In another thread, polycarp2 posted:
Quote polycarp2:Part of it, Jason, is
"The spiritually dead, like those constantly recurring trolls who have no interest in any such things -- and that's why they are so easy to spot -- will fight any of the principles involved. The principles go deep, and for those who believe that technology and progress are the way for humans to continue expanding and controlling nature and eventually the universe, these principles are contradictory and deep to their own vision (if you want to give what goes on in their heads the credit of calling it vision), thus they reflexively will react to them and try to deny their introduction and any active play of those ideas in their world of rational ideas. Killing spirit is their métier. It's easy enough. Spirit is fragile in spiritually dead, violent and dominator institutional organizations, such as industrial civilization. They resort to any method to derail the principles' development in discussion. There's a deep understanding involved. That understanding is always at work in the mental sorting process. Why the spiritually dead fear it, I do not know. But they do and they reject it." - Dennis L. Merritt, PhD.
What do we mean by "spirit" and "spiritual"?
If we are going to disparage others as "spiritually dead", what are we talking about?
The quote above refers to "those who believe that technology and progress are the way for humans to continue expanding and controlling nature and eventually the universe." I would agree that the key words in that formulation add up to a fairly reductionist and ego-centric point of view. Is that un-spiritual?
Would the same negative tar apply to those who believe that the scientific method is the way forward for humans to better understand themselves and their place in ecology? How un-spiritual would that be? Does the word "ecology" make it more spiritual?
Many of my peers seem to have adopted a non-denominational post new age "spirituality" as a common device by which they can dodge having to scientifically and rationally defend any particular non-sectarian or "universalist" dogma or faith.
I'm not politely buying it anymore.
Isn't spiritual just the new supernatural? How is spirituality not magical thinking?
I don't doubt that there are vast domains of knowledge about consciousness and the world we have not yet dreamed of and which science has not scratched the surface of. If something exists that is non-material, ok - but as Carl Sagan famously said, extravagant claims demand extravagant proof. Where is the proof ? If spirituality is a domain of beliefs held without proofs, why would we respect it?
I understand that we have thousands of years of anecdotal "evidence" for spiritual and religious experiences, emotional states, "higher states of consciousness", mystical experiences, and many other subjective experiences. I think this is an exciting domain for scientific research, not faith.
But I am not actually a militant materialist.
I confess I am inclined to suspect that everything is material (including known forms of energy), but the point is far from proven. In fact, it isn't proven that anything is material. At some level of scrutiny it must be admitted that we don't actually know what material is. We only know how it behaves under certain circumstances. I think descriptions of the world might be created under multiple assumptions: all material, no material, and some mixture of material and something else. The latter two, however, face some serious evidence problems for those of us to whom evidence matters.
Science is often accused of disrespecting the authenticity of subjective experience, but that is largely a straw man. A few scientists may have taken that position, but they are a minority. On the other hand, its funny how many grudging acknowledgments of science from the "spiritual" community come paired with back handed insults about how science is uncool because it "disses" our bliss. If one's bliss is that weak...
There is more in heaven and earth than dreamed of at the National Science Foundation--yet. But in the Worldview Hall of Fame, Natural Science has the distinction of being the paradigm that most willingly and quickly corrects it's own reality. Second place goes to Buddhists for killing Buddha if they meet him in the road!
Why the American obsession with "god, religion and spirituality"? Where should I begin? I think Americans are poorly educated compared with other industrial nations. Our real history is so shameful that historical, social, and political studies have been filled full of bullshit. We also have the worst media in the civilized world. Therefore we have no idea how the world really works. Complacence has contributed to a segment of our population being indifferent to reality (not to mention obese).
A post new age brand of bland, generic spirituality is on the upsurge among our better educated demographics and it may be finding some sympathy within the progressive community. I recognize the importance of an inner life, too, but does it have to be full of superstition and magical thinking to be valuable and poignant?
Just how different can belief structures be and still motivate (or even permit) people to take cooperative action? Over and over, down through the ages, most people seem to have decided they would need to kill off much of their opposition before they could proceed with changing the world in their chosen direction. Have all those people been wrong? Does science offer a potential rosetta stone for multiple belief systems?
"Is motherly love just an oxytocin release?"
Do we know what anything is, in itself? They are not necessarily completely different things which are merely coincident, nor completely different things which merely proceed from a common cause. There could actually be some existential or ontological overlap. If they are always correlated, it certainly begs the question. How can we design an experiment to expand our knowledge on this matter? It is still early days in FMRI, mollecular biology and other objective lab measurements. No doubt even more subtle and more powerful methods are needed and are to come.
The question of knowing what another person's spiritual values are is also intriguing. It is not yet widely known, but it is nevertheless a proven scientific fact that most people do not even know what their own spiritual values are. See and/or participate in the Harvard study at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/. It suggests that if we are looking for allies for changing the material world, a person's past behavior is a much better correlate with their probable future behavior than anything we can learn about their "values".
What we believe about ourselves is usually no better justified than what we believe about God.
In my opinion, there IS evidence that thoughts are material. They always seem to require the proximity of a physical brain. They seem to leave "footprints" we can see with EEG or fMRI or whatever. But even if there were no evidence of the materiality of thoughts, mind, self, enlightenment, etc., how would such non-evidence be transubstantiated into evidence of the contrary (non-materiality)?
It seems to me that the only evidence we have of anything being non-material is "thought evidence". The current body of evidence for materiality may sometimes be sparse, but its better than that. Excuse me for thinking that the case for materiality (with all the wormholes it may still include) is stronger than the case for non-materiality.
Like our senses, our emotions are an integral part of our authentic experience. They can be important guides and teachers. The trouble is, they can also mislead us. The mind can mislead as well. We can deceive ourselves. We can get lost and carried away. That's why we need our scientific methods to stay in touch with reality and stay on course.
Of course, you are right to be skeptical of science, as well. It certainly has its problems and shortcomings.
But there is no war between subjective experience and science. Science has revealed to us that the physical development of an infant's brain depends on love. But it has also begun to reveal ways that love and other feelings are intimately interwoven with physical processes in the human brain, such as oxytocin and dopamine pathways.
Faith and science are not enemies. Faith is expectation. That is where things like neurotransmitters and other hormones, and things like the placebo effect, come in.
Unfortunately, science just has little or nothing to offer at present about many important questions and experiences. It just hasn't got that far yet. On the other hand, I think many people would be way surprised what science has learned about human nature, emotions, and cognitive processes in just the past few years.
I recently read something like "Reality is anything that still exists when you stop believing in it."
I have not yet ever tripped over, bumped into, or choked on any "spirit". Therefore, I have not needed a definition for it (this relates to Occam's Razor). To be fair, I have experienced a number of altered states of consciousness that I cannot explain scientifically. In my world, however, these are "exotic" experiences rather than spiritual experiences, even though they sometimes have even contained religious imagery or content. In my opinion, the jury is still out on the origin and meaning of these experiences. I lean towards natural causes, even if those causes turn out to be very subtle and perhaps very surprising.
It can be stressful to live with unanswered questions and unexplained experiences, but you can't go wrong by admitting what you don't know.