13 July 2006

Alzheimers and Consciousness, Clarified

George Will engaged in some philosophical thinking triggered by his Mom's passing after a long bout with Alzheimer's. The title links to his column in the Washington Post (which requires free registration). Since Gwen's Nana passed recently, this column was very close to home for us. The first paragraphs:

"NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The long dying of Louise Will ended here recently. It was time. At 98, her body was exhausted by disease and strokes. Dementia, that stealthy thief of identity, had bleached her vibrant self almost to indistinctness, like a photograph long exposed to sunlight.

"It is said that God gave us memory so we could have roses in winter. Dementia is an ever-deepening advance of wintry whiteness, a protracted paring away of personality. It inflicts on victims the terror of attenuated personhood, challenging philosophic and theological attempts to make death a clean, intelligible and bearable demarcation.

"Is death the soul taking flight after the body has failed? That sequence -- the physical extinguished, the spiritual not -- serves our notion of human dignity. However, mental disintegration mocks that comforting schema by taking the spirit first.

Therein lies a significant realization concerning death and mortality. Perhaps this is why Alzheimer's is so very incomfortable for the living. If there is an immortal soul, it cannot be lodged in the brain or any process dependent upon the brain. Or it can escape the body before death.

But surely we know and understand, after having a loved one develop Alzheimer's, that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, yet it depends on many of those parts, and especially the brain, for wholeness. George Will brings reality to our dealings with death by reflecting so eminently and eloquently on this, and I think one has to marvel at the ability of his mother to express her situation to us all, through her son.

09 July 2006

The Disbeliever

Interesting article/interview at Salon.com about an atheist, buddhist, neuroscientist author who defends paranormal phenomena against treatment as "intellectual pornography", and has an open mind about consciousness existing independently of the brain...

I too find his critique of religious moderates dangerous. We must depend on moderates to rein in the extremists, because only they have the numbers to do so. Also, I have no use for Harris' sympathies for paranormal phenomena, and I believe studies of them indeed to be "intellectual pornography". But he does seem to have some interesting things to say, and I plan to get a copy of his book "The End of Faith", because I do hold that "reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away" -- Phillip K. Dick

05 July 2006

Humanism and Naturalism

This is inspired by the linked page describing Humainism (with a bar over the a). That got me thinking about Humanism in relation to Naturalism, which had me all over the web looking for connections and disconnections. The bottom line is that I'd really like to see a fusion of the two, into something called Humanaturalism, which is going to be the topic of this blog.

There are the several secular humanist groups, which don't have the naturalist emphasis I like, and sound too human-oriented, whereas I prefer to see myself as part of the larger web of life. I hadn't really appreciated this dichotomy between humanism and naturalism, but it has been noted in a most unflattering way by the Moonies

A slogan that comes naturally once you get past the bastardization of language:
"Humanaturalism: makes you feel like a natural (human)..."
(apologies to Carole King)

From there, we could have a look at the lyrics of Carole's song, adapted to the present purpose:
Like a Natural Human
Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel uninspired
And when I knew I'’d have to face another day
Well, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But your love was the key to my peace of mind

Cause you make me feel, you make me feel,
You make me feel like a natural human

Now when my soul was in the lost-and-found
You came along to claim it
I didn't know just what was wrong with me
Till your voice helped me name it
Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm living for
Cause if I make you happy I don't need to do more

Oh, baby, what you've done to me
You make me feel so good inside
And I just want to be
Close to you, you make me feel so alive!

And from there, it's a small leap to a description of what Humanaturalism might entail:
1. Belief in the inherent grace of the universe
2. Belief in human imagination, myth, dreams, hope, humor, love
3. Immortality of the genetic and human literature of life
4. Service to the web of life with reverence and wonder
5. Wisdom through reason and open scientific inquiry
6. Legacy of healthy children in a healthy environment
7. Peace through compassion, tolerance and respect
8. Democracy and rule of law in human relations
9. Courage and serenity through wisdom
10. Balance of passion and conservation

So what do you think?