Materialism Damages Mirror Neuron Activity

People with an upper socioeconomic status or background tend to be less engaged in conversations.

In a Berkeley study where two participants were filmed while having a conversation, the participants of the higher socioeconomic status or background displayed more disengagement behaviors, such as fiddling with things, not making eye contact or doodling.

People of a lower socioeconomic status or background were more likely to make eye contact, smile and nod or otherwise engage in the conversation. The disparity was so great that even objective viewers later could guess participants’ socioeconomic background by their body language.

The relevant point about religion is its practical value to the brain and genetics.  Stripped of dogma, all religions share a basic premise of living a life in accordance with certain basic principles, with the aim of reaching a higher and far more rewarding level of existence.  The idea that the brain needs to have some kind of spiritual exercises to develop its potential, varying between individuals, is no different than the idea that the body needs exercises to develop and maintain its natural strength, and that these will vary between all people depending on their abilities, present state, and preferences.

In Christianity, for example, the lasting benefits from the life of Jesus were not the miracles, or those attributed to him, but his teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Lord’s Prayer.  Dsimissed as rubbish by modern intelligentsia, these are fabulous spiritual documents.  The words of the eloquent Lord’s Prayer have a soothing and uplifting effect on the brain.  And as human brains are all the same design, these gifts were for all humanity, not just a select group, as the priests would have had us believe.  The effort to turn religious knowledge into a gated private estate is an insult to the founders, who had no such intention.  The only aspect which could propel religion to the forefront of scientific thought is that the way of life prescribed by it can have a soothing effect on the brain, assisting its evolution, and enhancing its functioning.

For the smartest and most mentally agile, materialism has an acceptable face –

What the latest research is showing is that morality has biological roots, and that these roots have been around a very long time.  Morality is based on the ability to feel empathy.  Empathy comes from mirror neuron activity, a tendency within the neurons which fire in a certain way when we perform an action, to fire in a very similar way when we see others perform the same action.   This lends us the ability to understand what others go through and is the biological basis of empathic behaviour; the lack of it causes severe difficulties, in autistic children and in the scient-austist – a high performing intellectual without any concept of the suffering of others.

– and for the underclass, an unacceptable one.  Instead of electronics retailers, city traders have been responsible for the looting of entire countries; in both cases the materialism is the same, the difference being the level of ingenuity, and the colossal size of the payoff

This deficiency also creates the born psychopath, who feels nothing when causing suffering to others.  When this kind of personality rises to power, recent examples being Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Tony Blair, Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Radovan Karadzic, Radko Mladic, Milan Lukic, Arkan, Kim Jong Il, Ariel Sharon etc, they can oversee, organise, or ignore the massacre of thousands of innocent people and feel nothing whatsoever.  When gifted with emotional charmisma, men such as Adolf Hitler can bewitch entire countries and for their own ends, light up the planet with the flames of war.

Bush in 1950 slyly punching an opponent in the face (left) and more recently mocking a plea for clemency by Karla Faye Tucker, a woman on death row. Pursing his lips, he says sarcastically, “please don’t kill me!”

Animals come hard wired with this behaviour, which shows the level of degeneration achieved by leading players today on the world stage.  Experiments show that if each time a rat is given food, its neighbour receives an electric shock, it will eventually forgo eating to avoid the empathic pain it feels.  Mirror neuron activity is an explanation for this altruism:

In monkeys, mirror neurons fire when the monkey reaches for a banana.  The same neurons activate when the monkey sees another monkey or human likewise reaching for a banana.  Within patches of mirror neurons, some cells fire more vigorously when the monkey sees the action, and others fire more vigorously when the monkey itself performs the action.  Imitation – monkey both sees and does—generates the strongest neuron response.

We can take this a step further.  Some mirror neurons fire if the monkey reaches for a hidden banana, but don’t fire if it reaches behind a screen where it knows there is no banana.  Other neurons fire if the context suggests the banana is going to be eaten, versus put in a box.  In other words, mirror neurons encode abstract ideas (such as the idea of a banana, even if it can’t be seen) and complex ideas like intentions or goals.

June 2011: above, US President Obama toasts wife and supporters in Ireland.  Below: Afghan girl, at the funeral of her  entire family who were burned alive by accident in a NATO raid.  There was no official apology and the incident was not reported in the American media.  It is not possible for an individual with healthy mirror neurons to carry out – much less organise and preside over – the appalling warmongering of the West.  The talent required among leaders is the ability to mimic normal emotions while carrying out massacres in the background.  An MRI scan would bear this out

In humans, mirror neuron activity is studied by a scanning technique called functional MRI.  A person is awake with his head in a specially designed MRI scanner while he does an experimental task.  The MRI detects how much blood flows to different parts of the brain as different tasks are done.  Increased blood flow indicates more activity in that part of the brain at that moment.

With all this as background, consider what happens when you look at someone’s facial expression.  If you have normally functioning mirror neurons, you immediately feel the emotion expressed in the other person’s face.  The mirror neuron fires and sends its impulse to the emotional (limbic) circuit, just as if you had made the expression yourself.  This capacity is the basis for empathy and the awareness that other people have feelings and points of view. [RiverCityMalone.com]

Religious scriptures emphasise voluntary cultivation of these qualities, and the brain, being a plastic instrument, responds to these efforts.  Religious genius therefore has been in tune with these natural principles, and religion, when seen in this light, is an expression of a healthy evolutionary practice taking man away from the animal and towards a future in which ethical behaviour and altruism is the biological norm.

Science Watch: in the search for profit, the manufacture of plastics and their disposability has created an area larger than the North American landmass in discarded plastic rubbish.  Marine life has been decimated by this, but corporations are glad that tides keep it out of sight of most consumers

Science and industry working together have created a rather unpleasant problem for our planet – Richard Dawkins recently declared this an exciting age when perhaps we will discover there will be no limits to progress.  As a spokesman for science, can someone give him a broom and a large bucket and tell him to get started!

For the offspring to have a benefit, there must be mechanisms which accumulate the harvest – or absence – of spiritual work done in a lifetime, to pass on its effects to the next generation.  Epigenetics is investigating the possibility of such mechanisms and has already made some very interesting discoveries: changes made to the genome as a result of drug use and addictions, for example, are passed on to the children and there seems to be no way of turning these changes off.  (See: “Biological Heaven and Hell” for some published research on this subject).

But in the modern world, something is going drastically wrong.  The harvest of tens of thousands of years is being undone in a day – evolutionarily speaking – and the cheerleaders are the skeptics and atheists who, banning God, banning religion, and banning spiritual ideals – have cheerfully hurled mankind into a pit of scorpions.

Modern society – based on the materialism championed by sharp-witted writers such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, George Smith, Darrel Ray, Sam Harris, Eric Maisel, Dinesh D’Souza, Victor Stenger – is falling apart genetically.  The crop of ruined genetics is so obvious now that even these writers, safely ensconced in their ivory towers or engaged in lucrative book tours, could hardly fail to notice it.  The argument that crime has always been commonplace, and now it is just reported more widely is absurd.  The rates of addiction, mental disorder and violent crime have skyrocketed to such an extent that, within the lifetime of today’s teenagers, half of the whole population of America will either be on drugs, mentally ill, or in prison!

Talking about my degeneration of empathy: gang convicted of assorted burglaries and assaults – even on invalids.  Mirror neuron activity presumably withered away in the last two generations through “Dawkinisation”?

The biological influence of religion can act in a generalised and imperceptible way over many generations to protect the healthy evolution of the brain and genetics.  There is evidence of this in the gradual evolution of families and societies evolving in intellect, creativity and genius.   Conversely, the abandonment of religious ideas – or even any kind of behavioral restraint – in favour of greed, an ego-centric life and raw materialism seems to promote such a marked and rapid degeneration that in only one or two generations of unrestricted behaviour, a family name, fortune, and the accumulated genetic organisationstore of order can be ruined and the children’s lives blighted by addiction, recklessness, criminal behaviour, etc.  Surely, anyone with access to a newsagent will already be well aware of this.

“There’s probably no God – so stop worrying and enjoy your life” – Richard Dawkins.   Why worry about progress uphill when it’s so much more fun to slide downhill?  Mirror neuons? Pfah!

But religious practices can also be used intensely, to accelerate the process of evolution within a single lifetime.  Just as some people go to the gym to maintain general health and carry on their life in the normal way, others devote their lives to it in an effort to set new standards of athletic ability.  The science of Yoga was devised to enable this acceleration, using one’s own own body and brain as an experiment, in an effort to reach a higher state of consciousness.  It was known that this was a dangerous undertaking and one who achieved success was hailed as a hero.  This kind of effort would be even more dangerous today, as science knows almost nothing about the brain’s evolutionary potential, or about the powerful biological forces which can cause it to become unhinged.

Sumerian God Ningizzida, dating from before 2000 BC.  Sumerian society benefited greatly from genius: contributing writing, organised agriculture, the wheel, the sixty second minute.  Interestingly the wheel seemed to appear simultaneously in at least two other geographically isolated societies, possibly showing an unusual synchronicity in the evolution of human technology

The Caduceus was carried by Mercury, messenger of the Gods.  The message is clear: a dual serpentine energy rising in volume ends in winged liberation.  Note the seven intersections which are retained in both designs

The nervous energy which contributes to this evolutionary acceleration was named Kundalini by the ancients; a storehouse of it is contained within the reproductive organs and can act through the nerves running up the spinal column and act on the brain.

Minoan goddess of wardrobe malfunctions, controlling twin serpents

The ancient yoga texts depict ida and pingala as the left and right channels, representing the cooling and heating aspects of this energy, and the central channel leading to the centre of the brain, responsible for illumination they named sushumna.  It was understood that life is created not only on the physical plane, but the mental plane also.  The subjective impression of this energy acting on the brain via sushumna, the central nervous channel, is of a white serpent in full flight, rippling decisively towards its goal.

Serpent adorning human head from Göbekli Tepe, Southern Turkey. The temple has prompted archaeologists to consider that religion, not agriculture, was the spark behind civilisation. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text

Even the earliest surviving temples in Turkey, more than ten thousand years old, contain sculptures of the human head with a rippling serpent rising over the rear of the skull.  The modern medical insignia of the Caduceus contains an inverted triangle representing the base of the spine, serpents intertwined around a vertical axis, and a winged emblem at the very top.

Egyptian portraiture usually displayed the Uraeus (sacred serpent) over the brow.  In that ancient race of builders, this sign of genius was inseparable from religiosity

Tutankhamun

The ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’s head-dress contained a variation of the serpent, indicating the power of an enlightened individual, and everyone will be aware that the Bible mentions the serpent as the “most subtle creature in the garden” guarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  This alone shows the Garden of Eden to be a metaphor for the human condition and its relation to divinity.  The Aztecs had the plumed serpent god, which I think was named Quetzalcoatl; Norse, Greek, Ashanti, Hindu, Aboriginal and many more examples can probably be brought to mind, but the important point is that this energy has long been intuitively understood and represented in the field of religion.

Modern education is based not on the original Latin educare, “to bring out”, but on the idea that memorisation can be passed off as wisdom, as a parrot might, up to a point, give an informative talk.  “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”, said Socrates, and the natural genius will do much better left to this own devices, than in the clutches of the modern brain-burdening school system.  It is no wonder that genius has completely vanished and the whole mechanism fallen into obscurity: modern brains are forced to memorise fact after fact – many of them either completely useless or out of date – until the blythe and buoyant child who first entered the system leaves as a stressed and nervous adult.

Michelangelo: Serpent power in the Garden of Eden: “then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”…  “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever..”  Powerful stuff.

The role of the brain in any transformation of consciousness is beyond doubt, and has been represented in dozens of ways.  The halo around the heads of Christian saints, the thousand-petalled lotus flower, the sacred turban and the skull cap, the markings on the forehead of the Brahmin and Hindu – all these images point to the instinctive realisation of the brain’s importance.  One of the benefits of religious practices is a gradually increased empathy; the voluntary effort in “treating others as thyself” tends to break down the ego by enlarging the ability of ventromedial preforontal cortex.  As with all effort, nature meets us half way; all that is important is that we make a start somewhere.

The expression of altruism in the brain.  The right nucleus accumbens was substantially more activated than the left during the experience of voluntary (orange) and involuntary (red) charitable contributions (Harbaugh, 2007). The right caudate was also more activated than the left, while the left insula was slightly more activated than the right.

In an experiment published in March 2007, University of Southern California neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio and his colleagues showed that “patients with damage to an area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lack the ability to feel their way to moral answers.”

When confronted with moral dilemmas, the brain-damaged patients coldly came up with “end-justifies-the-means” answers.  Damasio said the point was not that they reached immoral conclusions, but that when confronted by a difficult issue – such as whether to shoot down a passenger plane hijacked by terrorists before it hits a major city – these patients appear to reach decisions without the anguish that afflicts those with normally functioning brains.  (Washington Post, May 28, 2007)

When genetic brain damage and a lack of empathy rises to the top:  President George Bush’s brain expressing an overwhelming range of human empathy seven minutes after hearing that thousands of ordinary people were being incinerated in an inferno in New York City, and that the country which put their faith in him to guide and lead them was, according to him, under attack from unforseen assailants.  As George Bush Sr. once said, “If the American people ever find out what we Bushes did to them, we would be chased down the street and lynched.”

As my interest in this blog is to justify the faith which all religion requires, and to interest science in the value of religion, I will point out the current research as best as I can find it, to prove that meditation, prayer, humility, sacrifice, unselfishness, self-control and the subdual of ego are all extremely valuable to the brain, and this is the reason why they form part of healthy religious practices.  It is known already that certain areas of the brain relating to judgement shrink in those who give in to fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism is often confused with religion, but this same kind of approach, and a corresponding biological bias, is reflected in political extremes, too:

Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that .self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

..the results of Harbaugh noted the correlation between altruism in those with elevated activity in the right superior temporal cortex, which contains “mirror neurons” that activate in response to the detection of (or just thinking about) biological movements in others.

This further correlates with elevated activations in components of the dopamine reward system in the right hemisphere: the nucleus accumbens and caudate. The elevated altruism displayed by liberals towards outsiders may indeed be adapting this right hemispheric network, although Harbaugh did not differentiate his subjects based on political affiliation.

In general, people who scored higher on libralism tests tended to be associated with “conflict-related anterior cingulate activity”.  This is the part of the brain which comes into play when you encounter things conflicting with what you already believe.  Clearly a fundamentalist will be resistant to navigating this kind of complexity, and retreat to a safely prepared position.  But it seems to me this kind of pattern is present in scientists too, who immediately dismiss ideas about religion and the brain because accepting them would require a re-evaluation of their entrenched beliefs.

Relative activation in the right caudate nucleus in 20 Danish Christians during the following exercises of silently reciting: a wish to Santa Claus, a rhyme, a personal prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. The caudate is part of the dopamine reward system, involved in the prediction of future rewards, and those future rewards which rely on reciprocity from others. The subjects all had a high confidence that God reacts to all prayers

Having entered into very painful debates with fundamentalist Christians as well as fundamentalist scientists, I have found the entrenched, defensive positions and circular reasoning indistinguishable between the two.  Whether it is a person who claims all the required wisdom of the world is limited to one book, or that all events (including their own consciousness in which they trust absolutely) arise only from mindless, dead forces, the personality is exceedingly anxious to protect itself from any variation to its worldview.  This would not be the case if the individual had the ability to evaluate the whole picture – which would necessarily include his opponent’s reasoning – in the confidence of arriving at a balanced conclusion.  There is nothing so silly as watching an educated person claiming the world can only be measured by logic, when their very existence – and that of their patient audience – is a result of illogical and emotional acts of their parents – and without which, all life would cease!

Excellent Time magazine graphic showing areas involved in meditation:data from Dr Gregg Jacobs, Harvard Medical School, author of The Ancestral Mind

Those who meditate can be very glad about one thing – this practice thickens the cortex, and has already been shown to reduce age-related cortical thinning in the BA 9/10:

..research indicates that long-term meditation is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. MRI was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with meditation experience involving focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula.

Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.

Our data suggest that meditation practice can promote cortical plasticity in adults in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being.

As for being correlated with amount of experience, the strongest correlation was in the occipitotemporal region. The fact that it is correlated with amount of experience suggests it is a result of practice.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/

http://sciconrev.org/2006/02/meditation-may-increase-the-thickness-of-the-cortex/

The most significant difference (Lazar) was the right anterior insula, which is associated with emotion processing, attention and cognition.  No doubt all this research will be enlarged upon, but no longer can any skeptics say that religious practices do not offer a concrete benefit to the individual.  The laboratory results say that they do – which means that the brain was indeed designed to respond to voluntary efforts to expand consciousness, thus explaining the ages-old phenomenon of religion, and proving that Nature has already given us the tools to reach Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana or Samadhi.  And the free will to use them and build a better world through altruism, genius and inspiration, or degenerate into materialism, skepticism and anarchy.

The link between mystical experience and increased power of the brain is shown in religious icons, above.  Overlooking such an obvious clue, in order to discredit the biological aspect of spiritual practices, is a significant oversight on the part of skeptics and atheists, and laboratory results flatly condradict their position

About iain carstairs

I have a great interest in both scientific advances and the beauty of religion, and created www.scienceandreligion.com about 15 years ago with the aim of finding common ground between the scientist and the believer, and to encourage debate between the two sides.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Ayrton Senna, Designs in nature, Evolution, Genetic damage, Genius, Intuition, Mental Illness, Michelangelo, Science and Religion, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, The Brain, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Materialism Damages Mirror Neuron Activity

  1. Kevin Mastaw says:

    Wonderful stuff, Iain. Thanks for presenting this. As a conservative, I was a bit ruffled by the data – but, then again, what’s in a label:) Regards, Kevin

  2. Holy shit. I was searching for information on possible mirror neurons of nature-consciousness and I stumbled across this. This is incredible. As a spiritual seeker, armchair neuroscientist and shame/vulnerability/empathy psychotherapist and educator, Thank-You!

  3. Pingback: The Fabric of Society and the Buddhist Amygdala | ScienceAndReligion.com

  4. Jason says:

    If you had any idea of the occult and Satan’s subtle and not so subtle influences and obfuscations you would be aware what is behind all the non-Christian religions: Satan himself.

    This higher consciousness you speak of that is sought by these other religions is not sought by true Christians as Christianity is not hung up on transcending and altered states but with the Word and salvation for those souls who understand and heed the Bible’s message. If liberals have greater understanding then count me as a conservative!!

    • I think if Christianity isn’t interested in altered states of consciousness then that makes it not a religion, but a discussion group, criticism movement or protest group, like atheism. So I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case

      • Jason says:

        Thanks for your comment Ian,

        Christianity is NOT about altered states of consciencesness. This is the realm of Hinduism, Buddhism and the like. True Christianity is not about Monastasism either; their methods are not biblical as they “prayer” themselves into a trance which is totally against Biblical Christianity.

        “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7.

        Neither is the charasmatic side of Christianity. They also look for the physical experience in faith which again is not biblical doctrine. As far as meditation goes, what should one meditate on? An empty nothingness as some prescribe? Does one pray to the sun-gods or to Gaia? The Bible is quite clear about meditation.

        “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:2.

        There is no mention anywhere of the occult priciple of clearing the mind of thoughts or “no think” as the Dalai Lama proclaims.Yhese principles come directly from the ancient mystery religions of Babylon and Sumeria. Perhaps you can direct me to a Biblical passage where Christianity talks of altered states of consciousness.

        Regards
        Jason Palmer

  5. I do see what you’re saying, but in fact Jesus insisted that when you pray (meditate on the Divine) you do it in secret, and when you do good works, don’t make a big deal of it. Don’t recite loads o fstupid memorised phrases, work on your attitude. He understood that the true benefit in these things is that it be nothing to do with thanks or appreciation from others, that it had an internal reward. Research into oxytocin shows that generosity, and gratitude, reward the body with these molecules, which are essential for the health of the body and the brain. Because of this, they clearly have an evolutionary purpose. Religious ideas also, must then be part of an evolutionary impulse.

    It is understandable if you prefer Christianity over any other religion: I dont mean to criticise this. But religion, as I have tried to point out, emanates from the brain. There is only one basic human model of brain, with variations in abilities this way and that. All states of mind which arise from the brain depend on its chemistry, which itself is influenced by the emotions and the genetics. One cannot simply rule out all this biological behaviour and turn religion into something with no connection to the human body. If such a position were true, it would mean religion could never be proven to have a biological component and biological benefit. It would be like saying that seeing depends on religion, when in fact it depends on the eyes and their health, or that the speed of a runner is not dependent on his legs, but on his religion, or even further from the truth, on miracles.

    Jesus himself clearly had an altered state of consciousness. For someone from an agrarian society, a poorly educated and hard working carpenter, it would be perfectly understandable if, as his brain became susceptible to a higher state of consciousness, it seemed as if he were face to face with God. Knowing as we do the scale of the universe, this would be an impossibility for any human being, past or present. The instinctive understanding that his genetics must have played a role in his evolutionary leap, hingeing on the emotional states or purity of his parents, or factors that the researchers of the future will unravel, might well have been the origin of the concept of the virgin birth; as such they form a myth of their own, and a very beautiful one – even though this must have been added on by those who also took two dozen ideas from ancient Egyptian writings, to try and make their case stronger.

    The virgin birth, three wise men follownig a star, the walking on water, raising the dead – true or not, they were all written in Egyptian texts some thousand years previous. We have to remember that most people in that time were illiterate, and those in charge could never have imagined that a copy of the Bible itself could be owned by everyone one day! They therefore felt a little more liberty with how the information was presented, which, knowing human nature as we do, might be understandable. The difficulty now is that what they added on is coming under scrutiny from those who are already hostiule to religion, and their triumphant finding of logical holes in the presentation are threatening to ruin the whole idea of religion itself, which is a great shame. The Lord’s Prayer, the parables, the sermon on the mount, are the things which Jesus left behind, along with his high moral example. It is these things which have a great impact on the human spirit and which no amount of criticism can remove.

    As a child, there is no word of Jesus being born miraculously or outperforming other people mentally. We also know he had at least seven brothers and sisters, and very likely more. But his background appeared so ordinary that when he started his preaching, those who knew him were pretty annoyed – “isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” as if, “how dare he tell us what’s what? what could he know?” so it’s clear there was no remarkable insight or personal magnetism exhibited before his internal illumination.

    Much of the Bible itself is a result of inspiration, especially the opening of Genesis, which is a beautiful parable. John’s revelations are, by definition, an example of visions. They can only emanate from an altered state of consciousness. Jesus’ life, his sayings, his dramatic conversion from an ordinary carpenter to a man of immense spiritual vision, was an exampe of the power of altered state of consciousness. A higher consciousness. The whole Bible is an example of altered states, produced by and describing them, and appealing to people’s desire for them.

    Asking for proof by way of a specific mention in a single sentence somewhere in the text is a little like walking into the vast British Library and saying, “show me the one book which says this building is intended as a source of learning. show it to me!”

    ..when in fact the whole thing, top to bottom, is built on that one single premise!

  6. I am afraid Jason is wrong in stating the things he does about Christianity. A reasonable amount of reading will illustrate that there have been Christian mystics going back to the very early days of the religion, as there have been in almost all other religions.

    There is strong and increasing evidence for a scientific and almost certainly neurological basis for an understanding of “God” and her communication to some of us, present as a real consciousness at a quantum “etheric” level. Several separate entities or one “God” uniquely disposed toward one set of humans would not make a lot of sense. Neither does the concept of heresy or blasphemy.

    There are more important things going on which need to be dealt with frankly. Anyone who reads Cloud of Unknowing, Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonedes or texts by such as Steiner, Eckhart or Giordano Bruno from the past will see this. The idea that one religion or another has a separate and “superior” god all to itself is clearly silly.

    Fundamental adherence to human written texts, with all their likely twists and turns, by (mostly) Christian and Islamic poor thinkers has had terrible consequences in recent centuries, but thankfully will soon change as the clear fresh period of new enlightenment comes to us – comes out of absolute necessity as greed and materalism continue to threaten existence itself.

    It is dangerous and narrow-minded to criticise Buddhism, Hinduism or any other number of beliefs from a position of arrogance and ignorance. There is indeed common ground soon to be proven between science and religion. I predict that Dawkins will soon come to see this. That should be interesting.

    • A very thoughtful letter, thanks – I’m grateful to all those who sustained their religious forms over such a huge period of time; I believe the Vedas were even transmitted orally for generations, because of their importance to the mind. I don’t feel I can blame them for their prejudices; even today we have ours.

      Between us and God there are must be an almost infinite number of layers of intelligence, with varying forms, subtleties and purposes, for the mind to detect, appreciate and cross in its evolutionary journey. The crowded pantheons of some religions seem to point in this direction also.

      If one believes in one almighty intelligence – a God – as the causative principle behind all these layers, which seems logically sound as all are obliged to work together, then even if immeasurably far away, He would also be intimately close at hand; in this case then, yes, one God as much as one gravity, one wavelength of light, and one kind of electron, muon, quark or strange particle, depending on your belief system!

      On this frozen morning I thank Him for this magnificent star-filled Universe, but especially for my warm kitchen.

      • Jason says:

        If you could only see how whacky you two sound. You both sound like your intotal agreeance yet you end with “I thank Him for this magnificent star-filled Universe” and the prevoius says “understanding of “God” and her communication”.

        Which is it: he or her? How can one believe in the God of the Bible and the pantheon of gods littering the ancient world?

      • I hope I may just interrupt for a moment, to say the concepts of male and female only belong to biology, for the purposes of, let’s face it, sex. Whatever the origin of biology is, it can’t only be one and not the other. “He” and “she” reflect limitations in language, and in any case, depend partly on context – that is, which aspect of divinity we are referring to at that moment. The nurturing ecosystem or the bold creator of galaxies: take your pick.

        You could refer to light using its aspects of light, heat, or even colour or, for that matter, as wavelength and particle without ausing confusion. We don’t have any one term that communicates a precise understanding, perhaps because our own understanding is a few steps removed from whatever light really is. Ultimately light is knonw only through its impact on the brain; I suppose if fishes tried to imagine God, it would have fins and breathe underwater, or perhaps be the ocean itself; but you get the point.

        May I also ask that if people want others to read their letters, PLEASE try to put the occasional paragraph break in them. I edit most letters just to break them into paragraphs and correct typos and apostrophes, but as more people contribute it takes up more and more time. I’m by far the worst offender at over-writing but breaking it into paragraphs gives readers maybe a one in ten chance to keep track of where they are.

        Many thanks!

    • Jason says:

      It is you who are wrong ….and by a long shot. As soon as I saw “Christian mystics” in you reply I thought, here we go, and then to top it off, further down the page “fresh period of new enlightenment” which is meaningless mumbo-jumbo. As if the entire world will suddenly shift its paradigm to become enlightened. Perhaps you should enlighten us what it is to be enlightened; that would be a good starting point. Christian mysticism, for starters, is not Christianity.

      I’m assuming you are talking about the Gospel of St Thomas etc which has been proven to be a fraud and was the forerunner for The da Vinci Code. This is a lie from the pit of hell, which you no doubt do not believe in. You state “Fundamental adherence to human written texts, with all their likely twists and turns, by (mostly) Christian and Islamic poor thinkers has had terrible consequences in recent centuries, but thankfully will soon change” and then quote silly books written by humans.

      Don’t you see how stupid that sounds? I rely on the word of God. You believe in a reincarnated body/spirit that weaves its way through space and time without rules or responsibility looking for the time when Providence will look down apon you and pat you on the head and tell you that you’ve been enlightened. And what then? Spinning around the universe visiting planets that look like a Rick Wakeman album cover? You’re so enlightened, tell me what the future holds for you! Yours is a goddess worshipping ideal as demonstrated by calling God she. This goes back to the Baylonians and Nimrod, Artemis and Tammuz worship.

      You name the time, there have been goddesses at the forefront. Isis, Diana, Artemis and on and on. BTW the Bible was written through man by divine inspiration. Go ahead and rely on charlatans like Echhart Tolle; I’ll rely on my creator’s word. At the end of our lives we’ll both be dead, awaiting judgement. Finally, go and do some research and discover just where Hinduism and Buddhism originated.

  7. Thank you Jason, but do calm down and yes I am aware the Bible was written in that way, but is by no means perfection personified. That pit is merely a horrific state of mind. I will, based upon your final suggestion – go away and do some more research on the origins of Buddhism and Hinduism, thanks, as I do not know enough.

    No I was not only referring solely to The Gospel of St. Thomas. Researching into what God consists of scientifically will prove to be a potentially infinite task, particularly since pre-Christian very old civilizations also had contact. There is a lot of evidence there as you seem to have realised. I should like to explain to you my theories as to why certain types of fundamentalist thinkers become so angry and frustrated, but simply do not have the time to waste and usually not the inclination.

    I only used “she” to wind you up, of course, as it invariably does. “It” is neither HE nor SHE, but way beyond all that. I always did have some fondness for Rick Wakeman however.

  8. zipmonk says:

    To think that one knows the sex or religion preference of God is arrogance. God is much wilder, bigger, and more compassionate than we can even fathom.

    For one example, God has created species of frogs that change sex when populations decline. Chew on that fact.

    Jason, your rudeness is the biggest red flag that you are more in need of being “right” than Christian. Make your points in the spirit of humility and kindness and you will be far more “Christian”.

    • I appreciate everyone who has something to say about their beliefs or lack of belief – let’s all not turn this into one of those sites where people don’t respect other people. Jason feels strongly about his religion and I’d like to hear from him about how his beliefs started, in his early days, because there must be very good reasons why he thinks the way he does.

      I’m glad that people take the time to comment: we can’t all agree with each other, or else there would be no point in having a discussion. I notice we’re not here discussing whether the Earth is flat or not. Therefore the case is far from closed. Amen, brother..

    • Jason says:

      I’m sorry if I have come over as rude. Its just that I have done many years of research into gnostisim and the occult religions and know well from where they spring. The well worn old chestnut about all paths leading to God is false and it’s very intension is to decieve. That’s what makes me so angry; listening to good folk like yourselves walking to the light , thinking there is enlightenment there, when in fact the Light-bearer himself, Lucifer is standing there behind it. Read your Bible if you have one and flip to this passage:
      2 Corinthians 11:14 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
      Many are seduced into the bosom of the goddess; strangely in all the paintings and pamphlets of mystics and the like, there’s no plain ones; just gorgeous, seductive alluring women with peaceful, all-knowing eyes. And no marvel also; Christ Himself is depicted in temples and cathedrals, paintings and literature as a white, long haired effemintate type when he was anything but. He was a Jew and a carpenter; nevertheless the crooked catholic church with it’s goddess worshipping dogma, decided to turn Him into Mary; just like the goddess worshipping Babylonians-from where this all sprung from.
      Zipmonk, sometimes one needs to be rebuked, and mate, sometimes the truth hurts. Perhaps you would like to address my key points rather than giving me lessons in manners. Again, sorry if I offended you.

  9. zipmonk says:

    I have no interest in dialoguing with someone who rebukes me with their version of “truth”. I don’t think there is much room for anything productive here. Your mind is clearly fixed. Thanks for the apology and good luck to you.

    • Jason says:

      Zipmonk,
      There can only be one “truth”. It is not possible to have many truths. Truth is not multiplicitous. Also, it is not my version of the truth. To wit; a crime is committed and a man is defended by one and prosecuted by another. He either is, or is not, guilty of the crime. Even though the prosecutor and the defenders have different versions of the event only one is telling the truth. Now, the guilty man may be aquitted or the innocent man convicted but this does not alter the truth.
      As for frogs I dont think God really had them in mind when it comes to understanding Him or defining His gender. [Darn, Im being sexist again.] Sure, they have a purpose and, like anything the Lord has created is wonderful, marvelous…all the superfluous adjectives combined. I can only go on what is written about God’s gender by looking in the Bible. As early as Chapter 1 Verse 4, “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” No she or it or them or they, but he.
      Tell me Zipmonk, what is it that you believe in? Please, there is much room for productive discussion here, dont exclude yourself because my opinion is fixed.

  10. Jason, can you tell us when you started reading the Bible – I mean, at what age, and under what circumstances? I’m very interested to find out how your certainty took shape and over what period of time, and under what experiences and so on. Thanks

    • Jason says:

      Hi Ian,
      I guess I was quite young when I started to believe that life and the universe could not have happened by chance ie evolutionary theory was a dud. So began a life-long quest to find the truth. I knew of the Bible stories from about 8 or so and had read bits and pieces until my late teens. I sort of lost my faith in my teens as I discovered girls and pot and rock ‘n roll like a lot of kids but deep inside I knew there was a lot more than met the eye. Having traveled to the far east in my twenties I discovered the eastern religions and quite liked the idea of reincarnation and the dogma of coming back until you got it right. I read Scientology, Hinduism, the Baghavad Ghita and numerous other texts, including the Book of Urantia! [my goodness that was weird]. It wasn’t until my mid thirties and the proliferation of the internet that so much more became available to study at the click of a mouse. I read a lot about freemasonry and its links to the ancient mystery religions, Greek and Roman mythology [same thing really, just different names] There seemed to be many common links to the origins of the occult religions [Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Taoism etc]. Sun worship seemed to be almost without exception the common ground. When one looks at the godheads of these religions one finds Mithra, Sol Invictus, Ra, Amon Ra, Amaterasu, Odin, Quetzacotal etc. These all dealt with worship of the sun and the regenerative principle. ALL these were pantheistc in nature [bird serpents, GAIA] and have continued through time unabated to the present. Even the Nazi’s symbolism worshipped the sun. [Germanic rune sig rune in the “SS” logo represented the sun!] Hitler was a big fan or Helena Blavatsky, and kept a copy of Isis Unveiled by his bedside. They knew symbolism was the key to indoctrination into the occult and today we are flooded with this sublte form of brainwashing in advertising. One only need search occultism in advertising to understand this to be so. The famous historian, Thomas Carlyle once wrote; ” By symbols is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched. He everywhere finds himself surrounded by symbols, recognised as such, or not recognised”. Most people have no idea what they are seeing as they go about their business. Of course when one begins to look deeper into these symbols and their portent, who worships them and who is their lord, one discovers they are Luciferian to the core. Some have had the guts to admit it in their writings; Crowley, Blavatsky, Alice Bailey to name a few. Baileys organization was originally called Lucifer Trust; then they changed it to Lucis Trust. Guess where there headquarters are?
      The United Nations!! David Spangler is a Director of Planetary Initiative at the United Nations and once famously said that no one would enter the new age unless they took the Luciferian Initiation!
      Do you think God would want only a select few educated in the arcane schools to have His knowledge? His word is for everyone. It takes a fair bit of time and study to get your head around this stuff and discover there is a concerted effort, a conspiracy if you will, to destroy Christianity. The Catholic Church preached the Bible from the pulptits in the dark ages in a language that the common man couldn’t understand; Latin. They had ultimate power over the known world for a thousand years and didn’t want to relinquish this power. Nothing has changed; they worship the goddess and the ancient mystery religions. In St Peters Square is a giant obelisk taken from Alexandria in the late 16th century; the ultimate pagan symbol. Nuff said.
      Hope this wasnt too long-winded Ian. I hope your readers and yourself follow up what I have written here. It’s all at your fingertips.
      Cheers.

      • We can all see that the human mind is evolving, which is why, as you probably know, social structures collapse from internal forces, not from external ones. Since man’s history has been linked with religious ideas – that is, the belief in an afterlife, in the soul as having a more permanent existence than the body – from at least as long ago as two hundred thousand years, it means religious beliefs have been inseparable from, and has clearly not been harmful to, mankind’s long-term evolution.

        So I’m also curious as to what you make of the biology behind meditation: that it strengthens the cortex, it creates telomerase which extends the life of cells, and improves the function of the amygdala. It also tends to lower stress, and boost the immune system. And what you make of the biology behind emotions of generosity and gratitude – which are part of every scripture that I know of and which I have detailed elsewhere on this site – that generate oxytocin. Oxytocin is so essential for health that it seems to benefit every system within the body.

        If we accept that a God made us, then devices already in existence inside the body enabling better mental and physical health, must also be placed there by Him. Otherwise we accuse Him of a significant oversight, which, if present in one area over which we say He had complete control, must be present in many others too.

        Therefore, how is it possible that spiritual exercises extending the life of both brain and body, enhancing our perceptual abilities, and improving the quality of our God-given life, could be linked to devilish forces which must by their very nature be opposed both to God and to a healthy and harmonious life?

      • Jason says:

        I would first have to ask what is it that you meditate on when you meditate? Do you think of nothing or do you meditate on Gods word? Is it mindless breathing [for the Buddhists] or the Maharaji’s [Prem Nawat] methods? Or perhaps Hari Krishna type repetitive trance-like state? Monks and monastries are havens of the arcane and occult; these guys sit in one spot sometimes for 8 hours to induce altered states. People placed in isolation move into this same zone and some go mad [no benefit in that.] Do you remember Kwai Chang Caine from “Kung Fu”? He used to meditate all the time. Should we meditate like the Dalai Lama? Who want to do anything this fraud proposes, yet new age westerners fawn on his every word. This was one of the fiercest tyrannies in history, and Tibet is far better off under Chinese rule than the murderous succession of Lamas. Trancendental meditation offers to teach you how to meditate for two and a half grand. Sound like a scam? You bet it is. Some sit and repeat mantras over and over. The Bible tells us not to use vain repetitions as the heathen do, thinking they will be heard for their many words. Who’s method is right? Do we use the method of charlatans or God’s? Will meditating give us eternal life? I have yet to meet a true Christian who meditates using any of these methods because we know this is a path to the occult. This might sound like I’m drawing a long bow Ian, but when you dig down this is what you find.
        Cheers.

  11. You really have to get rid of these prejudices; they are pretty ugly. If people were on here speaking about women or other races the way you were talking about other religions besides yours, I couldn’t allow their comments to continue. Free speech is one thing, but deliberately offending people is something else.

    Any kind of mental work is meditation. Computer use is meditating on computers. Driving is meditating on spatial navigation and co-ordination. Painting is meditating on how colours and forms are used to model reality or impressions of reality. Playing music is meditating on harmony. Sex is meditating on your partner. All are more powerful when propelled by emotions, because of the way the brain works. You can’t detach any of these processes from the brain. Improved skill or efficiency in any of these tasks is due to its enhanced activity, to increased neural density and strengthened pathways, combined (in the case of muscular skills) with muscular memory and motor co-ordination. This must be obvious. Meditation is biological. It has to be, because we are biological. But spiritual meditation is where biology starts to enters a different dimension. It can’t be described. It’s there, and you can find it easily. You only have to look for it. You don’t need to go to India or Thailand!

    Spiritual meditation is meditating on your own concept of the divine; focusing on it to the exclusion of other ideas. This is different for everyone, and your own ideas also change and evolve, as in everything on which you devote time and effort. You don’t need to pay anyone to learn it; you don’t need to be a slave to a book. The guru is inside. You need only to develop the strength of concentration, and come to your own conclusions. Meditating can unhinge the mind, this should be obvious: people go mad playing video games, they go mad commuting in heavy traffic, they go mad working in an office.

    The difference in meditating on a spiritual goal is that you try to stimulate the brain’s awareness of the soul. There is no more point in meditating for eight hours a day than in drinking thirty gallons of milk a day on the basis that milk is good for you – anyone in a western mode of life would be well advised to limit the time spent meditating. This is only common sense. The resources of the brain can’t be unlimited.

    As for your assessment of the Dalai Lama, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about – ignorance is understandable but insulting a person of his calibre leads me to seriously doubt your judgement. This is a man who preaches non-violent resistance to a savage Chinese oppression. He deals with neuroscientists. His mind is open. The man is a thinker, a leader and a model of tolerance which the world rarely sees. I would put him up there with Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

    You have so many prejudices and such a dismissive attitude to healthy spiritual ideas that I am not convinced you are religious at all – simply of the same frame of mind as militant atheists who insult every kind of preference except their own, maybe because of some inner weakness, I don’t know. The beliefs seem more of a defence, than a result of a logical conclusion. There are limits to banging one’s head against the wall. Good luck to you.

  12. zipmonk says:

    It is spiritual abuse, of misinformed racist and sexist origins.

  13. LJ says:

    Hi,

    Very interesting blog. I actually read this a couple days ago when I was searching for some cartoon images of mirror neurons for a presentation I’m giving next week. I’m actually a researcher (cognitive neuroscientist) in this field. I’m also a believer, in both God and in mirror neurons. Both are not widely accepted by the scientific community, however. I enjoyed reading your blog, but the scientist in me has to point out that many of your claims about the functions of mirror neurons are not substantiated. First, it’s not even clear that they do exist in the human brain, and if they do it’s not well understood their function. There are many theories (e.g. language function, understanding other’s action/intentions, theory of mind). What your blog has focused on is though is empathy. Empathy may be related to mirror neuron functioning (we still don’t know for sure), but what we do know is that it is linked with prefrontal lobe processing. Yes psychopaths may a prefrontal lobe that is not ‘working correctly’. However, so do teenagers whose prefrontal cortices haven’t developed fully.

    Your comment, “There was no official apology and the incident was not reported in the American media. It would not be possible for an individual with healthy mirror neurons to carry out – much less organise and preside over – the appalling warmongering of the West”, is incorrect. I do not have any loyalty to either political party so this is not a biased example, but you are assuming that this person has unhealthy mirror neurons without any true evidence. Another example you give is that Bush must also have impaired mirror neurons, and (if I caught this correctly) republicans(?). Again, no proof. The problem is, you can’t get proof because we still do not know how to examine them in the human brain. They only include a very small number of neurons compared to other areas of the brain, and to see them functioning live in a single person without using cell recording measures (a very invasive procedure) is nearly impossible because they will not show up in an fMRI scanning image on a single person (limitation of fMRI).

    Overall, you made a very big leap between impaired mirror neurons = people who in certain situations show non-empathetic behavior.

    I appreciate your blogs and think it’s great to merge Christianity with science. However please make sure you know the science. 🙂

    • Hi,

      Very insightful comment, and I thank you for that. Yes, you are quite right, mirror neurons do not seem to be a specific group – but the name seems to have stuck and is an effecticve way to get the idea across (the name was first coined, I imagine, by researchers!) – it seems to be more of a mirror “process” which affects many existing groups of neurons, and is perhaps a trait of normal consciousness rather than a specific subset within the brain. I did not know all that at the time and could find no research to say one thing or another. Incidentally, I am not trying to unite Christianity with science – I am trying to show religion is a natural impulse in which the individual self is explored by the self; and I try to show that spirituality, whose impact on the mass mind has formalised into religion, has been and will eventually continue to be, a much stronger drive than the need to first learn the science.

      However, the fundamental principle behind my blog is that it has been a huge mistake to eliminate instinct and delegate its function to the authority of science, and thereby replace the natural (and currently inexplicably complex) reactions of the human mind with a memorisation of facts, just as it would be to replace the fingers with metal twigs or the eyes with billiard balls on the grounds of their sturdy construction and possibility of easy replacement and repair.

      It is true that teenage brains go through a period in which parts are underdeveloped and this leads to significant emphasis on rewards rather than consequences. Both of my children are in this process currently! Teenage behaviour is adequate evidence of the processes at work, whether we know the science of Phineas Gage or not. There are also those in whom these processes seem to remain fixed at this state, and they continue through life fixated on rewards, instead of consquences. The evidence for this seems to be not in MRI traces of their neural activity, but in their behaviour, and in their constant conflict with society at large.

      The evidence of our own eyes and our own emotional reactions is also a safe measure of truth. The tendency of scientists is to alienate the self from reality on the grounds of impartiality: “a test tube was taken.. the results were observed..” as if no observer was actually involved or had any interest in the outcome, as if the experiment performed itself and the observer simply noted the results. This kind of presentation was first introduced to show science as impartial and was discontinued in the 1970’s but remains here and there, as Rupert Sheldrake points out in The Science Delusion. Another example I read recently was, “every day in my work I have to fight the impression that the biology seems to be designed, and must remind myself that it is nothing of the sort..” as a high level researcher daily abandons his own senses in favour of a dogma which he, at his very core, can never bring himself to believe.

      This detachment from our own self, and the creation of an “invisible observer” is one thing in the abstract world of research, but quite another when extrapolated into everyday life. It has, regrettably, spread to the rank and file, and people are now prepared to actually abandon the senses they were born with. In one example I read a report of a wife who had been beaten to within an inch of her life, along with a photo of her pulverised face. The beating was actually referred to in the article just below the horrifying photo as “an alleged incident.” As an even more grotesque example, in December in the UK, a woman fell down into a collapsed mineshaft while walking in a field. She was perhaps 20 meters down and had broken her pelvis, was bleeding, only partly conscious, and unable to move. She was also the mother of two small children. The fire department raced to the scene and the only equipment which seemed suitable was the winch on the truck itself, which was originally designed to pull firemen out of dangerous situations.

      The natural instinct of the experienced rescuers created a plan which they immediately tried to put into action, to winch a team member down, and return with the woman. The medical team was standing by, ready to give her life-saving aid. However, a member of health and safety turned up. He refused to allow them to do this because the winch was intended to rescue fire team members, not members of the public. While the woman lay dying, and the impotent fire team and medics stood around the edge of this hole shuffling their feet, he gave a statement to the press, “I am unwilling to invest any further resource which would be in contravention of our regulations.”

      He had with him a copy of the regulations which he quoted at length. The natural instinct of the observers was completely blanked out: this pathetic excuse for a human being was later promoted to a higher rank within the fire service. He should have been tried for murder. All this happened only in December last year. The natural tendency of the public to overrule him, push him to the floor and demand a rescue was suppressed – after all, who were they to question authority and pass judgement? The medics who trained for years to save lives, watched idly as life ebbed from this woman. Who were they, to contravene regulations on the basis of their scientifically irrelevant emotions? The fire team itself – bold, strong and resourceful warriors – did not feel able to overrule this man because he had a hat and held a laminated plastic badge. Who would dare contradict a plastic badge –printed in ink – on the flimsy evidence of their own impulses and perhaps the screams of a dying woman longing for one more day of life? Has science not taught us to only regard the facts, and ignore our feelings as imposters, as deceptive, irrelevant freaks? I wish I had been there. I would have personally pushed this imbecile into the hole and explained the regulations did not allow his rescue. Perhaps we could save his hat.

      It will not surprise you to learn that the woman died in agony in the hole, unassisted and alone, over a period of about two hours during which the superintendent refused to allow any rescue, the public stood about wringing their hands, the newspapers duly photographed everything (who were they to question a man wearing a hat?) and the fire and emergency staff drank tea and debated the regulations. Her two children returned from a normal day at school to find their mother was gone forever, and that they could never even say goodbye, thanks only to this health and safety cretin. Her husband was deprived of his life partner. An entire neighborhood and extended family mourned the loss of this woman. And so on. The superintendent was unrepentant: “Although we regret the negative outcome which this woman (allegedly) experienced, rules are rules.”

      This isolation of normal feelings from reality is a major disadvantage to any individual but on a mass scale is a crippling disability to the human race. When you see the leader of a nation wearing a nice suit and facing a smiling media throng, all clapping demurely and venturing timid, polite questions, making grand speeches and promising democracy, while his soldiers are butchering teenage boys and slicing off their fingers as trophies, while his drones are killing hundreds of civilians, women and children, while his aircraft are wiping out human lives simply because of miscalculations or “allowable collateral damage”, the normal person realises immediately that something is badly wrong. The normal person is disgusted and immediately detects danger. This reaction is a sign of a healthy brain. The natural instinct of a normal, sane human being, is to respect and preserve life.

      I might perhaps not yet understand fully about mirror neurons. But I assure you that in the future, when man is reunited with his own instincts, he will look back on men such as Bush and Obama, and their scientific supporters and administrative calculators, and us – the society that cheered them through the streets – and shudder with horror that such monstrous acts were perpetuated in broad daylight, and that judgement was withheld until we “make sure we know the science.” After all, what is more important – human life, or the scientific facts?

      It is already too late – the mounting piles of corpses, numbering in the tens of thousands in Syria, for example, in only one depraved instance, but numbering in the hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, are a blindingly obvious warning from nature that our society – our mentality – is alienated from life itself. It is not only the leaders, it is also us who have blood on our hands. We have become blasé about this sly cannibalism because we dare not pass judgement on the slaughterhouses until we “know the science”.

      Until we discard ourselves of our senile dependence on rules, lists of facts, and wise men in white coats, in favour of our own minds, mankind will continue to be a stranger to itself, and risks watching his world erupt into flames. We stand by impotently as bulldozers pile up the bloody and charred corpses of children in front of our noses – brought to our attention by the media every day – and while the butchers step in to slit our throats we politely offer them our necks because after all, we dare not rely on the illusions of our wits, unless backed up by a man with a laminated badge, and we can never dare pass judgement until we “know the science”.

  14. LJ says:

    Hi Iain,

    Your reply is very intriguing, and it actually makes the entire blog make a lot more sense to me as to the main points you are trying to convey. You probably already know of these studies, but you may be interested in some of the perverse scientific studies that address what you’ve described. It’s from these studies that we now have regulations in place when conducting any study (at least in the US).

    -Milgrim’s Obedience Study
    -Tuskegee Syphillis Study
    -Stanford Prison Study

    Of course most infamous is the Nazi testing on humans.

    Thanks again for your reply,
    LJ

  15. Hi,
    Yes, I certainly know of those studies and they always come to mind when I hear people say how science is simply an impartial arbiter of truth. To that you can add the Incarnation Childrens Centre in New York – it is a place where drugs companies can freely experiment on black and Hispanic orphans, with monstrous chemical experiments: lookup “The House That AIDS Built” or the BBC’s “The Guinea Pig Kids” or Liam Scheff, journalist, and his work uncovering the ICC drug-experiments-for-hire.

    The idea has been prevalent for some time now that anyone more intelligent than the rank-and-file should be able to do more or less as they please. A white coat and a clipboard is all the authority anyone asks for. The emotional, empathic and moral component of the brain at work is never questioned: IQ alone is what we ask for before letting them hack away at our skin.

    Richard Dawkins treats atheism, for example, as a state from which he “cannot see any path which leads to horrific acts”. It is a bit like saying, “I cannot see any path leading anyone with red hair to commit horrific acts”. It is of course partly true, but also such a simple-minded and ignorant statement from a supposedly learned man, that one reels back in astonishment.

    Since the problem with all horrific acts is a lack of empathy the question becomes, in what environment does empathy gradually disappear? From what I have seen, without any mental ideal which the mind tries to form itself into, without any concept of right and wrong, the degeneration, and its wide acceptance as normal, is extremely rapid. Certain minds actually long for a philosophy which negates ideas of right and wrong. When such a philosophy is presented by authority, these types cling to it and defend it to the death. The caustic cynicsm which accompanies militant atheism is all the evidence one needs as to the kind of mind which hopes for this universal hall pass to behave as they please.

    In only one or two generations, instead of being revulsed and leaping into action to find the cause, the mass of mankind now commonly accepts murder, rape, acid attacks, dismemberment, overseas war, deaths in custody, genocides (underway in Syria, Palastine and the Sudan without any complaint from the masses), violent assaults by police, torture, deaths of children at the hands of parents, deaths of wives at the hands of husbands, deaths of invalids at the hands of carers, deaths of patients at the hands of doctors, deaths of innocent bystanders at the hands of wild thugs, murder without motive, deaths of children in the classroom at the hands of crazed gun-toting assassins.

    A week does not pass without news being brought to us of man’s mistreatment of animals. But the word mistreatment does not do it justice. No animal is more loyal than a dog, but we read constantly of dogs found burned, starved, skinned, with nails hammered through their skulls, shot with rifles for amusement, ears sliced off, puppies tied up and left to starve, bundled and thrown into rivers. Horses killed for sport; one recently had its genitals and eyes removed by thugs, and was found by the owner having bled to death. Mules are worked to the point of death, kittens flung into the sea and filmed for sport, swans left choking on fishing lines, chickens in battery farms with beaks burnt off, sometimes flung about against concrete floors for sport; pigs on farms shot with high powered rifles from inches away, as was filmed in one farm for amusement, and exposed in the media last month. Can you name any other species which has become so evil, and at the same time so arrogant, so proud of its intellect, and so quick to defend its belief that there is no universal right and wrong besides what one can afford to get away with?

    We accept big business can market addictive, suffocating cigarettes freely; we accept that drug companies can experiment on orphans; we look the other way when we see theft in government, theft in business, theft in hospitals, dishonesty in universities, hospitals, local councils, theft among MPs, massive abuses of power in the higher levels of government, endless wars, dreadful weapons used on civilians, incarcertaions, massacres, the bombing of villages, the launch of drone attacks on civilian areas (from a safe distance), black hole prisons, government kidnappings and torture, invasions purely for theft of natural resources (under the pretext of defence against terrorism), along with all the other daily ills of modern society – dementia, mental illness, weird personality disorders, sociopathy, financial pressures, exam pressures, work pressures, suicides, drug addictions, devastating pollution and of course the lurking spectre of nuclear weapons, ready to roast entire cities alive (from a safe distance). The list is endless. It’s a monstrous, horrible society we have built, one where right and wrong is whatever we can afford.

    And aside from wilful abuses we see neglect of our own race – around the planet we see starvation on a massive scale and idly change the channels. Should anyone still feel the need to implore “why?!”, the answer can only be that the human mind’s inborn, natural defence – revulsion, a defence for the brain the way pain is for the body – has been so worn away that all the safeguards of the brain are gone, and the common reply from men in white coats and the sacred writers of evolution, is, “well, that’s just human nature.. survival of the fittest.. there is no right or wrong really.. the universe doesn’t care.”

  16. donsalmon says:

    Hi Iain:

    I just found this blog – really beautifully laid out, and so much wisdom about neuroscience and spirituality. I only skimmed these comments, so i apologize if this point has already been made.

    I’ve heard quite a number of fundamentalists claim that Christian prayer is not about altered states, and non-Christian religions, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism, are.

    As I think almost everyone reading this page has realized by now, it’s not possible (at least, I don’t think it’s worth the time) to have a dialog with someone who is only interested in promoting his beliefs and not looking for insight or new perspectives (by the way, you might want to see Chris Mooney’s recent article in the New Scientist regarding political views and the brain; there’s very good evidence that liberals are more open to new experience, whereas conservatives tend to be more respectful toward traditional authority; one doesn’t have to take either as good or bad, just something to think about here).

    But I just wanted to offer one view which might be helpful. I first heard this back in 1985 from Pundit Arya (he was at the Himalayan Institute at the time). He said that the aim of yoga and meditation is not an altered state. We are in fact, for the most part, in an altered state now. The aim of yogic meditation (Hindu, Buddhist or Christian, if you will) is a natural state.

    If you’d like a neuroscience perspective on this, Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist who wrote “the Buddha’s Brain”, talks about recent research on the “default” state of the brain – the condition of the brain when there is frontal/limbic, frontal/left/right hemisphere/ autonomic, “head brain/heart brain” balance (really, heart brain – not a new age label but part of a whole new field known as neurocardiology). He describes the “natural” or “default” state as one of care, concern, contentment and compassion.

    Remarkable – this is in sync with the 3rd verse of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras – when there is no identification with passing phenomena – thoughts, feelings sensations – the “Seer” (our true nature) rests in the true nature of unbounded consciousness. This is sometimes thought to occur only when one is sitting, eyes closed, but I think the more spontaneous, natural understanding of this is that this is the natural, unaltered state of mind of one who does not identify with and is not attached to passing phenomena. Rather than a rejection of the world, these leads – in my understanding – to a profound love of others and awe in the face of the heart-breaking beauty and mystery of the natural world.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. Please feel free to write at donsalmon7@gmail.com. I’m working on a dialog between materialist skeptics on those who accept a non materialist view. An initial attempt was “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”, which can be found at http://www.integralworld.net; “click “news” and search for my name.

    Best to you, and thanks again.

    • Hi,

      yes, I read The Buddha Brain and mentioned it somewhere around Spring of last year I think; a very interesting book. I don’t think he dealt with higher consciousness but the link between religion and the brain is something which needs to be made in the public’s mind and the book broke a lot of new ground. I read yesterday in the NYT that some Muslims are against yoga; only a small minority but they feel it is against Islam. Apparently a teacher recommended yoga to his kids to help them with concentration, and was surprised to get some flak from their Muslim relatives.

      A recurring problem with religion is that in some minds it has somehow become separated from the idea of developing the brain. I’m one of many who think brain hygiene and brain evolution is the whole reason for spiritual practices, so from this point of view, Islam, Christianity and Yoga share something in common.

      I found some amazing information yesterday, that the DNA contains a massive checksum system which works from the genome level to the atomic system. It was discovered by Jean Claude Perez, and I wrote to him today for more information, as much of the research is in French, and he gave me some links to read. A summary is on:

      http://www.craigdemo.co.uk/geneticchecksum.htm

      And in depth on:

      http://creationwiki.org/pool/images/7/76/JcperezLiveBitsFromDNA.pdf

      This really is the last nail in the coffin for random mutations; I don’t think anynoe seriously believes in it anymore, but people on the fringes who repeat things they have heard from a distance still mention it as if it were something proven in the laboratory. At any rate, since the genome has an overall structure it can only be seen as having arison from a law of sorts, and never frm random mutations. Perez is not making a case for a creator, but like most thinking people he is sick and tired of a science which worships chance behaviour. I hope to assimilate the information over the next week or so and write something here about it.

      Thanks again for your comments. I and some friends who support the blog are considering holding a conference in 2013 to bring people together with this new research, which is appearing at an alarming rate. If you click on the follow-blog option somewhere you’ll be kept in the loop, as it seems such a conference might be of interest to you.

      Best regards

  17. Mairtín O'Broin says:

    You’re clearly cuckoo. The only shame of science is that it has given insane people like you a forum to spread your dis-information and propaganda.

    • Very pleased to make your aquaintance! I see you work at DCU – as it happens, I computerised Budget and Blue Sky Travel, down on Lower Baggot Street, 20 years ago; we put in a Mips RISC box and I created a Unix database which exactly mimicked the idiosyncracies of their manual systems, much to their delight. Their accountant was John O’Neil, whose wife was, I think, an author. One time the owner, Harry Sydner and I flew his light aircraft over Wexford, i think, because he wanted to show me his house and Bono’s house – although I suspect Harry was trying to see if his own landscape gardners were actually doing any work.

      What I liked about my trips to Dublin was the friendliness of the people there. People loved to talk, to listen, to offer hospitality. One friend I made there was a DJ; and apparently the radio station told him, say whatever you like, but nothing about sex, religion or politics. Good advice for me too, I found. The music scene was excellent; we went to see Full Circle play a local gig, and the place was packed.

      Only one thing spoiled it – the shadow of the IRA. They had become politicised into an intolerant, materialist group. Violent beyond belief. My taxi driver told me he used to have a fur business, but it was raided by the IRA so many times – not for cherished political dreams but for easy money, greed – that he could no longer get insurance. So what started out as an understandable idealism, and which no doubt had many worthy idealistic supporters, also fell prey to materialism and attracted savages, or perhaps nurtured them. The phrase "punishment beatings" doesn't begin to descibe what happened: a teenage boy nailed to the sidewalk, or a six pack – bullets through 6 main joints.

      But my personal experience of Dubliners was of warmth, tolerance, enthusiasm, and a simplicity which I really liked. They always were cautious not to insult people, and to allow for other people’s opintions being different than their own. I know some don’t share that view of life, but the ones I met felt that way. But, anyway, I digress.. a small world indeed!

    • donsalmon says:

      Hi Folks:

      I just received an email alerting me to Mr. Broin’s comment. Iain, what a lovely (mirror neuron inspired?) response:>)))

      I just re-read the earlier responses and wanted to address two points. First, about mirror neurons. Daniel Siegel wrote the book “The Developing Mind” in the late 1990s. It is considered the major textbook for a group of a dozen or so psychologists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists in the field of “interpersonal neurobiology”. Recently, he arranged to have a group of a dozen or so graduate students at UCLA spend the summer going over “The Developing Mind” and look as hard as they could for any research that contradicted even the smallest point in the original edition. They looked at over 2000 references and did not find any major points to change. One of the ideas featured in the 2nd edition is that of mirror neurons. I’m not sure how much LJ is familiar with the very latest (in the last year or 2; the 2nd edition of Developing Mind just came out a month ago) research, but I’d tend to trust a dozen grad students whose sole mission was to find errors in the research, especially when those students are guided by a man of such intellectual integrity as Dan Siegel. Look up his talks on youtube or go to his Mindsight website. I know, as a psychologist, that there’s almost nothing in psychology, neuroscience or any of the social sciences that rises to the level of 100% agreement, but I think the general research on mirror neurons has gotten much stronger in the last several years.

      The other comment I wanted to make is about Jason’s take on Christianity. I lived for 9 years – 2002 to 2010 – in Greenville, South Carolina, about 1 mile from Bob Jones University. Most of the Bob Jones students and graduates I talked to over the 9 years I was there shared most of Jason’s views on Christianity. I disagree profoundly, as I am sure Iain does as well as most of this blog’s readers. But I’m not here to argue with Jason, only to reflect on what it means to have a dialog. I tried repeatedly over 9 years to have a conversation with the fundamentalists (yes, Jason, I imagine you don’t think you’re a fundamentalist, but since almost all the views you express here are completely in tune with the fundamentalists I’ve spoken with, I don’t see why you would object to being called one).

      Look, I may be deluded, but I can only offer my own perspective: It seems to me that to a person, there is a defined view of what is “Biblical” which the BJU students feel they must adhere to almost as a life and death matter, and logic or reason does not enter into it at all. So I understand the frustration of one of the respondents to Jason’s post saying why bother even talking to someone with such a closed mind. But the problem with that, I think, is that Jason doesn’t believe he has a closed mind, and he probably thinks you have a closed mind. So where do you go from there?

      I found it helpful to begin with the Bible – usually a short verse that we disagree on. Once you start there, if the conversation lasts long enough, you can find a number of points of agreement, and a certain line of logic emerges, right up to the point where it’s obvious that any further reasoned discussion is impossible, and then you have to stop there, though sometimes you can resume the discussion later, from the same point (I find this works with fundamaterialists too, but that’s another letter).

      So for example, take Corinthians 2, Chapter 17, verses 27-29 (i’m not sure I’ve got the numbering right; I think that’s it). Paul is talking to the Greeks, telling them that their men of wisdom understand that God is “he in whom we live and move and have our being”. I remember the first time I quoted this to a Jehovah’s Witness, they were horrified, and insisted that this was a mistranslation (it’s from the King James version)_ and they got their Bible out (I forget which one they use) and said, “See, this is the right version” (It may not be hard to guess that THEIR version made God VERY VERY Far away, and not any kind of Person IN whim we “have our being”, God forbid!!!).

      So now it’s not THE Bible that’s inerrant, it’s MY version that’s inerrant, and the other 2999 translations of the Bible may have mistakes, but not MINE. (I don’t know how they handle meeting a fundamentalist who thinks that HIS version of the BIBle is the ONLY right one; and I imagine there must be fierce arguments about updates and later editions of the only correct Bible; it’s rather dizzying isn’t it – it does show you that religious fundamentalists – who are really only another kind of materialist, as Karen Armstrong points out – can be as intransigent and close minded as Dawkins, Dennett or any other materialist fundamentalist).

      But my favorite conversation was with a pastor who was getting a masters degree in ministry. he had studied Latin and Greek, and was eager to inform me that it was absolutely an error to have translated that verse as God being Him IN whom he live, etc. It was God BY whom we live. This learned fellow did not try to hide the fact that the most important thing about the correct translation was to emphasize the utter difference between us pitiful, sinful creatures and the almighty, all powerful God to whom we must utterly submit (if you look at the latest research on the workings of the brain in conservatives, and the tendencies toward authoritarianism, and they’re tendency to see humans as sinful, weak, corrupt creatures, you see this is all very little about intellectual differences and much more about the way our consciousness constructs our sense of our selves and the world).

      Well, our conversation ended quite cordially, but clearly, when it got down to a disagreement about “in” vs “by”, it was quite clear that we had long ago left the realm of reason and any further discussion would only involve attempts to strengthen a position long ago decided upon.

      Personally, I think that, in terms of challenges to materialism, the key lies in the false awakening. I’m not going to say anything in detail about it, but if anybody is interested, you can write me at donsalmon7@gmail.com, or look at my essay at http://www.integralworld.net, “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”. It’s not so much a purely dry, rational argument (though I think the logic in that essay is pretty good) as an invitation to investigate the nature of one’s experience – quite a daunting task actually. The key is – once you understand what a false awakening is – to look at the experience when you’ve awakened for the 4th, 5th or 6th time and you are utterly unable to tell whether you are awake or dreaming. And then you add one more element that wasn’t in the Shaving Science essay (I know, this is getting very esoteric and may not make any sense, but if you get this, it will turn your world inside out more than taking the red bill revolutionized the world of The Matrix) – imagine that you are in a shared dream. (you’ll have to look that one up too, if you’re interested; or write me).

      Nice work, Iain!

      • My head is spinning! Thanks for comments, as always – you put a lot of effort into them. I think Jason got banned eventyually because I was getting complaints about his vitriol from other readers.

        That commenter’s name is actually Martin Byrne, not Broin as he put it; my first thought was to check his IP as a spam source, but it’s not, he’s a real person, lives near Dublin, around Kilmore way. Big fan of science, Brian Cox, and in favour of a secular constitution in Ireland, atheism, Richard Dawkins, the whole thing. I think many atheists might be so judgemental and aggressive because that’s the attitude shown by the leadership so far. dawkins arguing with Wendy Wright was a study in mirrored intolerance. When she made a jab at scientists, he immediately said, “and where did you study science..?” Can you imagine! Arguing with a woman who was already defensive and throwing that in her face, on TV! He could have won her over easily, charmed the socks off her, and had her declaring Jesus to be a hologram, if he’d put his mind to it.

        Instead one of his fans draws a horrible cartoon of her and he publishes it on his site! And they wonder why they have a reputation. I’m sure it will be taken down soon enough; be interesting to see.

        I can see how the secularists must have to be pretty aggressive in Ireland, with all this pent up anger against the Catholic Church. When someone who seems to have a zero oxytocin level insults you, it’s hard to see it as a biolical disability, but you feel less offended when reading some of their other comments on the web, and realsing many other people’s faces have been sprayed with “clever spittle” – judging by his other comments he is quite an angry guy, and apparently no fan of the homeless.

        I had an online chat with an atheist yesterday who was slagging off Wendy Wright in that debate with Richard Dawkins, and reminded him he had to choose between the new compassionate atheism brand and the old smug, spiteful one. He said, “I have compassion for her. What I despise is her stupidity.” When smugnmess is the pride of the Climbing Mount Cleverest set, it might also be an uphill climb for Faircloth. Still, you have to admire his ambition

  18. Bala Kishore says:

    Hi Iain,

    Excellent thoughts and very logical presentation. I am Bala Kishore (you can call me bala) from India, practising Raja Yoga Meditatation (http://www.bkwsu.org) for the past 19 years. I am also a Meditation teacher in my free time, working as Vice President at UOL (http://www.untd.com) as my day-job. Can you please send me the higher resolution image of ‘Inside-the-meditating-brain’ picture you used above ? If you permit me i would like to use it in one of my presentations by printing it in to a Poster, ofcourse giving due-credits to the owner. ThankYou and Have a Wonderful Day,
    bala
    bkbalakishore@gmail.com

    • Hi,

      Thanks for the kind words – I’ll send you the highest resolution picture which I have and hope that will be enough: you are most welcome to download anything presented on the site. I don’t think I’m the actual owner of any of the pictures apart from perhaps my paintings!

      Kind regards,

      Iain

  19. Reblogged this on Light Portal and commented:
    For your deliberation

  20. Pingback: Meditation and DNA | ScienceAndReligion.com

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