Friday Roundup

  • The ‘secular’ had to be invented…imagined…

“It is just for this reason that religion, as social theorists of religion like Regis Debray are starting to see, cannot be explained. For it is rather that religion explains everything else as the grammar at the heart of every culture whose governing signified cannot, according to its very functionality, be fully defined. Thus the “vague” heart of a culture is constantly and expressively sought by its practices which always contain a sacramental and liturgical dimension to varying degrees.”

  • In praise of mysticism…and probably the only way to save the planet at this point…
  • Whence such evil?  Or were these just “choices” and “preferences” of no real difference than if the exact opposite actions and results had been the case?
  • Wow, in light of the most recent conversation, this is pertinent.  What do we make of this:

“One case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest. Dr Parnia concluded: ‘This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating. In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.’”

Well, we note there is correlation but not reduction.  What do we make of the possibility here that memories survived during a time frame when the brain normally ceases to function and that visual awareness was recalled (what was going on with the physical laws as to the brain during this 3 minute period?)?

And what do me make of their suggestion that, “Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice,”?

Don’t they know this doesn’t merit further investigation since it already “clashes” with science?
“Agreed, but then they have to show that. They can’t just keep saying “there’s no empirical evidence” and think they’ve shown that theism based on metaphysical reasoning or non-empirical experience is irrational. The core question is whether there is anything beyond the empirical — some transcendent reality we can call God. I think it can be rational to say there isn’t a transcendent reality. But to show that it’s irrational to say there is, you’d have to end the impasse in philosophical discussions of theism. That’s where atheism falls short and agnosticism is the preferable position.

  • It doesn’t get any better than this…Go Giants!
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4 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    Can't get the NYT link, they have raised their paywall. Anyhow, I can't speculate very much about the near-death issues. It all seems a very thin thread to hang anything (unusual) on, but the gist of the story seemed to be that the time of brain activity is quite a bit longer than people have assumed based only on blood flow, extending the scope of experiences in that time. But further investigation is certainly happening, such as a study of hidden objects in OR's- if they can be seen or detected by the floating souls, etc. But I have not heard of any positive results, yet.

    “They can’t just keep saying “there’s no empirical evidence” and think they've shown that theism based on metaphysical reasoning or non-empirical experience is irrational. The core question is whether there is anything beyond the empirical — some transcendent reality we can call God.”

    This is gobbldygook. What is reality, other than what is empirical? Everything that is real can be brought into study in some way, even if it is subjective experience. In principle, and with enough technology, we will eventually be able to decipher what people are experiencing, from looking in from the outside. Not exactly feel what they feel, but at know what it is they are feeling, objectively.

    What is non-empirical experience? Is it all experience, since all experience is subjective? Or is it opinions about experiences whose naturalist explanation (illusion, or hallucination, or warm and fuzzy subjective feeling, unsupported inference, etc.) you do not like? I do not really know what is meant here. Precision in language would be an important step forward in the whole area, especially among theists.

    What is a transcedent reality? One that we do not experience, or one that we do? If we do, it is empirical. If not, it has no bearing, or if it does, indirectly, then it is empirical again. There is no escape from the ability to analyze and bring into empiricism aspects of reality that you deem significant. It all ends up being empirical- in principle, if not in practice.

    Overall, it is lame to no end to keep seeing people claim unseen realities and super-important unseen entities, which we have to pray to, by direction of helpful priests who know whereof they speak. They don't, quite simply. And if you retreat to the feeling of mystical significance as beikng, ipso facto, some evidence for the divine and transcendent, then you are simply using an empirical criterion to infer something about reality … a criterion of such low value as to be laughable. I am stuudying the Quran now … same story.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “…but the gist of the story seemed to be that the time of brain activity is quite a bit longer than people have assumed based only on blood flow, extending the scope of experiences in that time…”

    I don’t see that mentioned anywhere in the piece, not even in the “gist.” More importantly than the “gist”, the actually conclusion is noted here:

    “The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals concludes the following. The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences. In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events.”

    No, this is gobblygook:

    “In principle, and with enough technology, we will eventually be able to decipher what people are experiencing, from looking in from the outside. Not exactly feel what they feel, but at know what it is they are feeling, objectively.”

    To the above, I can only say…wow. You could always just ask someone how they were feeling too and objectively accept their subjective take on their own feelings. Just a thought.

    As to the rest, it is clear it is indeed gobblygook to you, which we should simply translate as, “I don’t understand.”

    Or,

    “You know what’s wrong? Everything I don’t understand.” Right, got it.

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  3. Burk says:

    Darrell-

    I was speaking of the underlying work, which has been widely reported, not the specific article you cited, which was extremely brief. The study, after all was said and done, had only two patients who had the kind of detailed awareness in the midst of a near death experience, in which we are interested. And they add “The other two patients (2%) experienced specific auditory/visual awareness (category 5). Both patients had suffered ventricular fibrillation (VF) in non-acute areas where shelves had not been placed.”

    and

    “Based on current AED algorithms, this likely corresponded with up to 3 min of conscious awareness during CA and CPR.”

    So the study had specifically been set up to test their ability to actual float over the scene and see down. But that was not tested, due to the locations involved. So the critical test didn't happen, which is very unfortunate.

    First thing is that your argument, and that of some of these stories, is predicated on imagining the brain as some kind of electrical on/off device. But that isn't the case. It might well stay active in some respects after blood flow ceases, for some time, especially if blood flow is being restored artificially by the resucitation efforts. Hearing is of course the most likely sense to persevere after others go out, since it has the least intermediation to the core of the brain.

    So this work basically suggests that some kind of auditory perception likely persists beyond the stoppage of blood flow for perhaps a minute or two. Or three. That is not beyond the pale at all. Cells tend to keep on going as long as they can.

    Secondly, have you ever had an out of body experience? I have. I have no doubt it was an illusion. A nightmare, specifically. An amazing experience, and scarily vertiginous. The brain can do amazing tricks with time and perception. So that is the default hypothesis which has to be ruled out with careful work (in combination with real auditory priming of illusory visual events). I hope this work continues so that they can get the critical experiment done with reasonable numbers at some point.

    http://www.resuscitationjournal.com/article/S0300-9572%2814%2900739-4/fulltext

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  4. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    Regardless of any underlying studies, this study came to these conclusions:

    “The results of a four-year international study of 2060 cardiac arrest cases across 15 hospitals concludes the following. The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences. In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events.”

    “Thus, while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients' experiences and claims of awareness, (due to the very low incidence (2 per cent) of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called OBE's), it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.”

    And the real point is this: The above shows that the “science” is hardly settled in these areas—thus to claim someone’s views clash with science because they a not reductive materialists only reveals that one doesn't know or understand the science and has mistaken his philosophical views for “science.”

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