Should we spend more time combating Eastern religious nonsense?

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Discussion by: Enkidu90046

My wife, an atheist and very intelligent woman, regularly gets acupuncture despite the fact I have repeatedly informed her that the best evidence is that the pain relieving aspects of acupuncture are entirely placebo effects.  As a martial artist, I often run into people who believe in chi and meridians.  Such people may actually pay good sums of money to learn ineffective self-defense moves from hucksters or they will seek treatment for various ailments from people who Eastern religion teaches false nonsense about Chi manipulation.  One wonders how many people have sought ineffective treatments based on Eastern religious philosophies instead of getting treatment from a real doctor.  How much harm or how many deaths this has caused, I do not know, but I do not doubt it is as real as the anti-vaccination crowd in its effects.

I realize that the monotheistic religions seem to take up the vast majority of the attention of the contributors to this site and discussion participants, but the horrible influence of Eastern religious mysticism seems to be largely overlooked.  Perhaps it is a case of picking and choosing battles (and thus, leaving the battle against Chi practitioners and the like to others like JREF and various skeptic societies.  That said, I feel that some focus should be brought on the harm caused by Eastern religious nonsense.

Perhaps my view on this is governed by the fact that I live in Los Angeles, where the vast majority of people I encounter who profess a belief in God really are functioning atheists, even if they don’t admit it.  Yet, these same functioning atheists will flock to pseudo-scientific nonsense so long as it is steeped in Eastern religious mysticism.

I am curious to hear the thoughts of others as to whether the fight against Eastern religious mysticism is a fight that the atheist community should be paying more attention, or whether it is a “bridge too far” at this point.

163 COMMENTS

  1. To me, the quack medics of the east are like quacks anywhere.

    These practitioners use a range of techniques to fool the gullible, just as do homeopaths and psychic ‘healers’.

    My experience of acupuncture was during a period of suffering severe back-pain, after two weeks in hospital undergoing tests and consuming lots of prescription opioids, with nowhere left to go.

    Part of the acupuncture experience is about confessing to feel some improvement.  I was asked repeatedly to say if I was feeling any better. ‘Is it getting any easier?’  ‘You should be feeling some improvement by about now?  No?  Are you sure?  But that is most unusual!  Followed by:

    ‘This must be a rare case, but I know what it is now; you must come back for another treatment tomorrow, and the next day. Sometimes it happens this way; don’t worry,’ and so on.

    No wonder some people report feeling better after all this. It didn’t work for me sadly.

    These things work on suggestibility, not science.

    Yes, I think we should pay more attention to these dodgy therapies.  Religion and other scams go together.

  2.  Can someone provide a good link with information about the evidence (or lack there of) for acupuncture.  Have several friends who are into it and I always just roll my eyes a little.   I really don’t have a ton to go though besides a general idea that it is probably bullshit.

  3. It’s not about spending more time combating any particular “type” of religion – it’s about making it clear that belief without evidence is the problem. Sometimes we can get caught up in dealing with issues about morality and internal and external inconsistencies within Abrahamic scripture – there is a worthwhile cause in this – but underlying all of the nonsensical nonsense [sic] is the same problem of belief without evidence. If that point is driven home on all fronts then there’s no need to focus on particular “types” of religion.

  4. The issue with irrational belief in Eastern mysticism based on traditional Chinese medicine recently hit home for me just a few days ago.  As I mentioned above, I have spent some time in various martial arts including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jujutsu, and some passing familiarity with Muay Thai and Judo.  As martial arts have long been an interest of mine, I occasionally participate in some online communities regarding such arts.  Given that my interests and training have been in sports martial arts, I was shocked to encounter that there are still people who believe in “chi” in martial arts and the use of pressure point fighting (which is derived from meridians and TCM) called dim mak (and some even believe that you can cause death from such light tapping of various pressure points) and even a few who believe in no touch “chi-ball” knockouts.  Some of the people participating were either teaching these methods to students or going to pay money to hucksters teaching these methods of self-defense.

    I was in complete and utter shock.  You see, the martial arts has its own version of the “scientific method” which is whether you can actually use your techniques in a fight, sparring, or in competition.  Of course, there were a panoply of excuses about how these arts are too deadly to actually use, that true masters of these techniques don’t compete, how chi practitioners don’t need or seek fame or money, etc.  It didn’t matter that I posted videos of some of the biggest frauds (George Dillman is the biggest huckster out there) of this art being shown to be frauds by not being able to perform their tricks against skeptics, the true believers simply refused to give up their faith.  Some of them tried to defend their beliefs based on repeating outright lies, faith, pseudo-scientific explanations, and other forms of irrational thinking.

    What amazes me is that, perhaps unlike other religious claims, the claims of chi vis-a-vis the martial arts can easily be tested, and it doesn’t take a scientist or an elaborate experiment.  Go use it in sparring against someone who doesn’t believe it.  There is even a website that is the martial arts equivalent of JREF or various skeptic societies called “bullshido” (a play on the words “bullshit” and “bushido”) that has “throwdowns” where legitimate martial arts practitioners show up at the academies of people teaching nonsense that doesn’t work and challenging them to spar, and the encounters are videotaped and put on the web.  Yet with all this evidence, people choose to continue to believe the absolutely unbelievable.

    Perhaps it seems silly to be concerned about the fringe elements of the martial arts (at least I hope it is just a fringe element), but given its close association with TCM and ineffective and completely unproven treatments, it made me think that there is a much broader issue here that deserves greater attention.  Perhaps Chi practitioners aren’t trying to do things like force their anti-scientific thinking into classrooms or public policy, but they are having some non-negligible effects on health care.  Perhaps it doesn’t yet rise to the danger levels posed by the anti-vaccination movement, but my guess is that they are doing more harm than merely just separating fools from their money.

  5.  Totally agree with you there and a point I now use across the board. The number of people who view religion as nonesense but then buy into some Eastern or new age woo simply because that fact is not part of their reasoning process is always surprising to me.
    If people just asked “show me the evidence” a bit more we’d all be better off.

  6. Strange — to me the whole benefit of martial arts is going beyond the physical aspect and getting to learn about and feel the chi, and to become sensitive to the world at a different level.  If you choose to ignore it and deny it, I guess that’s up to you.  I’ve had a lot of benefit from it.  And no, I’m not interested in a staged fight with you — not because you’re going to beat me (you would), but simply because I’m not interested in fighting.  

    As an example of one concrete benefit, through body-centred feeling, I lost my fear of darkness, as a test walking through old ‘haunted’ canal tunnels and canal cuttings at night in my native Birmingham with fear well enough under control.  Now you’re going to tell me that it’s a placebo effect, I hypnotised myself or something — but the first-hand experience is of being more aware.  Fears multiply in the absence of information, so to have less fear, I must have been receiving more information, i.e. have gained some additional sensitivity.

  7.  The concepts of “chi” which you discuss I really have no problem with.  In the sense you are discussing them, they are akin to focus, self-hypnosis, visualization, and meditation.  If that is all that proponents of Chi were espousing, I really wouldn’t care as it would just be a different word for concepts that have are grounded in known and observable phenomenon.  What I am talking about are the applications of the concept of chi that mystical in the sense of claims of being able to perform paranormal actions like knock people out without touching them, moving objects, using the meridians of the body to do harm or heal, etc.

  8. We Anti-theists should reserve our energies and focus on the serious issues; eastern mysticism is in comparison relatively harmless. Same goes for Buddhism, far less dangerous than ‘the great evil’ of Islam. That is the greatest challenge to civilised society if only because it is the only remaining religion whose adherents actually believe every word of the Koran is true and inviolable. Yes, salt and fresh water can’t mix because the Koran tells us so…

    O/T (pseudoscience?)- after a lifetime of severe back pain terminating in a 6 hour examination & X-rays, hospital staff told me they found nothing to explain my problems. Many years later a friend advised chiropractic so “what the hell, may as well” I visited her chiro. He X-rayed me and showed (the plates) that I had a lateral spinal curvature resulting from unequal leg lengths/pelvic tilt, unfused neck vertebrae and the L6 (or 7?) vertebra smaller than the one below, plus slight arthritis.How the hospital missed the obvious is a mystery. Good news was my discs are in excellent condition! 

    After a few manipulations my condition improved dramatically. I don’t think the placebo effect can be attributed as I’m extremely sceptical and was so until I had the treatment. However I do not believe the other chiro claims about  health effects of nerve damage etc. Now I get adjustments at 3-6 month intervals, or when the pain becomes less bearable. Go figure…

  9. Disagree- as I posted above, Islam is not just another religion. Prof Dawkins stated his opinion (‘a great evil’ about 3 yrs ago, if memory serves). Nothing comes close to matching the violence, irrationality and mind control of the “Religion of Peace”. Muslims seem to be (generally) the most ignorant, uneducated of all believers; rejection of evolution is part of Islamic teaching.

  10. That was what my caveat of “there is worthwhile cause in this” meant, referring to specific criticism of scripture. I do agree with you. My point is merely that the basis of our blanket criticism of religion should be the questioning for reason and evidence because that does in fact apply to all types of religious/supernatural claims – or at least that’s what I meant.

  11. The boundary between the weirder ‘mystical’ aspects you reject and the more explainable ones seems indistinct to me.  Actually it seems more like a continuum, where I have lots of experience in the explainable area, quite a few just over the border, and  just one or two experiences significantly further into the unexplained (considering Chi-oriented disciplines specifically).  To me personally that suggests that there is more to learn.

    Also, if someone has a direct experience of something working for them, again in the sense of enhanced awareness or understanding of some process within themselves, it does not seem like a contradiction to accept that first-hand evidence over second-hand theoretical objections.  A rational person may choose to double-check that they haven’t misinterpreted their experience, but that doesn’t mean that they should reject their first-hand experience because some external theory says so.  Evidence should win over theory, even on a personal basis.  And because we’ve all got our own private set of experiences and understandings built up over the years, I think we are doomed to disagree on a few things, even if we are all being fully rational and responsible and are all double-checking our conclusions.

  12. Hi LJ,
    Perhaps “disagree” was not wholly accurate, I was intending to make the assertion that muslims are taught to be immune to reason and ignoring of evidence, therefore there’s no way to get through to them (which can be a dangerous business!). Having spent 6 months in a ‘moderate’ muslim country, I still hesitate to discuss religion but on a few occasions have been disappointed by comments from intelligent, well travelled friends. Such as     “I thank God every day for not crashing my car..”   “Disabled people are made that way by Allah- we cannot know his reasons…” and so on.

  13. I certainly get the sentiments that there are much bigger fish to fry, so to speak.  Frankly, the people who believe in dim mak and mystical chi balls knocking people out are a pretty small percentage of the population.  But this is a subset of the people who rely on concepts of chi for medical interventions.  In this sense, at least, I would put such beliefs on par with the anti-vaccination crowd in some respects.  While I have no idea what amount of money is being spent on dubious “medical” procedures based on Chi and Eastern Medicine, nor do I have any idea how many people die or suffer serious health problems as a result of substituting TCM for legitimate medicine (or for that matter exacerbating medical problems through delay), I have a hunch that it is a real problem.  Again, my views as to how widespread this problem is might be skewed from my being located in Los Angeles (one of the main hubs of alternative medicine).

    I do appreciate the comments and thoughts, however.

  14.  I agree too. There are several ideas common in eastern religion which are not helpful.
    Some examples: 
    1. We choose our births in order to “work through certain issues”  so any disabilities, difficult circumstances are our “own fault”.

    2. This whole world is maya.  It is unreal and not important. The only thing that is important is to gain self-realisation.  (This lets us off from worrying about social issues and climate change.)

    3. All suffering comes from desire.  Just accept things as they are.  Free yourself from desire.  Death doesn’t matter; it’s just dropping the body. 

    Much more subtle than Christianity or Islam but perhaps the major justification for poverty and injustice in some eastern nations.

  15. A quick Google search landed me here: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ac… ). This is a part of the National Institutes of Health. A quick look around (I’m painting my garage at the moment) did not see any statements to the effect that acupuncture is BS. I saw a study (a systematic review) involving trigeminal neuralgia (I’m a dentist, so it caught my eye) which found some benefit for acupuncture vs carbamazepine, but the evidence was rated “weak” for methodological reasons. Nevertheless, it appears that there’s plenty of study being done and published for evaluation by qualified reviewers. Based on this, I’d say it might be a bit hasty to label all applications of acupuncture “quackery”. There is almost zero evidence as far as I can see that “meridians” or other mystical entities have anything to do with claimed or observed results, but the human nervous system is a pretty complex thing, and there’s plenty yet to learn. I would be inclined to keep my mind at least a little open to the possibility that some of these claims have some substance.
    Steve

  16. But it MUST be true… it’s in all the Martial Arts movies, and video games like Mortal Combat.

    They wouldn’t just make that stuff up, would they? 

    Oh … wait …. reality check …. Yeah, they would.

  17. Interesting.  Yes, going after acupuncture is IMHO going off half cocked, as it were.   There are much  more obvious targets out there.   Let science continue to do its job on this one, and don’t prejudge the outcome.

  18. currerbell: I see a belief system as a way of navigating to a state of mind, ideally a beneficial one.  The belief system is merely a tool that can be thrown away or redesigned if necessary.

    You mention some downsides of this particular belief system, but there are some advantages, if it is intelligently deployed:

    1. If we accept the premise that we volunteered for our situation, then we can own the problem, and since it is our life that it affects, owning it is a good thing and this means that it is up to us to find the solution.  This avoids a whole lot of complaining and expecting other people to do things for us, or praying for salvation, or avoiding the problem through distractions — all of which are pretty unproductive or weakening.

    2. However bad things get, it is still an illusion — you don’t have to believe your interpretation.  You can take a step back and reframe the problem.    Self-improvement is the only way you’re going to navigate this mess any better than you are right now, so work on that if there is an opportunity.

    3. Letting go of a lot of unnecessary stuff makes a lot more space for other things.  Clinging to stuff seems embarrassingly like desperation.  You function better when you are not desperate.

    Also, talking about Islam, one feature of their belief system is interesting to me, the idea of constant submission to God.  This leads immediately to a feeling of  humility and smallness, of being a speck in an immense Universe (a feeling found by some Scientists via another route).  The belief means that your only responsibility is to complete your very small role down here, it is not your job to worry about anything beyond that.  This means that life is simple and you can find joy in the smallest of things. Whether or not God exists or whether the premise is correct — or even whether or not these beliefs are beneficial at a societal level — it is still interesting to see where the beliefs can lead to in terms of the individual human experience of life.

  19. Sorry for the long thread. Here is the cliff notes version if you don’t want to read my post: “Two birds can be killed with one stone” – get to the heart of the matter (the optical illusion, the misconception, the factual evidence,  and it will usually apply to ideas across cultures and various belief systems.
    _______

    “Richard Dawkins, Foundation for Reason and Science”  Does questioning pseudoscience fall under this view? I’ll let the mods and RD decide this, but I feel that it clearly does.

    You may live in LA and see plenty of New Age and Eastern beliefs everyday; I live in the midwest and see plenty of it here too. I used to take Tai Chi and do Yoga and there is lots of woo going on, mostly an Oprahfied version of New Age or mystical deism. Most people I have met are not focused on Chi as an external energy force, yet many do or at least unquestionably understand and accept that this is what is meant. How is this different from Christians thinking that there is a ghost in the machine being creative and working through me to create and do what I do? Both are energies that are considered additional to our physical being. I strongly feel that it is important to recognize that these different religions/philosophies are saying pretty much the same thing. Culture and traditions have simply “colored” them differently.

    By limiting the religions or beliefs that are addressed by an atheist, “There are bigger fish to fry.” attitude, overlooks the common issue of people falsely believing in an additional energy force, and focuses on the expression of a belief. I think this is a distinction that many overlook. Instead of addressing or debating the religion, atheists could reach much further if the core misconception (the most base problem), false perception, logical fallacy, etc. is given the most attention. 

    Most skeptics and atheists do not know how to address someone who comes from New Age/Eastern religions, so they inappropriately debate the issue by focusing on what they know – namely Christianity. They get distracted by pulling in typical Christian comebacks that have nothing to do with the philosophy. (Commenting about Big Daddy in the Sky to a New Ager, just makes them scratch their heads and wonder WTF are you talking about.) To learn the details of the philosophy could take years maybe even decades of study.  (I’ve noticed that Matt Dillhunty is actually getting better at this. A year or so ago… that was another story.) But “two birds can be killed with one stone” – get to the heart of the
    matter, the core incorrect view, and it will usually apply to ideas across cultures and various
    belief systems.

  20. Neodrawinian, The nonsense is the same. To me the issue is not Christianity, Muslim, New Age. It’s seeing personal experience as reality. It’s feeling that an aspect to our mental thoughts is immortal. It’s thinking there is something more to this earthly reality. It’s being dependent on an invisible, unreal force whether it is viewed as being internal or external. It’s believing that processes can occur that are unfounded and beyond the physical. It’s thinking that your group has superior attitudes, morals, and ideas that outshines every other group. It’s about following without questioning or reacting without thought.  What religion does not have these common issues and problems? Address the problem and not the style in which it is presented.

  21. Also, if someone has a direct experience of something working for them,
    again in the sense of enhanced awareness or understanding of some
    process within themselves, it does not seem like a contradiction to
    accept that first-hand evidence over second-hand theoretical objections.

    No. A person’s intuitive response is the response that is automatically colored with their personal biases, education, preferences, and ability or lack of ability to see beyond their own limitations.
     
     

    A rational person may choose to double-check that they haven’t
    misinterpreted their experience, but that doesn’t mean that they should
    reject their first-hand experience because some external theory says so.
     Evidence should win over theory, even on a personal basis.

    Aguazul, You have it entirely backwards!  Your last sentence leads me to belief that you do not understand what is evidence or you have made an error. (Also, can you define theory? I think you have the wrong definition.) The evidence you speak of may be valid in the courtroom, but that is not the type of evidence that individuals here are speaking about. Your “first hand experience” can be flawed. In a situation in which personal opinion is valid, like choosing a flavor of ice cream, yes, go with experience and not marketing data showing which flavor is most preferred. When it comes to information and perceiving reality, know that reliance on you personal view, emotions, or experience can be limited. How many people have successfully passed James Randi’s challenge when up against a double blind test?

  22.  Aguazul, I can sing and dance and get great benefit from doing so. It can make me feel uplifted, fulfilled, and help me to see potential in other aspects of my life. I can go outside and paint and in doing so I can decrease my stress, cure my depression, and have a new outlook on life. I can meet someone new and that person may introduce me to a whole new direction in life that I did not previously consider. I can sit at a canyon in Sedona above the treetops and watch birds flying below me and feel a profound sense of the beauty and wonder that is in this world. Becoming more aware is a good thing. It is only an issue when it is wrongly attributed to a metaphysical force. With a little more effort, an awareness of the actual physical source can be determined. Yes, this could get a bit technical if you haven’t already acknowledged this reality.  After you do, you simply forget about it and just go on living feeling grateful of this limited existence we are experiencing.

  23.  Aguazul:
    1. I agree that one should take responsibility for one’s own life but I  consider it neither  necessary nor beneficial to adopt a belief for which there appears to be no evidence, namely, that we choose the circumstances of our birth.  To adopt that belief would require a number of other beliefs to support it, ie. the existence of an immortal soul, the transmigration of that soul from body to body etc, etc.   That to me is a load of nonsense without the slightest bit of evidence to back it up.   I have some experience of mixing with people with this sort of belief and have heard them showing a complete lack of compassion for others with the justification that “that’s what they chose.”  

    2. You have not answered my objection to the idea that the world is an illusion.  Whether it is or not, it’s the only one we have any evidence for so we’d better take care of it.  Having some dream of a future better place or state is a way to neglect to put things right here on planet Earth.  Again, where is the evidence of a world more real than this one?

    3. Stepping back and letting go of unnecessary stuff is fine.  But the eastern way is to let go of everything, including your attachment to your own family etc.  That seems to me to be an impossibility but is an act that I’ve seen people put on. I’ve seen people leave behind friends and family in hurtful ways because they want to advance their own “spirituality”.  I think they are severly deluded.  It’s not a truthful or a beneficial way to lead your life. 

    I would also ask, how can you adopt a belief that you don’t believe because it leads to some supposed beneficial goal?

  24. To the OP’s question: yes, I believe we should take time to challenge irrationality and superstition, wherever we see them.  True there are some serious issues which perhaps deserve a bigger share of our energy, but let’s not forget that Eastern mysticism and “traditional” Chinese medicine have helped to drive tigers and rhinos to the brink of extinction, and to me that’s no small thing either.  We should try to spread our energies, prioritising the bigger follies but not seeming to sanction the lesser ones through not speaking out.

  25. This needs to be tackled but it has a lower priority than the woo that barges its way into politics.

    in the UK there’s no shortage of new-age credulity hungrily lapping up any nonsense that has the term “eastern” attached to it, I even had to point out to a faceboook friend who made a comment about some eastern wibble with a reference to “western” scientists (I pointed out that eastern scientists would also call it bollocks and that science is not a geographic thing).

    blame the hippie movement i say. nothing wrong with it in istelf but a left-wing revolution in the middle east 2000 years ago can be blamed for the extreme right-wing views in the west today.

    the problem is not religion but religious need. too many people today are happy to loose their religion but feel the need to replace it. Some seek celestial beings from space, which they rationalise with conspiracy theories, who have come to share their wisdom with us, some seek ancestors to worship by romanticising the lifestyles of nomadic tribes who lived happily with no need for “western” greed or medicine (before they discovered alcohol and gambling). And with the greatest of respect to your wife, it seems to me there is the same ego-centricity and solipsism behind the need for new-age or old-age religion

    slap a natural/traditional/eastern/herbal/eco-friendly label on any product and watch it fly off the shelves. the reason is becaiuse once you have belief on your side, your marketing works been done. convince someone that you have a product that “they” don’t want you to know about (check your facebook pop up ads for details) and they’ll buy it. but like all religions, they’re self-contradictory. old eastern remedies are eco-friendly (this is a lie, the only way for something to be eco-friendly is if not much of it is used. in the past, smaller populations meant by default, everything was more eco-friendly), but if your idea of a good ecology includes tigers in the wild, it’s anything but. So just like christianity, believers pick and choose the bits they believe in.

    I actually find the whole idea offensive. the idea that because of race, certain people have special wisdom. We know from America and Australia that when the nasty greedy westerners colonise, the natives take on their apetite for alcohol and fast food while the colonialists find no use for their cures for cancer.

    As I said, this is lower priority than the criminal organisations running the worlds religions but if we tackle religion we have to tackle the need for it every bit as much

  26. 1. the skill of believing
    I think the main reason I want to respond is the placebo effect, which in medicine is a ‘fake’ effect. It is not because of the pill you took that you feel better. In theatre (I’m an actor and director), when an actor is able to get in a state of mind in which he is actually capable of affecting his physical presence by a mental proces, it is by many seen as a gifted actor (not my cup of tea btw). Isn’t this the same process as with the placebo or achieving something because you had strong faith? The difference being that the actor was consciously capable of triggering the effect. Healing by imagination? In the case of the patient you could argue off course if then there was an actual problem in the first case. But it was at least experienced as such by the patient, and it was cured, in the experience of the patient by thinking he received an actual pill, by believing in the effect of acupuncture or the expertise of any type of healer. I don’t know about the validity of acupuncture, but I think it’s a good point by the dentist to not completely rule it out before proper testing.

    Believing being the keyword here. A powerfull, trainable way to influence yourself and your wellbeing. A method integrated in all the big organized religions. Something that also bothers me sometimes to see that when people manage to accomplish great things, overcome great difficulties they attribute this to the help of a god that gave them strenth, while I just keep thinking: Why can’t you see you were actually capable of doing this yourself! Your skill(!) of believing* so strongly, this and all the other skills that were required to overcome their problem.         

    *preferably not in hocus pocus, but maybe just in a good outcome.

    Maybe this was already mentioned by someone in the thread, it was quite long to read at once and I don’t remember all that was mentioned. Some people need some sort of mental construct to trigger or guide their ‘believing’ which they may find in eastern mystics. I do  acknowledge the problem however of claiming to heal by bogus methods. But if everyone would train and learn to apply their imagination and ‘believing’ skills on an individual level, which can also mean being able to switch in and out of believing something in order to achieve a certain goal, we could get a lot more creative with all its consequences. This is maybe also an answer to your final question. I guess it’s about selecting what you can use to live your life in a satisfying manner. Maybe it’s more easy for some than others to ignore or let go of the things they don’t agree with/believe in within a certain religion. And how many religious people go for the full 100%? Not many I think. And how much is the need to be part of a group and the group dynamics part of why they are part of their religious group in the first place? But I’ll try not to sidetrack too much.   

    2. Person + religion 
    Another important thing to consider is the seperation between the people and the theory/paradigm/ruleset or however you want to call it. You could get all worked up on how an organized religion describes life and the world and blame the religion of making people leave their family, but it’s always a combination of the two. Yes, religion can have an enormous (and indoctrinating) effect on a person, but then again how this person deals with it is not a neglectible factor. Does that person really leave his family because of religion? Or would this person maybe still have a need to leave even if religion hadn’t been there, to for instance further develop him/herself or get rid of a certain mental discomfort? I don’t know the situation or what happened. I just want to urge to consider the importance of the exchange between the person and the religous paradigm. It’s not one without the other. 

    Plus I really liked a comment that was made by someone mentioning the mechanisms underneath (for instance) religion and belief. I don’t think it really matters whether it’s a church, a state or a tennis club telling you to believe this or to do that (because they all do so)…it’s about what’s being told and even more important how people deal with it.

    People are very willing to believe and there’s probably already plenty of answers in the field of psychology on why. Maybe we just need to learn how to believe responsibly.

    3. Life is an illusion
    First of all, it’s a translation. I have no knowledge of asian languages, but I do know after having lived abroad for two years that translating can change meaning, change contexts or loose both entirely. How words are commonly used or are part of a cultural memory, how symbolics are used in a language or culture all influence the meaning and context, and therefore how we can interpret and judge a text. Adding the fact that language is also dynamic. The meaning, value and effect of it are capable of changing over time. This already creates a lot of unclearity or a lot of options for the sentence: Life is an illusion. 

    My interpretation was how we can never completely get away from our personal experience, maybe in certain types of research you can or attempt, but not in your daily life and how you experience the world around you. How your mind interprets the signal that the nerves in your skin gives you that is the feeling of the wind, how you are affected by people walking by or talking to you. It’s different for each person (right? I have no scientific knowledge to back this statement but that’s what I’ve always thought/assumed/was taught). So we all experience the world differently, which makes it difficult to say: life is ‘blabla’ (ignoring for now whether we need to pose such a general question, answer or statement in the first place)

    So how I read the sentence the first time was: Life is an interpretation, which to me makes perfect sense. But then again, that’s my interpretation…

    After making this way too long and being all over the place I just want to warn for simplifications. To balance between an open and critical mind, and watch out for polarization (in the meaning of the social sciences). Maybe it was enough to write that…but I didn’t.

    Small sidenote: 
    I’m surprised that it seems so common to speak in terms of war, battle and fighting at different fronts. Isn’t that what we all want to prevent and the thing we hate most when it’s being done by organised religion? Maybe the terminology is more common to use in the U.S. (war on terror, war on drugs), I don’t know (I’m dutch).  It’s not meant as a negative comment but just consider your metaphors once in a while and watch out for A.C.S. = Atheist Crusader Syndrom ;). (atheist myself btw)

    P.s. Please excuse the occasional spelling/grammar mistakes, I’m not a native english speaker.

  27. I’m an atheist massage therapist. I find it to be quite a dance regarding these issues, especially concerning the selection of continuing education classes. Mostly I stick with techniques that actually move tissue. I also feel it is my responsibility to my clients to give them their money’s worth, to give them the massage they want. I don’t make any claims for healing and I don’t hesitate to tell clients to see their doctors if pain persists.

  28. Just because current science cannot pinpoint the physical or non-physical mechanism behind a given effect doesn’t render the effect invalid (nor the procedure). 

    Current mainstream science hasn’t even got its foot in the door when it comes to explaining reality, including acupuncture, which is recommended by the AMA for a number ailments.

  29. “Current mainstream science hasn’t even got its foot in the door when it comes to explaining reality”

    care to back up this statement?

    what does “have its foot in the door”?

    how do you know current “mainstream” (he said it; everyone take a drink!) science can’t explain reality? is there a non-scientific explanaitin of reality that is better placed here?

    the point of the efficacy of woo medicine is that it works but no better than placebo. therefore what is required is someone to convince a patient their method is effective. this means a great deal of money can be saved. similarly with homeopathy, you can give someone a sugar pill and tell them it’s homeopathic for a fraction of the cost of hiring someone to boil water and bang flasks on bits of leather.

    If you’re gonna clutch at the “science cant explain….” straw, you’ve possibly come to the wrong place

  30. I have no problem temporarily adopting beliefs to try them out and see how they work.  You do the same in science when evaluating a new theory — you think: how would things work if A’s theory were correct.  Then you work out the implications and check that against data, and so on.

    So, with practice you can reevaluate a situation based on several different belief systems and see if any of them suggest a useful course of action.  As I say, belief systems are just a tool.  There is no need to get religious about them.

    I’m only claiming that some of these beliefs can have beneficial uses, I’m not claiming that they can’t be abused.  My impression of the few Buddhists I met in the UK was that they were arrogant, self-centred and superior — so I spent no more time with them.

    Your point of view is that a belief is a commitment and that it needs to be rigorously consistent with everything else.  I don’t give belief so much importance or weight.  I’m happy to have several provisional theories of reality at my disposal.

    To answer point 2: I don’t believe you are objecting to the idea that the world is an illusion, after all Science says the same thing in a different way (solid things are full of empty space, particles are waves, things are not what they seem at first glance).  Rather you are objecting to how people use that belief to justify other points of view.  Tibetan Buddhists regard it as an offence to dig up minerals from the earth.  So I don’t think it is correct to claim that regarding the world as illusory automatically means that you don’t care for it.  Also, you are thinking of the illusion of this reality dissolving to reveal something more real, but the thinking doesn’t go like that.  Rather this world dissolves to reveal that everything is made of much lighter and more subtle things, less ‘real’ in a sense.  If you want a solid reality, what you’re living in is the best you can hope for.

    To point 3:  You’re objecting to people’s actions following their probably overenthusiastic or naive interpretation of the idea.  Creating hurtful situations certainly doesn’t sound healthy.

  31. I agree with your comments about the muslim religion and could that not also describe the christian religion?
    Are not christians also immune to reason?  How about “No way to get through to them?  They have erected a wall of “Faith” around themselves that one dare not violate.
    Perhaps christians are not as violent as muslims but I wonder if that’s because they are somewhat restrained by our laws.
    Have you seen the signs and sentiments touted by the tea party  at their demonstrations and rallies? 
    Now they are attempting to take control of our government and if they do, “god” help us all.
    Free thinker

  32. So,  QuestioningKat, you are suggesting that Theory should win over Evidence?  That IS a startling approach.  It is hard to see how Science could have progressed at all if established theories could not be challenged by new evidence.

    I am well aware of how personal experience is coloured, but that does not mean that you can automatically discard all personal experience as invalid.  Rather it means that you need to be more careful and analytical and as I said, double-check your conclusions.  Reevaluating your experience from several points of view (i.e. within the framework of several different belief systems, the scientific world-view included) is another way to make sure you haven’t missed something.

    People here seem very hasty to discard possible explanations.  I’m quite happy to live with several provisional theories.  Maybe what I was feeling was Chi, and I have a set of experiences that are consistent with that interpretation.  But maybe also it has a scientific explanation.  I’m happy to accept either, and work with both, and see which makes better predictions.  I’m also very happy to accept both as valid, if they both make usable predictions, even if the predictions are focussed in different areas.  This can be seen in Science where Quantum Mechanics predicts well at small scales, and Einstein’s theories predict well at large scales, but they don’t quite meet in the middle.  Until we have something better, there is no problem working with two theories that on the face of it aren’t entirely compatible.

  33. “care to back up this statement?”

    Sure.  Two examples.
    Quantum mechanics (double slit experiment, observer effect…)  The fundamentals of elementary particles is not yet fully understood.  QM and Relativity are not compatible.  This is a biggie, considering that these energy fields are what all matter is derived from.  Matter is composed of invisible energy – mystics have said this for thousands of years, interestingly.  

    The second example is a question stemming from the current materialist paradigm:  How does matter organize itself in such a way as to create consciousness?  This is another biggie.  It’s what you are.  

    There’s a lot of work to be done.  

    Is reality objective?  This is the assumption (objective reality) upon which all modern academic science is based.  It’s just a belief… based on an assumption.  Have you ever searched for knowledge, or do you cling to belief instead?  

  34. So,  QuestioningKat, you are suggesting that Theory should win over Evidence?

    I am suggesting that the view of evidence that you commented on your post is experiential and not scientific. Reread your post; can you see how your view of personal experience seems to be equated with evidence?

  35. “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”

    Terrible quote…there is no God.

    Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is a real vexation to individuals with actual working knowledge and competence in a particular field of study or endeavor. Capital T and K in the quote means that someone lacks ability or answers, so they create  a “poetic” comment in an attempt to make information seem to be out of the realm of human possibility. This may or may not be so, but the answer should be UNKNOWN at this point in time and not that God knows (ha ha ha) and you don’t. There is no laughter of gods, only self righteous people trying to create a situation in which they paint a story that they have a leg up on a situation. Just because some answers are not known doesn’t mean that we need to default to the God view. There are many answers already available, but many people choose to ignore the facts to maintain the status quo of their life, or they are just too lazy or unwilling to put forth the effort to find the answers.

  36. Yes, quackery is quackery, whether it comes from Europe, India, China or extra terrestrial. Since I live in India, I am amazed how so many smart intelligent people are fooled in by words like “Karmic”, “herbal”, “yogic”, “guru”, “swami”, “saffron” etc. It is as if once you add those labels, there becomes something magical and divine about you.
     In India, it is not only the poor villagers who are taken in for a ride. I have often come across rich and successful and educated people drawn in to the charms of Indian brand of quackery. As Dan Denett says, these people have a belief in belief and they want to believe so badly that they are ready to take in any crap.
    Another thing what i have come to realize that people do not want to accept or face the truth and reality. The reality almost always goes against our childhood indoctrination and false comforts of childhood fairy tales.   
    I was shocked to know that even someone as smart as Steve Jobs resisted medicine after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He went in for alternative medicine diet. 

  37. I have a couple of issues with Eastern Religious nonsense.

    1.  My left wing friends think that oriental medicine is harmless and should be respected.  I point out that tigers star fish, rhino’s and many other animals are being driven to extinction to no small part because of belief in the effectiveness of these as medicines or aphrodisiacs.

    2.  Alternative medicine (And Eastern) is now being taught as science in Australian Universities.  You can get a Bachelor of Science in Alternative medicine.  Now if that is not an oxymoron I do not know what is.  But this is a serious threat to science.

    https://sansscience.wordpress….

    So yes we should be fighting this all guns blazing.

  38.  and another thing…Many of the top ranked hospitals in the US have a certain amount of woo going on. I’m sure most of the doctors do not approve, but why is something like Reiki or healing touch going on? Rename it if anything. Figure out what is working and remove the woo.

    Check these out!

    http://www.reikiforallcreature

    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/

    http://www.distance-healer.com

    The thing is that it works through placebo, relaxation and not any form of energy, chi, or visualized keys such as hooded figures and archetypes.  Even fake Reiki shows some benefits. If legitimate places like these hospital accept this, it sends the wrong message. I can pull out a pack of Tarot cards and come to a decision about something, but to assume that the cards had special powers is a flawed view.

    http://members.tripod.com/Rev_

    Notice all the woo, chakras, and metaphysics. This is a method that started as a scam pyramid scheme. Large amounts of money were paid to the Reiki master. Then when you got to the very end you were asked to pay thousands of dollars for the final key.

    Now ask, why are legitimate scientific establishments offering this when they know the woo aspect of Reiki is not legitimate?

  39. your response highlights another issue, again of low priority but needs adressing.

    when asked to back up a statement dismissing the scientific method, you respond with some sunday supplement level of understanding of quantum mechanics. read the following:

    YOU DON’T GET IT BOTH WAYS

    If you want to live your life by the wise words of eastern mysticism you fill your boots but don’t EVER back up and anti-science statement with a vague reference to the results of a scientific study.

    The results of the double slit experiment do not, and i feel i should repeat, DO NOT in any way provide evidence that acupuncture has a higher rate of eficiacy than a placebo in improving health.

    “Mystics have said this for thousands of years, interestingly” is incorrect. “the credulous have drawn a vague comparrison between something they believe long dead people with no concept of modern scientific definitions of matter and energy might have said since the birth of the internet, stupidly” is better.

    now please take note. i am a carnivore. serve me one more word salad and i get scratchy

    sagan

  40. One of the most modern medical research centers has been created in Portugal to investigate cancer´s cure, Center that was in the Will of a rich man that died from cancer himself, and that hires scientists and researchers from all over the world (such as James Watson). 
    The Center personalizes patients treatments and is becoming  an open space to patients at the same time  it is a research Center. 
    Having  watched recently a tv doc. about that Center, I was surprised to know that acupuncture is also available there, not as “alternative” but as complementary medicine.
    Well, could we really go against the the way people prefer to spend their money ?
    Anyway, I wouldn´t use it, but I know some doctors who do.

    http://quartarepublica.blogspo

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_S9er

  41.   Snoobles

    Sure.  Two examples.Quantum mechanics (double slit experiment, observer effect…)  The fundamentals of elementary particles is not yet
    fully understood.  QM and Relativity are not compatible. 

    Yep! Science does not know everything and is still investigating as it habitually does.  it has nevertheless built up a substantial body of knowledge over the years.

    This is a biggie, considering that these energy fields are what all matter is derived from.  Matter is composed of invisible energy – mystics have said this for thousands of years, interestingly. 

    Mystics however have never contributed any evidence to these matters – only stories, and BTW energy is not invisible to science.

    The second example is a question stemming from the current materialist paradigm:  How does matter organize itself in such a way as
    to create consciousness?  This is another biggie.  It’s what you are.  There’s a lot of work to be done. 

    It starts with abiogenesis and progresses through evolution to to development of brains.  There is indeed more work to be done, but the neuroscientists have already worked out the basics of circuitry and biochemistry.

    Is reality objective?   This is the assumption (objective reality)
    upon which all modern academic science is based. 

    No, objectivity is not part of reality, it is a property of observers.   Scientific observational methods are objective and their repeat testing processes have given us the most reliable sources of information available.

    It’s just a belief… based on an assumption.

    Unless we trust our senses NOBODY has any knowledge of anything!  Scientific methodical, critical, repeat testing, with rejection of failed claims, is the best we can do.  Other supposed methods of “knowing” consistently fail.

      Have you ever searched for knowledge, or do you cling to belief instead? 

    Searching for knowledge is what science does. You seem to be claiming without evidence or any support whatever, that some “knowledge” independent of objective observation exists.   You then make the irrational false dichotomy that objective science with multiple confirmations is some sort of “belief” implying a false equivalence to some whimsical unevidenced fancy!

    There are scientific observations and theories, which are confirmed to such high levels of probability, that they can be regarded as facts for  practical purposes.  Because science does not know everything, there is no basis for claiming it knows nothing, or that all issues are equally uncertain.

  42. I have had acupuncture  a number of times when I was living in Korea and Taiwan. Only one time would I say it was successful for more than an hour after. I had a muscle spasm in my back for a couple years that disappeared after one treatment and has yet to come back. The “doctor” put in a few needles. The needles were then hooked up to a machine that delivered mild electrical stimulation. Maybe that is what made the difference. I tried a few more times at other “clinics” but my Chinese and Korean were not sufficient enough to ask for the electrodes.
    There is some(not much) evidence that acupuncture is helpful for muscle pains… particularly if you deliver electricity directly into the muscle. However, ALL of the chi and other metaphysical(an oxymoron on its own) nonsense surrounding it doing nothing but preventing science from studding the 1% of it that has a 1% chance of being plausible. There is great video with Michael Shermer talking about it here that should make my opinion on this more clear, https://www.youtube.com/watch?…

    As for all the other Eastern woowoo… I think it is becoming more acceptable because it is viewed as safe and even less harmful than western. That is somewhat true, as DOING NOTHING is less harmful than chemical side effects. But the real harm comes from the lack of DOING SOMETHING! Do I really need to talk about Steve Jobs.

  43. Philosophers such as Piaget reminded us that there cannot be  knowledge without a subject that introduces a variable degree of subjectivity in each science, contrary to a marxist epistemology in which “all ideas are uniquely determined by the material conditions of life” (what cannot explain creativity itself); contrary to a hegelian epistemology in which the idea seems to be everything (History seems to be also a development of the idea of God itself ?) 
    This is of course a lack of scientific objectivity despite it´s creativity and placebo effects, and people´s imagination that may give people a sense of comfort (that maybe healthy too ?)
    Somewhat between this opposite discourses (as a hegelian new synthesis of opposites as it might be considered just for fun, there is science´s objectivity).
    I know someone that was using homeopathy for such a desease as turberculosis, what seems to me ridiculous, and I know they are quite intelligent people non theless.
    I remember of having watched Michio Kaku submiting himself to some of these dubious “sciences”, and it was funny for me to watch him having the weird results of the tests he made, I always wonder what could him be feeling like with it´s weird results: he had a part of the body different from the other, he must had been  surprised with the lack of scientific objectivity no matter if the “lab” had a very well modern aspect.

  44. QuestioningKat: You are saying that a personal experience is not scientific evidence.  I think that is not entirely true, just that science has not found a way to analyse or record it yet.  Probably with questionnaires and statistics and a huge sample, an acceptable study could be done.  If MRI or similar technologies develop further, maybe the process of perception can be recorded and analysed in detail by science.

    Whilst we are waiting for science to catch up, there is still knowledge to be gained by analysing perception on a personal basis IMHO.  Why should I consider my own perceptions out of bounds in my search for knowledge just because of a lack of technology?  Personal experiences still follow laws of cause and effect, even if the causes are more complex to analyse.

  45. I’m just saying theres a lot of science out there at the margins, not being accepted by mainstream popular science. A lot of it is the type of stuff that “skeptics” spend their time attempting to debunk, but if you look at the raw unfiltered data, it’s extremely significant, and interesting nonetheless. Science is the pursuit of knowledge. You’re right. I love science. I’m always searching the margins because that’s where revolution comes from. What people refer to as “woo” might be largely accepted in the future. History is filled with people like Dawkins – the priests of a subset of a belief system. I’d be an atheist, but modern atheism has nothing to do with atheism. Rather, it’s a sort of fundamentalist materialism. It’s not particularly healthy, I think.

  46. The thing is that it works through placebo, relaxation and not any form of energy, chi, or visualized keys …

    You sound very sure.  To me it sounds like you’re repeating an article of faith, i.e. this is based on belief rather than reason and evidence-gathering.  One way to filter placebo effects, incidentally, is that if a placebo effect is happening, it should all work exactly as you believe it will, or as you are told it will.  If you experience anything unexpected, the placebo effect can’t explain it.  So watch for the unexpected things, because they are more valuable as data.

    I wish more people would try doing unusual things, carefully monitor their own experiences, and then honestly try and explain them.  We would all learn so much more.

    Also, going into an unusual experience trying your hardest to disprove it is not objective data-gathering.  All you are doing is proving that you can filter your own perceptions with your power of belief, but we already know humans can do that — that doesn’t need proving again.

  47. Yep! Science does not know everything and is still investigating as it
    habitually does.  it has nevertheless built up a substantial body of
    knowledge over the years.

    Alan, I know this was in response to the QM/double slit experiment. What is not being said by Snoobles is crucial. Please do not be fooled by the actual meaning of the comment; everyone else take note.  Just an FYI, there was a movie several years back “What the Bleep Do We Know” Many New Agers are still using this as justification for their beliefs in manifestation.   I once posed a question online about the double slit experiment and someone responded that the outcome of this experiment is altered by anything added – not just an “observer” effect. “Observer” is generally used to describe Consciousness or God Mind by metaphysical types. He could possible hold the belief that the “observer effect” effects the outcome of the pattern of this experiment meaning Consciousness can alter the outcome of this experiment by manipulating particles.  The whole experiment was then used as “proof” that our mind could alter physical reality. It is not based in science, but a metaphor for how God Mind works and overlooks what is actually meant by observer.

  48. ” You sound very sure.  To me it sounds like you’re repeating an article
    of faith, i.e. this is based on belief rather than reason and
    evidence-gathering. I wish more people would try doing unusual things,
    carefully monitor their own experiences, and then honestly try and
    explain them.  We would all learn so much more.Also, going into an
    unusual experience trying your hardest to disprove it is not objective
    data-gathering.  All you are doing is proving that you can filter your
    own perceptions with your power of belief, but we already know humans
    can do that — that doesn’t need proving again.”

    You’re assuming much here Aguazul. First of all, I used to attend a Unity Church. If you know anything about this belief system… Yep, I probably said the same stuff you do without the apologetics. I was much more of a live and let live, but your here on an atheist site….

    Regarding me taking a view against reiki, chi and other woo being metaphysical does not mean I reject this notion on faith. Prove that this has a metaphysical cause. You can’t do it and you know that you cannot, so why jump to the conclusion that something beyond the physical realm is a cause?

    I think we would all learn so much more if people would learn about how flawed our perceptions are. The problem with people doing unusual things and monitoring their own experiences is that they would apply what they already know to a situation. This means their limited education, poor sense of depth and observation skills, cultural biases, personal story, etc. all get washed into a situation.

    Personal experience has its place in our lives. When it steps into the realm redefining reality, attempts to change the curriculum in a school, or keeps a person in a delusional state, its not a good thing.

    Why not tell us one of your tell us of your carefully monitored experiences and we will honestly try and explain them. eh?

  49. The dire need to bust Eastern Wu is an issue
    that begs for much more attention seemingly amongst the entire
    anti-atheist/rational community.   So I’m very glad you brought it
    up.

    In a number of ways, Eastern Wu is much more pernicious than Abrahamic
    Wu.  Precisely because it seems so harmless – even benevolent – it is
    often given a pass, worse yet, even celebrated in nonreligious circles.

    The most egregious and insidious example had to have been our very own (one of
    the highest) high priests of rationalism:  Mr. Sam Harris.  If he has
    now overcome whatever it was that drove him into that period of sycophantic
    flirtation he had with the Dalai Lama he has yet to call that charlatan out for
    what he is:  a CIA backed political huckster posing as the mystical/spiritual
    savior of the once oh so idyllic Tibet from those evil Chinese. Where’s Hitch
    when you need him.

    Little known is the fact that pre1950’s Tibet, where mutilation and
    capital punishment employed to maintain slavery and serfdom benefiting and keeping
    the Lama class in power, was not as idyllic as advertised. 

    Any resemblance to the history of the papacy is purely
    coincidental though quite telling indeed.

    What, then, explains the popularity of the Dalai Lama? The steady stream of
    cringe worthy platitudes Mr. Gyatso (that’s his real name, sort of like Rat zinger
    is the pope’s) warbles out over his breathless followers?

    Or because “he was found with help of visions from a sacred lake guarded
    by a female spirit and is held to be the reincarnation of each of the previous
    thirteen Dalai Lamas of Tibet, who are in turn considered to be manifestations
    of Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the
    White Lotus?”

    http://www.dalailama.com/biogr

  50. in the interest of ballance I would like to point out that tradtional eastern cultures rarely suffered from conditions associated with old age. nor did they have problems with overpopulation.

    I’ve always said, to anyone who’d listen, on the subject of the fluffy view new-age cretins have on any of their pet traditional cultures is while they are correct in their assumption that there’s always a “natural” remedy to any health issue that doesn’t require antibiotics or vaccines or any other evil invention of big pharma, the “natural” remedy that worked for millenia is called “selection”. It is the reason that such cultures endured unchanged for so long as populations never grew to the point of needing technology or sufficient healthcare to avoid social collapse.

    it should also be pointed out to any other experts who knew what the wise old sages were saying thousands of years ago, was that whatever they were saying, they weren’t posting their comments on the internet.

    speaking of armchair experts, time for my nap…

  51.  

    Snoobles
    I’m
    just saying theres a lot of science out there at the margins, not being
    accepted by mainstream popular science. A lot of it is the type of
    stuff that “skeptics” spend their time attempting to debunk, but if you
    look at the raw unfiltered data, it’s extremely significant, and
    interesting nonetheless.

    It is important to distinguish between the frontiers of scientific investigation, material which has been conclusively debunked, and the “god-of-gaps” style of pretending that woo can be slotted into uncertain areas of science.

    Science is the pursuit of knowledge. You’re
    right. I love science. I’m always searching the margins because that’s
    where revolution comes from. What people refer to as “woo” might be
    largely accepted in the future.

    There is indeed a remote possibility of this.  However history is full of woo and large numbers of charlatans pretending they have miracle remedies.

    History is filled with people like
    Dawkins – the priests of a subset of a belief system.

    You seem to be confusing evidence based science with faith-based belief systems.  You should read more of his books on genetics.

    I’d be an
    atheist, but modern atheism has nothing to do with atheism. Rather,
    it’s a sort of fundamentalist materialism.

    Science is the study of the workings of  material matter/energy.  It is attacked by those promoting the  wooist immaterial fantasies which it debunks.  Modern neuroscience goes a long way towards explaining the supernatural fantasies of the brain.   Wooists frantically deny this.

    It’s not particularly
    healthy, I think.

    True! –  You can face discrimination, or even be killed or imprisoned by religinuts in some countries for stating scientific facts.

  52. “I’m just saying theres a lot of science out there at the margins, not being accepted by mainstream popular science. A lot of it is the type of stuff that “skeptics” spend their time attempting to debunk, but if you look at the raw unfiltered data, it’s extremely significant,”

    That’s just hand waving.  You need to be specific. Give us at least one specific link to this “science” that is not “being accepted by mainstream popular science”.    There are all kinds of ambitious open minded scientists out there dying to discover some new thing. If there really were some measurable phenomenon that could be duplicated in controlled experiments people would be all over it, trying to patent it, and even commercialize it.  Whenever you dig down into any of there paranormal or new age “results” you inevitably find that they were frauds or errors. 

    But I’m willing in fact eager to be proved wrong, give us an example. If there are lots it should be easy. 

  53. “History is filled with people like Dawkins – the priests of a subset of a belief system. I’d be an atheist, but modern atheism has nothing to do with atheism. Rather, it’s a sort of fundamentalist materialism”

    Calling modern science materialism is an anachronism in my opinion. Read a bit about theoretical physics. The distinction between matter and energy gets pretty fuzzy. Or take a class in linguistics, cognitive psychology, or computer science. You study all kinds of abstract concepts and formalism that aren’t “material”: Turing Machines, Finite State Automata, Set Theory, First Order Logic,… are in no sense “material” but can be reasoned about and even have formal proofs. The criticism of naive materialism was valid against people like B.F. Skinner who took a radical view of what was legitimate science but real science has moved on from those views for the most part. 

  54. Eastern religious mysticism is usually benign. You’d be better served focusing in the the real threats,  Christo-capitalism and Islam. Which are the 2 main philosophys in conflict today.

  55. Many Eastern religions are, for the most part, inward looking. I no more have have right to disparage
    anyone’s belief than they have to disparage mine. Who we need to fight are
    those whose religions proclaim their superiority before god (Jews), whose
    religion establishes moral laws for all in their society (Christians) or for
    those who insist all of their laws must come from their religious rules (Muslims).

    If you believe profoundly in the teachings of Jesus because of faith or a revelation, be blessed
    and appreciative, that’s fine.  But do not impose the message (you received) on me or others that were not as “lucky” as you. Do not completely dismiss the knowledge humanity has acquired simply
    because you received a very different and very personal message from god.

    God does indeed work in mysterious way. Why he reached you and not me is surely one of
    those mysteries. So until he speaks to me, leave me alone and do not impose
    your experience on me.  If you are right, surely the merciful one will eventually get around to me; I’m sure he has my cell number. That, I believe, should me our message.

    Your wife clearly gets a benefit from acupuncture otherwise she would not go back. What
    difference does it make whether it’s placebo or not. So don’t impose your beliefs
    on her either, you start sounding like a preacher when you do.

  56.  How am I being a preacher by informing my wife that she is paying money to someone who is performing a procedure that has no good science behind it that it is anything more than a placebo?  How is increasing one’s knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others (particularly those we care about and love) “preaching” or in any way imposing my beliefs on her.  What if my wife was going to a witch doctor?  What about a psychic?  How about paying to have her palms read?  What if she went to someone who claimed he was talking to her deceased relatives?  Obviously anyone who goes to such hucksters would be getting something out of such interactions even though they are all nonsense.  That isn’t sufficient reason to remain silent, in my book.  If that is preaching or forcing my beliefs on her, so be it.

  57. Many Eastern religions are, for the most part, inward looking. I no more have have right to disparage anyone’s belief than they have to disparage mine.

    What we need to fight are those whose religions proclaim their superiority before god (Judaism), whose
    religion establishes moral laws for all in their society (Christianity) or for those who insist all of their laws must come from their religious rules (Islam).

    If you believe profoundly in the teachings of Jesus because of faith or a revelation, be blessed and appreciative, that’s fine.  But do not impose the message you received on me or others that were not as “lucky” as you. Do not completely dismiss the knowledge humanity has acquired simply because you received a very different and very personal message from god.

    God does indeed work in mysterious way. Why he reached you and not me is surely one of those mysteries. So until he speaks to me, leave me alone and do not impose your experience on me.  If you are right,surely the merciful one will eventually get around to me; I’m sure he has my cell number.

    Your wife clearly gets a benefit from acupuncture otherwise she would not go back. What difference does it make whether it’s placebo or not. So don’t impose your beliefs on her either, you start sounding like a preacher when you do.

  58. QuestioningKat: Okay, you win.  Does that make you feel better? (Only joking.)

    Anyway, I think my approach to personal experience is almost completely the opposite to yours.  To you all personal experience is woo-woo, good for choosing ice cream but not much else.  To me personal experience is my own direct feed from reality.  Everything else, thoughts and ideas and theories and so on are just constructions in my imagination.  Science only exists in our imaginations!  These things are not reality.  At best they can be an attempt to describe reality.  The real stuff is right here in front of me, the minute-by-minute experience of life.  If something happens right here that cannot be explained by all the theories I’ve so far encountered, I’m going to have to look for a new theory.  Perception is a mess but it is the most direct connection to reality that we have.  Anything else is at least one step removed.  That’s it, really.

  59.   “Okay, you win.  Does that make you feel better? (Only joking.)”

    I don’t think you’re really joking. Besides this is not a contest.

    Actually everyone goes through life living it through personal experience. Unity and metaphysics is all about your own personal spiritual journey. Certain I was drawn to that aspect immediately because of my introverted, creative nature; your comment assuming I have a view that personal experience is only good for me choosing ice cream is inaccurate. See how talking to the internet for just a few minutes makes you think you actually know all about a person based on one comment? I’m the least scientifically literate person here. I tend to get trashed for using personal anecdotes to explain stuff.  Yet, when I do the leg work to look up the information maybe even find a study – there it exists. I know that I need to be constantly aware of how I might be projecting my personal views on a situation and then take a step back and see how I may have been creating a story and overlooking reality. If I am uncertain of a situation, I need to look into the subject further to see if the information gives me clarity.  Accepting reality and not searching for a metaphysical cause has been an awesome personal journey. At first, losing faith is devastating because your stories all crumble, but soon life becomes more precious and the immense gratitude returns with new light.  It does require more work and less automatic intuitive assumptions. I could see why people prefer sticking with deism or more metaphysical views. Deconverting was painful and a lot of work. I needed to ask myself what the source of the view was and then go look it up. That then lead to more questions that needed to be challenged and verified. Admittedly, giving up my personal stories and personal experiences about a metaphysical force was the last thing to go. All the bizarre synchronicities, and even non-drug induced spiritual experiences were so convincing.

    We are probably more similar than different. I just realized that I needed more education and that my thoughts and perceptions could be flawed.  Accepting things on faith is a joke. I don’t accept what a sales person tells me on faith, so why stop questioning? Certain things did not add up in this philosophy; at one point in time I had to ask myself if I was being authentic and decided to question the details and validity of my views.

    Yes you should follow your own path and personal experience but when you start to make assumptions that are outside of the realm of what has been shown or proven, know that eventually it will bite you back. It may even happen at an inopportune time. I have seen many people who are heavily into woo end up having trouble in their personal life because they fail to see the obvious hard core reality of  situation and follow their intuition as a guide. Usually it tends to be most obvious in financial situations. They seem to be waiting for a check to become manifest and show up in their mailbox at the most appropriate time. Doing things by the book like improving their education to get a better paying job, following IRS regulations, saving, budgeting, etc. are pushed aside in favor of the attitude that “God will provide.”

      Perception is a mess but it is the most direct connection
    to reality that we have.  Anything else is at least one step removed.
     That’s it, really.

    Knowing this, rest assured that some scientist is working diligently through the scientific method to find the best possible explanation. His findings are then peer reviewed and scrutinized by many more people and maybe some technology too. It’s not a perfect method, but it seems to be the best thing going so far. So keep personally enjoying your life and when you get to a big question, just remember that the view you come up with instantly, may not be the best nor correct view.

  60.  Maria, To some metaphysical types, the answer to your question would be yes. Life is supposedly all an illusion and we are living a collective dream. The true reality is the realm of God. I’m not sure this is Aguazul’s view; I’d be interested to hear how he would answer.

  61. I agree with you in a way.  There are a lot of open-minded scientists.  However, there is still dogmatism in science.  For example, check this out:
    http://www.sheldrake.org/D&…

    And I don’t mean to talk shit about Dawkins.  He’s obviously an extremely talented scientist and a great writer.  But brilliance in certain aspects of thought seem to cause deficiencies in other aspects. 

  62. So I looked at that link and checked out the site. I read the abstract for a paper on Telepathic Parrots. Just so I understand you, you are saying Dawkins is dogmatic because he belittles research on Telepathy? 

    I would be surprised, no amazed, if after presenting Dawkins with verifiable data on anything he would refuse to look at it. That was my original point, if you could really demonstrate ESP in Parrots you would have a discovery of amazing importance. I suppose you can call me dogmatic because I didn’t dig up my statistics text books, analyze the statistical claims of the Telepathic Parrots paper.  

    The thing is if I spent a lot of time looking at papers on Telepathic Parrots I wouldn’t have time to look at stuff that is more interesting to me. So yes proving Telepathic Parrots is more difficult than say finding a new planet. There is a bit more skepticism to overcome. But if there was really some repeatable phenomenon there I believe a determined scientist could bring it to light and in the mean time I’m going to rely on the fact that every time I took the trouble to read a book on UFOs or Ancient Astronauts or ESP I always came away convinced it was nonsense or fraud. 

  63. Snoobles, I checked out your link and I must say  that I’m surprised you see any validity in the responses and comments from Sheldrake. There are some clear and obvious problems.

    First notice how the article reads.

    “IWC Media told me…….” (notice it wasn’t Richard, but a producer.)
    “The director asked……” (Again, it was the people running the show.)

    “He dismissed all research.” Notice it is the author claiming this and the Sheldrake also assuming that what he had was legitimate. If he was willing to show it to Richard before it was double blind, peer reviewed, and scrutinized research, how valid could it be? “Oh here is a rough draft of my novel, please excuse the typos, poor grammar, shoddy plot,  spaghetti sauce and lack of professionalism. Large publishing houses just love handwritten submissions, they don’t edit a thing. Hey I’ve got a cousin who is good at sketching.” Every professsion has standards. It sounds like the “evidence” was questionable and Richard was wise to not submit himself to be in an awkward situation. There have been several tests and studies of telepathy and they have failed miserably. Why is this guy claiming his research is better?

    “He (Richard) produced no evidence.” This is not how it works. The person making the claim, Sheldrake, is responsible for proving the positive claim. If Sheldrake claimed that he owned a dog and there was no sign – bowls, photos, toys, leash, fur, etc. Why should a visitor to his house have to bring up evidence since the person making the claim could simply move the goalpost and make excuses? He says he has a dog, so he needs to prove it.

    “But brilliance in certain aspects of thought seem to cause deficiencies in other aspects. ” This is a horrible assumption that you are making towards Professor Dawkins based on your stand that Sheldrake was correct and Richard was wrong. Switch the views and Sheldrake seems to be the one with a deficiency in understanding protocol in these matters.

  64. I would rather say, as did a french historian that wrote a book on science practise: there are plenty of people who have science related jobs, but it is worth to mention that they can be doing a good or a bad service, not that science is dogmatic.
    Interestingly, that historian (I think) mentions the science policy of USA during the cold war: US hired scientists like football players, not because they were good, but to avoid that they would become a menace.
    Sorry I don´t remember the author´s name not even the title of the book.

  65.  Ok Jim, Maybe you don’t run into a lot of woo in your life, but I get great deal of it.  Today I checked an art site and the topic was interesting and relevant. Then someone chimes in

     “In addition, quantum physics has shown that when we place our attention on a quantum particle it changes its path, rendering prediction rather maddening. Robert’s observations are consistent with quantum physics, in that when we speak about our plans, a work in progress, or what we have done, we subtly change what has been, what is, and what will be.”

     Yep, if I complain about a design piece or brag about it, the completed physical work ……just changes. eerie isn’t it. Something that already exists, automatically changes. No one, no one imagine that the earth could possibly stop spinning. Don’t even say a word! Really, don’t even think about it. Your verbal vibrations are very powerful and together our thoughts can transform this world.

    I express concerns about a particular situation and make a comment about a possible conclusion if we stick on the same path ….and someone responds. “Cancel, cancel. Don’t send that thought out into the Universe. You’ll make it come true.” Then when it happens (because I was aware of the natural consequences) people think I’m psychic. seriously.

  66.  Hey, Sagan. I completely agree with almost everything you say but do you have to be such a mean cat?  Calling people cretins just because of their silly beliefs?   Cretinism (neonatal hypothyroidism) is a real condition.  I hope you feel less scratchy after your nap.

  67. What does God or New Age stuff have to do with anything? Why turn things into a fight against a group of people who don’t think like you do? I’d rather not associate with any group, because this kind of pathetic shit happens.

    You sound identical to the religious. It’s the same old thing with a new face.

    This whole site is a way of flattering yourself: “I’m a big strong guy, because I face facts.”

    You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, and you know it. This has nothing to do with science or facts or truth. It’s all about disingenuous argument and us versus them.

  68. Well if your wife is an atheist and a very intelligent woman I doubt if she really believes that it is “opening up her chakras” or some other nonsense. But still she goes because it makes her feel better. Of course its the placebo effect but to get the placebo effect you have to take the placebo.I don’t know but maybe there is something to be said for that. 

  69.  That’s right Snoobles attack me personally and include everyone else here in the same boat – just because you cannot respond to what I wrote. This is typical of someone who comes to a site like this and says something counter to what is being said – why do this? come on! Why did you come here? Support yourself better and quit making personal attacks.

  70. You stare into your high definition plasma screen monitor, type into your cordless keyboard then hit enter which causes your computer to convert all that visual data into a binary signal that’s processed by millions of precise circuits, which is then converted to a frequency modulated signal to reach you wireless router where it is then converted to light waves and sent along a large fibre optics cable to be processed by a super computer on a mass server which then sends that bit you typed to a satellite orbiting the earth that was put there through the greatest feats of engineering and science, all so it could go back through a similar pathway to make it all the way here to my computer monitor 15,000 miles away from you just so you could say
    “Science is all a bunch of man made hogwash.”

  71. What is there to respond to? The fact is that the observation (human attention, consciousness, whatever…) affects the results of the double slit exp. This is established fact.

    Look into digital physics. Reality is virtual. Woooooo.

  72.  Enkidu,

    We all come to reason in our own time and in our own way. Personally, I have tried acupuncture on several occasions and it did nothing to me. In fact, I felt somewhat ridiculous with needles stuck in my buttocks with a warm lamp over them.

    My wife, like yours, feels it make her feel better. If she thinks it makes her feel better, who am I to tell her that it does not. Rationalism  used to debunk, clearly, harmful behavior (i.e. fundamentalist religion) is one thing but to attempt to impose it on all manners of human behavior is something else.

    Besides, despite the significant advances humanity has made in the past 2,000 years, we still have little knowledge of what goes on in the human brain.

    My philosophy is to live and let live; do no harm. If people want to have acupuncture or have their cards read; fine. You start going around sacrificing virgins or imposing arbitrary behavior on me; well that’s something else.

     

  73.  Interesting article, Jon.  Thanks for posting it.  I am aware that there are still some questions to be answered on the issue of whether acupuncture is more than a placebo.  That is why I wrote, originally, that it appears under the best evidence available so far that the positive benefits of acupuncture are nothing more than placebo effects.  That said, if additional studies indicate that there is something more going on, I might reconsider my views on acupuncture.  It does appear, though, at least in human studies, that it doesn’t matter where the needles are place, or whether they even use needles or not.

  74. According to something I read on this site a while ago the placebo effect is when the physical reason for pain is gone but the brain continues to register pain. The reason for pain is to prevent a body part from being bumped. Now the brain is still protecting the previously injured part unnecessarily. It needs a thing of authority to convice it that there is no more need to register pain and this thing of authority is the placebo. So there is nothing wrong with a placebo. Obviously only in this context.

  75.   Life is supposedly all an illusion and we are living a collective dream.   The true reality is the realm of God.   I’m not sure this is Aguazul’s view; I’d be interested to hear how he would answer. 

    Maybe he is waiting to be offered the choice of the blue pill or the red pill….maybe he is waiting on the ‘blue men’ constructing the next moment in time and in turn, inventing explanations for the yet unexplained…I just don’t get this ‘brain in a vat’ approach to reality that some people like to postulate, like god, it answers nothing. Perception too, is wildly over rated in my opinion. Perception in humans is far too easily conned in many instances and can be extremely subjective. akin to liking certain flavours of ice-cream I suppose. Thank feck we have science to sort the wheat from the chafe, that’s all I can say. }80)~

     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P… 

  76. People gullible enough to part with their hard earned cash and rational thinking as long as no physical harm is done, fair does, whatever floats yer boat. My gripe is that some folk who fall foul of woo woo medicine when they really need to be seeking proper medical treatment, is where the problems start.

    http://whatstheharm.net/altern… 

  77. Many people are drawn to Eastern religions/philosophies because of their lack of authority and focus on the individual instead of a prophet or deity. The main problem with this view is that it leads to the idea that a person can discover their ‘inner self’ or become ‘at one with the universe’… if only they pay a substantial sum of money to a con artist cleverly disguised as a ‘spiritual guide or healer’. These people irritate me far more than the silly beliefs themselves, what they do barely falls short of theft.

  78. “No way. So you think the blackmail and the scaremongering the shit out
    of children, forcing them to believe woo woo or face an eternity of
    burning in Hell is really quite pleasant. C’mon now, get real. woo woo
    masters have to use lies, scare tactics and subterfuge to sell their
    snake oil, …”

    IA, Just an FYI, since this is about woo. Most people are not forcing this on kids. In fact, children seem to be pretty much out of the picture. There is generally no Hell in the types of philosophies being discussed here. Your bringing in Abrahamic religions. Usually Eastern and New Age beliefs tend to be highly individualized with each person finding their own spiritual path. Few may seek out a guru, but most enjoy the lack of authoritarianism and rules.

  79. IA, Just an FYI, since this is about woo. Most people are not forcing this on kids. In fact, children seem to be pretty much out of the picture.

    If only it were so QK, if only it were so…..did you see my link?
    http://whatstheharm.net/childr… 

    Woo affects children the most and in more ways than most people understand.

    Let’s not be so naive when it comes to woo woo’s impact on our kids, eh?

  80. Just an FYI back at ya Kat, if you check the comments, you will see who brought religious woo woo and the Abrahamic woo in particular, into the discussion…I’ll give ya a clue, it wasn’t me. Was it you do ya think?

  81. Actually AI, my background including Unity, is a non-Abrahamic philosophy, so I certainly I was not referring to the Christian religion. You may think this… but it is not the perspective that I am coming from.  Knowing this, if you go back and re-read my comments you will see that I was actually referring to  Eastern religions and non-Abrahamic woo all along. If you’re still having trouble, quote it and I’ll explain.

    No, God with the capital ‘G’ is not necessarily referring to the Abrahamic God. “God” can also be used in this situation for “Universe” “God Consciousness” Divine Mind” or any other view that falls under the concept of God, but not only the Abrahamic one.  Go to a bookstore and read some metaphysical stuff and even New Age — they generally use  the word “God.” Ever hear the Dali Lama say “God?” Yes, of course you have.  It’s much easier that using Universal Divine Consciousness or something like that.  There are some similarities to Abrahamic religions, but it is not big daddy in the sky or devil below. Say that to a New Age type and a flag goes up.

    From an earlier post of mine “Most skeptics and atheists do not know how to address someone who comes
    from New Age/Eastern religions, so they inappropriately debate the issue
    by focusing on what they know – namely Christianity. They get
    distracted by pulling in typical Christian comebacks that have nothing
    to do with the philosophy. (Commenting about Big Daddy in the Sky to a
    New Ager, just makes them scratch their heads and wonder WTF are you
    talking about.) To learn the details of the philosophy could take years
    maybe even decades of study.”

    Yep, AI, you pulled out the classic response.

    I checked your link about children and woo. Most were Christians handling snakes, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventists, Scientologist, Faith tabernacle, Christ Miracle Healing…. Amongst the 125 that I looked at maybe Antonia and Lorie, 2 Ontario Children, 1 “John Doe” and 1 “John Roe” and Mayi Devi & her baby, were because of Eastern medicine or New Agey medicine. Still with this being said, you just don’t find children being raised New Age. People come to these beliefs in adulthood. You’re less likely to hear about children and more likely to hear about adults being killed in a sweatlodge fiasco.

    Regarding true reality is the realm of God. What that actually means is that you achieve God Consciousness and live in a higher state of Consciousness.  God is One and it is considered that we are all one – essentially We, You, I and everyone is God.

  82. The point I was trying to make was that our understanding of gravity is in our imagination.  Actual gravity is out there in reality.  They are not the same thing.  For one thing whilst science can predict gravity’s effects well, gravity is still not fully understood by science.  So the picture of gravity in our heads is not complete.  People sometimes mistake their understanding of something for the thing itself.  All they are doing is manipulating models in their heads and they think that is real, but reality is not in our heads.  Pure reason, when not exposed to external reality, can sometimes lead us astray.

    Regarding the collective dream, maybe it is true, I don’t know.  I can’t think how to test it, or how to take advantage of it  (e.g. it’s me versus 6 billion people on the reality of gravity — who is going to win?), so to me it is just a theory that might be useful one day — who knows?

    QuestioningKat: Regarding intuition and so on.  I am very cautious and quite paranoid about ways that things could go wrong — I normally see all the failure paths of an idea before the advantages. I double-check everything before doing it.  If I were to get the intuition to do something, usually I would wait until I get it twice, and then I run the scenarios in my head over and over looking for ways it could go wrong.  So I’m not the type to believe or do something on a whim, or to leap to conclusions (as you suggested).  However, I’ve also learned to take quite big calculated risks, doing unusual things, and taking them has made life a lot more interesting.
    I don’t look for metaphysical causes, but if that’s what I perceive, I don’t deny the perception. Maybe I will later interpret it in some other way, but the perception — as a reaction of my total being to the event — is raw data and can’t be denied IMHO (i.e. I aim to always act as an honest observer of my own thoughts or impressions or whatever).
    About your stories crumbling, I know what you mean — I’ve crashed like that so many times, I’ve lost count and really it doesn’t matter any more.  Everything is just a temporary theory now.  Getting attached to any of them just causes inflexibility.  To me it seems better to try seeing things from several different perspectives and to look for the one which explains/predicts best.

    I guess a lot of hard core reality I see painfully clearly — other aspects I’m hoping I can find another way than the tired old way.  My wife is the opposite: an optimist with almost no foresight to avoid problems, who sees straightforward work and business as the only solution to money problems — even writing a book would be too far-out for her.  So we manage.

    I can see that you’ve put your faith in scientists and the scientific method to sort things out.  But I trained as a scientist — I don’t have the same option to feel okay about leaving my questions for others to answer.

  83. It still wasn’t me that introduced the God of the Abrahamic religions though…it was the author of the comment I was replying too. 

    Regarding your use of God and the definition…this is precisely the reason I’m Igthestic. Most people infer it to be the Yahweh of Abraham, so like all those that misrepresent Einstein for his unfortunate use of God, it is only to be expected. Confusing the issue further on God helps no one.

    Actually AI, my background including Unity, is a non-Abrahamic philosophy, so I certainly I was not referring to the Christian religion. You may think this… 

    I wasn’t thinking anything, I was refuting Vmar’s comment, but now that you mention it, you need to get Wikipedia on board with that, they think the Unity Church is quite a different animal altogether…

    Five basic ideas that Unity sets forward as its main belief system are:
    “God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.””We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.””We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.””There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God.””Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.”

    The ‘Daily Word’ also needs brought up to date with your definition of Unity philosophy too…

    http://www.unity.org/prayer 

    Definitely some woo woo Christian spiritualist healing being espoused there…IMO..

     http://www.unity.org/resources

    I feel a No True Scotsman’ coming on.

    The woo woo of Abraham is Eastern, albeit middle eastern, isn’t it? Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all eastern religions.

    Still with this being said, you just don’t find children being raised New Age.

    Behave yourself Kat…to whom are the following books directed at then?…

    http://www.google.es/search?q=… 

    Children born to those that follow New Age ways, like children born into other cultures, will be raised as such, how can it be otherwise…

    http://www.adishakti.org/new_a… 

    I think the special among them are exploited, surprise, surprise, and called Indigo children. 

    http://www.amagicalworld.com/i… 

    New age woo woo nonsense, but whatever way you want to cut it, they are children being brought up ‘New Age’.

    Yep, AI, you pulled out the classic response.

    I don’t know why you are having a pop at me…I was just refuting  Vmar’s remark…

    The religious or the woowoo masters are trying to sell you something that, in the end, is really quite pleasant. Ours is a tougher sale.

    His reference to 72 virgins was obviously Islamic, ergo opening up the subject to the Abrahamic faiths.

    In any case…woo woo is woo woo is woo woo in my book, it is all the subject of ridicule, you pick your particular favourite and I will pick mine.

    Regarding true reality is the realm of God. What that actually means is that you achieve God Consciousness and live in a higher state of Consciousness.  God is One and it is considered that we are all one – essentially We, You, I and everyone is God.

    Making the word God absolutely meaningless, as I suspected.

  84. Very good IA, doing some legwork I see.
     

    I wasn’t thinking anything, I was refuting Vmar’s comment,

    and I was commenting to your use of ‘Hell” Hell doesn’t exist in these views. I’m certainly not picking on you. Just correcting this view. But if you want to fight, I’ll fight!! I’ve got my claws out, reoooowww!

    but now
    that you mention it, you need to get Wikipedia on board with that, they
    think the Unity Church is quite a different animal altogether…

    Seriously, that post is lacking. It’s not incorrect, but incomplete. I notice the New Thought off to the right side, but not part of the article…..

    Yes, Wikipedia is using the official view of Unity. Unity is difficult to explain because it cherry picks beliefs from all over the place – even Hindu chakras.  It sounds pretty Christian and it is in the south and Kansas City headquarters where they actually pick up the Bible. Individual churches are allowed to do their own thing. The church I originally attended picked up the Bible about five to ten times in about ten years. It was definitely New Thought. The minister finally opened the Bible after some Christian complained. Unity is officially non-traditional Christian at Unity Headquarters or New Thought (non-Christian) at some individual churches — Jesus was not God; there is no sin, no devil, no Hell, no view on heaven as an afterlife – reincarnation and living your life right now is stressed…The goal is for you to remember that you a spiritual being that has forgotten its divinity. You are considered ONE with all.

    According to Unity, Christ was not God but a brother/way shower. Several former Jews are in Unity and some people consider Buddah or some other teacher as their primary “inspiration” not Jesus Christ.  I met a few who followed Sai Babba. Everyone is on their own spiritual path. The church does not consider itself to be a religion but a spiritual path and gathering of open like-minded people. On any given Sunday you will be in a room with liberal Christians, deists, new agers, panentheists, panthesists, dabbling Buddhists, native spiritualists. Again the word “God” is a deistic Universal God. Individual are free to metaphysically view the word God and apply their own meaning.

    So as for the no true Scottsman. Nope everyone is doing their own thing. (Even us poor atheist are simply following our own spiritual path which still eventually leads to “God.” So don’t judge them. Maybe our next life…) Post modernism rules the day. If Sufism is your current thing; then go find meaning and truth in it. No one is saying you have to agree with the statements you quoted. They are usually taken symbolically. Some people do not feel that God is creator of all, but collectively all of our Consciousnesses.  The church is actually split. On one hand there is the traditional Unity which would be considered metaphysical Christian and the Bible is interpreted metaphysically, while there are fringe churches which are straight New Thought and may never touch the Bible except for reading the Daily Word at the beginning of services. A Course in Miracles is preferred over the Bible.

    Yes, and what I said is still incomplete.

     

    The ‘Daily Word’ also needs brought up to date with your definition of Unity philosophy too…

    No that’s probably accurate and brings in lots of money from the traditional Christians.(Unity’s call center to ask for prayer help is popular too. Volunteer operators come from various religions and are trained  to help people in need.  I understand that hundreds of calls came FROM the twin towers on 9/11.) Unity is a cherry picked religion ( and proud of it.) It is a conglomerate of what is considered to be the best of all religions brought into one.  Spiritual truth is found in a variety of sources, Christian, Hinduism, New Age, …

     

    Definitely some woo woo Christian spiritualist healing being espoused there…IMO..

    Actually some of the views  and views about being healed of TB is dated. This church evolves quickly and adapts new ideology quickly. It no longer accepts Filmore’s view about being able to physically live forever. People in Unity will run to a doctor if needed, but lots of people are also into simultaneous alternative healing. Some also follow Louise Hay’s BS views of illnesses having a metaphysical cause. Many believe that your thoughts create physical illness – all actually an illusion since you really are a perfect manifestation of divine energy. I’ve never met anyone who refused to see a doctor. They usually do their research and find the best doctor too. If they found a quack, this would reflect poorly on them because it would alert others that they manifested a crappy doctor into their lives and it would make them look spiritually flawed. (lol)
    “Oh , I cured myself of Cancer.” (After see the top doctor in the area. Getting the best treatment over the last six months.)
     

    The woo woo of Abraham is Eastern, albeit middle eastern, isn’t it? Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all eastern religions.

    A ha ha ha!

     

    Still with this being said, you just don’t find children being raised New Age.

    Behave yourself Kat…to whom are the following books directed at then?…

    Sure there are books, but what are the statistics of children being raised in these views? The numbers are still relatively small. Personally, I’m more worried about kids being raise in New Age compared to Eastern woo religions and New thought. I’ve met some real flaky new agers.

     

    I think the special among them are exploited, surprise, surprise, and called Indigo children

    Don’t get me started about this bullshit. Yes, I agree this is bad stuff and I met one of the idiots that promoted this by writing a book. He gave a “sermon” that you could either view everything or nothing as a miracle. (creating a false dichotomy.) He had people randomly shout out numbers and then one person wrote down the answer. He opened a paper to reveal the total which was the same. Everyone was pleased except me. You see I was rounding off the numbers and adding them in my head. The answer was far off. I even approached the people that shouted out the numbers to confirm my answer. I approached the idiot and all he could do is give me a look like “Oh well, you caught me.” What a total lack of integrity.

     

    ‘Yep, IA, you pulled out the classic response.’

    “I don’t know why you are having a pop at me…I was just refuting  Vmar’s remark…

    Because you brought in the idea of Hell.  You need to get the Hell out of Hell with these philosophies.

     

    Making the word God absolutely meaningless, as I suspected.

    We already know this anyway.

    OK, I’m done. I’m tired of responding. Too much stuff to do.

  85. Aguazul, Fortunately most decisions relate to day-to-day living,  relationships, and getting stuff done – no science is needed since these types of views are subjective.  I get your over thinking though.

  86. … we should, collectively, fear and fight those (atheist or religious) who attempt to impose their conclusions on us.

    I think this is my biggest gripe.  Some people say: “We have the one true answer, and it is the Bible!” and others say, “We have the one true answer, and it is Science!”  Both say, “You must believe us, and if you don’t agree with us you are WRONG!”  (or stupid, or whatever).  Both groups seem to have an unshakable and emotionally-charged faith in their point of view.  (I should note that faith is only necessary when the individual has no personal experiential evidence to back up his/her point of view.)

    I can’t see much difference between these groups, because both are showing quite limited thinking. I don’t think there is “one true answer”.  Science does a lot of things very well, but it doesn’t cover everything.  It was never designed to cover everything anyway — just stuff that submits itself easily to repeatable physical experiments.  Even within science there are the ‘soft’ sciences, which are looked down on as only semi-scientific by those who work in the ‘hard’ sciences (i.e. the most physical).

    I can really understand fighting against corruption in all its forms (corrupt organizations, corrupt teachings, brainwashing, whatever), but throwing away all spirituality from life is just crazy — from your own life, okay that’s your option, but forcing others to reject all spirituality is no different to some Bible-basher forcing someone to reject evolution.  (It doesn’t help that there are so many naive people in the US that almost any way of thought can be given a bad name.  Most people here aren’t complaining about the Eastern teachings so much as how some naive person or group has made a mess of people’s lives with it.)

    It would be better if Dawkins and co didn’t encourage the kind of extreme intolerance that comes from this attitude — i.e. everything that doesn’t by its nature submit easily to the scientific method must be bunk (or woo, or whatever).  I’d like to think that a mind of his calibre could be reasoned with, but he hasn’t shown much sign yet.

  87. but throwing away all spirituality from life is just crazy — from your
    own life, okay that’s your option, but forcing others to reject all
    spirituality is no different to some Bible-basher forcing someone to
    reject evolution.

     Aguazul,. If “spirituality” could be separated from all untruths, illusions and get to the core of appreciating life, seeing everything with reverence, living joyfully, and living fully, would you be against this? My guess is that you would see it as a good thing. Basically, this is what I want and I’m sure others here want this also. I would also like for people to keep their religion away from dictating what I do with my life and my body. Also, it would be great if superstitious people would not tell me that this is the way the Universe works. Believe it or not, I usually say absolutely nothing to people outside of this forum. If they bring up woo, I do not tell them they are wrong, instead I usually ask them a question to get them thinking. For instance, someone told me how a miracle of God happened to someone who was in the hospital. I commented, wow that’s great. I wonder what would have happened if she were not seeing any doctors.”This caused the person to backtrack and then acknowledge the excellent medical care the person was receiving.

    The fact is, I’m sure most people are tactful and diplomatic in their own lives. This is the internet a place where like-minded individual meet. Here we cut BS away with a very big knife.

  88.  “It would be better if Dawkins and co didn’t encourage the kind of
    extreme intolerance that comes from this attitude — i.e. everything
    that doesn’t by its nature submit easily to the scientific method must
    be bunk (or woo, or whatever).  I’d like to think that a mind of his
    calibre could be reasoned with, but he hasn’t shown much sign yet.”

    Personally I am happy to see atheists get a lot more strident and stop treating people who believe in make-believe invisible friends with as much respect as they historically have.  I gave up my invisible friend around age 6 or so (for those who are interested, he was an invisible friend monster who looked a bit like a werewolf — he protected me against vampires and witches).  I am sick of being told how I have to respect people’s religious beliefs.  No, I don’t, just like I don’t have to respect people who believe in unicorns, Bigfoot, alien abductions, ESP, 9/11 conspiracy theories, divining rods, etc.  Wrapping your silly beliefs in the veil of religion shouldn’t make them immune from my mockery.

  89.  “Finally, my central message is this: while I am an Atheist, I believe
    that humans have an inherent need to search for the reason they are here
    as oppose to why there is NOT nothingness. Some go into this search
    through scientific methods, philosophical or spiritual. So long as it is
    an individual journey and respects the rights of others to embark on
    their own journey, I will neither condemn not repudiate anyone’s beliefs”

    When you say condemn or repudiate does that include just disagreeing with? Because if it is then I don’t agree.  This is essentially one of the arguments Dawkins made in The God Delusion, that religious (or spiritual) beliefs should no more be off limits than any other. If we care about truth than the only way to understand if we are really on the right path to finding meaning or whatever is to put our reasoning to the same tests as reasoning on any other subject.

    So I would never want to pass a law or otherwise prohibit someone from chanting “Hari Krishna” but if a friend or even acquaintance tells me that they are finding God or Enlightenment by doing so I have the right, in fact the duty if its a friend, to tell them I think that’s nonsense.

  90.  “Personally I am happy to see atheists get a lot more strident and stop
    treating people who believe in make-believe invisible friends with as
    much respect as they historically have. “

    I don’t agree. I think it is never OK to ridicule someone just because you disagree with them. I’m amazed at how many atheists seem to think this is a rational thing to do. I disagree with people all the time on all kinds of topics without resorting to ridicule.

    I think one of the reasons people think this is OK is because they think of religious people as only being the nut jobs we see in the media. The fact is the majority of people you come into contact with are religious in one way or another and most of them are quite sane and decent. And you aren’t going to change their minds by ridiculing them, if anything when you resort to ridicule you fit right into the propaganda the other side tells about atheism, that its just another dogma and that atheists are as irrational as everyone else. 

  91.  I don’t ridicule people just because I disagree with them.  But then I more than “disagree” with religious people, particularly those who see fit to tell me about their religious beliefs.  I see people who believe in invisible supernatural friends as being in the same category as other irrational beliefs like those I listed above.

    To quote the late Christopher Hitchens:

    I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that
    this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as
    long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.

  92. “When you say condemn or repudiate does that include just disagreeing with?”

    when I say condemn or repudiate, I most certainly do not mean disagree nor make my dissagreement kown.

    But let me ask you a question. Is it more important to tell the truth or to teach the truth? (oh yes, they are different things)

    We have all had different paths that have led us to an Atheistic or Agnostic conclusions. I doubt very much that any of us were just born Atheist. We were born Catholic or Jewish or Muslim but Atheist? I doubt it.

    For some of us, it came early and easily. For others, it came after much reflection, analysis and doubts. Many of us first travelled through transition periods, perhaps Eastern religion, Unitarianism or other such beliefs.

    For me, therefore it is important to allow that process to take it’s natural course; if asked, to guide but not pontificate nor be dismissive of where the person is at his stage of evolution.

    I liked Hitchens very much but I don’t feel a need to nor an entitlement to dissuade them from their illusions. If they, however, try to impose those beliefs on me or Eastern woo woo, for that matter, my response is to clearly and respectfully state my position.

    Keep in mind that Atheism is not a denial of god, but simply a statement that there is no empirical evidence nor rational arguments that makes god a necessity in explaining humanity, the earth nor the universe.

  93. We have removed a number of comments that stray too far off topic.

    Before anyone posts any further comments on this thread, may we ask you to go back and look at the OP again, please, and ensure your comment is relevant to that.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  94. Actually, I think we are pretty much in agreement. You can see in another comment I made I’m very much against the endless ridicule and stupid jokes against anyone that is not an atheist that some people on this site seem to love. I notice that the mods are complaining that we are straying off topic, not sure if this is on or off so I’ll just leave it at that. 

  95. The thing is that Hitchens also has many friends who were theists, including at least one of his wives. He was also married in a church once.  A friend of mine who is religious and was a student at Georgetown was lucky enough to attend a couple of parties that he attended. Not only didn’t he insult her for being religious he even flirted with her a bit (understandable she is super cute) and in general he was (understandably) the life of the party. I doubt he could do that if he went around insulting everyone that was a theist (which given that Georgetown is a Catholic university many people would be).

    Its one thing for Hitchens to get up in public and mock people with his incredible wit. But we all aren’t Hitchens and the way you talk to people in the every day world is quite different than the show you put on when you speak in public before an audience. When you condemn all religious people as essentially idiots you are ruling a huge portion of humanity as automatically off limits as potential friends. I have such a difficult time making friends and I value the real friends I have so much (and several of them are theists) I would never want to do that. 

  96. I have many friends who are theists.  We don’t often talk religion, but when we do, I don’t exactly pull my punches.  Just like I don’t pull my punches when one friend who is a bit of a conspiracy theorist brings up his CT du jour, or when a friend defends Eastern woo.  I am able to be friends with people who hold beliefs that I consider to be silly without hiding my views.  Heck, one of my cousins is a well-know Rabbi and best-selling author.  Her husband is the editor-and-chief of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal.  I don’t exactly hide my views of religion with them, and they are family for whom religion is a pretty part of their identity.  Somehow I am able to do it without offending, but also without in any way hiding how silly I think it all is.

  97. I have friends who absolutely belief Chiroprators are real doctors ,  I tried found it slightly foolish  with no medical value other than the loud pops your vertibrae make when ground against each other.

  98. Materialism has morphed into Christo-Capitalism in my view , It’s a  philosophy that believes that banksters and other 1%ers are doing gods work in that it views all of creation as material and to be used to extract profit from. Of course god will reward these folk with a mansion in heaven with all the latest gadgets, a  BMW or a Rolex when they die. Atheism as Sam Harris defines it is “no belief in gods” full stop, nothing fundamental or material.

  99. You have obviously never read or watched Harris and your portrayal of him is scandalous and a lie. Hitch and Harris always complimented each other position in debates with religionists. I reccommnd strongly you read a couple of his books. His efforts to find the “other” through Scientific Idealism is cutting edge. He is one of few trying to beat back materialism through research rather than woo.  Your facts on the Tibetan Theocracy are accurate and I share your opinion of the Dalai lama. who is now just an old leech and dinnerparty novelty. I’d bet Sam has never given him anything.

  100. Buddhism is astheist regarding a ‘creator god,’  has no god to fight for or push onto anybody and is not evangelitical. Taoism is even less intrusive. Confucism is similar but possibly more interfering. These three  basically lean toward forms of philosophy with a religious aspect that treats  all living creatures with kindness and consideration.

    Hinduism has a mass of gods but is very cultural, especially to India, and is also non- evangalitical and gentle. (To the best of my knowledge)

    Agreed: The energy needs to be spent upon those who base their beliefs and actions upon a book ‘steeped in blood’ and which has contributed much toward the misery of all living creatures for centuries and to the state of the earth’s  current enviromental crisis. (“Subjugate the earth and all it’s creatures…”)

  101.  Buddhism is astheist regarding a ‘creator god,’  has no god to fight for or push onto anybody and is not evangelitical.  Taoism is even less intrusive. Confucism is similar but possibly more interfering. These three  basically lean toward forms of philosophy with a religious aspect that treats  all living creatures with kindness and consideration.

    Hinduism has a mass of gods but is very cultural, especially to India, and is also non- evangalitical and gentle. (To the best of my knowledge)

    I agree with SavageMM:  The energy needs to be spent upon those who base their beliefs and actions upon a book ‘steeped in blood’, which has contributed much toward the misery of all living creatures for centuries and to the state of the earth’s  current enviromental crisis. (“Subjugate the earth and all it’s creatures…”)

  102.  …and I was commenting to your use of ‘Hell” Hell doesn’t exist in these views.

    @Hell:disqus ‘ is a word that has many guises. In the ancient ‘religion’ of Buddhism, from the east may I add, it is called ‘
    Narakas ‘ or ‘
    Diyu’ in Chinese mythology, also quite eastern. Taoism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism all have notions of a ‘Hell’.

    I’m certainly not picking on you. Just correcting this view. But if you want to fight, I’ll fight!! I’ve got my claws out, reoooowww!

    Violence is not the answer }80)~

    Because you brought in the idea of Hell.  You need to get the Hell out of Hell with these philosophies.

    The idea of Hell as a real place to many is an issue of woo woo that is very important, especially as it is a lie and just used as a big stick to beat children into submission. Most ‘religions’ have a versiond of Hell. The wishy washy, not very unifying,  flaky Unity Church, can pick and choose all the nice bits of various woo woo from around the globe, but the fact remains that many in the world have a concept of Hell in their head and it is used by the scaremongers to keep the plebs in their place. The idea is planted at an early stage in the followers development. It is a nasty element of woo woo that I used in refuting  Vmars assertion that religion overs more nice stuff over non-belief. It does, but only if one swallows the lies and ignores the nasty…that includes cherry picking the best bits to invent a mongrel religion…absolutely barking mad ridiculous, and if I’m to be honest, in these enlightened times, downright dishonest. 

  103. Like all religions, Buddhism has many flavours. Some of those flavours have deities. The more ancient flavours have versions of a creator. Taoism has god spirits too. 
     Confucianism has Shangdi as the top dog…all three have developed over time by nicking bits from each other. Admittedly the contemporary versions of each relies little on the mythical woo woo of deities, ghosts, jinns, etc., and is more spiritual and about the self. Nevertheless, eastern religious philosophies are grounded on gods, albeit the relationship maybe somewhat different to that of western nonsense.

  104.  Funny that you would mention that because one of my friends is a Muslim who regularly lectures at universities across the country.  We disagree about a lot of things, including Israel, the threat posed by the Muslim world, and the existence of God.  I know it is hard to believe, but he is not deeply offended at my strident atheism.

  105. If his religion gained full political power it he views of your criticism and Atheism would change qiuckly I’d bet, and that would not be funny . Pull up some of Ayan Hirzi Ali  video debates and notice the hatred in the eyes of these so-called muslim intellectuals, as  she mocks them. Fatwah anyone?

  106. Classical Buddhism does not recognize or worship deities and does not teach the existence of human souls. To Buddhists, it is about the consciousness (sentient beings).  Buddhism has evolved into what it is today by the people that practice it which has become a blend of their culture. For example, in S. Korea it is a blend of Buddhism, Confucianism, & Shamanism, and in Japan it is blended with Shinto.  Buddhists do not pray to a god, they do not believe in the all mighty Creator. It is more a philosophical way to live. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who was a real person; a Prince in India over 2500 years ago (older than the fictional Jesus) and here is one of his teachings:

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

    Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.

    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.

    Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

    Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations.

    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything
    agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and
    all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    He was a great teacher, you could say he was the first Psychiatrist.

    With that said, if you want to fight, fight against the killings of a Rhino for their horns, Tigers for their testicles, Sharks for their fins, and etc… If one wants to get an acupuncture than it is their choice just as the person that buys pills to look younger.

  107. I think that you must be open minded and do research into what you are actually discounting, because the worst thing you can do if you are trying to inform people is be closed minded, you cannot just go around making claims about what is and isnt with out facts, the truth is our medical doctors in the US do a lot of things that are not effective but they do it anyway because it is just what we do, the best cure for cancer really is drinking 8 cups of organic fruit and vegetable juice every day, but people in america want drugs not real medical advice. Once you start claiming thing without facts behind what you say you become just like the catholic priest that condemns anyone who believes the world is not the center of the universe.

  108.  Buddhists do not pray to a god, they do not believe in the all mighty Creator. 

    Like I’ve said, even Buddhism has ‘No True Scotsman’ nowdays….. 

    Buddhism today is quite diverse. It is roughly divisible into the two broad categories of Theravada (small vessel) and Mahayana (large vessel). Theravada is the monastic form which reserves ultimate enlightenment and nirvana for monks, while Mahayana Buddhism extends this goal of enlightenment to the laity as well, that is, to non-monks. Within these categories can be found numerous branches including Tendai, Vajrayana, Nichiren, Shingon, Pure Land, Zen, and Ryobu, among others. Therefore it is important for outsiders seeking to understand Buddhism not to presume to know all the details of a particular school of Buddhism when all they have studied is classical, historic Buddhism.

    The Deities, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, demons, and supernatural beings of Buddhism. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C… 

    What a difference between the presentation of the Buddha within the genuine context of religious veneration, as in [the Doi Suthep Thai] temple, and the image of the Buddha – currently so widespread in the West – according to which the Buddha was simply a human being, free from all divine features! Indeed this modern view does not at all correspond to the description of the Buddha in the classical Buddhist scriptures.

    There is plenty of conflicting woo woo out there eastern philosophies, even within Buddhism. 

  109. Wrapping your silly beliefs in the veil of religion shouldn’t make them immune from my mockery

    How many times do I have to say that I am in not in any way religious?  To me religion is the complete opposite of independent free thought.  But to be non-religious doesn’t mean you’re automatically an atheist who believes that science has all the answers.  Can’t you see there are more options than that?  Perhaps you honestly can’t.

    QuestioningKat: Yes, strip out all the nonsense!  There was a BBC series with a British Christian vicar (really) going around the whole world looking at religions and religious or spiritual practices.  It was really interesting.  His comment after visiting the US was that the people there were the most religious in the world by far, but also the least spiritual.  I think this explains why the fight here on this forum is so much against religion, and not many people see the spirituality — because there isn’t much of it.  In other traditions the balance is different, e.g. belief is unimportant, no talk of God, but more about navigating the experience of being human in a better and more dignified way.

    Faith, when it is used at all in spiritual practice, should only be a temporary state until enough experience is gained that the ideas are self-sustaining (i.e. when the benefit and maybe also the mechanism of the approach become clear to the practitioner).  If a religion requires faith forever, then at that point you could make just about anything up, and they do.  Isn’t this what most people here find offensive?  The US has been something like a breeding ground for fruit-fly religions, where only the most manipulative and persuasive survive and thrive.  You’re fighting with the evolutionary peak of self-sustaining manipulative thought-forms!  But that doesn’t mean that everything unacceptable to science is the enemy.  IMHO.

  110. “US was that the people there were the most religious in the world by far, but also the least spiritual”

    What an interesting observation!. Quite scarey when you think of the implications though I would put the route Qur’an reading Taliban in this category also. 
     

  111. My grandfather was born a sharecropper in Oklahoma who grew up picking cotton and learned arithmetic at the age of 3-4 years old to keep the family from getting ripped off by the landowner when it came time to sell the cotton. He was a signals specialist and a medic in WWII, graduated from Cornell University after the war with a bachelors in Agriculture, a Veterinary Medical Degree from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), and a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University. He developed the State of New Jersey’s Mosquito Control program and was offered by the gov’t of Egypt to help implement a similar program there (he declined, and his friend and colleague went instead). The state of NJ offered to pay for him to study for a Medical Doctorate in Human medicine at Columbia after his Masters, but he declined. Even at 85 years old, he could remember the page on which he studied a piece of information in college. He was no fool. He suffered in his old age from the ticdelarue disease and received acupuncture treatment. He said that despite having reservations about it, it actually helped reduce the severity and frequency of his bouts with ticdelarue. So you guys can rant all you want about eastern medicine, but I know what worked for him.

  112. Unsupported assertion.  You should know better round here.  More accurate  to say “unproven”, and admit that you (and science) don’t know everything and haven’t finished finding things out.  Otherwise you just come across every bit as dogmatic as the religious believers you appear to despise.

  113. Nice annecdote. 

    I’m sure there is a reason why you grandpa’s academic CV is relevant to his disease and the treatment he received, I just don’t see it. The world is full of very intelligent folk that believe all sorts of woo woo…intelligence is not a relevant factor here, critical thinking on the other hand might help.The placebo effect that is well described here and else where, could have been the cause of relief from his painful Tic Douloureux.Was your grandpa on any other medicine or therapy at the same time?I’m happy that your grandpa, who appears to have been a wonderful man, got relief from the pain of his ailment, whatever the cause. That said, I don’t think his story has added anything to the debate either way.

  114. Your grandfather sounds like a very intelligent man but your anecdote means nothing in light of clinical trials which will show you that accupuncture does work, as well as a placebo.

    where science comes in is to examine this placebo effect, known for a long time and the reason clinical trials must be double-blind. the placebo affect, which I suspect is a misleading term as it’s probably not a single effect but a stiatistical spike made up of the agricate of many considerations. there is a possibility there might be useful clinical knowledge to be gained but mistakingly thinking one placebo is worth special attention is as much a good use of research time as carrying out trials based on what colour bottles you put pills in.

    things to consider about the observed placebo effect: it works on clever people just as well as not so clever people. in the case of accupuncture, in clinical conditions it works as well if a novice pretending to know what he’s talking about sticks pins in random places, as it does with someone who’s spent money on some sort of alt-med education.

    however your post can be summed up in your last sentence:

    “So you guys can rant all you want about eastern medicine, but I know what worked for him.”

    read what people are saying. a view that conflicts with yours does not automatically equal a “rant”. you claim to “know” what worked for him, all I can get from your post is your grandfather was skeptical but the results were positive. that gives you no special knowledge, just a conclusion you’ve reached that you’re so certain of, you feel able to speak on his behalf.

    do less knowing and more thinking. as I said your grandfather sounds very intelligent but thinking is learned behaviour, not genetic.

  115. as I said your grandfather sounds very intelligent but thinking is learned behaviour, not genetic.

    One advantage that someone undergoing treatment has is that they have more information available to them than a scientist measuring them.  If for example I stub my toe and a shooting pain goes up my back up to my head and from that point on I have a terrible headache, the sequence of cause and effect is obvious to me.  But the doctor will say that there is absolutely no evidence of a connection between the events, i.e. nothing that he can observe or verify, and he will doubt my account because it fits no explanation known to him.  It is an impass.  This is where we are, where personal direct experience of very obvious internal cause and effect is completely unacceptable to science or scientific observers, even ridiculed by them.

  116.  Aguazul, just so you are clear, when I said, “Wrapping your silly beliefs in the veil of religion shouldn’t make them immune from my mockery,” the “your’ in that quote wasn’t meant to refer to your beliefs specifically, but rather generally as “one’s silly beliefs”.  My point is that silly religious beliefs shouldn’t be granted a free pass or treated any differently from silly non-religious beliefs.  They shouldn’t be treated with kid gloves for fear of offending someone’s religious sensibilities.

  117. Okay, no problem.  Yes, I think that upsetting over-sensitive people (religious or otherwise) should be a personal decision rather than completely prohibited.  Probably it should be approached tactically, though.  Otherwise life becomes a bit messy with all these weepy people around.

  118. Exactly…..100% on the button. Well said.

    Someone who believes that the Earth is flat and insists the same as fact, is stark raving bonkers and deserves the pish taking out of them on that subject front and centre, regardless of whether that person is of a brain surgeons intelligence or not.

     Someone who believes the bollocks in the Bible, my particular religious text of ridicule, so pick a yarn, any yarn, and insists same as fact, is stark raving bonkers and deserves the pish taking out of them on that subject front and centre, regardless of whether that person is of the intellectual level of a brain surgeon or not. 

    Religion deserves no special respect just because it is religion and by ridicule and mockery of the nonsense they tend to trot out as real, results in some idiots sensibilities getting upset. Fuck ‘em, they should grow a thicker skin or refrain from engaging in the debate.I will go a bit further, at least an ignorant imbecile will get special dispensation because they know no better. Lack of education goes some way as an excuse. But folk with the noose of a brain surgeon, for example, should have the intelligence to know better, therefore, THEY are the ones taking the pish out of ME when they insist that their bullshit should be recognised as having some sort of relevance to my existence.

    Should I show respect to someone that should know better, when they are attempting to fill my head with mince? No chance. So to those hand-wringers that say the non-believer should be less STRIDENT so as not to be perceived as a mirror ‘fundamentalist’…tell your story walking. Those that have a particular religious mindset won’t be swayed, either by ridicule or education. Those that have doubt ,will by swayed by a mixture of all the weapons in the Atheist armoury. This is proven.

    BTW, the whole argument gets a lot more complicated when institutions get involved.

  119. You might wish to dial back the straw-manning and reread my earlier post with the Sam fanboy mode switched off.  I made no such claim that Mr. Harris “has given the Lama anything”.

     It is a fact that he  spent time as a bodyguard for  the Dalai Lama.  It is  is also a fact that he is aware of the Lama’s supernatural claims to fame which are no less preposterous than any to be found in the Abrahamic or any other religion.  Yet,  Harris can nowhere be publicly heard to take the Lama to task for this anywhere with close to the (fully deserved) derision he lavishes on other religions charlatans.  To the contrary,  he appears to be rather complimentary:

    Harris in an interview:
     
    http://thesciencenetwork.org/m

    “But you meet some of these guys who have spent 20 years in a cave meditating, and they weren’t just wasting their time. There may be a much more efficient way of getting what they got, let’s hope.

    But someone, the Dalai Lama, I’m talking about the kind of people he would go to to learn how to
    meditate, but he also strikes me as someone who is remarkably wise in this way.  I mean you follow him on his schedule where he’s got it parsed out in seven minute increments, and he’s been up since four in the morning, and you see a kind of flexibility of mind that I have for about five minute on my best day, and the full armamentarium of Sasha Shulgin was required to get me there, you know? Overstates it slightly, but I think wisdom is hard won and need not entail smarts”

    Furthermore, this clearly reveals Mr. Harris’ (sadly shared by many leading anti-theists) absolute tin ear toward the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural realities which make a figure such as a Lama, like a pope, entirely unpalatable even aside from their reliance on woo to lend them stature.

    Something that ought to concern you since you, unlike Harris, do appear to be aware of these realities.

  120. To answer the question; I spend equal amounts of time on questioning alternative medicine as I do religion.  (Questioning isn’t really the word though, it’s somewhere between questioning and trying to explain logical arguments against each).  One of my most hated is AMBER TEETHING NECKLACES… I don’t know why they annoy me so much!  I think it’s because the pushers prey on sleep deprived parents like myself! 

    Actually on a more personal note, I have an Autistic daughter so I spend more time on critically questioning alt med (especially that of the anti-vax mob) than I do religion.  There are waves and waves of dodgy science/cures/causes that come crashing down on the Autism community.  It ranges from laughable to offensive and moves into harmful.

    It’s all linked as well! the moment another mum starts talking about “big-pharma” at a mums group you know she’s about to pull out those damned necklaces for $25 a pop!

  121.  I also did Dim Mak several years ago,  it was free for women in my town and I did it for fitness.  They took the gong, the bowing and ceremony all very seriously, but I never did!  So I never got passed a white belt even though I was probably performing at at least a green belt level (if that makes sense to anyone).  I argued A LOT with the  師傅 about the use of reiki etc for injuries…  He was convinced he could talk to his dead grandfather through reiki.  They didn’t like me questioning much, it was all a bit macho most of the time…

  122. Assumpton: the placebo effect is bad.

    now, in many cases this is true especially when someones life is at risk or it masks treatment which is supported by evidence. However if that is not the case, the placebo effect is the only remaining option for relief. The placebo effect can bring relief by definition.

    I think acupuncture has a place in society, but what it important is establishing the hierarchy and making it a last resort. But with this view, will the placebo effect no longer work? I think rational people can induce the placebo effect as evidenced by your wife.

    I am not of the view to abolish the practice completely.

  123. This may be Scientific blasphemy but I don’t care if my improvement in physical health is a placebo or not, as long as the discomfort from whatever condition reduces.  For instance I had quite severe Allergic Rhinitis from smoking in early adulthood and found some relief from Homeopathy. So evan if my mind was so desperate that it ‘talked’ it’s way into lessening of symptoms via switching on endorphins/antibodies etc..I’m still benefiting. Just wish at the moment I could find a similar result with Chronic neurophathic pain from heavy parcel delivery work a few years ago.  I heard on the news recently researchers thought they might be able in a few years block the addictive pathways to morphine use without losing the pain killing benefits. I’m still convinced that there is untapped potential when it is understood for the human mind to self-cure to some extent. This is not an appeal to the supernatural just built in cerebral mechanisms.

  124. This may be Scientific blasphemy but I don’t care if my improvement in physical health is a placebo or not, as long as the discomfort from whatever condition reduces. 
    For instance I had quite severe Allergic Rhinitis from smoking in early adulthood and found some relief from Homeopathy.  

     
    The ‘scientific blasphemy’ was in the trying of the homoeopathic remedy in the first place. 

    So evan if my mind was so desperate that it ‘talked’ it’s way into lessening of symptoms via switching on endorphins/antibodies etc..I’m still benefiting.

    The problem with the placebo effect is you must be ignorant of it being a placebo. Once you are aware that it is placebo, whatever it is that is easing the pain, isn’t placebo.

    Just wish at the moment I could find a similar result with Chronic neurophathic pain from heavy parcel delivery work a few years ago.

    Homoeopathy not work for this one then? }80)~

  125. The ‘scientific blasphemy’ was in the trying of the homoeopathic remedy in the first place.

    Since when has doing an experiment been ‘blasphemy’ to Science?  You have a strange idea of what Science is.

  126. WTF are you on about? How about ya read all the relevant comments before shooting from the hip and making an arse of yerself.

    Since when has doing an experiment been ‘blasphemy’ to Science?  You have a strange idea of what Science is. 

    What ‘experiment’ would you be referring too in that remark, I missed it, and kindly elaborate what my strange idea of science might be?Given that you are able to deduce quite a lot about my ideas on science from a few comments, or have you some ‘special’ means of inference?  C’mon…back your assertion.I was repeating a phrase by another member, which was meant as tongue in cheek, a play on the piety, or that’s how I took it at least.

    Might I suggest you do a wee bit of research before you reply…in that you check out the definition of the word ‘blasphemy’, which is the word that seems to be giving you the hang-up. Then apply that learned definition in context to the comments. Hope that helps.

  127. Sorry but this a red herring, Islam and Islam alone should be our focus. Democracy is under serious threat from a  belief system that DEMANDS its devout followers spread it by all means, at any cost. This is simply a death cult directed outward which sees Muslims as superior beings and all others as kafirs, to be converted or eliminated. 

    Am I delusional or can I see echoes of Naziism here??

    That this philosophy is promoted by a minority is irrelevant- Muslims who object will be dealt with as infidels, so dare not raise their voices. I feel completely frustrated and powerless; what the hell can any average person (not having political power) do to stop the march of Islam before it comes to all-out war, which is what the Islamists want?

    So please folks, wake up- time spent on trivial issues is time wasted and can we afford that?

  128. Quack!  That’s my response when someone extols the “virtues” of SCAM (Supplemental, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine).   I think magical thinking in general is the problem, not the specific denomination.  

  129. On Sam Harris, referring back to the original post that started this topic that referred to marital arts and “chi” style nonsense, I have to say I’ve been impressed by this post on his blog:

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/

    The first video in the post shows a “chi” believing martial arts teacher defeating his students without touching them, showing the power of suggestion and delusion.  The second video shows that same teacher in a real bout with a non-believing opponent, who makes short work of him.

  130. You have said that your wife is an atheist and an intellegent woman. So why seek to alter her opinion if acupuncture works for her.
    I’m not convinced the acupunture is a placibo (I tried it and it worked for me). My wife is a confirmed christian  and I don’t see my place in convincing her otherwise. I personallysee christianity as an odd eastern sect born from a time of despair amongst the slaves of Rome. But it does the trick for lots of people. Acceptence of others need for religion ritual and all it’s associated practices is one of the keys to being an atheist.

  131. You have said that your wife is an atheist and an intellegent woman. So why seek to alter her opinion if acupuncture works for her.

    Because maybe he is uncomfortable with it being counter to her usual critical thinking faculties perhaps? Acupuncture doesn’t work for her, it doesn’t work for anyone apparently, placebo is what is in effect here. The problem occurs when placebo effects, and then the patient goes on to use or recommend to others, the woo woo for other, more critical or life threatening ailments, that really need the conventional medical approach. Not to mention the inherent dangers of the ‘cowboy’ use of acupuncture which results in serious injury or death.

    http://whatstheharm.net/acupun… 

    I’m not convinced the acupunture is a placibo (I tried it and it worked for me).

    The argument from personal credulity doesn’t cut much mustard here I’m afraid. Evidence based critical and rational thinking is the name of the game on this forum.

    My wife is a confirmed christian  and I don’t see my place in convincing her otherwise.

    Absolutely fine if you are happy enough with your spouse believing such lies, bunkum and nonsense as true, I guess. I want better than that from the person I share my quality time with. Just for curiousity sake, which of the thousands of flavours of the bunkum does she follow? Just saying. 

    I personallysee christianity as an odd eastern sect born from a time of despair amongst the slaves of Rome.

    Oh, it’s a bit more complicted than that I’m afraid. Perhaps if your partner and you knew the details, you might have a different approach.

    But it does the trick for lots of people.

    You think that’s okay then? Seriously? 

    Denying children medical treatment because they believe in the power of prayer “does the trick for lots of people”.

    Murdering doctors who carry out abortions “does the trick for lots of people”.

    Interfering and abusing young children “does the trick for lots of people”.

    Stoning and burning folk deemed to be possessed “does the trick for lots of people”.

    Treating homosexuals as a pariah “does the trick for lots of people”.

    Women being treated as property “does the trick for lots of people”.

    I could make this list extensive, but would there be any point? Have you been a member here long? There is lots of woo woo that “does the trick for lots of people”, it is still very dangerous though. Please don’t rebut with your spouses flavour of Christianity being the “true Scotsman” flavour of religion, inert and all happy clappy, love thy neighbour, does no harm to anyone version.

     

    Acceptence of others need for religion ritual and all it’s associated practices is one of the keys to being an atheist.

    No it isn’t. You don’t know what you are talking about, which grieves me immensely, particularly with what is going on with religion at the moment. 

    Acceptance of Islam’s practices of murdering innocent people…or even those that defame the prophet…is a practice I will NEVER accept. 

    Mutilation of a child’s genitals is a  practice I will NEVER accept.

    Stoning fellow human beings to death… as a religious practice or otherwise.. is a religious practice I will NEVER accept. 

    Indoctrinating children into religious mumbo jumbo is a practice I will NEVER accept. 

    This list could also be extensive, but I’m sure you get the picture.I hope you can change your mind, as rational and critical thinking demands.

  132. Since placebo is a real effect, reasonable people are going to occasionally buy into products and services that are not useful or even harmful for most of us. There are providers who are flimflam men/women and then there are those that actually believe in what they are selling. The later, which includes, religious promoters from the East and the West, will keep the legends and philosophies alive into the far distant future.

  133. Yeah this bullshit medicine gets me worked up. Actually i know people close to me who are brainwashed by this stuff my own family included. I have a close friend who wants to secretly heal her dads cancer with crystals and although this is not immediately harmfull i cant help but think what if the normal treatment works but she may very well accredit her dads healing to the crystal therapy. I wonder if this will just cause her to be more reinforced  with her beliefs and become more ignorant to modern medicine. Yeah im just sick of this mystical and religious stuff influencing my friends and family into paying for stuff they don’t have to pay for and becoming more ignorant in the process.

  134. Indeed. The positive benefits of the placebo effect are well documented, and have decades of study backing them. The pharmaceutical industry is also fond of throwing drugs onto the market without fully understanding how or why they work, being content that they do work, and in many cases using ‘folk medicine’ as inspiration (just look at the percentage of pharmaceuticals originating from the Amazon Rainforest).

    Be careful that you’re not arguing from authority. Western medicine is firmly entrenched in ideology, and is resistant to change like any other institution (Dr. Leonard Coldwell’s work proves this, as it’s hardly mainstream, goes against common wisdom, yet is very effective); more to the point, a bulk of the nursing body of knowledge relies on holistic care. How a patient feels is important in the healing process; medicine is not just about addressing acute symptoms whenever they crop up. Acupuncture may be mostly placebo, but that’s not a bad thing. http://www.sciencebasedmedicin

  135. Has anyone seen the statistics of people killed by correctly prescribed conventional medicine, not to mention errors in prescribing? They make depressing reading. Conventional medicine is not a panacea. Many of the eastern mystic concepts of consciousness are beginning to be rediscovered by science so why should therapy be any different.?

  136. My dad is an expert in Tai Chi, he learnt from the first teacher in the country who came directly from china and sometimes a New Ager came in and tried to intellectualize everything “when should i breathe?, how many seconds do i have to breath?” and the Chinese teacher always kicked them off the class. My dad is also the only expert in a macrobiotic “auto-massage” and “yoga teachers” used to go to his class, most of them where incredibly tense and whenever my dad pointed that out they got angry and most of the times they abandoned the class.
    Most of these “yoga teachers” talk about a book called “the kyballion” which was supposedly written by an indian guru called Ramacharaka. In fact this guy was actually William Walker Atkinson, an early new ager
    The “Chi kung” is the “chi manipulation art” which is an adopted new age practice, and they say it is a fundamental part of tai chi, my dad tells me that both his teacher and him never took seriously the chi kung, it was simply a concentration and imagination training.
    What you call eastern religion is nothing but the new age religion. The true eastern philosophy has been contaminated by this nonsense, i dont defend any religion but i do defend and embrace eastern philosophy

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