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August 28, 2002
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Yoga in the classroom? EGADS! That reeks of religious implications, say parents in Aspen, Colorado. "For some families, the chanting that accompanies a selection of yoga techniques creates a challenge for separation of church and state." Aspen Elementary says the pilot program "was proposed as a way to help kids cope with their return to school. Rowdy tots could be calmed and readied for class work after recess using a series of relaxing breathing and stretching techniques."
posted by msacheson (66 comments total)

 
EEK *points* its Piercing the Darkness all over again. No wait, it isn't is it? How could I have missed that one.... While I'm sure they say that with the best of intentions, I think they're reading too much into it.
posted by Harlequin at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2002


While I applaud the parents for actually taking an active interest in their children's education, I sincerely hope that they see the physical and mental benefits of Yoga. If the teachers of the Yoga class do decide to include mantras, I hope they will select ones that are neutral (such as the suggestions of "I am a healthy person.")

Having practiced yoga for health considerations for a little bit, I find it intensely relaxing, invigorating, and *difficult*. Quieting the mind is something of a lost art these days. I hope they address the religious concerns of the parents and allow the program to be taught.
posted by absquatulate at 9:02 AM on August 28, 2002


Some yoga *is* just about stretching. I submit this, however, which many yoga-people ascribe to, and is pure religious horseshit. It all depends on how it's taught.
posted by interrobang at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2002


I should have said *some* parents have voiced concerns about possible religious implications...so that I don't give the impression that the entire community of Aspen is against the pilot program. Anyway...continue.
posted by msacheson at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2002


You know, msacheson, I was going to call you on that (as well as the choice of the word REEKS in the link, when the article didn't mention more than questioning parents) but thought better of it, lest I derail the thread.

Thanks for recanting, at least. :^)
posted by absquatulate at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2002


And in today's Guardian, there is a Vicar in a twist over yoga classes in a church hall
posted by BobsterLobster at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2002


I will say that from a purely "does it work" standpoint the answer is a resounding "sometimes". My three year old loves to do yoga poses - especially those that are named after things he knows from his daily life. Downward Dog - The Tree - they do serve the purpose of calming him down a bit.
posted by dhacker at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2002


Of course the parents are, probably, overreacting. But it's understandable; in first grade (in public school) I was taught transcendental meditation techniques and your average run-of-the-mill New Age reincarnation doctrine, until my parents noticed and raised hell.

Yet another reason the government shouldn't be in the education business. It's amazing how many of these problems go away when you stop supporting things with taxpayer money.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2002


Having had a very up close and personal view of the yoga profession in North America for many years, I can say this: Yoga as a form of stretching and exercise is healthy, but yoga at its "higher" levels is a cult (or at the very least, a religion). I've seen people get swept up in it in a bad way. I've seen it used to justify very immoral behavior. It has its charismatic leaders and its isolating "retreats". I've seen people broken because of it.

For personal privacy reasons I'm not gonna name names and tell the stories. I should also note that I am agnostic and don't have some other religious agenda.
posted by D.C. at 9:26 AM on August 28, 2002


I'm sure the health and psychological benefits of Christian prayer (or any other sort of prayer) have been suggested by statistical data and probably some scientific studies, but I can imagine the reaction if these kids were asked to say the rosary to help them "calm down". Hatha yoga, the physical component of Yoga meditation, is one thing (and often considered the least important component), but having the kids chanting "Om" is basically the same as having them breathe "Our Father". The word Yoga itself means "union", and has spiritual connotations. It's a simplification (and as someone like Edward Said might say, "orientalism") to pretend that Yoga is just about stretching. I don't know how I feel about this, since I believe strongly in the concept of church/state separation but also believe that the question of what constitutes advocacy is a tricky one. I suppose since everyone seemed to be shrieking about how uttering the phrase "one Nation under God" was a hideous malfeasance, and that the word "God" a priori supported Christian theological teaching, then we must be thoroughly against Yoga, since "Yoga", even more specifically than the word "God", advocates and promotes a particular religion. Since Yoga Hatha or otherwise essentially = prayer (or "spiritual preparation") then it shouldn't be practiced in a public school.
posted by evanizer at 9:26 AM on August 28, 2002


Interrobang: Hatha Yoga which might seem like stretching exercises is not an end in itself. So it is not "just about stretching" although many "Yoga Studios" in the West might have you believe that. Yoga is in fact about a lot more. The link you have pointed to is horseshit - not the concepts it attempts (very shabbily) to explain.
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2002


how about plain old stretching (and breathing) exercises? i do those at the gym. i'm with the folks who think the chanting should be junked.
posted by moz at 9:42 AM on August 28, 2002


I'm with evanizer, et al. I understand why some parents feel that chanting that uses traditional words is over the line. Bernese Mountain Dog may not think it's the real thing, but there are plenty of secular ways to use/teach yoga that take advantage of the wisdom the practice has accumulated about how the body moves and can be opened and relaxed, *without* buying into the religious "union of our will to the will of God" stuff. That really has no place in public schools. If the resulting set of stretching excercises doesn't count as "true yoga," well, too damn bad. And I like yoga.
posted by mediareport at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2002


i'm with the folks who think the chanting should be junked.

The chanting can be viewed as a breathing exercise. The Tai Chi form I practise optionally engages chanting exercises. I have no idea of the meaning of what's being chanted, but then I don't really care about that. All I know is that after a half hour or so I feel like I got a new set of lungs. I suspect you could dress up the exercises without the word Yoga and parents would applaud the effort to burn off some of the mass from their little fatlings.
posted by holycola at 9:53 AM on August 28, 2002


"[The chakras], however, which many yoga-people ascribe to, and is pure religious horseshit."

Thanks, Interrobang, for reminding us that we must appeal to materialistic fundamentalists as well as moralistic ones.
posted by goethean at 10:02 AM on August 28, 2002


I think yoga is a much better way of getting kids to calm down and focus than pumping them full of ritalin, but I certainly understand the concerns of the parents over the religious component.

there are plenty of secular ways to use/teach yoga that take advantage of the wisdom the practice has accumulated about how the body moves and can be opened and relaxed, *without* buying into the religious "union of our will to the will of God" stuff.

I agree, I also think this is true of the moral component of other religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, which have relevant things to teach about social interaction and mutual respect (as well as some archaic junk that can be completely ignored. Leviticus, anybody?). I think there is generally too much hysteria over religion in schools, and too little distinction made between information and indoctrination. It's obviously a very touchy subject, but to forbid all reference to religion in schools is, I think, to provide a very incomplete education.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2002


Thanks, Interrobang, for reminding us that we must appeal to materialistic fundamentalists as well as moralistic ones.

So just because I don't believe in chakras and invisible dads in the sky, I'm nothing but a spiritually bankrupt materialist?

You prove to me that chakras aren't bullshit, and I'll arrange for you to win a million bucks.
posted by interrobang at 10:21 AM on August 28, 2002


Apart from the religious issue...

Before a Yoga programme like this is put in effect (even if for stretching only), it would be worthwhile to assess the credentials of the Yoga instructors. I don't think there is a proper system in place for doing this. Many Yogic postures like this one have to be approached with caution. Just like with anything education-related there are good and bad teachers.

Interrobang : Just because something can't be measured (yet) doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Particle physics has many examples where scientists posit the existence of particles before their actual discovery/measurement.
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2002


As long as they chant "Under God" over and over again, it should be okay.
posted by Dirjy at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2002


Just because something can't be measured (yet) doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Cool. Just because you haven't won your million dollars (yet) I'm sure you will, soon enough. Just keep that optimistic attitude.
posted by interrobang at 10:42 AM on August 28, 2002


You prove to me that chakras aren't bullshit, and I'll arrange for you to win a million bucks.

Thanks, but I think I'm more likely to get $40m from Ray than a red cent from Randi.

I'm enough of a fool to believe in chakras, but not enough of one to think that it's possible to prove anything to anyone who doesn't already believe it.
posted by goethean at 10:52 AM on August 28, 2002


Here's a nytimes article about yoga being taught at some west coast elementary schools.
posted by homunculus at 10:57 AM on August 28, 2002


Surely someone must have come up with Christian yoga? I know that there are Christian karate/other martial arts courses out there...

Not, of course, that that would improve the situation under discussion in any material sense.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2002


homunculus, thanks for posting that NYT article.

I've been taking yoga for the last few months, and when some of my friends ask me about, I know they're wondering "what a guy is doing in yoga" and the religious stuff. The yoga I've done has been free of any spiritual implications, aside from finding peace from within. Only a couple times out of 50+ has an instructor including any chanting or "om"s.

I think all people, including children, can benefit from the calming influences of yoga and the physical benefits of the poses.
posted by msacheson at 11:13 AM on August 28, 2002


Just because something can't be measured (yet) doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Particle physics has many examples where scientists posit the existence of particles before their actual discovery/measurement.

False analogy. Until scientists come up with a way of testing the existence of those particles, those theories are taken with a huge grain of salt, even if they're mathematically very beautiful. Furthermore, when scientists test those theories and they fail to find those particles, then the theory loses ground or dies entirely.

I'm eagerly awaiting the construction of the Large Chakra Collider or some other experiment that will find the sources of your spiritual energy, isolate the phenomenon, and measure it. I'm also waiting to see yogi use these objective experiments to modify their millennia-old system of belief to account for their observations.

Believe what you want, but don't equate your leap of faith with what happens in particle physics.
posted by ptermit at 11:20 AM on August 28, 2002


Just my 2 cents on chakras, as a sometimes practitioner of yoga and a long-term advanced student of the martial arts: I believe that the concept of chakras was invented to explain certain localized physical, kinesthetic & emotional experiences/sensations discovered while pursuing various mind/body exercises. These experiences are somewhat consistent for a variety of people doing the exercises and provide a practical mental focus for people doing certain types of exercises for awareness & control of the body and emotions. The problem comes when you try to interpret the chakra as a literal thing rather than as a metaphoric construct for internal experiences that probably have a variety of physical causes having to do with brain and PNS wiring.

As far as "real yoga," even hatha yoga has mental/emotional benefits beyond stretching. To gain these benefits, it's not at all necessary to buy into the religious tradition which is historically linked to yoga any more than it is necessary to become a zen buddhist to gain the benefits from practicing a japanese martial art.
posted by tdismukes at 11:21 AM on August 28, 2002


I've seen people get swept up in it in a bad way. I've seen it used to justify very immoral behavior. It has its charismatic leaders and its isolating "retreats". I've seen people broken because of it.

This potential for abuse is a real danger. Even these school programs which seperate the physical exercise from the rest might set some kids down a path that ends in this kind of cult behavior later in life. A book I've been meaning to read, The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, looks like it may be worth reading by parents and teachers involved in these programs. Here's an excerpt.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2002


The problem comes when you try to interpret the chakra as a literal thing rather than as a metaphoric construct for internal experiences that probably have a variety of physical causes having to do with brain and PNS wiring.

Unlike leptons, which really exist, apart from the interference of the human mind.

[/sarcasm]
posted by goethean at 11:29 AM on August 28, 2002


Goethean, if you want to encounter a whole bunch of leptons firsthand, climb a flagpole during the next thunderstorm.
posted by ptermit at 11:36 AM on August 28, 2002


You people need to read some Kant.
posted by goethean at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2002


"Even these school programs which seperate the physical exercise from the rest might set some kids down a path that ends in this kind of cult behavior later in life."

I'm inclined to doubt it. Out of the millions of Americans who practice yoga, only a small percentage get really caught up in the historically associated religious tradition. Of those who do get involved in the religious aspect, only a small percentage get involved with abusive leaders. (Probably about the same percentage as in other religions.) If we're going to reject useful knowledge because the people who originally came up with it were religious, we're going to lose out on a lot of good stuff.
posted by tdismukes at 12:03 PM on August 28, 2002


Never much cared for Kant. I prefer Popper.
posted by ptermit at 12:03 PM on August 28, 2002


Interrobang's casual dismissal of "chakras," without seriously engaging the problems of translation of the term and examining it in its natural context as part of a detailed cosmological system, can hardly be said to be "scientific." It strikes me as exactly the kind of hubris a good, open-minded and skeptical scientist would work to keep in check. Just wanted to say that.
posted by mediareport at 12:31 PM on August 28, 2002


I've seen people get swept up in it in a bad way. I've seen it used to justify very immoral behavior. It has its charismatic leaders and its isolating "retreats". I've seen people broken because of it.

You could say the same about high school football.
posted by jellybuzz at 12:36 PM on August 28, 2002


tdismukes, I agree that it would be a rarity. But most Americans who practice yoga started as adults; there might be different concerns with kids depending on how the teacher presents the yoga tradition as a whole. I do think an awareness of the potential dangers should be kept in mind, if for no other reason than to reassure the parents. Personally I think teaching hatha yoga in schools is a fantastic idea.

Of course, there are also many Western somatic disciplines that have many of the same physical and mental benefits as yoga but are not associated with any religious traditions. One of these might be more appropriate for some famillies or communities. I think any child would benefit tremendously from a few lessons in the Alexander Technique. I wish I had studied it when I was kid.
posted by homunculus at 12:38 PM on August 28, 2002


Does anyone seriously see anything wrong with banning high school football?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:41 PM on August 28, 2002


I do think an awareness of the potential dangers should be kept in mind, if for no other reason than to reassure the parents

Oh come on. You get cults associated with every religion. Kids should be made aware of cults full stop.
posted by Summer at 12:45 PM on August 28, 2002


homunculus - Alexander technique involves some intensely focused individual feedback that would be hard to pull off in a group classroom. It also requires a degree of internal focus which might be hard for many kids to get into. (I got good benefit from Alexander technique as an adult, but would have been just confused by it as a child.) How about Pilates? It's essentially hatha yoga exercises, but associated with professional dancers rather than eastern mystics.
posted by tdismukes at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2002


Interrobang's casual dismissal of "chakras," without seriously engaging the problems of translation of the term and examining it in its natural context as part of a detailed cosmological system, can hardly be said to be "scientific."

Interrobang was blunt, but he's right to dismiss chakras absent scientific proof. It relies upon vitalism, a concept that has occurred and reoccurred without any serious scientific backing, and absent any compelling and clear proof of its existence, it's pseudoscience and not science.

Worrying about translations or placing it in its cultural context has absolutely nothing to do with its scientific acceptance. An open-minded scientist will stop dismissing the idea -- and eat crow -- when there's a good, reproducible experiment that supports the existence of chakras that can't be explained by more parsimonious assumptions. If that's hubris, so be it. Science is about getting rid of bad ideas and replacing them with better ones.
posted by ptermit at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2002


False analogy. Until scientists come up with a way of testing the existence of those particles, those theories are taken with a huge grain of salt, even if they're mathematically very beautiful.

Taking something with a grain of salt is different from dismissing it entirely or calling it "horseshit". No doubt there is a lot of scepticism where spiritual matters are concerned. But I was arguing against dismissing a theory entirely and therefore the analogy applies.

Believe what you want, but don't equate your leap of faith with what happens in particle physics.

If you actually took the trouble of reading my comment before posting your own, you'd realise that there was no leap of faith on my part.

Also regarding your asinine comment regarding a Chakra Collider - I was alluding more to scientific methods such as this one that attempt to assess potential benefits of spiritual practice.
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2002


Science is about getting rid of bad ideas and replacing them with better ones.

No, science is about following a particular methodology that has produced the triumphs and problems of the modern world. If you are satisfied with that world, then by all means remain in the narrowly scientific mentality.

Obviously, ptermit, leptons are part of your interpretation of what happens to the fellow at the top of the flagpole. But to believe that they exist apart from human interpretation? I feel so faithless compared to you.
posted by goethean at 1:28 PM on August 28, 2002


An open-minded scientist will stop dismissing the idea -- and eat crow -- when there's a good, reproducible experiment that supports the existence of chakras that can't be explained by more parsimonious assumptions.

There seems to be a contradiction in your argument - if your open-minded scientist dismissed an idea, there would be no further consideration on his/her part of its validity.

dis·miss
To stop considering; rid one's mind of; dispel: dismissed all thoughts of running for office.
To refuse to accept or recognize; reject: dismissed the claim as highly improbable.

from dictionary.com
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 1:39 PM on August 28, 2002


Bernese Mountain Dog: I read your comment. Here's a paraphrase: Particle physicists believe in particles that they haven't observed, and they are presumably rational. By implication, you think that it's rational to believe in chakras. Am I reading your comment wrong? If so, what did you mean? And if not, you are making a leap of faith, because believing in chakras is a leap of faith in a way that believing in, say, supersymmetric particles is not.

Supersymmetry theorists posit a whole bunch of particles. But they don't stop there. They say that, if Supersymmetry is true, you will see a so-and-so percent decrease in tau production at so-and-so energy if the least supersymmetric particle is less than so-and-so GeV. They then go and build a collider to test that specific prediction. If the LHC doesn't see a supersymmetric particle, the theory's more or less dead.

This is very different than the chakra "theory," which posits an energy flow in the body and centers of that energy along the spine (IIRC -- it's been a long time since I looked into any of this stuff.) The energy's never been seen, nobody has any ideas how to measure it or falsify the idea -- and this is what I was trying to illustrate with my Chakra collider comment. (It was supposed to be a joke. Next time, I'll include the emoticons for your benefit.)

And as for your link, mind-body interactions aren't terribly controversial at all. Meditation, relaxation, etc. all alter the function of the brain. But this has nothing to do with proving that there are spiritual energy centers in the body.
posted by ptermit at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2002


And as for dismissed... geez. What a straw man.

What's wrong with "refuse to accept or recognize?" Where's the contradiction in "A good scientist will stop refusing to accept or recognize the idea..." Come on.
posted by ptermit at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2002


Goethean: I don't see how our definitions of science are contradictory.

As for human interpretation of leptons -- I don't think that we have a perfect understanding of them, but I think that they have an external reality that may or may not be fully comprehended someday. Leptons have been measured, manipulated, imaged, and experimented with. You can build a cloud chamber and see their trails yourself. I don't see much faith in believing they exist, and a huge amount in denying their existence except as a function of human perception.
posted by ptermit at 1:52 PM on August 28, 2002


I read your comment. Here's a paraphrase: Particle physicists believe in particles that they haven't observed, and they are presumably rational. By implication, you think that it's rational to believe in chakras. Am I reading your comment wrong? If so, what did you mean?

What I meant was - any scientist or even a human being with an open-mind would approach an idea with a healthy scepticism - and not reject it outright. I do not presume it is rational or the opposite.

Many scientists I interact with publish papers and later contradict their own conclusions in subsequent publications. This doesn't mean that they didn't think they were correct the first time round - just that they kept questioning their conclusions. That is what makes a good research scientist (IMO).

nobody has any ideas how to measure it or falsify the idea

Exactly - so how then can you dismiss the concept outright ie. call it horseshit?
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 2:00 PM on August 28, 2002


What's wrong with "refuse to accept or recognize?" Where's the contradiction in "A good scientist will stop refusing to accept or recognize the idea..." Come on.

Dude - there's a BIG difference between what you're saying (refusing to accept, dismissing, etc...) and being sceptical about something. Cheers.
posted by Bernese Mountain Dog at 2:05 PM on August 28, 2002


ptermit: A good scientist keeps her mind open. The idea that thoughts and emotions can directly affect immune response would have been laughed out of the room 40 years ago. Now, psychoneuroimmunology is a field unto itself.

As to the translation issues and your admittedly vague understanding, I maintain those are key. Working with medical anthropologists taught me you simply *must* look at concepts like that in their cultural context in order to even *begin* addressing them in a medical context. Ripping out "chakras" and subjecting the notion to reductionist dissection is not the best way to fully understand what's involved in the idea. Note: I'm not endorsing the reality of chakras. I'm simply pointing out that pooh-poohing them with a dismissive sneer is hardly a thoughtful scientific approach.
posted by mediareport at 2:16 PM on August 28, 2002


nobody has any ideas how to measure it or falsify the idea

Exactly - so how then can you dismiss the concept outright ie. call it horseshit?


I wasn't the one who called it horseshit, but the essence of science is that falsification must be possible. If you cannot describe observations which would, in theory, disprove a statement, then the statement is meaningless as a description of the real world - because the observable world would be the same whether the statement was true or not. A difference which makes no difference is no difference. Substitute "meaningless" for "horseshit" if it feels better.
posted by tdismukes at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2002


Summer: I agree completely!

tdismukes: You're probably right about the Alexander Technique in a class, though I would recommend any parent consider private lessons for their kid. Alexander himself thought it very valuable to teach it children and taught many children himself. For a class exercise, Pilates and maybe the Feldenkrais awareness through movement exercises would work well.
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on August 28, 2002


Bernese Mountain Dog: The problem with your definition of openmindedness is that every idea -- whether there's reason to believe in it or not -- is worthy of consideration. I can theorize that the universe is populated by invisible flying space monkeys, and you'd be right to say that the theory is horseshit. If I started providing you proof of the invisible monkeys' existence, then you might change your mind.

This is how it is with chakras and other vitalistic notions. For the record, I didn't call it horseshit, but if the shoe fits.... Chakras are horseshit until there's some reason to upgrade its status. (To bullshit, perhaps? :) )

And as for refuse to accept, I refuse to accept the existence of invisible flying monkeys. If you provide me with exceptionally good evidence, maybe I'll revoke my refusal to accept the theory. What's wrong with that? Even if I used the word incorrectly (which I still deny), I suspect you know damn well what I mean, so exactly what are you trying to prove with an argument over semantics?

Now it's 5:21 and I'm going home to other things. I'll comment tomorrow if the thread's still alive.
posted by ptermit at 2:24 PM on August 28, 2002


I attended Aspen schools in the '70s. It is a very socially progressive community for Colorado so a Yoga Ed. class doesn't seem unusual. I remember students called teachers by their first names and together we did a wide variety of activities and projects in the community. I'm sure that once the content of the class is reviewed by those concerned it will eventually become part of the schedule. I also noticed the Middle School counselor's first name is Rebel, gotta love that.
posted by yonderboy at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2002


Thomas J Wise - Christian Yoga? Here's one example.
posted by tdismukes at 2:32 PM on August 28, 2002


I know! Let's just avoid the messy question of having to critically interrogate anything The Children(1) will ever encounter... Let's drug 'em to the gills with Ritalin, Paxil, Prozac, Purple Pills, TV, and Mickey-D's - then they won't have to deal with any of that messy *flexibility.* Jeez. Next thing you know Republican kids will be compelling their kids not to work out during the Presidental Fitness Award the next time there's a Dem in the Oval Office.

(1)ie. our precious American angels
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:34 PM on August 28, 2002


No one seems to have made reaction to my original thought about the nature of chakras, However, I think that thought provides a bridge between ptermit's and mediareport's views. If you take the theory of chakras in its literal sense as a vitalistic theory about mystical energies, then ptermit is quite right to reject it in the absence of good evidence. However, in order to reject something, you need to know what it is you are rejecting.

The original creators of yoga, tai chi & other mind-body disciplines were not biologists or physicists. The were people who had discovered useful, practical ways to control their own bodies and emotions. They needed a way to describe to their students how to do these things and what it felt like. Even if they had had the knowledge to describe exactly what was happening from a scientific viewpoint (in terms of alpha waves, release of hormones, stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system), it wouldn't have been of practical use to the students. They had to describe what the sensations actually felt like. That's where the chakra concept came from. Much of the theoretical interpretation of these experiences probably came later.

I'll give an of example from outside yoga. In aikido, there is a trick called "the unbendable arm." A skinny aikido practitioner imagines a stream of energy flowing out through his arm, through the fingertips and off to infinity. A big, strong volunteer are invited to bend the practitioner's arm. He can't. The big, strong volunteer is invited to make his arm as strong as possible. The aikido practitioner bends the volunteer's arm with ease. This is a replicable experiment. I've done it many times myself. The beam of energy actually makes the martial artist's arm stronger. From a practical standpoint, it works. Of course, the fact is that there is no beam of energy. Visualizing the energy just happens to makes the practitioner's triceps contract fully while completely relaxing the biceps. The big, strong volunteer inevitably tightens his biceps while trying to be strong, thereby undermining his own strength. Chakras work the same way. They have practical value. they just don't literally exist.
posted by tdismukes at 3:22 PM on August 28, 2002


Dismissive and Open Minded are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Because I reject something doesn't preclude you from investigating it. If you can demonstrate to me that it is worth my time to reconsider my original feelings, then great. I'm open to be persuaded. But, in the scheme of things, life is short, and the world is big. I need a way to focus my energies, and dismissing those things that seem inherently ridiculous to me makes a good first step to cutting the world down to a manageable size.
posted by willnot at 4:27 PM on August 28, 2002


ptermit, your attempt to show that leptons are universally valid and that chakras are not is nothing short of comical.

Your view boils down to the idea that blips on a screen explain the cosmos more completely and more accurately than traditions that have edified, and continue to edify billions on all subjects for eons. The chakras explain the materialistic aproach to the cosmos (the fourth, middle-mind chakra), but materialism has to explain away the chakras by rejecting them as invalid, imaginary, illusion, mistakes.

This relationship is very similar to how science (social science, humanities) can explain the rise of fundamentalism, but fundamentalism has to explain away science as rebellion against god, deception by elites, misinterpretation due bad theology, invalid, an illusion, a mistake.

That's because scientific thinking is a later stage of consciousness than dogmatism. But there are many quite accepted stages of consciousness that have developed since Socrates began thinking scientifically. And Popper is aware of approximately none of them.

And yes...he that can explain all without explaining away anything wins. It's all in Hegel.
posted by goethean at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2002


goethean - "Your view boils down to the idea that blips on a screen explain the cosmos more completely and more accurately than traditions that have edified, and continue to edify billions on all subjects for eons. "

eon -
1 : an immeasurably or indefinitely long period of time
2 : a very large division of geologic time usually longer than an era b : a unit of geologic time equal to one billion years

The human race hasn't been around for even close to one eon. Did the early marine inverterbrates perhaps subscribe to the tenets of yogic mysticism?

You seem to be arguing that the correctness of your traditions is proven by the fact that they have "edified billions." Yet, if they aren't correct, they haven't in fact been edifying anyone. You're presupposing your conclusion.

You haven't explained what your "quite accepted" stages of consciousness beyond scientific thinking are. From what you've presented, it seems you're arguing that accepting the dogma of a certain interpretation of yogic tradition on authority is a higher stage of consciousness than actually paying attention to the evidence. (Scientific thinking is really just an organized way of looking at the evidence.) If you really think that ignoring the evidence is more advanced than looking at the evidence, then I'm not sure we can have any basis for discussion. If you actually feel that you have evidence for a literal, traditional, interpretation of chakras, then why not present it, rather than laughing at people who actually want to have evidence for their beliefs.
posted by tdismukes at 7:38 PM on August 28, 2002


OK, I should have said "millennia" rather than "eons".

You seem to be arguing that the correctness of your traditions is proven by the fact that they have "edified billions."

Actually, I would say "valid" rather than "correct". To me, "correct" implies its opposite, whereas everything can be valid.

Yet, if they aren't correct, they haven't in fact been edifying anyone. You're presupposing your conclusion.

You don't even have a pragmatic perspective, which is the beginning of wisdom. So your view is that these traditions have, in the eyes of its practitioners, been healing diseases and answering questions for millions of people, for thousands of years, but we Westerners know better--simple as that--we're right, they're all washed up? Achilles would be impressed with the hubris on display here.

I think it's clear that these traditions survive to the present day in a healthy state because they have edified large populations for thousands of years. (I identify "edify" with "working" and therefore, with "valid". I'm not terribly concerned with proving things wrong. The narrow scientific mentality you exhibit, for example, is valid, but partial.) My point is that we have inherited vast, healthy traditions in yoga, the chakras and other Eastern traditions. It's absurd to label as "horseshit" that which has edified for millennia because we are infatuated with only mapping reality to blips on a the screen of a particle accelerator.

Not too long ago, acupuncture and acupressure used to be put in the same boat as phrenology and physiognomy. Now acupuncture and acupressure are widely accepted. Phrenology is also a good example of a no-longer-valid theory. It now edifies very few, if any. You will see the aceptance of acupuncture as evidence that science works well. I see it as a warning that what is obviously horseshit to skeptics today could be common sense tomorrow.

(Scientific thinking is really just an organized way of looking at the evidence.)

If only it was. Sure, true, open empirical research would be. That's why I took pains above to distinguish my view from the modern, narrowly scientific thinking (i.e., that which automatically rejects anything that doesn't fit its preconceptions. Randi is the most glaring example, almost a caricature, of this narrowness and superficiality.) The fallacy of what is considered science by materialists consists in its denial of the reality of the insides of things. There is plenty of evidence for a whole view of reality. But it is offered by sages, mystics, poets, philosophers and prophets rather than men in white coats. Comparatively, You have a quite narrow range of what counts as evidence.

You haven't explained what your "quite accepted" stages of consciousness beyond scientific thinking are.

No, because that's where it goes from a comment to a treatise. Suffice to say that as one matures psychologically, there is a point at which one would rather integrate beliefs that are different than yours rather than to denounce them. For example, Hegel traced the development of culture through different stages. And Piaget traced the development of the individual psyche through different stages of consciousness. Two ways of integrating views that are no longer valid for you personally but also does not necessitate denigrating them as incorrect, illusion, mistakes, or horseshit. True, I do denounce the narrowly "scientific", materialist perspective, but only because it is shockingly conservative, given that it is coming from educated, contemporary, affluent individuals.

But my dictum remains: as one matures, one will crave wholeness rather than partiality.
posted by goethean at 9:57 PM on August 28, 2002


To me, "correct" implies its opposite, whereas everything can be valid. — goethean

Goodnight, folks! Guys, please, read goethean's user page and stop arguing with him — he's a “a Cosmic consciousness” and you haven't even read Kant!
posted by nicwolff at 10:47 PM on August 28, 2002


Is yoga defined as a way to God in Sanskrit?
posted by yertledaturtle at 12:37 AM on August 29, 2002


nic--You think that I'm going to be embarrassed for defending both the Eastern and most of the Western philosophical traditions against the righteous naivete of Popper and Randi?

yertle--it's almost the other way around...there are many ways to god within Hinduism and the term yoga encompasses many of them, including meditation, exercise and diet.
posted by goethean at 5:59 AM on August 29, 2002


tdismukes: Very good example -- and I think we're in agreement. Visualizing a stream of water flowing through your arm is useful in a way the scientific explanation -- tense your tricep and relax your bicep -- is not. As a pedagogical tool, or as a method to focus yourself and control your body, or to help you attain happiness, chakras and other non-scientific ways of viewing the universe can be extremely useful. (Scientists also use some convenient fictions for the sake of simplicity, such as the flow of "holes" in a semiconductor.) But I think we're both in agreement that the energy flow is entirely a product of the human mind whereas the tricep and bicep have at least some form of external reality. (And, yes, I'm aware that goethean would probably disagree with this statement.)

Mediareport: As willnot said, an open-minded scientist can dismiss ideas without any cognitive dissonance whatsoever. The degree with which a scientist dismisses a theory depends on whether there's evidence to the contrary, what assumptions you need to change or accept to make the theory work, and how well the new theory explains phenomena as well as or better than the current scientific theory does. There's all sorts of degrees of dismissal... for example, Modified Newtonian Dynamics was taken seriously by the scientific community because it explained the rotation rates of some galaxies better than plain-vanilla Einstein seems to. Although it's quite radical and it's not accepted by any stretch of the imagination, scientists took it seriously and made observations to try to falsify it. Vitalism is even more radical, makes fewer testable predictions, and is justly dismissed.

Of course, as evidence changes, so do the scientists' dismissals. Ten years ago, scientists were absolutely right to dismiss the concept of a cosmological constant, whereas now they can't. That's the way science works. Scientists make mistakes -- but science itself is self-correcting over time, and it's progressive. As soon as concrete evidence for vitalism starts coming along, scientists will revisit the subject. I'm not holding my breath, though.
posted by ptermit at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2002


goethean: I believe there's a reality external to the human mind. You seem not to. You assert that everything can be valid, while I assert that this leads to a contradiction. I'm not going to waste the bandwidth to try to resolve such fundamental disagreements.
posted by ptermit at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2002


Fine. But keep in mind that your disagreement is not with some loon on MeFi, but with the mainstream of Western thought since the 17th century, and with Eastern thought since about the 2nd century (Not sure exactly when Nagarjuna lived).

There is a reality external to the human mind, but it also exists outside of time, space, causality, individuation, substance, and all other subjective properities. It is by definition undefinable.
posted by goethean at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2002


You think that I'm going to be embarrassed for defending both the Eastern and most of the Western philosophical traditions against the righteous naivete of Popper and Randi? — goethean

No, I don't — that was my point. I thought you might be a little embarassed at having been so condescending, but I guess not, so I'll settle for having a laugh at your expense with the other undereducated materialists here.

Look, you've obviously read a lot of philosophy and found some that convince you. You need to understand that your conviction isn't going to convince us. Implying that we'll all think as you do once we "mature psychologically" and "crave wholeness" isn't interesting or useful. Pointing us at Kant and Hegel doesn't make you sound smart, since you then fail to offer any kind of synthesis of what you've read (or even link the names to relevant analyses).

You're claiming to be wise, but providing no evidence of this — which makes your assertion that evidence is demanded only by narrow-minded fools a con man's line. You present yourself as an expert, and you have come among laymen to make claims that sound ridiculous to us, as you must know they do to most people. I'm sure there are intellectual cliques in which you can imply that if there were no people, there'd be no electrons without raising an eyebrow. This isn't one of them, so if you don't want to be taken for a silly solipsist, you should explain yourself. But instead of impressing and (gee!) edifying us with your super-evolved consciousness, you just issue baffling declarations and dicta that defy analysis.

You people need to read less Hegel.
posted by nicwolff at 4:34 PM on August 30, 2002


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