Profundity and belief revision

Jan 4, 2015

My last blog entry was a text-based discussion I had with a friend. The conversation centered around the potential doxastic threat of thinking one’s conclusions were profound. In this brief post I’ll clarify my reasoning behind our exchange and offer a few additional speculations.

The feeling of profundity and the role it may play in our epistemic lives is interesting to me because it relates to one of my research questions: What prevents people from revising their conclusions? (There’s a line of literature on this, broadly termed “doxastic closure”. Some of this literature details a suite of factors explaining why people have an inability or unwillingness to revise their thoughts, beliefs, conclusions, etc., but a rigorous analysis of this, including a definition and analysis of terms, extends beyond the purpose of this brief post.) Chief among these is the belief that holding a certain conclusion makes one a better person (for more here see Dennett). In other words, lending one’s belief to a proposition is a moral act and revising one’s belief is immoral.

Another factor inhibiting belief revision could be the feeling state that arises from holding certain thoughts. In the context of my text-based discussion, the sense of profundity could contribute to a closed doxastic state by extending one’s confidence in a proposition beyond what’s warranted by the evidence. That is, the feeling that one’s thoughts capture a deep insight about reality could make it less likely that one would be willing to revise one’s conclusions. This is because, I hypothesized, profundity could contribute to the state of thinking one’s uncovered the truth, and thus circumvent the desire of continuing to search.

What’s important to note here are the mechanisms responsible for doxastic entrenchment: Attitudes and feeling states. Belief revision is often not achieved on purely epistemic grounds, that is, depending on the domain of inquiry, people don’t change their conclusions because they’re presented with new evidence, or informed of reasons previously absent. Conclusions are revised, or not, for non-epistemic reasons—emotional valence, social benefits, honesty with oneself, etc.

The feeling of profundity could be a contributory variable for whether or not people are willing or able to revise their conclusions. I don’t know whether or not this speculation is accurate. Understanding the mechanisms of belief formation and revision are tricky, multivariate, and likely extend into the domain of cognitive neuroscience. If this speculation is accurate, however, then being aware of this sensation may act as a prophylactic from wedding ourselves to bad ideas.

61 comments on “Profundity and belief revision

  • There are some experiences so unlike ordinary reality, it feels as if they require some special explanation.

    When this happened to me, I presumed somebody must have given me drugs. I now see it as the manic phase of bipolar disorder. When it happens to other people they presume the creator of the universe has just paid a visit.

    This comes with such emotional punch it overrides mere logic. Whatever you tell yourself in this state gets hard wired. If this has not yet happened to you, you have no idea what I am talking about. It well beyond anything you could imagine is possible in intensity.

    Science does not like to talk about such states. This encourages interpretation in a Christian context.
    It also explains the way low IQ Christians talk confidently and contemptuously to atheists. Atheists could not possibly understand anything if they had not shared this experience.



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  • Perhaps one profound thought can be overcome with another?

    Conclusions are revised, or not, for non-epistemic reasons—emotional
    valence, social benefits, honesty with oneself, etc.

    All our thoughts are in the first place based upon our feelings, then on ratio. Isn’t it? Feelings can not be separated from our thoughts. As I see it, feeling of profundity is an authoritative attitude. Erich Fromm nicely explains authoritative states of mind. Perhaps some people wants to be doxasticly closed because they are afraid of freedom (again Fromm), they want authority a parent figure. Catholic religion is an guilt society isn’t it (guilt and shame societies), actually, I think that it is both, but than, how can a person resolve someone doxastic closure if he or she base their arguments upon ratio instead on feelings? How can one “cure” someone from profundity if the profundity is an outcome of someone deeper psychical thoughts (fears), as for example fear of freedom?… if profundity is masked need for authority?



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  • I think Robert Sapolsky’s lecture on the biological underpinnings of religion is worth a look in this context, Roedy, if you haven’t already seen it.

    I have seen for myself schizophrenic atheists turn religious in order to plug the semantic memory gap when off their SSRIs. Many if not most people suffer at least one schizotypal episode in their lives.

    The impressions of profundity seem to occur when normal semantic memory (how things work in the world) doesn’t work so well. The brain abhors this defecit and confabulates material to plug the explanatory gap. The new explanations have the appearance of revelation, being new, often outlandish information (cobbled quickly together from unconscious, culturally-relevant material) solving the problem in some simple way (Goddidit is popular). I have been present during such revelations. Utterly fascinating to see.

    Oliver Sack’s book Hallucinations is a must read for how widespread these confabulations are where ever a data deficit occurs due to illness, injury, or physical deprivation.

    My own theory on this is that the confabulation is an evolved process to preserve brain matter in the face of the more primitive pruning process of apoptosis- use it or lose it. Brains are very expensive to run and are pruned back to what seems necessary. This may have been damaging to organism viability if injured or ill etc. after recovery. Confabulation (hearing and seeing things, wrongly remembering/knowing things) keeps the brain intact for later healthier use.

    (Apologies if I am repeating myself).



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  • This sounds a bit apologetic towards delusional thinking. It means there is a motive for being or continuing with delusional ideas and there fore it is understandable that people are unwilling to change their minds regardless of the evidence proving them wrong.

    Sure it makes sense because people tend to do what please others in order to be and feel accepted. But choosing to believe in things that have no merit is really a personal fault within that individual. Possibly due to generational indoctrination. My great grand parents believed this my grand parents believed this and my parents believed this. If it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander type of mentality.

    That alone renders people not only incapable of revising their conclusions , but to even look at contradictions to their conclusions.

    This would be profound delusional thinking.



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  • 10
    Michael says:

    Just try convincing someone that being in the cold does not cause colds. Even if they seem to agree, they will still say “bundle up or you’ll catch your death.” Strongly held ideas can be habits as hard to change as smoking.



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  • “Just try convincing someone that being in the cold does not cause colds.”

    Interesting you should mention that. Just this evening (in the NY metro area) there is a report on the local news that boldly states that cold weather causes colds.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/01/06/cold-weather-can-actually-cause-colds-study-finds/

    To be (too) fair, the article does mention (to those who make the effort to read it) that the actual cause is Rhinovirus and cold temps just increase our susceptibility, but this willful and/or careless imprecision in language (in this case for the purpose of stirring up controversy and consumer interest) is one of my biggest pet peeves because it perpetuates misinformation and myth making it much harder for some of us to break those strongly held ideas/habits.



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  • 12
    Zackery says:

    My theory is this:
    When we are young we believe our parents know everything, but at some point we realize they do not. At that point we are faced with much uncertainty. The fear that is caused by this uncertainty leads most young people to place a higher value on a belief that is “known” or set. While we are still young and are building our world view with “known” beliefs we have incomplete information. As we continue to grow and are exposed to new information some of the “known” beliefs start to seem shaky and we get that old scary feeling again. My guess is this happens around the preteen to early teens. At this point we are also still learning social and communication skills and are easily embarrassed. Because of this many young people depend mostly on their own reasoning to figure out how the new information fits with the old beliefs. However many young people choose to not believe the new information. Once the person comes to the conclusion to not believe the new information, they feel a sense of relief. Over time the person develops a “habit” of placing a higher value on the already believed information and it is easier for them to not believe new information. Evan if the new information is very strong.



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  • 13
    Zackery says:

    I think there is strong association in peoples minds between cold weather and colds and flus. This is understandable because the vast majority of the colds and flus we will catch are during the colder months. I am curious as to why that is. I wonder if breathing cold air slows down the mucus movement in our upper airways and throat. This could easily cause a situation in which bacteria or viruses would have more time to infect tissues before they were flushed down the GI tract and into the stomach to be digested.



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  • 14
    Michael says:

    It is a vestigial association arising from a period when people stayed indoors during extreme cold, gathered around fires, typically in small homes, and spread germs. Colds also increase when children go back to school and peak in winter months. The association should be between colds and close contact with those already infected. Mother’s advice should be “stay outdoors or you’ll catch your death.”



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  • 15
    IamSparta says:

    Belief has been discussed a great deal and it is self evident that it is tied to our emotional state! This is obvious. Emotion + Belief = all of things noted above in regards to being adamant about ones conclusion. This is why arguments never in up well when arguing faith and science. Atheist’s are the exact same in this regard. Both Christians and atheist’s have chosen there side and choose to belittle one another and argue about nothing. I rarely hear productive and compromising discussions. The answers that we create for ourselves only lead to disillusionment and we vehemently defend our conclusions. It is human nature. Belief is an emotion! This is so obvious. So instead of trying to prove each other wrong, try compromising and respect each other. And people wonder why agnostics are in the middle. The answers we think are answers are not answers but rather perspective. If you think you have all the answers you haven’t asked the right questions.



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  • You can get the same effect at the dentist using gas – a feeling of extreme profundity – as though you have finally, in a moment of clarity, understood the ultimate meaning of the universe. However it has no apparent meaningful content. It’s nice but ultimately not worth the toothache.



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  • Agree completely with Phil Rimmer’s post and his recommendations.

    brain abhors this defecit and confabulates material to plug the explanatory gap.

    Wonderful observation thanks Phil. When our mother endured palliative care she valued her mental faculties above all else. When suddenly afflicted by vivid hallucinations numerous siblings suggested a variety of causes including mini strokes. Mum was most alarmed by impending ‘insanity’ but was very relieved to hear the doctors agree with my initial assessment of Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

    As Phil said, most of us will experience such moments.



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  • 18
    JeffsThemePark says:

    Mythology/Religion has been around for a long time. Objectivity is rather new. The notion that mankind has always invented beliefs to explain the world seems unlikely. That would be to credit evolution with some kind of failed discovery of science and reason – and to postulate a scientific instinct, albeit one that didn’t work.

    For all his faults, Carl Jung interestingly hypothesized that objectivity and a superior capacity for reason were recent achievements of the species. And that prior to the discovery of the objective world, mankind unknowingly lived in a subjective/objective fusion – one where the contents of his psyche (imagination) were not distinguished from the world around him. Rather, mankind lived in a kind of “participation mystique” with the world, and the instincts of his psyche and were projected onto the world as meaningful images. Jung saw the imagination, not as random, but as an autonomous product of evolution.

    Science has therefore, correctly, discovered the objective world and overthrown the religious world view. It has not yet however seen religion for what it is – i.e. the psyches ability for feeling/emotion and its ability to relate to the instincts and the structure of the natural life via personifications, representations and symbolizations of those instincts/emotions.

    So next time you feel like punching some moron, are overcome with desire, are convinced of the superiority of your own position, feel threatened by bikers, strive for world domination, want women to cook and clean, are overcome by grief, or repress grief with reason, demand the world make sense, feel guilty, irrationally hate someone or something, believe in witches and magic, have a strong, negative, emotional reaction to someone who believes in god, play the hero, vilify a scapegoat, fall in love with a goddess, etc – remember you have instincts.

    These days we subject our instincts to reason and place reason above instinct, it wasn’t always so, or Richard Dawkin’s crusade would not be necessary. However we lose touch with feeling and participation in a psychically animated world.



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  • Roedy Said:
    This comes with such emotional punch it overrides mere logic. Whatever you tell yourself in this state gets hard wired. If this has not yet happened to you, you have no idea what I am talking about. It well beyond anything you could imagine is possible in intensity.

    Chuck Says:
    I have bipolar disorder, and have seen this intensity. But your “insights” from this state are not permanently hard wired. When the experience is over, these “insights” are just ideas to be considered the way that other ideas are considered. Some truth is there, some falsehood is there, plus plenty of emotion. – – – Sort of like the Bible.

    Sickness will surely take the mind where minds don’t usually go. Come on the amazing journey, and learn all you should know.

    Like you and me, Pete Townshend seems to be a bit of a whack job.



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  • haha, you all three appear to be talented to me; Townshend, Roedy and Chuck.

    I’m a fan of Stephen Fry too, who doesn’t seem to be a whack job either 😉

    In any case thanks for the useful insights about profundity.



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  • IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Atheist’s are the exact same in this regard. Both Christians and atheist’s have chosen there side and choose to belittle one another and argue about nothing.

    Not at all!
    There is such a thing as evidenced scientific knowledge, and there is also such a thing as superstitious ignorance.
    Modelling our perceptions to reality is not about “choosing biased sides”.

    I rarely hear productive and compromising discussions.

    While leading the superstitious away from their superstitions a step at a time so they can understand, there is no compromise between the scientific map of reality and superstitious ignorance. – Attempts to mix superstition with science and faith-thinking with reason, (as in theistic evolution), just muddies the waters and loses the clarity and accuracy in obfuscation.
    Knowledge with a bit of ignorance mixed in becomes ignorance, just as mathematical calculations with a few extra fantasy figures included, gives wrong answers which are worthless and damaging.

    The answers that we create for ourselves only lead to disillusionment and we vehemently defend our conclusions.

    I think you will find in science and engineering, that those who defend evidence based thinking can build bridges, run transport systems, land rovers on Mars, predict storms, hurricanes and tsunamis, providing reliable services, in which they take satisfaction.
    Superstitions on the other hand, can can only make up cherry-picked tales about their alleged successes, and excuses for their failures – afterwards – to con their followers, – so they need constant regular communal reassertion, to maintain the illusion.

    It is human nature. Belief is an emotion! This is so obvious.

    It can be emotional, so atheists and rationalists should follow the example of science, and try to remove or compensate, for biases which cloud judgement about what is real.

    So instead of trying to prove each other wrong, try compromising and respect each other.

    Any engineering (Mechanical or social) which compromises between science and superstitious wish-thinking is going to be a disaster – as is regularly shown in third-world countries, companies, political parties, and cultures, where science is not respected.

    And people wonder why agnostics are in the middle.

    You seem to assuming a default Christian god, and ignoring all the other “faith-beliefs” of the world!
    Is there really a “middle position” between ALL or any, of the religions of the world, or between any one of them and scientific atheism? (Hindus, Buddhists, Islam, Shinto?) – or is this just head-in-the-sand fence-sitting fantasy?
    Religions can’t even agree on a collective view among themselves, and have been killing each other for centuries over differences.

    The answers we think are answers are not answers but rather perspective. If you think you have all the answers you haven’t asked the right questions.

    Nobody has ALL the answers, but science has all the answers which actually work in the real world, while some groups, clearly have large collections of wrong answers, which will fail any, and every, practical test.



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  • 22
    mombird says:

    When I used to go to church and receive the sacraments I felt that wonderful sense of awe, glory, etc. etc. Looking back I think maybe somehow I was hypnotized. Church was like mass hypnosis. Those who were susceptible understood the message, those who weren’t did not. It was somehow transcendent. It was a wonderful experience and I’m not sure I’d change it for anything. Still, breaking away from religion becomes so much harder. Seeing things in the cold, hard light of objectivism is nearly impossible after one has been imprinted with a subjective experience. Am I making any sense? I try hard to be an atheist but I have to say I’m an agnostic because that little bit of imprint will always be there causing doubt.



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  • I have an experience to share here, with a questioning attitude about what is profound/illusory. To be upfront I have suffered from manic depression at one point in my life but one ‘profound’ moment, that happened while not suffering from it, seems too much beyond coincidence to be illusory. It is something that happened before my son (aged 20) was killed on his bicycle 2 years ago, which feels very profound (as in carries meaning and feels like it offers something from outside my own thoughts to change my world view). Yes I want to believe he lives on, but I’ll share with you what happened beforehand rather than what has happened since, because I feel it would be unscientific not to consider something that may add to this discussion. We are all. I hope, trying to work out the truth rather than confirm our own ideas.
    The night before my son died I had a dream (which I shared with others soon after) that I was in the classroom where I worked. I went to the cupboard and found the body of a dead young man. A ‘presence’ came up behind me and told me I had to carry him out past the head’s office and through the car park and put him in the recycling bin by the main gate because the police were coming. I said ‘I haven’t killed him’ and ‘I can’t put him in there’. They said, “You have to. You will feel guilty, but to make yourself feel better, put in the packet of almonds that you (in real life) had to throw away last week because it had passed the date.” Then I had to go with the police. Music played me out of sleep to being totally awake, and the lyrics were ‘Looking beyond the ocean, looking beyond the sea, what do I see there, what do I see, I can see a new world out there looking at me’. I woke up and told my partner about my dream and that it was ‘transporting’. I went to school and told 4 colleagues about it.. and again that it was ‘transporting’.
    More tragically than I can express, that day, I was in my classroom when I was asked to go to the head’s office where there were 2 police officers to tell me my son had been in an accident. They didn’t say he had died already, but they said I had to go with them. They walked me through the car park (where I never usually go, as I park up the road) to their car which was parked by the main gate and the recycling bin.. and took me to the hospital.
    I don’t want to take up more space with other profound things that have happened since he died, that seem to me to also be beyond coincidence. They give me so much comfort that the point of them feels personal rather than to be offered for debate. This dream is obviously very personal too, but I would like to contribute what I can to the discussion of what is profound/illusory/mental illness.



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  • Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

    Enwrought with golden and silver light,

    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

    Of night and light and the half light

    I would spread the cloths under your feet:

    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

    I have spread my dreams under your feet;

    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    I feel, liz, you have laid your poignant dreams at our feet. Much as I would love to ask and probe and understand, I can’t. I can’t tread softly enough…



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  • Phil, thank you for such a touching response.. yes I’ve laid out something so personal, which no one can alter because it happened, but I’m really grateful for you being so kind.



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  • 26
    mombird says:

    Liz, I know how you feel. Just because things can’t be explained doesn’t mean they are not real. So much work is being done in physics that are pointing to the fact that what we think of as reality is not. The dynamic of our existence is so much more complex and intricate than what we perceive on the surface. I have had so many “weird” experiences that others may see as imaginary, but I know are just part of the vastness of what we don’t yet know. I like to read Brian Green’s books on physics because he shows in such a nice way just how amazing and jaw dropping the cosmos really is. Also, Aldus Huxley’s book “The Doors of Perception.” Taking comfort is your way of taping into that “something more” that is the source of all.



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  • Thank you for that mombird.. I am also very interested now in how physics may one day explain things that are weird but can’t be called imaginary either. As you say, just because we don’t yet know how it works, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The things that have happened since he died have sometimes been too beyond coincidence to question, and sometimes they could be coincidence.. so I’ve learnt just to keep them as helpful things.. without feeling the need to prove them to myself beyond doubt, if that makes sense. I really appreciate your thoughts on it.



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  • Liz,
    perhaps Fritjof Capra can explain to You what synchronicity is. He is not an orthodox physic, and perhaps he can explain transgression of your feelings into dream. You can write him a question if you want to find out connections between life and physics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLiRXM2oZ_U

    As I remember Karl Gustav Jung has also written about synchronicity. Try to find out what it is, if You like. 🙂
    Perhaps someone else in this forum can suggest some other explanations.



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  • Modesti Jan 23, 2015 at 4:00 am

    perhaps Fritjof Capra can explain to You what synchronicity is. **He is not an orthodox physic,**

    As I remember Karl Gustav Jung has also written about synchronicity. Try to find out what it is, if You like.
    Perhaps someone else in this forum can suggest some other explanations.

    Synchronicity is the tidal locking of planets and moons.

    It is a term which has been hi-jacked by astrologers and quacks, to tag on to their mumbo-jumbo to make it sound more sciency!

    http://www.redorbit.com/education/reference_library/space_1/solar_system/2574584/moon/
    Since the Moon’s rotational period is exactly the same as its orbital period, we always see the same face of the Moon pointed towards the Earth. This synchronicity is a result of friction having slowed down the Moon’s rotation in its early history, a process known as tidal locking.



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  • Modesti Jan 23, 2015 at 6:47 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

    Your link explains that this is paranornormal quackery!

    @link – In the introduction to his book, Jung on Synchronicity and the Paranormal, Roderick Main wrote:[7]

    The culmination of Jung’s lifelong engagement with the paranormal is his theory of synchronicity, the view that the structure of reality includes a principle of acausal connection which manifests itself most conspicuously in the form of meaningful coincidences. Difficult, flawed, prone to misrepresentation, this theory none the less remains one of the most suggestive attempts yet made to bring the paranormal within the bounds of intelligibility. It has been found relevant by psychotherapists, parapsychologists, researchers of spiritual experience and a growing number of non-specialists. Indeed, Jung’s writings in this area form an excellent general introduction to the whole field of the paranormal.

    When ever I try to Google “synchronicity” to link in astronomy discussions, I am inundated with astrological drivel, and pseudo-psychology misconceptions from antiquity.



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  • Modesti, thanks for the link and yes I’m aware of Carl Jung on Synchronicity. Without wishing to dominate debate around my experience, the thing that marks this out as different from a

    trangression of your feelings into dream

    is that I had the dream before the day that mirrored my dream (my son’s death and having to go with the police). Also, unlike a dream which highlights and expresses feelings say of anxiety, I had no emotion in this dream.. I didn’t realise it was about my son, and the ‘presence’ in it behind me was the one telling me I had to move him because the police were coming.

    So I think that either the synchronicity was to prepare me for a future event (from some part of my brain that can go ahead in time).. or it was pure coincidence. I’m not sure the subjective feeling of meaning in synchronicity can account for it happening before the event. But I’ll check out your link, thanks.



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  • @ A4D 5:43 & 7:05

    When ever I try to Google “synchronicity”…

    When I asked the librarian for a book on stars, she directed me to the ‘Hollywood’ section – Carl Sagan.

    Your bald facts are appreciated, watches synchronize, the Police have a song. Yet(!), I tend to categorizing stunning coincidences as cue twilight zone music, ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’, Je ne sais quoi, Husker Do? A female thing, I think.



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  • liz Jan 23, 2015 at 9:08 am

    So I think that either the synchronicity was to prepare me for a future event (from some part of my brain that can go ahead in time).. or it was pure coincidence.

    I think you are looking at coincidence, but are also looking for imagined connections because of the strength of emotional shock you suffered.

    A word of warning about astrology and practitioners of the “paranormal”!
    This is an area dominated by charlatans who seek to exploit those made vulnerable by emotional shocks.

    Modesti, thanks for the link and yes I’m aware of Carl Jung on Synchronicity.

    Carl Jung is 1930s psychology, at a very primitive state of development. His work lacks scientific rigour.

    http://www.mdpi.com/2076-328X/3/4/662/htm
    The second point of Hobson’s views that merits our attention pertains to Jung’s ambiguous but pragmatic stand in relation to science. Hobson, aligning Jung with William James for their shared interests in psycho-spirituality, writes:

    Pragmatic and experimental, they refused to accept any hypothesis that was not scientifically justified. Meanwhile, phenomena that could not be so explained were not denied existential status, ex cathedra. Thus, the apparent religiosity of James and Jung can obscure their fundamental scientific rigor.

    Hobson’s comment has a two-fold meaning. First, it continues to support our reasoning above, that Jung saw his practice and theory of dreams (if there is any so-called theory he subscribed to) as having an open, fluid, and relative status.

    While the Wiki link claims: “this theory none the less remains one of the most suggestive attempts yet made to bring the paranormal within the bounds of intelligibility”, it is clear from modern psychology that there was no scientific dream theory, but simply speculative ideas, wrongly described in Wiki, by the vernacular use of the term “theory”.

    I hope this helps you understand difficult issues.



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  • I think this brings me back to Phil’s initial blog, in asking why we stop reviewing belief? It could be said that I may stop reviewing a belief that the dream was profound because I have a huge emotional investment in believing it to be.

    It could also be said though, that even the scientifically minded can be unwilling to review a belief.. in a materialist view that wouldn’t allow for a part of consciousness that’s free from the limits of time. The way this lack of willingness to review a scientific disbelief (or a belief in a preciously held theory) can be evidenced is through failing to research enough and to stop looking for answers (settling on the coincidence belief in the absence of proof, rather than looking at the improbability of it being coincidence and checking if there may be an answer).

    It is of course incredibly hard to find ways to test out this kind of ‘paranormal’ question.. maybe because the whole phenomenon might only happen rarely when there is to be a big emotional shift.. and unfortunately then the study group (me) can be said to be unreliable because of their emotional involvement.

    Catch 22.. which is why I’m open minded. I’m also hideously out of my depth.. but not too daft I hope!! Ps. I’m absolutely not into quackery, astrology or the charlatan world of psychics.. but thanks for the warning!



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  • liz Jan 23, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I think this brings me back to Phil’s initial blog, in asking why we stop reviewing belief? It could be said that I may stop reviewing a belief that the dream was profound because I have a huge emotional investment in believing it to be.

    There is little doubt that the combination of events has had a profound emotional effect on you, but that does not change the laws of physics.

    It could also be said though, that even the scientifically minded can be unwilling to review a belief.. in a materialist view that wouldn’t allow for a part of consciousness that’s free from the limits of time.

    There are many fanciful notions about “consciousness put about by those into wish-thinking about the “supernatural”. The basic facts are that consciousness is feature of brain function, and brain function is evolved over millions of years from organisms with simple nerves, as a process working on biochemistry and electricity.
    There are no “immaterial energies” involved. Science can account for energies within working systems.
    (E=MC² and the laws of thermodynamics)

    http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/synapse.html

    wouldn’t allow for a part of consciousness that’s free from the limits of time.

    The arrow of time is the “one-way direction” or “asymmetry” of time. The thermodynamic arrow of time is provided by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in an isolated system, entropy tends to increase with time.



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  • Liz,

    Can I put my tuppence worth in here? I have had similar experiences but nothing so tragic and my heart goes out to you. I did manage to come to some kind of conclusion as to what is happening though. The details of my experiences don’t matter but through my understanding of my own dreams, I came to terms with it all. There is only one person that can answer your questions and that’s YOU. The first thing is to understand what certain things mean to you. In your story you mention a cupboard, recycling, the car park etc….my dreams did a sort of word association with items that have personal meaning to me and they manifest themselves in strange dreams. Once I worked back on these things then it all became clearer. The second is, I watched a program that tried to explain how we might think we can see into the future and that is by the brain being able to do millions of calculations at a time predicting what might be coming. Your dream association and predictive brain just might have given you the possible outcome of the day and got it half way right. This then becomes a coincidence and even more surreal than the dream.

    Hope you don’t mind me saying all this. It is just I feel I have solved my niggles and thought it might help.



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  • Just to say Alan4D that I appreciate your responses being as to a rational and not just emotional person, and for your seriously helpful answers. I should bow out now, cos I don’t want to hijack the main discussion.. but cheers for your replies.



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  • Olgun, I agree.. sometimes coincidences happen that have something symbolic to take out of them. They can feel uncanny in the real world and symbolic in dreams.. but extracting the meaning for oneself is the conclusion I have come to as well, whatever the mechanism. But the point always seems to be for personal understanding.

    It was probably brave of me to come on a discussion like this with a ‘premonition’ dream, as it is going to be assumed that I saw the significance afterwards and made the connection backwards. But I have to be honest.. I felt the dream was so profound as soon as I woke up (without knowing the reason), that I shared it with 5 people.. not something I do. I wish it was something people were interested in as science, rather than mumbo jumbo.. it happens to so many of us. In my case it now feels like the connection I have to Tom, but it was profound to me before he died, not in hindsight.
    I must leave the discussion.. but I’m just waiting for science to ask people like me serious questions instead of writing me off (physics as coincidence), (psychology as emotional trauma). For the most part that is rational.. but in the case of this dream it feels like wishful thinking on the part of science.
    I love science by the way.. and that’s why I’ll leave the discussion now to the experts.



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  • 41
    IamSparta says:

    Not at all! There is such a thing as evidenced scientific knowledge,
    and there is also such a thing as superstitious ignorance. Modelling
    our perceptions to reality is not about “choosing biased sides”.

    I think you just proved my point. So I will state it again

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Atheist’s are the exact same in this regard. Both Christians and
    atheist’s have chosen there side and choose to belittle one another
    and argue about nothing.

    and to the next point

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am
    While leading the superstitious away from their superstitions a step
    at a time so they can understand, there is no compromise between the
    scientific map of reality and superstitious ignorance

    Yep I think you proved my point again. Unfortunate for you that it seems that no one can come to a compromise. Since everything but the facts are superstitions. So lets put a line through philosophy since it has no bearing.

    “Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science. Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.”

    So I will state it again

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm
    I rarely hear productive and compromising discussions.

    and on we go

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am …
    so they need constant regular communal reassertion, to maintain the
    illusion.

    Umm…lets not get off track. I’m stating the obvious. Profundity is not only a response of the religious. Have you not also felt like you have uncovered the truth and are free from the illusion. Your response is way out there. I’m not talking about who has the better world view and which is more productive (which is all very debatable).

    So I will state it again.

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm The answers that we create for
    ourselves only lead to disillusionment and we vehemently defend our
    conclusions.

    Next

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am It can be emotional, so
    atheists and rationalists should follow the example of science, and
    try to remove or compensate, for biases which cloud judgement about
    what is real.

    Unless your a Vulcan, even scientist’s are not completely unbiased. Unbiased would be without emotion. I’m not unbiased. I’m very emotional about Atheists and the Religious arguing with each other. Emotions always get in the way. We recognize this and we move forward. We compromise. Do you see where this is going?

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm It is human nature. Belief is an
    emotion! This is so obvious.

    let us move on

    Any engineering (Mechanical or social) which compromises between
    science and superstitious wish-thinking is going to be a disaster – as
    is regularly shown in third-world countries, companies, political
    parties, and cultures, where science is not respected.

    I’m starting to feel like you don’t think being a human being is an actual middle ground. Things like compassion, love, kindness, gentleness, etc. Both sides are very capable of resolving their differences with these common and universal emotions. I will say it again.

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm So instead of trying to prove each other wrong, try compromising and
    respect each other.

    I’m almost out of time, but next.

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am…
    Is there really a “middle position” between ALL or any, of the
    religions of the world, or between any one of them and scientific
    atheism? (Hindus, Buddhists, Islam, Shinto?) –

    Yes!

    or is this just
    head-in-the-sand fence-sitting fantasy?

    Hmmm well my worldview is dependent on how we as a humanity can work together and almost entirely nothing to do with religion as a whole. I am fascinated with religion and I see a lot of good with it. I am also fascinated with science but it does not as a whole form my entire worldview. I guess I’m a outside of the box thinker and don’t think I have to pick a side regardless of the relevance to others. Yes I can cherry pick whatever I want, because at the end of the day, how I am as a human matters to me.

    and lastly

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am Nobody has ALL the answers,
    but science has all the answers which actually work in the real world,
    while some groups, clearly have large collections of wrong answers,
    which will fail any, and every, practical test.

    This is just straight arrogance. I guess again we can cross off the human element. I do however appreciate you reiterating my point that we don’t have all the answers.

    Now that we have gone around in circles I must go. Thanks again.



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  • I vote for Alan4D’s world.

    Yep I think you proved my point again. Unfortunate for you that it seems that no one can come to a compromise. Since everything but the facts are superstitions.

    This is where you failed. When it comes to superstitions versus science, there is no compromise. There is no middle ground. Your dying. I give you a choice of homeopathy or a medical cure. You can join the dots. That’s why your argument fails. So Alan hasn’t proved your point.



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  • 43
    IamSparta says:

    Do you pretend to think that you care if someone chooses homeopathy over a medical cure in your example. Our do you presumptuously claim that religion will someday take all of your medicine away from you. The compromise is not one to rule over the other or a right and a wrong. It is for all to respect others worldviews as long as it does not have a negative impact. There is no war and only an annoyance of those with superstitions’. Being offended by others believing in superstitions or trying to convince others to give up their superstations’ is not the compromise I speak of. Yes thank goodness we have science! But also thank goodness we have compassion and kindness. Everything seems so black and white too Christians and atheists when they argue.



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  • Do you pretend to think that you care if some chooses homeopathy over a medical cure in your example.

    Yes. I care. Taxpayers money, my money, being wasted on an irrational practice. Someone else’s superstition having an adverse effect on the population. Costing me large sums of money. So I care passionately.

    It is for all to respect others worldviews as long as it does not have a negative impact.

    I agree with you here. Superstition, religion and irrational thinking has an enormous negative impact on the entire world so while I might respect someones right to believe anything they want, the line gets crossed when they want to use their personal and irrational world view and impose it on other people. This is what religion does. This is where harm is done to others. This is not open to compromise.

    Believe what you want. Do whatever your particular god wants you to do. But your personal god has no power over any other homo sapiens on the planet. Religion, like sex, should be practiced by consenting adults in private.

    You must never compromise with irrational thinking.



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  • Belief revision is often not achieved on purely epistemic grounds, that is, depending on the domain of inquiry, people don’t change their conclusions because they’re presented with new evidence, or informed of reasons previously absent. Conclusions are revised, or not, for non-epistemic reasons—emotional valence, social benefits, honesty with oneself, etc.

    The daunting challenge, difficult to overcome before offering comment, is to figure out what Boghossian is talking about. I speculate his paradigm is the religious delusion of the supernatural where profundity derives from believers’ intimate sense of connection with an ultimate “truth” that privileges them to transcend their mortal being and achieve mystical union with an immortal, eternal supreme being. Such “knowledge,” perceived as absolute but in fact delusional, is imbued with gnostic virtue, “special” and divinely ordained; and esoteric virtue, not accessible through the powers of normal cognition. (Sorry Phil, with due respect to your fascinating input, I don’t see Boghossian’s concern with mental illness or brain trauma. I believe he intends to confine his observations to the “normal” brain.)

    I concede that Boghossian intends to extend his analysis to “all kinds of beliefs,” so I stand convicted of “misreading” him. On the other hand, trying to generalize the observations in the highlighted quote above would embroil readers in an endless discussion of diverse examples from multiple fields emerging from a multitude of viewpoints.

    Knowing this guy, religious faith encompasses the epitome of human belief systems impervious to revision on rational or evidentiary grounds.



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  • 46
    IamSparta says:

    the line gets crossed when they want to use their personal and
    irrational world view and impose it on other people. This is what
    religion does. This is where harm is done to others. This is not open
    to compromise

    you didn’t actually read anything I wrote did you. A negative impact would be radical Muslims killing the innocent of which we all agree is horrible and unfortunate or perhaps some politician passing a law like banning embryonic cell research. Someone knocking on your door is an annoyance. And about 99.9% of the Christian community is doing you no harm other than some minor annoyances.

    Believe what you want. Do whatever your particular god wants you to
    do. But your personal god has no power over any other homo sapiens on
    the planet.

    perhaps you misunderstand. I serve no god, no superstition. I am an atheist agnostic who has the unfortunate task of trying to protect atheists from their own brutish views. Atheists tend to give atheism a bad rap

    Religion, like sex, should be practiced by consenting adults in
    private.

    just like billions of Christians do. If you can’t handle or work together then we cannot survive as a species. Your ideals are no different in my opinion than a Christian banging at the door… Irrational

    You must never compromise with irrational thinking.

    We can’t compromise with the killings of innocence and laws that pass that block scientific advance, but come on you have no rational view to accuse 99.99% of Christians out there of gross egregious crimes and trying to convince that their ignorance is the bane of our existence. And then going on to say “oh but I respect their views as long as they don’t bother me because I’m a nice fellow. Your words are contradictory. Sometimes we have to accept the annoyances’ of our fellow humans.
    disclaimer. We all know the radical Muslims are a problem but please stop generalizing religion.
    perhaps you misunderstood me because you thought I was a Christian.



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  • @IamSparta “There is no war and only an annoyance of those with superstitions’.

    The war against science began when Xians burned the library at Alexandria and replaced academies with monasteries. But for Xians we could have been a non-polluting advanced civilization spending our excess on space travel and deep ocean tourism.

    Where I live religious fundamentalists have been elected and they’re rapidly dismantling public education and health schemes. They’re using taxes to fund chaplains in state schools and taxing the sick and young to fund it. We’re the only country in the world I’m aware of which is winding back spending on science because we popularly reject climate science in particular. That wasn’t the case only half a dozen years ago, so the religious fundamentalists are winning where I live.

    Education is the solution to ignorant populations whether they’re democracies or not. Where I live universities are being defunded to allow chiropractors and other faith-healing traditions to occupy the lectern and infuse more superstitious ignorance by dint of their new-found authority and respectability.



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  • you didn’t actually read anything I wrote did you.

    A common tactic in forums. I read it, I just don’t agree with it. By alleging somehow that if I had read it, I would have had a vision on the mountain and agreed with you. I don’t think so.

    And about 99.9% of the Christian community is doing you no harm other than some minor annoyances.

    Would these be the Roman Catholic Church who today prevent condom usage Africa with a body count of around 30 million souls dead through preventable aids infection. Would this be a minor annoyance. Makes the Ebola crisis look like a runny nose. Or what about the American christians who force the US President to limit foreign aid only the causes that don’t include birth control or abortion in Africa. Millions more dead. Is this another minor annoyance. Or what about the American christians who cripple American foreign policy towards Israel because they believe the second coming in nigh and they can only experience the rapture and go to heaven if Israel is at war. They prevent peace in the Middle East that upsets so many of those nasty Muslims. Definitely annoying. Or what about the tiny conservative christian rump that holds the gonads of every Australian prime minister preventing them from lifting the abuse inflicted on gays or stopping euthanasia laws from passing. Annoys the hell out of me. And I’ve paragraph after to paragraph of this stuff if you still want to insist that 99.9% of christians aren’t a threat.

    These are not rational people and they do great harm in this world today. Yeah, Islam’s an easy kick in front of goal because they’re still living in the tribal stone age.

    I think this is a summary of your argument.

    Atheists tend to give atheism a bad rap..

    You want us to play nicely in the sand pit and let the above crimes against humanity go unchallenged. Well not on my watch.

    BTW. Atheism is just a by product of a rational mind. It implies nothing. It imposes no obligations. Your argument should read, you want the rational evidence based people of the world to stop being rational and evidence based, and let the irrational go on sending us towards extinction. Again. Not on my watch.



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  • Sorry Phil, with due respect to your fascinating input, I don’t see Boghossian’s concern with mental illness or brain trauma. I believe he intends to confine his observations to the “normal” brain.

    My point, and Sapolsky’s is entirely a commentary upon the experiences of normal people. The reason to look at extreme brains, as ever with neuro-psychologists, is to understand standard mechanisms by examining their more extreme manifestations. A huge amount of psychology is done this way and was once the only way of doing it.

    Everyone has periods of semantic memory defecit, sensory deficit and the like. Nearly everyone has experienced at least one major deficit, which if timed well (badly!) may have an extended influence on future cognitions. Sapolsky’s point is an extension of this, that those of us who have a tendency to schizotypal behaviours (and we all sit on the spectrum) are seen as perfectly normal so long as the behaviours it produces sit within an appropriate cultural context where those behaviours are formalised and expected.

    Cognitive differences are more varied than the superficially uniform behaviours it produces would suggest. Male and female brains have many points of physiological difference, genetically and hormonally wrought, but aculturation unites us remarkably in capacities and behaviours. I see myself as a highly house-trained aspie, sometimes at a loss to understand others, particularly around some emotional issues, identifying the import of some facial expressions and recognising people on the phone. I feel very at home here and with many colleagues from the past. My semantic deficits have intellectual workarounds to plug my cognitive gaps…mostly. But others may not have a passing interest in the workings of their own brain nor developed an art course based on the rooting of normal cognition in the creation of useful illusion. This is what keeps me from solipsism. I’m luckier than many.

    If a Chinese woman can function nearly normally without a cerebellum and a French civil servant can function normally with 75% of his brain missing we can see brains are very fault tolerant and the cultural firmware (training and some later plasticity) can create the necessary behavioural outputs to ensure integration.

    It is entirely solipsistic to presume that similar behaviours connote similar cognitions though it is always our default understanding. This is the delight and ultimate import of Art, that psychological experiment we perform on ourselves by consuming it. We do not uniformly agree on its merit. Indeed, it is often a “Marmite (love it or hate it) experience”.

    Cultures and sub cultures differently accentuate or suppress innate capacities in their populations.



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  • I believe it is a female thing. Women listen more. Pick up more information and more information gives you a better prediction. Women’s intuition is the result.



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  • nor developed an art course based on the rooting of normal cognition in the creation of useful illusion.

    nor developed an art course based on the rooting of normal cognition in the brain’s natural and continual creation of useful illusion.

    D’oh! Missed the key bit out. Illusion of one type or another is everyday and there for many reasons.



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  • I see myself as a highly house-trained aspie, sometimes at a loss to
    understand others, particularly around some emotional issues,
    identifying the import of some facial expressions and recognising
    people on the phone. I feel very at home here and with many colleagues
    from the past

    Shit! I’ve just joined another club. Facial expression recognition completely went when I went into depression.



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  • IamSparta Jan 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am –
    Nobody has ALL the answers, but science has all the answers which actually work in the real world, while some groups, clearly have large collections of wrong answers, which will fail any, and every, practical test.

    This is just straight arrogance.

    To the ignorant, all evidence based scientific knowledge is “arrogant”, while vague circular thinking is applauded.

    I guess again we can cross off the human element.

    This is either silly denial or a gross misunderstanding of scientific methodology!
    Do you seriously suggest that human biology, human emotions, interactions, and human social structures, are beyond scientific analysis?
    If you do can you give some credible examples and suggest other competent methods of evaluating these.

    I do however appreciate you reiterating my point that we don’t have all the answers.

    Your “point is still vague fudge, with cherry-picked exceptions whenever you view is challenged.
    The concept that there is a common “mid-point” among all the diverse human philosophies and ideologies, is comical to anyone who has studied the conflicting diversities.

    Now that we have gone around in circles I must go. Thanks again.

    I’m afraid that’s what your arguments do! They just go around your circular thinking about fantasy “middle-positions” between thousands of scattered viewpoints.

    The problem with your “mid-point” view is that it is a false dichotomy between atheists and some fantasy perception you have of a default “standard Christian” view.

    There is no such thing as a standard Xtian view! Xtians fight with each other and other religions all the time in addition to disputing science and atheism!

    Alan4discussion Jan 19, 2015 at 5:24 am – It can be emotional, so atheists and rationalists should follow the example of science, and try to remove or compensate, for biases which cloud judgement about what is real.

    Unless your a Vulcan, even scientist’s are not completely unbiased.

    You confuse scientific methodology and scientific consensus with individual scientists, who may be biased, but unlike religions, (which simply start a new sect when views divide), scientists make determined efforts to compensate and reduce or eliminate biases and correct errors. That is why scientific and religious views are not equivalent.

    Unbiased would be without emotion. I’m not unbiased. I’m very emotional about Atheists and the Religious arguing with each other. Emotions always get in the way.

    More false dichotomy! – That is why science uses independently checked evidence, while many religions generate confusion, by praising introspection and emotional responses as a “superior way of thinking”!

    We recognize this and we move forward.

    We await the move to evidence based rationality, to permeate religious thinking, the religions, and those partially escaped from them.
    It could well take quite some time yet!

    We compromise. Do you see where this is going?

    Scientific maps of reality do not do compromise with emotion based fantasies.

    IamSparta Jan 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm
    Atheist’s are the exact same in this regard. Both Christians and atheist’s have chosen there side and choose to belittle one another and argue about nothing.

    You whole argument is the well known fallacy of Appeal to moderation.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Appeal_to_moderation
    An appeal to moderation, otherwise known as the false compromise or the argument from middle ground is a logical fallacy that states that the answer to a problem is always between two extremes. It is effectively an inverse false dilemma, discarding the two extremes rather than the middle. It is closely related to the balance fallacy.
    Form
    There is a choice to make between doing X or doing Y. Therefore, the answer is somewhere between X and Y.

    When I challenge Ken Ham’s religious nutters who pretend that the Earth is 10,000 years old and whose political associates want to deny children an education in honest astronomy, geology, biology, or climatology, and rubbish the work competent scientists, I am not “arguing about nothing”. I do not need to “belittle them” Their understanding of physical reality tiny, and their biased persistence with errors – massive!
    Out there in the real world religious nuttery and bigotry has effects on people, as any woman wishing to drive a car in Saudi Arabia can tell you.

    Temporary compromises may have to be made in politics to get cultural changes made gradually, but there can be no compromises on what constitutes, scientific evidence, or what constitutes rational thinking. Fallacies should not be persuasive, so many atheists recognise and reject them.

    A compromised mix of evidence based rational thinking, with emotional wish-thinking, is as I said earlier, just as wrong as mathematical formulae with a few fantasy figures added to the calculations. – or a chemical analysis with a dollop of contamination mixed with the sample. – or reasoning with a few fallacies mixed in!



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  • I’ve just joined another club.

    Welcome! We tried to get a special handshake going but because we couldn’t recognise each other in the first place, it didn’t really work out.

    I know people are expressing things to me with their…er…expressions, I just get the wrong message. The most disspiriting finding for me was that I apparently always mistook a look of lust or come-hitherness for a look of ferocious anger. The waste….the waste….



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  • I’m going to have to revaluate my relationship with my best mate of years ago. I can see his frustration now with me repeatedly saying, “They’re not interested. Let’s go”. 🙁



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  • Considering how many mothers (must be near 100%) fear for the safety of their offspring on a daily basis, what are the chances that one would have a dream in which the safety of their loved one has been compromised? And after spending many years with a loved one in and out of your life on a daily basis, what are the chances that for the rest of your life that loved one would not be in and out of your consciousness on a daily basis? And assuming that the loved one has brought you many joys in your time together, what are the chances that every fortunate circumstance in your life would not lead you to believe that person has played some part in the fortunate circumstance. As a coping mechanism it works well because it keeps our loved ones close to us and if it accelerates the number of good deeds we do on behalf of the loved one it appears to be even better, but we should not allow what appears to be true to trump reality. Scientific knowledge is empowering and does not take away from the profound influence our deceased loved ones have upon our daily lives.



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  • Olgun Jan 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    .my dreams did a sort of word association with items that have personal meaning to me and they manifest themselves in strange dreams.

    Strange dreams and interpretations of dreams, in response to stress, are nothing new!

    Post-traumatic stress ‘evident in 1300BC’
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30957719

    The team at Anglia Ruskin University analysed translations from ancient Iraq or Mesopotamia.

    Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

    The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

    Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

    Prof Hughes told the BBC News website: “The sorts of symptoms after battle were very clearly what we would call now post-traumatic stress symptoms.

    “They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”



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  • Strange dreams and interpretations of dreams, in response to stress,
    are nothing new!

    If I implied that they were then I was wrong. It doesn’t need to be stress related either. I didn’t get to go on many holidays when I was young (cue the violins) because we couldn’t afford them. The first real holiday I had was with the ‘ lads’ when I was 19. Everywhere we went I felt I had been to before and many experiences were as if I knew what was coming. I have never felt so confident before or since. The brain obviously goes into a sense of extra awareness and gives you, what seem like, extra powers. Do I need to say ‘ of course it is only perceived’?



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  • Olgun Jan 24, 2015 at 9:02 am

    If I implied that they were then I was wrong.

    Sorry if I gave that impression. It was not my intention.

    It doesn’t need to be stress related either. I didn’t get to go on many holidays when I was young (cue the violins) because we couldn’t afford them. The first real holiday I had was with the ‘ lads’ when I was 19. Everywhere we went I felt I had been to before and many experiences were as if I knew what was coming.

    I also had quite an intense holiday experience once, having had the car I was driving torn to pieces under me on my way there, – by a high-speed encounter with a careless driver who had no license, no insurance and no idea!

    I walked away at the time, apparently unscathed, but was definitely hyped up for the rest of the holiday after a near-death-experience and my car scrapped.

    Having your encapsulated sheet-metal world, torn to shreds around you, definitely makes an emotional impression.



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  • Peter Boghossian along with the rest of us would welcome Phil’s comment elucidating “the reason to look at extreme brains..[in order] to understand standard mechanisms by examining their more extreme manifestations.”

    Boghossian tries and fails to summarize the multivariate complex “problem,” he is allegedly researching, effectively begging the question from his own point of view. Because we know his bias, we can only guess at the sorts of belief he is trying to get people to revise based on “new evidence, or informed of reasons previously absent.” The common sense interpretation is that he is limiting the concept of ‘belief” to propositions, hypotheses, and theories subject to empirical-mathematical evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt -the “truths” emerging from scientific inquiry. A fundamentalist Christian who believes the natural world and everything in it was created in its present form 6,000 years ago is Boghassian’s ideal “research” subject.

    But “belief” put under the normative description of “scientific finding” is too simple and excludes the myriad other uses of the term outside a very narrow point of view.

    Boghossian goes on to speculate why people hold onto unwarranted beliefs in the face of compelling “new” evidence to the contrary. Once more, despite dreadful jargon like “doxastic entrenchment” and “epistemic lives,” the two speculations are at once simple and vague. The first proposes that people have an emotional attachment to what they believe that translates into a moral obligation to keep the belief intact -to defend its integrity against those who would discredit it with negative evidence. The second proposes that people imbue certain beliefs with a quality called “profundity” which apparently means investing the belief with something like importance, significance, having serious consequences for the health, safety, welfare, and prosperity of ourselves and others.

    The speculations merge into the truism that we all hold beliefs that we feel morally obligated to defend because we believe they are important to our well-being and the well-being of others. Here Boghassian departs from the vegetable sense of belief as empirically (scientifically) justified “knowledge,” and privileges some unstated belief systems, presumably his own, with impenetrably obscure authority.

    Without expounding in abstract terms, I will go to a specific example: Recently Richard Dawkins advised a woman carrying a fetus diagnosed with down syndrome that the moral-rational choice would be (in his view) to abort the fetus. A firestorm of criticism poured down on him like molten lava but not principally from the Christian community. It came from atheists more vehemently than from any other source, free-thinking skeptics who marshaled enough “reason and evidence” to bury Pompeii. No one would doubt that the critics who singed Dr. Dawkins were anything less than good people who were defending a profound life-or-death belief with the highest ideals of secular humanism.



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  • 61
    IamSparta says:

    Len Walsh Jan 24, 2015 at 12:23 am
    They’re using taxes to fund chaplains in state schools and taxing the
    sick and young to fund it

    I would hardly be worried about a chaplain being paid as a counselor as a preference to those that have religious philosophies. As long as he is not in my science room. There are many things more meaningless that has been used by our tax dollars.

    Len Walsh Jan 24, 2015 at 12:23 am
    I’m aware of which is winding back spending on science because we
    popularly reject climate science in particular.

    I’m sorry but that is a personal perspective, because where I am standing everyone I have ever asked, bindly, agrees with climate science. Even though there is not an extensive agreement among CLIMATE scientists (not all the joe shmo scientists) and even though our models can’t accurately tell us the forecast for the next day we are to believe the models for 10, 20 or 100 years out. Many christians, atheists, etc seem to think climate science is not phony baloney.

    Len Walsh Jan 24, 2015 at 12:23 am
    That wasn’t the case only half a dozen years ago, so the religious
    fundamentalists are winning where I live

    Come on! With all do respect you can’t really believe that fundamentalist Christians are having more influence today relative too a few years ago. I think that you will need to get your perspective lens fixed. Get a bigger view, a wider angle on things overall.

    Len Walsh Jan 24, 2015 at 12:23 am
    Where I live universities are being defunded to allow chiropractors
    and other faith-healing traditions to occupy the lectern and infuse
    more superstitious ignorance by dint of their new-found authority and
    respectability.

    Again do we really presume to care. I don’t see this denting our medical institutions in any way. This also is not putting any dent into our Education system at all. We can agree to disagree with these above perspectives because they are just that….perspectives. One can not presume to know or assert oneself so boldly that you can say that you know the outcome or that fundamentalists are indeed winning and will set our scientific progress backwards.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    Would these be the Roman Catholic Church who today prevent condom
    usage Africa with a body count of around 30 million souls dead through
    preventable aids infection. Would this be a minor annoyance

    As I suspected when I read this, that it was a tainted and jaded view. So am I to believe that Religion is the sole reason for the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Are we going to ignore the cultural and political, and economic reasons. It is just irrational to be so indignant and have such conviction that the catholic church is the sole reason for this epidemic because they banned condoms. And since we all like Wikipedia so much), I found this in .74 seconds
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_HIV/AIDS
    The church has a huge humanitarian efforts in Africa. They are just jerks.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    Or what about the American Christians who force the US President to
    limit foreign aid only the causes that don’t include birth control or
    abortion in Africa. Millions more dead.

    I am struggling to find the reference…in your exaggeration.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    American christians who cripple American foreign policy towards Israel
    because they believe the second coming in nigh and they can only
    experience the rapture and go to heaven if Israel is at war. They
    prevent peace in the Middle East that upsets so many of those nasty
    Muslims

    I am pretty sure Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran (along with Israel) are the real perps here.

    These arguments seem like talking points and as convinced as you and others may be on these matters…the actual impact is debatable.

    David R Allen
    Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    Or what about the tiny conservative christian rump that holds the
    gonads of every Australian prime minister preventing them from lifting
    the abuse inflicted on gays or stopping euthanasia laws from passing.
    Annoys the hell out of me. And I’ve paragraph after to paragraph of
    this stuff if you still want to insist that 99.9% of christians aren’t
    a threat.

    Please I do not need anymore inflated and jaded talking points. Hey lets be clear I agree that evangelicals can cause a ruckus in our governments. I think what some Christians fail to understand is that they can fight for their own rights, but not for mandates on the rest of society. However, I just don’t agree with the inflated view points. They are valid but I’m not convinced, but debatable. We will have to agree to disagree.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    You want us to play nicely in the sand pit and let the above crimes
    against humanity go unchallenged. Well not on my watch.

    I beginning to think we all have a very unbalanced view on these so called crimes. Perhaps.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    BTW. Atheism is just a by product of a rational mind.

    Really! Because the belief in a creator is actually a legitimate and logical conclusion, as there is no evidence against God!! How can you dare say that atheists have cornered the market on the rational mind. Though their may be some that will try to use the bible as a scientific study, many do not. Sure and yes believing that the world is only 6500 years old is irrational but believing that there is a creator is actually not. Sure there is a lot of argument about the foolishness of such ideologies of a Christian God for example, but why do you care so much what someone believes. You are right to be concerned that it is taught in our schools science classes but beyond that the impact is negligible. Thank God (JK (just kidding)) for the enlightenment because nothing has been added to the atheistic debate besides some hurt feelings. Although you and I may not believe in God, it does not imply that you are more rational. You are just more convinced.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    It implies nothing. It imposes no obligations.

    Only the obligation that one does not believe in superstitions less the be deemed ignorant and disrespected.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    Your argument should read, you want the rational evidence based people
    of the world to stop being rational and evidence based,

    hardly the case and a mincing of my words.

    David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 1:04 am
    and let the irrational go on sending us towards extinction. Again.
    Not on my watch.

    This is a matter of perspective and not truth. My wife will tell you that I often choose to see people in the worst of light. I’m changing that. There is a lot of grey out there. 18% grey is where you want to be.

    Alan4discussion Jan 24, 2015 at 7:10 am You whole argument is the well
    known fallacy of Appeal to moderation.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Appeal_to_moderation An appeal to
    moderation, otherwise known as the false compromise or the argument
    from middle ground is a logical fallacy that states that the answer to
    a problem is always between two extremes. It is effectively an inverse
    false dilemma, discarding the two extremes rather than the middle. It
    is closely related to the balance fallacy. Form There is a choice to
    make between doing X or doing Y. Therefore, the answer is somewhere
    between X and Y.

    Did you happen to scroll down on your wiki page and click on the False dilemma link
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/False_dilemma

    It’s a good read and the issue of belief and worldview is not an X vs Y kinda of argument. Notice not once have we argued science based facts only philosophy. The article or my discussion was a direct response to profundity and that it goes both ways and is not just pertain to Christians. Atheists are just as prone to disillusionment and this mentality leading to profundity. Atheists have so called been enlightened after being decidedly unsatisfied with the answers that religion had to offer and now they have become evangelical!



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