Can science ‘cure’ religious fundamentalism?

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An Oxford University researcher claims that, in time, deep-seated, extreme beliefs may be treated as a mental illness, rather than a product of free will.


This is an era in which science is finally imposing its supremacy on the lily-livered species that is man.

We've tried our emotion-based way of life for a little too long. We talk of love and God as if they are tangibles.

But if a scientist can't see it, touch it, analyze it, and alter it, then it isn't real.

Thankfully, we will soon all be wearing Google Glass and behaving like automatons. Life will become rational and predictable. Safe, even. We need no happily-ever-afters because we will simply keep on living in a timeless space. Until the food runs out and the planet melts.

There is still a little work to be done before we reach Nirvana, so how can we begin to adjust some of the extremities of human behavior that plague our daily lives?

Oxford University researcher Kathleen Taylor believes that neuroscience can begin to affect — with a view to, perhaps, curing — human beings of their most extreme beliefs.

She gave a presentation this week at the U.K.'s Hay Festival — the same festival in which Google's Eric Schmidt warned that teenagers' mistakes would live forever, thanks, in part, to Google.

As the Huffington Post reports, Taylor thinks that there are certain beliefs that might soon be treated as illnesses.

Written By: Chris Matyszczyk
continue to source article at news.cnet.com

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  1. If you are an adult and you cannot rationalise and reason – but Instead impose unfair, unreal and prejudice beliefs on others then you must be mentally ill. Some of the common signs of this include an unhealthy superiority complex, dressing up in excessively pompous clothing, abusively subjugating women and anything else that moves and of course repetitive scripted self justification are just some of the signs.

    • In reply to #1 by Light Wave:

      If you are an adult and you cannot rationalise and reason – but Instead impose unfair, unreal and prejudice beliefs on others then you must be mentally ill. Some of the common signs of this include an unhealthy superiority complex, dressing up in excessively pompous clothing, abusively subjugating w…

      and, of course, the preaching and teaching of nonsense to anyone unlucky enough to be cornered by them.

  2. What is a religion? Clinging to a delusion that is patently untrue. Behaving in self-damaging ways based on delusions.

    Those clearly are mental illnesses. Why don’t we treat them?

    1. they are very common
    2. sufferers have political power to interfere with treatment of others suffering.
    3. historically they have been tolerated even mandated.
    4. people imagine it very dangerous to give the delusion up. (This is also true of paranoid delusions).
    5. delusions are deliberately installed in early childhood. This makes the programming much harder to reprogram. It is about trauma not logic.

    If someone wants to escape his cult, but is being tormented by fears, I think you have some hope. You could use EMDR for example.

  3. I think we are underestimating the significance of this news. There is already treatment available for people who have been captives of dangerous cults and sects. Its the information gathered from this successful interventions of the faith virus that we need to apply.

    I am amazed that this woman has a cure for the Faith Virus and she only has 163 followers on twitter !
    her website and twitter account Lets show our support

    Thanks

  4. this article will come as a huge relief to all those jews, christians and muslims who are concerned fundamentalism and the use of religious rights to subvert secular law is giving their private faith a bad name.

    I can envisage no backlash whatsover!

    (I can feel my inner terrorist rising at the hint of daring to cure me of my Apple-worship)

  5. Pathologizing thoughts which are not distressing to the thinker is Thought Policing and is not to be countenanced. Policing peoples behaviours is perfectly reasonable and we have laws to manage this. Requiring a defined educational process of a sufficient quality is a duty we owe all children. Parental rights should be suitably reined in by law as mis-education deficient in certain ways should be identified as abuse. (I would argue that the state has the right to educate all children (home educated or not) at various times, collectively in broad thinking and socialising skills called, say, citizenship.)

    Simon Baron Cohen asked the very good question, something like, “If we could banish say schizophrenia for ever more with a jab, should we do it?”

    It could be that schizophrenics are the societal cost of having a hugely creative culture. Schizophrenia (the milder versions of which seem to underwrite much irrational religious behaviour) seems to be related to poorer access to semantic knowledge. The brain responds creatively to fill in the gaps. Though not noticeably schiz. I do have a terrible, terrible memory and find that my inventiveness (my job) thrives on it. I relearn stuff every day, re-solve problems until they become good enough for others to notice and take them off me. I would fear the prospect of having a good memory back.

    I adore rationality. The scaffold of reason is the reason we’re still here and thriving, but creativity at the unformed ragged edge is how it grows. We must take great care how we “fix” people.

    Ensuring the option of reason is always injected into young enough kids’ minds despite a parents wishes is the civilising way.

    • In reply to #7 by phil rimmer:

      Hi Phil,

      I liked your thinking. If I may, a response:

      Diagnosing thoughts is a commonplace – we all use theory of mind and introspection every day (notwithstanding some are mentally disabled).

      There is a distinction to be drawn between a pathology of thoughts (diagnosis of and distinction between thoughts as harmful, and others as benign) and psychology (the scientific study of mental functions and behaviours).

      Such a distinction requires clear definitions of pathologies of mental states and acts, the definition of unequivocal evidence for such pathologies and socially and legally acceptable definitions for harmful and benign.

      Clearly those thoughts directly connected to acts which are harmful to the Thinker, or to those affected by the Thinker’s thoughts (inasmuch as they lead to actions and stances, manners and positions), physical well-being would fall into the class harmful.

      I’m not clear on whether “distressing” thoughts always fall into such a category?

      A pathology dictionary of thoughts that covered any other form of thinking would seem highly political – and anti-democratic. As you say: Thought Policing – not to be countenanced.

      Policing people’s behaviours is perfectly reasonable and we have laws to manage this.

      I can’t improve on that, except to say that we should be careful about holding the law too high. The law can be an ass.

      Requiring [an] education … of a sufficient quality is a duty we owe all children.

      I can’t improve on that, at all.

      Parental rights should be suitably reined in, [using] law, as mis-education … should be identified as abuse [etc.]

      That is a proposal for the role of the State that falls outside Kathleen Taylor’s comments in the OP – so I will set that aside.

      Simon Baron Cohen asked the very good question, something like, “If we could banish say schizophrenia for ever more with a jab, should we do it?”

      We return here to my paragraphs above. If we can define some brain activity as directly leading to thoughts that are harmful, clearly and unambiguously, then we have defined an illness. Schizophrenia – your chosen example – is the subject of intense investigation precisely because of the definition problem. Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and Clinical Global Impression are all being used in schizophrenia research. Schizophrenia is clearly a condition that falls on a scale of social function deficit. Some schizophrenics live peacefully, and even happily most of the time, in society at large.

      It seems to me, though my knowledge of psychology is extremely limited, that this must be the case for almost all probable pathologies of thought. The definition problem won’t go away even when (if) we get a dictionary that is more trustworthy than, say, ICD-10 or DSM-IV. Errors in diagnosis and ‘grey areas’ in evidence will mean that misdiagnosis will remain common.

      It could be that schizophrenics are the social cost of having a hugely creative culture. Schizophrenia (the milder versions of which seem to underwrite much irrational religious behaviour) seems to be related to poorer access to semantic knowledge.

      I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that a properly defined pathology will exclude such people from falling into Simon Baron-Cohen’s question.

      With a properly defined pathology for schizophrenia, the next question we should ask is surely: “What is the likely quality of life for this Schizophrenic who has been diagnosed as likely to harm themselves or others?” Even with the best will in the World, and resources far beyond what is available, we might conceive of a life for this person that requires no change to their mind. Sadly, such an option is a fairy story today. The reality is that a severely Schizophrenic personality will spend a large amount of time confined, institutionalised and being treated. How much of a life is that?

      Should we cure them with a jab?

      Example: I am in a car accident and I smash all my arms and legs. In the time it takes to get me to a Hospital all my extremities are infected with gangrene. I have an option: become a quadriplegic, or die. I decide to go for the physical equivalent of Baron-Cohen’s ‘jab’.

      I will become a different person, but I will still have the opportunity for a full life.

      The brain responds creatively to fill in the gaps. Though not noticeably schiz. I do have a terrible, terrible memory and find that my inventiveness (my job) thrives on it. I relearn stuff every day, re-solve problems until they become good enough for others to notice and take them off me. I would fear the prospect of having a good memory back.

      In my definition you would not be at risk of being given a ‘jab’ as you do not present a danger to yourself, friends and family, or the Public.

      I adore rationality. The scaffold of reason is the reason we’re still here and thriving, but creativity at the unformed ragged edge is how it grows. We must take great care how we “fix” people.

      Ensuring the option of reason is always injected into young enough kids’ minds despite a parents wishes is the civilising way.

      Is it. Kathleen Taylor warns us that there are those who are only too willing to misuse psychology. Given that education is already a political football with little, if any, science in its method I am extremely sceptical of a larger role for the State in education. I look at education in places like China and the United States and I see many different ways for critical thinking and scepticism to be repressed.

      Peace.

      • In reply to #8 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        In reply to #7 by phil rimmer:

        Hi Phil,

        I liked your thinking. If I may, a response:

        Just a flying lunchtime visit….

        Thanks for the response.

        Baron Cohen had in mind a jab like the smallpox or polio jab. The condition is eradicated from mankind by a universal treatment. This is quite distinct form the case where individual sufferers or the happy but violent individuals possessing the disease only are legitimately given the cure. Cures always come with side effects and there is nothing new here.

        The jab in the case before us now, might be a universally adopted education program that instilled a due deference to the right kind of authority, say. Whilst I wish people would choose their authority figures carefully and for the right reasons, those anxious many on the right in their mentality may have a difficult job in holding this reduced set of authority figures with sufficient lightness to allow change and improvement. There is a palpable risk that a population of sheeple instead of being usefully divided in their loyalties may become a super herd, exploitable like never before. I’m not saying no to this, just warning that global solutions to narrow problems may have very large scale side effects.

        As for Taylor treating individuals as if diseased will be a nigh on impossible task given the scale of the problem and the political isolation of the “infected”. I think it far better to contemplate looking at the ecology of mind viruses, who and how they serve (men usually, conferring them disproportionate influence over women). Their adherence to their poisonous memeplex is directly advantageous and the ecological solution of releasing educated and empowered women into the area looks attractive to me.

        I don’t share your cynicism regarding state education. Europe does pretty well, with gold stars variously to France and Norway at either end of the dirigiste scale.

        • In reply to #9 by phil rimmer:

          Hi Phil,

          Baron Cohen had in mind a jab like the smallpox or polio jab. The condition is eradicated from mankind by a universal treatment. This is quite distinct from the case where individual sufferers or the happy but violent individuals possessing the disease only are legitimately given the cure.

          90% of the cells in (or on) a human body are microbes, by number (much less by mass or volume). Thus; a vaccine is a major intervention into human development on an individual basis. On a herd basis vaccination has, as yet undiscovered, long term implications.

          Smallpox has been iradicated from Humanity. Despite the unknowns, do any of those who survived a smallpox infection campaign for its return. Do we worry about a loss of human imunity – albeit that imunity which exists is only partial. Note that these are only rhetorical questions. Most of the World is convinced, however ignorant their opinions may be, that we have progressed.

          That said, I do share your concern – but probably to a much smaller degree. I’m just not sure how different mental illness is, and I speak as one who suffers from depression.

          On the whole, vaccination or case-by-case, I see no reason to withdraw from my previous position, viz.: before any medical intervention is sanctioned we first need an accurate, scientific, diagnosis.

          The difference between mental and physical diagnoses is beyond my Ken, but the next time I’m with a friend of mine who specialises in schizophrenia I’ll be sure to ask.

          Cures always come with side effects and there is nothing new here.

          Agreed.

          The jab in the case before us now, might be a universally adopted education program that instilled a due deference to the right kind of authority, say.

          I have to assume you mean that Taylor’s proposals (as She suggests) could be hijacked by the State? That is, surely, the main fear?

          There is a palpable risk that a population of sheeple instead of being usefully divided in their loyalties may become a super herd, exploitable like never before. I’m not saying no to this, just warning that global solutions to narrow problems may have very large scale side effects.

          You’re pulling my leg … no, seriously, please tell me you’re pulling my leg.

          As for Taylor treating [mentally ill] individuals as if diseased [, that] will be a nigh on impossible task given the scale of the problem and the political isolation of the “infected”.

          Again, I can only return to my previous comment on pathologies. In addition, if society at large allows doctors to define something as an illness then politicians will be obliged to consider the implications of not following expert advice which would, I presume, be supported by substantial evidence.

          I think it far better to contemplate looking at the ecology of mind viruses [assumed to mean memes ?], who and how they serve (men usually, conferring them disproportionate influence over women). Their adherence to their poisonous memeplex is directly advantageous and the ecological solution of releasing educated and empowered women into the area looks attractive to me.

          Here we agree. Sociologists have spent so long defecating in their own nest that most people are less than convinced they study a true subject – let alone a science. But, just like herd immunity and vaccination, the reality is it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel.

          Although the evidence is largely circumstantial, there seems to be little doubt that female education goes hand-in-hand with peace, prosperity and perspicacity among the hoi polloi.

          I don’t share your cynicism regarding state education.

          We may not share the same definition of Cynic. In my mind a Cynic is, first and foremost, an idealist. The Cynic knows that most of the World is weak, and will never come close to the ideal. Thus: My Cynic is not merely disappointed when others fail to match his ideals, he is resigned and angry. Of course, the true Cynic anticipates disappointment – but whether this makes them bitter and twisted is optional. It is an old-fashioned view of cynicism, but I hold to it still.

          On that basis I am proud to be called a Cynic – and especially so regarding the State and education.

          Peace.

          • In reply to #16 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            We may not share the same definition of Cynic. In my mind a Cynic is, first and foremost, an idealist. The Cynic knows that most of the World is weak, and will never come close to the ideal. Thus: My Cynic is not merely disappointed when others fail to match his ideals, he is resigned and angry. Of course, the true Cynic anticipates disappointment – but whether this makes them bitter and twisted is optional. It is an old-fashioned view of cynicism, but I hold to it still.

            I’m very cynical about idealism. In fact idealism is what I’m mainly cynical about, so what does that make me?

            On that basis I am proud to be called a Cynic – and especially so regarding the State and education.

            Oh, definitely. Me too!

          • In reply to #18 by Peter Grant:

            Hi Peter,

            I’m very cynical about idealism. In fact idealism is what I’m mainly cynical about, so what does that make me?

            I’m not really interested in a conversation that centres on semantics.

            To be an idealist on the subject of idealism (The practice of envisioning human actions and interactions in an ideal form – the identification of principles, morals and rules, and the pursuit of the adoption of same in the purest form), seems to me to be a non-sequitur and a tautology.

            But I’m always willing to be educated … ?

            Peace.

          • In reply to #20 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I’m not really interested in a conversation that centres on semantics.

            Me either. Just wanted to point out that I’m too cynical to be an idealist.

            To be an idealist on the subject of idealism (The practice of envisioning human actions and interactions in an ideal form – the identification of principles, morals and rules, and the pursuit of the adoption of same in the purest form), seems to me to be a non-sequitur and a tautology.

            Not an idealist. I’m a realist, and therefore a pessimist.

            But I’m always willing to be educated … ?

            Me too, just don’t see what cynicism has to do with idealism. To me, they seem like polar opposites.

          • In reply to #21 by Peter Grant:

            Hi Peter,

            [I] just don’t see what cynicism has to do with idealism. To me, they seem like polar opposites.

            I don’t think I can explain it in any more detail than I did in Comment 16.

            I appreciate that you may be using a different definition. That’s your problem.

            I know where my towel is.

            Peace.

          • In reply to #22 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I don’t think I can explain it in any more detail than I did in Comment 16.

            I agreed with most of that comment, except for the idealist bit.

            I appreciate that you may be using a different definition. That’s your problem.

            Well, theists can be idealists. Most of them are.

            I’m using the Wikipedia definition:

            “Idealism is the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind.”

            I know where my towel is.

            Then please show it to me.

          • In reply to #23 by Peter Grant:

            Hi Peter,

            If you don’t agree with my definitions of cynic and idealist (as given in comments above) that is your privilege.

            I made a point of saying that my definition of cynic is different to most people’s – and possibly archaic. I didn’t think I would have to explain this – I thought it was obvious – but clearly I was wrong:

            • People bandy the word cynic around as if it is a well understood word. It isn’t. What is more; most modern usage is a corruption of the meaning I grew up with (see my definition) and I believe that the English language is far poorer for that.

            • You are using a philosophical definition of idealist, I am using a rhetorical definition. I apologise if the context did not make that clear.

            Well, theists can be idealists.

            True. Does that mean the rest of us cannot be idealists. Please note the rhetorical tone.

            “I know where my towel is” – a term coined by one of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams, in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

            Peace.

          • In reply to #27 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            I made a point of saying that my definition of cynic is different to most people’s – and possibly archaic. I didn’t think I would have to explain this – I thought it was obvious – but clearly I was wrong:

            People bandy the word cynic around as if it is a well understood word. It isn’t. What is more; most modern usage is a corruption of the meaning I grew up with (see my definition) and I believe that the English language is far poorer for that.

            I’m not most people. Even in ancient Greece the cynics were directly opposed to the idealists.

            True. Does that mean the rest of us cannot be idealists. Please note the rhetorical tone.

            True, but at least we might learn from their mistakes.

            “I know where my towel is” – a term coined by one of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams, in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

            I know, but I’ll only acknowledge what a hoopy frood you are once you produce said towel.

          • In reply to #28 by Peter Grant:

            Hi Peter,

            I’m sure your posts are way over my head:

            • A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. [D. Adams]

            I know, but I’ll only acknowledge what a hoopy frood you are once you produce said towel.

            The rule is that only I need to know where my towel is.

            • For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen. [D. Adams]

            • Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. [D. Adams]

            Time for lunch.

            Peace.

          • In reply to #30 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            The rule is that only I need to know where my towel is.

            No. The rule is if you can demonstrate that after hitching the length and breadth of the galaxy, you still know where your towel is, people will assume you know where the rest of your stuff is too.

          • In reply to #33 by Peter Grant:

            Hi Peter,

            No. The rule is if you can demonstrate that after hitching the length and breadth of the galaxy, you still know where your towel is, people will assume you know where the rest of your stuff is too.

            True. Pedant.

            I have tried, and failed, to paste a photo of said Towel using iPad. You’ll just have to trust me on this for now: I know where it is.

            Peace.

          • In reply to #16 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            You’re pulling my leg … no, seriously, please tell me you’re pulling my leg.

            It is crap isn’t it? That got hugely edited down and I think the baby got chucked out too.

            I’ll take another swing at it…

  6. Oops, I meant France and Finland. (But just checking the data France doesn’t look as hot as I recall. Always better than the US, but…Maybe their strengths are rather more philosophical and secular.)

  7. Can science ‘cure’ religious fundamentalism?

    Don’t see why not.

    An Oxford University researcher claims that, in time, deep-seated, extreme beliefs may be treated as a mental illness, rather than a product of free will.

    Well, obviously, since there is no such thing as “free will”.

    This is an era in which science is finally imposing its supremacy on the lily-livered species that is man.

    Science doesn’t impose anything on reality, science is based on reality.

    We’ve tried our emotion-based way of life for a little too long. We talk of love and God as if they are tangibles.

    Love is entirely tangible.

    But if a scientist can’t see it, touch it, analyze it, and alter it, then it isn’t real.

    Probably not, no.

    Thankfully, we will soon all be wearing Google Glass and behaving like automatons. Life will become rational and predictable. Safe, even. We need no happily-ever-afters because we will simply keep on living in a timeless space. Until the food runs out and the planet melts.

    Not if we actually start listening to our scientists.

    There is still a little work to be done before we reach Nirvana, so how can we begin to adjust some of the extremities of human behavior that plague our daily lives?

    The bitter, sarcastic tone of this piece is exceeded only by the fallaciousness of the thinking expressed therein.

  8. In reply to #11 by Peter Grant:

    Its a dreadful piece, but then he is one of those Creatives….The Huff Po article is an improvement.

    I’ve just realised another reason why I cannot un-hypocritically take a stand against people happy with loony beliefs- I’m pro the legalisation of recreational drugs.

    But….So….

    I wonder if there is a test that might be applied to loony religion necessitating the kind of intervention that I would still require for drugs? Take that mind fuck near any kids and the law can step in. Oh…..I wish….

  9. In reply to #13 by phil rimmer:

    In reply to #11 by Peter Grant:

    Its a dreadful piece, but then he is one of those Creatives….The Huff Po article is an improvement.

    Thanks for pointing this out, it definitely is better.

    I’ve just realised another reason why I cannot un-hypocritically take a stand against people happy with loony beliefs- I’m pro the legalisation of recreational drugs.

    So am I, because taking drugs generally doesn’t cause one to harm others. Crazy, religious-type beliefs generally do.

    I wonder if there is a test that might be applied to loony religion necessitating the kind of intervention that I would still require for drugs? Take that mind fuck near any kids and the law can step in. Oh…..I wish….

    Me too.

    • In reply to #14 by Peter Grant:

      taking drugs generally doesn’t cause one to harm others.

      Not often, but sometimes.

      Crazy, religious-type beliefs generally do.

      Maybe a little more often, but who is the pusher, the abuser and who the abused?

      Talk of clerics and incitement to violence or child neglect and its not de-programing but prison that is called for. I would be appalled at the prospect of pre-emptive thought policing though, even for the abused. We do not force schizophrenics into treatment unless there is a demonstrable risk of harming themselves or others.

      Might you be considering therapy as a possible alternative selectable option from prison for the religoid charged, say, with the willful neglect of their child’s medical needs?

      • In reply to #15 by phil rimmer:

        I would be appalled at the prospect of pre-emptive thought policing though, even for the abused.

        Me too, but mainly because it never really works.

        Might you be considering therapy as a possible alternative selectable option from prison for the religoid charged, say, with the willful neglect of their child’s medical needs?

        Add the wilful neglect of their child’s intellectual and emotional needs as a potential charge and I’m all for it.

  10. I try never to impute motive. I know that this is so often a failure when directed at me. So

    I am not a cynic

    I am a skeptic as far as due diligence demands

    I try hard to be a realist as far as expectations are concerned

    I am a Betterist as far as intentions go

    • In reply to #24 by phil rimmer:

      I am a Betterist as far as intentions go

      Almost everyone has good intentions, but the path to damnation is paved with them etc.

      What would be great is if we could cynically manipulate this fact. Say by, educating people? Just a thought.

      • In reply to #25 by Peter Grant and also Stephen

        In reply to #24 by phil rimmer:

        I am a Betterist as far as intentions go

        Almost everyone has good intentions, but the path to damnation is paved with them etc.

        I think the good intentions of idealists are the ones most set up to fail, because-

        1. The end ideal may not be so, due to the interconnectedness of all things. Unintended consequences on the journey change our view of the goal..

        2. The path chosen may be long and must be easy and navigable at all stages. The next step is always the most important one.

        3. Idealism is dogmatism and risks a failure to see new evidence.

        4. Knowing whats proven wrong is stronger evidence than guessing what should be right.

        5. The piecemeal and random experiments of evolution, selecting the less failed is a proven mechanism for robust change.

        (To be clear, I think there are numerous arguments for idealism. They have just lost their shine for me.)

  11. Many things have been labelled as a “Mental Illness” in the past, by many groups, with varied agenda. One which springs to mind was the labelling of girls who had a child out of wedlock as being “Weak Minded” by the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century United States, for example – labelling can be dangerous in the sense of giving authority to a concept regardless of its validity, and is a rhetorical device, not a scientific one.

    So no – I doubt science can force anyone to believe anything unless they are open to its ideas – anymore than any other doctrine ever managed.

    • In reply to #26 by TanyaK:

      Many things have been labelled as a “Mental Illness” in the past, by many groups, with varied agenda. One which springs to mind was the labelling of girls who had a child out of wedlock as being “Weak Minded” by the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century United States, for example – labelling can be dangerous in the sense of giving authority to a concept regardless of its validity, and is a rhetorical device, not a scientific one.

      Eugenics has nothing to do with science, it’s based on the dubious ideology of social Darwinism.

      So no – I doubt science can force anyone to believe anything unless they are open to its ideas – anymore than any other doctrine ever managed.

      Science works, whether or not you are “open” to it. Science is not a doctrine, it’s a method which gets results.

      • In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #26 by TanyaK:

        Many things have been labelled as a “Mental Illness” in the past, by many groups, with varied agenda. One which springs to mind was the labelling of girls who had a child out of wedlock as being “Weak Minded” by the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century United State…

        Yes Peter – I merely used the Eugenics example as an example showing the misuse of labelling for oppressive purposes.

        I am afraid you are quite incorrect that Science is not a ‘doctrine’ – it possesses a major doctrinal element in the form of the principle of validation by replicated evidence. That is a doctrine insofar as it is a fundamental, taught principle. I refer you to the definitions of ‘Doctrine’.

        • In reply to #34 by TanyaK:

          In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

          I am afraid you are quite incorrect that Science is not a ‘doctrine’ – it possesses a major doctrinal element in the form of the principle of validation by replicated evidence. That is a doctrine insofar as it is a fundamental, taught principle. I refer you to the definitions of ‘Doctrine’.

          It may appear so, but it is not. The Scientific Method of which this is currently a part is an evolving collection of tools found to be the most effective to date to better establish tentative truths and demonstrable falsehoods. I was not indoctrinated into it at school or university, but I was taught about it. Indeed I remember vigorous debates on alternate approaches. Though replicating evidence is a major component in good contemporary science we may yet see it evolve as automated laboratory equipment eliminates human error and malice and “good” science move on to a requirement that results become sufficiently reliable only when experimental details remain undisclosed and the whole demonstration must be re-imagined and run again. Or in some areas modelling confirmed by data could be deemed sufficient to move on. Again in some areas automated and audited test results might go out “on probation” as it were, so they can be used by those willing in its integration with other areas and disciplines to validate it doing real work, a scoring system of successes, increasing confidence in the original.

          Doctrines are dogmas. Being very, very confident about the efficacy of a process is not the same thing at all.

          • In reply to #36 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #34 by TanyaK:

            In reply to #32 by Peter Grant:

            I am afraid you are quite incorrect that Science is not a ‘doctrine’ – it possesses a major doctrinal element in the form of the principle of validation by replicated evidence. That is a doctrine insofar as it is a fundamental, taught prin…

            Phil – I do know all this – I went to a more than adequate school. My point is, that the Scientific Method is a developed means of assessing and approaching any claim presented to it for appraisal. In that context, the method of experimental validation via replicated experiment is paramount. And rightly so.

            That is an established practice, following an essentially – initially – philosophical assertion and is, therefore, a doctrine – whether you like it or not.

          • In reply to #37 by TanyaK:

            In reply to #36 by phil rimmer:

            I presume from your failure to address any of my arguments that you agree with them. The Scientific Method is not the subject of indoctrination but taught in the normal way. That the method has evolved through recent times and will continue to evolve. That a well refined process working effectively is still subject to change if better is found and cannot be termed a dogma..

            Broadening the scope back to where it was first set by you….Science is Doctrine….you have a mountain to climb to persuade us that Science is Dogma.

            Doctrine Not even the slightest hint of science in there. Plenty on the dogma of religion and the tradition of common law. Your usage is obscure or simply perverse.

            (PS Mentioning education wasn’t some attempt to pull rank, just a desire to show doctrines to be such are transferred by a process of indoctrination.)

          • In reply to #38 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #37 by TanyaK:

            In reply to #36 by phil rimmer:

            I presume from your failure to address any of my arguments that you agree with them. The Scientific Method is not the subject of indoctrination but taught in the normal way. That the method has evolved through recent times and will continu…

            If I were you, I should presume nothing – I hate presumption. It is an ugly trait. My statement is clear enough, and I can do no more than stand by what has already been said. If you wish to start a brawl, go to a pub.

          • In reply to #39 by TanyaK:

            If you wish to start a brawl, go to a pub.

            I’m sorry you thought me unduly aggressive. Its sometimes frustrating not to have what you think are reasonable points ignored and my presumption was a tease to get some engagement on the implications of your statement. I shall certainly make a point not to do it again. Sorry for any upset.

          • In reply to #38 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #37 by TanyaK:

            In reply to #36 by phil rimmer:

            I presume from your failure to address any of my arguments that you agree with them. The Scientific Method is not the subject of indoctrination but taught in the normal way. That the method has evolved through recent times and will continu…

            Just to clarify:

            doctrine [ˈdɒktrɪn]
            n
            1. (Philosophy) a creed or body of teachings of a religious, political, or philosophical group presented for acceptance or belief; dogma
            2. a principle or body of principles that is taught or advocated

            Synonyms: doctrine, dogma, tenet
            These nouns denote a principle taught, advanced, or accepted, as by a group of philosophers: the legal doctrine of due process; church dogma; experimentation, one of the tenets of the physical sciences.

            OK Phil? lol.

            Anyway, to return to the topic at hand, I feel that Science both can and should attempt to assert the true picture of the nature of reality in preference to a religious one, but I think it is something of a diversionary waste of time to seek actively to ‘sling sticks’ at religion – that isn’t the job of Science.

        • In reply to #34 by TanyaK:

          Yes Peter – I merely used the Eugenics example as an example showing the misuse of labelling for oppressive purposes.

          And I merely used your post as an opportunity to highlight the difference between abstract, essentialist ideologies and the practical, testable methodology that is science. I apologise if you already understand this distinction, but many clearly do not.

  12. In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

    Hi Phil,

    I wrote a long and, of course, quite brilliant piece that pulled our two views together and matched our joint efforts to the OP of Kathleen Taylor. Along the way I redefined all the key words to demonstrate, even if I do say so myself, a quite stunning synergy in our thoughts, aspirations and ambitions for the future of humanity.

    I finished with an engaging plan of action and a call to arms.

    It was scintillating. No, really.

    Then I clicked Submit and my magnum opus disappeared.

    Cue: Upset.

    I mean, I wouldn’t have minded so much if there’d been a blinding flash or something – but no, just a blank page.

    You live and learn. At any rate, you live. Douglas Adams

    I give up.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #31 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      In reply to #29 by phil rimmer:

      Hi Phil,

      I wrote a long and, of course, quite brilliant piece that pulled our two views together

      No worries. I still haven’t fixed that badly wounded piece of mine from earlier. Maybe tomorrow….

      I’m always loosing stuff, but I’ve noticed something spooky about when I do it. Whenever I buy a really nice Shiraz I tend to write my very best material. Its uncanny. Its like a lucky talisman. But also, whenever I do my best work, thats the time posting seems to go awry…Very frustrating…

  13. In reply to #41 by phil rimmer:

    Its sometimes frustrating not to have what you think are reasonable points ignored and my presumption was a tease to get some engagement on the implications of your statement.

    Think you have an extra “not” in there.

    I shall certainly make a point not to do it again.

    I sincerely hope not.

    Sorry for any upset.

    Wouldn’t go that far. I did say “if”.

  14. Moderators’ message

    Please keep contributions on topic and avoid becoming aggressive towards those who take a different view. The aim is civil, thoughtful, intelligent discussion.

    The mods

  15. In reply to #44 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    True. Pedant.

    Only a true pedant would fail to realise that the towel is a metaphor.

    First I’m called an idealist, then a follower of doctrine and now a pedant. Admittedly, as a cynic I shouldn’t be surprised, but am nonetheless getting slightly annoyed.

  16. In reply to #47 by TanyaK:

    Those definitions suck.

    Anyway, to return to the topic at hand, I feel that Science both can and should attempt to assert the true picture of the nature of reality in preference to a religious one, but I think it is something of a diversionary waste of time to seek actively to ‘sling sticks’ at religion – that isn’t the job of Science.

    This is a straw man, science is not limited to merely slinging sticks. As new methods become available they will be exploited. The question is, who will do the exploiting? Will new technology be used rationally to reduce harm or will it be exploited by dangerous ideologues?

    • In reply to #48 by Peter Grant:

      In reply to #47 by TanyaK:

      Those definitions suck.

      Anyway, to return to the topic at hand, I feel that Science both can and should attempt to assert the true picture of the nature of reality in preference to a religious one, but I think it is something of a diversionary waste of time to seek activ…

      No Wicker Men involved, I’m afraid – I did not assert that Science comprises merely ‘slinging sticks’ – I stated that it should not be diverted from it’s primary purpose by wasting time doing so. Tricky language, English.

      • In reply to #49 by TanyaK:

        I stated that it should not be diverted from it’s primary purpose by wasting time doing so.

        Trivially true, but scientists should not have to constantly be diverted from their primary purpose to fend off sticks thrown by ignorant savages either.

        • In reply to #50 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #49 by TanyaK:

          I stated that it should not be diverted from it’s primary purpose by wasting time doing so.

          Trivially true, but science should not have to constantly be diverted from it’s primary purpose to fend off sticks thrown by ignorant savages either.

          I agree – but, if Science is correct, then insecurity is not an option.

          One of the things which annoyed me slightly, as an A level student, was the subtle pressure that one should accept all that is stated within the framework of orthodox Scientific areas almost solely via the rationale of adoption of an anti-religious stance – ie, that “religion is clearly wrong on all this, so we give you the only other option”. I find that a little ‘dodgy’, to use an old London term. It is attempting to bounce from one extreme to the other, which is lazy thinking. Science should be above that, or it is no better than the religions its proponents seek to denigrate . That is my point.

          • In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            I agree – but, if Science is correct, then insecurity is not an option.

            Being correct offers no security or protection against deranged idiots who want to ban birth control, teach creationism in schools or beat all creativity out of their children.

            One of the things which annoyed me slightly, as an A level student, was the subtle pressure that one should accept all that is stated within the framework of orthodox Scientific areas almost solely via the rationale of adoption of an anti-religious stance – ie, that “religion is clearly wrong on all this, so we give you the only other option”. I find that a little ‘dodgy’, to use an old London term. It is attempting to bounce from one extreme to the other, which is lazy thinking. Science should be above that, or it is no better than the religions its proponents seek to denigrate . That is my point.

            The history of atheism and the history of science have much in common, but I get your drift. There is much to complain about where education is concerned. Maybe if we tried harder to apply scientific principals to the problem.

          • In reply to #52 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            I agree – but, if Science is correct, then insecurity is not an option.

            Being correct offers no security or protection against deranged idiots who want to ban birth control, teach creationism in schools or beat all creativity out of their children.

            One of the things whi…

            Quote from Peter Grant: “Being correct offers no security or protection against deranged idiots who want to ban birth control, teach creationism in schools or beat all creativity out of their children.”

            Those are human rights issues, not solely religious ones, and in that context I agree with Professor Dawkins totally. I agree that Creationism in its religious form is nonsense, and should not be part of formal educational policy except in a Religious Education class where its context is clear.

            [Last section removed by moderator to bring in line with Terms of Use]

          • In reply to #56 by TanyaK:

            Those are human rights issues, not solely religious ones, and in that context I agree with Professor Dawkins totally. I agree that Creationism in its religious form is nonsense, and should not be part of formal educational policy except in a Religious Education class where its context is clear.

            I don’t think that ideological indoctrination has a place in RE either, except to place it in its appropriate historical context.

            In future, Mr Grant – before you rubbish other’s definitions and linguistic prowess as you attempted above – learn to spell ‘principles’. winks Just a word of advice.

            I’m both drunk and stoned (was thinking about school), what’s your excuse?

          • In reply to #57 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #56 by TanyaK:

            Those are human rights issues, not solely religious ones, and in that context I agree with Professor Dawkins totally. I agree that Creationism in its religious form is nonsense, and should not be part of formal educational policy except in a Religious Education class wher…

            Quote from Peter Grant:”I don’t think that ideological indoctrination has a place in RE either, except to place it in its appropriate historical context.”

            As long as the point is made that this is a religious view and not a scientific view, and a comparison is made, then there is no ‘danger’. I think most children can think for themselves – I can still remember being a child and I could certainly spot nonsense ‘a mile off’, as we say. Actual abuse is of course more serious.

            More from Peter:”I’m both drunk and stoned (was thinking about schools), what’s your excuse?”

            Very commendable.

          • In reply to #59 by TanyaK:

            Very commendable.

            I get a bit punny in this state. You know, schools have “principals”?

            Feel free to groan if you like.

            Also didn’t want to use “principles” because then I might get accused of promoting some sort of absolutist ideology, again.

          • In reply to #60 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #59 by TanyaK:

            Very commendable.

            I get a bit punny in this state. You know, schools have “principals”?

            groans

            Feel free to groan if you like.

            Also didn’t want to use “principles” because then I might get accused of promoting some sort of absolutist ideology, again.

          • In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            One of the things which annoyed me slightly, as an A level student, was the subtle pressure that one should accept all that is stated within the framework of orthodox Scientific areas almost solely via the rationale of adoption of an anti-religious stance – ie, that “religion is clearly wrong on all

            That is a fault with your science education, not with science.

          • In reply to #53 by God fearing Atheist:

            In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            One of the things which annoyed me slightly, as an A level student, was the subtle pressure that one should accept all that is stated within the framework of orthodox Scientific areas almost solely via the rationale of adoption of an anti-religious stance – ie, that “reli…

            Quote by God Fearing Atheist: “That is a fault with your science education, not with science.”

            There is nothing wrong with my Science education, other than the generic problem I stated.

          • In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            I think I come to a similar position as you Tanya, but for a different reason. Having had a lot of unintended and close experience of others’ mental illnesses, I have a clear idea formed that much of the avoidable societal grief caused by non-conforming individuals with non severe symptoms, lies in the attitude of society.

            However, I have also been in the sad position of having to remove someone’s liberty so that they may be treated. This latter illustrates a flip side to the libertarian position. Because of undue deference to religious concerns by a doctor this person’s treatment was much delayed. A clearly ill person was diagnosed by a religious NHS GP as having “spiritual problems”. This entirely undercut the opinion of other doctors and healthcare workers and the sufferer, with fantasies professionally endorsed and already phobic about their antipsychotics because of news stories about unrelated drugs, insisted that they would not take any drugs unless it listed spiritual problems on the label.

            Indifference to any mooted relgious type attribute, labelled in religious type ways, in mental health problems must be exhibited by both sides of the religious divide in the health professions, or inappropriate diagnoses will be more likely. I can see southern US politicians rubbing their hands in glee over the prospect of treating those commie atheists in Louisiana with Deep Brain Stimulation.

            On, science and doctrine I must concede that the terms can be and are used together. Most scientists I know, though, would be pretty dismayed by that fact.

            Finally, putting schizophrenia and religion together in a thoroughly illuminating and helpful way is this masterful piece by Robert Sapolsky. This first appeared on RD.net in 2009.

          • In reply to #58 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

            I think I come to a similar position as you Tanya, but for a different reason. Having had a lot of unintended and close experience of others’ mental illnesses, I have a clear idea formed that much of the avoidable societal grief caused by non-conforming individuals with n…

            Yes, indeed – that is a sad case. Such cases must often be hard to handle in the confines of not provoking a patient’s delusions. I agree that religion can inspire delusional attitudes, or at least fuel them – but a normal proper balance is all that is necessary with most people to allow them to judge for themselves.

            If Science ‘ups its game’ and starts addressing the key things which really need explaining, and isn’t hijacked for other reasons, it will be respected automatically. If you oppose a deeply held belief of any kind, all you will ever get in response is defence.

  17. Well, I’ll just come right out and say it then. My science education sucked. Used to get thrown out of class for pointing out all the mistakes my science teacher made.

    Fortunately, there are also books and stuff online.

  18. Actual ‘science’ means to obtain knowledge by experimentation and observation; then giving said information to another for validation. So much of being human has little to do with ‘science’ of this sort. People tend to believe what they want to believe – and find evidence to support that belief. For instance, I am a Creationist – you would likely label me a ‘fundamentalist’. I simply ask my evolutionist friends to tell me, where everything came from – if it did not come from God. Most point to something like what was said in National Geographic Oct 1999, (out of context, but this is the nugget) “…particles pop in and out of nothingness…” with regard to the origin of the universe and their inability to come up with a plausible alternative. Something from nothing – obviously not science. Therefore if not science, it can only be belief – i.e. a religion. This is the starting point for all evolutionary ideas – for one cannot talk about man from molecules without having molecules first. Perhaps it is the one that does not believe in God that needs the psychological help?

    • In reply to #61 by Creationman:

      Hiya, Creationman. Give this a shot first. It won’t answer all your questions but it might give you a taste of some of the key science thinking and the vocabulary to go with it.

      What both these guys can do is paint a scientifically credible narrative for all of “creation” starting with what you and I would call nothing. What remains to be explained though is pretty abstruse… how something that is net-nothing (which appears nothing from the outside but is something when zoomed into) might come to be. Sadly, perhaps for you, all other “acts of creation” flow pretty easily from this. What is never required though, at any stage, is a supernatural mind.

      Anyway, see what you think.

    • In reply to #61 by Creationman:

      Actual ‘science’ means to obtain knowledge by experimentation and observation; then giving said information to another for validation.

      That is the source of properly confirmed usable knowledge of how the universe works.

      So much of being human has little to do with ‘science’ of this sort.

      Not really! All the basics of everyday life depend on these workings of nature – including the neuroscience of thought, and the biology of life.

      People tend to believe what they want to believe – and find evidence to support that belief.

      Many people use this method of arriving at wrong answers. Science and engineering projects subject to this sort of thinking, usually land with a BANG!!!! – as anyone walking on air out of a tenth-floor window, in denial of NEWTON, is like to find out experimentally!

      For instance, I am a Creationist – you would likely label me a ‘fundamentalist’. I simply ask my evolutionist friends to tell me, where everything came from – if it did not come from God.

      The best available theory is it came from the Big-Bang!

      (BTW: – Did you have a particular god in mind? There are thousands of them with a diversity of creation myths!)

      Most point to something like what was said in National Geographic Oct 1999, (out of context, but this is the nugget) “…particles pop in and out of nothingness…” with regard to the origin of the universe and their inability to come up with a plausible alternative.

      Gods are not a default position! There is no evidence of creation by gods, or for that matter,- of the existence of gods.

      A lot of progress has been made since 1999. The experiments at CERN would indicate interactions of matter and antimatter do “pop in and out” cancelling each other out.

      Something from nothing – obviously not science. Therefore if not science, it can only be belief – i.e. a religion.

      This is true. The only claim for something to come from absolute “NOTHING” (rather than interactions of forces, energy – matter and anti-matter) is a theistic claim!!

      On God the Creator, the Vatican Council was very clear.

      Section 5. If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; .. .. . . .

      (Actually it is one of many theistic claims:- Ex nihilo (out of nothing)

      This is the starting point for all evolutionary ideas – for one cannot talk about man from molecules without having molecules first.

      I think the Big-bang Theory is sufficiently clear on hydrogen atoms forming after a period of inflation. The progress to heavier elements through fusion reactions in stars is also well documented – as is the generation of organic molecules in space and on Earth.

      Perhaps it is the one that does not believe in God

      The unknown areas and partial explanations of science, in no way validate the absolutely unevidenced claims that “god(s)-did-it-by-mysterious-magic”! These stand or fall on their own evidence, or more specifically on their total lack of it!

      that needs the psychological help?

      Neuro-psychology is a scientific subject. It is starting to identify activity of god-spots in religiously deluded brains.

      In many believers, cognitive dissonance is sufficient to reconcile the contradictions of science and “faith-beliefs” in their minds.

      “Proof”, by personal incredulity is however, simply a logical fallacy!

      • In reply to #70 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #61 by Creationman:

        Actual ‘science’ means to obtain knowledge by experimentation and observation; then giving said information to another for validation.

        That is the source of properly confirmed usable knowledge of how the universe works.

        So much of being human has little to do with…

        Quote by Alan4discussion: “All the basics of everyday life depend on these workings of nature – including the neuroscience of thought”

        Sorry, Alan, but Neuroscientific research currently has zero explanation for ‘thought’.

  19. I do not have 2 hours right now – but thank you – and I will watch at least some. I have looked into this topic for thirty years – read Stephen Hawking and teach nuclear technology for a living. The information approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that I teach indicates that atoms could never have formed by chance – because the electrostatic repulsion of the protons would have kept them too far away from each other for the nuclear force to have captured them. This caused Enrico Fermi to answer a question after one of his lecture on nuclear structure (Q: Then what holds the atoms together?) – Enrico said according to a friend of mine that knew him and was on the team that isolated the element Californium, “As far as I can tell, Spirit!” – did Enrico Fermi require professional mental help?

    • In reply to #65 by Creationman:

      I read Hawking as a theist and still managed to retain my faith, but read some of his latest work and you will see that he is clearly an atheist. Some of his quotes might seem to imply a sort of weak deism, much like many of Einstein’s did, but this mild irrationality is still a far cry from religious fundamentalism.

    • In reply to #65 by Creationman:

      Fermi died in 1954. The strange and colourful world of Quantum ChromoDynamics (QCD) had to wait a couple of decades to be revealed. Gluons, rather than spirits hold nucleii together these days.

  20. Apparently every single person who has the slightest inkling that there is a God – has some form of mental illness? Since only about 5% tops of Americans self-identify as pure Atheists (though most of these folks if you pinned them down are really Agnostics) – how does anyone stay sane? Isaac Newton believed. It is said by those that knew him that even Stalin read his Bible behind closed doors. Charles Darwin’s only college degree was in Theology – not science. Yet he somehow managed to come up with atheistic evolution. To one that is INSANE – but believes them to be the one who is really sane – everyone else is nuts. To all my unbelieving friends on this site – just exactly HOW do you know that YOU are the ones that are sane? – rather than the ones needing to be deprogrammed??

    • In reply to #68 by Creationman:

      Apparently every single person who has the slightest inkling that there is a God – has some form of mental illness?

      No, only those who are absolutely certain, and whose absolute certainty causes harm to others.

    • In reply to #68 by Creationman:

      Charles Darwin’s only college degree was in Theology – not science.

      The modern meaning of the term “science”, was just starting to be recognised at that time. Natural philosophy was the usual term.

      Modern meanings of the terms science and scientists date only to the 19th century. The naturalist-theologian William Whewell was the one who coined the term “scientist”. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the origin of the word to 1834. Before then, the word “science” meant any kind of well-established knowledge and the label of scientist did not exist.

      Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) was the philosophical study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science. It is considered to be the precursor of natural sciences such as physics.

      Yet he somehow managed to come up with atheistic evolution.

      Actually its the well evidenced science of evolution, although all science tends to refute an assortment of theistic claims.

      It was the understanding of evolution and scientific methodology which changed Darwin’s view from his Xtian upbringing, to understanding the absence of gods.

      In addition to all the creation myths I linked @70, there is a range of Christian Creation Myths – which vary from vague shuffling deist claims, to the comical fundamentalist claims of ID, – AIG and creation.com . What they have in common, is a total lack of any supporting evidence.

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