Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brain: Now a threat to democracy

Joe Keohane for the Boston Globe reveals “How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains” (July 11, 2010) Many politicians would agree with him, of course:
Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of > information. It's this: Facts don't necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
Then the dull thud of pop neuroscience factiods hits the In Tray: “Part of the answer lies in the way our brains are wired.”

Aw come on, Joe! If that were a significant problem,
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Neuroscientist: Doubt of materialism is “cruel”

In “Near-death neurologist: Dreams on the border of life”, neurologist Kevin Nelson recounts for New Scientist’s Amanda Gefter (4 January 2011) his take on near death experiences. Mostly, it is just materialist explaining away, but there are some useful suggestions:
Lucid dreams are among the closest things we know of to an NDE. They are very similar. Brainwave measurements show that lucid dreaming is a conscious state between REM and waking. During REM consciousness, the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex is turned off. As that's the executive, rational part of the brain, this explains why dreams are so bizarre. But if the dorso-lateral cortex turns on inside a dream, you become aware that you are dreaming. It is like waking up in your dream. When the body is in crisis during an NDE and the brain is slipping from consciousness to unconsciousness, it can get momentarily stuck in a borderland between REM and waking, just like a lucid dream.
Can it indeed? Many people don’t find their lucid dreams bizarre at all; what they often do is represent a life situation as a little drama, with different props and events. Sometimes seeing it clearly that way helps facilitate a solution.

By the way, did you know:
People like to say that these experiences are proof that consciousness can exist outside the brain, like a soul that lives after death. I hope that is true, but it is a matter of faith; there is no evidence for that. People who claim otherwise are using false science to engender false hope and I think that is misleading and ultimately cruel.

There. Anyone who doubts materialism is just plain cruel.

(In fairness to Dr. Nelson, he may not believe that. He may just have to say it to avoid criticism.)


Faith healing: Does being close enough matter? Study says yes.

In “Faith Healing: Study Finds Proximity Could Be Key To Success Of Healing Prayer”, Medical News Today reports ((07 Aug 2010))

Findings reported from a new international study of healing prayer suggest that prayer for another person's healing just might help -- especially if the one praying is physically near the person being prayed for.

Candy Gunther Brown, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, led the study of "proximal intercessory prayer" for healing. It is available online and will be published in the September 2010 issue of the Southern Medical Journal.

The study, titled "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Proximal Intercessory Prayer (STEPP) on Auditory and Visual Impairments in Rural Mozambique," measured surprising improvements in vision and hearing in economically disadvantaged areas where eyeglasses and hearing aids are not readily available.

"We chose to investigate 'proximal' prayer because that is how a lot of prayer for healing is actually practiced by Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world," Brown said. "These constitute the fastest-growing Christian subgroups globally, with some 500 million adherents, and they are among those most likely to pray expectantly for healing."
For more, go here.
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