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Nice reply to Mark Morford.

I haven't read any of Morford above and beyond the columns you've presented, so I don't know what he normally writes about, but his mentality toward science is highly frustrating.

As a scientist (studying the taxonomy of Psilocybe mushrooms, no less) living in the Bay Area, I run into this "New Age" mentality a lot.

I remember talking to somebody a year back about medicinal and toxic plants – she expressed quite matter-of-factly that for any poisonous plant or mushroom, there will be another plant growing nearby that is its specific antidote. When I said I thought this idea was nonsense and could think of plenty of examples to the contrary, she seemed a bit offended. She defended the idea not on its merits, but on the fact that she'd learned it from a medicinal plant guru (forgot his name) who was supposed to be incredibly knowledgeable. When I come across this kind of "fashionable nonsense" among apparently educated people here, I think that perhaps the "progressive" parts of the country like the Bay Area really aren't that far ahead of supposed bastions of ignorance like Kansas. People here just pick different anti-intellectual poisons.

They seem to think that somehow science, and reason and logic in general, are in some way detrimental to an appreciation of the wonder of the universe or some kind of sense of holism. These people really seems to want shortcuts to knowledge, and seem to think there can be an understanding of the whole without understanding of the parts. In fact, they dismiss understanding of the parts as "reductionism", without understanding that both reductionism and holism are vital parts of science.

Daniel Dennet calls this a "skyhook" mentality, a kind of "greedy holism" that demands a grand understanding of the whole without building on an understanding of the parts. Admittedly, its opposite, "greedy reductionism", the idea that you completely understand a phenomenon when you really only understand a small part of it, is a real problem with some scientists. The "gay gene" hypothesis and much of evolutionary psychology are examples of this.

Of course the error that "new age" types make is that they reduce all of science to the caricature of greedy reductionism and use this straw man to defend their own deeply problematic greedy holism.


Yes to everything "curiousblue" said! (and to Greta's letter, of course) My personal favorite idiotic moment in Morford's column (and I am ordinarily a huge Morford fan) is when he uses the example of a study that showed meditation lowered blood pressure, as an example of a "no, duh" study. Is he kidding??? Doesn't he know how much the proponents of so-called "alternative treatments" are HELPED by studies like that? There is a hell of a lot of snake oil out there, and a lot of assholes making a lot of money off the desperation of sick people. As a health care provider who cares for patients with potentially terminal illnesses I am sure not going to recommend any of it unless there is some evidence that it works and isn't harmful. I am all for meditation and glucosamine and acupuncture, because there is some evidence to support their use. But don't talk to me about crystals, or faith healing, or rhinoceros horn extract or whatever, unless you are prepared to show me some controlled, peer-reviewed, replicable data. Sheesh!!

Bill Brent

Yeah, sheesh!!

Do I think that science sometimes attempts to prove things that are already obvious to the common throng? Yes.

Do I think this is a waste of money and time? Sometimes, maybe.

But, as Greta points out, there's danger in saying, ''Well, everybody KNOWS that already.'' Because maybe ''everybody's'' so-called knowledge is really just a set of assumptions that can be debunked (with science OR psychedelics -- and why not both?), or perhaps explained with greater insight and accuracy as true, by someone with an inquiring mind.

And boy, do I think we need more of those.

Anyhow, speaking of the common throng, here's one of the best pieces of wisdom I've ever received:

''Practically every problem I've ever had can be traced to an assumption.''
-- the window cleaner

Maybe Morford just needs to have his windows cleaned.




I have nothing to add. Excellent, excellent.

These quotes:

>>And since you seem to think this study somehow proves the objective reality of mystical experience, I feel compelled to point out that it does nothing of the kind. In fact, it could easily be argued that this study does the exact opposite -- it demonstrates that mystical experience is a mental process, a function of the nervous system that can be induced by the consumption of a chemical compound. I'm not sure I would make that argument -- but it's not an unreasonable one.

>>I am particularly puzzled by the fact that you accept on its face the validity of the Johns Hopkins study -- and yet at the same time you mock it for being redundant and pointless.

Yes, yes, yes.

Thank you, on behalf of the advancement of human intelligence. Don't ever stop.

D. B. Howard

Jane S.

I think "South Park" said it most succinctly, "San Francisco - the leading cause of smug." I think the writers must have read Mark Morford.

I often agree with him and used to enjoy his column, but pretty much had to give it up. I don't like being preached to, even when I agree with the preacher. You are absolutely right, Greta, he's a pagan fundimentalist - and that's more than a little creepy.

Donna Gore

The beautiful thing about science is that it has a built-in self-correction mechanism. You certainly can't say that about religion.

There's no such thing as "heresy" in science. If a theory turns out to be bunk, it's thrown out and we start over. Religion. . . we're not supposed to question it, period.

Science does not claim to have ALL the answers to EVERYTHING. It's RELIGION that makes THAT claim !!!


Meditation can really help you in physical and mental well being. Scientific studies and researched proved it. Besides that personal experiences like mine fortify the claim. I am using various meditation techniques for quite a long time. The benefits are prominent and visible today.

It takes time but the results are sure to come by. Have patience and try it for your own sake. Who knows, you may not need to see a doctor tomorrow. But remember own thing- learn it from the experts. Try websites like (URL deleted, commercial content - GC) which teaches about meditation.

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