Prelife

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Prelife

Postby brainpanhandler » Tue Jan 28, 2014 3:30 pm

Belief in immortality hard-wired? Study examines development of children's 'prelife' reasoning
Date:January 27, 2014
Source:Boston University
Summary:By examining children's ideas about "prelife," the time before conception, researchers found results which suggest that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life. And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is not our skills or ability to reason, but rather our hopes, desires and emotions.


Most people, regardless of race, religion or culture, believe they are immortal. That is, people believe that part of themselves-some indelible core, soul or essence-will transcend the body's death and live forever. But what is this essence? Why do we believe it survives? And why is this belief so unshakable?

A new Boston University study led by postdoctoral fellow Natalie Emmons and published in the January 16, 2014 online edition of Child Development sheds light on these profound questions by examining children's ideas about "prelife," the time before conception. By interviewing 283 children from two distinct cultures in Ecuador, Emmons's research suggests that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life. And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is not our skills or ability to reason, but rather our hopes, desires and emotions. We are, in fact, what we feel.

Emmons' study fits into a growing body of work examining the cognitive roots of religion. Although religion is a dominant force across cultures, science has made little headway in examining whether religious belief-such as the human tendency to believe in a creator-may actually be hard-wired into our brains.

"This work shows that it's possible for science to study religious belief," said Deborah Kelemen, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University and co-author of the paper. "At the same time, it helps us understand some universal aspects of human cognition and the structure of the mind."

Most studies on immortality or "eternalist" beliefs have focused on people's views of the afterlife. Studies have found that both children and adults believe that bodily needs, such as hunger and thirst, end when people die, but mental capacities, such as thinking or feeling sad, continue in some form. But these afterlife studies leave one critical question unanswered: where do these beliefs come from? Researchers have long suspected that people develop ideas about the afterlife through cultural exposure, like television or movies, or through religious instruction. But perhaps, thought Emmons, these ideas of immortality actually emerge from our intuition. Just as children learn to talk without formal instruction, maybe they also intuit that part of their mind could exist apart from their body.

Emmons tackled this question by focusing on "prelife," the period before conception, since few cultures have beliefs or views on the subject. "By focusing on prelife, we could see if culture causes these beliefs to appear, or if they appear spontaneously," said Emmons.

"I think it's a brilliant idea," said Paul Bloom, a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale who was not involved with the study. "One persistent belief is that children learn these ideas through school or church. That's what makes the prelife research so cool. It's a very clever way to get at children's beliefs on a topic where they aren't given answers ahead of time."

Emmons interviewed children from an indigenous Shuar village in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador. She chose the group because they have no cultural prelife beliefs, and she suspected that indigenous children, who have regular exposure to birth and death through hunting and farming, would have a more rational, biologically-based view of the time before they were conceived. For comparison, she also interviewed children from an urban area near Quito, Ecuador. Most of the urban children were Roman Catholic, a religion that teaches that life begins only at conception. If cultural influences were paramount, reasoned Emmons, both urban and indigenous children should reject the idea of life before birth.

Emmons showed the children drawings of a baby, a young woman, and the same woman while pregnant, then asked a series of questions about the child's abilities, thoughts and emotions during each period: as babies, in the womb, and before conception.

The results were surprising. Both groups gave remarkably similar answers, despite their radically different cultures. The children reasoned that their bodies didn't exist before birth, and that they didn't have the ability to think or remember. However, both groups also said that their emotions and desires existed before they were born. For example, while children generally reported that they didn't have eyes and couldn't see things before birth, they often reported being happy that they would soon meet their mother, or sad that they were apart from their family.

"They didn't even realize they were contradicting themselves," said Emmons. "Even kids who had biological knowledge about reproduction still seemed to think that they had existed in some sort of eternal form. And that form really seemed to be about emotions and desires."

Why would humans have evolved this seemingly universal belief in the eternal existence of our emotions? Emmons said that this human trait might be a by-product of our highly developed social reasoning. "We're really good at figuring out what people are thinking, what their emotions are, what their desires are," she said. We tend to see people as the sum of their mental states, and desires and emotions may be particularly helpful when predicting their behavior. Because this ability is so useful and so powerful, it flows over into other parts of our thinking. We sometimes see connections where potentially none exist, we hope there's a master plan for the universe, we see purpose when there is none, and we imagine that a soul survives without a body.

These ideas, while nonscientific, are natural and deep-seated. "I study these things for a living but even find myself defaulting to them. I know that my mind is a product of my brain but I still like to think of myself as something independent of my body," said Emmons.

"We have the ability to reflect and reason scientifically, and we have the ability to reason based on our gut and intuition," she added. "And depending on the situation, one may be more useful than the other."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 164835.htm
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Re: Prelife

Postby BrandonD » Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:38 am

This article is a great illustration of how desperately we try to cram new information into our pre-existing systems.
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Re: Prelife

Postby brainpanhandler » Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:46 am

Interesting.

"new information" = ?

"Pre-existing systems" = ?

It's a thought provoking study. It seems to me children can give us glimpses into fairly unadulterated information about intrinsic, fundamental predispositions of our existence here, possibly even knowledge lost to western culture we so devalue the world of the child.. If children believe we exist before we are born that means something more than if an adult does. The older we get the more I imagine we are influenced by our own growing knowledge of our mortality. This gives rise to the ego's belief that we are more than our corporeal existence and we continue after we shed our mortal coils. At least that is one conventional view. but children it would seem intuit that if we exist after we die then there is no reason to believe that that is anything other than infinite and if our existence is infinite it cannot have a beginning and we must therefore have existed before we were born. The way of imaging that is in the form of emotions because they have not built a world view yet; their models are not yet abstractions.
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Re: Prelife

Postby BrandonD » Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:36 pm

brainpanhandler » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:46 am wrote:Interesting.

"new information" = ?

"Pre-existing systems" = ?

It's a thought provoking study. It seems to me children can give us glimpses into fairly unadulterated information about intrinsic, fundamental predispositions of our existence here, possibly even knowledge lost to western culture we so devalue the world of the child.. If children believe we exist before we are born that means something more than if an adult does. The older we get the more I imagine we are influenced by our own growing knowledge of our mortality. This gives rise to the ego's belief that we are more than our corporeal existence and we continue after we shed our mortal coils. At least that is one conventional view. but children it would seem intuit that if we exist after we die then there is no reason to believe that that is anything other than infinite and if our existence is infinite it cannot have a beginning and we must therefore have existed before we were born. The way of imaging that is in the form of emotions because they have not built a world view yet; their models are not yet abstractions.


I didn't consider the article to be necessarily *your* point of view, but it certainly seems to be implying to some degree that this childhood belief in immortality is some sort of biological quirk and doesn't really represent reality.

What would it mean for an article to say "human brain hardwired to believe law of gravity"? People would likely respond, there is no "belief" in the law of gravity because the law of gravity objectively exists. A statement such as the hard-wired one above implies the idea that there is no objective reality to the phenomena, that the belief is due to some internal biological factor.
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Re: Prelife

Postby brainpanhandler » Wed Apr 23, 2014 1:37 pm

BrandonD » Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:36 am wrote:
brainpanhandler » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:46 am wrote:Interesting.

"new information" = ?

"Pre-existing systems" = ?

It's a thought provoking study. It seems to me children can give us glimpses into fairly unadulterated information about intrinsic, fundamental predispositions of our existence here, possibly even knowledge lost to western culture we so devalue the world of the child.. If children believe we exist before we are born that means something more than if an adult does. The older we get the more I imagine we are influenced by our own growing knowledge of our mortality. This gives rise to the ego's belief that we are more than our corporeal existence and we continue after we shed our mortal coils. At least that is one conventional view. but children it would seem intuit that if we exist after we die then there is no reason to believe that that is anything other than infinite and if our existence is infinite it cannot have a beginning and we must therefore have existed before we were born. The way of imaging that is in the form of emotions because they have not built a world view yet; their models are not yet abstractions.


I didn't consider the article to be necessarily *your* point of view


I didn't mean to give the impression it was, if I did, and I didn't respond with the idea in mind that you thought I was endorsing the author's view by posting the article. I just thought it was thought provoking.

, but it certainly seems to be implying to some degree that this childhood belief in immortality is some sort of biological quirk and doesn't really represent reality.


The "hardwired" language are Moran's words:

Moran wrote:Emmons' study fits into a growing body of work examining the cognitive roots of religion. Although religion is a dominant force across cultures, science has made little headway in examining whether religious belief-such as the human tendency to believe in a creator-may actually be hard-wired into our brains.


The authors are more nuanced:

"This work shows that it's possible for science to study religious belief," said Deborah Kelemen, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University and co-author of the paper. "At the same time, it helps us understand some universal aspects of human cognition and the structure of the mind."

Why would humans have evolved this seemingly universal belief in the eternal existence of our emotions? Emmons said that this human trait might be a by-product of our highly developed social reasoning. "We're really good at figuring out what people are thinking, what their emotions are, what their desires are," she said. We tend to see people as the sum of their mental states, and desires and emotions may be particularly helpful when predicting their behavior. Because this ability is so useful and so powerful, it flows over into other parts of our thinking. We sometimes see connections where potentially none exist, we hope there's a master plan for the universe, we see purpose when there is none, and we imagine that a soul survives without a body.

I know that my mind is a product of my brain but I still like to think of myself as something independent of my body," said Emmons.


but sure, they're coming from a mechanistic, materialist point of view. They're scientists, not poets. but each have something to say.

The paper can be read here: http://www.bu.edu/cdl/files/2014/01/Emm ... uppmat.pdf

What would it mean for an article to say "human brain hardwired to believe law of gravity"? People would likely respond, there is no "belief" in the law of gravity because the law of gravity objectively exists.


Yes. People have been conditioned to mistake models of reality for reality itself, if that's what you mean. but if it gets you to the moon it can't be completely discounted. If nothing else our models have utility.


A statement such as the hard-wired one above implies the idea that there is no objective reality to the phenomena, that the belief is due to some internal biological factor.


Maybe. This:

We sometimes see connections where potentially none exist, we hope there's a master plan for the universe, we see purpose when there is none, and we imagine that a soul survives without a body.


...certainly seems to suggest that possibility. I need to examine the full paper more closely to see what they say. but I'm guessing they are agnostics on the objective reality of pre and post life existence and make no definitive statements about it. They are just trying to determine if there is some underlying basis for the belief in immortality and found a novel, somewhat scientific way to approach the question. It takes all kinds.

I myself saw an apparition as a child; the only truly unexplainable event of my life. That had a profound effect on me and continues to loom over my life as a foundational experience. I have to wonder also about the ability of children to more directly perceive the world with senses not yet dulled and elided by the biased world views of well meaning adults.
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Re: Prelife

Postby Harvey » Sat Jul 24, 2021 9:26 am

I'd really like to hear more about the apparition.

-------------

Mine was of a silver man, a slender androgynous figure. I woke to see this thing watching me in the darkness. When it became aware I was aware of it, the thing stepped backward and seemed to retreat into the wall length mirror fixed to cupboard door behind it before vanishing.

Unrelated, but with a number of interesting syncs, we had moved to Risley in Warrington when I was eleven, less than a hundred yards or so from the university reactor where Ken Edwards saw what became known as the 'Silver Man' of Risley. It was while searching for more information about the 'Silver Man' that I first encountered Jeff's blog, he mentions it in passing in one of his entries:

http://rigint.blogspot.com/2008/10/attention-deficit-world-order-part-two.html

Driving home in a company van the evening of March 17, 1978, Englishman Ken Edwards saw a strange figure on top of an embankment. As Peter Hough tells it in Visition, The being was tall and broad, with a head like a goldfish bowl, and its arms appeared to sprout from the top of its shoulders. It descended the steep hill at an impossible right angle to the ground, and before walking across the road and straight through a chain link fence as if it wasn't there, turned to face the van and shot narrow beams of light from its eyes into the cab. A power surge burned out all of its major components, Edwards' watch stopped, and he showed Hough marks on his hands that had been clutching the steering wheel which resembled sunburns. He soon began complaining of stomach pains, and was found to be riddled with cancer, and died at 42. Maybe he would have anyway, if he and something unknowable hadn't crossed paths, but like Barbara, his widow, told Hough, "A thing that can burn skin, stop watches and destroy an expensive radio might well be capable of bringing harm to a human being."



Adjacent to the UKAEA on the other side of the motorway from it (about 150 yards) there is actually a narrow country road called Silver Lane situated right next to the back of Risley Remand Centre. As a child I remember watching a prison revolt take place there, from the Silver Lane landfill site where we often roamed. While inmates were hurling tiles from the roof at the back, simultaneously, several news stations were filming events from the front. I would later cross paths with an armed robber who was on the roof that day while my friends and I stood below, armed with air rifles and catapults, but that's another story...

A fuller account of the 'Silver Man' sighting can be found here: https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2011/10/ ... ilver-man/

I had already read about Ken in collections of UFO stories but for some reason I don't recall linking the tale to where I then lived. A few years later I became friends with a Canadian physicist who worked at the reactor in the UKAEA complex across the road from my home. I'd met her through the local science fiction group, of which Bob Shaw was also a member.

In my late teens I became friends with Peter Hough and would go on to illustrate a number of books by Peter along with Jenny Randles, both of whom had met and interviewed Ken Edwards at the time of his encounter. Unknown to me (for many more years) largely because my father left when I was three or four (I saw him a handful of times before I was an adult) it turned out that my father had actually worked with Ken Edwards. They went out on major jobs together 'many times,' so my father knew him quite well.

He pointed out that Ken was almost certainly not on his way home from a Union meeting in Manchester as he claimed, because those meetings took place in St Helens in the opposite direction from Manchester to where the event occurred and certainly, no obvious route home would take him through Risley. The electrical union of which Ken was a member actually had a branch in Warrington. It was well known in the Forklift company where they both worked that Ken was unhappy in his marriage, he had confided in a secretary and needless to say it soon became general knowledge that he was having an affair. According to my father this is the likely reason he would have been passing through Risley at that time of night, the 'union meeting' story made no sense to his co-workers. He would regularly turn up to work after missing a day or a week, with what my father called 'unusual' stories to account for his absence and he remarked that ken was a 'Walter Mitty character.'

As for the burning on his skin, my father said that a week or so before his encounter, Ken had an accident at work while siphoning the particularly nasty petrol with which new forklifts came prefilled. This procedure took place during their conversion to LPG, something Ken (as an electrician) was not usually responsible for and perhaps one reason it stuck in my father's memory. Ken's back and hands had been drenched in the stuff and he had developed quite nasty inflamed and peeling skin as a result. Ken was notoriously accident prone according to my father. In the time he worked for the company, less than a year, he had fallen from a forklift mast and another time he had dropped a heavy load onto his foot. Ken disappeared during the week of his encounter but as already noted, this was not unusual and his absence was hardly noticed. Newspaper headlines were the first anyone at work knew of the story and Ken never returned. My father said he saw him once more in Warrington, between the time Ken left the company and his death not long afterwards.

With regard to what Hough and Randles claimed were 'unusual experiments' taking place at the UKAEA, my father mentioned the story of a worker killed at Risley sometime around 1962, supposedly due to 'vacuum exposure.' It was claimed he had become trapped in a 'vacuum tube.' The wife of this man had remained sceptical, not least because she had been prevented from viewing his body, which the AEA then insisted be buried in a lead lined coffin. :shrug:

Incidentally my current abode, Chester, is actually in the middle of a two year long UFO flap although nothing seems to have been reported officially, it seems to be taking place under the radar. I've watched videos of the objects on people's phones and heard a number of first hand accounts. I've started going out at nights myself but haven't seen anything yet, although I have seen two UFO's here in prior years, neither of which conform to the current sightings. If I see anything, doubtless I will report back on the relevant threads.
And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me
"The greatest thing
You'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return"


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