Month: October 2010

117. Spencer Burke’s Controversial, Long-Term View of Christianity

Interview with author and influential thinker in the Emergent Church movement looks at Christianity 10,000 years from now. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with the author of, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, Spencer Burke.  During the interview Mr. Burke is asked about the future of Christianity in light of discoveries regarding the nature of consciousness, "I take a long view of history. So let's say 10,000 years from now the Christians look back at us in the early, nostalgic age of early Christianity in the year 2000. Think about all the understanding and knowledge they will have. This perspective gives us a little bit of freedom to hold things a bit loosely.  If I say, 'what I have right now, if I lose it I lose who I am'... that's a difficult place to be. But if I say, 'here's who I am today', now I have the freedom and strength to continue to move forward without the fear or worry of discovering, learning, growing, evolving... whatever words you want to use... maturing in 'the way'... why are we so afraid of that?" Mr. Burke also examines the future direction of the Emergent Church movement he helped found, " know the pendulum swung so hard in some ways with the Emerging Church, and I love that, but it's also got to find some reality and that's my quest. Like in my book, Making Sense of the Church, I was struggling with the idea of saying all evangelism is just evil. And I'm like, no, just evil evangelism is evil. Leadership's bad. No, bad leadership is bad. Isn't there good leadership? Good evangelism? And I think what Skeptiko is doing with this in a beautiful way is maybe creating that hybrid. I think that's what this next thing is." Learn more about Spencer Burke Play it: Download MP3 (41:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris, and for those of you who have been following this show for a while, you might realize that we've kind of been going down two tracks.


116. Dr. Sam Parnia Claims Near Death Experience Probably an Illusion

Interview with NDE researcher and AWARE Project leader explores limits of experiments on near-death experience. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with the NDE expert and author of, What Happens When We Die?, Dr. Sam Parnia.  During the interview Dr. Parnia is asked why he suspects NDE is an "illusion", and a "trick of the mind".  When pressed, Dr Parnia stated, "...It may well be. You're pushing and I'm giving you honest answers. I don't know. If I knew the answers then I don't think I would have engaged and spent 12 years of my life and so much of my medical reputation to try to do this. Because to appreciate people like me, I risk a lot by doing this sort of experiment. So I'm interested in the answers and I don't know. Like I said, if I was to base everything on the knowledge that I have currently of neuroscience, then the easiest explanation is that this is probably an illusion." While Dr. Parnia's position regarding the validity of the NDE phenomena stands in contrast to most other near death experience researchers he continues to push forward.  His AWARE Project asks cardiac arrest patients who experience a NDE to recall hidden pictures placed above their bed.  This methodology has been criticized by NDE experts who give it little chance of yielding positive results. Dr. Parnia responds, "I don't know if be successful or not. That's an important point to make. As I said, I don't have a particular stance. It's possible that these experiences are simply illusionary and it's possible that they're real. Science hasn't got the answers yet. So we have to go fair-minded. Right now what we have is a setup that can at least, we hope, objectively determine an answer to the question." Dr. Sam Parnia Bio Video lecture at Goldsmiths in London Is Dr. Sam Parnia’s AWARE Study of Near Death Experience Doomed to Fail? Play it: Download MP3 (38:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by the author of What Happens When We Die? He's a leading expert on NDE research. He's best known as the lead investigator of the AWARE Project. Dr. Sam Parnia is a Fellow in pulmonary care at Cornell University and he's a doctor. I mean, in addition to being a researcher, he's also there in the ICU saving lives. Dr. Parnia, thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.


115. Dr. Jeff Kripal Offers a Fresh Perspective on the Nature of Consciousness

Comparative Religions scholar and author of, Authors of the Impossible explores the link between consciousness and culture. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for and interview with Rice University Religious Studies professor and author of, Authors of the Impossible, Dr. Jeff Kripal.  During the interview Dr. Kripal discusses how a broad view of comparative religions might inform scientific debate on the nature of consciousness, "I have  developed this model of consciousness and culture… I'm sure some people will read that it's always just culture. Other people will read it as saying I believe in some kind of absolute consciousness beyond our culture… but actually it's both. I'm trying to maintain this both/and thinking and not keep falling into this either/or." Dr. Kripal also discusses how this model might change our view of near-death experience science, "I'm not suggesting that near-death experiences are simply culture or nothing but local context. Not at all. I think consciousness is self-existent and does survive bodily death, but I also think it always, always, always expresses itself… through language and culture and context. So you're never outside of that. But you may be outside of it when you die. I mean, I don't know. If I've died before I don't remember it." Dr. Kripal also share his thoughts on how a new model of consciousness might impact religion, "I'm thinking more of creating a new religious worldview. Not me, personally, mind you, but as a culture. That's where the historian can speak here, too. When religious systems start out, nobody knows where they're going. They never, ever, ever come out of nowhere. They're always syntheses or fusions of the scientific knowledge of the time and the different cultures that are interacting. So where I place my hope isn't on Church A or Synagogue B or Scientist X. It's the future generations who can put this stuff together in a completely new way, which I think is almost inevitable." Check out Dr. Jeff Kripal's website Authors of The Impossible Podcast: Dean Radin Interview Play it: Download MP3 (61:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we're joined by the author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred, a book that he's also developing into a documentary film, as well as a podcast titled, Impossible Talk. As an aside, I have to mention what a fine podcast it is. The interviews are just fantastic and Jeff brings this dialogue-between-colleagues style that's really enjoyable and quite insightful. He's also the head of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University and is the author of several other interesting books I hope we have a chance to talk about. Dr. Jeff Kripal, thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko.