Skip to main content

View Diary: Bill Maher rips into the GOP's anti-intellectuals with advanced degrees (116 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Well, to be perfectly fair, (7+ / 0-)

    while others on Maher's list are attacking science, to advance existing personal agendas of some kind, all Alexander was ever doing was speaking out of his remarkable personal experience, straining to interpret it somehow.

    It's not a fair association.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 07:51:52 AM PDT

    •  The medical effects of drugs or oxygen deprivation (11+ / 0-)

      are getting to be pretty well understood.  It is no coincidence that the symptoms of brain cells shutting down and the testimony of "I wuz day-ud and looked down on ever-buddy and seen this bright light, then Gawd sent me back" have a 1:1 correspondence.  Hearing and sight and all of your other senses get messed up when your nerves are severely affected (whodathunkit?).  Now, a layman can be excused from understanding some of that, but not a doctor and certainly not a flipping _neuro_surgeon.  Alexander deserves scorn from Maher, and should not get a pass for cashing in by turning a "personal experience" into pseudoscientific mysticism.

      •  No, he doesn't. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann, zLocke, janet444

        I read  your comment and I can only think, "Yeah, boy, sure am glad you have Alexander's experience all figured-out, much better than the person who went through it."

        And Bill Maher has a history of very inflamed rhetoric he directs at the most sloppily-chosen examples.

        He's a showman. At that, not a very good one.  

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 10:53:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for cavalierly dismissing SCIENCE, cuz (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          radmul, mike101, Farugia, Bonsai66, Alumbrados

          Truthiness always trumps facts, just like Colbert sez.

          •  Thanks for cavalierly dismissing spirituality, (0+ / 0-)

            which I doubt Colbert, a Catholic, would consider truthy. Religious dogma, yes. Spirituality, no.

          •  We're not dismissing science. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dancerat, karmsy

            We're challenging the unqualified assertion -- the dogmatic belief -- that rationalist, materialistic science is the ONLY method capable of uncovering ALL aspects of reality ALL the time.

            We are challenging the assertion, stated as if it must be accepted as a given, that the only things that are "real" are what is physical and material.  As I've pointed out, that is a philosophical position, a metaphysical preference.  It might not be true.

            We are also challenging the arrogant assertion that anyone who questions that position must, by definition, be "stupid" or mental six-year-olds.

            •  If this Neurosurgeon's claim cannot be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Candide33

              substantiated or reproduced by experimental means, it's pure BS.  In the physical universe, the only things that are real are those that can be experimentally verified.  I almost died twelve years ago, and believe me, there's no blue or any other kind of light, or anything else.  I'm a doctor, when you're dead, you're dead.  Just like any other living creature, animal or plant.  There's nothing special about being human, except our vices.  And our virtues.  So get used to the idea that this Earth and this time are all that we have, and it's up to us to make it better for everyone.  So far, we've been doing a lousy job.

              •  That is itself an irrational position (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                niemann

                To say that something that cannot be empirically proved is bullshit is as much an act of faith as saying that it isn't. Fundamentally, you don't know. And just because something can't be verified YET doesn't mean it can't be verified. There are a number of things that we know exist but cannot "repeat," for example, consciousness. Or dream imagery.

                The problem with Alexander's experience is not empirical but epistemological. There is no way to know what is an is not objectively "real." But this same problem can extend to the consensual reality we accept as objectively real--our everyday, baseline, 3D world. But once you start interrogating, you come to the realization that everything we experience is mediated and therefore nothing more than a conceptual frame. And like frames, it focuses narrowly on some things to exclusion of others.

                Your certainty is misplaced.

                Ironic points of light flash out/Wherever the Just exchange their messages. -W.H. Auden

                by Crypsis on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:00:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Well said ... (0+ / 0-)

                I've been saying this to a lot of people for a long time.  Our species needs to grow up and get out of the caves of darkness already.

        •  Neurology has thoroughly (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, Farugia, Bonsai66, Alumbrados

          obliterated any idea that there can be a sul or mind separable from the body.  Cut a way a part of the brain and you don't think so good anymore.  This should have already been obvious from strokes.  There's no excuse for a neurologist spouting this sort of nonsense.

          •  Bzzt. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            janet444, niemann, karmsy

            Anyone who uses the words "neurology has totally obliterated" in reference to this subject domain is probably hunkered down in some materialist mindset and probably doesn't know much about either the philosophy or the literature from this area.

            Consciousness is a profound mystery that isn't even close to being understood. Although neuroscientists understand the coorelates of consciousness, they are still very far from understanding consciousness itself.

            People like Maher--who I otherwise like on politics--are so busy trying to be a cheerleader for atheism, that they dont leave much room to do anything other than belittle the people who either have had experiences that may indicate that there is some greater process going on separate from the body or to mock anyone who would dare try to inquire into the subject.

            Lumping Alexander in the group for ridicule has nothing to do with the GOP or politics and everything to do with promoting atheism.

            •  Ha! Oh, I have more than (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bonsai66

              a passing acquaintance with both philosophy and neurology.  At any rate, we are making daily progress in our understanding of mind through neurology.  Do have a solution to the problem of consciousness yet?  Nope.  Do we know that consciousness has a neurological base and can't occur or exist without brain?  Yet.  We can, for example, stimulate regions of the brain and produce various conscious experiences.  We know that various forms of conscious experience are lost when brain is damaged in this or that area.  We know that you have two selves or consciousnesses living in the same body when the two hemispheres of the brain are separated.  At this point there is massive empirical evidence In support of the neurological theory of mind; so much so that like evolution or climate change there's no reasonable grounds for other positions.  Blathering on about the "mystery of consciousness" is just another instance of what has always been done.  And as in the other cases in the sciences, it too is falling before careful scientific work.  Similar things were once said about heat and the formation of chemical elements.

              •  Mmmhm. (0+ / 0-)

                That's why materialists are chock full of explanations for cases where brain injury actually enhances capabilities and/or cases such as the following.

                https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/...

                http://www.newscientist.com/...

                It's pretty easy to feel like you're making progress toward understanding things when you can eliminate all of the cases that are contrary to the prevailing paradigm as a bunch of kooks (as in Maher above or apparently yourself) instead of finding a theory which encompasses all of the evidence.

                The mind-body problem is just as much of a mystery today as it was yesterday. You just know more about the brain itself than you did before. Simply because you assume that there's nothing more, you assume you're learning about the mind as well.

                But I certainly have an open mind. Can you direct me to the philosophy and neuroscience that have obliterated the mind body problem so that I can continue to educate myself?

                •  Er, and in those (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bobtmn

                  cases, people have suffered severe disability in other function.  Notice also that your links actually support what I'm saying insofar as here we have an impact on brain leading to a change in mind.  At this point, we basically know that mind arises out of brain, we just don't know how.  This is what I said before.  There's no real question about the that claim.  Basically you're doing something similar here to nitpicking about missing links in evolution.  You were the one above linking this issue to atheism.  That calls into question your objectivity here.  This isn't a question of atheism, but of what the evidence is overwhelmingly pointing to.  There's simply no credible evidence that mind is independent of brain, but there are piles of evidence that without brain there is no mind.  Finally, we don't simply "just know more about 'brain itself'".  We have learned a tremendous amount about the relationship between brain and mind.  Indeed, we can now even image dreams based on neurological activity we observe in the brain:

                  http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/...

                  I personally don't find this to be the most compelling evidence for the material nature of mind; instead finding the fact that we can stimulate conscious experiences through stimulating different regions of the brain, etc., to be the strongest indicator that mind is brain.  There just ain't no soul.  It's sad, but true.    

                  •  Er ... no ... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    walkshills, dancerat
                    At this point, we basically know that mind arises out of brain, we just don't know how.
                    We don't know that.  That is one interpretation of evidence based on a certain materialist philosophical position.  It might be true ... but it might not.

                    That assumption might be parallel to someone from a primitive culture who assumes that the TV shows and images which appear on the TV must be generated by the TV itself ... because when the knobs are twiddled, the images are affected;  and when the TV is broken, the images stop.

                    As it is, people who have had near-death experiences often assert that when they are free of the confines and limitations of the brain, their perception becomes much, much clearer, and that the world suddenly seems much "realer."  They see the brain as a "receiver" or "processor" of consciousness -- or even more,  a filter of consciousness.  Given that they've had pretty profound experiences that most of us haven't, their take on it might be worthy of respectful consideration.

                    •  Near death experiences (0+ / 0-)

                      are not credible evidence in these matters.  There's simply no evidence at this point that mind is anything but material.  When such evidence does arise we can entertain alternative hypotheses, but at present dualisms have the status of intelligent design theories.

                      •  Again ... (0+ / 0-)
                        Near death experiences are not credible evidence in these matters.  

                        There's simply no evidence at this point that mind is anything but material.

                        I've pointed you to evidence.  I've given you specific examples of skeptical scientists who have been swayed by the credibility of that evidence.  

                        I've pointed out that the evidence of accumulated human experience might indicate otherwise.  I've encouraged you to go listen to people yourself.  I've given a few specific examples from my own discussions with people who have had such experiences, which seem to indicate external corroboration for what they perceived while clinically dead.

                        I've pointed out that science itself might be limited in what it is able to do, based as it is on a philosophical base that might not be true.

                        And again, in reply I get short dogmatic statements of "fact," completely ignoring the substance of anything I've written.  And these are the people who usually consider themselves proudly "rational."  This is pointless.

                        •  The problem is that that (0+ / 0-)

                          experience is just as likely, if not more like, an effect of neurological experiences or drug experiences.  That's why it's not credible evidence.  Meanwhile, we have large bodies of publicly variable evidence from brain damage, stimulation of regions of the brain, etc, changing mental experiences, showing the material nature of mind.  Weighing the evidence points in one direction rather than the other.

                        •  you seem to be trapped in a desperate effort (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          patcii

                          to support a mystical interpretation that was created by inquiring primitive minds desperately attempting to explain what was clearly beyond the capability of their experiences and knowledge. If you start out trying to support such a proposition, you have prejudiced the process. A clear mind works from what is known and provable and advances that search for the truth.  

                  •  Also ... (0+ / 0-)
                    There's simply no credible evidence that mind is independent of brain, but there are piles of evidence that without brain there is no mind.
                    Actually, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of good, rigorous scientific studies done worldwide which do indeed indicate that mind can operate outside the confines of the physical brain.  It is just that most mainstream scientists, because of their own ideological bias, don't even know of the existence of those experiments, and thus continue to repeat the same generalization you do here.

                    The constantly quoted scientific "skeptic" Ray Hyman constantly said the same thing in media interviews -- even though he of course knew better:  He himself was asked to be a consultant on many such studies, and admitted -- privately of course -- that he could find no methodological fault in many of them, and that he also found that many of them exceeded the standard level of scientific rigor.  That didn't stop him, of course, from continuing to assert in public, "There's no credible evidence that mind is independent of brain."

                    Carl Sagan famously said, "If there's no evidence for it, forget about it" -- but later admitted that the scientific experiments which indicated that humans can affect the processes of random-number generators with their minds, and the evidence that some children seem to accurately remember past lives of other, deceased people, seemed significant and warranted further research.

                    Of course, the evidence which swayed Sagan was collected by open-minded researchers who had ignored Sagan's own ideologically-based preconceived notions to "forget about" such things.

                    Also, if one just opens one's mind and listens, one will hear hundreds of very specific, credible stories from average, normal people about psychic experiences where the mind seems to extend beyond the confines of the brain, experiences of seeming contact with people who have died, and so on.  I've heard countless such stories, all very similar in the overall patterns, because I listen and don't judge.  I've had a number of such experiences myself, which have really shaken my former sense of what "reality" is.

                    The people I've heard those stories from aren't flakes.  They usually don't tell them, because they're afraid of being called "crazy" or "simple-minded" or "credulous" ... or "stupid" or "mental six year olds" ...

                    If I've heard hundreds of such stories over the years, then thousands, millions of people must have such experiences.  If even ONE -- just one -- of those experiences really is what it seems to be -- contact with the consciousness of a deceased person, or the ability of the mind to stretch beyond the physical brain ...

                    Then the whole materialistic worldview which science is based on is rendered wrong.  No wonder Maher so desperately feels the need to insult and attack the character of people whose experiences challenge his belief system about reality.

                    •  Uh huh, it's a (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      bobtmn

                      conspiracy of biased scientist.  That's right up there with the suppression of eastern medicine.

                      •  Typical. Another one or two line dismissive (0+ / 0-)

                        response that completely fails to address any of the substance of my comment (which I've just spent at least an hour on).

                        I'll use that as an indication of how worthwhile it is to actually engage further, hoping for a serious discussion.

                        •  What exactly are those (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          bobtmn

                          experiments?  A bias theory just doesn't work where these matters are concerned. It's a variant of conspiracy theory.  You mention some scientists that express hesitation on various experiments, but certainly you know that science goes with the preponderance of evidence and those paradigms that have been most productive and successful solving problems so far, don't you?

                          •  I never said "conspiracy." (0+ / 0-)

                            You're putting words in my mouth that I didn't say.

                            I’m talking about normal human bias blocking out things it doesn’t want to see:  “I’ll see it when I believe it.”  People do it all the time, and scientists are people too.

                            It’s a small, subtle step from”  “(Based on my own philosophical preference) I don’t believe it’s possible” to “I know it’s not possible.”

                            From there it’s another small step from “I know it’s not possible” to “... so there can’t possibly be anything that credibly points to it being possible.”

                            And another small step from: “There can’t possibly be anything that credibly points to it being possible” to “... so I won’t even bother to look for whether there is or not.”

                            (And from there to:  “Anyone who does bother to look is a credulous moron.  And if they claim to have found something, they are idiots.)

                            You mention some scientists that express hesitation on various experiments, but certainly you know that science goes with the preponderance of evidence and those paradigms that have been most productive and successful solving problems so far, don't you?
                            Of course I know that.  But, as it happens, scientists who dismiss the findings of those studies never actually seem to follow the standard practice of science by doing their own similar studies in an attempt to disprove the earlier studies.  

                            A major search of the scientific literature on psychic phenomena found almost no examples of skeptical scientists doing their own experiments to disprove the other studies.  How can science go with the preponderance of the evidence when the skeptics refuse to even try their own experiments to build up evidence for their position?  They simply dismiss the studies they don't like -- if they're even aware of their existence -- because, like Carl Sagan initially, they don’t believe the findings are possible.

                            I gave two examples of scientists who -- to their credit -- were open-minded enough to look into whether there was any credible evidence.  One of them actually agreed to participate on some experiments ... to play devil’s advocate and be sure they were held to a high standard of rigor.  After doing so, those scientists grudgingly had to acknowledge that the experiments were rigorous, and that the evidence was credible.

                            Carl Sagan -- a hero of mine, by the way -- had the integrity to stand by that.  Ray Hyman, however, seemed so threatened by it that he later (at best) went into denial about what he himself had seen and participated in, or (at worst) purposely lied about it.

                  •  So which is it? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    dancerat

                    No. My links don't support your argument. In your world, if the mind comes from the brain, then an injury to the brain should always produce nothing more than a neurological deficit, every time. It should never result in enhanced capabilities much less mind bogglingly enhanced capabilities overnight. Lol.

                    Or, when you cut off the head of a worm, it shouldn't retain its memories.

                    http://www.theverge.com/...

                    It feels like you're ignoring the cases of increased capabilities. Really, How would you explain the increased capabilities?

                    And simply because you can provoke a change in expression of mind doesn't mean that the mind emerges from the physical brain. Those are still just correlates...just like your brain mapping link. That's just an assumption based on the closeness of the correlation and the worldview that everything in our universe can be reduced to  physical causes.

                    At this point, we basically know that mind arises out of brain, we just don't know how.
                    Oh really? Basically, lol? The devil is in the details. It seems to me that if you don't know how something happens you don't have a lot of foundation to stand on in regards to...
                    There just ain't no soul.  It's sad, but true.
                    ...holding assumptions and beliefs as if they're facts.

                    And that's where atheism and insulting people who have had near death experiences comes to play.

                    If someone like Alexander, Parnia, Greyson, Von Lommel (who has a peer reviewed study on the subject)--or any one of a number of credentialed researchers demonstrates with high confidence through some sort of veridical out of body event that consciousness can operate independently of the body, then all--and I mean ALL--the rules change. If the experience that these people are having is indeed real, then we may accidentally find some supreme consciousness on the road to Damascus, which would be an intolerable event for a hardened atheist who is so sure there isn't a God, that they hate it with all their might. Lol.

                    So it's important to ridicule any experience or any inquiry into the experience no matter what the reliability of the witness or credentials of the researcher. Because it represents a real danger to the existing paradigm.

                    •  Not at all. My (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      bobtmn

                      framework only requires that there be a physical cause at work in mental state.  Both of your links point to physical causes, therefore supporting the claim I'm making.  You implicitly know this, which is why you referred to the mystery of consciousness in your first post responding to me.  All you have is an appeal to mystery which is akin to appealing to Zeus to account for lightning and earthquakes.

        •  Yes ... a bit of ideological arrogance there. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          janet444, zLocke, dancerat
          "Yeah, boy, sure am glad you have Alexander's experience all figured-out, much better than the person who went through it."
          One of my best friends, who had a near-death experience at the age of 18 (years before there was any real public discussion of such things) put it this way:
          When these ultra-rationalists insist to me that my own experience wasn't real, it's like saying to someone who has just come back from vacation, "You didn't really go to the Grand Canyon and come back.  It was just a vivid hallucination.  Trust me.  I know more about it than you do."
          She's also the one who said, "I've been on drugs.  I've been so sick that I've had hallucinations.  This was NOTHING like that."
        •  What Jerry said... (0+ / 0-)

          Actually, they've done all kinds of research on oxygen deprivation, they've even done magnetic stimulation of the amygdala with a great big funny magnetic helmet.

          They can give you a very convincing spiritual experience, completely induced and thoroughly synthetic.

          They understand that as the neurons in the visual cortex wink out from oxygen deprivation, the tunnel effect occurs followed by an all encompassing bright light.

          I'm not saying NDEs are impossible, the world is not only stranger than we imagine, its stranger than we can imagine. I am saying that the stories from folks who come back from near death have extremely good correlations with what we know about the effects of oxygen deprivation on the brain.

          In fact oxygen deprivation is one of the pleasantest ways to depart this mortal coil. Contrary to what people think about suffocation, the problem with restricted air flow is build up of CO2 in the blood and you have all kinds of receptors to make that unpleasant as hell. However, give someone 100% N2 so they can exhale that CO2 and they will pass happy as clams. It was even considered for capital punishment (humane, 100% effective, etc.) But the folks in charge didn't feel those sentenced to execution should pass with happy smiles plastered all over their faces. It just seemed to take all the fun out of it for the families of the victims witnessing the execution.

      •  Alexander's whole point was that he understands (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        niemann, Qwisp, zLocke

        this better than the rest of us. And it could not be explained by neuroscience based on his advanced understanding of it.

        I personally do believe in an afterlife. I'm not stupid. And I resent the implication (here and elsewhere) that one must be stupid to believe in God or an afterlife.

        Our five senses are limited. There are waves of light and sound that we cannot perceive. There's no reason to be so sure that there is nothing beyond what our senses can comprehend.

        Oh, and one other important difference between this and the alarming stupidity shown by Republicans in Congress: those idiotic statements are designed to allow them to do bad things that hurt people (and all the while insisting that they are somehow taking the moral high ground). Please do not compare.

        •  "There is no reason to be sure..." isn't a reason. (0+ / 0-)

          Personal experience is not evidence.  Doubt is not evidence.  Wishful thinking of "there must be something more" is not evidence.  A desire for spirituality, or a desire for immortality, or a fear of death is all not evidence.  None of this is proof of anything except that the brain has odd reactions to damage.

          As far as what "our senses can comprehend", you do know that measurements of the brain are no longer just done with the unmodified eyeball or ear, so that argument from credulity is useless.

          Finally, you and your co-arguers are taking a fairly simple concept (brain damage causes odd neural reactions) and complicating it unduly with a lot of duality-this and spirit-that.  What you're not doing is backing up your assertions with anything except for wishful thinking. (The experience of lights or sounds is not evidence for anything more.) Collect data or find someone who has done so, or accept the fact that what you're talking about it another kind of religion, mysticism not science.

          •  Why is it so damned important to you to try to (0+ / 0-)

            change the belief systems of others? What really bugs me about this post and the comments is that lack of respect for beliefs other than your own.

            My own son is an atheist. I respect his beliefs. Please respect mine.

            By the way, your arguments in favor of your point of view do not impress me. And the reason you aren't impressed with ours is because we have no need to prove anything or impose our beliefs on others. That's why we're liberals.

            •  Because beliefs become actions (0+ / 0-)

              And those actions affect people other than just yourself.

              Nobody is denying your experience.  They are questioning your conclusions of its "meaning."

              Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by seventh graders for balance. They found your paper "bogus," describing the lab work as "boring." We will be unable to publish your work at this time.

              by Rrhain on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 10:55:44 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Funny how you ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        janet444, zLocke

        ... put these words into your hypothetical near-death experiencer's mouth:

        "I wuz day-ud and looked down on ever-buddy and seen this bright light, then Gawd sent me back"
        Um ... actually ...  None of the dozens of experiencers  I've ever met talked like a caricature of a Southern Baptist fundamentalist preacher.  They have pretty much all been normal down-to-earth people whom you wouldn't look at twice on the street.

        But I guess that fact doesn't fit with the ad hominem straw man stereotypes that make it easier to dismiss people whose experiences challenge one's beliefs about reality.

        •  That which is asserted without evidence can be (0+ / 0-)

          dismissed without evidence.  "Experiencer" is not at all the same as a scientist with equipment recording data.  You cannot put them on the same level.  (You do, but I reject it.)  I'm sorry that you are insulted that I used that voice for the sake of humor, but realize what it says about your degree of credulity and those of the "experiencers".

          •  So, what exactly is "humorous" (0+ / 0-)

            ... about depicting people who have had near-death experiences as ignorant yokels when they are not?  What is the "joke"?

            Because when people depict those who disagree with them as stupid morons, it is NEVER intended as anything other than harmless fun!  Right?

            I’m sorry, but I don’t accept this tactic from Republican politicians, and I won’t accept it here:  Insulting and attacking the characters of those who disagree in the form of “humor”;  then, when called on such cheap behavior, claiming it was all a “joke” and attacking the victims even further by implying they just don’t have a sense of humor.  And issuing a condescending non-apology:  “I’m sorry if you felt insulted …”

            I guess I can do it too:  

            SCIENTIST:  “Duuuh!  I yam so rashunul and sciuntifick!  Derrr der der!”  [falls down an open manhole]  I yam so sooperiur to peepul who aren’t as smart and rashunal as me!”  [steps in front of a moving bus]

            Ha ha!  Wasn’t that funny?  It was just a joke!  I’m sorry if you felt insulted by it.

            Just to let you know:  Studies -- and yes, there have been studies, by real, actual scientists at real, actual universities -- have found that people who have had near-death experiences tend to be above average in intelligence.  They tend to rate more psychologically healthy than average when given a battery of assessment tools.  

            And far from sounding like caricatures of religious fundamentalists, their views of dogmatic organized religion tend to be more negative than average.   And far from being anti-science, they tend to share a fascination with science, and with learning in general.  

            All that is congruent with the people I’ve actually met and known who have had near-death experiences.  They are some of the best and brightest people I’ve had the privilege to know in terms of intellegence, common sense, integrity, humility …

            The experiencers I’ve worked with as a therapist -- (on other issues, specifically in the domestic violence field) -- definitely seem to do better than average in therapy, and to have some indefinable edge when it comes to inner resources and resiliance.

    •  I agree. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zLocke, janet444, Qwisp

      Maher's simplistic commentary pisses me off.  I've studied near-death experiences for decades and have known scores of people who have had them -- some very well -- and his insults really grate on me.

      Those people are not crazy, or on drugs.  They are not "mental six-year-olds" ...  They are normal people who have had experiences.  Many, if not most, of them weren't on medication or drugs of any kind.  Many knew and observed things while out-of-body that couldn't be explained in other ways.  Many, if not most, because less tolerant of organized religion because of their experiences, while becoming more spiritually-based.

      If science can't explain those experiences ... god forbid one might consider that it might be the philosophy of materialistic rationalism that is lacking or limited.  (And, yes, people like Maher refuse to acknowledge that the materialism science is based on -- the idea that that materialistic science can explain everything -- is just that ... an idea ... an ideology.  It is simply a philosophical position ... a metaphysical preference.)

      Sorry, these experience happen, and there are many aspects of them which can't be explained by materialistic science.  If one's ideology doesn't like that -- deal with it.

      (And before anyone accuses me of being "anti-science" -- I love science and have an advanced degree in a scientific field.)

      •  Oh, please. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JosephK74

        You love science and you have an advanced degree ...

        ... and yet you are comically credulous with respect to broad and largely meaningless generalizations like, "Many knew and observed things while out-of-body that couldn't be explained in other ways." Guess what? "I now possess this information because I was out of my body, yet perceiving the universe just as if I was in my body, perceiving just as if I were receiving the exact sorts of real physical stimuli to my real physical receptors, even though of course I couldn't be, because my real physical receptors were down there in my body etc. etc. etc." is not an explanation, it's a fantasy.

        If you want to believe, believe, but I am not obliged to respect you for it.

        To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

        by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 03:43:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thoughts (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Qwisp, zLocke
          you are comically credulous with respect to broad and largely meaningless generalizations like, "Many knew and observed things while out-of-body that couldn't be explained in other ways."
          That was my own brief generalization, intended for a very short, general comment.

          Would you like me to go  into thousands and thousands of words of more detail, describing for you very specific incidents garnered from the scores of people I've known who have had such experiences over several decades?  

          Because I can.  In fact, I've tried to in various threads like this, in reply to comments such as yours ... only to have my hours of effort completely ignored.  So I've pretty much given up hope.

          "I now possess this information because I was out of my body, yet perceiving the universe just as if I was in my body, perceiving just as if I were receiving the exact sorts of real physical stimuli to my real physical receptors, even though of course I couldn't be, because my real physical receptors were down there in my body etc. etc. etc." is not an explanation, it's a fantasy.
          Talk about putting vague generalizations into people's mouths.  I have never heard anyone say anything remotely close to what you are saying they say.

          I don't claim it's an explanation.  I am conveying the reality that many, many people have had these experiences.  And many of those people report -- just as you say -- accurately perceiving things that their physical receptors couldn't have picked up on;  things which I've had externally corroborated by other people.  These people don't talk in broad generalizations, as you claim.  They talk very specifically about specific experiences they've had.

          Two (very brief) examples:  One man who was clinically dead and undergoing intense life-saving measures later thanked the nurse who walked in during it all and covered his groin area with a towel to grant him a little dignity -- even though they had never met before.  She asked how he knew she had done that.  He said he saw her do it from up in the corner of the room.  I heard the story from both of them.  They are not flakes.  He was a down-to-earth Midwestern small-town farmer.

          Another man, while in the "other world" was surprised to meet his twin brother -- surprised because he had never even known he had a twin brother, because his twin brother died at birth and no one had ever told him about it.

          By the way ... in attacking me personally you are doing the exact same typical thing I've gotten over and over again in such replies: attacking my character while ignoring the substance of a point I've brought up again and again to crickets:

          the materialism science is based on -- the idea that that materialistic science can explain everything -- is just that ... an idea ... an ideology.  It is simply a philosophical position ... a metaphysical preference.
          No one has ever responded to this statement.  Easier to attack another person personally, I guess.
          •  yaawn (0+ / 0-)

            it doesn't happen.

            people's "consciousness" doesn't sail up and away out of their bodies and reside in other fabulous places and rave all night and behave just exactly like a physical manifestation of their body, only it isn't a physical manifestation of their body, which doesn't stop it from perceiving the physical world just as if it were an actual physical body (e.g., light rays received through an aperture refracted by a lens so as to arrive in focus on a sheet of neural cells filled with pigments that respond to specific wavelengths of light in specific ways so as to permit the brain to produce a 3-dimensional model of the material space immediately in front of the observer).

            it.
            doesn't.
            happen.

            and by the way, there's no such thing as ghosts.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 06:06:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wish I had that kind of certainty. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dancerat

              It must make life much easier.

              Once again, and predictably, you've completely failed to address any of the substance of my comment ... any of my examples, or my years of personal experience talking to dozens of people whose experiences indicate the opposite of your unsupported "facts" and assertions.  Just insults.

              By the way, how many people who have had near-death experiences have you known and talked to?  How many books on the scientific studies about them have you read (written by the actual researchers, I mean, not just the "skeptics")?

              •  it would make life easier if one weren't expected (0+ / 0-)

                to politely accommodate the fantastic delusions of other people.

                by the way, aliens haven't visited either.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 08:50:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  why all the importance of near death experiences? (0+ / 0-)

                LSD can create experiences just as incredible and all it tells us is that assaults on the brain can create incredible experiences that mean nothing other than the brain was assaulted.

            •  By the way ... (0+ / 0-)
              people's "consciousness" doesn't sail up and away out of their bodies and reside in other fabulous places and rave all night and behave just exactly like a physical manifestation of their body, only it isn't a physical manifestation of their body, which doesn't stop it from perceiving the physical world just as if it were an actual physical body
              What you describe here is almost completely, 100% wrong when compared to what people who have actually near-death experiences describe.  What they say is almost the exact opposite.  

              Obviously you know nothing about the reality of people who have such experiences, and can only spout simplistic preconceived notions and stereotypes.

              •  "obviously" (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JosephK74

                Except, that's what you just described: A person believing that "he" was somehow hovering up in a corner of an operating theatre -- that his consciousness somehow was localized (and oriented) in time and space (though without the benefit of his brain cells) -- not only localized in time and space, but localized in a very particularly "useful" point in time and space; in fact, not even "a" point in time and space, but a continuous (at least, continuous beyond the quantum scale) series of points in time and space, happily though inexplicably coincident with the progress of his detached body through time and space, sailing along at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour despite being no longer (apparently) subject to the whimsical command of gravity (and therefore inertia); and having accepted this incomprehensibly implausible interpretation of the experience, you go on to assert and accept that he was able to sense physical phenomena -- that he was able to "see" as if looking down from that frame of reference at the surgical tableau beneath -- yet what does it even mean to "see" if one has no fucking eyes, because one is not corporeal at all. What the fuck exactly was responsible for the impression of an image within his consciousness, given that he had no lenses with which to focus the light that was bouncing off of the people and objects in the room?

                It.
                Is.
                Fucking.
                Nonsense.

                Overwhelmingly compelling nonsense, for the guy trying to make sense of his own hallucinatory experience -- but nonsense nonetheless. People who believe they've been abducted by aliens are just as sure of themselves, and just as wrong.

                There's nothing simplistic about my notions, oh pilgrim. One doesn't develop my deep and rich contempt for superstitious and supernatural thinking by idly dismissing other people's desperate delusions; to the contrary, one reaches this point only by actually contemplating what it would have to mean were such interpretations of reality accurate.

                There is, on the other hand, something hilariously infantile about notions of being and consciousness that propose that consciousness is both independent of the material, and yet very directly and specifically tethered to the material.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 09:18:01 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  About "seeing" (0+ / 0-)

                  I didn't realize people were still reading and leaving comments here, so I'll add a few more.

                  You are almost completely wrong because, despite what you believe, experiencers typically don't claim that the way they perceived while out of their bodies was just like they way they do with their physical bodies.

                  On the contrary, as the experiences progress, they typically start to notice that their modes of perception are very, very different, and they are often fairly disoriented by that fact until they start to get the hang of it.  (For example, they often say that while out-of-body they could "see" 360 degrees, all around them, simultaneously.)

                  Pursuing this question of "seeing," the near-death researcher Kenneth Ring -- an emeritus professor of Psychology at the University of Conencticut -- even did a study of experiencers who had been blind from birth.  He found that what they referred to as being able to “see” while clinically dead didn’t really seem to quite match physical seeing … it seemed to be something different ... even though they were able to describe details in the environments them which they wouldn’t have been able to see while conscious and alive.

                  And again, you didn't answer my questions:

                  how many people who have had near-death experiences have you known and talked to?  How many books on the scientific studies about them have you read (written by the actual researchers, I mean, not just the "skeptics")?
                  Since you didn’t answer, I will guess the answer is none.  If so, you seem to have no problem making definitive declarations about something you know almost nothing about and have almost no personal experience with.
                  •  By the way ... (0+ / 0-)

                    Studies have found that people who have reported having near-death experiences -- who reported watching themselves from outside their bodies -- were able to describe resuscitation procedures and equipment much more accurately than people who were clinically dead and revived, but who didn’t report having the experience … who pretty much had to guess at how it worked.

                •  Again ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... in saying this ...

                  Overwhelmingly compelling nonsense, for the guy trying to make sense of his own hallucinatory experience
                  You are again willfully ignoring the main substance of my comments.  This is what is so frustrating.

                  You say it was just a man “trying to make sense of his hallucinatory experience.”  But in my examples I didn’t just say that those people saw some stuff.  

                  I very specifically pointed out that those people’s “hallucinations” just happened to accurately match what was physically going on around them while their eyes were closed and they were clinically dead with no perceptible brain activity.  And that what they "hallucinated" was able to be verified and corroborated with external people.  You didn't acknowledge that at all.

                  But in your take, I suppose -- (I have to suppose because you didn't actually address my example) -- that man just happened to hallucinate that a woman came in and put a towel over him, when in fact a woman did come in and put a towel over him.  What a coincidence!  

                  Further, that hallucinatory woman just happened to look exactly like the woman who really did put a towel over him;  so much so that when the real woman came into his room later, he mistook her for the woman in his hallucination and thanked her for doing it.  And she mistook his thanking her for actual recognition because she, like the hallucinatory woman, had also just happened to put a towel over him.  What a coincidence!

                  And that other man just happened to hallucinate a twin brother who told him he had died at birth ... when he just happened to actually have a twin brother who had died at birth.  Even though he never knew that before the hallucination.  When he later asked his parents about it, they confirmed that he had indeed had a twin brother.  What a coincidence!

                  And in another example I didn’t relate:  Another man just happened to hallucinate in a way that accurately matched what was actually happening as his body was put into the ambulance and driven to the hospital;  and who was following in the car behind;  and what various family members were doing in different parts of the hospital;  and what another relative was doing at home at that time (because in the hallucination he had decided to check in on that person) …   It was all just a coincidence!

                  Everything is just coincidence.  Nothing to see here.  And all the other thousands of examples of such accounts are just coincidence too.  There couldn’t possibly be anything to them all.

                  Coincidence after coincidence after coincidence after coincidence after coincidence after coincidence (multiply thousands of times) ... is just a coincidence.  That's rational.

              •  Keep on truckin', Neimann. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                niemann

                It's an uphill climb, I know, but you're not alone. I admire your elegantly argued defense of the non-rational, and the intelligent way you reply to those who hold forth on the veracity of experiences they have not had.

                For me, any type of ultimate certainty is misplaced. The problem is epistemological: We can never know whether what we experience is objectively real (or even whether there is anything objectively real). Everything mediated by the filter of experience may be interrogated, even our consensual, 3D universe, which because it can be empirically approached is therefore assumed to be "real." It certainly seems more solid and predictable, but ultimately we still experience it in a mediated way; whatever picture we construct is therefore always and by definition incomplete.

                I've had a number of  nonordinary experiences--from OBEs to shamanic journeying to accurate far seeing. I am trained in science, and I approach all these experiences with skepticism. That said, those experiences were all as seemingly real and as palpable baseline reality seems. I pride myself on always interrogating the nature of every experience, subjecting ordinary reality to the same scrutiny I'd apply to an OBE.

                In the end, though, you're not going to convince anyone who hasn't had these experiences. They will always dismiss them, to their loss. Part of the trick to having them is being open to them--I believe that people are having nonordinary experiences all the time but usually dismiss them as something mundane, or they fail to acknowledge them at all. To me, the kind of immovable certainty that the pure rationalists arguing with you exhibit, along with their reflexive willingness to demean and condemn anyone who offers earnest and well thought-out counterweights to their viewpoint, has too much in common with the religious zealot who cannot tolerate any challenge to his worldview. They believe that their beliefs aren't beliefs, but objective truths. And that's both sad and dangerous.

                Ironic points of light flash out/Wherever the Just exchange their messages. -W.H. Auden

                by Crypsis on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:18:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

                  It does indeed feel like trying to rationally debate religious fundamentalists.  They willfully ignore everything which might discount their belief system, as if you had never said anything at all, and just keep repeating dogmatic statements of certainty.

                  As I've said, I love science.  (Like many near-death experiencers, by the way.)  I just can't believe anymore that it's the be-all and end-all of reality.  What I don't like is what Huston Smith referred to as "scientism" -- which is a very different thing.  By that he meant an ideology based on the philosophical belief that materialism -- and the science that follows it -- is the only thing.

                  •  It's fear, mostly (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    niemann

                    Which subtends every person's rigidity when it comes to a belief system. One problem with scientism is that its strongest adherents buy into the slippery slope fallacy: If I admit that empiricism might not be the ultimate arbiter of truth, then it's a small step to snake-handling and speaking in tongues ... or bombing buildings.

                    But that's just fear talking. I have no doubt that empiricism is a marvelous tool in dealing with what it can describe: the artifacts of space/time. But I also have had experiences that do not fall neatly into that category, experiences for which I have no explanation and cannot duplicate. That doesn't mean I'm going to start believing everything; it just means that I have doubts about the ability of scientific method to explain all phenomena. I don't know why that's such a threatening proposition for some people, but apparently it is.

                    I make no claim about the nature of these nonordinary phenomena, but they are as real to me as the keyboard on which I'm typing now. People who dismiss as irrelevant or non-existent things they can't describe ought not to be trusted.

                    I don't know why we all can't start from the same position as any true scientist or seeker. "I don't know," or "It's possible" are not hard things to say, you'd think.

                    Ironic points of light flash out/Wherever the Just exchange their messages. -W.H. Auden

                    by Crypsis on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 02:52:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  and the reason "No one has ever responded to this" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JosephK74

            :

            the materialism science is based on -- the idea that that materialistic science can explain everything -- is just that ... an idea ... an ideology.  It is simply a philosophical position ... a metaphysical preference.
            ... is because it is low-rent sophistry, about ten minutes more profound than solipsism. Pastafarianism is "just" an idea -- an idea originally conceived with some level of care (not to mention delicious irreverence) precisely to demonstrate the difference between those philosophical positions that are "just" ideas and those philosophical positions that have some weight behind them. Materialism isn't "just" an ideology: It is the only ideology for which there is any actual evidence accompanied by any sort of coherent model of what might be going on. What most materialists don't like to concede is that materialism has no reasonable model (despite considerable applied intellectual effort) for the experience of consciousness. That failure, however, doesn't represent a get-out-of-epistemological-jail card for every other half-baked "idea" about the where/when/why of conscious existence.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 09:28:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  For this crew it's always (0+ / 0-)

              some "mystery" that just be explained, an argument from gaps and some personal experience.  It's no different than people who have said "heat can't possibly just be agitated particles, I just can't fathom that!" Newsflash, that's what heat is, regardless of how difficult it is for anyone to imagine.  They don't seem to realize that the fact that there are other causal possibilities for these experiences undermines their arguments entirely.

      •  there is a reason the dark ages were dark (0+ / 0-)
    •  No, Alexander did way more. And has been debunked. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JohnnySacks, JosephK74

      Anyone who is taking Alexander at face value needs to start by reading this:

      http://ksj.mit.edu/...

      Last October, I took Newsweek to task for its cover story "Heaven is Real," which purported to be a work of journalism. This was an excerpt from a book called Proof of Heaven, which, I predicted, would sell an enormous number of copies and make a lot of money for its author, a neurosurgeon named Eben Alexander, and for Simon & Schuster, which shamelessly bought and promoted the thing. Less than a year after its publication, it has sold nearly two million copies.

      I gathered that fact from a fascinating story in the August Esquire by Luke Dittrich, in which Dittrich comes as close as one could, without access to Alexander's private thoughts, to showing that the book was a cynical effort to provide a new career--as a prophet!--for a neurosurgeon whose career was being consumed by malpractice suits. He was, Esquire's editors write in the deck, "a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention."

      Dittrich begins with an appearance by Alexander on a Fox & Friends in which he is asked about the fate of the children killed in Newtown, Connecticut. A host asks him, with lip trembling, whether the children will forget what happened to them when they are in heaven. This is an appeal to Alexander's expertise because, of course, he's been there. His response, as Dittrich records it: "Well, they will know what happened. But they will not feel the pain." And what about the shooter, Fox and Friends asked him.  "The shooter is in a place of reviewing his own life. It's a very real phenomenon, of reliving all of the events of one's life and reliving the pain and suffering that we've handed out to others. But from their point of view."

      The matter-of-fact nature of this exchange, with adults treating him as an expert on heaven the same way they would treat a lawyer as an expert on evidence, is even more breathtaking than what Alexander wrote. He no longer must claim that he's been to heaven; Fox & Friends takes that for granted and moves on to mining his expertise. When, one wonders, will Alexander respond to a question like this by saying that he doesn't know the answer? Does he really know everything about heaven and its people on the basis of one brief visit? And while in a coma, to boot?

      Please help to fight hunger with a donation to Feeding America.

      by MJB on Sat Jul 20, 2013 at 04:13:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good muckraking (0+ / 0-)

        In the worst sense of the word.

        Of course that's what we all do when we have trouble with our careers. We contract a nearly fatal illness then predictably spin it into a best-seller because we know from the outset that it will make us into a prophet. Cum hoc ergo proctor hoc.

        What Esquire did, which, as far as I can tell from all the different excerpts and treatments I've read, since i wasnt willing to be part of their capitalist experiment to see if they could monetize their new paywall, was to smear his character with suspicion and create a "he said, she said" story between him and one of his doctors.

        Here's something. Why don't we just forget about Alexander. He should be able to defend himself. If not then he should be discredited. But frankly, his testimony isn't all that necessary. As science gets better and better at extending the frontier beyond which someone can be resuscitated, the number of these events grow and have impressive, although not universal, similarities.

        The only thing debunkers need to come up with is an explanation for how the brain can have a hyper real organized experience when in fact, it should have nothing of the sort. That assumes you toss aside the canard of the hypoxic brain. Then you would be engaged in something much more valuable than garden variety debunking which is easy to do if you simply choose as a matter of ideology to cast aspersions on all claims and raise the bar increasingly higher to exclude any evidence whatsoever.

        •  Your premise is flawed (0+ / 0-)

          "It should have nothing of the sort"?

          Why?  Why should it not?  You are assuming that which you are trying to prove.

          We know the brain is very good at creating "sense" out of nonsense.  The burden of proof is on those who claim there is something "more" going on than what we already know is the very defining characteristic of the brain.

          Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by seventh graders for balance. They found your paper "bogus," describing the lab work as "boring." We will be unable to publish your work at this time.

          by Rrhain on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:15:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site