Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beware of "Demons" - Oh, and Elves too!

Top: Artist rendition of Lucifer, aka "Boss Demon". Bottom: Some of the demons portrayed in an ancient manuscript on Demoniality. Yes, "demons" exist, but only as artistic creations on paper as shown here. But only a madman would mistake these for reality!

A constant and amusing preoccupation of fundies is with "demons". Never mind they've never demonstrated the existence of one single claimed "demon", far less stated the necessary and sufficient conditions for it to exist. But when faith and truth aren't based in reality, anything goes: one can just open his mouth (or tap his keyboard) and produce "God-Men", Unicorns, Devils, "Hell", "soul", Elves, perpetual motion machines, Bermuda triangles and anything his little heart desires.

I mean, the brain is magnificent in this respect, in that it has the capacity to actually generate pseudo realities merely by the use of language. Never mind logic, testability or falsification - far less verification.

The truth is that all of these are fiction and have their origin in distinct regions of the brain as I noted four blogs earlier. Place a special helmet on a subject's head and zap his temporal lobes with milli-volts of electricity and he'll see anything from Jesus on a cloud, to Angels sitting next to him or the Blessed Virgin saying 'good night and sleep tight, don't let the beddie bugs bite'. Imagination in humans is a powerful force.

Now, take the helmet and apply stimuli to the neuronal circuits that affect the amygdala and you'll generate all manner of "demons". As real to the subject as if he'd just been tossed into a den full of them. So much so his respiratory rate spikes with his pulse and blood pressure and he begins to cry out for release. Trouble is, the only demons in his purview are made up of electro-chemical impulses transmitted as action potentials along his brain axons. There are absolutely no real demons to be found, no matter we excavate far and wide.

Didn't the Bible have "demons" prancing about in those olden days? Well, uh...no, not exactly! Back then, two thousand odd years ago, psychiatry hadn't even been discovered yet. No one knew a neurosis from halitosis or a psychosis. So when the ancients were afflicted with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anti-social disorder and even just simply epilepsy (sending them into paroxysms of rictus and spasms) people of the day naturally assumed "demons" were responsible and possessing the person. What else could they think? They had no coherent science of the mind, or brain! It would be another 1800 years or more before Wilder Penfield would insert electric pens into various brain centers to elicit responses, or Freud would arrive at his remarkable theory of the subconscious.

Today, in the light of modern scientific knowledge, we know all claims for "demons" or demoniality or possession are as much rubbish as the horoological alignments of astrology or claims for Bigfoot or the ubiquitous "rock apes" of my youth (an exotic form of ape that always emerged from the Everglades on dark nights, grabbed large rocks, then hurled them at unsuspecting humans traversing NW167th st. St, near Cloverleaf lanes in Miami).

We also know that these inventions are totally redundant. We no longer require them to account for evil, since the human brain's own structural andf wiring deficiencies can encompass everything from serial killers, to mass rapes, to genocide. Thus, Homo Sapiens is fundamentally an animal species with a host of animal/primitive instincts residing in its ancient brain or paleocortex. Evolution, as it advanced, never bothered to remove the most ancient and atavistic brain regions while building newer regions on top. Meanwhile, the paleocortex sits evolutionarily beneath the more evolved mesocortex and neocortex, the latter of which crafts concepts and language.

One clever person has compared this tri-partite brain structure to a car design welding a Lamborghini to a Model T Ford chassis, with a 1957 Chevy engine to power the Lamborghini. If an automotive engineer can conceive of such a hybrid beast, I'd be interested to know exactly how he thinks it would run.

The point is, no sane designer would invent a car like that, nor would a biological designer design a brain so profoundly messed up that its higher functions were always cross-checked or compromised by lower ones.

Given the preceding brain structural defect, there is much evidence that the aggregate of human behavior will get progressively worse as the complexity inherent in technological and globalized societies increases, but brain evolution is unable to keep pace with it. Basically, we are a species with the capability of making nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles – but with Cro-Magnon brains – bearing a swatch of reptilian tendencies.Indeed, the mixed brain design, in terms of adaptability to technological society, is already theorized as one major cause of depression and mental illness in such societies (e.g. The Noonday Demon, Chapter 11, ‘Evolution’, p 401)

The behavior resulting from this hybrid brain is bound to be morally mixed, reflecting the fact that we literally have three “brains” contending for control in one cranium. Behavior will therefore range from the most selfless acts (not to mention creative artistic masterpieces) to savagery, carnal lust run amuck and addictions that paralyze purpose.The mistake of the religionist is to associate the first mode of behavior with being “human” and not the latter.

In effect, disowning most of the possible behaviors of which humans are capable.- and hence nine tenths of what makes us what we are. Worse, not only disowning these behaviors – but ascribing them to some antagonistic dark or negative force (“Satan”) thereby converting them into an alien, isolated religious abstraction outside the person.

Once this pathological connection is forged, the neocortex goes into over-drive, propelled by its ability to craft words for which no correspondents may exist in reality. Suddenly, our “souls” are at risk of being “lost” to “Satan” who will then fry us in “Hell”. In effect, the religionist’s higher brain centers divide reality into forces of darkness and light, just like the ancient Manicheans. (For the Manicheans, following the Catholic heretic Mani, the universe at its birth was divided into realms of light and darkness with the Devil ruling over darkness and "God" over the light).

As the brain-perception divide grows and persists, certain behaviorally idealistic expectations come to the fore, and a mass of negative or primitive actions is relegated to “evil”. Humans tuned in to this zeitgeist, which is soon circulated everywhere, begin to suppress all behaviors that they regard as defective or “sinful”. They don’t realize or appreciate that humans are risen apes, and not “fallen angels”.

Are we all “sinners” as assorted fundamentalist crazies and zealots claim? No, we’re an animal species saddled with a tri-partite brain whose higher centers often become self aware of the gulf between the base, atavistic and primitive behaviors (emanating from the reptilian brain) and the ideal, non-atavistic behavior conceived by the neocortex. The neocortical language centers then craft the term “sin” to depict the gulf between one and the other. Between what one would do in the ideal sense, and what one actually does.

In this context, the concept of “sin” makes eminent sense. Sin emerges as the label placed on specific brands and forms of “evil”. In reality, “Sin” itself is predicated on an exaggerated importance of humans in the universe. Thus, it elevates (albeit in a perverse way) the importance of humans in an otherwise meaningless cosmos. With “sin” the overly self-important and morally smug, self-righteous human has at least the potential of offending his deity – thereby getting its attention – as opposed to being relegated to the status of a cosmic “roach” (which any advanced alien sentience would regard us). "Sin" is thus an attention getter to a Big Cosmic Daddy.

“Sin” then isn't due to any "demons" but is a localized and reactive behavior at the personal, individual level- emerging from primitive brain circuits and newer language enters. Take away the deity, and sin loses its allure and quickly becomes redundant. How can there be “sin” if there is no deity to offend or to notice “sin”? To tote up all the little “black marks” in its “book of future judgment”?

“The Devil” or “Satan” is simply the projection of the most primitive brain imperatives onto the external world. And yes, this imperative is capable of mass murder as well as genocides. A supernatural Satan need not be invoked here, only the ancient brain residue of reptiles – acting collectively – aided and abetted by a newly perverted neocortex, which now does the reptile brain’s bidding, as opposed to attempting to halt it.

Why are the fundies so anal about embracing a silly superstitious piece of rot like "demons"? Well, because it carries lots of fear capital to act as a mental "enforcer" and bring the weaker minded into the fold, or keep them there! But why not elect more rational modes of argument and persusion that cast a more sophisticated veneer in the 21st century? Well, uh, why exert all that brain capital when enough ├╝ber--dumpkopfs are around to allow themselves to be controlled - including by the other point of the Axis of Fear: "Hell". Give these people a neural network makeover (as I have been in the process of showing in the last few blogs) and the fear disappears and with it "demons" and their abode.

What the fearful need to recognize is yes, there are some demons lurking around, and they can easily be found and have names! I have shown four of them in the lower diagram.

One can find them in any book on "demons" or Demoniality!

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