Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Some partial backups of posts from the past (Feb, 2004)

Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Jamesh » Tue May 29, 2007 3:38 pm

But this is different to actual paranormal style literal reincarnation.The monks are 'creating' the new incarnation via indoctrination.The monks are the conduit for the memes.


Yes, I was just being a pendantic. If reincarnation as believed by many buddists were true, then it would completely obliterate the whole idea of trying to think rationally/logically. They have no evidence at all of it being true, so basically I don't harbour any unsurety at all that the belief stated in the literal sense, is completely false.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Shardrol » Wed May 30, 2007 12:43 pm

Ataraxia wrote:Ok,lets say I agree this paranormal phenomina should be considered within my 'something' for the arguments sake.This still doesn't speak to the question of the 3rd party(the monks selecting).The 14th dalai Lama doesn't say,"yes I recognise those objects" but rather the monks say "yes you do recognise those objects".Can you not see the logical problem here.The 3rd party is recognising phenomina not even the man himself can recognise.
Well at the time they do the object recognition thing, the prospective Dalai Lama is a child. In some of these cases the child does mention knowing something or somebody. But of course since he's a child, it's not unequivocal evidence.

As I mentioned before, it is quite possible that (for example) the current Dalai Lama does remember more than he says. I could swear that there have been occasions when he's said as much but since I can't supply references we can safely ignore this. Unlike Alex Berzin, I believe the Dalai Lama's function is primarily diplomatic & it would not be very useful for him to get too mysterioso about reincarnation & other topics that might alienate the western supporters of Tibet. In recent years he has even started discouraging western people from 'converting' to Buddhism, saying they should practice the religions of their own culture. This seems like hardcore diplomacy to me. I mention this to support the idea that we don't actually know what his experience or memory is.

It's a clear implication that the monks are 'superior' to the chosen one. As David posited above,why on earth would they then worship such an inferior person?
The idea that the Dalai Lama is the most enlightened person around is not the way it works. Dalai Lamas are not born enlightened; they need to go through the whole process in each lifetime. So yes, the adult Lamas who locate the new Dalai Lama are superior to him in the sense that they are accomplished in realization & he is a child. They don't worship him. There may be many Tibetans who do worship him but this is an aspect of Tibetan culture rather than of Tibetan Buddhism as a spiritual practice.

This 'proofing' you've used to refute that this alleged paranormal phenomina is outside my 'something' can be used to 'prove 'anything.Including the the Christian God.It's Bertrand Russels teapot all over again,its the Flying Spaghetti monster.
Sorry. I didn't mean I was offering the fact that it's not impossible as proof that it's true.

Whether I believe in re-incarnation or not is not required for this thought experiment.I'm using their understand of re-incarnation to ascertain whether the're logically chosing the correct one.
Their understanding of reincarnation is not based on logic.

If it is not tangible but exists[/b],then how do they recognize it?They can't.Tangibility=recognizability.Using your question,it doesn't really matter wether it exists to them,they can't recognise it anyway!
If tangible=able to be recognized then yeah, no kidding, if it's able to be recognized they can recognize it & if it's not, they can't. But the recognition of a new Dalai Lama doesn't depend on the wisdom of the people looking for him. First they have the predictions from the old Dalai Lama about the circumstances of his rebirth, then they have all their 'tests' & divinations. I'm not arguing that this is a valid method, by the way. It may just be their best guess & Dalai Lamas are created rather than born, in the same way bees make a queen by feeding an ordinary bee royal jelly. This is not a big problem if we dispense with the idea that the Dalai Lama is supposed to be 'more enlightened' than everybody else (whatever that means).

The question of "can it be recognized?".If it is something recognizable, then it has to be considered within the realms of cause and effect.
Yes of course.
So you agree with me.
Sure. I have no beef against cause & effect.

But how does alleged recognition of a child as being in some way connected with the dead Dalai Lama violate cause & effect?
.The answer to that question would be long and tedious. so for expediency and some laziness on my part I'll instead quote David Quinn(yeah an appeal to authority,guilty as charged.)It is important to broaden one’s conception of causation until it includes all phenomena in the Universe. if you don't accept this a valid answer thats fair enough.
Well I don't see how the quote from David is an argument, but perhaps I am dense. How is my concept of cause & effect too narrow?

My impression is that the subtext of this discussion is a materialist assumption that anything that cannot be detected & measured by scientific means must necessarily be nonsense. Actually we don't know what happens after we die. People who are sure that when the brain dies, the mind dies are not in a superior logical position to people who say a soul or something continues.
.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Jamesh » Wed May 30, 2007 2:55 pm

As I mentioned before, it is quite possible that (for example) the current Dalai Lama does remember more than he says. I could swear that there have been occasions when he's said as much but since I can't supply references we can safely ignore this.


If he remembers more, then it would be a case of FALSE memories of childhood as part of his brainwashing (though it is not quite brainwashing seeing as we are talking about a non-adult, but of indoctrination)
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Shardrol » Fri Jun 01, 2007 4:53 am

I guess you must be someone who believes that the mind & the brain are the same thing, or at least that the mind fully depends on the function of the brain. You may be right, but I don't know where your certainty comes from.
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Re:

Postby Leyla Shen » Fri Jun 01, 2007 9:49 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:If anyone would like to volunteer to type-up a transcript of the podcast with Berzin, please let us know.


I am just now cycling through this thread, so I've not yet reached the end. If you do not yet have a volunteer for this, let me know and I will do it--over the next couple of days as I listen to the podcast.

Edit: OK, Berzin's is done. I can do Raman's, or Mistlberger's in the same timeframe.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Kevin Solway » Sat Jun 02, 2007 8:22 am

Go ahead and do Mistlberger's if you like. I'm not sure if anyone has started Raman's.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Dan Rowden » Sat Jun 02, 2007 9:50 am

Anyone interest in helping with transcripts should contact myself for David personally as we have a few people putting their hands up at the moment. Don't do anything till you've done that, Leyla.
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Re: The Reasoning Show - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Leyla Shen » Sat Jun 02, 2007 1:13 pm

OK.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Ataraxia » Fri Jun 08, 2007 1:33 pm

The Dalai Lama just hit town.Arrived ensconced within a helicopter.

Much fawning.Much rejoicing.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby keenobserver » Thu Jun 14, 2007 6:02 pm

is this damn thing working now
i lost another long post today
Hey, is there some time limit for writing responses?
test
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby keenobserver » Thu Jun 14, 2007 6:07 pm

keenobserver wrote:is this damn thing working now
i lost another long post today
Hey, is there some time limit for writing responses?
test


Im back.
I had to back out to post again.
watafu???

Back again, came in under "last post", clicking under "topics" on the topic dont work.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Fri Jun 15, 2007 10:30 pm

ko, it might be helpful to compose long posts in Word to reduce the likelihood of loosing a post. If you don't do that, sometimes you can back arrow to the screen where you were composing the message, and it will still be there.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby keenobserver » Sun Jun 17, 2007 1:22 am

Elizabeth Isabelle wrote:ko, it might be helpful to compose long posts in Word to reduce the likelihood of loosing a post. If you don't do that, sometimes you can back arrow to the screen where you were composing the message, and it will still be there.

Ya, i know, thanks. Is there a time limit? Like, if you dont type anything for a while, or dont hit submit within a certain time?
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Greg Shantz » Sun Aug 05, 2007 5:58 am

China tells living Buddhas to obtain permission before they reincarnate

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/w ... 194682.ece
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Dan Rowden » Sun Aug 05, 2007 12:07 pm

Tibet experts said that the new regulations may also be aimed at limiting the influence of new lamas.


Gee, you don't say! Given the stupidity of the Tibetan system I can't say I'm really opposed to this, though it would be better if the Chinese had decent motives for it.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby tharpa » Mon Aug 06, 2007 1:19 pm

Man with no brain functions as civil servant in France. Those who believe that mind is rooted in the brain might need to think twice about their 'belief' system in this regard.

http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pu ... from=98572 (photos only)
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/ ... 071807.php (full release in Lancet)

This is not the first case like this, but most happened before the internet.

My buddhist teacher used to love proclaiming how in the buddhist tradition a soul is something you wear on the bottom of your shoes. In over ten years of studying with him, I can't remember one single discourse on incarnation except for a single talk on the Tibetan tulku tradition in which he stated categorically that blessed tulkus - the category mainly dealt with under the rubrik of 'incarnate lamas' such as DL XIV - are NOT direct reincarnations of the previous one.

However, the real issue is whether or not there is such a thing as reincarnation as a core belief in the buddhist tradition. In my experience, this is an issue that fascinates most non-buddhists looking from outside the tradition but has very little play from within the tradition. That said, the point about reincarnation that really matters is this: what if anything continues from this moment into the next moment, and/or who or what continues from one day to the next? Who or what continues, what is the nature of that experience? Until one can understand this clearly and based on experience, then whether or not reincarnation from birth to birth either happens or does not happen is a bit of a red herring. Which is why, I suspect, it is very rarely discussed in buddhist studies amongst buddhists.

But it does get a huge amount of play in the West because it is so different from what we are used to. Unfortunately really.

As to religion: yes it is the bane of all spiritual traditions, and/or political ones. Really, though, it is just a function of what happens when groups of people get together. A certain power comes from that, which can be beneficial when all are working together on the same thing, but also neurosis is no less easily engendered. And various hierarchical shenanigans evolve along with that. It is a necessary evil. And with any group mandala, you have to have hierarchy (class) and in that case you have to work with forms, including forms of address, manners, customs and rituals. There is simply no way around it, whether you are in a secular work situation, a street gang, a monastery or a swingers sex club. So most of the objections about religion, which are reasonable, are also somewhat beside the point.

Quinn et al seem to be saying here often that unless you are fully enlightened you are an animal and if you are an animal you might as well give up and/or they should all be thrown out. Fair enough. But I predict that with that sort of attitude, the lineage of Quinn will not be around 100 years from now, let alone 2,500 years later. Even though some very smart, even wise things, are said here. (along with far too many cheap shots!)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Aug 06, 2007 4:12 pm

tharpa wrote:Man with no brain functions as civil servant in France.


<Tries to resist job requisite joke...........>
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby David Quinn » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:34 pm

Tharpa wrote:

Quinn et al seem to be saying here often that unless you are fully enlightened you are an animal and if you are an animal you might as well give up and/or they should all be thrown out.

I reserve the term "animal" for those who think and behave like animals - e.g. people who only think about work, sex and food, or who live contented, banal lives. I certainly wouldn't call genuine human beings who strive for wisdom "animals".

I pretty much agree with the Buddha when he said that perhaps only 1 in 10,000 people are "human", and that of these humans perhaps only 1 in 10,000 become enlightened.

-
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:05 am

tharpa wrote:Man with no brain functions as civil servant in France. Those who believe that mind is rooted in the brain might need to think twice about their 'belief' system in this regard.


It's about a man with a 'tiny' brain, not no brain. It's a no-brainer, when looking to small pets and intelligent animals that the size of a brain might be related to some rarely used advanced functions or reliability issues (backup material) but not related to basic social behavior, some vocal communication, etc.

The brain size or shape in this case did perhaps influence his IQ (on the low side 70-80). The price he paid for his brain lay-out was vulnerability for fluids pressing his brain to the skull, etc. I would like to see an exact brain mass comparison, and tissue distribution (eg grey and white matter), which says a lot more about capacity anyway.

The idea that mind (reason, consciousness, memory, perceptions) happens for most part in the brain is justified by the tens of thousands of cases where damage to the brain or sticking an electrode in it influenced a function of the mind. One or two cases implying something different doesn't undo countless of other observations just like that. Perhaps it justs shows how brains somehow can reconfigure themselves in all kind of circumstances to keep the most important processes (for survival, success) going.

Neuro-scientists already know for ages of cases like Phineas Gage who got an iron pole of a meter long and 3.2 cm thick through his frontal cortex. Didn't effect him that much, although longer term effects are suspected.

My buddhist teacher used to love proclaiming how in the buddhist tradition a soul is something you wear on the bottom of your shoes.


It seems a good way of explaining our 'soul' is in our actions and the large as well subtle imprints we leave with those on our surroundings. So reincarnation of 'soul' is more easily envisioned as cause and effect, just like everything else.

Our actions and thoughts are not separated anyhow. We change action because of a thought and we can change certain thoughts because of an action. More often they are just in the same repeating, self-fulfilling loop however and self-study - mindfulness - is perhaps the only possible way to escape that.
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soul

Postby tharpa » Fri Aug 10, 2007 5:58 am

Diebert: the point about soul was that there was no airy-fairy substance that passes from one life to the next and the joke was that dealing with the solid earth of the here and now, and the sole being the lowest point of the dressed person versus the ineffable highest mystical aspect. In other words, the main point was: a tradition that does not believe in permanent self, aka ego in some buddhist circles, does not believe in a soul that reincarnates from one body to the next.

The fact that many buddhists do tend to 'believe' in such a thing is no big deal. Most people, including buddhists, 'believe' that they exist as independent, 'solid' entities. That is the samsaric condition. I, for example, fully accept the doctrine that there is no solid, independent ego or phenomenon, however I lead my life every moment as if there are. The reason confusion is called confusion is because it is confused! In any case, casual conversations about things like reincarnation etc. are rather a waste of time unless one takes the trouble to define terms clearly at the beginning etc. Since all such conversations seem to involve taking dharmic terms out of their dharmic context, the whole undertaking is fruitless. Dharma - by definition - combines a teaching/concept with experience. One without the other is meaningless. Abstract discussions of rebirth (the preferred term) outside the context of analysing it in the here and now via the skillful means of meditation and study, usually with companions (sangha and instructors) in the mix, nearly always devolves into comparing apples and oranges. For example, to assume that buddhist notions of rebirth/reincarnation are equivalent to western notions of soul is problematic. And a good example of why terms need to be precisely defined at the beginning of such discussions. Which rarely happens. So before freaking about reincarnation and tulkus etc., first of all one has to deal with the basics of how we perceive self and other, which of course is not a solid, unchanging thing the same for every person in every moment. There are different levels/ways of experience self, and for each of those different ways/levels the notion of rebirth/reincarnation would be similarly different. Since we rarely understand concept and discourse about concept in this way in western modalities, most discussions about these types of things lead nowhere. Again: apples and oranges.

Btw: although I find some of the criticisms of buddhism and buddhists overly harsh - and clearly based on limited, local experiences and thus essentially ill-informed - that doesn't mean that there isn't some merit to the criticisms. I think it fair to say that many who enter spiritual paths that are a) outside their own cultural norms and b) are laid out for them so they essentially enter a new hierarchy which takes care of everything for them have basic personality problems that need to be dealt with in ways other than esoteric spiritual practices. That said, it is possible that the reason they/we turn to such agencies is because they are lacking in our own culture, hence the disorder. But still. There are problems, that is true.

Lastly, I find it interesting that the DL is so often cited as the main spiritual authority when his main role is that of political statesman for an occupied people. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition not only is he just one of very many teachers, but each teacher is mainly judged by their qualities as such. However, since he is so well known because of his political burden, a huge amount of attention is directed his way and in such a manner that distorts his role as a buddhist teacher and the entire tradition. This has more to do with western tendencies to over-simplify and sensationalize everything than it does with his own behavior.

Btw: if you get his little book on the Meaning of Life, I think you will find he does not cleave to the overly simplistic notion of reincarnation that most non-buddhists attribute to buddhists and/or most naive or new buddhists assume erroneously. In any case, it is not a very important topic which is why there are so few texts and commentaries about it. It is important for westerners who are fascinated with fancy/arcane/different mystical concepts and who are not grounded in kitchen sink dharmas of basic, boring meditation practice on the good old ordinary earth.

Last word on the brain: it was just a playful interjection. I believe in another report it said this chap had less than 20% normal brain matter. But the underlying point is that the body-mind is a product of the intention to take birth as an experiencing entity. The body does not produce consciousness in the way that a batter produces electricity as is so often imagined by contemporary materialists. Its a short-term fashionable fallacy that has long ago been disproven by the quantum crowd but is still held onto because of the distracting debate between fundamentalist, institutionalized monotheists, and secular materialists. Both of them are fundamentalists and like most fanatics, are wrong.
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Re: soul

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri Aug 10, 2007 11:01 am

tharpa wrote:Diebert: the point about soul was that there was no airy-fairy substance that passes from one life to the next and the joke was that dealing with the solid earth of the here and now, and the sole being the lowest point of the dressed person versus the ineffable highest mystical aspect. In other words, the main point was: a tradition that does not believe in permanent self, aka ego in some buddhist circles, does not believe in a soul that reincarnates from one body to the next.


Of course that probably was his only point, sadly enough! But my point was to turn that into something more worthwhile and thoughtful, to expand on it if you will. If you'd start thinking a bit more about it you'll see that there is airy-fairy substance after all, only not what most people envision it like. Dealing with the here and now is good stuff for a cow, but the sage is more concerned about the past, current and coming age. He doesn't keep standing gaping at the door, he goes through it.

Last word on the brain: it was just a playful interjection.


As was mine. Then again, it's always play with me. But like every play it can every moment turn into something horrible. Or at least the expectation of that makes play so interesting for people, while of course nobody wants it to turn into anything else. It would ruin things.

The body does not produce consciousness in the way that a batter produces electricity as is so often imagined by contemporary materialists.


You sound so sure, so serious. What makes you say that? Why wouldn't consciousness rise when the circumstances are right, whatever they are precisely (body, cells, nerves, growth, etc).

Its a short-term fashionable fallacy that has long ago been disproven by the quantum crowd but is still held onto because of the distracting debate between fundamentalist, institutionalized monotheists, and secular materialists. Both of them are fundamentalists and like most fanatics, are wrong.


The "quantum crowd" doesn't really exists, did you know? The moment you try to observe them, they end up being or people who parrot others or people who misinterpret or are misinterpreted.

If you don't look you can safely believe they actually exist somewhere and have disproved something :)
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby tharpa » Fri Aug 10, 2007 11:18 am

Nice post, good points well made.

"You sound so sure, so serious. What makes you say that? Why wouldn't consciousness rise when the circumstances are right, whatever they are precisely (body, cells, nerves, growth, etc)."

Because consciousness is a function of the space principle beyond location and time. Therefore it is not produced by various chemical or organic circumstances on the material level.

If you can find one single example of consciousness inhabiting a particular place or moment, then perhaps you might be able to show it was a product of material circumstance. I have been looking for many decades and have not been able to find such evidence, though. This is of course because I cannot find evidence of one particular place or moment anywhere. Or, put another way, there is no evidence anywhere that consciousness can be separated from body in any way, meaning that body cannot be construed as the cause of something with which it is inseparable.

And on it goes!
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri Aug 10, 2007 6:25 pm

tharpa wrote:Because consciousness is a function of the space principle beyond location and time. Therefore it is not produced by various chemical or organic circumstances on the material level.


Aren't chemical or organic circumstances at the quantum level a function of that "space principle" as well? What makes these basic compounds so earthly, unmagical and disconnected from whatever lies "beyond location and time"?

If you can find one single example of consciousness inhabiting a particular place or moment, then perhaps you might be able to show it was a product of material circumstance. I have been looking for many decades and have not been able to find such evidence, though.


There are so many things that don't inhabit a particular place or moment which we take for granted. Complexer entities like 'society' don't live in a specific room in a hotel downtown. The biosphere is not in that bush over there, it's not to be captured, it's just defined and has properties.

People cannot reproduce life either from organic material circumstance but would you place life beyond time and space too? Before you know it all of existence hangs in between somewhere. Which is fine as long as you know you're dragging everything with you this way.

Or, put another way, there is no evidence anywhere that consciousness can be separated from body in any way, meaning that body cannot be construed as the cause of something with which it is inseparable.


Fair enough. But cause and effect is most often a bit more complex than one simple physical reaction. The clouds can be said to be the cause of rain to fall but easily we can make a case that the clouds are caused by many other factors like atmosphere, temperature, distance to the sun, oceans, or that the clouds are water too so not really that different from rain or that sometimes we see days of heavy cloud and no rain, or we get hit by a hail stone but see no cloud.

All this doesn't mean that clouds cannot be said to cause rain, just because we realize how connected they are with each other and many other factors.
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Leyla Shen » Fri Aug 10, 2007 7:44 pm

Diebert wrote:All this doesn't mean that clouds cannot be said to cause rain, just because we realize how connected they are with each other and many other factors.


Well, you could say that clouds cause rain, just like you could say females cause babies. I'm not really sure why you would, though. What philosophical, or scientific, value is there in saying it?
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Re: Tibetan Buddhism - Dr Alexander Berzin

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:14 pm

Leyla Shen wrote:Well, you could say that clouds cause rain, just like you could say females cause babies. I'm not really sure why you would, though. What philosophical, or scientific, value is there in saying it?


There could be value when someone appears to believe babies are delivered by storks, and at the same time values the continuation of humanity (or a specific genetic subset) which is believed to be caused by making babies.

Or if someone beliefs it only rains when sacrificing a virgin to make a god cry, it might be useful to find out the clouds deliver the water even without killing a potential womb.

Or if someone beliefs consciousness is made of a mystical invisible substance that jumps from body to body, or permeates all matter, or goes to heaven or hell, and thereby creates metaphysical continuance of some form of self, no matter how abstract, where there's only the illusion of continuity.

In all these cases there appears value in talking about specific causes and effects, even while it's only a matter of singling out, a matter of simplifying the equation to make a point, to facilitate progress where needed. They certainly are no absolute truths, but they function as a truth in their specific context.
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