Thursday, January 20, 2011

Atheists Claim they Want Empirical Evidence


I have been touting several hundred studies on religious experience for some time now. The number varies because there are many studies and I have not seen most of them (or course since I can't go get 300 studies and read them all). I began using a ball park figure rounding it off at 300. That was 300 studies that show long term positive effects of religious experience ("mystical" experience). Then I found two sources that each went through a litany of studies show these positive effects. I counted the number in the two sources and lo, it was almost 300. So I counted more form a couple more sources it was 350.This was by combining the bibliographies of
Jayne Gackenback, Krishna Mohan, and Loukoff and Lu. I had to hammer in the concept because the tendency of atheists was to just ignore all those studies completely. Most of the time they would act like their opinions out weighed all the studies. There is a huge body of data that is good scientific data and confirms the greatness of religion. This is completely ignored by atheists so I had to hammer the idea home to them. Of course they still can't accept it so the became resentful. During the past year I've began saying 200 studie. That's closer to the mark. They are all ball park, and it dependent upon how liberal you want to be in defining them. 200 is a conservative estimate.

One of the major things they did was spot the discrepancy between what I used to say "300" vs the new number 350. Well I'm just lying because there are two different numbers. It never dawned on them maybe I found more! Since the number is ball park anyway there are a good deal more I could include. I could probably get it up to about 2000 without damaging the truth too much; that would include studies on religious participation and physical health, these are not included in the 350. Lukoff and Lu found a thousand entries for studies that show positive effects of religious experience, they narrowed that down to a hundred maybe, or maybe 50 for their literature search. That was the early 80s so have been a lot more sense then, but a large of those would have been non applicable because they used of one the early search engines and they weren't very refined. In College debate we used an even earlier version (1977). Looking for things on ultrasound as medical diagnostic tool (it was pretty new then) and got stuff on the sexual tendencies of flat worms.

Be that as it may, the atheist attacks upon these studies have remained pathetic. of course we are dealing with people on message boards, so we run the gamut of who is out there. Some on CARM (where I will not longer post) have attacked my studies in my absence. Since I wont post there anymore, it's safe to attack them. Their attacks are confined to non methodological knit picking. They do not present one single valid scientific criticism about the nature of the science involved. The major stock issues that one would use in attacking social science studies would be arguments about replication, sample size, data base, randomness of the sample, representativeness of the data base or the sample, as well as arguments about controls and double blinding. None of this has ever been advanced. Nor has atheist ever bothered to look up one of these studies. Now in this latest round one tried to do that and upon not finding a certain one on a certain search engine just gave up assumes they are all bad. Atheists tend to treat these studies as though they are all one studies. There's this one group of studies called 'the 350 studies' so that if one is bad they are all bad. If they can't find one then none of them exist. These are not valid approaches. There are not just 350 studies, that's the number of the ones' I've either found, or found mentioned in some other source. Attacks upon the bibliography and the one compiling it (Gackenback) are not valid methodological attacks. Some studies are better than others, so some of the 350 might suck, that doesnt' mean all 350 studies are not good. Another trick they have played is to attack Gackenback's bibliography (the studies are bad because they are listed in a bad bibliography) based upon other sources listed in it. For examlpe, she sites De pock Chopra. They don't even bother to find out whey she sites him. She might be saying he's a complete idiot for all they know, they just indulge in classic guilt by association and conclude that because she quotes Chopra and Hood, then Hood but be in the same league Chopra.

So let's move into the specific arguments in this last round:

phoenix702 (on CARM)

Metacrock relies on some less than credible sources
Metacrock is always talking about his "350 studies" as empirical evidence, but many of them are most definitely NOT "empirical" and of low quality. Let me post this another thread on Meta's sources....

Of course he's judging their "low quality" by the fact he could not find a couple on the only social science search engine he bothered to look for. He has no concept of how many of the 350 are good or not good. But 350 is a lot of studies. Air Bags were determined to be valuable and began to be put on cars on the basis of just three studies. 350 is a lot of studies. If only a few are really good that's all that matters.

Btw I could not find studies by Abraham Maslow, C Wright Mills, Warner and Withers, or the All state Air Bag study on that same search engine. So it failed to turn up some of the major thinkers in the social science field, or any of the three studies that established air bags as valid. Moreover, you have to be a member to use the index. So is Phoenix a member? Or did he just put the title int he search box on the top left of the home page. If that's all he did then he wont get anything, that's not how you use the index. You can't just start using it. What he's really complaining about though, when you boil it down is that these studies are not in JAMA or NEJM because those are the kind of sources you get on SSCI. But they don't index psychology articles, and especially not psychology of religion articles.

Now here's an interesting acid test. show me some of the big atheist studies on that sight? Can you show me Zukerman's study indexed in SSCI? I don't think so. But most atheists have no trouble accepting Zucerman as scientific (even though most sociologists do have trouble accepting his crap as scientific).

SSCI is not the only index and it's not the only social scinece index. It is not social abstracts and there's also Wlson Social Abstracts and a couple of others.

then he quotes me to set up the basis for attacking Gackenbak's bibliography:

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
I found 50 more since I first started saying 300.

I first started using that figure about three years ago.

You can count the core list yourself if you wish. Look at the Gackenback bib and the Mohan bib. those two together. make up a huge chunk.
50 more?! Like Gackenback? I've looked at just her "bib" that you are flogging here as evidence and I've got to tell you if that additional 50 is of the same quality as the Gackenback "bib", the you haven't got much.
Then he responds:

Phoenix: Since you have posted these studies and refer to them multiple times in your posts, let's look at them. One good indication of the quality of the work is where it is published and very little of what you list comes from peer-reviewed, quality SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) journals.
That is aburd. you don't prove the Scottish journal is not peer reviewed. It's stupid to think they are not peer reviewed just because they are on a bibliography with Depoc Chopra. Most of them are coming from major journals. Two of the major sources in the early days (80's) were from Journal of Transpersonal psychology. That is clearly one of the major journals in the field of psychology of religion (a field know nothing about, most of them of them have never heard of it). Wuthnow (who did the first rigorous methodological procedure for such a study) and Nobel (who was lauded for her huge data based--at the time huge, 2,400) were both published in that source. These are some of the major studies in the early period.

here is a swath of Mohan's bibliography. tell me what is wrong with these sources?

Adams, N. (1995). Spirituality, science and therapy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 16 (4), 201-208.

Allman, L.S., Dela, R.O., Elins, D.N., & Weathers, R.S. (1992). Psychotherapists attitude towards mystical experiences. Psychotherapy, 29, 564-569.

Anson, O., Antonovskay, A., & Sagy, S. (1990). “Religiosity and well-being among retirees: A question of causality”. Behaviour, Health & Aging, 1, 85-87.

Atchley, R.C. (1997). “The subjective importance and being religious and its effects on health and morale 14 years later”. Journal of Aging Studies, 11, 131-141.

Ball, R.A & Goodyear, R.K. (1991). “Self-reported professional practices of Christian psychotherapists”. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. 10, 144-153.

Balodhi, J.P., Chowdhary, J.R. (1986). “Psychiatric concepts in Atharva Veda: A review”. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 28, 63-68.

Begley, S. (1998, July 20).Science finds God”. Newsweek, 132, 47-52.

Bergin, A.E. (1980). Psychotherapy and religious values. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48, 95-105.

Bergin, A.E. (1983). “Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta analysis”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 170-184.

Bergin, A.E. (1991). “Values and Religious issues in Psychotherapy and mental health”. American Psychologist, 46, 394-403.

Bergin, A.E. & Payne, I.R. (1993).Proposed agenda for a spiritual strategy in personality and psychotherapy”, in E.L. Wothington, Jr. (Ed.). Psychotherapy and Religious Values, (pp. 243-260). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Bhagawad Gita. (1905). Translation by Besant, A. & Das, B. London and Benares: Theological Publishing Society.

Blaine, B., Crocker, J. (1995). “Religiousness, and psychological well-being: Exploring social psychological mediators”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1031-1041.

Brown, L.B. (1994). The human side of prayer: The psychology of praying. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.

Canda, E. (1988). “pirituality, religious diversity, and social work practice”. Social Casework: The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, 69 (4), 238-247.

Canda, E. (1995). “Existential family therapy: Using the concepts of Victor Frankl”. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 76, 451-452.

Caroll, S. (1993). “Spirituality and purpose in life in alcoholism recovery”. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 54, 297-301.

Carlson,R. & Shield,B. (1989). Healers on Healing. Los Angels: Tarchet.

Chekola, M.G. (1975). The concept of happiness (Doctoral dissertation). University of Michigan. (1974). Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 4609A.

Courtenary, B.C., Poon. L.W., Martin, P., & Clayton,G.M. (1992). “Religiostiy and adaptation in oldest-old”. International Journal of Aging & Human Development. 34, 47-46.

Culberson, C.E. (1977). A holistic view of joy in relation to psychotherapy derived from Lowen, Maslow, and Assagoli (Doctoral Dissertation). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 2853B.
He goes on:

I have a major problem with your strong reliance on Jayne Gackenback's unpublished, hence non-peer-reviewed work (a literature review). Gackenback claims that, dreaming gets one in contact with the Vedic Consciousness. This kind of "I'm-A-True-Believer " rif should be a real red flag that her work on this topic is unreliable due to her bias. Samples of your heavy reliance on this very dubious source:

Strong reliance. I don't quote her as a study. I used her bibliography. See this is the Bib attack I spoke of earlier. It's just the height of stupidity to think that because a source is on a bibliography with a bad source that somehow taints the good source. Foolish. But there's nothing wrong with Gackenback anyway, she's a fine researcher, but her main area is sleep research and that tends to be a bit on the edge. She does, therefore, have an association with some less than sterling publications. But this in now way impends upon the sources she sites becuase she didn't' do the studies. I've done a mountain of research on this topic and I know the major studies are. Here's was the first bibliography of the topic that I found. Bedsides all that she accounts for less than half of the studies. Her biboliogrophy was done in 92, so most of her studies are old. But that doesn't make them bad because the same results have been coming in for four decades. Mohan contains almost half the sources and his bib starts about 92 and goes to 2004.

Then he tries to attack Gackenback herself, as though that means anything on her big must be bad.


The following taken from the Gackenback bib:

1. Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback.

Why are you using UNPUBLISHED work here?
I'm not! I'm using her bibliography. The publication of her article has nothing to do with the publication of the items on her bibliography. Don't you even know what a Bibliography is? Secondly, it is published, on her website. She has a degree, she's a professional researcher, she was the editor of a journal, so why doesn't her website count?

The is NOT scholarly (you're so fond of lambasting others for not being scholars that I find this tendency to cite this dubious kind of work and THEN claim that you have "empirical evidence" to be most ironic.
It's not scholarly. What's scholarly is to act like I'm quoting her when I'm only quoted sources she sites! Your just doing guilt by association, that is not a valid methodological attack. Really none of the attacks he makes have anything to do with replication, representation, randomness, or control.

2. She cites Alexander (really fond of him, she is), but what is she citing? One book, two unpublished manuscripts, and two publications in The Lucidity Letter====>The Lucidity Letter, is a non-professional publication, hence non-peer reviewed==>Guess what, Gackenback is the past editor of this low-quality journal, and Alexander is her bud (more on why this is a problem).

Lucidy letter was a professional publication. It wa snot an academic publication. i'm sure you don't know the difference. Again, her quotations from Alexander do not make his study bad. that's really idiotic to think it does. Moreover, it's total stupid to think that a book is a scholarly source. Yes books are still valid scholarly sources. A studyin a book is still a study. Alexander is a good source. It's not that uncommon for scholarly sources to quote unpublished material ether. You can find that being done all the time. Being unpublished doesn't make the findings go away.l Yes publication is important, and you are right about that,but a book is publication.

He gives this URL which is to Lucidity letter. I'm not sure why he sticks it out there.



Now let's look at her citation partner Alexander. He publishes in Modern Science and Vedic Science that is published by guess who, The Maharishi University of Management Press, another turn in the SAME circle of "True Believers" in Vedic Consciousness). What we have here is a citation circle (never a good sign) that you cite as support which consists mainly of an unpublished papers that reference other non-peer reviewed literature in a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle.

This is one study out of the pack (349, or so left to go). He's also deciding what a citation circle is by assuming that the Academy in India is going to work by the same procedures as ours or that they must be inferior because America is the only country that really knows science. He doesn't present any material to prove any problems with this source. He's just guessing. His assertion that I use Alexander as some kind of support is unfounded. He's in the mix of the 350 that doesn't' mean I've singled his stuff out as any particular support for anything.

3. Not only so we have a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle, but she cites frauds like Deepak Chopra!. Really Meta, this is a serious source and we are to take someone who cites this snake-oil salesman as believable?
see there it is. I've seen this before. She sties a bad source (do we know what she says about him? does she say he's good? we don't know) but that means all the sources she sites must also be bad. That's just plain stupid. Because the major studies like Wuthnow and Nobel and Lukoff are sites by the major people such as Hood. So this means nothing as a methodological attack. Nothing more than guilt by association. What are we really being asked to believe about Gackenback? Only that she found some good studies and some bad ones. That's not hard to believe. If the source I site were not on her bib, had I not told the CARM idiots that there were there, they would never have known it. Then they would have no argument against the studies at all. Because notice: he still has not read a single study and has not made a single mythological argument of any one source.

4. Gackenbach now cites herself (round and round in this citation circle we go!).

that is not a citation circle. you need to learn more about social science research. Quoting herself is a total logical thing to do since she did studies. It has nothing to do with otehrs quoting her. You can't show a single source that she quotes quoting her. That's a circle is stupid.

1. Gackenbach, J.I. & Moorecroft, W. (1987). Psychological content of "consciousness" during sleep in a TM subject. Lucidity Letter, 6(1), 29-36. b. Gackenbach, J.I. (1988). The psychological content of lucid dreams.
2. In J.I. Gackenbach & S.L. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum. (NOTE: The low-quality Lucidity Letter, again!)

5. Not content with these non-SSCI journals ( Lucidity Letter and Modern Science and Vedic Science), Gackenback also cites:

* the Journal of UFO Studies. (you've got to be kidding me...this is serious science!) (non-SSCI)

This is rich and hilarious. I've sen this stupid mistake made by atheists before. He wants you to think that Gackenback is an idiot because she quotes something about UFO studies. That would mean she must believe in UFO's right? But since she is a sleep researcher she's quoting to show that there is a similarity between waking dreams and UFO abduction descriptions. This was back in the late 80s or early 90s when that was not so well known. Rather than supporting belief in UFOs she is actually demonstrating the cause of abduction scenarios as waking dreams, meaning she's agaisnt UFO abduction. She has done the valid scholarly thing and quoted her source, she had quote a crazy source to show that the idea is crazy right? so what's wrong with that?

Let's also say something about his crap on the SSI. Social Science Abstracts is the most authoritative source for social scinece studies. The search engine he found, SSI is not. So he's just making stupid assumptions. I know from having published an academic journal that the indecies do not have people running around looking for good stuff to index. You have to apply to them. Not all do that because it doesn't always fit what you are doing. Just not being in a certain index is not proof that your publication is no good.

* the Scottish Journal of Religious Studies (non-SSCI)
* the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion ( non-SSCI).
* another non-SSCI journal, the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
* The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (non-SSCI) that publishes papers from the likes of Ram Dass . {}
* a doctoral dissertation from the Dept. of Neuroscience of Human Consciousness, Maharishi International University (back to the citation circle)

This is nothing more than ideological pandering. Most of these journals are find and he has no real reason for saying they aren't. I don't know why we should expect a Scottish journal to be in an American index. Ram Dass is a popularizer but that doesn't mean everything he does is bad. He does have a major degree from an Ivy league university. He was involved scientific work before he went native. This guy is just assuming that religious structures have to square with secular academia or with western academia and they don't. I would consider Ram Dass to be half backed. I always have.But that doesn't mean anything, because Gackenback quotes him and he is capable of doing some good. Its' silly to judge academics in other countries by American standards. as though they don't have their own standardizes.

again these are things Gackenback quotes, that doesn't mean the 350 studies are in this pile. He has not showen that one of these is from the same group.

6. Gackenbach, J.I. & Bosveld, J. (1989). Control your dreams. NY: Harper & Row
You identified her popular book as a serious academic work. A popular book is NOT a a serious academic work that one relies upon as evidence for ones case. (Gackenback also cites her own book in her work).
where did I do that? I said she's a serious sleep researcher. Just because she does a popular books mean she's not. Lost of major academics have done popular things. Dr. MacFarland did a coffee table book on Japan and he was the major expert on the New Religions of Japan. This has nothing do to with her study on religious experince or on her bibliography.

The point here is that there is a pattern to the stuff you cite and it is not a good one. The vast majority of them are a joke...unpublished, non-peer reviewed, from joke journals like the UFO rag, and/or as part of strongly-biased citation circle (so much for you "empirical evidence"). If this is a representative sample of what you have, I am totally underwhelmed. Why don't you try writing a paper yourself, using the sources you have cited on your web-site as evidence and see how far you get having it published in a reputable SSCI journal?

the pattern is the bald faced lie you are telling. The pattern is you are mining quotes. You looking at the stuff that makes the case of guilt by association. none of the things you site have anything to do with the 350 studies. The studies you are looking at deal with her sleep research. I don't know if you even have hold of the right bibliography. You are just playing game.s Taking things out of context and trying to make a big muddle. you don't know the scholarly world well enough to discern good from bad.

Now this is just a scan of the "Gackenback bib". I do hope that her work isn't typical of the rest of the now "350" (up from the "300" studies).

you have not yet proved that it's typical of even one of them. you haven not demonstrated that one of them is the 350. You are doing nothing more than playing guilt by association.

Your 350 studies, if they are like the Gackenback lot in their quality, they are NOT going to come close to substantiating the claims you are trying to wringe for them, e.g., God as "co-determinant". Quantity is no substitute for quality.

now you are mixing two different concepts, the studies are not about the co-determinate. that's from schleiermacher not the studies. You don't know anything about quality. You are merely playing guilt by association. He learned the term "citation circle" so he wants to use it a lot.

The point here is that I am NOT saying every one of your studies are like many of those from Gackenback. The question is what will you have is anyone ever puts your source under any kind of
scrutinyyou have not done that yet stupid. all you've done is to assault her bibliography and her work in other areas and tangential associations that have nothing to do with the issue.

* What will you have left once one throws out the low quality stuff?

you have not yet demonstrated a single thing wrong with a single study.

* Will what you have left really support the sweeping assertions you are making with it? They don't now IMO (C&P "linky" to why I don't think so below) ({})
why are they sweeping? you have no concept of what they are based upon or what backs them up. Over all about 2000 studies show that religions good for you. why is that such a amazing claim? only because you are brain washed. you are a zombie brainwashed by a hate group.

What I hope you see, Metacrock, if you read this, is WHY we are having problems with your claims. This is NOT an attempt to make you feel bad, attack your self-esteem, ridicule you or Christianity, etc.

this is not why you are having problems. it has nothing to do with the studies, and no one ever went to this much trouble before, not that you haven't done a totally pathetic job.

all he does is play guilt by association and go off on a tangent trying to build a list of criteria for validity that is not used in academic circles. the search engine he sites is not the only source of valid scientific work. Again he treats the whole 350 as though ti's one thing. If one study has a problem the whole thing is bad. the De Pok Chopra stuff and Ram Dass study he sites has nothing to do with the 350 studies, they are not part of that batch. He's just more atheist stupidity not understanding how to do real social science work and using buzz words and half understood concepts. but they do not mount a single methodological attack.

a loot of his attacks have to do with things he doesn't like. he doesn't like religion so any research about meditation and dreams and things that strike him sas supernatural he atomically dismisses as stupid and bad.

Remember also that he doesn't even look at or mention the Mohan bib, Lukoff, or Voyle, Wuthnow or Noble. so these account for well over half, maybe 2/3 of the studies I use. So he's only getting at a fraction of them. Most of the arguments he makes are guilt by association.

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