Slamming the door on a 'process of discovery'?
In two unrelated posts, whose juxtaposition here maybe provocative to some of us, a New Age Shaman issues a characteristically smug (and unaesthetically timed) dismissal of the skeptics' stance as merely an artifact of their 'personal disillusion with religion'; and a New Atheist goes to great lengths to present the skeptics' stance as the result of an ongoing scientific examination through which some practices traditionally considered religious will pass muster.

Some ways of addressing accusations of 'slamming the door shut on processes of discovery' which we have seen being used, are a neuro-ethological 'explaining away' with intoxication comparisons, or the Sam Harris line asking us keeping the door ajar but keeping 'mindful watch' so that nothing superstitious surreptitiously creeps in. It maybe a worthwhile exercise to compile other ways of addressing this 'slammed door' accusation and may not be out of place to 'peer-review' to the extent one can, the reports of experiments in this discipline.
PZ responds to Chopra's article.

This sentence says it all:

Quote:"Spiritual journey" is one of those New Age phrases that means nothing: it means not going anywhere, not learning anything new, only wallowing in one's preconceptions and justifying it with bafflegab about "spirituality", which is also undefinable and unmeasurable and utterly useless.

Taking a cue from Ajita's video "A way of life without religion", a spiritual journey is no more meaningful than a journey to comic con. I'm not saying it is devoid of meaning, but the meaning has no special privilege that people like Chopra and the numerous new agers assign it.

Also, truly "looking inside" of ourselves will look something like this. Understanding our brain is what leads to "inner growth", not pandering to our biases and then pretending to have understood the "self".
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Dr. Myers has done the needful as far as Dr. Chopra's squealing goes.

As for the issues put on the table by Dr. Harris (whose credentials as a woo-battler are frequently demonstrated), a longer-drawn-out 'hearing out' maybe useful. First off, since his claims are not exactly being asserted without evidence, we are not obliged to dismiss them without evidence. More than one peer-reviewed study is cited here (Paragraph 5) and they might be useful reading, if not to revisit stances at least for exercising fallacy detection of sorts. I must perhaps disclose here, a peripheral academic interest in these investigations.

Besides, getting someone like Hemley Gonzalez to write about their studies of practices like Vipassana could go some distance in dealing with misconceptions on both sides of the fence, like the view that a freethinker trying out meditation is a kind of closet believer who somehow morphs from a Bright into a Super, or the view that practices like these are foreclosed somehow to publicly avowed freethinkers. At the very least, it may forestall questions like "Have you managed to practice attentive silence for even 10 minutes?" to be flung at us with a flourish during debates with woo-enthusiasts.
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(18-May-2011, 09:11 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: At the very least, it may forestall questions like "Have you managed to practice attentive silence for even 10 minutes?" to be flung at us with a flourish during debates with woo-enthusiasts.

In an important followup to this discussion, the irrepressible Prof. Jerry Coyne presents a summary of his recent exchange with Sam Harris on what they call the 'transcendence issue':

Quoting from Prof. Coyne's own summary (which I guess does not conflict with most of the views expressed in this thread so far):

Quote:In sum, I think Sam’s points constitute a compelling argument for secular, contemplative meditation, which might benefit many of us. Whether that activity produces “transcendent” experiences more powerful than those gained from, say, contemplating the immensity of the universe, or the amazing accomplishments of natural selection, is a point up for grabs. But I’m not convinced that grasping the reality of even genuinely deep transcendent experiences will make us more understanding and more powerful opponents of religion. We already have plenty of weapons in our arsenal against that form of delusion.

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