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November 6th, 2012 Alex Tsakiris
Emails from Sam Harris reveal what he really thinks about parapsychology and Psi research.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for a discussion about his recent email correspondence with Dr. Sam Harris. During the discussion Harris’ opinions of Psi research and near-death experience research are discussed:
Alex Tsakiris: …I like when little nuggets of truth, like this, are revealed. Because if we just listen to Sam Harris’ public stance on Psi, on parapsychology, on Dean Radin, and Rupert Sheldrake, it’s all very open, very collaborative, very, ‘you go boys, let’s see what you got.’ But when you read this you see what he really thinks about Psi research. It’s in the “backwater” of science. That’s where is really is for Sam Harris.
…here he is equating near-death experience research to Psi research. Now, the only person who would do something like this is someone who knows very little about each. Even a rudimentary understand of the body of peer-reviewed NDE research should give Harris an appreciation for the larger neurological questions surrounding NDEs ( e.g. how can experiencers who have a wide variety of conditions, and even those who experience no medical trauma, have similar hyper-lucid transformative experiences?). Dr. Alexander’s account must be understood within the context of this work.
Full email exchange with Sam Harris
Email from Dr. Jan Holden
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October 30th, 2012 Alex Tsakiris
Interview with Dr. Victor Stenger about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith, and the science of consciousness and near-death experience.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with physicist, Atheist and author Dr. Victor Stenger about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. During the interview Stenger explains why he believes many parapsychologists, consciousness researchers and near-death experience researchers are charlatans:
Alex Tsakiris: As you mentioned, Stuart Hameroff is an anesthesiologist, so he may be crossing disciplines, but he’s also publishing with a Nobel Prize winner and some of the top people in the field.
But let’s move on from that a little bit because what I really wanted to get to with that is what is at stake for Atheism with this idea of consciousness being more than materialism? Mind being just the brain?
Dr. Victor Stenger: All the Atheists I know, that is those who are scientists and really understand the scientific method, will say, “You show me the evidence for something beyond matter, then we’ll believe it.” So we’re open to that. It’s not so much that we have any particular stake other than the stake of determining the truth as best as we can.
And that’s the problem. These people are charlatans to be claiming that there’s evidence for a quantum aspect of the mind. That’s just not true. Maybe they’ll find one someday. We’re open to that. But they just do not have the data to support that and they don’t have the theory to support that. And that’s the thing that’s so upsetting about it because they’re able to get away with this because they’re talking to audiences who are not aware of the science, who really don’t know the science.
Alex Tsakiris: You’re not saying Christof Koch is a charlatan? Or Stuart Hameroff is a charlatan? I assume, right? So who are the charlatans?
Dr. Victor Stenger: I know that I know Stanley Krippner, I know some of the other people that are on the list of people you’ve interviewed in the past. I saw your list and I’ll tell you they’re not part of any mainstream that I know of.
Alex Tsakiris: So do you think Stanley Krippner is a charlatan?
Dr. Victor Stenger: Absolutely.
Victor Stenger’s Website
Download MP3 (52 min.)
Today we welcome Dr. Victor Stenger to Skeptiko. Dr. Stenger is an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado but that’s really a second academic career for him. He’s also Professor Emeritus in Physics and Astronomy for the University of Hawaii. He’s also a very successful author, having published 11 books including the 2007 New York Times Bestseller, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, and his latest book, God and the Folly of Faith. Welcome to Skeptiko, Vic. Thanks so much for joining me.
Dr. Victor Stenger: I’m glad to be here.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. I’m looking forward to the discussion. Let’s give folks a little bit of a background on you. Quite an impressive academic career, well-respected in your field. Well published, known. But then you also have this parallel career as one of the founders, really, of this movement that’s come to be known as “New Atheism.” Take us through a little bit of that and in particular this interplay between your academic career and then how you got interested in the Atheist movement. And maybe along the way help people understand what a New Atheist is?
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October 16th, 2012 Alex Tsakiris
Review of the recent controversy over the Newsweek magazine cover story, Heaven is Real, and Sam Harris’ response to an invitation to debate Dr. Eben Alexander regarding his near-death experience.
Dr. Eben Alexander Responds to Sam Harris’ Blog Post
The following is from an exchange between Dr. Sam Harris and Dr. Eben Alexander regarding Sam Harris’ blog post, This Must be Heaven, and the possibility of Dr. Harris debating Dr. Alexander on Skeptiko:
Sam Harris: …There’s nothing to debate either. He can’t reasonably claim that the relevant parts of his brain (not just the cortex) were “completely shut down.” It’s just not a factual statement.
Eben Alexander: Of course, it was premature for him to speak out based on the Newsweek article — he needs to at least read the book if he wants to avoid making embarrassing statements that he later regrets. Isolated preservation of cortical regions might have explained some elements of my experience, but certainly not the overall odyssey of rich experiential tapestry. The severity of my meningitis and its refractoriness to therapy for a week should have eliminated all but the most rudimentary of conscious experiences: peripheral white blood cell [WBC] count over 27,000 per mm3, 31 percent bands with toxic granulations, CSF WBC count over 4,300 per mm3, CSF glucose down to 1.0 mg/dl (normally 60-80, may drop down to ~ 20 in severe meningitis), CSF protein 1,340 mg/dl, diffuse meningeal involvement and widespread blurring of the gray-white junction, diffuse edema, with associated brain abnormalities revealed on my enhanced CT scan, and neurological exams showing severe alterations in cortical function (from posturing to no response to noxious stimuli, florid papilledema, and dysfunction of extraocular motility [no doll's eyes, pupils fixed], indicative of brainstem damage). Going from symptom onset to coma within 3 hours is a very dire prognostic sign, conferring 90% mortality at the very beginning, which only worsened over the week. No physician who knows anything about meningitis will just “blow off” the fact that I was deathly ill in every sense of the word, and that my neocortex was absolutely hammered. Anyone who simply concludes that “since I did so well I could not have been that sick” is begging the question, and knows nothing whatsoever about severe bacterial meningitis.
I invite the skeptical doctors to show me a case remotely similar to mine. My physicians, and their consultants at UVA, Bowman Gray-Wake Forest, Duke, Harvard, Stanford and beyond were astonished that I recovered.
In an effort to explain the “ultra-reality” of the experience, I examined this hypothesis: Was it possible that networks of inhibitory neurons might have been predominantly affected, allowing for unusually high levels of activity among the excitatory neuronal networks to generate the apparent “ultra-reality” of my experience? One would expect meningitis to preferentially disturb the superficial cortex, possibly leaving deeper layers partially functional. The computing unit of the neocortex is the six-layered “functional column,” each with a lateral diameter of 0.2–0.3 mm. There is significant interwiring laterally to immediately adjacent columns in response to modulatory control signals that originate largely from subcortical regions (the thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem). Each functional column has a component at the surface (layers 1–3), so that meningitis effectively disrupts the function of each column just by damaging the surface layers of the cortex. The anatomical distribution of inhibitory and excitatory cells, which have a fairly balanced distribution within the six layers, does not support this hypothesis. Diffuse meningitis over the brain’s surface effectively disables the entire neocortex due to this columnar architecture. Full-thickness destruction is unnecessary for total functional disruption. Given the prolonged course of my poor neurological function (seven days) and the severity of my infection, it is unlikely that even deeper layers of the cortex were still functioning in more than isolated pockets of small networks.
The thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem are deeper brain structures (“subcortical regions”) that some colleagues postulated might have contributed to the processing of such hyperreal experiences. In fact, all agreed that none of those structures could play any such role without having at least some regions of the neocortex still functional. All agreed in the end that such subcortical structures alone could not have handled the intense neural calculations required for such a richly interactive experiential tapestry.
There are 9 hypotheses discussed in an appendix of my book that I derived based on conversations with colleagues. None of them explained the hyper-reality in any brain-based fashion.
Sam Harris: And even if I granted that his brain had been shut down — it’s not shut down now. And there is absolutely no way for him to establish (or even to subjectively know) that he didn’t have his experience as his brain was coming back online. End of debate, as far as I’m concerned.
Eben Alexander: Again, he needs to read the book. In fact, I know that my experience happened within coma because of certain anchors to earth time in memory. Of course the whole issue of how I remembered so much haunted me from the beginning — before my coma, I would have stated flatly that someone that sick would remember absolutely nothing. And I would have been totally wrong. Memory extends beyond physical brain and physical universe (again, clues from transpersonal psychology, which I knew nothing of before). And time flow in that realm is very different. I would advise the skeptics to contribute to a much broader understanding, instead of just trying to deny, if they’re up to the challenge.
To any skeptic who thinks he has explained my experience as brain-based, he then needs to address the non-local nature of consciousness ~ the broad clinical experience in transpersonal psychology (notably all of the past life clinical work, the reincarnation work from Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker at UVA; also very relevant in terms of how I remembered so much) and address the overwhelming tsunami of evidence of the phenomena of non-local consciousness in Irreducible Mind (edited by Ed Kelly et alia, 2007) and Consciousness Beyond Life (Pim van Lommel, 2009).
Per Dr. Harris’ here is the full email he sent to me:
Hi Alex –
Unfortunately, I’m too busy to consider it. I’m up against a book deadline — and really couldn’t afford the time I spent on that blog post, but I couldn’t seem to resist…
The truth is, there’s nothing to debate either. He can’t reasonably claim that the relevant parts of his brain (not just the cortex) were “completely shut down.” It’s just not a factual statement. And yet, everything in his account hinges on his making that claim. And even if I granted that his brain had been shut down — it’s not shut down now. And there is absolutely no way for him to establish (or even to subjectively know) that he didn’t have his experience as his brain was coming back online. End of debate, as far as I’m concerned.
Commentary on the Skeptical Response to Eben Alexander
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Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko we’re going to do something a little bit different. As you may have heard, Dr. Eben Alexander has a new book out. The book’s titled Proof of Heaven and Dr. Alexander is going to appear on Skeptiko next week in an interview we recorded a couple weeks ago.
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February 14th, 2012 Alex Tsakiris
Interview with University of Chicago professor and author of, Why Evolution is True, Dr. Jerry Coyne.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Jerry Coyne, author of, Why Evolution is True. During the interview Dr. Coyne discusses the connection between free will and the theory of evolution:
Dr. Jerry Coyne: My interest in free will did not really grow out of evolution. It’s just something I’ve been interested in lately trying to ponder human behavior.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, but I think it is pretty important when we talk about what are the agencies of evolution. One of the articles that I sent you was on the research of Jeffrey Schwartz at UCLA. He studied Obsessive-compulsive disorder and found that self-directing thought could actually rewire their brain, something called neuroplasticity.
This research fits into this broad category of research that shows that intention, mental thought, can actually change the physical. Doesn’t that have an impact on the overall picture of evolution?
Dr. Jerry Coyne: I’d have to be convinced by reading this article that brains can change themselves without any external inputs from either the other parts of the body or the environment.
Alex Tsakiris: But it sounds like you are open to the idea that that would be directly relevant to evolutionary theory?
Dr. Jerry Coyne: No, I’m not. Again, I don’t understand why you keep trying to connect evolution with free will. Free will is, I believe, an illusion that we have that we can somehow affect the workings of our brain and free them from the laws of physics. My answer to that is no, we can’t arrange the subject of the laws of physics because they’re material entities.
The feeling that we have free will, which of course we all have, we all have that feeling of agency. Whether or not that’s proactive evolution or whether it’s an epiphenomena or anything like that is something that I don’t know. None of us know the answer to that question.
Jerry Coyne’s Website
Download MP3 (57:00 min.)
Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko we’re going to dig into evolutionary biology.
I have to tell you, I’ve never been that interested in really exploring evolutionary biology. The reason is from the very beginning I saw the issues of consciousness being much more central to these core big picture science questions that we want to talk about. I mean, consciousness trumps evolution when we want to ask the questions of who are we really, where did we come from, what happens to us after we die? Consciousness more directly gets to those questions.
The people who are on the cutting edge of consciousness research really, I think, have a lot more to say about these things. For example, when we look at former guests like Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and his Morphic Resonance theory, his idea that somehow there is a habit that’s formed in this field of consciousness that we have and it drives us in a certain direction. He has some pretty interesting experiments that he’s put together that establish that that may in fact be happening.
When you look at what the impact of a theory like morphic resonance is on evolutionary biology, it kind of relegates evolutionary biology to a mere sideshow in this larger question of how did we come to be who we are?
The same can be said for a lot of the guests that we’ve had on Skeptiko. Dean Radin, for example, and his presentiment work. What might it mean if our actions right now are somehow influenced by the future? And then there’s the larger question of mind equals brain. Are we just biological robots? Again, Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne will tell you that you don’t have to look any further than evolutionary biology to answer those questions.
But it just seems obvious to me that we want to ask those questions more directly and look at direct evidence, for example, the near-death experience science that we’ve looked at on this show. I think anyone would have to acknowledge that it certainly is more direct in getting to that question of whether or not our mind is something more than just this biological brain that we have.
So these are the connections I was trying to make when I set up this interview with Jerry Coyne. These were the topics around evolutionary biology that I think are most interesting and I wanted to ask him about. But as you’ll see, we never quite got there. Here’s my interview with Dr. Jerry Coyne:
Today’s guest is one of the leading authorities on evolutionary genetics and speciation. Dr. Jerry Coyne is a professor at the University of Chicago. He’s published many popular as well as many scholarly articles on the Theory of Evolution, free will, science and religion, and Atheism. He’s also penned several popular science books including, Why Evolution is True. Dr. Coyne, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me.
Dr. Jerry Coyne: My pleasure. Read the rest of this entry »
December 6th, 2011 Alex Tsakiris
Interview with Buddhist meditation teacher Shinzen Young explores different views of God.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Buddhist meditation teacher Shinzen Young. During the interview Shinzen discusses letting go of our simplistic view of God:
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about God for a minute and how that fits into meditation practice and the Buddhist spiritual path in a general sense.
Shinzen Young: I love talking about this but I’m curious about your own thoughts about it.
Alex Tsakiris: I guess I think it is important we don’t get too hung up on the language. We have to acknowledge our society is materialistic and atheistic. We have academics pulling us that way, and we have “science” pulling us that way. So, in the simplest form, when we’re talking about spirituality, we’re talking about God because we’re talking about something that transcends this materialistic, atheistic mindset.
Shinzen Young: Okay. Traditionally in Buddhism, the historical Buddha negated certain ideas about God. So what you have is more Fundamentalist Buddhist teachers tend to shy away from the G word but a lot of other modern Buddhist teachers have no trouble with it whatsoever.
But I’ve devoted my life to directing people to an experience that is beyond time and space and what I would call the source of consciousness, which is the source of experience and since self and world are known only through experience, I can point people to an experience that could be described as Source. And when a person contacts it, it fulfills all the things that people would want from God.
Alex Tsakiris: I was recently listening to the Dali Lama give a lecture. He said that he tells seekers to look to their own tradition before turning to Buddhism. He’s emphatic about finding Buddhist teachings in Christianity and that Christianity can be this vehicle for creating a good heart and for a compassionate, loving person. More importantly, he goes out of his way to contrast that with the atheistic position and his implication is atheism leads nowhere.
Shinzen Young: Well, it depends on what we want to call atheism. I think it is important to distinguish three things. One, becoming a better and better person, which might be described as improving the self. Two, realizing the source of the self. And three, the relationship between these two. I would say that the gold standard for mature spirituality is to see that the endeavor of going beyond the self, which is to attain an unlimited identity, and the endeavor of refining the small self.
Download MP3 (46:00 min.)
Today we welcome author, lecturer, and highly respected meditation teacher, Shinzen Young to Skeptiko. Shinzen, thank you for joining me today.
Shinzen Young: My pleasure.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, as you know, as a longtime meditation student—I really have to say student—and a longtime Yoga practitioner, I have a great respect for what you do and the importance of the teacher in this whole process we’re going to talk about today. So I of course want to start just by thanking you in general for the work that you do.
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September 27th, 2011 Alex Tsakiris
Author and Satanist Winter Laake explains how his experiences with the occult have shaped his views on life and the afterlife.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Winter Laake author of, The Satanic Paradigm. During the interview Laake discusses the hypocrisy of Christianity and Satanism:
Alex Tsakiris: I want to venture into is something that you alluded to when you were talking about the failed proposition that is Christianity, at least from your view, and the hypocrisy of it — the emphasis on self-denial that gets in the way of personal freedoms and self-development. But I wondered, can’t some of those same problems be reflected back on Satanic practices?
So, even if you practiced Satanism, and you try and live for the moment, or live for yourself, you’re going to die. You’re probably going to get sick and die. No one escapes that. Crowley didn’t escape that; Anton LaVey didn’t escape that. In the end, we all face the same fate. So aren’t there some of the same contradictions that we see in Christianity?
Winter Laake: It does in a sense, and that is where I feel that a lot of scientists are now trying to even break that foothold. They’re seeking singularity which is coming by about 2040 or 20/50 where it will be plausible to not die. I think we will see it in our lifetime.
But yes, the hypocrisy exists probably even more so in any Satanic or occult practices. To a lot of people it’s a phase they’re going through. They are very destructive and dangerous people, some of them. They are not nice people. Christians can be pretty ruthless, too, but Satanic practitioners on different levels can be very, very dangerous. Probably more so than Christians. A lot of Satanists don’t like to say that. They want to glaze it over and say, “oh, we’re all nice and get along,” but that’s not necessarily the truth. There’s a lot of hatred. There’s a lot of anger that’s self-created.
I personally don’t have that. I have a Mephistophelian kind of concept of where I’m at with things. But yes, hypocrisy is alive and well. It’s in our nature.
I think people are a summation of their decisions and I think if they make the asserted effort that they can achieve anything they wish.
Winter Laake’s Facebook Page
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Alex Tsakiris: Today’s guest is a successful author, a consultant on Hollywood horror films. He’s also a psychic and sometimes psychic detective. But Winter Laake is best known through his association with the occult, black magic, witchcraft, and Satanism.
Winter, thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko.
Winter Laake: Thank you.
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May 10th, 2011 alex
Cult expert Joe Szimhart discusses how genuine spiritual experiences can be exploited by religious cults.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Joe Szimhart. During the interview Mr. Szimhart explains how religious cults use spiritual experiences to their advantage:
Alex Tsakiris: We can explain away spiritual experiences with materialist science, but that doesn’t really hold up very well, or we can look at the explanations cults give, and we know that can lead to some harmful behavior… so, from your experience, what should we do with these spiritual experiences?
Joe Szimhart: The key words are “stop and think.” And that’s something that people don’t want to do. To break it down and think about it and analyze it, you tend to lose what it is. Cults tend to tell people that the only thing between your heart and God is your head, my contention is that if that experience is as real as one feels it is, it’s not going to go away upon analysis. In fact, it can be strengthened if the analysis holds up the context of the experience.
Alex Tsakiris: I want to make sure that you’re not denying or trying to explain away that people are having these spiritual experiences. Do you believe there is such a thing as a genuine spiritual experience?
Joe Szimhart: Yes, to put it in one word. To back that up, I’ve had them myself. And to back it up even further, I’m a practicing Catholic. Now, a lot of people are very surprised when they hear that about me, but I have looked at its history and I understand all that’s wrong with it. I don’t deny any of that. But a Catholic has certain beliefs in miracles and all that sort of things and the Communion of Saints… it’s an article of faith.
Alex Tsakiris: Why would you offer up to us this strange little tidbit that as a Catholic it’s an, “article of faith”? Why would any of rational, logical person go there? I’m a believer in spirit and spiritual experiences as are you, but I don’t take anything as an article of faith.
Joe Szimhart: Being involved in Catholicism, I have to be very agile. In fact, some of my approaches, my personal approach to Catholicism could border on heresy. I don’t know. So it’s very difficult. It’s not easy. It’s an adult problem, you know? There are no clear, absolute answers to this, whether you’re a Catholic or not.
Joe Szimhart’s website
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Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Joe Szimhart to Skeptiko. Joe is an expert on cults and has been counseling, lecturing, and helping people with cult-related issues since breaking away from a New Age sect in the 1980s. Joe, welcome to Skeptiko.
Joe Szimhart: Yeah, glad to be on, thanks. Read the rest of this entry »
April 26th, 2011 alex
Neurotheology researcher, physician and author, Andy Newberg explains how fundamentalists Christians and Atheists share a minority view of God.
Join Skeptiko guest host Steve Volk for an interview with Dr. Andy Newberg. A distinguished researcher at Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, and professor in Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Newberg discusses his latest book Principles of Neurotheology:
Steve Volk: One thing that’s disappointing to me in these debates between believers and atheists is there’s usually a very narrow conception of God that’s on the table for discussion. It’s the Fundamentalist conception.
Dr. Andrew Newberg: I’d second your opinion. So often we say, “I believe in God,” or “I don’t believe in God,” and we assume that everybody knows what we’re talking about. Usually just the opposite is true. Oftentimes people who do feel very strongly one way or another do wind up with a very limited view about God.
A lot of times the Atheists look at God in a very anthropomorphic way, kind of mimicking the very doctrinal, Biblical kind of perspective on God. As you mentioned a few minutes ago, that sometimes is the problem in the debates between Atheists and religious individuals. Atheists have this very defined and very limited view about what God is or what they think other people think God is. If you have a religious person and an Atheist and both are arguing about the existence of God, you’ve got to figure out exactly what that means in the first place, because if our definition of God is that God is the universe, then everybody may say, “Yeah, sure, God exists.” If God is a being that created the universe, people are going to have different views. If God is a man in the clouds, you’ll have even more different views.
So it’s really important for a lot of these things. God, belief, religion, faith, soul, mind, brain, all of these things are things that we need to try and determine and define, at least within the context of whatever conversation we’re having. Even though another point that I try to make in my work is that whatever definitions we have today are most likely going to be dynamic and changeable and are going to evolve as our information changes, as our scholarship changes, as our research data grows, and we going to have to realize that none of these concepts are really very static.
Dr. Andrew Newberg’s website
Steve Volk’s website
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Hi everybody. Steve Volk here again, guest hosting for Alex Tsakiris on Skeptiko, where my guest today is none other than Dr. Andrew Newberg. A veteran of many years at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Newberg continues on there as a professor but has added a position as Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital here in Philadelphia.
He is a radiologist by training but what he’s famous for and what drew my attention to him in my research for Fringe-ology is his work as a neurotheologist with his co-researcher, Mark Robert Waldman. No doubt Dr. Newberg will share with us his definition of neurotheology, but in simple, practical terms. Neurotheology is the study of the relationship between spiritual experience and the brain.
Newberg’s research in this territory has produced several books, including Why God Won’t Go Away and two with Waldman, Born to Believe and How God Changes Your Brain, but his latest solo work is Principles of Neurotheology, in which he attempts to lay a proper foundation for this new field of science.
Dr. Newberg is here to take a nuanced position. He will not tell us that God is in Heaven and everything is all right with the world but he will also not be telling us that all spiritual experience reduces down to brain function and there is no God. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that feels to me like a cool, refreshing, and rational breeze because sometimes it seems in media portrayals that Fundamentalist belief and Fundamentalist non-belief are the only two choices available to us.
So let’s get started and find out just what position Andrew Newberg is advocating. Dr. Newberg, welcome to Skeptiko.
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January 19th, 2011 alex
Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris and atheist blogger Greta Christina square-off for a debate on near Death Experience (NDE) science.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview discussing the existence of the soul and the science of Near Death Experience. During the interview Tsakiris points out the lack of research among NDE skeptics, “And really, if we’re going to play the kind of credential game, you really wouldn’t want to stack Dr. Bruce Greyson, Dr. Jeff Long, Dr. Pim Van Lommel, one of the most highly regarded cardiologists in the world who’s been studying near-death experience for 30 years-you wouldn’t want to stack them against Keith Augustine, who really doesn’t have any kind of medical credentials. So I’m talking to you about published research in these cases.”
Ms. Christina responds, “There is what seems to me to be extremely shaky research and there’s no consensus about it in any sense-in fact, the overwhelming consensus among neurologists is that no, these people are, I’m not going to say crackpots, that’s too strong a word. But these people are mistaken. They’re being led down the garden path by their wishful thinking. And again, when you look at the history of thousands and thousands and thousands of years of human knowledge, where supernatural explanations consistently get replaced with natural ones and it’s ultimately when the research has been really done and it’s been really examined, it’s never been the case that it’s happened the other way around.”
Near the end of the debate, Ms. Christina sums up her argument “…even if I conceded everything that you’ve said in this whole conversation, all that it proves is that consciousness is weird and that we don’t understand it. That’s all that it proves. It doesn’t prove anything about there being an immaterial soul that animates consciousness. It doesn’t prove anything about immaterial soul surviving death.”
Tsakiris responds, “I don’t mind hearing your opinion, but you’ve got to back it up. You’re saying that every time somebody gives you research you go and look at it and it’s debunked. Well, tell me. Tell me what’s been debunked. You haven’t cited any real NDE research. You cited Keith Augustine and then you want to say Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptical Magazine?”
Greata’s Blog Post: Why Near Death Experiences Are a Terrible Argument for the Soul
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Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris.
For a while on this show I’ve maintained that there really isn’t a good, solid, scientific argument against near-death experience science. If you’ve followed this show and you’ve listened to the guests that we’ve had on, people like Dr. Jeffrey Long, Dr. Pim Van Lommel, Dr. Peter Fenwick, Dr. Bruce Greyson (who we haven’t actually interviewed but who has contributed by email), if you stack them up against the skeptics we’ve talked to, Dr. G. M. Woerlee, Dr. Kevin Nelson, Dr. Susan Blackmore, Dr. Steven Novella, or even Dr. Sam Parnia (who’s kind of in the middle of this issue but we really have to put on the side of the skeptic) if you stack up the two arguments there’s really no comparison.
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September 14th, 2010 alex
Interview with author Ophelia Benson explores how a scientific understanding of life after death might impact an atheistic worldview.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for and interview with the author of, “Does God Hate Woman?”, and “Why Truth Matters”, Ophelia Benson. During the interview Ms. Benson expresses her admiration for being an atheist to the very end, “…Christopher Hitchens, as we all know, is admirably insisting that he’s not going to change his opinions about the nature of the world and about whether or not there’s a God just because he’s mortally ill. And if there are any rumors that he’s done a deathbed conversion, he wants it to be on the record right now that that’s not what he considers the real Christopher Hitchens.”
When pressed as to whether one could decide to not have a deathbed conversation prior to having such a conversion Ms Benson replied, “I know, it’s sort of tricky in a way, but on the other hand, I kind of think we all do have a right to do that. If you’ve been a lifelong atheist and are continuing to be an atheist, I think you have a right to say, ‘Well, okay, if at the last minute I mumble something, I want to go on the record right now saying I repudiate that in advance.’ It’s ours, so I think we get to do that.”
Ms. Benson also discusses how advances in near death experience science and other research that suggesting a continuation of consciousness might impact the “new atheist” worldview.
Check out Ophelia Benson’s Website: Butterflies and Wheels
Download MP3 (30:00 min.)
Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko I have an interview with Ophelia Benson, author, Atheist, and editor of the very popular and very well done Butterflies and Wheels website.
Now, this interview didn’t really go the way that I planned, but when I was editing it I realized that maybe it really made the point I was trying to make after all, and that’s just to demonstrate how this new science of consciousness that we’ve been exploring so much on this show in terms of near-death experience, medium communication, and psi phenomena, how that new science is making its way into the marketplace of ideas. So how a public intellectual like Ophelia Benson is processing this. And in that respect I think the interview is quite revealing. So listen in to my interview with Ophelia Benson:
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