RE: virus: (God's Eyes + Bad Karma) = Any reasonible pretense for a Silly Graf

TheHermit (
Tue, 30 Mar 1999 16:00:15 -0600

Attempting a quick reply, I got caught up towards the end. Now split.

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of Tim Rhodes
> Sent: Monday, March 29, 1999 7:59 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: (God's Eyes + Bad Karma) = Any reasonible pretense
> for a Silly Graf
> TheHermit wrote:
> >In a debate, and this is more of a debate than a
> conversation, a point
> >undefended is a point conceded.
> Well, I would respectfully disagree with primary assumption
> above; I think
> most will agree with me that this is a forum for
> conversation, not a stage
> for debate. CoV is composed of active participants and
> curious observers,
> not of winners and losers. There is no panel awarding points
> to either
> side, only friends made and opportunities for friendship lost.
A forum debate (which as I noted in my reply to KMO is how I tend to think of CoV) works differently. Look it up. They are fun. They alsoput more emphasis on playing than on winning. OTOH, read my reply to KMO - it says why I believe that rational people are "loosing" in the real world. And that is a very scary thought.

> >I have noticed that the religious are very
> >quick to claim these points. Just look at the whole "The US
> is a Christian
> >currency" because of the inclusion of "In God We Trust" on
> their currency
> >for just one example.
> Did someone say that here? Or are you bringing your
> prejudices from another
> conversation (oops! "debate" for you, I guess) in here and
> painting us with
> them?
Ooops, I meant "The US is a Christian country". Dragging my experience with me. Isn't that another word for prejudices? Maybe. Certainly a less loaded one.

> >Reeling out rope is possibly even less "caring" than
> correcting egarias
> >errors.
> SnowLeopard wasn't the only one I was reeling out rope to, my debating
> friend.
Still sounds "uncaring". Now are you hinting that you are a modern Claudius,
"one may smile, and smile, and be a villain yet". You are to devious in your speech, my conversational aquaintance.

> >Cute phrasing. Are you losing it? So soon? Should I give you some
> >rope? I actually address the points made by the people I am holding
> >discourse with.
> No, you didn't. But I don't expect that you saw that, did
> you? Did you see
> how well it went over? Shook her to her very foundations,
> didn't it? (LOL!)

I do recall that was not the intent. When you "play the PhD" do you play to the players? Or to the audience?
> >I don't invent mono-variable functions in x and then refer
> >to values in y.
> ??? (Last time I checked "f(x)" and "y" were considered the
> same in even
> the most basic texts. I'm afraid I don't understand what
> your saying.)
In basic works it is sometimes assumed. In more rigourous works, we try for consistency. Not always successful. But we try.

> >Excuse me if I observe that a "one-dimensional entity"
> cannot wriggle. And
> a
> >one-dimensional entity watching a two-dimensional entity
> wriggle would
> >simply perceive it blinking on and off.
> So you did understand he analogy to some degree, I take it.

The idea is not new to me. I have seen it propounded more explicitly.
> >Tim it sounds more and more as if this is your preferred data space:
> >
> > Faith Phaith
> >Caring ............... Arsehole
> > Lies Truth
> >
> >While the one below has a great deal to recommend it:
> >
> >
> > Caring
> > .
> > . Belief
> > . /
> > . /
> > ./
> >Lies . . . . . -. . . . . Truth
> > /.
> > / .
> > / .
> > Proof .
> > .
> > Arsehole
> >
> Well, I'm not sure where the first chart came from
If I am wrong, I beg your pardon. I was under the impression that you recommended "Caring" above "Truth". Which implies "Caring" vs "Truth" on a single continuum. Then you provided a contrast to "Caring" of "Arsehole". Most people use "Lies" as the antonym for "Truth". Previously you have suggested that "Belief" is as important as "Truth" and again implied an equivalence. Which lead me to understand that you thought you could construct a graph like the top one.

> , but yes,
> the second is
> quite close to what I was saying. Although I think it's a
> little odd where
> you put "Proof" on it. Was that a mistake?!?
> Ohhh! I get it now! It's in 3-D right! Neato!
> Proof/Belief is on the
> z-axis, coming forward, correct? (I'm assuming Belief is in
> front, since
> that is the standard form for such graphs.)

Bad assumption. It is a standard 45degree isometric projection with proof in Front.

> Of course, it
> has less to do
> with what I was saying in that light, but it's still a pretty
> neat graph
> anyway. Would you care to explain its use?
> >The front right upper quadrant (+C+P+T) is quite attractive.
> And despite
> >your implications to the contrary can be occupied simultaneously. The
> >either/or choices are purely in your mind.
> Could you be a little more clear about what you mean by that?
> I was urging
> you to use the upper right rather than the lower right. (2-D
> version) What
> did you think I was saying?

I was suggesting that you have 3 independant variables and that your position in meme-space may be defined by combining the axiz. This is in opposition to your earlier either-or suggestions. I was saying that you were offering a false-choice and suggesting a different way of looking at the situation. I do not see Truth/Lies as necesarily being opposed (or related in any way) to Faith/Proof. After all, there are examples, for example, Winston Churchill raised the ability to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons to an art-form. In the same way, I see Caring/Uncaring(which I prefer to Arsehole) (as a personality type or as an action or as a philosophy) as a seperate function, unrelated to Faith/Proof or Truth/Lies. The easiest way to define a position would then be to use an xyz or rho-theta-gamma co-ordinate system to locate the position. Although there are some problems. And similarities. "Caring" and "Truth" are not belief function. Religion does not rely on extrapolation for existing knowledge, indeed it often goes in the opposite direction. If you extrapolate back to the character of God by reading The Bible you do not get an all seeing, all benevolent father figure. If you extrapolate back to the character of God by studying evolution and the nature of life, again you find a sadistic brute. (The cute little foxes tear the cuddly little bunnies to pieces and eat them alive.) Caring and belief are more opposite than any religious person would like to imagine. Of course, the scientific method does not have a place for faith in anything, even the process itself. Not even when it is spelt phaith. Yet it creeps in despite our best endevour.

> >As I recall, "noŽtic" (from Gk noŽsis a perception),
> automatically implies
> >reason and the intellect. So if we toss out reason, then
> "noŽtics" fails to
> >have a subject.
> Why would you toss out reason? You nuts or something?!? But
> really...
> This is what I was taking about: (From a post to CoV on 1/27/99)
Err, I recall you as saying that reason was overrated... and me thinking that you had gone nuts. I did not notice you contradict that position, and have been responding to it. Have I gone nuts?

As it is, the Wordsmyth English Dictionary gives noŽtic, adjective, of or pertaining to the intellect; understood only by the mind or through the reasoning process
And the WWWebster as adjective: of, relating to, or based on the intellect Etymology: Greek noEtikos intellectual, from noein to think, from nous mind

I was trying to say that if you took away reason, you had taken away the meaning of noŽtic - which made no sense at all. Still doesn't.

/me offers Prof Tim an angry dolphin (= cross porpoise = cross purpose)?

> >>>Begin Archive Post<<<
> SG wrote:
> >I find that few people really understand why a lot of christians
> >hold to their faith when there seems to be so much evidence
> >destructive to the biblical world-view.
> [snip]
> >
> >I believe it has more to do with a religious experience than anything
> >else. When I realized the logistics of one Santa bringing every boy
> >and girl in the world toys, I was able to discard that belief. Why?
> >Because there was no experience to cement that belief into place.
> I think this is a very important area that is often overlooked in
> discussions of religion and a topic which could benefit all of our
> understandings if thoughtfully explored in a forum such as this.
> The "cement" you're talking about is what William James
> describes in his
> book _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ as having the
> four qualities of
> ineffability, passivity, noŽtic quality, and transcendence.
> ("NoŽtic" is a
> little used word that comes from the Greek for intellect or
> understanding.
> The same root gives us the word "knowledge." "NoŽtic" refers
> to a knowledge
> that is experienced directly; an illumination accompanied by
> a feeling of
> certitude.) In the book James speaks of a "noŽtic sense of
> truth" and the
> authority these states impart:
I think that James was nolens volens stretching the meaning of "noŽtic". Of course, I have no objection to people doing that, it is what languages are for. Often to take the complete opposite meaning, for example prestige. Yet, it is advisble to make a special note of the "new meaning" until it is generally accepted as intended. The original intent of "noŽtic" was "of or pertaining to the mind" and "originating in and apprehended by the reason" would not be stretching it. I suspect that "illumination" and "cetainty" are a classic example of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

> "Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states
> seem to those who
> experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are
> states of insight
> into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are
> illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all
> inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a
> curious sense of authority for after-time."

Mileage may vary. I tend to think myself a god while stoned. And on those trips where I ran video-recorders during them, I appear not to have acted more stupidly than I normally am (i.e. while not stoned). Try LSD, mescaline, ayahuasca, DMT and related entheogenic tryptamines, ergot, psilocybe or psilocyn. Other hallucinogenic, psychedelic, or psychogenic substances may have similar effects. I recommend that you visit Holland or some other enlightened country where this is not considered illegal. The American government regards all such experiments as evil.

An alternative is to simply read at least "The Doors of Perception" ) and "Heaven and Hell" by Aldous Huxley. I discount the idea of "The mind at large" but his descriptions of what I would term alternative as opposed to higher conciouceness are good. Another "must read" along similar lines would be The Road to Eleusis by R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann, and Carl A. P. Ruck ). Try at "The Psychedelic Library" (homepage at ). Quoting from the article Do Drugs Have Religious Import? by Huston Smith "..."the miracle of Marsh Chapel" in which during a two-and-one-half hour Good Friday service ten theological students and professors ingested psilocybin and were visited by what they generally reported to be the deepest religious experiences of their lives." (...) How do we know that the experiences these people have really are religious? We can begin with the fact that they say they are. The "one-fourth to one-third of the general populous" figure is drawn from two sources. Ten months after they had had their experiences, 24 percent of the 194 subjects in a study by the California psychiatrist Oscar Janiger characterized them as having been religious. Thirty-two percent of the 74 subjects in Ditman and Hayman's study reported that in looking back on their LSD experience it looked as if it had been "very much" or "quite a bit" a religious experience; 42 percent checked as true the statement that they "were left with a greater awareness of God, or a higher power, or ultimate reality." The statement that three-fourths of subjects having religious "sets" will have religious experiences comes from the reports of sixty-nine religious professionals who took the drugs while the Harvard project was in progress.

In the absence of (a) a single definition of a religious experience acceptable to psychologists of religion generally, and (b) foolproof ways of ascertaining whether actual experiences exemplify any definition, I am not sure there is a better way of telling whether the experiences of the 333 men and women involved in the above studies were religious than by noting whether they seemed so to them. But if more rigorous methods are preferred, they exist; they have been utilized and confirm the conviction of the man in the street that drug experiences can indeed be religious. In his doctoral study at Harvard University, Dr. Walter Pahnke worked out a typology of religious experience (in this instance of the mystical variety) based on the classic cases of mystical experiences as summarized in Walter Stace's Mysticism and Philosophy. He then administered psilocybin to ten theology students and professors in the setting of a Good Friday service. The drug was given "double-blind," meaning that neither Dr. Pahnke nor his subjects would know which ten were getting psilocybin and which ten placebos to constitute a control group. Subsequently the reports the subjects wrote of their experiences were laid successively before three college-graduate housewives who, without being informed about the nature of the study, were asked to rate each statement as to the degree (strong, moderate, slight, or none) to which it exemplified each of the nine traits of mystical experience as enumerated in the typology of mysticism worked out in advance. When the test of significance was applied to their statistics, it showed that "those subjects who received psilocybin experienced phenomena which were indistinguishable from, if not identical with... the categories defined by our typology of mysticism."
Why do people reject evidence? Because they find it threatening, we may suppose. Theologians are not the only professionals to utilize this mode of defense. In his Personal Knowledge, Michael Polanyi recounts the way the medical profession ignored such palpable facts as the painless amputation of human limbs, performed before their own eyes in hundreds of successive cases, concluding that the subjects were impostors who were either deluding their physician or colluding with him. One physician, Esdaile, carried out about 300 major operations painlessly under mesmeric trance in India, but neither in India nor in Great Britain could he get medical journals to print accounts of his work. Polanyi attributes this closed-mindedness to "lack of a conceptual framework in which their discoveries could be separated from specious and untenable admixtures."

The "untenable admixture" in the fact that psychotomimetic drugs can induce religious experience is their apparent implicate: that religious disclosures are no more veridical than psychotic ones. For religious skeptics, this conclusion is obviously not untenable at all; it fits in beautifully with their thesis that all religion is at heart an escape from reality. Psychotics avoid reality by retiring into dream worlds of make-believe; what better evidence that religious visionaries do the same than the fact that identical changes in brain chemistry produces both states of mind? Had not Marx already warned us that religion is the "opiate" of the people? Apparently he was more literally accurate than he supposed. Freud was likewise too mild. He "never doubted that religious phenomena are to be understood only on the model of the neurotic symptoms of the individual." (15) He should have said "psychotic symptoms."

So the religious skeptic is likely to reason. What about the religious believer? Convinced that religious experiences are not fundamentally delusory, can he admit that psychotomimetic drugs can occasion them? To do so he needs (to return to Polanyi's words) "a conceptual framework in which [the discoveries can] be separated from specious and untenable admixtures," the latter being in this case the conclusion that religious experiences are in general delusory.
One way to effect the separation would be to argue that despite phenomenological similarities between natural and drug-induced religious experiences, they are separated by a crucial ontological difference. Such an argument would follow the pattern of theologians who argue for the "real presence" of Christ's body and blood in the bread and wine of the Eucharist despite their admission that chemical analysis, confined as it is to the level of "accidents" rather than "essences," would not disclose this presence. But this distinction will not appeal to many today, for it turns on an essence-accident metaphysics which is not widely accepted. Instead of fighting a rear-guard action by insisting that if drug and non-drug religious experiences can't be distinguished empirically there must be some trans-empirical factor which distinguishes them and renders the drug experience profane, I wish to explore the possibility of accepting drug-induced experiences as religious in every sense of the word without relinquishing confidence in the truth claims of religious experience generally.

Taste more of it at will. There is a lot of research all basically saying the same thing.

And yes, as a youth I tried religion directly. Later I tried drugs. Then I tried them together. Then I decided that I liked the way my mind works without either and that the risks of faulty thinking outweighed the benefits of euphoria. I can certainly report that for myself, the results of the experiments and more recently some experiments with TM and biofeedback have suggested to me that the results are indistinguishable (and that good thoughts lead to good experiences for those like me who would never use "mere" as an appropriate adjective for "happiness").

> In trying to understand religion it seems to me too seldom
> are asked the
> hard questions: How exactly does a /noŽtic experience/
> impact the brain?
> What qualities does it exhibit and how do they come into play in the
> process? What is it about these noŽtic experiences that
> prompts the brain
> to assign a sense of certitude and authority to them which
> may be wholly (or
> seemingly) unrelated to their objective truth-value? And how
> does that all
> take place?
> Personally, I suspect the answer lies somewhere within the
> workings of the
> limbic brain, a structure much older than the cortex, though equally
> well-developed (in humans at least), which deals which
> emotion and memory
> and provides the sense of conviction that individuals attach
> to their ideas
> and beliefs, in addition to prioritizing and managing
> incoming sensory data
I think you are living at the right time to find out. functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI and other technology see below) allows us to "look" directly at brain activity during various process and measure (remarkably precisely) exactly where activity is occurring. This coupled with an ever improving understanding of enzyme processes, the human genome set and neurotransmitters is allowing us to predict ever more accurately what the relationships between brain physics and thought functions are.

> from the outside world. I'm quite curious what selective
> advantage these
> experiences _must_ have provided to those having them to have
> garnered such
> an overriding significance in the workings of the brain.
> Now, all that being said, I should worn you that this
> possibility of having
> a fruitful discussion on the topics above here, on the Church
> of Virus list,
> seems completely unlikely. There are many who frequent these
> parts which
> find it hard, if not impossible, to accept the realms of emotion or
> experience as valid and are therefore quick to
> classify-and-dismiss anything
> that smells even faintly of subjective experience.
> Such thinkers would
> withhold the label "true" for only those things that can be
> objectively
> proven and are unlikely to place any experience, religious or
> otherwise, in
> that same category. (And yet, oddly, I suspect these same
> individuals would
> be just as unlikely to dismiss their own emotional
> experiences--say, the
> feelings they felt as they helplessly watched while a tragic
> Juliet awakes
> beside her poisoned Romeo and crushed, slowly raised the
> blade to her own
> breast--as "untrue" just because these experiences were
> provoked in them by
> obviously fictional characters.)

I think I am one of these thinkers. Having experienced and generally enjoyed many "untrue" experiences - and knowing that they were caused by brain chemistry/mindset I am far more likely to both doubt and negate the value of subjective experience - yet I still recommend people to try it. Just not to exagerate its signioficance to themselves or to others. That is not saying that emotion is not "real". Emotion is "real" and one of the great motivators. In my experience though, emotion and reason harnessed together are even more valuable. For myself, this can be achieved with opera. Or even enjoying some of the more kleenex-oriented sections in The Sound of Music or My Fair Lady. And no, despite the attached stereotypes I am firmly heterosexual :-)

> And I find it strange that many of these same learned ones often seem
> infinitely capable of extracting universal truths from any
> Star Trek episode
> and yet guffaw when someone suggests that similar truths
> might be found in
> the more ancient stories as well. But that's beside the point...
Um - I grew up on the works of famous dead writers. And find my imagination vastly superior to any directors translations. Though I know exactly of what you wot.

> >That is an analogy to the christian experience in "meeting Jesus
> >Christ". It's like a whole new world opens up, and you want to tell
> >everyone about it. It's so real that no amount of evidence seems
> >to be able to destroy faith in it.
If somebody thinks that Christian experience is a whole new world, they really should try psilocybin. Given a good mood and some nice music, it is pretty much guaranteed to outperform JC. I guess the best description of the effect might be "sort of like Jesus on steroids".

> Yes, I think we're talking about the same things here.
> >I have had that experience, and now am trying to find out if this
> >experience is just a trick of the brain.
> Love, anger, passion, fear, and comfort are also "just tricks
> of the brain."
> The real question is: What have we gained as a species by
> having this trick
> hard-wired into our brains?
As you said, all tricks of the brain.

> -Prof. Tim
> >>>End Archive Post<<<
> Now, are we on the same page, TheHermit? Do you understand what I'm
> referring to when I say "noŽtic" experience? Or should I go
> over it again
> for you?

I think I have it. Read what I said and see if you agree. But say more about it anyway. It is much easier to keep refining on meaning than to suddenly discover that the speaker's descriptions are worlds away from the listeners visualization.
> >I know why the religious believe as they do. For some people it is
> rewarding
> >(in the same way as T.M. or a dose of ecstasy can be
> rewarding. Been there,
> >tried that.) and it is comforting not to need to attempt to
> think, not to
> >need to find answers, not having to find beginnings or
> explain ends. We
> are
> >able to reproduce all of the "results" of faith chemically,
> ??? Please share, I'm unaware of these findings.
Hope the info above gets you going. The Smith article at is especially good. And this is nowhere near recent. Just not politically correct. "E for Ecstacy" if you can lay your hands on it is also an interesting read. Just don't take any of these authors completely seriously. They all have a tendency to confuse navel-lint for the fundamental building blocks of the universe. Don't we all. Read for a Christian's perspective and concerns.

> >and have a
> >number of strong indications that a capacity for faith is genetically
> >programmed.
> ???!?!?!! Again, please share. I'd be interested in these
> studies too.
> Did they use twins separated at birth, perhaps?

I think that many are not going to like the next bit. And having spent too many hours on it, and definitely seeing it get too damn long - and not having the time to shorten it, I will post it to the list as a seperate letter with the topic "God Module".

> >A more interesting line of investigation might be what benefits
> >a capacity for faith might entail.
> Funny, I think I said the same thing two months ago. (above)
> Where were you
> then?

Probably otherwise occupied. Sorry. Take a peek at . It begins "Is God dead? According to the latest MORI opinion poll, confidence in him has sunk to an all-time low. Only 43 per cent of the British electorate now think he exists at all. If this is so, then what are the alternatives" and gets better. For example:

"Dawkins' atheism is an inspiration. He is correct to argue that "God" is a self-perpetuating lie. But his own version of Darwinism is unable to explain why humans have evolved to be so "gullible". We humans are designed for faith, our brains and emotions are so constructed as to seek faith in something larger than ourselves. But Dawkins should distinguish between falsehoods of different kinds. Some lies are breaches of faith - mere tricks whereby individuals or groups succeed in exploiting one another. But others are communally empowering - they are faith itself.

My own work on human origins suggests that collective deception is the essence of language, art, ritual, drama, mythology and all religion. It is what makes us human. Monkeys and apes may deceive, but their deceptions are uninspiring because they are so selfish. Only humans deceive collectively, rejoicing in the elaboration of their own communally empowering fantasies. We became human when coalitions of kin - mothers with their offspring, brothers and other relatives - began painting their bodies and staging rituals to arouse hunters to summon up their energies for the chase. Female dancers identified themselves with the wild beasts, constructing hunters as metaphorical "suitors" courting "bison-women", "antelope-maidens" and other wondrous beings. These were rituals of communal trickery, seductively harnessing the energies of the human male. But like any contemporary carnival, it was all a hilarious, liberating fiction with which men were only too happy to collude. It served their genetic interests not to resist, but to play along. Human gullibility served us well."

Apropos of something - I disagree with his assumptions on the immenent ecological and political catastrophe. We are in a much better shape than most people imagine.

> No matter. Yes, it could be a fruitful discussion (but not
> debate). Do you
> think we can have it here? Or does my original disclaimer
> still stand.
> -Prof. Tim

Hmmm, debate is useful. All it is supposed to be is a structured discussion. But go ahead. Conversation can be good too.

THeHermit <Sharpening his little snicker anticipation of a... pleasant discussion>