Thursday, March 06, 2008
High on Mount Sinai
A news report linked by Matt Drudge a day or so ago discusses the claims of one scientist that Moses was under the influence of a psychedelic substance shortly before he reported hearing God tick off the Ten Commandments.
Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.The technical term for Shanon's "classic phenomenon" is synesthesia.
"The Bible says people see sounds, and that is a classic phenomenon," he said citing the example of religious ceremonies in the Amazon in which drugs are used that induce people to "see music."
He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil's Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.
He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible. [bold added, minor edits]
This is quite interesting, but this scientific finding has no bearing one way or the other on the philosophical question of whether there is (or can be) such a thing as God, for the same reasons I once briefly discussed regarding a report that the tomb of Jesus had been found.
But just wait for some clueless "new atheist" to play into the hands of the Christians by trying to misuse this hypothesis in just such a way -- even though there is no need to argue against arbitrary claims.
More than Just Cliches
Christopher Hitchens comes closer than any other mainstream commentator I know of to have gotten to the heart of the Obama plagiarism kerfuffle.
It is cliche, not plagiarism, that is the problem with our stilted, room-temperature political discourse. It used to be that thinking people would say, with at least a shred of pride, that their own convictions would not shrink to fit on a label or on a bumper sticker. But now it seems that the more vapid and vacuous the logo, the more charm (or should that be "charisma"?) it exerts. Take "Yes We Can," for example. It's the sort of thing parents might chant encouragingly to a child slow on the potty-training uptake. As for "We Are the People We Have Been Waiting For" (in which case, one can only suppose that now that we have arrived, we can all go home), I didn't think much of it when Rep. Dennis Kucinich used it at an anti-war rally in 2004 ("We Are the People We Are Waiting For" being his version) or when Thomas Friedman came across it at an MIT student event last December. He wrote, by the way, that just hearing it gave him -- well, you guess what it gave him. Hope? That's exactly right. [bold added]True, but only up to a point. The real problem is what underlies all these cliches: The recycling of stale old ideas which most people would reject out of hand if they were stated openly.
C. Bradley Thompson on Atlas Shrugged
C. Bradley Thompson, who uses Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged in the college classroom, writes about his experiences and in the process explains something I ran into more than once when I was in college:
The reason that some conservatives fear Ayn Rand is that, ultimately, they can't defend America philosophically. Conservatives don’t like the fact that Rand defends reason, objectivity, and certainty--and they won't; they don't like the fact that she defends rational self-interest, moral absolutism, and rationally grounded virtues--and they won't; they don't like the fact that she defends individual rights and capitalism--and they won't. Because they won't defend these philosophical principles, they can't defend America. That is conservatism's dirty little secret. [bold added]I went to a small, conservative college, and had a professor take the trouble to mail me clippings of stories -- some bilge from one of the Brandens and something, I think, from National Review -- that attacked Rand personally, but failed to answer any of her arguments. He had promised to send something that would "prove" Ayn Rand wrong. He obviously failed.
Read the whole thing.