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Irrefragable Truth

I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion.
~ Spinoza

To this day the trifecta of human fear, ignorance and superstition remains unparalleled. Without adequate tools to assimilate knowledge, early humans evolved beliefs to deal with the unknown. No other set of ensuing attitudes have supplanted those irrational beliefs.

Competitively speaking, science is a latecomer. It got off to a slow start because it requires critical thinking. Science places a greater demand and reliance on "the little grey cells." Belief, on the other hand, is the path of least resistance for the lazy man who'd rather be told what to believe then think for themselves.

There exists a gulf that separates humanity; those who believe in life after death and those who do not. Is it possible that too many people who believe they have a place to go after they die have a callous regard for other living things? How can we expect to enjoy a healthy environment if most people believe they are in these temporary surroundings waiting to be transported to a better one?

It has to be that callous, selfish belief makes it possible for some people to be far less concerned with their earthly actions and the failure to take responsibility for those actions. After all, there are many Christians who assume that a paradise of sorts awaits them when they die.

Believers with their personal immortality have a Plan B. If this milieu doesn't work out for them they have their own little afterlife waiting for them. They depend on their Plan B, for above all, there are no death duties...

Science, regrettably so, has no Plan B. It's now or never. Failure to carry to carry humanity over the top comes with severe and lasting penalties.

This speaks plainly to the irrefragable fact that scientific disciplines and belief systems are not only incompatible but mutually-exclusive. You cannot roll the dice and get a three and a five in a single die. In the real world, life is not a game theory.

Vidda Crochetta

Also published:
Letter: Irrefragable truth
Posted Monday, May 23, 2017


Comments | 21

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Belief in an afterlife

I believe in life after death and I don't think I'm a callous mean person. I didn't use to believe that because I was raised in secular America. The concept of Heaven and Hell never made sense and it still doesn't ("Heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens...." - Talking Heads).

Anyway, at some point in my late 30s or early 40s, I started to shift. This is because I do believe based on evidence that I've experienced that there are other dimensions or non-physical planes that we sometimes come in contact with. If there are "places" where people can think and communicate and interact without their bodies then there's no reason why consciousness or spirit can't exist without a body, says me. I don't expect anyone to agree with me nor do I think I harm anyone by thinking these things myself.

One day almost 20 years ago I was standing in the back yard with my Dad who was starting to have Alzheimers. He said to me -- death is it, isn't it? "Out go the lights" is how he put it. I said, yeah, I used to believe that but I don't anymore. He seemed surprised, but I think also relieved. Going through the hell on earth that he had to go through for the next 7-8 years might have been eased by knowing that not everyone thinks that death is the final annihilation of one's being.

I've said this before, but what the hey -- if people feel better thinking there is more to life than the physical, material "reality" we all see before us, how is that a bad thing? Live and let live or live and let die.

The poet Billy Collins wrote in a poem called, appropriately enough, The Afterlife," that he thought each of us have the afterlife we believe in. If we think it's "out go the lights," then that will be our end. If we think we get heavenly repose, same dope. That's what you get. I doubt he meant that entirely seriously -- perhaps he, like me, was simply trying to pose an answer to the question raised above.

Life is hard and sometimes sad. I think we need all the tools we can get to get through it, even spiritual ones if we're so inclined.

As for irrefragable, I would say that applies to both sides of this equation -- neither can be proved or disproved without passing through that door and we won't know until we get there what's on the other side...


Comment as written to me by email

“Vidda, I don’t think you understand those with strong Christian belief….while I’m sure there are those who have callous disregard for the environment because it is not their “permanent home” or some such, there are many others who understand the earth was given to us to love and care for, and this is part of their faith and believing. In fact the hereafter is usually understood, by traditional Christians, as a time when you will have to face judgement over sin and misdeeds in life, and rewarded for unselfish acts…so can be a powerful motivator for doing good in, and for, the world. There is a third way, between unquestioning belief and scientific, rational pragmatism. That is belief founded on experience. This has been a path for those of all religions, to be sure, but is especially strong and emphasized in Buddhism. Pragmatic experimentation, on the level of mind can be very nourishing to belief. So, thanks, just needed to have my say in response to your well-written and thought-provoking letter.”

(Writer kept anonymous.)


Reformer Letter rebuttal to Irrefragable Truth

Letter: Not an 'either or' proposition
May 25, 2017
Editor of the Reformer

A recent letter ("Irrefragable truth," May 23) stated that there is a "vast gulf that separates humanity; those who believe in life after death and those who do not."

The letter writer goes on to equate Christianity and other religions with science denying beliefs. I am continually frustrated by people who confuse fundamentalist Christian beliefs with Christian beliefs. As a lay minister at St. Michael's Episcopal church (an open, loving, and inclusive church), and a retired scientist who still is engaged in and teaching medical research and is a strong environmentalist and absolutely a Christian, please do not fall into the trap that Christian Fundamentalists have espoused: that the only Christian is the fundamentalist who literally believes in Biblical interpretation and rejects science. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Belief in the afterlife is not, as the writer espouses, "the path of least resistance for the lazy man who'd rather be told what to believe than think for themselves." One can believe devoutly in God and accept the reality of science as well. Science is not a belief system. I am a member of Mensa, and my "little grey cells" are quite active, thank you. I join with my brothers and sisters of many faiths, including Jews, Muslims, many other Christian varieties, Pagans, and many others who believe in God or Goddess and also acknowledge the reality of science.

Let's not make an either/or conflict where none exists. That falls into the hands of those who wish to divide, and not unite.

Devin J. Starlanyl,


"Life goes on, but death goes further…"

“ It would be especially comforting to believe that I have the answer to the question, What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that’s that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness, persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?
I am very much out of my element here. There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, "I felt at one with the divine source of creation." I had to fight the urge to push back my chair and start screaming: STAND BACK! ALL OF YOU! I'VE GOT AN ARTHUR FINDLAY BOX CUTTER! Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.”

~ Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife


Itchy and Scratchy

We all have an itch we can't stop scratching. When I read these posts of your's in this vein, I always think of the internet joke: "it's not a bug, it’s a feature." We’re obviously hardwired for storytelling. And there’s no doubt a ‘need’ to envision someplace better. The notion that that better place can be here is elusive.

When an adult explains Christmas to a small child and tells them all about Santa, all the time knowing it's a mythscape, while at the same time not examining their solid belief in the Birthday of Christ, Savior, water-walker extraordinaire, etc…. one has to wonder about cognitive blindspots.

When I read about the prevalence of depression, and how science is racing for better drugs to deal with the epidemic, while not addressing that phenomena as result of prevailing conditions (and maybe more energy should be focused on fixing that). It’s a similar disconnect.

It’d be great to quantify your premise, seeing to what degree belief in an afterlife offering a get-out-of-jail-free card, for those who have ‘accepted the Lord’, allows thoughtless behavior. Not sure how that could be done.

I just finished the sequel to Sapiens, by Yuval Harari, this one is called ‘Homo Deus’. Godlike Man. He tackles questions of widespread animal abuse, cheating death, and AI gone wild, but mostly the book unfolds from the fact that we still don’t know what consciousness is. That’s an itch we would do well to collectively scratch.


Cognitive blindspots - something for nothing

Spinoza question:
"It’d be great to quantify your premise, seeing to what degree belief in an afterlife offering a get-out-of-jail-free card, for those who have ‘accepted the Lord’, allows thoughtless behavior. Not sure how that could be done."

Vidda reply:
In many philosophical discussions I’ve asked numerous people the question: If you could have an afterlife to your liking, but you cannot have a god along with it, would you still take the afterlife?

Everyone said, Yes. So much for those who have ‘accepted the Lord.’

Psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University said in March 2016, "It was interesting that fewer people believed in god, participated in religion or prayed, but more believed in an afterlife. It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality - thinking you can get something for nothing."

In order to quantify the premise that belief-dependency “allows thoughtless behavior,” you could start with the assumption that belief in an afterlife (with or without god) is widespread, then, you cannot ignore the (irrefragable) fact that they are the majority party of humans who negatively impact this planet. If you also assume that nonbelievers are in the minority, their negative impact, by the numbers, must be far less than the majority of believers.

The question of whether belief in life after death has a quantifiable method to establish cause and effect that leads to a believer’s callous regard for other living things, the answer is no.

But the measure of pollution, loss of habitat, climate change and other environmental problems is blamed on humans by many people. It’s not difficult to extrapolate that if the majority of those humans are believers, then believers, as Dr. Twenge notes above, are “part of a growing entitlement mentality - thinking you can get something for nothing."

And, therefore, believers must bear the greater responsibility for the harm done.


Howling at the Moon

…the book (Homo Deus) unfolds from the fact that we still don’t know what consciousness is.

Consciousness is the evolutionary product of mammalian brains. When the brain of a mammal ceases, consciousness ceases to be for that individual mammal. Any attempt to take consciousness beyond a living, working brain is pure speculation. The external, so-called universal consciousness debate, (with or without quantum mechanics) is a human anthropomorphic invention, a possibly a form of human wishful thinking, related to the fear "feature" of desire for living beyond the dead body and brain. The human brain needs to be debugged from the documented features of fear, ignorance and superstition.

 An Evolutionary Innovation: The Origin of Consciousness
By Vidda | Fri, December 16 2016


Consciousness is not wireless technology

Email to me today:
All living things are "conscious", yes? [Some even think all matter wherever found is conscious, and pure energy itself may be conscious....i.e. AWARE.].The issue for us is SELF consciousness, I think. Yes? We "KNOW" we ourselves are objects and that we will die one day.....We can introspect....

Most or all living things can respond to external stimuli, but that is not what consciousness is. Only mammals with our hemispheric brains are confirmed creatures with active individualized consciousnesses. There is no evidence that consciousness exists anywhere else in the universe. Consciousness is not pure energy. It may be closer to electricity traveling through a wire.


Trip Wire

Your replies address where consciousness is rather than what. That may cover the main idea of your article, but I'm still wondering why we have such a propensity to treat each other with cruelty, and stink up our planet so badly.

The 'mammal only' idea seems to fall short, as examples like ravens solving complex puzzles, or turtles adapting their instinctive reproductive drives to shifting habitats, all indicate a more widespread distribution.

'Homo Deus' contains many discussions about emotional algorithms, downloading and uploading intelligence, etc...All loading mercury with a pitchfork as far as nailing what the phenomena of consciousness is.

The book is so persistent on this because of what is obviously on the horizon. Facebook is developing apps where we buy or like things wirelessly just by thought. Prosthestics are already in use that have brain control at a distance. Robots are in development that teach themselves to respond to body language.

Harari also stocks the book with many example of human cruelty to animals, fairly disgusting examples of how we treat other life forms in service to our needs. This lays the foundation for an understanding of how Artificially Intelligent forms may treat us, once their capacity to control our needs is mastered.


“Where consciousness is”

I did not express a “mammal only” idea except to say, “Only mammals with our hemispheric brains are confirmed creatures with active individualized consciousnesses.”

The broader animal kingdom, at least as specified as those with spinal columns (vertabrates), which includes humans, all of our mammal cousins, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians, the discussion consciousness is long established. But it is only confirmed in humans, and, because mammalian is a biological template that includes humans, many scientists take conscious in birds, etc., very seriously, primarily through observation. Scientists have had very limited success in “talking” to our mammalian cousins.

[At this point I do not generally deal with consciousness of invertebrate animals like, insects, spiders, worm, jellyfish, etc. As far as I know consciousness is not attributed to them because they lack a limbic cortex (the thinking brain), but if it is, that’s cool too.]

I have long thought and agree with Dr. Robert Berezin, author of “Psychotherapy of Character, the Play of Consciousness in the Theater of the Brain,” that “consciousness exists solely as a brain function that is created by the limbic cortex” or the limbic system in the brain.

You are right to say, “Prosthestics are already in use that have brain control at a distance.” But you left out that the prosthetics are using a “brain-computer interface”, see “BrainGate.” There is no consciousness interface without an artificial conduit (at least, as yet or as far as I know.)

I’m sure you’re right, I’m not surprised to learn that “Facebook is developing apps where we buy or like things wirelessly just by thought.” However, developing is different than having a confirmed workable prototype and wholesale individual FB user applications.

Again, I’m sure that you are right to say, “…how we treat other life forms in service to our needs. This lays the foundation for an understanding of how Artificially Intelligent forms may treat us, once their capacity to control our needs is mastered.” However, we are getting ahead of ourselves in either predicting or worrying about how AI intelligent forms will treat their creators (humans).

NEXT up: "What is consciousness?"



“What is consciousness?”

The most interesting thing about the question, “What is consciousness?” is the obviousness (transparency) of the answer. To illustrate consciousness the empirical science of the brain is complex but simply thinking to your self is not.

Consciousness is an individual brain’s unique internal and projected intangible feeling-being of a sense of self and their external surroundings.


A little bit off the top

While I appreciate you bringing Occam's razor to the question of consciousness, your reply seems overly reductive.

A few things jump out, asking for more clarification.

-We (mammals) are not exclusively individuals. We may be born and die alone, but we are of parents, who are of families, who are of tribes...so there is an inherent group consciousness that informs things. Just as the death of a cell within the body doesn't end the host's life..An individual's brain may not be a complete container.

See this in myriad forms...Spiders who spin webs...Ants who multitask..trees that adapt to changing weather.

This also brings up the question of consciousness of the Earth. Homeostatic mechanisms produce storms, quakes, etc..Are those manifestations of consciousness?

And taking the question to the android realm.. eg; If a robot equipped with facial recognition programming were to 'neutralize' certain instances in its data chain..and that act effects all sorts of real life things, do we treat that occurrence as a problem of consciousness?

'Membrains' are permeable, that is part of the puzzle.


A house of cards

All mammals (and birds) are in fact, solitary, exclusive individual organisms. We are not just born alone and die alone; we live alone as single units or entities. The fact that we are from and part of families or tribes does not imply we have group crossover or overlapping limbic cortex consciousnesses. If we are informed of things it is because of pre-learned information sharing. Without information sharing the consciousness of two individuals would have no idea of what the other was thinking.

You state, “Just as the death of a cell within the body doesn't end the host's life..An individual's brain may not be a complete container.”

Yet, the death of one cell cannot in anyway be compared with destruction (death) of the brain. Necrosis of one cell will not kill the body, but the death of the brain will. At that point, consciousness will cease to exist.

When you bring up the “question of consciousness of the Earth,” in this case via “Homeostatic mechanisms,” it falls more closely into a belief in panpsychism.
Just because an inanimate object or force has interactive relatedness with the environment, it does not suggest that the planet as a whole or in parts has sentience and consciousness. A mudslide has no consciousness.

(As far as permeable membranes as some sort of a puzzle, I was unable to see your point of reference.)

Your question of androids (robot) is really an as un-yet realization of anticipating artificial intelligence becoming self-aware and to think for themselves, to go beyond programmable tools. Consciousness is an evolutionary biological innovation and fairly recent phenomenon in animals and birds with brains. Non-biological machines built to support or self acquire consciousness that can alter its programs (to good effect or bad) is speculation that may or may not have any scientific validity. It’s no more than a fun exercise of fantasy.



The brain on a chip: Radical new 'memristors' work like neurons and could give robots a mind of their own

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3419801/The-brain-chip-Ra...


Mind and Matter

I remember a line from the Tao Te Ching that reads something like “Trying to control the world? I see you won’t succeed — the world is a spiritual vessel and cannot be controlled.” What has this to do with The Afterlife (cue heavenly music)? I have no idea but I think somehow it is related.

For instance, switching to the practice of medicine, why does the patient’s mood and beliefs about their health/care affect that patient’s medical outcome? Why should it matter what a person thinks? Isn’t a living human body just a well organized amalgamation biological elements and processes that runs itself independent of the content of one’s mind? If not, why not?


Tao Not Tao

(I’ll answer your comment before continuing with consciousness.)

The Lau Tzu quote you employ is probably better left to the realm of his poetry. I read some lines before and following the quote you use and there is no indication his intent is afterlife; indeed, he deals solidly with and in the now. Even in mentioning the words “spiritual world” he is describing the now.

In “switching to the practice of medicine” you are essentially describing the placebo effect. Because there is no physical connection to the “patient’s mood and beliefs” to getting better, the hit or miss of any resulting wellness is statistically insignificant.

However, it does “matter what a person thinks” who is a patient, not because they get better just by thinking but because a positive person might possibly use their medicine as directed and more effectively. It is largely the combination of the body and the medicine that improves ill health.


How about precognition?

Sure, it's possible that a person's outlook could affect their actions causing them to make better use of medical science and hence to be cured by medical science. But just to switch things up a little, here's a new thing to debunk...

Two days ago, I had a dream that something specific was going to happen to a specific person. (I'm protecting identities here, as you might imagine). Within 48 hours, the person I dreamed about called me to tell me that, just then, the specific thing I had dreamed about had happened. I had not talked to that person about the dream or even thought about it much --and then it happened.

Isn't that the oddest coincidence?


No better than chance

Yes. It is.


Mind Games

It'll be interesting to see what my subconscious mind comes up with next! Whatever it is, I'm sure it will be provocative.... ;)


I'm always glad when I catch

I'm always glad when I catch my two favorite intellectuals comment in the same article, spinoza (with small s) and Vidda.
The idea of believers bearing the greater responsibility for environmental harm done by humans is something I've never thouht of. Of course I'm not Vidda.


GOP rep: If climate change is real, God will 'take care of it'

Here's one good example of it: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/335886-gop-rep-on-climate-change-god-w...

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told constituents last week that he believes if climate change is a real problem, God can fix it.

“I believe there’s climate change,” Walberg said at a town hall last Friday in Coldwater, Mich., according to the Huffington Post, which obtained video of the exchange.

“I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I think there are cycles. Do I think that man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.

“Why do I believe that? Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

Walberg said during the town hall he doesn't expect everyone to agree with him on that view.

Trump, who doubts the science behind climate change, has already begun the process of reversing American climate policies.

Trump pulls U.S. from historic Paris climate agreement: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-to-announce-us-will-exit-p...


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