Leaving Islam




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Truthspeaker's 2nd response


I did not watch the particular TV show that you referred to and hence I cannot say anything about it. I was merely commenting upon the series in general and my impressions of it. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. What I am trying to do is point out that in the venture of science there is a very large pragmatic component.
No single small group of people let alone an individual has the energy or the resources to follow the cutting edge research and extension of science into previously unexamined areas. Everyone has to make a judgement who and what to accept. Now one does not accept even the most respected authority as infalliable. That is in the realm of Quran and popes. Every statement is accepted with an implicity probability of it being valid or not. Some statements acquire a validity that is close to certain. Over time, and a fairly short one in human terms, earth has gone from being viewed as flat to being round. As you point out that there are still people who are convinced the earth is flat.

In terms of our knowledge the spectrum covers things that we are very certain of to all the way that we do not know to even how to construct a viable hypothesis and that is if you are fairly knowledgeable. Let me give you an example: most people have read that the most ancient cosmic objects seen via hubble are just over 13.2 billion light years old. I can assure that very few people really understand the various assumptions that are involved in arriving at the number and what is the accuracy of that number. Now to most people it does not make very much of a difference in digging out all the details, but to an astronmer who intends to make a living at it, it is of utmost importance. You see pragmatically most people just don't have the time to track down all the details. They accept the word of people who they consider knowledgeable. I honestly do not know an alternative to that. I can work very hard at 'knowing' a few areas, extremely hard at becoming an expert at a part of one very very tiny area, but for most I have to rely upon other knowledgable people.

Everyone makes a judgement about who they are going to trust and rely upon. In the old days the knowledgeable people where the priests, and in the islamic world apparently it is still the mufti and the imams. The priests of today whose word is accepted by average people are the "scientists". One can see that in the experts invited by TV shows when some event has to be explained to the general public. As you pointed out even the show that you referred to is giving the opinions of scientifically trained doctors etc.

However, any person who is involved in the venture of science and is honest will tell you that at the forefront of science most of the effort is spent in essentially showing why what is generally accepted is wrong and should be replaced by what. It is what nature dictates that matters, everything else is hypothesis and eventually will change and disappear. It used to be the dogma that people were born with a given number of neurons and during an organisms lifetime no neurons were created. Well that was shown to be wrong and has been replaced by something else.

Take the case of accupuncture and energy healing. I am not disputing your statements. I know too little about it to tell you what is true about it or not. I was merely reporting a result that I was aware of a few years ago. I even pointed out that Harvard School was studying Alternative Medicines intensively. Here is a link:

Harvard Medical School has been named the recipient of a $10 million gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation. The gift will be used to support the school's Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, and to establish a new institute that will examine the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of alternative forms of care.

"This extraordinary gift from the Osher Foundation will allow us to take a leadership role in building a scientific understanding of the opportunities and risks encountered by patients seeking complementary and alternative therapies," asserted Joseph B. Martin, dean of the medical school. "We need to evaluate scientifically the effectiveness of these techniques - to assess the current status of our knowledge and determine what we need to do to advance that knowledge."

Any scientist who closes his mind entirely on any topic is foolish. It really comes down to the pragmatic choice of 'does one think that pursuing a particular area for specialisation is worth one's effort or not'. With my background study of acupuncture would be professional suicide. But for a person who is a trained M.D. and has had some personal experience with accupuncture it might be a great oppertunity even if starts the new career with giving accupuncture a low probability of leading to new phenomanon. But that is 'his or her' judgement. That is why science has to run as an unstructured democracy.

That last point is that just as humans accept 'authorities' who they will believe there will always be scam artists who will pose as those authorities to take advantage of the gullible. Part of the effort of the rationalists who were 'debunking' the drinking of milk by the statues of Ganesh as not being a 'miracle' but attempting to explain it in terms of more 'materialist' answers. People of faith were willing to beleive in the miracle of Ganesh and view it as proof that a Ganesha God really really existed, and there were many priests who were more than happy to encourage that belief. That is what the rationalist were addressing. That is why when you hypothesize an explanation within the materialist scientific paradigm ('particles and vibrations') for a paranormal phenomanon, I personally have absolutely no problem with your stand. I may disagree whether the phenomanon exists or not, but that is the beginning of any scientific investigation.

Here is a little bit more on acupuncture. There are quite a few papers coming from the Harvard Medical School. A story worth remembering about medicine is that less than 40 years ago it used to be standard practice to remove the tonsils and appendix of a person admitted into surgery because these were considered non-functional appendages. Similarly, the tale of frontal lobotamy is a sad tale for modern medicine. A lot of people were given that treatment. One under the cuckoo's nest is a great movie that has that in the background. Traditional or non-traditional medicine one needs to be aware that there is very little integeration has been done of all that is known. Apparently science knows a lot of bits and pieces about human system but we have very little understanding of how the whole system works as a unit. So it is always smart to do as much research as possible on ones symptoms when dealing with any medical practioner.


Acupuncture's Secret: Blood Flow To Brain
Updated: Thursday, Mar. 4, 2004 - 9:20 AM

Acupuncture on pain-relief points cuts blood flow to key areas of the brain within seconds, providing the clearest explanation to date for how the ancient technique might relieve pain and treat addictions, a Harvard scientist reports today.
Although researchers still don't fully understand how acupuncture works, ''our findings may connect the dots, showing how a common pathway in the brain could make acupuncture helpful for a variety of conditions,'' says radiologist Bruce Rosen of Harvard Medical School. He'll release the findings at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Orlando.
Rosen's team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRIs, on about 20 healthy volunteers before, during and after acupuncture. This type of brain scan shows changes in blood flow and the amount of oxygen in blood.
Researchers applied acupuncture needles to points on the hand linked to pain relief in traditional Chinese medicine. Blood flow decreased in certain areas of the brain within seconds of volunteers reporting a heaviness in their hands, a sign the acupuncture is working correctly, Rosen says. The needle technique is not supposed to hurt if done correctly. When a few subjects reported pain, their scans showed an increase of blood to the same brain areas.
''When there's less blood, the brain isn't working as hard, '' Rosen says. ''In effect, acupuncture is quieting down key regions of the brain.''
The specific brain areas affected are involved in mood, pain and cravings, Rosen says. This could help explain why some studies have found acupuncture helpful in treating depression, eating problems, addictions and pain.
The brain regions involved also are loaded with dopamine, a ''reward'' chemical that surges in reaction to everything from cocaine to food, beautiful faces and money. The reduced blood flow could lead to dopamine changes that trigger a ''cascade'' effect, releasing endorphins, the brain's natural pain-relieving and comforting chemicals, Rosen says.
Rosen's study ''is a very exciting first step,'' says neurobiologist Richard Hammerschlag of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, but controlled research on pain and addiction patients will be needed to prove the point. Brain scans should be done on patients getting acupuncture at real and bogus points, he says, and patients shouldn't know which group they're in.
The placebo effect is so powerful it could affect blood flow, says UCLA neurobiologist Christopher Evans, a pain expert. There's even some evidence that placebos can increase brain chemicals, such as endorphins, Hammerschlag says.

The placebo effect is merely a word that describes the phenomanon that the physiological system appears to produce very many helpful and curative responses when the subject merely 'believes' that he/she is receiving actual medicines from someone they trust knows what they are doing! Now why that takes place is a total mystry. There are very few explanations for the placebo effect, and the main reason is that we are largely ignorant about how the brain generates feedback loops to affect the physiology of the person.
There are many many physiological mechanisms that are barely catalogued let alone understood yet. But the important point is that so far the consensus is that explanations within the scientific paradigm will be used to understand. When people start proposing that the language of the supernatural (God, angels, good and bad spirits, jinns, satan, devil, etc. as actual real entities) is to be employed to 'understand' something that I become extremely sceptical and doubtful. The reaction is pretty much the same when I find myself walking alone at 2:00 am in a well known bad and rough part of the town. I am not going to be on my friendliest best.

Acceptance by 'experts' usually requires something been tested and probed in different ways. And even after having been accepted as 'understood' there is always a yound graduate student or postdoc whose dream is to become famous by overturning accepted wisdom. So far in science there are very few basic laws that are cosidered robust enough and fundamental enough to be viewed as close to being fully understood. If the superstring theory is correct then the earth is not a 3D pear shaped (close to a sphere) object but a 11 to 16 dimensional object that is approximate to a sphere in a particular 3D projection.






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