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God in the firmware

Since religion is a hot tope right now, heres an interesting item.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml

Do humans come with religion built in?

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I'm not sure why this is really considered news.  It's not all that unusual.  I thought it long accepted that if the brain's function is disturbed, either through stroke-induced trauma, epilepsy, psychoactive drugs, or electrical stimulation, that intense, irrational, emotions can result.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

It is an interesting article.  However, it only seems to deal with the subjective aspects of religions.  The problem with that approach as a comprehensive analysis method is that many religions claim to have objective components as well.

Scot
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

One of the brain's functions is to keep us focused on this particular dimensional level. When the brain is disrupted by drugs, etc., or damaged, its function of screening out other levels is disturbed. And mystical or supernatural stuff, from other dimensional levels, can get it.
In some individuals the brain's screening function is weaker than normal, so they may become schizophrenics, prophets, mediums, shamans, etc., because they can tune in to other levels more easily than normal individuals.

The Real PC
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Is this a different "The Real PC?" I was under the impression he was sane. Apparently not.

Fred2000
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

>One of the brain's functions is to keep us focused on this particular dimensional level.<

Sorry, can you give me a source on this?

Tim Sullivan
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

If it's not The Real PC, it's a well-done parody of him.

According to M theory (discussed in the other thread), all other dimensions are wrapped up into subatomic-sized spaces, which would naturally be undetectable to humans (this is why subatomic physics is rather unintuitive to us at times, since we don't see things like wave-particle duality or subatomic dimensions in our quotadian experience).

The notion of "dimensional levels" where folks like God, ghosts, angels, demons, and Red Lectroids can hang out is still in the realm of science fiction and religious quackery.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

[The notion of "dimensional levels" where folks like God, ghosts, angels, demons, and Red Lectroids can hang out is still in the realm of science fiction and religious quackery.]

Well not for long.
Those other dimensions may be "small," but what the heck does size mean when you're talking about the 11th dimension? I can't even think about the 8th dimension let alone the 11th.

The Real PC
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

============================

Power of prayer found wanting in hospital trial

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The biggest scientific experiment on prayer has failed to find any evidence that it helps to heal the sick.

Doctors in the United States will today disclose that heart patients who were prayed for by groups of strangers recovered from surgery at the same rate as those who were not.

The three-year study, led by cardiologists from Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina, involved 750 patients in nine hospitals and 12 prayer groups around the world, from Christians in Manchester to Buddhists in Nepal.

============================

http://tinyurl.com/qzwi

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

So if we say a prayer, then God is obligated to heal someone of cancer?  I don't see what that proves.  That God either doesn't exist or is evil?

If you believe in God, and that he is smarter than you, then why not first pray that he show you what to pray for, instead of assuming he wants you to pray for someone's healing?

Scot
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

For a more complete and balanced view of the above study, and the issue of faith, prayer, and healing, see the latest Newsweek article:

http://www.msnbc.com/news/987695.asp?0cv=KA01

Matt
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Ged-

On the off chance you haven't read it, go pick up a copy of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  In between all the cyberpunk entertainment, there's an interesting model of religion as virus.  ;>

Sam Livingston-Gray
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I never did understand "praying for things" from a Western religion point of view (i.e., the Christian worldview).

The thing prayed for is either in accordance with God's will, in which case it's redundant; or it's against God's will, in which case it's futile.  "God is not a man, that he should change his mind" (Num 23:19; the story of Abraham bartering with God in Genesis 18 notwithstanding).

The point of prayer, to me, is more to do with changing the petitioner's outlook than changing the world around the petitioner.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Another thing that intrigus me is that if this area of the brain is removed, does it put an end to religous experience?

Could a future ultra secular society perform surgery to cure people of faith?

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Well Calvin thought much the same thing (that praying on the whole was a waste of time), and he was miserable.  Most of the Calvinists in the world are Swiss, that's also something of a give away. 

If our neural systems are programmed with anything they're programmed with curiousity and the ability to make up possible answers to questions, to hypothesise.

The simpler the cultural mileu the simpler (or if you like the more complex), the kinds of stories.  We now have thousands of years of overlayered stories about the universe and our place in it and our relationhip with it. 

I don't believe in God, that doesn't mean I don't have all the same myths, stories and explanations as those that do profess a belief.  This is because I use the same verb, to believe.  I can't prove an existence either way, neither can a believer.  I'm not agnostic, I don't say I don't know, I say I believe there isn't.

Faith.

Its the way I tell 'em  Frank Carson.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

People that have had lobotomies have generally lost touch with a lot of stuff about predicting behaviour of others and the whole hypothesising, modelling the universe in your head thing.

They're still people but only because of memories, old and newly laid down, not because of how they comprehend their perceptual view of the universe.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I agree with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (see essay excerpted below).  Religion is evil.

It's interesting that this piece was written well before September 11th.

========================

Is Science a Religion?

by Richard Dawkins

Published in the Humanist, January/February 1997

The 1996 Humanist of the Year asked this question in a speech accepting the honor from the American Humanist Association. 

It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow" disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate. 

Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion. And who, looking at Northern Ireland or the Middle East, can be confident that the brain virus of faith is not exceedingly dangerous? One of the stories told to the young Muslim suicide bombers is that martyrdom is the quickest way to heaven -- and not just heaven but a special part of heaven where they will receive their special reward of 72 virgin brides. It occurs to me that our best hope may be to provide a kind of "spiritual arms control": send in specially trained theologians to deescalate the going rate in virgins.

Given the dangers of faith -- and considering the accomplishments of reason and observation in the activity called science -- I find it ironic that, whenever I lecture publicly, there always seems to be someone who comes forward and says, "Of course, your science is just a religion like ours. Fundamentally, science just comes down to faith, doesn't it?" 

========================

http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/articles/dawkins.html

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Alyosha, I mostly agree.  However, don't forget 1 John 5.14 which seems to imply a both/and view...  the idea is that there is no changing of God's mind, but that for some reason he does enjoy working through the agency of people.

Scot
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

So Mr. Trollinger, how can you be confident of the evilness of religion based on the millions of small, every-day good deeds done by its proponents?

Scot
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Incidentally, people who are critical of religion may be interested in joining a new movement called "The Brights":

http://www.the-brights.net/

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Being brainwashed by a particular dogmatic extremist sect is not the same thing as having faith in something greater than oneself. Dawkins doesn't bother to differentiate.
Most people have some kind of religious or spiritual faith and most people never commit evil acts because of their faith.
A lot of atheists use the same argument as Dawkins but the logic is defective.
The evil acts committed by Hitler or by Stalin were not related to religious faith. In the past, religion caused a lot of violence but that was because everything was influenced by religion at those times.
In other words, Dawkins' argument is confounded.

The Real PC
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I hate to admit it, but The Real PC has a point, there.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I don't know which bothers me more: the pretensiousness of refering to oneself as "bright" solely on account of their  religious/philosophical worldview, or the fact that they've gone and weirded language by nouning an adjective.

Alyosha`
Thursday, November 06, 2003

Yeah, I would have picked a different name, but I'm still supporting the movement.  It's about time that atheists came out of the closet, banded together, and worked to advance their cause.

J. D. Trollinger
Thursday, November 06, 2003

I agree.  it is about time the atheists started a religion of their own.

ktm
Thursday, November 06, 2003

The bright club isn't all that. Just nerdy dweebs who think they're all that because they're atheists. Ho hum. Been there done that. Bought the tee-shirt. Nice fad to visit but wouldn't want to stay.

Now the 'brilliants' club -- that's where the *real* smart metatheologians are at. Membership by invitation only, natch and sorry to say but no brights applying so far have had the Stanford-Binet scores required.

I am Brilliant, Hear Me Snore
Thursday, November 06, 2003

But Simon, the Swiss are aliens. This has already been proved by Douglas Adams or someone similar.


Thursday, November 06, 2003

"...the Swiss are aliens."

It was *Scott* Adams in the Dilbert Future. 

And if memory serves he reckoned they were human - just the very bright people who use flying saucers  to wind up the rest of us (aka "idiots").

Is it just me or does anyone talking about religion sound silly, no matter what they believe or disbelieve.

A cynic writes
Thursday, November 06, 2003

I've always liked the idea of basing a religion on the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The book does explain all the big questions, like how we got here and what our purpose in life is.

I would say that the books were actually transmitted to Douglas Adams by a divine fource, for which he served only as a channel.

This would explain why he had so much trouble writing anything else decent.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, November 06, 2003

Thanks, Cynic. Knew I'd read it somewhere and it somehow sounded like it fit into the HHGTTG books.


Thursday, November 06, 2003

"Well Calvin thought much the same thing (that praying on the whole was a waste of time), and he was miserable. "
Simon,
If you are going to make a statement about what somebody is purported to have said or believed , at least back it up with something that resembles to be factual. Have you ever even read any of Calvin's works : The Institutes of Christian Religion or Calvin's Commentairies on the Bible?

Cletus
Thursday, November 06, 2003

Cletus wrote, "..., at least back it up with something that resembles to be factual".

Listen, Bub, this is the Internet.  If everyone suddenly stopped posting just because they didn't know anything about the subject at hand, where would we be?

Anonymous coward
Thursday, November 06, 2003

Not everything I say is novel, sometimes the tread is almost bare on the tyre.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, November 06, 2003

As for backing it up with 'facts'...

You can read Calvin's Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God if you like.  Mind it would probably do as well to read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as well just to get the mental muscle prepared for the turgidity of the prose.

http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/calvin_predest_2.html

Simon Lucy
Thursday, November 06, 2003

"Well Calvin thought much the same thing (that praying on the whole was a waste of time), and he was miserable. "

Simon,

I urge you to read Calvin's treatise on prayer.  If Calvin thought that prayer was a "waste of time", as you state, I'm sure he would not have "wasted" his time writing a 46 pg treatise on the subject.  A one line sentence would have got the message across to his auidence:  Of Prayer: forget about, it's a waste of time!

INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
OF PRAYER
http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/prayer/prayer.html

In particular read chapeter 2 section 3, where Calvin answers the objection that prayer seems useless.

Cletus
Thursday, November 06, 2003

I think he says that prayer for intercession or for anything other than gaining knowledge of the nature of God, is a waste of time.

Personally I've never seen a creed so bound up in self loathing as the one that Calvin espoused.

But since I'm an atheist no doubt you'll disagree.  Oops a descent into ad hominem there.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, November 06, 2003

You know, both Luther and Hitler were rabidly anti-semitic Germans.

Godwin`
Thursday, November 06, 2003

---"Hitler were rabidly anti-semitic Germans. "----

But in Hitler's case only after Anschluss!

Stephen Jones
Friday, November 07, 2003

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