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Hello,

"For a long time I wondered why so many skeptics would uncritically accept dubious theories like anthropogenic global warming."

You should know that, countrary to what you state here, skeptics like Michael Shermer and Penn & Teller have been skeptical of anthropogenic global warming for a long time. I know that Michael Shermer changed his mind about it a few years back, and did it publicly. Penn & Teller have a famous episode of "Bullshit!" season 1 criticising ecologists and the very idea of anthropogenic global warming. I don't know if they have change there mind about the issue. Even last year, James Randi wrote a blogpost on SWIFT expressing doubts about anthropogenic global warming. OF course, all of them have been heavily criticised inside the skeptical mouvement for expressing those doubts about anthropogenic global warming when the scientific consensus on this subject is quite clear. Massimo Pigliucci even has a chapter on this very topic in his book "Nonsense on stilts".

I find that funny that the very exemple that you take to show that skeptics are according to you "fan boys" is plainly wrong. On the countrary, the example you used shows clearly that skeptics are not fan boys. PZ Myers and Massimo Pigliucci wrote a blogpost criticising James Randy the same day than he wrote his own post skeptical of anthropogenic global warming. For people not using critical thinking and just swallowing everything James Randi says, I think that reply was quite fast!

Maybe you should read more the skeptical litterature and/or skeptical blogs before making jugement based on wrong informations like you do here.

Sincerelly,

Venom,
Gee. A list of four skeptics who contest anthropogenic global warming. I doubt the attacks on James Randi were very fatal to his career, and I'm sure that he didn't suffer a loss of income or professional connections.

The scientific world at large is full of very bright individuals, some pro paranormal research, some con, some indifferent. But the notion of a cadre of scowling gatekeepers, like bulldogs, keeping inconvenient facts out by brute force and papal bull is not an paranoid illusion.
Numerous careers have been threatened and destroyed because brave, honest, pedigreed scientists dared to objectively ask politically incorrect questions. Even a Nobel Prize is an insufficient defense.

Believe me, in 'professional pseudoskeptic' circles, James Randi, Penn and Teller, and Michael Shermer are like rock stars (Gods?) with ample, stable incomes. Their sycophants insure it.

Michael, I my advice (i'm sure you don't require it) is to delete that first comment ASAP. That stuff is as illegal as it is sick and twisted. If anyone clicks on a link - for any reason - they can (and probably will) find themselves on a law enforcement agency's list and the subject of an investigation with dire consequences.

It is always fascinating to me, in a depressing sort of way, how, no matter what the area of life, people always organize themselves into these pecking orders. There are always "leaders" who strongly express their opinions (as opposed to fully objectively validated facts) and then crowds of sycophants that support the leaders' (usually over inflated) egos in a mindless fashion.

Academia is rife with the phenomenon, but you you see it every where; from average Joes and Janes idol worshipping sports stars and movie stars to corporate executives whose performance is questionable, but who have obtained a following amongst the rank and file workers as well as peers and board members - and of course I probably don't even need to mention how this is expressed in politics and in religious/spiritual circles.

No matter where you find it, the phenomenon always contains the same basic elements. The leader has, by accident or design, tapped into some basic subconscious psychological energy source or need within a swath of a population. He is not shy about expressing his views; often very much the contrary. In outwardly expressing this psychological undercurrent, the leader becomes cathartic and the population is "fed" what they were hungry for, but previously denied. As long as the leader continues to feed the population, he is placed on a pedistal and worshipped and defended.

So, it's all quite primitive and irrational; almost hive like behavior. That's why reasonable approaches - like objectively discussing evidence counter to the hive's beliefs system - don't work.

Regarding paranormal research, both skeptics and true believers are more often than not indulging in this kind of psychosocial organization.

I have found that very few people are interested enough in the pursuit of the truth to avoid the pitfall of joining a hive.

I believe in global warming. I am skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, especially since it has become a scheme to push life-hating carbon taxes, originally invented by Enron, and then adopted by politicians like Al Gore and other unscrupulous liars who see a way of making a fortune from them.

Most people who use the term "denier" in reference to climate change skepticism while making no distinction between anthropogenic or natural are themselves parroting pop culture beliefs without understanding how contentious the science really is, and that's groupthink, and it has been and continues to be intentionally induced by a group of death worshipping crackpot control freaks who see global warming as a means of grabbing power.

I believe in living conservatively on the earth. I believe in respecting its beauty and resources and ecosystems. So I don't need some politician fearmongering me into buying LED lightbulbs to save the earth, like some green (and I don't mean skin color) zombie. I already own them, and global warming, whether real or imagined, had nothing to do with my decision to buy them.

When you watch your electricity bill drop with the use of energy conserving devices to the point where powering your entire home on solar panels and batteries becomes feasible, then suddenly, if you are like me, NOT paying one of the regional energy monopolies one cent for electricity becomes a very attractive idea. I'm not there yet, but I'm working hard on it.

Oh, that ALSO benefits the environment.

dmduncan, I'm highly skeptical of human caused global warming; to the point where i am comfortable stating that I don't believe it at all. I am even skeptical of global warming due to any cause; at least as it is touted in the media and some other circles.

Of course, the earth has always gone through changes in geology and climate; changes that are usually subtle in the time frame of a human's (or even human) existance, but quite radical over eons.

The funny thing is (to me at least) I cannot understand why global warming, whether anthrpomorphic or natural cycles, is a bad thing.

It seems to me that, at bottom, a warmer planet would possibly have a net benefit.

Yes, of course, some situations that have today would be altered or destroyed, but new opportunities would arise as well. And it's not as if these changes would happen catastrophically overnight. Rather they occur over time and thus permit humanity ample time to adjust incrementally.

The whole framing of the topic is ridiculous, really. The earth changes. We know this. We cannot stop it and we know that too. Period. What we should be discussing and researching instead is how to adapt when the inevitable changes do happen; better yet, how to capitalize on the changes for the over all benefit of humanity. Not waste resources on how to stop the change.

I am not a climate scientist so it's impossible for me to follow the details of the contentions and to come away more knowledgeable about whose case is stronger. But it's clear to me that there's an argument going on, and also that I'm in no position to decide who's winning it. But when a skeptic of Dr. Lindzen's stature even agrees that the data shows the earth is warming, then I can conclude there is agreement at least on that.

The thing is, there are a great mass of people in the same position as I am in but who think they DO know whats going on, when it fact they don't. They pick a side like a sports team and then cheerlead that side.

One thing is for sure: There is a lot of power and money at stake in getting people to believe that evil carbon spewing life forms are responsible, and that the only way to save the planet is to control the "disease" of life — while making an awful lot of people in government and industry rich, of course, just like the fear mongering former head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, and his airport body scanners which are supposed to save us from the boogeymen.

I resent it. It makes me angry to see the obvious pretexts these people are using to get more money and power for themselves.

"I am not a climate scientist so it's impossible for me to follow the details of the contentions and to come away more knowledgeable about whose case is stronger. "

Yes, but........as an intelligent thinking person you are able, as you note, to see that there is a debate; that the evidence is neither clear nor one sided. Furthermore, like me, you have no doubt read enough of the arguments and accompanying evidence to formulate some perspective of your own as to the strength and validity of the arguments.

That is usually the best we can ever do whether we are credentialed experts in a field or laymen.

I remember in the 70's it wasn't global warming that the experts were touting, but cooling. The experts had us heading for another ice age. How could experts have been so wrong?

And thus, I return to my perennial question; What - if anything - do we really know and how do we know it?

Most of what we think know is really in the realm of lore, myth and fad. The spin we select from the pool of options to call our own appeals to us because of subconscious physchological forces combined with some level of material utilitiarianism more often than it reflecting an objective reality.

ughh...psychological forces

Our climate is getting warmer. BTW, so is Mars' climate. It's due, at least in part, to solar forcing affecting both planets.

Greenhouse gases can affect climate, but that is just one small part of the puzzle. The ice age at the end of the Ordovician happened to occur when CO2 levels were much higher than they are currently. So we know that greenhouse gases can be over-ridden by other factors.

I think scientists have been under the impression that they must take the side of the "good-guys", even if the science isn't that clear in regards to this issue. So even if they turn out to be wrong, at least they were on the side of the environment, right?

Well, no. Many technologies that lower CO2 output actually create higher amounts of other pollutants. But companies want those carbon credits, so it's CO2 they want to reduce, not actual pollution. And dollars spent directly on environmental remediation make a greater difference than the "trickle down effect" from companies cashing in their carbon credits.

The earth's climate is changing and will always change. In some ways this seems like a distraction from larger issues like the need for water sanitation in developing countries (the "poo problem") or how to deal with natural disasters hitting developing countries that don't have the infrastructure to cope with such occurrences.

I'm sure Al Gore is laughing all the way to the bank and enjoying that private jet of his. He has made out like a bandit. I don't see that he has made the world any better off. He has just promoted a lot of bad science and made it so that good scientists are walking away from research projects involving climate because such work is too controversial. If your data isn't politically correct, what else can you do?

Venom, the line you quoted says 'so many', not all skeptics. Your entire post not only hinges on an absolute statement Michael didn't make but you then vault that comment up as if to pretend that his blog post here hinges on it. Which it doesn't.

I agree entirely with Michael. But I would make note that this material is common in a lot of groups. Almost any group one can find that trades in ideas will display similar group oriented quirks that kill independent thinking. The thing that fascinates me about skeptics groups in particular is that they preach critical and free thinking, while ironically displaying almost entirely zero capacity to do so.

But it sounds nice.

"OF course, all of them have been heavily criticised inside the skeptical mouvement for expressing those doubts about anthropogenic global warming ..." - Venom

LOL. Well, that kind of proves my point, doesn't it? Remember, I said I wondered why "so many skeptics" uncritically accept AGW. I didn't say *all* of them do. And as your own comment shows, the "skeptical movement" in general has gotten behind the AGW theory. (See also the link to the post about Susan Blackmore in the main post.)

In any event, Venom, you've misunderstood my post. I'm not saying the top skeptics like Randi and Shermer, or even Penn & Teller, are fanboys. It's the rank and file fit that description.

And yes, the same criticism no doubt applies to other movements. But the skeptics are always telling us how independent-minded and rational they are ...

By the way, I hope the issue of AGW doesn't distract too much from the real point of my post, which is to encourage folks to read Greg Taylor's post about Gardner, and, I hope, his full article on Gardner also.

Greg's full article IS more than worth the time it takes to read it, and I second Michael's recommendation. Taylor underlines the rhetorical methods which scoffing "skeptics" like Gardner or Randi or Shermer use to deflect attention away from research results which contradict their worldview. This explains why trained philosophers such as Chris Carter and Stephen Braude are so effective at revealing the techniques and failures of the skeptical churchgoers in general, since philosophers are required to have an intimate working knowledge of rhetoric as a basis of their field. Rhetoric is also the foundation of formal debate structure, and this fact sheds more light on the weak quality of the skeptical community's argument ( and it's TRUE, Monty Python fans: an argument IS "a formal series of statements intended to establish a proposition"). Failure to examine the underlying assumptions of a position in a debate is why so many arguments crumble during the first rebuttal phase. Marcello Truzzi was right to walk away from the organized skeptical community, realizing that they had no original research on which to base their positions, and seeing the inherent weakness of nitpicking, rhetorical wordplay, misrepresentation of research findings supporting the existence of psi phenomena, and ad hominem personal attacks in defending an indefensible position. Martin Gardner was one of the (mis)leading lights of this position, and Greg Taylor's article illuminates this fact quite clearly.

Great post, Michael!

Yes, as you said, skeptics claim the high ground of logic, rationality, impartiality, and other virtues.

Yet, in an argument, I've never seen a group of people fight dirtier. I do mean that literally. They are not only as mean and nasty as you can find, but their argumentation playbook would seem to be a list of classic fallacies, as though they were trying to use as many as possible in as short a time as possible. Ad hominem? Check. Argument from authority? Check. Hand waving? Check. And so on.

What really saddens me about the "skeptics," however, is that they make arguing no fun at all. One thing they never take into consideration is that their position is just plan *easier* to argue than ours. We have to present evidence and argue in favor of something. All they have to do is deny. Just deny everything. Any evidence we present, they will indeed just say, "Oh, that's been debunked. I read it somewhere." If you are *lucky*, they will cite a Gardner or a Shermer and act as though the case is *obviously* closed, no matter how poor their cited material is.

Considering the asymmetry of the positions, it would be nice if they could be cool about things, but of course they're not about that. They *like*, as you observed sneering at others and feeling superior.

It's sad and scary and points to flaws in human nature, which no one aptly illuminates.

Yeah, skeptics have trouble thinking for themselves, not like believers who believe what they are told without any evidence. Blind followers are the real free-thinkers.


Stupid.

Isn't the evidence and over-whelming scientific consensus in support of AGW? (recent inflated controversies such as Climategate notwithstanding). And there was also recently independent confirmation of the "Hockey stick" effect from initially skeptical groups. In my view, AGW deniers are in the same bracket as HIV denialists and creationists (and also dogmatic materialists) . All four worldviews are scientifically untenable.

There shouldn't even be a term like "AGW deniers". That term is just another way to bully scientists into seeing a particular interpretation of the data as evil, akin to holocaust denial. So if you aren't certain of what the data means, well, it's better to be on the side of good rather than evil, isn't it?

I could argue the case on both sides of the issue, because it is a very complicated one and there is no consensus from my experience working with scientists in this area. It's like the scientists have given up on having a voice. I've heard them say, "Where did this consensus come from? Nobody asked my opinion!"

The use of the word denier is a way of suppressing science, not promoting it. I guess if you feel the need to promote a certain viewpoint at the expense of an honest interpretation of the data, then using nasty labels like denier is a quick way to do that. Much quicker than slogging through all that data. And much easier to market to the masses who don't want to be bothered with science anyway.

I do believe that Mr. Pounds treated us to a grade school taunt, thus providing us a real life example of rhetorical methods we were describing. Thank you for that, Mr. Pounds.

Sandy, I am with you 100% in all of your global warming comments. It's kind of nice to know that someone else out there is reasonable about the whole matter.

Thanks, no one. Like I said, there is evidence on both sides, but one side has had it's voice taken away by force. It saddens me to see politics have that kind of effect on science. It harkens back to the days of persecuting scientists for finding evidence that the earth might be orbiting the sun and not the other way around (as was the consensus at one time.)

Simple solution, if you do not agree with the wiki article simply tell the person in question to get a peer reviewed source to back their claim. One is not required to accept wikipedia.

I know from past experience wikipedia can sometimes be dominated by "gangs" who have no problem putting out misinformation to spread their views.

Discussions on this topic sometimes appear to me to be wildly and unnecessarily polarised. As a person sincerely looking for the truth of the matter, it is useful to have well-argued discussion based on facts. I, along with many others more expert on here and in other places, welcome reasonable discussion. The problem often it seems to me is that some of the ‘professional sceptics’ refuse to consider or discuss much, if any, of the significant body of research that has been amassed. Simply dismissing it without explanation, and in many cases, without having even read it!
Don’t get me wrong, an adversarial approach can be a useful way to get at the truth. Only when all parties are trying to do that though.

(original topic I meant - not Global Warming :))


OK--this is gonna be a long one. But thinking about Michael's post, and the ensuing comments, has helped me to crystallize a train of thought that's been with me for a long time. So here goes.

I've been holding off contributing to this topic, because, to be frank, this is ground we "believers" keep going over, again and again. We see ourselves as the ones who are reasonable and open, and skeptics, of course, say the same about themselves.

But the question is, if we're so certain about the existence of a spiritual reality, why do keep investing ourselves in this argument? Why don't we look for something else to talk about? And if it's so frustrating to talk with skeptics, if we find them to be dogmatic, sarcastic, and arrogant, why don't we engage with people more to our liking?

It's an important point, isn't it?

Here's what I think. (And I'll speak in the first person from here on.) My frustration is not with "others," it's with myself. Because I wouldn't be arguing about survival, psi, and so on, if these matters weren't extremely important to me.

More to the point, I wouldn't be arguing if I myself weren't in doubt, if I weren't a skeptic playing all those silly games I'm so quick to identify in others.

And how do I know this for a fact? Simple. I engaged in a little thought experiment. I thought about what kind of controversies draw me in, and what sorts of people I enjoy debating. And it led me to ask this question: Would I choose to argue with a racist?

And the answer is pretty clear: I would not and I do not. And it's not because the matter isn't important to me. I can think of few subjects that have as much power to move me, a fact that is borne out by scores of movies and news stories I've found compelling over the years.

The reason I don't debate racism is that I believe it to be insupportable. I simply have no lingering doubts on the matter. So while it's easy to find people who will defend segregation and the concept of racial superiority, I see them as people in pain, and look for conversation elsewhere.

Now—can I say the same about skeptics and skepticism? Sometimes. And sometimes not.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't debate skeptics. But long experience tells me this: any time I see an us-vs-them scenario that I feel deeply invested in, I begin to suspect that I'm really arguing with myself.

Why would I argue with myself about these matters? Why do I feel frustrated? It's because, in much the same way that a child needs to know that his family is loving, I need to know that MY home, my universe, is a safe and benevolent place.

It hurts to feel otherwise, but as we all know, the temptation to doubt is enormous. The illusion of genuine danger and real death in the physical realm is amazingly convincing. And while we may understand that the illusion is created for our ultimate benefit—to foster the larger evolution of our souls, or as some would say, for the thrlll of playing the lose-ourselves/find-ourselves game--this doubting is a painful thing.

So we want to end it . We want to be 100% certain all the time. But, we keep losing the certainty. We keep falling into doubt. And that hurts and frustrates us, so we argue with ourselves to reassure ourselves.

But at a certain point, the internal arguing is itself painful. We desperately want to free ourselves of the one skeptic we can never shake, the one inside.

So I say to myself: I know. I truly know. And I want to help those poor souls out there who don't know. The ones who are still living in ignorance.

(And by the way, when they're convinced, that means me more votes on my side. And what's safer than being in the majority?)

And the dialogue begins. And as long as it remains a dialogue, perhaps we're still being honest with ourselves. But when it become frustrating, strident, angry--who am I really feeling angry with?

Again--would I argue with a racist?

Hi Bruce.
Whilst I am sure there is an emotional component in discussing things we are interested in. I don't think all of the frustration can be attributed to that (not that you said it could). I think some of the frustration is simply down to the refusal of some, despite being adamant that there is no evidence, to even consider the evidence that does exist properly.

Hi Bruce, That is an interesting analysis. I know it applies to some other aspects my life and beliefs. I for one, though, don't like to debate the existance of the spiritual or psi; much as you don't choose to debate racist topics. I have accepted that is absolutely real. Instead, I come to places like this to learn more about the phenomena (not to decide if it's real).

As with paul, I only occasionally get sucked into debate because the "skeptics" present such patently dishonest assertions that it bothers me that someone who is on the fence might be misled - ok, I confess, it just plain bothers me that anyone could be that dishonest, period, regarding what is a fun and interesting yet, when you think about it, profoundly important topic (e.g. there is no evidence).

P.S. I should add, for balance, that I also get drawn into debates about psi, etc when I hear true believers making wild statements about aspects of the paranormal without having objectively assessed evidence thoroughly. I have always been highly suspicious of stories of Gurus materializing physical objects out of thin air or levitating their own bodies. This is something that could easily be objetively proven, but never is. Alien abduction, at least at face value, is another personal bugaboo. There are others.

These things bother me for the same the reason, albeit at the opposite end of the spectrum, as the skeptics dishonest debate tactics.

no one said:

"As with paul, I only occasionally get sucked into debate because the "skeptics" present such patently dishonest assertions that it bothers me that someone who is on the fence might be misled"

Thanks for your thoughts, no one. (And Paul, too, who seems to make a similar point). I, too, find myself wanting to debate these matters less and less (though I still love to talk about them). And I think that's a healthy development.

But when I do get hooked into a debate, and I find myself "bothered," as you say, I'm perhaps less certain than you that my concern is really for the welfare of others who may be misled.

But hey--I'm one introspective guy. :o)

"... in many cases skepticism appeals to people who are reluctant to think for themselves, and who ground their self-image in the borrowed authority of relatively high-status figures like Gardner, Carl Sagan, and James Randi. By simply latching on to the stated opinions of these people and parroting them, the skeptic can cultivate the illusion that he is one of them, ..."
There's a name for them: Randi-bots.

Bruce,

That's a good post. Here are a couple responses:

1. I am with no one in not debating the skeptics any more. I did back in 2002-2004, before I knew how skeptics and the Internet "worked." I thought it was a real debate, so I presented the evidence and made arguments. After a few years of experiencing their atrocious behavior, I "got it." They've made up their minds and they debate in order to feel superior to the benighted believers and to enjoy mocking others.

2. I consider psi and the afterlife solidly proven. Where I look for comfort, however, is in trying to make *more* sense of the Universe. I am constantly seeking new data to put the puzzle together.

A lot of people, I think, are working with the "God" template. I.e., when they get information about the afterlife or reincarnation, they imagine a benevolent Deity arranging it all, making it all orderly and "OK."

I don't have this luxury, since I disbelieve in an omnipotent creator "God." I do believe that, somehow or other, the Universe is benevolent and everything works out OK, yet, at the same time, there is a lot of murkiness and messiness. So while I *do* believe in psi, reincarnation, the afterlife, etc., there is a lot I am still unsure about and fearful about. So I do look for answers from others without having that base level of doubt in the whole.

3. There's a big difference between debating a skeptic and a racist, and between the two issues.

I don't have a doubt about psi, the afterlife, etc., since I have personal experiences that back those up and I have assessed the evidence and found it convincing. At the same time, consensus reality is mostly against this perspective. Atheists are of course against it, and mainline Christians are against it. Despite the evidence, since our perspective doesn't serve either worldview, I think that's why it's gained so little traction thus far, and it will take a bit longer before people recognize it as the truth.

If you believe that consciousness creates reality, then it's easy to see how the beliefs of others, even when we disagree with them, can exert considerable pressure on us. After all, Michael recently had a post in which he asked himself, "Do I really believe this stuff?"

Since that's the case, it's helpful to talk about it with others and confirm, "Yes, we've really had these experiences, yes the evidence is good, and yes, we're on the right track." Whenever a viewpoint is in the minority, this is what people tend to do.

A majority of people, however, no longer support racism. Yes, a lot of people are prejudiced to a degree, and perhaps no one is completely pure, but people who actually support legal discrimination, etc., are strictly in the minority.

It didn't use to be that way, however, and abolitionists gathered with each other for mutual support, I'm sure.

Of course, minority viewpoints are not always good or right, and crackpots form mutual support clubs all the time. Yet, when a minority has a grip on the truth, in order to stay sane and strong, they do need to support each other.


Matt said:

"So while I *do* believe in psi, reincarnation, the afterlife, etc., there is a lot I am still unsure about and fearful about."

Matt, thanks so much for the response. Your openness and intelligence make you a real pleasure to talk with. You've also got a certain positive vibe that I find refreshing!

What I'm getting from you and others here, is that my lengthy comment may not apply to other people as much as it applies to myself.

I'm going to respond to the quote I pasted up top, but first, a different question. You said:

"I don't have a doubt about psi, the afterlife, etc., since I have personal experiences that back those up and I have assessed the evidence and found it convincing."

But you also said:

'consensus reality is mostly against this perspective. . . . the beliefs of others, even when we disagree with them, can exert considerable pressure on us. After all, Michael recently had a post in which he asked himself, "Do I really believe this stuff?'

So are you saying that you do harbor, after all, a smidgeon of doubt as to the reality of the afterlife? (The last remnants of skepticism I was referring to in my post.) Or am I misinterpreting you?

OK, now back to:

"So while I *do* believe in psi, reincarnation, the afterlife, etc., there is a lot I am still unsure about and fearful about."

This is fascinating to me, and makes me see, more clearly than ever, how my own thinking differs from many others. Here are my own fears:

1. That I'll be feeble, impoverished, and alone in my old age.

2. That the dying process itself will be lengthy and painful.

3. That I'm somehow deluding myself as to the reality of the spiritual world. (It's a fear that gets smaller with each passing year.)

But where I seem to differ from you, is that if there IS an afterlife, and I'd put good money on it, I have no doubt that I'll love it! (Unlike many people who are afraid of hell, retribution, and other things that they see as a real possibility after they leave the body.)

Now I'm not quite sure what this optimism says about me. One possibility is this: it's been a difficult Earth-walk for me this time around. So from my perspective, it's hard to imagine that the afterlife would not be an improvement.

(I hate saying that, because I don't want to come across as a victim, nor do I want to be misinterpreted. I've had lots of good times here, and I'm open to the possibility that the next 35 years--I'll be 100 then :o) --will be the best of all. )

Or maybe I'm optimistic because of the experiences I've had in altered states. They were SO good, so ecstatic, so profound. And in each, I simply knew, through a kind of knowing that's impossible to understand in ordinary states, that this universe is safer, and more beautiful, than we can ever dare to hope.

Another point. I'd really love it if you'd read The Cosmic Game, Matt. (Have I mentioned that book here before?) :o) I lived for 25 years with a book that served as my Bible--The Primal Scream. It was liberating to break free of it, and I will never again be reliant on a single book.

But having said that, if there's one book that does seem to capture my present view of "how it all works" that's the one. I'd love to get your reaction to it. I know you're struggling for a definition of God that you can live with. If Grof's explanation of God doesn't work for you, I'd really enjoy hearing why not.

Did you read that online excerpt I linked to months ago?

Venom wrote: countrary to what you state here, skeptics like Michael Shermer and Penn & Teller have been skeptical of anthropogenic global warming for a long time. I know that Michael Shermer changed his mind about it [manmade global warming] a few years back, and did it publicly.
That's ambiguous. Shermer became a believer (after viewing Gore's film a few years back) and will be leading a group of scoftics on a cruise to Alaska (leaving from Seattle) this August, to view the glaciers before they disappear and listen to on-board lectures by PhD alarmists. Cabins are still available, probably.
michael duggan wrote:

And there was also recently independent confirmation of the "Hockey stick" effect from initially skeptical groups.


Those independent studies weren't that independent of the unreliable proxies that the original hockey Team relied on. Here's an analysis of the proxies used in various studies--the ones that don't use unreliable proxies don't find a hockey stick: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/30/kill-it-with-fire/
(If you follow some of the links there, and then follow their links, you'll enter a jungle from which you may not emerge for months.)

In my view, AGW deniers are in the same bracket as HIV denialists and creationists (and also dogmatic materialists). All four worldviews are scientifically untenable.

Cool--that means there's free money waiting for you on the well-known event-prediction site Intrade, where there are over a dozen bets you can place against us benighted deviationists on future global temperatures and Arctic ice extent. Here's the link: https://www.intrade.com/v4/markets/?eventClassId=20

Sock it to 'em!

I'll have a look at thoae links Roger, but I have a serious case of cognitive dissonance in considering the null hypothesis regarding AGW!

Bruce, I agree totally with your earliest comment. Despite the incontrovertible evidence accumulated from Parapsychology and its earlier incarnation, Psychical research, there is still a large kernel of doubt that persists. Why is this? I have no idea, but it's the reason I keep coming back to blogs such as these and psi based material over and over again.
I have never had a powerful personal experience so that might be a reason.
Frustrating!

Fanboys! Haha...you've NAILED it as to what skeptics are in any field...ufology,the afterlife, etc. Insecure little kids, not open to the gray areas of truth, or to new information. Small minds indeed; we cast pearls before swine. Good writing Michael!

--Stephen J. Valadez

@Matt - it is puzzling when even those who have had the most profound experiences, in some cases full materialisation of family members, start to doubt their experience after a short time. This is true sometimes even of those who have rigorously eliminated fraud in their investigation and had no doubt whatsoever about their experience at the time. I suspect we have a kind of 'boggle-threshold' and that some of us need to experience events again and again before we are fully convinced of what we originally saw/heard.

@Bruce - I don't think your experience of being drawn into 'unseemly squabble' and the desire to avoid them is unusual, my own view is similar to no-one and Matts'; at first I couldn't understand why there was so much apparently ill-informed and often venomous opposition, particularly once I had read some of the more thorough research. I guess the reaction of some had exceeded my boggle-threshold. After a while, and much wasted energy, I decided not to bother engaging those who just sought an argument. As an aside, it seems to me, as mentioned by a previous poster, that those who support psi are sometimes guilty of the same behaviour as the scoftics. I suspect it is a built-in to us in some way.

I think there is some potential benefit in repeating the sources of evidence for those who are interested enough to look at it. The confirmed scoftic may never be convinced, but there are surely many people of open-mind and goodwill who may take a second look.

For me the subject of survival is fascinating and seems to me one of the most important questions we can ask as human beings. It is so easy to get drawn into a heads-down day-to-day approach to life, weighed down by simply getting through the day. If just one person pauses for a moment and raises their head, it is worth the effort.

One thing that has always troubled me is how easy it is to forget even the most amazing experiences of psi.

I keep a written log of experiences, a small notebook that I carry with me so anything unusual that occurs can be recorded. On Sunday nights I type that information into a weekly report and send it to a researcher that I've been working with. Sometimes I'm shocked when I read about the past week's activities. I forget things so quickly that if I didn't record them, they would be lost to me.

I used to get upset at how easily my husband could just forget unusual experiences. But now I know that I do the same thing. It just takes me a little longer.

I think that's part of why the doubt kicks in. It's as if we are hardwired to forget these things. I sometimes wonder if having had an NDE, a psi experience unique in the respect that it can't be forgotten, gave me an ability to remember unusual experiences. Even if it's just for long enough to write them down in that little pink notebook.

Sandy, can you diuvulge who you are working with and what data you have both come up with?

Venom wrote: "Penn & Teller have a famous episode of "Bullshit!"..."

Penn & Teller aren't skeptics, they're boorish cynics. In the same B*llshit! series, Penn & Teller defended cigarette smoking. The little credibility they had disappeared in a puff smoke.

Randi and friends are pseudoskeptics.

I've mentioned some of it on my blog. I've been to Laurentian University twice so far. William Roll was involved in my first visit, but sadly he no longer is able to continue his work due to health issues. I've continued to work with Michael Persinger since my first visit to Sudbury in April 2010.

I'd rather let the researchers be the ones to discuss the data. I did mention a few of the early observations on my blog. I know work has been submitted for publication, but I don't think anything has been published yet. At this point, it looks as if I'll be back for more tests before anything gets published.

I've also been asked to visit a lab in the states for testing, but the details of that visit haven't been worked out yet.

Sandy your suggestion to write it down is a good one. Particularly if it is as soon after the event as possible. I recently started to do the same thing.

Paul, I agree. That's why I carry a small notebook with me. It's almost like remembering dreams. They can seem so vivid when you first wake up, but a few hours later they are gone.

That's really interesting Sandy. I'm a fan of Persinger's work - not so much the "God Helmet" stuff that failed to replicate under blinded conditions by a Swedish team -but his work with developing entanglement using magnetic fields to encourage telepathic communication is first class. I look forward to the papers coming out!

I've read Persinger's rebuttal to the Swedish work. He suggests that they didn't replicate his setup properly and weren't interested in any offers of help in doing so. If their version of the god helmet wasn't a functional one, then no wonder the only effect they could account for was that of suggestion.

I'm looking forward to the papers too, although I also have a little bit of anxiety about it. It's one thing to be weird, but quite another to be certifiably so.

Michael Duggan said:

"Despite the incontrovertible evidence accumulated from Parapsychology and its earlier incarnation, Psychical research, there is still a large kernel of doubt that persists. Why is this?"

Glad to hear you think my earlier comment makes sense, Michael.

As to your question, I think it's because the physical realm is designed to immerse us in a specific kind of experience, and we're biologically designed to focus on precisely the sorts of sensory input that make this virtual reality seem convincing.

And clearly, we BELIEVE our senses. Whatever we may know intellectually, or whatever profound spiritual experiences we may have had in the past, our knowledge and memories pale before our day-to-day experience of (for example) seeing people get sick, die, and apparently disappear forever.

Seth says that though we trust them above all else, our senses are "lovely liars."

That's why we close our eyes when we meditate, to attune ourselves to a different way knowing.

I hear what you're saying Bruce. Question: why does the typical NDE produce a such a profound counter reaction to our day-to-day experience? Is it unique in this regard? What about powerful drug related experiences, such as DMT (Ayahuasca) or LSD; don't these produce long lasting resistance to everyday perceptions?

"It's as if we are hardwired to forget these things." - Sandy

I've often found this to be true. I try to write things down as soon as they happen. If this is not possible, I make strenuous efforts to commit them to memory in order to write them down later. Yet even in that case, I often forget. I know *something* happened, and that I made a mental note of it, but I cannot recall the details.

I think there is a powerful force that impels us to forget these things. Maybe the ego tries to nullify these experiences because they are threatening to it in some way. Or maybe the survival value of psi is outweighed by the negative survival value of the dreamy state of mind that encourages it, so we've evolved to ignore it as much as possible. Or maybe the pull of the physical world is so strong that it overcomes the attraction of the psychic world.

I don't know. But I do know that these experiences will vanish like smoke unless I make very diligent efforts to remember them.

Thanks for the props, Bruce. I enjoy your contributions on here as well.

Some responses for you:

What I'm getting from you and others here, is that my lengthy comment may not apply to other people as much as it applies to myself.

I think it's a matter of degree in its various dimensions.

So are you saying that you do harbor, after all, a smidgeon of doubt as to the reality of the afterlife? (The last remnants of skepticism I was referring to in my post.) Or am I misinterpreting you?

It's complicated. I'm psychic and have had quite a few very vivid spiritual experiences. There's no way I could be an atheist again (as I was in my early teens).

The evidence from NDEs also convinces me that the Afterlife is real.

But there are also negative NDEs. There are spirits that can't cross over easily. And the story of the afterlife is not all sunshine, lolipops, and roses. I (feel) I remember my past five lives (and others out of order before that), and there have been tons of tough times I remember. Have you considered that the afterlife is NOW? We keep coming back. With a mission, no doubt, but this is hard work. And I often do not feel a whole lot of control in it.

Others here have no doubt had very comforting NDEs and other experiences. My experiences have been far from horrifying--most have been quite positive. But it would be nice to have something that said, in effect, "Everything is going to be totally OK."

1. That I'll be feeble, impoverished, and alone in my old age.

2. That the dying process itself will be lengthy and painful.

I fear the same damn things. My dad died a horrible death from heart disease. My best friend's dad has Alzheimer's. The world can be massively cruel. Again, I'm still waiting for that "It's gonna be OK" message!

3. That I'm somehow deluding myself as to the reality of the spiritual world. (It's a fear that gets smaller with each passing year.)

I think this is beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But where I seem to differ from you, is that if there IS an afterlife, and I'd put good money on it, I have no doubt that I'll love it! (Unlike many people who are afraid of hell, retribution, and other things that they see as a real possibility after they leave the body.),

I guess if I could sum up my fear, it's, "What if it's different for *me*?" Robert Sheckley, one of my favorite writers, wrote an interesting book in the 1960s called "Immortality Incorporated," in which some people go to the afterlife, and some don't (and rich people buy passage there from those who have "it"). It's a possibility that's rarely considered: maybe some people go and some don't. Again, if one is using the "God" template, then the assumption is that God is going to be fair and everyone gets to go.

Now, personally, I highly doubt that the afterlife works that way, with some people just going into oblivion after death. But there are a range of other possibilities. I guess, as I said, that I'm waiting for that "OK" message.

Now I'm not quite sure what this optimism says about me. One possibility is this: it's been a difficult Earth-walk for me this time around. So from my perspective, it's hard to imagine that the afterlife would not be an improvement.

It says you're a kickass guy!

(I hate saying that, because I don't want to come across as a victim, nor do I want to be misinterpreted. I've had lots of good times here, and I'm open to the possibility that the next 35 years--I'll be 100 then :o) --will be the best of all. )

Music keeps you young.

Or maybe I'm optimistic because of the experiences I've had in altered states. They were SO good, so ecstatic, so profound. And in each, I simply knew, through a kind of knowing that's impossible to understand in ordinary states, that this universe is safer, and more beautiful, than we can ever dare to hope.

Gimme some of that! I've had similar things, but I would not say it's been the overriding theme.

Another point. I'd really love it if you'd read The Cosmic Game, Matt. (Have I mentioned that book here before?) :o) I lived for 25 years with a book that served as my Bible--The Primal Scream. It was liberating to break free of it, and I will never again be reliant on a single book.

I have put it in my shopping cart on Amazon. I'm gonna read it!

But having said that, if there's one book that does seem to capture my present view of "how it all works" that's the one. I'd love to get your reaction to it. I know you're struggling for a definition of God that you can live with. If Grof's explanation of God doesn't work for you, I'd really enjoy hearing why not.

I think I have a "definition" of God that comes from direct experience and philosophical inquiry, in which God is the resolution of all things in infinity and eternity.

Did you read that online excerpt I linked to months ago?

I believe so. You would not happen to have the link or remember which post that was in? I remember it as being good!

Matt said:

“Have you considered that the afterlife is NOW? We keep coming back.”

Good point. But I do think there’s a rhythm to it all. I think we get—or maybe I should say give ourselves— “vacations” of one sort or another when we complete our more challenging projects. Like some time off in the spiritual world. Or a relatively easy incarnation.

I’m due for a vacation.

“. . . this is hard work. And I often do not feel a whole lot of control in it.”

That was one of the most memorable features of my deepest spiritual journeys. After a lifetime of feeling largely at the mercy of the universe, I suddenly experienced myself as the chooser, the creator, the one in charge.

“Again, if one is using the "God" template, then the assumption is that God is going to be fair and everyone gets to go.”

There you go again. (To quote ronald Reagan’s famous debate line).

Isn’t it possible that each of us is a piece of God, and that no piece of God can ever be lost?

Yes it is!

“Music keeps you young.”

That’s what I always thought too. Silly me, I even thought that I look younger than my years. But that illusion came crashing down today when I went to The Huntington Gardens, a local favorite hangout of mine.

The woman at the ticket window looked at me and said, “Senior citizen?”

I had to tell her, “Not yet.”

“I have put it in my shopping cart on Amazon. I'm gonna read it!”

I’m excited! I really look forward to hearing what you make of it.

Of course, Michael said he was gonna read it, too. Though as I recall, he didn’t punctuate his promise with an exclamation point like you did.

Here’s the link to the excerpt. Page 100 begins his summary of the Big Picture.

http://books.google.com/books?id=PANEMQvjEMAC&pg=PA288&lpg=PA288&dq=the+cosmic+game+grof&source=bl&ots=hKr1XVAkuU&sig=RGSywXTFvMMtJnsvoBXAos4iN5s&hl=en&ei=jcX2TcbTGomqsAPIpsjfBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

“I think I have a "definition" of God that comes from direct experience and philosophical inquiry, in which God is the resolution of all things in infinity and eternity”

I like that a lot, with one alteration:

God is both the origin AND the resolution.

There. Perfection.

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