h1

Are Anti-Popes Real?

April 5, 2015

I’ve always been rather dismayed at the idea of the Catholic Pope. I don’t know how Catholics can take it seriously. God speaks directly to the pope, and only to the pope… except when he dies, in which case God suddenly starts speaking to a committee, telling them who the next pope should be. No one can possibly take such a stupid idea seriously. Yet people, even non-Catholics, treat the Pope as if he’s somehow special, regardless of how much of a degenerate weasel he shows himself to be.

Yet not only are there popes, but also antipopes too! Out of chaos, antipopes are born. Here is an example where two antipopes were created at pretty much the same time.

In the 14th Century, the Church was in turmoil and popery was so unpopular in Italy that the seat of the pope had been moved to France. The French and Roman factions of the College of Cardinals (the committee that elects the pope) couldn’t agree on anything. Upon the death of Pope Gregory XI, for the brief interregnum period where God only speaks to this committee, the committee couldn’t make head or tail of God’s instructions. Each faction wound up electing a pope of their own.

So there were two popes, Pope Urban VI (elected by the Roman cardinals), and Pope Clement VII (elected by the French). This state of affairs continued for about 40 years until a French theologian hit upon the theory of conciliarism. This holds that yet another committee can be formed which is higher than the popes and the College of Cardinals. So God, it turns out, can also speak directly to this alternative council, if the everyone else has been fooling about too much.

Bertrand Russell takes up the story:

At last in 1409 a council was summoned and met in Pisa. It failed, however, in a ridiculous manner. It declared both popes deposed for heresy and schism, and elected a third, who promptly died; but his cardinals elected as his successor an ex-pirate named Baldassare Cossa, who took the name John XXIII. Thus the net result was that there were three popes instead of two, the conciliar pope being a notorious ruffian.

It is exactly for problems like this that the church invented the concept of the antipope. This is a pope who dresses like a pope and acts like a pope, and is believed by many during his lifetime to be the pope, but who in fact wasn’t the pope at all, because someone else was and it’s mathematically impossible for two popes to exist at once.

At some later point, poor Clement VII and John XXIII were declared not really to have been popes after all. Instead they were antipopes.

Things really start to get complicated when you get down to the subantipopery level. Here we hit some of the higher functions of advanced theology. A pope is allowed to appoint cardinals, but if it is later discovered that this pope was in fact an antipope, then all the cardinals he appointed suddenly turn into pseudocardinals. And of course, if such a cardinal has appointed cardinal nephews (a cardinal related to the pope), these will in turn become quasicardinal nephews.

The last of the antipopes was Antipope Felix V, who fulfilled the role from 1439 to 1449.

Thanks to the advent of quantum physics, however, we now know that two popes can indeed appear to exist simultaneously. This has been spectacularly proven in our own time by the “retired” ex-pope Ratzinger and Pope Ingracious XV or what ever his name is.

Footnote: A commenter has clarified/corrected the statement in the first paragraph about God talking to the committee. The correction is most welcome, though I would suggest that the clarifications underscore rather than refute the point I was attempting to make!

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Easter Post: Random Thoughts on Religious Literalism

April 3, 2015

I appreciate the idea that Jesus’ crucifixion is a symbol for how we all “have a cross to bear”. And that those in an unbearable situation can take some solace from the thought that a higher being shares their suffering. That’s what myths are for. We all need fictions, because life is unbearable without them.

And I can understand that sometimes we even need to consciously let ourselves believe that our fictions are true… However, if you do this openly or in public, you risk looking silly. It also destroys the initial feelings behind it, because you have to become bullish enough to withstand ridicule or your own fears and self-judgments. This destroys one’s sensibilities and turns the original feelings into parodies of themselves.

I don’t know exactly where the image below comes from — it’s from an Australian newspaper. It’s one of the few occasions when Jesus and the Easter Bunny have been photographed together in the same habitat.

easter bunny jesus

Some guy has tipped ketchup all over himself, imagined that despite the hideous thrashings and beatings that a crucifee would have gone through, he would still have been able to keep his loincloth (or diapers?) neatly in place, and then stood on a post and pretended to be miserable….

…..While children walk by and receive chocolates from the Easter Bunny.

Folks, there’s a better way to do this metaphorical stuff.

Below are some (poor quality) pics I took inside one of the most extraordinary buildings I’ve ever seen, the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba. It’s a huge mosque with — incredibly — a cathedral stuck in the middle of it.

The contrast between the two approaches to the “sacred” is striking. First the (Andalusian) Islamic approach — no images of humans or animals, just color and designs, forms and empty space; and then suddenly in the middle of it, we’re confronted with torture scenes and bleeding Jesus.

The site was originally a Roman style Visigoth church. Then with the rise of the Umayyad caliphate-in-exile in the 8th Century, it was turned into a stunningly beautiful mosque, using some of the remaining Roman columns; dual arches inspired by the magnificent Roman aqueducts, blended with Islamic architecture and some new innovations.

IMG_0067

Double arches on top of Roman columns, with red brick alternating with limestone — brick giving strength, limestone flexibility. It is impossible to adequately describe the visual effect of all this. The columns in this enormous area, stretching off into the darkness, give a sense of space and meditative stillness; while the red and white double arches are buzz for the senses. Really, it’s like an architectural acid trip with a vision of eternity.

The hall used to hold 20,000 people for Friday prayers. From inside an alcove (see below), the imam would preach.

IMG_0119

IMG_0118

Muslim rule eventually collapsed, due partly to in-fighitng among Muslim leaders, the rise of Christianity as a military and political force, and of course, the random cycles of history. (See Maria Rosa Menocal’s Ornament of the World for an engaging history of the period.)

King Ferdinand II destroyed the center of the hall in the 11th Century and inserted a cathedral in it. The mosque became a glorified entrance hall. (Horrendous as this was, it probably saved the building from later destruction.)

So, in the middle of that extraordinary space, we suddenly get hit with bleeding tortured Jesus. From the profoundly evocative metaphorical to the crass and literal. For my taste, the shock of this change of style is extremely jarring, and accompanied by a great sense of loss.

x

In dark alcoves all around the walls tortured and bleeding saints join with dozens of bleeding Jesuses. (It must have been fashionable at that time to emphasize how horribly chapped and grazed Jesus’ knees must have been. This one’s knees are only a bit grubby in comparison with the others in there. I think I counted about two dozen Jesuses, nearly all with horribly scraped knees. In some cases you could see the bone.)

So to Christians I say, you guys lost something when you removed old Judaic prohibition on images. It destroys all mystical or intuitive feeling. It enforces a particular way of experiencing and imagining things and inhibits others, and generally cheapens everything. Art is one thing, literalism, in my opinion, is another.

22A parrot would have been just as appropriate

Literalism is the death of spiritual feeling, in my opinion, and is always present in oppressive religious systems. There is only one way to interpret the literal, and that’s which ever way the most powerful priest says it is. For Christianity, the Inquisition followed the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Andalusia. Islam saw the triumph of the literalists over the philosophers, and a general stagnation of Islamic culture.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Skeptic Fail #2: Manipulation vs Critical Thinking

March 8, 2015

Welcome back to this series that looks at the blind spots and failures that skeptics are especially prone to making.

In Part 1 we saw the well known skeptic Michael Shermer fail to debunk the “law of attraction”, simply because he hadn’t researched the topic enough — before making a silly, self-indulgent video about it.

This post features Dr Shermer again, but in a different role. This time he becomes the victim of a rather frivolous piece of journalistic trickery, and thereby demonstrates the mechanisms that get people sucked into scams like the law of attraction. Critical thinking skills offer limited protection under such conditions.

I am going to highlight this incident because skeptics — including Dr Shermer — tend to underestimate the role that deliberate manipulation plays in popular scams like The Secret. The bad science in that film has been well covered by skeptics, but as far as I know, no professional skeptic or large skeptic organization has commented on the emotionally charged advertising tactics that the film makers employed. And none seem to have noticed the highly manipulative subliminal images in the opening sequences.

27-cScreenshot from The Secret – in ancient Egypt a terrified young priest tries to protect the “secret” for future generations, as soldiers with burning torches run towards him. The flaming figures in the background are part of a fade into the next scene. Images of people burning, as well as sexual images abound.

Furthermore, The Secret built an exploitive relationship with the viewer, by surreptitiously pulling them into the film’s narrative until they became participants themselves in the propagation of the story. As well as being impelled promote the film to their friends (viral marketing), countless people were sucked into entering a highly exploitive personal relationship with one or more of the teachers in it — that was the whole aim of the film.

123The first appearance of James Ray in The Secret – a subliminal image. Four people died while attending his events in 2009.

Professional skeptics overlooked all this because they tend to focus on what they are good at: logical fallacies. This leads to a rather superficial view of human behavior, and an annoying smugness, and most importantly, an impotent response to the most successful popular scam in decades. 

No matter how good your “baloney detector” is, it won’t protect an unsuspecting person from a complicated scam like The Secret that’s specifically designed to deactivate their defenses. It won’t even protect you from a simple con trick…. As Dr Shermer discovers in the exchange below….

The email exchange below, published last year on the Daily Beast website, shows how a trickster mimics a safe situation, and how a person under stress will take greater risks than usual, with less care.

To set the scene, Shermer is under stress because of accusations about him that were circulating in the internet (and which will not be discussed here!!!). He has initiated legal proceedings, but this also requires his own silence, no doubt leaving him feeling defenseless and highly frustrated. He is contacted by a journalist called Ian Murphy:

Dear Mr. Shermer,
I’m writing a story about the recent ugliness in the atheist/skeptic community/movement (last week, and the past two years) for The Progressive, AlterNet, or Salon (not sure yet), and I’m obviously hoping you’ll be gracious enough to answer some questions.
Phone would be best, but I’d settle for email–any way to get your side of things out there.
Regardless, thanks for all you’ve done for the skeptics of the world.

The journalist presents this, basically, as an offer of help from a fan. In effect he is saying I have what you need, and I will serve you. This of course is the promise of every scammer in history.

Shermer politely declines, citing his lawyers and a book he is busy writing. The journalist replies:

I figured as much, but I had to ask! And have fun writing. (One fortunate thing about all this is that your sales will be higher than ever! Look at Paula Deen. Silver lining? Yesh. Sorry. ) Anywho, will you please forward my request to your attorney? Pretty please? A presumptuous thanks! Or awwww. Thanks for your time.

Here are offers of emotional and moral support as well as more clearly submissive signals, softening the persistent request for further attention. Shermer refuses again, and it goes back and forth a bit until the journalist blurts out:

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what the charge is? You bought a woman drinks, for god’s sake?! What, she felt taken advantage of the next day–years later?–because you’re a charismatic person, memories are dramatizations of someone’s dogma du jour!? The story’s not about the “charge,” whatever that actual is, it’s about skepticism, truly, no?

Here the journalist is modeling the behavior he hopes Shermer will impulsively imitate — trying to get Shermer to respond with the same kind of out-blurting. And it works.

Shermer:

“….I haven’t been charged with anything. An anonymous woman told another anonymous woman to tell PZ Myers that I raped her at some unspecified time in the past at some unspecified conference which was alleged reported to unspecified persons who allegedly covered up whatever it is I allegedly did….”

The journalist responds with some speculation about how he might include those remarks in a story he wants to publish. Shermer, still not smelling any rat-like aromas, tries to assert his authority:

Ian. Stop. Nothing I have written to you can be quoted…

Shermer issues this imperative, having believed the journalist’s submissive behavior from before. And when the journalist persists, he sharpens it:

No, Ian, you cannot “convey the meaning of the emails….”

Shermer still thinks he can assert his authority here, and it only slowly dawns on him that the journalist is no longer being submissive. But by then it’s too late.

Shermer is incredulous and invokes his lawyers, but the journalist knows his legal rights and informs Shermer that he will publish the entire email exchange, which he does. (No dire consequences ensue, beyond some chuckling and some grizzling about journalistic ethics.)

Once the Murphy had gained his trust, it simply did not occur to Shermer that the journalist might not share his goals. Nor, of course, would it be likely occur to anyone else in such circumstances.

But, like many scam victims, had he been psychologically capable of doing even the most basic background check, Shermer probably wouldn’t have fallen for Murphy’s submissive signals. A minute on google, and he would have discovered that Murphy had recently spent a week in jail, in preference to doing 70 hours community service — which he found “boring”. And this was after a “public nuisance” conviction for showing up at an anti-gay Christian rally and interviewing people with a dildo. All this does not exactly fit the profile of the obsequious fan-boy he played for Shermer!

And real scammers don’t pull the plug as swiftly and honestly as Ian Murphy did. Once you have signed the charges to your credit card, they keep it rolling until they have taken everything they can get to.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Primal Physics (Lipton meets Sheldrake Part 2)

February 17, 2015

Physics,

says Dr Bruce Lipton,

is the primal science.

Not “primary”, but “primal”. And in Dr Lipton’s hands, primal is exactly what physics becomes — it bubbles up unrelentingly from the chaotic primordeal depths of his unconscious, randomly mixing self-invented physics and New Age trigger words. It can also illicit a primal scream from the listener, proportional in strength to their degree of science literacy.

However, there is something to learn from Dr Bruce here. While Deepak Chopra buries his errors unter an avalanche of meaningless jargon, Lipton’s errors are surprisingly uncomplicated. He is so ignorant that he doesn’t even know he needs to cover his footsteps. The fundamental errors that all New Age anti-physicists make are thus candidly revealed.

And what the physics says is that it’s not the physical reality where the information is. It’s in the field, the invisible stuff, and all of a sudden that jumped me from my mechanical material world idea into entertaining the concept of the invisible forces being more powerful.

So, Lipton thinks that “physical reality” stops where quantum physics starts.

We saw in Part 1 how Rupert Sheldrake doesn’t understand that the simplest laws of chemistry are perfectly good for explaining simple plant growth. For him atoms are inert billiard balls that need a divine intelligence to tell them what to do. For Lipton, the laws of quantum physics explain how this occurs. It’s all there in the physics text books, but the other biologists don’t understand physics. They are “still trapped in the Newtonian materialist reductionist world”. They don’t realize that physicists have “proven that matter doesn’t exist” and that quantum physics is the study of the spiritual realm.

This stupidity leads to a remarkably stupid version of physics, but also to a quite strange version of spirituality as well. They haven’t thought through the implications of this in slightest; nor have their fans.

Yes, quantum physics strikes our everyday understanding of the world as incomprehensibly weird. Yes, ideas about the spiritual realm also strike many as weird. But it does not follow that therefore the laws of quantum physics prove the existence of a spiritual realm. Do Lipton and Sheldrake really want to try this?

Our world view based on our experience of everyday life is ill-suited to conceiving events in the sub-atomic realm. But the language of mathematics can describe them without trouble. The weirdness is a product of the cross-over from mathematical to verbal language, but the mathematical model of it is nonetheless, rock solid (if I can be excused a dreadful metaphor).

Apart from their almost complete ignorance of physics, Lipton and Sheldrake have also failed to ask themselves if they really want to believe in a spirit realm that rigidly obeys mathematical laws.

Surely they must regard spiritual beings as having some independent volition; of being capable of doing something unexpected. But this kind of guided intention is one thing that is by definition absent from events that have been discovered to exist only because of their mathematical predictability.

For all that they rage against “Newtonian materialism” they in fact share with Newton a mechanistic view of the spiritual realm. Newton, unable to explain how gravity acted at a distance, proposed God as agent of maintaining the regularity of the planets. It was even proposed at one point that the planets were driven along their course by angels beating their wings. Enchanting as such an image might be, do we really want to condemn angels to this ultimate drudgery throughout the entire universe? Surely when mystics search for some kind of consciousness in the universe, they are looking for irregularities, of the kind that helps us distinguish between a rock that’s being tumbled by the waves and a seashell with some little fellow living inside it.

There is something deeply dissatisfying about a spirit realm that coldly maintains mathematical laws. But this is the only kind of spirituality that can, as far as I can see, possibly be consistent with quantum physics.

I am, of course, leaving out an important detail. This is Primal Physics. Its defining characteristic is the complete absence of math. Remove math, and the door is suddenly kicked open for verbal language to take over. Without math, the same events which previously fitted an exact model, can be transported into the realm of verbal constructs, where they take on the appearance of spiritual occurrences — spooky actions at spooky distances, and all that.

Of course, removing math also removes the quantum physics in its entirety, but the highly prized brand-mark and all the fancy-sounding terminology remain. Freed from the tyranny of mathematically consistent laws, Primal Physics need only obey the laws of grammar.

We are indebted to Dr Bruce for explicating the hidden laws of Primal Physics, a mysterious product which has been promoted since at least the early 1970s by moderately smart people like Fritjof Capra, and horrid foul mouthed gimps like Deepak Chopra. Physicists, still clinging to their unfashionable mathematical concepts remain baffled by the concepts and workings of Primal Physics.

In Part 3, Drs Lipton and Sheldrake will explain scientific method.

Posted by Yakaru

h1

Everyone has the right to question Islam and draw whatever they want

January 13, 2015

(Somewhat ill-tempered rant below the fold….!!!)

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH: Rupert Sheldrake Meets Bruce Lipton (Part 1)

December 14, 2014

We have already met both Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton on this site. Both have PhDs in biology. Both present their idle speculations as fact. Both are utterly mystified as to why proper scientists ignore them. And in the following video, titled A Quest Beyond the Limits of the Ordinary, they both meet each other.

How will this go? Are we about to witness an inspiring fusion of groundbreaking new ideas? Or will this be more like an episode of the old MTV cartoon show Beavis and Butthead, only using quantum physics instead of toilet jokes?

bnbBeavis & Butthead not paying attention in high school

The action starts with Sheldrake suggesting that whereas Lipton’s work started at the cellular level and “worked upwards”, Sheldrake’s own work looks from the “top down”.

When I was working in developmental biology I got very interested in “organizing fields” — morphogenetic fields — which organize living systems, as it were, from the top down. 

This morphogenetic field, he informs us, was first postulated by Alexander Gurwitsch in the 1920s. He does not inform us, however, that its only known habitat is a fuzzy area inside his own head — and not in any place where it might influence other living organisms.

What’s more, Sheldrake presents this idea of an organizing field as if it’s radical, and a threat to modern science. But it’s not radical at all. It’s a completely mundane idea. We already know of such “top down” organizing principles — scientists refer to them as the laws of chemistry and physics.

When applied in the life sciences, these laws of chemistry and physics can be used to explain things which Sheldrake finds utterly mystifying. Like this:

If you take, say a hollyhock plant, the leaves, the flowers, the petals, have completely different structures and yet they have the same veins and the same chemicals…

This is basic high school botany. But Sheldrake, the fool, presents it to his audience as if it’s a baffling enigma. He continues:

…So the chemicals alone couldn’t explain it.

Well the chemicals alone do explain it perfectly well. Atoms are not like inert billiard balls rolling around aimlessly, needing an external hyper-physical organizing agent to boss them about. Living organisms are indeed extraordinarily complex, but the chemical processes governing their growth and development are extremely well understood.

What Sheldrake would need is some well documented anomalies that are not well explained by the known laws. But instead, what he offers his audience is the supposedly baffling mystery of how mushrooms grow. 

In hushed awe-struck tones, he describes how mushrooms send their threads out through the soil, and then “when the right moment comes”, the threads grow together and sprout miraculously up into a mushroom.

How on earth did these separate threads know what to do? They’re all [chemically] the same to start with, but some form the cap, some form the gills, some form the stem, some form the membrane at the top. How on earth did these cells know what to do, to harmoniously coordinate with the rest?

It may have baffled Herr Professor Doktor Gurwitsch in the 1920s, but it’s not baffling to anyone today who’s capable of opening a high school botany text. This is all basic — really really basic — botany with a splash of genetics. And Sheldrake has been too busy gawping at mushrooms to realize it.

The focus now shifts to Lipton

Wooly, useless, ignorant, cognitively docile and Prince Charles-like as Rupert Sheldrake is, he’s not as poisonously stupid as his interlocutor, Dr Bruce Lipton. As we have seen elsewhere on this blog, Lipton is a cancer quack who promotes the healing power of analogies.

So what has this got to do with Sheldrake and his non-existent “morphogenetic fields”? Are Lipton and Sheldrake really looking at the same thing from different directions?

I am sorry, but before this can be considered, I must subject the reader to a sudden burst of Lipton talking about his research and half his fucking life story along with it. He regularly subjects his audiences to hours of this. Much of it uses New Age trigger words, so his audience has a kind of dim trance-like feeling that they know what he is talking about — which, I suspect is much more than Lipton has.

Lipton:

I was still stuck in the chemical world and I identified that on the cell membrane there are these structures called receptors and there’s an interesting parallel here and that is that we are made in the image of a cell, actually, so that if I talk about a cell or if I talk about a human we’re still talking about the same thing. So the skin of a cell is very much similar to yours in the sense that it’s a boundary that contains the inside but it also has the ability to read the environment because we have eyes and ears and nose and taste and all these other receptors. Cells have on them the same things but in micro form, in a sense, so they’re reading the environment and the truth is that actually my second grade image when I first saw cells I saw them as sentient beings, I didn’t see them as just moving around in the water. They were, like, the amoeba would go look at something and then back away and then move somewhere else, or the paramecium, and I saw them as people, and it turns out to be that here’s a very interesting relation if, you know, we talk about at some point in regard to fractals, that we are made in the image of the cell. Every function that is in our human body is already present in every cell and anything you can identify in here is in a cell, digestive, nervous, reproductive systems. Every cell has even got an immune system and so the relevance that was really fun for me is that my understanding of the nature of what the cells were reading in their environment, it changed their lives and then I started to recognize this because I was cloning these cells in a petri dish and the simple thing that you’ve learned right away in culturing cells is that sometimes the environment isn’t that good when you culture them and then you put the cells in these cultures and the next thing you know is they’re sick and dying and they don’t look very good, but I found if you take those cultures and then put them into a better environment the cells immediately recover, grow and start to flourish and then all of a sudden it hit me. I said Oh my goodness I realized this, that while we see ourselves as single individual entities that’s a misperception because the living things are cells. We are communities of cells about 50 trillion cells, it’s been suggested, are making us up. Why that’s relevant is that in a simple reality we are like skin covered petri dishes and if we put our petri dishes in a good environment then we flourish and do well and if we put it in a bad environment we start to reflect what was going on in that environment and that we can come back and then get back into a good environment and recover, and why this became important is for me it took the emphasis to understand the nature of health and vitality was to look outside the cell and not look inside the cell which became to me a physical complement of the world. So the cell becomes a complement of its environment and so then the issue is what is that environment and my conventional teaching only left me in the physical world of molecules and atoms and the material world and it was at some point after I left my conventional job that I picked up a book by Heinz Pagels called The Cosmic Code and it was about quantum physics…

Stop!!!

Okay…. Some deep breaths…

It’s over now. You won’t have to read that ever again.

But I would like to pick out some very small portions of it and take a closer look….. 

…..But we can do that next time, in Part 2, okay? 

You may use the comment section if there is anything you need to talk about.

(Part 2 is here.)

Posted by Yakaru

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 64 other followers