Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's not about the science

Drawn by what I saw as a common position on a/theism I recently read Joe Hinman’s testimony on his DOXA site http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/Testamony.html

While I note some similarities between his journey and my own, what struck me most was some of the revelations we seem to have shared – call them insights if you will, but I know I could not have got there myself.

Now the specifics are different but the messages are similar.

Firstly that of a form of universality. I was struggling with the idea of a right or wrong religion – everybody should be able to get to heaven, right? But why then did Christ appear to teach exclusivity. JH got his revelation from Romans 2, I got mine from John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

In a moment of clarity I can only explain as a revelation I saw this passage to mean that God was about truth, a message and that the ‘Word’, the message was all important. For Christians the ‘Word’ is manifest in Christ, but the same Word is revealed to all, each in their own way – this makes all religions potentially true; the test of their validity lies in their alignment with what can be referred to as God’s greater purpose (not going into a silly debate about differences and discernment – either you want to see it or you don’t).

When Christ speaks of Him being the “the way the truth ..” etc He refers to the Word which while it is Christ also extends beyond Christ to all. Christians (actually the Jews) had the privilege of a very close encounter with the Word, I have no idea how close the encounter may be for other faiths, but I am certain that the Word, the message of God by which we can all come to know God has been revealed to all.

Now this may not be a scholarly interpretation of the passage, but it was what was revealed to me by the passage.

A second revelation JH and I share is that different things can mean different things to different people – the bible has to be the quintessential example – but also that we don’t have to be in exact agreement to share a belief in God.

How then do I explain the diversity of religious teaching – they can’t all be right. I don’t really have to, there is a core message that all can come to and there is human distortion of the message by all who have tried to pass it on – me included, right here and now.

What the experience did show me was that we have a spiritual component that is capable of far more than our conscious (or even sub-conscious) selves. Sometimes, we manage to see through what ever separates us – a veil is a good analogy – and life is different, everything is different. Of course we now know where in the brain the interface is active. Science has yet to find the other end of the “phone line”, the spirit – and is most unlikely to ever do so.

This is of course where the big difference between atheist and theist lies. Not in a belief in God, yes that too, but the real nub of the difference is in the existence of a spiritual realm.

This difference leads to some irreconcilable differences between atheist and theist.

1) The atheist is limited to an intellectual position. Theists can intellectualise their position but they have a spiritual dimension that the atheist cannot acknowledge.

Unfortunately this difference often leads theists to limit their argument with atheists to intellectual debate – I for one have been guilty of this. We need to get over it and accept that our personal spiritual experiences are part of our belief. The fact that we can’t “prove” them to others is of no concern – faith is a personal thing, a bit like love; I love my wife, can’t prove it to others in conclusive intellectual terms but it is true.

2) The atheist view tends to be absolute – there is no God. I won’t go into the strong/weak atheist position because while some people may be making up their minds, they are listening to people who have usually stepped off the fence. The problem with an absolute position is that it has to be defended in its totality. A tired child not wanting to walk may say “there is sand in my shoe” (yes I live in a country where children encounter sand) – a parent’s response may “no there isn’t” but victory is the child’s when an examination of the shoe eventually reveals a single grain tucked away in the lining.

Any single spiritual experience defeats the atheist position. Hence the intense argument against miracles and the rather gratuitous “I am sure they believed that is what it was” response to all personal experiences.

Thethird and crucial revelation JH and I share is that of the importance of freewill. We may differ in the detail but the thrust is the same. This revelation is important as it addresses the Argument of Evil which is a cornerstone of maintaining an atheist belief. In essence one has to elevate the worth of freewill above that of human suffering. Atheists argue that if we suffer through the exercise of freewill (our own or that of others) but that God could have prevented it by making us “all good” and placed us in a world with only positive outcomes. They argue that God was therefore in error in giving us freewill as the consequences outweigh any benefits, present God as condoning suffering (not omni-benevolent) and at the very least being impotent in its prevention – all leading to a case that there is no God.

Without going into the detail, as I now see it, freewill is what enables growth. To curtail any negative outcome from the exercise of freewill God would have to:

i) deprive us of all choice
ii) or only enable choices with options that all had exactly the same value to everyone directly or indirectly associated with the choice now and in the future (absurd, if all options have an equal outcome for all and for all time then there is really no choice)
iii) Micro manage every situation in violation of all physical laws at all time – it would be OK to skydive sans parachute, fire would not burn, guns could not kill etc.

Yet we live in a dynamic world with laws of nature that work and we grow/learn intellectually and with increasing experience. Reason renders the no freewill option either absurd or of no possible value – so we have the opportunity to make choices; do good or harm, see the consequences and learn, all of which enables to draw us closer to that which we call God or to distance ourselves from God. We can make choices that have negative outcomes for us and/or others. God has revealed (through the “Word”) how we ought to try and live our lives and has provided ongoing coaching in the form of a connection with the spiritual realm, the Holy Spirit of the traditional Christian Trinity. So God has not abandoned us to our plight, plus there is prayer and the opportunity that gives us to draw on its power (not in an unlimited sense) to improve outcomes.

This leads us back to the fundamental difference between atheist and theist – belief in a spiritual realm. Religion is not the issue that really divides us, nor is the bible or its interpretation. IF we agree that there is a spiritual realm then we can resolve the other issues in time.

A problem that atheists seem to have in coming to grips with a spiritual realm is their starting point. Most start from within the context of a particular religion and test the minutia of the religion – if they find inconsistency or flaws in logic, out goes the baby with the bathwater. The true starting point is to seek an answer to the existence of a spiritual realm. This is the fourth revelation we share – although it is not as obvious as the others. Once we have found our answer to the existence of the spiritual realm we can then seek the religion or group which best provides us with a platform from which to exercise it. Interesting that JH and I both ended up near the Catholics, but that can only be of interest.

Of course in seeking the answer to the existence of a spiritual realm we should use the right tools. We are looking for evidence of mainly personal relationships, maybe involving groups. Atheists are content to point science at the question and chuckle “told you so” when science can’t prove a spiritual realm exists (they usually omit to mention that “inconclusive” works both ways). But science is not the right tool – we do not use it judge works of art, we understand it has limitations but persist in trying it on a realm it is not relevant to.

Enough – peace to all.

40 comments:

J.L. Hinman said...

hey brovo man! that was great. thanks for writing that and thanks for telling me about it.

We do see many things alike. I see Jesus as the focus, the center, the answer, but Christianity is just a tool Jesus uses, not the major message. The good news is not "you can become a Christian." People of other faiths can and some do know him even though they do not know him as "Jesus."

In the book of Revelation it says we will know him by another name. I am betting that other name is "truth" or maybe each will hear the name he now takes to be truth.

After that the details of each faith are just the fiddly bits (to quote Slotty Bartfarst--Hitchhikers guide--I'm betting you know what I'm talking about).

Atheists are always focussed on the minutia. They can't understand how I can say the differences are unimportant. But that's what I see.

BEAST said...

I think it is a little demeaning to limit atheists to merely intellectual subjects. As Sam Harris points out, there are other so called "spiritual" practices, such as meditation, yoga and other ancient practices, which can be studied by science from a neurological point of view. Even prayers have been studied by science in the form of CT scans for people who were praying.

Much of your argument is articulate enough (At least you write better than Tim the Moron), but most of it is based on assumptions upon assumptions. If you wish to I can post a rebuttal on my blog.

Regards
Beast

BEAST said...

"A problem that atheists seem to have in coming to grips with a spiritual realm is their starting point. Most start from within the context of a particular religion and test the minutia of the religion – if they find inconsistency or flaws in logic, out goes the baby with the bathwater."

I think you have somehow trivialized the magnitude of religion, or in your case, Catholicism/Christianity.

The bible is a paragon of errors: To add it up, it has stories upon stories of carnage, both by God and by his Christian tribes against heathens (Fortunately, a huge swath of them are just that: fables with no historical references).

If you want to talk about morals, just as how the Catholic Church lives up to its name. 2000 yrs of paedophilia, looting, pillaging, subjugation and bankrupting of Europe. I need not say more.

Today, the Catholic Church is no better. Toothless to a fault, it has now resorted to chicanery and tomfoolery to enthrall the masses: Initiating utterly useless "interfaith" dialogues with other religions (primarily muslims), telling people about the evils of abortion, lying about condom use, etc, etc.

You keep mentioning about throwing the baby with the bath water. Let;s just say the baby isn't really a baby. Its more like a pit of vipers.

Beast

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I can use science to find out about a person on the other end of a normal phone without knowing anything about where they are. For example, I could prepare a list of questions and have someone who didn't know the answers to the questions read them out over the phone. If I had two phone lines which were supposed to go to the same place, I could check that by trying to send a message along one phone line and have it come back along the other. Why is it any different with this spiritual phone line?

One common mistake people make is that they assume science can only explain things in terms of physical phenomena. That's just not true; science can test whatever can be predicted or generalised.

"I am certain that the Word, the message of God by which we can all come to know God has been revealed to all."

This sounds like something which can be tested scientifically. It just needs to be fleshed out a bit.

We can't assess art scientifically because there's no objective standard for the quality of a work of art. Different people have different standards, so a painting might be beautiful to one person and ugly to another. Regarding the spiritual phone line, there is an objective standard for its existence. Either the phone line exists and communication is possible, or the phone line doesn't exists and communication is impossible.

Even if we can't find the other end of the phone line, we should be able to find where it goes through the wall at this end. That is, the way in which the brain is able to communicate with something which is not governed by physical laws. Do you think we'll be able to do that?

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil, the spiritual phone line, a sample link.

It seems we know where the connection is, can partially simulate a connection, just can't intercept calls.

http://flavor8.com
/index.php/2007/10/08
/the-neuroscience-of-spiritual-experience/

interesting, but of course open to interpretation.

Peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"It seems we know where the connection is, can partially simulate a connection, just can't intercept calls."

When the scientist stimulates the subject's brain and they report a benevolent presence, do you think that a phone call is being initiated, or do you think that the subject is being fooled into thinking that a phone call is being initiated?

On a different tack, I can accept that this part of the brain is involved with spiritual experiences. What I'm interested in is whether the spiritual experience is confined to the physical systems we know about (like the brain) or whether the spiritual experience involves interactions with things in a spiritual realm.

If it involves interactions with a spiritual realm then we should be able to locate some part of the brain which is not just obeying physical laws because if it were just obeying physical laws then its behavior would depend on only physical objects and not objects(?) in the spiritual realm.

Do you think we'll be able to find a part of the brain which is not just obeying physical laws? Do you think scientists will be able to build a device which acts in the same way as this part of the brain and is able to interact with the spiritual realm in a direct way?

Peace, Neil.

larryniven said...

I would love for you to defend your position that God can't limit our free will without making it worthless. If we can program computer simulations of real life in which people can freely choose multiple levels of good - and we can - why can't God do the same?

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil,
I don't see why some part of the brain has to not work according to physical laws - the simulation uses physical laws - it seems to me we just don't have the science available yet, but once we do the department of homeland security will be tapping in.

Hamba kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Hi larryniven, welcome, you said "If we can program computer simulations of real life in which people can freely choose multiple levels of good - and we can - why can't God do the same?" - unfortunately it is all a matter of perspective, and computers don't have it the way we do - we get dissatisfied with less than than best.

The problem lies in the multiple levels of good. Take any range of "good", scale it 1(worst) to 10 (best). If we lived in such a world (and perhaps we do) then we would soon regard '1' as bad and it would be seen as harmful to us compared to the wow of a '10'.

So if I made a choice that produced a '9' for me but a '1' for you then there would have been a negative outcome for you relative to me.

I think the debate around freewill is core to atheist belief as it defeats the much vaunted Argument of Evil.

My point is that as soon as freewill becomes meaningful it can of necessity produce negative outcomes - at least outcomes that we perceive as negative.

Others have argued that for freewill to be meaningful it has to expose us to choice across the full range of good to evil, otherwise we have not really learned from its exercise - the parallel is a very sheltered upbringing from which one learns less than from a more exposed life.

Hamba kahle

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"I don't see why some part of the brain has to not work according to physical laws - the simulation uses physical laws - it seems to me we just don't have the science available yet,"

Your position seems to be that some form of communication occurs with a spiritual realm. This implies that information is passing from the spiritual realm to our physical realm. For this to happen, something in the spiritual realm must be able to affect something in the physical realm. In other words, the thing in the physical realm is not just acting under the influence of physical objects - it's acting under the influence of something in the spiritual realm as well. This is exactly what I mean when I say that it's not acting according to physical laws because in my mind, physical laws are expressed in terms of physical objects only. It wouldn't be a physical law if it was expressed in terms of things in the spiritual realm.

Does this make it any clearer? If not, can you help me out a bit by indicating which part of the argument you don't follow?

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil, thanks I get your point, but it is not a necessary condition.

If the brain reacts to electromagnetic waves (physical laws) and the spirit realm reacted with the electromagnetic waves in the brain then the brain works according to natural laws and the spirit realm in producing disturbances in the EM field works according to ... ?

Hamba kahle

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

Okay, so the brain might be picking up electromagnetic waves which are being caused by something in the spiritual realm. Either way, if what you say is true then something is going on in our physical realm which is caused by something in the spiritual realm. Science should be able to detect that, because something in the physical realm would be behaving in a way which is not just governed by things in the physical realm. In other words, we should be able to find something which is behaving in an unexpected way.

It seems to me that science is one of the tools which is appropriate for working out what's going on when someone prays. I'm not saying it's the only tool, but it's an important one. You say that science is not the right tool. Why is that? Not because you're embarrassed by the lack of evidence which science has turned up, I assume...?

Peace, Neil.

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"I won’t go into the strong/weak atheist position because while some people may be making up their minds, they are listening to people who have usually stepped off the fence."

Both strong and weak atheists have stepped off the fence. A true agnostic has not.

I don't think the strong atheists are quite as absolute as you make out. Richard Dawkins for one admits the possibility that there is a God. He just says that it's very unlikely.

"victory is the child’s when an examination of the shoe eventually reveals a single grain tucked away in the lining."

I'm surprised to hear you use this analogy. Are theists like the child then? Yes, the child was right but it's hardly a reason to stop walking. The victory is rather hollow.

"the rather gratuitous “I am sure they believed that is what it was” response to all personal experiences."

You have to say that about some personal experiences. There's no way you can believe all personal experiences to be true if taken at face value. That leaves us with the problem of figuring out which personal experiences are true when taken at face value and which are not. Do you have any criteria for making that decision? My criteria are that personal experiences should be interpreted in terms of knowledge which has been gained through science and logical reason.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

Hi Neil, science is not a threat to theism, it can only improve our understanding. But it is the instrument of the physical world, it has developed on the basis of experiment within the confines thereof.

One day it may be able to properly identify and detect phenomenon associated with the metaphysical realm, until then we have to make do with the experiences individuals have of those phenomenon.

It seems to me that you have adopted a position that in effect says "If theism (or metaphysical realm) can be questioned it can't be right - and if theism (or metaphysical realm) can't be proven it definitely can't be right." Armed with this preconception you can only ignore all argument which can be challenged or cannot be proven. This shuts you off from the empirical evidence of metaphysical experience, by the instrument apparently best suited to detect it - us.

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

You wrote:
"science is not a threat to theism,"

I'm not quite sure what you're saying here. Are you saying that you believe that science will validate the claims of theism or that the claims of theism do not overlap with science.

Suppose, for example, that science came to understand the way that the brain works and was able to show that all the spiritual experiences people have could be accounted for in terms of purely physical phenomena and involved no interactions with any spiritual realm. Would that be a threat to theism?

"it can only improve our understanding. But it is the instrument of the physical world, it has developed on the basis of experiment within the confines thereof."

The scientific knowledge that we have only relates to the physical world. However, science as a method is applicable to anything which is open to experimentation or statistical analysis. It isn't limited to the physical world unless we ourselves are unable to access any other world.

"One day it may be able to properly identify and detect phenomenon associated with the metaphysical realm, until then we have to make do with the experiences individuals have of those phenomenon."

At some stage we might be able to detect phenomena associated with some other realm, but we aren't there yet. I find it highly unlikely that we ever will because everything we know through science fits together neatly in the framework of a single physical world.

We do have personal experiences, but different people have contradictory experiences. What are we to do with the contradictions? Let's take an example. You say that the Word has been revealed to all, but some people claim that the Word has been revealed exclusively to their group. They would claim this has been revealed to them through verses like John 1:14. Aren't you being a bit inconsistent by accepting your revelation but rejecting theirs?

"It seems to me that you have adopted a position that in effect says "If theism (or metaphysical realm) can be questioned it can't be right - and if theism (or metaphysical realm) can't be proven it definitely can't be right.""

No, not at all. If it can't be shown to be true then it can't be known. That doesn't mean it's not true. If it can be questioned then it can be examined, but only if the questions have no answers is it not true. That doesn't mean that it's not true if we can't find answers to the questions. It might be that we're not smart enough to figure out the answers.

"This shuts you off from the empirical evidence of metaphysical experience, by the instrument apparently best suited to detect it - us."

If we really are the best instrument available then we're in trouble. Like I said, different people come to different opinions about the spiritual realm. They can't all be right. This demonstrates that the instrument is very unreliable.

Peace, Neil.

Mitchell LeBlanc said...

Interesting, if there are a few main points that I would like to take away from this they are your point about God as Word and your inference that one must seek for their existential definition of God prior to joining a religion, and not vice versa.

Keep up the good work, and thanks once more for your comments on my blog.

akakiwibear said...

Mitchell, welcome. Thanks for your comments.

There is perhaps an iterative process that my post did not elaborate on. In ‘God first’ one does of course have to read and hence one often end s up exploring the religions before finding God. I see the relationship with God as personal and to a large extent unique.
Which gets me your comment Neil where you say ” different people come to different opinions about the spiritual realm. They can't all be right.”. Why not?

While I headed this post as It’s not about the science the heading It’s not about the religion would have been just as appropriate.

IF there is a universal God I would surmise that a full and complete understanding of such a being may be beyond our capabilities – it may involve concepts that are outside of our knowledge base. An example could be Christ’s reply to the Sadducee (Luke 20:27-40) “but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage”.

Back to your point why should there only be one common revelation? Each culture and each era would be more able to understand different aspects or have different questions. Why should the answer to be matched the questioner?

Also if there were but one single revelation would we interpret and express that revelation in a way that befitted our time and culture. If so would you not see it as a different revelation?


Science and religion – “theism has nothing to fear from science”. I would regard theism as a searching for the truth. Science and religion have roles to play, but we should never fear the truth – what we should fear is that which is presented as truth but is not.

Hamba kahle - peace

Techskeptic said...

Neil,

Suppose, for example, that science came to understand the way that the brain works and was able to show that all the spiritual experiences people have could be accounted for in terms of purely physical phenomena and involved no interactions with any spiritual realm

You mean like this? We produce chemicals in our brains that produce the exact same spiritual experiences that religious people keep talking about.

There is also some discussion of genetic predispositions to god belief, but as far as I can tell, this has not yielded definitive answers yet.

J.L. Hinman said...

You mean like this? We produce chemicals in our brains that produce the exact same spiritual experiences that religious people keep talking about.

There is also some discussion of genetic predispositions to god belief, but as far as I can tell, this has not yielded definitive answers yet.


that doesn't cut it as any kind of refutation for religious experience.

see my page



http://www.doxa.ws/experience/Mystical3-2.html

J.L. Hinman said...

the main misapprehension is that the experience argument is some kind of miracle argument. Athesits are always assuming every reason to believe boils down to "there no other way to explain things. they think the argument about experience is saying "we just don't know what makes people experience this so it must be God."

No, nothing is further from my thinking. so explaining how the brain works or how experiences work by brain funcitn is not an issue. although they have not done that all the atheist palaver on brain/mind is basically fundamentalist bait and switch.

the argument is

(1) co determinate: meaning it's the trace of God just as fingerprints are the trace of the one who left them. The reason is not because we can't explain how the mind works, but

(a) the content of the experince specifically

(b) that's the kind of thing God would do--affect human psyche.



(2) no alternate causality can be demonstrated to cause long term positive effects. and long term positive is very important. they aren't empty words.

(3) Trans formative effects. you can explain how mind works, maybe, someday, but that wont explain why this stuff is transformational and other things are not.

akakiwibear said...

Joe, thanks for the comment.

Tech, I was referring to the research that appeared to simulate religious experiences by electrically stimulating part of the brain - your link is interesting and confirms what has been observed for generations that in certain religions drugs are used to induce states of increased awareness ... and so ?

As far as the religious experience simulation research is concerned, all it can demonstrate is where in the brain the experiences appear to occur and what seems to happen.

Like smell - we can simulate it by stimulating the brain - the ability to "fake" a smell does not prove that there are no smells - on the contrary I think it proves it.

The simulation of what people have previously described as religious experiences does sort of lead to the conclusion that those having such experiences spontaneously may have actually had a religious experiences. But to believe that you first have to admit that there are such things as religious experiences - but wait that is what is being simulated, can you simulate something that does not exist?

The problem of a preconception that there are no such things genuine religious experiences among most atheists is clearly a barrier to objectively evaluating this research.

Hamba kahle - peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi akakiwibear,

There's one big difference between the operation of smell and what appears to be happening with religious experiences. Smell can never be reduced to just the firing of neurons. Smell is based on air-borne molecules interacting with sensitive nerve cells in the nose. The resulting experience is that there is an odor in the air which is a good description of the stimulus. Religious experiences appear to be triggered by DMT passing from the blood to the brain but the resulting experience is of a divine presence which is nothing like the stimulus.

We might be able to provoke either experience by stimulating the brain, but what really matters is which receptors are involved when the normal experience occurs.

"but wait that is what is being simulated, can you simulate something that does not exist?"

I don't think it is a simulation. Giving people DMT is giving them a real religious experience. As real as any other religious experience. As real as a drug trip. As real as a dream. As real as a fantasy. What makes you think it's a simulation?

"The problem of a preconception that there are no such things genuine religious experiences among most atheists is clearly a barrier to objectively evaluating this research."

I have no such preconception. That's my conclusion based on the evidence which I've seen. If I'm wrong then it's either because I have incomplete evidence or because I've used faulty logic.

Peace, Neil.

J.L. Hinman said...

"The problem of a preconception that there are no such things genuine religious experiences among most atheists is clearly a barrier to objectively evaluating this research."

not quite sure what you are saying here kiwi. But Maslow was an atheist and he both had and mystical experince. He concluded that it was valid and life transforming and supernatural. Yes as an atheist he developed a belief in supernatural based upon his experiences!

atheists can and do have them. you can explain it two ways. you can say they are counter fit, or resolve it as Maslow did and say that the are religious and don't know it. and that religious mystics are transcending religion and don't know it. Both are talking about the same thing but have different attitudes toward it. There is a reality there they both encounter but they see it differently.

Techskeptic said...

drugs are used to induce states of increased awareness ... and so ?

and soooo... there is nothing at all to indicate anything supernatural is present during a spiritual experience.

Did maslow know about this function of the pituitary before he started assigning his experience to something supernatural. Don't forget, the release of this chemical creates a spiritual sensation that is as real as anyone has described it, the only way you can infer it is associated with the chemical is if you know, a priori, that you took the drug. Release of the chemical due to pituitary stimulation or extreme shock does not directly tell you that DMT is in your brain. You will have no choice but to assign the experience to something external. When you literally experience a spirit, or light at the end of a tunnel or speaking with dead relatives, and this looks are real as anything else you have experience, unless you know you took the drug, how would you be able to assign it to anything internal.

Schizophrenics also think that the entities that they see are as real as you and me. They talk to them, yell at them, but they are not there. How is someone who talks with god, or has any distinct experience like that any different than a benign schizophrenic, one who has been able to manage their problem (of which there are tens of thousands, John Nash being a famous one)

J.L. Hinman said...

The mistaken assumption you are making, which is not at all uncommon to make, is in thinking that experince itself is so amazing it must be a miracle and that that's what is convening about it. that is not it at all. It's something totally different.

makes no difference whatsoever if it can be explained. That's like saying we know chemicals in the head transmit ideas, therefore, all ideas are false because they are only chemicals in the head. The experiences are experiences of the divine because they are long term and life trans formative. the transformational properties cannot be explained. just knowing the physical way the experince happens says nothing about its origin.

Techskeptic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Techskeptic said...

Hmmm that is interesting...

But ideas are internal. I dont sense your ideas. you don't sense mine. Your model is trying to equate the reality of internal experiences with an external one.

Once I have an idea I can show the reality of that idea. I can communicate it, i can explain it to other people, I can write it down and prove that I had the idea, and even prove, perhaps, that I had it first.

You can't do that with external things that dont have any evidence of their existence (like gods, qi, water memory etc). I can't write down that I have an imaginary friend, and expect that imaginary friend to come into existence (if so I would have produced a number of girlfriends in my college years that I had no chance of getting otherwise).

Maybe I am wrong.... I have this idea of a giant purple aardvark who sings the opera. I just wrote it down and.....

hmmm. nothing. It isn't real. Too bad, that would have been fun. Maybe he appeared near you, can you check?

J.L. Hinman said...

But ideas are internal. I dont sense your ideas. you don't sense mine. Your model is trying to equate the reality of internal experiences with an external one.

No I wouldn't say I'm trying to equate them. But we can take internal states seriously if we have some reason to believe that it is a common experiences. We stduies on mystical experince show that it is. These experiences have similar characteristics.

Once I have an idea I can show the reality of that idea. I can communicate it, i can explain it to other people, I can write it down and prove that I had the idea, and even prove, perhaps, that I had it first.

You can't do that with external things that dont have any evidence of their existence (like gods, qi, water memory etc).


Do you mean internal things? That's why I do all that about the co-determinate. The experiences can be studies, they have similarities and can be tested and shown that people experiences very similar experiences. The effects can be measured. So while we can't get direct experince of God, we can measure the effects of God. These experiences can be viewed in that way.



I can't write down that I have an imaginary friend, and expect that imaginary friend to come into existence (if so I would have produced a number of girlfriends in my college years that I had no chance of getting otherwise).


Obviously that's not analogous because I just demonstrated that God has measurable effects, or at least we have good reason to view them as such.

Maybe I am wrong.... I have this idea of a giant purple aardvark who sings the opera. I just wrote it down and.....


those are all contingent qualities. being giant, being purple being an aardvark are just contingencies. God is not just a big guy he's necessary being, being itself. the basis of all being. So that's is not comparable at all.

hmmm. nothing. It isn't real. Too bad, that would have been fun. Maybe he appeared near you, can you check?


you are concluding dogmatically that it isn't real because its not tangible.t hats' so childish. look at how many things in the universe are not tangeable but you assume they are real all the time, like consciousness. neutrinos and smells.

Techskeptic said...

you are concluding dogmatically that it isn't real because its not tangible.t hats' so childish. look at how many things in the universe are not tangable but you assume they are real all the time, like consciousness. neutrinos and smells.

Yes, you got it! If we can not measure it, have no evidence of it, then we have no reason to beleive it exists.

Every single on of your examples are measurable:

Consciousness: just ask someone if they are there. Have other people in the room to hear the answer to confirm it. Can you do that with God?

Neutrinos

Smells: Ever hear of a Gas Chromatagraph or Fouriour Transform Infrared spectrometry (FTIR). Smells are easily measured.

Even things that are not measurable, we consider to be hypotheses. For example the Higgs Boson (the God particle). We have a hypothesis that they exist becuase it answers other observations we have made. We have proposed methods of measuring them, and have not been successful yet.

does that mean it doesnt exist? It might, we have not performed enough experiments quite yet to rule it out. We (humans, not americans, the swiss in fact) just built a machine that, if they exist, should be able to find them. If we don't and we are sure of our calculations and LHC capabilities, then we have some evidence that we are wrong. Time to move on. New hypothesis, new equipment, whatever.

Now, what experiment, or method of measurement would you propose to show to everyone that god exists? Ask people? LOL, shall we ask if they saw ghosts also (a huge majority of people have). Shall we ask them which god they heard? Cause the mulsims and hindus will have you outnumbered. Lets also ask a buch of americans if atlantis exists, becuase a huge proportion thinks that is true also.

surveys are a crap way to prove the existence of something. Measurement is the only tool.

In the end, your answer will be no better than "Just trust me".

Obviously that's not analogous because I just demonstrated that God has measurable effects, or at least we have good reason to view them as such.

ONLY if you presume he exists first. Then you can just say that everything we measure is due to God. Its a silly circular argument, something that always happens when you start with your conclusion. Acupuncture, homeopathy, The Secret, and water dowsing are other examples of the same circular, presumptuous silliness.

10,000 years or more of God responsibility, with him being responsible for less and less as we gain more and more knowledge, the conclusion to this is obvious. you say God of the Gaps is not what you are thinking and then you say:

2) no alternate causality can be demonstrated to cause long term positive effects. and long term positive is very important. they aren't empty words.

Ahh, god of the gaps has returned.

Here is a causality that can bring in long term positive effects. Humanity working to promote humanity by realizing we do best by reducing suffering, increasing happiness while maintaining or increasing free will.

An unsubstantiated, antiquated, hypothesis may make you feel better, but it is currently causing immense suffering around the world. My only sadness is that I wont be around when we rise up out of our superstitions.

akakiwibear said...

Tech I think you chose to miss JLH’s point when he drew the parallel between thought being a chemical process like a religious experience – it is the same thing.


On should apply one standard to all. Tech presented as a test for consciousness just ask someone if they are there. Have other people in the room to hear the answer to confirm it. to test for God Tech says what experiment, or method of measurement would you propose to show to everyone that god exists? Ask people? In fact we rely on first hand personal accounts in a number of areas to gain understanding of events – it is an acknowledged part of the scientific method you value so highly.

What really interests me is your comment “ONLY if you presume he exists first. Then you can just say that everything we measure is due to God. Its a silly circular argument, something that always happens when you start with your conclusion” . Certainly a preconception that God does not exist restricts ones thinking.

A starting position there may or may not be a God is the only valid one. BUT as a starting position it requires you to be open to the possibility that religious experiences could be true.

It requires you evaluate the evidence available – personal accounts.

It requires you to look at the people and the circumstance objectively and to judge accordingly.

Yes it requires you consider other possibilities, to look at patterns and similarities etc – but it requires you to weigh all the evidence – not just the evidence that passes an atheist filter.

Yes it requires you to acknowledge that while there is strong evidence of religious experiences they are not proof that God exists, only that there is a metaphysical realm.

Hamba kahle - peace

Techskeptic said...
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Techskeptic said...

BUT as a starting position it requires you to be open to the possibility that religious experiences could be true.

I have no doubt at all that religious experiences are true and that people have them. I just don't think a space daddy has anything to do with it. I even put up an explanation for it, one that is measurable, repeatable and naturally available to all people. It has nothing to do with the supernatural.

I would even go so far as to say that each person regulated this chemical differently, and that to survive those who felt they had the protection of a sjy daddy fared better when we were nothing but a bunch of tribal communities.

And like some people who have thyroids that are not regulating hormones properly, or pancreases that tend toward resulting in diabetes, I dont see why its hard to believe that the pineal gland excretes DMT differently to different people, some who literally hear god talking to them, and some, like me, who hear nor experience anything at all.

Sure the God-Hearers think its real, of course they do, just like when their ears tell them a car is coming. They literally can't help it. It doesnt make it real.

so which is a simpler answer? The pineal gland drips DMT differently into different people..or.. there is an all powerful sky daddy, who cant bee measured in any single way, but who can and does control every single electron in the universe?

akakiwibear said...

Tech, let's assume the brain chemistry is as you say, then to have a religious experience the chemical levels change is either a random event or is triggered.
The experimental work you refer to relates to abnormally high levels of chemical. So we have to ask what is actually being simulated – something that is likely to occur in the normal course of events or something that requires specific stimulation – again a random or triggered?

An analogy, I can subject you to white noise to prove that you can hear, but not that you can ‘listen’ or interpret sound.
If I play you music I can deduce some discernment on your part depending on how you react to Clapton.
If I read to you I have imparted information.

Now the experiments you refer to are akin to white noise – it’s a psychedelic experience, its just tripping out. In the context of music it modifies the experience of listening to the music but does not create the music . BUT tripping is not the same as a mystical or metaphysical religious experience – kids of the 60’s know this.

In terms of my analogy, Paul’s conversion experience relates to being read to. There is information being conveyed, it has a purpose and a source.

It looks to me like we have the ability to simulate what has been referred to as a "religious experience" but may not be one at all - it may use similar brain chemistry – it may help explain what happens during a religious experience and that is really interesting.

Hamba kahle - peace

Techskeptic said...

I think we are at a place where neither of us has enough information to continue this discussion.

What we need are 50 people who have had strong religious or near death experiences. Then they need to take DMT and describe similarities and differences. Becuase as I understand it, its not like an acid trip. It feels as real as if you are there.

But I have neither had a religious experience nor have I taken DMT. All I can do is read studies around it.

Just a note of hormone levels

Diabetes is an abnormal level of insulin. In fact here is a list of various hormonal disorders. All caused by abnormal levels of hormones (too much or too littles). To think that its unlikely that people may naturally get too much DMT, seems.... unlikely :)

So, if I understood you correctly, you were suggesting that the DMT release is a mechanism by which god may impart an experience. Does god also impart diabetes? hyperthyroidism?

Or is it more likely the there is variation in the output of every gland we have from person to person. Further there is variation in the output in response to external stimulae, be it intense, or chronic.

Nothing seems mystical to me.

akakiwibear said...

No, clearly there are differences in base level or gland activity between people - this may or may not make them more susceptible to mystical experiences.

My point is that where information is transmitted by means of the changed chemical levels that provides a key distinction between tripping and a genuine religious experience - we can argue the appellation of the source of the information later.

If I were to produce a list of 50 credible accounts of people who had life changing or conversion like religious experiences would you concede that they had experiences different from tripping
- equally I would interested to read of life altering tripping experiences outside of drug OD which tends to be an irreversible life change to a seriously non communicative state.

Hamba kahle

Techskeptic said...

If I were to produce a list of 50 credible accounts of people who had life changing or conversion like religious experiences would you concede that they had experiences different from tripping

Yes, but I would not concede that it was different than the effects of DMT, or DMT+adrenaline, or DMT+seratonin, or schizophrenia.

- equally I would interested to read of life altering tripping experiences outside of drug OD which tends to be an irreversible life change to a seriously non communicative state

How about schizophrenia?

akakiwibear said...

Yes, but I would not concede that it was different than the effects of DMT, or DMT+adrenaline, or DMT+seratonin.

mmmm interesting. You concede that the events are actually different, but the brain chemistry may be the same – at that concession I should rest my case.

I expect you want me to answer your last question and will notice that I excluded mental illness from your quote above. Schizophrenia = the “what” the front part of your statement was the “how”. They are fundamentally different aspects. I can use a car to commute, to race or to sight see – same “how” different “what”.

I thought you would bring schizophrenia up. Mental illness is the usual atheist explanation for religious experiences – Paul had an epileptic seizure on the road to Damascus etc. The research you cite may now establish that both involve similar brain chemistry (the how) BUT there are clear differences in the “what”.

Certainly the research would imply that it is possible to confuse mental illness with a psychedelic experience or a religious one – they may well share the same “how” - until the research can sort it out we should acknowledge that there is a gap in the science and that the differences in the “what” exist.

Hamba kahle - peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I'm not sure all this talk about DMT and tripping is all that relevant to this discussion. The experiences you describe in your original post don't sound like a trip. They sound like someone reading the Bible and making a connection with an existing belief. Clearly you're in a better position to say whether it was like that or not. You say that you can only describe the experience as a revelation. How would that be different from a realization where you think "Ah-ha! That's how things fit together".

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

"How would that be different from a realization where you think "Ah-ha! That's how things fit together"." no different, my qualifier was that I doubt that I would have got there on my own.

Perhaps I under estimate my ability. In truth I could have 'put it together' myself. Would that change the "insight"? No, does it make the insight less valid? No.

It seems (perhaps because of my focus) that we keep returning the topic of religious experience. BUT it is one element that provides evidence of a spiritual realm and my theist position rests of necessity on the existence of that realm. So anything pertaining to attracts my attention.

Hamba kahle

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

It seems that I've completely misunderstood you. I was thinking that your insight was validated because it came from a spiritual realm, but that appears not to be the case. Forgive me if this seems like a stupid question, but what does validate your insight?

Peace, Neil.