David Sunfellow, Can the Scientific Study of NDEs Reveal the Purpose of Life? |413|

One reason I think social media is particularly discourteous is the like/favorite/upvote system, which incentivizes the pursuit of huzzahs from your tribesmen over engaged conversation or compelling argument. Alex should disable that feature. I do on every board I run.
The only problem is that without the 'Like' mechanism, people would write a lot of short posts liking what someone else has written. That just clutters everything up!

David
 
Hi again Michael, I do appreciate your ability to draw parallels between different cultural and spiritual traditions and I envy your inclination to believe that the very fact that lots of people, in the past, too, have chosen to view our "journey through pain" (to use your very apt definition) as something "useful", it must all make sense somehow - but this attitude after all boils down to the same thing as NDE-based religions, or any religion or "faith" (even if it is not in an established religion) that purports that our lives, after all, must have a (hidden) meaning that we would approve of, and that there is some kind of "salvation" at the end of earthly life: I just don't have such faith.

I don't have such faith (which would be necessary to manage to downplay all the evidence to the contrary that I see in this material world) that "there is a loving wisdom behind it all", as you say. You interpret what humans and animals go through as tough love, I see it as systemic violence perpetrated on ignorant sentient beings, which gets couched in heroic rhetoric to make it more palatable.

I am 100% in agreement with you (and I guess with everybody here on Skeptiko) that the material world we see and touch is most definitely NOT all there is. But this does not imply for me, as it seems to imply to most people here, that 'whatever is behind the veil' (for lack of a better definition) is necessarily what we would wish to find there.

A couple of friends had a baby a few months ago and just found out that it has a very serious genetic disease. It will become increasingly difficult for it to have a normal life, including to eat and to breathe (so he will need medical interventions and support for everything), and its life expectancy is only about 2 years. Now, if there really is a "mastermind" behind the physical world, this means that it has designed it so as to make it possible to happen (and unfortunately I could have made gazillions of similar examples - it is most often "nature itself" that causes pain and suffering, and such suffering is most definitely not caused by the evil actions of human beings, or "all in our mind"), I cannot and will not rejoice about the "mysterious and perfect ways" of whatever has given rise to this material dimension where these and even worse things happen on a daily basis (is it metaphysical but still 'blind' forces/archetypes, like numbers or geometrical patterns? the incomprehensible Ein Sof of Khabbalists? Strings "vibrating" (and whence comes such "vibration") ? A god? Many gods? I have no idea, and this is not the point. The point is the nature of such Source, ie: what it is doing with us).

Thing is, I doubt there is "a MasterPlan" that we would endorse, if we knew it (and that's why we are not told - we are kept guessing, and very probably misled, so that there's a big cacophony of 'spiritual experiences' and it's impossible to really know what is going on behind the scenes), or even that there is some kind of "wisdom" whereby our trials will take us to some "higher level" (during this life? After death?) as you seem to suggest. And if there was such a Plan, I would disagree with a system that enforces such horrors on us to "make us better". They are too extreme to be a means to a benevolent end, constituting a contradiction in terms to any loving wisdom supposedly driving this process.
We have had a discussion like this before in another thread.

There is a Buddhist concept that you can't have good without evil, and you can see the relevance here. When people do have a healthy child they celebrate that fact, because they know that not all parents and children are so lucky. Nobody celebrates the fact that their child is composed of electrons of just the right mass to form all the body's chemicals - or any other circumstance that simply has to be true.

Is it that physical life simply has to work this way?

David
 
We have had a discussion like this before in another thread.

There is a Buddhist concept that you can't have good without evil, and you can see the relevance here. When people do have a healthy child they celebrate that fact, because they know that not all parents and children are so lucky. Nobody celebrates the fact that their child is composed of electrons of just the right mass to form all the body's chemicals - or any other circumstance that simply has to be true.

Is it that physical life simply has to work this way?

David
David, I know very well that we had this conversation, and this is why I am not interested to have it again with you, because we both know (well,at least I know, sigh....) that you and I are not able to get anywhere on this.
Respectfully, I don't think there's any point for me in discussing this with you, so I won't address your post even though I could pick lots of holes in it.

I'll simply say that Alex (for example) gets my point very well (I quote from the transcript of his new solo show), and he's not satisfied by the view you refer to, either:

"Why is there evil, as we’ve talked about many times on this show? And I think this question, as I’m stating it here, for me, gets to the deeper question of the nature of this evil, because it’s one thing to say that there’s evil in the world and that’s an evil doer, as our ex-president from many years ago, George Bush, said. And again, I’ve tried to bring it to more of a personal journey of, who are we, why are we here? Why are we clearly being deceived at various points in this process? What is the purpose of that? Who does that serve and why does that seem to be so much a part of the process and tricksters and all of the rest of that, almost at every turn?"
 
I'll simply say that Alex (for example) gets my point very well (I quote from the transcript of his new solo show), and he's not satisfied by the view you refer to, either:
I'd simply say that you may be right, but everything we 'know' about the afterlife (e.g. from NDE's) suggests such a vastly different setup, that I think it is hard to reach definite conclusions.

David
 
We try to eliminate fear from our lives and yet create it. There's got be a reason for that.
I suspect it has something to do with not being able to know the 'real fear' and so creating representations of it that never turns out to be the 'real thing'. Atheists say that religion is created to stave off the fear of death - being the final end beyond which there is nothing. But since that is not the case the argument is almost rubbish. Its canny enough to see that religious belief can be inauthentic and insincere. It is probably closer to the truth to say that religion can be employed to stave off a genuine struggle at self-knowledge through self-righteousness.

A parallel theme is the way satisfaction can be sought through buying and owning stuff - and it fails to deliver the desired benefit. In the language of romantic mysticism the lover desires the beloved and cannot consummate that love, so it is spent on surrogates. We seek peace and find only pain - until we are all to find peace perfectly. There's a natural urge and an evolutionary process - so we get it wrong until we get it right.
 
Interestingly, someone who knows a lot about NDEs just posted this, putting their literal interpretation into doubt:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/huge-differences-in-nde’s.4364/
I hope IANDS does some more research in this area (I also responded on that thread). Don't get me wrong, I am not pushing a more optimistic picture with some kind of certaintity or zeal - more just swapping thoughts.

Regardless of that I don't think you have ever addressed the rather obvious Buddhist point that qualities such as happiness can't really be defined without the opposite - sadness.

David
 
I hope IANDS does some more research in this area (I also responded on that thread). Don't get me wrong, I am not pushing a more optimistic picture with some kind of certaintity or zeal - more just swapping thoughts.

Regardless of that I don't think you have ever addressed the rather obvious Buddhist point that qualities such as happiness can't really be defined without the opposite - sadness.

David
And that's why Buddhism says that this world of opposites is Samsara and we should do all we can never to come back to it.
So it's not as if Buddhism approves of it - at all.
 
Everyone.

I am just about to create a new thread inside "Consciousness and science" called Politics. Would people please try to confine political discussions to this thread unless they are directly relevant to the podcast under discussion. I fear that we may have driven David S away!

If nobody objects, I might try to move the political posts from this thread to the new thread.

David
 
OK - However, I am not talking about approval, but the logical problem of defining happiness without referencing its opposite.

David
Exactly, you really don't seem to understand the point I'm making. I'm saying that if a child is born with a deadly genetical disease we should not be content with saying "oh well, that's how the world works, it's because that way someone will really appreciate having a healthy child, so it all makes sense FOR US, hence it's all good", as you said/implied.
 
Exactly, you really don't seem to understand the point I'm making. I'm saying that if a child is born with a deadly genetical disease we should not be content with saying "oh well, that's how the world works, it's because that way someone will really appreciate having a healthy child, so it all makes sense FOR US, hence it's all good", as you said/implied.
Well look, maybe you chose an unfortunate example that is obviously far too close to your heart, but I suppose my question is not whether I should be content, but can you describe a hypothetical world in which this problem would not exist - i.e. one where people could appreciate contentment, and yet not be aware that things aren't always so good.

At a more practical level, is there any chance of finding a good healer to try to fix that baby? Possibly Alex could suggest one, and some of then even claim to be able to heal remotely.

David
 
Well look, maybe you chose an unfortunate example that is obviously far too close to your heart, but I suppose my question is not whether I should be content, but can you describe a hypothetical world in which this problem would not exist - i.e. one where people could appreciate contentment, and yet be aware that things aren't always so good.

At a more practical level, is there any chance of finding a good healer to try to fix that baby? Possibly Alex could suggest one, and some of then even claim to be able to heal remotely.

David
(rolls eyes).
David, I will ignore your posts from now on. My time is too valuable. Bye
 
"Why is there evil, as we’ve talked about many times on this show? And I think this question, as I’m stating it here, for me, gets to the deeper question of the nature of this evil, because it’s one thing to say that there’s evil in the world and that’s an evil doer, as our ex-president from many years ago, George Bush, said. And again, I’ve tried to bring it to more of a personal journey of, who are we, why are we here? Why are we clearly being deceived at various points in this process? What is the purpose of that? Who does that serve and why does that seem to be so much a part of the process and tricksters and all of the rest of that, almost at every turn?"
Like.
 
I suspect it has something to do with not being able to know the 'real fear' and so creating representations of it that never turns out to be the 'real thing'. Atheists say that religion is created to stave off the fear of death - being the final end beyond which there is nothing. But since that is not the case the argument is almost rubbish. Its canny enough to see that religious belief can be inauthentic and insincere. It is probably closer to the truth to say that religion can be employed to stave off a genuine struggle at self-knowledge through self-righteousness.

A parallel theme is the way satisfaction can be sought through buying and owning stuff - and it fails to deliver the desired benefit. In the language of romantic mysticism the lover desires the beloved and cannot consummate that love, so it is spent on surrogates. We seek peace and find only pain - until we are all to find peace perfectly. There's a natural urge and an evolutionary process - so we get it wrong until we get it right.
Lovely Michael. I think there will always be Fear, and I'm not afraid of that. Being able to face it, take it on, embrace or even welcome it, seems most sensible. Not used as a coercive threat (of the unknown) to fulfil covert and sinister motives, as Religion has done. Being fearful is good and protective at times, while we learn the measure of it, and our own strength.

Yes, the buying of distractions from this. From crack to shopping. Bring on the Evolution!
 
This is a deep dive into NDE research and how we might use it to better understand who are we, why are we here and how we should make decisions around those questions.
Hi Alex, thanks for another cool interview. This is definitely the next step.

Can I also say, with all due respect, I'm touched by the paradox that from the country of the sordid-political religo-military cesspit of the American current Empire of Hellish behaviour, come such hopeful messengers of an alternative view. Like the lotus from the mud. Goodonya mates, you guys are really working on it.
 
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