Annoyed And Disappointed
I happened to see Andrew Newberg this morning in an interview on "Good morning America".
It attracted my attention because you have mentioned his name. My reaction? Annoyed and disappointed. He was trying to show how different the brain waves were whether you were meditating or not. So what?
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Andrew Newberg
Date: Tuesday, May 01, 2001 5:50 PM
It means very little unless you are like me and are trying to open the doors to dignity and communication between adherents of two completely different paradigms.
To someone who already thought (without proof) that this is a brain function (or aberration), this is just "I-told-you-so" information. But even those of us who have been reporting this as an aberration (such as Michael Shermer, as recently as last year, reporting in How We Believe that the mystical experience is "probably the result of a temporal lobe seizure") must now update our understanding in the classic sense of scientific progress.
The implications, I think, are staggering: Now we can pinpoint a physical cause for what has traditionally been touted as the most intimate, personal, and supposedly most solidly supernatural experience. We now have a realistic biological explanation for the visions of God himself. This presents profound problems for apologists who assert that the mystical experience is supernatural.
Newberg's research is what presented the problems for those apologists in the first place. Now he writes a concerted (and some might say devious) attempt to keep open the possibility that something supernatural could still be going on. I feel it is wrong to assert that Newberg's research proves anything either way (although it doesn't look very good for the supernaturalists' position). But Newberg happens to go too far in making this case, in my opinion. So, I have taken about a month out of my life to ponder this question and study the issues raised by this question, and think I understand where he's coming from. This will help us to address the questions he has raised, and address them in a manner that (hopefully) will withstand the rigors of scrutiny.
Finally, on a personal note, I've had one of the experiences he describes. I don't blame anybody who has done this for concluding that they saw God (or whatever). For decades, I thought this was just an aberration, a hallucination, of sorts, that I can occasionally repeat but never thought much of because I never dreamed that I could understand or explain it. Now, this new explanation makes so much sense to me that I have tied up yet another loose end in my life -- a minor loose end, to be sure, but one more loose end has been tied up.
I hope you will enjoy what we have put together when the magazine eventually gets printed.
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