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Professor of Religious Studies Survives Career in Exile

Posted on 31 August 2020, 8:07

After Stafford Betty read my recent Amazon review of Bob Gebelein’s book, Dirty Science, he commented that “the book explains as well as any what happened to me in the suffocating academic environment I lived in. I’m lucky to have survived until retirement, which will be official by the end of this month.”

Betty, a professor of religious studies at California State University at Bakersfield since 1972, dared to go beyond the limits of both orthodox religion and materialistic science in his lectures, discussing with his students credible research in such areas as near-death experiences, reincarnation, mediumship, and deathbed phenomena.  “My departmental colleagues are embarrassed by my interest in the paranormal,” Betty (below) explained when I interviewed him in 2014 “I have tried to share it with selected members, but none has ever shown any interest.  James Joyce once described one of his fictional characters as ‘a giraffe cropping high leafage among a herd of antelopes.’ That’s me.  No doubt several of my colleagues would be happy to see me retire.” 

 betty

Gebelein’s book discusses the resistance to paranormal phenomena and the research carried out by many esteemed scientists and scholars over the last century and a half – research strongly suggesting that consciousness survives death in a greater reality. This resistance results from the materialistic mindset which holds that there is no reality beyond the physical, all of which can be detected by our five senses.  It has been called “physicalism,’ “scientism,” ‘reductionism,” or “materialism.”  “…as long as physicalism dominates the academic community, it dominates the whole culture,” Gebelein offers. “The academic community defines that culture. The academic community decides what is ‘established’.” The academic community decides what the culture recognizes as ‘knowledge’… If the academic community is dominated by dirty science, so is culture.”  As he sees it, physicalism dominates the academic community as if it were a hypnotic command. 

Dirty science, Gebelein continues, is that resulting from bias toward psychic phenomena by mainstream scientists – a bias that results in misinterpretations, distortion, twisting, misrepresentations, and ridicule of everything outside the scope of the five senses, including scientific studies by open-minded scientists and academicians who have been brave enough to defy their colleagues and venture outside the limited boundaries of the mainstream.

In my earlier interviews and talks with Professor Betty, we talked about this very bias that has polluted academia.  I again discussed it with him last week.  He explained that impatience over his interests in psychic matters had been mounting over the years, but it was not until 15 years ago, when, as a senior member in his philosophy and religious studies department, he was in charge of hiring two new faculty, that it crested.  “There was fear that I would hire somebody with interests similar to mine,” he further explained by email. “A cabal of Betty haters rose up and began arguing, never to my face but behind my back (as I later learned) that the way I related to women in my department made them ‘uncomfortable’.”

The principle of academic freedom protected Betty from a frontal attack. “The only way to silence and eventually remove me from the department was to assail me (I later learned to my astonishment) as someone who was racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, religiously bigoted, and ageist.”

For the remainder of his career, Betty was banned from the department but continued to teach, not to philosophy or religious studies majors but rather to those majoring in other subjects, including many business majors.  He reported directly to the dean, not the department chair, and wasn’t even allowed to enter the building where his department was housed until the dean discovered such exclusion was illegal.  “The philosophers became increasingly concerned that I was lending respectability to a dualist metaphysics that contradicted the materialist worldview they all hewed to, and wanted their students to hew to,” he lamented. “Their leader swore to remove me from the department any way he could.  The department even removed my courses in Asian philosophy, philosophy of religion, and philosophy and religion in literature from the catalog.”

In spite of his banishment, Betty’s course, The Meaning of Death, became one of the most popular courses in the university. “Its popularity soared after I converted it over from a course more concerned with the sociology of death to one that deals more with metaphysics, especially with life after death,” he told me in the 2014 interview. “It is the latter that many of our students want reassurance about. They are like me thirty years ago.”  When Betty began using his book, The Afterlife Unveiled, in that course, his colleagues found that especially embarrassing. 

“For years, I asked deans and academic vice-presidents – they came and they went – to set up an impartial panel of faculty to investigate the allegations against me, clear my name, and restore my position in the department,” Betty continued. “No one would do it.  Everyone knew the charges would not stand.  To this day I have not been given the chance to face my accusers. I don’t know what they would say or how they would defend their lies. In the end, they got off scot-free.  And the real reason for this persecution?  I believed in a spiritual world and that we are spiritual beings, and I ‘poisoned’ the minds of my students with my ‘pseudoscience.’ They tolerated my teaching of my signature course, The Meaning of Death, as long as none of our majors took it.

“In the final analysis, my colleagues thought I had failed to outgrow the Catholic religion I grew up with.  It never occurred to them that I had outgrown it, too, but had from that point on gone down a different road.  To put it simply, I had felt an emptiness when I lost my faith, and they apparently had not.” 

In my earlier interview with Betty, he explained that his faith in Catholicism began to deteriorate after he returned from a stint in Vietnam as an Army engineer officer, primarily the result of reading Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and not being able to counter his arguments.  While pursuing his studies at Fordham, Columbia, and Union Theological, he concentrated on Asian religious thought, especially Hinduism.  It was not until he had been teaching at Cal State for three years that he read Raymond Moody’s Life after Life, about near-death experiences, and that pieces started to come together for him. Not only did it reassure him that survival is highly probable, but it also led him to explore other paranormal phenomena.     

In retrospect, Betty sees his exile as the best thing that ever happened to him, professionally.  Shut out from departmental activities, he used the extra time to study in depth the books that really interested him – spirit accounts of their world, the one we all enter at death.  In 2011 he authored The Afterlife Unveiled, which is nearing 20,000 in sales.  That was followed by Heaven and Hell Unveiled (2014) and When did You Ever Become Less by Dying? (2016) A novel set in the afterlife, The Imprisoned Splendor, was also published in 2011. 

His new novel, The Afterlife Therapist, published by White Crow Books, is due in September 2020. As described at the White Crow web site, the protagonist, Aiden Lovejoy, a family therapist in earth life, picks up in the afterlife where he left off.  He encounters hellish zones where disfigured characters choose to live, and their suffering calls out to him. But he has troubles of his own, and souls from higher worlds inspire him to reach higher. Betty refers to it as a “more mature fictional adventure” than his earlier novel.  The novel is based on his research. 

“I have no evidence that any tenured professor in my (former) department other than my lone courageous supporter ever read a page of these books, either fiction or non-fiction,” he wrote.  “Instead of seeing me as a pioneer bringing distinction to the university, they regard me as an odd duck whose interests suggest, as one of them put it, an unfulfilled life at a physical level, which is entirely untrue.”

I asked Betty if he sees any hope that academia will move away from the materialist worldview it is now stuck in.  “Plenty of hope, but nothing like compelling evidence,” he responded. “My books produced a lot of correspondence, but not from philosophy professors.  I tell myself it’s okay.  There are many inquisitive minds out there that have not been shuttered by the requirements of a philosophy curriculum.” 

Any plans for his retirement?  “I’ll have time to set up a web page and bring together my writings into one place – also more time to market my books.  I’m just finishing a semiautobiographical novel about life at a state university – aha! – but what then? I don’t know.  For me, that’s a strange feeling.  One thing is certain, I’ll be spending more time with my three children and four grandchildren and helping my busy wife, an English professor, with the cooking!”


Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His forthcoming book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is due in January 2021.

Next blog post:  September 14


Comments

Michael,
Having re-read your excellent article about the Elberfeld Horses in your blog of August 5, 2019 and my comments to that blog, I realize just how much my brain has deteriorated over this past grueling year. Geez!  I wish I could still write like that!  Senility creeps up on us all I guess and we are the last to know. - AOD.

Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 11 Sep, 12:38

Michael,
I am slogging through “Life Eternal” and look forward to your ‘take’ on it. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 11 Sep, 11:54

Concerning animal intelligence, I discussed the famous Elberbeld Horses in my blog of August 5, 2019 (see archives at left).  I just finished reading “Life Eternal,” which sets forth communication from William T. Stead through the mediumship of Hester Dowden.  I’ll be discussing that book in my blog of next week.  If Stead and Dowden are to be accepted as credible, the Elberfeld Horses were controlled by spirit intelligences with mathematical education. (page 84)  I wonder if even puffer fish can be controlled by spirit intelligences.

Michael Tymn, Fri 11 Sep, 02:33

Denise David Williams,
Use of the word “God” is just a convenient way for me to communicate to most people so that they can understand what I am wanting to convey in thought. It is a word symbol.  Other word symbols for a God concept would also be acceptable to me.


Some who may have read some of my comments on this site before might remember that I routinely speak of consciousness as prime and that every living creature has a consciousness, some highly developed and others not so developed.  All are a small bit of the Source of consciousness to which they eventually return.  I contrast that at times with being conscious or awake to things around my physical form, which to my mind being conscious is something different from a consciousness which I might be inclined to equate with a spirit entity or soul. In such manner I might equate “God” with consciousness, a divine consciousness or Source from which all is ultimately created.

A consciousness may exist when one is wide awake and conscious of physical life or may be present when one is asleep and dreaming and unconscious.  It is present in an unconscious person in coma and it is that which leaves the physical form at the death of the physical body continuing to exist in a spirit reality for a while until choosing to return to physical form or moving forward to higher levels of spirit life.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 10 Sep, 19:37

AOD - I concur with your observations with one caveat - if you substitute the word consciousness for the word God, they would seem to me to be spot on.

Denise David Williams, Thu 10 Sep, 17:19

Amos & David Mangan…

Regarding your discussion of Amos’ point about “multiple universes”—-a number of our “spirit sources” have weighed in on this very topic.

In Stainton Moses’ “Spirit Teachings”, Imperator says “His [Jesus Christ’s] influence is entirely devoted to the enlightenment of your globe, for to each globe is assigned its own source of spiritual light.”

A more expanded comment comes from “Arnel,” one of the higher spirits communicating through the Rev. G. Vale Owen in his 1921 classic “The Life Beyond the Veil”—-“On planets of other systems are beings not unlike men…who are related reasonably to God and His Christ and can commune with their Creator, as do men…He goes to them not as Jesus of Nazareth [but] in their own form, and with their own methods of communion, and uses their own rational processes…so we say to you that the Christ who came to Galilee was but the Earth-expression of the Christ Universal, but true Christ withal.”

“Seth” and others (whose names escape me at the moment) have commented on this as well.

Don Porteous, Thu 10 Sep, 16:30

Mike,

Thanks for posting that video of the puffer fish making a “flower” in the sand to attract females. Simply remarkable, and it suggests “something” that appreciates aesthetics (with a touch of humor?) has guided this fish’s evolution.

Likewise, the extravagant colors of tropical birds imply an artistic hand in their creation. “Survival of the fittest”? These show-business feathers might attract mates, but it seems like they would otherwise be survival-negative, making them more visible to predators against a mostly green background of flora.

Rick Darby, Thu 10 Sep, 15:33

Michael Tymn,
Yes the Puffer Fish is amazing. A perfect example that all animals or I should say, all living things have a consciousness.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 10 Sep, 13:15

I see what you mean, Mike. The puffer fish is truly impressive.

Jon, Thu 10 Sep, 09:10

Amos Oliver Doyle
“Why should there not be multiple advanced spirits, oversouls, or advanced group souls from various spheres in the ‘afterlife’ who have responsibility for creation and development of species of this world as well as in an infinitesimal number of worlds in a multitude of other galaxies and universes.”

Why not, indeed. Such beings, inhabiting various spheres and levels in spiritual reality, would not generally have human experience in their history and accordingly might not be terribly concerned about the suffering entailed in the evolutionary process.

Their primary goal would be creative exploration and development of the ever expanding possibilities of new living forms, presumably with the ultimate goal of creating vehicles for the physical manifestation of spiritual beings. Being very alien from having human concerns, they would not be terribly concerned about suffering.

This issue is probably complicated.

Other factors involved could be that suffering may be the inevitable result of a physical world set up with fixed comprehensible physical laws and an environment conducive to understanding and utilization by man. This system of physical reality would involve innumerable design tradeoffs between conflicting requirements and inevitably entail negative physical experience, bad things happening to good people. Terrible, but ultimately very temporary in the life of the soul.

Such a system and understanding might resolve many aspects of the ancient theological problem of suffering, though not in a way very palatable to mankind.

David Magnan, Thu 10 Sep, 08:55

David Magnan
One of the taboo subjects especially for people of the Judaeo-Christian ethos is a discussion of the concept of one god, the creator of everything.  And according to the Christian belief system those who don’t accept this theory are doomed to hell or oblivion after death.  Not all cultures agree with that concept notably early Greco-Roman systems of belief in many gods and Hinduism in which there are many forms of one god. There probably are many other good examples.  As a biologist I don’t know enough about belief systems of religion in the world to make an intelligent comment about any of them.


However what I would like to comment on is a belief system in which there are multiple levels of reality or spheres of existence, which according to Fredric Myers in his after death reports to Geraldine Cummins, each had beings of greater or lesser spiritual advancement.  There is also the concept of multiple habitable worlds in our galaxy and possibly other galaxies in our universe with other habitable planets.  .Added to that there are some ‘scientists’ who propose multiple universes each with innumerable numbers of galaxies and solar systems. My point is that ultimate reality may be and probably is much greater than can ever be imagined by humans and there should be some allowance for that in thought discussions.


Possibilities of ultimate reality apparently are not taboo for discussion especially by some physicists and spiritists and spiritualists but are not appropriate for serious discussion by the mainstream public who want to appear educated or academics who wish to maintain their status, salary and grant endowments.  But why should there not then be multiple advanced spirits, i.e., gods,  in charge of everything in those universes, galaxies and other worlds?  Creation is a marvelous thing incomprehensible by humans in its immensity.  Why should there not be multiple advanced spirits, oversouls, or advanced group souls from various spheres in the ‘afterlife’ who have responsibility for creation and development of species of this world as well as in an infinitesimal number of worlds in a multitude of other galaxies and universes.

There are some who may think that the Greek and Roman hierocracy of many Gods is silly and not worth discussing but I think otherwise.  Perhaps the early Greeks and Romans were closer to the truth in thinking about god-like beings in charge of the sea the sky, war, love, beauty, music, healing, truth etc.; superior beings who participated and cooperated in creation of an ultimate reality so big that it will take an eternity complete it.

I don’t think that all of this eliminates the one God concept.  As individual souls may become part of an oversoul or a group soul, perhaps advanced souls or group souls may eventually become part of the one group soul; the ONE SOURCE from which all things were created.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Sep, 21:43

Amos Oliver Doyle
Thanks for the marvelous photo. It so clearly demonstrates the aesthetic side of evolution, which certainly can’t conceivably be accounted for by the meaningless, goalless and soulless mechanical process of Darwinism.

David Magnan, Wed 9 Sep, 19:11

Rick Darby

This problem gets down to the question of: in what sense are we as humans really our souls, and in what sense are even higher (perhaps angelic) spiritual beings related to us or we a part of them? Just in the area of reincarnation, it is very hard to understand how we as humans would ever choose lives of great suffering and hardship. But we as souls apparently make such choices all the time.
This at least seems to point to there being a profound gulf between human consciousness and soul consciousness, to the point that they appear to us humans to be entirely different separate beings with strictly their own desires, goals, and motivations not related to our own antipathy to suffering. This conclusion may be spiritually unpalatable but seems to be necessitated by the facts.

Of course, many NDEs, instances of cosmic consciousness, and other paranormal experiences seem to conflict with this logic, but I don’t know how to resolve the resulting cognitive dissonance.

David Magnan, Wed 9 Sep, 19:02

Speaking of intelligent design, take a look at this video of a puffer fish designing a very intricate work of art.  If a fish can do that, I wonder about crop circles. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQr8xDk_UaY

Michael Tymn, Wed 9 Sep, 19:01

David Magnan @ 11:53,

“Characteristics of the designers include playfulness, capriciousness, a pronounced aesthetic sense of beauty, and a total indifference to suffering ... “

That’s where I stumble trying to jump the fence. I see the first three qualities in the form and coloring of many species. That includes the beauty and balletic grace of the cats who allow me to share their home.

But what kind of spirit being (or alien, or transcendental mad scientist) would design such aesthetically pleasing creatures while displaying a total indifference to suffering?

The claim that suffering has a higher purpose is often unconvincing when applied to humans; absurd in connection with animals. How is the soul of a lamb, torn and eaten by a wolf, improved thereby?

I agree with your central point. There is too much in evolution and its products that cannot be explained by chance modifications and natural selection.

Rick Darby, Wed 9 Sep, 17:03

This link should be better: - AOD

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WoodDucks5.jpg

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Sep, 16:17

Bad link,  I’m sorry!  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Sep, 16:08

David,
Here is an example I found in Central Illinois.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&limit=20&offset=140&profile=default&search=Amos+Oliver+Doyle&advancedSearch-current=&#123&#125&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:WoodDucks5.jpg

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Sep, 14:07

David,
I couldn’t agree with you more.  Just look at the design and color patterns of birds for examples of humor, “playfulness, capriciousness, a pronounced aesthetic sense of beauty”, At times I am awed by it.  This design and color in birds is not by natural selection and survival of the fittest or most birds would be plain brown, grey, green or white.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 9 Sep, 13:37

Amos Oliver Doyle

I share your view that the designers in evolution have been powerful and advanced spiritual beings perhaps of an angelic nature. This seems more likely than the Deity whatever it/him/herself really is.

I don’t know that our own souls have participated in this brilliantly intelligent and ingenious creative process, which has shown that characteristics of the designers include playfulness, capriciousness, a pronounced aesthetic sense of beauty, and a total indifference to suffering, all in addition to the obvious extreme ingenuity in applying engineering design principles.

Another candidate for the designers would be extremely advanced alien beings from other planetary systems using extremely highly developed genetic manipulation techniques, but this suggestion would have the insuperable problems that it just kicks the can down the road as far as invoking the ‘then who created the designer’ question, and the problem that mind, consciousness and will are certainly not functions of the physical brain, which is all that can be manipulated in evolution by such material biotechnological techniques.

David Magnan, Wed 9 Sep, 10:53

David Magnan,
Thank you for the detailed scientific information about the intelligent design and creation of the whale.  I doubt that that kind of information is taught in any university biology classes, at least not to the general population.  I know that 50 years ago that detailed information about evolution was not discussed when I took those classes. Only Darwin’s survival of the fittest and natural selection were touched upon,  I am guilty myself of doing that when I taught high school biology.  (Any high school biology teacher at that time who taught ‘intelligent design’ would most assuredly not get their contract renewed or possibly get fired on the spot.)


I do think that there is a reasonable relationship when discussing issues of a spiritual nature and the question of natural selection, survival of the fittest and intelligent design as related to evolution of species.  If we ever really understood the creation of species then we would be closer to understanding the spiritual world perhaps even more than the physical world.  I don’t say ‘God’ because I think that there are many spirits who participate in the acts of creation.  Personally I think creation of the physical world and its species is a major activity of many spirit entities of which I hope to soon be one.  My hope is that I will be considered experienced enough to participate in creation of species either on earth or some other planet.  I think that what we see as species slowly evolving over eons or millions of years, to a spirit entity living in a world without time those species are seen in the process of creation in just an instant.


Maybe the whole purpose of physical life is simply creation.  It’s a creative activity in the afterlife in which I hope I get to participate.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 8 Sep, 19:16

Paul,

Your post on whale evolution was interesting.

Here’s some more on what had to happen with whale evolution:


If we wanted to turn a land mammal into a whale, these following are just a few of the many changes we would have to implement. Could the changes have happened accidentally, without design?....
How did the features needed for a fully aquatic lifestyle originate?
How would the hind limbs of a sea lion turn into a fluke (which is very different)?

How would a male’s testicles become simultaneously internalized and surrounded by countercurrent heat exchange systems to keep them cool? The streamlined bodies of male cetaceans lack external testicles. Instead, the testicles are inside the body. In most mammals (even sea lions) the testicles are outside the body, because sperm production normally requires a temperature several degrees below normal body temperature. In cetaceans, the testicles are cooled below body temperature by countercurrent heat exchangers. Veins carry cool blood from the dorsal fin and flukes to the testicles, where it flows through a network of veins that pass between arteries carrying warm blood in the opposite direction. The arterial blood is thereby cooled before it reaches the testicles.

Internalization of the testicles could not have preceded the countercurrent heat exchange system, or the male cetacean would have been sterile. Yet there is no adaptive advantage to having a countercurrent heat exchange system around the testicle unless it is inside the body.

How would a female develop specialized nursing organs to inject milk forcibly into her calf? Indeed, why would any of these changes occur? Sea lions are already well adapted to their amphibious lives.

An intelligence could have planned to make fully aquatic mammals and designed these features to actualize the plan. But Darwinian theory says no design is allowed, and that leaves us with little more than a fairy tale about how natural selection could turn swimming hippopotami into whales.

Then there are the sonar-like echolocation system combining many different systems, neural, cochlear, etc., the deep diving adaptations to prevent collapse of the lungs, it goes on and on.

All of these body system redesigns had to be developed and implemented roughly simultaneously in order for the animal to remain viable and survive into the next generation.

Making it even more preposterous that the goalless semi-random walk process of Darwinism could have achieved it.

David Magnan, Sun 6 Sep, 20:22

Amos…

My pleasure. Enjoy…

D.

Don Porteous, Sat 5 Sep, 17:11

Don,
The book looks good. Thanks for the recommendation.  I ordered a copy. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 4 Sep, 18:05

Thank you, Elene…

Denise David Williams, Fri 4 Sep, 17:49

It’s a pity that The Afterlife Therapist book is not yet listed on amazon. I would have pre-ordered it. I love his work.
Best
Hans

Hans Wilhelm, Fri 4 Sep, 16:01

Paul and Amos—-

Beyond the book(s) that Paul just mentioned, you both may enjoy a 2006 book on this same topic,
“The Witch in the Waiting Room” by Dr. Robert S. Bobrow. While the cases he presents are truly mind-boggling, they’re all taken from MEDLINE—-the database for the what was ( and I assume still is)the world’s largest medical library, at the NIH in Bethesda.

Don Porteous, Fri 4 Sep, 15:06

Thanks, Paul, for the additional information on Eugene Rose and the links.  The first one resulted in an error message, but I enjoyed the choir at the second link.

I tried to find my two books by Rose to refresh my memory on what else he had to say, but I wasn’t up to going to my knees to find them on the lower shelves, where the R’s are. I was afraid I might not be able to get up.  I think I recall that he was opposed to spirit communication of any kind.

As for the discussion on masks vs no masks, I know there is a link to the primary subject of the blog, i.e., nihilistic teaching in higher education, but it seems off subject to me and I prefer not to go there.  As with climate change and related subjects, I have heard strong arguments on both sides and find myself more or less in the middle.  If “science” suggests a nihilistic worldview, as it seemingly does, I have reservations about the predominant view in other subject matter where there could be spiritual aspects which mainstream science ignores. It’s too much to get into here and it also becomes political, which I’ve promised Jon Beecher I will avoid at this blog.

Michael Tymn, Fri 4 Sep, 12:06

Dear Amos,

Your mention of both hypnosis and placebos as accepted treatment modalities for certain conditions reminds me of a semi-hidden connection between the two pointed out by Mitch Horowitz, who is, among other things, a serious historian of the New Thought movement.  The early French hypnotherapist Emile Coué, who promoted a form of conscious autosuggestion while in a hypnagogic state [a term coined, like telepathy, by Frederic Myers, by the way], was first put on to his particular course of study through an early observation of the placebo effect.  There were, according to historical accounts, some remarkable ‘cures’ that Coué was able to effect through hypnosis in the course of his public demonstrations.  To quote from Horowitz:

Remember the oft-mocked mantra “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better”? It was a confidence-boosting formula popularized in the early 1920s by French hypnotherapist Emile Coué. Although Coué won thousands of followers, critics mocked his method for its singsong simplicity. Today he is forgotten. But placebo researchers at Harvard Medical School recently validated one of the mind theorist’s most important insights.
In January 2014, a medical school study reported that migraine sufferers responded better to medication when given “positive information” about a drug. While working as a pharmacist in the early 1900s in northwestern France, Coué, too, found that patients benefited more from their medication when he spoke in praise of a formula, which led to his famous mantra. He believed it could stimulate the same positive mental forces he saw among his patients.
More than a century later, the Harvard paper, while echoing Coué’s original insight, made no mention of the therapist. Coue’s work is known to one of the study’s architects, Ted Kaptchuk, who directs Harvard’s program in placebo research. “Of course I know about Coué,” he told me, agreeing that the migraine study could coalesce with the mind pioneer’s observations.
[https://medium.com/galleys/losing-the-war-on-unhappiness-4975194efd02]

The effect upon patient healing of a sympathetic figure of authority in a white lab coat with “Dr. __” emblazoned on a badge is no doubt very real, and bound up with the placebo effect, as you note.  Of course, as you also note, this is not to minimize the very real benefit of conventional allopathic medicine in healing, but the body – more pointedly, the person – has tremendous capabilities of healing in many instances quite apart from specific medical intervention.  In this general regard, a book that I only very recently acquired and haven’t yet had the opportunity to peruse is Dr. Scott Kolbaba’s “Physicians’ Untold Stories: Miraculous experiences doctors are hesitant to share with their patients, or ANYONE!”  A bit of a sensationalistic title, perhaps, but a book that, on the face of it, appears quite legitimate.  I am not in the medical profession myself, but I fully expect that a physician or nurse with decades of hands-on experience is eventually going to run across stuff that they can’t explain and, in many cases, can’t comfortably discuss with colleagues.  Certain care contexts, such as end-of-life care, may be exceptional; hospice nurses, for instance, are likely in many cases to be inured to such phenomena as deathbed visions and terminal lucidity.

As a final note, prompted by your final line about the possibility of physicians believing in spirits, you might find of interest Dr. Ian Rubenstein’s “Consulting Spirit: A Doctor’s Experience with Practical Mediumship.”  I found it a very charming and intriguing read.  More information here: http://www.drianrubenstein.com/.  Michael Prescott blogged on it here: https://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2012/02/book-review-consulting-spirit.html; further, Dr. Rubenstein was an interview guest on the Skeptiko podcast here: https://skeptiko.com/physician-ian-rubenstein-encounters-spirit-communication/

Paul, Fri 4 Sep, 03:57

We believe we have been given the missing link in the evolvement and creation of the Human Race.  It is a story that also confirms that the Australian Indigenous people are the first Humans.
Meaning our upliftment by the CREATOR into man of Divine LIght
with a SOUL that links to our OVERSOUL ...before that man evolved from Reptillian, then to mammalian and then to one that was used as a slave and offered to Draconian Gods. 
Scholars disagree as to whether man evolved from animal or were created by a superior being.  BOTH ARE RIGHT. 
Our story was given over a period of years by many people who remember coming from the stars.Alcheringa is an ancient ancestor recorded in the Oxford Dictionary - Australian Edition.  He is a Light Being and tells the story.  The Indigenous people knew this. If you are interested suggest you read ‘Alcheringa, when the first ancestors were created.’  Nicola Tesla was a very gifted scientist. He said, if you want to know about the Universe, Think of Energy, Frequency and Vibration.  And about Consciousness “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade, than in all previous centuries of its existence.”

valerieJ Barrow, Fri 4 Sep, 00:23

Well, there you go. The exact phenomenon I was talking about has manifested itself here, where we cannot agree about facts on the ground.  Basic public health measures are slammed as “obedience training” rather than methods that have been proven in other countries to work to control the pandemic and to get us back to whatever “normal” is sooner.

Amos may not be running into people who refuse to wear masks—which is wonderful!—but Rick just exemplified that sort of thinking.  Here in Albuquerque we’re doing pretty well with getting our transmission rate down, and most people are doing masks and distancing, but in the southeast part of the state and an area in the far west (not in the hard-hit Navajo Nation), there has been widespread scoffing and lawsuits against the governor for taking fundamental public-health measures.  Our state is doing better than many, so it can be seen that the measures were effective.

Bodies literally piled up in NYC and in Italy earlier this year.  Though I’m sure everyone involved wanted to treat the dead with respect, there was not enough capacity in the system to do so.  Yes, it’s repulsive and tragic, but it’s what happened.  There are plenty of photos.

I’m not part of the “medical priesthood”—I’m as alternative as medicine gets.  But I’ve been immersed in the most current knowledge about this pandemic day in and day out from the beginning.  I understand why restaurants were shut down.  My own office was shut down for 2 months, and I am still taking major precautions.  If someone does not understand why these measures have been necessary, with all the facts and figures out there, I can’t do much about it.  A lot of my energy has been going toward helping my patients and the public get information about these matters, but sometimes it falls on deaf ears.

More and more, we’re learning about long-term neurological problems and damage to the heart, kidneys and thyroid in addition to the lungs caused by COVID-19.  If you really looked into how bad this illness can be and how impossible it can be to recover from completely, I don’t think you would mind wearing a mask or taking other precautions. It’s just common sense at this point.

On the other hand, the treatment of those folks in Melbourne does sound heavy-handed at best, and I wouldn’t like it any better than Rick does.

My understanding of these matters CHANGES and grows as more is learned, which is the exact opposite of the dogmatic absolutism I’ve been accused of here.  That’s what science, as opposed to scientism, is supposed to do.

At any rate, my point has been made.  If people will not agree on something that is physically measurable and right in front of them, they will not agree on matters related to worlds they are unable to perceive.  This had been a great discussion, but there’s no point going further in this direction.

Elene, Thu 3 Sep, 22:26

Paul, I would add that over the past 100+ years more and more physicians have become accepting of hypnosis as a treatment for many disorders not only mental but also physical disorders and conditions.  And of course the ‘placebo effect’ has been recognized as an example of the relationship between the mind and the body, in a way a kind of self hypnosis or a belief system that is sometimes effective in the treatment of physical disorders or diseases.  I have heard physicians say about the placebo effect, “If it works, use it!”, that is, they are beginning to understand that a patient’s belief system is important for recovery from disease.

In medicine, I think that sometimes healing all boils down to belief in medical authority.  If a physician presents to the patient as a knowledgeable person (whether or not he or she is knowledgeable) and looks the part, i.e., white jacket with stethoscope around the neck, and the personality of caring, concern and attentiveness, and speaks in terms of recovery often that all will contribute to a belief system in the patient that facilitates healing albeit additionally with allopathic or osteopathic medicine.


I know it might seem laughable to most people but I think there could be a few physicians who are beginning to be open to at least considering that maybe some symptoms of a patient might have their origin in a past life. As more and more physicians write books about this possibility, more and more physicians are likely to entertain that idea.  Anything is possible I think when one believes in spirits.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 3 Sep, 21:41

AOD,

You get it. Now if a lot more people could be separated from the Pravda put out by our politicians (including medical bureaucrats), sanity might make a comeback ...

Rick Darby, Thu 3 Sep, 19:26

Well Rick,
I too had a visceral reaction to “An objectively-measurable virus and objectively dead bodies piled up are still dismissed as hoaxes after so many months of showing up in our reality, while the wildest conspiracy theories are believed by the same people as gospel.”


In my personal world, in and out of medicine, I am not aware of anyone who thinks the Corona Virus is a “hoax”.  In every store I go into in the city in which I live, everyone is wearing a mask for some reason. And the dentist, ophthalmologist and two hospitals I go to in the city all require temperature checks and a mask before allowing the person to enter their facility. And the image of “dead bodies piled up” is repulsive to me as that implies something about the way the dead are treated in America which is not true,  And although I am somewhat of a recluse so I don’t interact with a lot of people,  the only person I know who accepts the “wildest conspiracy theories as gospel” is my wife who as a physician only has time to listen to the soft-talking Liberal/Socialist women of NPR for political views on her way to her clinic each morning.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 3 Sep, 18:29

Elene @ 4:38,

Your argument is based on the same kind of dogmatic absolutism found among those who you say “believe that the material world is everything.”

To wit, you declare that “Those of us who work in medicine are frustrated in trying to get a substantial swath of the public to take the current pandemic seriously.”

I’m only part of the public, not among the medical priesthood, but I assure you that I and many other members of the unwashed masses take the pandemic seriously. It is serious indeed when the Deep State uses a concerning but limited threat from C-19 as an excuse for authoritarian control over the most basic aspects of people’s lives.

Universal quarantines and required cloth muzzles for everyone – even outdoors, at the beach or in the middle of a forest – are not science. They are obedience training to get the public used to being treated like farm animals by politicians and bureaucrats.

Differences of opinion are legitimate in dealing with C-19. But to take the most extreme possible measures, which destroy livelihoods and severely threaten mental health, shut down libraries and concert halls and restaurants, and result in arrests and fines for citizens who don’t bend the knee, is tantamount to a police state.

Prison city is a done deal in Melbourne, Australia where an acquaintance of mine lives, going mad because he is only allowed out one hour a day for a limited distance. The other day a pregnant woman was arrested by police at her home, for allegedly posting on Facebook an item about an anti-lockdown rally. Investigators seized several items from the home including computers and mobile devices, demanding the phone being used to stream the arrest be turned over to authorities. Another woman was pinned to the ground by three policemen, leaving her with large bruises confirmed by photos, as her daughter begged “Get off my mum, she’s in pain.”

The woman was fined $1,652. After anti-Covid restrictions were enhanced recently, fines of up to $19,826 for individuals and $99,132 for businesses will apply to anyone caught breaking the rules.
 
“An objectively-measurable virus and objectively dead bodies piled up are still dismissed as hoaxes after so many months of showing up in our reality, while the wildest conspiracy theories are believed by the same people as gospel.”

Yes, there is a virus. Yes, people have died from it. By many estimates, about 0.5 percent of cases led to fatalities. Covid fatalities are any in which the virus has been detected, even if co-morbidities or accidents skewed the tally. In Florida recently, a man killed in a motorcycle crash was listed as a Covid victim, having been diagnosed with the virus. Just a wild conspiracy theory, though.

“Even the most educated humans seem to be dedicated to their emotional need to stick to their point of view rather than to growing in their understanding.” Even medical professionals, perhaps?

Rick Darby, Thu 3 Sep, 16:47

Dear Elene,

You touch on a very large topic, one that opens to the question of ‘science’ as an activity vs. ‘scientism’ as an epistemology and ‘materialism’ as an ontology.  I have no argument with the former – far from it – but it is an incontestable fact of intellectual history that science has tended over time to become more and more bound with scientism and materialism.  In principle, it didn’t have to be that way – one may look to the long and productive history of science in the Islamic world, for instance, as well as the outlook and attitude of the most notable early modern scientists, such as Kepler and Newton.  Whether one looks at al-Biruni or Newton, say, in either case one sees an individual ‘doing’ science at a very high level, but within a larger framework bound to the transcendent.  In practical terms, however, the methodological limitation to objective, abstract ordering passed to an assumed epistemic limitation in terms of what could in fact be known, which in turn passed to an assumed ontological limitation regarding what in fact actually was.  Thus, science passed to scientism, which in turn passed to materialism.  This, in a nutshell, is the intellectual history of the past three hundred years.

The deeply tragic, ironic worm in that particular apple is that the materialism that science has increasingly bound itself to and that is increasingly lionized and defended in its name fatally undermines, on philosophical grounds, this same science.  It does this in at least three evident ways: by undermining a coherent notion of truth, by undermining a coherent notion of reason and by undermining a coherent notion of duty.  In brief, we have no understanding, under a materialist conception, of understanding in what truth might inhere or even what it might mean, of having any deep conviction of reason as having objective competence to grasp such truth [here, see C.S Lewis, Victor Reppert and Alvin Plantinga on the ‘argument from reason’], or of having any compelling ‘ought’ or sense of duty in pursuing such an end faithfully.  Thus is science undermined by its philosophic riders.

The tremendous prestige granted to science in the modern world has also, of course, granted a similar prestige to its ‘riders’ – scientism and materialism – and even if the implications of these riders are only incoherently and imperfectly grasped, they nevertheless impart a certain stamp on the culture at large.  Certainly, the contemporary bandying of ‘alternative facts’ that you raise is nakedly politically opportunistic and not indicative of any deep reflection into nihilism on the part of those who forward such claims, but the very possibility of such claims being persuasive to some subset of the culture has far deeper roots than they themselves know.

Medicine, given its inherently pragmatic character, is somewhat more immune from such calamities in comparison to pure science.  Those in the field care foremost – and rightly so – about the preservation and restoration of human health, rather than the construction and defense of a worldview.  Certainly, doctors and nurses are educated in ‘the medical model’, which treats the human being, for purposes of healing, as a bio-mechanical system, a kind of ‘moist machine’ as it were, but the degree of opening in acceptance of ‘non-traditional’ modalities of healing over, say, the past quarter century is remarkable.  Acupuncture is a case in point: its underlying medical model is entirely nonsensical in Western terms, but it has proved efficacious in multiple-blinded meta-studies for the treatment of various conditions and, on that basis, has gained acceptance.  The attitude is “If it works, use it.”  This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of entrenched materialists found among the ranks of the medical community, but it is very interesting, for instance, to note that most of the leading researchers and authors on NDEs are from this same community.

Paul, Thu 3 Sep, 15:50

Dear Michael,

Fr. Seraphim Rose was a wholly remarkable individual, one who possessed to the highest degree what I would term “the sense of the sacred”.  When I was – now many years ago – slogging away sixteen hours a day straight for a year on writing my Ph.D. dissertation, the only non-technical book I read was his biography, “Not of This World: The Life and Teaching of Fr. Seraphim Rose”, which I would read a few pages of each night before falling asleep.

The early work from him that you cite, “NIHILISM: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age”, is available in its entirety at:
https://web.archive.org/web/20100111142452/http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nihilism.html.  It is not a large book, but it has within it the power to completely reorder one’s view of the world.  A sample quote, that speaks to the essential quality of the “sense of the sacred” that I mentioned above:

The Liberal [N.B. substitute ‘secular’ or modern’, rather than thinking strictly in terms of political categories] may be interested in culture, in learning, in business, or merely in comfort, but in every one of his pursuits the dimension of the absolute is simply absent. He is unable, or unwilling, to think in terms of ends, of ultimate things. The thirst for absolute truth has vanished; it has been swallowed up in worldliness.

I am entirely in agreement with Rose that modernism is nihilism, but unconsciously so, being generally incapable of staring honestly into the abyss of its own making.  It is this, more than anything, that stands as the ultimate refutation of modernism once seen clearly: the sound and fury of the voices of modernism, of which there are legion, ultimately signify nothing.  How could they do else, once all metaphysical ground has been demolished?  Put another way, Macbeth was a man born too early for his time, for his true age was not his own, but ours…  One of the disturbing things, for me personally, regarding contemporary nihilism is that it is at once deeply pervasive in modern culture and yet hardly seriously commented upon.  The number of serious volumes in English on the topic is notable for its thinness.  Perhaps a shelf, a shelf and a half, and you’re done.

Rose was profoundly shaped by the spirituality of Russian Orthodox Christianity. I have felt this pull as well, perhaps most strongly with regard to Russian Orthodox sacred music – and here, see my late comment to your blog post of 20 July 2020.  My love of this musical tradition – which is really a direct response to its profoundly evident and attractive beauty – is in no way isolated but rather very much bound up with a broader attraction to Russian Orthodox sanctity and sacrality, including such aspects as visual art – which (it seems to me) reached a peak in the icon painting (writing) of Andrei Rublev – architecture – with its characteristic onion dome churches and such creations as the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin – and most importantly, great spiritual figures, which literally litter the landscape of Russian Orthodox history – such as St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, St. John of Kronstadt, St. Paisius Velichkovsky, St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, St. Theophan the Recluse, the startsi of Optina Monastery, the anonymous author of “The Way of a Pilgrim”, and, more recently, in the context of the Russian Orthodox diaspora, such figures as St. John Maximovitch, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Fr. Seraphim Rose and Archimandrite Lazarus Moore.  As a concrete example, one of the few books I know of – in any tradition – upon which one might build an entire spiritual life is the anthology of Russian spiritual fathers composed by Igumen Chariton – the abbot of Valamo monastery – titled “The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology”.

As I have mentioned the beauty of Russian Orthodox sacred music, perhaps it is fitting to end with an example for those unfamiliar with the genre.  Of the many, many one might select, let me offer up the work “Salvation Is Created”, composed by Pavel Tchesnokov (1877-1944), an immensely prolific composer, conductor and teacher of the Moscow Synodal School.  When communism took over in Russia, Tchesnokov feared for his life and that of his family and stopped writing sacred music.  Following the fall of communism years after his death, the Russian Orthodox church opened its doors again.  “Salvation is Created”, a piece Tchesnokov had never heard performed, became the unofficial anthem of the church.

The text of the hymn is a slight paraphrase of Psalm 74:12: “But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth” (NIV).  The literal translation from the Russian reads: “Salvation [Thou hast] created in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia.”  The following is the arrangement for mixed choir performed by the Dale Warland Singers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxK7LXdYjfs.

Paul, Thu 3 Sep, 14:26

Elene—-

Just a brief aside relating to Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer—-

When I was in the process of getting “permissions” for quotations used in my recent (still unpublished) book on “Spiritual Reality”, as ELM had by then passed on, I had to contact her daughter (the young “harpist” of “Extraordinary Knowing”) for the permission.  Having grown up into a psychologist herself, despite the typically spirituality-denying nature of the field, she was most gracious in providing it, along with a lovely note.

There may be hope for the younger generation yet!

Don Porteous, Thu 3 Sep, 13:36

Dear Amos,

I agree, there’s no point in getting too much further into the evolutionary weeds in a post dedicated to Stafford Betty and his travails.  Briefly though, Berlinski obviously means ‘cow to whale’ as a kind of broad exemplar representative of a land-based to sea-going mammal, rather than a specific transition.  As I remarked in a more recent comment, evolutionary biologists have looked to an ancestor of the hippopotamus as the likely land-based ancestor of the whale.  And yes, you are certainly correct to point to the many related species of sea-going mammals, as well as mammals – such as seal, sea lions and walruses – that spend a significant portion of time in both environments, even if they are remarkably ill-adapted to living on land, apart from lolling and mating on beaches.

All of this, however, is more or less irrelevant to the larger point Berlinski is making, which is the sheer scale of interlinked morphological adaptations required to go from a fully land-based to fully sea-going mammal successfully adapted, in each case, to each environment.  Whether the first mammal is a cow or hippo, whether the second mammal is a baleen whale or porpoise, whether the manatee or dugong is an intermediate species – these are all secondary issues.

With all this said, if you want to stick with the wings of a bat as your personal favorite case, I have no argument with you.  There is, I think, a clarity that can be gained by looking at standout cases of a more limited scope.  In certain cases, the appearance of design passes over to the appearance of blatant engineering.  Intelligent design proponents have made much, for instance, of the bacterial flagellum.  And rightly so, for in both its structure and functioning, it serves as a tightly and elegantly designed ‘outboard motor’ for the cell’s locomotion in space.  I myself have a soft spot for the avian feather, which I another case of apparently blatant engineering, both in structure and material.  Here’s a teaser on the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2yeNoDCcBg.  For some greater detail: https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/design-principles-in-the-feather/.

I have to say, though, that while questions regarding evolutionary theory exercised a certain measure of my attention a decade or two ago, they haven’t done so for many years, largely as I’ve come to a more or less settled conviction on the matter and largely also as I’ve moved on to more interesting topics, and ones of greater existential relevance.  At the end of the day, even if macro-evolutionary theory is correct – which I haven’t the least conviction of – it wouldn’t matter.  In and of itself, it cannot provide even a complete materialist cosmogony – as it is incapable of addressing the origin of life – and, outside its own domain of relevance, there are far too many ‘gaps’ – from the cosmological fine-tuning of physical constants to the experiential primacy of consciousness – for any closed materialist explanation to be convictive, even – one suspects – to true believers.  If this is the case, why get worked up about macro-evolution?  It hardly yields – and indeed could not yield – a complete materialist framework.  Put more pointedly, even if one were, through some perversely charitable act, to grant macro-evolution as ‘true’, materialism as a worldview and coherent philosophy would still stand condemned in the dock.

Another way of looking at this, if we want to bring in the larger question of transcendence or a transcendent reality, is to think in terms of the various ‘proofs’ of God.  These hardly exercise the same measure of general interest that they perhaps once did, but it is interesting that among philosophers, there have been notable ‘buttressings’ of traditional arguments for ‘God’ [or transcendence, or whatever name least offends] – such as the modal version of the ontological argument – and notable ‘underminings’ of traditional arguments against ‘God’ – such as the ‘free will’ defense against the argument from evil.  There have also been notable novel arguments forwarded, such as those based on the nature of mathematics.

In all this, evolutionary theory has always carried a specific role as undermining one of the classic arguments, that from design.  However, its success in doing so, despite its massive cultural impact from the Victorian period onward, can be seen as limited, precisely because of the many challenges to it within its own domain of relevance and the many examples of apparent design which fall outside of that domain.  Let me give the last word to Berlinski, from his remarkable essay – now nearly a quarter-century old and arguably just as relevant – “The Deniable Darwin”:

This circumstance the English theologian William Paley (1743-1805) made the gravamen of his well-known argument from design: “Nor would any man in his senses think the existence of the watch, with its various machinery, accounted for, by being told that it was one out of possible combinations of material forms; that whatever he had found in the place where he found the watch, must have contained some internal configuration or other, and that this configuration might be the structure now exhibited, viz., of the works of a watch, as well as a different structure.”  It is worth remarking, it is simply a fact, that this courtly and old-fashioned argument is entirely compelling. We never attribute the existence of a complex artifact to chance.
[www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/david-berlinski/the-deniable-darwin/]

Paul, Thu 3 Sep, 13:26

Paul’s mention that “the very notion of objective truth is fatally undermined” is sadly appropriate to our present world of “alternative facts.” The most fundamental aspects of our world are no longer agreed upon and are treated as merely matters of opinion.

Those of us who work in medicine are frustrated in trying to get a substantial swath of the public to take the current pandemic seriously.  An objectively-measurable virus and objectively dead bodies piled up are still dismissed as hoaxes after so many months of showing up in our reality, while the wildest conspiracy theories are believed by the same people as gospel. 

I suppose it’s all a matter of people believing what they want to believe, whether it’s in the ivory tower or in the streets.  If they are determined to believe that the material world is everything, facts are not going to sway them.  Even the most educated humans seem to be dedicated to their emotional need to stick to their point of view rather than to growing in their understanding.

Recently we discussed Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer.  She mentioned in “Extraordinary Knowing” that the psychologists were the most impervious of all scientists to any knowledge of psychic phenomena.

Being unwilling to engage with inconvenient facts facilitates self-deception, and for those with sinister motives, makes it easier to deceive the public at large. I suppose those are powerful motivations.

Elene, Thu 3 Sep, 03:38

Many thanks to all for the interesting and insightful comments so far.

A very intriguing book on nihilism is one authored in 1994 by philosopher Eugene Rose,  entitled “Nihilism:The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age.” 

As Rose points out, different words are used to refer to the non-belief condition—Atheism…Humanism….Materialism..Realism…Idealism..…Scientism….Positivism….Determinism…Naturalism…Vitalism… and Nihilism. It is not always entirely clear whether the words are synonymous, whether they are overlapping, or whether they have different meanings.

Rose, also known as Father Seraphim Rose, was an American monk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.  He questions whether there is such a thing as a true “atheist,” since most who call themselves atheists are devoting themselves to service of a false god.  Atheism is a spiritual state, Rose argues, in that the true “existential” atheist is rebelling against what he or she sees as an unjust or unmerciful God.  This “existential atheist” is really seeking God.  Borrowing from the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, he feels that “antitheist” is a better term for this person.  In the strict sense of the word, the atheist is not a nihilist, as the atheist does not deny the absolute, while the nihilist does. Nihilism, Rose explains, is the belief that there is no Absolute Truth, that all Truth is relative. 

According to Rose, there are four stages in the Nihilist Dialectic – Liberalism, Realism, Vitalism, and the Nihilism of Destruction. Based on what we are seeing in the world today, one might conclude that we have entered the last stage.

In that last stage, we approach “pure” Nihilism, what Rose calls “a rage against creation and against civilization that will not be appeased until it has reduced them to absolute nothingness.”  It is worldliness unchecked, which is bound to end in tyranny.

It calls for a “new man” – a rootless man of the moment without consciousness or values, a man “pretending to the humility of only asking his ‘rights,’ yet full of the pride that expects everything to be given to him in a world where nothing is authoritatively forbidden.” 

Academia seems to be at the very root of the nihilistic movement.

Michael Tymn, Wed 2 Sep, 23:36

Paul, thanks for your responses.  The following is one of those streams-of-consciousness comments that strikes me in the morning which after a second cup of tea, I would not send.  Since I have little self discipline today and I am out of Oolong, I hit the ‘submit’ button.


I apologize to Michael Tymn and Dr. Betty for the following distraction.


I am impelled to make a short comment about Berlinski’s analogy concerning the evolution of the whale from a cow.  I think he was trying to be funny to make his point but really there are many more reasonable candidates in the evolutionary chain from land mammal to sea mammal, e.g. whale, without starting with a hoofed bovine.


There is a number of mammals that currently spend part or all of their life in the sea today from which I might choose as a progenitor or second or third cousin of the whale, acknowledging that there have been categorized at least 90 species of whales of various evolutionary development divided into two major groups composed of the baleen whales and the toothed whales, very different in evolution of the way they obtain food.  The list of current sea mammals includes 90 species of whales, 32 types of dolphins, and includes porpoises, manatees, dugongs, seals, sea lions, walruses, sea otters and polar bears.


I suspect that anyone really serious about imagining an evolutionary beginning ending in a whale would be more likely to choose one of the species previously mentioned and that has some of the same physical changes seen in the whale, e.g. hind and fore limb modifications. (This is not to say that Berlinski is not serious about Darwin and evolution but obviously he wants to entertain his audience.)


I might choose the dugong or relatives as prime candidates perhaps evolved from a hippopotamus as proposed by some ‘evolutionary biologists.  It is also easy to see the dolphin and porpoise in the evolutionary line that includes the whale. If one wanted to choose an example of physical changes in animals resulting in a new species I think it is easier to explain the evolution of the whale from a land mammal than to explain the wings of the bat based on natural selection and survival of the fittest. - AOD


https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/new-clue-found-why-bats-spread-viruses-dont-get-sick-n81321

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 2 Sep, 19:38

I am blown away by the astute comments made here and comforted in knowing there are many, many like-minded people out there who are open to truth,  learning and expansion. As Dr. John Mack said, “We need a new definition of reality” to understand and embrace these ideas.

Denise David Williams, Wed 2 Sep, 17:56

A book that perhaps should also be mentioned in this discussion regarding Stafford’s ill treatment at the hands of his colleagues is Jeremy Northcote’s “The Paranormal and the Politics of Truth”, which I confess upfront to not having (yet) read.  David Lorimer wrote a review of it [https://explore.scimednet.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/9710.bookreviews.pdf, see p.20 of the document pdf], as did Chris Bratcher, in the Journal of the SPR, Vol.73.1, No.894, p.58 (2009).  With that said, I expect that Northcote is taking too ‘objective’ a stance in his scholarship as, from what I can judge, most of the heat and hatred is on the skeptical side, rather than the reverse.  My own sympathies are rather more in line, I suspect, with the more responsively confrontational approach taken in Chris Carter’s “Parapsychology and the Skeptics”.  Northcote’s key phrase, “the politics of truth”, is nevertheless a deeply insightful one.  It is what goes on in the minds of anonymous, self-appointed wiki page editors when they engage in what I termed in a previous post as ‘reality policing’.

The irony of this, as I indicated in my first comment to the present post, is that, under a materialist worldview, the very notion of objective truth is fatally undermined.  In what would such truth reside?  Atoms?  The Void?  What?  The very basic, very obvious issue with a straight materialism undermining the very notion of what a truth claim, any truth claim, might be is combined in the contemporary humanities with a dominant anti-realism and relativism, represented by such figures as the late philosopher Richard Rorty.  In this regard, Karen L. Carr, in Ch.5-6 of her valuable work, “The Banalization of Nihilism: Twentieth-Century Responses to Meaninglessness” – “Richard Rorty and the Dissolution of Crisis” and “Discontented vs. Unrepentant Nihlists” – identifies him as an unrepentant alethiological nihilist [a nihilist with respect to the very possibility of truth claims] with “his claim that truth is ‘not out there.’” (p.111)

The problem is that the trail of such materialist and anti-realist reasoning is never sufficiently followed up on, even when the bare lineaments of its consequent nihilism are dimly perceived.  To quote from Richard John Neuhaus:

It is hard to know how seriously we should take the fashionable nihilism of our time. In “The Closing of the American Mind”, Allan Bloom called it “debonair nihilism,” which might be described as a flirtation with nothingness that has nothing as a consequence. Bright young things look over the edge into the abyss and gigglingly pronounce it to be “intriguing.” It has been remarked that suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism. With respect to the nihilism so enthusiastically embraced by today’s herd of independent minds, one might take it more seriously if more of them leaped over the edge. Of course there are such as Michel Foucault who follow the lethal illogic to its end, but there are many times more who, like Richard Rorty, declare that “truth” (in quotation marks) is socially constructed “all the way down,” yet go on living in pleasantly genteel irony, just as though the quotation marks were not there.
[www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=1650]

Paul, Wed 2 Sep, 13:03

For those of us not endowed with anymore than basic physics, many of these concepts are are an impenetrable struggle but credit to all for such investigative observations.

I believe there is a distinction between life after death and the survival of consciousness.

Consciousness I hope equates to conscience and allows for a pervasion throughout the time continuum creating equilibrium in suffering and joy.

Certainly heaven for me equates to reaquainting with those I love and miss and connecting with those I would love to have met including those I am not aware of in this dimension of being. Obituaries only go so far.

Michael, Wed 2 Sep, 09:38

What a wonderful collection of spiritually wise comments! I, on the other hand, am going to be completely trivial in making two comments on Darwin vs Wallace theory of evolution given by Doyle. (1) The theory of natural selection was clearly developed by Wallace. Darwin was too craven to put his thoughts into print, but wanted priority like all academics, and was helped by Wallace’s absence in the East Indies. By cobbling together a paper for the J of the Linnean Soc which was largely Wallace, Darwin was able to steal priority by suggesting that the “authorship should be in alphabetical order” ie Darwin and Wallace. This strikes a chord with me as I have been a victim of this nasty little scientific trick all my life (my name is Wadhams, and I would have had a more illustrious career if I had changed it to Adhams). (2) A comment on Doyle’s view that Wallace was undervalued because of the unworldly nature of his spiritualist views. Probably true. But he did write a book saying that life on Mars was impossible (at a time when most people believed in little green men)and also -something very little known - he built one of the world’s first concrete houses. Astonshingly it was in the same street as my grammar school in the obscure industrial town of Grays, Essex, England. The local council didnt even put a plaque on it, and nbody (certianly nne of my teachers) was aware of the link with this great man. The school was later demolished; the concrete house (I hope) still stands. Best wishes Prof Peter Wadhams, Cambridge.  PS I share my birthplace in Essex with only one person that you may have heard of, Peter Sturrock of Stanford University.

Peter Wadhams, Wed 2 Sep, 09:31

I have spoken in many universities and run into the same hatred from academia. A lot of the hatred starts from the words. In all my studies I have never come across anything that is paranormal. I have always read the subject of life after death as something that is natural and normal.
Michael Roll

Michael Roll, Wed 2 Sep, 08:34

Thank you, Professor Stafford Betty, for validating me. You are expert on the politics of academia. I am very much an outsider, but the problem of dirty politics in academia is so blatant and obvious that anybody can see it. I was watching THE PLANET OF THE APES (1968) on TV the other night, and I was amazed how much academic politics it portrayed, complete with charges of “heresy,” of course all to cover up the truth.

And when politics blocks the truth, in institutions that are supposed to be dedicated to the truth (“Veritas” at Harvard), I call that “corruption.” But this is tricky, because most academic people can be totally accuate in their own fields without having to give an opinion on the psychic or the spiritual. It is only the PREJUDICES of physicists and biologists that are being honored. We expect persons of high status to make authoritarian pronouncements and respect those pronouncements, whether they are right or not, instead of blowing the whistle as we should.

In the field of philosophy, of course, you can’t discuss philosophy without dealing with the question of the spiritual. If discussion of the spiritual is cut short, or not taken seriously, then philosophy is severely limited. I consider Western academic philosophy to be severely limited. First of all, Socrates said “Know thyself,” and Freud showed us how to do that. Our lives are determined by subconscious mental forces as well as conscious mental forces.Psychotherapy needs to be a part of philosophy and of the education of anybody who wants to consider themselves to be a “Doctor of Philosophy.” Many people oppose that idea, as purely a defensive reaction. And if you pursue psychotherapy beyong normal, you will discover that you cannot be psychologically mature until you incorporate the spiritual into your being.

There is literally a ton of evidence of the psychic and the spiritual at The Rhine Research Center. This evidence is disputed by such arguments as “believers” and “woomeisters,” clearly invalid arguments that I learned about in my prep-school English and Harvard Freshman English. In my career as a computer programmer, other people had clearly learned the same rules of invalid arguments as I had, because they were seldom used, and when they were (twice in 20 years), management recognized them as such. But we had to create systems that worked, and there doesn’t seem to be that same need in academia. Again, this is tricky. Medicine and engineering have to work, but again, these things can be perfect without referring to the psychic and the spiritual. But again, medicine would be improved if they could incorporate energy medicine, and engineering would be improved if you could use levitation to move those stones to Stonehenge.

I am trying to get the message out to 100,000,000 people - that’s all the people who have graduated from college, all the people in college, and all the people who are planning to go to college the United States - logically I left out all those like Bill Gates who dropped out of college - that people are paying $70,000 a year to be taught by a system that is corrupt. I have been advised not to bring truth to power, so I am trying to bring power to power.

I guess the first thing to say here is that the people who represent the power and use the methods of power think they represent the truth. They do not. And they certainly don’t increase truth by using the methods of power.

Thank you Professor Betty for validating me. And thank you Michael Tymn for bringing me into this discussion. Together we will bring power to power.

Bob Gebelein

Bob Gebelein, Wed 2 Sep, 06:44

Dear Amos,

As I have been quoting David Berlinski, let me throw in another, just discovered from his recent book “Human Nature”, that remarkably dovetails with Charles Tart’s summary statement of “The Western Creed” that I quoted previously:

Faith in the twenty-first century is secular and scientific. …The idea of a universal civilization remains, something like a complicated Diophantine equation, one describing the modern technological societies of the West. We know how to solve the equation, and every society has solved the equation in the same way. The necessary parameters are plain. The universal civilization requires an elaborate bureaucracy and a rational legal system enforcing the law of contracts; it requires a scientific elite; it requires science as a source of awe; and it requires relatively free markets. A doggish form of secular humanism prevails throughout. These are ideas—all of them—that invite a certain cynical asperity. Whatever else it may be, the universal civilization is emotionally and aesthetically repellent. All that is solid melts into air, all that is Holy is profaned.
There is no society without its underlying ideology, and the ideology of a universal civilization is expressed by a universal theory, a Court of Last Resort. No matter the debate, whether a matter of gender identity or global warming, the terms are drawn from the vocabulary that the Court enforces. In arguing for a position, it is necessary to say that science supports it, and fatal to admit that it does not. The result is very often comic.…
…Like any theory, the universal theory conveys a certain aura, one that cannot be found in either its axioms or its conclusions. It is an aura that thaws and resolves itself into a number of familiar propositions: The universe is a physical object. It is nothing less, and there is nothing more. The emergence of life on earth may be explained by synthetic chemistry; it has already been entirely explained by synthetic chemistry. Religions are among the delusions of mankind and are responsible for its misfortunes. The mind is the brain in action. There is, on the largest scales, nothing distinctive about the earth or the abundant life it nourishes. Human beings and all of man’s passions are inadvertent and accidental. Beyond the laws of nature, there are no laws. The universe is large, remote, indifferent, and strange. Human life may be enjoyed; it must, in any case, be endured. (pp.13-15)

Paul, Wed 2 Sep, 00:38

Dear Amos,

The powerful thing about focusing upon the supposed whale evolutionary descent from a land-based mammal – the actual ancestor of the whale is claimed to be an early ancestor of the hippopotamus – is, again, the dramatic distinction between lived environments – land vs. sea – and the massive number of parallel, interlinked morphological changes required for successful adaptation to the new environment.  In comparison, putting bat wings on a non-flying rodent is – as profoundly non-trivial a case as that it – relatively straightforward.  But of course, there are many examples one could focus on – the bacterial flagellum, the avian feather, the human eye, to name only a few – that are in their own ways immensely impressive examples of (apparent) biological design and immense challenges to any coherent and convincing macro-evolutionary theory.

To quote from Berlinski’s aforementioned video segment on whale evolutionary descent:

If you were to take a Chevrolet Corvette built in 1954 and decide you want to make a Nautilus Class submarine out of the thing, [and] give it to a lot of engineers – “Fellas, go do this. Do it for me” – I think it could be done, but we all have a sense of the engineering complexities. To do it would be a big, big, big project. The question I’d like to ask in all of this is: give me a quantitative estimate of how many steps would be required to change that Chevrolet Corvette built in 1954 to a Nautilus Class submarine? I don’t want you to give me a quantitatively precise answer, but I want you to give me a ballpark estimate – say, it’s off by an order of magnitude from what I’m told. And I think if we were talking about Chevrolet Corvettes and Nautilus class submarines, the answer would ballpark be: 50,000 changes, 60,000 changes, maybe 100,000 changes, if it’s feasible at all. I kind of suspect it could be done.
Now, I want the same answer for the transition from a land-dwelling creature to a sea-dwelling creature. How many changes would we need? Now why would I be interested in that number? Let’s call that number the “X” number. And this is the point that the Darwinian community never finds curious. If we knew that number, which is an accessible number – we know enough biology to grasp that number – we could compare it to the fossil record. The fossil record has about ten intermediate fossils between a land-dwelling creature and an ocean-going whale. If there are ten, let’s say the tides of time have buried another hundred – perfectly plausible. But if there are 50,000 required changes, there should also be 50,000 intermediates, according to standard Darwinian doctrine. If there is an inequality, a strong inequality between those numbers – the number of fossils that we observe, padded with the number of fossils we might have observed were it not for the injuries of time, and the number of changes – morphological, cellular, biological, physiological, anatomical – that are required to make that transition, then we could assess the plausibility of what is one of the most interesting Darwinian sequences in the record. That’s never done. That’s just never done. No Darwinian paleontologist has ever said: “We expect there to be 50,000 sequences in the whale transition sequence, because we’ve computed the number of changes that are required. But wouldn’t you think, Darwinian fellow-seekers, that that’s an obvious first step to take in making your scientific claims quantitative – not rigorously quantitative, but ballpark quantitative? It’s not done.

Although Berlinski goes into some small detail regarding the morphological adaptations that would be required, a still very partial but slightly more extensive list would include:

Emergence of blowhole, with musculature and nerve control
Emergence of ball vertebrae
Modification of the eye for underwater vision
Ability to drink sea water
Forelimbs transformed into flippers
Modification of the teeth
Reduction of hind limbs
Reduction of pelvis and sacral vertebrae
Reorganization of the musculature for the reproductive organs
Changes to hydrodynamic properties of the skin
Change in birthing process where fetus is delivered in breech position (for labor underwater)
Ability to nurse young underwater
Decoupling of esophagus and trachea
Origin of tail flukes and musculature
Origin of blubber for temperature insulation

More generally, a more recent mathematically-minded survey of the fundamental issue with macro-evolutionary theory is the 2019 article by David Gelernter, Yale professor of computer science, titled “Giving Up Darwin”: https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/giving-up-darwin/

Paul, Wed 2 Sep, 00:25

Dear David and Amos,

Regarding super-psi vs survival as competing explanations, two outstanding challenges to the former are: a) the conveyance of not merely information but convincing and recognizable conveyed personality to an incarnate interlocutor of an ostensibly discarnate communicator, and b) the Cross-Correspondences, which were a specifically designed project by the recently discarnate Frederic Myers and his discarnate SPR collaborators to comprehensively defeat the super-psi hypothesis in favor of survival.  Braude treats both of these challenges in “Immortal Remains”, but in my opinion neither of his treatments are persuasive.  Nearly 120 years have passed since the Cross-Correspondences were discarnately initiated.  The super-psi hypothesis should have been retired a century ago.

As the Cross-Correspondences are not easy of access, the following, a brief summary of the Lethe Case from Montague Keen [article linked below], gives an example of how the super-psi hypothesis – termed in what follows the hypothesis of thought-transmission – was systematically undermined by that program of discarnate communication:

If some simpler illustration of a communication using the cross-correspondence concept is required, let me cite the Lethe case which still after 95 years awaits a non-survivalist explanation. Here we had George Dorr in Boston challenging the identity of deceased Frederic Myers, via Mrs. Piper, by inviting him to say what the word Lethe conveyed to his mind. The communicator then provided a number of accurate but oblique references drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses giving an account of the mythical Hadean stream of Lethe bounding the shores of the Elysian fields, and from whose waters the newly dead must drink and purify themselves. These were arcane, scholarly allusions, typical of Myers. When Oliver Lodge in London learned of this, he decided to put the same question to Myers via Mrs. Willett. The communicator immediately pointed out that he had already responded to this question via Mrs. Piper, but to avoid the hypothesis of thought-transmission, he would give similar evidence. This time, however, they were drawn from a description of the same scene in Book Six of Virgil’s Aeneid. There was no communication between the two women; neither was classically educated, and even the recipients of this information had to go to a good deal of trouble researching the references, which were abundant in number, relevant in content and ingenious in construction.

See also the comments by Michael Grosso in his “Experiencing the Next World Now,” pp.98-99, particularly the following excerpt:

[Oliver] Lodge found that the Willett script complemented—but did not reproduce or merely echo—the content of the Piper script. If the same train of memories were pulled from both mediums, Lodge reasoned, it could conceivably count as a case of paranormal influence between living mediums. But the fact that the scripts were complementary argued for Myers being the source.

A few other resources on the topic of super-psi vs. survival as competing hypotheses:
David Fontana, “Is There an Afterlife?”, pp.103-13
Neal Grossman, “Some Thoughts on Super-psi (That Bogus Pseudo-Scientific Hypothesis),”
Journal of Religion & Psychical Research, Jul 2005, Vol.28 Iss.3
Neal Grossman, “Further Thoughts on Super-psi: A Conversation” [follow-on to above]:
https://web.archive.org/web/20140310132243/http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2009/05/neal-grossman-on-super-esp-or-super-psi.html
Emily Williams Kelly, “Some Directions for Mediumship Research” [addresses super-psi]:
http://deanradin.com/evidence/Kelly2010mediumship.pdf
Montague Keen, “A Further Response to Prof. Stephen Braude’s ‘Super-psi or Survival?’”
https://web.archive.org/web/20100508005243/http://www.montaguekeen.com/articles/montague/braude-response2.htm
“Life in B Flat” blog posts on the super-psi hypothesis:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/search/label/super-psi [collection of posts]
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2009/06/survival-and-super-psi.html [good overview post]

In any case, in the intervening years since the publication of “Immortal Remains”, Braude has more recently shifted his opinion narrowly in favor of the survival hypothesis and away from super-psi

Paul, Tue 1 Sep, 23:45

Dr. Betty’s trove of great books about the afterlife - the ones for laypeople, in essence - have helped so many of us understand more of the higher realms and what lies ahead.

Strident materialism is hubris from scientists who are too afraid to look ahead - and back - at the many volumes of proof that an afterlife exists.

And this next is hardly germane in the dog eat dog of publish or perish world of academia, but his utter kindness is recalled with gratitude by this reader in particular.

Here’s hoping that Dr. Betty’s retirement is all he dreams and then some. There are some of us he’s encouraged in ways that have made a difference in our lives down to the soul level.

All blessings to you, Prof. Betty.

Brett

Brett Butler, Tue 1 Sep, 22:01

Thank you, Michael, for your words.  May I take this opportunity to relay to Professor Betty my congratulations on his fortitude to stand in the face of relentless negativity from the “academic world”.  However, please draw strength from the many of us who were led to your books in our journey through grief.

I applaud you, sir, for your ability to take on the challenges.  Your strength in the way that you found an outlet that gave to the world outside of the narrow-minded academics much wisdom.  To us, you gave us pearls of vital information in a seemingly endless morass of platitudes to the status quo.

I wish you well, and may you continue to flourish and spread the words that comforted me and many others.

To you, Professor Betty, I say a huge thank you for your work and passion, congratulations on your milestone achievement in the face of such sustained denigration.  May the next phase of your life provide the manna you so richly deserve.  Blessings Karyn

Karyn Jarvie, Tue 1 Sep, 21:41

I fared somewhat better as professor of philosophy & religion at Towson University in Maryland, although I did have a hard tenure review. I taught evidence-based spiritualism in whatever course it was appropriate. My favorite was the philosophy of death and immortality. I eventually left there and have been teaching at a California community college, and my orientation has not raised any eyebrows.  I believe it is important for students to be exposed to rational and evidential beliefs in an afterlife.

Daniel Kealey, Tue 1 Sep, 19:37

As the writer and producer of the motion picture about Dr. John Mack (johnmackmovie.com) this is, sadly, or predictably, another account of how academia tries to hold onto old paradigms that serve their own purposes, biases ,and fears, not the natural evolution of ideas, knowledge or consciousness. John Mack paid a high price for standing up to the status quo at Harvard, but his courage moved the conversation forward for all of humanity. You did the same, Stafford Betty. Kudos to you. History is already on your side.

Denise David WIlliams, Tue 1 Sep, 17:31

Rick, you were not mistaken in referring to him as Dr. Betty.  He received his Ph.D. from Fordham Univ. in 1975. 

Paul’s listing of the “Western Creed” brought to mind an exchange I had with a parapsychologist many years ago.  She subscribed to Super Psi and turned up her nose at the Survival hypothesis.  I suggested that little, if anything, was accomplished by her career in parapsychology as I could see no benefit to humankind by such a conclusion. It is, or seems to me at least, nihilistic and I wondered what fulfillment she received from her research leading to Super Psi.  As I often put it: To what end the progeny?  To which generation full fruition?  She was greatly offended by my remarks suggested that I, being a non-academic, am incapable of understanding.  I apparently never will.

Concerning David’s comments about Professor Braude, it is my understanding that he has moved more in the direction of Survival over Super-Psi in his recent writings, although I had come to lose interest in his opinion and have not bothered to read his works, so can’t confirm it.  I know that he seemed convinced at one point that Patience Worth was a secondary personality of Pearl Curran’s.  Interestingly, the PSI Encyclopedia has two bios of Pearl Curran/Patience Worth—one by me and one by Braude.  Of course, Amos Doyle should have been the one to write it.

Michael Tymn, Tue 1 Sep, 17:17

I second the “WOW.”  It’s incredible that a person who teaches religious studies is not allowed to be religious in the least, nor to study anything related to the immaterial realms that are the natural domain of religion.

Religion in itself could be called paranormal in a way, so it would seem to any objective mind that the paranormal is a natural subject within religious studies, or at the very least closely related to it.

This is all very sad and would be sadder if Betty had not managed to get through to the point of retirement.  I’m heartened to know that a great many students had the opportunity to learn the truth about death from him, and that so many were interested.

(On the other hand, it has been very well proven, and just in recent years, that the earth is not expanding through neutron decay or any other mechanism, so no, academic scientists are not going to listen to that idea. Some things are a lot easier to agree upon scientifically than others.)

Elene, Tue 1 Sep, 17:10

Wow!  Don, Just Wow! - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 1 Sep, 16:54

Thanks Paul for the link to comments by David Belinski regarding Darwinism and other topics related to biology.  It is a ‘video worth watching’ and I recommend everyone watch and listen to Berlinski.


Belinski mentioned, in a short comment, homology in species and I have often thought that one of the most impressive examples of homology in species totally unrelated in any possible chain of evolution is the homology between the eye of the human and the eye of the octopus.  Apparently natural selection and survival of the fittest have some template that is used in all species to solve similar problems, e.g., vision in mammals and cephalopods.

However the wings-of-the-bat is my favorite example and difficult to explain without some reference to intelligence direction and design.  It would be like membranes growing from my fingers in minuscule increments and somehow getting attached to the ankles of my descendants forming large bilateral membranes allowing humans to fly and such changes or mutations being heritable and so dominant that they would persist in all humans regardless of interbreeding with other humans who did not have such mutations. Just take a look at a picture of a bat in flight and try to explain that animal having evolved from a non-flying mammal of any kind.

I like that Belinski referred to Darwinism as a “collection of anecdotes”.  Having read two of Darwin’s major works I totally agree. If it were not for his experience raising pigeons he would have little to provide as evidence; forgetting of course that domestic pigeons have been intelligently designed by man and revert to the rock pigeon when not carefully selected by a pigeon breeder.


Such presentation by parapsychologists would be completely ridiculed by today’s critics but those same critics let Darwin get by with it!  I believe however that most people who support the theories of Darwin have never read what he actually provides as evidence to support his theories.  - AOD   .

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 1 Sep, 15:15

Oops, it looks like I mistakenly awarded Professor Betty a doctorate. Note to self: wait until morning coffee procedure has reached Stage 2.5 before commenting.

The substance of my comment remains, including best wishes for Stafford Betty in his future endeavors.

Rick Darby, Tue 1 Sep, 15:03

This syndrome is not limited to our universities. I’m reminded of an incident some years ago (the late 90’s I believe) which surfaced in the sacrosanct halls of the American Medical Association.
    JAMA, the Journal of the AMA, had for years refused to run anything in its pages related to what it considered “fringe” or “pseudo” science, including any type of “spiritual healing. This policy still held at the time that Dr. Gary Schwartz, a Harvard-trained psychologist and researcher who was then (and I believe, still now) running a laboratory in Arizona (one that had received funding from the NIH) involved in a number of ground-breaking experiments in “energy-healing.” One such set of experiments had been, at about that time, published in a number of peer-reviewed technical journals—-NOT, of course, including any AMA publications.
    Several years later, JAMA finally broke down and published a paper that supposedly demonstrated the LACK of efficacy of energy-healing (in the same precise areas in which Schwartz’s previous work had shown POSITIVE results)as presumably reflecting the most state-of-the-art research on the question—-despite the fact that it was the work of A 9-YEAR OLD 4th GRADER who had designed and conducted it herself for a school science-fair project.
    When Schwartz wrote to the Editors of JAMA pointing out several mistakes in the young student’s paper—-as well as his own prior positive results—-the editors DECLINED to publish his letter, on the grounds that it was “not of significant interest to their readers.”
    Astounding. This incident is related in full detail in Schwartz’ 2007 book “The Energy Healing Experiments” (pages 228-230, in my version at least).

Don Porteous, Tue 1 Sep, 14:25

David,
It may be that I had a similar initial reaction after reading Braude’s “Immortal Remains: The Evidence For Life After Death” when it first was published 17 years ago.  Since that time I have warmed-up to the book and its author somewhat by realizing that Braude is a professor-type philosopher and I believe is quite sincere in his pursuit of evidence for an afterlife.  His writing is tedious at times and academic but I have cited him numerous times to support some or another idea that I may be expounding upon at the time.


There is a chapter about Patience Worth in Braude’s book that irritated me and ‘turned me off’ because in my interest in that case and I thought Braude provided way too much conflicting information and his opinions which in my opinion were not well thought out and overall, the chapter was a very poor exposition of the Patience Worth/Pearl Curran case with an over-abundance of Braude’s opinions and irrelevant information which Braude thought somehow was related to the case.  In some ways he betrays himself by what seems to me to be his overabundance of interest in the case but that is a topic for another very long post.  In summary, Braude opines that ‘maybe there is life after death and maybe there is not!’  So, what else is new?

 
Braude does seem to prefer ‘super-psi’ explanations but it is really difficult to tell after reading the entire book.  Here is a quote at the end of 306 pages of his opinions.


“And I think we can say, with little assurance but with some justification, that the evidence provides a reasonable basis for believing in personal postmortem survival.  It doesn’t clearly support the belief that everyone survives death; it more clearly supports the belief that some do.  And it doesn’t support the belief that we survive eternally; at best it justifies the belief that some individuals survive for a limited time.”


Well, there you are!  I do recommend reading Braude’s “Immortal Remains”.  Just realize he is groping for evidence of life after death like the rest of us and he has his opinions, just like the rest of us. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 1 Sep, 13:09

This is no surprise. I think there are also subtle effects on some of those rare people who have persisted in investigating the parapsychology area despite the tremendous pressures to conform to the materialist groupthink and taboos.

Stephen Braude is an example. While he was with the University of Maryland he still pursued some taboo areas of psychical research, only because he had tenure.

But his espousal at least provisionally of the “super-psi” theory shows how he has tried to explain away the afterlife evidence by the notion that it is all subconsciously generated esp and psi, presumably all functions of the physical brain.

His book Immortal Remains is in part an exhaustive investigation of this theory.

“Super Psi” notions are preposterous, for the start massively violating the Occam’s Razor principle, but are attractive as a means of absolutely minimizing the “tabooness” of an interest in the soul and an afterlife and the supposed evidence for them. It gives the impression of violating the materialist ideological doctrine to the smallest possible degree.

David Magnan, Tue 1 Sep, 01:14

Paul,
Tart’s “Western Creed” is going strong today.  I am really depressed now. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 31 Aug, 20:51

Dear Amos,

Your comment regarding “thinking about the wings of a bat evolving in a rodent by survival of the fittest” reminds me of what, to my mind, is one of the most decisive ‘test cases’ for any kind of evolutionary-based reasoning regarding necessary morphological alterations from one species to another: that between a land-based mammal and sea-going mammal, requiring adaptation to radically different environments.  Call it, in approximate terms, the ‘cow to whale’ transition.  The mathematician David Berlinski comments on the extreme unlikeliness of any kind of ‘gradualist’ evolutionary explanation for such in the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S89IskZI740.  The relevant section, which runs for roughly 3-1/2 min, begins at the 11 min mark, but the entire video is worthwhile.  Berlinski is the very opposite of a scientifically ignorant religious fundamentalist.

Paul, Mon 31 Aug, 20:46

Dear Michael,

I had not realized the extent of active hostility that Stafford Betty had to deal with from fellow academicians and can only express my sympathies to him.  In this regard, a comment made almost in passing by an acquaintance some years ago made a profound impression on me, such that I remember it to this day.  She commented that academic religious studies departments were some of the most hostile places she had ever encountered with respect to the serious study of religion.

In this regard, I am also reminded of the those within the academic study of religion who are working to overturn the legacy of Mircea Eliade – the 20th century doyen of the field – who presented himself as a phenomenologist, but for whom even that stance is too ‘serious’ for such individuals to bear.  I know of one professor of religious studies, the late James Cutsinger, who came under occasional departmental review but escaped censure, and another, Kenneth (Harry) Oldmeadow, whose entire group was shut down and their contracts terminated by an incoming, materialist-minded dean.  Both were, in effect, guilty of the ‘thoughtcrime’ of taking the study of religion too seriously.  Can one imagine this happening in any other academic department: being marginalized, ostracized or driven from the field for taking their chosen subject too seriously?

Certain ‘wayward’ philosophers can also run afoul of such as well.  I am reminded of the cautionary tale of Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”.  See, for instance, two meta-review articles, which spell out what can happen when you don’t toe the materialist line, despite being a lauded scholar with impeccable atheistic credentials:
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112481/darwinist-mob-goes-after-serious-philosopher; http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/heretic_707692.html.

The saddest and most ironic aspect of Stafford’s ill treatment at the hands of his colleagues is that it is all in service of nothing.  Literally nothing, nada, nix, nil, naught, nihil.  I have already detailed in comments to Michael’s posting of 08 June 2020 how materialism leads inexorably to nihilism.  In similar vein, Charles Tart, in his book “The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal Is Bringing Science and Spirit Together,” details – in the first chapter, appropriately titled “Spiritual Seeking in a World That Thinks It’s All Nonsense” – what he terms “The Western Creed”:

I BELIEVE—in the material universe—as the only and ultimate reality—a universe controlled by fixed physical laws—and blind chance.

I AFFIRM—that the universe has no creator—no objective purpose—and no objective meaning or destiny.

I MAINTAIN—that all ideas about God or gods—enlightened beings—prophets and saviors—or other nonphysical beings or forces—are superstitions and delusions—. Life and consciousness are totally identical to physical processes—and arose from chance interactions of blind physical forces—. Like the rest of life—my life—and my consciousness—have no objective purpose—meaning—or destiny.

I BELIEVE—that all judgments, values, and moralities—whether my own or others’—are subjective—arising solely from biological determinants—personal history—and chance—. Free will is an illusion—. Therefore, the most rational values I can personally live by—must be based on the knowledge that for me—what pleases me is good—what pains me is bad—. Those who please me or help me avoid pain—are my friends—those who pain me or keep me from my pleasure—are my enemies—. Rationality requires that friends and enemies—be used in ways that maximize my pleasure—and minimize my pain.

I AFFIRM—that churches have no real use other than social support—that there are no objective sins to commit or be forgiven for—that there is no divine retribution for sin—or reward for virtue—. Virtue for me is getting what I want—without being caught and punished by others.

I MAINTAIN—that the death of the body—is the death of the mind—. There is no afterlife—and all hope of such is nonsense.

This is what Stafford was supposed to feed into the minds of his students all those years and had the integrity and good sense not to. More power to him.

Paul, Mon 31 Aug, 18:44

I knew Dr. Betty was persona non grata at Cal State Bakersfield, but had no idea of the intellectual quarantine his colleagues placed him in:

” ... Betty was banned from the department but continued to teach, not to philosophy or religious studies majors but rather to those majoring in other subjects, including many business majors.  He reported directly to the dean, not the department chair, and wasn’t even allowed to enter the building where his department was housed until the dean discovered such exclusion was illegal.”

I don’t think, however, that his treatment was merely a case of scientism putting the boot in. There’s a larger context. Higher education has degenerated into cultural Marxist indoctrination.

An instructor who fails to loudly and forcefully push extreme leftist ideology is shackled. The ruling Commies on campus are as materialistic as academic or philosophical brain police.

I wish Dr. Betty a happy and productive retirement outside the Cal State Bakersfield isolation chamber.

Rick Darby, Mon 31 Aug, 13:36

Thanks Michael for making this public.  I had no idea that it was this bad.  Sorry to say but this just adds to my overall depression about the state of humanity today in general.  It seems to be regressing not going forward to new discoveries. It seems to be reverting to primitive stupidity.  Maybe this is the way it has always been with the discovery of new things by humans as physicist Max Planck is reported to have observed that ‘Science advances one funeral at a time’ meaning of course that reasoning is not the way that new discoveries became mainstream; only when those invested with status or financial interest in promoting an untruth finally die and are buried will things change.  Of course “The Big Bang” theory gets full support of everybody it seems, without a scintilla of evidence for it.  And, the lack of real discerning thoughts about evolution boggles my mind, but physicalism accepts the concept so glibly that it is disgusting to me. (Just try really thinking about the wings of a bat evolving in a rodent by survival of the fittest!)  Anyone who really thinks about Darwin’s evolution knows that there is a lot more to it that Darwin ever imagined.  (Or he wanted to consider because of his anti-spiritualist/religion stance. Why do you think it is “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution” rather than “Wallace’s Theory of Evolution”? Alfred Russel Wallace believed in a metaphysical world of spirits so of course his ideas about evolution and development of species would be grudging acknowledged by academics but only if they were congruent with Darwin’s thoughts.)

I believe that the world is slowly expanding due to neutron decay at its core and the oceans are receding but what chance do you think I would have getting any academic ‘scientist’ to seriously consider that idea? - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 31 Aug, 13:19


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When Skeptics Attack: Skeptical Organizations and Websites by Craig Weiler – If you really want to get to the heart of skepticism, the best way to do that is to look at the organizations that skeptics create and see how they operate. The behavior of these organizations is the behavior of the individuals, writ large. There are two national organizations worth considering: the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). Read here
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