Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Paul Lauterbur, inventor of MRI, dies at 77

A sad day for my profession. My brother Boomer informed me of Paul Lauterbur's death yesterday from kidney disease. I knew he was ill for some time. Paul belatedly won the Nobel Prize in 2003 for this work, which he shared with Peter Mansfield (and not Raymond Damadian, heh).

There was considerable contorversy around the award, mostly stirred up by Damadian (he took out full page ads in the New York Times and other newspapers complaining of this 'omission'). Damadian deserves some credit for showing that tissue can have different relaxation mechanisms (by which we get contrast in images), but that was it. He was not a player in the development of MRI and this 'omission' was warranted.

I remember Paul speaking when I was an undergrad at the U of S in Saskatoon. It was a memorable talk. He was one of those animated speakers that could make watching grass grow a riveting subject. Mind you, this was very young in the history of MRI and it was an already interesting subject. While my own current use of MRI comes more from the point of view of spectroscopy, it did kindly my interest in the subject. He was one of those brilliant and dedicated scientists that made significant changes to the way we do things.

Paul passed away yesterday at the age of 77.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Got barbecue?

Can anyone hazard a guess as to what I'm imaging here? Looks tasty, actually....
Well, this is a MRI image of a cow knee (200X150 mm2 FOV, driven equilibrium FT sequence, 256X256 matrix). Our sample came from a reputable source (the butcher shop across the street from the hospita- wait a minute, on second thought, maybe I should quit getting my meat there...). Not the strangest thing I ever saw across from a hospital. When I was doing my PhD in Winterpeg I laughed every time I got off the bus because right in front of the hospital was a funeral home. Talk about having the jump on the competition.

I'm still hungry after lunch. Maybe I'll crank up the rf and see if I can turn this sucker into a giant microwave...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Connection Between Religion and Morality is an Illusion!

As Sam Harris said in his speech to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, we never respect stupidity in our society unless it is religious stupidity. People that believe stupid things are not necessarily stupid, though some certainly are. Nor are they necessarily lunatics, though undoubtedly some of them are.

The erroneous connection between religion and morality is the key to the animosity towards atheists. If you think it isn't a problem, or it isn't irrational, read the following comment to another blog:

LoL! So, because the Bible is old, and inconvenient, it's just some fantasy? A respected woman I know once said this, in reply to the Bible and Christianity being false:
"If I'm wrong, then what does it matter? I have taken great comfort in these teachings. And if I'm right, what will happen to you?"
Judaism should not exist at all? By what standard? If there is no God, or even the word of God passed onto us through such things as the Bible, who's to say what should and shouldn't be? When there is no clearly defined Good, and no clearly defined Evil, everything becomes acceptable. Without God, without his word, there is no evil, and there is no good. Any person could do anything that they so desired without punishment, because there is nothing to hold them to any obligation. Ask yourself why it is that you would think it is wrong to murder an innocent person. Ask yourself why it is cruel to sexualy molest young children. Without God, these things are not wrong.
"The worst thing the Devil could have done is prove he didn't exist."
Don't disbelieve in something just because it is unpopular, or inconvenient. Disbelieve something if it is false, illogical, and unfounded.

Ah, Pascal's Wager (if in a rudimentary form)! As if that argument for belief hasn't been destroyed many, MANY times over… First, which god should you believe in? You can't believe in them all. And if you are wrong you have lived the whole of the one life you get based on a lie. Is it just me, or is that not a horrible fate?

There are many things in the Bible we now take to be shockingly immoral which seem to be part of everyday life in the time that the original codices were written. Take slavery, for instance. In no place in the Bible is slavery condemned, yet a civil war in America was fought in part over this. In fact, the Bible even tells us specifically how to treat slaves and was used as an argument by the South in favor of it. I had one discussion over this where my opponent said that this was ridiculous. The passages I was quoting were based on people selling themselves into slavery voluntarily. My response: So what? Was this person suggesting that some slavery is okay and other types not? Why is this not condoned by our society? Why are there no poor houses? Congratulations are in order; she had just reduced the Bible from something heinous to something to be reviled.

The idea that religion has anything to do with being moral is a lie. How can performing acts of good be respected when they are done out of fear of punishment? How can anyone really say they are moral on the basis that if they disobey dogmatic rules they will not be rewarded in the end? As Sam Harris said, religion gives bad reasons to be good, where good reasons available.

I also agree with Harris that the only rational basis for a system of morals is a concern for the well-being and suffering of others. To say that "without God, without his word, there is no evil and there is no good" is plainly wrong. I feel good when I open the door for a disabled person. I felt outrage with the knowledge that Saddam Hussein gassed Kurds and Shiites, people that he had an obligation to protect. Yet I do not believe.

I firmly believe that murder is wrong. I also firmly believe that molesting children is immoral. In neither of these moral calculations have I invoked any deity, let alone the Christian god. According to this person's view, I should not feel that way. I should be raping, mugging, murdering with abandon. Yet I am not. If the Bible and belief in God are the sole sources of morality, then why are responses to moral and ethical dilemmas virtually the same whether you are a believer or non-believer? This has been studied in great detail, and those interested should consult Marc Hauser's Moral Minds.

This misconception that only a belief in God can make us good must be dispelled. I don't disbelieve because it is unpopular (and just when was Christianity unpopular in the last century?) or inconvenient. I disbelieve because any religion is false, illogical and unfounded, not to mention irrational.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The last of Chopra 'debunking' The God Delusion

This is the last in Deepak Chopra's refutation of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. In this episode, he attempts to refute Dawkins' assertion that:

The evolution of life can be explained completely without intruding (introducing?) the notion of an intelligent designer.

One of the few he gets correct. He writes:

"This point would seem to be a slam dunk, since Darwin's theory--and those that have sprung from it--is purely physical. Evolution proceeds, according to Darwin, through environmental stresses that put pressure on a species to survive. A sudden change in climate, the appearance of new predators, a drastic drop in the water supply are all examples of such stresses. Some creatures will adapt better than others. This is measured by whether a population of animals increases or decreases. Thus adaptation comes down to reproduction. If an animal exhibits changes that increase its chance of passing those changes on to its offspring, evolution moves forward. If, however, a mutation occurs that lowers the chance for reproduction, obviously it can't be passed on, and as a result other species survive in the endless competition for food, territory, and mating rights. This whole scheme, which has been validated thousands of times over, excludes God. Random mutations have nothing to do with a designer. The rise and fall of species shows no intelligent plan. Even the idea of progress is over simplified. Evolution doesn't automatically make a species bigger, stronger, more intelligent, or more beautiful. Blue-green algae, for example, is one of the most primitive forms of life, yet it fits its niche in the environment perfectly well today, just as it has for billions of years. The fact that an orchid seems more beautiful to our eyes and a redwood tree more majestic doesn't mean God created that beauty and majesty. Or that nature intended those qualities in any way."

He gets a lot of this right for once, except that it is not animal populations that are a measure of Evolution, but gene population and propogation.

"Yet the triumph of materialism in explaining the formation of life is grossly flawed. Dawkins realizes that there are enormous gaps in evolutionary theory, but he keeps assuring us that these will be filled in over time. Genetics, like evolution itself, proceeds by increments, and we mustn't leap to embrace an intelligent designer just because so many things around us seem, well, intelligently designed."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Chopra, if he believed in the Christian God, would be a poster boy for the Discovery Institute, with the brains to match.
"The fact that the world appears to be so perfectly knit, so stunningly precise down to the millionths of a degree, so beautiful, and in the end so meaningful to anyone who can appreciate these qualities, is a problem for materialists. For centuries one of the strongest proofs of God has been the inference that nothing less than a supreme being could have created life. Unfortunately for Dawkins, refuting this claim isn't nearly as easy as he thinks."

Really? Explaining the balance of ecosystems is a total triumph for Evolution! No species evolves in a vacuum. For instance, for gazelles to escape predators such as lions they natural selection can select for gazelles with longer legs. There is a limit to this, as longer legs mean a longer drop to the ground for gazelle young at birth, etc. The lion species' evolution is sensitive to this, and selection for those characteristics which will allow them to keep up with gazelles. This trickle-down effect makes Reaganomics look like child's play. The evolution of every species is interconnected with every other species. Equilibrium is never achieved, but is always strived for in the gene pools. Simulations have demonstrated the validity of the principles of Natural Selection over and over, and have been corroborated through observation.

In the same way we find the quantum world strange because we evolved in a world dominated by Classical Mechanics, we find it difficult to understand Evolution (the fact, not the Theory) because we did not evolve in a world where these changes are rapid on a human time scale. The fact that we have understood Evolution is a testament to the human ability for logic and reason. It is easy to see how people can succumb to the Argument of Personal Incredulity, but once such emotional 'arguments' are set aside and the evidence looked at for what it is, there are no reasonable arguments against Evolution.

Scientists still study the finches of the Galapagos. It's a wonderful natural laboratory. Beak size varies from year to year. These are small changes, to be sure, but significant. It all depends on food availability, the size and hardness of the seeds which form the birds' diet, etc. I can almost hear the naysayers now. But that's just adaptation! As if there is a difference between micro- and macroevolution other than in magnitude. Sheesh.

If over the centuries that interference from some god was required to create life is the strongest of arguments for the existence of God, then it comes up short and needs to be discarded. I can only assume that he is thinking of Paley's watchmaker. That idea was debunked long ago by David Hume. While abiogenesis lies outside the purview of Evolution, a large body of work on the subject has shown how life might have originated. If it was so impossible, then we would not be able to do even that. So, yes, it is easy to refute the existence of God.

"God, on the other hand, is merely inferred. He's an invisible supposition, and who needs one when we have fossils? The flaw here is subtle, for Dawkins is imagining God in advance and then claiming that what he imagines has little chance of existing. That's perfectly true, but why should God be what Dawkins imagines--a superhuman Creator making life the way a watchmaker makes a watch?" Here we go back to misunderstanding the target of The God Delusion. Dawkins is quite specific about refuting an Abrahamic god in his book. True, Dawkins does not believe in the existence of any god, but to debunk Chopra's vision of god would require another book. "Let's say God is closer to being a field of consciousness that pervades the universe. Let's say that this field keeps creating new forms within itself. These forms swirl and mix with each other, finding more combinations and complexities as time unfolds." Huh? First, Chopra arbitrarily invokes some 'field of consciousness' (Isn't that word 'field' cool? It makes it sound like he knows what he is talking about…). He offers no substantiation. He's already shunned random chance (another strawman of Evolution), but is willing to invoke it here just because it suits him? Again, Chopra's ideas are self-inconsistent. "Such a God couldn't be imagined because a field is infinite, and there's nowhere it isn't. Thus trying to talk about God is like a fish trying to talk about wetness. A fish is immersed in wetness; it has nothing to compare water to, and the same is true of consciousness. We are conscious and intelligent, and it does no good to talk about the probability of not being conscious and intelligent." We exist in air, yet we feel the wind. We can detect air, water, whatever. We can detect all manner of fields for which our senses are not attuned. If such a field of consciousness exists it could be detected as well. Not only has such a field never been detected, Physics has not even postulated it. Unsubstantiated garbage; all a house of cards built in the clouds.

"We are in God as a fish is in water. Dawkins doesn't take this argument seriously (he imagines that he can entirely dismiss geniuses on the order of Plato, Socrates, Hegel, Kant, Newton, and Einstein simply because they aren't up on the current issue of Scientific American, as he is). In the past, thinkers saw intelligence and consciousness all around them, and they set out to explain their source, which some called God. It's not necessary to use such a word. But it is necessary to find the source." Is Chopra saying that we should not adjust our views in the face of new evidence? It's easy to see intelligence and consciousness all around us, but does that mean that it is so? When we take a closer look at the universe we see the opposite. We see no direction, but complexity and order generated by a set of rules which are themselves a product of gauge symmetry. He attempts to support his position by dropping a few names. Big deal. Stephen Hawking knows more about the origins of the universe than you or I will ever know, Deepak, yet he sees no reason to invoke God. And it really pisses me off when people try to tell me that Einstein was religious; he was a pantheist at most. He most certainly did not believe in a personal god, nor did he believe the univese was self-aware. Thinkers in the past saw intelligence and consciousness all around them because they had no better alternative to this belief. We have much more information to make use of now. It's called advancement.

"Are information fields real, as some theorists believe? Such a field might preserve information the way energy fields preserve energy; in fact, the entire universe may be based upon the evolution of information. (there's not the slightest doubt that the universe has an invisible source outside space and time.)" Really? This last sentence would be news to Physicists. There is absolutely nothing in current models to suggest that even speaking about anything outside of space and time has any meaning. And if anyone out there has any idea what the hell an information field is, send me a link please. My only idea of what he is talking about is something akin to the Gaia hypothesis, which is just more unsubstantiated spiritual garbage. It's all 'if's and 'maybe's, yet their appearance in this setting is acceptable to him because it suits him. It's not acceptable to me.

"Dawkins falls prey, not to the delusion of God, but to the delusion of an all-mighty chance acting mindlessly through matter. He cannot admit the possibility of an ordering force in Nature." Why should he? No such thing ordering force is needed in explaining anything, let alone been detected. Invoking such a thing is completely arbitrary. "Therefore, he has no ability to discover the precursors of the human mind, which is ultimately the greatest triumph of evolutionary biology, not DNA. Until we have a credible explanation for mind, it's pointless to argue about God as if we understand what's at stake. Religion and science are both operating with incomplete concepts." If that's the case, Deepak, why do you keep blathering on as if you have some insider knowledge? You don't. I'll stick to logic and reason, my conclusions supported by empirical evidence (as if there is any other kind). I'll leave the superstitious crap to you. "The entire universe is experienced only through consciousness, and even though consciousness is invisible and non-material, it's the elephant in the room so far as evolutionary theory is concerned. This is a huge topic, of course. It's difficult threading one's way through the battlefield, with fundamentalists firing smoke on one side and skeptics arrogantly defending the scientific status quo on the other, but earth-shaking issues are at stake. When we understand both intelligence and design, a quantum leap in evolutionary theory will be possible." I'm sorry, Deepak. Intelligent design in Science is dead, not that it was ever actually alive. Whether you like it or not, the Theory of Evolution has been extremely successful in explaining even the rise of consciousness. It does not have the gaps that you believe it has. The underlying principles of Natural Selection are pretty much set. It's only details that are being argued over in scientific circles, and believe me, your ears will never burn. You're not even a blip.

So, what has Chopra presented? I could almost respect Chopra's position if he was a pantheist as Einstein probably was. But he doesn't stop there. He believes, offering no evidence in support, that the universe is intelligent and self-aware. Apart from this, there is little difference between his empty vision of intelligent design and that of creationists. In essence, he posits 'god-did-it'. God-did-it offers nothing explanatory. Like all creationists, instead of actually answering the question of the universe's and our existence, he just creates a new one; begging the question, as it were, to which he has no answer. He's smart enough to dump the idea of a personal god, but still too lazy to look for real answers. He provides no positive evidence for his own position and makes easily refuted negative arguments against a caricature of materialism. In essence he offers nothing but unsubstantiated garbage, exactly the type of voodoo that would appeal to what Sapolsky referred to in his
speech to the Freedom from Religion Foundation as 'schizotypal personalities'. Richard Dawkins is in a completely different league than you, Deepak.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deepak Chopra 'debunks' The God Delusion - Part V

I've already shown my contempt for Chopra's ability to think, and he continues his irrational diatribe in Part V of his debunking of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I'm sure he thinks he's being clever, but the strawmen keep coming. In this installment, he attempts to attack what he believes is part of Dawkins' position:

Consciousness is a byproduct of matter.

No, consciousness is an evolutionary development. Yes, matter is required, but so is organization. Evolution gives a perfectly good explanation of the development of consciousness.

In his attempt to refute this, he comes up with a thought experiment: "Think of a yellow flower. Can you see it? If so, then the experiment has been successfully completed. When you see a flower in your mind, there is no flower inside your brain. That seems simple enough. But where is that flower? There's no picture of it in your brain, because your brain contains no light. How about the color yellow? Is there a patch of yellow inside your brain? Obviously not."

Now, even Einstein's thought experiment required a great deal of empirical confirmation before acceptance, even for himself. This is something that Chopra is mistaken about: ideas require verification. So, let's look at his thought experiment. You think of a yellow flower. The thought of yellow causes us to access memory associated with the visual cortex, as does the thought of a flower. We can see such things using something called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Experiments using fMRI study how the brain does exactly these things. When you think of yellow, certain parts of the brain start working and increase blood flow in these regions, clearing deoxyhemoglobin. This causes an increase in image intensity in those reasons from a resting state. How does Chopra's position explain this? It doesn't. Nor does it explain personality changes due to damage of the frontal cortex, the effects of single gene disorders such as schizophrenia, or a host of other brain disorders. The evidence that to Chopra doesn't even exist just does not bear out his position. Chopra's ideas are intellectually bankrupt.

Another strawman approacheth: "Yet you assume--as do all who fall for the superstition of materialism--that flowers and the color yellow exist 'out there' in the world. In fact, they do not. The entire experience of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell is created in consciousness. Molecules don't assemble in your head to make the sound of a trumpet blaring in a brass band. The brain is silent. So where does the world of sights and sounds come from?" It seems to me that Chopra's view of materialism is rather glib. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it materialism that tells us from empirical observation exactly how seeing yellow works? Oh, wait. Deepak has the answer: it's some woo-woo mystical unsubstantiated hypothetical crap that doesn't tell us anything at all about HOW we see or hear or think. Good theory, Deepak. Utterly devoid of any substance. Talk about anti-materialistic.

According to Chopra, "Materialists cannot offer any reasonable explanation. The fact is that an enormous gap exists between any physical, measurable event and our perception. If I talk to you, all I am doing is vibrating air with my vocal cords. Every aspect of that event can be seen and measured. But turning those vibrating air molecules into meaningful words has never been seen or measured. It can't be." As before, he posits a God of the Gaps. Again, we can see the effects of the brain converting these vibrations into something meaningful, as much as one can understand Chopra's inanity. fMRI and PET can do exactly what he says "can't be". At least we can model consciousness, then experiment to verify and update our model. What Chopra offers is vacuous. And this is just a beginning in our understanding the mind. As PZ Meyers has observed, the next attack on theism will come from neuroscience.

What he says here is inexplicable: "When you get to the primal state of the universe, what is it? A universal field that encloses all matter and energy. This field is everywhere, but it also localizes itself. A molecule in the brain is one expression of the field, so is a thought. The field turns out to be the common ground of both the inner and outer world. When Einstein said that he wanted to know the mind of God, he was pointing us toward the field, which science continues to explore." This is just spiritual gobbledygook. And people wonder why I equate spirituality with flakiness? I'd like to know where in Physics this universal field is defined. Without any basis other than his own flaky prejudice he defines a thought as something that exists in the same way that a molecule does. He has just contradicted himself. In the same way that a molecule can be detected, it follows from his beliefs that an idea should similarly be observed. He is completely inconsistent. Inner and outer worlds? What are they? Einstein was not pointing toward some nonexistent field, he was trying to understand how the universe works! His was a wholly a materialistic position.

"Fortunately, as the two rivers begin to merge, we won't be plagued by either the superstition of religion or the superstition of materialism. We will begin to link brain and mind through new concepts that will explain how the color yellow exists in our brain as the same phenomenon as a yellow flower in the meadow. Both are experiences in consciousness." Oh, goodness. Talk about superstitious. The way in which we see a yellow flower in a meadow has nothing to do with how we envision a yellow flower in our mind. The first has to do with the interaction between matter and light. The pigment in the flower petal absorbs certain wavelengths and reflects those which form what we know as yellow. These are detected on the retina, converted to nerve impulses and transmitted to the brain. These impulses are stored until accessed. Thinking about a yellow flower accesses the memories that are stored; the color yellow in one place and the flower form in another. Interestingly, the regions that light up in fMRI images are the same for accessing a yellow flower memory as they are for viewing one. To invoke voodoo as Chopra does is unjustified. Indeed, his position is utterly destroyed by materialism and show to be one born purely from prejudice.

"That covers the basic and I think most convincing refutation of the anti-God argument. It doesn't prove God by any means, much less does it degrade science. The damage that anti-God rhetoric does is to cloud reality. In reality there is ample room for both God and science. Many forward-looking thinkers realize this; sadly, Richard Dawkins isn't among them." His arguments so far have not convinced me of anything. If anything, they have caused me to disrespect his position even more. He cherry picks what he wants from Science and twists it till it hardly resembles the idea it originated as. For instance, his use of quantum entanglement to support his position that there are things unexplained by materialism, even though it has been thoroughly explained. He is either a bald-faced liar or a deluded charlatan (or a little from column A and a little from column B). Either way his ideas shouldn't be given the time of day. I am in Dawkins' camp when it comes to Science and God. You can not be intellectually honest as a scientist and still believe in a deity. God, even in Chopra's nebulously defined version, is a result of unquestioned and unfalsifiable dogma. This is anathema to Science. Those that straddle the fence wind up intellectually emasculated.

Tomorrow's final installment is where he attempts to denounce Evolution. What a laugh.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Deepak Chopra on The God Delusion - Part IV

To recap Deepak Chopra's objections to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion:

  • In Part I Chopra claims that it is Dawkins' assertion that if Science can not explain the existence of something, that something does not exist. Hogwash. Apparently, Chopra does not understand Ockham's Razor: anything not required in an explanation is superfluous and must be cut from the final synthesis. God is not required to explain anything, and therefore has little chance of existing.
  • Part II is just a superfluous reiteration of his statement in Part I.
  • In Part III Chopra attempts to debunk materialism through the anthropic principle and the existence of Quantum Mechanics. The anthropic principle has taken a huge blow recently with the publication of the results of simulating the universe in the total absence of weak nuclear interactions. Quantum Mechanics is not only itself a part of materialism, it was BORN from materialism. In essence, Chopra debunks himself.

Time for Part IV, where Chopra asserts that Dawkins believes that:

The universe is neither intelligent nor conscious. Science doesn't need those ingredients to explain nature and its workings. Starting with atoms and molecules governed by strict physical laws, we will eventually explain everything.

Seeing as there is no evidence in support of an intelligent or conscious universe, I can not see how Chopra is able to refute this, and he doesn't disappoint. Instead, he makes an ad hoc attack: "This argument has to be made in a very loud voice with total conviction to sound plausible. Dawkins holds that humans are conscious because chemicals randomly collide in the brain to produce a phantom we ignorantly call the mind. This is a fashionable view and in fact is the logical outcome of arch materialism. Where else could mind come from if not molecules, assuming that molecules are the basis of the brain and therefore of reality itself?"

Where else indeed? "Common sense finds it hard to take this argument seriously, because it leads to nonsense. The brain contains an enormous amount of water and salt. Are we to assume that water is intelligent, or salt is conscious? If they aren't, then we must assume that throwing water and salt together--along with about six other basic building blocks of organic chemicals--suddenly makes them intelligent. The bald fact is that Dawkins defends an absurd position because he can't make the leap to a different set of assumptions." What is he saying? That a human body is composed of just carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen and sulfur? It was once said that the human body is composed of about $6 of these chemicals. But this ignored that the synthesis of complex molecules is very expensive. The $6 figure was rather myopic. This is no different than Chopra's view. Consciousness comes from the enormously complex biochemistry and structure of the human brain, a result of evolutionary processes. The only assumption in Dawkins position is that consciousness is explainable via naturalism.

So what are Chopra's assumptions?

"--Consciousness is part of existence. It wasn't created by molecules.
--Intelligence is an aspect of consciousness.
--Intelligence grows as life grows. Both evolve from within. --The universe evolved along intelligent lines."

This is meaningless drivel. Is an amoeba conscious? It exists. Molecules exist, but are hardly conscious. Intelligence requires consciousness; it is not an aspect of it. Intelligence grows as life grows? I don't even know what that means. The universe evolved along intelligent lines? No. The universe is exactly as we would expect it to be in the absence of design. The big difference between Dawkins' and Chopra's positions is that in Dawkins' case, materialism is his starting point. He has no conclusion to influence his path. Chopra's on the other hand (and this is true of creationists as well) starts with his conclusion: the universe is conscious. It's his base assumption and his final answer, at which he arrives not from empirical evidence, but personal prejudice.

"If we remain sane and clear-headed, the reason to assume that consciousness exists is simple. There's no other way to account for it." This is just a God of the Gaps argument, or perhaps the Argument from Personal Incredulity. Either way it's bogus, weak and lazy. It says, "Oh, this is just too hard to understand. Let's chalk it up to some nebulous deity and go for a beer." This is a contemptible position. He claims that consciousness "isn't just plausible as part of nature, it's totally necessary." He poses a bizarre question to the reader: "Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?" It's a total canard. Consciousness is, as I've said, a result of the brain's enormously complex biochemistry and structure. What he's done is reduced that to "random chemical reactions". This glib statement is another strawman: make a caricature of your opponent's position to make it sound ridiculous. But it's Chopra that comes across as ridiculous. I can't wait to trash the fifth installment.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Deepak on The God Delusion - Part III

A couple of years ago my wife and I (we were only at the dating part of our relationship at the time) were at a little soup and sandwich place near where I worked. This is one of those specialty places, not at all like Tim Horton's (My condolences to those that have never experienced Tim's coffee. Starbucks sucks.). I went to the washroom and while I was there my wife was listening to a conversation at the next table over. After I got back my wife was looking at me expectantly for what I could tell was no reason whatsoever. Then I started listening to the conversation going on behind me, and that's when my wife's amusement became apparent. These two elderly ladies were discussing Quantum Mechanics and 'planes of existence' in the same spiritualistic breath. Having had a number of university courses in Quantum Mechanics and even a graduate course in Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, this was to me what I imagine my bull-cat Omar feels when I rub his fur backwards. Why is it that places like this always seem to attract weirdoes like flypaper?

Why did I relate this anecdote? You'll see that it has a direct bearing on Deepak Chopra's third 'attack' on Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion:

The universe is a complex machine whose workings are steadily being demystified by science. Any other way of viewing the world is superstitious and reactionary.

Chopra writes: "What is so strange about this argument is that Dawkins himself is totally reactionary. His defense of a material universe revealing its secrets ignores the total overthrow of materialism in modern physics. There is no world of solid objects; space-time itself depends upon shaping forces beyond both space and time." Did I miss the memo? When has materialism been overthrown at all, even in modern Physics? Another commenter noticed this as well. I have a suspicion of what he means: Quantum Mechanics.

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner for his work in Quantum Electrodynamics, once said: "I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics." Why is that? Quantum rules apply only on very small dimensions. I am speaking about dimensions so small that we can't even imagine them, let alone experience quantum effects. We evolved in a world dominated by Classical Mechanics. When you throw a ball in a gravitational field you know from experience how to adjust the catching mitt in order to intercept its path. We don't need to know the mathematics behind the ball's motion; we just need to catch it. (Before it hits our head, right, Dale?) This has obvious implications for individual survival.

But in the quantum realm things are counter-intuitive. We do not have a grasp of quantum rules simply because our survival has never depended upon this understanding. We don't need to know about wave-particle duality of electrons unless you are applying for funding in Physics. Our brains evolved to understand what mattered for survival and an intuitive understanding of Classical Mechanics was much more important in this respect than Quantum Mechanics. We don't need to understand Quantum Mechanics to make incredibly precise and accurate predictions of experimental outcomes, which makes it one of the most successful Theories of all time. For an entertaining discussion of what would happen if, for instance the Planck's, gravitational or speed of light constants were altered to make quantum weirdness a part of our normal every day experience, see if you can find of copy of George Gamow's Mr. Tomkins in Wonderland. This book is unfortunately out of print, but for those interested see if you can find it on eBay.

Chopra claims materialism is a superstition and has glaring problems: "…arch materialism is just as superstitious as religion. Someone like Dawkins still believes there are solid objects randomly colliding to haphazardly form more and more complex objects, until over the course of billions of years the universe produced human DNA with its billions of genetic bits." Just out of curiosity, how can anything based on evidence (as materialism requires) be superstitious? That's just a non sequitor, but from Chopra it isn't surprising. Why does anyone buy his books?

"What's wrong with this argument is that if you trace DNA down to its individual atoms, each is more than 99.9999% empty space. If you take an individual electron, it has no fixed position in either time or space. Rather, ghostly vibrations wink in and out of the universe thousands of times per second, and what lies beyond the boundary of the five senses holds enormous mysteries." What I find enormously hilarious about this is that he is using materialistic positions to fight a strawman of materialism. Dawkins is fully aware and embraces Quantum Mechanics. It just has little bearing on his field of study. Chemistry is not about billiard balls bouncing off each other till they form some random molecule. Atoms come together directed by forces of interaction. If it was just random, Chemistry would not be a scientific discipline. It is anything but random. Some of his other points are just inanities. For instance, what does the fact that DNA is almost totally 'empty space' have anything to do with this? Again, DNA does not come together randomly; it is replicated in an ordered manner by proteins specific to the task, which are themselves coded in the DNA. There are many such non-random phenomena. Another good example is protein folding.

"Enough mysteries, in fact, to be consistent with God. I don't mean a personal God or a mythic one or any God with a human face. Set aside all images of God. What we observe once we get over the superstition of materialism (one that Dawkins defends to the last degree) is that random chance is one of the worst ways to explain how the universe evolved. Here are a few reasons why:
--The various constants in nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, are too precisely fitted with each other for this to happen by chance.
--If any one of six constants had been off by less than a millionth of 1 percent, the material universe couldn't exist."
Let's look at the argument that if the universal constants aren't what they are there would be no universe, which is just another form of the Anthropic Principle. Is this true? Nope. I don't know where he read this (maybe the Discovery Institute website), but even large changes in fundamental constants would result in something amazing: the big bang, formation stars and galaxies, etc. Sound familiar? Vic Stenger has dealt with the cosmological argument in several of his books. For instance, one proponent of the Anthropic Principle has stated that if the mass of the neutrino were increased by a very small amount (it turns out to be a factor of 10), the gravitational force would cause the universe to collapse immediately after the Big Bang. But what really happened here? He's not only changed the mass of the neutrino, but changed the mass of the universe as well! There would simply have been fewer neutrinos with this increased mass and you'd still have the universe. Changing fundamental constants in a vacuum like that is simply a numbers game. Indeed, the Anthropic Principle has no empirical basis and is little more than the Argument from Personal Incredulity. Even if the universe was such that our type of life could not exist, that does not mean some other form could not develop. Stephen Hawking (a little name dropping here I admit) believes that there is very little special about our universe at all.
"--Events at opposite ends of the universe are paired with each other, so that a change in the spin of one electron immediately produces a twin effect in another electron. This ability to communicate instantly across millions of light years cannot be explained by materialism. It defies all notions of cause and effect. It defies chance. "This point brings us back to the subject of Quantum Mechanics. What Chopra is (badly) describing is something called quantum entanglement. He obviously doesn't understand that while entangled states appear to violate relativity, no meaningful information is transferred between the particles and thus causality is not violated. Seems it is explained in a materialistic manner to me.

"--Every electron in the universe exists as a wave function that is everywhere at once. When this wave function collapses, we observe a specific isolated electron. Before the wave collapses, however, matter is non-local." This last point (yet again) shows Chopra's miscomprehension. He naively states that matter is everywhere in the universe until measurement causes the wavefunction to collapse. But what the equations actually describe (and this depends on the interpretation of QM, but because I am familiar only with the Copenhagen interpretation I will use that) is that the wavefunction extends out infinitely, not the mass. The square of the wavefunction gives the probability distribution of finding the particle at any given point. These mathematical functions extend over all space, but that does not mean that the matter is non-local. The math just tells us the probability of finding the particle at any point in space. When you attempt to observe it the wavefunction collapses and you detect the particle.

What I find most amusing about this is that Quantum Mechanics wholly materialistic. It is has been verified by experiment many times over with a precision unheard of prior to its discovery. The inability of the human mind to understand it invites people like Chopra (or the two ladies in the café) to try to believe that it is in some way the woo-woo mystical crap and try to make it their own. While I do not suggest that Quantum Mechanics does not describe something deep and fundamental about our universe (indeed it does), there is nothing to suggest that it points to design or intelligence. Chopra seems mistakenly to think that Classical Mechanics is all there is to Science and somehow Quantum Mechanics is outside of this, in the woo-woo realm. Baloney. Yes, Quantum Mechanics changed Physics, but it was born out of materialism not spirituality.

"If the universe is self-aware, it would explain the formation of a self-replicating molecule like DNA far more elegantly than the clumsy, crude mechanism of random chance. As the astronomer Fred Hoyle declared (Hoyle was one of the first to seize on the notion of an expanding universe in the 1950s), the probability that random chance created life is roughly the same as the probability that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 707." Here we go again. When did any proponent of abiogenesis or Evolution ever claim that 'random chance' was the start of life? Life began very, very simply. We don't know the details, but it certainly did not resemble anything like a cell. The cell is a modern structure, the result many, many small changes over time. DNA is also a modern replicator. Of course they could not have spontaneously formed. But then, DNA and cells were not the first structures that we would label as Life.

The Strawman Army commeth....

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Deepak on The God Delusion - Part Deux

In part one, I showed that Deepak Chopra does not understand the difference between Science declaring something extremely unlikely via Ockham's Razor, where anything unnecessary to an explanation of observations is discarded. Rather, he sees Science as saying that anything that doesn't have a naturalistic explanation is non-existent. This is a ridiculous viewpoint, not the least in so far as it is false. Chopra is simply a sub-par thinker. Let's look at what he believes is Richard Dawkins second point against God:

God is unnecessary. Science can explain nature without any help from supernatural forces like God. There is no need for a Creator.

Deepak tries to hide by declaring that God is not a person:

"This assumption is false on several grounds. The most basic one is that God isn't a person. In a certain strain of fundamentalist Christianity God looks and acts human, and creating the world in six days is taken literally (Dawkins refers to such believers as "clowns," worthy of nothing but ridicule). But God isn't a person in any strain of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, the branch of Hinduism known as Vedanta, and many denominations of Christianity--he's not a person in the Gospel of John in the New Testament."

Deepak I think missed the whole point of The God Delusion. Like Sam Harris' Letter To A Christian Nation and The End of Faith, The God Delusion was written to address the clear and present danger of fundamentalism in the Abrahamic religions. These religions do indeed view God as a person. According to the Bible, we were created in His image. Such a god can not exist. Refuting Deepak's version of spirituality would require a whole new book.

Well, we've seen how Chopra defines God as not being, but what is God to him? "God, if he exists, is universal, existing at all times and places, pervading creation both inside the envelope of space-time and outside it. To use a word like "He" has no validity, in fact; we are forced into it by how language works. A better term would be "The All," which in Sanskrit is Brahman and Allah in Islam. Not every language is stuck with "He" or "She."" This sounds rather pantheist to me, until he posits that "The All" demonstrates intelligence. That's where I draw the line between something I can respect and something I deride.

To Chopra, it all comes down to a choice. "The real debate is between two world views:
1. The universe is random. It operates entirely through physical laws. There is no evidence of innate intelligence.
2. The universe contains design. Physical laws generate new forms that display intention. Intelligence is all-pervasive."
Deepak seems to think that these two points of view can be united. Unfortunately, as Dawkins pointed out clearly in his book, these people are being intellectually dishonest. For a scientist to believe the second position, evidence for design and intent must be present. It is irrational to believe in something without at least some empirical evidence. The 'inner knowledge' thing just doesn't fly, since these are baseless perceptions masqueraded as undeniable evidence. This is simply a sham, a delusion in the truest sense. I direct anyone that thinks differently to read David Hume's work Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

"There is room for a new paradigm that preserves all the achievements of science--as upheld by the first worldview--while giving the universe meaning and significance." This is ludicrous anthropomorphizing. As humans, it is part of our behavior to see patterns, even when there are none. Our intellect has trouble believing that there is no meaning, no destiny for our species. As Vic Stenger points out in God: The Failed Hypothesis, the universe has a lot of waste if it has some kind of meaning that includes us. Our species has been around only a tiny fraction of the history of the universe; our species will likely never get beyond a few light years in exploring it, whereas it is billions of light years in size. Giving the universe meaning and significance where it has none is simply an Argument from Personal Incredulity. Not accepting that there is no purpose, no reason for existence is Deepak's failing, not the universe's. Instead he plays the fool and arbitrarily posits such meaning without evidence.

In part III of this series, Chopra makes an attempt to create a bridge between these two positions. You of course know that I already think this is impossible, since the second point above is false, merest illusion…..

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Deepak, Deepak, Deepak..... *sigh*

More Chopra voodoo....
Category: Religion and Philosophy

I'll admit it. I have absolutely no patience for any spiritual (in PZ's vernacular, 'woo-woo') crap. This incluces (maybe especially) the junk that Deepak Chopra spouts. This is a six part response to Deepak Chopra's 'debunking' of the Richard Dawkins' God Delusion. Chopra goes through each of what he feels are the main points (some of which he gets totally wrong) and attempts to refute each, sometimes seemingly without any logic at all. The first:

Science is the only valid way to gain knowledge. Nothing about God is needed to explain the world. Eventually science will uncover all mysteries. Those that it can't explain don't exist.

Chopra believes that non-empirical data is as valuable as empirical data and that Science is not the only path to Truth. He gives examples of non-empirical knowledge, such as "I know that my mother loved me all her life, as I love my own children. I feel genius in great works of art. I have seen medical cures that science can't explain, some seemingly triggered by faith." The last one I call bullshit on. Faith healing has been debunked so many times that any belief in its efficacy is simple lunacy. But let's look at the first one. (I'll take his word that his mother loved him.) Is this some kind of inner knowledge inaccessible by any logical means? No. He has simply never asked the right question: How do I know? If Deepak's mother acts in a caring manner towards him then such actions are evidence that his mother loves him. He may not have thought about it consciously, but somewhere in the background he made the connection. Certainly, this is not some 'inner knowledge'. There are many examples of such unconscious calculations, like morality and ethics described so well in Marc Hauser's "Moral Minds".

But remember, feelings evolved. They are a means for enhancing our social behavior, which in turn enhanced our survival as a species. They are constructs of Evolution, not undeniable truths. We feel what we call fear so that we may deal with danger, we feel lust so that we may pass on our genes, we feel what we call love so that we can rear a child to adulthood and so continue to pass on genetic material to the next generation. These facts do not in any way take from the experience of each. But feelings can never replace logic, reasoning and solid empirical evidence in explaining Nature. To use yesterday's David Hume quote, "When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion." Amen.

"For thousands of years human beings have been obsessed with beauty, truth, love, honor, altruism, courage, social relationships, art, and God. They all go together as subjective experiences, and it's a straw man to set God up as the delusion. If he is, then so is truth itself or beauty itself. God stands for the perfection of both, and even if you think truth and beauty (along with love, justice, forgiveness, compassion, and other divine qualities) can never be perfect, to say that they are fantasies makes no sense." The universe does not care about beauty, truth, love, honor, altruism, courage, social relationships, art, and God. The universe just is. While these things are not delusions, they are all human constructs. They are byproducts of our higher brain functions. That they are not purposeful constructs is irrelevant. Deepak seems to think they are inherent properties of the universe. Bullocks.

"Science knows about objective reality, the mask of matter that our five senses detects. But the mind goes beyond the five senses, and it does Dawkins no good to lump the two worlds of inner and outer together. In fact, insofar as brain research can locate centers of activity that light up whenever a person feels love or pleasure or sexual arousal, these subjective states leave objective traces behind. That makes them more real, not less. In the same way, the brain lights up when a person feels inspired or close to God; therefore, we may be getting closer to the connection between inner and outer states, not further away." Inner and outer states? What the hell? The mind does NOT go beyond the five senses. There is no evidence that there is any other input than taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. If a schizophrenic 'hears' voices, that is the schizophrenic's reality. Are these voices real? This is one of the reasons that so-called 'inner knowing' is meaningless without independent corroboration.

Deepak seems to think that materialists such as Dawkins try to break everything down to its smallest components; that if you can know where every atom is you know everything about a system. Such reductionism is silly and Richard Dawkins proposes no such thing. Consciousness is a prime example. We do not fully understand it yet, but we are beginning to build simple models of consciousness that have nothing to do with knowing where every molecule is situated.

Chopra looks, but does not see. How does Chopra explain changes in personality that result from brain injury? Instead, consciousness is some mystical entity. But this seems to be another form of the false dichotomy. Science hasn't explained consciousness fully therefore it must be something metaphysical. Not much of an argument. Without empirical evidence I will never be convinced, or even interested, in his position.

"A materialist could conceivably analyze the brain functions of a Mozart or Beethoven down to the last synaptic firing, but that would tell us nothing about why music exists, why it is beautiful, where great symphonies come from, why inspiration uplifts the listener, or in fact any relevant thing about the meaning of music." He's right. But again Chopra makes the mistake of thinking Science as totally reductionist. To paraphrase the old saying, if you want to study forest ecology you don't look just at the individual trees. I think that his myopic view of materialism stems from this misconception that by dissecting Nature Science removes the inherent beauty of it. Poppycock! Without Science how would any of us ever know the beauty of celestial objects that the Hubble Telescope brings us, the symmetry of the mathematics that rules the mechanics of the universe, or the amazing natural history of our planet? Scientists are not robots.

The last point that he makes, that if Science can't explain it then it doesn't exist, is a strawman. Materialism says no such thing. When we scientists can't explain something, we tell the truth: we don't know. There's no shame in that. The shame comes (or should) when we say something idiotic like "We don't know, therefore it must be magic." What Science does say is anything (like god) not required to explain a set of observations should be removed from our hypotheses. Otherwise its inclusion is arbitrary and superfluous. This is Ockham's Razor.

Chopra's position is a dangerous one. His mystical baloney relies heavily on Science never being able to explain fully the areas in which he makes his attacks. In this he posits nothing more than the God of the Gaps. What a rube.

Part II tomorrow....

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Soul Cravings

I have just finished listening to the webcast on The Things That Matter Most (hosted by Rick Davis and Leal Arrington) with guest Erwin McManus. His new book, Soul Cravings, is discussed:

We can spend our whole lives trying to satisfy the one insatiable part of our being, our soul craving. Our capacity for spiritual experience both proves our need for something greater than ourselves and leaves us wanting when we fill it with anything but God.

Soul Cravings is a powerful, down-to-earth exposition that interprets our need for community, meaning, and destiny as common sense apologetics pointing to the existence of and our need for God. The book will deeply stir the reader to consider and chase after the spiritual implications of their soul's deepest longings.

The show summary was as follows:

Erwin McManus makes the case that we can find evidence for God and eternity within our own souls and persistent desires for love, destiny and meaning. And this evidence is even more compelling than the empirical evidence from textual criticism, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy and the hard sciences.

Well, what I expected was the usual gloss-over on exactly just what a soul is and just when was it that the existence of said soul was established. I said in an earlier blog that the this sort of gnostic evidence is tacit to an admission that empirical evidence, where it does not totally refute theistic positions, is nonexistent so we have to fill the void with emotional arguments.

Only one person has ever been needed to destroy such nonsense: David Hume. As Hume said, "When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion." Couldn't have said it better myself. How does one 'know' that they have a soul? You may feel that you have one, but could this not be an illusion? You bet. Humans evolved to see patterns, even where there aren't any. So-called inner knowledge is so subject to bias and interpretation that it is completely useless.

Can Evolution explain Love? The hosts and their guests seem to think that propagation of genes involves only sex. In some animals this is true, but not for mammals. Our young are born at a stage of development where they are still completely helpless and need rearing to survive. In fact, how can rearing be explained without the existence of something like Love? It can't, of course. So what did their guest prove? Nothing. These people need to read a book on Evolution NOT approved by the Discovery Institute. Obviously, they have never heard of Hamilton's Rule.

But my favorite part was an attempt to counter an argument made by Brian Sapient, founder of the Blasphemy Challenge, based on the Argument from Evil: the existence of hell shows that God is not a god of love and therefore the Christian god does not exist. What McManus says is that because Sapient does not believe in hell, his argument is disingenuous. "One minute you say that you don't believe in God because of hell, then say that you don't really believe in hell. So you can't use hell as an argument if you don't believe in hell. Let's say that there's no hell. Now prove to me there is no God." How many things are wrong with this? What Brian Sapient is doing is pointing out the inconsistencies in the framework that McManus et al are proponents of. Sapient's belief in hell is irrelevant. If there is no hell, then the Christian position falls apart since it depends largely on the existence of hell. This is just stupidity.

I gave this a fair listen to, as I promised. I did have some presuppositions, but the hosts and their guest could have dispelled these had they so chose. For instance,
  • A clear definition of the soul was not presented;
  • Evidence for the existence of a soul was not only lacking, but its existence was assumed and that everyone would be happy with that;
  • Love, a sense of community, meaning were presented as if they lead to the existence of God, yet totally ignoring other perfectly satisfactory naturalistic explanations. Leal erroneously suggested that Evolution can in fact not explain these things;
  • Non-emprical 'intrinsic' evidence is posited to have as much value as empirical evidence, to which David and I say 'Hogwash!'. Theist apologists such as McManus or Plantinga need this to be seen as the case, otherwise their arguments are completely unsupported by any evidence at all.
The only thing I agreed with that was said in the whole show was that our lives need to have meaning. But I've done fabulously without any need for a deity. I offer myself as a living refutation of this book. As for buying it, I'll pass.

Monday, March 5, 2007

This came as something of a surprise to me...

You'll die in a Bar Fight.

You are the angry type when drunk, and you can't help but be violent towards perfect strangers. Unfortunatly for you one of those strangers is a kung fu master.


'How will you die?' at

Bar fight? Up until the recent bylaw in Calgary banning smoking in bars I rarely went to them. Even now I don't go much, and when I do I don't drink all that much anyway. Too bad for kung fu boy that not only do I fence epee, I hold a shodan in Shotokan karate....

Friday, March 2, 2007

Fun with MRI - View 2 of our mystery object....

Here is the same bit of produce imaged using another orientation:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Fun with MRI - guess the sample

I had someone take some images on a system we installed about a year ago in Edmonton at the Cross Cancer Institute. This image set was taken on a 9.4 Tesla magnet with our MR console (and my pulse sequence software, pat on back). Thanks to Matt for doing this for me.

The field-of-view was 35 mm square, which will give you an idea of the size of the object. This looks like a T2-weighted sequence, but I'm not sure. I'll post the answer in a few days...

PZ Meyers is AWESOME!

There. A shameless plug for a like-minded fellow scientist. Pharyngula is a daily read for me, and thanks to PZ for including me on his blogroll. Maybe such unabashed praise will keep me on said blogroll for a while...? Only time will tell.

I am definitely looking forward to tearing down the next webcast at The Things That Matter Most. Here is the abstract:

Guest: Ewrin R. McManus
Erwin McManus makes the case that we can find evidence for God and eternity within our own souls and persistent desires for love, destiny and meaning. And this evidence is even more compelling than the empirical evidence from textual criticism, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy and the hard sciences.

It should be an easy tear-down. Not that I just like tearing down weak arguments (I do), but.... Well, no buts. The religious speak of souls as if they are self-evidently true. The existence of the soul is an illusion, without any evidence. How can non-empirical evidence (as if there is such a thing) be more compelling? I thought gnosticism was heretical. If the existence of the soul is unproven, or even supported by any evidence whatsoever, the whole house of cards comes down. Fruit of the poison tree, to quote Law & Order.

The null hypothesis is that there is no soul. For me to even agree that there is even a chance that something exists there must be some evidence pointing to existence. Otherwise, you are left with Bertrand Russell's tea pot.

To suggest that non-empirical evidence has any value (human perceptions are utterly fallible) smacks of surrender to the obvious that there is no empirical evidence to support theistic positions.

Evolution provides a perfectly good explanation for love and all other emotions for that matter. Destiny and meaning, in the absence of a soul or gods, comes from within. I happen to think that it is absolutely wonderful that we as humans are the only animal with the power to shape our own lives. Why can't the religious see that a god that has given us a purpose is demeaning?

I do intend on giving the webcast a fair hearing, despite what I've written. The above rant is more about the abstract. If compelling evidence for the existence of the soul can be given I would change my position in a heart beat, but 2000 years of trying has failed, and I greatly doubt that Sunday's show will add anything.