Thursday, January 17, 2008

It is really that simple

While indulging in the theist atheist debate over the last few months I have come to realise that there is only one question that really needs to be answered. The rest are qualifiers at best.

No it not the Problem of Evil which seems to be immortal in spite of being thoroughly defeated in ways too numerous to mention.

Nor is it the question of proof that God exists – many atheists appear to hold to a belief that is beyond logic, for many their faith is indeed strong.

There are two very important questions:
* Do we have freewill?
* How are we different from the complete thinking, singing, dancing, simulated human on the horizon of science?
But these questions only allude to the key and are themselves not the key.

The hub of the issue remains for me the existence of a metaphysical realm. While it may not obviously answer the freewill question, it does set us aside from machines. Of course you could argue that the spirit realm has/can colonise machines and perhaps that is what we are, colonised bio-mechanical devices – but none the less occupied in a metaphysical sense. So where I am really going with this is that the true crux of the issue is; “do we have a metaphysical or spiritual element?”.

How would we know if we had a spiritual element or not? – the $64,000 question! (my but inflation has taken its toll!).

Firstly we would have to seek the evidence within ourselves and secondly we would look to confirm it in others. The evidence would of course be metaphysical – no point using a metal detector to find wood.

The area I risk bumping into is that of brain chemistry and emotions – how to distinguish between the normal functioning (or even malfunctioning) of our bodily machine and metaphysical effects? We know quite a lot about brain function and personality etc. We know how sadness manifests itself in the brain and we know the areas of brain involved in math and memory. Clearly the human machine can function on a day-to-day basis as we would expect any fine machine to function.

So where and when does the metaphysical become relevant? It would be pointless for the spirit to occupy us merely as a physical home if it did not have a purpose – what are the options?
* To direct the body to do what it would not otherwise do – that is achieve some physical objective of the spirit.
* Provide a vehicle for the spirit to improve itself, or in some way to meet its own personal non-physical objectives.
Now I don’t know the answer, but either of the above (and perhaps other reasons you may think of) would most likely manifest themselves in ways which direct or influence our actions.

At this point I keep coming back to examples of metaphysical experiences (not necessarily religious in nature) that those whom I trust and respect have had. These range from premonition to telepathy like events and visual manifestations (yea call it seeing that which is not there – but not to be confused with hallucinations from wacky-backy or whatever). As for myself, yes I have a few events that defy scientific or probabilistic explanation.

However I find myself returning to the incident of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. This is a more powerful example to use than personal incidents which tend to be less open to scrutiny, less verifiable and easier to attack. But there are other well known incidents besides Paul’s, William Wilberforce’s conversion to name but one.

How does this convince me? The hypothesis “There is no metaphysical realm” is an absolute statement, all I need is a single metaphysical event to discredit it. In practice I am spoilt for choice, there are too many events to credibly dismiss then all as frauds or insanity.

With the existence of a metaphysical realm established, the existence of God is but a small step which I will keep for later.

14 comments:

Techskeptic said...

I am starting to wonder if I am missing out on something common to most human beings (apparently)

Random hallucinations.

Never happened to me. No unexplainable events, no voices telling guiding me, nothing supernatural. Never.

Is it just that most people on this planet are prone to utterly convincing hallucinations and a very few of us are not? Could that be why religious folks have such an unshakable defense of their pet religion?

Is it just that a small minority of the world population actually has a science background? Or do most people really see inexplicable things and are willing to take further heresay as reinforcing fact?

The more I discuss this with people, the more I truly beleive that the DMT valve is set to different positions, and its on high for most people.

J.L. Hinman said...

Kiwi have I got a mind blower for you. Metaphysics is not about other realms. It's about realms of thought: ie the "real of discourse" or the "realm of politics." We don't need to posit other realms to believe in God. God is in this world.

Metaphysics is the grouping of sense data into pre conceived categories which describe and explain the universe.

Science is metaphysical. You need to look up the phrase "Heideggerian metaphysics."


But if you want physical realms, that's a mind blower for the atheists. if an atheist accepts the big bang he is a prori accepting a theory that automatically predicates the notion of another realm. All that is not the singularity is another realm divorced from the "natural realm," in which we live.

But this is not really metaphysics

J.L. Hinman said...

I am starting to wonder if I am missing out on something common to most human beings (apparently)

Yea actually you are. The God parts of the brain and religious experince are endemic to most of humanity.

Random hallucinations.

many studies prove RE is not mental illness. It doesn't require voices.

Never happened to me. No unexplainable events, no voices telling guiding me, nothing supernatural. Never.

either you have a strong set of expectations that leads you to ignore the real sense of god that you do feel, or your god centers are not well developed.

Is it just that most people on this planet are prone to utterly convincing hallucinations and a very few of us are not? Could that be why religious folks have such an unshakable defense of their pet religion?

why do they have to be hallucinations? Do hallucinations change you life for the better? over 300 studies show that RE experience dramatically transforms people's lives for the better.Hallucinations can't do that.

Is it just that a small minority of the world population actually has a science background? Or do most people really see inexplicable things and are willing to take further heresay as reinforcing fact?

if having a science background was a hedge against God the six major noble laureates would not be Christians such as Alan Sandage

The more I discuss this with people, the more I truly beleive that the DMT valve is set to different positions, and its on high for most people.

wise up and read about it


here

Neil Turton said...

Hi J.L. Hinman,

You wrote:
"Kiwi have I got a mind blower for you. Metaphysics is not about other realms. It's about realms of thought: ie the "real of discourse" or the "realm of politics." We don't need to posit other realms to believe in God. God is in this world."

You know what? I agree with you. I'm not sure that "God" is the right word for what what you're describing, but I'm not interested in arguing over semantics.

Peace, Neil.

J.L. Hinman said...

come visit my new boards.

http://www.doxa.ws/forum/

J.L. Hinman said...

You know what? I agree with you. I'm not sure that "God" is the right word for what what you're describing, but I'm not interested in arguing over semantics.


that's cool. I hope you come to my boards.

Techskeptic said...

Wow, what a lot of nonsense...

But if you want physical realms, that's a mind blower for the atheists. if an atheist accepts the big bang he is a prori accepting a theory that automatically predicates the notion of another realm. All that is not the singularity is another realm divorced from the "natural realm," in which we live.

Mind blower? Pleh, all you have done is create a baseless assertion..i.e. atheists think there is no other possibility. Obviously an obtuse point of view. There are tons of possibilities, some even with evidence to support them (unlike god stuff).

Its true, I totally think I am missing a God part of the brain. However, a part of the brain that makes people beleive things based on hallucination and faith is not a part of the brain I miss, its just missing. Why would I miss something that deceives me?

What studies are you refering to. Plus I never said REs were a mental illness, they are a genetic trait that are becoming more useless as time goes on. I wont be alive when we finally are able to cast off this need, but atheists are breeding nonetheless.

I dont sense god at all. I dont sense santa claus either, that doesnt make him real. The bill collector i definitely sense, he sends me letters every month.

Hallucinatons cant make your life better? What are dreams? What are day dreams? What is visualizing problems and solutions? Gimme a break, that was vapid.


oooh ooh... and you brought up the "Famous scientists are religious!" argument. yeah well famous scientists were also creationists, geocentrists and flat earthers also, what is your point?

Read on DMT and tell me why you think the your pineal gland isnt just squeezing out more of it than mine is.

akakiwibear said...

Hi All, I apreciate you keeping the comments going while have been away.

Tech, the real implications of Strassman’s work with DMT:

1) He demonstrated how the body could itself induce hallucinations as against externally administered chemicals although he administered abnormally high levels of DMT for his experiments.

All this means is that if the body produced sufficiently elevated levels of DMT it is likely that the person would experience hallucinations.

2) The hallucinations Strassman produced were random and were not life changing.

Strassman MAY have demonstrated the mechanism by which people have religious experiences, but he has clearly not answered the important questions, what causes/triggers them – and more importantly what directs them into life changing experiences.

An analogy may be that he has figured out how a piano can produce musical notes but not how it makes music. Certainly random picking at the keys may produce the occasional snippet of a tune, but not the splendour of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto.

There is a clear difference between Strassman’s tripping and the religious experiences of people like Paul or Wilberforce. You have not offered any evidence by way of Strassman’s (or others) work to explain away true REs or conversions - you have not addressed the causal issues.

The DMT work leaves open the possibility that some metaphysical force controls not only the level of DMT in the body but that it also directs the “hallucination” – or there may be a different physiology at work.

Hamba kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

JLH , Neil We don't need to posit other realms to believe in God. God is in this world."

You know what? I agree with you. I'm not sure that "God" is the right word for what what you're describing,


A lot of the debate around a/theism is unfortunately semantic.

I have tried to avoid getting into semantics, but at some point every idea gets rendered into words. The trick is what we do with the words. Do we get trapped by the words themselves and become bogged down by semantics snared by arguments of clever word constructs? Or do we try to see the concept behind the words and to circle around it seeing its attractions and flaws.

While I enjoyed reading Heidegger (thanks for the lead) I found myself frustrated by the words which seemed to conceal rather than reveal - it took a lot of effort to see through them.

Yes JLH I agree God is present in this world ... ... but as you or I are?

I am increasingly intrigued by the relationship between body and soul and so far the word metaphysical seems to paint the best picture for me.

Tech's DMT is part of the machine of the body ... but it says nothing of the soul?

Hamba kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

Tech, you may find these two sites interesting in regard to religious experiences (REs). They tend to take a scientific look at the topic and lead to a reasonable explanation of why you have not shared in these experiences.

http://lamland.blogspot.com/2007/09
/on-mysticism-and-christianity-part-i.html
Is a blog with a well documented and researched paper on the topic and a quicker read than the next one

www.druglibrary.org/
schaffer/lsd/maslow.htm
while the site is a bit dodge it has the full text of Maslow's book the thirty-fifth volume in the "Kappa Delta Pi Lecture Series - I confess that being cheap I wnet for it as the only free copy I could find.

I found the first site's references interesting in that they categorise REs and distinguish between REs and trips and describe some of the factors around the incidence of REs.

Maslow is a harder read but Chapt III had an interesting thesis around the "core" or what I think of as the universal religion.

Hamba kahle - peace

akakiwibear said...

P.S. if you want the second part of the article on the first site above just change the part-i to part-ii in the url

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

Maslow's book is interesting. He doesn't seem to address the question of whether the religious experience represents reality in any way or whether there is a metaphysical realm. I don't mean to diminish the experience - someone can be uplifted by an experience even if that experience doesn't correspond to a universal truth.

It seem to me that there are two questions here. The first is whether the experience corresponds with an objective truth. The other is whether the experience is considered to be meaningful (perhaps even if it is not an objective truth). The thing is that I don't have a problem with someone who says that they had an experience and that it was meaningful to them but that they don't really care if it's objective truth or not. I only have a problem with people who think that they have a handle on the objective truth through their revelation or religion.

Objective truth needs to be acquired through objective methods. Personal revelation and cultural traditions don't count.

Peace, Neil.

akakiwibear said...

"Objective truth needs to be acquired through objective methods. Personal revelation and cultural traditions don't count." brings to mind Pilot's question as to what is truth.

That said your point is really good.

If I may think aloud ...
The nub is the existence of objective truth - is this different from fact? - I see fact as verifiable in the sense of science, but discerning truth as a process that requires judgement.

... so all fact would be truth but not the other way round?

You seek an "objective truth" - is that "fact" or right judgement? Can "objective truth" be challenged? I think not as it most likely equates to fact, so it can then be verified.

Neither of see the big theist question as one of fact, but rather one of "truth". I have to concede that the "truth" is in my opinion not objective but subjective. I concede that the beliefs I hold are founded on my reasoning and cannot be verified by you.

So we have a dilemma - do we accept a subjective truth or are we obliged to reject it ONLY because it cannot be verified objectively.

Does "balance of probabilities" equate to "objectivity" - I think not there is still a subjective element in weighing the probabilities? My belief is based on a balance of probabilities - this is good enough for me, but I don't expect it to be good enough for anyone else.

I respect your argument (really I do) but it is only my opinion - a subjective truth - but if others agree with me that your argument is good, at what point would a reasonable person concede it to be true? At what point all reasonable people - is it then an "objective" truth???

"I only have a problem with people who think that they have a handle on the objective truth through their revelation or religion." I do too! It is far to easy to say "God revealed His will to me, so I went and ...." It is has "Charlatan Alert" all over it!

So can we test REs to see if they provide a basis of credibility? Will think about it more.

Sala kahle - peace

Neil Turton said...

Hi Akakiwibear,

I think the theist type questions are a matter of fact. Either there is a God or there isn't. It can't be in between. There can't be a God for some people and not for others (although people could have idols...). The same goes for metaphysical realms and souls and so on.

I don't regard uncertainty in knowledge as being a problem with regard to determining objective truth. There is always some uncertainty. If the uncertainty is large, I'm quite happy to say that we've got a vague approximation to objective truth.

What I'm trying to get at is this. If I drink too much, the world seems to spin around me. That is not objective truth. The world might be spinning, but nowhere near as fast as it appears to be spinning to me when I'm drunk. When that happens, you might say that I've had a world spinning experience. This has nothing to do with the world actually spinning.

In the same way, perhaps religious experiences are nothing to do with the existence of a metaphysical realm.

I'm glad we agree about religious charlatans. In my view, Moses and Paul both have charlatan written all over them. Moses went up a mountain and came down with stone tablets written by God. How do we know? 'cos Moses said so. And Paul was very keen to convince the Corinthians and Galatians of his apostleship, no doubt so that he could exert his control over them. NB. When Paul is calling others "false apostles", remember that others were calling him a "false apostle" too. It all just seems like a political game to me.

1 Corinthians 9
"[1]Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? [2] Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord."

Peace, Neil.