Around FtB »« C0nc0rdance and the principle of intelligent, responsible discussion

A terrible, terrible confession

I’m flying off to the Texas Freethought Convention in Austin tomorrow night. I see on the schedule that I’m delivering the Saturday night keynote, and that I’m in the company of Richard Dawkins and Aron Ra and Matt Dillahunty and Jessica Ahlquist.

My personal schedule lately has been raging chaos with obligations piled on top of responsibilities teetering on a foundation of work, and…

and…

Jeez, I haven’t even had a moment to think about what I’m going to say! In two days I have to give an hour talk that will make it worthwhile to hang about in an auditorium rather than going drinking. I am a bad, bad person.

But I’m really good at throwing a talk together on short notice. So I thought that what I would do is put it out to the Pharyngula commentariat: if you were in Austin on a Saturday night, and you had to listen to me talk, what would you want me to talk about? What subjects in freethought and/or science get you wound up, and would have you either pumping your fist or throwing beer bottles at the speaker (either extreme works)?

Leave suggestions. I’ll make up my mind so I can get the talk assembled on the plane.

Comments

  1. says

    I’d like to hear an elaboration on your “types of atheists” post from a while back. Political atheists, philosophical atheists, activist atheists, and so on. Especially if you would address differences of opinion between these different segments on what it means to “be on the same side,” and how they could communicate better.

  2. onychophora says

    School board elections and the importance of good science standards. Creationism is not science and can only be supported by ignorance or deceit.

  3. john says

    Just show slides of the top 5 std’s in Texas and give the odds of any one of them contracting one of they go nuts and make free love out side of there current love ring that night. Between the slides you can feed them why kids need to know about std’s and not wwjd’s.

  4. drivenb4u says

    Well since I live in Austin and will be forking out $65 for the privilege I’d like to hear you talk about… clams. Yes, that’s it, clams.

    2nd choice would be the moral argument for secularism. Looking forward to it.

  5. azportsider says

    onychophora beat me to it. The Texas SBoE election’s coming up, and the IDiots and other creationists are out in full force. Besides, it’s always worth talking about what constitutes good educational standards.

  6. says

    How atheism and freethought are nothing “new,” even in the state of Texas. I’d encourage the audience to hunt down copies of the “Independent Pulpit” to remind them of this. And then I’d possibly mention my friend Thomas Lawson’s fantastic book “Letters from an Atheist Nation,” which has five letters that came from Texas, one of which came from an atheist single mother of four that went to medical school at U of T at Galveston and became North Texas’s first female physician.

  7. says

    I think you should talk about the coming civil war between the religious right and the secularists, and how if Romney is elected, all of Western civilization is doomed. Also, explain why religious leaders are like Hitler. And, you need to explain how to use education to indoctrinate our youth so they can’t think for themselves.

    And, beer.

  8. raven says

    What subjects in freethought and/or science get you wound up, and would have you either pumping your fist or throwing beer bottles at the speaker (either extreme works)?

    The christofascist GOP Tea Party War on Science.

    It has been said that the only war Bush won was his War on Science.

    This isn’t good. The 20th century was a time of historically major growth in our standard of living. It’s estimated that half of that growth was due to advances in science and medicine. Life spans increased 30 years, which is a lot.

    US science and medical research has been treading water for most of this century, at best. I would need a few hundred comment boxes to really explain this but one factoid will say it.

    In real buying power terms, the US federal budget for medical research NIH, has dropped about 1/3. Usually NIH budgets are safe for one simple reason. Even ultra wealthy people want to live as long as possible. Their money can buy the best medical care but nothing that isn’t known now.

    The future of science funding under Romney/Ryan and the Tea Party looks grim. Romney doesn’t seem to understand anything except how to do leverage buyouts. The Theothuglicans loaded up the House science committee with idiots like Georgia’s Broun and Todd Akins, mister I don’t understand how babies are made himself.

    Science is discretionary funding. And it is easier to cut than social security, medicare, or food stamps. Scientists aren’t going to riot in the streets or vote them out. They aren’t enough of them.

    This of course, is equivalent to farmers eating their seeds for next year. It solves a short term problem. There is no long term problem though because there is no long term.

  9. raven says

    I realize that comment 12 is tl;dr.
    The short version.

    The christofascist GOP Tea Party War on Science.

    It has been said that the only war Bush won was his War on Science.

    This would have minor short term effects on the USA and severe long term ones. Our lead in science and technology is a major reason why the USA is a world leader and the world’s largest economy.

  10. says

    I kinda like the idea of going to Texas to cuss out Christofascists.

    But then again, there’s a kind of synergy to discussing beer-battered clams.

  11. scienceavenger says

    How about how the influence of religious upbringings and living in a generally religious culture shackles many atheists with unhealthy attitudes about sexuality and their bodies in general whether on the prudish side (why aren’t nude beaches more the norm as in Europe or Brazil?), and on the piggish side (covered ad nauseum here). IMO religion deserves far more blame for this than it gets (just look at the Pope and his buggering band of bishops and priests).

  12. kieran says

    Spartina anglica and polyploid mutation events

    Denial not just river in Egypt

    I’m a privileged white male and if you join the Mormons someday you could be one too, from Mr.Deity

    How to give an hour long lecture

  13. says

    I’m with those above who suggest you discuss the different definitions of “atheism” and how they color the political and philosophical (read: ethical) component of movement atheism. For instance I draw your attention to this piece on Discover.com which makes the jaw-dropping announcement that some atheists are “conservatives and libertarians” — and goes on to imply that’s a good thing. For more detail on how such a discussion might sarcastically progress, see this link.

  14. says

    PZ:

    But then again, there’s a kind of synergy to discussing beer-battered clams.

    What? There have been cases of beer beating up clams?

    I’m blaming the Christofascists.

  15. trinioler says

    PZ:

    You should disclose the evil plan FTB has to spermjack rich white male atheists, cut off their foreskins, and harvest their tears, while stomping all over free speech in favor of the Fempocracy.

    You know you want to.

  16. chigau (棒や石) says

    If this talk will be shown on yutub, I want it to be in the form of a song-and-dance routine, whatever the topic.
    in motley.

  17. Sastra says

    My suggestion is that you stick to the topic of atheism but focus on what the other speakers are unlikely to focus on — and give the audience something it isn’t expecting: criticize so-called liberal religion.

    “Spirituality.” New Age. Living a life of faith. Quantum consciousness. Ecumenical “there are many paths to God, all equally valid.” Mind-body substance dualism and neurology. Near Death Experiences. Alternative medicine. Homeopathy. Touchy-feely religions. Mysticism. Sophisticated theology with its definitions of God which rest so heavily on the numinous that they’re incoherent. The “Well, I Don’t Believe in THAT Kind of God, Either” Argument Against Atheism. Crop circles. Alien abductions. Aliens as enlightened beings. ESP. PK. Pick-a-piece-a-Woo, any Woo.

    This is a rich target area, and you’ve already got background here all over the place. A last-minute talk isn’t all that much of a challenge.

    I mean, this is Texas. Everyone is going to assume you’ve simply gonna hafta diss the fundies — or else talk science. Defy their expectations. Look at the other speakers, cede them the obvious territory — and then dissect Deepok Chopra into tiny little quantum pieces and throw him to the crowd. They’ll love it.

  18. r3a50n says

    I think it would be cool if you talked about “Atheism Plus,” how it can be (roughly) defined and why it is a natural evolution from simple atheism. How people like Dawkins and his comments re: Elevatorgate have hastened that evolution by unwittingly drawing attention to male privilege and how some of the scummier atheist blogs that are overtly hostile to Atheism+, feminists and women in general clearly exemplify the need for a movement like it.

  19. johnmorgan says

    You should go with Sastra at #23. There’s enough woo ‘out there’ for multiple 1-hr presentations

  20. says

    I suppose it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about the stuff left out in the UFO show, right? I’d like to hear that. How about the the cheerleaders at Kountze High School? I think the judge has this case today.

  21. Kazim says

    Something we here in Austin have spent a lot of time discussing:

    Texas had a drought. A more progressive state might try to pass some water conservation recommendation (i.e., actually governing). Rick Perry did not do this, but instead urged all citizens to pray for rain.

    It did not rain for months; instead, we got wildfires.

    Believing in religion over rational policy has consequences. Discuss.

  22. ogremeister says

    Given your recent discussion about aliens with the UFO people, and the ongoing Curiousity mission on Mars, how about a talk on the possibility of life on other planets? Maybe even focusing on Mars? Somewhat relevant to both topics, and timely as well.

  23. Blobulon says

    Sastra, I love your idea. That is almost all the crap I used to go in for, and would love a nice takedown of all the quantum bullshit. I am not going to the Austin talk, so feel free to talk about beer battered clams. :)

    A PZ, Steven Novella, Greta Christina, and Sean Carroll smack down of new age woo would be the stuff dreams are made of.

  24. Sastra says

    There’s also that cover story on Newsweek purporting to “prove God” via a neurosurgeon’s NDE. Fits into my suggestion at #23 and has probably already pissed off all the Texas freethinkers pretty good.

    It’s also unlikely that the other speakers have chosen it as their own topic, since the magazine just came out and they’ve all undoubtedly been working painstakingly on their own speeches for months now, polishing their eloquence, fine-tuning every turn of phrase and expression, and gathering an impressive and air-tight body of research to back up every small point, providing an awe-inspiring depth and richness to all their carefully crafted little masterpieces of oratory. So that’s a plus.

  25. curtisnelson says

    Yes, with the election coming up you should talk about politics and facts, whether they come from beliefs or evidence.

  26. jopari says

    (First post from a longtime lurker.) How about a talk on the link between intelligence and skepticism?

  27. cyberCMDR says

    PZ,
    As has been mentioned, you have a target rich environment there. My biggest issue with Texas (and Austin would be the place to discuss it) would be the religious motivations for rewriting the Texas textbooks. Because of the big market in Texas, these decisions set standards for textbooks used in many other states as well. Texas is anti-science, and anti-history when facts are not convenient.

    As others have noted though, the other speakers may have already chosen this hot-button topic. Might be better to be your unique self, and pick something memorable.

  28. says

    @Sastra
    Woo-bashing is fun. More power to your elbow. Except: mysticism is not woo. Of course, most people either don’t encounter or don’t notice any authentic mystics.

    If the only kind of oven you had ever come across were toy ones – mere plastic boxes with light bulbs inside, useless for actually cooking food – you would be understandably disinclined to credit the existence of genuine functional ovens. But real ovens do exist, likewise real mystics.

  29. texasaggie says

    There was an article I saw yesterday that I can’t find right now that was written by a Mormon historian that outlined how the Mormon hierarchy has controlled the votes of Mormons in Congress since Utah became a state. It was well written and is worthwhile commenting on.

  30. jackiepaper says

    I know you are road weary and too rushed, but thanks so much for your far-flung travels! My family had a ball at MSU. I know western KY is off the beaten path, but that just means we appreciate it so much more when folks stop by to speak and spread some education around. We missed you at Nick’s after, but we met some great folks and had alot of fun. I wish you hadn’t had to rush off. I know you’d have enjoyed yourself too. May I suggest as a topic you simply talk about where you’ve been and what you have seen there? Speak to the challenges various areas face and how they deal with them, for better or worse.

    Thanks again!

  31. mwitthoft says

    Molluscs.

    We enjoyed your Mutants talk, and look forward to more science lessons.

    See you there.

  32. Sastra says

    Vijen #37 wrote:

    Except: mysticism is not woo. Of course, most people either don’t encounter or don’t notice any authentic mystics.

    Whether mysticism is “woo” and whether there are “authentic mystics” depends very much I think on exactly what you mean by “mysticism” — and what you think “authentic mystics” are learning.

    Nobody seriously doubts that the experiences are real experiences, nor that they have value on several fronts. The question is over interpretation. Are mystics learning how the brain puts the “self” and its environment together, forming and shaping them in relationship? Or are mystics learning how the cosmos really truly is — a Consciousness of which all matter and energy are mere manifestations? That second one needs to show its work. It’s a hypothesis, not a direct experience of knowing.

    “Woo” is generally considered to consist of that category of supernatural beliefs which are not too obviously connected to any traditional religion.

    Who would you consider an “authentic mystic” — and why?

  33. says

    I’m guessing that if you’re ever desperate, you could do dramatic readings from your email in-box.

    You’ve got to have some pretty impressive apologetics landing in your in-box every day!!

  34. prfesser says

    I second jackiepaper #42; many, many thanks for taking your time to speak to the folks in West Siberia, KY. I can’t remember the last time I sat through a 2-hour presentation/Q&A and enjoyed every minute of it.

    As a topic for your presentation, how about “Reaching the Religious: Obtaining Agreement between the Atheist and the Religious”? Monday you gave an excellent example of how to get the bible-bangers to (at least partially) agree that the bible shouldn’t be brought into the science classroom.*** Are there other ways to get the Very Religious or Pretty Darned Religious to concur with secular thought? What are they? How do we deal with the different types of religious nutz?

    Best regards — Prfesser

    ***Gist of the example: “Where in the bible does it talk about speciation, genes, chromosomes, mitosis, etc.?” Eventually the opponent will state or agree that the bible isn’t a science textbook. “Then why do you want it to be treated like one in public schools?”

  35. Amblebury says

    Well, Sastra’s suggestions are unsurprisingly excellent.

    Before I’d read those, I was going to launch into my current ragey-despairy feelings regarding society’s regression. I say this as a mother of daughters. Really, they’re having to deal with crap I never had to on the sexist nonsense front. It goes way beyond nonsense, too.

    Surely rationalism could tie in there somewhere? As Tim Minchin said, 300-400 years since the Age of Enlightenment. Oy.

  36. strange gods before me ॐ says

    The allegory of the cave.

    Vijen: “Hey, you prisoners have only seen shadows of mystics! If you saw real mystics you would understand the truth!”

    Pharyngulites: “So why don’t you release us and bring us to a mystic? Or come down here and bring a mystic to us?”

    Vijen: runs away.

  37. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Except: mysticism is not woo. Of course, most people either don’t encounter or don’t notice any authentic mystics.

    Those words go together like enjoyable cancer.

  38. grendelsfather says

    Pro-tip: It doesn’t matter what you talk about if you pay homage to that great Texan, Molly Ivins, in your intro. The audience will be putty after that.

    Conversely, if you bring up George Bush the Lessser,… well just don’t OK?

  39. says

    I think I’ve got it:

    If Cephalopod Molluscs of the Order Octopoda Evolved Human-like Intelligence, What Supernatural Beliefs Would They Hold, and What Does This Teach Us About Critical Thinking in Humans?

  40. says

    @sastra#44

    Learning how the cosmos really truly is — a consciousness of which all matter and energy are mere manifestations … It’s a hypothesis, not a direct experience of knowing.

    Well put. But whether it is a hypothesis or a direct experience of knowing is subjectively determined.

    “Woo” is generally considered to consist of that category of supernatural beliefs …

    Mystics subscribe to no beliefs of any kind. Empiricism is central to mysticism, as it is to the scientific method.

    Who would you consider an “authentic mystic” — and why?

    My “why” won’t help you. Try Francis Lucille.

    @Rev. BigDumbChimp#50
    You have my marrow: an authentic mystic enjoys cancer.

  41. chigau (棒や石) says

    re:Francis Lucille
    Everyone should google this entity.

    The mind, which until now was the slave of the ego, becomes the servant and lover of the eternal splendor that illuminates thoughts and perceptions. As a slave of the ego, the mind was the warden of the jail of time, space and causation; as a servant of the highest intelligence and a lover of the supreme beauty, it becomes the instrument of our liberation.

    I smell indigo sparkleponies.

  42. Mark says

    You should set up an Elijah type experiment.

    “Hear, O America. How long will you be of two minds? If Yahweh is god, then follow him. If No One is god, then follow No One. If Yahweh is god, let him light this podium on fire. If No One is god, then let No One light this podium on fire.”

    If the podium remains unburnt, No One is god. That’ll show those apologists who say the Elijah story is historical.

    Also, the very fact that apologists exist, all trying to prove the existence of a being who supposedly wants to have a relationship with me, rules out this being’s existence. I mean, if this deity wants a relationship with me, it should be talking to me itself rather than rely on its henchmen. Jeez.

  43. mildlymagnificent says

    Your biggest problem is that the others haven’t told you what they’re saying.

    The temptation to link the prayforraininthedroughtafflictedState with the prescribesmillionsofsciencetextbooksState looks irresistible to me. It might just be a throwaway line or it might be the central theme. But with 5 other speakers of that calibre, I’d be surprised if someone didn’t mention it.

    I’m relatively safe here on the other side of the Pacific, but if the Board elections are on the table, it’s not a bad idea to fire people up to get reality as a high priority for voters. (Sometimes those books get a second home over here.) Whether the focus is AGW or evolution or any other topic, it’s worth driving home just how important good basic scientific education is for the population generally, not just for people who want to become scientists.

  44. mildlymagnificent says

    Not sure I should thank you for that google suggestion.

    I smell indigo sparkleponies.

    I smell something. I’m disappointed. I thought unicorns would produce a nice smell along with the rainbows.

  45. blf says

    there’s a kind of synergy to discussing beer-battered clams.

    No no no. You drink the beer. You eat the clams. (Important tip: Don’t eat the shells. Mildly deranged penguin exception: Unless you’re in a hurry.) Battering the beer is cruel (you aren’t drinking it, that’s cruel!) and tends to create a foaming mess. Which makes it hard to grab ahold of the clams. Making them hard to eat (more cruelty, all those delicious mollusc’s slippery with beer suds and scooting out of yer hands…).

  46. innocentinfidell says

    You could just read several chapters from any one of Professor Dawkins excellent books. After all, he is the person 95% of people attending these events go to see, as much Dawkins as possible will appease the crowds.

    All the work is done for you, no preparation required except taking one of his books along! Easy.

  47. Sastra says

    Vijrn #53 wrote:

    “… Learning how the cosmos really truly is — a consciousness of which all matter and energy are mere manifestations … It’s a hypothesis, not a direct experience of knowing.”

    Well put. But whether it is a hypothesis or a direct experience of knowing is subjectively determined.

    If you think that was “well put” then what you are calling “mysticism” is, in fact, what we call “woo.” You are simply arguing that woo is true.

    For the record, “monistic idealism” is classified as a supernatural belief. And, even worse, it’s also considered a form of “dualism.” Yes, I know. This pains you. “Dualism” is supposed to be when EGO split off matter and energy from Mind.

    The person having the experience is not necessarily the best person to interpret what the experience means. If monistic idealism is true, there are some predictable consequences. That makes it a hypothesis.

    My “why” won’t help you.

    No, of course it won’t. That’s no doubt because “thoughts have no form and are energy that transcends the limits of the body and brain and therefore can pass through minds.” I’m in the wrong paradigm to “connect” with you.

    My criticisms still apply. Woo.

  48. says

    @Sastra #62
    You brain-worshippers are so tiresome. OK – granted that brains and brain activity correlate with the experience of consciousness; granted that brains and brain activity may be necessary for consciousness to manifest: still, not one iota of evidence has ever been adduced to show that brains and brain activity are the cause of consciousness. Indeed, it remains scarcely imaginable what the character of such evidence might be!

    You are so full of philosophical piffle that you accuse me of dualism. This is palpably absurd, as anyone can see from my remarks herein. Most living mystics espouse advaita, the non-dual, meaning that (as you first stated) there is a single substance, consciousness, from which all else proceeds.

    The only thing we agree on is that your current paradigm does not allow you to understand. The arguments in support of the notion that consciousness somehow “emerges” from brains amount to nothing more than hand-waving. Forget Dennett: you’ll come closer by reading those other idiots Flanagan or McGinn or even Chalmers; but ultimately you’ll find it all unsatisfying.

    Anything of real value can be known directly, you don’t need any intermediaries: not priests, not authorities, not theories, not philosophy, not even science. It’s possible to discover who you really are – why settle for less?

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The only thing we agree on is that your current paradigm does not allow you to understand.

    Understand what? Bafflegabble?

    The arguments in support of the notion that consciousness somehow “emerges” from brains amount to nothing more than hand-waving.

    Gee, what other explanation is their other than bafflegabble? Presupposition of bafflegabble if consciousness doesn’t emerge from brains. Evidence?

  50. Mak, acolyte to Farore says

    OK – granted that atomic particles and particle activity correlate with the experience of magnetism; granted that atomic particles and particle activity may be necessary for magnetism to manifest: still, not one iota of evidence has ever been adduced to show that atomic particles and particle activity are the cause of magnetism. Indeed, it remains scarcely imaginable what the character of such evidence might be!

  51. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    Amen

    A google search on “cause of magnetism” turned up over 4 million hits, including some nice lecture notes.

  52. Mak, acolyte to Farore says

    …I was trying to turn Vijen’s words back.

    Though I’m admittedly not a physicist so maybe I got it Super Wrong anyway?

  53. anteprepro says

    You brain-worshippers are so tiresome.

    Yeah! Fuck neuroscience! Sure, they’ve proven that cognition is heavily related to brain activity. And we have no reason to believe that cognition is even possible without such brain activity. But correlation isn’t causation, ergo science is insufficient, ergo MAGIC. Or something.

  54. Matt Penfold says

    I cannot remember who said it, but I have also liked the phrase “The mind is what the brain does”.

  55. consciousness razor says

    Vijen, #53:

    Empiricism is central to mysticism, as it is to the scientific method.

    Vijen, #63:

    Anything of real value can be known directly, you don’t need any intermediaries: not priests, not authorities, not theories, not philosophy, not even science.

    Therefore, since mysticism relies on empiricism, and since empirical evidence is not “known directly,” it is not of real value.

    Of course, something being “known directly” apparently means I’m just certain it’s true, but there’s no way to explain how I could know that. *plugs ears* No, I can’t hear you…. That isn’t consistent with empiricism, so if mysticism is “known directly” and doesn’t rely on empiricism, it is not of any value, if we care about how we’re getting our supposed knowledge and honestly evaluating how reliable it is.

  56. cm's changeable moniker says

    The mind is what the brain does

    That’s a favourite of DDMFM’s. I don’t know if it’s original.

    Anyone have a report on what PZ’s actually talking about?

  57. Sastra says

    Vijen #63 wrote:

    OK – granted that brains and brain activity correlate with the experience of consciousness; granted that brains and brain activity may be necessary for consciousness to manifest: still, not one iota of evidence has ever been adduced to show that brains and brain activity are the cause of consciousness. Indeed, it remains scarcely imaginable what the character of such evidence might be!

    That brains are the cause of the experience of consciousness is the most parsimonious theory. It accounts for the continuous correlation very well, and coheres with all the evidence for a step-by-step evolutionary explanation. This theory could and would be over-turned and discarded if: we had good evidence of consciousness which was not correlated with any brain activity; knowledge gained with no plausible physical chain of causation; and/or activity caused directly by intention, again with no plausible physical chain of causation.

    It is easy to imagine examples of this which could be demonstrated to skeptics: ESP, PK, NDE, OBE, and other paranormal and mystical abilities. You could no doubt add more potential studies of phenomena which could and would prove us wrong. It is not a standoff.

    Materialism — mind/brain dependency — would be falsified. That leaves us with the alternatives of mind/body substance dualism and idealistic monism. Tell me — how can these be distinguished, so that evidence for one would not also provide evidence for the other? This is why I reasonably group them together. I understand the distinction, but both theories entail the same predictions.

    And what possible discovery or event would falsify either one of those? If neither one of us can imagine what the character of evidence like that would be, then it is not a problem for materialistic monism: it is a problem for the other two alternatives.

    The only thing we agree on is that your current paradigm does not allow you to understand.

    No, you and I don’t really work in different “paradigms.” When it comes to how we relate to the world and each other, we are the same. We share the same world, the same kind of reasoning, the same basic understanding of ethics, the same type of experiences, and so forth. It’s just that when you get to an area you cut off and designate as your explanatory “world view” — you use a double standard.

    And I can appeal to our common sense of ethics when I warn you that viewing fellow human beings along a “spiritual hierarchy” with special revelations and subjective insights granting one group higher status and abilities is dangerously divisive. If you are concerned about “dualisms” which result from Ego, I suggest you examine the practical effect of a ‘paradigm’ which cuts away all objective common ground and forms intractable barriers between US and THEM. Without reason to arbitrate and persuade equals towards a consensus, you’re left with unsupported assertions of an Authority which cannot be questioned — and eventually force.

    That is not good. It is unsatisfying.

    Anything of real value can be known directly, you don’t need any intermediaries: not priests, not authorities, not theories, not philosophy, not even science. It’s possible to discover who you really are – why settle for less?

    There are many things of real value which are only known indirectly. What you’re actually talking about here is interpreting a direct, unmitigated feeling or sense … and then interpreting it to mean ONE thing. ONE way, YOUR way. You know what you know what you know and cannot be wrong. You cannot entertain the possibility of being mistaken, nor can you entertain any alternatives. ONE alternative, with you and only you as judge.

    I think that, if we really understand who we really are — we will be cautious about doing that. Open your mind to possibilities. But first, you must humble yourself. You must not declare unfalsifiable and infallible Truths about the Cosmos as measured by the Self, traveling around self in a self-confirming loop.

    Lack of ego: you’re going about it the wrong way.

  58. says

    @various…
    Of course mind is a biological machine, just as much as the body. In fact they comprise a single coherent mechanism, but neither mind nor body has any powers of observation. It’s always consciousness that observes.

    It’s very easy, and normal, to be confused about the distinction between mind and consciousness. When you can slip a needle between these two – even for a few moments – then you’ll smile at your own foolishness. This too will pass.

    @Sastra #76
    Most of your remarks are way off target – far enough that I won’t bother holding them against you.

    I refuse all the labels with which you pester me. We’ve already established that I’m not a “dualist”; nor am I any kind of “idealist”. When I speak of direct knowledge, I impute no ideas whatsoever: I ‘m talking about identity.

    During WWII, to escape the bombing, a group of children is being evacuated from London by train Each child is identified by a label, bearing name and destination. For a lark, one of the older children switches the labels between a couple of younger kids, Linda and John, while they are sleeping. When John awakes, he sees his ID label and bursts into tears, imagining that he has really become Linda. This is your situation: the very first thing you need to do is to recognize that you really aren’t “Linda”.

  59. Snoof says

    When I speak of direct knowledge, I impute no ideas whatsoever: I ‘m talking about identity.

    You’re drawing a number of fine distinctions in the last few posts.

    You’re dividing “ideas” from “knowledge”, and claiming that identity belongs to the second grouping but not the first. What is the difference between ideas and knowledge? Why you are justified in classing “identity” as “knowledge” and not “an idea”?

    You’re also splitting “mind” from “consciousness”, and saying that of course mind is a process of the body… implying that consciousness is not. That looks a whole lot like either dualism or monistic idealism. How do you know this?

  60. Sastra says

    Vijen #77 wrote:

    I refuse all the labels with which you pester me. We’ve already established that I’m not a “dualist”; nor am I any kind of “idealist”. When I speak of direct knowledge, I impute no ideas whatsoever: I ‘m talking about identity.

    You need to look up terms. “Monistic idealism holds that consciousness, not matter, is the ground of all being. It is monist because it holds that there is only one type of thing in the universe and idealist because it holds that one thing to be consciousness.” Which means there is no real distinction between the known and the knower, matter and mind, or between anything or anyone. When I understand my true identity, I will understand that I am Consciousness, and the I-thought disappears into the immortal background of Presence. Sound familiar?

    No, you cannot have direct knowledge of this. You can only have a direct experience that feels as if this is true. And you might be wrong. You don’t get to become infallible.

    Nothing you say here is really different or new, or something we haven’t encountered before. Most people, for most of human history, have blurred the inner world of thought and feeling with the outer world of object and event and placed consciousness or awareness or some other state of mind as primary. Mystics just get very good at it. It’s a form of ego-centrism: there are no selves, there is only one Cosmic Self. You can repeat that there is “no ego” till you’re blue in the face. We’re paying more attention to what you mean, than the words you use.

  61. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The arguments in support of the notion that consciousness somehow “emerges” from brains amount to nothing more than hand-waving. – Vijen

    Garbage. Those arguments are based on increasingly detailed knowledge of how changes in the brain produce changes in consciousness. The claims that physical reality emerges from consciousness, on the other hand, are based on nothing at all, apart from the beliefs of arrogant egotists such as yourself that your subjective convictions are infallible.

  62. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m always amazed at the tap dancing sophistry of those trying to pretend consciousness isn’t just a manifestation of brainware. Their gyrations almost match those of creobots trying not to show their imaginary deity exists, but they don’t have to show evidence for their presuppostion to be scientific. Same thing here. Presupposition by Vijen all the way down.

  63. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Vijen,
    You have yet to produce any evidence for this “substance” called consciousness, unalloyed with brain. Until you do, please forgive me for being a wee bit skeptical. Just so you will know I am not picking on you, I don’t believe in fairies, elves, ghosts, or Santa Claus, either.

  64. says

    @Snoof #78
    “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”!

    @Sastra #79

    No, you cannot have direct knowledge of this.

    Your retreat into denial by fiat is disappointing. Making an intellectual study of “consciousness” is not the same as striving to become more conscious.

    @Ichthyic #82
    Thanks for reminding me of Dunning-Kruger: “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self”. Incompetent is unkind, I’d say ignorant, but this is very much the point I’m making. So: trying to dump on me won’t help. First make a start on unpicking your own self-confusion.

    @all…
    I understand that you find me irritating: that’s just why I take the trouble to engage. But my motives are very different from those ascribed to me by many herein.

  65. Sastra says

    Vigen #84 wrote:

    Making an intellectual study of “consciousness” is not the same as striving to become more conscious.

    We don’t deny that mystical experiences are experiences which can be useful. We apparently disagree, however, on what they can be used for.

    I understand that you find me irritating: that’s just why I take the trouble to engage. But my motives are very different from those ascribed to me by many herein.

    Your motives must indeed be obscure, since you’ve more than once suggested that we are not capable of understanding you.

    If so, there may be more than one possible explanation for that, you know.

  66. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I understand that you find me irritating: that’s just why I take the trouble to engage.

    You aren’t engaging. Not one iota of third party evidence from you, and your OPINION isn’t evidence. You aren’t engaging, but rather preaching.

  67. Snoof says

    @84

    “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”!

    So you can’t explain the difference between ideas and knowledge, then, and prefer to take refuge in obfuscation and references to surrealist art.

    Oh well. It worth a shot. Maybe the next mystic will actually engage intellectually.

  68. Snoof says

    @86

    You aren’t engaging. Not one iota of third party evidence from you, and your OPINION isn’t evidence. You aren’t engaging, but rather preaching.

    It’s worse than that, Nerd. Preaching is an attempt to convince by emotional argument. Xe’s not even expressing an opinion, but merely being cryptic and playing I Know Something You Don’t Know.

  69. says

    @Snoof #87-8
    Of necessity, this is a discourse of ideas. But reality isn’t constrained by ideas. The use of hints and allusions is one way to square this circle. Asking for intellectuality in a mystic is like asking for better flowers on your onions. From the tenor of your earlier remarks I’d surmised you might be someone else. As you say: it’s worth a shot.

    @Sastra #85

    You’ve more than once suggested that we are not capable of understanding you

    I’d encourage you to read more carefully, but to limit further misunderstanding:
    I guess many here have spent decades studying objective science, as have I. When you’ve also spent decades studying subjective science*, as I have, then I’m confident that we can reach a mutual understanding.

    * Meditation is my preferred term for subjective science. This is often used for specific techniques; but the meaning here intended is much more general, encompassing a way of living which is structured around a process of empirical subjective enquiry. Mystic is to meditation as scientist is to scientific method.

  70. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    this is a discourse of ideas[woo, woo woo woo].

    Meditation[Woo] is my preferred term for subjective science.

    Fixed that for you. You present no evidenced ideas. Ergo, they are meaningless.

  71. Sastra says

    Vijen #90 wrote:

    Mystic is to meditation as scientist is to scientific method.

    Loosely speaking, then, the mystic studies the nature of subjective inner states of the human mind through the use of meditation — and the scientist studies the objective nature of reality through methods which try to minimize subjective bias.

    Only the person having the experience can experience the experience. Yes. This is knowledge which can never be completely communicated to another. But since our subjective mental states are part of an objective reality, then scientists are in a better position to study what they are — as opposed to what they are like. If you’re simply saying that meditation helps change the way a person thinks about things and relates to himself, others, and the world, then fine. As far as I can tell, nobody is arguing otherwise. But you cannot derive the conclusion that meditation gives you special insights into reality as a whole — the entire universe — just by meditating. It can’t let you KNOW that Consciousness is the substrate of the Cosmos. You can’t know you know that.

    If you disagree with this, then please explain why. Focus on the actual issue and don’t just keep appealing to what it feels like you learn while meditating. Even if I were to meditate for years, I would not be able to levitate myself out of my own fallible human tendency to over-interpret. In other words, it shouldn’t make any difference. Not to me, nor to you.

    We are better at catching the errors of other people, than we are at catching our own.

  72. says

    @Sastra #93
    Let me share with you some of the findings of my research into my own subjectivity. Of course, this is mere hearsay from your current perspective, but there was a time when the same could be said of every proposition which you now endorse; and I reiterate that it is fully within your competence to know all this, for yourself, directly. Note that I’m not suggesting you accept any authority whatsoever, nor subscribe to any beliefs at all: simply apply the technology, and these results will be observed.

    Just as for (objective) science, the really significant breakthroughs in meditation arise from becoming aware of hitherto unrecognized assumptions. Surprisingly*, these assumptions, and the results thus revealed, have little obvious bearing on the objective world, but are either concerned with one’s own personal history (as you say, very useful and makes one a better person etc.) or, far more interestingly, with the nature of one’s identity.

    Among the assumptions which my own subjective empirical enquiry has shaken are the following:
    ~ I am capable of directing, or at least significantly influencing, the content of my own thoughts. (Don’t think of purple polar bears! Don’t think of them again when you remember me tomorrow.)
    ~ My consciousness is localised to my body and its immediate vicinity (perhaps extended somewhat these days, via technologies like Skype).
    ~ An impenetrable barrier separates my subjective experience from your subjective experience.

    Whether or not we agree, or can reconcile our respective perceptions, never mind our ideologies, is not germane: reality is what it is. While you continue to insist that your very essence can be contained within an objective reality of which you have no direct experience in the way that, for example, you are now experiencing frustration/irritaion/despair/whatever; well then you are choosing to severely limit the tools you have available to investigate the nature of existence. More is possible …

    * Considering the readiness of those still trapped in a system of “religious” conditioning to interpret unusual subjective phenomena as their own particular variety of specious bullshit; as in the recent newsweek article.

  73. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    More is possible …

    No, you have presented nothing to substantiate your claims, just made unevidenced claims. So, you have spent days saying nothing but “this is what I feel”. Which isn’t evidence.

  74. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    conditioning to interpret unusual subjective phenomena as their own particular variety of specious bullshit;

    shiny shiny mirror

  75. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    When you try it, you will see…

    You mean the mental wanking and self-delusions you do? Certainly. But no object truths, just the equivalent of orgasm from mental wanking. Nothing but feel-good bullshit.

    Oh, and I did try meditation forty years ago. Nothing popped up.

  76. Brownian says

    Oh, and I did try meditation forty years ago.

    Of course you didn’t. Meditation has only reached the West just now, so there’s no possible way that scientist squares could have any experience with it. That’s why we’re rejecting it out of hand, like that crazy Liverpool music that has all the kids hopped up on the Marihuana.

  77. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    When you try it, you will see

    When you read the bible you will believe.

    When you audit to a high enough level you will achieve operating thetan status.

    When you shed every attachment to the planet, you will be ready for the next level.

  78. Brownian says

    Everyone knows meditation went out with shag carpet and hula hoops.

    Anyone who’s into enlightenment knows that qigong is the path to true knowledge.

  79. UnknownEric says

    like that crazy Liverpool music that has all the kids hopped up on the Marihuana.

    The Joe Loss Orchestra?

  80. says

    When I encounter someone who believes that consciousness is the ground of all being and the material world is a construct of said consciousness I propose to them a simple scientific experiment:

    1. Jump from a window as high off the floor as your conviction in that worldview is strong. If it is weak, jump from the ground floor, if it is unshakeable jump from the 100th floor or higher.

    2. If your hypothesis is right then you will not hit the ground or hurt yourself (if jumping from at least a few floor up) because you will realise that the material world is a product of your consciousness and thus there is no spoongravity and thus fly away by having your consciousness express the material world in a way such that from the material world’s point of view you are flying.

    Strangely no one has taken me on this simple scientific experiment. Maybe James Randi would be interested in conducting it with you as the star of the experiment, there could be a million dollars in it for you (which of course you will not care about as it is not even paper/cotton/plastic, merely consciousness expressing itself in a way that appears to us as paper/cotton/plastic).

  81. says

    Oh, I forgot:

    Asking for intellectuality in a mystic is like asking for better flowers on your onions.

    Given that onion flowers are used decoratively I would expect that some floriculturist would have tried a breeding program to get better onion flowers.

    Still, nice of you to warn us not to expect anything related to “the ability to think abstractly or profoundly” from you.

  82. says

    @Julien Rousseau #105
    [Carlos Castaneda experiences flying, after taking “devil's weed”:]
    “Did I really fly, don Juan?”
    “That is what you told me. Didn’t you?”
    “I know, don Juan. I mean, did my body fly? Did I take off like a bird?”
    “You always ask me questions I cannot answer. You flew. That is what the devil’s weed is for[...]That is all I can tell you. What you want to know makes no sense. Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil’s weed flies as such.”
    “As birds do?”
    “No, he flies as a man who has taken the weed.”
    “Then I didn’t really fly, don Juan. I flew in my imagination, in my
    mind alone. Where was my body?”
    “In the bushes,” he replied cuttingly, but immediately broke into
    laughter again.” [...]
    “You see, don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose, for
    the sake of argument, one of my fellow students had been here with me
    when I took the devil’s weed. Would he have been able to see me flying?”
    “There you go again with your questions about ‘What would happen
    if…?’ It is useless to talk that way. If your friend, or anybody else, takes
    the weed all he can do is fly. Now, if he had simply watched you, he might have seen you flying, or he might not. That depends on the man.”
    “But what I mean, don Juan, is that if you and I look at a bird and see
    it fly, we agree that it is flying. But if two of my friends had seen me flying
    as I did last night, would they have agreed that I was flying?”
    “Well, they might have. You agree that birds fly because you have
    seen them flying. Flying is a common thing with birds. But you will not
    agree on other things birds do, because you have never seen birds doing
    them. If your friends knew about men flying with the devil’s weed, then
    they would agree.”
    “Let’s put it another way, don Juan. What I meant to say is that: If I
    had tied myself to a rock with a heavy chain, I would have flown just the
    same – because my body had nothing to do with my flying.”
    Don Juan looked at me incredulously. “If you tie yourself to a rock,”
    he said, “I’m afraid you will have to fly holding the rock with its heavy
    chain.”

  83. Ichthyic says

    did you know that Carlos made the whole thing up?

    No kidding.

    He never spent any time with the tribes mentioned in his books. All fiction. Even fooled his advisory board at the time.

  84. Ichthyic says

    Wisdom is still wisdom.

    great! I think I’ll publish a book titled:

    “Guide to Living by Harry Potter”

    care to front me the publishing costs?

  85. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Wisdom [fuckiwittery and mental masturabation] is still wisdom [fuckiwittery and mental masturabation].

    No wisdom comes from self-delusion and mental masturbation. Only false beliefs.

  86. says

    @Amphiox #113

    How do you know it is wisdom, and not something else?

    This is a good question. When it is your question, you will find that it has already been answered.

  87. Ichthyic says

    When it is your question, you will find that it has already been answered.

    oh fuck me.

    Snatch the fucking pebble from my hand already, grasshopper.

  88. Amphiox says

    This is a good question. When it is your question, you will find that it has already been answered.

    Silly cupcake. I already asked my question and I already know the answer.

    I was asking YOU.

    It is YOUR question.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Silly cupcake. I already asked my question and I already know the answer.

    I was asking YOU.
    It is YOUR question.

    Typical of mystical drug addled persons, they lose a time reference on what they bloviated. Losership all the way down…

  90. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, Amphiox isn’t drug addled, but Vijen has all the symptoms…

  91. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    Vijen:
    I checked out Francis Lucille:

    Although a first glimpse of reality is an event of cosmic proportions, it may remain unnoticed at first and work its way in the background of the mind until the egoistic structure collapses, just as a building severely damaged by an earthquake remains stand- ing for some time and collapses a few months later, gradually or suddenly. This effect is due to the fact that the glimpse does not belong to the mind. The mind, which until now was the slave of the ego, becomes the servant and lover of the eternal splendor that illuminates thoughts and perceptions. As a slave of the ego, the mind was the warden of the jail of time, space and causation; as a servant of the highest intelligence and a lover of the supreme beauty, it becomes the instrument of our liberation.
    http://www.francislucille.com/#awakening_enlightenment

    I see lots of woo.
    Much assertion.
    No proof.

  92. says

    @Julien Rousseau #105
    [Carlos Castaneda experiences flying, after taking “devil's weed”:]

    So you try to answer to a challenge of flying with someone else’s hallucinogenic experience?

    That’s really stupid because it disproves the contention that consciousness is the ground of all being given that if it was then there would be no reason for any chemical substance to modify anybody’s state of consciousness as it would not be the result of the interaction of chemicals in the brain and thus could not be modified by such a change.

    Drugs altering one’s consciousness is only possible if consciousness is a product of chemical reactions, i.e. a product of the brain, as otherwise all taking drugs would do is make your still lucid consciousness wonder what the fuck is wrong with your brain that is is sending those psychedelic (or whatever) signals.

    Same thing when I went under anesthesia for an operation. If consciousness was not a product of my brain’s operation then the anesthesia would not have knocked me unconscious for 1-2 hours, it would merely have knocked my brain out so that it would not send on various sensory information but my consciousness would still have been active, just really, really bored.

    And before you try to point out the percentage of people who still have sensations whilst under anesthesia, that’s not a problem under a materialist perspective as not everybody will react the same to it and sometimes it will fail, thus leading people to experience things like NDE.

    You perspective, however, cannot account for the obliteration of consciousness due to drugs and the subsequent return of consciousness as the drugs wear off that happens in the majority of cases.

  93. says

    @Julien Rousseau #121
    Obviously you don’t appreciate subtlety, so I’ll spell it out. The Castaneda story illustrates the catch-22 which confounds any expression of mysticism: the false distinction between subjects and objects. Yes, of course, it seems that way, but this is not the experience of mystics; and all of us get the occasional glimpse…

    “When thought objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes, and when the mind vanishes, objects vanish. Things are objects because there is a subject or mind; and the mind is a subject because there are objects. Understand the relativity of these two and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness. In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable and each contains in itself the whole world.” (Sosan, 3rd Zen Patriarch)

  94. says

    Obviously you don’t appreciate subtlety

    I appreciate subtlety, I don’t appreciate bullshit.

    If Castaneda was only flying in his head then he was not flying in the sense people use that word in English nor in the sense that I obviously was using in my challenge and thus your only reason for giving that example is to try to obfuscate things by redefining the word flying to your liking, that’s called the equivocation fallacy.

    It still remains that flying with your body, without technological help*, should be possible if your worldview is correct.

    More than that, it should not only be possible but widespread as every conscious being would be able to do it so as soon as one discovered such a useful ability it would spread so that a good part of humanity would be able to use it and nobody would deny its existence (like, say, the ability to read and write).

    However the best you could propose was not an actual well documented act of physical flying (or, from your POV, “what appears as physical flying”) but some dude getting high, which is also completely compatible with consciousness being generated by the brain (moreso as he had to use brain altering chemicals) and thus no evidence for your worldview.

    *Hell, even without chemical help like Castaneda had (why did he need Devil’s Weed? Shouldn’t his consciousness be enough? Mine certainly is for that kind of flying).