groundoffaithThe Ground of Faith
Exploring Science, Mysticism and Experience Together

February 2008

**Nobel Prizewinner on Pathological Disbelief**

Editors: The Rev. Michael Cocks and The Rev. Victor MacGill


**Pathological Disbelief**

Look at your theological self in the mirror

For the first-time reader: Why this journal?

Pathological Disbelief

Brian D. Josephson

Resist the Non-Living Universe Assumption 2007-10-15

Dean Radin's 90 minute lecture

Richard Dawkins and the Paradigm Police

Some points raised in this issue

Misreading the mind

By Jonah Lehrer

Art, Science & Truth: Jonah Lehrer

Opening the Stephen Box

Nate Cull

The Majesty and Misery of String Theory

By Glenn Statile

Some first-rate blogs

Science is a method, not a position

Book Reviews

The Connectivity Hypothesis: Foundations of an Integral Science of Quantum, Cosmos and Consciousness, Ervin Laszlo

Review of Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Review: The New Dispensation

Nate Cull January 17th, 2008


Look at your theological self in the mirror

You might like to take this interesting test "What is your theological world view?" <>

Test your views against the articles that follow! 

For the first-time reader:  Why this journal?

Those who produce the journal are mainly believing but non-dogmatic churchgoing Christians.  We like theologians like Marcus Borg, or William Barclay. Celtic worship; for us, love of God and love of neighbour is central, and that therefore that it is possible for people of differing theological beliefs to be of one spirit in worship, since relationship is the key.  We also believe that God is in all, through all, and above all, and that objective science  can immeasurable widen and deepen our feeling for Spirit.
And therein lies our problem, because within science today there is a bitter warfare between the mechanists or materialists, and spiritually minded scientists who perceive that modern physics has finally destroyed  La Place's dead billiard-ball universe, and see the basic stuff of the universe as being more mind than matter.
This journal may not help directly with your prayers and your love: look for that sustenance elsewhere. It is more attacking the strident materialism of our day, and showing how science free from that restrictive philosophy can lead us to a truer understanding of things.
In future issues, nevertheless, we hope in future issues to look back over our journey in the past four years, and discuss implications that may help in nurturing our spiritual paths.

Pathological Disbelief

JosphsonBrian D. Josephson


Department of Physics, University of Cambridge Lecture given at the Nobel Laureates’ meeting

Lindau, June 30th., 2004 © B D Josephson 2004 Edited version of presentation (rev ised Aug. 20th., 2004

What is the issue?

The ‘generally accepted view’ regarding a phenomenon can be wrong in two ways:

(a) a non-existent phenomenon is considered real (e.g. N-rays, polywater); or

(b) a real phenomenon is considered nonexistent (e.g. continental drift, meteorites)

Langmuir’s much-quoted lecture on Pathological Science dealt with case (a); the interest here is in

case (b). What makes the scientific establishment, in some cases, vehemently deny phenomena for which there is strong evidence?

Characteristics of scientific sceptics, according to Beaudette:

1. They do not express their criticisms in those venues where it will be subject to peer review.

2. They do not go into the laboratory and practise the experiment along with the practitioner.

3. Assertions are offered as though they were scientifically based when in fact they are mere guesses.

4. Satire, dismissal and slander are freely employed.

5. When explanations are advanced ... ad hoc reasons are constantly advanced for their rejection. These reasons often assert offhand that the explanation violates some conservation law.

  1. Evidence is rejected outright if it does not answer every possible question at the outset.

    Study this very readable lecture

As an example of what Josephson is saying, read this account of how arch-materialist Richard Dawkins dealt with biologist biologist Rupert Sheldrake: Dawkins comes to call <>

Josephson provides this valuable url: Some parapsychology links <>

More about Josephson:

From the Jewish Virtual Library <>

Encyclopedia Britannica on Josephson: <>


From SKEPTICO: Science at a tipping point <>

Resist the Non-Living Universe Assumption 2007-10-15

 Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris, biologist, ecologist, futurist and author, examines why scientists should be skeptical of their assumption that the universe is non-living: "… the fundamental belief in Western science is that this is a non-living universe. No one has ever proved this. I don’t think anyone could prove it. It is an assumption. If I say I want to build a science based on the assumption this is a living universe scientists will say – prove it. But, they don’t have to prove their fundamental assumption that this is a non-living universe. Western science has developed the only culture in history, I think, that has developed the concept of non-life."

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Dean Radin's blogspot

Radin is of great importance. Radin has for many years been one of the major researchers in our field. Dean Radin began his career in electrical engineering and cybernetics at the University of Illinois before moving on to psychic phenomena at the University of Edinburgh, Princeton University and the University of Nevada.

If you have broadband you will be very interested to view and listen to his You Tube lecture: "Psychology and the Taboo of Psi"  View and listen <>

Abstract: Do telepathy, clairvoyance and other "psi" abilities exist? The majority of the general population believes that they do, and yet fewer than one percent of mainstream academic institutions have any faculty known for their interest in these frequently reported experiences. Why is a topic of enduring and widespread interest met with such resounding silence in academia? The answer is not due to a lack of scientific evidence, or even to a lack of scientific interest, but rather involves a taboo. I will discuss the nature of this taboo, some of the empirical evidence and critical responses, and speculate on the implications.

His 90 minute lecture is detailed and persuasive, too many details to give here. But take this example:

"Ganzfeld experiments" , where half ping-pong balls are placed over the eyes of experimental subjects  "encourage visual hallucinations" helping a subject guess a target picture being looked at by a person attempting to transmit it.  With four pictures, over many experiments the subject will guess one time in four by chance or 25% of the time.  correct results actually  average 32% of the time."For all subjects combined over 3000 sets of experiments", the odds against chance of scoring so high leap up to  "29 quintillion to 1."   Some subjects can average 65% of time right.

 "A skeptic did eight ganzfeld studies still got 32%. ...Then you say this is precariously close to demonstrating something which we dont believe in."

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Richard Dawkins and the Paradigm Police

In this journal, for some years we have been focusing on science and religion.It would perhaps be better to express the issue as a philosophical civil war that has been going on amongst scientists for the past century. And the war of course is between the materialistically minded scientists and philosophers, who wish to restrict the scope of scientific inquiry, and the spiritually minded scientists who believe that there are no limits to scientific inquiry. Surveys suggest that about 60% of scientists are materialists, and 40% spiritually minded, and that this has been the case for a very long time. This fact has enabled aggressive materialists in the universities to band together to deny funding and even employment to the spiritually minded, to make loud public protests trying to discredit their work. Thus they act as kind of Paradigm Police protecting materialist belief.

No-go areas for these self appointed Police are (1) the implications of theoretical quantum physicists work for cosmology (about the fundamental nature of things),

  1. the work of many leading scientists in the field of psychical research in the past 150 years,

  2. any of the countless thousands of well-attested paranormal case histories in this period,

  3. open ended disciplined research in this area.

We expect this kind of thing from fundamentalist sects, or the old atheist communist regimes

So let us now say about our journal, that we are focusing on Paradigm Police-free science as it helps us to think about our participation in Spirit and the universe of the senses. 

Of course we need to keep clear in our minds what we mean by “science”, because people sometimes spell it with a capital S, and talk of “Science” proving something, teaching something like a philosophy or a church. In reality science is a heterogeneous collection of techniques whereby one focuses in a rigorous and disciplined way on a collection of data or phenomena, makes some kind of classification or theory about it, and evaluates the theory. Some definitions of science restrict the procedures to repeatable experiments in a laboratory. But much science is descriptive and classificatory, geography and geology, for instance, botany and human physiology. 

The problem for those wishing to study the human mind, and the phenomena of consciousness, has been the wish to be an exact science like physics, employing mathematics as the major tool. But that wish has no divine sanction of course. Disciplines can be evolved that are suitable for the job in hand, provided that others can use the same disciplines, examine the theories and hypotheses that have been made, and prove or disprove them.

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Misreading the mind

If neuroscientists want to understand the mystery of consciousness, they'll need new methods.

By Jonah Lehrer

lehrerJanuary 20, 2008 LA TIMES

Author/Illustrator Bio:

Jonah Lehrer, age twenty-five, is editor at large for Seed magazine. A graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes scholar, Lehrer has worked in the lab of Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel and studied with Hermione Lee at Oxford. He has co-authored a peer-reviewed paper in Genetics and worked as a line cook at Melisse (in Los Angeles) and at Le Cirque 2000, and as a prep cook at Le Bernardin. As a journalist he has profiled Brian Greene and Elizabeth Gould, spent several days in the kitchen of the Fat Duck, and recorded bird songs and ruminated on Stravinsky for National Public Radio. He has written for Nature, NPR, NOVA, ScienceNow, and the MIT Technology Review, and writes a highly regarded blog known as the Frontal Cortex. Read

Art, Science & Truth: Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer in "Proust was a Neuroscientist" makes the case for artists (Walt Whitman, Igor Stravinsky, George Eliot, Paul Cezanne et al.) as the real pioneers in grasping and revealing how our minds actually work. Listen. Read this “Wired” Interview.

Editor's note: Those of us who read good novels may well agree with Lehrer's thesis. The poetry and creativity of Religion could perhaps be considered in a similar way.

Nate Cull Opening the Stephen Box

[None of the traditional churches rule out psychic research, some encourage it. But there seems to be a taboo against  examining communications through spiritual mediums.  But with the ever growing mass of TV viewers of psychic programmes this taboo may lessen.  It is the view of this journal that such programmes help us to underline the reality of Spirit, and convince us that we participate in Spirit now.]

 Nate Cull

Long and wide eternity from side to side
Lead me through the rapids, guide me to the shore
There’s a place that’s far beyond this time and space
When each of us comes face to face with something more
If I open up the channel will you send me information
If you tune me to your station I’ll receive
If I navigate the river would you take me to your island
Sing a siren song so I could never leave

Alan Parsons, Siren Song

It’s been about two years now since I read The Stephen Experience, and in that time I’ve collected a whole bunch of similar documents in the after-life communication, near-death-experience and ‘inspired writing’ spectrum. I think it’s time to try to somehow put the pieces together, such as they are.

I grew up in a non-denominational fundamentalist Pentecostal church which had withdrawn largely from society and had a fairly standard-for-the-milieu view of an approaching End Times, though we were vague on the details. (That’s an oversimplification, because there were a lot of interesting spiritual influences on my life which I keep rediscovering, but it will do for now.)

The Pentecostal faith cluster is not at all the same thing as ‘fundamentalism’, which is usually narrowly defined by a baffled and uncomprehending secular world as a sort of rigid rejection of modernity. Read the whole article <>

The Majesty and Misery of String Theory

Science Fact or Science Fiction (Linked to “Metanexus”)

By Glenn Statile

A great crooner, if not exactly a great scholar, named Frank Sinatra once sang that he had the whole world upon a string. And as we all know song lyrics can sometimes paint a rather accurate picture of real life, while at other times they venture into altogether imaginative and existentially uncharted territory. Adopting a perhaps excessively critical attitude it is still by no means unfair to say that string theory1 is a theory en route to nowhere. It is a theory which, at its best, could conceivably capture the essence of material reality at its deepest level; or, at its worst, might be nothing more than an overblown tale with an overly complicated mathematical storyline. It is thought by many to represent a colossal attempt to trade atomism in for a theoretical framework involving multiple dimensions and vibrating Planck length pieces of primal string which supersede point particles as the basic building blocks of nature. String cognoscenti might also note that in recent years their theory has been enveloped within an even more extensive theory Read the article < >

Some first-rate blogs

Sky and seaScience is a method, not a position

Photography and blog by Matthew Cromer

Observations and experiments casting doubt on the model of reductionistic materialism

This blog is not being added to but is most valuable for the links it provides. A telling indictment of modern philosophy “The modern philosophers are in truth antiphilosophers, and they teach curious young minds to stop thinking

Michael Prescott's blog is always worth reading: This entry links connects to an examination of upwards of 1000 short musical composition of Rosemary Brown supposedly dictated to her by the spirits of Liszt, Schumann and others. Read


Book Reviews

LaszloThe Connectivity Hypothesis: Foundations of an Integral Science of Quantum, Cosmos and Consciousness, Ervin Laszlo

Having been through the New Age trip, I have become very skeptical of pseudo-scientific writers misrepresenting science to back up their crack-pot ideas on spirituality. This book is the real deal. Ervin Laszlo has an impeccable scientific background and really understands the science he writes about. The book was published in 2003 and I am now starting to read his 2006 Science and the Re-enchantment of the Cosmos, so his information is up to date. He always cites the most reputable sources and creates a fascinating read showing how all life is connected.

A key concept in the book is quantum coherence; the tendency of sub-atomic particles to be linked together, or entangled, once they have interacted. Once two particles have interacted they are forever linked and changes in the state of one is virtually instantaneously copied by a change in state of the other irrespective of where the two particles are. Laszlo claims that this coherence not only occurs at the quantum level, but also at the macroscopic level of stars and galaxies. There is a large scale uniformity extending to galaxies that are not in contact with each other since they receded at speeds beyond the speed of light. Laszlo also points out the fine tuning of universal constant. These are universal numbers measured in various realms; the magnetic, gravitational electric etc. It turns out that if these numbers were even changed by one billionth, the whole universe we live in could not exist. He posits that it is all held together by coherence and explains this by saying the big bang and big crunch to come are only part of on-going macroscopic cycles as described by ancient Hindu mythology.

Ervin László (born 1932 in Budapest, Hungary) is a Hungarian philosopher of science, systems theorist, integral theorist, and classical pianist. He has published about 75 books and over 400 papers, and is editor of World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution.[1]. Moreover, he has recorded several piano concertos.

In 1993, in response to his experience with the Club of Rome, he founded the Club of Budapest to, in his words, "center attention on the evolution of human values and consciousness as the crucial factors in changing course — from a race toward degradation, polarization, and disaster to a rethinking of values and priorities so as to navigate today's transformation in the direction of humanism, ethics, and global sustainability".[1]

His 2004 book, Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos. Using the Sanskrit and Vedic term for "space", Akasha, he calls this information field the "Akashic field" or "A-field". He posits that the "quantum vacuum" (see Vacuum state) is the fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present (collectively, the "Metaverse"). László describes how such an informational field can explain why our universe is so improbably fine-tuned as to form galaxies and conscious lifeforms; and why evolution is an informed, not random, process. He believes that the hypothesis solves several problems that emerge from quantum physics, especially nonlocality and quantum entanglement. He also sees his hypothesis as solving the perennial disputes between science and religion.

HitchinsGod is not greatReview of Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

By Varadaraja V Raman

Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great. Twelve Books, Hachette Book Group, 2007. 307 pages, $24.99

Read the review <>

Review: The New Dispensation

Nate Cull January 17th, 2008

The New Dispensation, As Presented by THE SPIRIT WORLD Through the Automatic Writings of FRANCES BIRD

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind that I am actually awake.

I have been collecting a small pile of ‘interesting’ spiritual books in the last couple of years, which are fitting together in a rather startling way. This is one of them. (I’m now reading a 2002 book by Mary - yes, the Mary, as far as I can tell, or at least a very similar Mary to the Mary of Medjugorje - which is even more exciting, but I’ll write that one up when I’m done).

Frances Bird is a lady I have been able to find little about on the Internet, which in itself is surprising. There seem to be a set of four fairly large books written by her, of which The New Dispensation is one; I found it in the New Age section of a local second-hand bookstore

Read the rest of the review <>

San Fransisco Chronicle
Supernatural studies in the material world
Reyhan Harmanci, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
One doesn't typically get the chills during a PowerPoint presentation in a well-heated conference room. But ghost stories were the hot topic at a two-day event in San Francisco's Cowell Theater billed as the first scientific conference on the afterlife for a general audience.

Take, for example, a tale spun by "Professor Paranormal" Loyd Auerbach, a former teacher in the now-closed parapsychology department of Pleasant Hill's John F. Kennedy University, about a ghost named Lois.

The story is set in the mid-'80s, when a family moved to an old Victorian house in Livermore. Soon after settling in, they became aware of a ghost named Lois, the former owner of the house, who was developing a relationship with the 12-year-old son. The boy told his family that he spoke to Lois daily. "Apparently," Auerbach said, "Lois even helped him with his homework."

Auerbach was intrigued. He and two students piled into a car with some rudimentary recording equipment and headed to Livermore, casually discussing stuff like one student's former dance career and Auerbach's thoughts on purchasing a new car. When they got to the house, they met the boy. He said Lois was distressed. They had just watched "Ghostbusters" on television together, and she was worried they'd bring equipment to vaporize her. Auerbach assured him this wasn't the case. Well, the boy said, then Lois wants to know whether the student would continue dancing and what color car Auerbach wanted. They were floored.

Auerbach said he checked the tape - the three didn't mention anything they had discussed in the car with the boy. He also checked the car for bugs. Nothing. The story, from Lois, was that she had been nervous about their visit and didn't believe they wouldn't try to hurt her, so she rode with them in the car. Auerbach and his team also investigated details of Lois' life relayed by the preteen. It all checked out.

Auerbach holds a master's degree in parapsychology, has written seven books on the subject and has been a fixture on the paranormal lecture and television circuits for more than a decade. He - and several other speakers at the conference, titled Investigations of Consciousness and the Unseen World: Proof of an Afterlife - exist in a strange professional realm that encompasses rigorous academic training, spiritualism and sometimes fraud.

But the other academics at the conference didn't lack for degrees. There was Dean Radin, who began his career in electrical engineering and cybernetics at the University of Illinois before moving on to psychic phenomena at the University of Edinburgh, Princeton University and the University of Nevada. Also represented were Gary E. Schwartz, a Harvard-educated, former Yale professor who now teaches psychiatry, psychology, medicine, neurology and surgery at the University of Arizona, and University of Virginia Division of Perceptual Studies researchers Dr. Jim Tucker and Dr. Bruce Greyson.

These academics take their paranormal work seriously; they also risk ridicule on campus and struggle to find sources of funding to investigate what happens after we die. One of the issues they face is whether an afterlife is provable by scientific method. Some, like Julie Beischel, who co-founded Arizona's Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential, think it is.

"This is how science works," Beischel said. "There's a question and science investigates it. You can't draw a line and say, no, that's outside of science. Science doesn't have any boundaries in what it can investigate."

The mood at the death-centered event was anything but grim. Between presentations the 170 or so attendees chatted in the small foyer of Fort Mason's Cowell Theater. The crowd displayed certain Northern Californian traits - purple was a favorite color, scarves and cloaks abounded, and at least one person addressed the conference topic sartorially, with a sweatshirt that proclaimed, "I've Had A Difficult Few Past Lives."

For all the hugs and smiles and the scientifically coded words and acronyms - "NDE" means "near death experience" and "OOB" stands for "out-of-body experience" - many people had a simple reason for attending: grief.

The Forever Family Foundation, the New York nonprofit that sponsored the conference and that promotes scientific inquiry into the afterlife, was started by grief-stricken parents, Bob and Phran Ginsberg, whose 15-year-old daughter, Bailey, died in 2002. Bob Ginsberg, who works in the insurance business, said that until his daughter's death he never contemplated the paranormal or the possibility of an afterlife.

"The morning of Sept. 2, 2002, Phran woke me up at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. She was white as a ghost, and said, 'Something horrible is going to happen today,' " Ginsberg said in a phone conversation from his home in Oceanside, N.Y. "Long story short, my son and daughter were in a car accident that night, and my daughter passed away.

"Months later, when the shock wears off, I wondered, 'What happened? Was that precognition? Someone sending a message?' At the time I wasn't open to such talk, but logically how do you explain it?

"I needed evidence. I needed to hear from scientists and researchers." His foundation now has 3,000 members.

Forever Family Foundation member Diane Kaspari of Portola Valley attended the conference with her husband, Bill. They lost their son in a car crash when he was in college. After that happened, she said she started researching, reading and paying attention to "lots of things that weren't pure coincidence."

"The night he died, I was crying terribly. I lay down and thought, 'Where are you?' " she remembered, "and then I felt this incredible warmth, and I heard him - it wasn't an actual voice, but a telepathic one - say, 'It's OK, Mom, it's no big deal. I'm still here.' It was so perfect. That's exactly how he talked."

Scientists being scientists, no one stated outright at the conference that an afterlife had been proved, and no one seemed interested in espousing any particular vision of it. Religious views were never mentioned.

The conference topics - from ghosts, to near-death experiences, to an especially interesting presentation on reincarnation reports from children - were designed to explore the disconnect between the "mind" and the "brain." If one could be shown to operate without the other, such as a brain-dead person who was resuscitated and then offered details of a hospital scene or a particularly well-documented reincarnation - then a case could be made for consciousness existing outside of the physical body.

Greyson, director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia's department of psychiatric medicine, related a case where a patient was put under anesthesia for brain surgery and the brain drained of blood to the point where no brain waves were detectable. After the operation, the patient reported on aspects of the surgery in impossible detail.

In another case, Greyson said a patient whose heart stopped beating claimed to have an out-of-body experience while technically dead. The patient said while floating above the hospital, she saw a red shoe on a ledge of the hospital building, far from the room. Sure enough, a nurse recovered a red shoe from the unlikely spot.

But for as much anecdotal evidence and data as the presenters gave, there was recognition that believing in the paranormal is difficult without a direct experience.

"I feel sorry for the skeptics," said Kaspari. "They're the ones who've already made up their mind."

E-mail Reyhan Harmanci at

This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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