24 October 2008

Mental Excursions

You may have noticed the new "godchecker" feature in the sidebar. Well, when I went to look at today's entry on Februus, I found that little gem of an advert. It sounds a bit threatening, actually... I mean, usually when someone offers to give you exactly what you want, it's because they know that you haven't really thought it through and that wackiness, hijinks, or tragedy will ensue. Bring gods into the mix, and that's pretty much a given.

Anyway, a few links to share this morning.

At both Evolving Thoughts and Mind Hacks, they're discussing a new book on the cognitive aspects of religion and how they might have evolved. I particularly like this part from the Mind Hacks article:

Deeley argues that the well-known distinction between 'doctrinal' rituals which are frequent and low intensity (such as everyday prayers or practices), and 'imagistic' high-intensity, less-frequent rituals (such as exuberant religious celebrations) serve different psychological purposes.

'Doctrinal' rituals help create semantic memories of key concepts and emotional response through associative learning, while 'imagistic' rituals help create episodic memories of specific situations that may involve altered states of consciousness and the experience of other realities.

Interesting thoughts, but either they've been over-simplified, or there's something substantial missing, as meditation fits into both categories under the given criteria. It's done daily, low or high intensity depending on the person, and it often results in altered states of consciousness.

Next up, there's been an interesting development in the North Carolina senate race. Short version: Kay Hagan, running against Elizabeth Dole, met with an atheist group. Dole turned this into a huge deal, resulting in Hagan receiving record numbers of donations in support. Rather than back down, Dole and the GOP continue to scream about the evils of atheism. Greta Christina has a good take on it. If you look at the Republican rants and substitute just about any group in place of "atheists," the bigotry becomes obvious. It's more obvious when "atheist" seems to be the worst insult someone can think of, as in this article at Daylight Atheism.

Speaking of Dover (no, I didn't; click on the last link), the Discovery Institute seems to be in the process of reinventing itself. Now they've latched onto mind/brain duality and are attempting to insist that it can be made scientific, as reported at Thoughts in a Haystack. Er, guys? That's a philsophical position. It's not scientific unless you can think of a test to falsify it. Most neuro-scientists think it has been falsified, but with 'the mind' defined as non-material, there's always wiggle room for those who want to continue believing in dualism. Then again, these are the same guys who thought science should be redefined to allow teaching their philosophy of design as science, and wound up acknowledging that under the necessary relaxation of standards, astrology must also be considered a science.

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