Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence

An interesting study in Neuron says that the "predisposition of human beings toward spiritual feelings, thinking, and behaviors is measured by a supposedly stable personality trait called self-transcendence." From the summary:
Combining pre- and post-neurosurgery personality assessment with advanced brain-lesion mapping techniques, we found that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence. [...] These results hint at the active, crucial role of left and right parietal systems in determining self-transcendence and cast new light on the neurobiological bases of altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors in neurological and mental disorders.
Within the report they indicated an interesting result that relates to glioma patients:
Considering separately the four groups of patients with different types of brain tumors (Table 2), we found an increased probability of religiosity self-judgments among posterior HgG and recurrent glioma patients, who presented also higher ST scores before surgery as compared to anterior patients. Furthermore, the posterior recurrent glioma patients, who underwent surgery several months before, also reported mystic experiences more frequently than the anterior patients. These consisted mostly in experiencing the presence of God or visions during prayer, while one patient reported a single-event feeling of a presence.

The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence
Neuron, Volume 65, Issue 3, 11 February 2010, Pages 309-319
Cosimo Urgesi, Salvatore M. Aglioti, Miran Skrap, Franco Fabbro

Ellen G. White, Prophetess, II

It is becoming quite clear that neuroscience has a lot to say about religion and spiritual experiences. For instance, as reported in the Psychology Today blog,
Using sophisticated imaging machines, the number of type 5HT-1A serotonin receptors in the brain was discovered to be inversely correlated with self-ratings of religiosity and spirituality. People who respond negatively (e.g., with excessive anxiety or depression) to the challenges of everyday life have fewer 5HT-1A receptors (just like the mice I discussed above) and are more likely to find comfort in religious faith and practice. Moreover, a series of studies have demonstrated that people with certain serotonin receptor profiles suffer more often with social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by an extreme fear that other people are thinking bad things about them.
This implies many things for religious believers, and may help explain the religiosity correlation between parents and children.
Taken together, these findings suggest that people who yearn for more spiritual leadership in their lives may have inherited fewer type 1A serotonin receptors than those who never express such yearnings.
But there's more to it than just the number of type 1A serotonin receptors a person may have inherited. This next part especially may relate to Ellen White, and her status as a prophetess.
A recent investigation discovered that the tendency to display extravagant religious behaviors correlated significantly with atrophy (i.e., shrinkage) of the right hippocampus in patients with untreatable epilepsy. In fact, the medical literature is replete with reports of epilepsy patients with religious delusions. Furthermore, and quite intriguing for its implications for the typical spiritual experience, are reports that decreased brain activity in the hippocampus has also been correlated with the feeling of a "sensed presence" or the feeling of an unseen person nearby. Recent studies using sophisticated brain imaging techniques also suggest that the prefrontal cortex is more likely involved in controlling our religious, moral, and paranormal beliefs.
What evidence is there that this is or isn't the case with Ellen White?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bicycle Truthers!

There are Truther's all around us. Go bicycle truther!

The Bicycle Truth blog shows us how blatantly our esteemed leaders disrespect our sacred rules.

We must HOLD BICYCLING ADVENTISTS ACCOUNTABLE. If you have the name and photo of an Adventist caught in the sinful act of bicycling* you may submit their name and photo to this website, and we will expose their abomination to the world. It could be your pastor, your professor (extra credit for biologists and theologians), your conference president, or even yourself!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Power - full circle from Rhonda Byrns to James Arthur Ray

The Stupid just never ends. It really doesn't. The maker of The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, has a new book out called The Power, which is filled with spectacularly meaningless and asinine insights from cover to cover. For instance:
when water is exposed to positive words and feelings such as love and gratitude, the energy level of the water not only increases, but the structure of the water changes, making it perfectly harmonious ... When water is exposed to negative emotions, such as hate, the energy level of the water decreases and chaotic changes occur.
Wow, just wow. Remember for a moment that Te Sekret claims that by the "Law" of attraction anyone can get anything they want just by wishing for it. This is just about the stupidest thing imaginable, and considering that 19 million copies of the book were sold, I can hardly conceive of how much this book decreased the welfare of the human race.

Okay, enough with the pleasantries. As you may or may not know, one of the "teachers" in Te Sekret was none other than James Arthur Ray (JAR). JAR is all about the law of attraction. He is a true blue practitioner of the philosophy espoused in Te Sekret. Now, here's the thing. Last year, October 8, 2009, JAR murdered 3 people and severely injured many others.

The people he murdered and injured payed him nearly $10,000 to transform their lives in a five-day "Spiritual Warrior" event that included a sweat lodge ceremony meant to be the highlight of the event. However, things didn't turn out so well in the sweat lodge:
People were vomiting in the stifling heat, gasping for air, and lying lifeless on the sand and gravel floor beneath them
And when all this was happening, do you suppose JAR was doing everything possible to save the lives of trusting people who put their faith in him? Nope.
When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she said. "I can't get her to move. I can't get her to wake up," Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray's response: "Leave her alone, she'll be dealt with in the next round."
What a guy. JAR is a despicable human being. But that is somewhat beside the point. The real issue is that the reason all these lives were destroyed is that they bought into the law of attraction philosophy. JAR and all those people believed it to such an extent that they gave up their lives for it.

So now Rhonda Burn is selling millions of more books, peddling the same drivel, and making millions of dollars in the process. Her philosophy is trash, nothing but wishful thinking, and as shown above it can have dreadful consequences. So no, you cant stop the stupid.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ellen G. White, Prophetess

Was Ellen G. White a prophetess of God? What evidence is there that she was a true prophet of God? What evidence is there that she wasn't a true prophet of God?

And is it really true that "[e]xcessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sleeping, or seeing is sin." I might be able to justify the first three as sins without engaging in too strenuous of contortions, but I'm not so sure about excessive indulgence in seeing. Remember, it is "impossible for those who indulge the appetite to attain to christian perfection."

If you were Sean Pitman, what evidence would you give against or in favor of these various views?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sean Pitman: Ye of little faith!

Sean Pitman, destroyer of faith extraordinaire, states:
For this reason, it is a mistake to argue that all those who believe in the Bible as the inspired Word of God, who take the intended literal meaning of the Genesis authors at face value, or who actually believe that the biblical stories of fantastic miracles really did happen as described, believe such things based on blind faith in the supreme authority of the Bible alone – without any outside empirical evidence or basis for a truly rational faith in such fantastic things.

Sean, read the Bible. Everyone who Christ heals has faith prior to being healed, prior to any outside empirical evidence. By your own admission this is blind faith, and yet this is what Christ gives them credit for.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17

Read the Bible Sean Pitman!