Friday, September 14, 2007

And there ya have it.

This morning, GMA's Chris Cuomo is interviewing Helen Fisher—noted anthropologist and a particular expert on the biological underpinnings of love—about a forthcoming National Geographic special, "Inside the Living Body." They're talking about the physical processes that culminate in what we experience as feelings. Cuomo asks her to expand a bit on specifically which aspects of love are chemical. Fisher replies as follows:

"Well, first of all, everything is chemical."

Later in the interview, in response to whether such notions take the magic out of love, Fisher says, "The body is chemistry—and the mind puts the love into it." There are several levels of meaning to that carefully measured remark, I think. First off, it's a nice way of saying that we use our minds to adds layers of extraneous nuance to something that's a purely physical process. (It's important to say such things nicely, to not sound too cold and clinical about matters of the heart on a show like GMA, which plays to a largely female audience. And me.) But even that's a cop-out of a sort, because let's face it, the mind obviously is part of the body. Fisher says as much elsewhere in her written work, though again—perhaps wary of backlash from the Hallmark set—she tends to underplay such notions. The mind is a living, organic thing, subject to the same physical processes as the rest of the body. The mind is also, therefore, "chemical." Thoughts, quite literally, are chemical byproducts. Therefore, from the strict standpoint of science, it makes little sense to set up a dichotomy between the two.

Furthermore, the body is a self-contained unit in which the cellular/chemical activity never ceases. Thus it could be said that I've been evolving towards writing this post, or even putting this stupid red bicycle right here*
b
ever since my Mom and Dad conceived me in the early summer of 1949. And further—since I inherited my biological footprint from my parents, who, of course, were products of the same chemical continuum—it could be said that the red bicycle in the above sentence was inevitable ever since they were born. And on and on before that.... **

I was watching an MSNBC investigation recently in which scientists mapped areas of the brain in serial killers. The researchers highlighted ways in which those "Abby Normal"*** brains seemed to be wired differently from those of the rest of us, and yet were strikingly similar to each other. This is a very controversial area of forensic medicine that has many critics due to the clear implications for the criminal-justice system: If all killers are, in effect, "brain-damaged," how can we justify imposing extreme forms of punishment? It's like the controversy over executing the mentally retarded. I've seen other studies that document important differences in neural activity in left-brained people vs. right-brained people, including one recent report that even links such biological hard-wiring to political tendencies. And we won't even get into the latest theories on hard-wired differences between males and females.

My wife and I argue about these topics all the time; she takes the orthodox, went-to-Catholic-school view of free will. As I told her just the other day, I could still be wrong, but my growing sense is that within the next century, probably sooner than later, science will establish that everything that happens to us, every day, down to the smallest details of life and even the most transient "feelings," is caused/governed by some antecedent event that made the latter event inevitable. Everything is chemical. (The ongoing Genome Project already has made numerous quiet contributions to this endeavor.) At some point, then, society is going to have to grapple with the idea that free will—choice—simply does not exist. Oh sure, we "make decisions" all the time. But those decisions are foregone conclusions, set in motion, quite literally, eons ago. We are no more in control of anything we do than a rose bush is in control of which blossoms bloom when, how big they grow, etc.

I doubt that society will ever accept any of this. There are certain things you just can't say in America, even when they're true (assuming I'm proved right, of course). There's too much at stake, and we're too heavily invested in our "ideals," notably free will and all that flows from it: individual responsibility, good vs. evil, and, yes, "personal empowerment." But it just kills me sometimes that most people would rather cling to an ennobling falsehood than shrug their shoulders and accept the validity of a more prosiac (but ultimately more enlightened) truth. Especially since none of this makes a damn bit of difference in how you live your life. You're still gonna do what you're gonna do. You're gonna do exactly what you're gonna do; what you must do. But you don't know what that is, in advance.... So, at least on a personal, day-to-day basis, what's the big deal?

* I've been informed that those who view SHAMblog via some versions of Firefox will not see a bicycle, but just a mid-sized red "B." Apparently that's because Firefox doesn't translate the "Webdings" font, which is what I used to make the bike.
** Yeah, there are some leaps of faith in this post. I've left out a lot of steps, like the considerable direction-altering impact of the interplay between any unique Self and its environment, including other Selves. But if you read my previous remarks on determinism and free will, and/or Google the subject, you should be able to fill in the blanks. Some of our regulars hate when I go off on these tangents, so I'm trying to keep it reasonably short here.

*** That scene still cracks me up. And if you have to ask...

37 comments:

gregory said...

i am happy that you are putting up such meaty and thought-provoking posts.. thanks... my two rupees on this one - what we call chemical, or body, or brain, or even mind, are such gross phenomena, they are the cause of nothing, they are pure effect and by-product, after the fact, of something much subtler, or deeper... and, yes, to your predetermined prediction.. no independent origin is the phrase i like lately... i will look for some links i hope i have saved, this subject is very interesting for me... mind and spirituality institutes and research into the neurophysiology of decision-making have lately made the news, sharon begeley's book, a lot is happening, and it is interesting, because yogis figured out the same things ages ago, and completely unfunded.. lol... thanks for the post, enjoy your day

Blair Warren said...

Steve Salerno said, "We are no more in control of anything we do than a rose bush is in control of which blossoms bloom when, how big they grow, etc.

I doubt that society will ever accept any of this."

Don't be too hard on society; it has no choice in the matter. :-)

BTW, a great book related to this subject is The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel Wegner.

Steve Salerno said...

I hear you, Blair. It's all too easy in these discussions to devolve into nerve-wracking, "butterly-effect" rehtorical loops that just go round and round. But I did try to cover (and even presumed to try to resolve) such paradoxes in a previous post. Then again, maybe you were "determined" not to read it.

Anonymous said...

Young Frankenstein, btw. A classic scene from a classic flick. Another great Marty Feldman line from YF: "What hump?" They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Mary Anne said...

You picked one of my favorite topics and heroes, Helen Fisher, for this blog. Have you read ANATOMY OF LOVE by Fisher? You will rethink love relationships if you do. My theory is we have biochemical sensors that pick our love partners for various reasons. See this is an area that psychology cannot seem to address. For example, why does a person with a HORRID upbringing and no psychotherapy go on to have a great marriage, but another person has a GREAT upbringing goes on to have a HORRID marriage? Tradional psychology states that if you have been raised in a bad environment, you will NOT have the tools for a successul marriage. Countless studies have shown that this not necessarily the case. I hold a theory, as do quite a few physical anthropologists, that those who chose good mates had better biochemical sensors in choosing their mates. I think within my lifetime, we will move away from psychology, for psychiatric therapy, and into the physical reasons for behavior. Anthropology, psychology, and genetics will merge one day soon. Steve, what your wife is addressing about "free will" can be explained in neurosensors of the brain. The brain can be remapped with certain therapies, but again, "free will" might be an illusion.

Rational Thinking said...

Challenging piece - I enjoyed reading it. The idea of free will is so enshrined, I think, in the self-help movement that it's going to take a lot of combatting. I only recently got to grips with the fact that thought only comes into conscious awareness after a time lag (which I believe has been measured) - oh shoot, what happens to the notion of self-responsibility now? And I have to admit I have some questions about how, if we have no free will, cognitive thinking actually appears to be beneficial to some. But that's another post!

And I appreciate your point about what we do if some evolutionary mutation produces criminal behaviour. At the moment, I'd say it's relatively straightforward: if you're a danger to yourself and/or others, then you're detained. Not to be punished, but as punishment. Humanely, one hopes. In the future, then I suppose we hope for some kind of genetic engineering (or re-engineering) to be available so that we can attempt to correct what we perceive to be anti-social behaviour. Whether thereby we'll make a kind of bargain about celebrating diversity, who knows. It may be that if survival is the impetus, we have to.

Thanks again for a thought-provoking read.

Steve Salerno said...

Incidentally, I should've mentioned in the post itself that the Supreme Court in 2002 resolved the issue of executing the mentally retarded by ruling it unconstitutional as a form of "cruel and unusual punishment." However, the debate goes on, as prosecutors seek novel ways to skirt the ruling and defense attorneys seek novel ways of having their clients declared mentally deficient and therefore covered by the Court's ruling. Also, some victims' advocates continue to oppose the Court's decision, arguing that it's too broad and generally favors the perpetrators of homicide over the loved ones of homicide victims.

Mary Anne said...

Hey Steve, I think maybe this is being looked at in a too negative light. As far as serial killers go, if we study them enough maybe we can find ways to help future serial killers NOT go in that direction. There are a lot of studies being done how the brain is VERY responsive. Neuroscience is a field that explores ways of changing the brain from addictions to neurosis like bipolar disorders. These sciences are actually quite helpful, because they give hope that there are physical ways to combat some of these problems. The biggest problem I see is how society wants to hold onto concepts that are outdated and ultimately may hurt us in the future.

Steve Salerno said...

I never really saw a reason to look at any of this negatively. It simply is what it is--inherently neither good nor bad.

gregory said...

on the path to increasing subtlety of awareness we discover that thoughts themselves are objects of perception to us the seer ... they are not who we are nor do we have to act on them ... in some ways this is the essence of spirituality .... (and how the self help movement has used this recognition is to suggest that one can actually have any thought one wants, and let that thought out-picture itself)... thoughts are really quite gross compared to pure awareness .... like all things in this great universe, there are many levels from gross to subtle, cause and effect are often not what we think they are, assumptions often create problems .... hence, the fear of possible social manipulation based on brain differences ( a very gross level event) or the manipulations effected under the guise of self help seminars, and of what appears to be determinism in our lives .... we are the seer, not the seen, not the scene either... the cool thing about science these days is that formerly "mystical" understandings are being validated through that wonderfully peculiar modality .... understanding of how things unfold is underway... life being life ...

gregory said...

some links...

http://biosingularity.wordpress.com/2007/02/10/revealing-secret-intentions-in-the-brain/#comment-18244

http://homepage.mac.com/ryantmckay/Paper%20PDFs%20for%20Website/Hallucinating%20God.pdf

a buddhist pov http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew25326.htm

http://amnap.blogspot.com/ casting doubt on reductionist materialsim

http://scienceblogs.com/neurontic/2007/03/dear_neurontic_3.php

http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/

http://www.forbes.com/forbeslife/health/feeds/hscout/2007/01/22/hscout601147.html

Steve Salerno said...

It's one thing to keep an open mind--to be the "pliant" blade of grass you describe in a previous comment. I also concede that our very humanity imposes sensory and other limitations on us that may very well prevent us from seeing aspects of the universe or "total life equation" that are, simply, unseeable to us in our present, imperfect state of humanity. However, where you and I differ, I think, is what we do with such assumptions. You seem to think that the fact that we "don't know as much as we often think we do" means that we should welcome all ideas, all hypotheticals, with equally open (intellectual) arms. From what I gather thus far, you extend that hoary "tree in the forest" paradox to just about everything. Me, on the other hand--I believe that we should go on the basis of what evidence we do appear to have, however flawed and incomplete (and maybe even, ultimately, misleading) that evidence may be. (That was the basis of my book, SHAM: what do we THINK we know, as apart from what we can PROVE, about self-help and its efficacy.) And it seems to me that all evidence--so far--points to a totally physical world in which there is no spiritual or ethereal component. And assumptions beyond that are pure conjecture; one might as well profess a sincere belief in the Easter Bunny.

The Crack Emcee said...

Hear, hear, Steve.

And, Gregory, I'd like to reference your first comment as well:

"thoughts themselves are objects of perception to us the seer ... they are not who we are nor do we have to act on them"

I used to tell my wife the same thing. But I've never - ever - met a so-called spiritual person who didn't act on their (filtered) idea of things. Not trying to diss you, G, but the convoluted way you express yourself is a perfect example - can't you just say things? Does your every utterance have to be the equivalent of wind chimes? I have to re-read your posts to understand them when, ultimately, they're not that deep - enlightening, as they say, merely because I don't know you - but not that deep.

There is a real world, man.

RevRon's Rants said...

"You seem to think that the fact that we "don't know as much as we often think we do" means that we should welcome all ideas, all hypotheticals, with equally open (intellectual) arms."

You seem to be ignoring that there might be a gray area between the two extremes, Steve. Consider the idea of acting upon that which is quantifiable, while considering the possible existence of that which is not.

One needn't base their life upon fairy tales in order to stretch beyond what they can see, touch, and understand. To acknowledge only what one is capable of measuring is to limit one's understanding to only concepts for which there is clear precedent - essentially imprisoning one's potential for growth. On the other hand, structuring one's life primarily around what *might* be is to ignore the value of prior learning - a sure path to problems. But somewhere between the two exists a position of stability *and* growth. IMHO, such a position offers the greatest potential for stability *and* hope.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that the personal success I have enjoyed/earned (financial, personal relationships...) was pre-determined. Espicially since my identical twin brother has achieved none of it. His three marriages to sub-prime women have brought him nothing but grief.

We do have control over the folks we marry - that is certainly not pre-determined, is it?

Steve Salerno said...

Comments like this throw me. Why should one assume that identical twins would have identical lives? As I noted in a footnote to my post, there are many other forces besides pure INTERNAL chemistry that act on us (in the environment, in the nature of our dealings with other people, etc.). Those factors make a huge difference in outcome.

One of the problems with the idea of looking at life from a deterministic POV is that it really irritates people who--like yourself--have had successful lives and want to claim full credit for it. We don't want to think that it was "all in the cards anyway." We want to be proud of what we've done. But that's no reason to reject a scientific fact (if it comes to that), is it? Just because you don't WANT it to be true, you decide that it CAN'T be true? Does that make sense?

I once wrote an essay about society's hostily towards the sociopath. You will often hear prosecutors scream out in court, "This is a man with no conscience! No conscience at all!"
But the way I see it, that should almost be a defense argument, NOT an argument for guilt! After all...how can you blame a person who lacks a conscience for doing the kinds of things people without consciences do! If you don't have a conscience, it's basically the same as if, say, you didn't have eyes. Do you blame a person without eyes for being blind? So is it this guy's FAULT that he doesn't have a conscience?

By the same token, if you developed with a great deal of drive and enthusiasm and intelligence, and as a result of all that, you're successful in life...why should you get credit for that? You're merely achieving the sorts of things that people with drive and enthusiasm and success achieve.

Once again--let me stress--this is a DRAMATICALLY oversimplified presentation of the mechanics of determinism. I'm just using it to make a very basic point: We do what is "in us" to do. (Which means, also, there is no such thing as "overachieving." If you achieve it, it was always in there. It just wasn't "ready" to come out yet, due to any number of other variables.)

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm joining in late...have been distracted with the tedious job of final proofing of a book before it goes to press.

This is an excellent post, perhaps because the subject matter makes so many people uneasy. And Helen Fisher's work fascinates me.

Steve, as you remarked to the successful Anon with a not-so-successful twin brother:
"One of the problems with the idea of looking at life from a deterministic POV is that it really irritates people who--like yourself--have had successful lives and want to claim full credit for it. We don't want to think that it was 'all in the cards anyway.' We want to be proud of what we've done. But that's no reason to reject a scientific fact (if it comes to that), is it? Just because you don't WANT it to be true, you decide that it CAN'T be true? Does that make sense?"

It makes perfect sense to me. (And as an aside -- this is not directed at Anon, just a general observation -- it's interesting that many people who are proud of their accomplishments don't hesitate to give God or Jesus or Spirit or the Universe at least some of the credit for their success, if not all of it. In many cases, though, their allowing God or Whoever to share the billing is a clear case of false modesty.)

I consider myself to be an agnostic, but I am an agnostic who still *wants* God (or Something More) to exist. But that doesn't mean he/she/it does. And as potentially disturbing as we might consider the notion that everything can be reduced to biochemistry, that doesn't make it untrue, and it certainly doesn't make it bad or evil. I think it's an area of research well worth pursuing, but it's obviously going to cause a lot of fighting.

Many skeptics/atheists will use it to further their case against faith. People of faith will see it as evil. There will be tyranny on both sides of the debate. Like global warming, it's going to create some "interesting" battles.

CMC, your comment about Gregory reminded me of your song, "Permanently Vague." But I think there's a big difference between New-Wage hucksters who deliberately use vague language and thinking to deceive themselves and others, and someone who, speaking from an apparently Buddhist perspective, expresses his ideas poetically. So c'mon, cut G some slack. ;-)

In the end, and not surprisingly, I'm most comfortable with The Rev's seeming middle ground: "Consider the idea of acting upon that which is quantifiable, while considering the possible existence of that which is not." To which we could add, "And always consider the idea of 'better living through chemistry!'" :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, I think that is the best articulation I've seen of my own feelings on God in particular. I want it to be true--I do--and I even derive comfort from sitting in Church (though I still can't bring myself to pray or observe any of the rituals; I'll go when there are no Masses taking place. And I'll just sit). But I would never argue for God's existence in a serious discussion. To me, those things must be left off the table, even if, at some preconscious level, we draw some (irrational) sort of solace from them.

RevRon's Rants said...

"To me, those things must be left off the table, even if, at some preconscious level, we draw some (irrational) sort of solace from them."

Steve - Does not your insertion of the parenthetical dismissive serve to place "those things" right back on the table, albeit on your own terms, and at the cost of discouraging rebuttal? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

I'm not sure I entirely follow what you're asking me, but I think in any case my response would be, we all have irrational impulses, and my belief in God is one of mine. But at least I recognize that it's irrational, and if someone told me I was BEING irrational and even "ignorant" by clinging to that belief, I'd agree.

RevRon's Rants said...

"But at least I recognize that it's irrational..."

Recognition of a non-absolute is always influenced by one's personal bias. Perhaps it would be more honest to say that it *appears* irrational to me, since there are an awful lot of folks who strongly hold to the perception that it is not irrational.

gregory said...

Time magazine had a cover article a couple of years ago with the title, "discovered, the god gene" (i have been waiting ever since for one that says, "discovered, the fundamentalist gene", but no luck so far) which had to do with the relationship of the brain's structure and experience... belief itself is an incredibly interesting thing, what it is, how it works, its evolutionary function, (which may be lessening) ... one of the (truncated by the comment format) links i posted above is an article called hallucinating god which makes the case that religious belief is reflective of intellectual dysfunction ... whether it is chemical, as steve's original blog post is perhaps suggesting, or psychological, one thing seems primary, that all knowing takes place in awareness ... for the mystic, god is not a problem, everything takes place in consciousness, is made of consciousness, and consciousness is another name for god ... english is not so well suited for such terms, sanskrit is probably more precise, and many of these questions have been the purvey of the great mystical quest that has gone on in all cultures ... my favorite metaphor of late has been advaita vedanta, and the teachings of ramana maharshi ... one lovely quote from him, when asked what is the purpose of creation, he replied, to arrive at the point where you ask that question, and find out who is asking ... he also suggests that from the moment the egg and the sperm come together all the actions that the body will undergo are set in motion... hence, choice is an egoic illusion ....

Steve Salerno said...

Interesting. So we have someone of a more spiritual persuasion arriving in the same place I'm at, albeit by a New Age conveyance.

Of course, it was chemicals that made him say that....

The Crack Emcee said...

It just reminds me of U.G. Krishnamurti's story of his great, final, debate with "The great teacher", Jiddu Krishnamurti:

"Again I asked him if there was anything behind the abstractions he was throwing at me, 'Come clean for once.' Then he said with great force, 'You have no way of knowing it!' Then I said, 'If I have no way of knowing it and you have no way of communicating it, what the hell have we been doing! I have wasted seven years listening to you. You can give your precious time to somebody else. I am leaving for New York tomorrow.'

Classic.

gregory said...

it is a "principle" in mysticism that the mind cannot know the self... something like the eye cannot see itself... when one identifies with one's mind, life appears one way, and when one identifies with awareness, mind and world appear another way... there has been some great mystical poetry around this subject ... from kabir...
O how may I ever express that secret word?
O how can I say He is not like this, and He is like that?
If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed:
If I say that He is without me, it is falsehood.
He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisibly one;
The conscious and the unconscious, both are His footstools.
He is neither manifest nor hidden, He is neither revealed nor unrevealed:
There are no words to tell that which He is. ....

now i am hooked, here is another...

I have been thinking of the difference between water
and the waves on it. Rising,
water's still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up the word
"wave," do I have to distinguish it
from water?

There is a Secret One inside us;
the planets in all the galaxies
pass through his hands like beads.
another....

That is a string of beads one should look at with luminous eyes. ... and another... Between the conscious and the unconscious, the mind has put up a swing:
all earth creatures, even the supernovas, sway between these two trees,
and it never winds down.

Angels, animals, humans, insects by the million, also the wheeling sun and moon;
ages go by, and it goes on.

Everything is swinging: heaven, earth, water, fire,
and the secret one slowly growing a body.
Kabir saw that for fifteen seconds, and it made him a servant for life....
and you wonder why people fall in love with meditation? or mysticism? or even the self help movemement?

laughing... and now some rumi... (sorry for this post, but sometimes the words move me so much...)

Steve Salerno said...

I think you're being ironic, Gregory--it's often hard for me to tell--but I do feel compelled to say that starting off with the line, a "principle in mysticism," is a little bit like attributing some major epiphany to the Tooth Fairy. They enjoy similar credibility, in my view.

Cosmic Connie said...

Gregory may or may not be employing irony... there's always Rumi for interpretation. (Sorry, but we needed a little levity after all of the fighting on "that other thread." :-))

The Crack Emcee said...

One of the first things you learn, when you enter the foster care system, is that you're tested - a real Lord of the Flies. One night I was awakened, with a living room table-leg being slammed into my stomach, which rose me up, to be met with a fist. Afterwards, the two white guys that did it just looked at me, believing such over-whelming force would establish a clear pecking order.

The next day, I talked to the black guys in there, and they dragged those guys to secluded spot and - without allowing me to do a thing - beat them within an inch of their lives. It hurt to watch (it really did) but, hey, what could I do?

Many years ago, I was hanging with another guy, who also pined for a normal existence. His father was a billionaire industrialist - exposed as a cross-dresser - it made the papers and made his life hell.

One night we wanted to do some speed (idle hands being what people say they are) and we found a dealer to sell us a bag. We did it, and nothing happened, so we did some more - eventually doing the whole damn thing.

But instead of going up, up, up, we went way, way, down, so far I passed out and started dreaming. I saw a intricate mandala, like I know sufis make, moving gorgeously, counter-clockwise, seemingly forever.

When I came to, my friend, panicked, said we had been sold ecstacy; and I had been out for a half an hour. When we found our salesman, a blonde biker type, the dealer said he believed the switch would chill us out - we should've been grateful - that's when my friend removed one of his eyes. Graceful-like, one smooth move.

I'm telling you this, Gregory, to say belief, for me, is a burden. Not my own but those held by others. It's just an endless series of tests, that never works out as the believer believes, and demands a terrible, terrifying, and completely unsatisfying price from me:

I always have to watch.

gregory said...

jeez, i never met anybody who didn't like khabir or rumi... zero irony from me in that post... it seemed your blog post and the thread were about the dual nature of life, could be free-will, could be determinism, could be body chemistry only, could be psychology... these poems are about the mystery of the dual nature of life, (and mysticism is only that, the tooth fairy is folk myth, something else) .... scientist have the same thing, light as particle, light as wave .... the ancient tradition of "mysticism" has to do with the ability of the mind to expand its capacity for being aware, all the self-help movement is, is an attempt to put some of the discoveries of that to practical use, that it can be commercialized is obvious to all and trivial ... if you are not moved by beauty or feeling or mystery or intuition, (i assume you must be), there is not much to talk about...

Steve Salerno said...

I am moved by all of those things, Gregory, perhaps more than you can imagine. A breathtaking minor mountain range rimmed the suburban community in which I lived for several years in Orange County, CA. Every day when I left my house I would stare up at those mountains, almost as if it were a duty to do so--to admire the beauty that surrounded me--and each day I would be awed anew by that beauty. And yet I noticed that few of my neighbors seemed to feel that way. They would leave their houses, walk to their driveways, get into the cars and drive off to work each day without so much as an upward glance at the scenery. To them, it was just backdrop, old news. A "given." I couldn't believe that anyone could become so blase about such magnificence.

But what does any of that have to do with the fact that we were all--them and me--predetermined to react the way we reacted?

RevRon's Rants said...

"But what does any of that have to do with the fact that we were all--them and me--predetermined to react the way we reacted?"

Just curious... Is the pat assertion that one's belief is fact sufficient to make it so? IMHO, there need to be incontrovertible empiric evidence to support the belief before it can be labeled as fact. Or at least, that's what we tell the New Wagers. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Now, now, Ron. I think maybe you're just searching frantically for petards on which to hoist me. I grant you, I was imprecise in the wording of my comment. However, I think I made clear in the intial post, as well as in previous posts on the topic, that I refer to evolving science at this point, not proven science. I refer to the fact that each time a bit of new scientific evidence emerges, it seems to support my way of looking at life. As I wrote in the operative graph of this very post, "I could still be wrong, but my growing sense is that within the next century, probably sooner than later, science will establish that..."

Sometimes we get into the heat of an argument and after a certain point we begin to argue for the sake of argument itself--to make our adversary look foolish. But I think you'd have to agree (or at least I hope you would) that as a rule, I am far less guilty of that than most. Of course, now I'm sure that someone will go hunting through my verbiage, looking for a place where I seemed to get a bit too ornery, in order to "prove me wrong..." ;)

Incidentally, I still don't quite understand why so many of us can't seem to confine ourselves to commenting on the ideas instead of the people voicing them. As I've said before during the course of these spats, I would much rather someone SHOW how a given thought is imbecilic than merely CALL one's opponent an imbecile. But such is life in the blogosphere, I guess.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - I was not commenting upon "imprecise wording," nor was I seeking petards. While you do occasionally offer an obligatory disclaimer, you still present your own opinion - as in this case - as being proven fact. My desire is not to make you look foolish - I would think you know better than that - but rather to reflect back when your presentation lacks clarity or leaves itself open to criticism for taking the same approach for which you criticize SHAMsters.

And if you'll re-read my comment, you'll see that I cast no aspersions whatsoever on you as a person, but merely pointed out what I believe to be a weakness in your presentation.

Steve Salerno said...

Fair enough, Ron. Look, it would be a little silly of me to be TOTALLY even-handed on this blog; among other things, that would be a repudiation of everything on which I took a firm stand in SHAM. And a blog is, after all, an opinion-driven medium. However, I don't think it's fair for you to write off my disclaimers as just token verbiage. I am open to the idea that I may be wrong about life, in part or in whole. In the meantime, I think I'm entitled to put the info together in the way that seems most plausible to me--as are you. And neither one of us should feel obliged to constantly apologize for that.

gregory said...

this is one of the eternal question that come up in the company of saints, gurus, (pick your term) and i have heard some nice ways of explaining this "reality" of the free will/ determinism question... one is, they are the same thing, just looked at from a different direction, like the head and tails of a coin, the free will of today structures the determinism of tomorrow ... another is, live as if you have free will, (although you dont) , and as the bhagavad gita wisely instructs, perform action for the sake of the action, the fruits of the action are up to god ....

my optimistic side says that it wont take a century for this aspect of life to be accepted, things are moving so fast both in the research in to neurophysiolgy of consciousness and in the increasingly wide spread of meditation, yoga, satsang, all things organic and natural (who could have predicted the whole foods stores 25 years ago?) that concepts formerly reserved for serious seekers are making the soft news sections of the new york times, or even the god-awful men's health mag (sorry steve, teasing, bimbo is not a gender specific word, as proved by that mag)...

and my pragmatic side says that human life is a series of planes, all good and all evil are here, and always will be because that is what human life is, individuals move up through the planes as their awarenesses become capable of entertaining more refined concepts... knowledge is different in different states of consciousness...so your insights are right for those who can even understand that there is a question about such things as free will, choice, etc... but that aint everybody, and it is not supposed to be...

what is you NEXT post going to be about?? :)

RevRon's Rants said...

Agreed, Steve. But as a journalist - if not as a blogger - isn't it more honest to present your opinion - even one strongly held, if not universally supported - as being opinion, rather than fact?

We each hold opinions which are - to us - factual. But we must also recognize our own limitations where the interpretation of data is concerned. I hold some beliefs which I know to lack the universal support of empirical data. That does not make those opinions less valid to me, but it does compel me to defend them as being my own opinions, rather than state that they are incontrovertible facts.

I fully agree that it is unacceptable to cast dismissive aspersions on any individual who does not share one's perspectives. And though any blog is bound to be opinion-driven, I hold to the notion that such aspersions should be just as unacceptable if they are cast by one with whom the blogger tends to agree. As I've previously opined, my feeling is that publishing another's ad hominem attack is tantamount to launching said attack by proxy, even if a disclaimer is offered.

Mary Anne said...

I was reading the identical twin's blog and I think I know what he is referring to. There have been tons of studies done on identical twins due to the fact they are natural clones. In a lot of studies, identical twins who were raised apart went on to have VERY similar lives. They married similar types of spouses, had similar jobs, and similar tastes without ever having contact with each other. In my own experience, I met my older half-sister for the first time last year and I was STUNNED by our similarities. We have the same father, but different mothers. We both lived in Asia in the SAME towns. We both were married for seven years and we had similar mental interests. We are both very intuitive and had an immediate short hand with each other. It was quite an uncanny experience to have. Now here is where things get sticky with identical twins and even siblings, the environmental factor. Now genes versus the environment is always a debate. I am more on the side of genetics, but what if a twin falls down and hits his or her head? We know enough about the brain now to know it is quite elastic. Some neuroscientists believe that certain brain traumas can change circuit patterns in the brain. See for me that is where all the predestination fails. It cannot take into consideration all the environmental factors. On a side note, I think these scientific break throughs fit perfectly with spirituality. Was it not Jesus who said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you."
(Luke 17:21)