Open thread for episode 21.36: Tracie and Guest Mitchell Diamond


Tracie is joined by Mitchell Diamond, author of Darwin’s Apple: The Evolutionary Biology of Religion.

Diamond will be presenting a lecture before the show, where he will discuss “how hallucinations have a basis in our biology”.

Links of interest in this week’s program:

ARTICLES:

BOOKS

PRESENTATIONS

OTHER REFERENCES:

And if anyone can find that cat study I discussed in the show, that someone else mentioned in comments, I’d love to see that again, as well. I really wish I could find that one.

Comments

  1. Mobius says

    Sorry to hear you were having phone problems and couldn’t take callers. Fortunately you had a guest host and had a very good, in depth interview with him. It was an interesting discussion.

    When you were discussing the thesis of his book and he was talking about religion being an adaptation to quieting the mental noise associated with cognition I was reminded of Lewis Black. He was talking about why he wasn’t religious and said, “I have these…thoughts.”

  2. Murat says

    @Mobius
    Good catch. I saw that bit of Lewis Black, too.
    But ironically, I guess LB was saying the exact opposite thing there: That he was not religious, because he had cognitive features.
    What Diamond says here is that, humans got religion exactly because they have those thoughts, and needed to suppress them at one point.
    Another very mind-opening guest, quite a while after John Loftus.

  3. dustin says

    Question mainly for Tracie (but if anybody else has a good answer, go ahead): When you study things like lucid dreaming, meditation, etc., you probably run into a lot of woo, as well as legit-sounding information that’s based on pseudoscience. How do you separate out good information from bad, and where do you look for non-woo information? How do you avoid coming to faulty conclusions in interpreting your own experiences?

  4. Murat says

    @dustin
    Woo becomes embedded into the legit-sounding information as one studies into lucid dreaming and other altered states, I’d think. You get to experiment that the center, if not the source, of the unlikely cognitive activity is still the brain.

  5. says

    >Question mainly for Tracie (but if anybody else has a good answer, go ahead): When you study things like lucid dreaming, meditation, etc., you probably run into a lot of woo, as well as legit-sounding information that’s based on pseudoscience. How do you separate out good information from bad, and where do you look for non-woo information? How do you avoid coming to faulty conclusions in interpreting your own experiences?

    There is a great deal of research about lucid dreaming. It’s fairly well understood. So, like anything, you have academic research data–which would be based in published studies you can access–see who is publishing, what methods were used, and which journals were involved in peer review.

    Much of the research used people who were naturally good at it, because space in sleep labs at universities was not liberally available, especially in early research. So, finding subject who could self-induce, pretty well at-will, was necessary.

    So, now go with someone like me. I’d like to try it, but I’m not good at it at all. I have to work for months to achieve even a brief experience. And because I don’t have a lucid dream research team available, I lurk around online at forums. Yes, there is a lot of woo. And there are also people who recognize it’s just a conscious experience of being in a dream. They all have advice. The “woo” advice just needs to be “interpreted” a little more carefully to try and see, from a procedural standpoint, what the person is aiming at. But for example, I have trouble staying in lucid dreams. I asked at a forum how to correct that. And someone suggested spinning around with you “dream body” (your simulated self within the dream). Next time I was in a lucid dream and felt myself waking up, I spun around, and I actually stayed in the dream. So, is it that spinning around somehow actually works to keep you from waking in some way? Or was it merely the power of suggestion, like a placebo, that kept me within the dream? I have no idea, and in the end, it doesn’t matter how it worked, because I got the result I needed and was able to prolong the experience.

    Early on, there was a lot of deserved skepticism from the science community about lucid dreaming. But Stephen LaBerge was able to establish it as fact-based science by working with REM researchers to establish acceptable eye-movement signals (that could be sufficiently differentiated from normal REM during sleep). Lucid Dream subjects were able to signal to researchers from within their dreams–while asleep–thus demonstrating that they were able to maintain wakeful consciousness during dreams. It is now accepted as a legitimate area of sleep/dream research, that is, a “real thing” that people can do.

    How people interpret the experience subjectively, however, is up to them.

  6. Monocle Smile says

    @dustin
    There are legitimate scientific peer-reviewed studies, and then there’s everything else. This may come across as extremely close-minded, but I see it as being appropriately conservative in order to err on the side of false negatives rather than false positives.

  7. Robert, not Bob says

    I think religion is too complex a phenomenon to reduce its origin to the one use of, ah, suppressing consciousness.

    It looks like he might be skirting the fallacy of assuming every trait has to have been positively selected for, when many traits exist simply because they haven’t been sufficiently selected against. I’m not going to claim that religion hasn’t provided evolutionary benefits to individuals or societies-I don’t believe it, and couldn’t support it if I did. But I think as long as it doesn’t cause the society to fail-and that’s happened a few times-the evolution that mainly happens is the evolution of the religion itself, virus style.

    I’ve never had an experience I’d call spiritual, unless one counts orgasms or being happy or excited. I don’t miss it either, and don’t really understand the value people put on it. So not everyone is wired for it.

  8. says

    oh, don’t get me started on sleep, dreams and memory. for now i’ll stick with lucid dreaming. i stopped talking about it a long time ago since i found so few who could relate, but i’m one of those folk who can go lucid at will. for me it simply requires reminding myself as i go to sleep that i want to go lucid. but i don’t do it as frequently as i like since i have insomnia and poor sleep habits and usually just pass out from exhaustion without getting a chance to prep.

    for me the hardest part is to not be jolted awake by the epiphany that i’m dreaming. i think it’s a natural hurdle that prevents a lot of people from going lucid. but once you get past the shock, all the fun begins.

    when the matrix came out in 1999, it had a profound effect on me because of all its parallels to lucid dreaming. it seemed that the wachowskis had somehow lifted whole sections of my dreams in making it. because i’d done it all before. the jump program, the flying, the telekinesis, etc etc. even the central philosophy i’d already come to learn through dreams: “who you are and what you can do depends on who you think you are and what you think you can do.” i found that i could do anything if i believed that i could do it. we’ve spent millenia endulging in stories about superbeings, but lucid dreams are the only environment wherein you truly can be a superhero or a god. your own mind is the only limit.

    it is difficult to describe the awe of exploring in a world entirely of your own construction while knowing that somewhere, essentially in another dimension, you’re in bed asleep making that world real, like lewis carroll’s red king. it’s also not unlike enjoying some kind of personal holodeck, to borrow some star trek terminology.

  9. RationalismRules says

    @not Bob

    I’ve never had an experience I’d call spiritual,

    I’ve had transcendent experiences, I just don’t attribute them to a non-existent ‘spirit’. A decade ago when I was in St Paul’s cathedral in London the resident choir started to rehearse. It was one of the most transcendently beautiful things I’ve ever heard. It’s not difficult to understand how credulous people would attribute that to something ‘other’. For myself, apart from not believing in ‘other’, I have some awareness of acoustics and lighting, and the powerful effects these can have on us. Those cathedral builders knew what they were doing!

  10. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Diamond (39:02-40:50):

    When you look at those [music, dance, art, mythology, and prayer/meditation], they don’t have any obvious purpose, that we think of in terms of evolution. […] They’re seemingly done for no good reason at all […] It’s human nature to like music […]. more than any other ritual is known to elicit emotions. […] They all at some level end up suppressing consciousness.

    Flow is useful for quieting the mind, engagement, and retention. That religious subcultures adopt it and persist is unsurprising. I’m unclear on how one can specifically credit the generalized concept of ‘religion’ with non-exclusive mechanisms of culture and psych commonly employed.
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Flow (Psychology)

    In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.
     
    Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields […], though the concept has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions.

     

    1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
    2. Merging of action and awareness
    3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
    4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
    5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
    6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

     

    Flow is one of the main reasons that people play video games. […] The primary goal of games is to create entertainment through intrinsic motivation, which is related to flow; that is, without intrinsic motivation it is virtually impossible to establish flow. Through the balance of skill and challenge the player’s brain is aroused, with attention engaged and motivation high. Thus, the use of flow in games helps foster an enjoyable experience which in turn increases motivation and draws players to continue playing. As such, game designers strive to integrate flow principles into their projects.
    […]
    This is exhibited in well designed games, in particular, where players perform at the edge of their competency as they are guided by clear goals and feedback. […] Thus, the experience of gaming can be so engaging and motivating as it meets many of the Laws of Learning, which are inextricably connected to creating flow.

     

    Csikszentmihályi writes about the dangers of flow himself:

    …enjoyable activities that produce flow have a potentially negative effect: while they are capable of improving the quality of existence by creating order in the mind, they can become addictive, at which point the self becomes captive of a certain kind of order, and is then unwilling to cope with the ambiguities of life.

    If Diamond is saying the primary benefit of religion (the reason to consider it adaptive) is as a game to quiet the mind… because ritual lacks purpose, that seems almost tautological.
     
    Practice or pursuit of mastery in any useful activity could be gamified as hobby. We’re wired to be susceptible to religion. We’re wired to be susceptible to extreme sports, craftsmanship, exercise, seeking novel altered states, and weaving/collecting interesting stories.
     
    /My first impression of hearing this thesis.

  11. Ashlee says

    The idea of partaking in rituals to suppress the unpleasant side of conscious thought is a really interesting one, and sounds quite plausible. One thing I would like to hear Mitchell’s opinion on (or anyone else’s) is recreational problem solving, as it seems to promote conscious thought rather than suppress it. Problem solving can provide emotional reward (or cause distress if unsolved), and has clear evolutionary benefits. It also plays a really large part in modern culture as it is the basis for a large number of recreational activities including puzzles, games, mystery-fiction etc. It seems that this would be a circumstance where the unpleasant thoughts posed by conscious thought can be suppressed, but conscious thought as a whole is not suppressed, as it is instead directed to something more trivial and/or enjoyable. So I suppose my question is what parameters do you think are necessary for people to opt for suppression of conscious thought (this will differ between individuals because of their values, but is there a general trend), opposed to redirecting conscious thought elsewhere? I hope this question makes sense.

  12. Yaddith says

    I have dreams in which i “realize” that I am dreaming. Ah, but is this realization actually genuine, or is it just part of the dream?

    The closest I ever came to having a transcendent experience was when I was about ten years old. I had a bad reaction to a medicine a doctor gave me and had intense auditory and visual hallucinations for about twenty-four hours straight. It was quite a mind-blowing experience for a ten-year-old. As a result, when I grew older, I never had the slightest urge to experiment with mind-altering drugs. One trip was sufficient, thank you!

  13. says

    @Yaddith

    >I have dreams in which i “realize” that I am dreaming. Ah, but is this realization actually genuine, or is it just part of the dream?

    That was the primary criticism of Stephen LeBarge’s hypothesis, that the lucid dreamers were simply dreaming they were conscious during the dream. He was barred from presenting in publications and at symposiums until he figured out a way to overcome that obstacle. It took him considerable time to even recognize it *as* an obstacle, because often researchers are biased toward their own conclusions. But ultimately when it sunk in, and he recognized “Oh wow–you know, I can’t really say they’re wrong? How do I test this?” he found some very creative ways to demonstrate it. They were a gamble. But his early experiments involved taking subjects who claimed to be good at lucid dreaming, and then getting other researchers (he was then at university with a sleep lab and where other studies on sleeping were going on) involved in REM studies to create eye movement patterns that would be extremely unusual during REM. He asked participants to do these movement patterns while dreaming to signal when they entered/were in lucid dreams. He decided on REM patterns because eyes are one of the few things that we can control generally that are not paralyzed during sleep–but it was a gamble. Nobody knew if that meant you could consciously control eye movement during sleep. But they tried it. After the REM was recorded, they took the outputs to the REM researchers, who independently reviewed the data looking for the patterns they’d provided. They located the patterns during the REM sleep modes, thus showing that the dreamers were (a) asleep and dreaming and (b) able to recall the instructions and provide the appropriate signals to the researchers.

    Pretty much everyone at that point congratulated LeBarge an a well designed study that demonstrated sufficiently his hypothesis was not just a dream in which the dreamer was merely dreaming they were awake. After this discovery, the research took off into many areas, and the woo did as well. But in the end, they addressed your criticism–as it was the main obstacle to validating the hypothesis.

  14. says

    @Sky Captain:

    I don’t want to put myself in the position of defending another person’s hypothesis, but when I read his book I was thinking of counter examples the entire time. I ran out of time to finish the book before our show, and so checked to see if he’d done any presenting on this topic. If you’re interested in how he approaches criticisms, I suggest you check this out, to see how handles some of the more common/obvious objections. He addressed most of my counter examples during this talk:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUYdhTuyhh4

    My understanding ultimately of what he’s saying would be something like this:

    You: We’re wired to be susceptible to religion.

    Him: That’s not answering the question; that simply restates the question–what is that wiring and why did we see it arise in our species about 40,000-50,000 years ago?

    Religion is a huge human event that is pretty well as universal–as he shows it can be demonstrated in the brain. During his Q&A after the lecture, an audience member talked about research that actually invoked religious experiences into people using brain manipulation. You can force people to have these experiences by messing with their brains. It’s a physical reality for human beings. And we seek it, and it seems to be the core of what people are going for with religion–whether in societies where literacy is nonexistent and technology very limited, or in societies with a great deal of education and technological advancement. It not only arose, but persists, and his question was “what is the common denominator*” and what does it say about our *biology*?

    Most other theories involve either secondary characteristics of religion, which sometimes are not universal to religious experience, or fail to actually address the central question of *how it arose*–instead answering “what are the results of it now it’s arisen?”

    It’s a very subtle locus shift, and I didn’t get it at first.

    Again–I can’t answer questions put to him. But this is what I got from the reading, and I found this presentation above useful in answering some objections I initially had. I don’t know if it will help you get what he’s driving at or address your questions. But I thought it *might* help, so why not offer it? It’s certainly a lot less investment than buying/reading the book if you just want the short-hand summary of his thoughts.

    I may also try and get him access to this thread in case he’s interested in responding here. But also, he has forums for the book that I saw he was responding at. I don’t know how active they are, though?

    ADDENDUM: While the lecture does address the book information, I’m not sure it’s the one I watched. It’s nearly 2 hours, and I think I found one that was more like an hour. I plan to pull links to add to the actual original post, and if I can find that one, I’ll be sure and include it as well. I still think the one above is likely useful.

    ADDENDUM 2: “I’m unclear on how one can specifically credit the generalized concept of ‘religion’ with non-exclusive mechanisms of culture and psych commonly employed.”

    You have to keep his models in mind. He’s specifically talking about the religious experience, and if I understand him correctly, everything you posted about “flow” would fall under that model. He is not interested in the social/cultural phenomenon of “religion.” He is asking why the religious experience exists, seemingly exclusively in people, and not in other species, at the *individual* level. The experiences described as religious, spiritual, transcendent, etc. can be achieved using many, also uniquely human, rituals and tools–such as music (as you so very well laid out). He’s not saying music doesn’t do this without religion. He’s saying this is a demonstration of how music produces the religious experience (what people describe as a religious experience) at the individual level. He’s a biologist–and he wants to know, from a biological standpoint, what is happening, and why did this evolve, as it doesn’t serve any apparent survival purpose. As it’s uniquely human, that leaves little to work with as there isn’t much about us that isn’t also found in other species who seem to have worked out existences without developing this biological condition known as the religious experience.

  15. Murat says

    @Ashlee

    Prpblem solving also plays a really large part in modern culture as it is the basis for a large number of recreational activities including puzzles, games, mystery-fiction etc. It seems that this would be a circumstance where the unpleasant thoughts posed by conscious thought can be suppressed, but conscious thought as a whole is not suppressed, as it is instead directed to something more trivial and/or enjoyable.

    I think Diamond’s take on religion suggests the very same: It’s there not to suppress conscious thought as a whole, but to help humans get rid of the unpleasant side effects of it.
    As I had expressed many months ago on another thread, I do not think at all that there was any notable distinction between FICTION and NON-FICTION back when religions, including Abrahamic ones, established themselves.
    People who mastered in drama, speech, storytelling were becoming prophets. They were so convincing in their explanations and narrations that, what they came up with was constructing the very reality in the minds of their followers. What helped the process was also that, the gap between the literate elite and the rest of the population was much much greater than we can imagine for today’s modern societies. This is exactly the same reason even the least cunning or least talented follower of this blog has a very good chance of introducing himself/herself as a prophet, wizard, or even a god to an isolated Amazon tribe.
    The distinction between FICTION and NON-FICTION began to appear slowly in time as a very solid thing as SCIENCE began to progress and eat away bits and pieces from the explanations provided by religions.
    To put it more sharply:
    Jesus was David Copperfield, Muhammed was George Lucas, etc.
    They were so unchallenged by FACTS that, maybe they themselves got convinced the source of their talent and aura to be of holy origin.
    So, I don’t think you are talking about two different things here.
    Just about two different eras, the earlier in which the exercise of such activities was taken as related to FACTS, and the latter in which we have SCIENCE to separate it into two bodies and push each back to their corners, the way a boxing referee would.

  16. says

    First time commenting on this platform and most likely the last time. I’ve been watching/listening to the show for years either on YT or podcast. Finally got curious as to what others were saying about this episode and as I was coming here I was redirected to a spam site. Never in the last ten years has YouTube redirected me to spam. Seriously, You guys need to drop this 90s era version of “discussions” and move it to a platform that has this figured out. Drop this site and finally open up the YT comments. Sure, YouTube is full of people who troll and say provocative things for attention but at least it doesn’t send users places that could put users computers at risk. As atheists aren’t we supposed to be ahead of the curve not trailing behind. My two cents.

  17. John Higgins says

    For Tracie: I’ve had lucid conversations with “dream people” while asleep and, more often than not, are very realistic and I’ve woken with some new perspectives. It’s very much like speaking to a different person. As a fiction writer, I make characters and try to see the world from their perspectives, but having a chat with my own sleeping brain and coming away with a new insight is just amazing.

  18. Daniel Engblom says

    This was a frustrating episode.
    Started great, Tracie Harris explaining her understanding of the difference between function and cause in his book was a promising one, something sorely missing from most psychological “explanations” – As most theories, like Cognitive Dissonance Theory, are merely descriptions of a phenomena, they make no explanation for why the phenomena exists, why it would evolve. Appealing to comfort and other warm feelings as explanations for irrational acts does not explain evolutionarily why something exists, because it would just be cheaper to cut off the uncomfortable feeling from say a belief or action – Assuming, of course, that the negative feeling actually is maladaptive in the first place.
    Why would something survive in nature by deluding itself that a predator isn’t stalking it just so it could avoid feeling anxious about it?

    His “theory” about the evolutionary origins of religion is simplistic and merely a description of what religions can potentially do, and it doesn’t address what he claimed it would; religion evolving in hunter-gatherer tribes, because for all we know we humans didn’t suffer the constant fears and anxieties of dying in the distant future, for all we know the environment humans lived in were so harsh that they had to worry about the here and now more than people who can afford the luxury of worrying about distant hypotheticals.

    Then there’s the petty tone he takes towards Dawkins and Pinker, which reminds me of David Sloan Wilson and his jealousy of the success and popularity of his better peers.
    Claiming that byproduct theories of religion are merely handwaving and smoke and mirrors was laughable considering how bad his own simplistic “theory” ended up sounding. In a biased fashion, he only brought up the weaker part of the multitude of byproduct examples of children being gullible, while leaving out all the stronger cases that Dawkins, Pinker, Pascal Boyer and Dan Dennett have all raised about us being pattern seeking, agency projecting, hyper social, justifying and intellectually posturing animals.
    Byproduct ideas about religion accept that religion is a multifaceted phenomena and probably will not have a single explanation, it will be a byproduct of the many things that have made us into humans, just like the cognitive biases were heuristics that helped with different tasks, being economical and fast and got us mostly right under the right circumstances, but work under limited circumstances and we need to be more mindful of our blind rules of thumb.
    His “gotcha” attitude towards Dawkins saying religion is wasteful and then describing evolution as being very scrutinizing towards needless waste just shows how petty Mitchell can be, while ignoring how wasteful his proposal is when there are easier and more economical ways to get rid of negative emotions than building entire beliefsystems and rituals and societies around feeling good when things are getting tough and nasty thoughts enter our minds.
    As someone who is acting like he will school scientists like Dawkins and Pinker about how evolution really works, he sure managed to give a muddled and misinforming view about how to properly explain things in terms of differential survival.

    His view of consciousness as having almost no effect on actions, that the heuristics and unconscious processes handle mostly everything is also in direct conflict with his view that evolution would need to produce this adaptation of religion to address the feelings in our consciousness. If consciousness has no impact on our behaviour, as he put – though not as strongly I’ll admit – Still, why would there be an evolutionary drive to deal with any conscious experience if it isn’t impacting our survival and reproduction?

    Deepity sayings like “music makes us feel good” and “spiritual experiences have a basis in the brain” also tell me of how shallow his thinking really is. No shit, so what? Where else would we have our “spiritual experiences”? In our liver? Or maybe the alternative is implied to be our soul.
    Also quoting Carl Jung in a favourable light, raises a red flag in my mind. And his Behaviourist attitude shunning the beliefs themselves as an unscientific rabbit hole to pursue is really outdated in scientific discourse.

    I tried to look up information on Mitchell Diamond, what kind of scientist he is (assuming he even is one and didn’t merely get a bachelors degree or something), I couldn’t really find anything, but I did find it amusing and slightly worrying that the blurbs on his amazon page in favour of his book are from engineers and historians, no evolutionary biologists among them as far as I can tell. And this is a book apparently published in 2013.

  19. says

    There’s a really good chapter about religion in Jared Diamond’s “The World Until Yesterday” that discusses the different functions of religion. He also agrees that religion persists because it is functional for the people that have it. Here’s his list of possible functions:

    1. Explanation
    2. Defusing anxiety
    3. Providing comfort
    4. Standardized organization
    5. Political obedience
    6. Codes of behavior towards strangers
    7. Justifying wars

    And these different functions become more or less valuable over time depending on our level of knowledge and our political organization. I wrote my summary of his chapter here: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/jared-diamond-on-religion/

    I think Mitchell Diamond is only really addressing # 2 and maybe #3 somewhat from this list.

  20. Robert, not Bob says

    @RR #9
    Of course I don’t mean supernatural; I’m a strict materialist. I’ve heard people gush about “transcendence” and “expanded consciousness” and “ecstatic state” all my life, and I guess I’ll just never know if they mean an experience I’ve never had, or just using hyperbolic language about the same ones I have. In any case, no experiences seem qualitatively different from the rest of life, just more intense.

  21. paxoll says

    This rationalization and placement of religion into the realm of evolution seems like mental masturbation to me. On an evolutionary timescale, humans have hardly changed at all since religion has existed, so speaking about it in terms of evolution is ridiculous. To speak of why it changed and exists the way it does today is also ridiculous since writing has existed for only a small fraction of that time and everything else is speculation. Just as useless as speculating a hypothesis that we live in a simulated universe.

  22. Robert, not Bob says

    @paxoll #23
    You’re right, but there’s a difference, in that the science of ancient religion does have some evidence, i.e. grave goods and the example of modern hunter-gatherer cultures. It’s weak, really weak, but way better than what the simulation hypothesis has, which is just an argument from probability.

  23. Mike Davey says

    Faced with the question “What do you think of Sam Harris” the hosts go on about how you (paraphrasing) shouldn’t attack religious people.
    I’ve been listening and reading Sam Harris for a number of years now, I’m not aware of Sam Harris attacking religious people. He does criticize religion and the bad ideas many of them espouse. He has attacked some individuals as being dishonest, like Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur who often appear to deliberately misrepresent Harris’s words.
    Which is something many hosts have done on the Atheist Experience to callers.

  24. Ed Goodman says

    Way to roll with the punches and turn a phone problem into an alternate format! That was actually so good that you may want to do it again.

  25. Murat says

    @Mike Davey
    I disagree with you on Sam Harris. I don’t know about Greenwald, but I can safely say that what Aslan and Uygur did was not “misrepresenting” him, but “exposing” his uncalled-for biases and discriminative approaches, on the reasons of which I have some personal ideas.
    During their very brief exchange of remarks on him, I could not make sure if the reasons the host and the guest were “not sympathetic” towards SH were the same as mine, but I liked the fact that they seemed critical at least.

  26. says

    mike davey @ 25:

    [sam] has attacked some individuals as being dishonest, like Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald and Cenk Uygur who often appear to deliberately misrepresent Harris’s words.

    Which is something many hosts have done on the Atheist Experience to callers.

    as vince vega said in “pulp fiction”: dat’s a bold statement.

  27. says

    @Robert

    It looks like he might be skirting the fallacy of assuming every trait has to have been positively selected for, when many traits exist simply because they haven’t been sufficiently selected against.

    If you’re speaking of traits that are neither positively or negatively selected, then are we talking about neutral traits that are subject to genetic drift? Tracie and I agreed emphatically that religious behavior is evolutionarily resource expensive and could not be selectively neutral. Do you disagree with Dawkins when he says Darwinian selection punishes the smallest extravagance or do you disagree with Tracie and me that religious behavior is evolutionarily expensive?

  28. says

    @SkyCaptain re: Flow
    Excellent point. In my chapter on dance I veer into other forms of movement and explicitly call out MC’s flow. Religion-spiritual experience is certainly not the only behavior that inhibits consciousness. Many have commented, for example, that sports exhibits many characteristics of religion (both participants and observers) and many athletes experience flow as well as musicians, dancers, etc.

    If Diamond is saying the primary benefit of religion (the reason to consider it adaptive) is as a game to quiet the mind… because ritual lacks purpose, that seems almost tautological.

    Sorry if I gave that impression. What I meant is that many people perceive that ritual lacks purpose. I don’t believe that. I certainly wouldn’t call ritual a game.

  29. says

    @Ashlee
    You ask a difficult question about problem solving. Consider that chimps, crows and other animals have shown pretty sophisticated problem-solving ability. While I can’t cite any particular science about this, my bias is that, like a lot of our perceptions about consciousness, we give it a lot more credit than it’s due. I have looked at some of the literature on creativity, and at least some of it (maybe most of it?) does not derive from conscious consideration. It comes serendipitously out of unconscious processes.

  30. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @heicart #17:

    I don’t want to put myself in the position of defending another person’s hypothesis

    Noted. I won’t expect you to continue indulging. Knew I couldn’t have been the first, but figured any responses to the objection might be edifying.
     

    I suggest you check this out, to see how handles some of the more common/obvious objections. […] I plan to pull links to add to the actual original post

    Thank you for responding and adding supplemental info. I didn’t have time to do follow-up research last night.
     

    You: We’re wired to be susceptible to religion.
    Him: That’s not answering the question

    Exactly. I heard him say “We’re wired to be susceptible” on AXP and changed the noun to illustrate how gallingly just-so that is.
     
     
    That lecture link’s audience was EXCELLENT: epiphenomena of genetically acceptable sideffects on subpopulations, reward tickling, unnecessary baggage, etc. I was… disappointed when he responded by spinning their concerns back into his own thesis.
     
    Diamond Lecture (1:12:38-1:13:02):

    I said I didn’t want to talk about god belief. That’s a problem, and I need to stop doing that. It’s hard, you get stuck in that discussion. It’s the behaviors that count. There’s a lot of reasons people have religious behaviors – er no, I don’t even want to say that, really. But the point is it’s not about inventing a belief in god.

    Is there even a disagreement???
     
    Diamond Lecture (1:33:28):

    Audience: I don’t think that’s necessarily religious. I think it’s just behavior that can lead to a religion. I also think it’s dangerous. If one calls that religious, it reminds me of calling moral behavior “religious”, because it’s associated with religion.
     
    Diamond: ‘Kay, um… I’m just gonna let that go. That’s fine. Works for me.

    Anticlimactic. Is… that, agreement?
     
    Diamond Lecture (1:35:16):

    Diamond: When I say don’t think about god and beliefs first, that’s not the way to understand religion. It’s about behaviors. […] If we wanna understand this whole phenomenon, […] In order to make it work, we have to make some assumptions […], I’m puttin’ it out there. The fact that we all like music, but we’re not religious. Maybe those religious rituals that started 50,000 years ago (art, music, dance), we’re still doing today. Even though we are not religious in the traditional sense of our own culture, they’re still religious behaviors, and we are doing them. So maybe that’s how we wanna think about religion.
     
    Audience: That’s humanist behavior. That’s not religious behavior.
     
    Diamond: Well, that’s why we redefine what religion means.
    […]
    Diamond (to another questioner): Theatre is one of the ways we tell stories, so I’m including that as a religous behavior.

    Uh-oh.
     
    (1:41:50):

    Audience: When you called it religion, you’re putting baggage on it, and baggage that doesn’t belong on it probably.
     
    Diamond: We can back up and ask the question: what is religion, where’d it begin, if religion is belief in god or not? Or if religion is about behaviors?
     
    Audience: And that’s my point. When you look at the Neandertal evidence of burial sites, you don’t know what that’s associated with belief in a god. You don’t know what it’s associated with. You know that it’s a behavior that we also have remnants of today. And we associate it with religion.
     
    Diamond: Well but then the question becomes: when they put tributes in the grave, why do they provision the grave of a dead person?
     
    Audience: And that’s how you’re gonna get to the answer.
     
    Diamond: Well, and the answer is because they believe that person is gonna have an afterlife, and he needs to take his stuff with him in his grave to go to the next life. That to me is a hell of an indication that they have some kind of religious concept at that point.

    Let’s not talk about beliefs, focus on behavior. Mind-read Neandertals. -_-
     
    THAT was how he ended the video, after an hour-and-a-half. He’s clearly put a lot of effort into promoting his project. It’s just frustrating that he’s so glib.
     
    The audience tried asking why he was doing all this (speculating at the origin of religion, however he’s defined it) – offering their own reason for attending the club by example. His response was climbing a mountain because it’s there.

  31. Ashlee says

    @Murat

    That’s a good point. When religions were first constructed it may not have been viewed as reducing conscious thought, but in fact seen it as using conscious thought to provide explanations for things. The way I interpreted it, was that Mitchell was hypothesising that there’s more to the origins of religion than simply answering questions about things we didn’t have the means to understand historically, because it also caters to an emotional need. I am curious as to why that emotional need wasn’t catered to in another way. Perhaps it could have been catered to another way, but religious rituals were the ways which were memetically spread the easiest. Granted, it is a very complex issue, and both the answers it provided people with, and the emotional satisfaction it provided likely had some involvement in religions’ origins.

  32. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @heicart #17:

    if I understand him correctly, everything you posted about “flow” would fall under that model. He is not interested in the social/cultural phenomenon of “religion.” He is asking why the [altered state] exists, seemingly exclusively in people

    Related…
     
    Article: Science Daily – Getting into the flow, Sexual pleasure is a kind of trance (2016)

    Adam Safron, a neuroscientist […] reviewed related studies and literature over many years to come up with a model [of neural entrainment]
    […]
    if sexual stimulation is intense enough and goes on long enough, synchronized activity could spread throughout the brain.
     
    This synchrony may produce such intensely focused attention that sexual activity outcompetes usual self-awareness for access to consciousness, so producing a state of sensory absorption and trance. This may be crucial for allowing for a sufficient intensity of experience to trigger the mechanisms of climax.
    […]
    rhythmic inputs into high-bandwidth sensory channels resulted in an explosive process after certain stimulation thresholds were surpassed.
     
    “And although obvious in retrospect, I wasn’t expecting to find that sexual activity was so similar to music and dance, not just in the nature of the experiences, but also in that evolutionarily, rhythm-keeping ability may serve as a test of fitness for potential mates.”
    […]
    “This paper provides a level of mechanistic detail that was previously lacking.”

     
    /In fairness, I also take Safron’s obligatory evo-psych speculation with a grain of salt.

  33. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Great, so the fanboys are here to talk about their “misrepresented” faves and how those that bring forth the issues they have with their statements are “jealous.”

    Since both Richard and Harris have been misrepresented, it should be easy to pull up these misrepresentations put forward by the hosts and we can all join the “Yay, Harris! Yay, Dawkins!” brigade.

  34. Murat says

    There was something in the beginning of the talk that confused me about what Diamod thought of the people who came up with the holy texts.

    He said that, being kicked out from the garden of Eden upon eating the apple was an allegory for being deprived of mental peace due to developing a new level of cognitive state.

    Matches quite well with how “reformed” versions of Abrahamic religions handle the revelations today.

    So, whoever constructed the allegory was right on the money when determining what the “problem” with human race was.

    The issue on how literally individuals or societies take the texts is another thing. But, if the claim is that the writers themselves had the correct diagnosis, then, it looks like we are talking about some people who had both a notable assessment of how mankind ended up where it was, plus, a really good foresight predicting that the allegory would provide the sufficient dose of inner peace for the common man.

    From what he said, I got the feeling that he sees the prophets as “wise men” who led their folk best as they could, helping them buy into an idea which they themselves knew better than taking seriously.

    OR,

    Did he mean that, the allegory was a working one, yet, it had surfaced in the minds of prophets NOT thanks to a thorough observation of the situation, but thanks to some kind of altered state they personally experienced?

    It can go both ways.

    – The allegory is a good one, because prohpets were ahead of their communities and read well why humankind was placed rather differently in the nature it shared with many other animals.

    – The allegory is a good one, because in our genes we all carry the knowledge of how humankind evolved, especially in terms of cognitive features, and this knowledge surfaces through experiencing altered states, like those reached in certain rituals and/or as a result of being exposed to substances – either or both of which may have been the case with prophets.

    I’d like to know which one he actually meant.

  35. says

    @Daniel Engblom

    what kind of scientist he is (assuming he even is one and didn’t merely get a bachelors degree or something)

    You’re right. I don’t have a PhD and I’m not a professional scientist. So if that makes my ideas unworthy of consideration, then there’s no need to continue the discussion.

  36. Daniel Engblom says

    I completely forgot about his theological ramblings about metaphors in the bible and somehow that being worth taking seriously in a scientific context. Leave that to the theologians and their ecstatic mental masturbations about their fairytales.

    And to elaborate on the “gotcha” moment Mitchell presented against Dawkins saying on the one hand how wasteful and needless religion is and then characterizing natural selection as a very scrupulous force weeding out the bad. When we are talking about the modern manifestation of the wasteful religions there’s no reason to think that evolution has had the time to work on religion itself, at least in its current form, or the form it took when civilizations arose. And don’t forget the form our wasteful religions took where nonfollowers were easily sacrificed to gods. What is natural selection going to work on there?

    Mitchell claiming that there’s no model for byproducts in nature whilst bringing up the vestigial organs and the moth and the flame, and the chimpanzee waving branches at a storm was horribly blind of him. The branch waving especially was an example directly worth translating to humans, the adaptations being towards their environment filled with other agents with their own goals, desires and motivations, and this being the vast majority of our and other social creatures interactions, it becomes much more understandable how we overextend this purposeful mindset into areas where it isn’t suitable, a byproduct as the name implies of another unrelated function.

    Where are the biologists in this conversation?

  37. says

    So, the good news is that I was able to reach out to our lecture coordinator and supply this thread link to Mr. Diamond. He has responded to several posts above, and I hope this helps progress the conversations. Please bear in mind that responses are time intensive, and that there are many people on this thread, and only one Mr. Diamond. 🙂

  38. says

    Diamond singled out “music, dance, art, mythology and prayer” and said there isn’t any obvious evolutionary purpose. He even said they few “seemingly done for no reason at all.” How can you just dimes those without thinking of reproduction? All you have to do is look at birds to see that music and dance can make you more attractive to a mate. On a human level it would make you more popular and thus more attractive. Seems like he’s making a big overstep just so he can push his particular views on cognition.

  39. Radius export says

    Why did Tracie even bother to talk to this guy since he is not a scientist?
    She should have told him off that his points are irrelevant like in her previous show.

  40. says

    I’m listening to this episode as I type find the discussion on consciousness to be the most interesting conversation I’ve heard on AthExp — especially in the pre-calls segment. The only other place I hear such informed and thoughtful discussion on such topics is on Sam Harris’ podcast. It’s funny that one of the questions was about Harris, and it’s frustrating that the host and guest are not aware of his podcast.
    Sam has been maligned in the culture for his thoughts about Islam, and many have demonized and shunned him as a result. Please listen to a few episodes of Waking Up with Sam Harris podcast before you make up your mind, as any skeptic would. If you do, you’re likely to discover the most compelling, intellectual and relevant conversations happening today.

  41. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @darwinsapple #32:

    What I meant is that many people perceive that ritual lacks purpose.

    I’ll rephrase in hopes of receiving more informative feedback.
     
    If Diamond is saying the primary benefit of religion (the reason to consider it adaptive) is as a game to quiet the mind… because ritual [is seemingly non-utilitarian], that seems almost tautological.
     

    I certainly wouldn’t call ritual a game.

    You called Death of a Salesman religious (all theatre, poetry, storytelling, etc), but rituals certainly can’t be a game to elicit emotions, both soothing and exciting, both entertaining and therapeutic?
     
    How do you distinguish “game” from “ritual” based solely on behavior and biological reflexes?

  42. RationalismRules says

    @Darwin’sapple #31

    do you disagree with Tracie and me that religious behavior is evolutionarily expensive?

    I don’t automatically accept this. It is possible that it brought benefits that neutralize the expense – community bonding and reduction in anxiety of the unknown are two examples I can think of.
    On the face of it, homosexuality also appears to be evolutionarily extravagent, but clearly it hasn’t been eliminated either.

  43. Monocle Smile says

    @RR
    I agree with you, and I think there’s actually a decent amount of research on this. It doesn’t matter how “expensive” behavior is if it results in a high enough survival/reproductive advantage, and I think it’s pretty clear that the community aspect of early religions did indeed confer such an advantage to participants.

  44. Violet Chaolan says

    I attempted to call in a while back to inform Matt Dillahunty of these studies done with psilocybin inducing what neuroscientists are calling a “mystical experience,” and Matt denied the research! I’m glad finally that The Atheist Experience has finally addressed what is legitimate science. Matt’s scheduled to host next, that would be interesting to see Matt follow up to the content discussed in this particular episode instead of flailing his own agenda.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2wLWFsiGvo&lc=z130i5ugfxyufzd1a23ac1uapynusrqsa

  45. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    @ #20 (Drew G.:)

    Utube’s comment section is anything but forward, lmfao. You even acknowledge the inability to properly regulate it. Since you’re so forward, a decent antivirus system(the paid kind) must be on your device, no?

    @ #46 (Violet Chaolan:)

    Haha, so again, you’ll be getting a “So what?”

    Also why’s your agenda valuable to anyone on the show? Do you think that you’re giving us insight that deters from atheism?

    There was someone else with this “perinneal philosophy” thing in a prior thread and they didn’t yield anything that persuaded anyone. Most people here don’t care about “spirituality” or the extra aspects resulting from drug use(when it comes to atheism.)

  46. says

    #43-45
    Without a doubt social cohesion/group cooperation is a very popular explanation for the benefits of religion, and I agree that it is part of the religious experience. However, as Tracie so eloquently said, this is a feature of religion but not the cause of it. Rather than rehash my argument here, I laid out my criticism of the social cohesion aspect of religion in this article.

  47. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @darwinsapple #48:
    Fixed that link. Original was author’s eyes only, for editing.
     
    Article: Mitchell Diamond – Social Cohesion is Not the Reason for the Origin of Religion

  48. says

    @Sky Captain #43
    You keep wanting to inject or equate ritual with game. I reject the word game in this context based on its common meaning. Rituals including mythology (narrative, storytelling) elicit emotions with the corollary that rituals “swamp working memory” (inhibit consciousness) according to Pascal Boyer and Pierre Lienhard. I ask, why is that? If by taking this evidence and reasserting it while I suggest reasons for why this is, is that tautological? I suppose it is. I’m not claiming much that isn’t apparent from the evidence. But when people claim religion is for social cohesion or existential anxieties, they’re skipping over the rudimentary manifestations, which is, (tautologically?) physiological (emotions) and neurological (working memory). That’s where it starts and where we have to establish the basis for religious ritual behavior.

  49. Violet Chaolan says

    @ #46 (Violet Chaolan:)
    Haha, so again, you’ll be getting a “So what?”
    Also why’s your agenda valuable to anyone on the show? Do you think that you’re giving us insight that deters from atheism?
    There was someone else with this “perinneal philosophy” thing in a prior thread and they didn’t yield anything that persuaded anyone. Most people here don’t care about “spirituality” or the extra aspects resulting from drug use(when it comes to atheism.)

    I’d only be getting a “so what?” from yourself. The science has demonstrated that the “mystical experience” lies at the very basis of all the major religions. That originally, at the very nascency of the major religions, what has been called God, Brahman, nirvana, etc. had always been an utterance born out of this phenomenon in consciousness. People may not care about spirituality, but anyone following this research know that in the context of Psychology of Religion “spirituality” refers quite emphatically to these specific altered states of consciousness which neuroscientists today are referring as “mystical experience.” Your casual attitude of “so what” only reveals that you’ve not examined what has been demonstrated by science.

  50. Murat says

    @darwinsapple
    Even though the sentence did not end with a question mark, I had posed a question, too, about one of your initial statements on the show.

  51. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @darwinsapple #51:

    You keep wanting to inject or equate ritual with game.

    I’ve been writing considerably more, aside from that, but editing it all away. An attempt to reduce the tedious bloat of “Is this what you mean?” variant paraphrasings in favor of a socratic probe using what was already at hand.
     
    No matter. All the private iterations of paraphrasing has reached my effort/significance threshold, so I won’t bother you further.

  52. paxoll says

    @Violet Chaolan The causal attitude of “so what” (which I agree with) is this… “mystical” or “spiritual” experiences are shall we say common in most forms of religion. 1) science can’t prove that someones “spiritual” religious experience is just an alteration in brain function simply because it is similar to peoples experience on drugs. So this is not going to matter to any religious persons opinion of their own possible experiences. Matt has had “spiritual” experiences in church, and has as an atheist looked at those experiences rationally and still recognizes that you are not going to prove all those experiences are drug like brain malfunctions. 2) these “spiritual” or “mystical” experiences tell us nothing about truth or evidence. If a thousand person church down to the last person all felt a “spiritual” experience at the same point of a hymn song, it would mean nothing about the truth of what was in the hymn. What value does replicating these experiences with drugs have to atheists? 3) So I can imagine a likely argument that says, well this “mystical” or “spiritual” experience leads to a sense of wellbeing, therefore identifying all the triggers for this altered brain state would lead to less people needing religion to accomplish it. Except that is NOT what happens. People take drugs, feel “spiritual” then chase down a religion that gives them the same experience without the drug. It also leads people (because they are in an altered brain state) to believe in things that are not rational such as calling it a “mystical” experience. So the point is valid, and still remains…..SO WHAT?

  53. RationalismRules says

    @Violet Chaolan

    The science has demonstrated that the “mystical experience” lies at the very basis of all the major religions.

    Citation please.
    (Note: Not just speculation, please, an actual demonstrated link to the origins of the major religions, as per your claim)

  54. RationalismRules says

    @darwinsapple
    I don’t disagree with your fundamental thesis – it makes perfect sense to me that ‘easing of existential angst’ is one of the main seeds of religion, although I’ve never thought about it in evolutionary terms. What I don’t understand is your claim that religious belief is evolutionarily extravagent, and therefore cannot be a neutral trait. What is the cost that you see?

    Compare with my earlier example – homosexuality. It’s easy to see that this is evolutionarily extravagent, yet it persisted. What am I missing here?

  55. says

    Disclaimer: I’m only about 15 minutes in and my comment is in regards to what I heard around that time. If something was said afterwards that addresses my concern, then I apologize, but I wanted to get this thought out before I lose it! 🙂 (Also, if something has been said in the comments above, I also did not read most of those.)

    I’m not fully sure I agree with @darwinsapple (Mitchell Diamond) that Dawkins and Pinker are saying religion is a byproduct of something that was never functional. I honestly don’t remember Dawkins’ argument and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Pinker’s, so I can’t say for sure if this claim is accurate. What I do remember, though, is Michael Shermer’s attempts to explain religion and other things as a byproduct. His argument was that ancient humans would have been better off to believe rustling in the grass was a predator and not just the wind. If they believe it was just the wind, they may end up as lunch, which is obviously disadvantageous. In other words, it was better to believe there is agency even though there may not actually be agency. (Now, I suspect Shermer would recognize that one can’t always be believing there is agency as that would effectively be paranoia, which would also be disadvantageous. So there would have to be a limit to the number of false-positives.) It’s not hard to then see how, as humans gained further cognitive ability, how this function of being more prone to seeing agency would then lead to humans believing in gods being responsible for things that happen.

    Like I said, I don’t recall/know Dawkins’ and Pinker’s arguments, but I have seen arguments that do address the idea of this being a byproduct of something that was functional.

    Skimming some of the comments above, I wonder if this could be complementary to Mr. Diamond’s idea of suppressing thoughts (or whatever the claim is). I guess I’ll have to continue listening to the show and find out! 🙂

  56. Daniel Engblom says

    @darwinsapple
    Tracie and I agreed emphatically that religious behavior is evolutionarily resource expensive and could not be selectively neutral. Do you disagree with Dawkins when he says Darwinian selection punishes the smallest extravagance or do you disagree with Tracie and me that religious behavior is evolutionarily expensive?

    Would a scientist hide behind Tracie? Can’t you defend your own words? I doubt Tracie asked to be your shield against criticism, for all I know she could have felt that she wasn’t an authority on the subject or even familiar with it and wasn’t in a position to question and evaluate your claims properly.
    (And I explained how your apparent conflict between Natural Selection punishing the smallest extravagance and religion being expensive is solved once you realize we are looking at modern manifestations of religious behaviour and also factor in other behaviours like maybe epidemiology of beliefs and how homicidal cults could potentially be.)

    You’re right. I don’t have a PhD and I’m not a professional scientist. So if that makes my ideas unworthy of consideration, then there’s no need to continue the discussion.

    Your ideas are poorly thought out and expressed. Your attitude has been glib and hostile. And you have no credibility.
    So I ask you: In any other position, would you take yourself seriously?

    I honestly don’t quite understand why anyone above in the comments continue to take Mitchell Diamond seriously. Usually Tracie, Matt, Russell– Anyone on the show would have asked if they went and talked to another biologist about it as they are not experts and feel that having someone talk authoritatively on a scientific topic without any credentials is potentially misinforming and won’t lead anywhere as a conversation with the hosts.

    So yes, if we continue this discussion it will be two nonbiologists talking about biology, arguing about if some other biologist is wrong on a subject and your pet theory is right. What a fruitful conversation, that will surely advance everyone’s understanding about biology and psychology.

  57. Murat says

    @Leo Buzalsky
    Good point.
    Let’s take one step forward and say that, among the explanations this hypothesis needs is also one that can fill in on humankind’s history with its “observable, flesh-and-blood” gods.
    Many religions were built on taking fierce creatures as actual deities. Tying a virgin girl to a pole and waiting for the tiger to eat her is not just a ritual with superstitious expectations, but also a rational practice that will secure the remainder of the villagers for a while as the beast will already be fed up temporarily.
    They have probably applied the same logic to their relationship with the gods in the sky.
    How does suppression of cognitive features fit into this?

  58. Murat says

    @Daniel Engblom
    You have a right to ask for credentials but remember that there are people with degrees in related fields who still stick to creationism, or even to its more narrowed-down mythologies.
    Degrees, by virtue alone, do not elevate the solid ground for criticism.
    With regards to refuting Diamond’s ideas, a consensus in the world of science would be “notable” only, and not “definite”.

  59. Daniel Engblom says

    @Murat
    My quip about credentials was initially a small side note, the only point Mitchell addressed, but put that together with all my other criticism and the arrogance of Mitchell to claim actual scientists to be mistaken (falsely, as I explained above), and I do think everyone can safely dismiss his claims as nonscientific.
    And now you are using typical creationist tactics by trying to drag science down and downplay the importance of scientific consensus and simply the dialogue between scientists hashing out ideas and evidence.

  60. Murat says

    @Daniel Engblom
    No, I would find it “notable” to see that the consensus among scientiests is in opposition to his ideas.
    Besides, as you may see in the questions I posed above, I see in his take some void areas. But I have no counter-argument as I myself am not a scientist, plus, I have not read his book.
    All I can do is ask.

  61. Daniel Engblom says

    @Murat
    I doubt any scientist would care enough to be in opposition given how in its most basic form Mitchell is advocating for an idea as old as Freud, that scary things like thoughts of death are the cause for religious experiences. A bland, shallow description at best of what can happen when people are faced with fears. Hardly an evolutionary theory for why it would evolve.
    Mixed in of course with his hostile attitude against all other scientific ideas on the origins of religion.

  62. Dr Dave Johnson PhD says

    I found a lot of what Mitchell Diamond said very interesting.
    There was something specific I wanted to ask about – Tracie mentioned an experiment or study where cats were able to recognise about eight moving dots as another cat. That sounds really interesting and I’d like to know more about it, but I wasn’t able to find it with google. Could anyone post a link to the study?
    Anyway, great episode.

  63. says

    @Radius:
    >Why did Tracie even bother to talk to this guy since he is not a scientist? She should have told him off that his points are irrelevant like in her previous show.

    I actually asked him at the get-go to give his background in order to supply context for everyone watching, so that his level of expertise was clear and not misrepresented. In fact, when I was investigating him, “what level of expertise does he have?” was a question I looked into. He has a degree in biology, but does not work as a biologist. And he has publicly published a work of his thesis, which is available for criticism by everyone–including biologists with higher level degrees.

    I find the lack of respect and regard for higher education–outright disrespect for scientific vetting–surprising when it comes from a viewer of our program. Next time you have a question about medicine, ask your next door neighbor, not your doctor or someone with a medical-related degree–as you appear to think their opinions would be just as valid?

    Additionally, if you think “he doesn’t have a degree” is the reason I was dismissive of the caller–you weren’t paying attention. He called to say he wanted to lay out a proof relevant to the existence of god that relied on argument from ignorance and circular reasoning, which then — by his own admission — would lead us to a conclusion that we still don’t have any better understanding of whether a god exists or not.

    While some folks mistook me to mean that *only* arguments regarding the existence of god are relevant to the show, the fact is, the caller made this the context and the relevancy. Going by his own framing, and his own initially summary of where he was planning to take it (conclusion: There may or may not be a god) — his call was useless.

    You can keep bringing it as often as you like on these threads, but don’t expect me to continue to respond to something I responded to (on the appropriate thread) ad nauseam. You may have problems letting it go–but I don’t.

  64. says

    I have added a long list of reference links to the original post, in case anyone would like to do more research on any of these topics. Someone in comments asked about the cat / dot study. I would also really love to find that video / presentation again. It was quite fascinating.

  65. RationalismRules says

    @heicart
    It’s a great idea to add the links to the OP. Thanks for all the work you put in.

  66. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Dr Dave Johnson PhD #69:

    Tracie mentioned an experiment or study where cats were able to recognise about eight moving dots as another cat.

    @heicart #71:

    I would also really love to find that video / presentation again.

    Got it, eventually.
     
    Attempted terms (summarized and comma-separated for clarity): dots|lattice|lines|contour|pattern|pareidolia|illusion|”illusory contours”, face|object discrimination|recognition|perception, cat|feline|non-human|animal, species|conspecifics, image|visual
     
    Thinking “visual recoginition of conspecifics”, I fell down a rabbit hole looking for images. There were of course the early Hubel and Wiesel (1950s) projecting oriented lines and listening to the detector crackle as neurons fired. And Blakemore’s 1973 experience-deprived blindness to either horizontal or vertical lines. There’s footage of both on YouTube. Cats were used for low-level stuff. They can see contour illusions.
     
    Cats weren’t mentioned here, aside from mentioning a lack of carnivore studies.
     
    Article: Journal of Comparative Psychology – A Comparative View of Face Perception (2010)

    This review has focused on the behavioral importance of faces in a wide range of animals. […] We conclude that faces are important for a wide range of animals, as representative species from all vertebrate classes exhibit behavioral responses to faces that differ from those to non-face stimuli. In primates and sheep, for which face perception is highly developed and serves as the foundation of their social exchange, the brain contains neurons in multiple areas that are dedicated to the analysis of faces. Thus for these species, which are the only ones to have been systematically tested, the behavioral importance of faces appears to have fundamentally shaped processing in the visual pathway.
     
    We next asked what types of visual information different animals extract from a face. At the most basic level, horizontally paired dark eyes elicit specific behavioral responses from a wide range of species, including primates, other mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. […] In addition, some species of primates, sheep and birds were shown to extract more complex information from faces, such as species or individual identity, the direction of gaze, or the level of aggression, with primates showing the most sophisticated face-reading behavior.
     
    In choosing animal models for biological research, there is a trade-off between depth and breadth of study. Systems and behavioral neuroscience has opted for depth, and has invested monumental effort into a small number of animal models. […] If not for Kendrick’s investigation in sheep, there would be no evidence that non-primate brains were specialized for perceiving complex visual stimuli, let alone faces. In the future, exploration of face processing in other animals, such as prosimians, carnivores, diurnal rodents, and marsupials, would be of great value for interpreting the currently available neurophysiological data from the temporal cortex of primates and sheep.

     
    Then I remembered *forehead slap* MOVING dots, like human gaits measured via mocap ping pong ball suits.
     
    Article: Psychological Science – Cats Perceive Biological Motion (1993, paywalled)

    With behavioral techniques, cats were trained to discriminate a point-light animation sequence [of 14 bright dots] depicting biological motion (i.e., a cat walking) from an animation sequence consisting of equivalent local motion vectors lacking the global synchrony present in the biological-motion sequence (i.e., “foil” displays). Successful discrimination was evidenced for even the most difficult foil display and for different versions of the biological-motion sequence, indicating that cats are able to extract the higher order kinematic invariants embodied in these novel motion displays.

    That’s the term to look for.

  67. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Oops, forgot to make that link clickable. JSTOR lets you see the first page.
     
    Article: Psychological Science – Cats Perceive Biological Motion (1993, paywalled)
     
     
    * Unpaywall doesn’t have it. Sci-Hub does, for those who don’t mind going there.

  68. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    @ #52. (Monocle Smile:)

    I honestly didn’t even think about it, it isn’t unlikely though, since there’s only been 1 prominent advocate for it here(that I’ve noticed.)

    @ #56. (Violet Chaolan:)

    Hey, if you’re the same person from the previous thread, I’d like to welcome you back!

    And yeah, I can definitely confirm my reaction of, “So what?” as only my own(and paxoll(#58) so shoutout to them) and according to you, we’ve reaffirmed that altered brain states are a thing and that religious people have experience with it and their experiences have been noted(I recall a mention of atheist(s?) also and that leads to…experiences in an altered brain state? If so, we get it.

    It’s just not striking me as a groundbreaking revelation or even as something that requires much attention(for a commoner, like myself.) I appreciate that you value their work and that you have a passion for it but that doesn’t make it relevant to the show as far as adding something new to the discussion(that is, since your last call.)

    To reiterate: the brain can be fiddled with, said fiddling can lead to some weird stuff, said weird stuff is happening in the brain, it can happen to most of us that use a hallucinegen, and this isn’t changing that either a god exists or not(which is okay.)

    @ #59. (RationalismRules:) Puhaha! 😀

  69. indianajones says

    Chiming in on the ‘so what’ thing
    There is an awful lot of structural/engineering/architectural stuff that made great strides in the building of temples/mosques/cathedrals/pyramids.
    Similarly in mob psychology ie how to motivate and organise large groups of people.
    Renaissance/Egyptian art/language too.
    Books even, printing press something something, sure!

    I’d be willing to bet that they all would have happened anyway at least eventually but religion was a driving force. That is well and truly conceded.

    All these things would have taken longer or been done by other means were it not for religion. So what?

  70. Murat says

    “So what?” seems to be the worst question to ask in almost in every case, especially for the people who declare to value scientific processes and inquisitive ways of thinking.

  71. Daniel Engblom says

    “So what?” is a perfectly reasonable question to pose when faced with banal deepities favoured by new age woomeisters and other cranks who haven’t thought beyond the barest surface level on a subject.

    When you are a materialist, and you truly accept that the mind is what the brain does, any statement given as profound revelation about spotting brain activity linked to experiences we know we have, is utterly trivial in nature, that in itself tells us nothing worth value, you have to look deeper if you truly want to learn something.
    But it’s hard to shake those dualistic notions from our minds, and constantly the first reaction, even from relatively smart people, is amazement when faced with a picture of a brain telling us that there’s activity for this or that experience/emotion/thought a person went through.
    You take a powerful drug, that obviously by sheer chemistry has a wide disruptive effect on your brainchemistry, so you have a powerful experience. That in itself is of no interest if we are already on the same board about there being no souls, no separate consciousness, just matter and minds being information processing of one kind or another in the brain.
    Sure, there’s other factors in there like how a drug screws with our brains, those details can be interesting, but when faced with a person who can’t get over the simple fact that a drug is actually messing with their brain, you can reasonably ask “so what?”.

    What would be truly groundbreaking would be to find no evidence in the brain of an experience that we can have. Now that’s worth writing home about.

  72. Bizzy Bone says

    @paxoll

    @Violet Chaolan The causal attitude of “so what” (which I agree with) is this… “mystical” or “spiritual” experiences are shall we say common in most forms of religion. 1) science can’t prove that someones “spiritual” religious experience is just an alteration in brain function simply because it is similar to peoples experience on drugs. So this is not going to matter to any religious persons opinion of their own possible experiences.

    I’d simply tell you what I told Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that is your attitude of “so what” simply reveals your ignorance on these topics. You seem as though you’re only being introduced to these studies. I, on the other hand, have been following this research for a little over a decade. And, by the way, this scientific research on the mystical experience has a rich history initiating with the work of William James in the early 1900s. You’re assuming a definition of “spiritual” in the context of your statements. As I pointed out in my post prior to this post, I explained that within the context of Psychology of Religion and Neurotheology, the term “mystical experience” or “spiritual experience” are related to mysticism. Mysticism involves techniques and disciplines to invoke these very specific altered states of consciousness which neuroscientists today are calling “mystical experience.” So, in this sense, science has shown that these specific altered states of consciousness is essentially what spirituality is about in the context of mysticism, and mysticism can be found practiced in all of the world’s major religions.

    Matt has had “spiritual” experiences in church, and has as an atheist looked at those experiences rationally and still recognizes that you are not going to prove all those experiences are drug like brain malfunctions.

    Matt has never had this experience. You’re making very misleading and false assumptions about these altered states. I don’t think any neuroscientist involved in the scientific endeavor to understand “mystical experience” would characterize the experience as a “drug-like brain malfunction.” That’s merely a cynical point-of-view taken on such things as entheogens. My advice would be to actually study the studies. Look into this stuff yourself, because your statements involve a lot of assumptions that are simply irrelevant. You’re also assuming that you cannot have these type of experiences without psychedelics. You see, the findings of the more recent studies have emphasized that the psilocybin-induced “mystical experience” in volunteers is virtually identical to naturally occurring non-drug “mystical experience.” So, the speculation now among neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. who are directly involved with or follow this research is that in the case of the naturally occurring mystical experience brought about by deep meditation, asceticism, it’s also speculated to occur in near-death is that this natural event may be mediated by a release of endogenous N,N-DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which our own bodies make.

    2) these “spiritual” or “mystical” experiences tell us nothing about truth or evidence.

    In the major religions, mystical experience is regarded as insight to the highest truth. It is also associated with that which is fundamental in nature. What is true is this experience, a tried-and-true phenomenon in consciousness which scientists have only scratched the surface.

    If a thousand person church down to the last person all felt a “spiritual” experience at the same point of a hymn song, it would mean nothing about the truth of what was in the hymn.

    Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the collective mystical experience invoked in all these individuals necessarily means anything about the hymn. In fact, this does happen in temples, but hymns usually aren’t used, but rather mantras. The purpose of the mantra is not to be sung for its meaning, but to aid in meditation and silence the mind by destroying all thoughts by dissolving them within the sound just like the destruction of the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.

    What value does replicating these experiences with drugs have to atheists?

    You obviously haven’t been following this research, and unfortunately Mitchell Diamond whom I was just introduced to in this last episode, and totally admire his work. I am purchasing his book, indeed. Well, there’s a more recent study that Mitchell or Tracie didn’t bring up that they very easily could have in this last episode. They brought up a study done by Griffiths in 2006 which is interesting, and although it’s out-dated now, still very relevant today. In a more recent study led by Griffiths that was published this year, 2017, actually involved self-confirmed atheists as volunteers to sign-up for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheists? After this event, the atheists no longer identified as atheists. So, you still want to discuss the value of replicating these experiences?

    3) So I can imagine a likely argument that says, well this “mystical” or “spiritual” experience leads to a sense of wellbeing, therefore identifying all the triggers for this altered brain state would lead to less people needing religion to accomplish it.

    The science has shown time and time again that it certainly leads to well-being or what Ralph Smart calls “becoming the greatest version of yourself” is definitely an influence from this experience. It’s helped terminally-ill cancer patients who’ve only months to live come to terms with their own finality, it’s helped long-term smokers quit smoking without recidivism, it’s had great efficacy with depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. It’s helped even healthy volunteers have greater patience, appreciation, more open-mindedness, etc., etc. An even more recent study have shown that psilocybin can regrow brain cells, so there’s promise for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, etc. However, I wouldn’t necessarily separate “mystical experience” from religion. Religion may be the byproduct of individuals such as Jesus, Muhammad, Gautama, Plotinus, etc. who had sometime in their lifetime a mystical experience, perhaps several of these experiences, and this is essentially influenced each one of these men to become the founder of a religion.

    Except that is NOT what happens. People take drugs, feel “spiritual” then chase down a religion that gives them the same experience without the drug.

    Not necessarily. Perhaps in some cases, as in the case of Richard Alpert who adopted a form of eastern philosophy and dropped his use of psychedelics. I can see how a mystic living long ago practicing say Christian mysticism suddenly has a “mystical experience,” and perhaps this mystic may not be familiar with other religions, and so he might attribute his mystical experience to his specific religion. However, if they’re slightly more informed, I believe what people eventually realize after this experience is what has historically been expressed as The Perennial philosophy. Plotinus, the great Greek philosopher, recognized that what the major Greek philosophers of his time practiced as Henosis, what I suppose neuroscientists today are referring to as a “mystical experience,” gave him insight to what he referred to as “The One.” But he recognized the “The One” is essentially synonymous with all the other utterance that reference one and the same thing, such as “Brahman.” Brahman was simply the Hindus term for what Plotinus was calling “The One.” Samadhi was the Hindu’s term for what the ancient Greek philosophers referred to as Henosis or what we’re calling today a “mystical experience.” You see, the ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, Plotinus, etc. criticized the mainstream religion of Zeus and his offspring, and considered authentic religion to be an engagement with mystical experience.” So that Plotinus’ notion of the divine isn’t born out of the fanciful imagination as you have with Zeus, but rather is construed or interpreted through the mystical altered state of consciousness.

    It also leads people (because they are in an altered brain state) to believe in things that are not rational such as calling it a “mystical” experience. So the point is valid, and still remains…..SO WHAT?

    Again, your retort of “So, What?” I feel only reveals your nescience on these topics. In these studies, the volunteers didn’t refer to their experience as “mystical.” The neuroscientists are labeling this very specific altered state of consciousness as “mystical experience.” The volunteers express themselves and the neuroscientists recognize characteristics that are definitive for “mystical experience.” I believe it’s misleading to say that the volunteers actually use this term “mystical” to describe their experience. In fact, none of them did. This term “mystical experience” is simply the label neuroscientists have put on this very specifically defined altered state of consciousness.

    @RationalismRules

    @Violet Chaolan

    The science has demonstrated that the “mystical experience” lies at the very basis of all the major religions.

    Citation please.
    (Note: Not just speculation, please, an actual demonstrated link to the origins of the major religions, as per your claim)

    Well, first of all, this isn’t my claim, it is the claim of neuroscientists involved in this research. I did link to a talk given by Roland Griffiths in the second post I laid out on this thread. Roland Griffiths takes the time to elucidate what just precisely entails a “mystical epxerience,” and in the about section of that talk, you’ll find the peer-reviewed material.

    What they’re comparing is the accounts of their volunteers to the accounts of “mystical experience” reported by mystics throughout the ages in various scripture throughout all the major religions, and they’ve found that the reports form their volunteers are virtually indistinguishable of those mystical experiences that have been reported by mystics throughout history.

    To quote Roland Griffiths:

    The finding that psilocybin can occasion, in most people studied, mystical-type experiences similar to those that occur naturally, suggests that such experiences are biologically normal, and that such experiences are now amenable to prospective scientific study. Further research with psilocybin can be expected to provide unique insights into the biology and psychology of mystical experience, and may hold promise as a paradigm-shifting treatment approach. Speculatively, a mediating mechanism (psychological or otherwise) for a transformative perceptual shift after an introvertive mystical experience is that the individual now “knows” (i.e., strongly holds a belief) that a portal to something of inestimable and ultimate value resides within — an access point to a sense of the transcendent, which is variously described in religious traditions as Soul, Holy Spirit, God, Brahman, or Buddha Nature.

    One more thing to add, to be clear what is meant by “mystical-type” is a distinction that Roland makes between those volunteers who met a priori criteria for having a so-called “complete” mystical experience. In other words, everyone had this experience to greater or lesser degree, but over 70% of subjects met criteria on all six phenomenological dimensions that define this experience to constitute a “complete” or “full-spectrum” mystical experience.

  73. Monocle Smile says

    @Bizzy/Kafei/Violet
    Wow, you really think we’re that stupid, don’t you?
    Fuck the fuck off.

  74. says

    Someone contacted me to say they’re getting an error when they try to post their comment, so I’m posting it for them by proxy–for “KJ”:

    I’ve been meaning to write in about trying to define ‘spirituality’ in as broad & inclusive way as possible, so it was interesting to hear it presented by Mitchell Diamond in pretty much the same way I was thinking of it.

    Basically, a spiritual experience is an emotional reaction to the ensue of being connected to something greater than oneself. I’ve felt it from considering myself in relation to humanity as a whole, or even farther, all of Earth’s life. I’ve felt it when trying to comprehend the vastness of the cosmos. The YouTube video “Science Saved My Soul” by Philhellenes has often provoked those feelings even though I’ve watched quite a few times before. It’s weird in the way it seems to mix opposites; being small in one sense but big in another, or recognising that something is complex while feeling like it’s simple.

    Of course I can’t know what anyone else is feeling (but then, I can’t know if they experience the colour blue anything like I do!), but I think that religious people usually attribute the profound-feeling sense of connectedness with their concept of a god, or with their church society and their religion in general.

    Part of my desire to find a definition of ‘spirituality’ broad enough to include me is because it’s one of the virtues presented in Ultima IV and later install,ends of that computer game series. I know that will sound silly to many people, but it’s important to me because I think that game had a big impact on my moral & ethical development. (Also, shout out to Denis, since I recall seeing the name ‘Loubet’ on much of the art). It was a fantasy game and thus included supernatural stuff like magic, but religion wasn’t really part of it, just a sort of personal quest to understand and exemplify the virtues. Most of the advancement you got in the area of spirituality was rather meta, as it came from working on the overall quest itself, and consulting other characters on how they perceived the virtues.

    Several years ago, Dale McGowan presented a similar definition in his blog ‘The Meming of Life’.
    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=7300

    ###

  75. Murat says

    “So what?” is a perfectly reasonable question to pose when faced with banal deepities favoured by new age woomeisters and other cranks who haven’t thought beyond the barest surface level on a subject.

    Reasonable or not, it’s the WORST you can come up with.
    This is not particularly about an ongoing quarrel on whether altered states can be induced via drugs and whether this should be called a mystical experience yada yada yada…
    It’s simply about what kind of an attitude one of the sides is choosing to lead their argument with.
    If the point is to express that the ideas or facts the other is coming up with are irrelevant to a particular outcome, then you should first make sure if both sides are caring about or projecting the very same outcome.
    I like it when people debate over issues providing each other with different angles and examples, but I just don’t understand the trend of sowhatting.
    You can pump up a sowhatting approach right after any idea you oppose, and that just doesn’t serve the explanatory power of your language, not the least bit.

  76. Monocle Smile says

    @Murat

    I like it when people debate over issues providing each other with different angles and examples, but I just don’t understand the trend of sowhatting.

    I don’t have infinite time, patience, or effort to expend. It’s really, really, really simple. I have a limited number of fucks to give.

  77. Daniel Engblom says

    Don’t know of what trend you are talking about Murat or what you mean by “You can pump up a sowhatting approach right after any idea you oppose, and that just doesn’t serve the explanatory power of your language, not the least bit.” A very strange sentence in my mind.

    “So what?” can serve as a wake up call for someone, a way to shake a person and make them re-evaluate on the spot what they found so impressive in the first place, force them to think on their feet.
    I find that to be a good way to clean up right from the start many unmentioned muddying assumptions behind so called profound revelations.

    (I do notice this approach falling on deaf ears though above with a certain commenter who is merely rambling on on autopilot on a certain topic using this as their soapbox. Also find it creepy that they already admire Mitchell Diamonds work from so little exposure just because they found that hint of validation for their obsession.)

  78. RationalismRules says

    @Bizzy Bone

    Well, first of all, this isn’t my claim, it is the claim of neuroscientists involved in this research.

    Of course it’s your claim. You wrote “The science has demonstrated that the “mystical experience” lies at the very basis of all the major religions.” That’s a claim, and you are the one making it, that makes it your claim. If you’re citing someone else’s claim, you phrase it “Roland Griffiths claims…”
     
    So I asked you to back up with citations the demonstrated link between ‘mystical experience’ and the ‘basis of the major religions’. I specifically asked for something other than speculation. So what do you provide?… Speculation. (is anyone actually surprised?)

    You’ll find a very strong clue is in the first word of the sentence linking the two concepts:

    Speculatively a mediating mechanism (psychological or otherwise) for a transformative perceptual shift… which is variously described in religious traditions as Soul, Holy Spirit, God, Brahman, or Buddha Nature.

    If you want people to take your ideas seriously, a good start would be to stop overclaiming. Speculation is not demonstration.

  79. RationalismRules says

    @Murat

    Reasonable or not, it’s the WORST you can come up with.

    I would have thought an unreasonable question would be worse than a reasonable question…

  80. Murat says

    @RR
    It’s not about the quality or the rationality of questions, it’s about how well the reply serves the purpose.
    This short clip on the subject of “being a good communicator” shows well what I intend to express with regards to some outbursts on here that I find uncalled for:

  81. Daniel Engblom says

    Oh god I remember watching that Neil deGrasse Tyson full length interview back in the day and being amazed at how visibly annoyed, frustrated and angry Neil was throughout the entire 1+hour interview, that man was having a really bad day. Coloured his perspective somewhat I’d imagine.
    Are we still having the age-old argument of what method of communication is superior? Can’t you adopt the Matt Dillahunty message of plurality in methods of approach for a plurality of people?

  82. Murat says

    Are we still having the age-old argument of what method of communication is superior? Can’t you adopt the Matt Dillahunty message of plurality in methods of approach for a plurality of people?

    Do you need me to show you the contradiction between these two sentences?

  83. Daniel Engblom says

    Actually yes, I don’t see any contradiction and suspect that you’re seeing something that’s simply not there, or you don’t know of what I’m talking about and interpret my sentences in a completely different light (Dillahunty has talked on the show a couple of times and in a few lectures about all sorts of methods of arguing working for different people).
    What’s the point? You’re simply derailing the thread with whining about how people approach subjects.

  84. Monocle Smile says

    @Murat
    Again, while you somehow have infinite fucks to give, most people don’t and it’s ludicrous to expect otherwise. There’s also no contradiction in those sentences of Daniel’s.

    My purpose behind asking “so what?” is usually to get the other person to either generate a good reason to keep listening or fuck off. Either way, mission accomplished.

  85. RationalismRules says

    @Murat
    If you can’t cope with people expressing a lack of enthusiasm for pie-in-the-sky discussions that have no effect in reality, are you sure you’re on the right forum? It’s kind of par for the course when you’re engaging with a community of skeptics. Perhaps you’d be happier on a philosophy forum.

  86. Paul Money says

    A great show and how fortunate to have a thinker and communicator like Mr Diamond to inspire thought on a day when the phones didn’t work! An hour and 20 minutes of Russell and Don (other products are available) would have been excruciating.
    I learned a lot, kudos to Tracie and Mitchell.

  87. paxoll says

    @Bizzy Bone even though I wasn’t talking to you unless you are also Violet Chaolan, which is probably a violation of the user agreement, I will respond anyway.
    – your attitude of “so what” simply reveals your ignorance on these topics-
    Actually, your attitude reveals the typical over extrapolation of scientific research not supported by actual science, typically found in an uneducated armchair analysis of someone trying to justify their position.

    – As I pointed out in my post prior to this post, I explained that within the context of Psychology of Religion and Neurotheology, the term “mystical experience” or “spiritual experience” are related to mysticism-
    I don’t care what you pointed out prior to this post as I was not responding to you. Also bs terms like this are a pathetic attempt to try and give validity to what is often referred to as pseudoscience. “The use of the term neurotheology in published scientific work is currently uncommon. A search on the citation indexing service provided by Institute for Scientific Information returns five articles. Three of these are published in the journal Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science, while two are published in American Behavioral Scientist.” – WIKI, and then my personal preference of Pubmed which gives 8 articles, from varying dubious journals.

    – Matt has never had this experience.-
    My usage of “spiritual” and “mystical” experiences, are in line with the youtube “research” video you linked where an internet survey was done and people reported “feelings” they described as “god” or “a higher power”. Which is exactly what Matt describes in https://youtu.be/jf_znPHvezg?t=389

    – the findings of the more recent studies have emphasized that the psilocybin-induced “mystical experience” in volunteers is virtually identical to naturally occurring non-drug “mystical experience.-
    This is exactly what I said “What value does replicating these experiences with drugs” and “science can’t prove that someones “spiritual” religious experience is just an alteration in brain function simply because it is similar to peoples experience on drugs”. You also completely ignored the damn argument, just because the experience “feels” the same, does not mean it IS the same.

    – In the major religions, mystical experience is regarded as insight to the highest truth.-
    Why should I give a rats ass what religions regard if they cannot demonstrate that it is true? That bullshit babble about reality being completely subjective and a hallucination of the mind from your youtube link is demonstrably irrelevant when I beat you upside the head with a brick of reality.

    – What is true is this experience, a tried-and-true phenomenon in consciousness which scientists have only scratched the surface.-
    No, I give you a shot of morphine and you will experience the same dissociation and decreased feeling that everyone else who is given morphine experiences. It doesn’t change the truth that you have some damage to your body that is trying to be relayed to your brain as pain. People have similar brains and bodies causing similar experiences, but having the same experience means nothing about whether anything about it is true. Truth is something that can be confirmed through shared reality, if someone is seeing a pink elephant and the other person isn’t one or both people are wrong. I don’t experience “god” or a “higher power” which means I’m wrong, the people claiming it are wrong, or we both are, considering one requires an alteration of brain chemistry through drugs or “mystical” means, I would bet against that one.

    – In a more recent study led by Griffiths that was published this year, 2017, actually involved self-confirmed atheists as volunteers to sign-up for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheists? After this event, the atheists no longer identified as atheists.-
    This is EXACTLY what I said “People take drugs, feel “spiritual” then chase down a religion that gives them the same experience without the drug. It also leads people (because they are in an altered brain state) to believe in things that are not rational such as calling it a “mystical” experience.” Maybe you need me to use the same lingo as the internet survey “research” and said “god” or “higher power”. Oh, and when 3% of a 1000 person sample size, is 74% converted, you are saying 22 out of 30 “self identified atheists” are “converted”, this research is so ridiculous it’s not worth talking about.

    – The science has shown time and time again that it certainly leads to well-being –
    So do lots of other drugs, it is completely irrelevant to theism/atheism. It does not provide any good evidence for or against the existence of god. It does nothing to tell us any truth about reality, what it tells us, which I would hope everyone already knows, is that drugs and behavioral therapy (mystical practices) can alter your thinking, mood, behavior and beliefs.

    I would take a wild stab that you have taken mushrooms in the past, have had a “mystical” experience, believe it has made you a better person, and follow this research because you want scientists to prove you are right. Why don’t you get off the atheists experience blog and go comment on the internet research survey.

  88. Vivec says

    @91

    Actually yes, I don’t see any contradiction

    Strictly speaking, there is some hypocrisy between asking “Why are we bothering to argue over which approach is better?” and the proposing Matt’s approach.

  89. Daniel Engblom says

    @Vivec:
    “Strictly speaking, there is some hypocrisy between asking “Why are we bothering to argue over which approach is better?” and the proposing Matt’s approach.”

    Not adopting Matt’s approach, the message he’s talked about on multiple occasions about there being all kinds of people in this large world with 8 billion people, and for some people the seductive soft approach is the only thing that will convince them, for others a more blunt, direct and hard approach will feel more honest and convincing for them.

    You do you.
    Just like it’s unreasonable to ask of everyone to support every single good cause out there, be it charities for Environmental Protection, Cancer Research, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Women’s Rights in particular, Children’s Rights, the list goes on. No one has the time, money or empathic capacity to be able to equally care for all in an efficient manner.
    If every single person on this planet could just adopt one cause and contribute a small part for it, those 8 billion could quickly split up to specialize and boost all to such a degree that overall everyone could do a lot of good.
    If you feel that being blunt and harsh with the cold hard truth isn’t working for you then that’s completely fine, work on what works for you, you’re still working on spreading clearer thinking and rationality, and for others other methods and tools will work better in spreading rationality.
    If one person turns another away by their methods, it’s not the end of the world, they can still turn to another person who ends up showing up in the right time under the right light to make all of those ways of thinking finally click with them. And that is in the end a win for all.

    I asked rhetorically in a tired fashion that still, we are bickering on this meta level about how to talk about things. And then referred to Matt’s point which I tried slightly just now to summarize a bit, about simply allowing a mosaic of people to work in their own ways on a common goal of spreading some clear thinking on every issue they can be bothered with.
    Now that I’ve spelled it out more, is there hypocrisy in sight?

  90. Vivec says

    @97
    Just for the record, I’m not disagreeing with you in that I think Matt’s approach is the correct one, but “tailor your message to the recipient” is still an approach, so yes.

  91. Kyle D says

    The first thing that struck me as out of wack was when Mitchell addressed the By Product argument by focusing instead on vestigial organs in biology.
    By products are not vestigial. By products are side effects of something still in effect and most likely still useful. Vestigials are remnants of things no longer in effect or useful.

    The many aspects that make up religion may well just be side effects of very useful things that may not be selected out.
    Some damaging side effects may get selected out as we evolve better ways to perform the advantage, throwing away the initial scaffolding.
    Other side effects may never be able to be decoupled from the advantageous trait without requiring a huge amount of backtracking, such as the re-positioning of gonads or the laryngeal nerve. A big brain which is perhaps our most distinguishing feature may have plenty of side effects that make us susceptible to religion.

    A second point I would like to make is in reference to Mitchel talking about people such as Dawkins explaining how religion could be selected for but not explaining where it came from. To me, this seems to assume that religion is a single thing rather than a myriad of different things that form part of a meme complex. We know from the many different religions, spiritual practices and general approaches to life that people can and do use some of a large selection of ideas. Each of these things exist on their own as well as part of a complex to reinforce or even conflict with other ideas within the pool.

    Religion is not a thing. It is a label given to a varied set of ideas and practices that have come about over a large span of time, not all at once.

  92. Daniel Engblom says

    Very well then, that’s a hypocrisy I can live with though.
    Tailoring the message to the recipient can live among other approaches in my mind. Sometimes I even try that, when I’m in the right frame of mind, I know how a specific subject can be framed differently, I happen to know what might click with whoever I’m talking to (though I’m not a mind reader), whatever situational variables happen to align for that to become a reality.
    But that’s not something realistically everyone can always do, skills, patience, time, knowledge of the recipient — And especially in a public context where you’re talking to no one in particular, a fictive reader or listener, or you have another goal than trying to tailor your message to the person you happen to be talking with, like in a debate.
    But we’ve been going offtopic just talking about talking now for too long, I doubt we can make much more insightful commentary about commentary on this metalevel.

  93. Elu Sive says

    This was a super good show! I loved to hear about the theory of origin of religion and also learn about the theory of mind. These were new ideas I had not heard before and are very interesting. I am hoping to see more studies and works coming forth supporting these ideas in the future.
    Thanks so much Mitchell and Tracie!

  94. Daniel Engblom says

    @Kyle D
    You’re absolutely right, Leo Buzalsky also made a similar point very saliently about how Mitchell misrepresented byproducts as a thing with no function at all behind them, when that’s never been the argument. Using the same words I used before, byproducts are, as the name implies, a byproduct of another unrelated function than the byproduct we happen to be talking about.

    It was very amusing how Mitchell hated the byproduct approach where they have a collection of different explanations for different facets of religions, but his explanation only cares of one tiny sliver of religions, this aspect of quieting the conscious mind with wishy-washy “religious experiences”, an idea as trite as it can get, mainly just a surface level observation of how modern humans can escape by trying to quiet down scary thoughts, Freud even played with that idea if I remember correctly.
    If he didn’t want to sound like those cranks who write from their basement angry emails to physicists proclaiming Einstein was wrong and they have figured out the theory of everything, he should have simply advocated for another puzzle piece for the existing body of research and hypotheses.
    Though even then I find the idea he advanced as a nontheory, a mere superficial description with no evolutionary logic behind it.

  95. Bizzy Bone says

    @Monocle Smile

    @Bizzy/Kafei/Violet
    Wow, you really think we’re that stupid, don’t you?
    Fuck the fuck off.

    This is supposed to be a “free thoughts” blog, but my I cannot use the other handles to post. I’m not sure why. So, yes, Bizzy/Kafei/Violet are all SNs I’ve used, but it’s not in attempt to troll anyone or confuse anyone. My posts aren’t simply being published.

    @RationalismRules

    @Bizzy Bone
    Well, first of all, this isn’t my claim, it is the claim of neuroscientists involved in this research.
    Of course it’s your claim. You wrote “The science has demonstrated that the “mystical experience” lies at the very basis of all the major religions.” That’s a claim, and you are the one making it, that makes it your claim. If you’re citing someone else’s claim, you phrase it “Roland Griffiths claims…”

    I’m only reiterating the claim of Roland Griffiths. It is not a claim of my own. A similar view on religion has been around long before what the science is beginning to demonstrate today, and it is known as The Perennial philosophy.

    So I asked you to back up with citations the demonstrated link between ‘mystical experience’ and the ‘basis of the major religions’. I specifically asked for something other than speculation. So what do you provide?… Speculation. (is anyone actually surprised?)

    Well, they’re comparing the induced “mystical experience” in their volunteers to the accounts riddled throughout history in scripture by mystics, and cannot discern any distinction in the mystical experience in their volunteers from the mystical experiences reported by mystics throughout the ages. As Roland Griffiths puts it, “They’re virtually indistinguishable.”

    You’ll find a very strong clue is in the first word of the sentence linking the two concepts:
    Speculatively a mediating mechanism (psychological or otherwise) for a transformative perceptual shift… which is variously described in religious traditions as Soul, Holy Spirit, God, Brahman, or Buddha Nature.
    If you want people to take your ideas seriously, a good start would be to stop overclaiming. Speculation is not demonstration.

    Well, we don’t have a time machine to go back and time and put Siddartha Gautama or Jesus under an fMRI to see if they were, in fact, undergoing mystical experience, but the descriptions of their experiences in scripture is unmistakable for “mystical experience,” and you’ll find them riddled throughout the history of the major religions.

    @Bizzy Bone even though I wasn’t talking to you unless you are also Violet Chaolan, which is probably a violation of the user agreement, I will respond anyway.

    Actually, your attitude reveals the typical over extrapolation of scientific research not supported by actual science, typically found in an uneducated armchair analysis of someone trying to justify their position.

    I’m not to justify anything. I’m not extrapolating the research, either. If you believe that, please be specific and point out what precisely you disagree with.

    – As I pointed out in my post prior to this post, I explained that within the context of Psychology of Religion and Neurotheology, the term “mystical experience” or “spiritual experience” are related to mysticism-
    I don’t care what you pointed out prior to this post as I was not responding to you. Also bs terms like this are a pathetic attempt to try and give validity to what is often referred to as pseudoscience. “The use of the term neurotheology in published scientific work is currently uncommon. A search on the citation indexing service provided by Institute for Scientific Information returns five articles. Three of these are published in the journal Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science, while two are published in American Behavioral Scientist.” – WIKI, and then my personal preference of Pubmed which gives 8 articles, from varying dubious journals.

    It is an uncommon term, but these are terms becoming more popular due to these studies.

    – Matt has never had this experience.-
    My usage of “spiritual” and “mystical” experiences, are in line with the youtube “research” video you linked where an internet survey was done and people reported “feelings” they described as “god” or “a higher power”. Which is exactly what Matt describes in https://youtu.be/jf_znPHvezg?t=389

    Matt doesn’t describe anything remotely related to “mystical experience” in this clip. The clip I linked is more recent than the episode you linked to, and Matt’s understanding of “mystical experience” is such that he knows that he has not had this type of experience.

    – the findings of the more recent studies have emphasized that the psilocybin-induced “mystical experience” in volunteers is virtually identical to naturally occurring non-drug “mystical experience.-
    This is exactly what I said “What value does replicating these experiences with drugs” and “science can’t prove that someones “spiritual” religious experience is just an alteration in brain function simply because it is similar to peoples experience on drugs”. You also completely ignored the damn argument, just because the experience “feels” the same, does not mean it IS the same.

    There’s heavy speculation among neuroscientists and other professionals in this field that the mechanism behind the naturally occurring nondrug “mystical experience” may be an induction of endogenous N,N-DMT. Psilocybin, once passed the blood-brain barrier is converted to psilocin which is nearly identical structurally to that of N,N-DMT. Compare for yourself.

    – In the major religions, mystical experience is regarded as insight to the highest truth.-
    Why should I give a rats ass what religions regard if they cannot demonstrate that it is true? That bullshit babble about reality being completely subjective and a hallucination of the mind from your youtube link is demonstrably irrelevant when I beat you upside the head with a brick of reality.

    The brick is just as real as these “mystical experiences” induced in these volunteers. What is true is the experience, and that is what lots of people are overlooking here. It is the experience which is at the very core of all the major religions, and has been variously called different names in different times and cultures such as samadhi, nirvana, Beatific vision, Buddha-nature, etc., etc., etc. To quote Griffiths on his TEDxTalk:

    I think there’s a larger and more exciting ontological question to be asked, and that is “Why?” Whether occasioned by psilocybin or not, why is the human organism wired to have such experiences? A profound, uplifting and enduring sense of the interconnectedness of all people and things. An experience that is arguably foundational to human ethical and moral codes that seem to part of all the world’s religious and spiritual traditions.

    You can find that TEDxtalk on YouTube, by the way.

    – What is true is this experience, a tried-and-true phenomenon in consciousness which scientists have only scratched the surface.-
    No, I give you a shot of morphine and you will experience the same dissociation and decreased feeling that everyone else who is given morphine experiences. It doesn’t change the truth that you have some damage to your body that is trying to be relayed to your brain as pain. People have similar brains and bodies causing similar experiences, but having the same experience means nothing about whether anything about it is true.

    I definitely wouldn’t compare something like morphine to psilocybin. Sure, we have similar brains and so we have similar experiences with these drug interactions, but that doesn’t erase the fact that in the particular case of entheogens it induces a phenomenon in consciousness that is highly speculated by individuals who follow or are direct involved in scientific research on the “mystical experience” to have brought the major religions into history as a byproduct.

    Truth is something that can be confirmed through shared reality, if someone is seeing a pink elephant and the other person isn’t one or both people are wrong. I don’t experience “god” or a “higher power” which means I’m wrong, the people claiming it are wrong, or we both are, considering one requires an alteration of brain chemistry through drugs or “mystical” means, I would bet against that one.

    How do you know you wouldn’t experience something that you might call a “higher power” if you’ve not had this experience? After all, many people, including atheists, did have this type of experience. Did you review the study I linked to at all? The truth is you wouldn’t know unless you’ve had this experience for yourself. Even Matt Dillahunty is willing to admit, “Oh, well perhaps if I had a ‘mystical experience’ I’d finally understand what it’s all about.”

    – In a more recent study led by Griffiths that was published this year, 2017, actually involved self-confirmed atheists as volunteers to sign-up for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheists? After this event, the atheists no longer identified as atheists.-
    This is EXACTLY what I said “People take drugs, feel “spiritual” then chase down a religion that gives them the same experience without the drug. It also leads people (because they are in an altered brain state) to believe in things that are not rational such as calling it a “mystical” experience.” Maybe you need me to use the same lingo as the internet survey “research” and said “god” or “higher power”. Oh, and when 3% of a 1000 person sample size, is 74% converted, you are saying 22 out of 30 “self identified atheists” are “converted”, this research is so ridiculous it’s not worth talking about.

    74% is a very significant number. So, to the contrary of what you said, this makes this research very worth talking about. And I don’t believe it’s necessarily as you described, that people just “chase down the religion that gives them experience without the drug.” Rather, I have found that if you’re a religious person to begin with, and you don’t know much about other religions you might contribute your experience to your specific religion. However, if you’re slightly better informed about all the major religions, then you arrive at a perspective quite akin to the Perennial philosophy. Perennialism is a view on religion which sees the major religions as having been a byproduct of mystical experience. This is precisely what happened to people who were once atheists, and the after having a “mystical experience” ended up adopting a Perennialist perspective on religion, people such as Alan Watts, Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Alex Grey, etc.

    – The science has shown time and time again that it certainly leads to well-being –
    So do lots of other drugs, it is completely irrelevant to theism/atheism. It does not provide any good evidence for or against the existence of god. It does nothing to tell us any truth about reality, what it tells us, which I would hope everyone already knows, is that drugs and behavioral therapy (mystical practices) can alter your thinking, mood, behavior and beliefs.

    Sure, it changes the way people think, their mood, etc. It can a form of metanoia for an atheist. Also, what evidence do you want for the existence of God? I have the feeling that you’re assuming God is something akin to a supernatural Santa Claus, and so you don’t find that mystical experiences offer evidence for this omnisicient supernatural bearded entity. That’s totally missing the point. What these neuroscientists are saying is that what has variously been called God, Brahman, Allah, nirvana, what Plotinus called “The One” are all various ways of referencing or descriptions of “mystical experience.” In other words, God was never this bearded supernatural entity, God at the very origin of religion had always been a reference to “mystical experience.” This is precisely why mystics would often describe their “mystical experience” as a “union with the divine.” This phrasing “union with the divine” is indicative of this very particular altered state of consciousness.

    I would take a wild stab that you have taken mushrooms in the past, have had a “mystical” experience, believe it has made you a better person, and follow this research because you want scientists to prove you are right. Why don’t you get off the atheists experience blog and go comment on the internet research survey.

    I have had mushrooms in the past, 16 dried grams in a single sitting that did indeed produce an experience where if I had taken the survey, I would no doubt meet the criteria Roland Griffiths speaks of constituting a “complete” or “full-spectrum” mystical experience. I don’t recommend doing that much mushrooms or even recommend anyone to do them at all unless they’re going to take great precaution. You know, they were recruiting self-confirmed atheists for this study at Johns Hopkins, so any one of you guys could have easily signed up to volunteer to have a “mystical experience” in a setting where it’s absolutely legal and you have medical professionals to reassure you that you’re not going to die, and you’re in a comfortable living room-like therapeutic setting on a couch surrounded by professionals.

    I don’t follow this research because I want “scientists to prove I’m right.” I think anyone who has this experience comes to the conclusion that these neuroscientists have. As I’ve mentioned before, this perspective on religion arising out of the neurosciences has been around for millennia, and it is referred to as “The Perennial philosophy.” The reason I’m interested in what atheists have to say is because I was under the impression until this very last episode that The Atheist Experience had never addressed the “mystical experience,” because I had called into the show before, and spoke to Matt and Tracie, and they were completely clueless to this stuff. Well, to be fair, Tracie was slightly familiar, but it’s definitely safe to say she’s never had a “mystical experience” and neither has Matt or I might even go as far to say not any single member from the cast has had this experience. Just search YouTube for “Jimmy from San Antonio” or “atheist DMT” and you’ll find the clips of my calls uploaded by The Atheist Experience.

  96. says

    I want to vouch for Bizzy Bone. I moderated a few comments that were duplicates awaiting moderation when, for some reason, an account didn’t work. My limited understanding of the blog is that once a comment is cleared for someone’s account, they should be able to continue posting and not require further moderation. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to have your comments held for moderation every time you try to post. I just cleared this last one as well. I don’t know what the problem is, but this person is NOT trying to troll. They are having legit problems with their accounts and posts getting cleared for some reason.

  97. Monocle Smile says

    @heicart
    I don’t think that’s the problem, but this person has a history of posting the same screeds over and over again in response to all criticism.

    @Kafei
    It is completely astounding how badly you miss the point.

    It is the experience which is at the very core of all the major religions

    That’s overstating the case and you’ve been correctly violently on this point before, but it doesn’t fucking matter As you’ve been told dozens of times, theists believe in an actual god that does actual things in actual reality, and I don’t give a flying fuck about the origins of religion in that context. Of course, the last thread you infested ended with you implying that a person’s life is worthless unless they have a “mystical experience,” which you can cram up your ass.

  98. Bizzy Bone says

    @heicart

    I want to vouch for Bizzy Bone.

    It’s greatly appreciated, brother. It’s frustrating to type these very elaborate posts only to have them somehow get lost in transmission and having to re-type them again. I was beginning to believe that perhaps thoughts aren’t so free in this forum, but you’ve given me a glimmer of hope.

    @Monocle Smile

    @Kafei
    It is completely astounding how badly you miss the point.

    It is the experience which is at the very core of all the major religions

    That’s overstating the case and you’ve been correctly violently on this point before, but it doesn’t fucking matter.

    I could say the same to you, it’s astounding how much you’ve missed the point. Where have I been corrected? I’ve only have been correcting other people here, as far as I can discern. Lots of people here are only being introduced to the scientific research on “mystical experience.” I, on the other hand, have been following these studies for a little over a decade now and realize they have been building for decades since the work of William James in the early 1900s. Unless you’re referring to RationalismRules comment where he said:

    If you want people to take your ideas seriously, a good start would be to stop overclaiming. Speculation is not demonstration.

    Well, of course, it’s speculative. I mentioned earlier that we don’t have a time machine to go back and time and put Siddartha Gautama or Jesus under an fMRI to see if they were, in fact, undergoing mystical experience, but the descriptions of their experiences in scripture is unmistakable for “mystical experience,” and you’ll find them riddled throughout the history of the major religions. And this is what Roland Griffiths’ research has demonstrated, this is what he is referring to, that the “mystical experience” induced in his volunteers is virtually identical to the mystical experiences reported by mystics throughout the ages. This is now heavily speculated among professionals that are involved or follow this type of research.

    As you’ve been told dozens of times, theists believe in an actual god that does actual things in actual reality, and I don’t give a flying fuck about the origins of religion in that context.

    Of course, that’s what theism has been contorted into today. It’s sad to think that most people’s conception of God, whether they’re atheist or theist, is this supernatural intervening personal God. Albert Einstein rightly called this form of religion the “childish analogy of religion that bears nothing of the original text.” The reason the origins of the major religion is important is because if Roland Griffiths’ and other professionals’ speculation is correct, then this is essentially how religion got started in the first place. At the very nascency of religion, you do not find this conception of God as the supernatural Santa Claus. You instead find individuals engaging what neuroscientists are calling a “mystical experience.” A classic description a mystic might say of this experience is that it is a “union with the divine.” This phrasing “union with the divine” is indicative of a phenomenon, a transformation in consciousness. Roland Griffiths has said that it was this experience that has been variously been referred to in the major religions as God, Allah, Brahman, samadhi, Buddha-nature, Holy Spirit, etc.

    If you’re going to say you don’t give a fuck about the origins of religion, then you’re basically saying you don’t care how religion began, you only care to criticize the contorted nonsense it’s become today which, by and large, is a religious tradition running on pure momentum that has completely lost touch with mystical experience. In other words, if the Perennialist view on religion is correct, then it’s something that not only atheists will have to come to terms with, but theists as well. Because this is definitely not your mainstream form of theism or atheism.

    Of course, the last thread you infested ended with you implying that a person’s life is worthless unless they have a “mystical experience,” which you can cram up your ass.

    I never said that life is worthless unless you have a mystical experience, that is only your projection. However, what I will point out is that Matt once said that he has a limited time on this Earth, and would rather explore avenues worth exploring. Well, if what these neuroscientists have demonstrated is worth any salt, then the greatest challenge to an atheist would be the mystical experience. Did you, by any chance, click the link I left of the study done this year, 2017, at Johns Hopkins where self-confirmed atheists volunteer for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheist? After this event, over 70% of these atheists no longer identified with atheism. This research suggests that the “mystical experience” is a metanoia for atheists.

    Furthermore, if you’re going to deny the implications of this research, then surely it’d be quite facile for you to develop your own research that counters the claims of the research I’ve mentioned, and have it peer-reviewed and published. Otherwise, your criticism is quite empty.

  99. Monocle Smile says

    @Kafei

    Well, of course, it’s speculative

    Then why should I give a fuck?

    I mentioned earlier that we don’t have a time machine to go back and time and put Siddartha Gautama or Jesus under an fMRI to see if they were, in fact, undergoing mystical experience, but the descriptions of their experiences in scripture is unmistakable for “mystical experience,”

    This is LESS REASON to give a fuck, and basically nobody agrees with this fringe position. Name-dropping Roland Griffiths five hundred times is obnoxious, not impressive. You’re also laughably assuming that these were real people, which is doubtful in at least one of those cases. You’ve been corrected on this before, but you’re like an Amway salesman who just ignores all responses and plows ahead with his snake oil pitch.

    If you’re going to say you don’t give a fuck about the origins of religion, then you’re basically saying you don’t care how religion began, you only care to criticize the contorted nonsense it’s become today

    No shit. Because that’s what’s important. How you completely fail to understand this is beyond me. Religion in its current form is breaking the fucking planet and you’re too busy tripping balls to even care.

    Did you, by any chance, click the link I left of the study done this year, 2017, at Johns Hopkins where self-confirmed atheists volunteer for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheist? After this event, over 70% of these atheists no longer identified with atheism. This research suggests that the “mystical experience” is a metanoia for atheists.

    So taking psychedelic drugs turns your brain to mush and makes you think poorly? Why the fuck would I want to do this? Why do you think this is a good thing?

    I never said that life is worthless unless you have a mystical experience, that is only your projection.

    I can quite easily pull out a quote from you that makes the implication crystal clear.

  100. Bizzy Bone says

    @Kafei

    Well, of course, it’s speculative

    Then why should I give a fuck?

    I will never require you to believe or give a fuck about anything. It will only ever be about how compelling is the evidence to you. The reason I emphasize it with “heavy speculation” among the professionals in this field is because this isn’t simply a “fringe position” as you attempted to characterize this research. Roland Griffiths is simply one name of myriads in this scientific endeavor to understand the so-called “mystical experience.” This research, as I’ve highlighted before, has been going on a little over a century now starting with the work of William James. Roland is simply responsible for some very recent research that has been on-going since 2000 unto the study I mentioned published earlier this year, 2017.

    I mentioned earlier that we don’t have a time machine to go back and time and put Siddartha Gautama or Jesus under an fMRI to see if they were, in fact, undergoing mystical experience, but the descriptions of their experiences in scripture is unmistakable for “mystical experience,”

    This is LESS REASON to give a fuck, and basically nobody agrees with this fringe position. Name-dropping Roland Griffiths five hundred times is obnoxious, not impressive. You’re also laughably assuming that these were real people, which is doubtful in at least one of those cases. You’ve been corrected on this before, but you’re like an Amway salesman who just ignores all responses and plows ahead with his snake oil pitch.

    I said I’d grant that Jesus might’ve been a bearded man who once walked this Earth, I didn’t necessarily say it was the case. I’ve heard of perspectives such as John Allegro and Richard Carrier and others who argue against the existence of Jesus. I was attempting to make a different point that you obviously overlooked once again. I’m not pushing anything, by the way. I’ve nothing to sell. You can think whatever you’d like of me and what I’ve typed here, and in fact, please do. However, I did not coin the term “mystical experience” nor am I directly involved in this research. I’m merely reiterating a perspective arising out of this scientific research. Research that, if I haven’t emphasized it enough, has been going on since the early 1900s.

    If you’re going to say you don’t give a fuck about the origins of religion, then you’re basically saying you don’t care how religion began, you only care to criticize the contorted nonsense it’s become today

    No shit. Because that’s what’s important. How you completely fail to understand this is beyond me. Religion in its current form is breaking the fucking planet and you’re too busy tripping balls to even care.

    I completely understand that point. I’m not against atheists. I admire Matt Dillahunty and the entire cast of The Atheist Experience including the people behind the glass and the scenes and how they’re enlightening people everyday. I feel the atheists’ voice is a very necessary part of the dialogue for true freedom in our world. So, it’s not that I’m “too busy tripping balls to even care.” I’ve only had this experience once, and that’s really all you need. Alan Watts once said, “Once you get the message, hang up the phone.” Of course, Dennis McKenna feels that conversation shouldn’t end after a single message, that you should develop a relationship whether that means annually retreats to Peru for ayahuasca or some other type of ritual where this is done very seldom in your life, perhaps once, twice, or even thrice a year depending on how you want to relate to it. Psychedelics are not addictive substances at all, one powerful experience may scare you to the point where you’d never like to have that again. Roland Griffiths (and I’m not dropping his name in attempt to be “impressive”) often points out none of his volunteers are coming back saying, “More, please.” This experience is life-changing, it’s of extreme profundity such that you will not be the same person you were coming into it.

    Did you, by any chance, click the link I left of the study done this year, 2017, at Johns Hopkins where self-confirmed atheists volunteer for a “mystical experience.” Guess what happened to the atheist? After this event, over 70% of these atheists no longer identified with atheism. This research suggests that the “mystical experience” is a metanoia for atheists.

    So taking psychedelic drugs turns your brain to mush and makes you think poorly? Why the fuck would I want to do this? Why do you think this is a good thing?

    Well, the finding of the study that I’ve repeatedly pointed out thus far is that psilocybin mimics naturally occurring non-drug “mystical experience.” That is to say a mystical experience that is induced à la deep meditation, austere asceticism, it’s confirmed in those disciplines, but it’s also speculated to occur in near-death. Now, the conjecture as to the mechanism mediating a naturally occurring “mystical experience” popular today amongst professionals is that this may be an endogenous release of N,N-DMT which our own bodies make and has been scientifically confirmed to be produced in the pineal gland of the human brain and perhaps all mammalian brains, and perhaps even beyond to other species outside of the animal kingdom.

    never said that life is worthless unless you have a mystical experience, that is only your projection.

    I can quite easily pull out a quote from you that makes the implication crystal clear.

    Please, do. You’ve totally mischaracterized what I’m attempting to articulate. You said that in not focusing on the contorted nonsense of religion has become today that I’m somehow ignoring the bigger issue at large. I entirely disagree with that. I want to address that whole-heartedly, and I feel all you’re doing is ignoring and insulting the legitimate science that has been done that could actually contribute to how religion is influencing our societies and cultures today, and how we view religion, how we view consciousness, etc.

    I’d like to quote a question asked of Don Lattin, a journalist who has been following this stuff even longer than myself.

    Is there a role for organized religion to play in destigmatizing these drugs?

    Of course, they’re referring to the type of drugs used in these therapeutic studies such as MDMA and primarily psilocybin. Here was Lattin’s response:

    There are actual churches in the U.S. that can legally have psychedelic communion with ayahuasca under a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, but they must be affiliated with one of the two Brazilian sects. Outside of these brands of “organized religion,” I don’t see much destigmatization. Religious leaders, like a lot of other people, having a very black-and-white attitude towards drugs. Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins is doing a study of religious professionals with clergy burnout to see if these substances could revive their interest in their calling through a mystical experience that might hit the reset button for them. But he has found it very hard to find clergy who want to volunteer. That said, I think psychedelics are slowly being destigmatized by the universities and medical centers across the country that are sponsoring research.

    Whether we identify as atheists or theists, we’re going to have to in the end adhere to the science. And so that’s why I believe you’re definitely not going to see this coming out of the churches. In fact, the churches in America are so out of touch with ‘mystical experience” that to even mention it would be misconstrued as blasphemy to these people. There might be few exceptions as is always statistically the case, but by and large, the view will be that you weren’t experiencing anything associated with religion, but of Satan.

    I don’t believe atheists necessarily have to forfeit anything in accepting this view on religion arising out of the neurosciences.It is, after all, a perspective on religion, not necessarily a position on what you believe, a perspective that is in a sense a re-discovery of what always has been known by mystics, philosophers, theologians as the “Perennial philosophy.” In seeing that all the major religions derive as a byproduct of individuals invoking the mystical experience, you simply only recognize a phenomenon in consciousness that our science today has demonstrated to be biologically normal. That is to say we’re all wired to have such experiences, and it is this phenomenon in consciousness that has perhaps been happening in individuals since time immemorial.

  101. RationalismRules says

    @Bizzy Bone

    I’m only reiterating the claim of Roland Griffiths. It is not a claim of my own.

    Except that when you presented this point as a statement of fact, instead of presenting it as an attributed claim of Griffiths, you made it your own claim. That’s how claims work – if you present something as a statement of fact you are making a claim – it’s really not that hard to understand.

    However, since you’re now disassociating yourself from the claim, let’s take on your new claim – that Roland Griffiths made the original claim. Please provide a citation where Roland Griffiths makes this claim. Not a speculative link drawn between the two, not a tentative hypothesis, an actual claim that it has been demonstrated by science as fact. I doubt you’re going to be able to, because if Griffiths is an actual scientist he will not have made this claim, because anyone with a genuine understanding of what comprises ‘demonstrated science’ would not make such an obvious overclaim.
     

    So I asked you to back up with citations the demonstrated link between ‘mystical experience’ and the ‘basis of the major religions’. I specifically asked for something other than speculation. So what do you provide?… Speculation. (is anyone actually surprised?)

    Well, they’re comparing the induced “mystical experience” in their volunteers to the accounts riddled throughout history in scripture by mystics, and cannot discern any distinction in the mystical experience in their volunteers from the mystical experiences reported by mystics throughout the ages. As Roland Griffiths puts it, “They’re virtually indistinguishable.”

    And that is exactly NOT a scientific demonstration. It’s an inferential link. ‘Demonstration’ is what comes after inference – it’s how inference is determined to be correct. And it’s what is entirely lacking here. Claiming speculative inference as demonstrated science is simply wrong.
     
    As I said, if you want your ideas to be taken seriously, stop overclaiming. When you overclaim to support your position, you’re actually demonstrating its weakness – if your position is strong why would it need inflated claims of scientific support to bolster it?