Feb 06 2018

Mindfulness No Better Than Watching TV

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of mindfulness meditation on prosocial behavior found, essentially, that there is no evidence that it works. I find these results entirely unsurprising, and they yet again highlight the need for rigorous research before concluding that a phenomenon is real.

As I discussed recently on SBM, mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting quietly, focusing inward and on the present, and avoiding mind wandering or daydreaming. The recent review I discussed on SBM found that the research into mindfulness, however, does not use a uniform or operationalized definition. That is critical to good science – you need to carefully define something before you can do research on it.

It is especially important to specifically define a concept in order to do research into the question of whether or not the phenomenon is real. If your question is, “Does X exist,” you better have a very specific definition of what X is. Otherwise it is easy to misinterpret the evidence, or to wiggle out of evidence that X does not exist.

The best example of this in medicine is acupuncture. Acupuncture is defined as sticking thin needles into acupuncture points – except when research shows that it does not matter where or even if you stick the needles, then acupuncture can be something else, which is vaguely defined.

Once you have a specific definition, with clearly identified variables, then you can study if those variables which constitute the phenomenon in question have a specific effect. For mindfulness – what is the effect of relaxation, introspection, or avoiding daydreaming? Does mindfulness differ from other methods of achieving these same effects? Perhaps mindfulness is nothing more than relaxation, or perhaps any perceived effect comes from being distracted for a time from the stresses of your life.

In other words, mindfulness may not be a real distinct thing, but just one method of achieving other more fundamental states, such as relaxation. This is what appears to be the case, based on years of research, in which case proponents should claim, “Mindfulness is an effective method of relaxation, which can have benefits,” not “Mindfulness is a unique phenomenon with specific and unique benefits.”

Does this matter? Absolutely. It is almost guaranteed that when I post an article such as this someone will say, “Who cares, as long as it works.” But this is an unscientific attitude. In science, the details do matter. We need to know what is really real, because it affects how we implement interventions and how further scientific research proceeds.

Using acupuncture as an example again – if the sticking of the needles adds no specific effect or value, and all the benefit derives from the interaction with the acupuncturists (which is what the research clearly shows), then we can dispense with the needles. The needles are invasive and come with risk. Further, we don’t need to speculate about the mechanism of benefit from sticking people with needles, because there is no mechanism. We can shift our focus to the real phenomenon – a subjective effect from a positive therapeutic interaction.

With mindfulness, because there is nothing invasive, the situation is the same, if less obvious. If, as the recent review shows, watching nature documentaries are as effective as mindfulness, then you can simply turn on the TV, learn something about nature, and get all the apparent benefit of meditation. You also don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on that mindfulness course. We can further stop wasting our time researching a scientific dead end.

Let’s get back to the recent review to see those details. What the researchers found when they reviewed the literature on prosocial behavior is that the research did not establish that mindfulness had any specific benefit. First, we need to define prosocial behavior more specifically. The authors write:

Five types of social behaviours were identified: compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice. Although we found a moderate increase in prosociality following meditation, further analysis indicated that this effect was qualified by two factors: type of prosociality and methodological quality. Meditation interventions had an effect on compassion and empathy, but not on aggression, connectedness or prejudice.

That’s important to know for research, but not really the most interesting finding of the research. They also found:

We further found that compassion levels only increased under two conditions: when the teacher in the meditation intervention was a co-author in the published study; and when the study employed a passive (waiting list) control group but not an active one.

So studies were only moderately positive when one of the study authors were teaching the subjects meditation. This suggests that researcher bias is at work.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that there was only a measured effect when there was a waiting list control, meaning there is an unblinded comparison where the subjects had no intervention. When the control was “active”, meaning the control group had some intervention, then there was no effect. This intervention could simply be watching a nature documentary. This one fact alone means the research is negative. Everything else is interesting, but doesn’t really matter.

The meta-lesson here is that this kind of analysis of the entire literature on a specific scientific question is necessary before you can come to any reliable conclusion about efficacy. If you want to know if an alleged phenomenon is real, you need rigorous research in which variables are clearly defined and adequately controlled for. Further, you need positive results with a clinically significant (adequate signal to noise ratio), statistically significant, and independently replicated effect.  Until you get to that threshold, you are likely just dealing with researcher bias, p-hacking, publication bias, and loose methodology creating the illusion of a positive effect.

With some alleged phenomena, however, we never get to the threshold of acceptance. The research just goes around in circles chasing its tale. This is true of acupuncture research, mindfulness meditation, ESP, homeopathy, and essentially all the familiar pseudosciences. All we get are excuses, hyping of preliminary research, cherry picking positive studies, and personal attacks against skeptics who would dare to question the alleged phenomenon. In medicine we also get the, “Who cares, as long as it works.” This, of course, misses the point that the alleged treatment doesn’t really work, it is all an illusion.

Another defensive response is to claim, “Well, that is not the real claims being made for X. It’s really about this other thing over here.” This kind of response, however, is usually just part of a dance of avoidance. “They didn’t study real astrology.” “That is not the real reason to fear GMOs.”

But this approach, which often is just motivated reasoning, further misses the point that the person making the claim has the burden of proof. It’s not on me to prove with high quality research that mindfulness doesn’t work for every possible claim made for it. Proponents have to adequately demonstrate that it does work for a specific claim, and they haven’t. Scientists will then conclude, “The research does not justify rejecting the null hypothesis.” This is technically true, as is appropriate in scientific discourse. When communicating to the public, however, it makes it seem like we don’t really know the answer.

At some point (and where this point is admittedly requires judgement, which includes an evaluation of plausibility) a lack of evidence can be treated as, “OK, this probably doesn’t work.” At the very least, we can conclude that this is a scientific dead end.

There is also an asymmetry in the media. A systematic review like this, concluding that the evidence is inadequate to support a conclusion that mindfulness is effective in promoting prosocial behavior, just doesn’t get that much play. However, a crappy preliminary study with poor methodology and brimming with bias and p-hacking, which shows an apparent tiny effect, will be promoted in the media as proving that mindfulness works magic. Rarely will such studies be put into the context of the entire literature.

Media and marketing forces tend to lead to an adoption of new ideas long before they are adequately demonstrated. Then once they are embedded in the culture and the popular consciousness, they are hard to eradicate. The public ends up believing a lot of stuff that is simply not true. Then when skeptics or scientists point out that the research was never adequate to conclude the phenomenon is real, and now after 20 years or so we can more clearly say it probably isn’t, they seem out of touch. Everyone already knows that antioxidants are great for you, never mind that the research shows they have no benefit.

We can now probably add mindfulness to the list. I was never impressed with the research, and the claims always seemed poorly defined. Now, we have multiple systematic reviews which show essentially that. We may not be at the point where the concept can be completely abandoned, but we are at least getting close. The most parsimonious interpretation of the science at this point is that mindfulness is just a ritualized form of relaxation, with no specific benefit beyond that. If you enjoy it and find it useful, fine. If you prefer watching Blue Earth II, then I’m with you. Just don’t spend hundreds of dollars on courses, tapes, or seminars because you bought the hype.

124 responses so far

124 thoughts on “Mindfulness No Better Than Watching TV”

  1. slogra says:

    It’d be interesting to see a debate between Steve and Sam Harris on this subject matter. @Steve Novella: Have you read Harris’ “Waking Up” book on meditation, and if so, what do you think of it?

  2. Nidwin says:

    “mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting quietly, focusing inward and on the present, and avoiding mind wandering or daydreaming”

    Ain’t going to work for me and this sounds very boring.
    It’s actually doing the opposite that I find enjoyable and relaxing, letting my mind wander and/or daydream.

    If I sit quietly and focus “inwards” with closed eyes my snow vision will kick in -> white or colored dots appearing -> clouds appearing -> focus on clouds to imagine patters (faces, structures, landscapes). But I don’t think that’s what mindfulness is about although it does help me to fall asleep sometimes.

  3. mquinnv says:

    I’ll 2nd that request for talk with Sam Harris. It doesn’t need to be a debate. They certainly agree on 99% of things. Just having an interview on the SGU would be great. It seems like there might be a baby or two floating around in Steve’s bath water on this topic.

  4. Kabbor says:

    My wife uses meditation to reduce her stress at the end of the day. I think it would be a hard sell for me to tell her to spend the same amount of time just relaxing instead of meditating. The structure of the meditation provides a framework for relaxation that she probably would not maintain if it was just relaxation.

    Personally I find relaxation playing certain video games that tend to be more long-form strategy games and the like. I enjoy fast-paced games for entertainment with friends and slow games for wind down relaxation. Time passes way too fast on those ‘slow’ strategy games though, I end up going to bed too late so that probably undoes any benefit I’m getting on the relaxation front.

    @Steven Novella: Since you enjoyed Warcraft, you might like Heroes of the Storm. It is the most accessible MOBA and features Blizzard characters from their various franchises. Also it has the benefit of 10 to 35 minute length games.

  5. rlwrobel says:

    Since its tax time, does that mean I can write off my cable bill as a medical expense?

  6. Tio says:

    “””””“It is especially important to specifically define a concept in order to do research into the question of whether or not the phenomenon is real. If your question is, “Does X exist,” you better have a very specific definition of what X is. Otherwise it is easy to misinterpret the evidence, or to wiggle out of evidence that X does not exist.”””””””

    —– I know this is not about mental illness, but I am wondering isn’t it the same with say “depression”? https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml – No one has a proper definition of depression or any mental disorders, yet some (even you) proclaim they are as well defined as diseases.

    Take my comment as an invitation to a discussion, not an attack 🙂 – or just ignore it, but had to comment on it when I’ve read that part of your article because I agree with it.

  7. JAYHUTCHINS says:

    A friend claims this study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3581845/ invalidates Steve Novella’s claims dependent on his charaterization of the beneifts of TV watching which are based on a positve correlation between TV watching and relaxation.

    Jay

  8. tonoborus says:

    I was working as a legal advocate last year. I had a case of a lady applying for Canadian Pension Plan Disability. She had been rejected for not trying every recommended treatment. A doctor at one point had (offhandedly in context) recommended mindfulness meditation for pain management. I helped her draft her reconsideration request, calling the first-tier adjudicator’s rejection based on her failing to try mindfulness meditation Kafkaesque. Thankfully the reconsideration Officer agreed with me and we got her her disability pension.

  9. mufi says:

    Why select this systematic review and not others, like those available on the Campbell Collaboration site (Cochrane’s cousin for systematic reviews of research in the social and behavioural sciences)? For example, my top search results were:

    1) https://www.campbellcollaboration.org/library/mindfulness-based-interventions-primary-and-secondary-school-students.html

    “MBIs [Mindfulness-Based Interventions] have a small, statistically significant positive effect on cognitive and socioemotional outcomes. But there is not a significant effect on behavioural and academic outcomes.

    There was little heterogeneity for all outcomes, besides behavioural outcomes, suggesting that the interventions produced similar results across studies on cognitive, socioemotional, and academic outcomes despite the interventions being quite diverse.”

    2) https://www.campbellcollaboration.org/library/mindfulness-stress-reduction-for-adults.html

    “MBSR [Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction] has a moderately large effect on outcome measures of mental health, somatic health, and quality of life including social function at post-intervention when compared to an inactive control. If 100 people go through the MBSR program, 21 more people will have a favourable mental health outcome compared to if they had been put on a wait-list or gotten only the usual treatment…MBSR has a small but significant effect on improving mental health at post-intervention compared to other active treatments. MBSR has the same effect as other active interventions on somatic health, and quality of life (including social function).”

    That much may or may not induce a therapist to prefer MBI’s over some other intervention plan (say, for certain anxiety disorders), but it certainly sounds like a live option to this lay person – one that’s analogous (in a medical context) to my choosing between an ibuprofen or an acetaminophen product for pain relief.

    Of course, not all mindfulness practitioners suffer a mental disorder – many just prefer to relax in that style, be it for cultural or philosophical reasons. So long as they’re not making over-hyped scientific claims, I don’t see a problem with that.

  10. daedalus2u says:

    The research doesn’t show that there is no effect. What the research showed was that the pro-social effects of meditation were small, and seemed to be larger in studies where one of the authors also taught meditation.

    Were the larger results because of bias? Or were the larger results because the teaching of mindfulness was of superior quality when one of the teachers was also an author?

    There are other physiological effects that associate with mindfulness meditation which also associate with pro-social effects.

  11. schlee says:

    I agree with others above. The author is making an erroneous conclusion based on this “meta-analysis.” It only focuses on “prosociality.” It is inaccurate to make a more broad conclusion that MBSR doesn’t work in any way. There are definitely studies that demonstrate it is beneficial. The author should do more research before sharing such broad & harsh conclusions. Almost seems like he’s just trying to ruffle feather with this. Along with those references listed by others above, here’s an article about Harvard neuroscience studies that demonstrate benefits:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?utm_term=.49111d7a4f56

  12. igor says:

    Many gaps here.

    1) If “mindfulness is no other than relaxation” we are supposed to clearly understand what is meant by relaxation. Scientifically. Is there any clue about how this term is used? None. Are all relaxations the same or can they be different? If my normal pulse is 60 and yours is 85, but we both go down to 56, are we equally relaxed or not?
    What are we talking about?

    2) Effect of mindfulness is no better than that of watching TV. You watch some BBC movie about Sahara desert or you watch a horror movie about dismembering someone’s body. You watch porn. You watch a boxing match. Furthermore, you watch a boxing match being a boxing fan or being a pious female protestant 80 y.o. You watch gay porn being gay or being homophobic. OK, you watch TV being tired and drunk or being high at 8 am after two hours of playing tennis.
    Does all this have the same effect? Oh, yes, your neurons get fired. So, if mindfulness is no different in this way, ok, but what is then different from watching TV?

    3) Watching TV as well as most human activities involves automatic mental judgments. Ordinary people who are not specially trained cannot control this involuntary process, so certain areas in their brains remain constantly active in a specific way. People who are trained in mindfulness can control mental judgments not allowing them to arise. It means that relevant brain areas are not functioning the same way as usual. Is it possible that there’s no evidence for that? Only if one doesn’t want to see it. Is it possible that a systematic repeated routine long-time mental training doesn’t change a psychic state of an individual creating new neural pathways? Only if one doesn’t want to see it.

    4) What the hell is “better” in scientific terms? Are protons better than neutrons because they are positive? Is 100C better than 0C? Is oxygen better than helium? They are different and science is exploring the difference, not judging which is better.

    5) The very phenomenon of consciousness has never been proven scientifically. No-one ever convincingly demonstrated that thoughts exist. How can we then prove a phenomenon of mindfulness?

    6) Picking up low-quality researches on mindfulness and ignoring good-quality ones to support one’s idea that mindfulness doesn’t have scientifically proven effects, is exactly what is called “being biased”.

    Aloha.

  13. d2u – but when properly controlled for (with an active control) the results were not statistically significant. That is a clear pattern, and the only honest way to interpret it is that these results are negative.

    That is the crux of my whole article. Looking at these two reviews in particular, and my reading of the literature – if you try to carefully define mindfulness and do a well controlled study, there doesn’t appear to be anything there. Most studies are poor quality, which means you can argue that we haven’t studied it enough to be sure, and find, I left the door open for that.

    But the current research is not adequate to conclude that mindfulness is a specific thing that works.

  14. BillyJoe7 says:

    Tio,

    “No one has a proper definition of depression or any mental disorders, yet some (even you [Steven Novella]) proclaim they are as well defined as diseases”

    I was going to be generous till I remembered you made the same accusation on a thread a few weeks ago that dealt with denialism of mental disorders.
    Here is what you falsely claimed (amongst other false claims!):

    “I feel like Steven, over the years, made “mental disorders” look like “diseases” that are properly understood and that’s where science disagrees with him”

    And this was my reply:

    But this is just another misunderstanding on your part. Medical illnesses can be divided into “diseases” and “disorders”. The distinguishing characteristic is as follows:

    A “disease” is an “illness based in biological pathology – cells are damaged, deteriorating, poisoned, genetically flawed, or essentially not functioning within healthy parameters for some reason. You can often see the pathology in a biopsy or measure it with some physiological parameter”
    (direct quote from Steven Novella).
    A “disorder” is an illness not based in biological pathology. A disorder is an illness “in which some biological function is outside of healthy parameters without clear pathology”
    (direct quote fromSteven Novella)

    He then goes on to describe how mental illnesses fit the definition of a disorder “the brain in particular is prone to this type of illness, and that is because brain function depends on much more than just the health of its cells. Even healthy brain cells can be organized in such a way that their neurological function is compromised”
    (direct quote from Stephen Novella)

    You didn’t respond to that, but here you are again making the same false claim!
    As Christopher Hitchens used to say: “Don’t waste my time”

  15. Tio says:

    BillyJoe7 – Thank you for being that generous :)). You talk about wasting time yet your reply to my comment has nothing to do with my comment. Can anyone here reply to the comments and not engage in cheap personal attacks?! Maybe not. Maybe I am indeed wasting my time here. Anyways…

  16. FSGilbert says:

    Kabbor–your wife’s use of meditation for personal stress management is the benefit I derive from the process as well. I’ve been meditating daily since 1976, and still do so in retirement. I’ve always thought the proclaimed social benefits of meditation were a reach, but then I didn’t take up the practice to generate compassion, empathy, etc. I practice mediation for personal benefit, and my practice is self-reinforcing. Social benefit and personal benefit from mediation could easily be poorly correlated or even uncorrelated, however, although I wish it were otherwise.

    As to the quality of the Kreplin et al (2018) meta-analysis cited in the blog, I am looking forward to reading the paper and making up my own mind about its conclusions. Just glancing through the article, it seems well done. I would have expected a minimal to small effect at best, and that’s what seems to be shown. However, I also want to have a look at the meta-analyses mentioned in Mufi’s post. It could be there is a conflation of meditation’s personal and social benefit across the various analyses.

    Best regards to all,

    Francis

  17. BillyJoe7 says:

    I probably did misread your question. But my point was: why would anyone be interested in engaging you in a discussion after your previous behaviour on this blog where you refused to acknowledge your misunderstandings after several people took time to explain these misunderstandings to you.

  18. mumadadd says:

    I think Tio’s question is valid: is ‘depression’ operationally defined, with specific variables isolated sufficiently to track interventions scientifically. The confusion is the other thread was about disease vs disorder, and is beside the point.

    I am actually interested in the answer to this.

  19. Yes, “depression” is operationally defined. That is the whole point of the DSM. Validated scales are used to track interventions.

  20. PBenz says:

    @Steve Novella please do and try get Sam Harris on the SGU for an interview. I think the two of you could have a thoughtful, respectful, and insightful discussion on this topic.

  21. hardnose says:

    “Five types of social behaviours were identified: compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice.”

    Well isn’t this ridiculous. Meditation doesn’t work because it doesn’t affect social behaviors. No mention of any other kind of benefits, such as mental or physical health.

    Yeah, just keep watching more and more TV. Great advice.

    Novella you obviously know nothing whatsoever about any kind of meditation, have obviously never been interested in trying it.

    Yes it’s true we all go into various kinds of trance states all the time. But meditation is different, because you control it, and you can go as deep as you decide to go.

    Meditation is a powerful way to get control over your thoughts and moods, and to relax deeply.

    Watching TV is a stupid thing to recommend to Americans who already waste hours every day on it.

  22. PunctureKit says:

    Who here has recommended watching TV? If something works no better than watching TV and this fact is reported, that is not a recommendation.

  23. tedmeissner says:

    Hi, Steve. It was interesting to read this, as you know I’m one of the authors of the “Mind the Hype” paper you referenced in the SGU episode about mindfulness. And as you and I have discussed, I think you did a good job of articulating what we wrote in that piece: that mindfulness is inconsistently defined, and greater rigor is needed with the research. We also provided a number of reasons why, like the expense of putting someone through fMRI, the inherent issues with self-report measures, teacher competency and bias, and especially the challenges of creating equitable *active* control groups.

    That being said, I think finding mindfulness as no better than watching TV to be problematic comparison. Full disclosure, of course as you and the rest of the rogues except perhaps Kara know, I teach this for a living, so please balance the expertise with the inherent bias I obviously have.

    I was approached by a newspaper in Spain to write about this new meta analysis. The most recent SGU episode echoed in my mind where either Brian or Emery were describing the inherent difficulties of being misrepresented by journalists, so I insisted on written replies only instead of a phone call. Here are their four questions about this meta-analysis, and my replies:

    1. In this new article, scientists also convey the same conclusion you already arrived to last year: there is no scientific evidence to say meditation is going to make us more compassionate, among others. Is there any scientific evidence showing that meditation and overall mindfulness works, making us change our behaviour?

    Actually, that is not our conclusion at all, it simply wasn’t the focus of our paper. Like many things, the measuring of compassion is unique and distinct from the capacity for attention, or reframing, or resilience, and each may have several ways to define what is meant for the particular research. It is incorrect to suggest contemplative practice has no supportive evidence of its influence on behavior; there are scientific studies of varying degrees of rigor which indicate mindfulness can influence not only behavior, but responsiveness to various stressors, including measurable changes in biometric markers.

    2. Does it help with pain or stress? And what about concentration? Some schools are using mindfulness, for isntance, with children in order to increase their concentration ability. Does it work?

    This brings up a good example of how complicated the topic is. Here we have several distinct questions all rolled into one, and the need for clarity around:

    A) How is “help” defined, and how is it measured across a wide variety of studies?
    B) What is the definition and measures for pain, which are different from…
    C) The definition and measures for stress?
    D) Same for concentration
    E) Children of what age? What program? Is that program being adhered to, and is it being taught by a competent, authorized teacher?

    So you see it’s not a simple matter to just say Yes or No. Mindfulness training has shown positive effects in a number of different areas like attention, emotion regulation, severity and recurrence of major depressive episodes, etc., and it is not a given that it will be equally effective – however that’s being defined – for each person who participates in the same program.

    3. What do you think about this new study?

    Let’s be clear, this was an analysis *of* studies. Inherent in that is a mixed bag of programs with different protocols, controls, interventions, practices – essentially the authors did their best to compare apples and oranges, which is a very challenging aspect of meta-analysis.

    I agree that bias and controlling for it can be a problem with any kind of scientific work. It is the fundamental purpose of double blind, randomized control groups to mitigate as many different kinds of bias that may otherwise appear. The Mind the Hype paper was I think clear about this, and that this problem is not limited to research about mindfulness. I would also suggest that thinking of programs like MBSR and MBCT as a “redefined” “technique” of Buddhist meditation is misleading at best, showing the authors own bias and lack of understanding of the topic. As an example, their use of the mindful sniper trope is simply unfounded in science literature (they reference a very respectable Buddhist monk, not a controlled scientific study to support this line of thinking), and shows an aversion to secular mindfulness that they themselves had no controls for in the crafting of their paper. The “stringent definition of meditation” was not, it only included attention regulation, then didn’t actually do that, and the interventions included were not only completely different kinds of meditation, but varied from 3 minutes to three months – utterly inconsistent.

    This was the fundamental miss, in my mind, about this analysis: the researchers filtered for the wrong contemplative intervention to measure pro-social behavior change.

    Think of it like this: if you’re going to measure the efficacy of how well a training program supports people finishing a marathon, would you only look at training programs based in weight lifting? Further, would you include people who only lifted two ounce weights for a few minutes along with those who would dead-lift hundreds of pounds each day for months on end?

    Again, in their conclusion, they start with a reference to religion, “All world religions promise that the world would change for the better if only people were to follow its rules and practices.” This is a scientific study, there is absolutely no reason to include that here… unless there is a bias the authors didn’t control for.

    4. So… should we continue practising mindfulness or other types of meditation? In Spain mindfulness is used even in hospitals to alleviate patients but also doctors and nurses, who are stressed. Is it the same as practising yoga, for instance?

    Again, you would need to be more specific, as “other types of meditation” is completely open to speculation about what that might be. Secular mindfulness programs have shown some indications of benefitting those suffering from a variety of problems, including within the nursing profession, teaching, law enforcement, and other high stress roles. Yoga is a different practice that also faces similar questions on a regular basis, I recommend contacting Carol Horton of the Yoga Service Council for more information about that.

    Anyway, Steve, hope this opens some additional considerations about the topic. Thanks — Ted

  24. hardnose says:

    If they only measured compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice, then obviously they DO NOT KNOW how well meditation works!

    They didn’t measure mental or physical health, or happiness, or creativity, or ANYTHING except what they decided to measure. Probably because they guessed those things would not be influenced by meditation.

  25. binky37 says:

    One thing that makes me shake my head in wry amusement in response to professional skeptics– and, more generally, to those people who flaunt their skepticism as a mark of their impeccably ‘scientific temperament’– is how unskeptical they themselves prove to be when assembling the ‘evidence’ they use to debunk the supposedly spurious claims they are taking great delight in drawing and quartering! And then, when– very rarely!– someone summons the time and energy to beautifully demonstrate exactly how the skeptic is displaying exactly the kind of cherry-picking of evidence and confirmation bias in his debunking effort that he has just lambasted when manifested by New Agers et al., instead of the skeptic finally being forthright and acknowledging that he indeed erred in HIS presentation in just the same way that he always criticizes, the skeptic simply ignores this valid criticism– evidently feeling that to respond in a very feeble way, which is really the best he can hope to do, he will only further undermine his credibility.

    In the comments in response to this blog post, we have a truly classic illustration of every point I made in the previous paragraph. Mufi provided a lengthy, detailed, comprehensive, thoughtful, and very incisive comment that I felt utterly eviscerated Steve’s post, since it attacked it in the most fundamental and devastating way possible– its evidentiary basis. Mufi effectively showed that Steve obviously made no effort to examine more than a single meta-analysis, as though because it’s a meta-analysis it can’t have its own bias, and as though by virtue of its compiling many studies it can’t therefore constitute cherry-picking of evidence. Mufi, in citing his own pair of meta-analyses, compellingly demonstrates otherwise! But what I found most illuminating was that Steve has appeared twice (as I write) in this section to respond to comments, on both occasions AFTER mufi made his comment essentially knee-capping Steve’s blog post, and yet Steve didn’t even allude to mufi’s comment, let alone respond to it in full.

    Steve, I’m sure, considers himself one of the guardians of the scientific method– but who will guard the guardians?

  26. bachfiend says:

    Hardnose,

    ‘Watching TV is a stupid thing to recommend to Americans who already waste hours every day on it.’

    Steven Novella wrote ‘this intervention could simply be watching a nature documentary’ as the control to
    mindfulness.

    I wouldn’t count watching a nature documentary on television as wasted time. And I think that it would also count as pretty good meditation. My dentist has a flat screen television installed on the ceiling of his surgery on which he shows nature documentaries to his victims while he’s torturing them (sorry, that should read patients while he’s treating them) and from experience, it works. The images take me away to another world while I’m in the chair.

  27. hardnose says:

    Yes, there are all kinds of ways to relax. Meditation is different because nothing external is needed, and because you can control it. Learning to control your own mind is valuable. This post tries to convince us that science has demonstrated meditation is useless. That is deceptive, since they only measured certain things, and ignored what is obviously important.

  28. roman01 says:

    And what about this:

    “Effects on specific disorder subgroups showed the most consistent evidence in support of mindfulness for depression, pain conditions, smoking, and addictive disorders. Results support the notion that mindfulness-based interventions hold promise as evidence-based treatments.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29126747

    “Although derived from a relatively small number of studies, results from the present review suggest that MBCT is a promising treatment in BD in conjunction with pharmacotherapy. MBCT in BD is associated with improvements in cognitive functioning and emotional regulation, reduction in symptoms of anxiety depression and mania symptoms (when participants had residual manic symptoms prior to MBCT). These, treatment gains were maintained at 12 month follow up when mindfulness was practiced for at least 3 days per week or booster sessions were included.”

    https://ejop.psychopen.eu/article/view/1138

    “Meta-analytic results revealed significant small-to-large effects of mindfulness treatments in reducing the frequency and severity of substance misuse, intensity of craving for psychoactive substances, and severity of stress. Mindfulness treatments were also effective in increasing rates of posttreatment abstinence from cigarette smoking compared to alternative treatments. ”

    http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-04754-001

  29. Nitpicking says:

    Steve, every time you say that acupuncture is essentially placebo, I think of Dr. Aaron Carroll (https://medicine.iu.edu/faculty/3005/carroll-aaron/), research Dean at Indiana University School of Medicine and a generally skeptical physician and researcher, author of books on medical myths.

    I think of Dr. Carroll because he disagrees with you and thinks the evidence does support a specific effect from acupuncture.

    Might I suggest that you invite him onto the SGU, or to these pages, to discuss the matter? (I tend to think you’re right, but because of my own anti-supernatural tendencies I feel obligated to follow Feynman’s Rule and try [indirectly] to disprove my own preferred hypothesis, in this case by having you as a proxy for me at least talk to an eminent proponent of the other position.)

  30. bachfiend says:

    Nitpicking,

    Steven Novella wrote an article published on August 12, 2015 on SBM on the editorial written by Aaron Carrott in the NYT regarding alternative and complementary medicine. He (Dr Carroll that is) also wrote a book ‘Don’t Swallow Your Gum and Other Medical Myths’, which has a chapter on acupuncture.

    The chapter isn’t exactly effusive in its support of acupuncture. It’s laden with words such as may be able to help you, in some people, may decrease, seems to, etc.

    The reported positive effects of acupuncture in chronic pain and nausea in meta-analysis of published studies is small, and may be due to only or mainly the positive studies being published, with the negative studies being unpublished.

    And I wonder whether the patients are unaware that the sham acupuncture they’re receiving as the ‘real’ acupuncture isn’t ‘real’ and that they’re actually getting a placebo. Although, there are studies showing that patients who know that they’re getting a placebo also subjectively feel better too.

  31. bachfiend says:

    I should have also noted that Aaron Carroll isn’t ‘an eminent proponent of the other position’ (acupuncture). At best, he’s lukewarmishy.

  32. TheGorilla says:

    I would tend to think that if meditation is no better than TV for [x] that there’s a serious issue in the choice of metric.

    Apparently skeptics love to embrace science as a map that preceded the territory though.

  33. bachfiend says:

    TheGorilla,

    ‘I would tend to think that if meditation is no better than TV for (x) that there’s a serious issue in the choice of metric.’

    The suggested control wasn’t watching TV in general, it was watching nature documentaries, which isn’t the same thing.

  34. Nidwin says:

    TheGorilla:”I would tend to think that if meditation is no better than TV for [x] that there’s a serious issue in the choice of metric.”

    My guess is that folks subject to type B ASMR are going to strongly disagree with your statement. My guess, again, is that they’ll take weird ASMR vids over meditation any day.

    Meditation is certainly fine but when it becomes a multi million business and generates Wim Hof’s and company it better gets its shizz right. That’s where science steps in and checks the validity of claims. I don’t need a scientific analyse to check if the Philadelphia Eagles fans happiness skyrocked at the end of this Year’s Superbowl (TV). But when mindfulness fans claim that it’s amazing because mindfulness can also reduce pain

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3090218/

    we’re entering dimension hatros twilight zone in my book.

  35. Thanks for all the thoughtful feedback. To clarify a couple of things – the headline was referring only to the recent meta-analysis, but I can see how it would seem too broad. But, the article itself was not based on this one meta-analysis. I was building on a previous paper, which I also linked to, which is a more general review of the research. (the author of which also left a comment here)

    To clarify my main point – we need to be cautious before we conclude that an alleged phenomenon is really real. I never said that we have proven that mindfulness does not or cannot work. I am just not convinced that we have questioned sufficiently what mindfulness actually is. It may simply be a proxy for other more fundamental phenomena. One huge clue to this is when you include active controls, that might also include the other more fundamental phenomena, the alleged effect goes away.

    That is the overall pattern I am seeing with this research.

    This is especially true in the mental health field. Even the head of the NIMH declared a couple years ago that our current labels for mental phenomena may not be fundamental and may be holding back research.

    Someone brought up Yoga, which is a good analogy. Is “Yoga” a thing, or is it just a proxy for stretching and exercise, which are the real fundamental phenomena? The distinction is important to clear thinking and good science. This is especially true if people are claiming that there is a separate mechanism that makes Yoga in particular effective, beyond just stretching and exercise. And of course we can delve deeper into kinds of stretching and exercise. This is how we deepen our understanding.

    We have to be careful with any type of meditation because there are a lot of woo claims made for it. It is extremely important that we think carefully about what is actually happening.

    Having said that – I did say in the article that mindfulness, whether fundamental or not, may be useful. If you find it helpful, go right ahead. Even if it is a proxy, it may be a useful way of achieving a goal, just as Yoga may be a good form of exercise. I even left the door open that there may be something fundamental about mindfulness, but I am not yet convinced. I don’t think the research overall has been adequately designed to isolate it as a specific and well-defined variable.

  36. michaelegnor says:

    Totally off topic, although Trump is a frequent topic here and this is something you can meditate on. It’s also hilarious.

    “Whap! Rake!”

    Goodness gracious this is funny. And true.

    https://townhall.com/columnists/kurtschlichter/2018/02/08/with-enemies-like-this-donald-trump-doesnt-need-friends-n2445675

    Trump plays with these guys like a guy playing with a cat and a laser.

  37. Michael – what you are doing is the very definition of trolling, trying to derail a discussion with a completely off topic post. Please have the discipline to refrain from this behavior or I will start deleting your offending posts. There are plenty of threads where you can promote your narrative – you don’t have to hijack others.

  38. bachfiend says:

    ‘The Duck’ has forgotten the main characteristic of an Internet Troll is that he’s anonymous.

    It’s actually fun being able to laugh at his inanities. I suppose now he’ll be writing an article on Evolution News complaining about (threatened) censorship? On a website that doesn’t allow comments at all.

    I wonder if he thinks that Trump’s ‘Moscow on the Potomac’ military parade is a good idea?

  39. string puller says:

    He seems lonely

  40. bachfiend says:

    string puller,

    The trouble is, ‘the Duck’ isn’t lonely. Unfortunately, he’s got a lot of company in the conspiracy theory rife Alt-America parallel universe, which going on the ‘AGW is a hoax’ conspiracy theory accounts for around 38% of the American electorate, including Trump.

    It’s reasonable to suggest that AGW won’t be as large as predicted (as Pat Michaels does). It’s another thing to claim that it’s a criminal conspiracy, a hoax, without any evidence.

  41. MosBen says:

    Just as in the carbon capture thread, Egnor shows that he has no interest in engaging in a substantive discussion. He’s just here to “rattle the monkey cages”, as he calls it, or trolling, as everyone else calls it.

  42. Grimbeard says:

    Hardnose, you do realise that this study was conducted *by* mindfulness advocates and practitioners with the aim of demonstrating that it *does* increase pro-social behaviour, right? That makes your comment (copied below for reference) exactly the opposite of correct.


    hardnose says:
    February 7, 2018 at 5:36 pm
    If they only measured compassion, empathy, aggression, connectedness and prejudice, then obviously they DO NOT KNOW how well meditation works!

    They didn’t measure mental or physical health, or happiness, or creativity, or ANYTHING except what they decided to measure. Probably because they guessed those things would not be influenced by meditation.

  43. michaelegnor says:

    Steven,

    I apologize.

  44. bachfiend says:

    So ‘the Duck’ says he’s sorry. I wonder if he’s going to apologise to PZ Myers for a thread published today on ‘Evolution News’ criticising him for things he didn’t write concerning Larry Nassar and his crimes.

    It’s a bit of a giveaway to ‘the Duck’s’ tactics that he didn’t include a link to the ‘offending’ article. Not once has P.Z. Myers referred to the crimes of Larry Nassar being moral crimes, infringements of moral laws.

    ‘The Duck’ is a hypocrite.

  45. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    There you go again– hijacking the thread. What you are doing is the very definition of trolling, trying to derail a discussion with a completely off topic post. Please have the discipline to refrain from this behavior or I will start deleting your offending posts. There are plenty of threads where you can promote your narrative – you don’t have to hijack others.

    I await your apology.

  46. bachfiend says:

    Michael ‘the Duck’ Egnor,

    I’ll never apologise to you for your dishonest trolling tactics. You don’t have the courage of your convictions with posting your highly inaccurate assertions and evidence-free opinions on ‘Evolution News’, which doesn’t accept comments.

    And how do you expect to be able to delete my comments? That is a privilege belonging only to Steven Novella.

    You’re below contempt.

  47. hardnose says:

    “you do realise that this study was conducted *by* mindfulness advocates and practitioners with the aim of demonstrating that it *does* increase pro-social behaviour, right?”

    So what? They wanted to claim it increases pro-social behavior, and they found out it doesn’t. But Novella thinks that means mindfulness meditation does not work. NO, it does not mean that.

    If someone had a hypothesis that penicillin cures depression, and then found it doesn’t, does that mean penicillin doesn’t work? It’s the same logic.

  48. hardnose says:

    The title of this post is “Mindfulness No Better than Watching TV.

    That is intentionally misleading, and obviously not what the research found.

  49. bachfiend says:

    Hardnose,

    Haven’t you ever learned that you need to read more than the headline of an article?

    Perhaps not. You do have a tendency of relying on news articles and press releases of research for your references.

  50. HN – I admitted that the headline gave the wrong impression. I did expect people to actually read the article.

    1 – My point is not that mindfulness does not work (and that is not what the headline or article says).
    2 – I did not rely on this one study. I referenced another more general review, and I have been following this literature for years. I am a neuroscientist capable of forming my own opinions.
    3 – My real point, which I already clarified, is that the literature is insufficient at defining mindfulness in an operational way, and then controlling for the specific operational details. There is a general trend that when better and more active controls are used, there is less of a difference, or no difference, in outcome. This pattern suggests that mindfulness may not be a distinct phenomenon but a proxy for other more fundamental phenomena.

    To again give the analogy. If I say Yoga is no better than other forms of stretching and exercise, because Yoga isn’t a specific thing, it is just a form of stretching and exercise which are the real things, that is NOT the same as saying Yoga does not work. Further, citing evidence that Yoga is helpful does nothing to address my criticisms. You need to cite research that adequately shows that there is some specific phenomenon going on in Yoga, and that those specific details, when adequately controlled for, matter.

  51. Michael – thanks for apologizing. I do think it’s helpful to engage with people with radically different opinions and perspectives, but certain behaviors are counterproductive to useful discourse.

  52. Nidwin says:

    I still can’t see what kind of special benefits mindfulness has to offer outisde relaxation and some possible introspection. It’s just one of the x-amount of meditation techniques saying;
    “sit still, breath this way or that way, empty your mind, don’t think, now start to think about this and that, breath again slowly steadily.”

    When I read “it’s all +, no negative effects, it’s amazing, nothing to worry as it can’t hurt or harm you as it’s so amazing and it has it’s origins in the east, …” It’s instantly red flag on my side.

    No body twitches or spams, no apnea, no pupil dilation, no pounding heartbeat, no tinitus, no possible pain, no temporary numbness. Just breath and don’t think and think and you’re going to be amazing.

    I don’t buy it, sorry.

  53. goldmund52 says:

    Meditation in various cultural forms, practices, religions, has been around since the beginning. The interesting question is why people do it. The fact that current psychology research can’t really tell what it specifically does for people probably mostly has to do with the state of current academic psychology research, which comes out of the tradition of abnormal psychology where a lot of normal human behavior is considered irrational.

    In fairness to the authors they were addressing the specific claim of “prosocial” effects. But for them to feel comfortable with their rather dismissive, “All world religions promise that the world would change for the better if only people were to follow its rules and practices”, is like saying, “We are proudly ignorant of the evolutionary origins of spiritual practices.” As The Gorilla says, they “embrace science as a map that preceded the territory.”

  54. michaelegnor says:

    Steven:

    [Michael – thanks for apologizing. I do think it’s helpful to engage with people with radically different opinions and perspectives, but certain behaviors are counterproductive to useful discourse.]

    I do appreciate your willingness to engage views quite different from your own. You and I disagree about much, but you are always an interlocutor who is willing to address alternative perspectives and you aren’t afraid of giving opponents a chance to be heard. That is unusual in this great debate between worldviews, and is a kind of integrity that is lacking generally. I respect you for it, which is more than I can say for many who share your views.

  55. michaelegnor says:

    Steven:

    And on the issue of ‘trolling’ and my (occasionally) disruptive behavior, there are times when I am a bit more negative and flippant than courtesy allows. I think it is warranted (usually) because groupthink is dangerous and is a real impediment to genuine understanding, and because disruption of groupthink, even if annoying, can lead to deeper insight.

    If I’m wrong on a point, your work to prove me wrong advances insight. If I’m right, the disruption is in a good cause. The usual situation is somewhere in-between, and we both learn.

  56. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘If I’m wrong on a point, your work to prove me wrong advances insight. If I’m right, the disruption is in a good cause. The usual situation is somewhere in-between, and we both learn.’

    Then why do you so frequently duck questions and counter-arguments from other contributors? Only to trot out the same arguments and assertions later as if no one has ever addressed them previously often many times?

    I often look at your articles on Evolution News for amusement and edification (as to how seriously a religious worldview can so seriously distort an intelligent person’s reasoning abilities) and I compose comments I’d post on Evolution News addressing your claims (if Evolution News allowed comments, which it doesn’t).

    Steve Novella could easily post your articles here on Neurologica, and do nothing more than request comments. It wouldn’t be pretty, unless you like to see blood and lumps of flesh in the water from shark attacks as your articles are ripped to pieces.

    ‘That is unusual in this great debate between worldview.’ At last! Does this mean you’ve finally learned the difference between ‘worldview’ and ‘ideology’? Atheism is a worldview, not an ideology. Christianity is a worldview too (it’s also an ideology because it proscribes future behaviour, more or less, depending on which Christian Church or cleric is doing the proscribing). Atheism isn’t an ideology because ‘organising atheists is like trying to herd cats.’

  57. MosBen says:

    bachfiend, exactly. I find disagreement and discussion interesting, but Egnor constantly parrots the same points that have been addressed several times. Or he just says something rude and disappears. This is the only time I have ever seen him admit to having been “wrong”, to the extent that he apologized for the post, but did not disavow its content. He just posts to “rattle the monkey cages”, as he calls it, not to engage in anything like an honest debate.

  58. olliebray says:

    I third that interview with Sam Harris! He’s a published psychologist, a skeptic and a brilliant mind who’s a big proponent of meditation, so it would be great to see.

  59. olliebray says:

    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for this article- you make some fantastically articulated points.
    I’ve seen a few requests for you to talk to Sam Harris; if that’s remotely possible I think it would be great because I love his podcast and I think you guys would have an amazing conversation.
    I don’t think I disagree especially with anything you’ve written here, though I do practice meditation myself. It is poorly defined in the literature, which leads to all the problems you point out.
    I really am convinced that the active component of mindfulness doesn’t just reduce to things like relaxation or lack of rumination (though they are obviously bonuses). There’s a lot of research into expert meditators which shows some pretty wild neurology very distinct from just being good at relaxation, and in domains like preventing depressive relapse, mindfulness treatments are at least as effective as anti-depressants, and there’s loads of data to back that up.
    But I’m also hoping for better studies in the future!

  60. Michael – but I also try to model what I think is effective discourse, and to mitigate the worst aspects of social media.

    To be explicit (and others have already pointed much of this out), there are some courtesies which promote useful discussion:
    – stay roughly on topic. Do not hijack discussions.
    – Answer other commenters who ask a direct question, or bring up a specific point to counter your position
    – Don’t just try to rattle people. That is trolling, and doesn’t accomplish anything. Anyone can say something outrageous, and then gloat over the fact that other people are outraged. It is also cheap. It is more difficult to disrupt groupthink or a worldview by posing salient points and then defending them with facts and logic, while being careful to understand and address legitimate counterpoints. That is effectively engaging and will accomplish the goals you have now stated you have.

    What people mostly criticize you for is not engaging. You just drop bombs and leave, or only stay long enough to marvel at the destruction. I don’t think this is accomplishing your goals. It actually reinforces our opinion that your worldview has no value, because we assume that if you could engage more effectively, you would.

    We (skeptics) also have a lot of experience with this in many contexts. It is a pattern very familiar to us, and is a strong marker of a belief system that cannot properly defend itself. If you don’t believe this about yourself, then you may not want to further this impression by your behavior.

  61. michaelegnor says:

    “What people mostly criticize you for is not engaging.”

    Many of your commenters’ points are so stupid that I’d have to sedate myself to answer without breaking my keyboard.

    Coherent rational argumentation is the entry ticket to a discussion with me. In this debate, I have been arguably the most engaging person of all. I have debated any and all, in a variety of forums, for a decade.

    Most of your commenters are semi-educated idiots who know nothing of the genuine arguments at hand. None of them could give even a minimally coherent synopsis of the issues in philosophy of mind, or of any of the traditional arguments for the existence of God.

    I pick and choose my fights, many as they are. I don’t choose to engage just any moron who hasn’t a clue about the issues at hand, our who makes it clear that he has no interest in genuine understanding.

    I don’t “run”. I just have no time for fools. When arguments are made coherently and in good faith, I answer.

  62. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘Many of your commenters’ points are so stupid that I’d have to sedate myself to answer without breaking my keyboard.’

    Examples please?

    From memory, some of the points I’d raised, which you didn’t answer, included your example of ‘an essential series of causes’ being a stack of books (if one book is missing from the stack, then the stack doesn’t exist) was wrong – your favourite philosopher Ed Feser gave as his example a rock on a shelf, partly held there by a stick in the hand of a person due to the contraction of the person’s arm muscles, and eventually through a number of steps produced by the person’s desire to keep the rock balanced on the shelf. If one of the ‘causes’ disappears, then the rock falls – all are ‘essential.’

    The point being that an ‘essential series of causes’ is teleological. And has a ‘First Cause’. ‘An accidental series of causes’ could be infinite, without a ‘First Cause’ and not be teleological. The example being an ancestral line going back through parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc – which is what a stack of books is. Also the Universe. And the evolution of Life on Earth in general. Not teleological. Contingent.

    Another example was your claim that there has never been an ‘intellectual seizure’ in any human in which an abstract thought has been produced. I asked you, how would you know? If a person has a seizure which prevents the laying down of memories during the seizure which are capable of being retrieved later, how would you know that the person didn’t have an abstract thought during the seizure?

    The trouble with you is that you’re convinced that your worldview is true. That the mind is immaterial. That the Universe is teleological with the existence of humans as its goal. You’ve got your arguments which you find convincing and as a result you’re blind to the counter-arguments, which are much stronger, so you feel that you don’t need to address them.

  63. mumadadd says:

    Michael,

    “Many of your commenters’ points are so stupid that I’d have to sedate myself to answer without breaking my keyboard.”

    Given that you’re a TOE and AGW denier, if you are right, you’re onto something that evades the world’s experts. You should probably cut Joe public commenting on a science blog some slack!

    In fact, I would suggest that you’re in the wrong venue altogether. Your time would be far better utilised tackling actual scientists in their arena.

  64. mumadadd says:

    Michael,

    “(mumadadd) Given that you’re a TOE and AGW denier, if you are right, you’re onto something that evades the world’s experts. You should probably cut Joe public commenting on a science blog some slack!”

    I should clarify. What I mean is, you are advancing positions that are contrary to the consensus of relevant experts. If you are actually using sound and well-evidenced arguments then clearly the average poster on Neurologica isn’t going to get it if those relevant experts didn’t. Or perhaps the experts just haven’t heard the arguments, or seen your evidence?

    Aah, wait. Perhaps you’re just spinning your wheels arguing with people on a science blog, all the while knowing full well that your beliefs have been dismissed as false by the consensus of experts in all relevant fields of science. But that would be dishonest, and I’m sure you’re not dishonest.

  65. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    “Many of your commenters’ points are so stupid…”

    This is pretty rich coming from someone who is almost totally ignorant of climate science and modern evolutionary theory, but yet makes so many stupid pronouncements on both topics.

    But you know all the ins and outs of Aristotlian-Thomistic philosophy, far more than any commenters here would ever wish to know. But this is because it is stupid on it’s face. When the basic argument begins with “everything has a cause” (subsequently modified to “everything that comes into being has a cause”) and ends with its direct contradiction “there must be an uncaused first cause” (supplemented with the circular argument that “the uncaused first cause is not subject to the rule that everything has a cause because it has not come into being“), we need not bother with the details. Which is why you can feel superior when some commenters sometimes do not know the details of this stupidity.

  66. bachfiend says:

    BillyJoe,

    I’ve challenged Michael several times regarding ‘the First Cause’, and he’s ducked the comment (as usual).

    The point is the difference between an ‘accidental series of causes’ [example – an ancestral line of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc] and an ‘essential series of causes’ [example – a person supporting a stone on a shelf with a stick]. With an ‘accidental series of causes’ not all the ‘causes’ need to be present at the same time, and could be infinite, without a beginning. And without a ‘First Cause.’ With an ‘essential series of causes’, all the ‘causes’ have to be present at the same time, and there has to be a ‘First Cause.’

    Michael seems to be claiming that the Universe is an ‘essential series of causes’, with all the ‘causes’ existing simultaneously. But the Universe is really an ‘accidental series of causes’, similar to an ancestral line. Not all of the causes need to exist simultaneously. The Big Bang is no longer in existence, and there may very well have been something in existence before the Big Bang in a Multiverse. In the same way that if you were able to trace your ancestry back to the very first Homo sapiens living on Earth (which actually according to evolutionary biology is impossible, because new species don’t just pop into existence, reproductively isolated populations gradually change over time until eventually they become a new species – unable to interbreed with the parent species), you could in principle trace your ancestry further back to Homo erectus. Or Australopithecus afarensis. Or Tiktaalik rosea (if they were ancestral species, that is). And so on. Most of your ancestors no longer in existence.

    Michael usually then redefines God as the ‘ground of being’ maintaining the existence of every single elementary particle in the Universe as the First Cause’, dropping the idea of an ‘essential series of causes.’ Which is assuming what he’s trying to prove. A circular argument.

  67. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Michael seems to be claiming that the Universe is an ‘essential series of causes’, with all the ‘causes’ existing simultaneously. But the Universe is really an ‘accidental series of causes’, similar to an ancestral line. Not all of the causes need to exist simultaneously.]

    The universe is a mixture of essential and accidental causal series. It is the essential series, not the accidental series, to which the First and Second Ways refer.

    [The point being that an ‘essential series of causes’ is teleological]

    The First and Second Ways have nothing to do with teleology. That is the Fifth Way, which has noting do with the existence of infinite causal series.

    As I said, I’m happy to engage people who understand the arguments. Haven’t found anyone here yet.

  68. michaelegnor says:

    bach:

    [Michael seems to be claiming that the Universe is an ‘essential series of causes’, with all the ‘causes’ existing simultaneously. But the Universe is really an ‘accidental series of causes’, similar to an ancestral line. Not all of the causes need to exist simultaneously.]

    The universe is a mixture of essential and accidental causal series. It is the essential series, not the accidental series, to which the First and Second Ways refer.

    [The point being that an ‘essential series of causes’ is teleological]

    The First and Second Ways have nothing to do with teleology. That is the Fifth Way, which has noting do with the existence of infinite causal series.

    As I said, I’m happy to engage people who understand the arguments. Haven’t found anyone here yet.

  69. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘The universe is a mixture of essential and accidental causal series. It is the essential series, not the accidental series, to which the First and Second ways refer.’

    So what are the ‘essential series of causes’ in the universe? Ed Feser’s example of an ‘essential series of causes’ – a person balancing a rock on a shelf with a stick held in the hand – is clearly teleological. The person has to decide that the end result of the rock being prevented from falling from the shelf is worth achieving. Your example of an ‘essential series of causes’ – a stack of books – is also teleological, because someone had to have decided some time in the past to start constructing a stack of books.

    The ‘First Cause’ in both examples are teleological – a person deciding that something is worth achieving by performing a series of actions. Ed Feser’s example is better than yours, by the way, he a series of actions which are different, you have a series of actions which are the same – you could repeat the action ‘x – 1’ times and still get a stack of books much the same as if you repeated the action ‘x’ times. In Ed Feser’s example, if just one action is omitted, the rock falls.

    I can’t see any ‘essential series of causes’ in the Universe, save the ones we create on a tiny speck of matter in an apparent infinitude of almost nothing. And even those are transient, impermanent.

    All ‘motion and change’ in the universe (with the exception of the arbitrary ones we create on our world and perhaps, probably, almost certainly in an extremely large universe other intelligent species create on their worlds, are the result of an ‘accidental series of causes’ originating in the Big Bang.

    Positing that there’s some conscious entity causing the ‘motion and change’ in the universe is assuming the existence of the ‘something’ that one’s trying to prove. A circular argument.

  70. michaelegnor says:

    [So what are the ‘essential series of causes’ in the universe?… I can’t see any ‘essential series of causes’ in the Universe]

    All structural atomic/molecular interactions are essential causal series. The strong nuclear force causes nuclear structure which causes atomic structure which causes molecular structure…

    An essentially ordered causal series is simply any sequence of causes that must coexist simultaneously to maintain the characteristic effect. A stack of books is the colloquial example. Every atom/molecule/lump of rock in the universe is an example of an essentially ordered causal series.

    Any one of them is a demonstration of God’s existence.

  71. michaelegnor says:

    The impossibility of infinite regress in essentially ordered causal series is the essence of the cosmological arguments, which take several different forms, depending on whether you are talking about chains of causation (First Way), chains of creation (Second Way), or chains of existence (Third Way).

    In a chain of essentially ordered causes, middle causes are instrumental and do not have causative power of their own, independent of the agent prior to them that causes them. The middle dominoes in a chain depend on the falling of the domino prior to it in order to cause the subsequent domino to fall.

    In an infinite regress of infinite causes, all causes are instrumental (middle) causes and thus all causes lack causative power, so the chain cannot get started.

    In an essentially ordered series, there must be a First Cause that is itself uncaused, to get the causal chain started.

    The argument is 2300 years old, and has never been refuted.

  72. BillyJoe7 says:

    To be uncaused the first cause needs to have existed infinitely into the past.
    Therefore the universe or the cosmological multiverse could have existed infinitely into the past.
    Same problem or same solution depending on your flavour.

  73. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘All structural atomic/molecular interactions are essential causal series. The strong nuclear force causes nuclear structure which causes atomic structure which causes molecular structure.’

    There are four forces in the universe; the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force. The strong nuclear force holds together quarks, which comprise neutrons and protons. The weak nuclear force determines electron decay of unstable nuclei. The electromagnetic force determine attraction or repulsion of charged particles (and is the determinant of atomic and molecular structure not the strong nuclear force) and the gravitational force is very weak, only important with very large masses and energies.

    Why can’t they be ‘accidental causal series’ crystallising as emergent properties of the conditions of the Big Bang? The weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force crystallised out of the electroweak force early after the Big Bang, and this at least been experimentally confirmed (earning two Nobel Prizes).

    There’s no reason for assuming that they’re ‘essential causal series’ unless you’re committed to the presupposition that the universe consists merely for the teleological purpose of producing humans on a tiny speck of matter 13.8 billion years after its origin in the Big Bang.

  74. bachfiend says:

    BTW, it’s February 12 here in Australia. Happy Darwin Day!

  75. michaelegnor says:

    [To be uncaused the first cause needs to have existed infinitely into the past.
    Therefore the universe or the cosmological multiverse could have existed infinitely into the past.]

    God is in eternity. Eternity is not infinite time, it is outside of time. God created time. He is not in it.

    That actually was the basis for Kant’s rejection of the cosmological arguments. He believed that logic couldn’t be applied to the supernatural–it couldn’t cross the gap from temporal to eternity (or from phenomena to noumena). He was wrong, because by his logic the Principle of Sufficient Reason doesn’t hold, which would invalidate all logic, including Kant’s logic.

    I have a post on this on ENV soon.

  76. michaelegnor says:

    [Why can’t they be ‘accidental causal series’ crystallising as emergent properties of the conditions of the Big Bang? The weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force crystallised out of the electroweak force early after the Big Bang, and this at least been experimentally confirmed (earning two Nobel Prizes). There’s no reason for assuming that they’re ‘essential causal series’]

    You’re being deliberately ignorant. Essential causes are simultaneous, by definition. Strong nuclear forces, electroweak, etc. are simultaneous. Therefore they qualify as essential, not accidental.

    And we only need one example of an essential causal series to prove God’s existence. There are countless examples.

  77. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘Essential causes are simultaneous, by definition. Strong nuclear forces, electroweak, etc are simultaneous. Therefore they qualify as essential, not accidental.
    And we need only one example of an essential causal series to prove God’s existence. There are countless others.’

    Ed Feser’s example of an ‘essential causal series’ – a person deciding to prevent a rock balanced on a shelf from falling, the neural activity in the motor cortex, the impulses in the motor nerves, the muscle contractions in the arm muscles, the holding of the stick, the contact with the rock, etc are clearly causal – and sequentially simultaneous. The person first decides (the ‘first cause’) and then everything follows.

    The strong nuclear force doesn’t cause the electroweak force (and the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force) or the gravitational force, so your ‘essential causal series’ doesn’t apply to the strong nuclear force. The strong nuclear force doesn’t cause atomic or molecular structure.

    Just because ‘causes’ exist simultaneously, it doesn’t mean that there’s an ‘essential causal series’ between the causes. Alpha Centauri, Sirius, the Sun, the Earth, Life on Earth all exist simultaneously. But that doesn’t mean that alpha Centauri ‘caused ‘Life on Earth’.

    And anyway, even if the argument were valid, it is assuming the conclusion that the ‘first cause’ has to be God. Even if you can come up with an actual ‘essential causal series’ in the universe that doesn’t involve an obvious active agent, such as a person, it’s a circular argument asserting that the ‘first cause’ has to be God.

    The problem with the argument with the First and Second Way Argument is that no one can come up with a good example of an ‘essential causal series’ that has an active agent as the ‘first cause’ with no other cause possible.

    It’s not that it can’t be refuted. It’s just that it’s a sterile argument.

  78. Willy says:

    Thread successfully hikacked.

    Mikey. Explain 3D man re his views on healthcare and “nuclear”.

  79. BillyJoe7 says:

    “God is in eternity. Eternity is not infinite time, it is outside of time. God created time. He is not in it.”

    What does it mean to be “outside of time”?

    For things to happen you need time.
    In a dimension that is “outside of time” nothing can happen.
    If God is “outside of time” he can’t do anything let alone “create time”.

    You might as well say that space and time came into being spontaneously which is consistent with some cosmological theories.

  80. BillyJoe7 says:

    There are two definitions of “eternity”

    – infinite or unending time.
    – a state for which time has no application.

    How is “a state in which time has no application” possible.
    Nothing changes because changes happen over time.
    You can’t experience anything because experiences happen over time.

    It is indistinguishable from not existing.

  81. michaelegnor says:

    [For things to happen you need time.
    In a dimension that is “outside of time” nothing can happen.
    If God is “outside of time” he can’t do anything let alone “create time”.]

    It’s an interesting point, and I agonized about it for years. It was for me the biggest sticking point in the Thomistic system. How could God create, love, act, etc if He was timeless and changeless (which is the same thing)?

    Aquinas addressed this specifically in the Summa Theologica. He pointed out that the change in a cause and effect only necessarily happens in the effect. In the temporal world, of course, the change happens in the cause as well, but there is nothing about causation that requires change in the cause–only in the effect. An analogy would be the Constitution, which is unchanged, but causes many effects and changes in human affairs. It is a rough analogy, but it works for me. Human beings have a difficult time understanding eternity–we are not cognitively equipped to comprehend eternity and changelessness. But when God is a cause, the only change that occurs is in the temporal effect, not in God Himself.

    [The strong nuclear force doesn’t cause the electroweak force (and the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force) or the gravitational force, so your ‘essential causal series’ doesn’t apply to the strong nuclear force. The strong nuclear force doesn’t cause atomic or molecular structure.]

    Causes are things, not forces. The nucleus of an atom (which is held together by the SNF) causes the orbits of electrons, which cause molecular bonds, which cause molecular structure, which cause higher-level structure, which causes other objects to do things, etc, etc. These are essential series.

    Basically essential series are “stacks” of things, arranged in a simultaneous hierarchy of cause and effect. Such a hierarchy would be any physical object in the universe–any clump of matter, which is what it is (effect) due to an essentially ordered series of states of matter (molecules, atoms, nuclei, quarks, etc)

    All of these are intermediate (instrumental) causes, and have no independent causal power. They need a First Cause to get the causal series started.

  82. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘The strong nuclear force causes nuclear structure which causes atomic structure which causes molecular structure.’

    ‘Causes are things, not forces.’

    You do realise you’re contradicting yourself? First of all you’re saying that the strong nuclear force causes nuclear structure, and then you’re saying that forces aren’t causes, because they’re not things.

    You’re very, very confused.

    A force is a ‘thing’, it’s the interchange of ‘things’ – bosons of the forces, or rather of the fields, involved between the elementary particles involved.

    The forces are caused by the respective bosons, and they’re different for each force.

    Even if the basic premise is correct, that quarks, nucleons, atoms, molecules, etc form an ‘essential series of causes, and there is a ‘first cause’, it’s completely unjustified to claim that it’s God, who takes an inordinate interest in humans (to the extent of sending himself to Earth to have himself sacrificed to himself so as to allow himself to forgive humans for ‘Original Sin’ – which didn’t happen anyway – against himself), gets very angry at the misuse humans make of their sexual parts, and listens to prayers – and very occasionally grants them.

  83. mumadadd says:

    Michael,

    “It’s an interesting point, and I agonized about it for years. It was for me the biggest sticking point in the Thomistic system.”

    What you should have done is rejected the Prime Mover argument as false, given that it doesn’t make sense. What you have done instead is tie yourself in semantic knots in order to cling on to a cherished conclusion.

  84. mumadadd says:

    Here’s a question (for anyone, not necessarily Michael) as I am interested in these arguments and better understanding them:

    It seems to me that ‘everything that begins to exist has a cause’ is an inference based on observations of things within the universe, rather than some transcendent logical truth that would necessarily apply to existence itself. The only such rules I’ve ever heard of that would fit into this category are the logical absolutes.

    Am I off-base here? I’m not big on philosophy so please excuse my ignorance.

  85. michaelegnor says:

    [‘Causes are things, not forces.’ You do realise you’re contradicting yourself?]

    You’re right. I misspoke the first time. Causes are agents, and agents are objects, not forces. If you get hit by a falling piano, its the piano, not gravity that hits you. Forces are the means by which objects cause things. The objects are the causes.

    This is the cornerstone of AT metaphysics. Hume and the early moderns shifted causation to forces and events, which is a conceptual mistake.

  86. BillyJoe7 says:

    “Aquinas…pointed out that the change in a cause and effect only necessarily happens in the effect”

    How is it possible for there to be no change in a cause that produces an effect?
    In fact, it is not possible.

    In the case of the “first cause” how can the “first cause” go from doing nothing (i.e. having no effects) to doing something (i.e. having an effect) without changing or passing through time? The first-cause-doing-nothing is different from the first-cause-doing-something. The first cause has surely undergone a change, and passed through time in order to undergo that change.

    “An analogy would be the Constitution, which is unchanged, but causes many effects and changes in human affairs”

    Except that the Constitution passes through time. I has to, otherwise it could have no effect. It would be invisible. So, at the very least, it is not timeless. Also, the Constitution has gone from existing only in the original Constitution papers to existing in numerous locations, including as computer code which undergoes change to be displayed as script on computer screens. In order for the Constituion to have the effect that it has, it has to exist in all these locations. So the Constitution is neither timeless nor changeless. I know analogies are never perfect but this failure in your analogy goes to the heart of the problem.

    “Human beings have a difficult time understanding eternity–we are not cognitively equipped to comprehend eternity and changelessness. But when God is a cause, the only change that occurs is in the temporal effect, not in God Himself”

    If human beings are not cognitively equipped to comprehend “changelessness”, how can human beings use “changelessness” as an argument. If it makes no sense to human beings, maybe it doesn’t make sense, period. At the very least we need to use arguments we actually understand.

  87. michaelegnor says:

    [What you should have done is rejected the Prime Mover argument as false, given that it doesn’t make sense. What you have done instead is tie yourself in semantic knots in order to cling on to a cherished conclusion.]

    No. The Prime Mover argument made sense in every other way than that one. All logical coherent thought about God leads to the conclusion that He is metaphysically simple, eternal, pure act without potency (i.e. changeless), etc.

    But that one point perplexed me, until I understood that in causation only the effect necessarily changes. The cause may change, but there is nothing about causation in the strictest sense that requires change in the cause itself. In the temporal world, of course, the cause changes as well as the effect. But that need not be logically. Aquinas sorted this out in some detail, and when I understood it, it opened a door for me.

    Here’s a question (for anyone, not necessarily Michael) as I am interested in these arguments and better understanding them:

    [It seems to me that ‘everything that begins to exist has a cause’ is an inference based on observations of things within the universe, rather than some transcendent logical truth that would necessarily apply to existence itself. The only such rules I’ve ever heard of that would fit into this category are the logical absolutes. Am I off-base here? I’m not big on philosophy so please excuse my ignorance.]

    It’s a very good point, and basically is Kant’s argument against the cosmological arguments (all of which depend on the impossibility of an infinite regress of essentially ordered causes and of which the Prime Mover argument is one). Kant basically argued that you can’t make the leap from natural to supernatural because you can’t assume that logic applies across the gap. Hume made somewhat the same argument.

    Where they go wrong is that if you deny logic across the natural/supernatural gap, then you deny the principle of sufficient reason, which is the principle that everything has a reason for its existence that is adequate to it. The PSR says that nothing happens for no reason at all.

    We need the PSR for normal life. If we deny the PSR, we could conclude that people we meet weren’t born but just appeared a second ago. We could conclude that a car wouldn’t hit us when we cross the street because it would disappear for no reason. The PSR is essential for sanity, and we all hold to it instinctively. Sane life (and science) is impossible without it.

    But if logic and the PSR doesn’t apply across the natural/supernatural realm, then things could happen for no reason at all. Since I accept the PSR, I accept the application of logic in both the temporal and eternal worlds, and I accept the Prime Mover argument.

    If I deny the PSR and logic as applied to the Prime Mover argument, I deny the need for real causes, and I am insane. And if I’m insane, my denial of PSR and logic are just the ranting of a crazy man.

  88. michaelegnor says:

    Here’s a post that addresses these issues:

    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/02/sean-carrolls-preposterous-universe/

  89. Nidwin says:

    There’s only a gap between the natural and the supernatural if you accept the “true” existence of the supernatural.

    The difference between you Michael and me is that we apply the “PSR” for the existance of a god differently. Gods do exist as they’re the result of religious dogmas, the same way unicorns exist as part of the fantasy worlds. For you Michael it’s different because of your faith.

    I can’t think of an instance where the “effect <- cause" doesn't apply although. Some may be just unknown yet but even the weirdness and/or randomness in my dreams still fall in the "effect <- cause" category.

  90. michaelegnor says:

    [How is it possible for there to be no change in a cause that produces an effect?
    In fact, it is not possible.]

    All causes we experience in the temporal realm are themselves effects of a prior cause. Effects undergo change, but there is nothing inherent to “cause” that necessitates a change in the causer. It’s just that in our temporal experience every cause we encounter is also an effect, and thus manifests change.

    Aquinas pointed out that in a cause and effect chain only the effect necessarily undergoes change. The cause may or may not change.

    [In the case of the “first cause” how can the “first cause” go from doing nothing (i.e. having no effects) to doing something (i.e. having an effect) without changing or passing through time? The first-cause-doing-nothing is different from the first-cause-doing-something. The first cause has surely undergone a change, and passed through time in order to undergo that change.]

    Again, we need to keep in mind that we are creatures of time and we have great difficulty thinking outside of time. The First Cause doesn’t go-from-to anything. The effect of the First Cause goes from-to. The First Cause is outside of time, so it is not going “from doing nothing and then doing something”–there is no “from-then” in eternity. All the change that occurs is in time, and the First Cause is not temporal. “Change” is not inherent to eternity, only to temporality.

    Aquinas spoke of univocal and analogical understanding of God. Univocal means that we understand Him exactly, and we are never able to do so. Analogical means that we understand Him partially by analogy to temporal things, which is what we are restricted to.

    The bottom line is that causation logically requires change only in the effect, not necessarily in the cause.

    [If human beings are not cognitively equipped to comprehend “changelessness”, how can human beings use “changelessness” as an argument. If it makes no sense to human beings, maybe it doesn’t make sense, period. At the very least we need to use arguments we actually understand.]

    We cannot understand changelessness univocally, only analogically. It is much the same with quantum mechanics: we cannot understand how a thing can be a particle and a wave at the same time. But it can, and the reason that we cannot grasp it is that we live in a macroscopic world that disguises the fabric of reality at the quantum level.

    I think that the strangeness of the quantum world is an interface between the complete strangeness of eternity and God and our temporal world of experience. It’s like a peek into ultimate reality.

  91. michaelegnor says:

    Nidwin:

    [There’s only a gap between the natural and the supernatural if you accept the “true” existence of the supernatural.The difference between you Michael and me is that we apply the “PSR” for the existance of a god differently. Gods do exist as they’re the result of religious dogmas, the same way unicorns exist as part of the fantasy worlds. For you Michael it’s different because of your faith.]

    If you deny the supernatural, you assert that the universe exists for no reason, and you therefore deny the PSR. To do so is catastrophic for sanity, because you then have to accept that nothing in the universe need have a cause. If everything (the universe) happened for no reason, then anything can happen for no reason.

    The supernatural, understood in the Thomist sense of God (metaphysically simple, eternal, omnipotent, Pure Act, etc), is a logical necessity if we are to accept the PSR. There are many ways of demonstrating the necessary existence of God.

  92. Nidwin says:

    Michael,

    For me (my thoughts) I would only apply the PSR on effect as a result of a cause. (effect <- cause)
    As I wrote above I can't think of any instance of an effect without a cause.

    English isn't my mother tongue so it could be that I don't understand it properly. But if you mean with reason, a very specific goal that needs to be obtained or achieved, I'll have to disagree.

    The same way I don't see a need for a "goal" for my existence I don't see a need for a "goal" for the existence of the known and visible universe. Mass extinctions on our planet did happen as the effect of one or multiple causes but I don't see or think it's part of some kind of "monster" plan to finaly get us, homo sapiens sapiens, on earth.

  93. michaelegnor says:

    Nidwin:

    PSR doesn’t mean reason in the sense of a goal or teleology. It means reason in the sense of explanation. If we assert that the universe “just is”, without explanation, we violate the PSR. IF we violate the PSR for the universe, we violate the PSR for every part of the universe, and sanity and science go out the window.

    You need a supernatural/eternal explanation for natural/temporal things, logically. Colloquially, you can’t get something from nothing.

  94. Kabbor says:

    michaelegnor,

    You don’t violate the concept of cause and effect by allowing that we don’t have all the answers. This is simple argument from ignorance stating that if we don’t know it must therefore be X, otherwise we violate causality. It could simply be that the creation of the universe took place in a mundane manner outside of our universe, but we don’t and probably won’t ever have direct access to that information.

    I don’t expect you to change your mind on your preferred narrative about the universe, but you do not have to be insane or irrational to believe otherwise.

  95. bachfiend says:

    Michael,
    ‘[‘Causes are things, not forces. You do realise you’re contradicting yourself?]. You’re right. I misspoke the first time. Causes are agents, and agents are objects, not forces.’

    Ed Feser’s example of an ‘essential series of causes’ doesn’t involve objects. The sequence which results in the rock balanced on the shelf starts with the desire of the person thinking that that’s a good idea (preventing the rock falling), neural activity in the motor cortex, conduction in nerve tracts in the spinal cord and motor nerves, contraction of arm muscles (plus the biochemical processes in the muscles allowing the contraction), the holding of the stick so it touches the rock with sufficient force to hold it (plus many other steps in the sequence to allow the action in the sequence to succeed).

    The ‘first cause’ in this sequence is the person, the only object or agent. The rest are forces.

    Your example of an ‘essential series of causes’ – a stack of books – is nonsense. The lower books don’t ‘cause’ books which are higher in the stack. Just because things occur simultaneously (quarks and molecules) doesn’t mean that one (quarks) cause the other (molecules). Alpha Centauri and Life on Earth exist simultaneously, but it doesn’t mean that alpha Centauri caused Life on Earth.

    Even if the argument was valid (which it isn’t) it’s just an assumption that the ‘first cause’ is your God, with all the qualities (all powerful, all knowing, all beneficent) you want God to have. It could equally have been an evil god, who’s very powerful (but not all powerful), very evil (but not all evil) and very knowing (but not all knowing). Such a god would explain the state of the universe much better than your God.

  96. bachfiend says:

    Natural explanations for the universe become easier the larger the universe is. It is very difficult to come up with a non-natural explanation for the universe if it consists of just the solar system and the few thousand stars visible to the naked eye apparent to both Aristotle and Aquinas. Such a universe would demand a supernatural explanation with a creating god (or gods).

    But we live in a universe that’s perfectly consistent with a natural origin. 13.82 billion years old. The visible universe 90 billion light years in diameter, with 10^11 galaxies and 10^22 stars and perhaps thousands times larger. Arising as a ‘bubble’ in a much larger Multiverse, which may be infinite in time and space. We have no way of knowing.

    A creating god could create any universe desired, including a small universe, obviously created.

    As an aside, one of my favourite series of science fiction books Philip Jose Farmer’s ‘Maker of Universes’ series has as its premise the idea that a race of lords of creation have produced numerous private pocket universes. A human, who later adopts the name Kickaha, accidentally passes through a gate into one such pocket universe and later meets its lord, who tells him that the Earth is also in a created pocket universe, a perfect copy of the lords’ home universe.

    Kickaha was having trouble with the idea that the Earth’s universe could be in a pocket universe. The lord pointed out that if humans had sent an interstellar craft from the Earth it would hit a barrier at about twice the distance of Pluto from the Sun and be destroyed. The size of the universe and the distant stars are just illusions.

    Kickaha also missed the point that the Earth’s universe is a perfect copy of the lords’ home universe. The lords had sent an interstellar craft which hit a barrier at about twice the distance of Pluto and was destroyed, and they realised that they were living in a pocket universe, so they set out to create their own.

    The Earth’s pocket universe was ruled by a secret lord Red Orc, who’d created it around 20,000 years earlier with its size and great age only being just apparent, not real. Red Orc was actually a very nasty character, and not a god, with no interest in the well-being of humans. Actually, a Red Orc would explain the world much better than God.

    And there’s just as much evidence for Red Orc as there is for God – none.

  97. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    “All causes we experience in the temporal realm are themselves effects of a prior cause”

    In our everyday experience that is true.
    But, at the fundamental quantum level, that is simply not true.

    “…there is nothing inherent to “cause” that necessitates a change in the causer”

    You simply restated what you said before.
    You have not explained why that is true.
    And you have not explained why my explanation that the cause necessarily undergoes change. If the prime mover goes from not thinking about creating a universe to thinking about creating a universe to actually creating a universe, the prime mover is changing over time.
    That is so logically true as to be unassailable.

    “The First Cause is outside of time, so it is not going “from doing nothing and then doing something”

    Then, logically, if the first cause is outside time and changeless, the first cause can’t do anything.
    Changeless means staying the same which means doing nothing.

    “Analogical means that we understand Him partially by analogy to temporal things”

    I have already deconstructed your analogy regarding the Consitution.
    Do you have a better analogy, otherwise I’m going to say we can’t even understand Him partially.
    Which means that we can’t use Him to explain anything.

    “It is much the same with quantum mechanics”

    You really must stay away from quantum analogies because you don’t understand QM anywhere near sufficiently enough to know what you’re saying makes any sense at all.
    This is not meant as an attack but a statement of obvious fact.

    “we cannot understand how a thing can be a particle and a wave at the same time”

    Case in point.
    At the most fundamental level, and according to the most successful theory in all of science, QFT, everything is a wave (hence Quantum Field Theory). Particles “emerge” when quantum fields interact.

    “we live in a macroscopic world that disguises the fabric of reality at the quantum level”

    And yet you completely ignore this fundamental fabric of reality.
    Quantum physics can explain how a completely self-contained universe can exist.

    “I think that the strangeness of the quantum world is an interface between the complete strangeness of eternity and God and our temporal world of experience. It’s like a peek into ultimate reality”

    Because two things are strange doesn’t mean they are somehow connected.
    The reality is that the findings of QM are at odds with your conception of reality.
    Or, at the very least, are a perfectly acceptable alternative to it.

  98. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    “Here’s a post that addresses these issues:
    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/02/sean-carrolls-preposterous-universe/

    Firstly, why do you feel the need to poison the well:

    “a celebrity among New Atheists [there is nothing new about new atheists]…a prolific advocate for atheism and naturalism [his field is QM]…His arguments have a superficial credibility [only if you have a very superficial understanding of QM]…and lack any real logical or philosophical substance [his knowledge of philosophy far exceeds your understanding of QM]…His views are the usual witless atheist/materialist boilerplate [unlike uncaused first cause and ground of all being existing in a timeless changeless unknown dimension?]…with a patina of (fake) scientific credibility [This from someone who has little more than a superficial understanding of QM talking about a published experimental quantum physicist? Really???]…For reasons unfathomable, Carroll was asked by the Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Physics to write a chapter on the topic “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” [Perhaps they understand much better than you do why the findings of QM are completely relevant to this question]”

    Secondly, why have you responded to Sean Carroll’s blog post about his article, rather than the article itself?

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1802.02231.pdf

    Could it be because your arguments against his views are not sufficient?

  99. michaelegnor says:

    [Firstly, why do you feel the need to poison the well:]

    Philosophically, Carroll is pitifully incompetent. I was being nice.

    [Secondly, why have you responded to Sean Carroll’s blog post about his article, rather than the article itself? Could it be because your arguments against his views are not sufficient?]

    I respond in a blog what he wrote in a blog.

    I hadn’t seen his article. I looked at it quickly–he’s still a philosophical incompetent.

    If you’re going to refute the need for a Necessary Existence, you need to refute the argument for Necessary Existence, which is the argument for the impossibility of infinite regress in an essential ordered causal series.

    The paper is a lot of fluff, and third rate metaphysics.

  100. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael’s witless response to Sean Carroll’s blog post about his article:
    (I will post a bit at a time, and only if I have time, because I have other commitments)

    SC: “In our everyday lives, it makes sense to ask why this or that event occurs, but such questions have answers only because they are embedded in a larger explanatory context”

    ME: “The explanatory context in which we are embedded is logic, and explanations for existence only have meaning if they are logical”

    BJ: The wider explanatory context that SC is referring to is the fundamental nature of reality as revealed by general relativity and quantum physics. If your Logic leads you to concluding that a prime mover can effect change without itself undergoing change because it exists in a timeless changeless unknown dimension outside the universe, then your logic be damned.

    ————–

    SC: “the world of our everyday experience is an emergent approximation with an extremely strong arrow of time, such that we can safely associate causes with subsequent effects

    ME: “Gibberish…Carroll seems to mean that causes and effects are artifacts of our sense of time, without which we could not safely associate effects with causes…Causes and effects are obviously real, and are not emergent approximations foisted on us by a deceptive arrow of time. We needn’t take Carroll’s sophomoric skepticism about causation seriously…”

    BJ: Gibberish? Sophomoric? Who exactly is the gibbering sophomore here? SC who is explaining physics 101, or ME or completely fails to understand what he is saying. ME is either being disengenuous here or he doesn’t understand the meaning in the SC quote of emergent (hint: it does not mean, as in his example, artifacts of our sense of time); or the arrow of time (hint: it does not mean our sense of time); or approximation (hint: it does not mean cause and effect are not real).
    The arrow of time is not deceptive. It is real. But it depends on the level of description. The arrow of time does not exist at the fundamental level. The fundamental laws of physics are time symmetric. The arrow of time results from the low entropy of the early universe. The arrow of time emerges as a higher level of description of the universe beyond the fundamental level. That does not mean it is not real.
    Cause and effect are not foisted on us, any more than chemistry is foisted upon us by physics; or biology and physiology are foisted upon us by chemistry; or thermodynamics is foisted upon us by statistical mechanics. They just emerge as higher levels of description.
    Cause and effect are approximations in our everyday experience, because the arrow of time is extremely strong, but not absolute. The arrow of time, and therefore, cause and effect, is true on average. But, for example, the temperature of a gas in a container fluctuates slightly over short periods of time even when there is no energy exchange with the universe outside the box, and this is due to small-grained reversal of the arrow of time and cause and effect. But this has virtually no effect on our everyday experience. As another example, statistically, the molecules in a room could all reside in one half of the room at one point in time, but they are just extremely unlikely to do so. Life goes on.
    In a wider context, the laws of physics are descriptions of regularities found in nature (at both the macroscopic and microscopic levels). They do not actually tell nature what to do – even when the universe is acting exactly consistent with those laws.

  101. BillyJoe7 says:

    SC: “The right question to ask isn’t “Why did this happen?”, but “Could this have happened in accordance with the laws of physics?” As far as the universe and our current knowledge of the laws of physics is concerned, the answer is a resounding Yes

    ME: “To merely attribute the universe to the “laws of physics” explains nothing. It is an attempt to evade explanation…the assertion that the laws of physics are fundamental to the universe implies some sort of Mind underlying reality, which is certainly a conclusion that Carroll would try to elide, if he had deeper insight into his own argument’

    BJ: Again ME completely misunderstands what SC is saying here. Apparently he didn’t see the bolded bits. Or conveniently ignored them. Scientists observe regularities in the universe and formulate laws that describe these regularities. The working out of these laws that describe these regularities shows that it is possible for such a universe to be self-contained. That is all he is saying here.
    The outworking of the laws of physics demonstrate that it is possible that a universe displaying such regularities described by such laws of physics could be self-contained and not require any explanation outside the universe. The “deeper insight” That ME refers to is irrelevant to this argument and is more a demonstration of ME’s evasion of the implications of what SC is saying – that a prime mover might NOT be a necessary being, if an outworking of those laws can show that the universe could be self contained.
    Sorry to be so repetitive.
    And can they? The resounding answer is yes they can.
    The argument pulls the rug out from beneath the prime mover as a necessary being.

  102. michaelegnor says:

    [BJ: Gibberish? Sophomoric? Who exactly is the gibbering sophomore here? SC who is explaining physics 101, or ME or completely fails to understand what he is saying.]

    Carroll is saying, in his characteristically oafish manner, that cause and effect don’t really exist in a logical sense, so the cosmological arguments, which depend on logical implications of causal chains, can be discounted as proofs of God’s existence.

    His manner is oafish because he really doesn’t have a coherent argument, so he uses a bunch of vague jargon and a few equations and hopes no one notices that he hasn’t made an argument.

    [The arrow of time is not deceptive. It is real. But it depends on the level of description. The arrow of time does not exist at the fundamental level. The fundamental laws of physics are time symmetric.]

    You say two opposite things, one after the other. If time does not exist at the fundamental level, then the arrow of time is deceptive.

    [The arrow of time results from the low entropy of the early universe. The arrow of time emerges as a higher level of description of the universe beyond the fundamental level. That does not mean it is not real.]

    Entropy indeed is the basis for the arrow of time, and entropy is a property of the universe at all scales, including the quantum scale–i.e. quantum thermodynamics.

    [Cause and effect are not foisted on us, any more than chemistry is foisted upon us by physics; or biology and physiology are foisted upon us by chemistry; or thermodynamics is foisted upon us by statistical mechanics. They just emerge as higher levels of description.
    Cause and effect are approximations in our everyday experience, because the arrow of time is extremely strong, but not absolute. The arrow of time, and therefore, cause and effect, is true on average. But, for example, the temperature of a gas in a container fluctuates slightly over short periods of time even when there is no energy exchange with the universe outside the box, and this is due to small-grained reversal of the arrow of time and cause and effect. But this has virtually no effect on our everyday experience. As another example, statistically, the molecules in a room could all reside in one half of the room at one point in time, but they are just extremely unlikely to do so. Life goes on.
    In a wider context, the laws of physics are descriptions of regularities found in nature (at both the macroscopic and microscopic levels). They do not actually tell nature what to do – even when the universe is acting exactly consistent with those laws.]

    You are wrong. An essentially ordered causal series is a series in which cause and effect are simultaneous (a stack of books, molecules, etc), not a causal series in which cause precedes effect, which is generally an accidentally-ordered series.

    The “arrow of time” doesn’t have sh*t to do with the cosmological argument, which depends on simultaneous cause/effect pairs, and is not extended in time.

    As I said, Carroll is a moron.He hasn’t a clue about the real arguments involved. He just mumbles, adds a bit of jargon, an equation or two, and the atheist proles are happy.

    Pitiful

  103. bachfiend says:

    BillyJoe,

    ‘Cause and effect are approximations in our everyday experience, because the arrow of time is extremely strong, but not absolute,’

    Exactly. The brain is constantly moving perceptions around in time in order to preserve the illusion of cause and effect.

    Michael Egnor has had (he probably still has) difficulty in understanding Benjamin Libet’s research on sensory perception. Libet showed that a subject becomes consciously aware of a touch stimulus when it produces an evoked potential in the person’s brain lasting around 500 milliseconds, but that the person is subconsciously aware of the stimulus, and is capable of responding to the stimulus. When the person becomes consciously aware of the stimulus the onset of the stimulus is moved back in time to the start of the evoked potential in the brain, which is the first time the person become subconsciously aware of it.

    This means that if a fly lands on a person’s face near the person’s eye, the person becomes subconsciously aware of the fly a very short time afterwards (accounted by the very short period of time it takes for the action potentials to travel to the brain along the sensory nerve) and is capable of subconsciously brushing the fly away. Then half a second later, the person becomes consciously aware of the fly, and conscious awareness is backtimed half a second, resulting in the effect (brushing away the fly) appear to follow the cause (conscious awareness of the fly).

    If this doesn’t happen, then cause would appear to follow effect – a fly landing on a person’s face would follow a person brushing his face. And a person wouldn’t want to be consciously aware of every sensory stimulus reaching the brain, just the important ones. The subconscious does most of the important stuff without fuss.

  104. michaelegnor says:

    [The working out of these laws that describe these regularities shows that it is possible for such a universe to be self-contained. That is all he is saying here.]

    No. It is not possible for “these regularities” to be such that the universe is the First Cause. The regularities themselves remain in need of a Cause (Aquinas’ Fifth Way), and an essentially ordered causal series cannot go on to infinite regress…

    [Sorry to be so repetitive.]

    You repeat mistakes.

    [And can they? The resounding answer is yes they can.
    The argument pulls the rug out from beneath the prime mover as a necessary being.]

    The “resounding” answer is that neither you nor Carroll has even made an argument. “Regularities” in the universe don’t extinguish the need for a First Cause (in a universe with essentially-ordered causal series…). “Regularities” don’t even address the First Cause argument, let alone refute it.

    And you can’t even explain the Source of the regularities themselves.

    As I said. Pitiful.

  105. michaelegnor says:

    [Exactly. The brain is constantly moving perceptions around in time in order to preserve the illusion of cause and effect.]

    Cause and effect is an “illusion”?

    Do you look both ways when you cross the street? Would getting hit by a truck be an “illusion”?

    Cause and effect are very real. Fool.

  106. BillyJoe7 says:

    SC: “The demand for something more — a reason why the universe exists at all — is a relic piece of metaphysical baggage we would be better off to discard”

    ME: “The reason why the universe exists at all is a matter of logic, and logic is the metaphysical baggage Carroll proposes that we discard…These demonstrations don’t go away just because Carroll refuses to engage them”

    BJ: How disengenuous for ME to say that SC hasn’t engaged the argument. SC cannot be held responsible for ME’s lack of understanding.
    And, to repeat, if your logic leads you to the conclusion that a so-called prime mover can go from not thinking at all -> to thinking about creating a universe -> to actually creating a universe, without himself changing over time, from some unknown dimension that is timeless and changeless which, by definition, rules out the possibility of him doing anything at all, then so much the worse for your logic

  107. michaelegnor says:

    [The subconscious does most of the important stuff without fuss.]

    Your subconscious seems to be doing everything. There’s not a shred of consciousness evident in your reasoning.

  108. michaelegnor says:

    [And, to repeat, if your logic leads you to the conclusion that a so-called prime mover can go from not thinking at all -> to thinking about creating a universe -> to actually creating a universe, without himself changing over time, from some unknown dimension that is timeless and changeless which, by definition, rules out the possibility of him doing anything at all, then so much the worse for your logic]

    As I said, when you look carefully at what is necessary in cause and effect, change is only necessary in the effect, not in the cause.

    In time, the cause changes too. But in eternity, it does not. The only necessary change is in the effect, which is in time.

  109. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘You are wrong. An essentially ordered causal series is a series in which cause and effect are simultaneous (a stack of books, molecules, etc), not a causal series in which cause precedes effect, which is generally an accidentally-ordered series.’

    No, you are wrong. See Ed Feser’s examples of an ‘essential causal series’ (a person supporting a rock balanced on a shelf with a stick) and an ‘accidental causal series’ (a person’s ancestry through parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc).

    An ‘essential causal series’ isn’t simulataneous particularly if there are many steps between the first cause and the final effect, and it’s ‘essential’ because if any of the steps disappear (for example, if the stick breaks in Feser’s example) then the effect disappears too.

    An ‘accidental causal series’ is ‘accidental’ because if any of the steps disappear (for example, if your paternal grandfather dies – provided it’s after your father is conceived – you’re still going to come into existence, particularly if your paternal grandfather wasn’t your paternal grandmother’s spouse!)

    Your stack of books as an example of an ‘essential causal series’ is nonsense. It’s actually a an ‘accidental causal series.’ If one book disappears from the stack of books, there’s still a stack of books.

  110. BillyJoe7 says:

    SC: “The problem with that is that nothing exists necessarily”

    ME: “The theist argument is that the Source of existence isn’t a thing. The Source of existence, logically, is uncreated, immaterial, supernatural, metaphysically simple (not composed of parts), omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good, etc. This is not a mere claim based on revelation. This is a logically coherent argument”

    BJ: Okay, a bit of semantic word play. Please substitute no entity for no thing and the argument is the same.
    And, again, if your logic leads you to a necessary uncreated, immaterial, supernatural, metaphysically simple, omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good entity, so much the worse for your logic.

    —————

    SC: “I didn’t have a lot of room in the paper to discuss this in detail (in what after all was meant as a contribution to a volume on the philosophy of physics, not the philosophy of religion), but the basic idea is there”

    ME: “Carroll doesn’t want to discuss philosophy”

    BJ: What? Let me see…he wrote an article as a contribution to a volume on the philosophy of physics, not the philosophy of religion. Hmmm…I can only conclude that ME is selectively blind when he reads an article authored by SC.

    —————-

    SC: “Theism…doesn’t let you wiggle out of positing some brute facts about what exists”

    ME: “The question is: Can the universe itself be the brute fact of existence? No philosopher has ever made a coherent case that it can. There has never been a logically defensible argument that the universe itself can be the ground — the brute fact — of existence”

    BJ: One of those brute facts that SC is talking about is the brute fact that physics has shown that, based on an outworking of the laws of physics that describe the observed regularities in the universe, a self-containing universe is possible. It’s an argument based in scientifically observable facts, derived theories, and the logical outworkings of those laws and theories.
    So, for ME say otherwise, is a reflection of his own ignorance, not the absence of the accomplishment.

  111. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    “Cause and effect is an ‘illusion’?”

    Yes, a very convincing useful illusion, similar to the illusion that a person has high definition full colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields, whereas actually a person has perfect vision only in the macula, which corresponds to an area in the visual field of the area of the thumb nail with the hand held at arm’s length. The subconscious brain does the very clever work in filling in all the details.

    Another illusion occurs when you watch a batter hit a ball. The vision reaches the brain before the sound. Up to a certain distance (around 30 metres or 0.1 seconds) the brain shifts the perception of the sound forward in time by the appropriate length of time – up to 0.1 seconds – so that cause (the batter hitting the ball) coincides with the effect (hearing the bat hit the ball). Anything over 30 metres, then the sound follows the vision (as with hearing thunder after lightning).

  112. BillyJoe7 says:

    SC: “One purported answer — “because Nothing is unstable” — was never even supposed to explain why the universe exists”

    ME: “Carroll (surprisingly) acknowledges the irrationality of atheists who argue that the universe emerged from nothing

    BJ: Again, ME misunderstands what SC is saying here.
    Firstly, he is not referring to atheists. He is referring to scientists.
    Secondly, he is not saying that these scientists are irrational. He is saying that they misunderstand the context in which the phrase Nothing is unstable arose.
    Thirdly, he is not saying that Nothing is unstable is wrong. He is saying that the phrase does not refer to the origin of the universe.
    So three fails in one short sentence. Can he get any wronger?
    The phrase arose in relation to the transition from a symmetric false vacuum with no particles to a collection of particles. It did not refer to the origin of the universe.

    The rest of ME’s article attempts to bolster the Aristotlean/Thomistic view.
    I can’t be bothered with it, because it fails on its face…and falls on its own logic.

  113. BillyJoe7 says:

    Michael,

    Before you waste any more ink doubling down on your misunderstanding of QM and SC’s commentary on the question “why there is something rather than nothing?”, please read the actual article.
    I look forward to a refutation.:D

    As much as I look forward to seeing pigs fly 😉

  114. BillyJoe7 says:

    Logic.

    How to get something from nothing:

    There is nothing.
    Therefore there are no laws.
    Therefore everything is permitted.

  115. michaelegnor says:

    [BJ: One of those brute facts that SC is talking about is the brute fact that physics has shown that, based on an outworking of the laws of physics that describe the observed regularities in the universe, a self-containing universe is possible. It’s an argument based in scientifically observable facts, derived theories, and the logical outworkings of those laws and theories.]

    Where do the laws of physics come from?

  116. michaelegnor says:

    [How to get something from nothing:]

    You arguments are something from nothing.

    You sound like you’re in a panic. Relax.

  117. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    I’m still waiting for you to come up with a natural example of an ‘essential causal chain’, in which ‘cause and effect are simultaneous.’

    Your example of a stack of books or the strong nuclear force causing nuclear structure (and then atomic and molecular structure) aren’t valid.

    From what I can surmise is that you’re relying on a teleological argument. The existence of a stack of books (which is actually an ‘accidental series of causes’ if anything) requires the existence of books, which requires the existence of authors and publishers. The existence of molecules requires the existence of quarks (and electrons). I can’t see why the existence of quarks should require the existence of any conscious agency when the quarks already exist (if the cosmological argument doesn’t require the existence of the Big Bang as the origin of all the quarks in the universe).

  118. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    ‘Where do the laws of physics come from?’

    From the observed regularities in the universe. You’ve been told that numerous times. We observe regularities in the universe, and derive laws from the observations which describe the regularities.

  119. BillyJoe7 says:

    “Where do the laws of physics come from”

    You haven’t been listening.

    The universe does what it does.
    The laws of physics describe the regularities observed in what the universe does.
    (The laws of physics don’t tell the universe what to do).
    The laws of physics come from scientists who observe these regularities.

    And post #115 was so obviously a joke it’s not funny.

  120. BillyJoe7 says:

    …sorry, bachfiend, I didn’t see you replies.

  121. kaethy says:

    I feel a lot better after meditation. I feel good in general when I practice mindfulness. I feel like crap after watching TV. That’s all the study I need.

  122. Emu says:

    Of course mindfulness meditation is no better than watching tv for prosocial behaviour. Why would it be better?

    The whole premise is highly unlikely in the first place: you are just sitting there, trying to be in the moment, watching your thoughts and sensations come and go, trying not to interact. Why would that help you with prosocial behaviour.
    Is it relaxing? Yes. Could it have an effect on your ability to focus? Maybe/yes (like any other form of relaxation, especially if you are stressed).

    This is also in congruence with my own observations. After I started meditating, people around me told me, that I was way more relaxed and less stressed out around them and I was perceived as more approachable, but nobody told me, that I was more compassionate or less aggressive. I myself did not notice me being more kind or empathetic, but I was, you guessed it, more relaxed.
    I guess the same effect could have been achieved through me taking the time to watch an interesting and somewhat relaxing documentary.

    That said, there are different kinds of meditations, some of them claim to train (self-)compassion/kindness like metta or tonglen. It may be possible those kinds of meditations have some prosocial effect, since they are training a certain way of thinking (the premise is not as far fetched like with minfulness). E.g. in tonglen meditation you visualize how you breathe in the problems/bad stuff from people and give them back a solution/good stuff. This may have an effect on thinking patterns which in turn could have an effect on prosocial behaviour.

    But on the whole I agree with Steven in that the claims of mindfulness and meditation are way overblown and are more often than not just wishful thinking. Most research into this matter suffers from proper definitions and protocols. Most, if not all, effects of meditation can be attributed to the relaxation that occurs, if you mediate (and I for one like this kind of relaxation 😉 )

  123. seasoned says:

    After carefully going through the mentioned research I found 2 things that stand out. First one the methodological quality of the researches that were included in the meta analysis was weak for most of them without a single one having strong methodological quality and the second one is the lenght of time that the meditation was practiced. The longest one was 3 months, while the most of it lasted for 8 weeks (!). These 2 things alone are enough to discredit the whole research without even getting into the problems of defining what meditation is ( no it’s not a relaxation technique, if it’s relaxing you, you’re doing it wrong) or the difference techniques that were used.

    Besides, this article didn’t really say anything. It just tried to explain how science works and showed some strange fixation on acupuncture (already a 3rd article on this website that mentions acupuncture in comparison with meditation)

    I appreciate and welcome critical thinking and scepticism but I don’t think this was enough. I hope it will motivate people in to digging further.

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