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The Emperor’s New Clothes

In our viewer mail:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Saw a link to your show on Facebook, and found it quite interesting.

Don’t know if you guys know much about Eastern thought. Here is what I posted about your show on Facebook:

An interesting discussion. The two hosts are quite reasonable and logical. However, they assume Western ways of looking at religion and epistemology. For instance, the lady basically says, “Well, if there is a God, what sort of thing is this God, what category does it belong to?” But in the Orient, God is not seen as a thing belonging in a category, but universal awareness, underlying your and my awareness, and prior to all categories. Awareness can not see itself and put itself in an observed category and analyze itself.

The fellow on the other hand says “What evidence do you have for the existence of God?” But he sees this evidence as consisting of abstract facts. An enlightened oriental would say “Your question of how I know I am enlightened is like asking me to doubt that my hand I hold in front of me is mine.My knowledge is direct, not abstract or logical.” He has directly and experientially transcended the idea that awareness is limited to a supposed separate self.

Thanks for your consideration.

After giving it my “consideration,” here is what I think:

Why should anyone believe any of the claims in this letter about god? All he’s done is provide a lengthy statement that restates, “I can’t demonstrate anything I’m saying is remotely correct, but I assert, without evidence or reason that it is, obviously, correct. And asking for evidence, itself, is ridiculous; the enlightened individual will simply see it’s true.”

I recall reading this same argument in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

I encourage you to consider it as well. What do you think of it?

Comments

  1. Kazim says

    As long as someone has a conception of God that can only be demonstrated within an individual person’s mind, or through direct experience, he’s right — there’s nothing much we can say about it that would lead to fruitful conversation. However, what I can never understand is, why would that person expect somebody else to be convinced by an unexperienced personal opinion? Why waste time calling the show? Why waste time writing email that just flails around saying he can’t convince anyone of anything? If it’s personal, mightn’t you just as well keep it personal?

    And there are lot of people who are personally convinced of things that clearly aren’t true. Is the viewer saying there is no way to tell the difference?

  2. Matt Whitby says

    Without proof how you discern a truth from the rankings of an incoherent fool shouting at the sky?

  3. claidheamhrigh says

    “Your question of how I know I am enlightened is like asking me to doubt that my hand I hold in front of me is mine.My knowledge is direct, not abstract or logical.”

    No it’s not!

    I can see my hand, I can feel things with it, I can make it move, I can see it attached to my arm which is attached to the body my head is on. I have very good, completely logical reasons to believe my hand is in fact mine.

  4. says

    Well, my question #1 would be how a personal experience I can’t confirm, convinced me of a cause, rather than just the experience, and #2 how would that then be like “my hand in front of my face”? Others can see it’s my hand as well, not just me. It’s self-evidence. If his claim is that it is self-evident, that’s incorrect. If it’s not self-evident, then it was an extremely poor analogy…?

  5. says

    I should add as well that he extends the claim to others, not just himself. So, it’s not just personal and internal. He claims this impacts me, and I somehow don’t know it…? But he sees clearly it impacts me?

  6. pyrobryan says

    His definition of god reminds me of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Only in this definition, you can’t actually use the force or demonstrate its existence in any way. It’s just there.

  7. jacobfromlost says

    Emailer: However, they assume Western ways of looking at religion and epistemology.

    Me: I’m not sure redefining how we “know” something helps.

    Emailer: For instance, the lady basically says, “Well, if there is a God, what sort of thing is this God, what category does it belong to?” But in the Orient, God is not seen as a thing belonging in a category, but universal awareness,

    Me: I may be misunderstanding, but saying something IS “universal awareness” does put it in a category, does it not?

    Emailer: underlying your and my awareness, and prior to all categories.

    Me: “Prior to” in what way? There are a lot of people who say they are aware of a lot of different things, and many of those different things contradict each other. Claiming an underlying awareness that informs all of those awareness would therefore also be contradictory.

    Emailer: Awareness can not see itself and put itself in an observed category and analyze itself.

    Me: Why not? Just as a puny human I am aware of my awareness, I can put it in a category, I can even analyze it with metacognition in relation to how other people are aware. I can even be aware of my awareness of my awareness…and depending how cognitively adept I am, I may be able to extend that out 5 or 6 orders. (I think the limit in any specific human is 7, but I can’t remember where I read that so that may be wrong. I’d probably be lucky to get to 3, though.)

    Emailer: The fellow on the other hand says “What evidence do you have for the existence of God?” But he sees this evidence as consisting of abstract facts.

    Me: I don’t think of evidence as abstract. It is verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable…which seems to confirm to us that it isn’t merely abstract, but real.

    Emailer: An enlightened oriental would say “Your question of how I know I am enlightened is like asking me to doubt that my hand I hold in front of me is mine.My knowledge is direct, not abstract or logical.”

    Me: But if you are dreaming, the hand you hold in front of you is not your hand. It’s an illusion, despite your “direct knowledge” of it. If your hand has been amputated, you may have direct knowledge of your fingernails digging painfully into your palms, even though you have no finger nails nor palm in that hand. Using a mirror, and opening your OTHER HAND, you can trick your brain into “opening” your amputated hand, so that the pain stops. All of your direct experience of your amputated hand, however, is not “direct” and not “real” in the sense the emailer wants to suggest.

    Emailer: He has directly and experientially transcended the idea that awareness is limited to a supposed separate self.

    Me: He may think he has, but he hasn’t, as the above illustrates.

    Emailer: Thanks for your consideration.

    Me: At least Eastern mystics don’t often care if you believe what they believe–they aren’t raiding science classrooms or demanding legislation.

  8. says

    Your analogy of how I know I am enlightened is like asking me to doubt that my hand I hold in front of me is mine is like my analogy that how I know there are no unicorns is because I’m hungry.

  9. says

    However, they assume Western ways of looking at religion and epistemology.

    That’s like saying that I just assumed that I was supposed to use a hammer to drive a nail into wood. No, I used the hammer because it’s demonstrably effective at producing demonstrable results.

    Can the author demonstrate that “Eastern epistemology” is effective?

  10. says

    Without external confirmation and a method of differentiating reality from imagination, what the email writer presents cannot correctly be called “knowledge” in a way that is meaningful for anyone else, and I’m not convinced it can even be meaningful from an internal standpoint. The claim is, after all, about something external. External entities require more than internal surety, and feeling isn’t a way of knowing.

  11. Jesus Christ says

    Under the influence of certain drugs you may, in fact, believe that your hand is not yours… just like, under the influence of certain drugs, you may believe there is an obvious, self-evident god or universal consciousness of some kind. You can’t always trust your perceptions, and drugs need not always be a factor; the brain is very imperfect. Since we can’t trust our immediate perceptions to be 100% reliable, we need some sort of externally verifiable, objective measure by which we can judge claims of reality. That’s called science. Your subjective senses can be wrong.

  12. MichaelD says

    No body reads the classics anymore….

    Course its probably cause the emperors new clothes is one of those western works of fiction that doesn’t take eastern thought into consideration.

  13. jacobfromlost says

    Also, if you are going to claim “universal awareness” doesn’t belong in a category and is known directly, not in “abstract or logical” ways…

    …then what things CAN’T you know in this very same way?

    God, magic, ghosts, aliens…and anything else imaginable…could be claimed to be known directly and defy category and logic.

    The problem is that those claims can be directly contradictory. Person A can say they know direclty that Aliens A are the only aliens in the universe. Person B can say they directly know Aliens B are the only aliens in the universe. Person C can claim they know directly there are no aliens anywhere in the universe. All three can claim they know this directly and it is beyond logic, yet there is no way for all of them to be true. (And if we are going to redefine knowledge to mean that one CAN know they are “all true”, I think we’ve just redefined “knowledge” out of existence.)

  14. says

    An enlightened oriental would say “Your question of how I know I am enlightened is like asking me to doubt that my hand I hold in front of me is mine.My knowledge is direct, not abstract or logical.” He has directly and experientially transcended the idea that awareness is limited to a supposed separate self.

    It goes against the phantom hand experience and the virtual-reality-induced out of body experiences that are possible to create in humans. And “an oriental”??? Not cool.

  15. Dave Schauweker says

    I am not asking anyone to believe anything. I have shared some ideas from Eastern philosophy. Eastern religions don’t have a bible and are not authoritarian like the Catholic Church, for example. Eastern religious teachings are seen as pointers to the truth, not the truth itself. In that sense, they have no truths to promulgate. A typical Zen Buddhist saying is “All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond.”
    I look upon such teachings as theories, and with these theories go practices, such as meditations, which lead to a realization of the truth. In fact, the practices are more important that the teachings. Only through actually living the practices does one transform from a life of doing and thinking to one of being/awareness, where one perceives the truth.
    Here is an example of such a practice, which I copied from a book review of mine:
    In a Soto Zen meditation group, the main method or discipline is called “zazen,” watching and counting one’s breaths from one to ten and then beginning again at one. One notes each thought as it arises, then returns one’s attention to the breath. One usually practices in this way while seated in the lotus posture or some variant. The mind is occupied with the trivial task of counting breaths, and attention is free from the stranglehold of the ego and its schemes. Awareness of the breath then automatically activates the relaxation response– a cascade of calming physiological processes–, and patterns of egoic thought and associated bodily responses gradually dissolve.

    Notice the consistency of the theory and the practice. Awareness is both the means and the end.
    Not convinced? It’s basically not a matter of conviction or belief. If it makes sense, try it and see if it works for you.

  16. says

    I think part of the problem is how we know of Eastern philosophies, specifically Zen Buddhism and Taoism. Most of the early translations that made their way to the west were written by missionaries. They would often seek to find western theistic ideas in the texts, translating “Tao” as God, when the ideas were nothing alike. Tao is the way of nature, it’s essential aspect is that things grow out of nature due to their own particular innate qualities. This is much different than the top down approach of a western God, which commands ignorant nature to his will. It resembles western science more than any religion. Enlightenment is an experience, not an objective fact. It is when we start to think about things and experience consciousness in a different way, transcending the boundaries of language and conditioned experience to look at the world in a new way. It’s an experiment. No one has to prove enlightenment, since it’s essence is the knowledge of our own delusion.

  17. Orlando says

    Kind of like the apophatic god of Karen Armstrong: god manifests in everything as a transcendent echo, or as Rupert Sheldrake would say, a morphic resonance. In other word, nothing. Ironically, then, it is theists, not atheists, who believe in nothing. They just gussy it up with fancy adjectives.

  18. jdon says

    Yes, that’s a simple mental game we can play with ourselves.

    We can believe things. We can feel things. We can quiet our minds. We can have epiphanies. But they’re all internal to us, and they don’t have any relevance to the wider world except in our actions.

    You seem to be confusing how you feel about or perceive something with knowing something due to verifiable evidence.

  19. Orlando says

    It sounds anti-thought, because anytime a thought enters your mind, you must push it out. So for thousands of years men wearing cream-cicle colored robes burn incense and sit in stone buildings or caves pushing out thoughts. No computers, no iPhones, no cars, no science, no critical thinking. No thanks!

  20. Dave Schauweker says

    J.C.,

    Yes, you are certainly right. Tomorrow, I could wake up thinking I am enlightened, but it could be something in the water I drank the night before, etc. Maybe I should have some objective proof.

    But no such objective proof exists. It didn’t exist in Buddha’s time, it didn’t exist in Jesus’ time, and it doesn’t exist now.

    I could approach this fact in two ways. I can accept that the mystics knew what they were talking about, or that they were all crazy.

    I’ve decided to accept that they were not crazy and to try to do what they did by practices such as meditation, because I believe what they discovered was of immense value, even though it could not be demonstrated scientifically. Of course, real science didn’t even exist until roughly the time of Galileo.

    Now, maybe after I’m dead, science will be able to demonstrate what the mystics were talking about (check out Amit Goswami’s “the Visionary Window: a Quantum Physicists Guide to Enlightenment”). In the meantime, I’m going to keep plugging along with meditation, etc.
    Dave

  21. says

    Awareness can not see itself and put itself in an observed category and analyze itself.

    Isn’t that what SELF AWARENESS, what we often call ‘intelligence’ is!?

  22. jacobfromlost says

    “I can accept that the mystics knew what they were talking about, or that they were all crazy.”

    This is called a false dichotomy.

    Just because someone misinterprets an experience does NOT mean they are “crazy” in a general sense (if it did, then everyone would be “crazy” because everyone is capable of misinterpreting experiences). The experiences you are talking about are HUMAN experiences that say nothing of the reality of perceptions involved. (I’ve had several myself.)

    The other option you strangely excluded was that the mystics were experiencing purely biological perceptions that were mind altering, but have no useful value outside of personal psychology. All the evidence supports this, and none of it contradicts this.

    So if you want to meditate for personal psychological reasons, fine. But atheists can do this as well, as can other people who believe things contrary to a “universal awareness”. (And if you in any way TOUCH upon a “universal awareness”, why can’t that awareness be demonstrated in reality? Other kinds of awareness can be demonstrated in reality.)

  23. jacobfromlost says

    It does work for me. So what?

    What you are describing is nothing that goes against everything we know of biology and neurology.

    And just to show how even handed I am, I’ll disagree with Orlando. It’s not “anti-thought” in that no one is forcing you to do it. It’s also not “anti-thought” in that it is more a method to calm oneself and focus. It can actually make one more capable of complex thought as it can help you clear your mind.

    But none of this has anything to do with universal awareness. (I’ve used progressive muscle relaxation before, and one day decided to expand that relaxation “beyond my body”. I continued to progressively relax the floor below me, the walls around me, the ceiling, objects in the room, etc, and expand it out as far as you can–farther each time. It has a VERY calming effect, and can even help with anxiety that is triggered in certain environments. But I wasn’t REALLY relaxing the ceiling and the walls. I was relaxing my emotions and perceptions of those things–it was all occurring within ME.)

  24. Dave Schauweker says

    Well, so far, meditation has not lead me to the experience of univeral awareness either. That does not prove that therefore, meditation has nothing to do with universal awareness.

    Those who claim some knowledge of enlightenment (and there is actually an explosion of such people at the moment) such as Adyashanti or the Zen masters, claim that you have to spend a lot of your time and energy focused on such practices if you are going to achieve a result.

    I was just watching Adyashanti’s web broadcast, and he claimed he would meditate from 4 in the morning until midnight.

    That doesn’t mean that such effort will guarantee such results.
    Dave

  25. says

    Those who claim some knowledge of enlightenment (and there is actually an explosion of such people at the moment) such as Adyashanti or the Zen masters, claim that you have to spend a lot of your time and energy focused on such practices if you are going to achieve a result.

    And how do we know that they aren’t just delusional/hallucinating?

    Let’s say I were to follow their footsteps and replicate their results. I STILL wouldn’t have answered that question. For all that I know, now I’m delusional/hallucinating.

    Confirming claims of knowledge with objective evidence helps resolve this problem. Otherwise, we just apparently have people running around making crackpot insane claims – whether it’s me or a Zen master.

  26. jacobfromlost says

    Dave: Well, so far, meditation has not lead me to the experience of univeral awareness either. That does not prove that therefore, meditation has nothing to do with universal awareness.

    Me: Sure. But since there is NO evidence for it, why do you believe it? If any person achieved “universal awareness”, or even awareness smaller than that (planetary awareness?), it could be verified empirically. Since there has never been such verification, why believe it is anything other than psychological?

    Dave: Those who claim some knowledge of enlightenment (and there is actually an explosion of such people at the moment) such as Adyashanti or the Zen masters, claim that you have to spend a lot of your time and energy focused on such practices if you are going to achieve a result.

    Me: The problem is that if they DID have a result, they could verify it empirically. It doesn’t require us to do the same thing, or even understand how they did it.

    Dave: I was just watching Adyashanti’s web broadcast, and he claimed he would meditate from 4 in the morning until midnight.
    That doesn’t mean that such effort will guarantee such results.

    Me: I think you are missing our points entirely. There is no objective evidence that the people claiming “universal awareness” are achieving anything REAL (except psychologically). If they WERE achieving something real, it could be verified empirically. If they are only achieving something psychological, I don’t know any atheist who would disagree with that–here, or the host of the Atheist Experience.

    I’d recommending reading Sam Harris, or watching some his talk for AAI in 2007 ( watch?v=Ok2oJgsGR6c). He thinks meditation and mystical experiences are worthy of study–he just doesn’t think they are supernatural.

  27. Dave Schauweker says

    Self-awareness: the mind can concentrate, and limit awareness to a portion of the perceived field that it identifies with – that is what I would call self-awareness.
    This portion of the perceived field we identify with has parts and can be analyzed, like hand, foot, emotions, etc.
    But what is it that is aware of one’s hand, foot, emotions, etc.
    I’m saying that awareness itself does not have parts. If it does, what are those parts, and what is aware of those parts?

  28. jacobfromlost says

    “But what is it that is aware of one’s hand, foot, emotions, etc. I’m saying that awareness itself does not have parts. If it does, what are those parts, and what is aware of those parts?”

    You need to study neurology. We know enough to know that awareness is directly connected to the brain, can be disrupted in specific ways by disrupting the brain.

    There is no “little person” inside your head that is aware of the parts of itself. Awareness is an emergent property of the brain. This is why a person who has the corpus callosum cut can be a theist on one side of their brain, and an atheist on the other. Any cursory study of brain function and dysfunction will illustrate that “awareness” is not something separate from the brain.

  29. says

    I agree that the use of the term “universal awareness” was poor. She is claiming something she can’t claim. To play Buddhist’s advocate, in the koan about the hand, what I get is that the “enlightened oriental” is saying, it is evident that I am a person. Your experience of being a person is the same as my experience of being a person. Enlightenment is a stripping away of all the trappings and conversations about who I am getting down to just being who I am. I can’t describe that because I would have to use language and cultural context to do it and it would no longer be the experience of enlightenment but a description of it.

    The emailer is making some claims that having had that experience gives you special knowledge. That’s arguable, to put it mildly. Wires have been attached to monks heads and they have measured higher on the happiness scale, whatever that means. The Dalai Lama has contributed to world peace, but he hasn’t cured cancer or eliminated world hunger, so the jury is still out.

  30. Dave Schauweker says

    I am not talking about anything supernatural. When I use the term “universal awareness” I am not talking about someone who has become enlightened and now can see what is going on on the other side of the moon.

    It’s more like whatever an enlightened person experiences, they experience it as part of themselves.

    The sanskrit phrase “Tat tvam asi” (that are you also) expresses this.

    As the modern Zen master Shunryu Suzuki lay dying, his nurse reportedly was fumbling with the tea cup she was serving him, and he said “Don’t drop the cup; I am the cup.”

  31. Dave Schauweker says

    If I were enlightened, I would not be interested in proving it. And, I don’t see how I could prove it. I would just enjoy it. And, I believe those who are enlightened naturally want to help others.

    Dave

  32. Dave Schauweker says

    I am very interested in science and am currently on a science reading kick.

    Please show me the literature that proves consciousness has now been reduced to neural circuits, etc.

    Dave

  33. HP says

    [Rant alert. Blogger discretion is advised.]

    Westerners speak a lot of bullshit about Eastern religion.

    (And seriously, Dave, “an enlightened oriental”? “ORIENTAL”?!?! Are you completely tone-deaf, or just straight-up racist? Orientals are enlightened to precisely the same degree that Negroes have a great sense of rhythm.)

    You can blather about “Eastern conceptions of God” all you want, but that has bugger-all to do with the practice of religion in Asia. Religion in Asia means ancestor worship; it means putting up an altar in your house when someone dies; it means setting out food for Hungry Ghost Month (which I think is actually a pretty cool holiday). Religion is throwing I Ching and lighting joss sticks. It’s about Quan Yin and temple demons. It’s using different grammar when addressing your parents than you use when addressing your peers. It’s about bringing in a priest to bless your new project at work, and burning pretend money to celebrate the New Year. Heck, for Taoists, religion can mean gambling and alchemy.

    To the extent that “Eastern Religion” is about anything, it’s about performing the proper rituals in the proper way at the proper time. Which is kind of nice, really, but totally separate from the watered-down, safe-for-foreigners mush you get from the likes of the Dalai Lama, Daisetz Suzuki, or the International Vedanta Society.

  34. Dave Schauweker says

    Who and what, specifically, are you referring to in the following:
    “The emailer is making some claims that having had that experience gives you special knowledge”

    I, Dave Schauweker, have made no such claim.

  35. Dave Schauweker says

    My example of knowing that the hand is mine is not a koan. It is just an example of knowing something directly.
    From what I can gather, enlightenment is also known in this very simple, direct way.
    Here’s a koan for you: If I know something special, then I cannot be enlightened.

  36. jacobfromlost says

    “It is just an example of knowing something directly.”

    But you do not know that directly.

  37. Dave Schauweker says

    If you can’t, then perhaps you will answer my question instead of bringing in neurons, etc.

  38. jacobfromlost says

    Lately we have evidence of the protein that spreads through the brain like a virus, causing Alzheimer’s and possibly Parkinson’s, which alters everything about what could only be called our consciousness.

    Beyond that, we know that our consciousnes, is directly affected by directly affecting the brain. Drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, dehydration, fever, blood loss, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and starvation all affect our perceptions, personalities, and behaviors. You can also study up on people with schizophrenia, strokes, brain damage, etc. We’ve known since Phineas Gage that brain damage can change everything about us, including our very personalities. Moreover, we have no examples of anyone with no brain exhibiting consciousness.

    And that isn’t even including common experiences, like hypnogogic dreams, hallucinations as side effects of neurological medications, and sleep paralysis in conjunction with hypnopompic hallucinations.

  39. jacobfromlost says

    I already did. So did at least on other person in the comments.

    You only know your hand is your hand via your nervous system, and verifying that by moving your hand in its environment. Your nervous system is indirect, seeing that your hand is moving when you think you are moving it is indirect.

    Even what you FEEL with your hand is indirect. You are not sensing everything there could be to sense. You feel less with the back of your hand than with the front, etc.

    Simply asserting that you know your and is your hand directly gets you know where, as that assertion is demonstrably false. (Refer back to my dream analogy, as well as the phantom limb syndrome I and others alluded to.)

  40. jacobfromlost says

    JT was illustrating that you don’t understand the burden of proof.

    If you have no evidence for something, asking someone else for evidence of some other explanation is a shifting of the burden of proof.

    If there was no evidence for biologically based consciousness, it would not be evidence of any of your claims (and I don’t even know what your claims are now as you are claiming it is not supernatural, and yet seem to argue with the natural explanations that are supported by all the evidence and contradicted by none of it).

  41. Dave Schauweker says

    I have not experienced enlightenment myself, and I personally would not stick it some little box labelled psychological state. I agree that there is no scientifically, objective means of determining who is enlightened and who is not.

  42. says

    That’s not epistemology. That’s what this discussion is about, isn’t it? Other ways of knowing?

    If you cannot demonstrate that a claim to knowledge is actually real, it’s as much “epistemology” as sitting in a wheelbarrow and pretending it’s a racecar makes it a racecar.

    If your position cannot be distinguished from pure fantasy, then it’s not particularly useful.

  43. says

    I fail at internets. That was supposed to be in reply to this:

    I have not experienced enlightenment myself, and I personally would not stick it some little box labelled psychological state. I agree that there is no scientifically, objective means of determining who is enlightened and who is not.

  44. jacobfromlost says

    This statement:
    Dave: “I am not talking about anything supernatural. When I use the term “universal awareness” I am not talking about someone who has become enlightened and now can see what is going on on the other side of the moon.”

    Versus this statement:
    Dave: “I have not experienced enlightenment myself, and I personally would not stick it some little box labelled psychological state. I agree that there is no scientifically, objective means of determining who is enlightened and who is not.”

    …is a contradiction.

    Either you say it isn’t supernatural, or you don’t put it in a box labeled “psychological state” (ie, a natural phenomenon supported by all the evidence), but it cannot be both.

    To say it isn’t supernatural is to say it is natural, and the natural explanation is that it is a psychological state because that is what all the natural evidence supports.

  45. says

    Good gods. No, that was supposed to be a reply to THIS:

    If I were enlightened, I would not be interested in proving it. And, I don’t see how I could prove it. I would just enjoy it. And, I believe those who are enlightened naturally want to help others.

    Dave

  46. says

    I’m not sure how to respond. The fact that consciousness as we known it is made up of smaller processes, including ones that we are not conscious aware of isn’t a new development. We have sort of known about that for a while.

  47. Dave Schauweker says

    thanks for clearing up that little mind/body problem for me, JacobfromLost. I’ll be eagerly watching for news of you winning the Nobel prize.

  48. says

    If I were enlightened, I would not be interested in proving it. And, I don’t see how I could prove it. I would just enjoy it. And, I believe those who are enlightened naturally want to help others.

    Why on earth would you presume that enlightenment leads to altruism. What if the universe is lovecraftian. Enlightenment would lead to madness then.

  49. jacobfromlost says

    Dave, it is not going to be my Nobel. Look in yesterday’s newspaper.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/health/research/alzheimers-spreads-like-a-virus-in-the-brain-studies-find.html

    There are many other findings going back DECADES that all indicate consciousness is rooted in the brain, and NO EVIDENCE that it is not. If you think it is NOT rooted in the brain, it is YOU who need to go out and win a Nobel Prize. It has already been established that it is.

  50. says

    thanks for clearing up that little mind/body problem for me, JacobfromLost. I’ll be eagerly watching for news of you winning the Nobel prize.

    Yeah this sort of jackassery sort of broadcasts that you’re not at all open minded or honest in asking these questions.

  51. Mamba24 says

    I like the old blog better. Don’t know why just do. Oh, and get a new intro song for the show. “Can you listen to Reasooooooon!!!” is just a lame sounding song. You should just play different intro songs every week from artists who are actually good. lol

  52. HP says

    I should’ve mentioned Lin Yeutang, above, in the interests of hitting the major influences on Westerners in terms of misunderstanding religion in Asia.

    Having said that, his translation of Chuang Tzu (modern Pinyin: Zhuangzi) is still the most hilarious Bronze Age sacred text available in English. If we were to judge the validity of religions by number of LOLs/page, we’d all be Taoists.

  53. Mark says

    “The two hosts are quite reasonable and logical. However,…”

    …However, you would like me to entertain that that is not a good reason to accept their arguments? And instead do what? Accept an argument from a position that is unreasonable and illogical?

    Can’t see myself doing that. Fascinated though that many can.

  54. jdon says

    I’ve got a quick question for Mr Schauweker.

    If once you’ve reached enlightenment you have no way of proving you’ve reached enlightenment, how do you tell the difference between someone faking enlightenment and someone who has actually achieved it?

  55. says

    My favorite Koan is one I use when people ask me “what do you think happens to you after you die?” The koan is “Where does the flame go when you blow the candle out?”

  56. otrame says

    I knew a man who was taking a bath. He suddenly called his wife into the bathroom and demanded to know, in outrage and not a little confusion and fear, whose foot that was.

    His wife said, “What foot?”

    He pointed to his right foot (I call it his because it was attached to his leg) and said “That one.” When his wife realized he was serious, she called an ambulance.

    His problem was not a failure of enlightenment. He’d had a low-grade fever and nasty headache off and on for a couple of weeks. The CAT scan was fascinating. He had 14 abscesses in his brain. The sheer bulk of them had finally put enough pressure on his brain to start causing focal deficits. None of them had ruptured yet (which would have caused a particularly nasty form of stroke and permanent brain damage) , but it was only a matter of time.

    In other words his brain was sick. He was lucky. They managed to get rid of the abscesses without surgery, and he had no serious after-effects. He remembers very clearly the day he woke up and his foot was “his” again. Mind you, it was never numb. He could walk on it. He just didn’t perceive it as “his”, sort of the opposite of the phantom limb effect. Once the abscesses were reduced in size, his brain could function normally again and the foot became his.

    Dave S., your brain houses everything you are, everything you experience. That includes any “enlightenment”. Your talk about what various masters claim to have experienced reminds me of all those people who kept talking about feeling the Holy Spirit enter them when they gave their life to Jesus. How can you determine if such an event happens in any way outside the brain? And if it is only your singular experience and nothing else, then if it is pleasurable for you we can be happy for you, but otherwise, it tells us nothing about the world except that the brain is a fascinating thing that we should study more. Empirically, using methodological materialism.

  57. says

    LOL. If neurons have nothing to do with consciousness, then what are they doing there, genius? It’s like someone telling us to prove that rice provides the body with energy when eaten. What else could possibly be the cause of consciousness? You have nothing. You are in denial.

  58. Matrim says

    The fact that he used the term “an enlightened oriental” indicates to me that he knows little about east Asian culture, and is likely unenlightened.

  59. says

    It’s not direct, you know it’s your hand because of an elaborate mental illusion that evolved to work under normal sensory conditions. When the conditions in which you see the world become abnormal, for instance, the brain compensates for the strangeness and your sense of what is your hand, or any part of you really, will be automatically altered to fit the curious new point of view: see this video for an example, or think back to a time when you slept on your arm and it went to sleep and you woke up and thought it wasn’t your own.

  60. mond says

    I think that the claim by the emailer that the hosts do not know much about eastern thought is just a variation on the so called sophisticated theologians claiming that they don’t believe in a white bearded man in the sky.

    “That is not the god I believe in” is an oft used argument in the western world and now we are told in the eastern world also.

    The mantra (sic) of AETV is generally “What do you believe? and why?”

    If someone wishes to call in and present some eastern thought/ideas/philosophy then I am sure that the hosts will be happy to be apply the above mantra on those ideas.

    I also find the implied argument from authority that some people give ideas based on their geographic origins a bit hard to take.

    Ideas live and die on their own merits not purely on who is saying them and/or where they happen to come from.

  61. says

    But most koans do have some point.

    The sound of one hand clapping for example is an interesting question when it comes to definitional terms and emergent phenomena (And I’ve heard one person claim that it’s also a test of connections to social regulations)

    A koan that is just nonsense is an icecream koan.

  62. none312 says

    For more medical stories of this type I recommend Oliver Sacks’ (MD) famous 1985 book ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ (the title should be revealing what to expect).

  63. jacobfromlost says

    I like the theme song, but I can see how it’s getting a little old. I do miss the variety of intro songs they had before–“Superstition”, “The Vatican Rag”, “Ted Haggard Is Completely Heterosexual”, etc. lol

    Once the show expands again, they should have a little music at the end of the show too. But not now–the show’s too damned short as it is.

  64. says

    Atheist Experience,

    What a clueless letter you received. Its author is simply playing the “deepities” card: “Oh, you’re just not grasping the profoundness of my pet beliefs.”

    More concretely, the doofus is engaging in the old “but that’s not *my* concept of God” sleight-of-tongue. It’s a demand that the skeptic somehow address *every* conceivable concept of God-blather in any response; otherwise, the believer will just skip to some other concept and shout “This is my God over here; you’re attacking a straw man over there.” However, I’ve been listening to The Atheist Experience for years, and am confident that if you good folks “assume Western ways of looking at religion and epistemology” in some discussion, it’s because you’re responding to specific claims that fall under that heading. The writer should not expect you to do otherwise.

    More humorous is the sheer cheesiness of the letter. The writer comes across as having picked up his knowledge of “Eastern thought” from comic books or Hollywood. I’ve lived the majority of my life in “the Orient”, and can assure you that there is no blanket “Eastern thought” or universal “Eastern ways of looking at religion and epistemology” or singular “Oriental” view of God(s). Each of these comes in the vast multiplicity of forms that you would expect from literally billions of individuals. (I love the scripted response that the writer hands to “an enlightened Oriental”. That label is just precious!)

    But while I would have rambled on about the above points in a response, you nail the most important point. The God concept that the writer presents may have been tangential to whatever claims you folks were addressing, but now that s/he’s brought up his concept, which I’m sure does exist in some form among many people, it can be addressed. Whether those people are many or few, and whether the concept is “Eastern” or “Western”, is irrelevant. What matters is precisely what you replied: Why would anyone believe this God concept?

    “God is not a thing belonging in a category, but universal awareness, underlying your and my awareness, and prior to all categories.” All right. It sure has that “enlightened” deepity ring to it, but is it true? Alas, the writer is silent on that. Perhaps s/he’s out requesting clarification from “an enlightened Oriental”.

  65. says

    I take it Dave isn’t going to demonstrate that his “other way of knowing” is effective… I mean, beyond figuring out whether that hand is yours or not.

  66. says

    Agreed. We respond to the models provided by the callers. And when talking more generically, we generally address models most often put forward in our own section of the world, where the U.S. is predominantly Christian (so we address Christian orthodox doctrines, for example, if we are talking about issues of separation of Church and State in the U.S.)

  67. Richard Cornford says

    With all this discussion of hands in front of faces I am a bit supposed that nobody appears to have mentioned the Rubber hand illusion (searching for videos on Google with “Rubber hand illusion” turns up numerous examples). It is a demonstration that for most people a couple of minutes of manipulation can convince them that the ‘rubber hand’ in front of their faces is really their own hand, which is maybe the final permutation of how your perception of your own hand doesn’t necessarily represent reality.

  68. Aquaria says

    Traci:

    Surely Austin has some former followers of Eastern religions who are now atheists.

    Why not add at least one to the show, to address issues like this? It would be a wonderful addition to an already stellar show.

  69. Dave Schauweker says

    Hi,
    your Zen master wannabe here. Seems like the last time I was here everyone wanted to put my head on a pike, so I took a little breather.
    I was thinking about some of the reactions I got to my email, and specifically, questions about how would I know I had achieved enlightenment. I would first ask myself, does this experience accord with what Zen masters and the enlightened non-dual Vedanta teachers say about it?
    Here’s what Adyashanti says enlightenment is like, from a report on a web broadcast of his I wrote for my writers’ club:
    In his talk, Adyashanti distinguishes between spiritual experience and spiritual awakening. As a result of a spiritual experience, I may change my thinking, and thus part of my identity, but spiritual awakening or enlightenment is a profound existential shift in identity away from thinking and the body and typically towards one of three states of awakened consciousness. In the first and most common of such shifts he mentions, one’s identity has shifted from the body/mind to pure awareness itself. One is aware of one’s body and mind, but is free of them, and of all things. The rise and fall of all events takes place within the infinite field of awareness, which is one’s self.
    In the second possible shift of awakening/identity, it is as if one has ordered the proverbial Buddhist hamburger – “Make me one with everything.” One sees all things as part of oneself. One is awareness, but it is realized that all that is perceived is awareness as well. Here too, one cannot be affected by events, since they are not external and one is the doer of all of them. This might be viewed as a more advanced state than that of identification with a pure state of awareness because in the state of oneness both the perceiver and the perceived are seen to be of one substance: awareness.
    The third and most advanced possible shift of awakening/identity Adyashanti mentions is to a state sometimes referred to as the Void. In this state there is no feeling of identification. Time and space, subject and objects have disappeared. This is the least talked about of the three states at least partly because no differences are perceived in this state, so they cannot be described. According to Adyashanti, this state is both the final spiritual goal and what we fear the most, the loss of our identity. He describes this shift as an absolute and spontaneous relinquishment of identity accompanied by a momentary feeling of dying. In the shift from the ego to identification with pure awareness or with oneness, we give up an identity fraught with problems for a blissful one, but in the shift from identification with awareness or with oneness to the Void, we suffer the death of a blissful self. The only gain Adyashanti can point to for taking this step is knowing the truth about this ultimate state.
    O.K., but I can hear you people saying that experiencing such states is not objective proof, because it could all be a hallucination, etc.
    But let’s think about this demand for a truly objective proof for a moment. I feel in a pretty good mood today. But how do I know that this is not a hallucination and that in reality, hellish, nightmarish things are not going on both in my mind and right in front of me? So, I decide to get some objective proof of my internal state and I have blood drawn and neurotransmitter levels checked. I get the results and check the levels of feel-good neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, as well as stress hormones, such as cortisol.
    The result seems to indicate that all my neurotransmitter levels are normal. So now I have proof that I am feeling O.K. But wait a minute. What if my eyes are not in fact reading the test results, but I am hallucinating them? And what if I ask someone else to look at the results, and he confirms how I read them? How do I know I’m not in a dream where everything is in fact an illusion, and the real fact is that I in bed sleeping and dreaming?
    It seems to me that if we are going to doubt our experiences constantly, we become caught in an infinite regression. Any objective proof has to become part of our experience at some point, otherwise we would never be aware of it.
    I believe many people on this site have concepts of objectivity and certainty that are almost as outmoded as the certainty of a literally true Bible. If you don’t believe me, read “Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness,” by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. By the way, neither of these physicists believe in any type of mysticism.

  70. Dave Schauweker says

    Koans: I don’t know a lot about them, really. The (Rinzai) Zen student is assigned an impossible question such as “what was your original face before you were born?” The student then has to meet with the Zen master each day and report on how he is coming with the koan and whether he has solved it. All koans are similar in that they cannot be solved intellectually.
    The pressure just builds until there is a mental explosion, and the student “solves” the koan by expressing in his demeanor that he has become one with it and transcended it.
    Like “what was your original face before you were born?” my koan has some meaning to it, but one does not solve it by figuring out the meaning of it. Thus I have not solved my own koan, but I know the meaning of it.
    The meaning of is that an enlightened person reacts to his circumstances immediately, spontaneously, simply, and directly, not through knowledge.
    But I cannot express this through my demeanor.

  71. Dave Schauweker says

    Well, I’m sure that the typical Christian’s thinking is far different from St. Augustine’s or Thomas Aquinas’.

    I don’t imagine for a moment that the typical Buddhist reads Nagarjuna or Dogen either.

    I admit that I have read none of those. Krishnamurti or Adyashanti is more my line.

    Yes, Lin Yutang. Read him many years ago. And of course you are right about Chuang Zu, perhaps the only funny sage ever.

  72. Dave Schauweker says

    As I’ve mentioned, enlightenment is a realization of the Sanskrit phrase “Tat tvam asi” – that are you also. In other words, you see the other as yourself. And this naturally leads to astruism.

  73. Dave Schauweker says

    People, please look at my words. I have never said that consciousness has nothing to do with the brain. Of course it has something to do with the brain.

    It has a LOT to do with the brain. But that does not reduce consciousness to neurons any more that the shows on public television can be explained by the innards of a T.V.

  74. Dave Schauweker says

    From what I can gather, almost nothing scientific is known about enlightenment, psychologically or otherwise.

    It is just not a subject science has explored in any depth. Therefore, to even limit it to psychological phenomena does not seem scientific, to my mind.

    Even the word “state” may be a misnomer. I believe that by definition, states are transient, but certain types of enlightenment are permanent.

    You know nothing about it. Why do you insist on categorizing it?

  75. Stan Brooks says

    @MarkNS:
    I can appreciate that this subject has been beaten to death, but I just would like to add that Dave S and his email, comments and refutations of comments exhibits why I left Buddhism and finally called myself an Atheist. Buddhists may not explicitly believe in “gods”, but they do ascribe to the pseudo-science nonsense that Dave espouses, and they do so with the same unthinking vigor that fundamentalist christians or believers in pink unicorns use to justify their own pet superstitions.

    From my understanding, flawed as it may be, relaxing in ANY form or position (i.e. enjoying your newest favorite movie relaxing on the couch) confers the same psychological and neurological benefits as sitting zazen. And for clarification I sat periodically for four wasted years before I understood this. Why was the Buddha enlightened? Because he said he was!! As JT Barnum has said, there is one born every minute.

  76. jacobfromlost says

    It doesn’t appear you know anything about it either, yet you continue talking about it as if you do.

  77. jacobfromlost says

    The tv analogy is not apt. TV broadcasts are all the same on all tvs. Consciousness is not. You can’t fiddle with the innards of a tv and see extra people and things appear on the screen that are not a part of the broadcast. If you think consciousness is analogous to an identical broadcast on all of our sets (brains), then that would be verifiable and falsifiable. Yet you’ve already said your claims are not verifiable. So reading your words doesn’t clear up the confusion. (You also seem to ignore the mountains of evidence we have offered showing that your claims of “direct knowledge” was incorrect. Why?)

  78. says

    A lot of the Eastern religious/philosophical thought is certainly worthwhile and interesting, but quite often amounts to little more than a lot of hyped-up wordplay. Human are naturally attracted to words like “higher existence”, “enlightenment”, and “nirvana” because of the connotations these words have been imparted with. What these really are are merely states of the brain, with a physical basis, but it is much more appealing to many people to attribute these feelings/experiences to a higher being or supernatural explanations.

  79. says

    O.K., but I can hear you people saying that experiencing such states is not objective proof, because it could all be a hallucination, etc.
    But let’s think about this demand for a truly objective proof for a moment. I feel in a pretty good mood today. But how do I know that this is not a hallucination and that in reality, hellish, nightmarish things are not going on both in my mind and right in front of me?

    The point you’re missing is that it’s not about proving things to you. It’s about proving things to other people. You can have whatever psychological party in your head that you want. If you want other people to believe your claims, you have to demonstrate it to them, because otherwise they can’t tell whether you’re hallucinating or not.

    My point was that to suggest to them that they replicate the same state that could be a hallucination isn’t an effective test. Two people can see the same mirage. Objective evidence helps resolve this issue.

    There’s no need to dive into solipsism.


    It seems to me that if we are going to doubt our experiences constantly, we become caught in an infinite regression.

    The problem infinite regression of skepticism is invalid. Doubt and skepticism is proportional to the claim. The more outlandish, the more skepticism it invokes.

    I may be skeptical about my computer’s hard drive’s integrity, so I back it up on an external drive.
    I may be skeptical about my external drive surviving a house fire, so I back it up on an other external drive in a fire safe.
    … I can end there. I’ve covered the possible problems well enough to not have to worry about it anymore. I don’t get caught in an infinite regress of being skeptical about the Nth backup.

    Being happy is not an extraordinary claim. Claiming that you have direct knowledge of a supernatural entity that can not otherwise be detected – is.

    Any objective proof has to become part of our experience at some point, otherwise we would never be aware of it.

    Yes, the problem of the subjective layer. We never said that we can completely eliminate subjective error. But we can reduce it to acceptable levels. If you can drive down the road without wrapping yourself around a tree (999 times out of 1000), you’ve demonstrated that the subjective layer of error can be mitigated – by *gasp* objective evidence that you’re picking up from around you, such as where the road is in front of you, even if the information your eyes are gathering isn’t perfect.

    It’s like assumptions – we all make them, but just because we do, doesn’t mean we go ahead and make as many grandiose assumptions as possible. No, we try to keep them to a minimum. Your “epistemology” seems to be to wallow as deeply in assumptions (or in terms of the analogy, subjectivity) as possible.

    I believe many people on this site have concepts of objectivity and certainty that are almost as outmoded as the certainty of a literally true Bible.

    Yes, if you don’t understand us – or basic epistemology for that matter. You seem to have this strawman concept of the process and understanding of it.

    If you don’t believe me, read “Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness,” by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. By the way, neither of these physicists believe in any type of mysticism.

    I don’t suppose you can summarize what they’ve empiracly, objectively revealed through peer review that would be useful to know?

  80. says

    You have not seen behind any curtain. Change the question to “How does Lawrence Krauss prove to someone who doesn’t understand physics very well that his theories have merit?” He does a nice job explaining them to the layman, but I don’t know if he is on the right track or not, really. And, some people can BS quantum physics pretty well and I can’t always tell. Some people can BS enlightenment too.

    There is no litmus test and it’s not a badge of honor anyway. What’s important is, if you claim to have this wide vision of your place in the universe, how do you apply that? Do you work toward peace on a global and local scale? Do you always first attempt to do no harm?

    When Buddhist teachings began, they needed a new teacher, with new terms to learn those things. We have lots of teachers now and we should be dropping arguments about what discipline led you to be a caring, compassionate person and get on with the discussion about how we spread compassion around.

  81. says

    Responding generally to much of the above, I would ask that people keep in mind that the Buddha, Christ and others were responding to problems in their culture. The Buddha saw a lot of suffering caused by the growing cities and the Jews were enslaved by a conqueror. Both saw how traditions were corrupted to justify the exploitation. They also used existing traditions and terms to teach what they thought was a better way. How that worked out or what they really thought or said is not the point. The point is they didn’t have the tools we have now, like the scientific method, so we really can’t judge them for not using it.

    I CAN judge Matt Dillahunty for not always being compassionate. Although the letter did a poor job of it, that’s what I get from it. There’s more to that discussion, but I’m keeping it brief. I’m trying to adjust my language so I can have the same conversation with a Christian, a conservative Republican secular Jew, or a liberal Democrat. If I can say something about how to deal with the poor and they agree that either Christ, Maimonides or Thomas Jefferson would agree, then we can move forward.

    Most of this thread is argumentative and designed to keep the conversation from moving forward. Statements on what Buddhism really is or that enlightenment is simply a brain function do little more for me than someone saying “Christ is love”. My response to that is, great, I’m all for love, lets talk about that. The same type of response could be applied to either side of the arguments in this thread.

  82. Jdog says

    The point is they didn’t have the tools we have now, like the scientific method, so we really can’t judge them for not using it.

    We aren’t judging mythological teachings for not having access to the demonstrably better tools that we have now, we’re saying that the mythological teachings should no longer be taught because the tools they provide are primitive and do not work as well. Those who wish to continue using stone axes to cut down trees are welcome to do so, but don’t try to keep everyone else from learning about responsible chainsaw use.

    Dave S is making claims about the superiority of his particular brand of stone axe. He cannot demonstrate that these claims are valid. We are attempting to explain to him that this means we are not interested in purchasing stone axes at this time.

  83. jacobfromlost says

    Some points to various comments…

    Dave: …questions about how would I know I had achieved enlightenment. I would first ask myself, does this experience accord with what Zen masters and the enlightened non-dual Vedanta teachers say about it?

    Me: The problem is that everything you describe is what one would expect from a neurologically-based, psychological state, and yet you say you don’t want to put it in a box or categorize it. And THEN you start categorizing it, labeling it, and describing it in a way that aligns perfectly with a psychological state. It feels like there are two sets of rules here in the discussion of your claims–one for you, and one for us.

    Dave: The result seems to indicate that all my neurotransmitter levels are normal. So now I have proof that I am feeling O.K. But wait a minute. What if my eyes are not in fact reading the test results, but I am hallucinating them?

    Me: You could be. But certain things always produce results, and certain things don’t, whether you are dreaming or not. Moreover, if you are going to invoke this kind of uncertainty, they why pick “enlightenment” as something of value. It is no more or less valuable than anything else, solipsistically.

    Dave: Any objective proof has to become part of our experience at some point, otherwise we would never be aware of it.

    Me: There is a wide range of mutually confirming pieces of evidence that highly suggest things are what they are regardless of my subjectivity. We can control for these things, but if you are going to say everything could be an illusion in your head, why would these controls work every time? Moreover, I don’t think you actually think there are not other minds around you, and when we have many minds in conjunction we can control for our own misperceptions and biases using verifiable, reproducible, predictive, and falsifiable methodology.

    Dave: I believe many people on this site have concepts of objectivity and certainty that are almost as outmoded as the certainty of a literally true Bible.

    Me: We don’t. You just don’t understand where we are coming from. I want you to consider for a moment that you are wrong about enlightenment being more than a psychological state. How would you go about finding that out? If there IS no way to find it out, it is unfalsifiable nonsense that is equal to all other unfalsifiable claims. You see, rationalists ALWAYS accept that they could be wrong, and how would we find out. All the evidence supports biologically-based consciousness, therefore there is no REASON to think it is otherwise. When we say it is biologically-based, it doesn’t mean we are absolute certain, since we are not absolutely certain of anything. But just because are uncertain and there is no evidence for something DOES NOT MAKE IT MORE LIKELY just because we want it to be true, or like the idea, etc.

    Again, consider for a moment that perhaps we know more than you think we do, and use critical thinking to find out if we do. We already considered that you know more than we do, and used critical thinking to find out, and the result was that you did not. If you want to change that result, provide evidence that meets the minimum standard (and define your claim more precisely so we can tell the difference between it and a psychological state).

  84. says

    @Dave Schauweker

    People, please look at my words. I have never said that consciousness has nothing to do with the brain. Of course it has something to do with the brain.

    It has a LOT to do with the brain. But that does not reduce consciousness to neurons any more that the shows on public television can be explained by the innards of a T.V.

    And there is where you have nothing. You have nothing you can point to outside of the human body that is transmitting a signal of consciousness to the brains of people. The onus is on you to point out where the remote consciousness actually is being broadcast from, otherwise, given the evidence humanity has acquired about brains and consciousness, you are doing nothing more than making up things.

    By the way, publically broadcast television signals are carried by electromagnetic waves. Our brains already operate similar to a TV in that way; our eyes receive electromagnetic waves and our brains decode the received information until we are capable of seeing the images. You might as well have said that consciousness has a LOT to do with the brain, but that does not reduce consciousness to neurons any more than the act of seeing an image can be explained by the innards of a human body. Would a human be able to see anything if no images were being received by the eyes?

    Another huge error on your part is that all a remote consciousness would do is push back the mystery of consciousness to another agent. For example, we see images because things actually create the image! Similarly, a television can produce images on its screen that we can see because a television broadcast station is actually producing the images in real time or is transmitting images that were recorded from things that actually produced the images earlier. So, if consciousness were remote, we would still find ourselves dealing with a real system out there that is somehow creating conscioussness and then transmitting it to our brains. This remote station, if you will, is something we would need to empirically observe for your idea to have any realistic basis.

    There is also the problem of how our brains would transmit the information they receive back to the remote station so that it can integrate what is happening to a person into that person’s consciousness. And the act of sleeping and comas and anesthetics and psychoactive drugs and mental birth defects and mental illnesses and brain damage are all left as problems for you to incorporate into your remote station model of consciousness.

    So you need to think a little more clearly about what you are saying, Dave. Right now you have an incoherent idea about how humans work and our relationship to the rest of the natural world, and that is causing you to be blind to how unnecessary and untenable your idea of a remote consciousness is.

  85. jacobfromlost says

    jwolforth: You have not seen behind any curtain. Change the question to “How does Lawrence Krauss prove to someone who doesn’t understand physics very well that his theories have merit?” He does a nice job explaining them to the layman, but I don’t know if he is on the right track or not, really. And, some people can BS quantum physics pretty well and I can’t always tell. Some people can BS enlightenment too.

    Me: You seem to think that Lawrence Krauss is starting with a conclusion and looking for evidence to support it. He is not. He starts with the evidence, then he and many, many others come together to rigorously come up with an explanation for all of the evidence that puts everything into a framework. Then they attempt to think of new ways to experiment or observe that confirms one framework over another, refining our understanding. If you think he is BSing, then you also have to think that all of the scientific community is BSing–that GPSs don’t actually work, that the confirmed background radiation is just a conspiracy of hoaxes, etc, and you are left trying to believe something that is contrary to a very large web of mutually confirming evidence. Could we get new evidence tomorrow that changes that web? Sure. But the web we have now is going to fit nicely into the new web, and the possibility of getting new evidence tomorrow doesn’t justify throwing out all the evidence we have and going with our guts (guts that don’t agree with the guts of much of anyone else in the room, by the way).

    jwolforth: There is no litmus test and it’s not a badge of honor anyway. What’s important is, if you claim to have this wide vision of your place in the universe, how do you apply that? Do you work toward peace on a global and local scale? Do you always first attempt to do no harm?

    Me: It is difficult to do no harm if you are not even aware of what is real and what is not. You first have to be able to distinguish the two to the best of your ability before making decisions that are least harmful. If some people don’t even TRY to distinguish between what is real and what is not, not only can you not get to the least harm, you can’t get to the most help.

    jwolforth: When Buddhist teachings began, they needed a new teacher, with new terms to learn those things. We have lots of teachers now and we should be dropping arguments about what discipline led you to be a caring, compassionate person and get on with the discussion about how we spread compassion around.

    Me: I think that the two questions are inseparable from each other, as well as how we determine what is real and what is not. What you are advocating is a pipe dream where everyone pretends they have no point of view, and agrees on what you want them to agree with. (You have a point of view too, you know.)

    jwolforth: They also used existing traditions and terms to teach what they thought was a better way. How that worked out or what they really thought or said is not the point. The point is they didn’t have the tools we have now, like the scientific method, so we really can’t judge them for not using it.

    Me: But we do have them NOW, so we can judge people NOW for not using it when it demonstrable works (and they depend upon it every day in millions of ways while simultaneously denying it).

    jwolforth: I CAN judge Matt Dillahunty for not always being compassionate. Although the letter did a poor job of it, that’s what I get from it.

    Me: I can see that POV from an irrational perpective, but not from a rational one. Matt expresses “tough love” sometimes on the irrational, but I can sympathize with that because irrationality harms a lot of people in reality. (I love Judge Judy for the same reasons, lol, and people often hate her for the same irrational reasons–they don’t understand the difference between what is real and what is not, so give their own perspective and interests–sometimes one of willful ignorance–a privileged position in their own minds even when it cuts against all the evidence. Except on Judge Judy, SOMETIMES people are only lying to the judge and not also lying to themselves. Callers to AE who address Matt are almost always lying to themselves, and have no means to find out how or why. That’s worthy of some anger, and some tough love.)

    jwolforth: There’s more to that discussion, but I’m keeping it brief. I’m trying to adjust my language so I can have the same conversation with a Christian, a conservative Republican secular Jew, or a liberal Democrat. If I can say something about how to deal with the poor and they agree that either Christ, Maimonides or Thomas Jefferson would agree, then we can move forward.

    Me: That’s not going to happen, especially in a context where people think they can adjust reality to suit their interests and beliefs (ie, the context you just described).

    jwolforth: Most of this thread is argumentative and designed to keep the conversation from moving forward.

    Me: Rigorous debate and logical argumentation (in a free context, even if that free context was in secret) is the ONLY thing that has every moved humanity forward in reality. That’s the only way we have ever found out a better way to do anything.

    jwolforth: Statements on what Buddhism really is or that enlightenment is simply a brain function do little more for me than someone saying “Christ is love”. My response to that is, great, I’m all for love, lets talk about that. The same type of response could be applied to either side of the arguments in this thread.

    Me: Not at all. One side of the argument starts with demonstrable evidence in reality, and one side does not. You can’t build upon anything in reality EXCEPT demonstrable evidence (and the only thing you can build upon it with is NEW demonstrable evidence, which at this point means you need to actively LOOK for it using the scientific method). One can THINK they are building upon undemonstrable nonsense, but actually you are just adding more nonsense. How do we know this? Evidence. If there were an alternative way to know something, it would still be verifiable in the regular way we know things–empiricism.

  86. says

    Most of this thread is argumentative and designed to keep the conversation from moving forward.

    It’s more like we’re trying to keep the train on the tracks so we can keep moving forward, and to try to prevent it from derailing plunging into a inter-dimensional rift and careening through Fantasy World.

    Realty is the way forward, and unfortunately for humanity, we have to dedicate an absurd amount of time and effort trying to steer people away from wandering off into Lala land.

    We waste so much time on crackpots.

  87. says

    And yes, that is condescending of me to say – but not for the sake of insult. It’s for the sake of contrast and starkness. Sometimes you have to slap people pretty hard before they wake up.

  88. says

    “What you are advocating is a pipe dream where everyone pretends they have no point of view, and agrees on what you want them to agree with.”
    “That’s not going to happen, especially in a context where people think they can adjust reality to suit their interests and beliefs”
    These two statements are just kinda sad. Do you think we can’t reach across cultures and belief systems and come to common understandings?

    “Rigorous debate and logical argumentation is the ONLY thing that has every moved humanity forward in reality.”
    I agree with the statement. I disagree that this is rigorous debate.

    “One side of the argument starts with demonstrable evidence in reality, and one side does not.”
    Demonstrable mostly, arguments that support the conclusions, not so much.

    “we can judge people NOW for not using it [scientific method] when it demonstrable works”
    True. What I meant to say was, wisdom was handed down to us before science and we can sort that out, use new methods to sort through the old and include them if they are useful, discard them if not. Koans, for example, can be useful when used correctly. This thread has shown good and bad use of a koan. Good being comments: 17, 18 Bad would be: 26, 16

  89. zengaze says

    I know where this guy’s at, because i’ve been there. Western theology was so obviosly flawed that in my mid twenties i latched onto buddhism. I’d been atheist since my early teens but had always felt an affinity to buddhism. Whether that was because i’d been schooled in martial arts since i was a grasshopper or because i watched too much star wars i never really figured out.

    I passed through Tibetan Buddhism (meditating with the dalai lama himelf at one stage) and on through zen. Basically as a reductionist, as i was trying to distill the bs to find “the truth” throwing out all the junk. My journey led me to throw out buddhism. Without the junk all your left with in Buddhism is meditation, which is of real world value, not because it points or leads to any supernatural gain, but because it really does improve your concentration, your patience, and your listening skills.

    On a side note any eastern or western mystic that states or implies enlightenment, is still in the dark. I hope you pass onto reality my friend.

  90. jacobfromlost says

    Jwolforth: These two statements are just kinda sad. Do you think we can’t reach across cultures and belief systems and come to common understandings?

    Me: Only insofar as each values reason and evidence.

    jwolforth: I agree with the statement. I disagree that this is rigorous debate.

    Me: It’s a good thing that logical arguments based on evidence are defined, so it doesn’t matter if you agree or not.

    jwolforth: Demonstrable mostly, arguments that support the conclusions, not so much.

    Me: How are they NOT demonstrable, and what arguments do not support the conclusion? Everything we would expect to see if consciousness is rooted in the brain, we see. We see nothing we would expect to see if it is not rooted in the brain. We can never rule out things for which there is no evidence, but neither should we take them seriously.

    Jwolforth: True. What I meant to say was, wisdom was handed down to us before science and we can sort that out, use new methods to sort through the old and include them if they are useful, discard them if not.

    Me: Wisdom is only recognized by its results in reality. I think rationalists are already 100 steps beyond sorting through useful wisdom and discarding the useless because we now recognize how to determine what is useful and what is not, and why it is useful and why it is not.

    jwolforth: Koans, for example, can be useful when used correctly. This thread has shown good and bad use of a koan. Good being comments: 17, 18 Bad would be: 26, 16

    Me: I’m not exactly sure what you mean there, but how do you determine how anything is used correctly versus incorrectly without using some falsifiable methodology? (Also, I don’t understand why it is bad to recognize that our perceptions of our very bodies can change when our brains are physically affected. Why is that irrelevant when someone has floated the idea that we have direct knowledge of our bodies? Clearly we do not have direct knowledge of our bodies, as is illustrated by mountains of evidence. If you are saying that doesn’t matter, we should just pretend to take “direct knowledge” seriously–or ignore it completely–to focus on compassion, I disagree. If we have a fundamental disagreement on reality itself, then we can’t even achieve a functional compassion, although a dysfunctional one seems feasible.)

  91. says

    “Only insofar as each values reason and evidence.”
    Then you will have difficulties dealing with unreasonable people, which is a lot people.

    “I don’t understand why it is bad to recognize that our perceptions of our very bodies can change when our brains are physically affected.”
    It just doesn’t have much to do with the discussion. It’s bringing brain functions into a discussion about how to approach abstract concepts. It’s applying science to a koan, you might as well argue that Madonna can’t really say what it feels like to be a virgin. You can have the argument, it just doesn’t have much to do with the song. Obviously, how brains work matters, but we don’t need to stop and discuss that we are human, we are using English, communication has limits and all that, every time we have a discussion.

    “I think rationalists are already 100 steps beyond sorting through useful wisdom and discarding the useless”
    I agree. I’m not saying Buddhism is the ultimate or rationalism is wrong. I don’t think meditation gives you direct knowledge or any of that. No need to escalate this exchange into anything so heated.

    “If we have a fundamental disagreement on reality itself, then we can’t even achieve a functional compassion…”
    I’d love to hear your falsifiable methodology to prove that! Dogs can achieve functional compassion with cats. Mentally ill people can achieve functional compassion. I think we’re losing sight of the goal here. We’re discussing the relative merits of an email that we agree has serious problems.

  92. jacobfromlost says

    jwolforth: Then you will have difficulties dealing with unreasonable people, which is a lot people.

    Me: Some people will never be reasonable, but joining them in their unreason is not the answer. People become more reasonable all the time–they just need education, and capitulating to ignorance is not the answer.

    Me before: “I don’t understand why it is bad to recognize that our perceptions of our very bodies can change when our brains are physically affected.”

    jwolforth: It just doesn’t have much to do with the discussion. It’s bringing brain functions into a discussion about how to approach abstract concepts.

    Me: And why does that have nothing to do with brain function?

    jwolforth: It’s applying science to a koan, you might as well argue that Madonna can’t really say what it feels like to be a virgin. You can have the argument, it just doesn’t have much to do with the song.

    Me: Madonna DOES know what it feels like to be a virgin. She wasn’t born a nonvirgin. To say that a koan has to be discussed in an irrational context because it is by its very nature irrational is, unsuprisingly, irrational. (Moreover, we weren’t applying the brain stuff to a koan, we were applying it to the claim that one knows their hand with “direct knowledge” by putting it in front of their face, and that this is analogous to “universal awareness”. How are we supposed to discuss this claim without pointing out that it is demonstrably false?)

    jwolforth: Obviously, how brains work matters, but we don’t need to stop and discuss that we are human, we are using English, communication has limits and all that, every time we have a discussion.

    Me: When discussing facts, the facts matter. If the facts don’t matter when discussing facts, what’s the point in the discussion?

    Me before: “I think rationalists are already 100 steps beyond sorting through useful wisdom and discarding the useless”

    jwolforth: I agree. I’m not saying Buddhism is the ultimate or rationalism is wrong. I don’t think meditation gives you direct knowledge or any of that. No need to escalate this exchange into anything so heated.

    Me: I don’t think anything here IS heated, lol. Jaunt over to Pharyngula if you want heated.

    Me before: “If we have a fundamental disagreement on reality itself, then we can’t even achieve a functional compassion…”

    jwolforth: I’d love to hear your falsifiable methodology to prove that!

    Me: Good grief. Just look at how religious belief expresses itself in the world. Is it functionally compassionate to picket the funerals of soldiers? To threaten people with hell unless they believe? To pray away the gay? For that matter, is it functionally compassionate to deny the effects of environmental regulations, or global warming?

    jwolforth: Dogs can achieve functional compassion with cats. Mentally ill people can achieve functional compassion. I think we’re losing sight of the goal here. We’re discussing the relative merits of an email that we agree has serious problems.

    Me: I think you made up the goal and expect everyone to agree with you. We don’t. (Even your assertion that the emailer must want Matt to be more compassionate seems out of left field–and then you seem to declare us off topic if we don’t agree with you what the topic is.) Dogs can have compassion for cats, etc, but you can’t get all dogs and all cats to have compassion for each other. That seems to be what you are advocating with humans. The Fred Phelpses of the world can have functional compassion for their children, but what if their child declares themselves to be gay? Or, god forbid, an atheist? Is it compassionate to tell them they will burn alive in hell forever? To psychologically abuse them at every turn? The Phelpses would say it is compassionate because they are trying to help their loved one avoid hell. A rationalist would have a different definition of compassion–one more centered on functionality in reality.

  93. Kazim says

    Having read a fair bit of “westernized” Eastern philosophy (I very much enjoyed The Tao Is Silent by Raymond Smullyan) I can seriously imagine the following conversation…

    Student: Master, I have thoroughly explored the workings of the Tao and my journey to enlightenment.
    Master: And what did you discover?
    Student: It is a load of nonsense!
    Master: Excellent! I see that you are now Enlightened.

  94. piero says

    Our brain is our survival kit. The only reason humans still exist is that our brains can process information better than other animals which are stronger and faster.

    Watch our closer relatives and see how they use their brains: you’ll never see a bonobo meditating (they are usuallly too busy fucking or wanking), or a chimp experiencing their unity with the universe (they are usually too busy eating and pestering each other).

    Humans, on the other hand, have discovered that their brains can be induced to enter some abnormal states. First they discovered beer, then opium, then meditaton. They attributed some risibly transcendental meaning to those states, and somehow came to decide that brain abuse through meditation was a GOOD thing, whereas brain abuse through drugs was a BAD, VERY BAD thing.

    In much the same way, carpenters have discovered that hammering in a screw saves a lot of time and effort, but that’s generaly deemed to be a BAD thing.

    In other words, you can choose to use anything for a purpose it was not designed for. You can kill someone with a broken bottle, file your nails on the pavement, steady a wobbly table with a coin, or get high with fermented grape juice.

    Sam Harris, whom I regard as a pretty rational person, has described some of his experiences with meditation, and frankly his descriptions have scared the shit out of me. I would never purposely induce my poor, battered brain into such a state. Yet Harris is a strong advocate for Eastern-style altered perception. What possible benefits can be derived from that I cannot tell. Even if someone manmaged to achieve a state of unimaginable bliss using those techniques, what would be the point? I can reach quite a blissful state through wanking, but I would not recommend masturbation as a way to improve the world’s ills.

  95. says

    No, it is not. The exercise is meant to show that alterations in the brain’s function not only can but will alter our mental state, and that one’s brain’s physical state is the sole arbiter of one’s mental state.

    Brain damage can change your personality. It can make you not recognize parts of your own body. It can even literally make your right side not know what the left side is doing — your right side is the one that can express itself verbally, too, so when asked about what your left hand is doing you would not be able to say anything because you would think that it is still, or that you do not have one. But the left side can still respond to stimuli, and can still hold opinions and commit to its own independent thought process that the right side has no fucking clue about, and even with a bit of coaxing can answer questions by indicating with the hand.

    All this “enlightenment” and “meditation”…it’s all in your head. Literally.

  96. says

    The TAE crew have used statements such as “more enlightened ways of thinking” when making arguments against theists. What do you think they mean? Your simple argument that we use our brains to think gives us no new information, provides no refinement to the defintion of “enlightened”. Do you have any data claiming that people who say they are enlightened are experiencing abnormal brain activity?

  97. zengaze says

    Lol, great post. I haven’t read sam’s take on meditation, but i do know that the term meditation is used to describe a whole lot of junk, with snake oil sales men taking people through guided ancestor walks and other such nonsense.

    The form of meditation i consider to be of benefit, is quite simply sitting quitely and giving your head a rest, by reducing the constant background chatter, it isn’t mysterious and there isn’t anything supernatural about it. And any trance like states are caused by falling asleep.

  98. jacobfromlost says

    “The TAE crew have used statements such as “more enlightened ways of thinking” when making arguments against theists. What do you think they mean?”

    Actually, I’ve seen almost every episode available to see, and I don’t remember them EVER saying that. Please cite the host and episode.

    Second, if they said anything APPROACHING that, I’m sure the host who said it would be happy to clarify so that you don’t have to put words in their mouth.

  99. jacobfromlost says

    And third, we did have a thing called “The Enlightenment”. The hosts may have mentioned that, but they certainly weren’t implying anything you are suggesting. (And if you think they WERE, point out the host, the show, and their quote, and we can ask them to get clarity on what they personally think. Their argument still must stand or fall on its own.)

    Fourth, in that context, we can recognize intelligence by its success in doing things in reality. It is not more remarkable than a bird’s ability to fly. And since our ability to be successful doing things in reality depends upon our ability to use reason and evidence, we don’t NEED any new information. You seem to think there needs to be a basic explanation for human intelligence beyond those we already have. There is no indication that we are missing any basic part of the puzzle (although many more refined answers are needed, and currently being studied with objective, increasing success in learning more via falsifiable methodology–exactly what we expect to see).

  100. says

    jacobfromlost said, ” but they certainly weren’t implying anything you are suggesting”

    (There was no ‘reply’ button on comment 26)

    I have no idea what you think I am suggesting, or what birds flight has anything to with any of this. You seem to want to just break this down to something so simple that it no longer has any meaning. The word “enlightenment” has a definition, an epistemology, and a fascinating history. I think all that has applications to the discussion of atheism. I don’t think that is a controversial statement.

  101. says

    jacobfromlost said, “There is no indication that we are missing any basic part of the puzzle (although many more refined answers are needed, and currently being studied with objective, increasing success in learning more via falsifiable methodology–exactly what we expect to see).”

    ???

  102. jacobfromlost says

    You: I have no idea what you think I am suggesting,

    Me: You claimed the hosts have said there are “more enlightened ways of thinking”. Then you asked what they meant by that. One, I don’t think they ever HAVE said that, and two, just by suggesting this you are muddying the waters of what they have said. Why? I can only think to suggest they were saying something other than what they were saying.

    You: or what birds flight has anything to with any of this.

    Me: That’s easy. A bird’s flight helps them survive and reproduce in demonstrable reality in the same way our intelligence does.

    You: You seem to want to just break this down to something so simple that it no longer has any meaning.

    Me: Do you think things have to be complicated to have meaning? Do you think things must be assumed to be complicated when we have demonstrable explanations of them?

    You: The word “enlightenment” has a definition, an epistemology, and a fascinating history.

    Me: If you are trying to say we know what everyone means when they say “enlightenment”, you are wrong. Some people mean “universal awareness”, some people mean theistic spiritual ideas, some people mean altruism, some people mean rationalism that blossomed during “The Enlightenment”, etc.

    You: I think all that has applications to the discussion of atheism. I don’t think that is a controversial statement.

    Me: What is controversial is trying to obfuscate what the hosts were saying with no support for what they said. You don’t even have the quote, you just asserted the “crew” have said there are “more enlightened ways of thinking.” We can’t discuss this if you have no evidence of what they said, in what context, who said it, etc. You are putting words in others mouths without justification, and that annoys me.

  103. jacobfromlost says

    For instance, the breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research, the continued success in AI, and continued research in neurology.

    There is no basic piece of the puzzle missing–no one studying neurology, AI, etc, is asking themselves, “Does consciousness really come from biological or other physical processes, or does it come from something else?”

  104. says

    “If you are trying to say we know what everyone means when they say “enlightenment”, you are wrong.” No, I’m just trying to have a conversation. I’m asking you what you think. I’m not going to continue with the “did TAE say it or not” thing. Sorry I brought it up.

  105. jacobfromlost says

    jwolforth: No, I’m just trying to have a conversation. I’m asking you what you think.

    Me: Ok, but every time I tell you what I think, you say it is irrelevant. (I am still very curious why you think the emailer wants Matt to be more compassionate. I’ve read the email several times and I see no hint of it at all, implicit or explicit. In fact, he doesn’t even indicate he knows who the hosts are, and may not even be referencing Matt in the email.)

    jwolforth: I’m not going to continue with the “did TAE say it or not” thing. Sorry I brought it up.

    Me: I did find this where Matt talks of “secular enlightenment” as a kind of synonym for humanism ( watch?v=QrqFgzC0f_k ), but he is clearly talking about rationalism the same way I and others are here. I’m still looking for other instances, but finding very few mentions of “enlightenment” at all.

    I am curious what you believe and why you believe it. You’ve talked about compassion here, and seem to be dancing around some kind of belief system that you don’t necessarily want us to know about. Do you agree with de Botton, for instance, who thinks that atheists should take some tips from religion and create their own songs, buildings/temples, myths, etc?

    Also, do you think that atheists are not in touch with their emotions, especially in a context that would likely be called “spiritual” in religious circles? Wonder and awe at music, theater, art, literature, etc? I’m getting that vibe from you (a preconception that atheists are detached Vulcans), but I could be totally wrong, so I ask the question in the spirit of conversation.

  106. says

    “Ok, but every time I tell you what I think, you say it is irrelevant.”
    I’ve said the stuff about brains is irrelevant. There hasn’t been much else said beyond that, unless you want to count monkeys masturbating, which I don’t. (Yes I know you didn’t say that).

    To your questions, No.

    “I am still very curious why you think the emailer wants Matt to be more compassionate.”
    First, your focusing on semantic details is annoying. Note that I don’t respond to them.
    The email accuses “the lady” and “the fellow” of using “Western ways”. Dave S went on to defend the value of meditation and talk about universal awareness, which is unfortunate, I don’t think he knew what he would be up against. He mentions that enlightened people are generally helpful people. I think this is really more important to him than any of the other stuff. Personally, I sometimes get frustrated when TAE is hammering on someone about being logical when they could concede some points, get on a their good side and give them guidance. But that’s not what the show is about.

    If you look around for definitions of enlightened, I believe you will find that they include egalitarianism and humanitarianism. Would you agree that the enlightenment movement was one toward acknowledging individual rights? The funny thing is, when callers challenge TAE about why they want to do a show about how belief causes problems, they answer that they want to help people. Of course, by the time it gets to that, it is usually a shouting match.

  107. Compuholic says

    The funny thing is, when callers challenge TAE about why they want to do a show about how belief causes problems, they answer that they want to help people. Of course, by the time it gets to that, it is usually a shouting match.

    There are different ways of helping people to realize things. One of them is to slap them hard. I personally like the “slap them hard” approach better because it helped me to wake up (although it wasn’t through TAE).

    Would you agree that the enlightenment movement was one toward acknowledging individual rights?

    I could agree that this was one of the results. The underlying virtues were the focus on reason. And nobody is taking away anybodies rights. So I don’t get why you bring that up.

  108. jacobfromlost says

    jwolforth: I’ve said the stuff about brains is irrelevant. There hasn’t been much else said beyond that, unless you want to count monkeys masturbating, which I don’t. (Yes I know you didn’t say that).

    Me: I know you said it was irrelevant, BUT THAT IS WHAT I THINK about the topic at hand. You asked what I think. That is what I think. If you have a criticism of it, offer it.

    jwolforth: To your questions, No.

    Me: Even to my request to ask you what you believe and why you believe it? I notice you skipped that one also.

    jwolforth: First, your focusing on semantic details is annoying. Note that I don’t respond to them.

    Me: We need to know WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT before we can talk about it, so semantics are very necessary. Invoking “semantics” as if that means the entire conversation is pointless missed the entire point of semantics. Our differences MAY simply be one of differing words, but we will have no idea of that unless we explain to each other what we been by the words we use.

    jwolworth: The email accuses “the lady” and “the fellow” of using “Western ways”. Dave S went on to defend the value of meditation and talk about universal awareness, which is unfortunate, I don’t think he knew what he would be up against. He mentions that enlightened people are generally helpful people. I think this is really more important to him than any of the other stuff.

    Me: He doesn’t say anything about it being helpful in the original email, and in the subsequent discussion even *I* said it is helpful to ME (meditation). None of this connects with Matt needing to be more compassionate. You seem to have made that up.

    jwolforth: Personally, I sometimes get frustrated when TAE is hammering on someone about being logical when they could concede some points, get on a their good side and give them guidance.

    Me: I think you are seeing what you want to see. There are many, many examples where the hosts concede points (to each other and callers). But then only concede points THAT THEY HONESTLY CONCEDE. They don’t, and shouldn’t, concede willy nilly just to get a caller on their good side.

    jwolforth: But that’s not what the show is about.

    Me: The show is about education. You seem to think it is about beating up believers for being illogical.

    jwolforth: If you look around for definitions of enlightened, I believe you will find that they include egalitarianism and humanitarianism. Would you agree that the enlightenment movement was one toward acknowledging individual rights?

    Me: Not necessarily. The idea of the divine right of kings was still very heavy during the enlightenment.

    jwolforth: The funny thing is, when callers challenge TAE about why they want to do a show about how belief causes problems, they answer that they want to help people. Of course, by the time it gets to that, it is usually a shouting match.

    Me: Again, I think you are seeing what you want to see. Moreover, sometimes a shouting is what is necessary to get someone to think. And the debate is NOT only with the caller, but with the audience as well. I don’t have debates like this on the internet to change the mind of anyone I’m debating. I only do it to sharpen my own understanding, and the understanding of those lurking. If the person I am arguing with happens to change their mind, fine, but I never expect it, nor do I work toward it.

  109. jacobfromlost says

    “we been by the words we use.”

    Well, that was unfortunate. MEAN, not “been”. What we MEAN by the words we use. lol

    That’s what I get for trying to type 100 words a minute when I can only type 85.

  110. says

    I hope you all have enjoyed this nearly pointless thread. If you would like to learn more about the Buddha, here are some suggestions:

    http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/pbs2_unit03.htm
    http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/siddhartha.html
    http://www.pbs.org/thebuddha/enlightenment-part-2/
    http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html

    The first two are brief histories. Not for everybody, but I think it is important to understand the origins of a philosophy. The story goes that he was born a prince and kept isolated from the real world, when he stepped out and saw suffering, he wanted to figure out how to deal with it. In a meditation under a Bodhi tree, the mythology says he was tempted by the gods of his culture to quit searching. They failed, not because of supernatural powers, but because he knew he was just a man. He touched the earth, a symbolic gesture saying, there is just me and this ground, you gods have no power to tempt me. It almost says, gods don’t exist, but that would not have sold very well 2,500 years ago.

    The third link is a PBS series that focuses on the story of his life, not the religion of Buddhism, that came later. It includes many points of view, mostly secular. Worth your time.

    The fourth is the precepts of the religion. Some woo-woo mixed in, but I think it can be said that Buddhism offers more than just meditation.

  111. says

    I hope you all have enjoyed this nearly pointless thread.

    You’re right. Neither Dave nor anyone else was able to demonstrate how this “enlightenment”/other way of knowing relates to reality.

    Yet again, our time is wasted on crackpots who cannot back up their claims, and end up spending 11X more time pathetically explaining why the standards of evidence and epistemology don’t apply to them, as they do on actually demonstrating anything.

  112. jacobfromlost says

    I quite enjoyed the thread, and I hope that comment doesn’t mean you are going to disappear right when we could discuss what you appear to want to discuss. BTW, I’m sure I am not the only one who is well aware of Buddhism, its mythology, and the noble truths. My mention of meditation was just in reference to the fact that I referenced it earlier, NOT that I was saying Buddhism only involved meditation.

  113. Brownian says

    I hope you all have enjoyed this nearly pointless thread.

    Dichotomous thinking, such as defining things as “having a point” or “being pointless”, leads to attachment, which leads to suffering.

    Buddhism has been in the west for quite awhile.

  114. says

    “jfl: I know you said it was irrelevant, BUT THAT IS WHAT I THINK about the topic at hand. You asked what I think. That is what I think. If you have a criticism of it, offer it.”

    This kind of comment was getting too much to deal with, especially with caps, I’m not deaf. Obviously it is what you think, what else would it be? My criticism is that it is irrelevant. You’re asking me to do too much of the work. It is obviously in your court to defend, elaborate or ignore.

  115. jacobfromlost says

    Lausten North: This kind of comment was getting too much to deal with, especially with caps, I’m not deaf. Obviously it is what you think, what else would it be? My criticism is that it is irrelevant.

    Me: And my thought is that it is not irrelevant. If you still think it is irrelevant, you have to explain why for the conversation to continue. You have just asserted it is irrelevant again and again with no explanation.

    Lausten North: You’re asking me to do too much of the work.

    Me: I will leave it to readers to judge whether you have shown more “work” by writing here, or I have. I am asking nothing of you that I am not will to do myself. If you have a question about something, I will explain my view about it–and have, again and again. You have only recently, finally revealed what you apparently believe. But you seem very sensitive about any of us questioning it.

    Lausten North: It is obviously in your court to defend, elaborate or ignore.

    Me: You have a weird notion of a conversation if you think it means you make a comment and ask for a response, tell people their responses are irrelevant, offer no explanation as to why they are irrelevant, and then tell the responders that it is up to them to accept or reject your comments. That’s not a conversation, that’s you saying some things that you don’t want anyone to examine while inviting them to agree with you. If they don’t agree, then obviously what they have to say is irrelevant, lol. It seems anathema to your philosophy of reaching out, conceding points, building consensus, being compassionate, or generally being “enlightened” by pretty much any definition of the term.

  116. Jdog says

    No, you’re trying to assert your opinions and misconceptions as facts. When we refute one of them, you say “I’m not going to continue” (on that topic) or “that’s not relevant”, eventually declaring the thread as “pointless”.

    Is it that hard to admit that you don’t have a valid argument and concede?

  117. says

    “You have just asserted it is irrelevant again and again with no explanation.”

    See Comment 37, about Madonna. You responded, but not in a way that I felt it was worth continuing. That’s my right. You made the original assertion, so burden of proof is on you. That is not an obligation. You’re free to post whatever. You keep making up rules and pretzel logic about what I should respond to. I’m bored, but not so bored that I’m going to argue those rules with you.

    Sorry about the “Lausten North/jwolforth” thing, auto-fill fail.

  118. says

    Sorry, you would need to be more specific about what things I am saying are facts that aren’t facts. Also/or how are my comments any more of an assertion than the others?

  119. jacobfromlost says

    Me before: “You have just asserted it is irrelevant again and again with no explanation.”

    jwolforth: See Comment 37, about Madonna. You responded, but not in a way that I felt it was worth continuing.

    Me: Yes, you assert it, with no explanation.

    jwolforth: That’s my right.

    Me: Sure, but why come here and declare you want conversation when you do not? Declare you want to come to “common understandings” when you do not? Certainly it is your right to make comments and ignore responses, but your comments say you are advocating common understandings and compassion, as well as conceding points to the other side. So far I see no evidence you actually believe that.

    jwolforth: You made the original assertion, so burden of proof is on you.

    Me: I made no assertions. I said that all the evidence suggests consciousness is rooted in the brain, and none of the evidence suggests it does not. That’s just reality. The burden of proof is still on you to demonstrate it is NOT rooted in the brain.

    jwolforth: That is not an obligation. You’re free to post whatever. You keep making up rules and pretzel logic about what I should respond to. I’m bored, but not so bored that I’m going to argue those rules with you.

    Me: I’ll let the readers be the judge of who’s using pretzel logic and dodging the burden of proof (and basic questions).

    jwolforth: Sorry about the “Lausten North/jwolforth” thing, auto-fill fail.

    Me: It was a source of much confusion since the only other place you mentioned Buddhism (since very recently) was under “Lausten North”.

    What is religious atheism to you?

  120. says

    Jacob:

    The burden of proof is still on you to demonstrate it is NOT rooted in the brain.

    He’s actually partially right – you made an assertion which gives you a burden. I’m not sure if he positively asserted that it’s not rooted in the brain, unless it was heavily implied.

    The difference is, however, that you met the burden. You provided information that supports the claim that conciseness is rooted in the brain… then he declared it irrelevant for some unstated reason.

  121. says

    “I made no assertions. I said that all the evidence suggests consciousness is rooted in the brain, and none of the evidence suggests it does not. That’s just reality. The burden of proof is still on you to demonstrate it is NOT rooted in the brain.”

    Here’s a different analogy. It’s as if I said “that is clear as the sky is blue” and you responded that the sky is not actually blue, it just looks blue because of how the light bends as it comes through the atmosphere. It’s true, it just adds nothing.

    I never said that enlightenment is not a function of the brain. Funny thing is, people who write about and teach enlightenment will say that part of the path to it is understanding that we are just “machines”. So, I said it is irrelevant. I said nothing about where enlightenment is rooted. Relevant would be, what did Voltaire mean when he said it. Something like that.

    “What is religious atheism to you?”
    This is a bit dated. I de-converted in Aug 2010. http://www.winter60.blogspot.com/2009/05/whats-religious-atheist.html

  122. jacobfromlost says

    “He’s actually partially right – you made an assertion which gives you a burden.”

    I may have used a short-hand once or twice that LOOKED like an assertion, but actually I think I made it clear that the ONLY reason it seems consciousness is rooted in the brain is because all the evidence supports it, and none of the evidence contradicts it. So the rational conclusion, which is never absolute, is that it is rooted in the brain.

    And since and assertion is “a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason”, I claim I was not making an assertion, and I think I support this claim with sufficient support, lol. (Is it just me, or are we having more fun with this discussion than jwolforth? How can that be if he is more enlightened than we are? Should we be as grumpy as he is?)

    Also, this problem comes up sometimes in these kind of debates: after a long discussion, someone says you asserted things, claimed things absolutely, etc. That’s when I say I don’t make absolute claims, and then they come back with my quotes! If me SAYING I don’t make absolute claims isn’t evidence that all of my previous statements were not absolute claims, what can I say to convince you? lol So, similarly, if we agree that assertions are unsupported positive statements, I made no assertions. In fact, all my statements reflect to the best of my ability what the falsifiable evidence says, and no more. If the falsifiable evidence changes, is added to, etc, then my statements would change too. So the statements are contingent on the evidence.

  123. jacobfromlost says

    I think it does add something to explain how the sky appears blue. It answers why the sky is blue using a methodology that is useful far beyond that one question. That adds quite a lot.

    I read your link, and I still don’t know where you are coming from or why. If your thoughts on religion/spirituality/what-have-you are constantly changing, what exactly are you doing here? What are you advocating, wanting to discuss, etc? What do you want from us, and how can we achieve it?

    What is frustrating for me is that you seem to be advocating something, but I have no idea what it is or why, and when we try to pin down what it is and why, you shy away, but return with another response that seems meaningless.

    Would you call “The Atheist Experience” on Sunday? Perhaps draw up a list of comments/criticisms or whatever so you can remember to mention them, and see what the hosts have to say?

  124. says

    “I think it does add something to explain how the sky appears blue. It answers why the sky is blue using a methodology that is useful far beyond that one question. That adds quite a lot.”
    And this is why I am not really attempting to engage with you. Saying the sky is blue is a colloquialism. Discussing it as science ignores its intended meaning. It’s something smart alec 12 year old boys do.

  125. says

    And since and assertion is “a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason”,

    I think we’re basically saying the same things with some semantic differences. I thought assertion meant “making a claim” – which was independent on whether the claim was true or not.

  126. says

    Alright, I have to admit, I’m not sure where this discussion is going anymore.

    The topic (I thought) was whether this “enlightenment” was anything more than psychology – or something extending outside of the brain.

    Sure, meditating to “enlightenment” can have meaning for a person on an individual basis – I don’t think anyone disputes that.

    Once the truth claim (ahem, “assertion”) is made regarding this “enlightenment” giving one direct knowledge of a god, for instance, then the scientific analysis becomes incredibly relevant (hence – why the sky is blue). That’s the only way to confirm whether the truth claim is valid.

  127. says

    “How does Lawrence Krauss prove to someone who doesn’t understand physics very well that his theories have merit?”

    Simple, you ask him what sort of predictions his theories can make and you check to see if he’s right. If he predicts that, based on his theories, a particle in an accelerator under a certain set of circumstances will behave a certain way, then you conduct a controlled experiment to see if it actually does.

    Einstein’s theory of General Relativity was confirmed when it predicted that the position of stars would appear to shift when they were seen close to a massive object such as the sun. Photos of the sun taken during a total eclipse in 1919 showed that the position of stars did in fact appear to shift, exactly as Einstein predicted.

  128. zengaze says

    Don’t you get it yet JT? Kwatz!

    You will never understand that the sky is blue by understanding why the sky is blue.

    What an example of absolute woo woo horse shit, there’s a reality clap for you. Too often buddhism is given a pass because it is deemed more philosophy than religion. But Buddhism just like western theologies requires the same basic ingredient of wonky non thinking and abandonment of critical reason.

    The Buddhist who claims to not be religious is the exact same as the christian who claims not to be religious. You’ve heard them before it’s the “i don’t do religion i talk to god” crowd. The Path to enlightenment equates to personal relationship with god. But if they think you’re receptive to their chosen delusion they’ll get bolder with their assertions of suspension of the natural order. Whether it be buddha boys levitating or jesus boys growing people’s legs back.

    The dollar will buy you the same amount of god in the east as it will in the west brother.

  129. jacobfromlost says

    “Alright, I have to admit, I’m not sure where this discussion is going anymore.”

    Well, I tried to find out where it was going. Now I’m officially lost. I’ll watch the show Sunday to see if anyone calls with anything interesting, but I won’t be holding my breath.

  130. nemothederv says

    “I believe in god. Well, not really, but I have a belief in an abstract concept I don’t understand or know how to describe so I can’t be called on it. Ergo god exists.”

    I may be oversimplifying but that’s the way it comes off to me.

    OT question: Is Oriental a racial slur when referring to a person or am I nitpicking?

  131. zengaze says

    In the context it was used in it is not a racial slur, but rather an appeal to assumed genetically inherent woo woo superiority.

  132. M Groesbeck says

    Can the author demonstrate that “Eastern epistemology” is effective?

    I’m not sure there is a single such thing. My exposure to classical Indian and Chinese philosophy (and there was some exchange of ideas between the two) is admittedly limited (I’ll stick to the contemporary stuff, thanks), but even I’ve seen some pretty definite disagreements regarding epistemology. Something quite like epistemological skepticism — often including atheism — seems to have been developed in some parts of both intellectual communities, though.

    (Shouldn’t be a surprise, I guess — since epistemology for skeptics is basically “Dude, we’re just trying to come up with a reasonable approximation; we’ll change our position to a better one when we get more evidence,” which doesn’t require much in the way of specific background.)

  133. kimulrick says

    @jacobfromlost

    I am in awe of your patience, and impressed by your comments in this discussion. I could see you doing your utmost to work out what the hell these people were even talking about, but they twist and turn like a twisty turny thing. Nothing pisses me off more when trying to talk to people as when they redefine words to suit themselves and refuse to agree on what’s actually being discussed.

    There is a name for that evasive style of ‘argument’ isn’t there?

    @nemothederv

    I think you hit the nail on the head.

  134. says

    If I am one of “those people” (aka jwolforth), I have some questions. Just what line of reasoning are you acknowledging? I expressed frustration when we couldn’t even agree that “as clear as the sky is blue” is a colloquial phrase. This borders on troll behavior to me. I was the one who asked for a definition of terms. I’m not sure what redefining you are talking about.

    Once we got rid of Dave S and his ideas about “direct knowledge”, JacobFL kept coming back to this,
    “I think I made it clear that the ONLY reason it seems consciousness is rooted in the brain is because all the evidence supports it, and none of the evidence contradicts it. So the rational conclusion, which is never absolute, is that it is rooted in the brain.”

    Which I never refuted. I could never figure why he kept hammering about it. My comment about the koan was that it was more like poetry, and should be treated as such, not as a truth, but as an attempt to express something that is difficult to define. This does not imply that the poet has special knowledge, they could be full of it, but it is still poetry and not science. You could argue it is bad poetry or worthless poetry, but JacobFL kept arguing that is wasn’t scientific, and I never said it was. Then jacobFL would say that I did say that and around and around we would go.

    If you want to say that anything can only be defined as an experience in our brains, then I agree, and the conversation is over. There is nothing left to talk about. There are philosophical discussions of epistemology that are as yet unresolved and we continue to study them, both through neurology and philosophical discussion. And we have forums for that.

    Sometimes his comments were so off the wall I didn’t bother responding. Such as when he read a blog of mine from 2 and half years ago, as I stated, before I deconverted, and he said, “ If your thoughts on religion/spirituality/what-have-you are constantly changing, what exactly are you doing here?” What does that even mean? That you have to have a position and hold it for some designated period of time before you are allowed to post here?

    Another example of what I believe he would consider providing evidence is this post “For instance, the breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research, the continued success in AI, and continued research in neurology.” This is just a list of authorities. I am aware of one neurological study of Buddhists monks and it said nothing about enlightenment being about compassion, or what the definition of enlightenment is or any of the other points and topics touched on in this thread. He may have some data that I would find interesting, but simply listing three areas of research and saying “There is not a basic piece of the puzzle missing” doesn’t really help.

  135. jacobfromlost says

    Doesn’t help WHAT? What is it you think needs to be helped by our advocating it?

    I have no idea why you are here, what you are saying, or why you are saying it. I don’t appear to be alone.

  136. says

    It doesn’t help me understand what you are trying to say.
    One of the things you have complained about is that I don’t respond to all of your questions and/or comments. Yet you have no problem responding to only 3 of my words. You may be winning some highly localized poll in this discussion, but I wouldn’t recommend being too proud of your troll behavior.

  137. Jdog says

    Problem is, he’s not trolling. We’re attempting to find out what claims you’re making, what proof you have that your claims are correct, and (if you don’t have proof) why you believe them.

    When we refute what you seem to be claiming, you just say that “I wasn’t claiming that” and say that we’re missing the point.

    So, what exactly are you claiming?

  138. jacobfromlost says

    “It doesn’t help me understand what you are trying to say.”

    How do you know what I said isn’t what I was trying to say?

    “Yet you have no problem responding to only 3 of my words.”

    I invite you to read the thread again.

    “You may be winning some highly localized poll in this discussion, but I wouldn’t recommend being too proud of your troll behavior.”

    Citing research was not an appeal to authority fallacy (citing evidence discovered by experts within a peer reviewed process is not an appeal to authority). Moreover, my responses have nothing to do with getting others to agree with me here or elsewhere. YOU have come to an atheist blog for some REASON. What is that reason? To advocate the benefit of Buddhism? I still don’t know, and apparently no one else here does either. Dragging it out of you has been like pulling teeth. But whatever it is, you apparently want us to agree with you or you never would have started posting here in the first place. The problem is people CAN’T agree with you if they don’t even know what you are saying.

    Also, I apologize for getting confused by the fact that when I asked you what “religious atheism” was to you, you offered a link and then qualified it by saying (apparently) you de-converted after writing that. So what is the point in linking to it if you don’t agree with what you wrote then?

  139. says

    Hello,

    Enlightenment isn’t something, it’s the absence of something, namely our desire to be something other than who we are. Thoughts create the illusion of continuity, and in the absence of thought the self ceases to exist, it’s the same as death. Thought arises when our brains are offered a challenge and should naturally dissipate when that challenge is over. This isn’t a state that can be achieved by thought or any other deliberate action, since it is thought itself that creates and reinforces the illusion, therefore we cannot know ourselves. I don’t know what this state is, and it certainly isn’t permanent happiness, but it is freedom from a tremendous amount of unnecessary neurosis, and it was always there. Everything you might do to seek it takes you away from it. When this happened I remember laughing at all my previous efforts and their futility and feeling like a complete fool. I walked around the mall not touching the ground, and I never meditated again. It’s inaccurate to say I experienced this, there was only the physical sensations of action and reaction. The self is a toy that can be put away on a shelf in the back of your brain.

  140. Luna_the_cat says

    There is an interesting converse to this, as well. There are unfortunates in the world who have suffered a failure of proprioception — the systems in their brain that map the different parts of the body as “part of self” have failed or disconnected, so that even though they have fully functional nerves running to and from their limbs, they can no longer “directly experience” their hand as being theirs! (Such individuals have to rely on visual feedback to control their limbs; it’s possible, just -I’m given to understand- awkward and disheartening.)

    So anyway — by this person’s argument, since these people do not have and cannot have a direct experience of their hand being theirs, then surely there is no reason to believe their hand is theirs…

    No?

    Or, of course, there are schizophrenic hallucinations. These people often experience auditory hallucinations, especially, as being real; they have “direct personal experience” which informs them that what they hear is very real! So therefore, you cannot possibly say that what they hear is not actually real, right?

    No?

    Gosh, ya think that maybe physical, objectively observable evidence comes into the evaluation of these things anywhere?

  141. zengaze says

    From your earlier posts you seem to believe in enlightenment. what is it in your understanding. And please define it without a non analogy like “it’s clear as the sky is blue”

  142. says

    JFL> “So what is the point in linking to it if you don’t agree with what you wrote then?”

    Besides lots of other things I say in that blog that address your question, it links to this http://www.skeptictank.org/files//atheist/religios.html, which is more of a direct answer. YOU decided to focus on one sentence and make some weird comment about it. Anyway, I’m an atheist now. I blog about religion from that point of view. There is no reason for you to have a problem with that. I have no hidden agenda.

    JFL> “Citing research was not an appeal to authority fallacy”

    You did not cite research, you named three research disciplines. There was no citation. You don’t get to just claim that research supports your opinion. I’m not saying it does or doesn’t, I’m saying the way you claimed it added nothing to the conversation.

    Thanks for the question zengaze. I don’t “believe” in enlightenment in the same sense expressed in the email this thread is discussing. It is a word, so apparently a lot of people think it is something. I don’t think there is some special eastern form of it that taps you into universal knowledge. Some have used the terms “peak experience” or “feeling of oneness”. Both of those describe it as a feeling, or as Jacob likes to say, a function of brain activity. There are some other things that are associated with it, like not worrying about the past or present, not worrying about consequences, or what others might be thinking. So, it’s not a feeling that you can maintain, or should maintain for very long.

    It is also related to the 18th century age of enlightenment, and for good reason. Understanding that we are just people on the earth, that the future is only in our heads, leads to a more compassionate view of the world. When you aren’t looking to some unreal utopia, be it Jesus or Thomas Moore, you focus on what you can do right now, in the real world, to help your neighbor and alleviate suffering. Conceivably, you could live in the moment without a care, but without the compassion, I would say that is not enlightenment. The word has other broader definitions, but in the context we are discussing here, that is it in a nutshell.

  143. Jdog says

    And you’ve given us another post full of non-answers, except to say that you think enlightenment is a personal mood or feeling, can be the prevailing mood of a group of people, and that the Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason) was a time when the prevailing mood of European society was one of enlightenment. Correct?

    If so, I’m not sure any of us disagree with those claims, except possibly the last one (and I don’t see a discussion about that as adding to the current discussion). What, exactly (in as few words as reasonably possible and without making analogies), is your point in making these claims? I’m not going to follow your link, particularly since we were evidently supposed to guess that we should follow your first link to your second link; you chimed into the discussion here, you explain yourself here.

    We don’t care what that you’re also an atheist. You’re making all these replies to us about enlightenment and we still have no idea what you’re trying to say. Enlightenment is a feeling/mood? Okay, but why are you phrasing your posts in such a way to appear that you’re trying to support the original e-mailer (Dave S in the thread, who is claiming that enlightenment is more than a feeling)? Why are you phrasing your posts in such a way to appear that you’re being extremely evasive (making verbose, yet claimless, replies and analogies that we’re not getting) whenever someone asks you what your point is?

    Are you the same Lausten that posts on the ICW forum (I’m Jdoran there)? If so, here’s an analogy for you: we’re having as much trouble getting a straight answer out of you here as everyone on the forum does getting one out of Skept.

  144. says

    Yep, same Lausten

    JDOG: “Okay, but why are you phrasing your posts in such a way to appear that you’re trying to support the original e-mailer (Dave S in the thread, who is claiming that enlightenment is more than a feeling)?”
    I looked back at the point when I started posting and Dave still was too. I can see how at that point I may have not been clear that I didn’t support Dave. But later I explicitly said that I didn’t.

    JDOG: “Why are you phrasing your posts in such a way to appear that you’re being extremely evasive (making verbose, yet claimless, replies and analogies that we’re not getting) whenever someone asks you what your point is?”
    Not sure exactly what you are referring to here. But in the case of Jacob, he has made some bizarre assumptions about my posts, then treated me like his assumptions are true. I mostly ignored those, but picked out a few and tried to explain to him the problems I had with him. This conversation is public so others have become involved.

    You can see where it went south around #36, Jacob said stuff about I thought Krauss would start with a conclusion, how I advocated for a pipe dream where everyone pretends they have no point of view, etc. He was typing pretty fast, and I was at work, I wasn’t going to respond to every detail. There are many more examples of him making false accusations about me or making assumptions and acting as if his assumptions were correct.

    At #40 I said “enlightenment has a fascinating history” and he took that to mean that I was saying “we know what everyone means” by it. At that point I didn’t see much point in having a normal conversation with him.

    The other thing might be the song lyrics/poetry thing. A lot of people disagree with me about that, fine.

    JDOG: “We don’t care what that you’re also an atheist.”
    This is what I am calling troll behavior. There have been several questions about my motives, and one specific comment about my atheism. I clarified that. I don’t care what you don’t care about, I was responding to comments. That’s what you do on forums. That is the extent of my motivation. I’m not here to tell you how to think, or make up crazy rules like you can’t provide a link in response a question.

    And really, Skept? Ya gotta be kidding.

  145. jacobfromlost says

    Lausten North: You did not cite research, you named three research disciplines. There was no citation. You don’t get to just claim that research supports your opinion. I’m not saying it does or doesn’t, I’m saying the way you claimed it added nothing to the conversation.

    Me: I wasn’t refering to that instance only. I was referring to all the other times I referred to research on this thread. Yes, I realize I didn’t provide a LINK in my naming of areas of research (I could do that if you wish but you can do it easily yourself). But don’t you think if there was evidence that consciousness was linked to a phenomenon OUTSIDE the brain, or other physical processes, it would have been on the front page of every newspaper and be common knowledge? You are playing games by saying “I’m not saying it does or doesn’t”. What I’m saying is that all of the evidence supports it, and none of the evidence contradicts it. I made this very clear, so I can only think you are not reading the comments as you respond.

    Lausten North: Both of those describe it as a feeling, or as Jacob likes to say, a function of brain activity. There are some other things that are associated with it, like not worrying about the past or present, not worrying about consequences, or what others might be thinking. So, it’s not a feeling that you can maintain, or should maintain for very long.

    Me: What makes you think I have not experienced this feeling? You seem to assume no one here has.

    Lausten North: It is also related to the 18th century age of enlightenment, and for good reason. Understanding that we are just people on the earth, that the future is only in our heads, leads to a more compassionate view of the world.

    Me: I think I would agree, but Christians argue all the time that this leads to nihilism (I have one right now telling me I am a nihilist, despite me continually telling him I am not, lol).

    Lausten North: When you aren’t looking to some unreal utopia, be it Jesus or Thomas Moore, you focus on what you can do right now, in the real world, to help your neighbor and alleviate suffering. Conceivably, you could live in the moment without a care, but without the compassion, I would say that is not enlightenment. The word has other broader definitions, but in the context we are discussing here, that is it in a nutshell.

    Me: I disagree slightly, but not enough to care to argue.

    I love the way you name drop Voltaire, Moore, Mill, and Sisko.

    I’m going to tend my garden in my own Utopia in order to avoid the tyrany of the majority and find happiness in the Celestial Temple.

    Good day to you all.

  146. says

    You might want to read this bit from Jdog one more time:

    What, exactly (in as few words as reasonably possible and without making analogies), is your point in making these claims?

    Seriously, what’s your point?
    It’s problematic to have a discussion about a point of view when the person holding it is so reluctant to say what it is.

    Screw whether people have made assumptions. I don’t care about arguments, assertions (valid or not), analogies or citations.
    Right now, I’d just like to know what the subject of the discussion is. ‘Cos I have no idea.

  147. says

    I don’t think it was me who derailed this conversation. Somewhere around comment 37, jacob fired a lot of questions at me and made some assumptions, so I switched to having a meta-conversation. I had some points about enlightenment and they are in the thread if you want to review them and I also had some bones to pick about how jacob was addressing me.

    There is no single one point I am here to make.

  148. says

    jacob: “What makes you think I have not experienced this feeling? You seem to assume no one here has.”
    If you want me to answer any of your other questions, you have to stop asking questions like this one. There is absolutely nothing in my post that indicates that I think no one else has experienced this feeling.

  149. says

    I don’t think it was me who derailed this conversation.

    Don’t give a shit. Mucking about in whose fault it is won’t get me any closer to figuring out what your position is.

    I’m not sure I can find the points you’ve made. Maybe you could summarize or refer me to the posts?
    The only point that I can find is that you think we should all be more compassionate and what matters is not how we get that way, but that we do:

    we should be dropping arguments about what discipline led you to be a caring, compassionate person and get on with the discussion about how we spread compassion around.

    I’m not sure exactly how far you take that. You seem to criticize Matt for not being compassionate enough. Do you think being compassionate is more important than correcting misunderstandings?
    Specifically, on this point:

    I sometimes get frustrated when TAE is hammering on someone about being logical when they could concede some points, get on a their good side and give them guidance

    It sounds like you think the hosts should concede points even if they’re not valid. Is that what you think?
    If not, what did you mean? I can’t immediately think of an example where the hosts refused to concede a valid point.

  150. Mimmoth says

    I think the Emperor should put on a little sunscreen. Especially on his palest parts.

    Once that is done, who am I to detain such a grand–and grandly caparisoned–personage? The parade route is that way. Have fun!

  151. jacobfromlost says

    I didn’t say that you said “no one else has experienced this feeling.”

    I invite you to read what I said. You quoted it, then responded as if I said something completely different. Why?

  152. says

    Let’s take last week’s show for example. A caller was saying we should legislate away Sunday School. There are some obvious problems with that and Matt took a complete counter stand and challenged his logic, eventually pointing out that, logically, we would also have to legislate against other lies, like Santa Claus. He had the caller completely on the ropes and hung up on him.

    Matt was right of course, but what was gained really? The caller did not have a well developed argument and had not completely thought through what he was saying, but what was gained by Matt pointing that out? I think there might be some value to discussing just where the line is between a parent’s rights to teach ideology and psychological abuse. Richard Dawkins equates Sunday School to child abuse. There are legal limits to what you can teach children. That subtlety was lost.

    Generally, I am referring to the type of conditional concession that is commonly used in debate, as in, “I see what you mean, however…”. “Rhetorical surrender” might be the better technical term. And I concede that this may not be the right tactic for the show. It is something used in small group development, or in debates where there is some balance to the opposing sides. TAE has developed a community that is separate from its opponents. As they say in the introduction, don’t come to El Arroyo to debate. There is nothing wrong with that.

    On the other hand, the show seems to be struggling a little as fewer opponents call in. Doing what they have always done might not be the best tactic either.

  153. jacobfromlost says

    If I were a troll, I would have been banned, and no one here would have said, unsolicited, “Problem is, he’s not trolling.”

    You’ve posted here as if most of us are totally unaware of Buddhism, the western canon, basic science, and even “enlightenment” as you understand it. My question is a legitimate one. Why? And how could you possibly know that?

    And do you really consider it trolling to demonstrate an understanding of all the things you imply we know nothing about? And please don’t claim you DIDN’T imply our ignorance. You called this thread “pointless” and left links for us if we would like to “learn more” about Buddhism. You also named dropped Voltaire, Moore, Maimonides, and Jefferson, a cute attempt at the Courtier’s fallacy. Then you try valiantly to shift the burden of proof back on me in regard to consciousness being rooted in the brain while saying, in regard to research about it, “I’m not saying it does or doesn’t [show consciousness is rooted in the brain],” and also claiming I’m making some kind of absolute claim, when all I claimed was, “All the evidence supports this [consciousness rooted in the brain], and none of it contradicts this,” which is simply what the falsifiable evidence suggests and SHOULDN’T suggest if it were more than that.

    I’m not playing games. I’m not equivocating. I’ll let others decide whose behavior is more trollish–yours or mine.

  154. jacobfromlost says

    jwolforth: Matt was right of course, but what was gained really?

    Me: The point is not to change the mind of the caller. The point is to give the audience access to the argument–and when they DO have access, they have the opportunity to be rational.

    jwolforth: The caller did not have a well developed argument and had not completely thought through what he was saying, but what was gained by Matt pointing that out?

    Me: It was made clear to the audience why the caller did not have a good argument.

    jwolforth: I think there might be some value to discussing just where the line is between a parent’s rights to teach ideology and psychological abuse. Richard Dawkins equates Sunday School to child abuse. There are legal limits to what you can teach children. That subtlety was lost.

    Me: The show is only an hour. Getting lost in the weeds would be pointless.

    jwolforth: Generally, I am referring to the type of conditional concession that is commonly used in debate, as in, “I see what you mean, however…”.

    Me: Matt has used this quite often. There is even an episode where he said something like, “I’ve been there, and I’m not talking down to you by saying that. I’m saying I understand your view and where it’s coming from”. He even throws in bible quotes from time to time, lol

    jwolforth: “Rhetorical surrender” might be the better technical term. And I concede that this may not be the right tactic for the show.

    Me: I don’t think it is the right tactic to get theists to understand or views, either. Even RHETORICAL surrenders are often seen as substantive victories by people who don’t understand the difference.

    jwolforth: It is something used in small group development, or in debates where there is some balance to the opposing sides.

    Me: I’m not sure there CAN be balance in reality between a side that depends on things that are not demonstrably real, and a side that says the ONLY things any of us can depend upon are things that are demonstrably real.

    jwolforth: TAE has developed a community that is separate from its opponents.

    Me: I’m not sure that is true. Insofar as there is a separation, I think it is more true to say that the opponents have separated themselves from the TAE community. Anyone can call in–famous or not. The lines are open. (And for a little public access show, they have gotten a lot of attention on a wider scale by believers.)

    jwolforth: As they say in the introduction, don’t come to El Arroyo to debate. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Me: They tell people not to come to preach, provoke, or proselytize, and that anyone who is “atheist friendly” can come. That’s not exactly the same as saying “don’t come to debate”. It’s more like, “don’t come to ruin our dinner”.

    jwolforth: On the other hand, the show seems to be struggling a little as fewer opponents call in. Doing what they have always done might not be the best tactic either.

    Me: That’s just the nature of the debate. And I don’t think the show is struggling at all. (And callers “running away” and hiding has always been a problem. One of the hosts, I think it was Jeff, said quite a long time ago that whenever they have a topic to talk about and are prepared with research…the believers never call in to talk about it. The proliferation of old youtube clips gives the impression that all those old shows were packed with believers calling for an hour and a half. They were not. In fact, even with the shorter show, I don’t see much difference in the number of believers who call in–and I have seen almost all available episodes, so I am not just making this up.)

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