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The Neural Buddhists - Comments

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 1 by Colwyn Abernathy

Wolfe understood the central assertion contained in this kind of thinking: Everything is material and "the soul is dead."


False analogy. The soul would have to EXIST first before it could die. ;)

EDIT: IE, if it never existed in the first place, that, in reality, is a failed explanation for behaviour, probability of an afterlife, etc., how can such an entity "die"? Unless he's being metaphorical and means that the "IDEA" of the soul is dead.

"I'd like to see a forklift carrying a crate full of forks...It'd be so damn LITERAL."
-Mitch Hedberg

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:15:00 UTC | #170425

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 2 by Colwyn Abernathy

The two sides have argued about whether it is reasonable to conceive of a soul that survives the death of the body and about whether understanding the brain explains away or merely adds to our appreciation of the entity that created it.


Begs the question:

What is this entity made of? If it exists outside of us...it must be material, yes? So then, what material is it?

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:19:00 UTC | #170433

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 3 by Chris Roberts

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is


Totally irrelevant, in my opinon.
What has religion got to do with morals?

Bottom line, religion is for those too weak psychologically to cope with life; or too stupid to open their eyes. These people may always be with us, but hopfully we can remove the hatred and obsessiveness of their teachings.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:21:00 UTC | #170435

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 4 by riandouglas

The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits.

Isn't that the essence of most new-age garbage?

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:23:00 UTC | #170438

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 5 by Colwyn Abernathy

Bottom line, religion is for those too weak psychologically to cope with life; or too stupid to open their eyes. These people may always be with us, but hopfully we can remove the hatred and obsessiveness of their teachings.


I concur, Nails. It also differentiates those who are "spiritual" from those who are merely "faithful".

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:24:00 UTC | #170439

al-rawandi's Avatar Comment 6 by al-rawandi

I read this trash this morning.



It is a sad that the New York Times continues to employ such ignoble commentators, who really find it a stretch to think beyond the simple minded drivel that they "analyze".



Such fools and idiots that help shape the public opinion. I like the term "bewildered herd", and here we see the sheep dog.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:35:00 UTC | #170452

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 7 by Colwyn Abernathy

I like the term "bewildered herd", and here we see the sheep dog.


Which reminds me of Bill Hicks talking about being the angry sheepherder ranting to his flock, who tend to look at him "like a dog who's just been shown a card trick."

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:37:00 UTC | #170453

Deepthought's Avatar Comment 8 by Deepthought

Bottom line, religion is for those too weak psychologically to cope with life; or too stupid to open their eyes. These people may always be with us, but hopfully we can remove the hatred and obsessiveness of their teachings.


You're being a bit harsh. Some of them aren't stupid but just stubborn. You could also say "addicted". Plenty of really smart people have been addicted to tobbacco.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:39:00 UTC | #170454

MaxD's Avatar Comment 9 by MaxD

Mysticism and science are joining hands? What a goofy essay.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:43:00 UTC | #170457

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 10 by Colwyn Abernathy

Mysticism and science are joining hands?


Don't we have a number of members who argue for the veracity of mysticism/metaphysics? I haven't been on in a while, so their handles escape me.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:50:00 UTC | #170462

MaxD's Avatar Comment 11 by MaxD

We do indeed. But I can't think of them at the moment either.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:51:00 UTC | #170463

phatbat's Avatar Comment 12 by phatbat

Lo and behold, over the past decade, a new group of assertive atheists has done battle with defenders of faith.


And the theists still don't know they've lost.

Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.


Oh dear, I think someone needs to read a few books. A selfish gene does not mean we can't have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment. for goodness sake.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space).


Ok, uh-huh, thats seems reasonable

The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.


Oh dear, now you've gone and spoilt things by going way over the top.

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.


No, god can best be conceived as the creater of the universe, there is no reasonable avenue to squeeze god into these experiences.

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate.


...for Chris and Richard

The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits.


How do you feel the existance of the sacred? I can't believe that's the best word you can think of to describe these feelings.

That's bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They're going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day.


This is exactly what they have to do now, new discoveries aren't going to cause that to happen they may just make it even easier for us to win the debate.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:52:00 UTC | #170465

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 13 by riandouglas

Am I simply sleep deprived, or is it saying "Look, science says spiritual experiences are legitimate, therefore god!"

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:52:00 UTC | #170466

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 14 by Colwyn Abernathy

A selfish gene does not mean we can't have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment. for goodness sake.


In fact, it's entirely feasible that we HAVE selfish genes for fairness empathy and attachment. ;)

EDIT:

The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.


It FEELS more real...ergo it IS!

Paging Mr Barnum...paging Mr. Barnum, you have a sucker on line 1.

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #170469

skyhook87's Avatar Comment 15 by skyhook87

Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.


It baffles me how many people just flat out do not understand the selfish gene concept!

..if only there was a book that explains the concept...

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:55:00 UTC | #170471

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 16 by Colwyn Abernathy

if only there was a book that explains the concept...


He said...stating the obvious. ;)

Tue, 13 May 2008 11:57:00 UTC | #170472

annabanana's Avatar Comment 17 by annabanana

Phatbat,

Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

I couldn't tell if this resulted from the author's having had knowledge of The Selfish Gene by RD or because he'd only read the title since one of the main premises of The Selfish Gene is that our genes are encoded for us to act empathetically towards one another because it benefits the genes because the organisms are more successful at reproducing.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:00:00 UTC | #170478

phatbat's Avatar Comment 19 by phatbat

17. Comment #179638 by annabanana

couldn't tell if this resulted from the author's having had knowledge of The Selfish Gene by RD or because he'd only read the title


I know, it seems like the author is very confused about what he thinks. He seems to contradict himself all over the place. I think he thinks he knows more than he knows.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:10:00 UTC | #170484

Oppomystic's Avatar Comment 18 by Oppomystic

Most genes are merely apathetic...most people, merely pathetic.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:10:00 UTC | #170483

annabanana's Avatar Comment 20 by annabanana

phatbat,

I think he thinks he knows more than he knows.

I think that about sums it up.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:12:00 UTC | #170486

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 21 by Quetzalcoatl

The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.


Oh does it really?

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.


This is all very New-Agey and ambiguous.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:26:00 UTC | #170494

Liveliest Crib's Avatar Comment 22 by Liveliest Crib

If you survey the literature . . .
Indeed, that appears to be what Brooks does. He merely surveys the literature. He does not actually read it. Want proof?
Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.
I guess he got as far as the title, and figured he understood the thesis.
In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate.
Yeah, you really checkmated us on that one. A dollop of Pascal's idiot wager, a pinch of Intelligent Design, some insults about immorality, Hitler and Stalin, and we were down for the count. Now if only that Bible thing made sense....

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:29:00 UTC | #170497

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 23 by Frankus1122


I know, it seems like the author is very confused about what he thinks.


Yes, the point was a bit muddled. I think some people are reading more this than what is there.
Is he not saying that the brain is responsible for 'mystical' experiences?
Perhaps it is because I am a 'hard core materialist' that I don't have a problem with what he is saying. If he is saying what I think he is.

God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.


Or what we call God is, in fact, a brain state. I'm okay with that. I think I am in touch with the universe because I have a wave of firings across my brain. Cool.
I think that is what happened to that brain scientist who had a stroke and got all mystical and 'connected' as a result. It was a TED talk I linked to before.
I don't think there is a problem saying we get weird connected feelings of oneness when our brains fire off in certain ways.

Or is he saying something else and I just can't see it because of my 'materialist-lens'?

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:34:00 UTC | #170499

alexmzk's Avatar Comment 24 by alexmzk

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Researchers now spend a lot of time trying to understand universal moral intuitions. Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.

this is such a bad section, it really makes it sound like he doesn't understand what he's talking about. mostly he just contradicts himself, but also he completely misconstrues several of the main issues he's trying to address. sloppy.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:38:00 UTC | #170501

aussieatheist_111's Avatar Comment 25 by aussieatheist_111

Nuggets of sensibility and half truths mixed with a whole lot of misunderstanding.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:39:00 UTC | #170504

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 26 by Frankus1122


The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.




Oh does it really?



I think the answer is yes. The mind does SEEM to merge with a larger presence that feels more real. This is something that many people experience. But again, I think there is an answer for this feeling in what the brain (physical) is doing.
Am I missing something?

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:41:00 UTC | #170505

riandouglas's Avatar Comment 27 by riandouglas

Frannkus1122: Or is he saying something else and I just can't see it because of my 'materialist-lens'?

To me, he seemed to go a little bit 'woo woo' towards the end. I thought a "soul" or dualism was strongly suggested, but I may be reading it poorly also.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #170506

Nova's Avatar Comment 28 by Nova

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings. Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.
Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works totally destroys this nonsense of David Brooks - I'm on page 177 now and it's an eye opening experience and shows how shallow the concept of the soul is.
Genes are not merely selfish, it appears. Instead, people seem to have deep instincts for fairness, empathy and attachment.
A complete and regular misunderstanding of the whole point of the Selfish Gene. I haven't read it but I know Richards point was that it is the genes and not necessarily the organism that is selfish.

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:43:00 UTC | #170507

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 29 by Quetzalcoatl

Frankus-

that's my point. I take issue with the idea that the mind "transcends itself". It doesn't- like you say, the answer is in the brain. And since mind and brain are essentially the same.....

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:44:00 UTC | #170508

Darwin's badger's Avatar Comment 30 by Darwin's badger

I've not read all of those that he recommends, but of those that I have (Damasio, Gazzaniga, Siegel, Haidt, plus many, many more) have all attempted to explain the religious experience as a neural process within the brain, not suggest that it's a valid perception of external stimuli. The guy who wrote this comes across as a new-age woo-merchant who has read the bits that he likes and ignored the rest. X-(

Tue, 13 May 2008 12:47:00 UTC | #170510