Quotulatiousness

October 9, 2017

What does “predictive processing” have to do with religious experiences?

Filed under: Religion, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR linked to this article by Connor Wood, saying “This is the best job of synthesis/summary I’ve ever seen on the topic”:

The theory of predictive processing posits that much of the brain’s activity is geared toward building and correcting internal models using feedback from both the body and the environment. This goes for everything from basic motor acts, like reaching for a cup, to more complicated, higher-level experiences like taking part in a religious service.

For example, if you reach for a cup and saucer, your brain uses feed-forward models to generate internal simulations of the consequences of that motor action, and it uses feedback to correct those simulations if those predicted consequences don’t actually match what happens.

Say you’re on a cruise ship. The seas are rough and the ship is heaving to and fro, so your cup slides a few inches away on the table as you reach for it. The simulated prediction your brain had generated falls flat. Fortunately, you’re probably able to grasp the cup in its new position, because your brain uses that sensory feedback to hastily update its model of your body’s relationship to the room, including your table, cup, and saucer. It even incorporates the rhythmic seesawing of the ship into its models.

(Incidentally, this is part of why you get “sea legs” after you’ve been onboard a boat or ship for a few hours – your brain has learned to dynamically compensate for the constant, rhythmic rocking of the boat. Then, when you set foot back on dry land, your motor repertoire is still trying to match the rhythm of the waves, but there are no waves to match. So you feel wobbly, as the electro-chemical memory of the ocean sloshes around inside your nervous system, telling your brain to expect and compensate for a rhythmic rocking that isn’t there anymore.)

According to van Elk and Aleman, this cognitive process of constantly building and correcting models – or selectively failing to correct them – may explain a lot of what we call religious phenomena. How? A core feature of their model is that religious experiences emerge from changes in how the brain processes the external (or exteroceptive) versus the internal (or interoceptive) data that it receives.

For example, they describe intense experiences of personal prayer as resulting from more intense focus on interoceptive signals. Inward focus enables us to simulate the internal mental processes of other people, creating predictive models of what we would likely be feeling, or what plans we’d probably be hatching, if we were in their circumstances. So, when we’re highly focused on our own interoceptive signals, we may be more primed to attribute mental and emotional states to others – even imaginary or invisible others. In the prediction processing model, then, personal prayer – talking to God or gods – involves focusing so intently on our own internal experiences that we become easily able to attribute mental states, emotions, and desires to whatever divine being we (believe we) are engaging with.

Mystical experiences are another type of religious phenomenon, one that’s often characterized by feelings of expansiveness or loss of identification with one’s own ego or consciousness. In the predictive processing model, mystical experience – unlike personal prayer – is most likely to result from an increased attention to exteroceptive data. That is, the brain becomes focused on external sense data to the exclusion of internal information, and this absorption in external input actually decouples the brain’s self-understanding from its own bodily signals. As a result, one suddenly seems to exist outside of, or to transcend, the body.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonreligion/2017/09/predictive-processing-religion/#sxXKrZ2pPzXWMCUw.99

October 6, 2017

QotD: The likely transnational progressive endgame

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… if transnational progressivism actually succeeds in smothering liberal individualism, its reward will be to be put to the sword by some flavor of jihadi. Whether the eventual winners are Muslims or Mormons, the future is not going to look like the fuzzy multicultural ecotopia of modern left fantasy. The death of that dream is being written in European banlieus by angry Muslim youths under the light of burning cars.

In the banlieus and elsewhere, Islamist pressure makes it certain that sooner or later the West is going to vomit Stalin’s memes out of its body politic. The worst way would be through a reflex development of Western absolutism — Christian chauvinism, nativism and militarism melding into something like Francoite fascism. The self-panicking leftists who think they see that in today’s Republicans are comically wrong (as witnessed by the fact that they aren’t being systematically jailed and executed), but it is quite a plausible future for the demographically-collapsing nations of Europe.

The U.S., fortunately, is still on a demographic expansion wave and will be till at least 2050. But if the Islamists achieve their dream of nuking “crusader” cities, they’ll make crusaders out of the U.S., too. And this time, a West with a chauvinized America at its head would smite the Saracen with weapons that would destroy entire populations and fuse Mecca into glass. The horror of our victory would echo for a thousand years.

I remain more optimistic than this. I think there is still an excellent chance that the West can recover from suicidalism without going through a fevered fascist episode and waging a genocidal war. But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

The process won’t be pretty. But I fear that if the rest of us don’t hound the po-mo Left and its useful idiots out of public life with attack and ridicule and shunning, the hard Right will sooner or later get the power to do it by means that include a lot of killing. I don’t want to live in that future, and I don’t think any of my readers do, either. If we want to save a liberal, tolerant civilization for our children, we’d better get to work.

Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.

October 2, 2017

John Cleese: Political Correctness and Islam

Democracy In Name Only
Published on 11 Jan 2017

John Cleese speaks frankly about political correctness, the right to offend and Islam.

September 25, 2017

The Truth About Stonehenge – Anglophenia Ep 6

Filed under: Britain, History, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 26 Jun 2014

Siobhan Thompson follows up ‘One Woman, 17 British Accents’ with a video dispelling a commonly believed myth about Stonehenge.

And by the way, Stonehenge isn’t the only stone structure worth visiting in Britain: http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2014/06/impressive-british-stone-structures-arent-stonehenge/

Photos via AP Images.

September 23, 2017

Roger Scruton – On ‘Harry Potter’

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Conservatism Archive
Published on Sep 4, 2017

September 14, 2017

What Is The Funniest Language? – Stephen Fry’s Planet Word – BBC

Filed under: History, Humour, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 24 May 2015

Stephen Fry looks at what he thinks is the funniest language along with comedians Stewie Stone and Ari Teman. Taken from Fry’s Planet Word.

September 13, 2017

The Thirty Years War

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Nov 2014

http://www.tomrichey.net

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 (Thirty Years!) in the Holy Roman Empire. It began as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia, but grew to involve Denmark, Sweden, and France. After the French began helping Gustavus Adolphus, the Protestant king of Sweden, the lines became blurry and the war became more about the balance of power in Europe than about religion. The Peace of Westphalia paved the way for France to become the dominant power in Western Europe and for the permanent decline of the Holy Roman Empire as a political institution.

If you like this lecture, check out my other lectures for AP European History and Western Civilization!

August 27, 2017

NDP leadership hopeful says no government can tell a woman what to wear … except in Quebec

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The federal NDP have gotten themselves knotted up over Quebec-specific conflicts between their rhetoric and political reality in La Belle Province:

One wonders what Jack Layton would make of his party nowadays — of the trajectory it has taken since his untimely passing and of the battle to replace his successor, who seemed like such a good idea at the time. The party’s new support in Quebec had been by design: the 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration essentially argued Quebecers should be free to secede from Canada with a simple 50 per cent-plus-one-vote, and in the meantime offered them a seat at the table in a social-democratic government in Ottawa.

Alas, hitching your wagon to Quebec nationalists only works so long as the horse doesn’t spook. In recent years, Quebec’s politics has become more and more seized with “religious accommodations” in general, with Islam specifically, and with niqabs very specifically indeed. Such is the state of play that the Liberal government’s Bill 62 is considered moderate: it would ban providing and receiving public services with one’s face covered. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée won’t even say whether women in niqabs would be allowed to ride the bus.

This is something you might expect the left-most candidate to lead the left-most party in the House of Commons to oppose unambiguously. Niki Ashton’s campaign promises to end “the oppression of racialized communities,” tackle “Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and violence towards Indigenous peoples” and address “intersecting oppressions” as well.

But no. In a statement to Huffington Post this week, Ashton said “there is no justification where (sic) a government should tell a woman, or anyone, what they should wear and what they shouldn’t wear.”

“That being said…”

Those three words lit a match, and the tire fire is still burning. (Ashton was not available for an interview on Friday, according to her campaign.)

“There is a consensus in (sic) Quebec’s political leaders emerging on secularism,” the statement continued, “and the Canadian government should respect the will of Quebecers on this matter.” It must also “respect” the “widely different … place” religion has “held in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution.”

August 19, 2017

Baldwin IV – The Leper King of Jerusalem – IT’S HISTORY

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Jul 2017

On today’s episode on It’s History we take a brief look at Baldwin IV – the 12th century ruler of Jerusalem bound with an incurable disease. Suffering from leprosy Baldwin was known to charge into battle with his right hand paralyzed and yet managed to achieve victory. Learn more about this truly astounding figure!

August 14, 2017

QotD: Millenarianism, left and right

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Secularists and leftists enjoy sneering at conservative Christians who believe in the Rapture and other flavors of millenarianism. Reasonably so: it takes either a drooling idiot or somebody who has deliberately shut off most of his brain, reducing himself to an idiotically low level of critical thinking, to believe such things. The draw, of couse, is that each individual fundamentalist implicitly believes he will be among the saved — privileged to honk a great big I TOLD YOU SO! at all those sinners writhing in the lake of fire.

It is therefore more than a little amusing to notice how prone these ‘sophisticated’ critics are to their own forms of idiotic millenarianism.

Anybody remember Paul “Population Bomb” Ehrlich? This is the guy who predicted that megadeaths from global famine would be the defining feature of the 1970s. Or Jeremy Rifkin, the guy who told us all in 1986 that the Frostban bacterium engineered to protect plants against cold snaps would mess up the Earth’s climate? Or the brigade of self-panickers (Carl Sagan was briefly one of them) who warned us all back around 1980 that an impending Ice Age was about to destroy civilization? Or, hey — how about the ozone hole; remember when we were all going to die of UV-B-induced skin cancer?

It’s easy to laugh at those particular doom-mongers now; there has been plenty of time for their predictions to fail. But we have plenty of apocalypse merchants peddling equally silly scenarios, on equally thin evidence and bogus reasoning, today. And the same ‘sophisticated’ secularists who lapped up Paul Ehrlich’s nonsense are swaying to the Gospel shout of global warming and “peak oil” — just as self-hypnotized, and just as stone-stupid, as an Ozark Mountains cracker at a tent-revival meeting.

Rather than getting to gloat over sinners writhing in a lake of fire, the draw is getting to feel superior to capitalists and Republicans and Americans; they will all surely Get Theirs and starve in their SUVs when the Collapse Comes, while virtuous tree-hugging Birkenstock-wearers, being in a state of grace with Gaia, will retire to renewable-energy-powered communes and build scale models of Swedish socialism out of macrame supplies or something.

The hilarious part is how self-congratulatory the secularist millennarians are about their own superiority over the religious ones, when in fact the secondary gain from these two kinds of delusional system is identical.

Eric S. Raymond, “Peak Oil — A Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy for Secular Idiots”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-11-13.

August 11, 2017

QotD: The plight of Hindu widows

Filed under: India, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Some of the most conservative Hindus in India believe that a woman whose husband has died should no longer live because she failed to retain his soul. Rejected by their communities and abandoned by their loved ones, thousands of destitute women make their way to Vrindavan, a pilgrimage city about 100km south of Delhi that is home to more than 20,000 widows.

These women have no choice but to live in a vidhwa ashram (ashrams for widows) run by the government, private enterprises and NGOs. Clad in white, they know they will never return home and that this is where they’ll end their days.

Pascal Mannaerts, “Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide”, BBC Travel, 2016-09-13.

August 3, 2017

Not the Nine O’Clock News – Monty Python worshipers

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 21 Jan 2009

A sketch from the british series Not the nine o’clock news commenting on the controversy created by the Monty Python’s film – Life of Brian.

August 2, 2017

QotD: The fundamental problem of the Middle East

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Western media and intelligentsia don’t seem to have a clue that the issues in the Middle East are not related to competing political ideologies, but to competing religious tribalism.

The ongoing conflicts throughout the region, and in other parts of the world, are not about democracy versus monarchy; or fascism versus communism; or imperialism versus freedom. Or indeed any of the other childish ideologies Western journalists fell in love with during their undergraduate post-modernist deconstructionalist courses by failed ex-Trotsky’s, who simply can’t accept that the last century has proven how appalling and basically evil their over-simplistic ideologies are. (Yes Comrade Corbyn, that’s you and your gushing twitteratti I am slamming!)

In fact the problem in the Muslim world is that they are entering the third decade of the Muslim Civil War.

The Sunni’s and Shia’s are at about the point that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were at in Europe in the 1620’s to 30’s, and it is only going to get worse. That war was ideological, and paid very little attention to national boundaries. This one is the same. The Christian 30 Years War is about to be repeated in a Muslim civil war, and 30 years might be an optimistic number.

Interestingly the Christian’s split over 3 or four centuries, into Orthodox and Roman, then split again into Albigensian and Protestant etc. Eventually it got to the point, after 14 or 15 centuries of slow development, that major conflict broke out. Is it co-incidence that the Muslims have followed a similar path? Is it inevitable that after 14 or 15 centuries of existence, they too are having a major internal conflict? Or is it just that a century of renewed prosperity and development (largely brought on by Western intrusion into their secular affairs) has given them the semi-educated proto-middle class who traditionally stir up revolutionary stuff they don’t understand?

Whatever the reasons, stupid Westerners are eventually going to have to admit to a few realities:

  1. No matter how much you fantasise about the functionality of republics and democracy, you can’t impose systems that don’t work in places that don’t have the necessary pre-requisites.
  2. No matter how much literacy or free press you do manage to push in, you can’t impose rule of law and understanding of natural law on societies that have very specifically rejected such concepts for 8 or 9 centuries.
  3. No matter how much your secularist ideologies (developed from safely behind 2 millennia of Christian teaching that accepts rule of law and natural law) is offended, you cannot expect a similar acceptance from people whose cultural development of such beliefs is several centuries behind the West.
  4. No matter what you want to believe, the Muslim civil war is happening.

Let’s hope we really are at least half way through the 30 years…

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 31, 2017

Byzantine religion – not a joking matter

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

When Tamara Keel isn’t talking about guns, she apparently relaxes by talking about Byzantine history:

Court of Emperor Justinian with (right) archbishop Maximian and (left) court officials and Praetorian Guards; Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The dark-haired bearded man to Justinian’s right is believed to be Belisarius. (via Wikimedia)

So, this Maximus dude was a bureaucrat in the Byzantine Empire who apparently had religion as a hobby, as did everybody in Constantinople back then. All the Byzantines did was watch chariot races, debate arcane theological matters, and riot and/or kill each other over differences of opinion on chariot races or arcane theological matters. (Oh, and they engaged in so much intra-governmental intrigue that they went in the dictionary for it.)

At some point, Maximus dropped out of government service and took up religion as a full-time occupation, leaving the city of Constantinople for a monastery in Anatolia. Skipping town ahead of the invading Persians, he landed in Carthage, in Eastern Roman hands for the nonce, thanks to Justinian and Belisarius’s ruinously expensive Mediterranean campaigns.

The big argument in the Church (there was just the one, back then) at the time was between guys who thought Jesus had two natures, human and divine, but only one divine will, and other guys who thought that Jesus had not only two natures, but also a human will and a divine will. Seriously. This was a very big deal and dudes were killing each other over it.

Well, the first view, Monothelitism, was the official view at the time, but Maximus was a believer in the second, or Dyothelitism. And he and the new Pope, Martin I, called a religious council in Rome to debate on the matter without bothering to ask the Emperor. When the council turned out a Dyotheletic verdict, Emperor Constans II (a Monotheletist) had both Pope Martin I and Maximus arrested.

The Pope got de-Poped and banished to the Crimea, where he died. Maximus was tried and sentenced to exile. However, he would not shut up about Dyothelitism and wound up having a great big show trial a few years later, following which he got his tongue cut out and his right hand cut off so he couldn’t tell people that Jesus had two wills anymore or even write it very legibly. Then he got banished to Georgia. (The one on the Black Sea, not the one you drive through on the way to Florida.)

He died in exile there in 662 AD. Nineteen years later, at the Third Council of Constantinople, the Church (still just the one) decided that maybe Jesus did have two wills after all. Maximus received a posthumous pardon, sort of a more official version of “Whoops! Hey, sorry about the tongue and the hand and the whole exile-and-dying-in-prison thing. No hard feelings, okay? Here, have a feast day.”

I told you they took their religion seriously in Constantinople, didn’t I?

July 25, 2017

The Greatest Scientist of the 20th Century You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Filed under: History, Religion, Science, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 Jul 2017

There’s a perception that religion and science go together about as well as mayonnaise and marshmallows. In some instances, this is, perhaps, true. But on a typically warm Southern California January in 1933 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California (the same place and same time that Jack Parsons of rocket science fame was doing his experiments — history intersecting!), religion and science proved that these two ideals didn’t have to be enemies.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/02/georges-lemaitre-greatest-scientist-youve-never-heard/

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress