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Devin Tarr

Master's Student, California State University Chico

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Why should presuppose that the cause of religious experience must be natural?

As I was watching Mr. Haidt's talk, I was struck with what he categorized as the "million dollar question". He says:

"Is the staircase a feature of our evolutionary design? Is it a product of natural selection like our hands? Or, is it a bug? A mistake in the system . . . religious stuff just happens when the wires cross in the brain?"

It seems, considering the testimony of those having such experiences, that we should at least consider whether they're caused by a super-natural explanation. It struck me as odd that Mr Haidt's logic went like this:

1) People have self-transcendent experiences, through religion or other means
2) What could be the cause of these experiences?
3) They must either be a natural feature of humanity, or a delusion producing bug in our biological system.

It seems to me there's an obvious third question as well. Is there something beyond us (super-natural) that we're connecting to, or is connecting to us.

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    Mar 15 2012: I think we should ask, whether being able to have religious experiences provides us with any evolutionary benefit. Or in other words: assuming religious experience suddenly disappears, would that alter in any way how our race evolves and adapts ? Would it in any way change our chance of survival as a race ?
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      Mar 15 2012: Yeah that makes sense. My trouble with that perspective though is it puts the primary subject of inquiry on "what will help us best survive?" My question is a fundamentally different one, "what is life truly about?" If there's something more to life than just what our senses tell us, that truth is going to be deeper than we've ever imagined. And if such a reality exists, there's no way I want to focus on the earthly question at the expense of the spiritual one. Just my thoughts though. :)
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        Mar 15 2012: Well, one thing is sure, reality is much more complex than what we can detect with our 5 senses, even without invoking the concept of "spiritual".
        Now to the question of "What is life truly about ?": Did you ever consider that there doesn't really have to be a purpose to life's existence ? If we ask the question about life's purpose, we could as well ask about the purpose of the whole universe. Why does the universe exist ?
        By the way, what do you consider "spiritual questions" and why do you think they could be important in your day to day life ?
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          Mar 16 2012: Certainly it could be that there's no purpose to life, but it's at least worth investigating. In my experience I've found life makes the most sense when lived in communion with the Lord.

          Moreover, my relationship with God impacts my day-to-day life in every way. Indeed, with Him, no circumstances in life can take away my joy, and the blessing of a clean conscience, knowing I'm forgiven of all everything I've done wrong, is worth more than I could pay.
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          Mar 19 2012: Fair enough Devin, but plenty of people do or have found meaning in life with other gods, or buddhism, or no gods or supernatural constructs.

          Up until 1700 years ago Judaism or Christianity was only known to a very small part of the worlds population. People elsewhere have managed to find or invent meaning since we had the brain to contemplate the question.
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        Mar 16 2012: You see Devin, I'm perfectly happy with my life without any reliance on the supernatural. I can't even imagine where faith in a God could add any value.
        I always think that religion is like crutches for some people. It's just a tool to confront and deal better with life's challenges. Some people seem to need this tool and others do not, but at the end, as long as someone's faith doesn't hurt anybody, I don't really care what he believes.
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          Mar 16 2012: Right. I'm of the opinion that the universe didn't just pop into being out of nowhere, but that there must be a cause behind it. Moreover, when I look at the properties that this cause must have, I'm led to the traditional understanding of a Theistic God.

          Then I reflect on something. I believe that morality is real. Some things are really right and really wrong. But where do right and wrong come from? If they're merely social constructs, then what's "right" and "wrong" can drastically change. Perhaps one day the holocaust would be right (if everyone alive in the world believed so). But if in fact the holocaust was wrong, independent of what everyone thinks, then how is that? Indeed, it would need to be grounded in a transcendent Person who IS good.

          Then I go one step further. Will people ultimately be held accountable for their actions? I believe so. The evidence for a transcendent and morally perfect Creator leads me to believe that our lives DO have significance and value, and that we all will give an account of our lives once we die. That's what Jesus taught. And the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is actually quite good. So I put my faith in Jesus, in reason, and empirical experience. The conclusion of those three is what makes me, unashamedly, a sincere Christian. :)
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          Mar 16 2012: "You see Devin, I'm perfectly happy with my life without any reliance on the supernatural."

          I'm glad that you're "perfectly happy" with your life, as you should be, but to say that you live your life "without reliance on the supernatural," if you mean by the "supernatural" God, then you don't understand who God is.

          Among other things, God is Life, God is Mind, and God is Consciousness. As such, you cannot not rely on God, and you most certainly believe in Him.

          True, religion is a "tool' of a sort, establishing a direct, conscious, and deliberate way with which to engage God and to use God.

          Because God is Life, Mind, and Consciousness, we all use Her as "a tool to confront and deal better with life's challenges," it's just that some of us are doing it indirectly, unconsciously, and unwittingly, while some are doing it deliberately.

          Further, life has a purpose, as God has a purpose for Life. To think otherwise is to say that God is a purposeless God, which, even for non-believers, would seem out of line with the notion of a God.

          Not only is it impossible not to use God, it's just as impossible not to believe in Her. If we believe in us, we believe in God.

          Just as we cannot not use God, cannot not believe in God, we cannot not be about God's business, as that too would seem out of line with the notion we have of God as almighty, and all-knowing.

          Our God Purpose: We're here on planet earth to experience. Think about it, what do we live and die to do (literally at times), whether vicariously or by active participation? If you say to experience, then you have answered the 64 thousand dollar question, whether adjusted for inflation or not.

          We humans came from the absolute (where all things are One Thing) to the realm of the relative (where most things are measured by their opposites) for the purpose of knowing ourselves through our experiences. We can know ourselves as good, but until we do something good, and experience that, we are merely speculating
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          Mar 19 2012: Devin, you are of the opinion that the universe didn't just pop into being out of nowhere, but that there must be a cause behind it.

          Then you jump on the tired old theistic view around the cause not needing a cause through the usual mental gymnastics. Something out side and space, time, matter and energy yet able to manipulate these.

          "the cause must be ...." this is such a nonsense argument, with no basis. You jump on one of an infinite number of causes, more than we can imagine.

          The argument seems so obviously about justifying a belief rather than explaining what we don't understand.

          If you allow for your view of god outside time and space etc then there are millions of other arguments or explanations possible. Multiple universes etc. And also infinite variants of what a first cause might be.

          And then the jump to your cultural god being the first cause, not any other is almost ridiculous.
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        Mar 16 2012: Devin, I think that's faulty reasoning.
        1) There probably is some cause that brought the universe into existence, but there is no reason to associate it with some supernatural entity.
        2) I'm not sure what particular properties of the universe lead you to the deduction that it must be the work of a God.
        3) "traditional understanding": applies only to the faithful.
        4) Yes, morality is real, but again, morality does not depend on religion or any faith in the supernatural. Otherwise, by definition, only religious people could be moral while others are amoral. This obviously is not the case.
        5) What is right and what is wrong depends on the particular community. There are no absolutes. For example, killing and eating your dog is something that seems to be pretty common in some parts of Asia. On the other hand, if you do that in the US, you have a good chance to land in jail. Or, another example, in some cultures kids are forced into marriage and sex and in those cultures it seems pretty much normal and legal. In our western societies you would quickly get into legal troubles. There are even tribes for which cannibalism is something normal and legal, while in most societies it would be murder and lead to obvious consequences.
        As you see, right and wrong are relatives, made up by a given societies, but they are not universal truths.
        What also plays a role, I think, is that humans are social animals, which by definition have to create a system that allows them to get along with each other. Certain behaviors just don't go together with a functioning social community (e.g. killing, stealing,....).
        6) What makes you believe that people might be held accountable (presumably in some afterlife) for their earthly deeds ? There is no evidence for that. Even in our earthly realm we more often than not see, that bad people are actually doing pretty fine, while good people often suffer. So, there doesn't seem to be any correlation.
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          Mar 16 2012: "There probably is some cause that brought the universe into existence, but there is no reason to associate it with some supernatural entity."

          A cause without a cause. A definition of God wouldn't you say, self-existent. Whether you believe that the "cause" was natural or "supernatural," that which set in motion all that is, is, by definition God, the First Cause.

          This argument dates back to Plato and Aristotle, and we're still debating it today, with each side marshaling its defenses.

          "I'm not sure what particular properties of the universe lead you to the deduction that it must be the work of a God."

          Frankly, there aren't any. The material universe has no "properties" that support the notion of God. It could be argued successfully that the physical universe is proof that God doesn't exist.

          Notwithstanding the argument, we're told that God isn't material but spiritual. I would go further and say that God exists outside of the material universe, although He's the cause of it. I would go even further and say that the material universe doesn't exist at all, that all is Spirit and Mind.

          But then, that's me. I've had some rather interesting experiences, the result of a propitious birth.

          "What is right and what is wrong depends on the particular community."

          True, and time, and place, among them.

          "What makes you believe that people might be held accountable (presumably in some afterlife) for their earthly deeds."

          "As you sow, you reap." This statement has two sides. If you sow good, then good will be returned to you. If you sow anger, hatred, envy, and jealousy, these things will be returned as well. If you take that which is not yours, that which is yours will be taken from you.

          In this life, reparation is received, but, depending on the nature of the offense, it may take several lifetimes to balance the scales.

          "There is no evidence for that...." Because you can't see the law in action doesn't mean it's not. bin Laden died as he lived, with more coming.
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          Mar 17 2012: Dear Harald, thank you. Those are good questions.
          1) 2) 3) I should be clearer in noting that reflecting on the origin of the universe I don't think requires one to believe in God. But seeing that the cause of the universe (which is all space, time, matter, and energy) requires the cause to spaceless, timeless, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, and personal, I believe we can at least be confident that a transcendent personal supernatural Creator exists.

          On morality, you note (I think correctly), that if there is no God, then morality is relative. The problem with that is I think we all know it's not true. I think all people have a moral intuition in our being that informs us that murder (killing innocents people) is wrong. Cultures may disagree about who is "innocent", but that principle remains constant.

          Though, I see no more reason why we should deny our moral sense is true than that we should deny our physical sense of the world is true. But please know, I'm not saying that one must believe in God, or be religious, to be moral. That is not what I'm saying. Rather, the claim is that if God exists, objective moral values exist (for everyone), but if there is no transcendent moral law, then there is no objective morality for anyone--believer or non-believer.

          On the point about people being held accountable once they die, I think the best evidence for that is to investigate the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. If God really raised Him from the dead, I think we can trust what He said. But if not, then we can dismiss it.

          I get the feeling though that people aren't enjoying this discussion very much anymore. If you still are, I'd love to talk more, but if not, I don't want to frustrate anyone. I'm just passionate about truth and big questions.

          Sincerely,
          Devin
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        Mar 16 2012: Wilbert, your definition of God is one that not all faithful would agree with. Besides, if you say God is life, minds, consciousness, etc, then you are simply giving those terms a different names, hence playing with words. Mind, Life, consciousness are terms that can be and are approached by science, while God is something that lies outside of science.
        "Further, life has a purpose, as God has a purpose for Life. To think otherwise is to say that God is a purposeless God, which, even for non-believers, would seem out of line with the notion of a God."
        This paragraph only makes sense to a faithful but is totally meaningless to anybody else.
        All you see around you is a wonder of nature, but there is nothing mystical, supernatural or otherwise "strange" to it. It is simply the result of billions of years of nature's trial and error. You don't need to invoke a God for that.
        About life's ultimate purpose, to be honest, I don't think there is one and I really don't care if there is one. My objective is to live this life as if it were the only one I have (and most probably that's the case anyway) in the best possible way.
        It's actually pretty simple and becomes only convoluted once people start to involve products of their imagination (e.g. Gods).
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          Mar 17 2012: "Wilbert, your definition of God is one that not all faithful would agree with."

          Of course you're right, but a few "faithful" would agree. Nevertheless, until we understand God, we'll never understand ourselves.

          I realize that on this and many contiguous topics we won't see eye to eye, and that's why I'm reticent to offer my own experiences as support for my positions.

          "[Y]ou are simply giving those terms a different names,...playing with words. Mind, Life, consciousness are terms that can be and are approached by science."

          What we've done, essentially, is apply to ourselves attributes that belong to God. Now, let me challenge you: You say that these "terms...can be and are approached by science." True, they can, but tell me this, as science looks to the physical body for the source of life, why has it come up empty handed?

          As it looks to the brain for mind, and consciousness, why has it failed utterly? Surely, this material science can find a material source for that which gives meaning to life, and allows us to interact with it.

          If it can't--and it never will--then something is missing and that something is a Life, a Mind, and a Consciousness, residing outside of the physical realm, and material perception, and that something is what we call God.

          For me, this isn't an exercise in speculation or semantics, but a part of my stone-hard reality, my ongoing experiences.

          I can tell you this: Your body is not alive, but is kept alive by another. The body doesn't think, nor is it conscious, but obtains these abilities from another--one far more excellent than the one you see.

          Because, in this realm, these things are expressed through a brain, and a body, any damage to that body can result in less than optimum expression of life and mind.

          How do I know? I'm a rarity. One who has the ability to leave his body at will. Another who had this ability, Robert Monroe, studied this phenomenon with as much scientific adherence as possible. http://www.monroeinstitute.org/
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          Mar 17 2012: "This paragraph only makes sense to a faithful but is totally meaningless to anybody else."

          I'd agree to this extent: For some, this statement is "meaningless," but not necessarily "meaningless to anybody else." There are many communities of thought where this statement would not only resonate, but find easy and familiar acceptance.

          "All you see around you is a wonder of nature, but there is nothing mystical, supernatural or otherwise "strange" to it."

          You're right, there's nothing "strange" about it, and from my vast and uncommon perspective, what is termed "supernatural and mystical" is for me, natural and commonplace. See the accompanying post.

          "About life's ultimate purpose, to be honest, I don't think there is one and I really don't care if there is one."

          And you're right not to "care." It doesn't matter that you care or don't care. Life will allow you to live it any way you choose, and won't berate, or judge you for the choice.

          "My objective is to live this life as if it were the only one I have (and most probably that's the case anyway)."

          Keep it in the probability realm. Many who have died thinking that life ended with their death, are now asleep in that belief, and won't awaken for an interminable time. You don't want to do that, you have too much living to do, as you have lived many times, and will, if you're careful, live many more.

          "It's actually pretty simple and becomes only convoluted once people start to involve products of their imagination (e.g. Gods)."

          How ironic, you're using God (Imagination) to dismiss God. Haven't you noticed: God doesn't have a preference one way or the other? Do as you choose, but with a caveat: All paths lead to God, although some paths that look like paths aren't paths at all. Know too: You can choose a path back to God that's joyous and peaceful, or arduous and painful.

          That's where I come in--to urge you to spare yourself that agony. It's not necessary,.
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        Mar 16 2012: Wilbert, as to your 2 post: If you start talking about God as the cause for everything there is you are quickly ending up on a very slippery path, because you inevitably will get the question who created God and who created God's creator and so forth, which as you can see quickly doesn't lead anywhere.
        You say God is spiritual or outside the material world. That sounds nice, but what does that mean ? What does "spiritual" mean ? What or where is "outside the material world" ? These are simply imaginations. There is no evidence at all to support such ideas. You could as well claim that purple unicorns roam the surface of Alfa Centauris.
        "As you sow, you reap.": sometimes, and only in our material life (at least based on the evidence available)
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          Mar 17 2012: "[Y]ou inevitably will get the question who created God and who created God's creator and so forth, which as you can see quickly doesn't lead anywhere."

          it leads where it leads. God is an Existence, rather than a being. She's that which has always been, and always will be. He's the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, existing in a time, no-time, for eternity, as do you.

          "You say God is spiritual or outside the material world."

          She's more than that. He is Spirit. If you doubt me, ask Her yourself! God communicates with us all the time, but few listens. Ask Sherry Sword: http://www.sherrysword.com/

          "There is no evidence at all to support such ideas."

          You're right, there is no evidence that your physical, material senses will acknowledge. That's why you'll have to develop your spiritual senses to see what you've been missing.

          "'As you sow, you reap.': sometimes, and only in our material life (at least based on the evidence available)."

          Evidence is available, but only for those with eyes to see, as we humans see only an infinitesimal amount of the vista before us. Sometime the reaping is quick, as in my case, or slowly, over many lifetimes--also, as in my case.

          "What does 'spiritual' mean ? What or where is 'outside the material world?'"

          Actually, you know what it means, for you reside there in the always. When you sleep, your soul rests: it returns to it natural habitat so to speak. That dream world that we often dismiss as inconsequential to our existence is the realm that's called spirit, and when you transition, you'll know that, and that world will be as familiar to you as your dreamscape is to you now.
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        Mar 17 2012: Wilbert you say: "True, they can, but tell me this, as science looks to the physical body for the source of life, why has it come up empty handed? "
        That's one of the arguments I often here from religious people. However, this shows a lack of understanding what science is. Science has not all the answers to our questions. It's a work in progress. But look back in time. Once upon a time, people believed in fire, lightening etc. as something magical. Why ? Because they lacked the understanding of the underlying scientific principles. People at some time also believed that the earth was flat. The list of examples is endless.
        Just because there are things we can't explain yet, doesn't mean we have to explain them with God.
        Whether you admit it or not, your faith is not (by definition) based on facts. That being so, any belief in anything is on equal footing as a belief in God. Whether one believes in the 9/11 conspiracy, the tooth fairy, Santa or God, in principle makes no difference. Fact is, their is neither proof nor even evidence to support any of those beliefs.
        I'm a biochemist and I can tell you that as amazing as our body (and any life form for that purpose) is, it is not more than an incredible carbon based machine. Everything there is to a living being are electrochemical reactions. Once these reactions stop we are dead. I understand that this is not a very romantic view about us, but that's how it is. Bye the way, I'm familiar with the Monroe Institute and with all due respect I consider them a bunch of charlatans.
        But as I said in an earlier post, it doesn1 really matter to me what a person believes as long as his belief doesn't cause any damage to others.
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          Mar 17 2012: "However, this shows a lack of understanding what science is."

          Not, really. I believe that I have a very good grasp of science as well as its limitations. That's why I know that the riddle of life will forever elude it. It can't see what it can't see. Spirit is above the physical world; that's why it's called metaphysical.

          Now, I'm not trying to convince anyone, or convert anyone.I merely wish to share my own experiences in the spirit world and offer another point of view. You're free to believe or not. In that, I have no preference, just as God has no preference.

          "Just because there are things we can't explain yet, doesn't mean we have to explain them with God."

          I couldn't agree more. Explain them anyway you choose. Life is all about choice. You're free to choose whatever you wish. You have free will because God has free will. And since you're part of God, and God a part of you, She has willed certain things for you, which is saying substantially, You have willed certain things for you.

          One of those things is to return Home, to the Godhead. And you can do that now, or in a millennium.

          Regardless of what you may feel about the Monore Institute, Robert Monroe pioneered the out of body phenomenon, as he was one of the first, but not the only one, to write about his experiences in this other realm, often referred to as the astral realm.

          "Everything there is to a living being are electrochemical reactions. Once these reactions stop we are dead."

          You're describing the physical body, and not YOU. You didn't have a beginning and you will not have an end. I have lived thousands of times, and know of many of these incarnations, tracing my existence to the very beginning of time, before history was chronicled.

          As I warned: You'll want to keep the possibility open as to whether you'll survive death, as you will sleep for an awful long time, before you awaken yourself, or is awaken by others.

          And frankly, that would be a waste. As you believe, it's done unto you.
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          Mar 17 2012: Dear Harold, I didn't know you were a biochemist! I wish I had that kind of knowledge, though not badly enough to do the work that you've done on that area.

          I do have an honest question for you though. You said, "Everything there is to a living being are electrochemical reactions." Do you see no difference between the Mind and Brain then?

          Warmly,
          Devin
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        Mar 17 2012: Wilbert, I'm not sure you actually believe what you write, but then, who knows.
        As for me, I prefer to base my life on something a bit more tangible than fairy tales.
        But good luck to you anyway !
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          Mar 17 2012: "Wilbert, I'm not sure you actually believe what you write, but then, who knows."

          No, I don't "believe" it; I know it. Just as I don't "believe in God," nor do I recommend that others do, but that they should find proof of their own, so that belief becomes knowledge.

          If I have told you this, and you haven't believed me, what if I told you all the things that I'm able to do, and by extension, all the things that you can do, simply by developing a sense that has grown fallow from disuse--our spiritual sense.

          "As for me, I prefer to base my life on something a bit more tangible than fairy tales.
          But good luck to you anyway !"

          To each his own. If you find your physical, material existence a tangible source of comfort for your life, so be it. As I've said, in such I have no preference.

          Yet, if you think that our conversation was a chance occurrence, think again. The time will come when you will think back on it, and remember that I said that you would.

          I send you more than "luck." In your wake, may nothing but blessings become your lot.
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        Mar 17 2012: Hello Devin,
        1) Yes, I do see a difference between brain and mind. The brain is the hardware, and the mind is the product produced by this hardware. So, although these are 2 different things, one cannot be without the other.
        2) as to you other post, no, we can't be confident that the creator you describe exists. Nothing that constitutes our universe points to a supernatural creator.
        3) Morality is relative in my view, although I think we are hardwired to find certain behavior amoral. Killing, in most societies, is considered amoral, but as I pointed out, some indigenous tribes still practice cannibalism is something normal. Looking back in time, cannibalism was even more common.
        Or look at corruption. While some societies have very high standards when it comes to corruption, others practice it on a daily basis.
        We also might often get a wrong view of morality, because most of the time, people are constrained by laws. Imagine a society where killing isn't punished. Although I can't proof it, I'm pretty sure that the rate of homicides would increase significantly.
        4) You cite Jesus' resurrection. Again, you need to be a believer to go with that idea, because for a non believer the notion of resurrection from the death is nonsensical.
        Discussing religion is usually pretty futile because one is dealing with something that's outside of the laws of nature, science and logic but only based on faith. When it comes to faith, there are no limits. You can believe in anything regardless if it is a God or little green men from Mars. There really is no difference between the 2.
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          Mar 18 2012: "The brain is the hardware, and the mind is the product produced by this hardware. So, although these are 2 different things, one cannot be without the other."

          Allow me to make a point or two. The sun as hardware doesn't produce a product totally unlike itself, as does the brain. The mind-body dilemma or problem has perplexed thinkers for a millennium or more.

          Modern science has theorized a reconciliation of the problem but not to the satisfaction of all. Some say, either all is mind, or all is matter. Of course, there are those who're trying to have it both ways.

          Robert Lanza, M.D. is a proponent of biocentrism, which says substantially,

          "Until the mind sets the scaffolding of things in place, they can't be thought of as having any real existence -- neither duration nor position in space. As the great physicist John Wheeler said, 'No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.' That's why in real experiments, not just the properties of matter -- but space and time themselves -- depend on the observer. Your consciousness isn't just part of the equation − the equation is you." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/is-there-a-god-or-is-ther_b_639416.html

          Dr. Lanza has several more articles like this one over at HuffPost.

          Thinking this over, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the mind was required to give the brain "any real existence," although we're taught that brain precedes mind and is the cause of it.

          You know my position: Mind precedes the human body, and is separate and apart from it,which, along with another body, often referred to as the "astral body," gives life, mind, and sentience to the physical body--a non-sentient form, much like Jake Sully's avatar in the movie by the same name, Avatar.

          In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12, using the symbolism of the time, we're told exactly how the physical and the non-physical body (the astral body) interacts. We're told that the spiritual body gives the physical life.
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        Mar 18 2012: Wilbert, you are confusing a lot of things here.
        1) as for the hardware example, just take a computer as the hardware and the output you get from it as the "product" I was referring to. The output obviously is completely different than the hardware.
        2) you don't need an observer for something to be real. The moon is where it is regardless of an observer or not. The same is true for the universe.
        3) What the mind does is converting our sensory inputs into images that we then identify as a tree, rock, car or whatever else. Other organisms might perceive the same object completely different from us (e.g. insect that can see UV light and identify patterns on flowers that are invisible to us).
        As for R. Lanza pls. read here: http://americanloons.blogspot.mx/2011/06/227-robert-lanza.html
        P.S. pls don't cite Huffington Post as the source of wisdom, but refer to peer reviewed scientific works.
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          Mar 18 2012: "[A]s for the hardware example, just take a computer as the hardware and the output you get from it as the "product" I was referring to. The output obviously is completely different than the hardware."

          Okay, but your analogy is inconsistent. I chose something from the natural realm, in keeping with the physical body which is from the same realm. A computer is manmade, and is a product of humans and not nature.

          But I'll follow along. A computer would do nothing, and be nothing, without the software that drives it, using an electrical source of some kind (one that's identifiable). Note: it, too, was manmade. Similarly, our human brain would do, and be nothing, without the unseen mind that drives it. Not only did it create the brain, but the body that houses it.

          The computer/software combination doesn't create a product that's at variance with its design, but actually provides a definable path from product to the source of that product, deducible and comprehensible, even if a series of reverse engineering are required.

          Not so with the brain/mind combination, not only is the product (thoughts, imagination, ideas) at variance with the physical brain, the source of its energy (life) can't be determined or located, and neither can the software (the intelligence) that drives it.

          Yet, science is compelled to say that the "hardware," our brain, is the source of our mind, thoughts, and intelligence, rather than posit a source outside of the body. For that reason I aver: Science will never solve the riddle of the mind, or the life that drives it, and the body.

          And, unlike a computer and its software, no one from the scientific community has found a way to reverse engineer the source of our intelligence, the mind, nor the source of its energy, life itself.

          As for Dr. Lanza, I'm not surprised that his conclusions don't receive wide acceptance. When you're dealing with "flat earth" thinking, a spherical earth theory is bound to offend the sensibilities of flat thinkers.
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          Mar 18 2012: "[Y]ou don't need an observer for something to be real. The moon is where it is regardless of an observer or not. The same is true for the universe."

          Only one comment at the blog you referenced. The blogger doesn't seem to have much of a following, if that one post is any indication.

          Without an "observer" you have nothing, not reality, not illusion--nothing that can be defined, as it's the observer that makes those determinations, provides the properties of that which is observed.

          That which is observed is mute regarding its own properties, its own characteristics, and requires an observer to give meaning to that which is observed. Meaning is the exclusive reserve of the observer, and not of that which is observed.

          Ergo, a thing can only exist under the observation of the observer, and not otherwise. Not only does the observer creates that which is observed, but the observer can change the properties of that which is seen. Indeed, the observer's consciousness, in the act of observing, does this automatically, providing what is expected in the seeing.

          Take the weather, for example. I can take a hot day and make it hotter or cooler, with just my thoughts alone. I can stop the wind in its tracks. I can take a dry day, and cause the rain to pour, or turn it off for months, creating a dry spell, or a drought.

          Our collective consciousness impacts everything in our environment--indeed the whole planet--the weather, our predisposition for war, and the general health of societies.

          Dr. Lanza, in all likelihood, won't go this far, even if he believed it, for fear that his colleagues, his peers in the scientific community, will ridicule, ostracize, and otherwise expel him from that community,.

          That's the tragedy, not that the doctor promotes ideas and theories that haven't stood up to the scrutiny of peer review, but that he doesn't dare take that next step beyond the boundaries that have already been established as sacrosanct.

          This intransigence serves no one.
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          Mar 18 2012: "What the mind does is converting our sensory inputs into images that we then identify as a tree, rock, car or whatever else. Other organisms might perceive the same object completely different from us."

          As you say, the mind "converts." We "identify." Again you say, we convert and identify what we sense, leaving out what we can't, which "other organism might "perceive...completely different from us."

          Perfectly logical.

          But consider this for a moment--what if we're merely perceiving what we believe is there, rather than what's actually there? What if, instead, we decided that what's there is spiritual (eternal and indestructible) rather than material (ephemeral and impermanent)?

          What then?

          Would that be our reality, and in keeping with the concept of biocentrism as postulated by Dr. Lanza?

          I'll go so far as to say this: Our material senses--collaborating with a material consciousness--actually get out ahead of our "sensory input," essentially declaring in advance what a thing is, subjecting it to a material prism, before we're able to convert and identify.

          I say, change the definition of those things which are seen, and see them through the prism of spiritual sense--which anyone can develop over time--and that which was material to the material senses, will now be spiritual to the spiritual senses, with all the attendant attributes of permanence, and perfection.

          Instead of objects, we now have ideas. Instead of illusions, reality.

          This must be so much nonsense to one grounded in the scientific method, and well-schooled in the scientific modes of today.

          Therefore, I speak to those who may see what I've written at some later time, and for whom it may resonate.
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        Mar 19 2012: Wilbert, what you say is just plain wrong. There is a lot of stuff out there in the universe we can't observe, yet it's there, whether we observe it or not. So, the question is not whether or not something is there, but whether or not it really is what it seems to our senses. But even that is a mute point. A car, to all humans looks like a car, although an ant or bacterium might have a completely different perception of the car.
        The term "spiritual" is meaningless to me. There is one reality out there. Do we have the complete picture of what this reality is ? Probably not yet, but we constantly discover more and more stuff that helps us form our picture of reality. None of it requires the belief in anything supernatural The term supernatural doesn't even make sense, because anything there is, is automatically part of nature.
        Biocentrism is nonsense. Unless a hypothesis or theory can be supported by evidence, experiments reproduced under controlled conditions and is thoroughly peer reviewed with peers confirming the theory, it's not worth much.
        What I often wonder is why do some people choose to get hooked on weird ideas instead of applying scientific principles when it comes to explain our reality ?
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          Mar 19 2012: "[T]he question is not whether or not something is there, but whether or not it really is what it seems to our senses. But even that is a mute point."

          By your own admission, our corporeal senses are unreliable perceivers of reality, as they leave out certain information, while including other.

          "None of it requires the belief in anything supernatural The term supernatural doesn't even make sense, because anything there is, is automatically part of nature."

          I agree, to a point. All that we label natural phenomena is in reality supernatural. And everything that we label supernatural is in reality natural.

          "There is one reality out there."

          I agree, again. And, too, I agree that we don't "have the complete picture of what this reality is," but very little of what we term "reality" will be discovered in petri dishes, or by gazing down microscopes, or peering into space with the use of Hubble.

          Science has its limits. Consciousness doesn't.

          "What I often wonder is why do some people choose to get hooked on weird ideas instead of applying scientific principles when it comes to explain our reality ?"

          The answer is simple: Science cannot account for our "weird" reality. Instead, it tells us to dismiss it, because it, science, hasn't given its blessings to it, hasn't validated it with its scientific method, concluding that we're "just plain wrong," or even insane, that our experiences don't coincide with its more acceptable version of reality, where guarded experiments, and peer review win the day over anecdotal evidence.

          When your science can explain, to my satisfaction, NDE's, and Dannion Brinkley's experiences; can explain why I can read the thoughts of others when their guard is down; why I can control the weather with my thoughts alone; why I can leave my body at will and travel to places never before seen; why, on occasion, I can see the future of the planet, and mine; then I'll acquiesce to your scientific method, and your sciences' preeminence.

          Until then!
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        Mar 19 2012: Ok, at least there are some points we agree, which we can summarize as follows:
        1) Our 5 senses give us an incomplete picture of reality
        2) No need for the supernatural since all there is, is part of nature.

        Now, science gives us a pretty good representation and explanation about nature, it's just not complete, but then, we are not at the end of the road yet and science still has a lot of puzzles to solve. So, let's be patient ;-)

        As to consciousness, you'll need to define what consciousness is, since there are different definitions for it. In any case, regardless of the definition, consciousness is a feature of humans and (most likely) other living creatures, hence an element of nature itself and with that accessible to a scientific approach.
        "Science has its limits. Consciousness doesn't. ": I would reformulate that to something better fitting: "Our knowledge has limits, but our imagination has not".
        Again, just because science has no explanation (yet) for certain phenomena doesn't mean we have to look for something beyond science, but put our efforts in developing and refining our scientific methods and tools until we can get to the bottom of things.

        As to your last paragraph, I prefer to refrain from commenting.
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          Mar 20 2012: Harald, you've been a good host, and I thank you for that. You didn't dismiss my claims out of hand (as many might have, given the extraordinary nature of them), and neither did you embrace them--a position I never expected you to take, since our two approaches to reality are in diametrical opposition.

          "[S]cience still has a lot of puzzles to solve. So, let's be patient."

          Some things science will solve to its satisfaction, but as I've previously stated: The riddle of life and the mind will always elude science, since life and the mind don't exist in the physical realm, but in a realm beyond its reach.

          More years ago than I care to count, I read a book that's still in print, titled, The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes, by Mortimer J. Adler, once an editor for Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, which has now suspend the print version of its flagship encyclopedia. http://www.amazon.com/The-Difference-Man-It-Makes/dp/0823215342/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332206065&sr=1-1

          In it, Adler spends some time discussing the mind/body dilemma, and whether we differ in degree or in kind from non-human life. He approaches this discussion as a philosopher, but
          not without giving science its due.

          It's my belief that in some instances, science and philosophy will always clash, just as religion and science will--in some circles--always clash regarding evolution, and creationism, and the role of intelligent design in all of it.

          "As to consciousness, you'll need to define what consciousness is, since there are different definitions for it."

          Consciousness is that which you and I use to navigate our daily lives, and interact with our environment, including other humans, "the state or condition of being conscious," or aware. Actually, in the nonphysical realm all things are aware, and are aware that they're aware (and can be communicated with), but in the physical realm that awareness undergoes a diminution, depending on the structure of the life form.

          Be blessed!
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      Mar 16 2012: Harald,

      Mi amigo! Compadre! Camarada!

      I don't think that everything in our nature has to have an evolutionary advantage. Some stuff can be secondary effects. For example, it would not make sense that our brains evolved because it was advantageous to be able to build spaceships. That we are able to do that comes from an original adaptation whose advantage was the possibility to put thoughts together in order to find food quicker than other hominids (oversimplification, but you might get the idea). In other words, this adaptation helped our species arise and survive. But that does not mean that it is here so that we could build spaceships. So, religions could also be a side-effect. With the power to imagine outcomes, weight risks, and such, we gained time for further imagining. So, we started trying to make sense of other stuff. What's those lights up there at night? Maybe those are campfires? Maybe those are the duelling of another, or many other tribes? What's with the fire coming out of that mountain? Could it contain a huge and angry animal who wants to kill us all, or who we should keep happy so that ti won't kill us all?

      So, the processes towards religion might be processes that were useful for reasons other than producing religion.

      Of course, I might be wrong. There might be an evolutionary advantage to being religious-inclined. But it might as well be a side-effect. Who knows?
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        Mar 16 2012: Hola amigo ! como estas ?
        No, you are right and that's not was I meant. Religion even might have had some evolutionary benefit in the past in the way that it helped people to make some sense of their surrounding or even to establish moral and ethical norms.
        However, today I think religion is only an artifact without much purpose to the development of the human race.
        I think the best way to tackle the issue is to think how would a world without religion look like ? Could be as a race prosper without religion ?

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