Mod+ 265. DR. GREGORY SHUSHAN ON CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by John Maguire, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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    I suppose Alex wanted to bold "warfare is nothing but total supression of morality-1 by morality-2". If bolded so, the whole statement (and my position) return to their original sense.

    If you have read my original post, you remember that I advocated the position that our empathic and compassionate traits are not just result of social conditioning; they have an unconditional - I might even say primordal - nature. Most of the times this basic core is supressed by, warped by, or even completely confused with the arbitrary set of rules of this or that particular society. Such rule-sets may be completely different, and may include approval (sometimes even glorification) of warfare, torture, opression, discrimination - of everything definitely non-compassionate and non-emphatic.

    Whether I'm right or wrong this "primordal compassion" notion, is a debatable issue, of course. But the diversified and mutually contradictory nature of the many moral codes we have is not a decisive argument against it - my own view started with the acceptance of multiplity of "moralities". But, as NDE and STE after-effects show, people who lived through them tend to become more emphatic and less obedient regardless of their original moral position.
     
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  2. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    You're dodging the point of my post. My point is only that I don't know, or know of, any materialists who think that conscious experience doesn't exist.

    Do materialists think we're zombies or robots without subjective experience? The answer is no. They may believe many false and crazy things, but they don't believe that.

    Sam Harris in his new book 'Waking Up' has a whole section called 'Consciousness is what matters', and it's all about how conscious experience is really the only thing that matters. I personally dislike Sam Harris because of his politics, ridiculous generalizations about Islam, and anti-philosophy stance, but I'm not going to say he's an eliminativist materialist, because it's simply not true.

    I'm calling for some intellectual honesty here. It's really about respect and decency. Granted that many people in the skeptical community have been sneaky and dishonest with respect to Psi and NDE research, as Alex has shown on Skeptiko, but why don't you guys try rising above all of that?
     
  3. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    Getting back to the point of this thread, the problem with NDEs telling us about love or universal morality is that they never seem to tell us anything new or useful. We already know that war is bad, love is good, rape is wrong, etc., and that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. What we really need to know about is the moral status of meat eating, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and so on. We need help with these difficult moral issues, where we genuinely aren't sure what to do or believe, but we never seem to get any help with these.
     
  4. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    That isn't quite true. Whatever you want to make of it, some NDErs receive issue-specific messages.

    Suicide:
    http://www.near-death.com/suicide.html

    Meat eating:
    Although his mouth did not move, he spoke to my interior mind telling me many things. Some, I understood, while others I did not, I felt it was a strange language. The little that at this time I remember having understood included the following: "Like all other beings, you are living in order to accomplish a mission, and you are not doing this. You must change you way of living, you are supposed to help many other beings, and you are not doing so. You have to stop eating meat, as no one who eats meat can remain here."
    http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/marta_y_nde.htm

    Moral reflection on those specific issues can also be guided by more general messages deriving from NDEs (this person goes through such an exercise covering many of these social issues) or facts related to near-death experiences, like, for example, the fact (if true) that women who "die" while having abortions do not necessarily have negative near-death experiences.
     
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  5. Saiko

    Saiko Member

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    Agreed. That's why I made sure to state exactly what my comments refer to.
     
  6. Saiko

    Saiko Member

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    That may be so. However I'd venture that your ideas of compassion are likely rooted in human versions of what that is. People - even many who have other intents - are fond of thinking that human likes/dislikes are the same as the expressions of source consciousness. This is found about many things - here you see your moral code as unconditional while other moral codes are the result of social conditioning. As for what is experienced during NDES - the trappings of that are also generated by a person's beliefs.
     
  7. Harris isn't a materialist, and I've quoted him numerous times on the silliness of materialism. So not sure why you're bringing him up.

    I'm aware materialist evangelist cults claim there is a way to marry humanism and materialism, and that materialism doesn't entail eliminativism. But I've never seen these arguments hold weight. Materialism is an instrument used to push for atheistic humanism, without proper thought about whether humanism and materialism are in fact compatible.

    The narcissism of the pseudoskeptics has led them to force a paradigm down our throats without proper foresight.
     
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  8. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    We're just arguing about words now. If you define materialism as the view that consciousness doesn't exist / is an illusion, then yeah Harris isn't a materialist. But by that definition almost nobody is a materialist!

    It's clear from his book Waking Up that he is an emergentist materialist. Here are some quotations:

    We know, of course, that human minds are the product of human brains.

    I am sympathetic with those who, like the philosopher Colin Mcginn and the psychologist Steven Pinker, have suggested that perhaps the emergence of consciousness is simply incomprehensible in human terms.


    My own view is that all materialists are really emergentist materialists. And if there are actually any eliminativists out there, then we can agree that they're nuts.
     
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  9. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    This was an eye-opening statement for me. I mean, speaking for myself, the very fact that NDEs actually exist breaks a number of orthodox paradigms, perhaps the biggest one of all, the paradigm consciousness is a product of our brain, and with the death of the brain (or even clinical death of the brain) there should be absolutely no conscious activity whatsoever.

    So, that in itself is an astonishing aspect regarding the ongoing NDE research. Here in fact, science is actually crossing-over into what has traditionally been only theological territory, and probably why the materialists are so up in arms about it.

    But the other astonishing aspects of NDEs is just how well they have been scientifically categorized, and how consistent the NDE has been reported in the 65 scientific peer reviewed studies in the last few decades, where a good number of accounts do in fact report overwhelming ineffable emotions of peace and love. In fact, so powerful are these emotions that the NDE'rs commonly do not wish to return back to reality or their body, and have reportedly been angry at the physicians and nurses who bring them back to life. There are also many accounts of a threshold barrier, where the NDE'r is told they must return because they have "unfinished" business, or it is not yet their time.

    If these NDE accounts are what they purport to be, and I like many continue to await further research in the field, and more empirical data, then the implications are indeed profound regarding human ethics and morality, and our human knowledge regarding not only what consciousness is, but that the nihilism that is so often espoused by atheists and materialists, is debunked by the teleological discoveries of NDE research, and the confirmation of some well-known religious concepts regarding the soul and death.

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
  10. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I agree with most of what you've written here. Of course it's exciting and astonishing if there's an afterlife, and yes it will destroy many paradigms.

    What I was getting at was that NDEs don't seem to give us any DETAILED guidance about how to live in this world or about how to make this world a better place. With ethics, the devil is in the details, and we need to know exactly how to organize the economy, respect the environment, get the right balance between community and individual freedom, eat in an ethical way, and on and on. Just saying 'Love each other' doesn't really help with any of this. Ethics is really hard, which is why moral philosophers spend their lives arguing about it.
     
  11. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    Well - loving one another would be a great start. Apparently we can't even do that. But I see what you are saying. And I agree with you that ethics is not simple, in fact can be quite hard, and yes, philosophers have spent their lives writing about it.

    However, it can't be ignored that a good deal of social darwinism is based on ethics that the only purpose in life is a kind of struggle for survival. In addition, that the only human knowledge available is dependent on the apparent objective world, and nothing transcendent or beyond this reality can or should have an impact on our daily living or ethical choices.

    Now ethics, in part, is based on what we believe reality is and what we believe is our ultimate human destination and purpose in reality (and I should also add origin. Sad that origin is taken so seriously by science these days, but destination as an inquiry is still marginalized by the orthodoxy). I guess you could argue that one can make up your ethics without having a belief or position about reality and purpose, but to me and to many (and many philosophers) that would be an arbitrary kind of ethics, an existential basis for ethics, which would be like believing in ferry dust, since it would be grounded in nothing but your own arbitrary creative act. Ethics would not be a real thing in truth. The same would be true if we are indeed just biological deterministic robots as the materialists posit - then obviously, what appears as choice in our lives, is not in truth choice, and you simply cannot have ethics if everything including consciousness - is just automated and determined. Trying to argue there can be ethics in a mechanical universe, and mechanical consciousness is rationally absurd.

    But getting back to the research in NDEs. Here we have some initial scientific data that may point to something far more than just this single reality that has been our scientific model of being now for some time. Well, it isn't just NDE research. We also have a lot of physicists now hypothesizing multi-dimensions with string-theory, and of course you have in quantum physics the still unresolved observer measurement problem, which has sprung a variety of remarkable scientific hypothesis, not the least of which is the multi-universes interpretation, which happens to be pretty popular at the moment. But all physicists do not dispute the evidentiary data that has been established in quantum physics, just the interpretation of that data. (I personally am with John Von Neumann's interpretation of the measurement problem).

    So pretty much it is really beginning to look like there really does exist something outside of our reality - what traditionally in theology has been called the transcendent. This transcendent aspect also has been empirically observed with much of the work of the depth psychologists, including Freud and Jung, and earlier Frederic Myers. So interestingly, you are having a convergence in the science of psychology, and the science of physics both indicating that there is more to reality than just random billiard balls of atoms and particles. In fact, we now know that virtual particles are all the time coming in and out of existence within the vacuum of space. Where they come from and where they go to - well I guess that's what Schrodinger and the early quantum physicists called the universal wave function or quantum non-local field of reality. Whatever! It hardly gives us any clue to what the actual scientific topography of that "transcendent" reality that exists, but the important thing here is that it does exist! I mean, that in itself is pretty astonishing and still being resisted by the hardcore materialists.

    So if a transcendent reality does exist how does it have a bearing on our ethics? Well for starters, the teleological foundation of social darwinism and this idea that we randomly have come into being and our only purpose is to mechanically replicate ourselves - appears to be shaken. In addition, it means that there is a possibility that all human knowledge may not be constrained to this one reality we find ourselves in. Indeed, the work of Carl Jung, and other psychologists with the unconscious, appear to demonstrate what they have labeled as the "transcendent function" in individuation, whereas, knowledge comes to the psyche that does not depend on a strictly materialistic model or single reality model. In fact, Jung went even further in his later years and posited the unconscious itself was an autonomous objective reality the archetypes of which not only exist in human consciousness, but also form a mold and drive the very nature we experience. Pretty profound - and this is the hypothesis he reached after an entire lifetime of studying human consciousness, especially the unconscious and human creativity (which has its source in the unconscious). Of course, much work in parapsychology, and abnormal psychology, have established that the psyche apparently can and does possess non-local attributes and can appear to have knowledge not normally accessible given the strict mind-body model of the materialists.

    How again does this all fit into a model of ethics? Well IMO, it dramatically shifts the ground underneath the nihilistic view of reality posited by the philosophy of materialism. It doesn't necessarily establish that there is a "God" so to speak. But it does establish that the narrow constrictions of a belief system based on a single reality and a consciousness that is a random product of that reality is unfounded. And since we base our choices and ethics on what we think we are and reality is, it will impact our ethics considerably. In addition, perhaps most important of all, if each of us, each of our consciousness has a true teleology in life (not an existential arbitrarily made up one), that is not dependent on a single reality (since there are other realities) and that that purpose and destiny may not depend entirely on what we consciously know at the "ego" level, but what resides within a deeper more profound unconscious reality that permeates our psyche and in fact all reality (whatever it is, not necessarily God) then how we choose to live our lives and treat others can be based on a much deeper grounding of what we in truth really are.

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
  12. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    This is the big problem with your whole argument. When Richard Dawkins is making ethical choices in his life, his views about selfish genes, biological robots, and free will and determinism will play little or no part. Like the rest of us, he will be driven by emotion, habit, empathy, a sense of justice and fairness, and so on. The connection between our metaphysical BELIEFS and our ethical behavior is nowhere near as simple and straightforward as you're making out.
     
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  13. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    I believe I already addressed this as a kind of fairy dust ethics. What you are promoting is the existential philosophy of ethics, that ethics is pretty much what each of us create for ourselves, but in the end it is still arbitrary, and that there are no deeper truths that can serve as the foundation of ethics. And you (and existentialists) argue this is a sufficient basis for leading an ethical life.

    As far as you stating my ethics is "simplistic" after my fairly lengthy reply, it is pretty condescending, after I admitted and agreed with you that the topic is a hard one. I have presented my own reach and interpretation for ethics. What you have presented is this absurd existential idea that ethics needs no grounding in human knowledge, or has no (or little) basis on what a person may conceive reality and consciousness is in truth. You want to talk about simplistic philosophical thinking!

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  14. You've left out the part where Harris notes that materialism entails a something from nothing miracle.

    And you keep missing that materialism entails eliminativism precisely because honest naturalism doesn't allow for the kind of jumps emergentism tries to push.

    Yes, they're hypocrites, no surprise there. That no one using materialism for social engineering attempts at manipulating the population actually follows their paradigm when it comes to living their lives? That seems more a hole in your argument than Bertha's.
     
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  15. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    I agree with you. This is the correct critique of materialism. Materialism requires what Galen Strawson calls 'spooky emergence'. It's a kind of magical thinking. So what you should be saying is that materialists believe in miracles, magic, etc., and not that they think consciousness doesn't exist.

    As for whether Dawkins is a hypocrite, that seems a bit harsh to me. I would go back to Hume's distinction between what we believe in the study and what we believe in everyday life. He's arrived at a certain position in his study, but then he finds that this doesn't have any bearing on the way he lives his life. I wouldn't condemn him for that.
     
  16. It's one thing to live your life contrary to your academic position, it's another to claim certainty in your position and the consequences of spreading that faith to others. That's the big problem with the materialist cults - they don't care if others - possibly human society as a whole - might be harmed by their proselytizing, so long as their personal need to eliminate faith in deities is met.

    Just because they can ignore the implications of their catechisms doesn't mean others who are more intellectually honest will have so little integrity.
     
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  17. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    You leave out the entire question of the unconscious and how it has a direct bearing on not only the destiny of our lives, but the psychological complexes and underpinnings of our conscious decisions. Hume may have not lived according to his philosophical positions, but he certainly did not escape his own unconscious.

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  18. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    Man what a dick. Last time I try having an honest discussion with a Sam Harris acolyte douche bag.
     
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  19. Dominic Bunnell

    Dominic Bunnell New

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    That's a really interesting way of looking at it. For you, the materialist who lives selfishly and greedily has more integrity than the materialist who inconsistently behaves likes a caring and decent person.

    I disagree with you on the two points though. I don't think greed and selfishness follow from materialism, and I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with having some inconsistencies and tensions with regard to your metaphysical beliefs and everyday ethical behavior. I don't think it's the worst thing in the world if somebody thinks in the study that libertarian free will is impossible, but then goes on believing in it in their everyday life.
     
  20. Raimo

    Raimo New

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    What is a STE? I have never heard of that initialism.
     

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