Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Illiterate Man Becomes A Doctor When Hypnotized

From October 9, 1910

ILLITERATE MAN BECOMES A DOCTOR WHEN HYPNOTIZED

ILLITERATE MAN BECOMES A DOCTOR WHEN HYPNOTIZED: Strange power Shown by Edgar Cayce Puzzles Physicians (PDF)

Edgar Cayce was a self-professed psychic who is today regarded as an early influence on the New Age movement. He is most known for putting himself into a trance and answering questions about health, although he also answered questions on everything from reincarnation to Atlantis.

For a great bit of reading on the subject, start with this article. Then read his biography at the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment. Finish with the Edgar Cayce entry at the Skeptic’s Dictionary, which explains how Cayce and others like him appear to do what they claim to do.

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Written by David

October 8th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Nature,Religion,Science

“No Immortality Of The Soul” Says Thomas A. Edison

From October 2, 1910

NO IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL SAYS THOMAS A. EDISON

“NO IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL” SAYS THOMAS A. EDISON: In Fact, He Doesn’t Believe There Is a Soul — Human Beings Only an Aggregate of Cells and the Brain Only a Wonderful Machine, Says Wizard of Electricity. (PDF)

On the occasion of a Harvard Professor’s death, Edward Marshall asked Thomas Edison about his views on life after death.

Searching the inner structure of all things for the fundamental, Edison told me he had come to the conclusion that there is no “supernatural,” or “supernormal,” as the psychic researchers put it — that all there is, that all there has been, all there ever will be, can or will, soon or late, be explained along material lines…

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul,” he said to me.. “Heaven? Shall I, if I am good and earn reward, go to heaven when I die? No — no. I am not I — I am not an individual — I am an aggregate of cells, as for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven?

“No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life — our desire to go on living — our dread of coming to an end as individuals. I do not dread it, though. Personally I cannot see any use of a future life.”

“But the soul!” I protested. “The soul–”

“Soul? Soul? What do you mean by soul? The brain?”

“Well, for the sake of argument, call it the brain, or what is in the brain. Is there not something immortal of or in the human brain — the human mind?”

“Absolutely no,” he said with emphasis. “There is no more reason to believe that any human brain will be immortal than there is to think that one of my phonographic cylinders will be immortal. My photographic cylinders are mere records of sounds which have been impressed upon them…

“Yet no one thinks of claiming immortality for the cylinders or the phonograph. Then why claim it for the brain mechanism or the power that drives it? Because we don’t know what this power is, shall we call it immortal?”

If you’re guessing that this article, which appeared on the front page of the Times Magazine, caused some controversy among the Times readers, you’re guessing correctly. In this weekend’s entries, I’ll publish letters from Times readers in response to this article.

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Written by David

October 6th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

Sunday Schools That Teach Children Anarchy

From May 8, 1910

SUNDAY SCHOOLS THAT TEACH CHILDREN ANARCHY

SUNDAY SCHOOLS THAT TEACH CHILDREN ANARCHY: A Thousand Young Persons Are Being Trained in New York to Be Successors of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkmann (PDF)

I saw this headline and I thought it was just some overblown sensationalism. But then I read the article, and it turns out they’re literally talking about anarchist-run schools. In particular, they point out the a particular Sunday School on Avenue A, run by Alexander Berkmann, a “leading member of the anarchist movement in the 20th century” (quoting Wikipedia).

I scoffed at first because I typically think of schools as places with strict rules to follow. How could anarchists run a school? But the more I read, the more the school sounded pretty good. It’s just on Sunday, so the students presumably attended a normal school during the week, and it seems like it probably provided thought provoking counterpoint. Here is some of what Berkmann told the Times about the curriculum:

The pupil of the Anarchist Sunday school is taught to reason. The teacher only serves to direct their attention to a problem.

“One child,” said Berkmann, “wanted to know whether he should pray. ‘My mother wants me to pray,’ said the child, ‘but my father says that it is not necessary.’”

“Did you answer the problem?” he was asked.

“No,” he said. “I try to keep back my own views and develop the mentality of the children that they may form their own opinions and arrive at their own conclusions. The question was answered by a little girl, who said, ‘Praying is good because it relieves the soul.’”

Another attempt of a Sunday school pupil along this line was made when a youngster requested to know if it was possible for people to know what God wants them to do.

These occasional inquiries as to the spiritual life have generally ended in the Anarchist Sunday schools with the proposition that some of the remarkable things in life can be understood and that there are questions which never can be settled. The mental attitude of the children might be put in this way: We are not certain whether there are grounds for the belief that we should pray.

That, of course, leaves the question well in the field of agnosticism. The teacher of anarchy does not, with the children, declare that there is no God. Nor does he say that there is a God. The Sunday school class goes frequently to the Museum of Natural History, to Central Park, to the Zoological Gardens, and other places where, with the teacher, nature is studied.

That sounds pretty good to me. At least until the part later where Berkmann speaks against having laws. But in general, I like that the students were being taught to think for themselves and not just blindly follow authority on at least one day a week.

Wikipedia has more to say about the anarchist schools here.

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Written by David

May 7th, 2010 at 9:05 am

Mark Twain’s Secret Book Gives Startling Views

From May 1, 1910

MARK TWAINS SECRET BOOK GIVES STARTLING VIEWS

MARK TWAIN’S SECRET BOOK GIVES STARTLING VIEWS: The Humorist Wrote His Serious Thoughts on Religion and Life and Had Them Printed for Private Circulation Among His Intimates (PDF)

This issue of the Times came out about 10 days after Mark Twain died. The article excerpts a book called What is Man? that Twain had written and only shared with his close friends. Just 250 copies were printed, and were attributed to his personal secretary. Even his most knowledgeable biographer had never heard of it.

The article says, “The book is in the form of a dialogue between an Old Man and a Young Man. The Old Man had asserted that a human being is merely a machine and nothing more. The Young Man objected and asked him to go into particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.”

Having only ever read Twain’s famous works, I’d never heard of this book before. The article includes several excerpts that are thought-provoking and philosophical. You can read the entire text for free at the Gutenberg Project. A free edition is also available for the nook. I couldn’t find a free copy for Kindle but this one is only 95 cents.

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Written by David

April 30th, 2010 at 9:01 am

Baden Powell’s Boy Scout Plan Invades America

From April 24, 1910

BADEN POWELLS BOY SCOUT PLAN INVADES AMERICA

BADEN POWELL’S BOY SCOUT PLAN INVADES AMERICA: W. B. Wakefield, Who Has Charge of It in England, and Ernest Thompson Seton Will Help Establish It Throughout America (PDF)

I associate the Boy Scouts of America so strongly with Americana in general that I never suspected that scouts began anywhere but in the USA. It turns out that the Scouting Movement was started in England by Baden Powell, the man depicted in the center illustration.

Today the Boy Scouts are the subject of several controversies. For example, they don’t allow atheists or homosexuals as members, and yet they receive support from the Federal Government. The BSA’s ban on gay members is more interesting considering recent speculation that Powell himself may have been a repressed homosexual.

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Written by David

April 23rd, 2010 at 9:02 am

No Flood If Noah Had Known Hydraulics

From April 10, 1910

NO FLOOD IF NOAH HAD KNOWN HYDRAULICS

NO FLOOD IF NOAH HAD KNOWN HYDRAULICS: Old Testament Story Viewed in the Light of Recent Surveys of the “Garden of Eden” in the Euphrates Valley (PDF)

Let’s just pretend for a moment that the stories in the Bible are literally true, and there really was a flood that happened exactly as described. This article suggests that “the skill of modern engineers… could readily have prevented the inundation.”

Wasn’t the flood supposed to have covered the whole planet? We can barely contain floods today with modern engineering, so that would be a big feat for 1910 hydraulics. The article says, “The Bible records that the flood rose to a height of 15 cubits, or 22½ feet.” That’s it? Just 15 cubits? I always thought the waters rose 15 cubits above the highest mountain. So I looked it up. Genesis 7:20 says “Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (KJV). I guess they were small mountains.

For comparison, the maximum height of a New Orleans levee in 2005 was 23 feet.

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Written by David

April 9th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Nature,Religion,Science