Understanding through Discussion


Welcome! You are not logged in. [ Login ]
EvC Forum active members: 80 (8960 total)
122 online now:
Newest Member: Mikee
Post Volume: Total: 869,189 Year: 937/23,288 Month: 937/1,851 Week: 60/321 Day: 22/38 Hour: 8/5


Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
  
Author Topic:   What if we observed direct evidence of a supernatural entity?
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 711 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 1 of 9 (528165)
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


I'd like to pose a little thought experiment -- a hypothetical scenario with two different outcomes -- and ask you to describe carefully (and in earnest, please) what your reaction would be to each outcome. Here's the setup:

Within the span of a single night, let's say that 200 people (men and women), who are literate and native speakers of, say, 10 different languages, all wake up with a compulsion to write down some statements that have come into their heads, and send this piece of writing to the New York Times. On receiving these 200 letters, folks at the Times immediately notice the diversity of sources but a consistency of content.

Reporters quickly establish that all 200 letters are saying the same thing, and that the 200 sources are all independent of each other, with no chance of communication between the 200 individuals before they wrote and sent their letters. Each person who sent a letter is found and interviewed, and it is confirmed that each one had a similar experience but no knowledge of the other people involved -- there was no hoax. The content of all the letters begins something like this:

quote:
The statements on this page originate not from the person who is putting these words to paper, but from an entity that is using 200 people in this manner in order to make it clear and irrefutable that these statements were not invented by any human.

Now, consider these two cases:

A. The statements assert that one particular religion is actually "correct", and this religion is identified by name -- but if you happen to be religious, it turns out that this "correct" religion is not the one you currently hold to. Of course, the message is too brief to go into detail about all the questions people like you might have about the beliefs espoused by this one correct religion, but people who practice it are said to be "on the right track."

B. The statements assert that all the known religions are "wrong" in some respects; it may be that none of them is completely wrong in every respect, but the core point is that none of them is completely right. In addition, the statements clearly say that the universe is about 14 billion years old, the earth is about 4 billion years old, and life developed and evolved entirely without supernatural cause or guidance. Of course, it can't go into a lot of detail, but people who practice science are said to be "on the right track."

I'm interested in hearing from all positions on the "Dawkins Scale" (from 1=entirely religious to 7=entirely atheistic), with particular attention to: What conclusions do you make, given this new evidence/revelation? Do you accept it, reject it, or await/pursue further information? What leads you to choose the course that you think you would take? Which of the two outcomes would you be most comfortable with?

You may elaborate or even substitute the outcomes if you like, but I'll reserve the right to declare some diversions off-topic. For example, if you happen to be Roman Catholic, you could consider the religion in scenario A to be, say, Buddhism or Mormonism (or you could explore both cases), whichever you think would make the most interesting discussion from your perspective. But in any case, please consider (and respond to) both A and B.

(Moderators: I'm not sure where to put this... either "Miscellaneous Topics" or "Faith and Belief"; probably the latter is more likely, since I don't expect this to depend much on real evidence.)


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by tuffers, posted 10-05-2009 5:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 4 by Kitsune, posted 10-05-2009 5:55 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 5 by Larni, posted 10-05-2009 6:21 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 6 by Izanagi, posted 10-05-2009 6:30 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 7 by Stile, posted 10-05-2009 12:36 PM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 8 by lyx2no, posted 10-05-2009 3:05 PM Otto Tellick has not yet responded
 Message 9 by Perdition, posted 10-05-2009 5:44 PM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3912
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 9 (528167)
10-05-2009 1:31 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum

  
tuffers
Member (Idle past 3657 days)
Posts: 92
From: Norwich, UK
Joined: 07-20-2009


Message 3 of 9 (528189)
10-05-2009 5:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Hi Otto

I would rate myself about 6.9 on the Dawkins Scale.

My reaction to either scenario would be to consider it was fixed in some kind of way, however much an investigation would fail to find any link between the 200 individuals. I think a much more fool-proof scenario would be required to be convincing.

Even if I were convinced that scenario "A" was genuine (in the respect that the individuals were not linked in any way), it would be very provoking, but I still don't think I'd accept it as proof of the religion's "truth". Again, I think there would be much more convincing ways of demonstrating a religion's "truth", and I think any highly capable and intelligent supernatural god or whatever could come up with something better than your hypothetical scenario (or, indeed, something better than any other "evidence" than has ever been submitted for a supernatural entity).

I really don't think a lot of these hypothetical "what ifs ...". One esteemed member said the other day, "What if we found Noah's Ark?" as if that in some way was an argument for the existence of God. Saying "what if" doesn't in any way increase the likelihood of something happening or being true.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2681 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 4 of 9 (528193)
10-05-2009 5:55 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Hi Otto Tellick, thought I'd throw in my two cents. I'd describe myself as probably 60/40 agnostic, in favour of the existence of the divine; the way I would define that is not really relevant here I think.

quote:
Within the span of a single night, let's say that 200 people (men and women), who are literate and native speakers of, say, 10 different languages, all wake up with a compulsion to write down some statements that have come into their heads, and send this piece of writing to the New York Times. On receiving these 200 letters, folks at the Times immediately notice the diversity of sources but a consistency of content.

As a skeptic, I'd say that this would have to be carefully investigated in order to rule out the possibility of ordinary means, which is always how an investigation of the paranormal should be approached. It has to be said that while I find it difficult to envision what these could be, given the circumstances you describe, I think it's more likely that this would never be a news story in the first place. I imagine what would happen to our impoverished person living in a hut on the edge of the desert somewhere would be that her family would tell her to stop talking nonsense and that would be the end of that. Who are these 200 speakers of different 10 languages all sending their note to the New York Times? That in itself seems odd to me.

You're making me think about the visions of Devil's Tower in "Close Encounters," LOL.

Anyway . . . let's say that the story does come to light, it's been investigated as thoroughly as possible, and we're still left with the possibility that the message could have a paranormal or supernatural origin. There's the problem of establishing that the message is actually from God. This could be a form of telepathy, where the message itself isn't necessarily true, but these people have picked up on it somehow through telepathic means. Or the message could conceivably have come from some entity impersonating God. You'd have to establish that this was the real deal, though how you'd do that is beyond me.

Let's say we've overcome those particular hurdles. I'd look at what the message is saying. It's not contradicting anything we already know about how reality works. Its logic seems pretty compelling. I'd probably file it away in my brain as an interesting possibility that might provide me with some good guidance in life, but I wouldn't experience any kind of Pauline conversion because I'd want more evidence. I wouldn't make major decisions based on it. That's how I felt after I read Conversations With God.

Interesting that we've already had an atheist here who has said,

quote:
My reaction to either scenario would be to consider it was fixed in some kind of way, however much an investigation would fail to find any link between the 200 individuals.

Many self-styled skeptics who investigate paranormal claims say similar things. If there's no evidence that a particular study which got positive results was bogus, badly designed, flawed, etc, then they will still go off believing that something was wrong somewhere but it's just been missed, and maybe it will come to light at some point.

There's a thread about this that you might like to have a look at: Pseudoskepticism and logic. The premise there is that negative claims require evidence just as positive claims do. You might try taking that tack with people who say to your example, "I would think it extremely unlikely to be true" without giving logical reasons why.

(added in edit)
Yeah, aliens . . . Why is it that my favourite films as a child were the Star Wars ones and I keep forgetting about aliens-?

Edited by LindaLou, : No reason given.

Edited by LindaLou, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Larni
Member
Posts: 3990
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 5 of 9 (528196)
10-05-2009 6:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


I'm interested in hearing from all positions on the "Dawkins Scale" (from 1=entirely religious to 7=entirely atheistic), with particular attention to: What conclusions do you make, given this new evidence/revelation? Do you accept it, reject it, or await/pursue further information? What leads you to choose the course that you think you would take? Which of the two outcomes would you be most comfortable with?

On the Dawkins scale I'm about 6.5.

What I would be thinking about is what is the motivation for this message? It seems to me that with either A or B accepting what the message says as factual is jumping to a conclusion.

What does the author gain from such a round about way of making it's point.

Why not implant the information into every ones brain?

For the message to say that there is no gods would beg the question why bother to give out this information and why should we believe the author of the message has the knowledge required to say there are no gods.

On the other paw, if one particular religion is correct we still have the issue of not having any evidence that the author of the message has the knowledge required to say the religion in question is real.

To sum up I would be looking for evidence that the author of the message had the evidence to back up the assertion of either A or B: implanting a message in 200 peoples mind is a neat trick but does it provide evidence for the knowledge of which (if any religion is correct? I think not).

Basically I'd would want the author to 'prove it' and in terms of the author 'proving' there are no gods; good luck with proving a negative.

My position would be one of extreme scepticism about the motives of the author and the ability of the author to evidence his assertions.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Izanagi
Member (Idle past 3597 days)
Posts: 263
Joined: 09-15-2009


Message 6 of 9 (528200)
10-05-2009 6:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Why a supernatural entity and not an alien one?
I think I consider myself a 3 or 4 on the Dawkins Scale, spiritual in my belief of God, but not fanatically so. I like this thought experiment, but I do have one question: Can it be determined that the message isn't of an alien origin? I know that technology can do things that may seem supernatural at first but has a natural explanation. For instance, perhaps the aliens used a device that manipulated the brain waves of those 200 individuals to write down those statements.

If not, I would argue for an alien origin before arguing for a supernatural origin.

If so, I would have to say that point A wouldn't bother me so much since even though I do consider myself Christian, I might best be described as Christian light as I am willing to consider the ideas of other religions.

There is one circumstance that would make a difference. It's like when Lisa Jr. asked Homer which was the one true faith and Homer replied

quote:
Well, not the Unitarians. If that's the one true faith, I'll eat my hat.

I would have to say that if the right religion is one that deals in pain and suffering, I'll eat my hat.

Point B wouldn't affect me much either simply because my religious beliefs are just standards for which I can try to become a better person. Beyond that, I try not to use my beliefs to explain the natural world. I let science do that.

Wow, I am quite boring when it comes to religion...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 3873
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.3


Message 7 of 9 (528269)
10-05-2009 12:36 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Main point?
Otto Tellick writes:

The statements on this page originate not from the person who is putting these words to paper, but from an entity that is using 200 people in this manner in order to make it clear and irrefutable that these statements were not invented by any human.

I think people are having a problem with your 200-person scenario being equated to being irrefutably not-invented by any human. It's just not very intuitive that such is the case.

That confusion is causing a lot of folks to pick on your 200-person scenario when that's probably not what you intended... I think? Unless you wanted to discuss that aspect of the scenario... in which case I think Larni has made an excellent response and I fully agree with him.

Anyway, I'm going to assume you meant "what if we find clear and irrefutable evidence that only points towards a specific creator." And I'm going to kind of ignore the whole 200-person part of it.

So, I'm an atheist (6 on the Dawkins scale? I don't really like scales...), but if I ever came accross clear and irrefutable evidence that only pointed towards a specific religion being more-or-less correct, then I would start investigating that religion so that I could understand how our world was. My hopes would be to understand which parts were more-correct, and which were less-correct. My goal would be an honest understanding of how our universe is.

What I'm generally trying to say is that I'm not an atheist because I'm against religious ideas.

I'm an atheist because I'm interested in the honest truth about our world, what we know and what we do not know. So far the truth doesn't point into any specific direction, which leaves me in a position of atheism. However, if that truth suddenly started pointing somewhere else, then that's where I'd go.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
lyx2no
Member (Idle past 3097 days)
Posts: 1277
From: A vast, undifferentiated plane.
Joined: 02-28-2008


(1)
Message 8 of 9 (528286)
10-05-2009 3:05 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Too Dim to Detect Real Magic
As Arther C. Clarke has said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I'd assume my own ignorance before I'd assume magic.


It's not the man that knows the most that has the most to say.
— Anon

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Perdition
Member (Idle past 1618 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 9 of 9 (528305)
10-05-2009 5:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Otto Tellick
10-05-2009 1:23 AM


Much as Stile has said, I'm going to ignore the 200 people message to NYT part. As others have said, in this day and age, this would be too possible to fake, and the method leaves a lot lacking as far as "proof" goes. I'm a 6...maybe 6.5 on Dawkins' scale.

However, if we were given some irrefutable evidence that religion A was "closest to the truth," I'd try to figure out what that religion got right and what keeps it from being "truth." Seeing as how this would lead to even more disputes and end up with schisms, I'd probably end up going with the most parsimonious flavor of that religion; as close to a noninterfering deistic type model as is possible given the message.

As for scenario B, if we received irrefutable evidence that no religions are right and science is the closest to truth, then I'd probably yawn and roll back over and sleep for a few more hours before proudly procaliming my logical faculties here and to others, but seeing as I already believe this, it wouldn't impact me much, besides being overjoyed at finally ending this whole debate and letting us all get on with the deciphering and discovering this amazing, natural world we have and extending our sight to space.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Otto Tellick, posted 10-05-2009 1:23 AM Otto Tellick has not yet responded

  
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:


Copyright 2001-2018 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.0 Beta
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2020