h1

Spiritual Believers Don’t Understand Science – Part 6: Knowledge v Speculation

November 23, 2014

Scientists have two tendencies that confuse and infuriate believers in modern esoteric spirituality.

One is their apparently unshakable certainty about some matters.

The other is their tendency to suddenly declare I don’t know or We don’t know when challenged on some question.

The first horrifies believers because it looks like fanatical dogmatism. The only other people in history to appear so certain of their rightness were the inquisitors. The second looks like a pathetic back-down, making their initial show of certainty appear all the more laughable.

Scientist: Evolution is a fact. Humans evolved from earlier hominids. Believer: Oh? Well how did life start? Scientist: We don’t know exactly. Believer: HA! Science doesn’t know everything. Well I do know how it started. You see, you are infinite consciousness that is embodied in the space-time continuum through a process of quantum entanglement and non-local events…

The spiritual believer thinks that the scientist’s hubris has been exposed by their dogged questioning. It’s even quite fashionable for academics to join in with this misunderstanding. They are, however, unaware that science involves some methodological steps that spiritual people are loath to even contemplate — namely, scientists clearly distinguish between established knowledge and speculation. 

But they don’t do this in a black and white manner. Rather they differentiate gradations on a kind of sliding scale of certainty.

fadeFact — quite certain —  probable  — quite likely —  possible — unknown

Good science places each fact, piece of data, and idea somewhere along this scale, ranging from strong certainty to unknown validity. Certainty is represented here as dark, implying the weight added by repeated verification. Nevertheless, the lighter, more speculative end is where the most interesting and important scientific work occurs. 

Scientific knowledge is not there for scientists to passively sit on while smugly dismissing people’s spiritual beliefs. Rather, it forms both the theoretical foundation and the conceptual tools for scientific research. It is the platform from which scientific advancement arises. It consists not merely of facts but also theoretical ideas that have been confirmed and verified so many times that it would simply be a waste of time to re-test them. There is no need, for example, to re-test the chemical composition of water, or whether it might perhaps flow uphill. One can simply get on with planning the irrigation program.

The Problem

Spiritual teachers really do not like that dark end of the scale at all. They don’t like the boundaries it sets. They don’t like the way that those who are ignorant of its contents can be excluded from scientific discourse. They don’t like it when scientists mention facts that conflict with spiritual teachings. All their teachings — all of them — belong way up in the light, speculative end of the scale. And that factual knowledge stuff down the dark end sets considerable limits and prerequisites for speculation. They don’t like it at all. It hurts their ego and is bad for business.

But they do like the instant credibility that science is granted, and they want a bit of it for themselves. So they imitate scientific language and method. They make up their own rigged but official looking studies, designed “to prove” their pet theories. They plunder the language of science with the same kind of rapacity with which they plunder Hindu philosophy and indigenous cultures, for fancy sounding words and exotic concepts to distort and filter through their marketing department.

Spiritual teachers are ignorant both of the content as well as the sheer quantity of knowledge is down the dark end of the scale. They don’t realize how often their own teachings replicate well establish scientific knowledge of phenomena that have long been explained, and processes that have long been mastered. When challenged, portray their superfluous or spurious ideas as legitimate speculation (“we’re just saying keep an open mind, give the new paradigm a chance”). But thanks to their ignorance (or blinkered ideology) their work does not build on any factual basis and is therefore rendered utterly useless.

Louise Hay, for example, behaves as if our knowledge of human physiology is still in the state it was during the time of Christ. She drags her readers down into believing that what goes on under the skin is a vast inexplicable and unexplored mystery, where the demons and angels of negative and positive thoughts prowl. In fact science today is well equipped to check all of her unsupported assertions. Don’t expect to hear this from her though.

Science has of course advanced spectacularly during the last few centuries. But the only advances in spirituality have been improvements in marketing and packaging. Spiritual teachers want scientific status, but they don’t want the trouble that honest inquiry, fact checking and criticism bring. All I can do is suggest to their fans that they underline the speculations in the literature that their favorite teacher produces, and then go back and run another line through it if the teacher presented it as fact. If anything is left over, insert the necessary qualifying terms — perhaps, maybe, hypothetically, etc — into the factual statements of their favorite teachers, and see how it sounds.

Previous posts in this series (I’ve altered the title a little since it started) can be found here.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

What if Homeopathy Really Worked?

September 22, 2014

Here is a thought experiment about what might happen if homeopathy suddenly started returning positive results in research studies.

Of course, homeopaths claim that such results already exist, but, as the only thing homeopaths have ever tested positive for is rigging or misinterpreting studies, I will ignore them. (I have already looked into Dana Ullman’s “150 positive studies”, and found it was more like zero. And in Europe, homeopaths are lobbying the EU to exempt them from normal medical testing standards yet still grant them full medical status. Anyone who wants to claim that homeopathy is indeed proven can start by convincing these lobbyists that it’s safe to stop.)

Maybe the fairest starting point for our thought experiment would be to base it on a claim made by a well recognized homeopathic organization. How about the American National Center for Homeopathy….

In regular medicine, if you, let’s say, stop taking your high blood pressure medication, at a certain point you can be sure your blood pressure is going to go up, because there’s not actually any real healing that has happened. With homeopathy you can expect your body to actually heal.

So here’s our hypothetical scenario — taken directly from the NCH:

A study on blood high pressure returns positive results for homeopathic treatment.

Let’s go through this step by step. How was our study conducted and what is the homeopathic remedy for high blood pressure?

A quick check of a few websites reveals at least one thing that is surprisingly sensible, namely that many homeopaths also recommend dietary measures, regular exercise and stress management. (At least they have learned something from the “allopathic” medicine they so despise!) So these can also be included in the study:

homeopathy + related health measures for one group, and a (non-homeopathic) placebo + related health measures for the control group.

But before we go further, there’s another complication that must be considered. Homeopathy, it is often claimed, must be individually diagnosed, case by case. Merely testing a single remedy the same way as one might test aspirin will result in a false negative for homeopathy because it “doesn’t work like that”. This is often used as an excuse for negative results, or to claim that homeopathy “can’t be tested”. But in fact this can easily be built in to the study. It just means that we need to add a step wherein patients are diagnosed and a suitable treatment prescribed. Read the rest of this entry »

h1

Why does the Left oppose criticism of religion?

August 17, 2014

It seems to me that the political left has generally got its thinking about religion badly muddled. Too often people on the left adopt the role of religious apologist, both attacking critics of religion and defending religion itself. I think they have misunderstood the nature of religious criticism; misunderstood the aim of religious criticism (namely a secular state in this case); and probably misunderstood the nature of religion itself along with it.

… 

It is indeed necessary when criticizing religion to emphasize that freedom of religion is a basic human right. It’s abhorrent, stupid and self-defeating, for example, to see all Muslims as potential terrorists. But the left seems to be so fearful of even appearing to make this mistake, that it ascribes any negative aspects of religion to fanatics alone, as if their religion had little or nothing to do with it.

This approach stifles an important debate about secularism: the separation of religion from the power of the state.

Such a broad accusation like the one I make here is in danger of being too vague, so for the sake of clarity and brevity I’ll focus on one example of what I’m talking about.

This article from Jonathan Freedland, a senior editor at the Guardian newspaper, deals with the Islamo-fascist group ISIS, (now calling itself the Islamic State). The headline and sub-heading explain Freedland’s intentions:

This Islamic State nightmare is not a holy war but an unholy mess

It isn’t religious zeal but the collapse of state power that makes the clash in Iraq feel like a return to the dark ages

It is a typical and convoluted piece of religious apologetics from the Guardian. And typical for the left in being swift to blame all conflict in the Middle East on the US and neo-colonialism, while denying that religion plays any role much at all. Rather than making excuses here, they should step back for a moment and look at the phenomenon of religion as a whole.

All the main religions of the world are a system of ideas that grant special status to some people, and negate the rights of others. While the majority of religious believers may not always abuse the powers their system implicitly grants them, it is still a readymade system that can be swiftly utilized by those who seek power over others

The sudden rise of ISIS is an obvious example of this. Cutting off hands, stoning adulterers, declaring war on Shiites, Jews and Infidels… Although their success has clearly been enabled by a power vacuum, they are religious in character from start to finish.  

Freedland, however, sees it differently:

Yet neat though it is to see return to holy war as the motif of our age, it might be wrongAccording to Toby Dodge [scholar of Iraqi politics], what’s driving IS, or at least making its phenomenal success possible, is not pre-modern religious zeal so much as a pre-modern absence of state power.

Let’s look a little more closely at the wording here. First, he implicitly accuses critics of religion (“enlightenment types” as he calls them) of resorting to “neat” or simplistic explanations. Well, in what way is an openly declared Jihad not a holy war? And the insistence on the term “pre-modern” is also rather curious. Who is Freedland targeting for criticism here? As if these “enlightenment types” are rushing to write off the whole of Islam a mere relic from the dark ages. As if criticism of religion amounts to nothing more.  Also, why not refer to “religious fanaticism” instead of “pre-modern religious zeal”?

But most importantly, it’s a false dichotomy. There is no reason for it to be either religious “zeal” or the break down of the state that has brought about the rise of ISIS. Could it be any more obvious that it’s both? But the whole point of the article to deny the obvious. 

And there is no reason why the collapse of law and order is necessarily “pre-modern” either, so why insist on it? We may find out when we read further:

The state structures of both Iraq and Syria have all but collapsed. The result is a power vacuum of a kind that would have been recognised in the lawless Europe of seven or eight centuries ago – and which IS has exploited with the ruthless discipline of those long ago baronial warlords who turned themselves into European princes.

Such is the fear of sounding like a bigot when discussing Islamic fanaticism that ISIS must be compared to “baronial warlords who turned themselves into European princes.” Why “European” specifically? Why not Chinese? Or, for heaven’s sake, the old imperial warlords of the Caliphate, who ISIS are so keen to emulate in word and deed?

And why specifically “lawless Europe of seven or eight centuries ago”? Doesn’t a more recent analogy spring to mind? Like pre-Nazi Germany, with German society standing for Iraq and Syria, and Nazism for ISIS.  The similarities and differences would be revealing if Freedland or Dodge would allow them. 

Nazism was hate-driven, with a racial/religious hierarchy built in to its ideology. The same with the ideology of ISIS. Both of course are deeply anti-semitic and equally committed to the obliteration of their rivals as well as their enemies.

One important difference, howener, is that ISIS comes complete with a highly detailed and ferociously strict set of pre-installed rules to govern every aspect of the daily lives of its subjects, carried over directly from the Koran. It was a bit different with Nazism. While being broadly determined by Christian anti-semitism, Nazism was in fact rather vague about most matters of public policy, especially at the start. Hitler often decided policy disputes by letting the various factions fight it out for a while and then simply back the strongest, subordinating policy to political expediency. This would be unthinkable for the ISIS leadership. All the rules are already there in the Koran (more or less), commanded by God, and rolled up and ready to go. This fact is too uncomfortable and inconvenient for Freedland and most of the left. The totalitarian nature of these rules needs to be criticized and openly condemned, regardless of whether or not the left deems Muslims likely to enforce them or not.

The point of all this is not for people like me to smugly gloat over the “pre-modern-ness” of Muslims, as Freedland seems to think. There is an important argument to be had here, about the separation of religion and state. I don’t care how “moderate” or trustworthy any member of any religion is. The most effective way to prevent the spread of ISIS and their followers is to close their door to state power and nail it shut with clearly worded legislation.

There would be no need to decide who is moderate and who not. How absurd. But it would mean reducing the powers of all those who have gained it by virtue of their religion. The only religious “moderates” who are upset by this idea are the ones who are in power (permanently installed in England’s House of Lords, for example), or who benefit in other ways (the state-collected Church Tax in Germany, for example). And of course it would anger those groups who are not currently thus privileged but would like to be — like religious fanatics, for example! 

The left has failed to comprehend this and has thus ceded important ground in the struggle for civil rights. And, incidentally, once you agree to grant “moderate” religious institutions a hand in government, you have simultaneously granted yourself the power to decide what a “moderate” is – a back door to the very kind of neo-colonial arrogance the left is trying to avoid.

Update 18 Aug ’14: Perhaps I should have referred to “many in the secular left” rather than just “the left”. I do know that not every single person on the left shares the perspective of Freedland, but I didn’t feel the need to add other examples because I’m not “accusing” the left holding such views — many hold them quite openly, especially at the Guardian. I am simply arguing with those who do hold such views, and arguing that we can avoid looking like bigots by focusing on separation of religion and state, for all religion. That also allows us to avoid getting tangled up in the question “Is it religion or politics” like Freedland does. If it happens in public and affects others, it’s politics. Religion is often politics.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Dr Rudolph Tanzi’s Rainbow Bridge to Quackery

April 22, 2014

As mentioned in an earlier post, Deepak Chopra and neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi have written a book claiming that you can “use your thoughts to alter your biology” including your DNA. What’s more, you can even pass on your spiritual virtues to your off-spring via epigenetics. It all disproves Darwin, apparently, and enables something they call self-directed evolution.

The human genome is set to be the stage for future evolution that we ourselves direct, making choice an integral part of genetics… 

Self-directed evolution is the emerging paradigm.

(Hmmm, I thought the whole point of a paradigm shift is that it happens fairly swiftly and is only clear in retrospect, but who am I to say?)

Customers can demand some good evidence for these claims, given that Tanzi (unlike Chopra) is a reputable academic with impressive credentials. (Dr Rudolph Tanzi is Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Deepak Chopra MD, is a holographic expression of the entire universe that is manifesting as a continuum of probability amplitudes for space/time events.)

cnn2Chopra & Tanzi display their Super Brains on CNN

Together, they claim that science is currently dominated by an “old paradigm” of genetic determinism, (which they characterize as the view that genetics alone determines behavior). This is not true — modern genetics acknowledges a vast array of influences on behavior. But whatever the case, let’s not allow that to spoil the story, because Chopra and Tanzi’s new paradigm has transcended genetic determinism and replaced it with…..

….Well……..Epigenetic determinism.

According to genetics, each individual gets to make a clean start at trying to make the best of their genetic heritage. The sins of the fathers are thankfully NOT passed on genetically. Nor, (according to the evidence so far), are acquired traits such as habits or learned behaviors passed on epigenetically either. 

But many New Agers believe that acquired traits are mystically transmitted via some kind of “genetic memory” in their DNA. They probably turn to Chopra and Tanzi (or the many other DNA-altering crackpots), hoping to update their genome, purge the past, and now, thanks to Chopra and Tanzi, to enforce their spiritual nutbaggery on subsequent generations as well, through the supposed power of epigenetics. 

There is no evidence for any of this…. unless Chopra and Tanzi can produce some. And who knows, maybe they have — they’ve already written a book about it (with an entire support program), called: 

Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.

brain

As mentioned in the earlier post on this, Chopra and Tanzi were roundly criticized by biologist Jerry Coyne. In response, Tanzi and his Super Brain appeared in the comments on Coyne’s article to defend his work.

So then — does he have evidence that thought can really alter DNA in controllable ways? Or that such changes, if they exist, can be passed on to subsequent generations via epigenetic mechanisms? And if so, will this enable self-directed evolution?

Or as one commenter put it to Tanzi directly:

Can you provide any kind of evidence that human thought can voluntarily influence gene expression, that this supposed effect is epigenetic, that it can be stably inherited and that it can be adaptive?

Tanzi’s answers were clear and incisive:

Typical of a professed atheist to only attack the person and not address the science put forward…

…It is you who is using the militant and fundamentalist religion of atheism to attack a fellow colleague unprovoked.

And your insults and bullying will not work here…you are accountable for your defamations of reputation and character. You cannot hide behind a website and assume you are immune to libelous behavior…

Man, this is a dark website! Rest assured…this is my last post. Over and out! Phew!

Of course, in true New Age style, after his “last post” Tanzi returned, possibly realizing that the only insulting comments on the thread came from a certain “Rudy Tanzi”; and that several of his critics were well qualified academics who had asked important questions.

Eventually after much evasion, complaining, insults, obfuscations, threats of libel suits, and hand-waving, he mentioned, among other things, a study on mice. Here, epigenetic changes relating to stress were inherited by offspring for a generation or two, before disappearing. Well and good. But making a grand leap from lab mice to humans — isn’t that rather a lot like the very worst of the “old paradigm”? And just because it works for stress in mice, will it also work for consciously directed thought in humans? Is it heritable by epigenetics? And if so will it be stable enough to eventually affect evolution?

Tanzi finally admitted he has no evidence for any of that…. “yet”. In his words:

So, no, we do not yet have direct molecular evidence of humans changing their DNA epigenetically in response to life experience and perceptions accompanied by biochemical and molecular genetic reactions…..

Uhuh, so all that stuff in the Super Brain Kit

USERS MANUAL
HARDCOVER BOOK, SUPER BRAIN
SOFTCOVER BOOK, SUPER BRAIN – THE HANDBOOK
SOFTCOVER GUIDE, SUPER BRAIN – GETTING STARTED NOW!
7-DVD LIBRARY
1. Super Brain (program DVD)
2. Super Brain Steps for Permanent Weight Loss
3. Your Super Brain & Your Money
4. Stop Worrying Now!
5. 10 Steps to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
6. Super Memory Now!
 7. Steps to a Super Soul
DIGITAL DOWNLOAD APP, BLISSFUL SLEEP

teaching customers how to

Use your brain instead of letting it use you
Create the ideal lifestyle for a healthy brain
Reduce the risks of aging
Promote happiness and well-being through the mind-body connection
Access the enlightened brain, the gateway to freedom and bliss
Overcome the most common challenges such as memory loss, depression, anxiety, and obesity

was just based on speculation? — Sure, what’s wrong with that?

Well maybe they could have could have chosen a title that reflected the reality of the situation a little better. Like maybe –

Super Brain: hypothetically Unleashing the possibly Explosive but so far purely speculative Power of Your presumed Mind to Maximize or at least minimally affect Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being if we ever figure out how.

So that’s what an “emerging paradigm” looks like. Impressive isn’t it. Especially when it comes from a Harvard professor. And that’s what a bunch of speculative bullshit looks like when it’s promoted by a sleazy hack like Chopra.

… 

And  finally, why are they so insistent about all this self-directed evolution nonsense?

Tanzi doesn’t seem to realize it, but his co-author has already been self-directedly evolving for some time now. That’s right, D-Bag Chopra is a certified Evolutionary Leader!

evoleadersEvolutionary Quacks & Scammers (Source)

Chopra and the other fine specimens in the picture are the herald of a future species of Quantum Humanity! Gaze in wonder upon people like Bruce Lipton, (cancer quack), Gregg Braden (cancer quack), Jack Canfield & The Reverend Michael Beckwith (scammers from The Secret)…. The list goes on.

And as always, once you start pulling on a thread of New Age Scammery, an avalanche is released. This Foundation for Conscious Evolution is a tax free religious foundation that rakes in about half a million dollars a year. Funny how such a highly evolved new paradigm remains true to the “old paradigm” of religious tax evasion. 

Perhaps Tanzi doesn’t realize it, but this elite cross-promoting network of scammers and cancer quacks will use his book as just another brick in the wall of manipulation and quackery that they are building around their unsuspecting fans/customers/victims.

And, incidentally, Chopra’s special evolutionary status was probably behind an earlier twitter message that he sent to his critic, the afore-mentioned Jerry Coyne:

twit 2Happy to give this joker Coyne some publicity -evolutionary maladapted Homo Erectus

That is more, I suspect, than just a random insult. Chopra really seems to believe he is somehow “more highly evolved” than the “maladapted Homo Erectus[sic]” Professor Coyne, and anyone else who has failed to develop their quantum consciousness according to God’s divine plan. It all sounds like a form of — I don’t know — epi-eugenics. He really seems to think he’s part of a spiritual master race from the future.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Finding “common ground” between religion & science by distorting both

March 17, 2014

I complained a lot in the previous post about religious apologists, without really spelling out exactly who I think they are or why they piss me off. So maybe this post will give a clearer indication of the kind of attitude I was complaining about. 

It’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago but didn’t post it for some reason. Maybe I kinda missed the deadline. Anyway, here’s my post for…um….. Christmas for 2011.

… 

Christmas is that time of year when sophisticated people harass Richard Dawkins without knowing why, and patronize Christians by telling them what to believe.

Here’s a fine example of this pastime from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, titled

Where there’s faith, so too doubt

–Humility is the mark of the true religious believer. The fundamentalist is corrupted by an assumption of superiority.

The author, sociologist Hugh MacKay, has decided that the best way to find common ground between religion and science is to redefine both in such a way that those who disagree with each other — be they Christian or scientist — are in fact fundamentalists.

Those who inhabit the remaining “common ground” (like Hugh MacKay for example) are humble. Humble believers know that their faith is by definition based on doubt; humble scientists are not certain of anything.

This accommodationist approach is extremely popular among academics at the moment. Although it’s well-intentioned, it is in fact arrogant, stupid, slimy, and condescending towards believers, and patronizing towards everyone else.

McKay’s tactic is to redefine faith by insisting that “true faith” is based on — of all things — doubt. Faith, he argues, is by definition something that we are not certain of, therefore “true” people of faith are also people of doubt.

Certainty denies the very essence of faith. It is the impenetrability of life’s mysteries that encourages our leaps of faith, not into the unknown, but into the unknowable. That’s why doubt is the engine, the oxygen, the essence of faith.

Without stopping to ask any Christians themselves if this is true, he barges on to insist that doubt is also the basis of science. Plowing on further he insists that fundamentalists are those whose beliefs – scientific or religious – are not based on doubt. Atheists are fundamentalist scientists who don’t doubt their belief in science; Christian fundamentalists are those who don’t base their faith on doubt. The middle territory, belongs both to doubting Christians (who obviously aren’t all that certain that Jesus died for their sins), and doubting scientists (who obviously aren’t all that sure whether or not they’ve split the atom). 

Bingo – Common Ground.

Let the atheists and the fundies carry on their ugly brawl while the true Christians and the open-minded non-believers can go off and enjoy their Christmas dinner “whatever Christmas means to them”.

MacKay has decided that real Christians disregard their subjective experiences and any religious feelings along the lines of feeling God as a presence or a force in their lives. To be a true Christian, by MacKay’s definition, one must disregard any subjective feelings of certainty. This, I think, would come as news to many if not most Christians. I have heard many Christians say that their faith is what keeps them going in times of great hardship, or has motivated them to risk their lives doing humanitarian work. How many Christians throughout history suffered a painful death for refusing to recant, often on the subtlest of theological distinctions? According MacKay, these people had the wrong kind of faith and should have died gasping the words “Of course I might be wrong about all this.”

It might surprise Hugh MacKay to hear that many people treat these issues seriously and feel compelled to make up their mind – either God exists, in which case I can try to open my life up to this power, or experience its presence; or God does not exist, in which case I should face fear, loneliness and mortality honestly without it.

No doubt there are also those who follow MacKay’s non-committal way of holding some kind of vague belief and writing off all the troublesome parts as metaphor, but I suspect not even MacKay bothers to follow that himself.

So on to science:

If it’s not religious belief, it might be astrology, “the free market”, feng shui, superstition, science, a particular psychological orientation – Buddhist, Freudian, Jungian – or a moral code we believe will make for a contented life and a better world.

If you read that quickly you might have overlooked the word “science” in that list. Yes — Hugh McKay, psychologist, sociologist, social researcher with a B.A. and a Master of Arts from Macquarie University — equates “belief in science” with belief in Feng Shui…. (Yes, he does. Read it again!) 

Dear Hugh, how many Feng Shui masters do you know of who have traveled to the moon or figured out how to build atomic bombs? I don’t like atomic bombs myself, but I will accept their detonation as convimcing evidence of E equaling mc2. Scientists’ certainty in this matter should be taken more seriously than, say, the idea that nailing hexagonal mirrors all over the place will enhance the chi in your bedroom.

When people like Richard Dawkins criticise religion for its fanaticism or its blind embrace of scriptures riven with inconvenient contradictions, this is not a criticism of religious faith, per se, but of fundamentalism.

Yeh, and when Dawkins says that there’s no evidence that any gods exist and that belief in them distorts ones view of reality and hinders the understanding of science, that is a criticism of religious faith per se.

The fundamentalists want you to develop a conviction so strong, you lose the capacity for doubt…

Yep, fail to doubt your “belief” in things like evolutionary theory or the possibility of heavy metallic machines taking to the skies, and you’re a fundie. Notice how McKay doesn’t specify any of those “beliefs” which Dawkins holds with such certainty, which McKay finds objectionable? That is cost of finding this “common ground”. Add specifics and it disappears.

….They don’t want you to believe; they want you to know you are right, with the same conviction you might know it is raining when you get wet.

Yes, or with the same conviction that you can know that humans evolved from earlier hominids.

Fundamentalism is like a steel trap that imprisons the soul and inhibits its freedom to wonder.

There’s no point in “wondering” about things that have already been firmly established by science. There’s no point in doubting whether or not aerodynamic theory is true. It’s been tested enough. Get in a plane and fly — use it for heaven’s sake! Being certain of well established facts doesn’t mean you’re a fundamentalist. It means you’re willing to use these ideas or benefit from others using them. If well established facts upset people who have been primed to deny them, then that’s not the fault of any scientist.

Scientific certainty is a wonder in itself.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Bunch of random thoughts about ancient & modern religions

March 15, 2014

“Lettersquash” has just posted an interesting article on his blog about the origins of religion. While reading it I found myself making a few notes and ranting to myself a bit about a few (mostly tangential) ideas, which I will post here rather than clutter up lettersquash’s comments section with my irrelevant musings….

Religious apologists, from theologians to religion-friendly academics, love proclaiming that humans have “always had a need for religion” and proudly trace “religion” back into the deepest mists of human history. They wish to claim all the wonders of the ancients and the scientific or artistic works of people who were by chance or by default religious, as triumphs of “religion”. It’s too much. The category is too large and undifferentiated. They use the modern words “religion” and “god” as if they refer just as accurately to ancient practices as to modern ones. I think they are wrong to do that, on several counts. 

First, “religion” as any Pope or Mufti practices it would be better described as politics. In fact, in my opinion, as soon as one opens ones mouth in public about one’s religion it ceases to be religion and starts immediately to be politics and should be treated as such.

Second, they blithely call everything from ancient cave paintings to modern theology “religion”, ignoring the enormous clefts and ruptures in the intervening terrain. In fact what the ancients practiced clearly has very little in common with modern religion or concepts of god. The ancient Mesopotamian spring festival re-enacted the descent of Marduk into the Underworld and his eventual victory over the god of chaos, leading to spring. By acting out the story, they probably saw themselves participating in the coming of spring in a way that didn’t distinguish between “the divine” and the “natural in the way that modern religion does. In fact modern religion seems to positively thrive on distinguishing itself from nature and declaring miracles to be the very opposite of science and naturalness.

Religious apologists are also wrong to project modern “belief” onto the ancients. No one “believed” in the god of the north wind, or whatever. They just knew there was a wind that blows in from the north. They had no need to “believe” in some separate being blowing it.

In fact it’s probably wrong even to project belief onto modern people too. Do Catholics really believe that their pope is really appointed by Yahweh/Jesus/Ghost-thingie? Do they really think he is the only person who this strange conglomerate of beings speaks through on earth — except for the brief period after one has died (or retired!!!), during which period Yahweh et al communicates with a committee?

I know no Catholic who would seriously claim to believe that. A better word for it is allegiance. But the religious don’t want to call it that because it would make it clearer that their “belief” is not amenable to evidence, and therefore not really a belief at all.

… 

The modern god of the theologians– some kind of Ground of Being — is a recent and extremely boring invention, no matter how much they talk it up with fancy philosophizing. I’ve always found the ancient gods much more bold, definite and compelling, even if we don’t know what the fuck they were all about.

aztec god thingieAztec being of some kind, holding a heart in its claws

Or the ancient Mesopotamian or Egyptian beings…

1977_d0c8Anubis weighing the heart of a deceased human against a feather

…Or even the incredible 18th Century visions of William Blake.

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air.
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Who the hell is Rintrah? Blake scholars hypothesize this and that, but it’s perfectly clear who Rintrah is: he’s a being who roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air. And if you can’t already see him and don’t know to get the heck out of his way, then you shouldn’t be reading poetry.

ghostNot Rintrah, but the “Ghost of a Flea” that Blake once “saw”

Another lesson from Blake — have the courage to admit utter, overwhelming mystification when you encounter it. He wrote the poem Tyger after seeing a tiger that had been brought back from Africa and put on public display in London. Blake often used lions and tigers in his poems to symbolize various things, but upon seeing a real one face to face, his view of a peaceful and loving Creator was turned upside down. Notice the question he asks at the end of the well known first verse:

Tyger, tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The question is left unanswered throughout:

Did he laugh, his work to see;
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

And is even sharpened at the end:

What immortal hand or eye
Dare form thy fearful symmetry?
 

That final question mark is the most honest question mark in the history of poetry.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Louise Hay is a dangerous quack

January 24, 2014

I often get “hits” on this site from people searching for information relating to Louise Hay. One of the most frequently viewed posts is one  about her teachings — that you can heal all diseases by using affirmations. 

The post asks why Louise Hay decided to have numerous surgical face lifts, rather than using her own teachings. If affirmations cured her cancer (where medical science failed), then surely her affirmations can also get rid of a few wrinkles — or, better still, help her to accept herself and her aging processes. 

But it seems it’s only her customers who have the honor of testing out her miracle cures. And there’s no evidence that she even had cancer in the first place, let alone cure it.

Since I wrote that post, a slow but regular stream of Hay’s fans have commented, repeatedly claiming that 

Louise Hay does NOT claim to have a cancer cure.

Well, she most certainly does indeed claim that, and I usually demonstrate this by quoting Hay directly claiming or clearing implying she has a cancer cure. Strangely, the commenters very often reply that her teachings are not the actual words on the page or the sentences she speaks. Rather, they argue, people should “take that which resonates with them” and “leave the rest”. They deny that any of her products could ever lead anyone to believe such a thing. In other words, Hay’s fans say she is not a quack as long as you understand her in the right way….. And I suppose products like her Cancer Healing CDs are supposed to be metaphorical or something. I don’t know.

CDLHCANC-L1Cancer: Discover Your Healing Power by Louise Hay

From one commenter:

…It was a 4 day retreat and not once did I hear either one of them speak in the black and white language you so vehemently say she professes….

And

If I hear something that resonates for me, I can choose to take that and leave whatever doesn’t fit for me. I don’t believe there are mindless droves of human sheep who are experiencing some kind of horrendous consequences from reading her books. AND if there are, that’s not about her, it’s about each person who chooses to disregard their own inner truth.

Well it’s not me who needs to hear that Louise Hay doesn’t claim she can cure cancer — please tell those who hopefully typed the following words into a search engine and for some reason landed here on this site:

Sample of Search Engine Terms from the last few months

louise hay cancer affirmations
louise l hay cancer cured
louise hay ms
louise l hay cancer
louise hay cancer of the lip
what does louise hay eat for cancer
louise hay rape
louise hay cancer success stories
louise hay cervical cancer
youtube louise hay breast cancer
louise hays aids work
louis hay + what do seizures mean?
what does louis m hay say causes cancer
what does louise hay say about skin cancer?
what does louise hay say about breast cancer
louise hay cervical cancer cause
louise hay &+ epilepsy
louise hay why people get cancer
louise hay cervical cancer affirmations
louise hay on breast cancer
louise hay heal your life reasons for skin cancer
louise hay vaginal cancer
louise hay skin cancer
what does louise hay eat for cancer
what ails my body can be fixed with my mind louise hay
what does louise hay say about strokes
louise hay and nicotine addiction

Needless to say, Louise Hay is not qualified to speak on any of these matters. 

And I don’t get much traffic here. It must be the merest fraction of a percent of the traffic Louise Hay’s site gets. I shudder to think of what will happen to people like this if Hay’s story about healing her own cancer “resonates” with them. As the commenter above said, if they believe it and they die, it’s their own fault for “disregarding their inner truth” — not Hay’s fault. 

Please, from now on commenters, get on the forums and tell hopeful or desperate people like these exactly what you keep telling me — that Louise Hay doesn’t mean it when she says she can cure these things.

And one last one:

louise l hay affirmations seem to have failed. ruined.

Posted by Yakaru

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers