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June 28, 2011


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"Why? Why is religion an apparently universal feature of humans and the cultures we create?"

Another answer would be that many people intuitively sense that there is more to existence than is apparent from the materialist line of inquiry.

Here's the bottom line, Churchless - your religion is predicated on the belief that consciousness is wholy generated and contained inside that fine ivory box a.k.a. "the cranium." Ironically, core findings of the most emperical of your scientific disciplines is indicating in rather certain terms that this CANNOT BE THE CASE.

Meanwhile Homo Scientistic continues to descend along a sad inward spiral, its collective trajectory traced on Facebook by a billion personal altars. Because when Nietsche said that God was dead, he really only meant that the starring role was being allocated to a new set players. But make no mistake, the franchise is still very much alive.

Don't worry though - when it comes to evangelists, you'll always be one of my favorites.

Religious belief is the default human condition. What takes courage, effort, and determination is going against the religious current that sweeps the vast majority of people into a faith-based ocean.

I think mystics would agree but would clarify that the real 'current' is non-denominational. True believers - whether at the altar of science or religion - are swept away by their own inner helplessness, by a tsunami of thought they can't control, by an inability to ever simply remain in stillness and in the here-now, by an enduring existential angst that no material discovery or religious dogma will ever allay. The "courage, effort, and determination" to reform oneself and swim against this riptide is the real beacon of hope.

Brian from Colorado, if you put something in ALL CAPS, it must be REALLY IMPORTANT. So tell me: what is the scientific research that proves, as you said, that it "CANNOT BE THE CASE" that human consciousness is confined in "the cranium"?

I'm curious about the specifics of what you're referring to. Perhaps you're right. Perhaps you're wrong. We'll never know if you don't share the details of what you mean. Talk is cheap; facts are more difficult to come by. So...facts please.

Well Churchless, I rarely use ALL CAPs. And see what happens - I'm immediately mocked for it! And now who knows what obloquy will result from my egregious use of italics! : )

Anyway, you and I have touched on this topic before. I recall you even said that you took a peek at a book I once mentioned (Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness). And I submit to you that physics is indeed the king of empirical sciences - to paraphrase departed evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, all the other scientific disciplines have "physics envy".

BTW, nicely said, Dungeness

Brian, I've read Quantum Enigma. As I recall, it's one of quite a few books that attempt to make a connection between human consciousness and quantum phenomena such as non-locality.

This is interesting stuff. Also, speculative. That's why I didn't think that your CANNOT BE THE CASE was justified. Much better to say "possibly could be the case."

As noted in a recent post about subjective and objective reality, it's easy to mistake our subjective beliefs, hopes, preferences, and such for something objective.

Of course, sometimes a phenomenon that starts off subjective, as an intuition, hunch, or the like, is proven to be objectively true. So subjective and objective aren't dichotomies; they're part of a sliding scale that varies continuously.

Keeping an open mind is important. But too much openness lets a lot of crap in. It's a matter of balance.

I'm very much open to the possibility of consciousness being more than just physical goings-on in the brain. However, I respect reality too much to mistake my own thoughts in this area for really real reality.

In all my occult adventures and groups,
I have never seen consciousness out
side the brain.

Consciousness does not appear to be
the water the spunge soaks in.

Whoa. As that book makes clear there's nothing speculative when it comes to the scientific truth of the participatory aspect of consciousness at the quantum level, and the authors also go on to make it clear that what we see at the gross material level is naught but a seamless extension of that finer realm.

Now what it all means is anyone's guess, but it sure indicates that there's something more to consciousness than a bunch of electrochemical sparks locked up tight in a bone box.

Brian, there's no agreement about what quantum mechanics means, only what it does. New Scientist recently had a piece about the different philosophical interpretations of quantum mechanics. "What you look for is what you get" does seem to be true. But why and how this happens (or if there is a why and how) is unknown.

The traditional "Copenhagen" view is that there is no reality until a measurement is made. Makes sense. Reality will look different to different forms of consciousness -- a wonderfully churchless perspective. See:

Religious belief as being an evolutionary creation may be true. That's what Arthur Janov of Primal Therapy fame thought. So did Marx, essentially. "Religion is the opiate of the masses." Janov even argued that the development of the cortex was only to prevent us from feeling pain lodged deeper in the brain, in the limbic system. He is a die-hard materialist, as opposed to that of many 'post-primalers,' who found themselves, after they got rid of their core pains, with a greater appreciation for life and spiritual considerations.

But it doesn't matter.

I say there are no true 'beliefs', and Seng Tsan's advice, "cease having views" is perhaps the best practice, which is no practice. There is no true 'faith' in some thing either. I agree both are consolations for the ego, which is dead already. Trust in the heart, imho.

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