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Communications Science

Scientists Deliver 'God' Via A Helmet 1020

prostoalex writes "Scientific American is reporting on scientific work done to map the euphoric religious feelings within the brain. As a result, it's now quite possible to experience 'proximity to God' via a special helmet: 'In a series of studies conducted over the past several decades, Persinger and his team have trained their device on the temporal lobes of hundreds of people. In doing so, the researchers induced in most of them the experience of a sensed presence — a feeling that someone (or a spirit) is in the room when no one, in fact, is — or of a profound state of cosmic bliss that reveals a universal truth. During the three-minute bursts of stimulation, the affected subjects translated this perception of the divine into their own cultural and religious language — terming it God, Buddha, a benevolent presence or the wonder of the universe.""
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Scientists Deliver 'God' Via A Helmet

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  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:28AM (#20893903)
    Sensing something that is not there.... surely that classifes as hallucination
  • Re:Acid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:38AM (#20893987)
    Coming soon to a government near you. Big Brother loves you.
  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:46AM (#20894057)
    After a few millenia, the term "new" hardly applies.
  • Re:serious answer. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rootofevil ( 188401 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:51AM (#20894089) Homepage Journal
    funny, i dont feel the need to talk about my non-belief until someone tries to 'educate' me on their belief system. its not exactly a catch-22 when large, well-funded groups have dedicated their resources in an attempt to un-secularize my country.
  • by EinZweiDrei ( 955497 ) * <einzweidrei@wildmail.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:51AM (#20894091)
    It sounds as though you're more afraid of this work than its authors are 'afraid of [religion]'. Slashdot has been known for biased summaries in the past, but this one is [miraculously!] almost straight synopsis, as is the article. Neither makes any moral or philosophical assertations. [In fact, the article asserts that the technology could be used to make non-theists happier!]

    How is this not news that matters? Isn't this a little more important than articles about the latest nuance in the Linux Task Scheduler? Might it not help us understand that whole religion bit that's been, you know, an integral part of the human experience for all of observable history?

    Perhaps a little introspection as to what about this article so upsets you would yield some overall personal benefit.

  • by eegad ( 588763 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:54AM (#20894109)
    Just because you can replicate the sensory experience of something by "poking" at the brain doesn't mean that a real outside stimulus is false. For instance, I think you could probably make the brain experience the sensory perception of color by "poking" at the visual cortex. That doesn't change the fact that there are real world stimuli that evoke this experience as well. In short, showing that the brain is capable of experiencing something because of a different, artificial stimulus does not predict or rule out the primary "natural" source of that experience. Although it does present an interesting question for evolutionary theory - why does this perception ability exist?
  • by SourGrapes ( 1003959 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:00AM (#20894149)
    First of all, this is an old experiment, I remember reading about it a long time ago. But while it's interesting from a neuroscience point of view to discover the location of these experiences within the brain, it doesn't give us any philosophical insight into the existence or non-existence of God. On the one hand, it could be that the religious experiences that people have had throughout history were caused by random events stimulating this bit of the brain. But from the theistic perspective, it seems obvious that if God exists He would build the brain with some capacity to detect His presence under certain circumstances -- just as we can't say that the fact the experience of seeing colour is caused by certain brain regions being stimulated means that colour doesn't exist except in our heads, we can't say that this experiment proves that God is just in our heads either. So: philosophically uninteresting.
  • Re:Proof! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cassius Corodes ( 1084513 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:05AM (#20894193)
    Except of course for the tiny contribution that is of all of human technology and knowledge that scientists have contributed. A small matter I know, but I felt the need to add it.
  • There is no divine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:07AM (#20894215) Journal
    This seems like more proof of what I personally believe, that there is nothing mysterious or supernatural in our universe. Everything in human history about religion and spirituality is just our minds and imaginations running around playing tricks. Religion is a Ouija board; and we're all moving our own hands and pretending there's something great and magical out there that's doing it. Our minds are so primitive and easily tricked that we can even induce this feeling artificially. People have been doing it for a long time, long before this device. LSD users report the same kind of experiences as well as hallucinations. I'm not trying to say that having these experiences is a bad thing, but take it for what it's worth. It's an interesting or novel change in your perception, but it's transient, and only "real" insofar that it really happened to you, outside of your own mind everything is chugging along normally and the world is no different, no more mysterious or wondrous than it was before.

    There's plenty of wonder in the world to be experienced without using a Ouija board.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:08AM (#20894219)
    In other news... scientists demonstrate they can induce a sensation of movement by stimulating part of the brain's temporal lobe. Skeptics use this as evidence that all motion is illusion. :-)
  • by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:08AM (#20894221) Journal
    In other News: Scientists conclude God doesn't exist after scientists give acid to patients who then have a religious experience.
  • by pohl ( 872 ) * on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:09AM (#20894227) Homepage

    But from the theistic perspective, it seems obvious that if God exists He would build the brain with some capacity to detect His presence under certain circumstances

    Interesting spin, but you're stretching it. And I think this is interesting, because every time science learns something about the universe or the mind like this the rhetorical effort required to work God back into the model gets more tortured. And that trend, I would say, constitutes a hint as to where to look for philosophical insight, were one inclined to glean some.

  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:10AM (#20894239)
    How does creating a helmet that can induce feelings of "religious experience", which is by definition an outside influence, prove in any way that an outside influence is unnecessary.
  • by Blancmange ( 195140 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:25AM (#20894359)
    The results of the experiments are consistent with the mind-numbingly banality of the reports of God, Satan, Heaven, Hell and astral travelling trips.

    There's a good reason people can spend an hour describing what they did on a day out at the beach, whereas people who claim to have experienced Heaven can't bear to describe it for more than a few minutes. Heaven's all 'wonderful,' you see, but nothing in the recount of Heaven is anything to write home about. Quite a lot of recounts of Heaven are pretty tasteless, rather Hellish, even.

    In contrast, one who is recalling a day out at the beach will have no trouble identifying what it was about the experience that made them happy.

    Therefore it's far more plausible that in a Heaven NDE, the 'Wonderful' button was being directly stimulated so that nothing in the experience need be interesting at all.

    It's a wirehead thing.
  • by Joe Tie. ( 567096 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:35AM (#20894415)
    What does God need with a brain? Aren't religious experiences supposed to involve that special nonbiological soul thing?
  • by aichpvee ( 631243 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:40AM (#20894455) Journal
    Why would anyone consider whether or not something exists when there is no evidence to suggest that there is such a thing in the first place?
  • Re:Proves nothing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:42AM (#20894465) Homepage Journal
    Hehe, I get the feeling that everyone else who is posting comments like yours is just playing the devil's advocate but you really believe what you just wrote don't you?

    The *point* of the demonstration is to show that there is an area of the brain that is trivial to stimulate and which causes "connection to the sacred". What it shows is that religious experience is hardwired into us. It is not learned and it is not a mystical thing. It is a physical part of the brain.

  • Re:...maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mstone ( 8523 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:47AM (#20894491)
    You're confusing the mechanism of perception with the existence of a source.

    Brain surgeons have long known that stimulation of the temporal lobe can make people hear voices. That doesn't count as proof that 'voices' don't really exist, though.. unless you're writing the Cliff's Notes summary of The Matrix.

    One could just as well ask why such a center exists in the brain if nothing exists to stimulate it.

  • Re:serious answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seriesrover ( 867969 ) <seriesrover2@yahoo.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:48AM (#20894505)
    Well a POV from one of those theists...does this "God box" prove anything? No, it shows that one can emulate, or at best recreate, a spiritual experience. Of course I don't know how on earth anyone can measure it as being a "God box" but I'll put that aside. But it hardly disproves the existance of God when there are so many other unanswered questions that aethists don't appear to have answers for....in my opinion that are conclusive.

    If for example I had a "taste box" that made everything taste like chocolate...it doesn't prove that nothing exists that tastes of chocolate.

    And for all the theists I know, only a small fraction would tell people they are going to burn in hell or go around forcing people (forcing what exactly?). The overwhelming majority don't do that and either silently disagree (by respecting your beliefs) or state their beliefs in a civil, non confrontational way. On what you say about a double standard I think you're reading different semantics to what they mean. You can respect (accept someone has a POV in a civil manor), but disagree with them.

  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:55AM (#20894555)
    Color is a perfect example. Red/green colorblindness. Just because people afflicted with that condition cannot percieve a difference between those wavelengths of light doesn't mean that no difference exists.
  • by Khashishi ( 775369 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:10AM (#20894633) Journal
    Religion causes psychological dependence, which is harder to break.
  • Re:serious answer. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by seriesrover ( 867969 ) <seriesrover2@yahoo.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:12AM (#20894643)
    Correct. There is *nothing* that can prove nor disprove the existance of God...including the "good book". I can not show you something that will undeniably prove it to you. The "good book" does indeed state the existance of God but it talks about it through faith, not proof.
  • by deerpig ( 62295 ) <brad AT chenla DOT la> on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:19AM (#20894689) Homepage
    But you're missing the point. The only thing believers have had to hold up as evidence of the existence of God are these experiences.

    Now these experiences can not only be explained, but duplicated in a laboratory.

    If that's all there is to back up belief, it doesn't prove that something doesn't exist, but on the other hand there isn't anything left that can't be rationally explained and duplicated to believe there is one.

  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:21AM (#20894695)
    Everything you say is correct except for saying that these results are completely inconclusive.

    The first and most major result of such experiments is to show that no "religious experiences" can be trusted as personal proof of an almighty being. Just because you have had a few instances in your life when you truly felt God's presense, that alone should mean virtually nothing without some other verification. If this sensation can be created without God's presense, then it is no longer valid "proof" of his existance.

    While this induced stimuli is artificial, it still shows that such stimuli can be false. A computer screen can "trick" the human brain into thinking there are actual monsters on a screen, but that just shows that simply seeing something is not proof that it is really there. I will need some other form of proof other than just a vision of a monster is inside my wall, because there could be a tv projector creating the image.

    There are also natural causes of false stimuli. I could see a mirage of water on the road ahead of me when there is no water for instance.

    Of course nothing in this study "proves" that there are no such things as true divine experiences. All it "proves" (as if a single study could ever prove anything) is that simply believing that you have had a religious experience is largely meaningless. The next step in the research is to find natural causes of such metaphysical perceptions. That would still not prove anything, but it would again make if far more likely that any divine experience is untrustworthy.

  • Re:serious answer. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aichpvee ( 631243 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @02:35AM (#20894769) Journal
    This is the most ridiculous argument anyone has ever made. In no other area of human "thinking" (I'll use the term loosely here) would anyone seriously claim that something exists when there is no reason to even suspect that it might.

    Believing in "god" makes less sense than believing that there is a 747 jumbo jet at the center of the Sun. At least in the case of the 747 those actually do exist.
  • by mstone ( 8523 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:26AM (#20895057)

    Science and religion are orthogonal to each other. The set of axioms that runs:

    1. Science deals in falsifiable statements.
    2. 'God' cannot be falsified.
    3. Science disproves (falsifies) 'God'

    wouldn't last five minutes in Introduction to Logic 101.

    The only rational thing to say is that science does not allow us to make statements about the existence of 'God', which should hardly be a surprise to anyone.

    Science deals largely with the study of symmetries.. things that allow us to ignore some kind of change. The laws of projectile motion remain the same (are symmetric) regardless of whether you're facing north or south; whether you're standing in Boston or Beijing.

    One thing that's extremely easy to ignore is 'agency'. You can write a doctoral thesis on the kinetics and aerodynamics of a curveball, but you can't use any of it to 'prove' or 'disprove' the existence of Nolan Ryan. Science only allows us to talk about how the ball behaves subsequent to a given set of initial conditions. It doesn't allow us to extrapolate that behavior back to the agent which imposed those original conditions.

    At the end of the day, there are only two possible end-states for science: Either we'll be able to reduce the creation of our universe to a set of repeatable phenomena that could be reproduced by an intentional agent with sufficient resources, or we'll find that we can't reduce the creation of our universe to a set of repeatable phenomena. In other words, we'll either prove that 'God' could exist, or we'll prove that 'God' must exist.

    Besides, science doesn't have all that much going for it in the Universal Truths department. It has a tendency to paper over difficult fundamental questions by slapping a name on what happens, and sweeping the rest of the mess under the rug of combinatorial complexity.

    When Newton published his theory of gravity, it was denounced as mysticism by his peers. They considered the idea of 'action at a distance' tantamount to saying, "God did it." General relativity papered over the problem by calling it 'curved space/time'. We still don't really have any solid answers on what 'space' or 'time' are, and the mechanism of 'gravity' is still an open question, but GR has great predictive power, and tons of experimental validation.

    In 1909, Rutherford discovered 'the hand of God' when he proved that electrons don't fall to the lowest possible energy state as predicted by the most basic laws of electrodynamics. Quantum theory papered over that problem by calling it 'uncertainty'. The fact that we can't explain 'uncertainty' in any terms other than 'it just happens' is something we can ignore. QT also has great predictive power and tons of experimental validation.

    The small fact that GR and QT are mathematically incompatible -- meaning they can't both describe the same universe -- is something we don't talk about when the children are in the room.

    Ffor all the intricate math, and all the really cool things we've done by reducing physics to engineering, we're still dealing with the simplest cases of the simplest pieces we can find. Inverse-square law? We're so excited about being able to call it a Universal Truth that we'll ignore the fact that the N-body problem is provably unsolvable in the general case. Protein folding? Meh.. let's harness a few teraflops of distributed processing power and brute-force our way through the umpty-zillion possibilities. Consciousness? It is to laugh. 'God'? Not even on the map.

    A large part of what makes science and math such great tools is that they tell us their own limits. We know for a fact that mathematics as we practice it today cannot derive all possible truths from a finite set of axioms. We know that science doesn't give us the tools to discuss matters of agency or initial-first-causes.

    Watching people ignore those limits and use 'science' to 'disprove God' offends me as a mathematician.

  • by MrMr ( 219533 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:04AM (#20895245)
    Because their parents have told them that there is such a thing.

  • Re:serious answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PurpleBob ( 63566 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:11AM (#20895281)
    1. Evolution. Animals that can think eat the ones that can't.
    2. Evolution. Populations of moral animals survive better than populations of immoral ones.
    3. You can't model the Big Bang with Newton's Third Law, so don't try. And since "time" and "cause and effect" are aspects of this universe, it doesn't make sense to ask what happened "before" the Universe or what "caused" it.
    4. Hopefully, the fact that you love your family manifests itself in observable facts about the real world, something that religious statements usually lack.

    You're welcome.
  • Re:serious answer. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by setien ( 559766 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:14AM (#20895303)
    There is no trace of evidence that chocolate actually exists, but many people talk incessantly about the wonderful substance of chocolate, and how they can often taste it, which is proof to them of chocolates existence.

    The chocolate helmet shows that there are perfectly scientific explanations to the taste of chocolate that need not involve invisible Magical Hershey Bars or the great Girardelli factory in the sky.
  • Re:serious answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BillyBlaze ( 746775 ) <tomfelker@gmail.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:29AM (#20895413)
    Our ability to think and reason, and our sense of right and wrong, can be adequately explained by evolutionary psychology.

    Science can't explain how or why the initial conditions of the universe came about. But religion can't either. All it does is replace those unknowns with totally unsubstantiated story, and in doing so creates even more unknowns. For example, religion can't explain how or why an omniscient personal God came about.

    I presume there's evidence that you love your three daughters, so you can "prove" it to me. Otherwise, no, I wouldn't believe it. If I claim the plate of spaghetti I am about to eat loves you, but I can't prove it, should you believe it? I certainly hope not, because there's no evidence that my spaghetti even exists, let alone that it has exhibited love for your daughters.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @04:41AM (#20895497)
    Persinger created the "God helmet," which generates weak electromagnetic fields and focuses them on particular regions of the brain's surface.

    Yet again, we have more evidence that the brain can be affected by EM.

    If you are a government and you want to make sure everybody is dulled down, what better way than to flood society with technologies masked as ubiquitous, ever-so-useful tools which people voluntarily hold up to their heads several times a day, every day of the year?

    Cell phones don't cause cancer. Well, they do, but that's not the primary intention. The primary intention is to make you dumb and susceptible to further programming and easy management.


  • Re:serious answer. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2007 @05:25AM (#20895739)

    Where did your ability to think and reason come from?

    It emerged and was stimulated by social interaction and solving tasks presented to me in school. Some people say it is result of evplution, because it gives an competitive edge. On a side note your question is biased, as it presumes we are on some sort of "stage" where objects "come" and "go" from and to some other, hidden space. You LIKE secrets and that is a preference.

    Where did your notion of right and wrong come from?

    From my upbringing, my parents taught me, my peers reacted differently to my actions until I learned that there are things that will keep everybody happy, while there are other things that will cause me loneliness.

    Every action has an equal and opposing reaction - what caused the amount of energy to kick off the big bang, or, what happened 1 second before the big bang?

    I don't know, I'd like to know, you seem to think you know, but I am sure neither one of us really knows. There are several possibilities, some of them may be quite astonishing. However, imagine you where right and there was God behind it? Now that would be very awkward because you would have to explain God, how he became to be, where he was before he came into existence ...etc. All the questions "solved" would be back again. You may pull some "no-no" reasoning and forbid asking such questions but they will remain. You could offer some metaphysical explanations, but nothing you use in such an effort will be God-specific in sense that it could had not be applied to explain origin and beginning of Universe itself. You are strapping God on top of it all and hope ... what? That he will save you from further questions, because once you prove existence of God, all the hard questions are somehow gone, all search for truth aborted? Basically, you wish someone will tell you to leave your hard homework unfinished and to go to sleep and everything will be OK.

    If I can't prove to you I love my 3 daughters does that mean I don't?

    Based on comparison with many millions of parents, there is pretty large probability that you do, so why should I doubt? However that is unfortunate choice for this argument, because I think your God is your inside feeling, just like your love is. I wonder why you pull it out and drag it around, pushing it onto others? Do you wish to get emotionally hurt? There are many studies of emotions and love and "gene selfishness" that dissect parental love but I don't feel like protesting them on the grounds of "I don't like it", just like I don't feel like giving up my love because "it is fabricated plot by ruthless organic compounds that turn us into biological robots". When your reason and your feelings are at odds it is a sign you are not managing one or both of them very well. There is subjective truth and there is objective truth, they don't necessarily match.
  • by focoma ( 865351 ) <focoma@gmail.com> on Monday October 08, 2007 @06:19AM (#20896053) Homepage

    Since Jesus apparently had other siblings, why do people still refer to his mother as virgin?

    Tradition has it that Joseph was an old widower with children before he and Mary got engaged. There's also the fact that Jews called their cousins "brothers". Nope, I can't prove that any of these things accurately explain what really happened (as that would be impossible), but it ought to wipe that "I've just stumped `em Bible-thumpin' Xtians with a scriptural contradiction"-smile off your face.

    On topic:

    Fact A: Religious practices sometimes produce certain psychological effects.
    Fact B: For a number of people, the only time they've encountered these certain psychological effects (if ever) was during religious rituals.
    Fact C: Scientists have successfully reproduced these certain psychological effects in the laboratory.

    Only the modern, enlightened, rationalist intellectuals of today could possibly connect all those facts and conclude that they have "delivered God". It would never occur to them that how we experience a God (if any exist) would necessarily be limited to what the moist computer in our skull can "experience" (i.e. a bunch of neurological signals), and that the explanation of this experience does NOT explain God/gods/fairies.

    Believing in God has made me feel good at times; it's also made me feel bad at times. Is it logical to believe in God just because it makes you warm and fuzzy inside? Is it logical to disbelieve in God just because you're life is "shit"? These questions are meaningless because they are merely sentimental. God exists or does not exist however we feel about Him.

    So now that we know that this scientific study has no religious or "spiritual" value whatsoever (unless your religion is that shallow), I'd like to express my utmost excitement for the future applications of these findings in the area of Virtual Reality entertainment: Realistic Uber-Creepy Horror Video Games FTW!!!

  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @07:08AM (#20896429)
    The evidence put forward is the mountains of historic text describing miracles etc from years gone by. Now I'm an athiest/agnostic (and lets not get into what that means), but just suppose that Jesus rose from the dead today and started performing miracles, and those miracles were scientifically verified etc by all the worlds leading skeptics, and then documented for all eternity, and then we got bored with him, crucified him (again) and we never heard from him again.

    In 2000 years time, would any of the documented evidence be believed? What about in 100 years?

    Something to think about...
  • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @07:39AM (#20896671)

    Since Jesus was apparently not an historical figure why do people keep thinking about such silly questions?
    Last I heard, Jesus was a historical figure. You can certainly claim that he never walked on water, but that doesn't mean that the man never existed.
  • Re:Acid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Paolone ( 939023 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:18AM (#20897073)

    whether you believe in god, devine entity or any such thing or you oppose them you are still a subject to relgious lunacy.
    Well, I think you're oversimplifying a bit.
    For example a friend, now and then, casts spells (mainly healing), has killed a person and maimed another with vodoo dolls and sometimes sees angels and spirits.
    Now, adopting a skeptic perspective, I could ask myself why does she thinks she cast spells and kills/maims people with vodoo. Because she got the right feedback while doing so. She did things and they worked. She's seen her mom doing the same things, and they worked. Being a logic lassie (I know she suffers from a bad case of cognitive dissonance, but just let go on with the example), she's seen a cause-effect relationship in her mystical actions, so she believes that piercing your vodoo doll with needles in your chest will kill you: after all she's done it before, and it worked. She did the same with a guy's doll crotch and he got kidney stones...
    I apply the same logic: when I see ghosts, it's usually my low blood pressure doing things with my retina; when a 50+ years old always angry bloke dies of heart attack it's quite normal. When I say i don't believe in god, magic, supertition, etc, it's like saying that I don't believe there are blue monkeys under my bed during the night. Quite simply, I don't know if god is out there, but I'm pretty much certain he's not there. I can't really attribute any effect to it. So I don't believe he exists.
    But maybe he's just hangin out with the blue monkeys under my bed. But till I see him, he doesn't have a place in my vision of the world, I don't use 'god' as a label for things I don't uderstand. But if one day I'll find a god, well, I'll publish a peer reviewed paper about it.
    So, where is my religious lunacy? Am I a lunatic because I don't believe in things I can't find any fundament for? Shouldn't it be the opposite?
  • New? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:26AM (#20897159)
    I don't think the church can be called "new".
  • by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) * on Monday October 08, 2007 @08:49AM (#20897383)
    no, accounts of a man named Jesus from that time period do exist. whether the claims that other people have made about him are true is a completely different question. A man named Jesus from that region and time likely did exist. It's extremely difficult to prove *any* specific person definitively existed due to a lack of a heavily recorded history, so its only very probable that he existed. The fact that any record seems to indicate he existed at least goes to show he made some sort of impact at the time. Whether it was walking on water or just that people thought he was crazy is unknown. This doesn't prove he's the son of God, however.
  • by JeanPaulBob ( 585149 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @09:32AM (#20897825)
    Interesting. As a non-mathematician, is it a practice for you to make snide remarks that bear little or no relation whatsoever to the meaning of the person to whom you're responding?

    Was it really possible for you to read through that entire post, reach the last sentence, ignore everything that had gone before, and decide that the GP was using his feeling of offense as his argument?
  • by yuriyg ( 926419 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @09:43AM (#20897963)
    Please do not confuse atheism and inefficient economic/political system. Of course people will steal supplies and slack off on the job, if they can get away with it and have no chance of promotion. Unless of course they are connected to their bosses or to the Party.

    I believe U.S. and Europe have plenty of successful atheists who perform well on the job. They do it not a divine spirit told them so (or they are afraid of it, as you are implying), but because they have something to work for.
  • by db32 ( 862117 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @10:30AM (#20898567) Journal
    Given that you have not read the bible then you have no idea what he preached beyond what fundamentalists have told you.

    But I don't think you need to. You have clearly demonstrated that you are too ignorant to be able to actually read the damned thing with any kind of social, historical, or other context beyond "aahahah naked guy on torture device" mentality.

    So you are right, there is no need to read the bible to become an ignorant, loud mouthed jackass insulting someone elses beliefs. You would fight right in with the bible thumpers too, its not like they read much of it, they are just ignorant, loud mouthed jackasses insulting others beliefs. Right up your alley.
  • by MrMr ( 219533 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @11:34AM (#20899403)
    Well yes, the whole posting consists of the same hand-waving that has gone one since the first medieval proofs of the existence of god. The final remark about feeling offended was the only novel argument in the story.

    Printing your profession in bold and regurgitating extensively refuted special pleading for the status of religion on the basis of pseudo-mathematical assertions warrants a lot more than just snide remarks, but I was feeling mild today.
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:30PM (#20900165) Journal
    God is the ultimate Anonymous Coward -- he has infinite ability, but uses it to hide from our scientific tests with mathematical certitude.
  • by Cairnarvon ( 901868 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @12:43PM (#20900343) Homepage
    These types of self-pitying posts always show up in any discussion mentioning Christianity, and they're bullshit.

    Obviously from the eyes of any atheist, Islam is just as wrong as Christianity is, but since most Slashdot posted are Westerners, obviously any discussion about religion is going to turn to the most popular religion in the West, which is still Christianity, simply because it has a much, much greater impact on our daily lives than Islam does, fear-mongering about Islamism aside.
    There's no need to tag posts about Islam with "flyingspaghettimonster", since the absurdities of Islam are readily apparent to most people in the West already. The very same absurdities in Christianity are overlooked by most Westerners, simply because they're Christian themselves, so yes, tagging stories about Christianity with it is still necessary.

    Also, has it ever occured to you that maybe you perceive any discussion about Christianity as an attack simply because it strikes closer to home?
    Get over your persecution complex already.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:58PM (#20901399)
    An equally valid observation, then, is that Dr. Sagan may be implying that the soccer mom's UFO abductee cousin is psychotic because there are difficult truths he doesn't (or doesn't WANT to) understand

    Er, no. The notion that untold hundreds of thousands of people used to be routinely visited in the night by sex-crazed demons, and then right about the time 1950's sci-fi/horror movies jumped on the flying saucer meme and used cheap costumes to portray bubble-headed aliens - surprise! - those people shifted over to "I routinely get levitated out of my bed, through the wall, to a giant space ship that hovers over my house, where I'm proctologically examined..." - gee, shocking. Especially given the complete and utter absence of any evidence that anything like that ever happens to anyone, ever..

    So, what's more likely? Some not uncommon wiring/chemistry problems that cause people to experience some semi-waking paranoia and delusions which they articulate in terms of popular mythology... or, a planet infested by high tech alien proctologists that don't actually leave any evidence of all of the horrible things they do? That's not, I'm afraid, "equally valid."
  • by UncleTogie ( 1004853 ) * on Monday October 08, 2007 @03:21PM (#20902617) Homepage Journal

    ...but if you thought it was something external, like, say, having a lot of money...

    No, thankfully, I got over THAT hurdle pretty early on in life. I've found many affluent people FAR more neurotic than their "lower-class" counterparts, and would rather find satisfaction in life without comparing mine to others. Let the rest of the schlubs keep up with the Joneses; my fiance and I are happy with each other and our direction in life.

    It'd be hard to be more satisfied than I am now...

  • by Anonamused Cow-herd ( 614126 ) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:01AM (#20911669)

    Science and religion are orthogonal to each other. The set of axioms that runs:

    1. Science deals in falsifiable statements.
    2. 'God' cannot be falsified.
    3. Science disproves (falsifies) 'God'

    As a logician, your construction of this logical system astounds me. Your conclusions about this set of statements is correct; these statements are inconsistent. However, how that relates to science and religion being orthogonal is beyond me. The claim that science and religion are orthogonal would be true if the entire substance of religion was contained in the existence/falsifiability of God. But it clearly does not.

    Furthermore, it's not the existence or non-existence of God that really causes controversy between religious and non-religious people, either. Rather, it's the specific beliefs that people hold as a consequence of a particular religion that tend to create conflicts between religion and science.

    For example: as a result of their interpretation of the Bible, some people thought (and several still think) that any of the following were true:
    1. The earth is flat.
    2. The earth is the center of the solar system.
    3. The earth is only several thousand years old.
    4. All plagues in known history were the result of God's wrath.
    5. All of the creatures currently existant on earth were present at the time of Earth's creation.

    The list goes on, of course. Certainly you won't claim that these beliefs are orthogonal with science? And that, folks, is why pure mathematicians should not be philosophers.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito