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Old 07-17-2009, 03:31 AM   #1
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The God choice - USA Today Op-Ed

Interesting...

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/...od-choice.html

The God choice
By Barbara Bradley Hagerty

A few years ago, I witnessed two great British scientists in a showdown. Nine other journalists and I were on a Templeton fellowship at Cambridge University, and on this particular morning, the guest speaker was John Barrow. Almost as an aside to his talk, the Cambridge mathematician asserted that the astonishing precision of the universe was evidence for "divine action." At that, Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist and famous atheist, nearly leapt from his seat.


"But why would you want to look for evidence of divine action?" demanded Dawkins.

"For the same reason someone might not want to," Barrow responded with a little smile.

In that instant, I thought, there it is. God is a choice. You can look at the evidence and see life unfolding as a wholly material process, or you can see the hand of God.

For the past century, science has largely discarded "God" as a delusion and proclaimed that all our "spiritual" moments, events, thoughts, even free will, can be explained through material means.

But a revolution is occurring in science. It is called neurotheology, and it is sparked by researchers from universities such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and UCLA. Armed with technology Freud never dreamed of, these scientists are peering into the brain to understand spiritual experience. Perhaps, they say, God is not a figment of our brain chemistry; perhaps the brain chemistry reflects an encounter with the divine.

An awakening, of sorts

This dichotomy — Is He or isn't He? — nicely locates in Jeff Schimmel's brain. Jeff is a writer in Hollywood. He was raised Jewish but never believed in God, nor did he have any interest in spirituality — until a few years ago, when he had a benign tumor removed from his left temporal lobe. The surgery was a snap. But soon after that, unknown to him, he began to suffer miniseizures. He started hearing conversations and having visions. He remembers lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling and seeing a swirl of colors that gradually settled into a shape. Suddenly, it dawned on him that it was the Virgin Mary.

"Why would the Virgin Mary appear to me, a Jewish guy?" he told me. "She could do much better."

Jeff also became fascinated with spirituality. Eventually, he became a devout Buddhist. He wondered whether his new outlook could have anything to do with his brain. On the next visit to his neurologist, he asked to see his most recent MRI. His temporal lobe had become smaller, a different shape, covered with scar tissue. Those changes had sparked electrical firings in his brain. Jeff's doctor told him he had developed temporal lobe epilepsy. His newfound faith and love for his fellow man came from his brain.

Nonetheless, I wondered: Are transcendent experiences — not only Schimmel's, but also those of mystics down the ages — merely a physiological event? Or does the brain activity reflect an encounter with another dimension?

How you come down on this issue depends on whether you think of the brain as a CD player or a radio. Most people who believe that everything is explainable through material processes think that the brain is like a CD player. The content — the song, or in our analogy, God — is all playing in a closed system. If you take a hammer to the machine, the song does not play; if you surgically remove parts of the temporal lobe, "God" disappears. In this view, there is no "God" outside the brain trying to communicate; all spiritual experience is inside the brain.

But suppose the brain is not a CD player. Suppose it is a radio. In this analogy, everyone possesses the neural equipment to receive the radio program in varying degrees. Some have the volume turned low (Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens appear to have hit the mute button). Other people hear their favorite programs every now and again, as do most of us who have brief transcendent moments. In this model, the "sender" is separate from the receiver. The content of the transmission does not originate in the brain, any more than Rush Limbaugh or the hosts ofAll Things Considered are sitting in your radio. If you destroy the radio, you cannot hear your favorite program. But the program is still transmitting. In this model, God's communications never stop —even when the brain is altered, or stops functioning.

The Pam Reynolds case

This brings us to the puzzling case of Pam Reynolds — and one of the fiercest debates in science today: the nature of consciousness. In 1991, Reynolds was found to have an aneurism on her brain stem. Faced with a ticking time bomb, she opted for an experimental operation called a "cardiac standstill." The surgeons put her under anesthesia, taped her eyes shut and put molded speakers in her ears that emitted loud clicks, about as loud as a jet plane taking off. When her brain no longer responded to those clicks, the surgeons lowered her body temperature to 60 degrees and drained the blood out of her head, like draining oil from the engine of a car. The aneurism sac collapsed for lack of blood. The surgeons drilled into her skull, snipped the aneurism and sewed it up, and then reintroduced the blood into her body.

Finally, they raised her body temperature and brought her back to consciousness.

When Reynolds awakened, she had a story to tell. She said she floated upward and watched part of the operation. She could describe what the operating theater looked like and how many surgeons there were. She could describe the unusual-looking bone saw that cut open her head, as well as the drill bits and blade container. She heard conversations, including one in which a female surgeon observed that Reynolds' left femoral vein was too small for a tube, to which the chief neurosurgeon responded, "Try the right side."

Records from the surgery confirmed all these details. Reynolds' neurosurgeon says he is flummoxed by the episode: "From a scientific perspective," he told me, "I have absolutely no explanation about how it could have happened."

Her story raises the question: Was Reynolds' consciousness operating separately from her brain?

Reynolds' experience — and that of many others — is prompting researchers at institutions such as the University of Montreal and the University of Virginia to investigate the astonishing proposition that a person might have a consciousness — or (gasp) a soul — that can operate when the brain is off-line.

In the end, we could learn that we are nothing more than nerve cells and molecules. But it is too early for believers to raise the white flag. It is just as plausible —indeed, more elegant — to believe that our brain activity reflects an unseen reality. Perhaps our brains are reflecting an encounter with the divine — unseen, surely, but still real.

Science can't referee that question. Either way, whether you are Richard Dawkins or doctor and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, what you believe is a matter of faith. Given the choice, I opt for God.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, the religion correspondent for NPR, is the author of Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality.
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Old 07-17-2009, 05:12 AM   #2
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What one believes does not dictate how reality operates, and I hardly see how cartesian dualism is more elegant than materialist explanations of mind.
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:48 AM   #3
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There apparently are many beliefs as to which 'God' is the Divine creator and the one in control. The only one that adds up is God of the Christian Bible...which has a very precise detail of creation and what our purpose is on earth and why things are not perfect as they once were. Just after creation Sin entered the world, yep the word that most poeple try to hide from or delete from dictionaries and common language. its what seperates us from God and caused the downfall of mankind, sadness, pain, suffering, you name that is why it happens. All due to Sin.
The only way out is through his Son whom he sent, believe in him and be forgiven of these sins and eternal life you shall have. The only eternal life! the only other alternative is eternal death. While we are still here, our purpose is to tell others of this great truth and live a life that shows the love of God through us to other poeple.

So poeple like Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin who choose hate God and do their best to defy him misuse the wonderful world of science to corrupt society with lies and deciet... all of which cannot and never will be proven as fact, yet society accepts it all as truth, why? becuase society wants to hide from God.

Why did Charles Darwin change from being a follower of God to his greatest human enemy? Well tragically his daughter died and he blamed God... and so all he wanted was revenge on God.. and so he did.
Dawkins? well he's disabled and has many physical problems and obviously wants revenge on God also. He's gone crazy lately with all his theries, evolutionists are even disowning him now he's gone so far down the aithiest path, all he wants to do is defy God.
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:51 AM   #4
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"greatest human enemy"? Wow...
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Old 07-17-2009, 08:57 AM   #5
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I am quite interested in these kinds of questions, both for its implications on science (which I don't see this as being a threat to), and also its implications on religion, as many of these "near-death" spiritual experiences, while strongly supportive of the idea of God, are also strongly critical of the rigid interpretation of God many religious conservatives hold.

Ultimately, the true nature of God, if proven to exist, would likely disappoint materialists and fundamentalists alike.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:03 AM   #6
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Why did Charles Darwin change from being a follower of God to his greatest human enemy? Well tragically his daughter died and he blamed God... and so all he wanted was revenge on God.. and so he did.
What preposterousness.
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Old 07-17-2009, 09:36 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by stagman View Post
There apparently are many beliefs as to which 'God' is the Divine creator and the one in control. The only one that adds up is God of the Christian Bible...which has a very precise detail of creation and what our purpose is on earth and why things are not perfect as they once were. Just after creation Sin entered the world, yep the word that most poeple try to hide from or delete from dictionaries and common language. its what seperates us from God and caused the downfall of mankind, sadness, pain, suffering, you name that is why it happens. All due to Sin.
The only way out is through his Son whom he sent, believe in him and be forgiven of these sins and eternal life you shall have. The only eternal life! the only other alternative is eternal death. While we are still here, our purpose is to tell others of this great truth and live a life that shows the love of God through us to other poeple.

So poeple like Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin who choose hate God and do their best to defy him misuse the wonderful world of science to corrupt society with lies and deciet... all of which cannot and never will be proven as fact, yet society accepts it all as truth, why? becuase society wants to hide from God.

Why did Charles Darwin change from being a follower of God to his greatest human enemy? Well tragically his daughter died and he blamed God... and so all he wanted was revenge on God.. and so he did.
Dawkins? well he's disabled and has many physical problems and obviously wants revenge on God also. He's gone crazy lately with all his theries, evolutionists are even disowning him now he's gone so far down the aithiest path, all he wants to do is defy God.
Boy, really sucks if you believe something else then doesn't it?
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Old 07-17-2009, 10:10 AM   #8
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Boy, really sucks if you believe something else then doesn't it?
Really, all those poor bastards god sent to be born in the wrong place... Sentenced to eternal death with his greatest enemy Darwin.

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Old 07-17-2009, 10:32 AM   #9
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I'm sure it says it somewhere in the bible that there's some other set of rules for a child who dies in Africa before they can ever even know about Jesus.

Or they'll just guess
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Old 07-17-2009, 10:56 AM   #10
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I am quite interested in these kinds of questions, both for its implications on science (which I don't see this as being a threat to), and also its implications on religion, as many of these "near-death" spiritual experiences, while strongly supportive of the idea of God, are also strongly critical of the rigid interpretation of God many religious conservatives hold.

Ultimately, the true nature of God, if proven to exist, would likely disappoint materialists and fundamentalists alike.
Well said.

I'm really not sure what is so threatening about the idea that scientific discovery reveals rather than contradicts divinity. I find it fascinating and extraordinary.
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Old 07-17-2009, 11:09 AM   #11
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I think it threatens because it would probably mean a lot of people in high places with religion would lose a lot of their controls and power that they currently posses.

It would be very damaging to sit there and constantly tell people "This is the way, the only way" only to be proven completely wrong. Who would listen to them going forward?

Would it really make a difference, as if there was facts towards some divine being, wouldn't it just make life a lot easier to know?
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:33 PM   #12
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^ For church leadership definitely. I was thinking more of the rank and file.
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:47 PM   #13
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Dawkins? well he's disabled and has many physical problems and obviously wants revenge on God also.
apart from all the other ridiculousness in your post, do you even know who Richard Dawkins is???
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by stagman View Post
So poeple like Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin who choose hate God and do their best to defy him misuse the wonderful world of science to corrupt society with lies and deciet... all of which cannot and never will be proven as fact, yet society accepts it all as truth, why? becuase society wants to hide from God.
People like Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin don't "choose to hate" a god they do not believe in. Do you hate Vishnu? Perhaps Apollo? I personally have quite neutral feelings toward the tooth-fairy, in which I also do not believe.

It's interesting you mention that science cannot and never will be proven as a fact. It surprises me that a religious person who believes an incredibly elaborate tale with no evidence whatsoever simply because some people wrote it down a long time ago, demands flawless evidence for scientific theories that have been meticulously tested and that explain countless natural phenomena seen in the world today.

Of course, no amount of scientific evidence will ever get through to the fundie brain.

I might as well say "religious people accept religion as truth; why? Because they want to hide from science."
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:54 PM   #15
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what's really too bad is that one person has taken a thread with a very interesting start and totally derailed it in the name of in-your-face evangelism.

this happens a lot, everywhere.
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