Mod+ 269. DR. MICHAEL SHERMER, SKEPTICAL SCIENCE REPORTING

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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  2. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    Now this ought to be interesting ...
     
  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's complicated question at the end of the interview, which I hope I've summarised correctly:

    In Dr. Shermer's article Demon Haunted Brain, published in the March 2003 edition of Scientific American, he reported on Dr. Pim van Lommel's extensive research that led him to the conclusion that a conventional explanation for NDEs was not possible. Dr. Shermer, however, said that Pim van Lommel's research delivered a blow to the idea that mind and brain could be separate.

    Do you think that kind of science reporting crosses the line, or do you agree with Dr. Shermer that it was just his analysis of the discussion section?


    [In Alex's opinion, it was way over the line, rather like reporting that Dr. Shermer's book, The Moral Arc, delivers a blow against the idea that religion hasn't played a role in defining our moral character as a country, because he cites religious leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King.

    He does that, true enough, but concludes exactly the opposite: Dr. King's religiosity isn't important, but rather his reason and logic. Alex believes he has an obligation to point out that, despite quoting evidence from Dr. Shermer's book, the conclusion he'd be drawing about the latter's opinion would be incorrect.

    The larger question is: why does Dr. Shermer care so much about NDEs? His strongest points are against religious orthodoxy, as if being sceptical about that somehow negates the spiritual significance of NDEs.]
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    In Dr. Shermer's article Demon Haunted Brain, published in the March 2003 edition of Scientific American, he reported on Dr. Pim van Lommel's extensive research that led him to the conclusion that a conventional explanation for NDEs was not possible. Dr. Shermer, however, said that Pim van Lommel's research delivered a blow to the idea that mind and brain could be separate.

    Do you think that kind of science reporting crosses the line, or do you agree with Dr. Shermer that it was just his analysis of the discussion section?


    Give Shermer a break, Alex. He can hardly address what van Lommel actually said: if he did, he'd have to address his real argument. Instead, don't you realise he had to twist it so that he could then battle the straw man he created?:)

    I just get sick of Shermer; he's so damn well confident in his opinions when he has no right to be. Whoever is claiming that it's an issue of religion vs: reason/logic? Both you and he, and many people on this forum, don't think that conventional religion has had much influence on today's morality. To jump from that to implying that spiritual values derived from a primal consciousness don't have an influence is unwarranted.

    It isn't religion vs: reason, right? It's about drawing the reasonable conclusion, supported by lots of evidence, that consciousness exists independent of the brain, and that that consciousness is the source of our morality. Shermer thinks he's debunked that, but has missed the point entirely.
     
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  5. "In Dr. Shermer's article Demon Haunted Brain, published in the March 2003 edition of Scientific American, he reported on Dr. Pim van Lommel's extensive research that led him to the conclusion that a conventional explanation for NDEs was not possible. Dr. Shermer, however, said that Pim van Lommel's research delivered a blow to the idea that mind and brain could be separate."

    This may be explained in another book by Dr. Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/12/atheists_are_great_rationalize002941.html
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  6. Alex

    Alex New

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    I agree... and this is a good way to sum it up -- he's missed the point.

    then again,the disconnect between Shermer and many of us who like to point out how block-headed his reasoning can be, comes from not fully appreciating his point about religion. So, you can breeze past the point about morality not being derived from religion, but take that to the streets and ask people if the source of our cultural morality is derived from the Bible?

    I'm starting to think that the only way to get thru this mind=brain craziness is to fully come clean about how absolutely goofy religious institutions are.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  7. I don't think the hard-core "skeptics" will ever acknowledge that the mind is not the brain because that would be admitting that religion was right and they were wrong .. it'll never happen.
     

  8. http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html
    Belief in religion and spirituality is beneficial.

    Andrew Sims
    Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said: "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land (from Is Faith Delusion)."​
    more
    In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.​
    ...
    The positive contribution to civilization by Christianity has been enormous.
    Jürgen Habermas
    For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk.[37][38][39][40]​
    From the video:
    Behind the European Declaration of Human Rights lies Christianity, behind universities, hospices, hospitals, lies Christianity, behind the abolition of slavery lies Christianity. It is a delusion that Christianity has done no good what so ever.​
    ...
    Atheism has been responsible for enormous harm.
    John Gray
    The totalitarian regimes of the last century embodied some of the Enlightenment's boldest dreams. Some of their worst crimes were done in the service of progressive ideals, while even regimes that viewed themselves as enemies of Enlightenment values attempted a project of transforming humanity by using the powers of science, whose origins are in Enlightenment thinking.​
    ...
    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”
    http://www.jmtour.com/personal-topi...-the-christian-creationist-and-his-“science”/

    Viktor Frankl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl), a former Auschwitz inmate wrote in The Doctor and the Soul, that the source for much of the 20th Century’s inhumanity has come from the very origins being discussed here.

    “If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.

    “I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers [emphasis added].”
    If Frankl is correct, God help us.

     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  9. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    Just finished listening to what was a good interview I thought. Far more restrained than I probably would have been able to manage talking with Shermer! heh

    He sounded more reasonable than some of the Skeptics you have had on, and clearly intelligent. I also agree that a good deal of organized religion is no longer viable given what we now know of human history, of science, and just human reasoning itself. I also like the idea of being a Natural philosopher - and often think of myself as following such an "Natural" philosophical approach to life. i.e. we do not abandon our human reason in some kind of blind faith in something that especially does not sound at all logical. That we use known methods of reasoning, such as science, repeated observations, good methods of eliminating possible sources of error, to achieve certain conclusions about reality and ourselves.

    So all this sounded great to me in the interview. And the exchange between you and Shermer did sound reasonable indeed, and I do agree strongly that one simply cannot take the bible as a valid moral arc or even as a credible source of spirituality if one wishes to remain respectably intellectual and reason based (but I am of course only speaking for myself here). I also interesting enough, am particular to what Alex mentioned in the interview - Carl Jung's theories on consciousness, spirituality - in the same vein as Joseph Campbell etc. Which fairly enough Shermer accepted although he was amused by it, and dismissed this spirituality as well - although he said he would be willing to accept it if it turned out to be a Naturalistic explanation for it. Of course, those of us who are familiar and well-read regarding the work of Carl Jung, do know that Jung was all about empiricism in his work, and that he too was very much a Natural philosopher - i.e. he based his theoretical models of the psyche on repeated observations of the human psyche, which he considered just as natural as the natural world itself. Jung even met and exchanged ideas about reality with Pauli and other QM scientists at the time, even Albert Einstein - whom Jung had dined with on a number of occasions.

    As to the question you ask at the end of the interview: I have not read the article in question - but it sounds very much like to me there was a deliberate misleading representation by Shermer of Dr. van Lommel's many years long scientific work, as if Lommel himself supported Shermer's apparent conclusion in the paper, when as you say the exact opposite has been concluded by Lommel - and the majority of the rest of the scientists who have provided published research regarding NDEs. Lommel contacting Shermer himself and objecting to the characterization also raises a red flag. Shermer in your interview - pretty much laughs the question off, and uses pretty dodgy logic to excuse to me what sounds like a very misleading article. If anything, it doesn't paint Shermer in a very good light, especially if more of this kind of stuff gets exposed.

    Which makes me think of the ongoing dishonest slimeball campaign currently being conducted by the guerilla Skeptics over on Wikipedia. Again, there is this disregard of the rules Wikipedia set up that would allow say - biographies of people to be provided in a neutral fashion.
    Instead - Wikipedia has been distorted to represent the Skeptical/Atheist viewpoint of Psi research and the scientists who have been involved in it - as if it were the actual bone fide truth about these people. Which they, others and (myself) find particularly offensive and dishonest.

    So it is interesting - that even though I found Shermer quite intelligent, and even engaging in certain parts of the dialogue, and also agree with him (and Alex) regarding religious institutions - and do agree that Natural Philosophy is the way to go - that we should not abandon our reason to 2000 year old superstitions, at the same time, I find incredibly distasteful the kind of dishonesty and tactics being engaged in by Shermer and other Skeptics towards real credible scientists performing decades of research in psi or nde phenomena - which if anything, is a kind of Natural phenomena that we are currently struggling to understand. I feel Shermer and the rest of the Dawkinian Skeptics, while very rightfully using reason and science to dismiss superstition and silly concepts inherent in religious thought - have themselves fallen into a kind of anti-intellectual stance, by resorting to dishonest tactics and an unwillingness to be fully objective and critical minded when approaching phenomena such as psi or nde's that they think should be categorized as "woo" and "pseudo-science" while many of us, some of us who are pretty damn smart and are scientifically credentialed, some of us not so smart but willing to use some modicum of reason (myself), would say - no, not so fast here, let's not dismiss the scientific data - and let's dispense with your Skeptic dishonest tactics of using name calling, and using misleading articles to get at the Natural truth of phenomena we still don't understand.

    Maybe the hardest thing in science is not to succumb to one's own personal bias. And that is what real Skepticism is suppose to be about. But real Skepticism also depends on honesty, and a willingness to engage in a dialogue based on good faith. So far I see little of that from the Neo-Skeptical movement right now. All I see is a degree of radicalism that borders on being anti-scientific (i.e. dismissing actual scientists in the field as "pseudo-scientists, characterizing all psi phenomena as "woo") and intellectually dishonest (i.e. gaming the Wikipedia rules not in the way they were intended, or publishing misleading articles that claim certain scientists support their own Skeptical positions).

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  10. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Well, there's the Old Testament, and the New Testament, lumped together from the earliest days of Christianity. Our present-day morality isn't primarily from the Old Testament. To be fair, the New Testament speaks much more closely to modern notions of morality. Some religious people who base their morality on the NT won't be going far wrong: the NT, particularly the four Gospels, presented a system of morals that was well ahead of its time.

    I sometimes think that modern morality has gone too far into the dark zone: I'm not speaking about gay rights, etc., but about pegging morality to issues such as Global Warming, which in my view are positively harmful, scientistic views. I think that in areas like that, we are due a correction at some time in the near future.
     
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  11. K9!

    K9! New

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    I was very surprised that Shermer tried to justify misrepresenting the work of another. It's OK to say "I disagree with this interpretation". It's not OK to re-write someone's interpretation and claim that was what the original published report stated. That kind of thing is not accepted practice in scientific forums.
     
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  12. Richard Still

    Richard Still New

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    I actually read the book and was looking forward to hearing an interview with Michael Shermer.
    It was almost 10 minutes before I realized that the name of the podcast was in error, there is a decided lack of critical thinking going on in the mind of the host.
    When I heard Alex let the words "Cosmic Consciousness" out of his mouth I busted out laughing, I thought it was a prank!
    Sadly, further listening didn't help his credibility. Believing in things like NDE, cosmic consciousness, and the concept that "religion has been good for society, mostly" are not based on facts. They are wishful thinking. Self-deception and trying to pull a blue blanket over your head might make you feel more comfortable, but they do not lead you to an honest and fulfilled existence.
     
  13. Roms

    Roms New

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    I haven't had the chance to listen to the podcast but I thought I'd throw some comments in...

    Shermer, just like lots of people out there, seems to be kicking a dead horse. Instinutionalized religion is bad; reality, however, is far more complex than that. Western civilization is a derivative of the Judeo Christian model. In the beginning of the last century, a sociological study by Emile Durkheim showed that religions as as opposed to non religious organizations were far better at looking out for one another which translated into a much lower suicidal rate. There was even a difference between religions: catholics were better off because in the catholic religion there is this sense that you have to go to the church to fully grasp the religious concepts whereas for protestants, the average joe can read the Bible all by himself.

    I read an interesting piece (unfortunately I cannot find the link) where a religious man was basically putting the blame of people deserting churches and temples on the fact that religious leaders had/have been using those places to put forth political ideas. Politics has no place in religion, he added, religions is about experiencing the divine. To me this is the nerve right there. If people can't experience transcendance when they come to your church then they will feel that the place has no value add to their daily life.
    It was interesting for me to later read something that kind of goes along these lines in Karen Armstrong's Case for God where basically she says that at the dawn of humanity rituals were making the religion not the other way around.

    Let people experience the divine through prayer and meditation and you'll see a shift in people's mindset regarding religion.
     
  14. Roms

    Roms New

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    Clearly an argument from ignorance.
    Again, western civilization is based on the judeo christian model.
    For the benefits of organized religion please read also Emile Durkheim's essay regarding suicide.

    As for NDEs, there is no such thing as believing in an NDE. It's as dumb as saying believing in a solar eclipse. Please reformulate and elaborate before you post rebutals.
     
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  15. Bertha Huse

    Bertha Huse New

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    I actually read your post here, and about 10 seconds in I realized there was a lack of critical thinking going on in your mind.

    My Best,
    Bertha
     
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  16. Roms

    Roms New

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    I am afraid that the statement in bold is applicable to modern-day society. The financial crisis, the 1% of the population holding almost 50% of earthly wealth is the symptom of a world that has drifted away from God.
    I fear that the worst is yet to come for I do not see people changing their behavior any time soon.​
     
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  17. Roms

    Roms New

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    or one could have said "I actually read your post here, and about 10 seconds in I realized you were trolling" :D
     
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  18. K9!

    K9! New

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    Well, Richard did his best to try and distract us from the fact that his hero was misrepresenting the published work of a scientist. It didn't work, but he did try.:D
     
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  19. Richard Still

    Richard Still New

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    Eh. Maybe.
    I was pretty upset that a religious site and podcast was flying under the colors of science.
    If it would help, I could put on a funny hat. Would that make you more willing to listen to me?
     
  20. K9!

    K9! New

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    So asking Shermer to follow the accepted protocols of science... is unscientific?
     
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