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History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The harm done by Sam Harris, et al. Time for some plain anti-science

May 25th, 2011 · No Comments

from Sam Harris site

Sam Harris, I suspect (I don’t wish to be unfair, so he can clarify this), is a two-timer and hypocrite who has a New Age ‘shady’ past, and changed his tune in the intoxicating chance for celebrity as a New Atheist ‘guru’ and cult founder. His remarks on Vedanta/Buddhism, and meditation stick out comically from some of his writings.
But in the final analysis, the rigor mortis of neuroscience fundamentalism has taken hold and ‘mystical experiences’ are brain transmogrifications. It won’t wash, and it is time to call on those who are stimulating the Stephen Batcherlor’s to corrupt buddhism.

I am as much a science fan as anyone, but I don’t take it seriously on many questions. Those stuck in the syndrome of Big Science deserve challenge on the spot, with little fear of the useless charge at this point of anti-science. Over and out.
Keep working on your string theory notes, but anti-science is also an important cauttionary study too.

This is an enlightenment question, now lost, and the dialectical reaction of the Romantics is the archaeological evidence here.

My views on the paranormal: ESP, reincarnation, etc.:

My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists. (Here, I am making a point about gradations of certainty: can I say for certain that a century of experimentation proves that telepathy doesn’t exist? No. It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the data. Can I say for certain that the Bible and the Koran show every sign of having been written by ignorant mortals? Yes. And this is the only certainty one needs to dismiss the God of Abraham as a creature of fiction.)

My views on Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, etc.:

My views on “mystical” or “spiritual” experience are extensively described in The End of Faith (and in several articles available on this website) and do not entail the acceptance of anything on faith. There is simply no question that people have transformative experiences as a result of engaging contemplative disciplines like meditation, and there is no question that these experiences shed some light on the nature of the human mind (any experience does, for that matter). What is highly questionable are the metaphysical claims that people tend to make on the basis of such experiences. I do not make any such claims. Nor do I support the metaphysical claims of others.

There are several neuroscience labs now studying the effects of meditation on the brain. While I am not personally engaged in this research, I know many of the scientists who are. This is now a fertile area of sober inquiry, purposed toward understanding the possibilities of human well-being better than we do at present.

While I consider Buddhism almost unique among the world’s religions as a repository of contemplative wisdom, I do not consider myself a Buddhist. My criticism of Buddhism as a faith has been published, to the consternation of many Buddhists. It is available here:

Killing the Buddha

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