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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

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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

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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 facelifts, rather than use the methods she teaches. If affirmations cured her cancer (where medical science failed), then surely her affirmations can also get rid of a few wrinkles. But it seems it’s only her customers who have the honor of testing out her miracle cures.

Since I wrote that post, a slow but regular stream of Hay’s fans have repeatedly left what is essentially the same comment: that Louise Hay does NOT claim to have a cancer cure.

When I have pointed to Hay both directly claiming, and clearly implying that she does, they 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”. She does not make the claims I say she does, i.e., that thinking specific thoughts will heal specific illnesses, they insist. And 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 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

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“Atheism is Vandalism!” — Hitchens responds

January 22, 2014

From a panel discussion about “Religion and Culture” featuring Christopher Hitchens and two writers on religion, Zachary Karabell and Jonathan Kirsch…..

About 51 minutes in comes this attack on Christopher Hitchens and atheism from Jonathan Kirsch–

Kirsch: I was reminded of a trip my wife and I took to Paris, we saw the Pantheon, which is a church which was desacrilized after the French Revolution. It is a sterile church. You can go to Notre Dame or Sacré-Cœur which are old medieval churches and they’re very beautiful places. We go into our art museums which we praise as the highest art of the classical world. Their original purpose was what our Bible calls idols.

This is our culture – religion is our culture. It provides the stuff of our culture. And to repudiate that — our cultural legacy — is precisely the same as the Taliban going out an dynamiting Buddhist statues in Afghanistan: it’s vandalism!

Bas Sac 1Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Christopher Hitchens responds bluntly –

Silly point. Very very silly point…. Extremely silly point.

The (so-called) moderator ridicules Hitchens for being so blunt, so Hitchens makes his point more clearly:

Sacré-Cœur, by the way, was built-in the late nineteenth century. It’s not medieval at all. It was built to celebrate the defeat of Republicanism in France. It expresses the sectarianism of the French Catholic Church; its historical alignment with the anti-semites, the army and the elite. You can go and worship there if you like, if that’s the kind of culture to you like.

The so-called moderator tries to stop him and says “Now we’re just bickering.” Kirsch takes the interruption as a chance to try to salvage something:

Kirsch: Well I do believe Notre dame is a Medieval cathedral.

Hitchens: Yes, around which Thomas Aquinas once flew, you might be interested to know…He levitated… We have witnesses! After leaving one of his books on the high altar for God to read, and receiving — by channeling — a favorable review, he flew in delight around the knave of Notre Dame. You can check it out. And many people think that’s culture.

Well something got demolished there, but it was not the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur!

Posted by Yakaru

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10 Things New Agers Don’t Understand About Science: Part 5 — Paradigm Shift

January 4, 2014

The previous post in this series looked at the way disproof drives scientific inquiry forward. It noted that disproof will be welcomed by anyone who is sincerely trying to solve a problem or understand how something works. Better known as falsifiability, this idea was a great contribution to the understanding of how science works, and is an essential element of scientific methodology. 

But it also carries some problems. It seems to imply that science progresses in a linear fashion, with all progress involving minor adjustments to a universally accepted model, never endangering anyone’s career or reputation with any radical changes. This in turn makes it all too easy to ignore research and ideas that do not fit the accepted parameters. And this fits rather too snugly with the idea that science is restricted to privileged white men from the politically dominant culture. These lucky folks control research funding and get to decide where the “cutting edge” is…. All of which means the system is wide open for all kinds of shenanigans.

Paradigms & Paradigm Shifts

In contrast to this, is the idea of paradigms, which recognizes that progress can at certain times be discontinuous with the past. An existing model can be completely overturned, not so much by new data or new evidence, but by a new vision.

Thomas Kuhn, the originator of this idea, used the example of the Copernican Revolution. changing from a geocentric model of the solar system to a heliocentric one. Here an entire cosmology was completely overturned by a fairly simple idea. A radically different model of the solar system fitted the data better than the dominant model.

Kuhn clearly recognized that a paradigm is more than just a conceptual model. It’s an entire world-view. It exists in a political context, a social context, and ultimately, in the context of human psychology. It is therefore subject to the same conditions as all other ideas — customs, norms, political restrictions, habits of thought, etc. 

This must be taken into account when evaluating scientific ideas: is a new idea lacking in evidence, or is it merely unwanted by certain highly regarded professors, priests, etc., because it conflicts with their prejudices or interests? And above all, is it being disregarded simply because we are not used to seeing the world in this manner? This is an important contribution to science. It opens broader perspectives for inquiry and research.

The down side of this is that silly people can use it to reject those parts of scientific knowledge that conflict with their pet theories. They say that the dominant paradigm will one day be usurped, so it doesn’t matter if science says their ideas are implausible and their products won’t work. The coming dominant paradigm will, they somehow “know”, confirm all their theories. 

They are unerringly selective in rejecting only those aspects of the “dominant scientific paradigm” that render their ideas implausible. The bits of science that they like –computers, air travel, luxury items, sanitation, etc. — they blithely take for granted. The bits they don’t like are exclusively singled out for vociferous and indignant rejection.

ps3

Paradigm shifts — almost as popular as quantum leaps

Well steady on there, folks. You can’t isolate certain bits of a paradigm for exclusion without affecting all the other bits. It fits together as a system. DUH. That’s the whole friggin’ point of a paradigm!!!

My favorite example of this is the enormously popular idea that the law of attraction is true, “just like the law of gravity.” Wrong. If the law of attraction were real, it would disprove the law of the gravity. Stupid example, you people.

Also, if you argue that the dominant paradigm can be disregarded purely because it will eventually be overthrown anyway, then why don’t we save time and turf out your paradigm as well for the same reason.

Sorry guys, but……..

If you really had a “new paradigm” it would be supported by existing evidence, not flatly contradicted by it.

If you really had a “new paradigm” you wouldn’t be saying that the evidence is “emerging” or “will soon be found”, or even more pathetically, hasn’t been found “yet”. Instead, you’d have bucket loads of evidence from the existing dominant paradigm and would just be interpreting it in a smarter way. And by the way, if you haven’t got any evidence, just admit it for heaven’s sake. And never say “What scientists are beginning to see is….”  unless you want to immediately identify yourself as a quack or a fool.

If you really had a “new paradigm” it would not come with a built-in free pass exempting you from presenting evidence. Rather, it would tell you where new evidence is likely to be found. In fact it would help you make falsifiable claims about it.

If you really had a “new paradigm” you would have understood the old one well enough to accurately point out anomalies in it which no one had noticed before. You would also have a better (and probably simpler) explanation for these anomalies — not merely vague speculations and hand-waving about the supposed weaknesses of what you have just arrogantly declared to be the “old paradigm”.

If you really had a “new paradigm” it would probably be sweet and simple. It would not be “cut from whole cloth” without need of improvement. It would not “overturn” vast swathes of the most blatantly incontrovertible, non-controversial and utterly and totally obvious, solid and well grounded natural laws. And it would not attempt to replace them with layer upon layer of complicated speculations about supposed new natural laws to explain the supposed anomalies. It would not come already complete with special skills or gadgets to control these supposed new natural laws, all of which you just happen to have recently published a book about.

If you really had a “new paradigm” it would be unlikely to be identical with religious dogma from previous ages which has already been overturned by several other paradigm shifts and mountains of evidence. Most especially it would not be based on 17th Century mechanistic dogma derived from Descartes. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Good, so you’re not about to claim you’ve discovered how mind controls matter, are you.)

If you really had a “new paradigm” you would recognize the power structures and conflicts of interest within your own subculture and you would oppose them. You would not see them as an opportunity for cross-promotion with other community members without regard for standards or ethics. 

And finally, if you really had a “new paradigm” it would not be exactly the same as all the other new paradigms since about 1970, all of which are justified by the same mis-reading of quantum physics thanks to Fritjof Capra, and all of which come with an exploitive business plan and a highly manipulative marketing strategy attached.

Posted by Yakaru

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Dr Rudolph E. Tanzi — the thinking person’s Bruce Lipton

December 22, 2013

I almost wrote a post about Deepak Chopra recently, but I decided against it because I find him utterly repellent. He adopts a superior, condescending and authoritarian tone to his readers (with baseless assertions about “YOUR” true nature) and aggressively insults and attacks those who criticize him. And then of course pulls every dirty trick in the book to evade constructive criticism. He is a horrible person who does not deserve attention.

However, a recent article by Chopra was “co-authored” by one Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D, who despite being a qualified neuroscientist and holding a post at Harvard, shares both ideology and disgraceful manners with Chopra. In this post I will deal with their article, and then in a separate post, with Dr Tanzi’s response to criticism. (The article was roundly criticized by Prof. Jerry Coyne, whom Tanzi threatened to sue for libel. He also pulled most of the typical woo tricks that I list in the comment policy here.)

The article is titled — in typically presumptuous and intrusive Chopra style — You Will Transform Your Own Biology. It consists of the usual Chopra distortions and word-tricks, only this time with a Harvard professor signing off on it too.

Biology, they claim, sees humans as “puppets of our genome”. This crass deterministic model (which is supposedly in all the text books), sees the effects of genes as:

fixed and unchanging, controlling every aspect of our physical makeup, behavior, and susceptibility to disease. Not just eye color, height, and other physical characteristics were predetermined by inherited genes, but perhaps all kinds of behaviors, from criminality to belief in God.

That claim about current models of physiology, psychology, medical science and genetics is false. It’s too extreme to be judged an oversimplification. But it does accurately reflect a widespread misconception about genetics among the public, especially the public who read hucksters like Chopra. (No coincidence!) People fear such crass genetic determinism, because if it were true it would mean the end of the inner life, the extinguishing of hopes and aspirations, and the abolition of personal identity.

But there’s no need to fear, because Chopra and Tanzi will rescue you from this (albeit nonexistent) ideological threat. Their “new model” “gives control back to each person.” Note here the salesmanship and assumption of power and authority over you — they will “give control back” to you. The “old model”, foisted on you by evil materialist scientists, has taken away your control over your most basic bodily and psychological functions. It is your birthright to tinker mentally with your genome, and the “new model” will give you back this power. So buy Chopra & Tanzi’s new book Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being, selling for just $19.20 at all good bookstores now.

Just to make it completely clear before going further, the “old model” is a complete misrepresentation of modern genetics, and the “new model” is entirely speculative. It is derived from a dualistic ideology, which is so popular that few people ever even realize that it’s based on a long string of assumptions, let alone question these assumptions.

At this point the article leaves coherence behind altogether and wades into the murky waters of Chopra-esque marketable jargon and trigger words. We make a quantum leap from talking vague nonsense about the genetics of the individual to suddenly talking about the evolution of every species who ever lived on this planet.

Theories of evolution and genetics have long taught that genetic mutation is entirely random. However, genetics has been gradually stepping into a new era of “self-directed biological transformation….”

So here’s the deal. Your non-physical soul gets to reach down into your biology, right into your genome and prevent it from turning you into a puppet. And this also disproves Darwin. Deal!!! For only $19.20.

But do you really want to evolve into a new species?

Regardless of the nature of the genes we inherit from our parents, dynamic change at this level allows us almost unlimited influence on our fate.

You could grow a nice furry tail like a fox or something. Cool!

Joking aside (if that was joking — I see nothing in this article beyond the vague qualifier “almost unlimited” that would preclude that), there’s a serious danger here for people wanting use this “new model” practically. If you want to break a habit, let’s say smoking, you will think that you can do it by altering your genome. Your nonphysical soul can reach down into your genome and miraculously — er, I mean, holisitcally — know which bits to fiddle with. You will alter your own behavior as a fait accompli, ordering your current and future self to quit and stay quitted…. Unless your immortal soul decides it likes smoking and changes your genome back again.

This is a very poor and dangerous model for psychological functioning. Do you really need to alter your friggin’ genome before you can change your behavior for god’s sake? No, but what the heck, it’s easier to sell if you tell people that. Go ahead, Dr Tanzi, tell me this isn’t what you were both meaning. And then make sure you tell your customers too.

The three words in the advertising slogan — er, sorry, I mean the “new model” — are explained:

Self-directed = Voluntary activity in your thoughts, feelings, habits, and desires. This is the realm of personal choice.

Biological = Effects at every level of the mind-body system, including reactions by your genetic material.

Transformation = Major shifts in cellular activity leading to physiological changes.

(Hmmm, maybe you really can grow a tail with this stuff.)

We get some biology talk describing how all this works, and then it’s back to the highly marketable and completely pointless activity of Darwin-bashing:

Darwin didn’t know about epigenetics and “soft inheritance”. Otherwise, he may have written a very difference [sic] treatise, in which evolution wouldn’t solely result from random gene mutations. Self-directed evolution is the emerging paradigm.

Here’s a red flag for pseudo-science: “X is the emerging paradigm.” This also frequently takes the form “What scientists are beginning to see is…” The ideology behind this claim is the anti-scientific notion that we intuitively “know” certain things, and “science still has yet to catch up and confirm what we already know.” Hang your head in shame for putting your name to that, Dr Tanzi…

… 

Overturning evolutionary theory is the holy grail of modern woo. It means that our species made itself evolve, rather than being the product of natural processes acting over long periods on icky hairy apes. It makes you a child of God, or a divine being having a human experience, or… whatever Chopra tells YOU that YOU are.

Bringing evolution (or evolution-bashing) into this discussion is transparent populism and crass marketing. Whereas the authors at least make a token effort to justify their assertion that thoughts can alter your genome, they say nothing at all to justify their quantum leap into evolutionary theory. There are important steps missing here. Altering the cells in one part of the body does not automatically alter the DNA in other cells, and especially not in the reproductive system — which would be necessary for such changes to become heritable and potentially affect evolution.

Maybe the authors think that DNA contained in sex cells miraculously — er — holistically adjusts itself in real-time to the miniscule alterations in the cells in the rest of the body. Maybe they mean that your non-physical soul can holisitcally descend into your testes and ovaries and twiddle various knobs or something. I don’t know. They don’t say. Whatever the case, Tanzi and Chopra are waltzing happily with Intelligent Design Creationism, only with YOUR soul taking the place of Yahweh.

There is an awful lot more speculation going on here than the authors, especially Tanzi, want to admit. A multitude of undefined and miraculous mechanisms are supposed to have been active in– how many species, for– how many billions of years? 

Who knows, but this “new model” will give you back the control over your genome that materialistic scientists like Richard Dawkins stole from you. It will cure your cancer, make you permanently happy, and allow you to alter the course of human evolution, all for just $19.20!!!

Stay tuned (it might take a while — sorry) for a fun post looking at Tanzi’s indignant grizzling, threats, insults and excuses on Coyne’s website, (starting here, if you wish to read ahead).

*Who is Bruce Lipton? You don’t want to know, but here’s a sample.

Posted by Yakaru

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James Ray rejects his own teachings (and his supporters don’t notice)

November 26, 2013

James Arthur Ray, the motivational torturer convicted of three counts of homicide, has served his jail time and completed his probationary period in Arizona. Now he’s back in his old home in Carlsbad California and is giving interviews again to the uncritical media and speaking publicly. And of course, continuing to cut a path of destruction through the lives of his customers.

But there has been at least one change in this recurring nightmare. In his new blog post, he has rejected all of his previous teachings. That’s right all of them!

None of his fawning supporters have noticed it, but there it is in black and white:

One of the biggest fallacies for the students of the Law of Attraction (that became so popular all over the world a few years ago), is the belief that “If I understand the LOA, and execute it perfectly… then nothing bad, ugly or challenging will ever happen again in my life.” This is a lack of understanding; an illusion of the grandest proportions.

An illusion of the grandest proportions. But this illusion is exactly what James Ray had been teaching up until now. This is what he wrote in The Science of Success, (which I wrote about just last month):

Anyone on Earth can apply this science, and it will make them successful every time. That’s because the Science of Success works with universal laws, laws as fundamental and unbending as the law of gravity. If you follow these laws I guarantee that you will succeed – every time, and in whatever endeavor you undertake...

So there you have it folks. James Ray now says that the product he used to sell is “an illusion of the grandest proportions” Write and demand your money back (ha ha).

This won’t bother his supporters of course. It didn’t bother them when he failed to act according to his own teachings in court, and it didn’t bother them when his own claim of “mastery” was contradicted by his jail time. So it won’t bother them that Ray’s new teachings contradict the old ones. (The product he is promoting isn’t really a set of teachings anyway. Rather, what Ray is selling is his own persona; and that product has proven itself to be completely reality-proof.)

It will, however, bother his potential customers, and it is for them that I will briefly outline a few things about the product James Ray is offering.

The law of attraction, of course, does not exist. Those who teach it (at least the famous ones like those who appeared in The Secret) know this and do not attempt to use it in their own lives. This is demonstrated by the infighting and acrimonious court cases, cut throat business practices, blatant fraud, and general nastiness they all engage in.

Attempting to apply this nonexistent “law” to your own life is dangerous. It makes you overestimate your potential resources and your control over reality. Most importantly, it makes you ignore events that you would have recognized as a warning sign if you were using plain common sense. The course that James Ray’s life has taken over the last decade or so illustrates such failures clearly.

Participants in Ray’s events were injured doing the risky “motivational” exercises he was giving them. He ignored the complaints, the broken limbs, the cut faces, etc. Then a participant, Colleen Conaway, died during one of his events. Any sane person using basic common sense would realize that they are not only risking the health and lives of others, but their own business interests as well. Ray lied to police about Colleen’s death and managed to avoid any criminal charges, but failed to recognize that he was asking for trouble.

Two and a half months later, Ray found himself lying to police again. This time his lies didn’t work. (He claimed that he was not in charge of the deadly fake sweat lodge that killed three and sent two dozen to hospital, and — incredibly — tried to blame it on the fire keeper. This pattern of inventing excuses and lying to shift the blame onto others continued throughout his trial, and is still going on today.)

Ray claims that he did not know that people were in distress during the sweat lodge (in which he crammed about 60 people into a low, dark sweltering tent from which there was no escape (the sides were secured), and in which he controlled the air supply and the only exit.

Well actually, he doesn’t always claim he didn’t know that people were in distress. During the pre-trial investigation his lawyers claimed that, but they dropped the claim soon after reading the witness testimony. In court, that line of defense was not raised. What came out was witness after witness saying that Ray both heard and responded to people calling out that numerous people were in trouble, wanted to leave, had passed out, were not breathing. He refused to help and simply closed the exit and kept going.

It seems to me to be entirely likely that he had a narcissistic belief that “everything happens as it should” and it’s up to the universe to pull people back from the brink of death, that any deaths would be for the “highest good” of the victims. He felt no responsibility to follow through on his promise that people were safe and would be cared for should they pass out. He does seem to have spiritual ideas about out-of-body or near death experiences, and was probably trying to induce altered mental states through heat stroke.

His recklessness not only killed three more people, but also ruined his business, his finances, cost him his freedom for two years and stained record with three convictions for negligent homicide.

The only way to make money with the nonexistent law of attraction is by selling it to others and taking their money. You can then point to that money and success as evidence that the law of attraction indeed does exist. But Ray can’t really do that anymore, can he — he turned his own in life into a quagmire. He’s a failure, and it’s entirely his own stupid fault. So instead of the law of attraction, he has suddenly invented a brand new “Law of Polarity”. (*See Update 2 below.) This is something makes bad things to happen to nice innocent homicidal psychopaths like James, for mystical higher purposes. Here’s the relevant sample of James Ray’s profound wisdom. Fasten your seat belts….

I was speaking to a group recently, and I reminded them that every coin has two sides—both a heads and a tails. You absolutely cannot have one without the other. This principle in the world of physics is called the Law of Polarity.

James Ray is on safe ground with the bit about the coins — that doesn’t over extend his 8th grade mathematical abilities. But the rest of it is nonsense. I would suggest people take a short cut avoiding both the law of attraction and the Law of Polarity and follow something called the Law of Common Sense instead. Common sense is wrong sometimes too of course, but it’s a LOT safer than any of Ray’s teachings.

Ray and his bullish, cut-throat and greedy supporters want to convince you that Ray’s “suffering” in jail was a deep mystery.

It’ll probably take the rest of my days to even begin to understand and describe all that I’ve been gifted to see and experience.

But it’s no mystery and it needs no cosmic laws or quantum physics to explain. Ray was convicted and went to jail because he cooked three people to death and stood there gawping while others were desperately administering CPR. Then he went and had a shower. He was sitting in his undies eating a sandwich when the police knocked on his door. Then he tried to blame it all on Ted the fire keeper. And now he wants to tell you that he is a wise expert on human life. 

Below is a video of part of state prosecutor Sheila Polk’s summing up from Ray’s trial In it she lists the pathetic attempts at evading the charges that Ray’s attorneys made. In fact she spent more time on them than the defense did in their summing up

Sheila Polk: “Three people are dead because of the conduct and the actions of this man, James Ray. They are dead because he intentionally used heat to create an altered state and he was criminally reckless about the consequences. To use the words of the manslaughter statute, they are dead because James Ray consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his conduct would cause death…”

(The jury, prevented from knowing of Colleen Conaway’s prior death or of previous life threatening sweat lodge events, eventually convicted Ray of the lesser charges of homicide.)

Update 1As always, the Salty Droid has the background story on Ray’s slippery, slimey return to grace with the uncritical media.

Update 2: LaVaughn has pointed out in the comments that Ray has in fact used ideas about “polarity” in the past, and reminded me that this was even alluded to in the “Letters of Support” sent to the judge in Ray’s trial. Ray follower, Wendy Benkowski had this to say:

James has integrity and his message has integrity.
I am witnessing the power of his spoken word.
I am witnessing the shadow side of Harmonic Wealth.
The 2009 Spiritual Warrior Retreat is a great lesson.
The LESSON has touched the consciousness of the world.
I respect and honor the sacrifice of Liz, Kirby, and James.
I request compassion for my friend James Ray.

Potential customers should note this. If Ray causes your death, it will be considered a “sacrifice”, according to his teachings. My apologies to the bereaved for posting that again, should they happen to read that again here.

Posted by Yakaru

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