Friday, February 03, 2006

Jan 2006 // This Month In Finity: "

This Month In Finity is a regular installment of artifacts and developments in humanity’s never-ending quest for truth and meaning. In Finity recognizes the importance that science, philosophy, religion, etc. play in establishing our identities and satisfying our eternal curiosity, not to mention in finding peace and balance. Be it quantum physics, zen meditation, tribal dance and music, Epictetus’ Discourses, or The Sermon on the Mount — all will find common ground here, and hopefully, a common voice with which to share their insight.

This month*: Clarence Larkin’s Bible Charts, Empathy Neurons, Michael Sosteric’s Mystical-Scientific Bridge, The Neuroscience Of Meditation, & Are Animals Self-Aware?

*a little late, due to a weekend trip and some technical problems.

Press play to start this issue’s music inside your browser (requires Flash), or use the title link to do with it as you will.

Steve Reich - Electric Counterpoint (excerpt) - played by Pat Metheny

Clarence Larkin’s Bible Charts

The books and charts by Clarence Larkin have been extremely helpful to Christians since they were first published over 75 years ago. They have passed into the public domain and we are making some of the charts available here as an aid to Bible study. Larkin’s charts are well thought out and Scriptually sound. Some of the more detailed are books in themselves. They reveal Larkin’s vast knowledge of the Scriptures and phenomenal grasp of prophecy. Practically all of the prophecy teachers today got their basic prophecy knowledge directly or indirectly from Larkin and C. I. Scolfield. Larkin’s works, as well as Scolfield’s, are definitive, works that will endure until Christ’s return. No other book since their publishing over 75 years ago has much improved on them.

Empathy Neurons

Six years ago, Edge published a now-famous essay by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran (…) entitled ‘Mirror Neurons and imitation learning as the driving force behind ‘the great leap forward’ in human evolution’. This was the first time that many in the Edge community heard of mirror neurons which were discovered by Iaccomo Rizzolati of the University of Parma in 1995. In his essay, Rama made the startling prediction that mirror neurons would do for psychology what DNA did for biology by providing a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments. He further suggested ‘that the emergence of a sophisticated mirror neuron system set the stage for the emergence, in early hominids, of a number of uniquely human abilities such as proto-language (facilitated by mapping phonemes on to lip and tongue movements), empathy, ‘theory of other minds’, and the ability to ‘adopt another’s point of view’.

In the past few years, mirror neurons have come into their own as the next big thing in neuroscience, and while the jury is still out on Rama’s prediction, it’s obvious that something important is unfolding (…)

Michael Sosteric’s Mystical-Scientific Bridge

Back when I started this in 2002 I couldn’t talk about this to my colleagues. The problem was, I had no scientific frame of reference. The only reference I had was the New Age movement or New Age spiritualities and while I personally had to admit that something was going on that couldn’t be explained within the standard materialist cannon, there was no way I could use the lingo of the New Age movement in respectable scientific circles. (…)

And so there I was existing in two worlds all at once. I had a traditional academic career and a blossoming career as a mystic and I couldn’t figure out how to bridge the two. (…)

The mantra is simple: ’Consciousness is the root of all things.’

It is the collective realization of this simple axiomatic principle and the gradual unfolding of our understanding of it that will unify science, bridge it with mysticism, and usher in an entirely new paradigm of scholarly inquiry.

The Neuroscience Of Meditation

The 14th incarnation of the Living Buddha of Compassion approaches the podium, clears his throat, and blows his nose loudly. ‘So now I am releasing my stress,’ he says. The audience dissolves into laughter.

The Dalai Lama is here to give a speech titled ‘The Neuroscience of Meditation.’ Over the past few years, he has supplied about a dozen Tibetan Buddhist monks to Richard Davidson, a prominent neuroscience professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Davidson’s research created a stir among brain scientists when his results suggested that, in the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the monks had actually altered the structure and function of their brains.

Are Animals Self-Aware?

The central issue in this volume is where self-reflective consciousness should be situated among the numberless gradations hypothesized by Darwin. One can ask, perhaps too simplistically, did self-reflective consciousness evolve before or after language? A better question would be, which gradations of self-reflective consciousness require language and which do not?


(Via Centripetal Notion.)