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what if we could 'cure' religion like we cure other infections... should we? What if the infected individuals don't want to be cured? Very interesting times.
Please provide a link to an empirical, peer reviewed, scientific study proving that religion is an infection.

I don't want a link to a description of what a meme is, nor do I want you to explain what the concept is. I know both of these things already.

I am also aware of studies showing that a religious experience can be created by stimulating certain regions of the brain with electical impulses (for the record, I have never had a "religious experience" either in church or in a lab).

I want a link that shows a legitimate and recognized study proving empirically that religion is an infection that alters the mind.
 

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Well, good luck with that. As far as I can tell, those clamouring for the death of religion are motivated by nothing other than a gut feeling. Kind of shocking when you consider how unscientific it all is.

We might try and address other, more pressing problems that plague humanity as a whole. But nooooo... we have to pit all these memes against one another and wage bets on what meme scheme will win.
 

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I want a link that shows a legitimate and recognized study proving empirically that religion is an infection that alters the mind.
They may be confusing it with liberalism.
 

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I want a link that shows a legitimate and recognized study proving empirically that religion is an infection that alters the mind.
Homer: "Son, a woman is a lot like a... a refrigerator! They're about six feet tall, 300 pounds. They make ice, and... um... Oh, wait a minute. Actually, a woman is more like a beer."

MF: For that baseless attack on liberalism, you will burn in a fiery, albeit comfortable and humane, hell for all eternity or until, through good behaviour and completing programs that demonstrate your emotional progress, you are released.
 

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Please provide a link to an empirical, peer reviewed, scientific study proving that religion is an infection.
Given that I cannot provide a link to a scientific, peer reviewed study proving that the cold is due to an infection, or that AIDS is due to an infection, or any other illness is due to an infection, this is an unreasonable request. Empirical science doesn't prove things, it *DISPROVES*. Hypothesis that remain unfalsified after extensive testing are considered well-supported and we operate on the basis of their validity until evidence that calls them into question is discovered. So our model that viral infections cause diseases like colds or AIDS is just that... a model... a well-tested, well-supported hypothesis, like evolution or quantum mechanics. But we could be wrong (maybe diseases are caused by evil spirits, and the body becomes infected with these viruses *because* it's sick).

I don't want a link to a description of what a meme is, nor do I want you to explain what the concept is. I know both of these things already.
Good. Because that's part of what I'm referring to. There are plenty of credible scientists working on testing the hypothesis that religions spread like viruses, and there is good evidence (in published, peer-reviewed research papers) that this is the case. Similarly, there is good evidence (in published, peer-reviewed studies) that there are specific neurological events that correlate (which, it should be noted, does not necessarily imply causation) with religious experiences. The linkage (if any) between these self-replicating information systems (memes) and the neruophysiology is a very exciting field of inquiry.

I want a link that shows a legitimate and recognized study proving empirically that religion is an infection that alters the mind.
Obviously I can't give you one for the reasons I've cited above. However, I think you will be willing to agree that religion alters the mind, and further that religion is learned (i.e. transmitted from one individual to another by the communication of specific information), so your objection must arise strictly from my use of the word 'infection'.

I don't expect you to agree with my use of such a pejoratively loaded term, but I do hope you agree that I have a right to hold such an opinion, and further, I hope you understand that my derogatory view of religion does not in any way extend to you or other religious people... my distaste is strictly for the religion, and not for the religious).

But my point is simply that progress in psychology, neurophysiology, and memetics has given rise to the feild of neurotheology, and I am hopeful that a better understanding of the phenomena underlying religious adherence will help society rid itself of what I view as an exceedingly costly encumbrance.

Cheers.
 

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Evidently all of you have got it wrong...

According to Wikipedia, God is little Joe Cabay from Kansas City, MO

P.S. he was never seen on Wikipedia again.
 

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"I have nothing against you, I just think that your brain is infected and needs curing, resulting in you having a view on this matter that is more like mine."

"I'm not a racist, I just think that they don't think and act like me and that it would be a lot better if they did."

If this was just about the workings of the brain and how unchallenged assumptions get lodged in there, why they remain unchallenged or how people stack the deck against their assumptions being challenged in their own thinking, then the fixation on religion looks a lot more like personal issues...some sort of infection maybe, that prevents people from using just logic and analysis without the pre-spin cycle.

Of course, without the pre-spin, one may find that the mechanism that results in adherence to beliefs is a net benefit and that without it we could not function as well. There could be a continuum and some people are just really fanatical about their own personal sky-daddies (even to the extent that they think other people are infected and need curing) and, at the other extreme, so unsure that they reside only on the internet and in their mother's basement. All interesting stuff with no reason to pre-spin.
 

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"I have nothing against you, I just think that your brain is infected and needs curing, resulting in you having a view on this matter that is more like mine."

"I'm not a racist, I just think that they don't think and act like me and that it would be a lot better if they did."
That's a pretty good point, however not exactly an accurate or fair comparison. Somebody can choose their religion (or continue to choose to be of that faith) people cannot choose their race.
 

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Hypothesis that remain unfalsified after extensive testing are considered well-supported and we operate on the basis of their validity until evidence that calls them into question is discovered. So our model that viral infections cause diseases like colds or AIDS is just that... a model... a well-tested, well-supported hypothesis, like evolution or quantum mechanics.
Please provide a link showing that the hypothesis that religion is an infection remains unfalsified after extensive empirical peer reviewed testing.
 

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"I have nothing against you, I just think that your brain is infected and needs curing, resulting in you having a view on this matter that is more like mine."
This is an unfair characterization, and I'm surprised you would take such a simplistic view. Firstly, I never said anyone *needed* curing... In fact I specifically brought this up in the context of asking if it would be ethical to treat someone for irrational superstitions if they didn't want to be treated (assuming we develop an understanding of the mechanisms by which such beliefs become entrenched). Personally, I think it wouldn't be ethical, even if we could do it, but you can bet there will be arguments made on both sides should such advances be made. I think it's better to think about these things before the science drops such opportunities in our unsuspecting laps.

If this was just about the workings of the brain and how unchallenged assumptions get lodged in there, why they remain unchallenged or how people stack the deck against their assumptions being challenged in their own thinking, then the fixation on religion looks a lot more like personal issues...some sort of infection maybe, that prevents people from using just logic and analysis without the pre-spin cycle.
This is a bit hard to follow but I'm inferring that you'd see such research as okay if it were done simply to understand how irrational beliefs become established. This is sufficiently outside of my field that I can't claim to know, but my discussions with people in this field led me to understand that that is certainly one of their major questions. Religion is already one of the best-studied complex behaviors that fit the criteria for this sort of investigation, so it's among the most commonly used examples. There are obviously others.

Of course, without the pre-spin, one may find that the mechanism that results in adherence to beliefs is a net benefit and that without it we could not function as well. There could be a continuum and some people are just really fanatical about their own personal sky-daddies (even to the extent that they think other people are infected and need curing) and, at the other extreme, so unsure that they reside only on the internet and in their mother's basement. All interesting stuff with no reason to pre-spin.
I'm not sure if you have a point here. Parsing this after filtering the implied ad-hominum attacks and other innuendo doesn't leave me with much signal.

Cheers
 

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Please provide a link showing that the hypothesis that religion is an infection remains unfalsified after extensive empirical peer reviewed testing.
I can find you papers discussing various religions as memetic viruses, but I thought you didn't want that.

And it's also worth noting (here is where I think you should be focusing your attack) that this is a relatively new theory, and it has not yet been extensively tested.

Indeed, the major focus of the emerging field of neurotheolgy is establishing testable hypotheses and meaningfull measurements. We're a long way from having a rigorously tested theory here, but it looks like exciting times in an unexplored territory.
 

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And it's also worth noting (here is where I think you should be focusing your attack) that this is a relatively new theory, and it has not yet been extensively tested.

Indeed, the major focus of the emerging field of neurotheolgy is establishing testable hypotheses and meaningfull measurements. We're a long way from having a rigorously tested theory here, but it looks like exciting times in an unexplored territory.
That is all I wanted to know.
 

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LOL

Indeed. However well intended to shed light on a great many things, this thread keeps amusing me with a plethora of unintended associations.
 

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I find some specific religious beliefs quite irrational -- young-Earth creationism, an anthropomorphic god (or should that be deimorphic humans?) -- because the one has quite literally mountains of evidence against it and the other makes the extremely unlikely assumption that we here on this tiny rock in an almost inconceivably enormous universe are God's special, chosen beings. (Which reminds me: if we are so perfect, why do the pleasure centre and the exhaust system share so many components?)

However I don't think it's so crazy to believe in a higher power. Since there is an apparent limit to how close science can get to observing the beginning of time and the cause and effect relationships at play, I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that it's currently unknowable whether an intelligence of some kind was at work. Based on my limited understanding of cosmology, this will be unknowable for the foreseeable future -- but I firmly believe we should continue asking those questions.

Ultimately it is strictly a matter of belief (which is not to say that worship or religion need be involved). I'm still undecided on the matter myself, and honestly it doesn't make a big difference in my daily life. As rgray says, life is a big Wow! even if you don't believe in a supreme being -- and, as you might have guessed, even if I were to decide for myself that there is a higher power behind Life, the Universe and Everything, I wouldn't conclude this was a meddlesome, doting being who was personally implicated in my life or who expected me to pay tribute and offer worship.

As far as I'm concerned people can believe what they like as long as they don't use their beliefs and/or knowledge as excuses for waging war, blowing things up, harming others, subjugating others, etc.
 

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This is an unfair characterization
..
Religion is already one of the best-studied complex behaviors that fit the criteria for this sort of investigation, so it's among the most commonly used examples. There are obviously others.
..
I'm not sure if you have a point here.
I think there are many similarities in the way many present virus-type views on religion and the "I'm not a racist but..." thinking, as well as the more fanatical elements of a given religion. Highly similar in that there could be underlying elements of standard human wilful ignorance, fitting observation to assumption, misdiagnosing a given "problem" (ie. crime being a typical one for racism) etc, but that underlying causes of the "problem" are treated as secondary, in discussions, to the undesirable "symptoms".
...
Yes and the observation is of how, despite the obvious, the focus and distaste seems to first target religion and, if pushed, "obviously" there are other matches for the observations. Again, I see similarities in thinking to other things, such as racism and religious fanaticism. Nothing to do with "infection" either. ;)
...
Just examples of what may be regarding, "the mechanism that results in adherence to beliefs." Nothing earth-shattering or virus-related, but it does look more to underlying causes (and what else these 'causes' may be linked to) instead of just tagging relgion and musing about a "cure".
 

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However I don't think it's so crazy to believe in a higher power.
How do you define 'crazy'?

Since there is an apparent limit to how close science can get to observing the beginning of time and the cause and effect relationships at play, I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that it's currently unknowable whether an intelligence of some kind was at work.
So if something is unknowable, isn't it a bit 'crazy' (I would say irrational) to have strong beliefs about that topic? I have no idea what George Bush ate for breakfast today, so I don't have any beliefs about that subject. I don't know what caused the universe to exist (or if, in fact, it needs any cause) so I don't formulate beliefs about that subject either. Furthermore, I am without knowledge regarding the existence of any supernatural entities to which many people attribute the existence of the universe, so I do not form beliefs about these 'gods' either. Being without beliefs in gods, by definition, makes me an atheist.

It seems to me that, by default, all rational agents must be atheists unless presented with evidence that god(s) exist. Some people claim to have such evidence, and they may therefore be rational theists. However, all such evidence I have seen presented dissolves under rational scrutiny or is otherwise inadequate, in my opinion, so I remain an agnostic atheist.

but I firmly believe we should continue asking those questions.
I agree. But I also think it's worth making a point of the fact that it's much better to admit we don't know than it is to fabricate a myth and call it an answer.

As I read recently, Religion offers certainty without evidence, whereas science offers evidence without certainty.

Cheers
 

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So if something is unknowable, isn't it a bit 'crazy' (I would say irrational) to have strong beliefs about that topic?
I accept that the ultimate answer is unknowable and a supreme being is therefore possible. Unlike a religious believer, I don't think we should leave it at that; I think we should keep asking. I guess that makes me another agnostic atheist.

As for those who do have strong beliefs, I find some specific religious beliefs deeply irrational, but I wouldn't brand that as insanity. It's a form of rationalizing -- satisfying the desire, most likely universal, to find and/or create meaning -- that helps people get through their days, weeks and years. It's probably quite healthy, because it spares the believer from some of the existential uncertainty we all have.

As long as they don't turn it into a weapon, I don't see anything wrong with that. Unfortunately, some *do* turn it into a weapon. Religion becomes dangerous when believers refuse to accept freedom of belief as an individual right. Choose to subjugate yourself to a higher authority in whom you believe for whatever reason -- fine by me. Force me to worship your deity -- unacceptable.

I agree. But I also think it's worth making a point of the fact that it's much better to admit we don't know than it is to fabricate a myth and call it an answer.
Better for you and me, perhaps, but if people find comfort and meaning in religion, even if that religion is nothing more than myths and legends framed as answers, who are we to say our way would be "better" for believers? As long as we don't wind up with a theocracy, I see no problem with individuals believing whatever they please.
 

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So Beej - what's the difference between religious belief and astrology, card reading, tea leaves?

What other system human structures ie the legal system, government, education do not at least attempt at some point "proof and evidence" as a pre-requisite for a specific action.?

Even gambling has a rational structure to the actions and results.
 
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