Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kid knownothing (Hindenberg) strikes again


Kid Knownothing was the guy who launched bitter unnecessary personal attacks on me just because he found something on my blog he didn't agree with. I called him "Hindenberg" (in "answering attack on my experience argument")because he was a bag of hot air (hydrogen) that exploded all over everything and bombed. I saw a blog called "Sophie's Ladder" which I do link to, and "Sophie" was agreeing with me on the issue. That was actually a better rendition than I could give, it is explained clearly and concisely.

In discussions of whether brain activity indeed causes mystical experience or whether it simply runs parallel with it, one controversial issue has been the definition of mystical experience and how one confirms it. On the one hand, Metacrock argues that 1) researchers are not confirming in their work that their subjects are indeed having religious experiences – mystical experiences should be defined by use of the M-scale and long-term effect on the subject; and 2) correlation of brain activity and experience does not prove cause. On the other hand, Kidnonothing contends that 1) the M-scale is useless because it cannot tell us about neurological function; and 2) that predictability and repeatability indicate cause. My own view is that mystical experience is confirmed only by the experiencer andfor that and other reasons, brain activity as cause of mystical experiences cannot be demonstrated.

First of all, Kidnonothing seems to miss J.L. Hinman’s (Metacrock) point when he discards the use of the M-scale. What is at issue here is whether brain / chemical activity produces religious experience (whether what we claim to be spiritual is actually physical). If one is to say that X causes Y, then one must confirm that Y has indeed occurred. Hinman argues that Y (religious experience) has NOT been confirmed in the studies he is critiquing – and the only way this can be done is through use of the M-scale and observation of long-term effects. Metacrock is asserting that to be true scientific work, researchers must scientifically document the occurrence of the mystical experience, not just take the subject’s word for it.

I find from that blog that good old Hindenberg is at it again. He's answered my arguments (so he thinks). So let's look at his come back.

The No-Nothing's Space:


In a response to my initial contentions with respect to Hood's Mysticism Scale and Joe Hinman's reliance on it, Jeff at Sophie's Ladder has taken the time to provide something of a substantial response. Here is the first part of my reply, beginning with two correction.

This is a childish slight because as good as that synopsis is, it doesn't say anything I didn't say myself in my own arguments against him. But be that as it may:

Know nothing:

First, I don't think that the m-scale is useless because it has nothing to do with neurology or cannot identify what's happening in the brain. I think that its conclusions are irrelevant to neurological research. And any criticism of such research based on a reliance on the m-scale is misguided. The m-scale has provided us with a means of giving words to what Hood, Stace and other religious psychologists call an ineffable experience. And it provides empirical data for quantitative studies on self-representation and identification (for example).

Meta: that merely confuses the issue to say that criticism of the research based upon the M scale is misguided. Of course the real criticism is based upon the Non use of the M scale! It's not the research in principle I have a problem with, it's the fact that they don't use a valid means of understanding when they produce a religious experience. He just wasn't to assume that any old idea about God qualifies as mystical experience. that is not the case and without the M scale they really have no way to prove that they produced a mystical experience. It's odd but this guy just doesn't seem to get that.


While Stace maintained that the proximate cause of the experience is irrelevant (and I agree to some extent as does Hood), we should recognize the particularly constrained aspects of the experience that researchers are trying to reveal. For example, items 3, 6, 8, 12 etc. on the scale (the items Hood identifies as "Introvertive Mysticism") deal with the a-spaciotemporality and ineffability of the "mystical experience". Item 12 on the scale says: I have had an experience in which I realized the oneness of myself with all things.

This particular sensation isn't unique to people having mystical experiences as defined by the m-scale. Astronauts have described the same sensation while leaving the Earth's atmosphere and entering space "proper". Jill Bolte Taylor described the same sensation while suffering from a stroke. Now, this is not a criticism in and of itself. But the fact that this introverted mysticism occurs outside of the "mystical experience" as described by the m-scale suggests that further study is required that goes beyond the m-scale. In fact, it also suggests that one doesn't need the m-scale to validate any particular component of its whole. And it is more than plausible that human neurology: demarcating and processing stimuli or being systematically reoriented triggers this sensation.

Meta: Here he is pulling a bait and switch. He argues that certain sensations cover on the M Scale can be found outside mystical experience then having set up the idea that we don't need the M scale because we can experience these things apart from it, then he changes over to the idea that we need further study on those qualities. Now he's ready the lower the boom and try to suggest that we don't need the M scale at all. But that doesn't follow because he hasn't proved that those are the same experiences, nor has he demonstrated that they can separated from the religious experience framework and have the same meaning apart from the theories. It's meaningless anyway since they are not being produced in connection with other things but the nature of mystical experience itself is at issue. This the same mistake the Brog study on serotonin makes. They think they can duplicate mystical experiences by using personality tests and just asserting there are similarities. But this just totally unscientific.

What if they did field trials on the new H1N1 vaccine but did not test for the type of flue the subjects had. What if they just counted all flue as the same on grounds that many of the symptoms of H1N1 are found with other kinds of flues? I wonder if Kid Know Nothing would be willing to try that vaccine on and to trust it as scientific?

Kid know nothing

Second, and this will be short, I did not assert that predictability inferred or infers cause. In fact, I made sure to highlight that certain neurological activity predictably correlate with an introvertive mysticism. And this specific sensation can be replicated by instigating this neural activity.

Meta: Where does he demonstrate this with any sort of evidence? He asserts it but he does not prove it. How does know it if he's not going by the M scale in the first place? What was the control used to determine that it was mystical experience when began comparing the symptoms?

Kid Know Nothing:

Now to my first contention: Hood has defined “mysticism” as “the enigmatic” in his unity thesis, citing the etymological development of the word “mysticism”, stemming from the Greek verb: to close to the modern incarnation of “mysterious” or “the enigmatic”. It's important to recognize that he's not referring to something “out there” or “in us” that in and of itself has some divine or special quality—outside of an introverted and extroverted universality (common core).

He's using Stace's writings to construct the categories. His construction of the three part aspect of the test is much more complex than Know Nothing would lead us to believe. But the basis for all of it is the comparison with his former study and the works of Stace. The validity of Stace as proven by the studies is what guarantees the vitrifaction of the categories.

Know Nothing:

So, I don't think a mystical experience is mystical in the sense that people like Joe use the word. And that's why I assert that there really is no way to tell if the experience is mystical to begin with.

Meta: What a stupid argument! That's just sheer sophistry. All he's saying is the terms do not line up with the etiology of the words used to depict them so therefore they are exactly accurate. So what? That has absolutely nothing to do with the issues. He could identify them by numbers if he wished. So what? People have experience 246.209 tend to have long term positive effects such as life transformation experiences, more often than those who don't! Who care's the label says? That has nothing to do with how they line up the study. That's like saying "well in double blinds you are not really blinded you can see so therefore not really double blind."

Kid Know Nothing:

I believe that there is a kind of “pseudoconflation” occurring in which the first two factors: the introvertive and extrovertive aspects) of the experience, which are a part of Stace's common core thesis, and the interpretative factor are being mashed together.

Mashed together?

The items on the scale that deal with the interpretative elements of the experience are themselves inducted into subjective language. Hood acknowledges that the interpretative factor is not intersubjective and doesn't carry over across cultures. And common sense would tell us this is true as well. To the Jew he uses “G-d”, to the Wiccan “nature”, and explicitly refers to the religious, affective and noetic subfactors (or contextualized results of the experience) as comprising the third factor in the three-factor m-scale analysis. But the third factor isn't a part of the common core, which is what the scale does validate. So the purpose of the scale is not to show that a religious experience has occurred, as Jeff writes and Joe assumes.

But the point to that that's he's over looking is that when they do take the names out the experiences are still the same. Of course they have to use the traditions in which the people live or they wont have any results. How would a Christian respond to question about "did you sense the presence of Buddha?" What would that mean? Or if you asked "did you sense the presence of X" they would say "what the heck is X?" You have to have a comparison. Once that's established then you can compare the results. The comparison shows they are all having the same kind of experiences. But that would be meaningless without first establishing what they are talking about as far s the actual people experiencing understand it.

It is to validate Stace's common core thesis and provide empirical data for and verification of Hood's unity thesis: the Jamesian view that there is little diversity among mysticisms if one focuses on experience rather than its interpretation (1). So, simply put, the mysticism scaleverifies the common core. That is, “the enigmatic” experience is experienced everywhere with little variation. But it does not validate the third factor, whether the experience is religious, noetic or affective.

He's totally missing the point again. You can't make a comparison of noetic qualities if people don't know what you are asking. The third factor validates it, not vice versa.

So, the m-scale provides us with a set of worded characteristics for the ineffable experience that Hood and Stace call mystic. Neurologists can study these characteristics freely without having to study the totality of the experience and being bogged down by whether they're truly replicating the whole experience or not. So it doesn't matter if they can't be sure if they're replicating the experience in its whole. They're trying to mimic various components of the experience and find their cause (being what the second part will deal with).

He still doesn't understand what tit's for. he thinks the point is to understand the qualities of the experience better. Its' not. Its' to determine if the experience is validly mystical, or in other words does it stack up the categories that Stace found when he studied the writings of all the major mystics. In validating Stace in previous work Hood created a situation where further validation of the experience itself is possibly by building a typology from the confirmation of the experiences in the lives of people. In other words it's an empirically tested index of what people experience in that sort of thing called "mystical." It doesn't compete with brain chemistry or studies thereof, it's a profile, it's a stack of characteristics of these sorts of people. Researchers like Borg are merely asserting that any reference to God or transcendence or spirituality is as good as any other and that this is mystical experience. But that misses the boat because there is this complex set characteristics which people have who fit the profile of a mystic have experienced. The M scale tests that, the personality study doesn't.

People who have those kinds of experiences (the argument that it's not "mystical" is so lame,but Maslow also called it "Peak" -- let's seem him argue that it's not "peak) these people are experiencing a range of things, many characteristics. To boil it down to one or two and say "well they have this and that and so does he so looked we produced in the lab because we got him to experience two things that mystics experience" is just not any kind of proof and is not any kind of scientific method.

what would it hurt to use the M Scale? If it's going to blow their study to use it maybe that means their study is no good?

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tinythinker said...

It all turns on whether you are really open to certain possibilities or whether you've decided the outcome you'd prefer from the start. If there is no room in your reality for mystical experiences, it all has be coincidence and conflation.

J.L. Hinman said...

if they want to take the presence of certain chemicals in the brains of peackers as proof that it's just a chemical thing, there are arguments again that, but they don't care what they are. So nothing can be done.

The fact is most of them are not willing to even look at the research. they try minimize the experience without knowing any of the studies or understanding what's being said. That's just so closed mined. I could never be an atheist again.

Even if I quite belief in God i would still never say "I am an atheist."

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