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InvisibleDiploidM
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Registered: 01/09/03
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Loc: Rabbit Hole
Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why
    #4530752 - 08/13/05 06:46 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Religion and other faith-based belief systems are widespread. Almost every culture and society has some flavor of creation mythology and God concept. The reason these ideas are so common is because they have a neurological (not mystical) origin.

First some neurology background:

One of the most ancient structures in the human brain is the amygdala buried deep inside the head in the temporal lobe of the brain. The amygdala gives rise to fear and aggression. When a lower animal wants something, it takes it through aggression triggered by the amygdala.

Humans and other higher vertebrates filter this aggression through the evolution of the cerebral cortex - the outer convoluted wrapper of the brain with a characteristic folded appearance. The cortex is where cooperation and consciousness occurs in vertebrates and where higher thinking and language occurs in humans. It is the cortex that allows wolves living in packs to cooperate and groups of humans to cooperate and in so doing, to become a successful species; where one animal could not hunt a larger animal, several cooperating could. Through mediation of the amygdala's aggression by the cortex's higher functions, humans form cooperative societies and other social structures that benefit us.

This theme of an ancient part of the brain mediated by a modern part of the brain is repeated in the Thalamus. The Thalamus is a sort of switch board that controls which neuron signals are emotionally salient and which are trivial. It's the Thalamus that brings to your conscious awareness the red light at the intersection in front of you while automatically filtering out the parked cars by the side of the road as irrelevant.

The Thalamus also regulates the intensity of the emotional response you have to events. For example, seeing a pretty flower is cause for a smile, but seeing a loved one die is cause for a much stronger response. Causing an appropriate emotional response to stimuli is one of the Thalamus' functions.

Without the Thalamus, our consciousness would be flooded with so much information and intense emotions that we would be unable to function, and this is exactly what happens in people with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

Now the beef:

When a patient with TLE has a seizure, they experience intense religious auras. They have the sensation that they are God or are being visited by God. They feel like they're one with the cosmos and often say things like "Finally, I see and understand everything". TLE seizures are runaway religious thoughts, and this ascribing enormous emotional significance to every minutia is essentially a religious experience.

In neurologically healthy people, these thoughts are regulated by the Thalamus; their religious thoughts and emotions are down-regulated to levels that allow them to function, but in patients with TLE, when the epileptic seizure occurs, the amygdala begins to fire off a cascade of signals indiscriminately. The nearby thalamus, also affected by the seizure, is unable to mediate and the result is a welling up of bizarre, inappropriate emotions about everything. A flower, or a fire hydrant, or a rock all seems as supremely important a parent or close friend and elicit inappropriate intense emotions that render the patient delusional and unable to function.

All this begs the question of why would evolution have given rise to these structures in our brain associated with religion. There is no definitive answer, but a reasonable explanation is that, like the structures that mediate aggression and give rise to cooperation thus lending to our success as a species, structures that predilect us toward belief in a supreme being contribute to the stability of society by way of fear of divine retribution.

This is evidenced by the way many religions have used our built-in neurological desire for a supreme being to control and subjugate us throughout history.

What do you think?


--------------------
Republican Values:

1) You can't get married to your spouse who is the same sex as you.
2) You can't have an abortion no matter how much you don't want a child.
3) You can't have a certain plant in your possession or you'll get locked up with a rapist and a murderer.

4) We need a smaller, less-intrusive government.


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Offlinedeff
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid] * 1
    #4530804 - 08/13/05 07:07 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

just because you can label something, does not mean you truly understand it

(nice well-written post and all, but seriously, neuroscience is nowhere near truly understanding the workings of the mind and of conscious experience. you can call TLE a delusional state, but that does not make it any less real relative to the observing consciousness. what I mean is, people can play objective observers all they want, but that too is a subjective game...)


--------------------



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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Registered: 04/07/05
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4530832 - 08/13/05 07:15 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

i really like your argument, but i wonder if religious experience might be simply similar to fear- a better word might be awe
?


--------------------
"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


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InvisibleDiploidM
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: deff]
    #4530837 - 08/13/05 07:17 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

neuroscience is nowhere near truly understanding the workings of the mind and of conscious experience

You're right, but it's important to note that neurological science is making steady progress and has already explained many experiences previously labled metaphysical.

just because you can label something, does not mean you truly understand it

Not understanding something is cause for saying "I don't know, period." but many people instead say "I don't know, so it must be mystical".

Eventually, neurological science will explain the whole show. The mystics will then, as they have in the past, take a step back with an irrelevant statement like "Well, we don't know where the universe came from" rather than admit that they were wrong (as they have been in the past).


--------------------
Republican Values:

1) You can't get married to your spouse who is the same sex as you.
2) You can't have an abortion no matter how much you don't want a child.
3) You can't have a certain plant in your possession or you'll get locked up with a rapist and a murderer.

4) We need a smaller, less-intrusive government.


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Invisiblebudsicle
s?igh?tsee?r

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 232
Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: deff]
    #4530840 - 08/13/05 07:17 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

ya, ofcourse religion and pretty much anything could be explained via science, but explaining the infinite complexity of our brain surrounding in solely material terms is awfully boring and lacking view

"All this begs the question of why would evolution have given rise to these structures in our brain associated with religion"
this begs the logical conclusion that obviously those structures were designed for experiencing religion


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Invisiblebudsicle
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: budsicle]
    #4530847 - 08/13/05 07:19 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

"The mystics will then, as they have in the past, take a step back with an irrelevant statement like "Well, we don't know where the universe came from" rather than admit that they were wrong (as they have been in the past). "

you miss the point that true mystics never claim that they are right though


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4530853 - 08/13/05 07:22 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

What do you think?

That I want a TLE.


--------------------



The proof is in the pudding.


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: budsicle]
    #4530876 - 08/13/05 07:32 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

you miss the point that true mystics never claim that they are right though




"no scotsman is a thief."
"but i know a thieving scotsman."
"aye, he's not a true scotsman."


--------------------
"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


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Invisiblebudsicle
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Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 232
Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4530881 - 08/13/05 07:34 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

i knew i shoulda left the "true" away.. sounds too biased, meh.

lets just say that the people ive considered "mystic" very rarely claim seriously that they were right about anything


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Invisiblevampirism
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4530887 - 08/13/05 07:39 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

lots of background for making a pretty big leap :

Quote:

There is no definitive answer, but a reasonable explanation is that, like the structures that mediate aggression and give rise to cooperation thus lending to our success as a species, structures that predilect us toward belief in a supreme being contribute to the stability of society by way of fear.




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OfflineOldWoodSpecter
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4530891 - 08/13/05 07:41 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

Diploid said:
Religion and other faith-based belief systems are widespread. Almost every culture and society has some flavor of creation mythology and God concept. The reason these ideas are so common is because they have a neurological (not mystical) origin.

First some neurology background:

One of the most ancient structures in the human brain is the amygdala buried deep inside the head in the temporal lobe of the brain. The amygdala gives rise to fear and aggression. When a lower animal wants something, it takes it through aggression triggered by the amygdala.

Humans and other higher vertebrates filter this aggression through the evolution of the cerebral cortex - the outer convoluted wrapper of the brain with a characteristic folded appearance. The cortex is where cooperation and consciousness occurs in vertebrates and where higher thinking and language occurs in humans. It is the cortex that allows wolves and humans to cooperate and in so doing, to become a successful species; where one animal could not hunt a larger animal, several cooperating could. Through mediation of the amygdala's aggression by the cortex's high functions, humans form cooperative societies and other social structures that benefit us.

This theme of an ancient part of the brain mediated by a modern part of the brain is repeated in the Thalamus. The Thalamus is a sort of switch board that controls which neuron signals are emotionally salient and which are trivial. It's the Thalamus that brings to your conscious awareness the red light at the intersection in front of you while automatically filtering out the parked cars by the side of the road.

The Thalamus also regulates the intensity of the emotional response you have to events. For example, seeing a pretty flower is cause for a smile, but seeing a loved one die is cause for a much stronger response. Causing an appropriate emotional response to stimuli is one of the Thalamus' functions.

Without the Thalamus, our consciousness would be flooded with so much information and intense emotions that we would be unable to function, and this is exactly what happens in people with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

Now the beef:

When a patient with TLE has a seizure, they experience intense religious auras. They have the sensation that they are God or are being visited by God. They feel like they're one with the cosmos and often say things like "Finally, I see and understand everything". TLE seizures are runaway religious thoughts, and this ascribing enormous emotional significance to every minutia is essentially a religious experience.

In neurologically healthy people, these thoughts are regulated by the Thalamus; their religious thoughts and emotions are down-regulated to levels that allow them to function, but in patients with TLE, when the epileptic seizure occurs, the amygdala begins to fire off a cascade of signals indiscriminately. The nearby thalamus, also affected by the seizure, is unable to mediate and the result is a welling up of bizarre, inappropriate emotions about everything. A flower, or a fire hydrant, or a rock all seems as supremely important a parent or close friend and elicit inappropriate intense emotions that render the patient delusional and unable to function.

All this begs the question of why would evolution have given rise to these structures in our brain associated with religion. There is no definitive answer, but a reasonable explanation is that, like the structures that mediate aggression and give rise to cooperation thus lending to our success as a species, structures that predilect us toward belief in a supreme being contribute to the stability of society by way of fear.

This is evidenced by the way many religions have used our built-in neurological desire for a supreme being to control and subjugate us throughout history.

What do you think?





If anything, such neurological systems speak in favour of religion.
They must have some purpuse.


--------------------
I descend upon your earth from the skies
I command your very souls you unbelievers
Bring before me what is mine


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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: OldWoodSpecter]
    #4530901 - 08/13/05 07:44 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

If anything, such neurological systems speak in favour of religion.
They must have some purpuse.




perhaps their existence speaks in favour of the historic evolutionary usefulness of religion


--------------------
"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


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InvisibleHuehuecoyotl
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4530935 - 08/13/05 08:08 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Diploid:
That is a very good post. It was well thought out and presented. It is well known that a religious experience is chemically based. We are organisms so everything we perceive is chemical in nature. I do, however, believe in the validity of spiritual experience. Without an interface we could not experience anything...our interface is chemical. That does not take the wonder out of the experience. Everything we perceive has to be filtered through this interface. That a spiritual interface exists indicates that it is meant to fulfill a useful function as do all of the other processes of our body. It is also not beyond the realm of belief that a neurological disorder would cause this process to malfunction.
Crunchytoast:
Good point


--------------------
"A warrior is a hunter. He calculates everything. That's control. Once his calculations are over, he acts. He lets go. That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or against his better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and he survives in the best of all possible fashions." ― Carlos Castaneda


Edited by Huehuecoyotl (08/13/05 08:15 PM)


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OfflineOldWoodSpecter
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: crunchytoast]
    #4530943 - 08/13/05 08:14 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

since when was biology so indirect?

If biology wants you to have sex, then it gives you the urge to do it, if it wants you to escape death, it makes you afraid of death etc.

but installing abstract concepts in your head of whatever reason??

For example, if biology wanted you to feel good about your death, then it would simply make you feel good about it like it does with everything else.

This is just not how evolution works, or at least not how it has been shown to work.

If there is some mechanism for religious experiences, it has to have a direct use.


--------------------
I descend upon your earth from the skies
I command your very souls you unbelievers
Bring before me what is mine


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InvisibleDiploidM
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Registered: 01/09/03
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: OldWoodSpecter]
    #4531017 - 08/13/05 08:57 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

If there is some mechanism for religious experiences, it has to have a direct use.

Its usefulness is in how it contributes to the stability of society and the spread of the species. Anything that makes the species more successful adds to a positive feedback evolutionary mechanism.

For example, belief in a supreme being inhibits people from committing murder for fear of going to hell. Without this inhibition, society would fall apart and we would never have achieved all that we have.


--------------------
Republican Values:

1) You can't get married to your spouse who is the same sex as you.
2) You can't have an abortion no matter how much you don't want a child.
3) You can't have a certain plant in your possession or you'll get locked up with a rapist and a murderer.

4) We need a smaller, less-intrusive government.


Post Extras: Print Post  Remind Me! Notify Moderator
Offlinedeff
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Huehuecoyotl]
    #4531025 - 08/13/05 08:59 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

nice post hue, my thoughts exactly :smile:


--------------------



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Offlinedeff
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: deff]
    #4531031 - 08/13/05 09:01 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

"For example, belief in a supreme being inhibits people from committing murder for fear of going to hell. Without this inhibition, society would fall apart and we would never have achieved all that we have."

I think that is more in line of church dogma and teachings, man made concepts used purely for population control and 'domestication'.

The religious experience described in your original post though doesn't seem to be linked to dogmatic moral principles but rather a mystical understanding and appreciation of existence.

I dunno.


--------------------



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Offlinecrunchytoast
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4531112 - 08/13/05 09:42 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

Its usefulness is in how it contributes to the stability of society and the spread of the species. Anything that makes the species more successful adds to a positive feedback evolutionary mechanism.

For example, belief in a supreme being inhibits people from committing murder for fear of going to hell. Without this inhibition, society would fall apart and we would never have achieved all that we have.




this is definately a valid theory IMO.

here is another theory: religious experience provides humans with the possibility of understanding love on a deeper level, and love itself provides an evolutionary advantage.


--------------------
"consensus on the nature of equilibrium is usually established by periodic conflict." -henry kissinger


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OfflineOldWoodSpecter
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4531127 - 08/13/05 09:48 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

Quote:

Diploid said:
If there is some mechanism for religious experiences, it has to have a direct use.

Its usefulness is in how it contributes to the stability of society and the spread of the species. Anything that makes the species more successful adds to a positive feedback evolutionary mechanism.

For example, belief in a supreme being inhibits people from committing murder for fear of going to hell. Without this inhibition, society would fall apart and we would never have achieved all that we have.




I know the use of it. I'm saying that if evolution wanted to make us not kill each other, it would simply do it.
urges work in a direct way. when you NEED to do some action, you simply feel you need to do it, no philosophy there. It's direct.

If evolution would want you to behave in a certain way it would simply make you feel the unexplained urge to do it, like everything else

this is how humans use tricks, evolution does not have a mind to plan tricks like that, it works direct. In order to make you do something, it makes you a wish to do it.


--------------------
I descend upon your earth from the skies
I command your very souls you unbelievers
Bring before me what is mine


Edited by OldWoodSpecter (08/13/05 09:51 PM)


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InvisibleSwami
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Re: Theists Outnumber Atheists - Lemme Tell You Why [Re: Diploid]
    #4531133 - 08/13/05 09:50 PM (12 years, 4 months ago)

For example, belief in a supreme being inhibits people from committing murder for fear of going to hell.

False. The murder rate between theists and atheists is nearly identical and that is excusing religious wars and such.

You are overlooking the human mind's capability to rationalize ANY action whatsoever.


--------------------



The proof is in the pudding.


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