An article and Book ? Why Smart People Believe Weird Things

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An article and Book ? Why Smart People Believe Weird Things

Unread post by Caterpillar » Thu May 21, 2009 2:59 am

Hi everyone

I was wondering if prolonged periods of being in the ?trance? state was harmful. I found an answer in this article.

?Among Falun Dafa?s many questionable mind-altering practices, this command to ?stop thinking? and continuously ?recite the Master?s teaching,? when heeded, meets the main criterion of cult control American communication researchers and cult experts Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman describe in their book Snapping: America?s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change:
Almost every major cult and cult-like group we came upon teaches some form of not thinking or ?mind control? as part of its regular program of activity. The process may take the form of repetitive prayer, chanting, speaking in tongues, self-hypnosis or diverse methods of meditation?.Such techniques, when practiced in moderation, may yield real physical and mental health benefits?.Prolonged stilling of the mind, however, may wear on the brain physically until it readjusts, suddenly and sharply, to its new condition of not thinking. When that happens, we have found, the brain?s information-processing capacities may be disrupted or enter a state of complete suspension?disorientation, detachment?hallucinations, delusions and, in extreme instances, total withdrawal.?

Warning! Think of students in Blue College :shock:

The article is an interesting read as Falun Gong or Falun Dafa sounds similar to RSE. I saw a pamphlet advertising Falun Gong and it gave the impression of a gentle Eastern style form of meditation. It sounded innocuous not unlike RSE?s ?Become a Remarkable Life? brochure.

I found an excerpt on this excellent book, ?Why Smart People Believe Weird Things? by Michael Shermer, a psychologist and skeptic. I used to think I was ?smart? when I enroled in the School of Ancient Wisdom, the American Gnostic School in the Pacific North West and I was studying for my ?Masters?. It sounded really good and so harmless! ?The moment a student leaves RSE is the moment the student becomes enlightened?.

Here?s the link:

Copied from the above excerpt:

?Smart people and non-smart people both readily join cults, and while women are more likely to join such groups as J.Z. Knight?s ?Ramtha?-based cult (she allegedly channels a 35,000-year old guru named ?Ramtha? who doles out life wisdom and advice, in English with an Indian accent no less!), men are more likely to join militias and other anti-government groups.?

?Cornell University, Emory University, Temple University, and Silicon Valley are impressive venues from which to launch weird salvos, but UFOlogists and the alien experiencer (the preferred term to ?abduction?) community received its biggest boost in 1994 with the publication of Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens by Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Mack.90 Mack?s M.D. is boldly emblazoned on the cover, along with ?Winner of the Pulitzer Prize? (awarded for a biography of T. E. Lawrence, not a book on psychiatry), thereby establishing credibility. The publisher might as well have printed at the bottom of the dust jacket: ?smart man endorses weird belief.? Mack admits in his introduction that when he first heard about abductee proponent and pioneer Budd Hopkins, and of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens, ?I then said something to the effect that he must be crazy and so must they.? But when Mack met some of them ?they seemed in other respects quite sane.? Further, as far as he could tell these folks had nothing to gain and everything to lose in coming forth with such stories, therefore ?they were troubled as a consequence of something that had apparently happened to them.? Mack?s skepticism morphed into belief after interviewing over a hundred alien experiencers, concluding that ?there was nothing to suggest that their stories were delusional, a misinterpretation of dreams, or the product of fantasy. None of them seemed like people who would concoct a strange story for some personal purpose."

"Agreed, but is ?concoct? the right word? I think not. ?Experiencer? is an apt description because there is no doubt that the experiences these people have had are very real. The core question is this: does the experience represent something exclusively inside the mind or outside in the real world? Since there is no physical evidence to confirm the validity of the latter hypothesis, the logical conclusion to draw, knowing what we do about the fantastic imagery the brain is capable of producing, is that experiencer?s experiences are nothing more than mental representations of strictly internal brain phenomena. Their motivation for telling Mack and others about these experiences, assuming (naively perhaps) that they do not do it for the public attention, fame, or money, is external validation of an internal process. And the more prestigious the source of that validation ? the ?smarter? the validator is, so to speak ? the more valid becomes the experience: ?Hey, I?m not losing my mind ? that smart guy at Harvard says it?s real.??

?John Mack is smart enough to realize that the data and data collection techniques he and others use in drawing out these abduction narratives are questionable to say the least. Hypnotic regression, fantasy role playing, and suggestive talk therapy all leading to so-called recovered memories, now well known to actually generate false memories. Of the alleged disappearance of abductees, Mack admits that ?there is no firm proof that abduction was the cause of their absence.? The scars from alien surgeries, Mack admits, are ?usually too trivial by themselves to be medically significant.? Of the missing babies from alien-human sexual encounters, Mack notes that there is ?not yet a case where a physician has documented that a fetus has disappeared in relation to an abduction.? And of the evidence in total, Mack confesses that it is ?maddeningly subtle and difficult to corroborate with as much supporting data as firm proof would require.?

?As Mack told Robert Boynton in Esquire magazine, ?People always think that aliens are either real or psychological, and I ask them to consider the possibility that they are somehow both. But that means our entire definition of reality has to change.? Boynton notes that Mack has long
been searching for that alternate reality through such trendy New Age beliefs as EST and holotropic breathing techniques: ?He uses the latter to attain a trancelike state. During one session, he had a past-life experience in which he was a sixteenth-century Russian who had to watch while a band of Mongols decapitated his four-year-old son.?100 In fact, Mack admitted to Carl Sagan that ?I wasn?t looking for this. There?s nothing in my background that prepared me. It?s completely persuasive because of the emotional power of these experiences.?101 In a revealing interview in Time magazine Mack said ?I don?t know why there?s such a zeal to find a conventional physical explanation. We?ve lost all that ability to know a world beyond the physical. I am a bridge between those two worlds.??

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