Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Answering Attack on my Experience Argument


A college kid ("kidnonothing") with a blog called NO Nothing Space has delivered a series of ingenious and devistitaing blows against my blog and my personal experience arguments. This kid is so ingenious he actually makes fun of the name "metacrock" ("a crock of Meta" is the matchless creative and extremely deep title of his thing, whatever it is).No one in the history of man has ever thought to make fun of the name "meatcrock." Of cousre I choose that name because its so serious and no one would ever make fun of it. Like the name "kidnonothing" connotes a real thinker.

This is an attack on my defense of mystical experience in the fact of the chemical determinist onslaught.

I was scouring the internet for purely unrandom rubbish when I came across this gem of Christian paranoia.

Note immediately that the hate group minion uses the phrase "rubbish" but also "paranoia" of my article which is an intellectual analysis of the issues involved in mystical experience and chemical determinism. So answering atheist attacks on arguments make one paranoid?

Despite my unabashed dislike of apologetics, I often find myself indulging an argument here or there, or all the time for the sake of entertainment. Some have called me a verbal masochist, because I thoroughly enjoy the stress-inducing frustration of arguing the qualities of the non-existent. You can probably get a hint as to why I latched onto this guy's blog post, already.

So it's peranoid to write a serious peice about mystical experince and brain chemistry. right, got it.I would love to see this, ahahaahah "philosophy major's" term paper. O god!

The author is a fellow by the name of Joe Hinman, or at least that's what he calls himself. I have no reason to doubt, but I'm naturally skeptical of all things. So I'll call him Joanne for now until he can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is in fact Joe Hinman, and not Joanne. Just kidding.

What a comedian. what is that about? O the little child has heard that making fun of names is a way to intimidate and at the ripe old age of 23 he has absolutely no no sill at pull off intimidation tactics.

This character has a lot more bile to spill under the guise being creative and clever so I'll deal with that on atheist watch. Let's try to find some kind of kernel of intelligent criticism.

His first contention is that the study authors can't show that they are actually testing "real mystical experiences". Well, Joe, neither can anyone show that there is such a thing as a mystical experience to begin with, or that these experiences are not biochemical. Relying on current neurological ignorance won't get anyone anywhere in the long run, because neurologists will eventually find out what's going on in our heads while we are experiencing these "mystical experiences". And I don't know how many people can distinguish between "real mystical experiences" and "unreal mystical experiences", as if there is some coherently meaningful division between the two that everyone magically knows.

He demonstrates the only ignorance my argument turns upon. The point is not that my argument turns upon the ignorance in the state of the art in research of mystical experience. We know how to tell if a person had a mystical experience or that, that is no problem. We use the M scale (Mysticism scale) developed by Ralph Hood, which I did talk about in my blog piece and which this "person" is totally ignorant. The M scale is the state of the art research instrument, cross culturally validated it has become the the method of choice in psychology of religion. Here is the text in Hood's text book which will demonstrate the cross cultural validation of the scale and what it means for social science research. Hood is immanent and one of the major researchers in his field. But He ant no 23 year old "philosphy" major.

Joe rests on the idea that these guys who are studying how the brain manufactures religious experiences don't know about the M-scale. Anyone who's familiar with Joe "Metacrock" Hinman will have heard of this scale ad nauseum. But on the face of it, that accusation seems rather obtuse.

Yet somehow not as obtuse as this guy's reading sills. I said that the people such as Presinger who claim that they manufacture religious experiences by inducing them with drugs like serotonin or little helmets that shock the brain (the serotonin study that LaCanuck on CARM is always harping about) those guys don't know about the M scale. If the delicate genius would actaully their studies as I have done, he would see that. Of course he's too busy writing brilliant blog stuff this this, where he demonstrates his acute reading reading comprehension. So this proves that telling this guy something ad nauseum doesn't help him understand it.

It is unlikely that people who are researching mystical experiences don't know about a nearly half-century old, popular psychology scale. It is also an ultimately irrelevant consideration. One of the reasons why I'm not particularly keen on using the m-scale to criticize neurological research is because it's essentially a psychological aptitude test. The scale isn't meant to answer neurological questions. So when researchers are trying to figure out what parts of the brain are functioning to manufacture the sensations that we normally associate with mystical experiences, the m-scale is completely useless because it can't tell us anything about how the brain is working in its neurological makeup.

This is where this guy's true genius comes to the fore. This is the kind of brilliant understanding that produced one of the most success and well engineered lighter than air ships, and filled it with Hydrogen, the Hindenberg! He thinks I'm saying Presinger has never actually herd the term "M scale." Well that's not his field just because he does neurobiology doesn't mean he knows anything about psychology of religion. But to be fair he might sleep with a copy under his pillow for all I know, but he hasn't used it in his studies. Now here's the clever bit, by half: This guy thinks I'm saying that the M scale is about neurology. I think anyone with half a brain who read my previous article understood that I said nothing about that. The M scales tells us if one has had a real mystical experience or not. It's the only cross culturally validated way to measure the depth of a mystical experience. He's right the M scale is not about neurology, that's not my argument Hindenburg!

What's the importance of them not using it? Let's be clear now, by not using it the researchers such as Pretinger cannot prove the evoked mystical experiences. This guy thinks they can just do some neurology stuff and see the mystical experience in the brain. they cannot. They have no basis form which to connect brain chemistry with mystical experience before they prove they've produced one. But they can't prove that because they don't use the M scale to measure it! Hindenburg has demonstrated poor reading comprehension skills so let's say it again. Put it in social parlance: there is no control on their measurement of what they have produced in terms of mystical experience. They can't prove they did it. Without using the M scale they have no verifiable reliable accepted measurement to prove they made a mystical experience happen. you can't just say "I feel something about God, or I thought about God while I had this helmet on" and call that a mystical experience.

Atheists have bought into the assumption that they are not human, that they are merely chemical robots, sacks of chemicals with electricity flowing through them. They can't appreciate the holistic value so reduce rather than seek to understand. So they are just willing assume that mystical experience is nothing more than chemicals in the head so it need not be proved. They are willing to accept sloppy scientific procedure when it comes to backing up their pet ideology. In The New Frontier of Religion and Science, John Hick has a whole chapter where develops this argument. The brain research guys who try to reduce religious experience to brain chemistry are fine neurologists but they sloppy social scientists. Without using a validated control they have no way to prove that they produced a mystical experience. They can brag all they want to about their findings but their findings are not controlled and are suspect. But Andrew Newberg who pioneered in research of the "God part of the brain" tell us in Why God Wont Go Away that these experiences are real. They not illusions or trick of the mind, something real is actually happening in the brain when we think about God. Buit even he doesn't use the M scale so even can't prove he's produced a mystical experience, but he also doesn't claim to have done so. His research is about what happens in the brain when people think about God, it's not about mystical experience.

But missing the point is not enough for Hindenberg. He moves on to new heights of misunderstanding:

Second, Joe argues that:

All these researchers are doing is trying to line up the presence of some tranquilizing chemical such as serotonin and some form of thought which includes religious imagery. That doesn't prove anything because they can never show that the serotonin is the actual cause of the transformation effects that occur long term over the life span of the subject many years subsequent.

The first problem I have with this statement is that there's absolutely nothing insubstantial about lining up neurochemistry with the overall manifestation of the mystical experience or any experience for that matter.

Yes there sure is something wrong with it when you have a control to show that that's what you produced in the first place. But secondly, he doesn't seem to get that I'm not talking about the initial experience or the feeling of the experience (such as sweaty palms or something) I'm talking about the long term effects, did it make you nicer, did it change your life, did you feel more love. ect. Some of the 350 studies I talk about compare M scale respondents with transactional self actualization scales to see that mystical experiences have actually increased their sense of this or that, or have achieved this or that, or have been self actualized or not. They find that those who experience mystical experience are more self actualized than those who do not have such experiences. The actualization can be linked to the mystical experience. AT that point the brain chemistry quite beside the point.

Newberg found from his research that religious or mystical experiences predictably correlate with increased frontal lobe activity and a negatively correlated parietal lobe activity.

That's not a chemical in the bran, that's a part of the brain. While I'm sure a chemical is involved that's not the issue because I'm talking about mapping the expeinces in the geography of the brain I'm talking the long term effects in life.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain where we essentially concentrate and the parietal lobe is where we get our spatial awareness from. This basically means that people having the experience will become aware of their individuallity slipping away and they will "become one with the universe"... man. And this is a repeatable phenomenon. The question neurologists are trying to answer is what is neurochemically going on in our brains that causes these kinds of sensations to occur.

Hindenberg has done it again! He has surpassed his level of obtusity! In brilliant display of not getting the point he approaches the sublime level of the obtuse. First, Newberg states explicitly that his research is not a damper on the common theory, belief in God or the idea that mystical experience is a trace of the divine. He actually argues that his research proves it is a work of the divine. He argues for an understanding of divine that would entail "God" (of object of ultimate concern) working through brain chemistry. He establishes that there is a spirituality of the neurological centers. None of the chemical reductionists have managed to disprove the divine origins of the experience. Just because chemicals are involved is no argument against the involvement of the divine.

Newberg: Why God Wont Go Away:

A skeptic might suggest that a biological origin to all spiritual longings and experiences, including the universal human yearning to connect with something divine, could be explained as a delusion caused by the chemical misfiring of a bundle of nerve cells. But …After years of scientific study, and careful consideration of the a neurological process that has evolved to allow us humans to transcend material existence and acknowledge and connect with a deeper, more spiritual part of ourselves perceived of as an absolute, universal reality that connects us to all that is.(157-172)

Newberg again:

…Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.

The second problem I have with this statement is that Joe wants us to honestly believe that neurologists can "never show that the serotonin is the actual cause of the transformation effets that occur long term over the life span of the subject many years subsequent." Now this might very well be true (anticlimactic, no?), but it's a rather deceptive point and completely irrelevant.

Completely irrelevant! Is' the whole argument! that is the actual point,very nub, the crucial turning point of my whole argument. It's the lynch pen, the transcendental signifier of my whole heuristic. See what I mean? Is he not the Master of missing the point? This is the single most crucial turning point of the whole argument that I make, in fact all four of my mystical experience based arguments, and yet he doesn't even get it,he think it's irrelevant! If the argument turns on this point and you don't have an answer to you have not answered my argument, stupid!

It's also crucial because it's a tie breaker. If the opening of neural receptors could be an act of God or a naturalistic act either one, and there's no way to tell, then we have to seek some other difference between the two states. The real difference is people who have mystical experience go on to have life transformations and have much better lives and much deeper insights and so on. that's the crucial point that makes the difference in having it or not having it.If you can't link that to the chemical reaction then you have done nothing to set the naturalistic hypothesis above the common core hypothesis as the valid interpretation. That is so long as the transformation effects are linked to the experience, the psychosocial research, including the M scale demonstrates that link very forcefully.

All of this was in the previous article btw. Many of my readers who aren't philosophy majors got it.

No one is trying to show that any specific chemical causes a transformative affect on people's lives over long lenghts of time. Researchers are simply trying to discover what causes the experience itself.

Yes genius, that's true. That's why they are wrong! that's why people who argue that those kings of studies disprove the divine connection to the experience are dead wrong and making asses of themselves because they don't understand the arguments or the logic of he research. They also show a total lack of knowledge concerning the data. They clearly are not well read in the field, ie psychology of religion.

No one denies that self-reported religious experiences are affective. That's patently obvious. If you have an experience that makes you think you're Brahman, you're going to have a fundamentally new outlook on life. Moreover, there is an underlying question of whether the experience is or is not a religious one to begin with or just an experience that's very weird.

With that statement the maestro misses the point brilliantly again, and in so doing demonstrates himself to be totally ignorant. There is no basis in the research to demonstrate that people who have mystical experiences have suddenly just started thinking of themselves as some kind of spiritual giants. There's no evidence to connect mystical experience to heightened sense of one's own importance. There's plenty of evidence to connect it to greater humility, or a deeper sense of one's lack of importance in terms of just being part of a whole that's greater than one's self. But there's no evidence that translates into arrogance. It's atheists who don't even have any religious experiences who are abhorrently arrogant and who demonstrate an ignorance to match. Like so many lazy ignorant people who can't be bothered to read the research, Hindenburg makes assumptions about the character of mystical experiencers which are contrary to the data. But one often attacks an enemy for likeness he sees in himself.

Joe introduces a number of ad hoc contrivances afterwards to buttress the overall point, all essentially dealing with god's involvement in the process. So I won't really get into those, since, quite frankly, it's a waste of time. So instead I will stop here. Abrupt, aren't I? You'll have to forgive me as I get accustomed to writing blogs.

This reference demonstrates Hindenberg's sheer genius at not knowing important bodies of literature that are crucial to the issue. Those would be Shcleiermacher contrivances and Rodolphe Otto Contrivances. I do urge Hindenberg to look those names up on Wiki as I'm' sure he's never heard of them.


Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Works Considered:
Reinert, and Stifler. Hood's M-Scale Revisited: a factor-analytic replication. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 1993, 32, (4), pp. 383-388.

Stifler et al. An Empirical Investigation into the Discriminability of Reported Mystical Experiences Among Religious Contemplatives, Psychotic Inpatients, and Normal Adults. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 1993, 32, (4), pp. 366-372.

"works considered" if he had actually read those materials and considered them he would have understood how lame his attacks are.

Jeff Carter said...

I agree, Kidnonothing missed your point that if one cannot confirm Y (mystical experience) is happening, then one cannot assert that X causes Y; and he definitely starts with the biased assumption that only the physical is real, so mystical experiences must be physical if they are indeed occurring.

I believe what remains is the larger issue of whether mystical experience can ever be confirmed other than by the experiencer - by the M scale or other methods.

It seems to me that we are separated from one another and that you can never get into my head or vice versa. I've blogged about your "dialogue" with the Kid in the post "Mystical Experience Cannot Be Defined by Brain Activity" on my website. (www.sophiesladder.com)

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

I believe what remains is the larger issue of whether mystical experience can ever be confirmed other than by the experiencer - by the M scale or other methods.

It seems to me that we are separated from one another and that you can never get into my head or vice versa. I've blogged about your "dialogue" with the Kid in the post "Mystical Experience Cannot Be Defined by Brain Activity" on my website. (www.sophiesladder.com)

right right right right right right right. But we have that probelm wtih all things.

Now the M scale has the advantage that it follows the categories of Stace, who basically read all the great mystics and distilled what they said. The M scale validates those categories. So that means it's must closer, although not perfect, to getting a real handle on the phenomena at least in terms what the experincers themselves say.

Jeff Carter said...

Alright, fair enough. Looks what I need to do is read all your blogs on M-Scale unless you have other recommendations.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

you can't do better than to read this section from the text book by Hood.

He invented the scale. Hes' the foremost researcher on this topic in he world today. He's done about 50 of the major studies in the field. His scale is standard procedure in the field of psychology of religion.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

that link leads to the place in the book where he starts talking about the M scale, but you should go back and read that whole chapter.