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Chapter 1: Enter Feelings 
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Post Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
To start with I must admit to being a bit confused about the difference between emotions and feelings. These two words have always been used interchangeably in my vocabulary, so I'm a bit embarrassed to learn I've been mistaken. It appears that Ch. 2, which I plan to begin reading after making this post, will enlighten me as to the true meanings of these words.

As I move through this book here are some of my questions to which I hope to find answers...

1. How much progress has been made in the fields of neurobiology and neuroscience in understanding the biological/physical origin of spirituality? Are we hard-wired for belief? People of all different intellectual capacities believe in mystical things. Why?

2. What do we know about the physiological nature of depression? Is there a physical manifestation of this condition or it purely psychological? What about sociopaths? Are we ever going to be able to cure a sociopath by simply removing a defective part of their brain? ...or stimulating an area with electricity? Don't laugh damnit...but this is of interest to me and it should be interesting to you too. We all know people with mental illness.

3. (this one should blow some minds) Do brain scientists think there will ever be the possibility of preserving the human brain at the time of death and then transplanting it into another body at some point? (e.g. 200 years from now?) The mind and body are one, right? So what does science support? Will there one day be the chance of bringing back a loved one after a fatal accident as long as the brain never incurs any real damage due to O2 deprivation or trauma?

Will this book explore these subjects at all? I doubt Damasio tackles the brain transplant subject as it is a bit wacky, but mental illness should be addressed. We shall see.

Chris

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."



Fri Jan 09, 2004 5:36 pm
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Post Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
With regards to the biological origin of spirituality.

I remember seeing a documentary about religious experience and temporal lobe epilepsy.
It was postulated that many historical "spiritual leaders" who have claimed to have "visions" in fact suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy.

They found that by stimulating the temporal lobes on test subjects they could give that person a feeling of a "mystical presence", but it didn't work for everybody, about 4/5 if I remember correctly.

Richard Dawkins (everyone's favourite militant atheist!), volunteered to try it out, but was among the 1/5 that the experiment failed on.

This leads me to believe that there is indeed at least some biological link to holding irrational beliefs.
Some people have an in-built disposition towards having these kind of feelings ("I could feel God's presence"), which in turn would make them more likely to hold religious beliefs, despite their intellect and otherwise rationality.

Note, I am not saying that every theist suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy, that would only be in the most extreme circumstances, I am merely saying that some people are born with a biological disposition towards having these mystical feelings.

The question that still remains however is Why? What evolutionary advantage is there to having such a feature in the brain? Perhaps a defence mechanism against the overwhelming despair of being an insignificant mortal being all alone in the great big universe?




Mon Jan 12, 2004 4:25 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
CSflim

We may have seen the same documentary, as I too recall a similar theory. Maybe Damasio hits on this subject deeper into the book.

I think many of the spiritual leaders from the past and present that claim to have had visions are liars. Yes, there are undoubtedly those that genuinely believe, but there are probably a great percentage that are perpetrating a fraud...and justifying or rationalizing it by telling themselves that they are doing more good than harm.

Do you think John Edwards or James Van Praagh believe they truly talk to the dead? Of course not. They're charlatans and have been exposed as such on numerous occasions by people such as James Randi and Penn & Teller. And then there are those like Oral Roberts. He claimed years and years ago to see Jesus standing before him as a giant - maybe 50' tall. Jesus ordered/threatened him to get his flock to donate massive amounts of money or he would be killed. :rollin What an evil bastard. Lying in the name of Christianity in order to extort cash from the masses to sustain his lavish lifestyle.

These are small examples, but I could go on and on for days. The point I am making is that I don't believe most religious leaders believe their own bullshit. They are the charismatic opportunists that are manipulating the normal human tendency to believe nonsense. They know its bullshit and are capitalizing on other people not knowing. This is my opinion, but I could make some very strong arguments to support it. Years of studying claims and finding 100% of them being proven as hoaxes and utter bunk provides a rather solid foundation for my reasoning.

Dawkins might have been resistant to the test. If someone tested me to see if hypnosis would work I doubt it would. I am too nervous about relinquishing control to be able to free my mind enough for it to take hold. I'm also rather skeptical about whether or not it works in the first place, but I wouldn't be comfortable enough to even play the game and let someone try.

The 4/5 statistic is impressive as hell and very convincing. If the experiment was done correctly there is an obvious biological link here. I think more studies are needed and then the world needs to be educated as to the findings. But how many theists are interested in knowing the truth? How many have the intellectual integrity to even consider the possibility that their brains are hard-wired to believe in Gods and demons and heaven and hell and all sorts of magical stuff? Not many. So the findings will remain buried in science journals while the blind continue down their paths of self-deception.

Now here is my question. Why is it so easy for some people to let go of these mystical beliefs? I have my own life story and everyone does. What happened in my life to push me over the edge and get me to value reason over blind faith? Is my brain lacking a particular structure? What's the scoop? I would seriously love to know.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:53 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
Quote:
The question that still remains however is Why? What evolutionary advantage is there to having such a feature in the brain? Perhaps a defence mechanism against the overwhelming despair of being an insignificant mortal being all alone in the great big universe?
Damn! I didn't answer this question. I have to go right now, but I plan to address this question when I have a bit more time. Great question though, and I have heard some fantastic theories.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:55 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
Don't take that 4/5 stat too seriously...it's pulled from a vague memory, so it could be way off...but as far as I remember it worked on the majority of people.
As for people being aware of the fact that they are talking nonsense...well it's hard to know. One thing that really opened my eyes to this was reading about one of the founders of the skeptical inquirer (www.csicop.org/)...unfortunatley his name eludes me at present. Before he became a hardened skeptic and dubunker of nonsense, he was...a fortune teller! He honestly believed he had the ability to predict the future, and gain insights into people's spirits by reading palms (or whatever particular "method" he used). He didn't know HOW he knew, but he "just knew" by intuition. He was also encouraged by the enthusiastic feedback he was getting from his clients. Then one day, as a pure experiment, he tried out something new...he told his clients THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what he was "feeling". Low and behold, he found that his "predictions" were still brilliantly accurate, and his clients still agreed as wholeheartedly to what he was saying as before! It was only after this did he realise that he had no strange powers at all! He had been unknowingly conning people all along! (At least now he is making up for his sins! :D )

The moral of this story is to realsie that AT LEAST SOME of the mystics/visionarys/clairavoyants/etc are not knowingly con artists, and genuinely believe that they are doing the world a service.
Now undoubtedly there are PLENTY of people who know well what they are at...and make plenty of money at it too!
Its pretty hard to be able to tell them apart...perhaps we should enfore a new law; mandatory lie-detector tests for all spreaders of nonsense!

As for the theistic response to the investigations into the effect of the temporal lobes on "mystical feelings"...well they reacted in the typical way that we have all come to expect:
"I don't see how this could be considered as evidence for the non-existence of god! If anything this is positive evidence for us! God has obviously inserted an special 'God Antennae' into our brains for communication purposes!"

Here is a link to the BBC documentary in question, God On The Brain - www.bbc.co.uk/science/hor...rain.shtml




Tue Jan 13, 2004 6:23 am


Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
Further to my above post:

The 4/5 stat is correct.
The name of the palm reader turned Skeptical Inquirer writer is Ray Hyman.




Tue Jan 13, 2004 7:52 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
And then there is James Randi, professional magician turned debunker of nonsense.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:00 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
It is kinda interesting. I have also heard of these experiments and would like to read more about it. I have been a skeptic for about as long as I could remember and have been very rational all my life. It's one of the reasons that I could no longer buy the things I was hearing at my former church and have a hard time to this day of buying supernatural claims. I find the idea fascinating and think they make good stories but I don't see them as being anything more. I can get spooky feelings but it happens so I'm not sure if I would be in the 4/5 group or 1/5 group. I could easily fit somewhere in the middle I'm sure. I really need to read up on this more...

In Love and Reason,


Christian L. Ambrose




Thu Jan 15, 2004 4:20 pm


Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
Quote:
I think many of the spiritual leaders from the past and present that claim to have had visions are liars. Yes, there are undoubtedly those that genuinely believe, but there are probably a great percentage that are perpetrating a fraud...and justifying or rationalizing it by telling themselves that they are doing more good than harm.


Chris,

I don't know what the percentage of "liars" is among the "spiritual leaders" you are referring to. I can say, however, that I have been among many spiritual leaders and their followers, and most of them I have known have truly believed what they were teaching (or being taught). I will have to admit that I have always wondered about Oral Roberts, though. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I could have ever believed such bizarre and easily refutable ideas, but I did. Fortunately for me, reason eventually took precedence over faith and the obviousness of the falsity of my beliefs was exposed.

I am greatly intrigued by the questions of "why we believe" the so many things we do as a human race. I am excited that we are now starting to gain a better understanding of how the mind works and how evolution has affected every aspect of our being. Perhaps we will soon have some solid theories about belief and religion that are based on scientific evidence. Maybe then our species can finally peak this religious mountain that has created so much strife and horror over the millennia and move on to more sound methods of human relations.

I would be interested in hearing about some of the various scientific theories of religion that may be out there. Perhaps that would be a good topic for a separate thread.

Eric




Fri Jan 16, 2004 12:54 am


Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
In an earlier message, someone asked the following question
------
Do brain scientists think there will ever be the possibility of preserving the human brain at the time of death and then transplanting it into another body at some point? (e.g. 200 years from now?) The mind and body are one, right? So what does science support?
-----
I haven't a clue, not being a brain scientist, but imagine what would happen when it was announced. The following speculations are based on the assumption it will be an extremely expensive procedure and human society will be still be economically stratified.

1. rich old people will try to recruit poor young people to give up their bodies if the rich old people promise to take really good care (financial) of the poor young people's loved ones.

2. criminals will provide young bodies to rich old people for brain transplantation.

3. Hospitals will provide replacement bodies for rich old people (or rich young people with serious terminal illnesses) for a fee.


SF writers may have already have tackled this one. I hope the answer is no.





Sat Jan 24, 2004 5:54 am
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Post Re: Chapter 1: Enter Feelings
Does anyone feel - as I do - that Damasio's use of the word emotion for the concept he is trying to define is the wrong one?

I think I would have been reaching for the thesaurus or perhaps invented a word. Emotion seems too emotionally(?) loaded to be used in the context he has in mind. (I hate that last sentence - I'll have to work harder on my writing!!!)

For most people feelings are emotions, but then maybe I'm nit-picking perhaps the semantics are'nt what's really important.




Sat Mar 06, 2004 10:23 am
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