Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Stigma Against Mental Illness Is A Result of the Idea of Mind-Body Dualism

I've become entirely convinced that the stigma against mental illness is a result of Mind-Body dualism. This is basically the idea that our body is just some empty shell and that our mind sort of pilots it. Sort of like driving a car; there's the physical casing of the car yet it only moves ones a driver gets in and starts pushing buttons. Take a look at this article:

“It's an irony,” Kennedy told Gupta, “but we think no stigma towards Gabby and her brain injury, but [Loughner] has a brain injury as well, because clearly his brain was not working properly when he picked up that gun and shot all those people.”


“If you have diabetes and have a chemical imbalance that you need more insulin, you don't have any question about it. But if you need some more serotonin or dopamine, you need a neurotransmitter, then [people] look at that as something askew, as if the brain isn't a part of the rest of the body.” This double standard, he says, is part of the continuing stigma against mental disorders.

The senator here makes a perfectly valid argument. Why is there no stigma against getting medicine for chemical imbalances like insulin yet when someone has a similar defect of chemicals that just so happen to affect the brain they're called “crazy”?

The brain is a computer, the mind is a program that runs on it. No one is up in arms with the idea of the brain being physical, yet once the necessary relationship is made — that without the brain there's no mind — then people start to huff and haw. Our brains can – and in most cases will be – just as imperfect as any other body part. If I have non-functioning or handicapped legs, then there are certain activities that I simply won't be able to do, like running. If I have a non-functioning or handicapped brain, similarly, there will be certain mental and cognitive tasks that I won't be able to do.

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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in mind-body dualism, psi


The World Was Created Last Thursday

Jen and Pipi continued their conversation while walking out to the barn.

“…and that's why I believe in God.” Pipi rejoined “You can't prove that God doesn't exist! And so you can't prove me wrong!”

Jen stopped in her tracks and let out a huge sigh. Pipi turned back to look at her while Jen began digging in her pocket.

“Ok, let's run with that 'you can't prove me wrong' thingie” Jen said, as she began to pull a toy out of her pocket; a white ballerina toy. Jen began wearing a slight, mischeivous grin on her face while looking up towards the sky. “I believe…” she said, trailing off a bit and pausing as if for dramatic purpose. When she seemed to find the thought she was looking for among the clouds, she began walking again towards the barn and looked back at Pipi smiling all the more “…that the world was created last Thursday. With all of our memories, history, emotions, and all of that junk created to give us the fake idea that the we n' the Earth n' the universe n' stuff has been around a lot longer than last Thursday.” Pipi seemed confused, not knowing where this was going.

“You can't prove me wrong!” Jen laughed.

“Yeah, but you don't really believe that.” Pipi quipped “And besides, that's just stupid!”

“But why is it stupid, though?”

“Because the world obviously wasn't created last Thursday! We have books and–“

Jen cut her off. “Yeah, but I believe that those books were created by some god or like aliens or something to make it seem like everything was here longer than last Thursday. So you can't use books n' stuff to prove me wrong!”

“But I remember…”

Pipi stopped herself and looked exasperated, as she began to realize what Jen was getting at. She knew that Jen was going to claim that her memories of everything prior to last Thursday would be brushed aside by that same logic. As they got into the barn, Jen began moving the white ballerina toy through the air as though it were hopping along an invisible stage and took in a deep breath. Pipi knew that with that deep breath, she was in for a pseudo-intellectual monologue, as was Jen's want. Not that Jen was actually unintelligent, but she thought she was a lot better rhetorician and public speaker than she actually was. Though both girls seemed to confirm the stereotype that 15 year olds think they know everything.

“See, I think you're confusing 'can't be proved wrong' with 'can be proved wrong, but isn't wrong'. I think they're different. Maybe we should say something can be proved wrong, but hasn't been proved wrong yet instead of saying can't be proved wrong. Like, say I said that all swans were white. All we would have to do is go out and find like, a black swan, and I would be proved wrong. But up until'in you find a black swan, my idea that all swans were white wouldn't be wrong. Not wrong yet. See? But what if when I saw the black swan, I said 'no that's not a real black swan, that's just a white swan with a tan!' If I kept doing things like that, then I could say that I haven't been proved wrong yet but in reality I making it so that it's impossible for me to be proved wrong.”

“So what are you trying to say?” Pipi responded, slightly annoyed. “That believing in God is the same as believing something as stupid as thinking the world was created last Thursday?”

“Well look'it.” Jen said matter of factly. “Both your belief in god and the belief that the world was created last Thursday are both impossible to be proved wrong. I'm saying that when something is impossible to be proved wrong that it's a bad thing. How do you figure out if it's true or not? Do you think your belief in god is the same as believing that the world was created last Thursday? That's what happens when you believe something that's impossible to be proved wrong. The sign of a bad belief is when it's impossible for that belief to be proved wrong. Like you said, it's just stupid!”

“My belief in God is not stupid, Jen…”

“Well maybe you should believe in a god that it's possible to prove doesn't exist! Possible to be proved wrong isn't the same as being wrong. If I said it was gonna rain tomorrow it's possible that I'd be proven wrong, but that doesn't mean I'm currently wrong. Since it's possible for me to be proved wrong, that's what makes my prediction that it's gonna rain tomorrow a better belief than an impossible to disprove god or that the world was made last Thursday. We figure out what we know and don't know by what we get wrong… like you and Mr. Lansky's math test!”

Both girls laughed. “Oh Lord, don't get me started!” Pipi chuckled. “Mr. Lansky… his class is impossible!”

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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in falsifiability


The Criterion of Embarrassment Disproves Mark’s "Itinerant Preacher" Jesus

According to many ex-Christians, one of the things that makes them think that Jesus was just a loon and not the true messiah/god was that his prophecies in Mark never came true. One of the lesser pointed out false prophecies of Jesus comes from his trial, where he says:

Mark 14

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Obviously, the high priest here did not live to see Jesus (or the Son of Man) descend from the clouds sitting at the right hand of power (or the mighty one). So this is an unambiguously failed prophecy. These sort of failed prophecies are littered all throughout Mark. He has Jesus predicting the end of the world within his generation, or telling the people around him that they would not die until they witnessed the Son of Man and/or the kingdom of god arrive on Earth.

Now what about the criterion of embarrassment? This is the argument that Christians would not have maintained or invented traditions that embarrassed them. Thus, any failed prophecies would not have stayed alive within the tradition or would not have made it to Mark's gospel, or they would have been rewritten/reinterpreted so that they could be “fulfilled” in a more spiritual sense (i.e. later Christian writings like Luke 17.21 or John 18.36). So why would Mark write an entire gospel filled with prophecies that failed once Jesus' generation was dead? Mark must have thought that those prophecies hadn't been fulfilled yet, thus he must have seen himself as part of the generation that those prophecies applied to.

There's no indication that Mark is trying to pretty up or spiritualize the prophecies of Jesus like Luke and John do. So Mark most definitely thought that these prophecies applied to his own generation. But the question now becomes: Was Mark apart of Jesus' generation? If Mark was written in 40 CE then I could see these definitely being the words of Jesus, since Mark and Jesus would be in the same generation. But most scholars conclude that Mark was written literally a generation or two later, when the people who would have heard Jesus preach were more than likely dead. In my estimation, Mark was written by someone who had not yet been born or was very young when the 2nd temple was destroyed in 70 CE, as this accounts for the many post 70 CE anachronisms in Mark. So I would put the writing of Mark circa 80 – 90 CE.

In 80 or 90 CE, any prophecy about people in 33 CE not dying until the Son of Man came swooping down from heaven on a cloud ushering the new kingdom of god would quite obviously be false (especially with a large war in between killing many in that prior generation), and no one around that time period would write something like that per the criterion of embarrassment. But it's obvious that Mark was not embarrassed by those prophecies so he “kept” those prophecies in, so the only reasonable conclusion I can make is that Mark really did think that those prophecies applied to his own generation. And that it is Mark himself who was the apocalypticist, not Jesus. Mark just used Jesus as his sockpuppet to make prophecies that he thought applied to his own generation. Thus he has Jesus say “let the reader understand” (Mk 13.14).

Finally, this in no means forces the conclusion that Jesus did not exist. It just means that an itinerant preacher Jesus who preached the end of the world wasn't in the mind of the pre-Markan Christians. That model of Jesus is more than likely the creation of Mark himself. This also makes sense of the silence of pre-Markan Christian writings on the teachings of Jesus. There were none. Unabashedly, this still fits with my hunch about who the historical Jesus was.

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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in gospel of mark, historical jesus


Cephas and Peter

This is not a post by me, but has relevance to some of my notes I've written about in the past.

That minefield keeps any non-believing scholars in line. They know that certain things are taboo in NT studies. Sometimes you can watch as the defenders of the faith move the barbed wire and redefine the perimeter. I would cite as an example Bart Ehrman’s fascinating article in the Autumn 1990 JBL, entitled “Cephas and Peter.” It’s well worth reading, but just to summarize here he pretty much concludes that although the names have roughly the same meaning, they are not the same person. He writes:

All the same, we can no longer afford to overlook the peculiar results of this study. When Paul mentions Cephas, he apparently does not mean Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus.

In Ehrman’s other, later works, notably his popular press treatment of Peter, Paul, and Mary, you won’t hear him make this claim. Is this because he changed his mind, or because he discovered firsthand this subject is now inside the minefield? I cannot help but suspect the latter, because the final paragraph of his 1990 journal article lays out the devastating conclusions:

The implications of this conclusion will be obvious to anyone who has worked at any length with the NT materials. For those who have not, we can simply mention the following: (1) Paul would not have gone to Jerusalem, three years after his “conversion” (Gal 2:18-20), in order to learn more about the life of Jesus from one of his closest disciples, Peter. Instead, he would have gone to confer with Cephas, a leader of the Jerusalem church, perhaps concerning missionary strategy. (2) Peter may not have even been present at the Jerusalem Conference in which Paul’s Gentile mission was approved and sanctioned (Gal 2:1-10). (3) No longer would we know if Peter was accompanied by his wife on his missionary journeys (1 Cor 9:5), nor whether he visited Corinth. (4) The confrontation at Antioch (Gal 2:11-14) would not have been between Peter and Paul, that is, between Jesus’ closest disciple and his most avid apostle. It would have been between a Jerusalem and a Pauline form of Christianity, pure and simple. (5) Finally, there would remain no NT evidence of Peter’s presence in Antioch, where tradition ascribes to him the first bishopric (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.36).

Tim Widowfield

If Peter and Cephas are not the same person, then what happened to “Peter” before the gospel of Mark was written? What happened to “Cephas” after the gospel of Mark was written?

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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in cephas, peter


Wineskins and Covenants

I was just looking up the “old/new” wineskins parable in the Synoptic gospels. This, also, has another curious evolution in the Synoptics.

Mark 2.21-22 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

Matthew 9.16-17 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved
Luke 5.36-39
No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' “
For now I'm not someone who holds on to the “Q” hypothesis to solve the Synoptic Problem (as exemplified by my more recent post). I think that Mark was first, followed by (or edited to become) Matthew; Matthew refuted by Marcion's gospel, and Marcion's was edited to become Luke.
Some people may be confused about what the parable means. But if you subsitute “wineskins” or “clothes” with “Testament” or “Covenant” then it will make sense for modern readers. Oddly, Mark follows the theology of Marcion (literally “Little Marc”). The New Testament is wholly different than the old one, and the two religions are incompatible. Which is exactly what Marcion promulgated. That Christianity was a whole new beast that was distinct from Judaism. Matthew refutes this, thinking that the Old and New Covenants can coexist peacefully (“both are preserved”). Luke, as a refutation of Marcion, is a re-Judaizer and overly lauds Judaism. For example, unlike the other three gospels, Luke has Jesus appear in Jerusalem instead of Galilee which is the more “Jewish” of the two locales. Thus he says “the old is better”.

Posted by on May 11, 2011 in gospel of mark

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