Re: Debunk All Religiosity Equally (D.A.R.E.)

From: M. E. Smith (
Date: Sun Jul 08 2001 - 06:20:16 MDT

Re: Debunk All Religiosity Equally (D.A.R.E.)

J. R. Molloy wrote:

> You may be right. Getting rid of religiosity (I.E.,
the most
> regressive force now operating in society) may
require more
> drastic measures.Here's some relevant material along
> lines.

> Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology
of Belief
> Andrew Newberg, Eugene D'Aquili, and Vince Rause
> Ballantine, New York, 2001. 234 pp. $24.95, C$37.95.
> ISBN: 0-345-44033-1.

Arrg. Where to start?

It's very wierd (to me) that you even brought up this
book in this context.

You're argument has generally been that all religions
are bad and
should be wiped out (through force?), and then you
turn around and
recommend a book which presents "mystical experiences"
in a positive
light, revealing how they have their basis in actual
in the brain.

The book in question is in the same general genre as
Austin's "Zen
and the Brain".

Revealing that mystical experiences occur because this
or that
section of the brain temporarily does this or that
unusual thing
DOES arguably "debunk" CERTAIN aspects of CERTAIN
"religious" beliefs,
but it just as arguably ALSO does REINFORCE OTHER
aspects of OTHER
"religious" beliefs.

This tends to "debunk" the premise of "Debunk All
Religiosity Equally",
but that should be obvious. (Would you propose to
attack all
philosophies equally? How about economic systems; are
they all
equally bad?)

The book in question ("Why God Won't Go Away..." =
WGWGA) reveals
how under certain circumstances (meditation, etc.)
certain subsystems
of the brain temporarily "shut down" (and some others
work more
actively), and some of the subsystems that "shut down"
are associated
with defining the border between "the Self" and the
rest of the
universe. The authors propose that this explains why
the subject
experiences "oneness with the universe", etc, yadda

What is important to realize is that the brain, in a
very real sense,
defines our experience of reality. All of our
experience with "reality"
is mediated by the systems of the brain. That the
brain can be in
different "states" at different times is obvious; what
is not obvious
is why one "state" should be considered "a more
accurate representation
of reality" than another.

Obviously, SOME states can be argued "a less accurate
than others (death; sleep, etc.); but the kinds of
altered states that
are the focus of WGWGA involve heightened awareness of
improved abilities, greater senses of well-being, and
other things
that extropians should find desirable.

The fact that, in these same experiences, the sense of
"Self" is
radically altered does not obviously relegate such
brain states to
the category of undesirable dementia. The notion of
"self" is really
a problem logically, as this list frequently
demonstrates, when the
subject of "uploading", et cetera, come up.

Are our hearts part of our selves, when they can be
replaced with
artifical pumps? Our lungs, are they part of
ourselves? We need them
to live, but then, we also need all the plants out
there that produce
the oxygen our lungs breathe, and we don't usually
think of THEM as
part of our "self". We can't live without our local
star, the sun,
(yet); is it part of our "self"? We can live without
our left hand; is
it NOT part of our "self"? Just where does our "self"
end and the
rest of the universe begin?

(Perhaps you should add "the Self" to your list of
useless hypotheses
in your signature line.)

Thus, "unusual" brain states in which the boundaries
of our "self"
are radically altered are not neccessarily "less
representations" of reality. Perhaps they are like
different but
equally valid reference frames involved when doing
simple analyses
of the kinematics of playing tennis on a moving train,

The "usual" sense of self no doubt won out in a
Darwinian sense
because it drives us to actions which ultimately
result in more
offspring, but then, obviously, so does the "usual"
state of our sex

However, on this list, not less than Mr. Max More
himself has
expressed the desire to be able to temporarily turn
off his sex drive,
a desire I fully understand. It would be nice to be
free of the
whole darn tormenting thing.

It is arguably a central premise of certain religions
that it is
nice to be rid of "the whole darn tormenting thing"
that is our
sense of being a separate "Self", and that furthermore
freedom is possible.

I put it to you that the findings of the authors of
WGWGA support
this bit of "religiosity". Therefore, your mentioning
of this book,
in the context of "Debunk All Religiosity Equally", is
wierd to me.

I admit that the book in question ("Why God Won't Go
Away") is
annoying in the sense that it frequently goes out of
its way to present
its findings in the language of Western religion (the
title being an
example of this), but I assume you actually did more
than read the title.

SAMANTHA ATKINS: I, like you, find the notion of
"taking drastic measures"
to drive out from society memes as fundamental as any
related to
"religiosity" a starkly frightening one, bringing to
mind book burning
and concentration camps. The last time I mentioned
this on the list,
I was shouted down. I have concluded that this list
will always be
a haven for the rabidly anti-religious, and have
accepted this flaw,
and hardly evey post, but just lurk. Other than that,
it (this list)
is an excellent source of ideas, provided you are
willing to skim through
the redundant repetitions and other muck. This list is
a useful filter.

It is funny (to me) that this argument about religion
recurs on a yearly
basis on this list. "Methinks he doth protest too much."

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M. E. Smith

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