Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategorySpirituality

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Religion conflicts global issue

Can Religion Without Belief “Make Perfect Sense”?

Philosopher Philip Goff, a prominent voice in panpsychism, also defends the idea of finding meaning in a religion we don’t really believe

Durham University philosopher Philip Goff, co-editor of Is Consciousness Everywhere? Essays on Panpsychism (November 1, 2022), has an interesting take on religion. While it’s common to assume that religious people are “believers,” he thinks that people can meaningfully be part of a religion without actually believing in it: But there is more to a religion than a cold set of doctrines. Religions involve spiritual practices, traditions that bind a community together across space and time, and rituals that mark the seasons and the big moments of life: birth, coming of age, marriage, death. This is not to deny that there are specific metaphysical views associated with each religion, nor that there is a place for assessing how plausible those views…

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Man atheist throws all religions in the trash

Analysis: Can “Communitarian Atheism” Really Work?

Ex-Muslim journalist Zeeshan Aleem, fearing that we are caught between theocracy and social breakdown, sees it as a possible answer

Zeeshan Aleem, an American journalist raised as a Muslim — but now an atheist — views his country as caught between “the twin crises of creeping theocracy and the death of conventional religion.” He seeks a new kind of atheism — communitarian atheism — as part of a solution: A rapidly increasing share of Americans are detaching from religious communities that provide purpose and forums for moral contemplation, and not necessarily finding anything in their stead. They’re dropping out of church and survey data suggests they’re disproportionately like to be checked out from civic life. Their trajectory tracks with a broader decades-long trend of secular life defined by plunging social trust, faith in institutions, and participation in civil society. My…

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One round power on and off button

Taking Our Lives Back from Big Tech, a Step at a Time

If we don’t have the time to stop and reflect because we are too busy checking our social media…

In a recent podcast, “Weaving the Technology of Our Lives” (July 14, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed tech and culture writer Andrew McDiarmid on the deep ways Big Tech governs our lives — ways of which we are often unaware — and concrete steps for taking control back: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/07/Mind-Matters-195-Andrew-McDiarmid.mp3 Here’s a partial transcript and notes. Additional Resources follow: Robert J. Marks: We have been talking about Jacques Ellul’s concept of technique… Andrew McDiarmid: Well, Jacques Ellul was a French sociologist, theologian, and philosopher of technology … Ellul’s lifetime spanned almost the entire 20th century, 1911 to 1994. He wrote books and articles throughout his career on how he saw technology impacting the “human adventure,” as he…

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Near death experience ascend up towards the light in the dark tunnel

Agnostic Psychiatrist Says Near-Death Experiences Are Real

For example, he cites cases for Big Think where the clinically dead experiencer encounters a deceased individual who was not known to have died at the time

Psychiatrist and neurobehavioral scientist Bruce Greyson, author of After (2021) — a science-based look at near-death experiences — offers short videos unpacking the topic via Big Think: Are near-death experiences real? (7:15 min) BRUCE GREYSON: When I first started looking into near-death experiences back in the late-1970s, I assumed that there would be some physiological explanation for that. What I found over the decades was that the various simple explanations we could think of like lack of oxygen, drugs given to the people and so forth, don’t pan out- the data do not support them. And furthermore, the phenomena of NDEs, of near-death experiences, seem to defy a simple, materialistic explanation. When we first started presenting this material in medical…

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Group of burning candles against blue background, close up

Neuroscientist: Spirituality Helps Health Directly and Indirectly

Andrew Newberg has spent thirty years studying the effects of spirituality using the techniques of neuroscience

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, co-author with Daniel A. Monti, M.D., of Brain Weaver: Creating the Fabric for a Healthy Mind through Integrative Medicine (Kales Press, 2021), reflected recently on what studies on the mental health benefits of spirituality can teach us. Some of the benefits of spirituality are due to the lifestyle changes it promotes: For example, going to church or other social events that are part of a religious tradition can be beneficial because social support, in and of itself, is beneficial to our mental health. The more people that we have in our social support network, the better we are at coping with various life stressors including problems with jobs, relationships, or health. Most religions also teach people to…

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Relaxation arch

Our Beliefs Change Us But the Core Is What Matters

A doctor who studies mystical experiences reflects on what ties life-changing beliefs together

Does what we believe matter? Last week, we noted that in podcast #165 at Mind Matters News (December 16, 2021), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued a discussion with neurologist Andrew Newberg on what we know about spirituality and the brain. This week, they talked about how we connect with spirituality in different ways. Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God won’t go away (2008). https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/74a74c07-fccf-470d-8f45-bff8170e64b2-Mind-Matters-News-Episode-165-Andrew-Newberg-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at approximately 13:13 min. Show Notes, and a partial transcript follow: Andrew Newberg: When somebody conceives of a soul as immaterial, what does that mean? How does a brain understand that? And how do we engage that in an…

Female surgeon praying in operation theater
Doctor nurse surgeon prayer praying Adobe Stock licensed

Science Is Discovering That Mystical Experiences Are Real

When we contemplate, says neurologist Andrew Newberg, who studies such experiences, the frontal and parietal lobes of our brains quiet down

In podcast #165 at Mind Matters News (December 16, 2021), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued a discussion with neurologist Andrew Newberg on what we know about spirituality and the brain. Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God Won’t Go Away (2008). The “science is atheism!” clubhouse would not be very happy with him. A partial transcript follows, with notes and links. Michael Egnor: Do you see differences in the brains of people who are meditating in a theistic and a non-theistic way? Is there something different about belief in God that you can see in the brain? Andrew Newberg: Well, that’s a great question. We haven’t specifically…

Group of people holding hands praying worship believe

Meet a Doctor Who Thinks Spirituality Isn’t Just All in Your Head

Can science study what you are doing when you pray? Andrew Newberg does and he says the effects are real

In a recent podcast at Mind Matters News (“Neurotheology and the brain,”#164), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed neurologist Andrew Newberg on what brain imaging can tell us about spirituality. Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God Won’t Go Away (2008) Newberg began by clarifying that he is not trying to explain away anything. He is just trying to understand it. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/22bb89c2-fcd5-4c6a-87be-9c74b9d92b8c-Mind-Matters-Episode-164-Andrew-Newberg-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 Andrew Newberg: First of all, for me, it is what I like to refer to as a two-way street. It is not just science looking at religion, it is not religion looking at science. It is both of them really looking at each other to help…

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Man in front of the universe with his arms raised

Physicist: If Humans Died Out, the Galaxy Might Lose All Meaning

Ahead of a big climate change conference, Brian Cox assesses the prospect of other habitable planets or their civilizations much more soberly than we often hear

Ahead of the big climate change conference COP 26 (31 Oct – 12 Nov 2021), physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox offers an ominous warning which also raises some questions. Speaking in connection with his new series, Universe, he presents a starkly different picture from much that we hear: Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster, Prof Brian Cox has warned leaders in the run-up to Cop26. Speaking at the launch of his new BBC Two series Universe, the physicist and presenter said that having spoken to the scientists around the world advising the show, he thought that humans and sentient life on Earth “might be a remarkable, naturally…

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Brick through Window.

15. Debate: How Can a Cause and Effect Occur at the Same Time?

In the broken window analogy, the brick becomes a cause simultaneously with the shattered glass becoming an effect

In the “Does God exist?” debate at Theology Unleashed between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), a questioner asks, are singularities really a part of science? Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of…

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One burning tea candle stands apart from a group of non-burning gray dark candles: concept of separation, estrangement, loneliness.

If Your Life Could Be Told in Five Photos — Sci-fi Saturday

A young woman accepts five key photos concerning a grandfather she never knew, taken at his death via a futurist technology

“Afterimages” (2020) by Cole Bacani (uploaded at DUST Sep 3, 2021, 11:58 min) In a world where your five most impactful memories print as Polaroids upon death, Sam learns about her estranged grandfather and reconciles her relationship with her mom. Review: “Upon death five photographs are orally printed; the five most memorable moments in the life of the departed.” The old man’s daughter and adult granddaughter sit, near tears, in the waiting room of an intensive care unit while the life support machine beeps in the background. The daughter wants to see the photos imprinted from a stick in granddad’s mouth while he is dying but the mother doesn’t want her to. In any event (this isn’t a spoiler; you…

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The stones in the water

Claim: “Spirituality” Circuit in the Brain Has Been Identified

Really? Is that even possible?

It’s a story like so many others: Researchers have “found” the brain circuits for spirituality: A new study led by investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital takes a new approach to mapping spirituality and religiosity and finds that spiritual acceptance can be localized to a specific brain circuit. This brain circuit is centered in the periaqueductal gray (PAG), a brainstem region that has been implicated in numerous functions, including fear conditioning, pain modulation, altruistic behaviors and unconditional love … “Our results suggest that spirituality and religiosity are rooted in fundamental, neurobiological dynamics and deeply woven into our neuro-fabric,” said corresponding author Michael Ferguson, PhD, a principal investigator in the Brigham’s Center for Brain Circuit Therapeutics. “We were astonished to find…