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Choosing Truth over Fact and Holey Jeans

Posted on 19 August 2019, 8:33

When, during a recent presidential campaign speech, former American vice-president Joe Biden said that he chooses “truth over facts,” it was assumed that he blundered and meant to say that he chooses “fact over fiction.” I’m not so sure it was a gaffe.


A number of facts do not necessarily add up to truth.  We have to consider all the facts, including facts science has yet to recognize. In effect, truth may often be greater than the facts.  “The spiritual theory is the logical outcome of the whole of the facts,” said biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, (below) co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution.  “Those who deny it, in every instance with which I am acquainted, either from ignorance or disbelief, leave half the facts out of view.  That theory is most scientific which best explains the whole series of phenomena; and I therefore claim that the spirit hypothesis is the most scientific, since even those who oppose it most strenuously often admit that it does explain all the facts, which cannot be said of any other hypothesis.”


As set forth in the 2017 book, Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,  Justin P. McBrayer, a professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, laments the state of morality education in our schools, noting that the majority of college freshman view moral claims as mere opinion – true or untrue only relative to a culture.  He explains that our public schools now teach that all claims are either fact or opinion, and that moral claims fall into the latter camp.  Moreover, all facts must be tested and proved before they can be accepted as truths.

“Things can be true even if no one can prove them,” McBrayer counters the current mindset in our educational system. “For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it.”  Conversely, he adds, many things once “proved” turned out to be false.  McBrayer does not go so far as to consider the maze we get into once we ask about the nature of “proof.”  Are we talking about evidence that provides “absolute certainty,” that meets the “beyond a reasonable doubt,” threshold,  or even the much lower standard of proof based on a “preponderance of evidence”?  Then again, it could be “proof”  based on personal experience.

The bottom line, as I interpret it from what McBrayer and others offer in this book, is that that there are no moral facts, and thus there are no moral truths. To view it another way, if it is only an opinion that murdering someone is morally wrong, if it is only an opinion that all men are created equal, if it is only an opinion that copying homework assignments is wrong, then there are no real truths about what is right and no one should be held accountable.  At least that seems to be the message young people are being indoctrinated with in our schools these days, according to McBrayer.  To be politically correct, the “truths” once set down in “good books” of various religions are no longer facts, just opinions.  That being the case, should we be surprised at all the moral chaos in the world today?

McBrayer applauds our educators on attempting to teach students to act humanely and with integrity, but he sees the curriculum as setting up student for “doublethink” in that “they are told there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.”

Christy Wampole, an assistant professor of French at Princeton, offers an interesting observation in suggesting that many Americans born after around 1980, particularly middle-class Caucasians, live “ironically.”  If I am interpreting her correctly, she is referring to Socratic Irony, which means pretending to be ignorant, or admitting one’s own ignorance, in order to expose the ignorance of another or perhaps of the establishment.  As Wampole sees it, these younger generations seem to be suffering from an “existential malaise” and participating in some kind of “competition to see who can care the least.”  As I further interpret it, this existential malaise is in great part a result of old facts now becoming opinion and the younger generation not knowing what to believe.  This non-belief leads to cynicism and attachment to the frivolous and the kitschy.

A recent poll carried out in the UK has 89 percent of people aged 18-29 saying that their lives are meaningless and without purpose.  For those over the age of 60, the number was “only” 55 percent.

Since most young people appear to be “one with their phones,” I have not had the opportunity to interact with many of them in recent years; but when Wampole mentioned that they often attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly, I wondered if I finally had an answer to what has been for me one of life’s greatest mysteries – why so many young people wear raggedy and frayed jeans with holes in the knees and why they put pearls in their tongues and camouflage their bodies with ink. Those things now make some sense, I think. That is, they have not been able to find any meaning in life and have made a “preemptive surrender,” one that takes the form of reaction rather than action.  Actually, I’m still not sure I get it.

I believe we are seeing what renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl referred to as “mass neurotic syndrome” – the result of an “existential vacuum,” a feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. The more one seeks pleasure, Frankl observed, the more it eludes him. “Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect, or by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree in which it is made a goal in itself.”  A human being, he continued, is not one in pursuit of happiness, but one in search of a reason to become happy. Self-actualization, he further opined, is possible only as a side effect of self-transcendence.

Peg O’Connor, a professor of philosophy and gender, women, and sexuality studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, contributes a very interesting essay to the book while drawing from William James and what he called “world sickness.”  O’Connor calls the first stage of world sickness “pleasure diminished” and the second stage “pleasure destroyed.”  The final stage she names “pathological melancholy.”  In this stage, the person is no longer able to recognize joy and happiness.  “This melancholy leads to a kind of utter hopelessness about the particular condition in which one lives and the meaning of life in general,” she explains, adding that at this point “nothing is worth anything.”

Many of the other 56 philosophers and deep thinkers contributing to this book discuss the connection, or lack of, between a belief in God and morality and ethical behavior.  Unless I missed it, they all seem to assume that finding God is a prerequisite to finding meaning in life.  Not one of them considers the strong evidence supporting the survival of consciousness at death independent of the existence or non-existence of a God, god or gods.   
As biologist Wallace recognized, the inductive approach of psychical research is scientific.  It involves looking at all the evidence coming to us through various paranormal events and closely examining this evidence to see if it suggests a spirit body and survival of the consciousness at death.  The evidence can never amount to absolute proof.  Very few things addressed by science have absolute proof.  The best we can hope for is evidence that strongly suggests survival. 

If “God” exists, but consciousness does not survive bodily death, so what?  Where does that get us?  As with atheism, humankind is still marching toward the abyss of nothingness and there is no purpose in life beyond making it better for the next generation, which will also fall into the abyss.  When we stop to ask, to which generation full fruition, it seems pretty pointless.  In fact, making things easier and better for future generations only appears to rob life of its challenges and learning experiences – things which psychical research suggest are the reasons for the detour from the real life.
On the other hand, if consciousness survives in a spirit world, then there is something to hope for, irrespective of whether there is a “God” behind it all.  Meaning in life is derived from a belief in life after death, not from the existence of a God.  It is the larger life that Christ came to announce, not the reality of a father figure sitting on a throne while demanding worship and threatening to flog anyone who dares not bow in reverence to his dictates.

Psychical research gives real meaning to the words of the Bible and helps us move from blind faith to conviction, or true faith.  True faith is not the blind faith of orthodox religion.  It is based on many facts and a strong conviction that those facts add up to truth, even if we can’t comprehend some of the facts.

Next blog post:  Sept. 2

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.


Andrew Simpson, we are never going to open the eyes of any skeptic, because they are paid to destroy the scientific proof of survival after death. They have access to media outlets, the supporters of our British pioneers of radio and television - Crookes, Lodge and Logie Baird don’t have the freedom that the professional wreckers enjoy. I have come up against Susan Blackmore a number of times. But always on local radio or television and at London University, but never going out to millions on mainstream media outlets. It’s all to do with money. Who is going to pump money at the priests, if people should ever find out that it is a scientific fact that every person on Earth survives the death of their physical body? Also scientific teaching across every discipline is locked into Einstein’s materialism - the mind dies with the brain. “I don’t believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbour such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. ” Albert Einstein, New York Times, April 19, 1955.

Michael Roll, Sun 1 Sep, 10:10

Just wanted to echo the thoughts of Stafford Betty and compliment Mike Tymn on the article. Also to give riley heagerty a plug for his book ‘Portraits from Beyond’. It was more than excellent . Thank you for that as well as your earlier book ‘the French revelation’ which easily made the top ten books I’ve read on mediumship.We are very fortunate to have people like the aforementioned who have revealed so much incredible information that should open the eyes of any skeptic that is truly willing to open their minds and examine the evidence.Thanks again Mike for your continued high standards.

andrew simpson, Sun 1 Sep, 00:07

A few more things regarding Yakaru.
I’ve seen Yakaru’s About page and understand his frustration, why he’s angry, and that he’s trying to promote reason and critical thinking/skepticism, like he says on his blog. He’s also trying to make others aware of cognitive bias, confirmation bias, and other biases ( no one is immune to bias ). And he says that his ’spiritual research led him to go through atheism’.
While I understand his reasons for blogging, I think he needs to calm down a bit.
Or maybe take a month-long break from blogging and Twitter/Facebook.
The reason I say that, is because he’s getting himself worked up over people like Bruce Lipton and post-materialists. And always making assumptions that “spiritual people don’t like the reductionist materialist view that reduces them to mere meat. They’re anti-materialists, so they deny it”.
Even people who aren’t scientists but talk about OBE/NDEs just for the sake of it. Sites like NDERF. Those OBE/NDErs do not deserve a beating ( and yet he says that those people are trying to feel better about themselves because life is hard and full of suffering/injuries, and they need to be taken down a peg or two. Self-serving delusional beliefs ). If you look at his archives, you’ll see that his followers and him have a huge history of getting too worked up. His latest posts are about Bruce Lipton. When it’s not Bruce Lipton, then it’s Sheldrake, if it’s not Sheldrake, then it’s , Chopra, the Newdualism site, the SAND site ( the sites Roman was linking to ), etc.
I don’t think people who are very serious about spirituality, or serious about consciousness research, actually take Bruce Lipton seriously. It’s very hard for me to take Lipton seriously.
I am highly skeptical about a few of the people Yakaru rants about, such as Sheldrake ( I own one of his books, The Science Delusion, but I take it with a grain of salt, as I do with many other things ), Bruce Lipton, and Chopra. I don’t believe in the Law of Attraction, or The Secret either.

Even if the sources Roman Voronjanski was sending links to are all ‘thoroughly debunked’, they’re not the only sources of looking beyond materialism.
If people paid more attention, maybe they’d know that none of this has anything to do with promoting ‘magic, new-agery, escapism theories, anti-science’, or ‘religion’. I also don’t think spirituality has been ‘hijacked, twisted, and distorted’ ( what Yakaru says all the time ). But I do think the definition of ‘science’ has been hijacked. Same thing with ‘rationality’ and ‘skepticism/critical thinking’.
Contrary to what Yakaru says, it’s not that many of us ‘proponents’ are “impervious to criticism”, it’s just that we’ve seen a lot of it before and it’s not all that new. We look at both sides, because we’re following the evidence wherever it leads, not to ‘deny nihilism and maintain delusions’.
And we’re not the ones equating science with materialism, the materialists are. Materialism is not science.
However, some ‘skeptics’ to this very day keep shouting, and most likely will continue shouting until the end of time “ BS new age pseudoscience!”, and “afraid of nihilism”, at anything and anyone that doesn’t support or agree with materialism. A perfect example is this facebook user( who’s no longer active on the blog, but is currently very active on facebook ) on Yakaru’s blogroll.

The name of his blog and account says it all. I think he needs a little breaky-break from the internet for a little while as well. And maybe change the name of the blog and account:
That’s what I do whenever I’m angry about some things on the internet: Take a break and get off the internet.
Because to me, it looks more like those two are whining, rather than applying critical thinking and skepticism.

What’s really funny about Yakaru, is at some point in the link, he said something like “I know that no immaterial spirit realm exists, and that there’s nothing after death, but I turn to zen, because I need something to accept even though zen is completely brain-based, because sometimes being alive is hard. Zen is not spiritual, but spiritual people twist it to make it fit their beliefs. They desperately want to exist beyond their bodies”
Just because something gets you out of bed in the morning, gives you comfort, and lets you sleep at night( belief in a non-material reality, or a comforting afterlife ) doesn’t mean it’s false. However, I understand why that must mean so to many people, because of the popular sayings “too good to be true”, and “terrible and ugly truth, sweet and beautiful lie”.

If you want a healthy skeptical site, I suggest going to for actual healthy skepticism. I go there occasionally. I think that blog is a lot more ‘open’ or much more ‘calmer and rational’, than Yakaru’s blog, because he and his followers do not get worked up to the point of blogging aggressively about every “anti-materialist” in the world he discovers.
I also suggest

Anyways, I’m just pointing out the methods and phrases some atheists use. I’ve seen many atheists that are a LOT more pleasant and open than Yakaru. Yakaru’s blog does not seem like a place for agnostics ( me ).
He’s also not someone I would enjoy having around at the dinner table.
Like I’ve said, I understand his frustration about some people being naive/gullible when it comes to psychics, harmful superstitions, harmful pseudoscience, and bad experiences with religion. But that’s no excuse for getting worked up and lumping every single person who questions materialism, including scientists “fairy tale woo New Age promoters”, especially when they have done nothing illegal, or caused anyone any harm.

Esther, Wed 28 Aug, 11:53

Mike, all my fellow secular atheist contacts accept the findings of Sir William Crookes when he published the results of his three year experiments that he published in The Quarterly Journal of Science in 1874. I have never come across anybody in the UK who has based their ethics on a book that starts with a talking snake in the Garden of Eden. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” was taught by the great Greek philosophers. Us atheists do not go along with dead bodies leaping out of graves on a far off Judgement Day. We also disagree with Einstein’s teaching that the mind dies with brain.

Michael Roll, Wed 28 Aug, 10:08

Some more observations. Another one of the websites that caused me to question my beliefs, before I started visiting many others years ago, was called Spirituality Is No Excuse, by an atheist blogger ( he made it quite clear he’s an atheist ), named Yakaru.

I do agree with the blogger that many spiritual people twist things to fit their beliefs, and a lot of people in general, not just spiritual and religious people, would rather cling to and accept things that let them sleep at night( whether there’s evidence or not ), as opposed to things that keep them up and awake.
Most spiritual people also refuse to let go of or question their beliefs.
However, you can’t just lump or call everyone who questions materialism, or suggests there might be more than just the physical, ’superstitious pseudoscientists’, or ‘deniers of truth, science, evolution, rationality, and reality’. Especially when many question materialism for reasons that seem pretty rational.
Nor can you just accuse all of them of being “afraid of and denying nihilism” and “close-minded dualist woo believers that refuse to let go and accept that spiritual experiences and consciousness are all in their heads, not external”.
But maybe I’m missing something.

There was an interesting debate between Yakaru, and a mind-beyond-brain proponent named, Roman Voronjanski.
I think that was the most civilized debate between an atheist and proponent I’ve ever seen. I wish all of the debates were like that. I think they both got some good points.

At first, because Roman was young( 21 years old )the blogger accused him of being naive and visiting/reading “too many anti-science new age websites and books”, and that he should visit and read up on “real hard science, skeptical forums, and blogs.”
But when he told Yakaru that he’s been looking at both sides and skeptical sources, the blogger accused him of being “too happy to look at skeptical websites and blogs, because he’s impervious to criticism and refusing to let go of woo beliefs, and that he still thinks consciousness is not all in our heads, even though mind existing beyond the brain has been thoroughly debunked”.
But despite all of that, the end of the debate between those two went surprisingly well. Except for the fact that another commenter got worked up over Sam Harris’s article called Mystery of Consciousness, because he’s “fooling himself by being open to the possibility of consciousness being mysterious or something more, when in fact qualia and consciousness do not exist or are completely brain-based. He’s following in Thomas Nagel’s woo footsteps.”

In a way, I was jealous of Roman Voronjanski, because his debate with Yakaru was very civilized, while this engagement I had with a materialist was a bit ridiculous. And I remember his/her response like it was yesterday, when part of what I said was “I’m going to stop doubting, dismissing, and calling myself mentally ill, when in reality I’m okay.
And that I’ve decided to embrace my OBEs after 3 whole years of denying and beating myself up over it ( that’s plenty long enough ). I was miserable when I kept denying them, but I’m a lot happier now that I embrace them”.
Sounds rational, right? I guess not, since the materialist wasn’t pleased with my decision. His/her response was this:

“I have not come across one healthy person who bluntly disagrees when their biases are pointed out, healthy people reflect, BUT delusional people, especially those who have something significant to lose (e.g. effective denial of nihilism) are those who need to do whatever it takes to maintain self serving delusional believes. It is your life to waste, buy as many books as you want, I just hope you don’t have children.”

Aren’t atheist/materialists ‘denying nihilism’ when they say they “create their own meaning?” And what does having children have to do with ‘maintain self-serving delusional beliefs?’

While I wasn’t surprised by that response as I’ve received many more that were a lot worse than this, that last sentence was completely uncalled for. But I learned a personal lesson: Never tell a materialist directly about spiritual experiences, unless you want to be accused of delusional self-serving, dissociation, or self-escapism.

Denying nihilism has nothing to do with me accepting and embracing my experiences. I’m just tired of beating myself up, and calling myself something I’m not ( schizotypy and mentally ill ), just to make ‘skeptics’ happy.
I even said to him/her that if this life is really the only one we get, and there’s nothing after death ( I personally think that still counts as something. Win-win ), so be it. I’m sure many of you would accept that reality as well.

Jokes on him/her, because I was, and still am traveling the world. So how is that ‘wasting my life’? Having children is definitely NOT on my agenda.

Esther, Tue 27 Aug, 10:44


Thanks for your last comment. It all seems to agree with my observations. However, I don’t think it is subject to a meaningful scientific study, as it is unlikely that most people with tattoos would admit to, or even know, the reason they got them in the first place.  Thus, the book would be worthless.

As for problems with MRIs, as mentioned by Dale, I checked a few web sites and indications are that tattoos can hinder an MRI scan depending on the ingredients used in the ink and the size of the tattoo.  Apparently, red ink is especially susceptible to the magnetic fields used in MRI machines

Michael Tymn, Mon 26 Aug, 02:30

Well, let’s see Michael. To show off a tattoo in an attractive way, one needs to be attractive to begin with, that is, one should be young, have good smooth, clear skin and all of the other attributes to go to make a person handsome including a well-toned lean body.  Tattoos usually don’t enhance obese flabby people or old wrinkly people with cellulite.  That is just my opinion of course. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The tattoo should be done by a professional and planned ahead of time to have good color and design as well as placement.  Getting tattooed after a night of drunken revelry probably is not going to result in good body ‘art’.  Face tattoos are especially difficult to ‘pull-off’ in more ways than one.  People that have the ‘F-word’ tattooed on their forehead must have been unconscious when it was done to them as a not-so-funny joke.
In a way, tattoos have become a ‘rite of passage’ in that few children are allowed by their parents to have a permanent tattoo.  A tattoo is a visible sign that one has reached maturity and makes one’s own decisions.  A tattoo has become is badge of masculinity, especially on young men who need an identity with a group.  A tattoo is one of the few remaining visible ways today to show that one belongs to a tribe.

A tattoo is like a badge of courage for having endured whatever pain might be associated with getting a tattoo.  (There is a tattoo parlor near me called, “Just a Little Prick”.)  And, there is competition among aficionados to see who can get the most skin covered—-another testosterone driven trait.  Then there is the cost of getting tattooed; those who are financially well off and want to brag about it have the best maybe most extensive tattoos.  Tattoos can be intimidating however.  They can convey a message that one is “ready to rumble”, especially when they are on a burly ‘gentleman’. I think that a lot of the messaging is testosterone driven.

One could probably get a PhD in psychology by writing a book about what motivates people to get a tattoo and its symbolism.
A “young me” would never get a tattoo.  I was always too concerned with what my mother would say.  I had to go through hell with her every time I tried to grow a beard.  But were I to be reincarnated in different family circumstances and with an athletic male body I think I would get one or more tattoos.  I tend to like the designs that incorporate the whole body, not that it covers every inch of skin but that the design follows the human form.  I don’t care for words or mottos as most of the time they are unreadable.

I have been commenting about tattoos as an art form.  I know that many, maybe most, people who get tattoos don’t give a “tinker’s damn” about art. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 24 Aug, 17:16

I wonder how many know that you will be refused an MRI if you have a tattoo because of the metal in the ink which interferes with the magnetic resonance in the MRI. This is what a couple of MRI techs told me when I got an MRI on two different occasions; they told my wife the same thing. Possibly there are some non-metallic inks used in some tats; if so then that might be a different case.

Dale Harder, Sat 24 Aug, 02:51


I think you touched upon part of the reason so few military officers have tattoos compared with enlisted men, i.e., they usually don’t begin serving full time until after college, while many of the enlisted start right after high school and are more subject to peer pressure.  I don’t know if there are any written restrictions or codes restricting or prohibiting tattoos these days in the military academies, but I suspect there are. I know that the local Marine Corps Command placed some kind of restriction on them a few years back, although I don’t know how it was enforced or controlled.  One way or other, the officers get the message that tattoos are not acceptable, art or no art. 

I am curious as to why you think a “testosterone rush” might prompt a young you to get a tattoo. Do you think it makes the person more attractive?  I would think it would have the opposite effect, but I’m still trying to understand it.

Michael Tymn, Fri 23 Aug, 18:38

Your comment about officers in the military having fewer tattoos than enlisted men is thought provoking. If it is true that most of the tattoos are on enlisted men then I wonder why?  Maybe it is a generational thing in that officers of higher rank—-Colonels and Generals—-are from the older generations that eschewed tattoos.  While first and second lieutenants would probably be from the younger generation—-people right out of college and they might have a tattoo.  Then again it could be that people who have an ounce of common sense would consider the after effects of a tattoo as one went forward in life.  People who enlist right out of high school might not have the maturity to be able to consider the ways a tattoo might affect their future.
Except for old ladies who get a butterfly tattoo on their shoulder for ‘who knows for whatever reason’, most old(er) men don’t have the body or feel the testosterone rush to push them to get a tattoo.  After all, what is the point?  Male competition for dominance has waned as has sexual attraction.  Instead of a tattoo, the old men probably just buy a luxury sports car. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 22 Aug, 14:20

Thanks to all for the comments so far.  As Amos points out, if we dismiss God and all religious teachings, including the Ten Commandments, the Seven Deadly Sins, etc., we really have no standards by which to say what is right or wrong, what is immoral or moral, what is proven fact or falsehood, or to go to Elene’s comment what is artistic. 

It is all opinion, which is the view apparently being adopted by our educational system as pointed out in the first few paragraphs above.  However, if we accept the existence of a spirit world, as strongly suggested by various paranormal phenomena, then we do have some basic standards, although much discernment is required.  I am more inclined to believe that the Ten Commandments came from advanced spirits rather than from a humanlike “God” sitting on a throne with a crown on “his” head.  I don’t recall off hand where we got the Seven Deadly Sins, but I subscribe to their tenets as the foundation of a moral code. 

As for the body “art” mentioned by Elene, I am apparently not advanced enough in that respect to recognize it.  Very few of the tattoos I have seen meet my definition of art.  I am in full agreement with Michael Prescott’s comments.  Living in Hawaii, I probably see more inked bodies than most people, as the warm weather encourages scanty attire year-round.  Moreover, I live near a large military base.  When I see some young person with a full sleeve of ink or “art” that goes beyond the arm, extending to the neck, back, face, and legs, my first thought is that he or she had too much to drink on a particular night and succumbed to jovial peer pressure, and that they will eventually regret it when they are a little older.  I tend to feel sorry for them rather than to admire the “art.”

I do know some older people who do regret it and some who claim they do not regret it, but I always suspect ego is a problem in not admitting that the person made a mistake.  I do wonder why the prison population is so much more “artistic” than the non-prison population.  I haven’t been inside a prison in over 70 years, but I have watched a few of those TV programs filmed inside prisons and indications are that 99% of the prison population is excessively artistic, while, according to some statistics I have seen, “only” one in three adults has a tattoo.  Also, while I can’t provide any formal studies on this, I am certain that officers in the military have far fewer tattoos than the enlisted men, strongly suggesting that education and maturity play a part in the desire to be inked.  One additional thought, I do know that some hospitals require nurses with tattoos to cover them while on duty.  I assume that also applies to physicians, although I can’t recall seeing any physicians with tattoos.  It all remains a mystery to me.

Michael Tymn, Thu 22 Aug, 10:06

For many, many years I used to be opposed to tattoos.  I grew up in an age when tattoos were something lower class people had done to themselves and anyone who had a tattoo was in fact announcing to the world that they were probably pretty stupid. ‘Popeye’ had one on his arm of course (I think it was an anchor) and all Navy men probably had ‘MOM’ or a heart tattooed on their biceps.  At least that was my belief.  So, without my knowing exactly why, I bought into that general opinion at the time that tattoos were bad or only for the rough crowd.

But now, tattoos have grown on me—-not literally of course—-I don’t have one.  I still don’t appreciate them on women because for some reason I have an inner belief that they are an acceptable thing for men to do, especially men who are high on the scale of masculinity but not something any woman of worth would do. I don’t think they enhance their beauty in any way.  My belief is that tattoos are a thing that men do.  And probably they add to a man’s greater sense of masculinity when testosterone is strongly flowing.  However, tattoos on a Casper Milquetoast just make the man look silly, in my opinion. One needs to be in great shape to carry off a tattoo properly.

There are many amateur-inked tattoos of course but tattoos that are done by a professional with an artistic sense, a sense of design, color, balance and placement on the human body I find to be an attractive flourish to add.  There are people who go overboard and have their whole face tattooed with green lizard scales, have their ears removed, have their teeth filed to points, have their nose, and their tongue and lips pierced and even have the whites of their eyes tattooed with black ink all of which I don’t think works in their favor, job-wise or relationship-wise, unless of course they want to work as a circus or side show attraction.

But, if I were a young man with a lean, hard body and good skin, I think I would want to have one or more strategically-placed tattoos.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 21 Aug, 21:45

I almost threw away all my spiritual and OBE books in the trash, because I came close to accepting that our minds don’t exist and materialism being reality years ago, even though I really didn’t want to accept it( but as a rational person always says and does, “accept the truth no matter how painful it is” ).
But nowadays, contrary to what many hard skeptics are saying, it’s not that we’re uncomfortable with, or don’t want to accept materialism, it’s just that we can’t. There’s too much evidence against it mounting up as we speak.
The evidence is not as ‘wanting, blind faith-based, or fear-driven’ as we had previously thought. Neither is post-materialism.
If anything, I think promissory materialism is faith-based. I call it Materialism Of The Gaps( something Unicornist liked to use and he still does. “Science will explain it all. No supernatural/immaterial woo explanations“ ).

But now that some people are moving beyond materialism, it seems like some others are very angry about that, and are now saying things like “physics and science has ‘gone off the rails’ for a century and we need to return physics from its current unscientific and anti-materialist base and back on to a scientific and materialist road”.

Well, that would be great, but there are a few problems: Contrary evidence against materialism. And materialism is not really science.

Esther, Wed 21 Aug, 18:30

Elene wrote, “People who are not at such an advanced age that they can expect to leave the earth plane within the next few years are facing almost certain global catastrophe.”

When I was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, we faced imminent catastrophe from overpopulation, energy shortages, and pollution. We were all going to “freeze to death in the dark.” The movie “Soylent Green” was intended as a realistic depiction of the year 1999: food riots, choking smog, near-universal illiteracy, and crushing poverty.

Since then, I’ve seen many more prognostications of doom: Third World debt that would bankrupt the West, runaway inflation, nuclear winter, Y2K, pandemics, and a new Ice Age.

And yet ... we’re still here.

Global warming is our latest bugbear. There’s been a mild warming trend since 1850, but it followed the 250-year cold spell called the Little Ice Age, which in turn followed the 300-year heat wave called the Medieval Warm Period. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I do worry about all this negativity and its effect on young people. There must be many reasons for scarification (whether private “cutting” or more socially acceptable tattoos and piercings), but I think the omnipresent sense of doom conveyed by our media is one of them. When was the last time a movie depicted the future in a positive light? Having lost trust in our institutions, our traditions, even the concepts of objectivity and logic, we seem to be adrift in a sea of nihilistic despair, and we’re reverting to primitive rituals to cope with it.

Michael Prescott, Wed 21 Aug, 17:10

To Stafford Betty:

I too, highly recommend the writings of Fr. Richard Rohr, who is based here in Albuquerque.  Sometimes he’s still too dogmatically Catholic for me, as alternative as he is, but I agree that the glimpses of “joyous, compassionate, loving, powerful, boundless, light-filled Reality” he helps us see are wonderful and extremely valuable. 

The kind of spirituality that Fr. Richard teaches may be able to take us beyond our present conundrums and conflicts, by lifting us out of the trap of the duality that’s usually taught and assumed.  This spirituality is based in direct experience rather than just believing what we’re told.  It may be just what we need to save us from ourselves.

Similarly, I recommend going over to Rev. Michael Cocks’ blog and getting acquainted with the words of St. Stephen as presented there.

All this is refreshing and renewing medicine to treat the existential angst we’ve been discussing.

Elene Gusch, Wed 21 Aug, 09:02


I usually find myself in hearty agreement with you, but this time I think you’ve misinterpreted a few things.

In the case of Biden’s “truth over facts,” what you’ve said makes lots of sense.  I suspect, however, that he may also have been taking a little swipe at the Trump administration’s “alternative facts.”  At any rate, as you’ve pointed out, truth and facts are not exactly the same.  That’s not where I have a beef with you.

One area where I have a problem with your presentation, and this is an ongoing problem, is your contention that “Meaning in life is derived from a belief in life after death….”  It seems to me that the belief that life will continue into eternity, or at least a lengthy future, does not confer meaning in the least.  If life is not meaningful now, at its earth-based length, it will not become any more meaningful simply by being extended over a longer period of time.  Meaning, if there is to be any, has to somehow be inherent in each moment of a person’s existence.  The quantity of time involved cannot in itself determine whether the life is meaningful.  I agree that the existence of God is not necessary to give meaning to life, but neither that nor the simple fact of continuation beyond the grave really does the job.

Regarding world-sickness, or “Weltschmerz,” it is most definitely not a matter of “competition to see who can care the least”!  From what you’ve summarized here, I would say that this Christy Wampole is barking mad.  Can you not see that this “existential malaise” is in fact typically related to CARING A GREAT DEAL and being very, very worried?  People who are not at such an advanced age that they can expect to leave the earth plane within the next few years are facing almost certain global catastrophe.  No one quite knows what to do about it.  There is a kind of low-grade panic growing as it dawns on even the denser among us that rising temperatures are causing increasing disasters. 

For the younger folks, those born after 1980 whom you described, this looks a lot worse.  I just turned 59, and so may live about another 30 years, during which things are very likely to become much more difficult.  My daughter, age 31, may have 60 or more years left on this planet, and by the end of her life, it may be close to uninhabitable for our species if things keep going in the current direction.  For those who are now in their teens or 20s, the situation looks all the more dire.  We’re in a real pickle, and they know it all too well.  

A spiritual perspective, and the hope of help from the higher spiritual planes, mitigates all this a little, but it doesn’t wipe away our terror at the prospect of trying to survive the next few decades.  Yes, we will still exist as spirits no matter what happens, but we are afraid of the pain we will have to pass through while we are in physical form.

Now that we’ve dealt with existential crisis, let’s talk about current fashion.

I work with the public, and so I see a lot of people’s clothing and grooming presentations.  I can’t think of a single person I have treated or otherwise interacted with, of any age, who is intentionally trying to look ugly or awkward.  People present themselves in ways that they think are beautiful and/or interesting, and/or that mark them as part of a certain cultural group.  In the case of tattoos, they are not “camouflaging” their bodies, they are adding art, and often it is quite sophisticated.  (A significant number of my older patients also have tattoos these days— they are quite mainstream.) 

I’m not crazy about really extensive tattooing, from a medical point of view, because I’m concerned about the potential toxins being injected into the body.  However, people who are heavily into tattooing may get enjoyment from the endorphins that are released while the ink is being applied.

Regarding piercings, I have to agree that the more extreme body modifications are a bit hard to understand; interfering with functionality doesn’t make sense to me.  However, consider this: a person who creates a look that seems grotesque or disturbing to others may be trying to look formidable, strong, or scary— like a person of consequence.  They may be following a graphic novel type of esthetic, which is widely popular.  It’s highly unlikely, again, that they are purposely attempting to make themselves ugly.  I doubt very much that it has anything to do with self-hatred, as Michael Prescott suggests.

It should be remembered that tattoos, piercings, scarification, and other body modifications go back many thousands of years in human history.  They are far from new; in fact, they could hardly be more traditional!  Tribal peoples 10,000 years ago were probably not, on the whole, afflicted with a sense of hopelessness or lack of belief, but they certainly did these things to their appearance.

(I wonder if pearls in the tongue are a Hawaii thing.  Here it’s usually just metal balls on a little bar.  I haven’t been seeing so much of that lately.)

Frayed and torn jeans, if I’m not mistaken, came into fashion in the ‘60s as a kind of antidote to materialism and strait-laced overpropriety.  Now they seem to be just fashion and no more than that.  But make no mistake, a young person wearing strategically torn jeans has usually spent a good deal of money to get them and wants them to be just so.  A case in point is my gorgeous 18-year-old patient who came in a few days ago wearing the most torn-out jeans I have ever seen, so ripped up that they hardly existed below the mid-thigh level.  As a designer, I felt that they were a less than optimal fashion statement, and I would have done them differently.  However, the jeans were teamed with long, expensive acrylic nails covered in glitter polish, and carefully styled hair.  Everything from her perfectly outlined brows and eyelids to her polished toenails was intentional, whether you or I would appreciate the look or not. 

That’s not nihilism, surrender, melancholy, or hopelessness.  It’s just a particular esthetic, no more and no less. 

More importantly, this same young woman is a thoughtful and profound person.  She’s going to have a lot to deal with, and I have some hope that she and her contemporaries are up to it.

Elene Gusch, Wed 21 Aug, 08:50

Spot on Michael, truth is an illuminated thread that needs to be unpicked from a soiled rag.

Stephen Harrison, Tue 20 Aug, 16:18

Yes, I agree,we do not need this invisible God in order to agree that we all have a soul that separates from the dead physical body. 145 years ago Sir William Crookes published the results of his three year experiments in the Quarterly Journal of Science in 1874. This can now be read at the top of my website:
“If your theory does not match the experiment, then it is wrong.” Professor Richard Feynman

Michael Roll, Tue 20 Aug, 08:06

One more thing regarding TheAUnicornist which is real funny. He always said that religous people always misquote Einstein to fit their beliefs. Well that’s ironic, because in his older posts which have probably been deleted, because I don’t see them anymore, he seemed to be miquoting people like Galen Strawson. I assume your familiar with Strawson?
Anyway, Galen does say that consciousness might be brain based, but not in the way Unicorn thinks. It doesn’t mean materialism.
Maybe I got it all mixed up.

Anyways keep up the good work.

Esther, Tue 20 Aug, 07:25

Behaviors of humans are just behaviors with no intrinsic truth or fact about them.  When it comes to moral behaviors the question that should be asked is “Who said so?” Why must one behave in a certain way?” Who said so?  Those who believe that morality comes from God will say “God said so.”  Christians and Jews will say that it is written in the Bible, the word of God.  And of course who would argue with God?

Well, those who don’t believe in God would argue and vociferously do argue.

Is it true to say that abortion is wrong—-or right?  To say that gay sex wrong?  Are they immoral behaviors?  Who said so? Apparently some people think that such behaviors are good and don’t consider whether they are facts or truth?  They are just behaviors of human beings contrary to some moral standard held by a certain portion of the population within a given culture.

However it is a fact that abortions and gay sex occur as human behaviors. Whether those behaviors are right or wrong, good or bad is a judgement, a moral judgement based on some standard of behavior that someone determined humans should follow.  It is somebody’s opinion.

I guess the important consideration is whose opinion is it? - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 20 Aug, 04:05

Hello. I really like this site.

I think I need to say this.
I’ve frequently had my personal beliefs shaken, questioned, challenged, etc.
Years ago, the first skeptical site I’ve ever visited where I’ve had my beliefs challenged, before I came across many more skeptic places, was by TheAUnicornist.
Because he said that he’s been “exposed to all kinds of NDEs, OBEs, and spiritual experiences regarding the researchers and believer’s favorite books”, I thought he was correct. That it was all brain based, and the result of illnesses, sick-brains, hallucinations, and there was zero evidence for an afterlife. That he says he’s “a rational critical thinker, who embraces science, not New Age religious superstition”.
That was way before I realized that he and his supporters/followers don’t seem to do much ‘critical thinking’, because they seem to get overly excited when spiritual experiences have been ‘debunked’, when something seems to support atheism or that consciousness is the result of brain processes, and that ‘science has won’. And they constantly repeat that dualists and anyone who thinks consciousness is not brain-based, or that the mind exists, is “lacking critical thinking, lacking science and cognitive science, and engages in confirmation bias”. And that “it will take a long time before the rest of the world accepts that the doesn’t exist, and the afterlife is a fantasy”.
So much for ‘skepticism’. ( Oh by the way, I don’t want to burst their bubble, but the idea of everybody in the whole world becoming materialists/atheists, is wishful thinking. It’s not happening. In fact more people, including atheists, are moving away from materialism. And some are scientists, not pseudoscientists )

But please don’t just take my word for it, find out for yourself. I now find it hilarious:

But I do have to say, changing one’s worldview or beliefs is definitely NOT easy. 
Let’s face it, a lot of people want to believe in and accept things that let them sleep at night and get them out of bed, not things that make them feel sick, or, keep them awake with, angst, fear, and misery.

Believe it or not, when my beliefs were first shaken after coming across and engaging with hard skeptics, hearing their labels, forums, accusations, ridiculing, and insults I wouldn’t even say to my worst enemy ( based on all of that, you’d think I had robbed a bank, or killed people and children, but I didn’t ) it gotten to the point where I felt sick all the time and couldn’t function properly, and couldn’t eat properly. I wanted to unread it all, erase my memory of it, and keep believing like usual ( I wanted to go back to what I call my ‘mental echo-chamber’ ).
I was a mess. I couldn’t even sleep well at night, became restless, and have woken up in different areas of my house other than my bed numerous times, due to severe exhaustion from days on very little to no sleep. It wasn’t pretty.
But even still, in the end, I’m glad I came across the skeptics ( I’m grateful I’ve gotten rid of my ‘mental echo-chamber’. I would hate to unread it now ), and can now look at both sides, function ( even better than before my beliefs were questioned ), and rest easily again.
So I think I understand what it must be like to go through these ‘changes’ or ‘shifts’. Nobody really wants to have their beliefs challenged, questioned, and possibly go through what I’d gone through.

Esther, Tue 20 Aug, 02:35

As Ben Wiker and others have pointed out, the West has undergone five centuries of progressive materialism. Wiker argues that it goes back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who posited ataraxia, peace of mind, to be the highest goal of philosophy. The greatest disturbance to peace of mind, he postulated, is fear of afterlife and the moral judgment it entails, a myth that is supported by the belief in God and gods. He, therefore, chose to embrace a practical atheism (there may be gods, but they have no power over us) and rejection of an afterlife, for there is only material reality and, hence, no continuation of life without a physical body. Materialism, thus, eliminates the chief “disturbance” to peace of mind. Epicureanism was thwarted by Christianity but was revived in the Renaissance and embraced by the Moderns in the Age of so-called Enlightenment. Epicurus had no proof of materialism—he chose it for moral reasons (ataraxia). The Moderns, however, soon buttressed materialism with the amassing of facts. Ultimately, however they have never proved materialism and “promissory materialism” is now strictly a shibboleth, thanks to the embarrassment of quantum physics. Even today, the profession of materialism is not based on facts but on the moral decision not to be disturbed by the implications of there being an afterlife. (Wiker, Moral Darwinism)

Daniel Kealey, Tue 20 Aug, 01:47

Great post! I’m often baffled by willful self-mutilation. Recently I encountered a young man who had punctured his earlobes, removing most of the cartilage and leaving large, perfectly round holes, which were inked black. There are people who have their teeth filed down to fangs, or who get plastic surgery to look like a Barbie doll. Mike Tyson’s lurid tattoo covers half his face.

I can’t quite imagine what motivates a person to suffer pain in order to look bizarre, even grotesque. It seems like a kind of perverse self-hatred.

Perhaps a similar self-hatred, projected outward, accounts for the cruel vitriol we see online, or the hysteria that’s infected our politics to the point where people are getting beat up or shot because of a difference in partisan affiliation.

We seem to have lost our collective mind. Maybe tossing all traditional ideas of duty, responsibility, self-sacrifice, faith, and patriotism into the crapper, and replacing them with hedonism, nihilism, skepticism, and contempt for western civilization, wasn’t such a great idea, after all. It seems to have produced a lost generation, too exhausted by their own cynicism even to bother chasing after happiness.

Michael Prescott, Mon 19 Aug, 22:18

This is a brilliant essay, one that I will forward to one of my sons and possibly use in my class on death, which begins in two weeks. But I do have a caveat. Yes, we must discard “a father figure sitting on a throne while demanding worship and threatening to flog anyone who dares not bow in reverence to his dictates.” But the kind of God that better minds, even Christian minds, are considering these days—you might check out the remarkable writings of the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr—is needed to ground a meaningful afterlife. Nature is not enough. We need the Source behind nature—a Source that resides within all of us at the heart’s deepest point—to complete the picture.

Several years ago I published my first essay in the Huffington Post—“A God for Atheists.” The last paragraph read as follows:

“In my mid-twenties I lost my faith.  I was miserable at the prospect of a world without meaning followed by a death I’d never wake up from.  “A flash of light between two eternities of darkness,” as the philosopher Unamuno put it—that’s all we amounted to.  I had escaped the cramping theology I grew up with, but what I stepped into was even worse.  After much study and soul-searching I found something far superior to both: a joyous, compassionate, loving, powerful, boundless, light-filled Reality at the hub of the universe with an outreach that extended to the epicenter of my soul, a Being that would resonate with a Buddhist as well as a Christian.  A God roomy enough even for an atheist.”

Stafford Betty, Mon 19 Aug, 19:37

Wonderful writing as always Mike.
To me, after 30 years of research on mediumship, spirit communication and the afterlife, “God” so-called, has always been, and always will be, NATURE, and her laws are embodied in the unstoppable power of Cause & Effect. All religions are man made and have caused nothing but fear, massive loss of life, bigotry and confusion. Knowing oneself and accepting oneself for who you are I believe, is a legitimate first step in achieving happiness. Nature, I have found, is an unfolding wonderland of no-spin, or BS, that humans seem to generate 24/7.

riley heagerty, Mon 19 Aug, 16:14

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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