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The truth and Prozac will set you free

  1. Mar 20, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    By personal observation it seems possible that some significant percentage of the population is happier if they have spiritual beliefs. In support of this idea are the many religions that evolved independently of each other. If we don't need God or gods then why do we keep "inventing" them? Our brains seem to be predisposed to seek meaning and purpose. Many of us want to believe that we serve some greater good.

    I believe in God and I believe that life has purpose. But this faith comes in spite of the many "logical", proof based arguments that bombard the analytic part of the mind. I made the logical choice for faith but only after years of struggle. And I have seen many other people who go through the same logical struggle but who never seem to reach any satisfactory conclusions. I have seen this in both highly religious people and so called atheists alike.

    So here's the idea. It seems possible to me that science and logic may be harming some people psychologically. I have even heard this idea expressed explicitly on various occasions. For example, the wife a friend once complained that after her husband explained refraction and how that produces a rainbow, it completely ruined rainbows for her. The magic of not knowing is what made her happy. In a small way, knowing the truth made her a less happy person. Now when she sees a rainbow she gets mad at her husband.

    For years this baffled me since I always want to know the physics of the world around me, but for her the reality was completely the opposite. Then I found that this is true for many people. It finally dawned on me why, not everyone wants to know "the truth". Many of us, maybe even all of us have brains that want gods, magic, and imagined realities. In fact the older I get the more convinced I am that people are happiest when they settle into spiritual beliefs that go mostly unquestioned.

    I really can't imagine how to reconcile this potential truth with the advancement of science, education, and fact based truths. Could education only come with a heavy price in psychological terms; with significant casualties along the way? Are we replacing God and spirituality with Prozac? Could "enlightenment" destroy happiness? If this is true in some significant part of the population, what should done, if anything?
     
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  3. Mar 20, 2005 #2

    reilly

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    Ivan Seeking -- Just for the record, there are huge numbers of people who are alive today because of antidepressants, myself included. It turns out that Prozac did not work well for me, but originally Imipramine and now Wellbutrin have been life savers. Clinical depression is a terrible, life-threatening disease, as is manic-depression. Most of us with these diseases take them so we can get up in the morning, rather than stay in bed with no energy and no ability to do much of anything.

    Reilly Atkinson
     
  4. Mar 20, 2005 #3

    Kerrie

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    Very interesting theory you present Ivan. I can imagine there are a lot of people who truly don't care how the world functions, but the magic of it is what keeps their spirits high (no pun intended). Then there are those who are naturally curious, who want those answers that science provides, and maybe derive some sort of satisfaction of finding out those answers-and hopefully those answers don't make them feel "above" others will less formal education. Science is a spiritual way in a sense-it's a path to truth for some, but not all. Because the answers are "concrete" in science, those who are science-minded feel more justified to claim science is the truth.

    The one question we don't know, and may never know is, who or what has designed the science that we study and some call truth? Those who keep their faith without understanding the how's of our universe, just accept it and appreciate it as it is feel they have this connection with a divine creator of the laws of our world we label as science.

    Has there been any studies done on the correlation of seratonin and religious faith? (I am on my way out the door, so I don't have time to research until later). From a very close member of my family, I know prozac has done absolutey wonders over the past couple of months. From personal experience, it has helped me in the temporary sense. I took it for just a few months, and "kick-started" the chemicals that help me function on a normal level. For some on the drug, it is only needed temporarily and not indefinitely.

    Looking forward to hearing back from others on this.
     
  5. Mar 22, 2005 #4
    Well, some people may be like this, but if everybody was like this we'd still be monkeys. I never liked these anti-science people, but that's just a personal feeling of course.
     
  6. Mar 22, 2005 #5
    Anti-science is right. The only kind of person for whom understanding something would spoil it is someone who has decided to dislike science. Finding out the mechanism spoils the effect only because the person has decided he/she does not like science, ergo to maintain that belief, he/she has to stop liking the effect. It's psychosomatic and entirely that person's fault.
     
  7. Mar 22, 2005 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    What percentage of the population studies science or engineering? Or, take any representitive sample of the population. What fraction of those wish to sit and talk about science for more than a few minutes?
     
  8. Mar 22, 2005 #7
    Oh gosh... for me most people's attention span is 5 seconds. Even with my own classmates...

    Now imagine the general populace...
     
  9. Mar 22, 2005 #8
    There's a difference between not studying science or engineering and actively setting yourself up in opposition to it.
     
  10. Mar 22, 2005 #9

    Ivan Seeking

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    Who is in opposition to science? This is a question of what people need; how our/their brains work. Also, considering that the majority of the world's population adheres to some kind of spiritual faith, the notion that this behavior is monkey-like is rather silly. In fact it is uniquely a human trait. Monkeys don't pray.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2005
  11. Mar 22, 2005 #10
    My argument about setting oneself up in opposition to science is post #5 of this thread.
     
  12. Mar 23, 2005 #11
    I believe that the reason people become disappointed when the find that something happens for specific reasons (as in the case of the rainbow), is that the new information now disproves what they have been believe for many years. So, it would be as though I told you that 2+2=5, you wouldn't like it. However, that is just because people are limited to what they know at that time so when we start to build on that knowledge it then becomes the truth and we accept it, and feel good about.

    If a person has come to the conclusion that they are based off a certain religion or god, then they learn something that they believe disprove it they well obviously become depressed.
     
  13. Mar 23, 2005 #12
    That's not the same mechanism as the one behind not finding a rainbow enjoyable anymore once it is understood. It's not that the person believed until he heard the explanation that a rainbow is inexplicable by science, it's that he didn't know of the explanation and so he didn't have to think about science when looking at it. The reason he doesn't want to think about science when looking at it is that he has set himself up in his mind against science. It's kind of like deciding you hate Jews, and then finding out your fiancee is Jewish.
     
  14. Mar 23, 2005 #13

    Kerrie

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    I think Ivan's intention of this thread was to speculate how/if Prozac/anti-depressants patches over our need/desire to have some sort of spirituality. That we have taken modern day medications as a substitute for a spiritual outlet (I feel religious and spiritual are slightly different definitions, although Webster Dictionary doesn't agree).
     
  15. Mar 24, 2005 #14
    That was not Ivan's intention. He was talking about how some people become unhappy when they find out the scientific truth and about how they may be happier without science, comfortable in their own naive beliefs.
     
  16. Mar 24, 2005 #15

    Kerrie

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    I quote from his original thread:

     
  17. Mar 24, 2005 #16
    You're right, he did say that. I hadn't noticed. However, that's not the topic of his post.
     
  18. Mar 26, 2005 #17

    hypnagogue

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    Perhaps, but it needn't be that way. I imagine a significant fraction of the people who are interested in the sciences hold their interest because understanding the world scientifically ultimately contributes to what could be termed spiritual feelings-- feelings of awe, feelings of deeper connectedness that comes with deeper understanding, etc. Einstein himself seemed to be a rather spiritual fellow, and found science to be a sort of pathway to spirituality, despite not holding typical theistic beliefs; Aristotle found the good life through intellectual pursuit rather than faith; and so on.

    Besides, there is really nothing in science or logic as developed thus far, and probably even in principle, that precludes the existence of some sort of God, so theism in the broadest sense can still be preserved. What science can challenge is specific religions and their assorted dogmas, such as creationism. So, this comes down to a matter of culture and history more than anything else. People who are raised as Christians, for instance, probably have strong emotional ties to their specific belief system, and seeing it challenged could certainly do them psychological harm. This is ultimately not so much a problem of science doing damage to certain genetically ingrained psychological dispositions as it is one of how children are raised with certain belief systems that can be shown to be untenable.
     
  19. Mar 26, 2005 #18

    Kerrie

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    Well gee, the title sure says it all.
     
  20. Mar 26, 2005 #19

    Kerrie

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    Dictionary.com (which of course isn't necessarily the say-all of definitions) lumps spirituality with religion. You bring up an excellent point here though Hyp. It is my own personal belief one can be spiritual about whatever in their life without prescribing to a religious set of rules dictated by humanity. I think many forget they have a choice to make up their own mind, thus search for a specific religion to fall into, or just choose atheism because no established religion falls within what they feel is true.

    This might be the case with those who are comfortable with the faith they have. Are there deep religious ties that stem from childhood and family perhaps? Can we someday mesh in our personal need to be spiritual with the wonders of science?

    As for the increase of Prozac today, is it more of an American thing rather then a global trend?
     
  21. Mar 26, 2005 #20

    hypnagogue

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    I looked on dictionary.com, m-w.com, and Wikipedia, and none really had a definition of spirituality that satisfied me. They all seem to imply certain belief systems that are typical of religious institutions. In my understanding and use of the word, spirituality is more of a kind of qualitative, emotional (and maybe perceptual in some cases) experience or experiential 'set,' in the same general category of other experiential sets such as being angry, being in love, being sleepy, being silly, being contemplative, etc. I do not see any type of belief as being essential to having a spiritual experience, anymore than the other states of being I listed are defined in terms of beliefs rather than experiences. Certain kinds of beliefs may typically be associated with spiritual mindsets, but they are not the defining characteristics thereof.

    The kind of experiences I view as qualifying as spiritual are pretty varied, but generally display (but are not limited to) one or more of the following: feelings of profound awe about nature/existence, strong feelings of belonging (not to a social group, but just 'belonging in the world' in some sweeping sense), profound feelings of interconnectedness/unity with nature (feeling 'at one' with the universe, feeling like a 'citizen' of the universe), a welcoming feeling of 'returning home,' profound feelings of love for nature/the universe in general, profound feelings of beauty in the world, feeling ecstacy/bliss just about being alive in the world, feeling strong compassion for the world and/or other beings in the world, etc. The spiritual experience is sort of like the state of being in love, but it's a love that embraces the entirety of existence as oppsed to a love directed at a particular person or group of people. (Although some experiences may not have the character of love so much as of awe or transcendence or some other quality.) Also like love, it's a very profound and intense experience; one gets the feeling that trying to explain it in words will invariably not do justice to the experience itself, and that to truly grasp what is meant by the words, one has to have the experience for one's self. It's the sort of thing where 'you'll know it when you see it'; once one has the experience for one's self, one can immediately find resonance with the kind of descriptions offered here, but one can also immediately recognize the futility of trying to get at the essence of the experience with words alone.

    On this sense of the word 'spiritual,' there is absolutely nothing stopping a scientific-minded person from having spiritual experiences or having a more spiritual mindset in general. However, it very well may be that science and religion tend to harbor certain kinds of belief systems/worldviews that tend to make spirituality more or less likely in their respective believers. But even if this is so, it's still a matter of how one interprets the belief systems. If one thinks that a scientific outlook requires one to be cold and detached, then one will probably find science and spirituality hard to reconcile. But the key point is that having a scientific outlook does not require one to be cold and detached; it demands a certain rigor of thought processes, but this can co-exist with an arbitrarily large range of emotional sets, including spirituality.

    So the key issue appears not to be with science, but with attitudes towards science. Poor, stereotypical attitudes towards science may very well be a problem in western society today, but if so, it's certainly not one that's immune to treatment. It's cultural, not genetic. At the risk of oversimplifying things, it's essentially a matter of counteracting popular stereotypes of the emotionally detached scientist. If anything needs to be changed about the education of science, it's how it's portrayed (either directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally), not that it is taught at all.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2005
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