief system?
Would you marry someone who does not share your racial or ethnic heritage?
The first problem here is that the possible options are "definitely agree", "tend to agree", "tend to disagree", "definitely disagree". One slap on the wrist for the fact that answer categories do not make sense in the context even of these three questions (never mind the other however-many). Questionnaire design is incredibly hard, and this is just pure sloppiness.
Second problem is that, if someone accepts a specific religious doctrine, then by definition those doctrines which are in conflict with it cannot be "correct". A monotheist could not truthfully say that a polytheistic religion is also correct. However, this is not the same thing as accepting the person who holds those conflicting beliefs as a human being deserving of respect, fair treatment, etc. Similarly, just because you would choose not to hitch your wagon to someone you know has a radically different outlook on life doesn't mean you'd give them an impromptu lecture about the fires of hell.
I had to switch off at this point to do some deep breathing exercises and let my sphincter unclench.