PJ Buehler and George Gantz
The Opening Conversation: Swedenborg and Near Death Experiences
Several months ago, Peter Buehler and George Gantz began an exchange of emails, focused on the “Hard Problem of Consciousness.” While the thoughts expressed will hardly solve that problem, they may provide some insights that readers will find interesting.
I’m a big believer in science and the significant benefits it has brought to human civilization. However, I’m also a skeptic when it comes to the “science knows all” attitude that has been so prevalent in modern culture. Ancient cultures and practices have great wisdom to share, as well. We should be willing to question the conventional modern “scientific” mythologies — and be open to the possibility of finding truth in ancient wisdom.
For more than a century, physics has been confronting the demon of indeterminacy in the quantum structure of the universe in the search for a Theory of Everything (TOE). Theoretical physicists have struggled for a century to close the gap – unsuccessfully. The esteemed Sir Roger Penrose (age 84) has a different idea that may move us closer to a TOE, but in an unexpected way: his theory also explains the mechanism of consciousness and free will. By implication, it forces each of us (and every quantum state) to make a choice. (more…)
How often have we been admonished to “condemn the behavior, not the person?” Yet this seems to be incredibly difficult — how do you confront a bad behavior without also confronting the person who is doing it? There is a subtler version of this conundrum in New Church Theology – based on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg teaches that it is the intent of a person, their truest inner love, which ultimately defines whether a person is good or evil. Yet we can never know another person’s intention – only God can do that. While we can name an action as having a positive or negative outcome, we cannot judge whether the person that made the action is good or evil. (more…)
It’s hard to imagine a more rationally stimulating area of science than the study of the brain. Yet the remarkable field of Neuroscience seems determined to deny itself. Recent research points to the influence on our decisions of a vast array of innate, genetic, experiential and motivational factors of which we are unaware. The conclusion – the “rational” mind does not make decisions – it is merely rationalizing our pre-determined choices. So much for free will – and for a directing influence of rational consciousness in our pursuit of good choices and deep questions (such as the nature of mind and brain). (more…)
I have recently come across several pieces from scientists skeptical of religion suggesting that they are coming to see significant benefits to both individuals and society of religion. Religious people tend to have higher self control, they are more trusting, and they are happier, than people who are not religious. So, is this benefit the gift of a divine being, or is it an emergent property of a non-conscious evolutionary selection process? (more…)
Experimental Philosophy – the New New Thing?
This month’s Scientific American (November 2011, p.57) featured an interesting article on “Thought Experiments” by Joshua Knobe. The idea is that rather than simply designing logical arguments about key philosophical questions such as free will and morality, which philosophers have been doing from armchairs for thousands of years, philosophers can actually test the way humans think and react using experimental, scientific techniques. (more…)
By Justin Junge
Note: For a recording of Dr. Junge’s presentation on June 6, 2011, please visit the New Church audio website at this link.>
Imagine that a scientist could acquire a detailed map of every atom in your brain at a given point in time, clustering these atoms into active chemicals, cells (neurons), connections, and other groups of matter relevant to brain function. (more…)