This 170-page yellow book, by Alex Tsakiris host of the Skeptiko podcast, is a striking nail in the coffin of scientific materialism. I was raised an evangelical Christian, in young adulthood I became a (quiet) agnostic, then a materialist atheist because of philosophical arguments I absorbed, but now I’m a Christian again — a decision solidified by the evidence detailed in this book. I’ll touch on my transformation of worldview here…
Like a lot of podcasters’ books, this one is largely comprised of excerpts of interviews. You might say, “why read this book when I could just listen to the interviews?” There are over 500 Skeptiko interviews, do you got that kind of listening time on your hands? Also, Alex and can be an abrasive interviewer, you might not want to spend dozens of hours of your life listening to him argue with people.
Rupert Sheldrake writes in the forword…
Science is not wrong about almost everything; it is right about a great many things, or right enough. Everyone is appropriately impressed by computers, smartphones, the internet, jet planes, hip replacement surgery, antibiotics, solar panels, and many other technological inventions that enrich and sustain our lives. Science is right about the existence of galaxies beyond our own, about the structures of molecules, about the existence of fossils, about low-temperature superconductivity, and many, many other things. What it’s seriously wrong about is the nature of life and consciousness.
If my consciousness is something — anything — other than a product of my brain, then science is out of business until it figures out exactly how my consciousness interacts with this world.
The book is a refutation of the secular dogma the author has coined, The Dopey Science Creed:
1. I maintain that my life has no purpose and no meaning. The same is true for the entire universe. There is no purpose to anything.
2. I affirm that my morals come from my genes and my conditioning, not from decisions I make. Free will is an illusion. My personal identity is an illusion.
3. There are no “good” deeds, or “good people.” There is no “bad,” “evil,” or “wrong” either.
4. Every report of encounters with spirits, angels, ghosts, and supernatural beings is bunk. The credibility or number of witnesses doesn’t matter — it’s all bunk.
5. I am my physical brain and nothing more. The death of my body is the death of me.
Having listened to dozens of Sam Harris’s podcasts and those of other “skeptics” I can confirm that this is their doctrine. I now consider most skeptics to be useful idiots, all they do is serve power — be it globalist corporations or neoliberal big government.
Many of Sam Harris’s podcasts are just a regurgitation of CNN’s talking points on current events, but he released a 4-hour episode, Engineering the Apocalypse, this year worth listening to about the looming threat of bioterrorism, made easier than ever for “extreme nihilists” because of advances in synthetic biology. The sad irony is that Sam tirelessly spreads this demoralizing ideological cocktail…
- Atheism — There are no metaphysical consequences for evil. There are no consequences for your actions that will inescapably accrue to you after this life.
- Materialism — You’re a “biological robot” in a meaningless universe.
- No free will — You aren’t actually in control of your own actions or the way your life goes.
Which is guaranteed to produce the kinds of extreme nihilists — demoralized, hopeless, and seething with anger at the world — that would want to cook up and release upon the world a truly horrifying pandemic that could take billions of lives.
Each chapter opens with a quote from an esteemed scientist, chipping away at the edifice of scientific materialism.
From physicist David Bohm…
Science is predicated on the concept that science is arriving at truth — a unique truth…In a way science has become the religion of the modern age. It plays the role that religion used to play of giving us truth… (p. 163)
Another physicist, Bruce Rosenblum adds
“Quantum mechanics is stunningly successful. Not a single prediction of the theory has ever been wrong… However, quantum mechanics also displays an enigma. It tells us that physical reality is created by observation, and it has “spooky actions” instantaneously influencing events far from each other — without any physical force involved. Seen from a human perspective, quantum mechanics has physics encountering consciousness.” (p. 19)
Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz opines
Science is extremely good at explaining material aspects of reality. So it came to pass that they came to believe they should be good at explaining all aspects of reality. Science in the way it’s done to explain material aspects of reality does not explain human behavior particularly well. It’s radically incomplete… Does it have a contribution to make? Definitely, it has a contribution to make. But I think it’s fair to say that any reasonable person would know that the science that works so well in explaining the material world does not work nearly so well… explaining how human beings act, and what human beings are, and what it means to be a person, a human — a living, breathing, and even to use the word spiritual, human being in the real world. (p. 160)
Some of the “fringe science” topics the book covers…
Dr. Radin suspected human beings might possess the innate ability to sense an event is going to happen before it actually happens. He then carried out a series of experiments to test the validity of this hypothesis. Radin asked test subjects to stare at a blank screen and wait for an image to be displayed. All the while Radin measured how far, and at what times, their physiological responses deviated from the “baseline” measurements. The baseline condition can be thought of as a participant’s “normal” physiological state (i.e. physical, mental, emotional, etc.) when no experimental variable or stimulus has yet been applied to the test subject. (p. 170)
Radin discovered this by asking test subjects to stare at a blank screen and wait for an image to be displayed. During this time he measured their physiological response to the image. Sometimes he measured galvanic skin response, other times he measured pupil dilation or brain activity. But the goal was always to see if there was a detectable physiological reaction before the image appeared. Surprisingly, he did find such a reaction, particularly when troubling or extremely stimulating images were displayed.3 Radin had published his results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. He had also replicated his work by repeating the experiment a number of times to make sure his results were consistent. He even collaborated with other independent researchers in labs throughout the world who were interested in replicating his results (as of this writing Radin’s presentiment experiments have been successfully replicated over 25 times in 7 different laboratories). (p. 2)
The language of the abstract of the exhaustive pre-cognition meta-analysis makes it clear that the researchers were not out to find something “magical” about the mind, but the inescapable conclusion is that at least some of us have prophetic capacity.
This meta-analysis of 26 reports published between 1978 and 2010 tests an unusual hypothesis: for stimuli of two or more types that are presented in an order designed to be unpredictable and that produce different post-stimulus physiological activity, the direction of pre-stimulus physiological activity reflects the direction of post-stimulus physiological activity, resulting in an unexplained anticipatory effect… The cause of this anticipatory activity, which undoubtedly lies within the realm of natural physical processes (as opposed to supernatural or paranormal ones), remains to be determined.
The results from the presentiment experiments have mind-blowing implications for our understanding of consciousness and even linear time. If humans have some capacity to predict the future — something that almost every child in Sunday school knows — it suggests that we are so much more than biological robots in a meaningless universe. It hints that our lives — full of irony and coincidence — might be something like a novel penned by an unseen author.
The idea of presentiment I used as a plot device in an (unfinished) science fiction short story I wrote, A Post Opp’s Devolution.
A Post Opp's Devolution: Part 1 - Support - Limitless Mindset
The first chapter of a science fiction short story, I'm working on entitled A Post Opp's Devolution. I think you'll…
The placebo effect
The placebo effect shows that your beliefs and expectations can significantly alter what’s happening in your brain and in the physiological systems connected to your brain. For example, in the last decade there have been several brain and aging studies focusing on the placebo effect. In one case there was a very interesting study done at the University of British Columbia. They did a study to measure the impact of the placebo treatment on people suffering from a severe form of Parkinson’s disease. In Parkinson’s disease there’s a great level of destruction of the nerve cells, specifically the neuron producing a chemical messenger we call “dopamine.” Dopamine is the key chemical messenger in motor function, but it’s also involved in many other activities. In this case the patients had a level of nerve damage of about 70% to 80%. So, the level of destruction of the nerve cells that produce dopamine was quite high. And, of course, the patients were severely impaired from a clinical point of view. They had trouble moving. They were experiencing a lot of tremors. So the neurologists doing the study presented them a fake treatment. It was only distilled water, but they told the patients that this was potentially a revolutionary treatment for Parkinson’s disease. A few minutes after the injection, they scanned them with a technology called positive emission tomography. They were interested in measuring the activity of dopamine in the brain. Very rapidly, those patients who believed in the bogus treatment started to produce and release dopamine into their brains in an amount comparable to that seen in young, healthy people! And clinically, they started to improve. They had less tremors, more strength, and were more optimistic, at least for a certain period of time. This is a very nice illustration of the power of what we call “mind.” By mind, I mean all our mental activity and mental events. In this specific case, the patients’ improvement was related simply to the beliefs and expectations that the patients had regarding the fake treatment. They believed they would get better and they did. (p. 22)
there is a whole branch of medicine… called psychoneuroimmunology… this is the relationship of thoughts and emotions to physical disease. And pretty much everybody, even in the straight, strictly western medical community, now understands that 80% or 90% of physical diseases have an underlying emotional component. (p. 117)
As a biohacker, I’ve long been fascinated by the placebo effect. Anyone who holds science in high regard needs to respect the awesome power of belief which every gold-standard clinical trial must account for. The reliability of the placebo effect is why I embrace “biohacks” that many would call wu wu — like downloadable infoceutical medicine, described in my Infopathy review here…
IC Pad by Infopathy [Biohacker Review]
I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner…
What happens in the minutes and hours after we die (and then are fortunate enough to be reanimated) is a major focus of the book…
One of the main topics we talk about on this show a lot is the published research on near-death experience. A lot of people don’t know that there are over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers on near-death experience. (p. 128)
The percentage of time that people encounter deceased relatives is extremely high. It was actually 96% in the NDERF study and only 4% of near-death experiencers met beings who were alive at the time of the near-death experience. That’s actually corroborated by another major scholarly study which found it was 95% of the time that they encountered beings they knew from their earthly life that were deceased. (p. 48)
So for people to so consistently encounter deceased relatives is very, very strong evidence that they are, indeed, in an unearthly realm and it certainly points to evidence of an afterlife. (p. 48)
Notably absent from the NDE research discussed in the book is reincarnation, the word doesn’t even appear in the book.
The other evening my wife and I got into a spirited disagreement about reincarnation. She really believes in it, and I find it deeply nonsensical and lacking in any kind of logical consistency…
If I lose all (or most) of my memories after reincarnation and my personality re-forms in the environment to which I am born, how am I still me? If my memories and personality from this life are eradicated in reincarnation, what is being reincarnated? If I lose all my memories from this life how do I “learn lessons” as a reincarnating soul? This is not fundamentally different from what atheists believe — that a brand new consciousness develops within a mother’s womb and is then snuffed out completely upon death.
However, it looks like there’s been a handful of Skeptiko podcasts on the topic, including an interview with Dr. Jim Tucker. As far as I can tell the only evidence for reincarnation is anecdotal and dubious — some child that thinks they were a World War 2 soldier and they get a few details right. It’s much better explained by the phenomena of genetic memory…
There are numerous examples of us being born knowing things that we have never been taught, sometimes quite specific skill sets and elaborate knowledge sets. It stands to reason that we could be born with genetic knowledge of our ancestors’ specific experiences, indeed this could account for a lot of supposed cases of reincarnation where a young child has accurate memories of some person that lived years before they were born.
Scientists and philosophers have hypothesized that our junk DNA is not junk. That the junk is encoded memories from our genetic past lives.
The Star Rover [Book Review]
Authors of ages past spoke frankly and with some damn common sense about things that get modern authors excluded from…
Also, it seems to me that reincarnation, if it’s real, would actually be pretty easy to prove. Many millions of people strongly believe in it and would allow their young children to be hypnotized. You could get several hundred thousand reincarnation accounts into a database that there would be tremendous interest in verifying — if one out of ten children had verifiable memories of someone else’s life that would mean a lot more than the highly publicized one-out-of-a-million cases we’ve all heard. The fact that just such a study has not been done, says a lot about the validity of reincarnation. Reincarnation goes into the same category as flat earth — if it were real there would be overwhelming unignorable manifest evidence.
I find the Christian conception of the afterlife much more comforting. After 80, 90, 100, or more (I am an obsessively pragmatic transhumanist) years of watching western civilization devolve into idiocracy, I will want to go be with my creator. Reincarnation, the prospect of being dumped back into this shitshow — hoping that I’m not born to evil child-abusing parents or burned to death with acid (aborted) in the womb — would be deeply disturbing to countenance on my deathbed.
One of the easiest to test scientifically was the claim that many people make that their dog or cat knows when they’re coming home and goes and waits at the door or window. The people see it waiting there and they know when the absent person is on the way. I found that there had been virtually no research into this. Skeptics dismissed it as being a natural routine or the dog picking up sounds from the person coming home like a familiar car engine or smells from miles away or whatever. They explained it away. But I did proper experiments to test this. We had people come at random times in unfamiliar vehicles and we filmed the place where the dog waited. We found that with a dog called Jaytee, 85% of the occasions when the owner was coming home, the dog was indeed waiting for her. He started when she decided to come home, before she even got into the vehicle, and he waited there most of the time. This happened at random times of day in different vehicles, taxis, and other vehicles that she’d never been in before. We built up a body of evidence from this and other dogs showing that there seems to be a real ability and that it seems to be a matter of the dog picking up the person’s intention. (p. 83).
On faith healing
So apparently, even metaphysical-skeptics were able to cure cancer (in mice at least) with “laying on of hands…”
They were working for 20 years on a particular mammary cancer in laboratory mice, and they knew exactly what was going to happen. There were literally thousands of published studies on these mice.
They get injected with a particular form of cancer, they’re particularly bred — they’re actually pretty inbred — and after they’re injected you know exactly what’s going to happen. The tumor’s going to grow; it’s going to be non-metastatic; it’s going to kill the mouse in a certain number of days. At the time we started this, the record [for the longest] living mouse was 27 days. No mouse in literally thousands of experiments had lived longer than 27 days after injection with this particular mammary cancer. (pp. 110–111)
Never happened before for any reason. So the world’s longest living mouse with this kind of cancer was 27 days, but after it went through this process of growth then ulceration then implosion, the mice were cured. I used to say they remitted but that’s the wrong word because remitted means a reduction in symptoms or temporary disappearance. These mice are cured for life. So we watched them and we leave them for two years and they would just live out their normal lifespan.
And it goes even further than that. We’ve re-injected them with the cancer, but the cancer won’t take anymore. So the mice that are cured for life. (p. 112)
The author describes an energy healing experience he had…
I followed through with eight energy-healing sessions in all with Doran. About a week after the eighth treatment, I finally reached a point I hadn’t been in months: I didn’t think about heart palpitations. They weren’t there; they were gone. I have had a couple of recurrences in the months since, but only a few, and very mild ones at that. For me, the treatment was an amazing success. (p. 120)
look at the advances in the research of …“mindfulness.” I’ve been working with it for 44 years and there has been genuine advance in research on the subject of mindfulness. Some of it is very, very good; a lot of it is mediocre. But the advances being made are definitely consistent with people coming to deal with the fact that the choices and decisions that one makes about how to focus attention have real effects on the brain. Even people in academia are doing that research. You can see the top researchers, people who have been engaged in this kind of mindfulness research for over 10 years now, who used to be staunch materialists, they’re having second thoughts. And they’re saying, “Huh, there seems to be more to this than just the brain because the brain alone doesn’t explain the data.” (p. 162)
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof
Me: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof — that is anti-science, isn’t it? Dr. Stephen Law: Why do you think that? Me: We’ve built this whole institution of science, the whole process of peer-review, the whole process of self-correction around this idea that we will, [by working together], discover what is real, what is not real; what is extraordinary, what is not extraordinary. So the idea that after the fact, after the results come in, we say, “You know, that’s pretty interesting result, but I deem that to be extraordinary; therefore, you need an extra level of proof on that.” I think it’s just silly. (p. 127)
This is an interesting point, I myself have repeated countless times, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, without really contemplating just what makes a claim extraordinary. I can certainly see how the demand for extraordinary proof serves the status quo in science and society. You’re claiming that EMFs from smartphones cause cancer? That’s an extraordinary claim! We’ve got billions of people using smartphones every day and big telecom making billions in quarterly profits — so you’re going to need to run a $100 million 10-year population study that produces the most overwhelming and unambiguous data for us to even consider that your claim might be true!
On “conspiracy theories”
My experience as an entrepreneur had taught me to look for “conspiracies” in every deal because I had found that every important business transaction involving a considerable amount of money resulted in a conspiracy of some sort. (p. 134)
My life experience is similar, it’s human nature to conspire and it’s terribly naive to categorically deny conspiracies.
Christianity vs atheism
The Christian paradigm insists there is more to this world than meets the eye. The atheist counter-punch is the kind of mind-equals-brain scientific materialism that inevitably leads to them to the conclusion that life is a meaningless illusion created by biologic robots. (p. 124)
How science brought me back to my faith…
The crack in my atheism first formed when actually when, as a biohacker spending a lot of time on PubMed, I saw that the most credible science always controlled for the placebo effect, mentioned earlier. I watched the documentaries about the placebo effects and read You Are the Placebo by Joe Dispenza. And the placebo effect refutes scientific materialism — if scientific materialism is wrong you have to embrace some kind of mysticism or spirituality. Then I watched this excellent documentary about simulation theory…
If you’re willing to accept the possibility that reality is a “simulation” then Christianity — a God who wants a personal relationship with you, who sent “his son” to live with us and teach us a higher form of universalist morality — makes a lot of sense. As a gamer playing a world-building game enjoys interacting with the digital denizens of the game, might the “programmer” of grand simulation — the universe — want to interact with us.
So I chose to reembrace the faith of my parents and ancestors — Christianity. As an ancestral biohack, I make eat blueberries exclusively in the fall — as my ancestors did to put on a little extra weight before the long, lean winter months. For the same reason, I chose Christianity as my spiritual expression — if it was good enough for my ancestors for fifty or a hundred generations it’s good enough for me! My other reasons (largely pragmatic) for returning to the faith I was raised with…
- My moral failings as an atheist and agnostic — When I got married I knew I had to hold myself to a higher moral standard, I needed an infusion of moral strength to be a loyal husband and devoted family man.
- Religious people are happier, healthier, more connected with their community, and live more meaningful lives. Religious people can embrace death without fear or anxiety. Being an atheist or agnostic is a cool “edgy” subculture to dabble in as a young or middle-aged person, but as am an elderly person in declining health, a secular worldview instills great existential dread — I know this from ample direct experience with my faithless 70-year-old mother-in-law.
- The world is becoming more tribal — in western civilization we’ve abandoned true universalist morality and have taken a giant leap back 2000 years philosophically, succumbing to primal in-group/out-group morality. Staunch individualism is not going to be an adaptive strategy in the era of history we are entering. I don’t expect this trend to reverse itself in my lifetime, so I need to embrace a tribe.
- The Globalist postmodernist left that hates me for being a straight white male also hates Christianity — they seek endlessly to destroy and subvert it. I need to get on the team of the enemy of my enemy.
- I need to be a decent Christian to raise my future children as Christians — otherwise, they will be indoctrinated into the religion of postmodern liberalism and made to hate themselves because they will be white. The anti-whitism that pervades early childhood socialization (in schools and pop culture) has catastrophic long-term effects on children’s well-being and health. Everyone should be raised to be proud of their race and loyal to their people or nation.
Is the paradigm shifting?
Could we be at the brink of such a change in science? Is the materialistic, science-as-we-know-it paradigm at a tipping-point? Are thousands of go-along-to-get-along scientists ready to loosen up their lab coats and move past this absurd insistence that we are all biological robots in a meaningless world? As you’ve seen, there is plenty of evidence in favor of a more expansive view of who we are, but do we have the will to embark on such a massive shift? (p. 156)
I’m not optimistic about a fundamental paradigm shift, as explained in the book Rigor Mortis, what fuels dogmatic scientific materialism is the deluge of billions and billions of taxpayer dollars controlled by deeply political and corrupt bureaucracies — there’s little hope of this changing especially with the massive expansion of government power in the COVID era.
Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions [Book…
I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner…
Consciousness is not meaningless
Science is wrong about almost everything because science is married to this absurd idea that you and I don’t really exist. It says we’re just an illusion created by this meaningless electrochemical reaction going on inside our brain. (p. 168)
We don’t live our lives as if we’re biological robots because everything about life tells us we’re not. But in the halls of academia, and in the respected journals of science, the myth must be propped-up. To stay in the respectable-science club, one must nod as the Emperor marches by wearing nothing at all. (p. 164)
Ultimately the book gets 4-stars from me because its title is going to make its message about a more magical and mysterious world unapproachable by many — people are going to judge the book by its cover and say “looks like a crazy flat-earther’s manifesto. I’ll PASS!” This is why I’ve paraphrased its title for this review, Why Scientific Materialism is WRONG… About Almost Everything.