Mod+ 270. ASU PROF. LAWRENCE KRAUSS CALLS FOR DALAI LAMA TO STEP DOWN OVER REINCARNATION CLAIM

Regarding meaning: The universe is both meaningless and meaningful just as it is both light and dark depending on your perspective. Meaning cannot be felt except against a background of meaninglessness. The two need each other to exist as a dualistic pair. Those who insist the universe is fundamentally meaningless are only half right. It is also fundamentally meaningful. Your lifespan is a storyline - a meaning generator. Materialists insist that individual storylines are the only meaning generators in the universe and that they are single short isolated threads and nothing more. Non-materialists posit that individual storylines weave together on larger time and space scales to construct ever more meaningful story tapestries. I think the evidence for story tapestries is compelling and the knowledge of it alters the way we perceive the world and the way we react to it.

Perhaps when arguing with someone who insists the universe is fundamentally meaningless it would be good to note this dualistic relationship. Meaninglessness is meaningless without meaning. The oscillation between the two creates reality.
 
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Regarding meaning: The universe is both meaningless and meaningful just as it is both light and dark depending on your perspective. Meaning cannot be felt except against a background of meaninglessness. The two need each other to exist as a dualistic pair. Those who insist the universe is fundamentally meaningless are only half right. It is also fundamentally meaningful. Your lifespan is a storyline - a meaning generator. Materialists insist that individual storylines are the only meaning generators in the universe and that they are single short isolated threads and nothing more. Non-materialists posit that individual storylines weave together on a larger time and space scales to construct ever more meaningful story tapestries. I think the evidence for story tapestries is compelling and the knowledge of it alters the way we perceive the world and the way we react to it.

Perhaps when arguing with someone who insists the universe is fundamentally meaningless it would be good to note this dualistic relationship. Meaninglessness is meaningless without meaning. The oscillation between the two creates reality.
I totally agree, I don't think materialists are wrong they just aren't entirely right. I think the are literally missing at least half the puzzle, probably much more.
 
It was just odd at how willingly people go along with the "the universe is meaningless and you have no free will" bandwagon. I could not understand why they were so willing to give up any kind of control over their own lives (or the illusion of control, as Harris would put it).

I cannot for the life of me understand why. What is so appealing about the materialistic paradigm? It's almost as if people want to believe they are nothing more than meat suits. I truly don't get it.
Some people have dreary seemingly pointless lives and feel they have no control over their situation. It gives them comfort to believe that they are not responsible or to blame for their problems and to get confirmation of their experiences. Unfortunately it might lead them to accept things that they could change if they believed they had free will, so I think it is harmful to teach people to think that way.
 
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These are smart guys, so how do they not see the glaring holes in their own arguments? How do they not see that their own arguments regarding lack of free will delve into the land of absurdity when closely inspected?
What do you see as the holes in their arguments?

Pat
 
So why don't they don't have concerns about reputation and respectability when it comes to the treatment of women in the skeptical community?

http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/08/07/more-names-are-named/
They're (mostly) a bunch of old white guys. It's no great surprise that there's some sexism there. On issues like multiculturalism, feminism and capitalism, they will concede that there is room for reasonable disagreement. But on issues like Big Foot, UFOs and Psi, it's all just total crap and no reasonable person could ever believe any of it. They must ridicule these topics every time they come up.

Of course you could still argue that the ridicule factor and giggle factor have been engineered by the powers that be to keep the military-industrial complex and consumerist-capitalist machine going, and I'm betting some here find this theory quite plausible.
 
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They're (mostly) a bunch of old white guys. It's no great surprise that there's some sexism there. On issues like multiculturalism, feminism and capitalism, they will concede that there is room for reasonable disagreement. But on issues like Big Foot, UFOs and Psi, it's all just total crap and no reasonable person could ever believe any of it. They must ridicule these topics every time they come up.
We aren't talking about minor issues of sexism. There are serious allegations of rape and abuse of authority. It's very reminiscent of the poor treatment of women throughout the ages by fundamentalist religious groups.

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/03/new...sm_of_richard_dawkins_and_sam_harris_partner/
People like Dawkins, Shermer and Harris are the public face of atheism. And that public face is one that is defensively and irrationally sexist. It’s not only turning women away from atheism, it’s discrediting the idea that atheists are actually people who argue from a position of rationality. How can they be, when they cling to the ancient, irrational tradition of treating women like they aren’t quite as human as men?

Sadly, this contempt for women coming from the top trickles into the ranks, allowing everyday misogynists who happen not to believe in God feel justified in their hatred of women anyway. Subsequently, there’s a thriving online community of people who live to harass not just women, but female atheists in particular, trying to drum any women out of the movement who want to be included as equals instead of as support staff for the male stars. Feminists like Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina, who upset the image of atheism as a “guy thing,” are subject to a relentless drumbeat of abuse through social media by people who prefer an atheism that’s a little more like fundamentalist Christianity, where women know their place.
 
We aren't talking about minor issues of sexism. There are serious allegations of rape and abuse of authority. It's very reminiscent of the poor treatment of women throughout the ages by fundamentalist religious groups.

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/03/new...sm_of_richard_dawkins_and_sam_harris_partner/
Yeah I'm not making light of the abuse. I'm just pointing out that it's a very male and very nerdy culture with a lot of dysfunctional guys with too much time on their hands. On top of that the rise of the new atheist movement has coincided with the rise of the internet, and the net tends to bring out the worst in people.

As well as being strongly anti-philosophy, the new atheist/skeptical movement is also very anti-social sciences. This means that many of these people have never been exposed to serious feminist thought. They tend to think that sociology and anthropology are not real science and can be immediately dismissed.

There's a lot of bad stuff going on inside this movement. I'm not denying that for a moment.
 
Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

1. From a scientific standpoint, is reincarnation nonsense? How would we explore such a question scientifically?

2. How can life have any meaning if we live in a meaningless universe?

3. How can reincarnation be true when there are more people alive today than have ever lived before? (Alex doesn't know).
Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

1. From a scientific standpoint, is reincarnation nonsense? How would we explore such a question scientifically?

2. How can life have any meaning if we live in a meaningless universe?

3. How can reincarnation be true when there are more people alive today than have ever lived before? (Alex doesn't know).
1: The question of reincarnation is of course not nonsense, it is an incredibly pertinent and valid question, and science has the means to investigate the question as Jim Tucker and Ian Stevenson have shown. What is utter nonsense, is the suggestion that the science (the "scientific method"), has somehow discovered all there is to know about the universe and the humans who inhabit it, and there is nothing left to investigate. Implying that any claims to the contrary are clearly ludicrous, as we already know all there is to know about what there is to know, and what we don't yet know (which is in my silly opinion, a HECK of a lot) will simply reinforce what we have already, firmly, and immutably, established. (To me this sounds more like religion than anything else).

2: life CANNOT have meaning in a dead and meaningless universe. The mainstream "scientific" hypothesis is the Darwinian idea of survival. Survival is measured ultimately in terms of DNA survival and propogation. If we are nothing more than overly complicated DNA replicators (and pretty piss poor ones) which exist to do nothing more than pass on our genetic code, and consciousness is simply an accident or somehow a convoluted tool designed to more effectively pass on the all important DNA, then things are looking pretty bleak.
There can be no moral imperative in this universe, unless it somehow enhances the propagation of one's DNA. This is an argument against morality, and in favour of the worst and most atrocious immoral excesses of mankind (as they are far more efficacious in terms of the propogation of one's DNA).
A warlord with a forcibly acquired harem of sex slaves from this standpoint would seem to be the absolute ideal and pinnacle of success from the point of view of DNA. Thinking and philosophy (morality) really seem from this standpoint to be great big mistakes in the mechanistic process of DNA propogation, as rather than enhance the process, clearly they are the greatest inhibitors of DNA propagation.
A far better model would be one in which the organism does not have a hand at the wheel, and certainly cannot attempt to completely override the biological imperative of passing on the DNA (as clearly, a thinking conscious being can do). Better to have automata than cannot go against the programming, and simply tries to dominate all other organisms as quickly as possible, and mate with as many other organisms as possible by any means necessary to further the particular strand of all important DNA our example is carrying.

Surely this is the bleakest, most pointless and horrendous universe we can imagine. Horrendous precisely because we are conscious entities, and the model that mainstream science presents simply cannot be squeezed into our experience of the world, or the way we live life.

3: the last issue I don't have time to state my position on, as my children are crying to go to bed, and I haven't time, other than to say that the number of humans existing on this tiny sphere in the inconceivably large universe out there, and the potential dimensions a spiritual being may inhabit beyond, surely does not pose any threat to the notion of reincarnation. Only if we somehow have first determined that there is a finite number of souls in the universe, which only inhabit the planet earth, and no other planet or dimension, only then can we say the theory of reincarnation is absurd. But clearly, we cannot say this. Evidence points to the contrary.
 
Am I the only one who sees the similarities between organized Atheists, the Catholic Church and the Fundamentalist Muslim Community?
There's another important similarity that Chris Hedges pointed out in his critique of the New Atheism. Not only are they ignorant, but they are PROUD of their ignorance. They often brag about the fact that they don't know anything about philosophy, religion, theology or the social sciences.
 
Hi,

Alex asked: "3. How can reincarnation be true when there are more people alive today than have ever lived before?

It may be that this question has already been answered...The premise is not true: more people have lived in the past than are now alive.
There is a research paper addressing this very issue: Can Population Growth Rule Out Reincarnation? A Model of Circular Migration By David Bishai.
http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_14_3_bishai.pdf

Here is a quote from the abstract:
"Many have tried to draw scientific inferences about the existence or nonexistence of an afterlife from observations undertaken in the naturalworld. A leading example of these attempts is the common refutation of the hypothesis of reincarnation as being inconsistent with human population growth. This paper demonstrates that the demographic refutation of reincarnation only holds if supplemented by substantial metaphysical assumptions."

An estimate of 105 billion human beings born is cited in the paper (the estimate has been published in 1995). This figure comes from population science. For what it is worth, the total number may be higher if we give any credence to stories of Atlantis in various esoteric circles; as far as I know, the census counts in the alleged lost continent are not known :).

At any rate, Bishai argues that there need not be contradiction between some notion of reincarnation and available demographic data. It seems that Dr. Krauss is not aware of the relevant population research.
 
As well as arguments based upon human population figures, these only become relevant at all if one already has a detailed and thorough knowledge of how reincarnation actually works in practice. It would also be necessary to be certain that only one very specific model of reincarnation could be permitted to operate.

I don't think even the most expert scholars can claim this with certainty, the first part requires serious study, while the second seems merely hubris.

But because the population argument is inevitably used as an excuse to not even look at the subject at all, it doesn't even qualify as an argument.
 
Hello everyone, this is my first posting. To Alex's questions:

1. From a scientific standpoint, is reincarnation nonsense? How would we explore such a question scientifically?

from a scientific standpoint, even if it were nonsense, i'm not sure how Prof. Krauss can reasonably come to that conclusion having admitted to not being interested in researching the topic and as such is ignorant of most if not all the work that has been done to date on the subject.
I think before you tackle the question of reincarnation scientifically you have to nail down what exactly you mean by reincarnation... Do we use the ideas of a particular religion such as Hinduism and try to validate that or do we actually try to look at the accounts themselves and try to come to a non-religious consensus about what the phenomena actually represents?
By this I mean to ask what do the accounts of reincarnational experiences actually mean? Is it literally that we live a sequence of lives one after the other or could it be that what we are interpreting as having lived before is really due to an ability to tune into other people's experiences/consciousness without being restricted by time and place?


2. How can life have any meaning if we live in a meaningless universe?

Krauss, like many in his camp, tend to cherry pick the timing of when it is or isn't appropriate to 'make up your own meaning' in the case of the meaningless universe concept and it's relationship to morality. One the one hand we are automatons and consciousness is an illusion and we have to make up our own morality but on the other it's NOT OK for religious fundamentalists to make up their own morality. Where and how do you draw the line?

3. How can reincarnation be true when there are more people alive today than have ever lived before? (Alex doesn't know).

At least one other forum member has posted some studies that purport to contradict the basic assumption about the abundance of human population over the course of time. I've not taken a look at it but I've often wondered exactly how accurate these sorts of conclusions are given that recorded history amounts to at most about 5% of the generally accepted figure given for the rise of modern humans about 100k years ago. Do these projections backward account for fluctuations in the population? Diebacks due to a variety of possible factors? What about the timeline for the last ice age..what sorts of population effects could there have been? Also which type of reincarnation is Krauss referring to? Is it limited to modern homo sapiens or does it go back to pre modern human ancestors as well? What about the idea transmigration of souls? Also, Is reincarnation limited to living beings on the earth or could it transcend that to life elsewhere in the universe?

The other reason against this argument is the simple fact that a belief in reincarnation by many people does not equate to a claim that they purport to recall past lives themselves. I'm willing to bet that the number of people providing compelling and believable accounts is far smaller than the population that believes in the phenomena. Krauss' reasoning is faulty is because the population argument seems to imply that everyone alive now has lived before.

The population argument against reincarnation is one that is trotted out in a rather smug and matter of fact tone because it gives the appearance of a clever piece of mathematical reasoning when in reality it makes too many assumptions about the nature of the claim/phenomena to be of any real value.
 
I'll just comment on the topic of reincarnation. Dr. Krauss spent some time making excuses to justify not looking at the evidence on reincarnation. That's all well and good, life is short, there isn't time to study everything. How then is he able to make bold pronouncements about the subject? He seemed prone to making sort of kindergarten statements as though they were profound and undeniable.

Moving on to how we can investigate the subject. I'll say from first-hand experience that the evidence isn't always shareable, any more than many other experiences are. For example going to a music concert, or going on a trip to somewhere new, we experience stuff, it means an enormous amount to the individual, but trying to explain what it was like to someone else is pretty much an empty effort, all you can give is an outline, without the depth. Experience of reincarnation can be a little like that, the parts which are visible to others as demonstrable evidence in my opinion only just begin to scratch the surface.

Having said that, Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker have made strong contributions to the field. My own stance has been to look for factors which are obscure and virtually impossible to explain by ordinary means. Of course there are those who attempt to invoke psychic powers as a preferred choice rather than grasp the nettle. But that is to deny the nature of the experience, which is not merely about plucking facts and figures from the air, but is about living, about being.
You hit the nail on the head ... making excuses to justify not looking, or not even validating the effort to look by those who have. It was actually quite embarrassing imo. I am so glad we have other science based leaders in this world who at least give the data a chance where Krauss has formed his opinion before looking at the data. Great interview and it shows we have a long way to go but thanks to Alex and others pushing the data.. I hope we get their sooner than later!!!
 
I suppose I could have a crack at Alex's questions from the end of the interview.

1. From a scientific standpoint, is reincarnation nonsense? How would we explore such a question scientifically?

From a scientific standpoint, anything supported by research has to be accepted as possible, and worthy of further study. Krauss's talk of there being no mechanism to account fr it is irrelevant and unscientific. The double slit experiment would have been completely dismissed on this basis, and particle physics would have stalled. Look for mechanisms later; first establish whether a phenomenon exists. I came to join this forum after reading Alex's book, Why Science Is Wrong... There's much in there I don't really agree with, and much I do, and the whole thing was very entertaining, I hope it's doing well. Among the research discussed early on is that of Dr Julie Beischel's mediumship research. The methodology she describes in her interview with Alex certainly seems flawless, and her results appear positive. As an atheist and sceptic, I consider it more likely that she's being dishonest about her results, or not sticking rigidly to her methods, than that people somehow, by means currently beyond the considerable extent of current scientific, mediums are discovering information known by others with neither direct nor indirect physical information. But, that's not the point! Dr Beischel has done the research. Her methods are sound. Her the results are the results she's reported. She deserves for them to be taken seriously, whether we can see how the phenomenon uncovered works or not. Instead, scientists would rather dismiss the work. They should be trying to replicate it. Unfortunately, after hearing scientists dismiss so much out of hand, as well as altering their own results frequently to prove what they want to prove (and perhaps get funding), I'm not convinced I'd still trust a sceptical scientist to be honest about it even if he or she did replicate Dr Beischel's results. Sorry for focusing so much on a previous interview to make my point, but at this stage I know nothing of past life research. The point is, reincarnation is not nonsense if experiment has shown there to be a real phenomenon for which reincarnation is a possible cause.

2. How can life have any meaning if we live in a meaningless universe?

Having read Alex's book and listened to a few interviews on the Skeptiko website, this is clearly something Alex is a little fixated on. The reason he gets so few cogent answers from sceptics and scientists on this point is the question doesn't mean (pardon the pun) anything. Whether our consciousness exists independently from our bodies gives no increased meaning to life. This obsession with whether consciousness is an 'illusion', and 'emergent property', makes absolutely no difference to how much meaning our lives or the Universe has. There is no 'meaning' that will give the Universe 'meaning.' Even if our consciousness is an illusion, paradoxically, that isn't to say it isn't real. It's essentially just a turn of phrase that means consciousness arises from processes in the brain. We still feel, care, process information, have empathy for others, regardless of the origin of those things. If our consciousness is separate from our brain, we still have no meaning, beyond caring for others and trying to live happily, or, in the case of so many, trying to oppress others while living destructive, even self destructive, lives. If there is a greater entity out there, or even several, that wish us to live according to certain rules, the needs or wants of those sentient beings have no more meaning than our own. And nothing, as far as I can see, renders our fleeting lives on Earth more meaningless than having eternal lives on some other plane. I have heard prominent atheists and their followers claim the Universe is meaningless, but I have never heard them claim our lives are. Most would stress the point that should should try to live well, with the welfare of others in mind. Alex, I'm afraid, has failed to convince me that, or even make an argument that, anything would actually give the Universe or our lives any more meaning than that.

3. How can reincarnation be true when there are more people alive today than have ever lived before? (Alex doesn't know).


I see no reason to make any assumptions about the origins of our souls. Perhaps there's a big soul-spewing intergalactic volcano at the centre of our galaxy. The question of 'how' is for a future time. The question should be 'whether', and if there is research that suggests some people have lived previous lives, I need to familiarise myself with that. But positive results should not be dismissed by scientists just because they're uncomfortable with them. I sometimes wonder whether some scientists are so quick to dismiss positive results in parapsychology because they know from experience that the fudging and falsifying of results according to need is prevalent among scientists.
 
What do you see as the holes in their arguments?

Pat
Basically I'm going to quote someone from the comments section from this YouTube video

because he articulates his points so well. And I have neither the time nor inclination to rewrite or summarize his points.
Jake Danger

Without the freedom to choose our beliefs from among alternatives, we cannot know that our beliefs are reliably true. I might make a reasonable attempt to justify my own beliefs by noting that I have the free will to choose the logical answer from among various false alternatives, because I am not forced to choose the alternative favored by my brain chemistry. For example, my brain chemistry might have me believe that every shadow in the night is a dangerous predator that's stalking me. In a stone age environment such a belief might help my genes survive by making me more cautious, but it is probably not true most of the time. Only a free mind can say "This belief is adaptive, but nevertheless it's false."


If, as Sam Harris does, I assert that my beliefs are chemically compelled (that I must believe as I do because my brain chemistry compels me so believe), it is ad hoc reasoning to add the footnote "all my beliefs EXCEPT my belief that 'free will is an illusion', that is". Scientists use their minds to examine systems, and they need to take this into account when their own minds are part of the very system they're examining. By asserting the truth of a belief that belittles the ability of the human mind to generate true beliefs, I am sawing off the branch I'm sitting on, so to speak.

I'm not even arguing that there's no such thing as free will -- I'm arguing that even if we don't have free will, we could never know that with any degree of reliability no matter how much evidence we marshal to support it. Therefore, it makes sense to just go ahead and blithely assume that we have free will and take it from there.

So I don't think I'm more real than Sam Harris (after all, either we both have free will or neither of us do); however, any claim of knowledge that I may assert rests on a firmer foundation than his claims because he contradicts himself -- on one hand he claims not to have the free will to choose truth over falsehood, yet on the other hand he asserts knowledge of the 'truth' that 'there is no such thing as free will'. His claim to knowledge is self-refuting.
 
Basically I'm going to quote someone from the comments section from this YouTube video

because he articulates his points so well. And I have neither the time nor inclination to rewrite or summarize his points.
I saw that interview months ago, and I was appalled by Harris' lack of imagination on the subject. Disappointing. :(
 
I saw that interview months ago, and I was appalled by Harris' lack of imagination on the subject. Disappointing. :(

I agree, and that's one of my beefs with materialism in general. We know so very little, and the possibilities of what life, reality and consciousness could be are seemingly endless. I could come up with perhaps a dozen plausible theories off the top of my head. And each one would be full of unknown variables and assumptions, just like materialism.

But it certainly seems as though the materialistic movement in general suffers from a near pathological lack of imagination.;)
 
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