This acclaimed scientist gives a friendlier face to atheistic neuroscience |331|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Oct 25, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    This acclaimed scientist gives a friendlier face to atheistic neuroscience |331|
    by Alex Tsakiris | Oct 25 | Consciousness Science

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    Neuroscientist, Professor George Paxinos defends atheists who love life.
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    photo by: Skeptiko
    George George Paxinos is a heavyweight. With over 45 books on the structure of the brain of humans and experimental animals his groundbreaking work has been cited more than almost any other in science, but that’s not why I wanted to talk to George. This is why I wanted to talk about: Why psychology lost its soul: everything comes from the brain.

    I went into this expecting a debate with a hard-core dogmatic, atheist/materialist, but found myself in a warm, if sometimes pointed, conversation with a learned scientist and lover of life. And while George may not know much but Consciousness Science, the philosophy of the mind, or Near-death Experience science, his willingness to engage is in science’s big picture questions is refreshing.
     
  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Is it published in Nature, in Science? No -- in the Lancet. Oh well, I'll have to read it and check out the stats.

    The man's an ignoramus. You can't argue with people who neglect to read the literature and claim there's nothing there worth considering. Just because he appreciates life and is an apparently moral person doesn't contradict that. From whence comes his morality, his joie de vivre?

    People like this are impenetrably wrapped in their armour of willful ignorance. Pointless trying to debate things with them. Don't know why you bother or what keeps you optimistic...
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016
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  3. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Yes, George comes across as a much more charming version of Gerald Woerlee, but no less dogmatic. He wasn't aware of the research, hand waved it away when presented with it, was an academic snob at heart and parodied anything that challenged his physicalist views. I went through the interview with a recurring facepalm at George's lack of intellectual inquisitiveness and joined up thinking. From the moment a couple of minute's in when he proposed that Jesus was promoting a genetically and socially prescribed model of behaviour in his "Father forgive them" quotation (!), to his valorisation of the magazine Nature (the former editor of which proposed burning Rupert Sheldrake's book), it was an object lesson in wilful myopia and intellectual hubris. Nothing you couldn't hear from a bar stool in a more succinct form.
     
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  4. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    Déjà Vu...

    But, I guess equal opportunity is better than closing the podcast to other POVs, even when the MO of the guests gets this repetitive.
     
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  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Hmm - I can't say I found that terrifically refreshing - I mean, yet again, we heard a sceptic who hadn't bothered to read about NDE's and related topics! It should not have been necessary, but I assume you pointed him to the Lancet paper - or at least something solid about NDE's - in your discussions before the interview.

    I agree with E.Flowers, that it is worth trying with sceptical scientists, but next time, maybe you need to send him/her a couple of papers, and make it clear that their contents will be discussed on the show!

    David
     
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  6. DasMurmeltier

    DasMurmeltier New

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    Honestly, i dont think that Paxinos is necessarily a sceptic in the sense of others out there. Hes a typical neuroscientist. Even if their research is rather meaningful to a lot of important questions out there, i doubt that they are all into the philosophy of mind. Kinda doubt that most of them care that much about it. Sure, they got their philosophical system that they are working with (materialism/physicalism), but i dont believe that most of them choose that actively. Everyone starts out like that, right? You grow up, you are automatically indoctrinated in a philosophical system. And there are lots of people out there that dont question it for various reasons.
    That is also related to something that many in the science community forget these days - just because those guys are great scientists it isnt necessarily the case that they are able to interpret their research and the implications of their research correctly. There is a reason why philosophy is separate from science. Even if others these days in the science community want the people out there to believe that philosophy is obsolete.

    Note: I didnt listen to the podcast yet.
     
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  7. tim

    tim New

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    I thought it was a worthwhile interview even though I agree with most of the content of the comments above. I thought Alex conducted himself really well and made some great points. Nothing about it surprised me except the dichotomy of his obvious academic achievements (and therefore potential) and his apparent ignorance of what his conclusions effectively mean for him (and his lot) Why can't he see he's not going to be around much longer, life and his whole story will be effectively over/irrelevant (for him anyway which is all he has) . The pleasure of pushing his granddaughter on her swing, great, but what was that all about if in the cosmic blink of an eye, him and his granddaughter and her granddaughters won't exist......I just can't see why people don't get this.

    I guess he would probably say believing in fairy tales won't change anything and that gets us back to the circular thinking that these old 'demics" are stuck in. That can't happen, therefore it doesn't happen. And if that's a book you've got there which says it can, then I'm not going to open it.
     
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  8. Alex

    Alex New

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    agreed :)

    well put.
     
  9. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    What are your conclusions from the Lancet paper?
     
  10. JD1

    JD1 Member

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    I feel like if you were arguing with a materialist/atheist, and quoted George's statements in this interview as examples of materialist philosophy, they would accuse you of setting up a strawman. A lot of the things he said were like the caricature of atheists that non-atheists are accused of creating.

    It's always baffling to see people who don't believe in free will trying to convince other people of something, when their own worldview says that no one has a choice about what they believe. You can't change someone's mind if there isn't a mind there to decide to change.

    It didn't take long for his logic to completely fall apart, especially in his scenario about a man getting upset that a woman left him. His whole point was that if the man understood that she didn't make a conscious choice to leave him, and that she had no control over it, that understanding would cause the man to forgive her for leaving him and decide not to harass or harm her. Well, if we should all be forgiven for what we do because we had no choice, why shouldn't the man be forgiven if he does hurt that woman? He didn't have any choice, either. By George's own logic, if he does hurt the woman, all it means is that his circumstances and environment (the woman leaving him) simply combined with his genetic predisposition toward violence, resulting in him hurting her. It's not his fault. He had no choice. Why should we try to stop him? And we can't stop him anyway, because the absence of free will means that people can't be convinced of the error of their ways and make a conscious choice to do things differently. Also, there's another issue about declaring free will nonexistent: Our society and justice system operate on the basis that free will does exist. Why should anyone be sent to prison for committing a crime? They had no more choice about committing their crime than they do about needing to go to the bathroom once in a while. We don't arrest people for going to the bathroom.

    The argument about whether or not atheists love their children stood out to me as well. "You think atheists don't love their children? Of course they do!" he says. But his own worldview says that no, they don't. What he calls "love" is just chemicals sloshing around in his skull, and the illusion that is his consciousness has misinterpreted those chemicals and created another illusion of something called "love." He really doesn't consider the full implications of his worldview. That's not surprising, though, because it's pretty clear that he had an agenda to push, which is "Atheists are better people, and it's entirely because they're atheists." This can be seen when he makes the claim that atheist children have been found to be more altruistic, and the part where he said "Science is not religion!" and scientists don't find the answers in a holy book, but by going out and getting evidence. It's the same old false dichotomy - the only choices are hardcore materialism and fundamentalist theocracy, with all the ignorance and stupidity that the latter entails.

    All he can say to being presented with information on NDEs is "Well, was it published in Nature?" He won't accept information that isn't sanctioned by his preferred authority. Ironically, that's an attitude that religious fundamentalists often have. "Any scientist can make a mistake," he says. How convenient that that only seems to apply when the scientist is reaching conclusions that differ from his. He doesn't seem to apply that standard to his anecdote about the red Ferraris in Heaven. He then proceeds to torpedo his own argument by saying that articles in journals, including Nature, are often wrong. Well, then, why should we trust those journals? Why is he implying that research is only valid if it's published in Nature, when he himself says that Nature can be unreliable? Seems like a convenient out for him - if NDE research isn't in Nature, that means it's invalid and not worth considering. If it is in Nature, that just means Nature made a mistake, because Nature does that sometimes. He denies that he operates on presumption, but he clearly does, because he automatically assumes that any research that contradicts his worldview must be wrong, or the researchers must have made a mistake. Because, as that one atheist from Neil Grossman's paper said, "There can be no evidence for something that is false."

    If George is an example of the mainstream paradigm, then I would have to answer Alex's question by saying that the paradigm has not shifted, and it will indeed require a changing of the guard, and lots of people in the old guard dying off, before it does shift.
     
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  11. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Exactly - such people don't seem to see where their understanding of the brain must lead. I am not certain if their failure to see the force of this argument is wilful or not, because in a way I suppose I shared it for a while. I was very keen on the idea of Artificial Intelligence - consciousness without all the biological messiness - and for me 'Intelligence' meant consciousness. I suppose I slid over arguments like the above - rather like QM appears paradoxical, and yet seems to be valid.

    From my perspective now, I would say that QM was an idea that was forced on science against much reluctance, whereas materialism seems to have become accepted for historical reasons (the science vs Christianity dispute), and not for any other clear reason.

    David
     
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  12. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    More proof that soft materialism is the only variety on offer.
     
  13. Judith

    Judith New

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    Two things. First, I do believe that he represents the "old" paradigm, and that younger scientists are becoming much more open to alternative explanations of reality (and non-reality, whatever that means). His thinking has solidified to the extent that newer information is simply deemed irrelevant if it isn't published in Nature or Science. Second, I was really uncomfortable with his descriptions of animal experiments. His cold matter-of-fact tone of voice indicated to me that he has removed himself from any contemplation of animals as having a sentient consciousness. I have an ethical thing about treating animals as objects rather than as sentient beings. (I an not a vegetarian and have butchered and eaten wild game.)
     
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  14. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    One thing I learned from reading Campbell and other comparative mythologists is that what we call materialism today is really part of something bigger that started forming millennia ago. Also, the really odd thing is that Western religion is also materialistic - yes, religion itself can be materialistic. Imagining God as a potter fashioning creation as the molding of clay, Jesus in the role of a carpenter, saying you are from the dirt and will return to the dirt, imagining God as an old man in the sky, and all the literalist, physicalist interpretations, in general, of god, heaven/hell, creation, etc. -- these are all materialistic approaches and views on religion. Getting stuck on the symbol, rather than realizing the symbol references something transcendent, is a materialistic tendency. It all started, roughly speaking, with the (long) transition from the matriarchal religions to the patriarchal religions. Each myth has it's own kind of associated psychology. With matriarchal religions, people typically felt themselves more connected with nature, the ego was less dominant, and a more direct sense of the divine was common. Patriarchal religions are all about development of the ego, or rather greater individual self-awareness and consequently the birth of the hero mythologies, or at least a greater emphasis on the hero, who is the individual that overcomes the illusion of separation (and materialism) and returns to the whole, or source, and preferably returns to assist the rest of humanity with that endeavor. But, as a consequence humanity must go through a temporary age, where there is a separation of humanity from nature and a separation from the divine, with a direct consequence being a predisposition towards materialism. We live in the depths of that age, right now.

    This is why to me the whole comparison of atheism vs Christianity with materialism vs non-materialism is a façade, imho. Both western religions and secularist views like atheism are both victims of a materialism that has been in the making for a long, long time. They're two sides of the same old, tarnished coin. The big difference being that Christianity provides the impetus for overcoming materialism (in the example of Christ), whereas atheism is a degenerative view, spiritually speaking, that wants to keep you lost in materialism. That's also the power of Christianity, imho. It can be viewed on multiple levels, starting at a simple, materialistic level with a literal interpretation, while planting seeds that allow a more profound, almost Zen-Like, even abstract view, which later breaks past the initial materialistic tendencies. This view can be seen in folks like Meister Eckhart who would say things like, "The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God as if he stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge.", or, "God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk.", or "The ultimate leave-taking is the leaving of God for God". These sayings are from a form of Christianity that has broken past materialistic tendencies. (The sad part being, while folks still hold to a materialistic view of Christianity, sayings such as these can sound anathema, and so Meister Eckhart suffered the consequences of his utterances)

    Why did Christ have to incarnate? Our "sin", if you can call it that, was becoming so enmeshed into the material, into the physical, and so separated from the Divine, that it was only by "God" descending into the flesh and "getting right in our faces", so to speak, that there was any hope of having a form of religion, or view of God, that would provide enough internal impetus within our materialistic mode of consciousness, for us to be able to rise (in consciousness!) back to the spirit, in similar fashion, by following the example of Christ. It was the only kind of God our consciousness could relate to, having sunken into the materialistic slumber we find ourselves in.
     
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  15. billw

    billw New

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    I really believe it would be best if theism/atheism ands souls (invisible floating eyeballs, or whatever he referred to it as) were left out of the discussion. This won't get us anywhere. And it might be easier to give consideration to his beliefs that the brain can "explain it all" (as noted in his article linked from the show) if it were only NDEs that challenged it. But that's far from the case. He's choosing to ignore large bodies of evidence for psychic phenomena, reincarnation, and other phenomena for which we can't even begin to fathom how they could possibly be produced by brains! As warm and nice as he is, I find these kinds of interviews difficult to listen to.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  16. I think even just looking at what it would mean to "explain it all" in terms of thoughts and subjective experience is enough to cast serious doubt on the idea materialism is enough:

    What Neuroscience Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

    Also, given the varied problems facing science as practiced, I'd have expected more humility from George.
     
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  17. Baccarat

    Baccarat New

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    Can you interview an open minded skeptic? Haven't watched the interview, but it seems like these guest are pretty redundant. I would like to hear a skeptic interviewed that would make me question my previous assumptions and make me look back at the data or possibly point out things that were missed. At the least make me ponder
     
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  18. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Do such people exist? As JD1 pointed out so succinctly with regard to George's absence of logical consequence, skeptics appear to lack closure on their own atheist materialism and continue as though the moral map was the same.Combine that with a healthy degree of confidence and a career where hand-waving is an acceptable way of avoiding unpalatable facts, and the "unexamined life" isn't an obstacle to the good life!

    None seem to have worked out it's robots "all the way down" but speak as though conscious volition, free will and legally supported morality remain unproblematic for the paradigm. Skeptics lack the basic understanding that contemporary society stands on a set of philosophical beliefs with a history based on joined up thinking, and want to dismiss the thinking as flawed while enjoying its benefits. I don't know where you begin with that mind set, but good luck with finding a skeptic who gets the problem.
     
  19. malf

    malf Member

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    Try Evan Thompson 281
     
  20. Far.From.Here

    Far.From.Here New

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    Micah Hanks is both open minded and skeptical. He is also pretty smart. He would almost surely be a guest.
     
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