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Old 08-01-2014, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by LBrain View Post
oh boy, am the only one here that doesn't identify with anything? Call it existentialism if you want, but I understand there is some sort of definition for that too - so I can't be that. I fall into the 'none of the above' category. Basic human goodness cannot be learned or taught - what the turtle guy points out.
Ooooh, environment vs. heredity.

Brain, I'm kind of in a "not identifying with anything" phase myself right now, so you're not alone.

I would postulate that basic human goodness can be taught, just like many other social mores. If it can't, then how come child brides, female circumcision, and Honor killings are acceptable in some societies and not others?

If there was an "innate" human goodness, this would not happen.

If we move the discussion to our own society, how about cycles of crime and poverty, or the general lack of empathy creeping into our society? Personally, I have sought to teach my children to be empathetic, and stressed lessons such as "How would you feel if this was you". This is taught, not innate, and I see this everyday in kids who have been raised to believe the sun rises and sets out of their asses every day. Zero empathy.

Like all other animals, human beings will always biologically have their needs, wants and desires take precedence over others, unless taught differently.
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:14 AM
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I would agree that certain human are born with specific talents that are not taught. The Michaels Jordan's of the world were likely born with abilities. You can't teach everyone to play at that level.

But that's a far cry different to me than saying "basic human goodness can't be taught". Any sort of human goodness would be based on behaviors. Behaviors can be modified, except in some extreme cases.

Ps...sorry trach I see that you didn't use the word goodness, that was the brain.
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by SparkyMcSparky
This is taught, not innate, and I see this everyday in kids who have been raised to believe the sun rises and sets out of their asses every day. Zero empathy.
This is also done for individuals on the spectrum. My son has autism and has been directly taught how to be empathetic through a set of separate discrete skills, involving scenarios and social stories like what you mentioned, Sparky. Hard to say if he was born with or without empathy, but he was certainly born without the capacity to express it.
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:47 AM
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perhaps I misspoke (typed). Yes, character can be taught and innate human goodness is a given - assuming normal brain function.
There are people born evil - just as the MJ reference for ability - who will never change.
If I took Hitler away for a few months for therapy would he have come away with a different outlook on life? Maybe? Maybe not.
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Old 08-01-2014, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by LBrain
If I took Hitler away for a few months for therapy would he have come away with a different outlook on life? Maybe? Maybe not.
Agreed, but I believe he is of the small percentage I mentioned earlier, psychopath- born with a glitch. Again, I understand that to be about 1% of the population, and those aren't the people I'm asking about.

So brain, are you saying that you believe everyone is born with a basic human goodness?
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:00 AM
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no, I am not

I didn't read every post, I jumped in between, so if I talked out of context to what had previously been written - so solly,

this thread is getting a lot of mileage though...
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:11 AM
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No apologies necessary. I'm just picking brains here. I actually don't have a definitive stance on whether we are born with one true nature that is basically unchangeable. I tend to lean way toward no on this, but that doesn't mean I'm not taking in everyone's input. That's why I'm asking so many questions.
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:18 AM
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Actually the free and respectful discussion is very refreshing on an Internet board. Guess we all have something in common though.
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Old 08-01-2014, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by awuh1 View Post
Fair questions. Let me just say that I sincerely respect your skepticism. Believe me, I've been there and done that for a vast majority of my life. My beliefs were firmly grounded in empirical evidence. I did not wish to be bothered with "dogma and belief" (as you put it in your OP). Nothing short of the brief experience which I had one morning could have changed that. I've described it in detail here if anyone is interested. http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...xperience.html It was not my intention to inject of this experience into a discussion on this forum out of respect for the rules here. I'll let what I wrote there answer your questions. My interest in physics came only after this remarkable experience. You see, I don't believe in the "supernatural". I believe things can be explained. I just don't think that we are presently able to do this with our limited understandings. David Bohm, John Bell, Michael Talbot and several others are theoretically framing things that very strongly resonate with me. Empirical data is accumulating that's backing up this view. They are on to something. I know it. I don't have to believe it. I know it because I have experienced it. Perhaps when you initially asked for a discussion of "Science and scientific methods, critical thinking and healthy skepticism" you did not anticipate an interest that sprang from a personal experience. I guess that's quite understandable. I suspect my interest in physics and about how we have come to know and understand our physical world is coming from a very different place than most people who post here. My intention was not to make anyone uncomfortable, nor was it to impose my beliefs on anyone else. If you are currently like I was several years ago, nothing short of an experience like mine could change your mind anyway. I think I've said much more than I intended to initially. My apologies if I have offended anyone.
Wow, you and I are probably way more alike than you ever would ever believe. I too had a very similar experience to you. I wasn't always a pro active skeptic and I definitely wasn't always an atheist.
I never came at 12 step work, my GA meetings my therapy with any animosity, I was in it boots and all, if you said pray, I would be first with my head bowed. I did not have anger very much towards religion. I was for a while "the spiritual guy" in my meetings and forums and groups. I had experiences that felt amazing, where you walk around feeling connected and it kind of feels like the universe. I remember sitting not more than 5 years ago, with the evidence of my own experience confidently saying I JUST KNOW.

How did I become an atheist? Thats a story I will write tonight.
The last thing I want to do AWUH is upset you and change your experience. And I do regret to some extent my original response to your "I AM"
Post. Maybe this thread isn't the best place for your ideas, I will leave that up to you.
The thing with the personal experience you mentioned, of course I want to hear of everyones experiences, thats part of the point of the thread. One of the problems with my experiences like that, I imagined I was becoming open minded through the experience, like you have been thrust into a new way of thinking, for me there is something building up behind it an investment that takes the "spiritual experience" and makes it sacred, I tended to lock it in a jar and hold it close to my chest. This ultimately was close minded, everything I read, every spiritual book on my shelf, every audio book and podcast ended up being polish for my sacred jar. Its amazing how my brain works like this and how selective I became in my contemplation of my experience.
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Old 08-01-2014, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by SparkyMcSparky View Post
Very interesting thread all, though I admit the science part of it is a bit dry for me. I took physics and astrophysics in University, and although I found it interesting, knowing the amount that "x" gravitational force bends a beam of light wasn't all that personally relevant to myself. However, I did enjoy philosophy, where an intro class was the first time I found out that "Whoah?! You mean that I'm not supposed to blindly accept everything I've been taught, and actually exercise free will, empiricism, and logic in looking at the world?" Although these thoughts were unsettling, and I never managed to reconcile the free-will vs. determininsm argument with Christianity, I had still lived a fairly "Christian" life in the subsequent years. Kids were baptised, oldest was confirmed, fell back on faith when a child was lost, and hung the appropriate iconography around the house. Sought help from God with suspected mental illness and a drinking problem, and in all cases, received the same response. Nada. Now the definition of faith is that it is something you believe in the absence of empirical evidence. In science, these are called theories. In matters of the spirit, these are called religious belief. I have always had belief during my life, but have found this challenged somewhat as I go through the recovery process. Not to say one turns their back on "God" due to a lack of response. However, without a response, one does have a justification in becoming skeptical. And when one is sober, they have both the time and the clarity to contemplate spiritualism. Because, if belief and faith are not sufficient to sustain a path of soberness, how do they make an adequate foundation upon which one can live their life? I do work with some very intelligent people, many of them Christian, and one who has spent time in Bible School. Although not raised to be a skeptic, he does enjoy discussion of these matters, and the last few weeks, we have had some very in-depth discussion regarding Christianity and skepticism. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your belief system), the more research I do, the more I read, and the more I debate, the more I am becoming more secular in thought. For example, when we debate how empirical Christianity is, our discussions always go circular. Although I am given examples of "evidence" and "proof" to support Christianity, these "proofs" are sadly lacking. Why? Because all of the proofs themselves also require faith, as their authenticity is only valid through a lens of belief, not fact. The Bible supports Christianity: The oldest living fragment of a New Testament Bible verse dates to approximately 160 years after Jesus' death. To believe this is the inspired word of God requires a leap of faith. Read a German textbook from 1938 and you'll understand what I mean. Jesus fulfilled thousands of Old Testament prophesies: This tenet is based on the record of a book who's authorship is of question, which itself also requires acts of faith to believe. Adam and Eve, the Great Flood, etc. - the Old Testament itself is completely unverifiable. Any Talmudic scholar could set themselves up to fulfill Old Testament Prophesy. And the New Testament itself is also not independently verified. In other words, the "proof" also requires faith. Regardless, having this discussion with others now means I have a Gideon app on my iPhone, as I still can be saved. And the Christians who are in my life are having difficulty providing me with proof of their belief, exposing it for what it is, well, uh, belief. But they do want me to figure it out before I die and go to Hell. This is not to say that I am now secular or renouncing Christianity. I am also not going to start signing people up for the Deists or Atheists club. Instead, I have forced myself to look critically at my life (which includes the drinking), and am starting to think that if I choose to be a Christian, it is an act of faith, and can be justified in no other way. I have also found more comfort in the concept that this is it, one life, and then nada, versus the torn and conflicted person I had been. Between Biblical parables and the concepts of Heaven and Hell, the "afterlife" is a potentially scary and unknown place. When one already suffers from temporal crises, this can be a source of great stress. Plenty more to say, but this is probably enough for today.

Hey sparky I like the cut if your Jib, great contemplation and questioning

Just one thing on the "Now the definition of faith is that it is something you believe in the absence of empirical evidence. In science, these are called theories. In matters of the spirit, these are called religious belief" the word theory means something different in Science than everyday language here is a link that explains it.......

http://www.livescience.com/21491-wha...of-theory.html
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Old 08-01-2014, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by samseb5351 View Post
The last thing I want to do AWUH is upset you and change your experience.
No worries. My experience cannot be changed. Contempt prior to investigation does irritate me, but probably because it reminds me of my prior self. I look forward to reading your story.
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Old 08-01-2014, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by caboblanco View Post
...what about those who have had spiritual experiences? For them it's not blind...there are more of those people with these experiences then you might think..it's not something that comes up in everyday conversation..and if you want to refute such second hand experiences its just really denying something you have no experience with
When I get spiritual feelings, I don't presume to then impose those feelings on reality, so the feelings of awe and connectedness I experience while gazing at the stars has no impact on the Truth of the universe. Whatever that is. I love getting those spiritual feelings, but I see them as something very personal rather than something outside of me. In the same vein, I don't need to experience schizophrenia to comfortably discount the belief of schizophrenics who insist that demons (or whatever) talk to them. If I were to suddenly hear voices, I wouldn't change my mind and give credence to those who have experienced the same thing. I would check myself into a mental institution.

That last bit is tied my decision to quit drinking. When I started experiencing withdrawal symptoms that affected my perception of reality (i.e. when things would suddenly appear out of nowhere - I believe this effect came from my brain slowing down or something), I knew that I was done with alcohol. Even though I don't believe in a God or gods, there's a quote that always stuck with me - "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." In the case of my drinking, I felt that it was making me "crazy" and that really really bothered me because I value my mind a great deal. Luckily, in this particular case, I knew what was causing the madness and how I could stop it.
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Old 08-01-2014, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by LBrain View Post
perhaps I misspoke (typed). Yes, character can be taught and innate human goodness is a given - assuming normal brain function.
There are people born evil - just as the MJ reference for ability - who will never change.
If I took Hitler away for a few months for therapy would he have come away with a different outlook on life? Maybe? Maybe not.
there was a hell of a lot more people than just hitler who committed some of the worst crimes in hitlers army
were they just following orders ? where was the human decency ?
still today the german nation has to carry this shame of what there country did so its easy to single out hitler but what about the normal soldier who turns on the gas ?

was he evil ?
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Old 08-01-2014, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by desypete View Post
there was a hell of a lot more people than just hitler who committed some of the worst crimes in hitlers army
were they just following orders ? where was the human decency ?
still today the german nation has to carry this shame of what there country did so its easy to single out hitler but what about the normal soldier who turns on the gas ?

was he evil ?
I'm not going to defend the people who carried out Hitler's orders, but have you heard of the Milgram experiment?

Edit: Or the Stanford prison experiment?
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Old 08-01-2014, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by NightsWatch View Post
I'm not going to defend the people who carried out Hitler's orders, but have you heard of the Milgram experiment?

Edit: Or the Stanford prison experiment?
i have just had a quick google of the experiments you mentioned but fail to see what point your making ?
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Old 08-01-2014, 05:31 PM
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Well, I took off and worked all afternoon, lost my train of thought regarding this discussion, and am too tired to rebuild it. Maybe tomorrow after some rest and some cantaloupe and buttered toast.
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Old 08-01-2014, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by awuh1 View Post
No worries. My experience cannot be changed. Contempt prior to investigation does irritate me, but probably because it reminds me of my prior self. I look forward to reading your story.
The question I will ask then that maybe relevant to our discussion? Can the meaning behind your experience change? Are there other possibilities other than "unknown natural" causes? For example can the experience be better explained by brain chemistry and neuroscience? When you contemplate the experience what emotions are at play, would I be right if I said it was an experience where you kind of feel a low level connectedness, or perhaps even a feeling like a background very subtle vibration?

Sometimes in my life the most REAL I have ever felt is in the middle of these experiences, and while they are happening you can feel really awake almost hyper awake, everything can look connected and patterns appear, you notice things that previously escaped your gaze, there can even be moments where strange things happen that look like the universe is gifting you something or weird coincidences seem to happen or even prayers get answered.
These could be messages from an unknown source but they also could be psychological states with scientific explanations, like cognitive dissonance theory, remembering the hits and forgetting the misses or even evolutionary processes of a adapting human brain. I think by being awake, mindful and aware that life can be rich and robust and I try to practice that and recognize the emotional highs and lows that go along with that, but they are impermanent, they come and go.

I to get irritated by contempt prior to investigation, But what does that investigation entail??
Do we end up really contemplating opposing views or do we end up reading only things that affirm our beliefs? Do you think its possible our spiritual experiences and the feelings that go along with them are overriding our rational brains, that reality gets trumped by our need to feel good?
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Old 08-02-2014, 12:53 AM
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I will try to answer your questions and stay within the guidelines of the secular forum. At the same time I will try to keep the discussion relevant to your initial post concerning scientific method, scientism and critical thinking. I would suggest that as you read my response, you pay very close attention to your own thinking. It may be instructive.

Can the meaning behind your experience change? I'm not sure I understand the question precisely, but yes, I think that it can. The only way I can imagine that it would change, would be if I were to have another similar experience. You have to understand that the nature of the experience was so profound that I cannot now imagine how other "explanations" involving brain chemistry, psychological states etc. could even come close providing an "explanation". The psychological/neurological side of things is part of my formal training. I cannot imagine a satisfactory explanation using these methods... but I'm all ears.

"When you contemplate the experience what emotions are at play, would I be right if I said it was an experience where you kind of feel a low level connectedness, or perhaps even a feeling like a background very subtle vibration"? No. The experience was more of an IN YOUR FACE type of experience. There was nothing subtle about it. It was intense, and it was overwhelming. It left me with a sense of awe. It is something that is so very difficult to express. Our everyday experience provides no references.

One of the elements was direct information transfer but without words. This is the reason I have been drawn to the topic of near death experiences (NDEs). One of the elements that is commonly reported (by people who have temporarily entered a state of clinical death and returned) is communication which is direct and completely nonverbal. I can relate.

"I to get irritated by contempt prior to investigation". So let me ask. Have you made a judgment about the cause of my experience? (This is a rhetorical question by the way ) If not, I would say you are keeping an open mind.

But what does that investigation entail?? This is the best question of all IMO. I'm not sure if there is a one size fits all answer but I do have an opinion. I think that knowing the true nature of reality is probably the most profound question we can ask. We should approach it in that light, and with the diligence and open mindedness that it deservers. No less. The degree of that diligence and open mindedness will depend on the individual.

The problem for science, with experiences such as mine, is that conditions cannot be set up to replicate the experience. That does not mean that they do not exist, or that they are other than what they seem. Least of all does it mean that a materialistic explanation for them will always be sufficient.

By the same token I think people should subject their experiences to examination by whatever means possible. They should examine their beliefs and motivations for holding those beliefs, for there is quite possibly much more to learn by doing so.

Hell, I got a definitive answer and it seems like it was only the beginning of a learning curve.
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Old 08-02-2014, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by awuh1 View Post
I will try to answer your questions and stay within the guidelines of the secular forum. At the same time I will try to keep the discussion relevant to your initial post concerning scientific method, scientism and critical thinking. I would suggest that as you read my response, you pay very close attention to your own thinking. It may be instructive. Can the meaning behind your experience change? I'm not sure I understand the question precisely, but yes, I think that it can. The only way I can imagine that it would change, would be if I were to have another similar experience. You have to understand that the nature of the experience was so profound that I cannot now imagine how other "explanations" involving brain chemistry, psychological states etc. could even come close providing an "explanation". The psychological/neurological side of things is part of my formal training. I cannot imagine a satisfactory explanation using these methods... but I'm all ears. "When you contemplate the experience what emotions are at play, would I be right if I said it was an experience where you kind of feel a low level connectedness, or perhaps even a feeling like a background very subtle vibration"? No. The experience was more of an IN YOUR FACE type of experience. There was nothing subtle about it. It was intense, and it was overwhelming. It left me with a sense of awe. It is something that is so very difficult to express. Our everyday experience provides no references. One of the elements was direct information transfer but without words. This is the reason I have been drawn to the topic of near death experiences (NDEs). One of the elements that is commonly reported (by people who have temporarily entered a state of clinical death and returned) is communication which is direct and completely nonverbal. I can relate. "I to get irritated by contempt prior to investigation". So let me ask. Have you made a judgment about the cause of my experience? (This is a rhetorical question by the way ) If not, I would say you are keeping an open mind. But what does that investigation entail?? This is the best question of all IMO. I'm not sure if there is a one size fits all answer but I do have an opinion. I think that knowing the true nature of reality is probably the most profound question we can ask. We should approach it in that light, and with the diligence and open mindedness that it deservers. No less. The degree of that diligence and open mindedness will depend on the individual. The problem for science, with experiences such as mine, is that conditions cannot be set up to replicate the experience. That does not mean that they do not exist, or that they are other than what they seem. Least of all does it mean that a materialistic explanation for them will always be sufficient. By the same token I think people should subject their experiences to examination by whatever means possible. They should examine their beliefs and motivations for holding those beliefs, for there is quite possibly much more to learn by doing so. Hell, I got a definitive answer and it seems like it was only the beginning of a learning curve.
Thank you very much for your answers, now I am getting really interested.


You mentioned a couple of things and I was hoping you could expand a little.
When you mentioned for me to pay attention to my thinking in reading your responses it may be instructive? I am not sure really what you mean here can you expand on that a little? If I had to guess I think you mean, try and read the answers and set my own prejudice aside or my own pre-conceived ideas or judgements? If that is what you mean then I will really try. It is very true for me that sometimes the line between healthy skepticism and cynicism can be crossed, Gee sometimes without even knowing it.

You said the experience was "so profound" but you have no reference to explain it other than It was profound, was there any sudden thoughts come to your mind, was there any emotion like fear or deep love or something like that, did you sense anything with your senses? You mentioned its similar to descriptions of NDE,s "communication which is direct and completely nonverbal." What does that mean? I am not an expert by any means in NDE's are there some descriptions by others that may help me understand what the experience is like, what I have read is people definitely feel things, see things, hear things and even smell things and it is often reported as an out of body experience, Was it like that for you?
You mentioned you are trained in or your occupation involves psychology, Correct me if I am wrong, in your profession have you come across anybody who has had similar experiences.

I look forward to your answers and thanks again for the conversation.

I have had my head in this post and contemplation, I haven't had time to write my story of how I became an atheist, you may have to wait a few days for that.
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Old 08-02-2014, 07:03 AM
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what's the difference between a philosopher and a scientist?
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