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Don Salmon's Comments

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Beyond McMindfulness

Commented Jul 1, 2013 at 18:37:40 in Religion

“This is a wonderful, timely and much needed article. I have no qualms with the description of the negative aspects of the current mindfulness movement.

I realize it might have muddied the message to speculate on what might be positive non-Buddhist presentations of mindfulness, but it might help to suggest a few. Here's one - I think that Dan Siegel's development of mindfulness associated with his "interpersonal neurobiology" actually addresses many of the concerns that the authors rightfully and so articulately raise. Our website,, provides a very simple summary of an integrated approach to utilizing mindfulness with a "social" concern (utilizing is not even the right word - too "utilitarian" - Siegel's idea of "transpirational integration" is that to the extent we develop mindfulness in an integrated fashion, it naturally, organically leads to transcendence of self-concern, and a flowering of ethical behavior).”
The Scientific 7-Minute Workout: Enough Pain?

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout: Enough Pain?

Commented May 25, 2013 at 17:13:45 in Fifty

“If you look again at the NY Times article, you'll see they recommend doing the 7 minute routine 2 or 3 times. Also, if you calculate the time, it's actually slightly more than 8 minutes. If you do it 3 times, that's 24 minutes. And if you get good at it, you can do it 4 or 5 times. now it's sounding like a regular workout.

Also, urgent warning - don't "jump" into it if you're not fit. I've been doing a 40 minute kettlebell routine for a year plus 5 days of 30-40 minutes fast walking. I tried the 7 minute routine, felt great, and pulled my back out the next day. Be careful. But do try it - it feels great and probably works if you do it more carefully than I did!”
huffingtonpost entry

Why Bad Science Is Like Bad Religion

Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 07:55:58 in Religion

“It's a shame that Brian Josephson (nobel prize winner in physics) has such a poor understanding of quantum physics that he thinks that it might provide some ("some") insight into the way that psi phenomena work. Even psychologist Ray Hyman, one of the most prominent attackers of psi research for more than 35 years, recently (2011, I think) admitted that the research is valid, and the only reason he can't accept it is because of prejudice. Famed 20th century psychologist Donald Hebb ("neurons that wire together fire together") admitted the same prejudice more than 50 years ago. That's all Sheldrake is talking about. The attackers here simply prove his point! See "Shaving Science With Ockham's Razor" to understand the limitations of the materialist faith, or write me at donsalmon7(at)gmail.”

charliefoxtrot999 on Jan 6, 2013 at 16:56:45

“And that, of course, should be "Entanglement does NOT allow communication"”

charliefoxtrot999 on Jan 6, 2013 at 16:54:50


Josephson's tactic is to try to harness the observer-initiated collapse of the Copenhagen interpretation to explain psy. The big problem there is that the Copenhagen interpretation is mathematically equivalent to other interpretations which do not rely on special observers. There's no way to send a message through observer-initiated collapse. The necessary mechanics is not there.

Sheldrake's tactic is to try to harness entanglement, or "spooky action at a distance", which he thinks provides an avenue for communication. It doesn't, and that just shows how much he misunderstands QM. Entanglement does allow communication; you cannot send a signal from one particle to another entangled particle. So there's no avenue there for psy.

The problem with all these arguments is that they're not part of a scientific discourse; that is, they're arguments intended to convince the public, rather than scientists. Scientists know they're bunk because (most) scientists see the flaws in them very easily. The public does not have an adequate understanding of QM, so these arguments sound compelling to them. And therein lies the reason why new science is always communicated to the scientific community first: the public is not equipped to validate a new theory.”

charliefoxtrot999 on Jan 6, 2013 at 16:47:45

“The thing is, I, at least, am not attacking Sheldrake on the basis of a rejection of telepathy--I actually think there's been some compelling work done on psy and I would be the first person to accept it were it given an adequate foundation. The problem with psy is that it's not enough to provide evidence that an anomaly is happening, which is all that psy research has done so far. You have to show that the anomaly is harnessable in some way, or provide a foundation for integrating the anomaly into accepted scientific discovery.

It seems there are no useful applications for psy, because nobody in the field is even trying to demonstrate them anymore, and researchers like Sheldrake have devoted their time to attacking their detractors with rhetoric (as in this article), and providing a physical foundation for psy which they think is compelling.

The problem is that the foundational work is NOT compelling. One thing you'll find if you ever stop accepting things on the basis of authority is that having a nobel prize does not make you infallible. Simply because a nobel winner agrees with you does not mean you're right; you, or the nobel winner, have to present compelling evidence that you are right. And nobody has.

Pretty much all proposals for explaining psy physically try to harness the "weirdness" of quantum mechanics. Of course, this works very well on non-physicists, because to them QM is "weird". But ESTABLISHED QM doesn't provide an avenue for”
huffingtonpost entry

A Scientific Honoring of Death

Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 14:22:16 in Religion

“"Connie and I are currently in Canandaigua, NY, overlooking Canandaigua Lake and a gorgeous glacial moraine. Slowly, for sure, but they do come and go. Supposedly (according to the last estimate I heard) glaciers "came down and went back" some 17 times in the last two million years here in North America."

If Michael is talking about an experience he is having in regard to the lake, he is speaking of something which is utterly inexplicable within the fundamaterialist framework he is preaching. As Thomas Nagel, who actually understands philosophy and science, has said, materialism is implicitly a subtle dualism. It is this dualism - experientially, not just intellectually, which - as the Buddha, Shankara and contemplatives of the West have long taught - that creates the fear of death. No dualism, no fear (Gita: Even a little of this dharma protects one from great fear; Jesus; The truth (which is the end of dualism) will set you free.

Michael and Connie are teaching the exact opposite of this; promoting the dualism of the materialists. How in the world is that going to do anything but (a) promote some superficial "feel good" platitudinous irrationality ("Thank God for Evolution") and (b) dissolve in the face of any challenge to their dualistic thinking (notice the responses on his blog when anybody actually presents an intelligent challenge to the feel-good dualism presented here.”
huffingtonpost entry

A Scientific Honoring of Death

Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 14:15:53 in Religion

“If anybody is interested in a fact based accounting of science, as opposed to the faith based fundamaterialism expressed in this blog, keep your eyes out for the upcoming "Set Science Free" by Rupert Sheldrake.”
huffingtonpost entry

Network Evolution: How Natural Genetic Engineering Builds Circuits in the Genome

Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 13:43:30 in Science

“(a continuation of previous comment)

Let's just say, for the sake of it - hypothetically, not arguing the fact for now - that there is some kind of sentience (however unimaginable it might be for us) associated with one-celled organisms. Perhaps we shouldn't use the word "intention" as it is almost impossible, no matter how careful we might be in a rational sense, to avoid the conditioned sense of that word "intention" - that is, involving a fully conscious being such as we assume ourselves to be - to affect how we use it.

So, what if there is some kind of sentience associated with one celled organisms, and that there is a - dare I say it - directionality implicit in their actions that is associated with that sentience.

Nothing here is meant as proof, or as logical steps toward a conclusion - we're still at a hypothetical stage - what if we assume this sentience, and then go look at the data again, will it look different in any way?”
huffingtonpost entry

Network Evolution: How Natural Genetic Engineering Builds Circuits in the Genome

Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 13:42:47 in Science

“Hi, like others who acknowledge their ignorance, I want to start by saying I'm a psychologist and know little (well, almost nothing) about biology. having said that, I wanted to introduce a few distinctions in regard to "cognition" and "intent" that might provide another way of thinking about their role (or lack of it) in evolution. And one more term: "sentience".

James mentioned Nakagaki awhile back - he did some wonderful experiments showing the capacity of a one celled organism to solve a maze. And a Scottish biologist, Anthony Trewavas, has shown what sure looks like "intentional" or at least, remarkably intelligent behavior in plants.

But I think for most people nurtured on a purely non-mental, non-conscious understanding of science, these experiments could fairly easily be interpreted along the lines of a non-mental "intention" (if one can comfortably entertain such a notion).

However, things get a bit more controversial with psychologist Harry Hunt's claim that 'sentience" - that is, the "feeling" of being alive, or what Nagel calls "what it's like to be" alive or "aware" in some sense - may extend to one celled organisms. (to be continued)....”
huffingtonpost entry

Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real

Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 14:18:35 in Religion

“Hi Michael,

I wouldn't imagine you'd remember a conversation you and I had shortly after Connie and I completed our teaching series. You had given a talk in which you gave some vague references to how spirituality and science were in agreement. I pointed out that from a strictly scientific point of view, you were exaggerating and making linkages that weren't correct. In private, you agreed but felt it was ok to present the "spirit" of this linkage. I understand. People have a need for meaning and significance. If you present "God" and "religion" as "night language" in the vaguest sense, to the point that the words become ciphers for anything anybody wants to project on to them (from fundamaterialist Nobel Prize winners naturalist belief systems to ex fundamentalist church goers looking for new meaning) then you're going to be successful. It's quite brilliant, in a sort of devilish way, I think (I mean that humorously, of course).

If you are interested in actually thinking through the day/night night/day reversal, I'd be interested in furthering the dialog. But if it's a kind of Alice in Wonderland "words mean what we want them to mean", then there's not really much to talk about I guess. This was the same difficulty I had in the science and spirit dialog years ago - if you just define words any way you want, well, nobody can disagree with you and you'll be very well respected. And it appears to have worked for you.”

apadwa on Jun 16, 2012 at 16:07:23

“I agree with you, but this type of thinking has a usefulness that I think you have overlooked. This approach of glorifying scientific reality, while still allowing for antiquated meaningless 'night' words to be used, is exactly the stepping stone that religious people need to begin to work towards freedom from their indoctrination.

Many people feel stuck in religious cultures, afraid to question and to think differently, and they must fear the condemnation of friends and family when they present themselves with ideas that threaten their faith (not to mention identify with such ideas).

Imagine if such insular cultures could start to approach science differently. This mindset takes the Gouldian non-overlapping magisteria idea and subtly elevates science to the language of day/reason while condemning religious thought to a dreamlike, irrational standing (and the word assignments implicitly suggest good and evil, playing on the notion of the correlation between goodness/light & evil/dark, imagery and language that christians are all too familiar with). The devil is in the details : )”
huffingtonpost entry

Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real

Commented May 31, 2012 at 12:49:46 in Religion

“I thought I'd add some explanation as to what it means for matter to be a ""God". Since most people have a theistic understanding of the word "God", perhaps I should have used the philosophic term "absolute." Mass-energy, or physical, or again - whatever term one chooses to describe those parts of the universe which are believed (on pure unprovable dogmatic faith - see previous comment) to exist independent of any kind of awareness - is something that cannot be directly experienced. Hence, it is transcendent. This is fairly simple logic. That's why I say that Connie is following the way of transcendence - at least logically; I'm sure in her experience she has a deep, abiding, beautiful and joyful appreciation of nature. It's just that the day/night subject/objective reversal inherent in all your writings is a complete contradiction; in fact, more precisely, it's incoherent - that is, it does not present a coherent enough logical set of ideas to even be contradictory.

And I understand that thousands of people derive great peace from your presentation of evolution and religion. That's a separate issue from whether it makes any logical sense.”

MBDowd on May 31, 2012 at 20:14:11

“Don, Connie and I both have a "Does it align with our best evidence?" and "Does it bear good fruit?" sort of approach to life.

What you see as incoherent is, for us, amazingly fruitful and joyful. We feel like we're the richest people on the planet. Both of us are at deep peace with our inner and outer nature (including our mortality)]. We are passionately in love with each other, with our itinerant lifestyle and we're in the center of our bliss pretty much nonstop. Both of us would rate the quality of our life, our relationship, and our work as a 10 on a scale of 1-10. Our view and experience of "God" can be fairly well summed up here: and our sense of what life is all about has been shaped and is fed by the resources here:

Perhaps our approach doesn't work for you, Don. I get that. But it sure works for us. And I sense it's allowing us to leave a sweet legacy. What more could we ask for?”
huffingtonpost entry

Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real

Commented May 31, 2012 at 12:44:38 in Religion

“Hi Michael:

I'm speaking of both of your worldviews actually, and according to people who have taught you in the past as well. I taught with Connie for 8 weeks and have seen her books; I don't see anything in any of her writings or presentations that is in conflict with the dogma of fundamaterialism (see philosopher Neal Grossman for more on this). Try to define matter (or what "physical" means) without referring to awareness; I know it's been done, but it's logically incoherent. Thus, "matter" (or "physical" or whatever new term is coined) becomes a God).

This is not a very complicated idea. It is based on the most parsimonious understanding of Occam's Razor. Given that our direct experience is comprised of forms in awareness, it is incumbent on the naturalist to prove otherwise.”

MBDowd on May 31, 2012 at 14:05:21

“Terry Deacon does a pretty good job, it seems to me. See his book: "Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter":
Here's Connie's and my interview with him:
And here's a fabulous overview/review of his book:
huffingtonpost entry

Death: Sacred, Necessary, Real

Commented May 30, 2012 at 15:43:12 in Religion

“In the Gita, Chapter 2, it is said that what for the ordinary man is day, to the sage is a night of ignorance, and what for the ordinary woman is night, for the sage is the bright, brilliant light of the "sun" of awakened Knowledge. Connie once spoke of mystic religion as "the way of transcendence". This is the ordinary person taking the day for the night. She also spoke of loving the beauty of nature, a beauty which is characterized by qualia of which science - as most physicalist neuroscientists acknowledge - cannot (yet - o promissory materialism!) understand. Yet the kind of "day science" that Michael speaks of is utterly transcendent - speaking of abstract concepts which by their very nature cannot be proven to exist and cannot even be experienced, but Connie and others who belong to the church of fundamaterialism fail to distinguish their experience from the abstract concepts of the sciences and so continue to believe in the god of matter.”

MBDowd on May 31, 2012 at 09:22:39

“You couldn't be more wrong about Connie, Don. She does not "believe" in the god of matter. Connie, in fact, has one of the deepest and most intimate relationships with Reality of anyone I've ever known. Her book, "Green Space Green Time: The Way of Science": is all about how the ecological and evolutionary sciences can deepen our communion with what is fundamentally, inescapably real. Not only is it one of the most inspiring books I've ever read, but 15 years after it was published many still consider it the best book ever written on religious naturalism. Her worldview and relationship to life gives her what religious people call "the peace that passes understanding". I share that worldview and experience, which is why we consider ourselves among the richest and most blessed people on the planet. Life is good, my friend. I hope your worldview serves you similarly.”
Diet Drinks: Helpful or Harmful to Kick the Sugar Habit?

Diet Drinks: Helpful or Harmful to Kick the Sugar Habit?

Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 12:44:59 in Healthy Living

“Hi Dr. Hyman:

I enjoy veggie drinks every day with 1 tablespoon of Stevia. My average caloric intake is around 1600 calories and I don't find I have any sugar cravings. I think it helps not to overgeneralize. I do realize that, for a large number of people with sugar cravings, your advice may be helpful, but still even for them, some may find it helpful to be moderate in natural sugar intake - even cane sugar - rather than extreme. The medical science (as well as the psychological science - I'm a psychologist) is still quite primitive. It is rather amazing when we compare what science is able to say about what we should or should not eat with what an individual can learn when he or she becomes mindfully attuned to their body (and if this sounds too simplistic, there is good scientific evidence for it - for what it's worth!).

but thanks for your thoughtful column.”
A Hindu View of 'Christian Yoga'

A Hindu View of 'Christian Yoga'

Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 15:15:32 in Religion

“Rajiv - since you yourself have been - to the best of my knowledge - unwilling to consider other views of Christianity, views which have far more in common with yogic traditions than the ones you describe in your article - are you perhaps being a bit disingenuous? Alan Wallace - for whom your Infinity foundation has provided funding in the past - has written a beautiful, eloquent article showing fundamental unanimity between the deepest Christian spirituality and both Buddhist and Hindu traditions. See:

My wife and I, in our "Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness: Seeing Through the Eyes of Infinity", have pointed out similar commonalities between Christianity and yogic spirituality (full disclosure: the Infinity Foundation provided a grant for help with writing the book). See also on youtube, "Beyond the Matrix: The Only Way Out", for a similarly universalistic perspective.”
huffingtonpost entry

The Crucible Gone Cold: Modern Yoga, Christianity, and the Practice of Individual Transformation

Commented Nov 1, 2010 at 18:42:12 in Religion

“wonderful article and amazing insightful. I wonder if the materialistic view which so many associate with science and rationality may not be the most powerful impediment to understanding what Josh writes here. For anyone who is committed to being reasonable (maybe you were at the Rally to Restore Sanity??) look at Chris Carter's "Parapsychology ad the Skeptics" and his latest book, "Science and the Near Death Experience". If you read with an open mind, I don't see how you can not help but be at least an agnostic about the materialistic outlook. People who have a flat EEG, no brain stem activity, are in full cardiac arrest, and thus have no blood flowing in the brain, later reawaken and can describe in detail the conversations that occurred while they were "unconscious"; objectively verified descriptions of sounds and sights in other rooms while "Unconscious" have been recorded; and people blind from birth have provided clear visual descriptions of events that occurred while "unconscious". See also Dr. Limmel's Lancet article. Please write me at if you believe that you are able to see a logical flaw in these studies (particularly as described by Carter - please note that he critiques Sagan, Blakemore and others who propose materialistic explanations for NDEs - please take them into account before suggesting alternatives, and his critiques also provide answers for Keith Augustine's attempts at explanation as well)

TheWM on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:34:33

“"I wonder if the materialistic view which so many associate with science and rationality may not be the most powerful impediment to understanding what Josh writes here."

I for one most certainly hope it's a powerful impediment to just swallowing it.
The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 14:29:54 in Religion

“(conclusion) Try, before you reject this completely - to ponder this, as wordlessly as possible - that is, focusing on the feel or perception of this in relationship to various "objects:" in your immediate environment - and see if your sense of what and who you are and who and what is around you doesn't undergo some kind of at least minimal transformation (try it also in relationship to the idea of a material, mind-independent brain, as well as material, mind-independent chemicals in the 'brain', and see what happens - remember, this is not Robert Lanza's 'idealism' nor Amit Goswami's quantum consciousness nor deepak chopra's "consciousness is all there is" - no philosophical position is meant to be conveyed by the above - or if there is one, I've failed to convey Barfield's careful and clear thinking (he was an attorney as well as a poet).

Thank you rabbi for a beautiful and inspiring article.”

Alan Lurie on Oct 20, 2010 at 16:10:45

“Thank you Don.
wishing you well,
The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 14:29:23 in Religion

“(part 3) Before completing the summary of Barfield's opening to "Saving the Appearances", I have to issue one caution, echoing Barfield's great philosophic reticence - he is at pains to get across the idea that he is NOT promoting a particular philosophic or metaphysical position - he is NOT promoting idealism, saying all we know is "in" our minds", nor is he out to refute materialism, or suggest dualism, or any other ism. He is only putting forth, in as simple terms as I've ever seen, the consequences of the latest developments in physics along with the physiology and psychology of perception.

So to continue with the tree - the sound of leaves falling is similarly, an interaction - neither wholly "in here" nor "out there" - of our hearing and "something" 'out there'; and most powerfully - and providing the biggest challenge if you really take the time to get quiet inside and let go of previous conceptions - the same is true of the solid "feel" of the bark. As Barfield says later in the book, there is no such thing as an unseen sight, an unheard sound, and most provocative - an unfelt "solidity".

(conclusion below)”
The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 14:28:21 in Religion

“Then, Barfield says, consider a tree - that is, consider the **experience** of a tree. The word "Experience" here is important - but it's also important to reflect for awhile on the view that Barfield is trying to convey - that in the case of both the rainbow and the "experienced" tree - neither can be said to be wholly inside - as we usually think of experience (as opposed to biochemical phenomena in the supposedly wholly objective, material 'brain') nor outside.

Having pondered that for some time - slowly, delicately, allowing for our usual preconceptions to be at least temporarily in abeyance - consider now what we experience as a "tree". What about the brown of the bark? Isn't that also, Barfield suggests, an interaction between our vision and something out there, which he calls "the unrepresented".

This will take a moment to unfold (sorry my prose is so leaden - better to read Barfield, a master poet).

As Heisenberg told us repeatedly, and as far as I am aware, remains accepted in the physics community, we can't accurately say we have direct contact with a wholly mind-independent world when we do physics; rather, according to Heisenberg, it is not Nature that we study but Nature's response to our questions. To translate this into Barfield's example - it is not some entirely separate, mind-independent "thing" that we contact in our experience of the tree, but rather, the response of our visual perception to "something" whose nature we cannot wholly”
The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

The Mystical Experience: A Question of What's Beyond

Commented Oct 20, 2010 at 14:26:44 in Religion

“Rabbi Lurie:

What a beautiful article. I particularly liked the evocative quote from George Eliot. I'm also impressed that you're staying with the comments, responding empathically yet calmly. Regarding a few commenters who felt you hadn't addressed the question of whether a mystical experiencing is "merely" a bio-chemical phenomenon, I'd like to share a viewpoint from the opening chapter of Owen Barfield's "Saving the Appearances" (the opening chapter, a mere 5 pages, if you take the time to savor its implications, provides one of the most powerful means of cleansing the "doors of perception" in order to "see a world in a grain of sand" that I've found).

Barfield asks us to consider a rainbow, and inquire, "Is the rainbow really "there"? Then ask, what do we mean by thinking of something as "out there"? That it exists independently of our perception, right? But if we consider a rainbow, we see that what we call the experience of the rainbow is neither wholly "inside" nor "outside", but rather, an interaction between our visual perception and a combination of water vapor and sunlight.

(Part 2 is below)...”