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Medicine Science

Science Attempts To Explain Heaven 692

Hugh Pickens writes "Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek about the thesis that heaven is not a real place, or even a process or a supernatural event, but rather something that happens in your brain as you die. The thesis is based, in part, on a growing body of research around near-death experience. According to a 2000 article by Bruce Greyson in The Lancet, between 9 and 18 percent of people who have been demonstrably near death report having had an NDE. Surveys of NDE accounts show great similarities in the details, describing: a tunnel, a light, a gate or a door, a sense of being out of the body, meeting people they know or have heard about, finding themselves in the presence of God, and then returning, changed. Scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological self-defense mechanism when, in order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory has gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all the features of an NDE can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a short-acting, hallucinogenic, dissociative anesthetic. 'I came out into a golden Light. I rose into the Light and found myself having an unspoken interchange with the Light, which I believed to be God,' wrote one user of his experience under ketamine. 'Dante said it better,' writes Miller, 'but the vision is astonishingly the same.'"
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Science Attempts To Explain Heaven

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  • Re:Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:47AM (#31722638)

    If you ever have to say hush to a legitimate question, it isn't science. You seem to think science is like religion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:47AM (#31722640)

    ...Doesn't mean that there is no key.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:49AM (#31722644) Homepage

    Bad trip is bad.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:54AM (#31722668) Homepage

    This does explain the prevalence of concept though.

    It's safe to assume people were experiencing various NDEs for a looong time, especially in more dangerous times - remember they didn't have to survive their injuries for long, just long enough to tell somebody. This even fits as one of the factors why people were so much more fixated on religion in brutal times.

  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:05AM (#31722704)

    Taking away our believes, in a better life afterwards, makes people lose hope for this live, losing the moral, making humankind do all kind of bad things, making live for themselves or for others unlivable.

    It also takes away the power of people like the Vatican screwing over the poor for larger cathedrals, and more power of more people. Ever wondered what makes it right for a poor family in Phillipines giving their last Pesos to the church to bury a family member, whilst the Pope sits in a palace that dwarfs any king's palace. Now that's morals for you.

  • by professionalfurryele ( 877225 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:16AM (#31722720)

    The widespread belief (well, perhaps better described as a delusion) that there exists an afterlife is a legitimate scientific phenomena.

    "If there is precisely zero evidence for heaven, why do people believe it exists?" - This is a legitimate scientific question that isn't satisfyingly answered at present.

    This kind of research strengthens the case for disbelief and I therefore consider it very valuable. Next time someone describes how their great aunt saw God just before she died I can now point out that their aunt was probably confusing God with special K.

  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:18AM (#31722724) Homepage

    heaven is not a real place, or even a process or a supernatural event, but rather something that happens in your brain as you die

    I challenge anyone create a testable hypothesis on whether there is a soul or life after death or heaven etc. What this experiment is testing for is a correlation between chemical processes in the brain when a person nears death and the subjective experience of said person. Where does the existence of heaven or supernatural events even come into this? Those are questions that shouldn't come into play when speaking of science. Whether an objective explanation of a subjective experience nullifies the "reality" of it or not is philosophical has nothing to do with the experiment in question. This is a bunch of horseshit.


  • by dorre ( 1731288 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:20AM (#31722734)
    I'm with you. I dont understand how anyone can believe that god's word are supposed to be passed from person to person and that you are supposed to find the right chain of delivery to be accepted into heaven.

    I like a concept I've chosen to call 'Contamination by free will'. When you recieve a bible or coran or whatever, some human being (with free will) have written it to the format it is distributed in.

    There is no way a human being can be able to recognize the difference by words of god and man. And as you personally cant check the whole delivery chain from god to you yourself, god cannot demand that you find the words that are truly his. All information a person can get is 'Contaminated by free will'.
    The only way a person can get in touch with a divinity is through himself if at all possible. Although I'm personally a sceptic, I honor this possibility.

    Basically my point is that the only truths anyone should accept are those that he or she understands. No god would demand more.
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:34AM (#31722770)

    ""If there is precisely zero evidence for heaven, why do people believe it exists?" - This is a legitimate scientific question that isn't satisfyingly answered at present."

    People are just afraid to die.

  • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:37AM (#31722784)

    The problem with science is that they are missing the moral factor

    That's no more a problem with science than it is a problem with lollipops, stars, and waterfalls.

    And actually, I find that tying ethics with religion is deeply problematic. It leads to failing to question moral teachings brought about by a religion which might in some cases be bad, very bad. You need to examine and think critically and philosophically abour morals and ethics, for yours to actually be moral and ethical.

    allowing them to do everything that only hurts us, or destroys our world...Taking away our believes, in a better life afterwards, makes people lose hope for this live, losing the moral, making humankind do all kind of bad things, making live for themselves or for others unlivable.

    The dominant religions on this planet teach that there will be a world-ending apocalypse but the faithful will be whisked away to a better place. *That* allows people to destroy our world. Lacking belief in an afterlife makes this world far more precious; a thing that must be protected because there is, as yet, nowhere else for us to go.

    I would astonished to hear that religious non-scientific people polluted more than scientific non-religious people; I know of absolutely no evidence of this. This of course excludes the category of scientific-religious and non-scientific-non-religious, which your post also seems to exclude.

    This brings me back to your original statement:

    Science is religion, today people don't believe in religion anymore, they believe in science...

    I'd like you to define "science", because it's not the standard definition. Strictly speaking, if you don't believe in science, you're an extreme moron. Religion is a set of unproven beliefs taken on faith, science is a process that explicitly excludes faith. Science works, that's how we figured out how to make computers, and refrigerators, and so on. It's up to you to figure out if the process of science has lead to conclusions that contradict your religion. I think it does, but you're not necessarily an extreme moron if you disagree.

    I'm pretty sure you're confusing science with some set of conclusions from some scientists, but I'm not going to set up straw arguments, I need you to tell me.

    People are living worse everyday, no moral anymore, lots of sickness, more struggles, no hope, and still science believes they are god...

    People are living better today than they ever have in the history of the Universe, "no moral anymore" is a context-free statement but I can tell you that at least in the US and Canada youth violence is at an all-time low (and, as they say, children are our future), disease is similarly at record low levels for the past several decades, "more struggles" is again ill-defined (there are more people alive than there used to be, so I don't doubt we have more absolute struggles), there's a whole tonne of hope all over the place, and "still science believes they are god" doesn't mean anything at all and is frankly confusing.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:39AM (#31722796) Journal

    How did they explain the out-of-body visions experienced by people who were born blind (and then actually saw things when their heart stopped beating)?

    They "saw" things? What is "saw"? You mean their eyes were open when their heart stopped beating and they actually responded to visual stimulus? They were shown pictures of the 1933 Yankees and recognized Babe Ruth? What is "saw"?

    Am I "seeing" when I dream? Is that heaven I'm seeing? I mean it could be, but last night I had monsters chasing me in my dreams and I hope there are no monsters in heaven or there's been some false advertising going on. The dream I had where I was banging Izabel Goulart, now that might have been heaven. (Go ahead, google Izabel Goulart, I'll wait...Seriously. It's worth it.)

    Let's take your question again:

    How did they explain the out-of-body visions experienced by people who were born blind (and then actually saw things when their heart stopped beating)?

    Perhaps you should write to the researchers who are mentioned in the article above and ask them why their theory doesn't explain every single thing in the world that the superstitions might want to present as evidence for an afterlife?

    Please understand, it's possible these researchers were not actually trying to spoil your Easter by disproving the existence of God, OK? So don't get your eternal soul in a twist.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SadielCuentas ( 1253300 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:43AM (#31722814) Homepage

    How did they explain the out-of-body visions experienced by people who were born blind (and then actually saw things when their heart stopped beating)?

    They didn't. They just explained the heaven visions. Not explaining apparent extrasensory perceptions does not invalidate the ketamine thing.

  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:45AM (#31722822)

    Next you'll be trying to tell us God doesn't exist.

    And we all 'evolved from apes'.

    And the iPad is a game-changer.

    Only two of those correct.

  • by Puff_Of_Hot_Air ( 995689 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:48AM (#31722832)
    This research is probably accurate in explaining near death experiences, however I think that's as far as it goes. If you study religions, the concept of an afterlife varies quite a bit. In non of them is the "white light that is God" mentioned (to my knowledge). If you look at these near death experiences; all the cases appear in relation to where modern medicine has literally brought the person "back from the brink" (that is to say that they were very near to death indeed by modern standards) Certainly, they were not conscious during the experience. How then could primitive man regale his story when it would have lead to actual death while unconscious? More damning to the idea, though, is simply that these depictions are not represented in any of the religions.
  • Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:51AM (#31722844) Homepage Journal

    What I want to know is how do they deal with the inherent bias of materialistic western science (I suggest there is one).

      I'm not saying that Western science is wrong, or invalid (not at all) but that it is inherently materialistic in it's outlook and in the tools it uses to measure things and test them. Is it EVER possible that the methodologies of science (as it now is) could ever validate 'spiritual' experience if it WERE true as a thing in itself, or is there an inherent bias that makes the methods and means of testing such things unfit for purpose: that it would always reduce any spiritual or transcendental experience to a physical, chemical or biological basis (and nothing more)?

    Valid question?

  • by dhalgren ( 34798 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:58AM (#31722872)

    Science and morality are not related. Neither are religion and morality, although those with a vested interest in religion try to make it appear so.

  • Re:finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kdemetter ( 965669 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:59AM (#31722878)

    Well , i am skeptical towards this "proof" .

    It just proves that there is a chemical reactions when you die , which explains the tunnels of light you see when you have a near death experience.
    In other words , it explains that this experience itself, is not really heaven , but just a physical reaction . It doesn't say anything about heaven itself.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @07:09AM (#31722906) Homepage

    What? You supposedly study religions and missed the prevalence of "good light"/etc., reunification with ancestors, a path and border point (remember, they can have differing forms depending on the culture) imagery?...

    How then could primitive man regale his story when it would have lead to actual death while unconscious?
    Well, religions themself claim that all it takes is one prophet...

  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moniker127 ( 1290002 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @07:15AM (#31722934)
    Science isnt about "explaining" things, it is about trying to understand things. Theres a difference.
  • by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:04AM (#31723108)

    > Looking at science, if science was good to humans, ms windows wasn't such a pain to use...

    You're free not to use a computer, or to use another operating system.

    > We are living in a culture, were we can't live without science, yes you are right, but if you look where it is heading. At the moment it isn't heading in the nice star trek direction... It is more heading in direction of big calamities, terrorism (without science no boms), diseases, war....

    Without science no medicine either. Science can cure diseases, and sometimes completely eradicate them (currently only smallpox, but I'm sure we can do it again). Sure, the virus is still held in a few labs somewhere, but it hasn't killed anyone in decades.

    > Why wouldn't I have been born without science ??? People have been born for thousands of years without science... Science says we come from apes ? There is even proof we have been walking strait up for millions of years, and still science says we come from apes.

    It's quite likely that without science many of your ancestors would have died long before they were old enough to reproduce, but I admit GP made a lousy argument (unless your mother required a C-secion I guess). I don't know about your walking straight example, but the specifics are not really relevant: whenever science discovers it is wrong is becomes MORE accurate, not less.

    > so you say science killed Christ, I rather lived without science then...

    You claim not to be a christian, so honestly what do you care about some guy who supposedly died 2000 years ago? Besides, it wasn't science that killed him, just people. If the cross hadn't been invented yet, they'd just have beat him to death with a rock. Science merely enabled the particular way they killed him.

    > And yes I am using a computer, and use it for work... If there wasn't one, we would live different, doing other stuff. You can't jump from one situation in the other, people are not used to it...

    But you ARE free to do other stuff. Go live naked in the woods! You CHOOSE to use the fruits of the very science that you claim to dislike. There is a word for that: hypocrisy.

    > The same when you grow up in a big town, you probably don't want to live some where without people, and the same way around.

    So what are you trying to say? You don't like science but don't want to live without it? Or that we like science but only because we grew up with it?

    > This is a discussion were we can go on for ages, you believe your stuff, I believe mine.

    Yes, if only this were science, so we could use objective data to come to a conclusion.

    > I just think science makes our lives more complex and slowly destroys our surroundings... Because money is involved, and moral isn't looked at...

    Ah! So it's greed, not science, that you oppose?

  • Re:finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:07AM (#31723120)
    As the religionists will correctly point out any minute now, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The experience of heaven in an NDE can be accounted for by chemical actions in the brain? Well, so can hunger -- does that mean that food doesn't exist, or that we don't need to eat? Only a few on the fringes seriously took NDEs as evidence for heaven, because the possibility of hallucinations was too obvious. So, although this is interesting, don't expect it to have any effect on the views of religionists, because it's actually irrelevant to their beliefs.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:08AM (#31723128) Homepage
    Same way you'd explain that you can call someone a Christian when the vast majority by far don't follow the bible and most of their ideals are the exact opposite of Jesus' ideals.
  • Re:finally... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:09AM (#31723130)

    It disproves some fundamentalist interpretations of NDEs, yes, but most people who these days have the strong fundamentalist views are as unlikely to accept this proof as they are to accept evolution.

    For people who hold philosophy-of-mind views other than the strict dualism of traditional religions, though, it's not as clear what this shows. It shows that something physical happens in the brain when people have near-death experiences, but that in itself isn't too surprising, because something happens in the brain anytime people have any experience: all experiences, sensations, thoughts, plans, feelings, etc., are enacted through some combination of chemical/neuronal/etc. signalling. So it's not actually particularly interesting, philosophically, that someone found a particular one, since we already assume one exists for all sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What exactly that means is trickier. If you were to argue that this means NDEs are "merely physical" and don't correspond to any higher-level concepts at all, would you commit to saying that of all human experiences? It's not impossible, but I find most people balk at it: at most, they'll accept that some mental illnesses are "just brain chemicals" (e.g. "the depression is a chemical imbalance talking, not really you"), but they won't go so far as to admit that the fact that they love their mother, or enjoy steak, is "just brain chemicals" in the same way.

    (I personally don't hold to the fully reductionist view; it's not clear to me that even a complete map of neuronal pathways actually resolves all philosophical questions, or renders higher-level concepts obsolete.)

  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:20AM (#31723190)

    If you ever have to say hush to a legitimate question, it isn't science. You seem to think science is like religion.

    In practice, "science" often is like a religion. It serves many functions of religion for some people, it can fiercly oppose ideas that don't fit with the official line, and it's liable to messianic pretensions ("science will answer everything"). Read Mary Midgley's "Evolution as Religion".

    Of course, scientists will rightly say that "science" doesn't do any of that, science is an objective set of methods, that all those things are an abuse of science. But then, religionists will say that all the evils of religion are not really religion but are an abuse of it, and we wouldn't let them get away with it, would we?

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:22AM (#31723206)
    the hostility comes from all the choices religous groups take away from us, forcing their faith on us all. stem cell research? can't have that. abortion? can't have that.

    instead of just letting people live their lives, their faith forces them to interfer.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:23AM (#31723214) Homepage

    The problem with science is that they are missing the moral factor, allowing them to do everything that only hurts us, or destroys our world. They are of course doing some good things too, but the question is if those good things outreach the bad things. Looking at our earth, I would say no.

    Science shouldn't have morals. Morals are nothing more than someone's opinion on how things should be. Most people do agree on the same morals.

    Take for instance the age of consent. It can range anywhere from 9 to 20. Who is right? 9 seems disgusting to me but then people who believe it should be 20 may thing 16 is disgusting.

    Is stem research morally wrong? Some think so but would it be morally right to stop something that may save millions of lives? Again some say yes and some say no.

    It's pretty sad though that most people need some greater force to tell them to treat people as they want others to treat them. Perhaps humans aren't as advanced as we would like to think.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:42AM (#31723306)

    "If there is precisely zero evidence for heaven, why do people believe it exists?" - This is a legitimate scientific question that isn't satisfyingly answered at present.

    Obviously, if someone believes something, then that someone thinks there is sufficient evidence for that something.

    The question, then, becomes: on what evidence do people who believe in heaven (or afterlife in general) do so, and is that evidence valid (as in, make sense without engaging in doublethink)? Posing the question this way not only avoids appearing hostile to your research subjects, thus making it far easier to conduct said research, but also trains you to keep your own biases and preconceptions from influencing your interpretation of results, thus making you a better scientist.

    People who declare someone wrong before hearing them out have already failed Science 101 in the most fundamental way possible.

  • Re:finally... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:42AM (#31723310)

    I'm afraid I'm one of the "just brain chemicals" people. In fact it's why I never trust my parents when they say anything positive about me as they don't really have much of a choice in liking me anyway... shut up mom that's just the "my-offspring" chemicals speaking! :p

  • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordVader717 ( 888547 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:43AM (#31723316)

    Well your first mistake is the term "materialistic western science". There is no other "science". Science is development of knowledge based on empirical evidence. Everything else is religion, fantasy or just plain bullshit.
    Science starts with nothing and develops theories around observations.

    So as long as nobody can define what "spiritual experiences" actually are and how they differ from the common hallucinations and fantasies of the human mind they don't really exist as a valid phenomenon.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:59AM (#31723408) Homepage

    (Go ahead, google Izabel Goulart, I'll wait...Seriously. It's worth it.)

    It appear to be just a random "super" model...

  • by plastbox ( 1577037 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:01AM (#31723420) Homepage

    - Even if it did make any sort of sense, it's extremely disrespectful and, frankly, anti-scientific to call someone a moron based on their beliefs. You can't be a scientist without an open mind. You can't have an honest discussion without basic respect. In defending Science, please attack the argument and not the person.

    I'm inclined to disagree. You can't call someone a moron for not having all the facts, but when someone willfully ignores the entire concept of fact.. Well, political correctness and politeness be damned, "moron" is far to mild a word.

  • Re:finally... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:03AM (#31723434)

    Yes that's very true -- I agree.

    What I experience subjectively as a mind, has an objective correlate in the physical brain. It is "correlated" somewhat loosely for now -- depression and certain chemicals appear together -- but sometimes you can cure depression by doing something mental, like changing beliefs, and sometimes by doing something physical, like changing diet, or maybe sometimes it is a bit of both.

    It can be tempting to say that everything is physical, but that leaves a problem. If everything is just matter, just physical, then where is the subjectively experienced "picture" of the world that I'm experiencing? Where is the "inner movie" or the "man in the movie theatre"? If you cut open a living brain, you don't see the picture the person sees. So where is that located? Someone experiences a picture. Even in purely digital SLRs, there is nobody in the camera experiencing the image. The camera doesn't experience anything, it isn't a conscious being.

    Yet, being a conscious being, as abstract and etherial as that sounds, being a pure consciousness, can't exist as far as we know without a physical body to be its "correlate".

    It seems that both mind and matter arise as two aspects of the same thing, like two sides of a coin.

    With that model, the key is that NDEs are "near" death, not actual death. So they never were heaven after incineration of physical body. Actually, as mind and matter are two sides of the coin, then for there to be anything after biological death, then there must continue to exist some form of physical energy afterwards. We don't have the instruments that can measure those "subtle" energies. Imagine if one day we discovered we could measure them, and that "something" was floating or being radiated away after death. Imagine you could detect "something" being beamed to another birth happening somewhere else. I'm not saying that's going to happen, I'm saying that is what it would take to "demonstrate" that one life was somehow linked energetically to another life by reincarnation, if such a thing really exists.

    If there really is some kind of higher mind, then there would need to be some kind of energy to be the physical basis for it. Maybe in 1000 years we could detect that kind of stuff. Or maybe it just doesn't exist.

  • Fortnately (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:06AM (#31723454) Homepage

    Fortunately, "Heaven" is not a wee bright light that occurs the instant before you die. Read through the Bible, you'll note that God exists outside his Creation. So, you're not going to be able to measure him or prove him by scientific observation.

    Furthermore, "[w]e cannot determine the character or nature of a system within itself. Efforts to do so will only generate confusion and disorder." John Boyd

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:19AM (#31723504)

    Josef Mengele agrees with you.

  • Re:Fortnately (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ph0rk ( 118461 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:19AM (#31723508)
    Luckily that sky man living outside his creation is effectively irrelevant to those of us living in it, so we can just ignore him and go about our day.
  • Re:finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:26AM (#31723534)

    In other words , it explains that this experience itself, is not really heaven , but just a physical reaction . It doesn't say anything about heaven itself.

    And seeing as no one has demonstrably "come back" from heaven, only from possibly an overdose to endorphins and suchlike, it's still a hell of a lot more scientific than all this "you must have faith" crap we've been subjected to for the past 2000 years.

    There is still not one iota of proof for or against a god or a heaven, anymore than there is proof that Underpants Gnomes really exist ... the difference being, if I said I believe in the Underpants Gnomes, I'd get locked up in a mental asylum, but if I believe in God that's okay.

  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:29AM (#31723554)

    What evolutionary advantage do NDE's serve?

    How does reducing trauma in the brains of those who are dying aid survival?

  • by telomerewhythere ( 1493937 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:37AM (#31723612)
    Some hold that morals are guidelines that prevent harm and do good for others and self. As such, science and morality are interrelated.
    Take as an example, adultery. (defined loosely as a person in a committed relationship cheating)
    The application of the scientific method would show if there was harm done by adultery. Also if there was harm done by faithfulness. Science could tell you what is greater.
    Another example is smoking around babies. Is second-hand smoking bad for baby's health? Does it convey benefits?
    Drinking or drug use while pregnant? ditto.

    As to religion* and morals, from the attitude of the 'faithful,' religion, by exposition, has the right to define right and wrong. (Note, I am not arguing that is correct 'morally' or not, just that is part of the definition of religion)
    Also, most religions that teach 'Heaven,' teach 'God as Creator'. So following that exposition, pappa knows best.

    So here is where religion and science can meet. A scientist can take the moral tenets of a religion and test their rightness or wrongness (are they harmful or not) i.e. Adultery or 'Love thy Neighbor' or 'Kill the Infidel'

    So, what do you think of that argument?

    *Religion defined as 'a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.')

  • by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:40AM (#31723620)

    I'll go there right after you explain to me why I should believe this ancient book of yours, why all the other old books are not true, and why I should support a system that thinks it's okay to throw people in a lake of fire.

  • Re:finally... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:52AM (#31723692) Homepage

    If NDE's can be explained by chemical reactions, that means there's no evidence for heaven right?

              An atheist would grab an opportunity and say RIGHT! A christian would grab an opportunity and slam science.
    A scientist with a properly neutral perspective will tell you there are too many questions left unanswered.
    Timothy Leary would tell you " stick out your tongue".

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:21AM (#31723878)

    Religious people tend to define their world based on beliefs. The word "believe" has a different, special meaning to them. Nothing is more natural to religious people than to think we "believe" in Science the way they "believe" in religion. Their belief is based on faith, which ultimately comes from authority - the Pope, bishop, shaman as interpreters of some ultimate authority that emanates from the divine - a book or the stars or whatever. They find it natural to transfer that to us and they think we take our beliefs from the authority of some fuzzy hierarchy revolving around Academia.

    And yet there is a growing amount of religious people for whom Science (big S) is a religion. They call themselves atheists, but they aren't like rational philosopher atheists, instead they're "dig my heels in the sand, I'll believe what this scientist says even though I don't understand it because I don't like the religion I grew up with" type of atheists. There's no skepticism, no logic. The rational folk on both sides of the theist/atheist fence have to come to a point where we recognize that a certain portion of the population is mostly irrational, and that they'll blindly accept whatever view seems to be predominant.

  • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:22AM (#31723890) Journal

    Taking away our believes, in a better life afterwards, makes people lose hope for this live, losing the moral, making humankind do all kind of bad things, making live for themselves or for others unlivable.

    No it doesn't. Secular groups like Humanists believe in making the world better for the sake of future generations. Humanists don't believe in holy wars, or prostrating yourself before some figurehead who claims to speak for some magical cloud people. They believe in the progress and sustainability of the human species.

    That's more than I can say for mainstream religions.


  • by Saint Stephen ( 19450 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:31AM (#31723942) Homepage Journal

    I think you're missing the point. I was telling someone last night how even though, the more you study the history of the world, the more confusing any statement about ANYTHING becomes, especially religion, I still have been born again and accept Jesus as my personal savior. That is an internal mental state which I have no problem communicating to other rational individuals, no different than when I communicate the internal mental state "the sky is blue."

    She said her son moved away from religion after learning science. I said - tell him to keep going, the mystery comes back. For me it's in Goedel / the incompletness theorem and Broeuwer / Intuitionism / the separate existence of mathematical entities. Wittgensteins "That the world is, is the mystery."

    All human descriptions of the mystery are filled with foibles, and any drug / biochem expalanations for mental states for me don't challenge the philosophical questions. And for me the internal mental state "jesus is my personal savior" has a very real, measurable effect on my life - I know exactly what it means - I can communicate it with others.

    All humans tend to get bewitched by their own languages. The mental state of operating outside of religion is very similar to the state of operating inside religion, if you're lazy. If you're rigorous, the Mystery is always present.

  • Re:finally... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:20AM (#31724292) Journal

    And that's the reason why Christianity never really caught on among the native Americans. For they already had a paradise waiting for them full of women and sex.

    Half of all native Americans are women. Are you implying that native American women are all lesbians?

    Or that paradise isn't open to native American women - just native American men? If native American men are like other men, the women will be too busy trying to teach them how to change the toilet paper roll instead of leaving one lonely square on it so that it's "someone else's turn", and pick their dirty underwear and used towels up off the floor.

  • by maxfresh ( 1435479 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:59AM (#31724584)
    Regardless of one's views on supernatural experiences, religion, or life after death, the arguments presented in the linked article must be rejected, because they are illogical, and very embarrasingly so for their authors, and also for their publishers.

    In essence, they argue from the premise that the mere fact that a perception of having an experience can be triggered by an artificial stimulus to the brain, implies that the experience itself is never caused by anything in objective reality, and is entirely a product of subjective internal biochemical processes. But that conclusion doesn't follow logically, at all.

    For example, we know that visual hallucinations can be triggered by artificial stimuli, but from that observation, it does not follow that light does not exist, and that those of us who claim to see things, such as this text on the screen, must be imagining it.

    We also know from experiments conducted by electrically stimulating the brains of patients undergoing brain surgery, that vivid memories of childhood experiences can be evoked, having such clarity and vividness that they seem to the patient as if they were happening right then and there on the operating table, at the time of the experiment. But from these observations it does not follow that those experiences never really took place at all, or that the persons claiming to have had those childhood experiences were merely hallucinating when they were four years old, and thought that they were playing with their father.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:28PM (#31724818)

    This is a pretty cold thing to throw out on Easter. Have some respect for other people's beliefs even if you don't agree with them or even follow a spiritual path.

  • by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:49PM (#31725014)

    All the happenings in the Bible can be explained very simply if you think of it as a bunch of Fantasy written by people who wanted to create a religion. There is even clear evidence that the Bible is fabricated. Even its followed accept that the New Testament was created from seperate [sic] books, edited with some parts and books left out completely. So we know that it is edited. No truly religious person would dare to edit the word of god, so what made the person who edited the new testament decide to think he could do this?

    Care to provide said evidence that the Bible is fabricated? By the way, history text books are edited often (at the behest of many people's agendas) to remove events that make certain groups of people look bad to the rest of the world and for many other reasons. Would you doubt everything you learned about history after knowing that Boards of Education decide what to have in the history text books? There are other history books to read as well but, *sarcasm* can you really trust anyone who writes a book *sarcasm* Just come out and say you have a negative bias against religion and we'll move on.

    It is amusing to see a program on trying to explain the story around Moses, when nothing in the historical record mentions this at all. Explain the parting of the red seas, but not why an exodus of slaves was not mentioned in Egyptian records.

    Therefore it must not have happened? Lots of things happened throughout history that were never recorded. But in this case because a particular event happened to be recorded in what is considered a religious document and no where else you have trouble believing it? You have a closed mind.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:04PM (#31725142)

    Calling religion "fantasy" is a poor way of putting it, as it implies that it is "made up" and would have no existence without someone dreaming it up. In theory, this could be true, but it doesn't have to be. Consequently, by using that terminology, you are implying that you know it is fantastic, which you don't.

    Just because you can't see or prove something exists, does not mean it has no objective reality beyond your senses. All we get to decide is whether we place credence in that we are told exists beyond our actual senses. For instance, I accept a computer chip works because there are tiny transistors which manipulate electricity in the desired manner. However, there is no way I can tell that this is actually the case without busting out my CPU and examining it. Now, I have no reason to believe that I couldn't do this, and if I had sufficient experience and resources, I could probably prove it.

    Unfortunately, I will never have the resources, experience or time to prove everything that I accept as true scientifically. If I were to then use your definition, I would have to call call most the explanations for today's technical achievements "fantasy". This is certainly not the way to think about anything if you want to get anywhere.

    What religion bases itself on is an unprovable hypothesis. This makes the scientific method useless in answering questions about it, but it doesn't mean that what we cannot prove or disprove scientifically is imaginary. You are free to believe it is fictional, but you are on the same ground that the religious people are when they say that it isn't fictional. Neither of you can prove it, so you're just going to circle around each other with logic based on differing sets of accepted laws. That doesn't help anything or anybody.

  • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:05PM (#31725148) Homepage

    Huh, I thought the Domesday Book was better. But yeah, Passages wasn't bad. Willis points out one of the key problems with this kind of research, though--there's actually no reason at all to assume that the "near-death" experiences people report has anything to do with dying. You can't ask someone who has actually died what it was like, because they are dead. If they've gone to heaven, or to a new body, or just vanished like the data on your hard drive after a head crash, there's no way to definitively prove it.

    The research is still interesting, don't get me wrong. But I'm not convinced it's going to make anyone's life better--in a way, being able to be aware that we are dying without being afraid of it can be a positive thing, however it's accomplished. It's a lot more constructive than the usual reaction to death, which is to pretend it's something that happens to other people, and then to live our own lives as if we have unlimited time to waste.

  • by professionalfurryele ( 877225 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:25PM (#31725308)

    "There is an unrealistic idolisation of humanity on the grounds of our "great scientific achievements", when we're still pretty much as feeble, week, and transient as we ever were, just with a few more gadgets around the place, and more of us surviving to our (still very brief) hundred-odd years of life."

    What metric are you using to determine this? Human beings could exterminate all life on this planet if we wanted to. We can launch rockets into space. We can make fire. We can build methods of locomotion unseen in the natural world. We exterminated the scourge of small pox. We have effectively tripled our lifespan. We have built machines that burn with the power of the stars. Our computers rival those found in nature as does the beauty of our art forms. Our achievements make the Gods of the ancient world seem petty and pathetic.

    We may be violent and cruel and at times evil beyond comparison, but damn are we marvellous by any of the standards we have devised. What are we to idolise if not that which is good in humankind? Should we pray to small sky daddies whose pathetic notions of grandeur seem to extend only to concern for our sexual conduct? For all it's faults the wonder that is the human race is more worthy of praise than and idolisation than any deity.

  • Re:finally... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @03:16PM (#31726188)

    The complete and utter lack of logic in this thread is the sort of drivel that arises whenever one attempts to discuss the intersection of science and religion. You've got religious zealots who want to believe that every scientific phenomenon explains their religion, and atheistic ones who want to believe that every single shred fights against religion.

    The religious don't actually have to make any argument regarding ketamine in order to validate or invalidate views on heaven, because only the fringes ever thought that NDEs had anything to do with it. Even if this thesis were more widespread, the argument that ketamine can produce a similar experience is irrelevant. I could knock someone out and put them on a stage set designed to look like the pearly gates as well. Additionally, the Thor bit is absurd because we have a complete model of what lightning looks like, and it has nothing to do with Thor. This sort of argument is ridiculous, and only serves to make the person positing it feel more intelligent.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @05:49PM (#31727278) Homepage
    The thing is if their god exist I can't honestly see that he wants people wasting their lives arguing about evolution, dinosaurs and the age of the earth because none of that stuff should really matter to them especially when there are so many people that are in poverty, starving or physically handicapped and would love to have these people putting their energy into helping them rather than trying to convince themselves that their beliefs are the best.

    I think it's a sign their faith isn't that strong which sort of sucks for them seeing how that is a fundamental part of their religion.
  • by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @07:47PM (#31728156) Homepage

    If we had any brains we would put together that the Dempublicans and Republicrats are pretty much the same run around each time. If we feel we must have a two party system, we need to quit inviting them to the party.
          They both screw the economy and start wars, but Al Gore is the reason it takes two flushes to get a turd out of the house.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kklein ( 900361 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:15PM (#31729726)

    Preach it!

    There's a scene in Bill Maher's Religulous where he goes to a trucker chapel, and the people are very kind and accepting of him, and pray for him in a very tender, loving way. As he leaves, he says, "thank you for being Christlike, and not just Christian."

    I was raised in an evangelical/fundamentalist household. I have known some truly wonderful Christians, who, I think, "get" what Jesus was trying to say/do. But most of them are assholes, same as everyone else, but they are even worse, because they actually believe that there is an ultimate reality, and they know what it is.

    If you read the Bible honestly and objectively (i.e. not with the guidance of someone telling you what this and that means--twisting words to match established values and behaviors of the West), what you see is this:

    • Judaism is a violent and imperialistic religion--luckily, Jewish culture encourages arguing with the text, so usually they don't manifest these traits (I don't think Israel has anything to do with Judaism)
    • Jesus was a pretty nice guy who cribbed a lot from Buddha (there are some scholars who think that trade routes might have brought Buddhist ideas into the Middle East by the time Jesus was alive, which might explain the similarities). He was against sexism, classism, fundamentalism, and--yes--capitalism. He was a hippie.
    • Paul is a fucking asshole who took the ideas of a peace-loving lunatic and turned them into a product to be sold to the Gentiles, and who added a lot of his own ideas to the pot (i.e. returning sexism and intolerance). This is not really surprising since, if the story of his origins is to be believed, this is a guy who had no problem rounding people up and selling them to the Romans to be used as lion fodder for entertainment.
    • Peter did a massive power-grab after Jesus' death, ultimately building a hierarchical system that would have made Jesus vomit. (This is one of the reasons that the Gnostics and early Catholics didn't get along--but the problem was solved with the wholesale extermination of the Gnostics.)
    • Most of the Bible is ignored by Christians.

    I think that religion is fascinating, because it's so clearly crazy, but with years and repetition, it becomes the default way of thinking. I think it is incredibly dangerous, not just because of teachings I don't agree with, but that it, like all belief systems, is unable to admit when it isn't working. It is bad for the same reason that communism or Libertarianism is bad. It isn't pragmatic, and simplifies complex problems down to platitudes that can be written on one hand with magic marker. Belief systems are dangerous, but good luck convincing people that they need to think very carefully about each problem that life or governance presents and start from a blank slate with goals and objectives... People don't have that kind of time.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.