Register | Sign In

Understanding through Discussion

EvC Forum active members: 51 (9179 total)
5 online now:
Newest Member: Jorge Parker
Post Volume: Total: 918,178 Year: 5,435/9,624 Month: 460/323 Week: 100/204 Day: 0/16 Hour: 0/1

Thread  Details

Email This Thread
Newer Topic | Older Topic
Author Topic:   Immaterial "Evidence"
Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 46 of 154 (521441)
08-27-2009 1:31 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by New Cat's Eye
08-22-2009 7:17 PM

Strange but sincere
And frankly, I think its the people who bring up the IPU that are the ones who are trying to "rebrand evidence".
Is it possible that someone, somewhere, some day, might have a religious experience that for some reason they see through an IPU lens? Or, if that doesn't sit well - do you concede that it is possible someone could be deluded into thinking they have had a religious experience regarding the IPU?
Or, if you prefer, some strange empirically undetectable entity/deity that as of today nobody seriously believes exists?
I can't see how you can say no.
The question is - what would your belief be regarding this entity? Would you
a) not hold the belief that it exists.
b) Think there was a reasonable chance that it exists.
c) believe with equal sincerity that it does exist.
d) believe that it definitely doesn't exist.
e) something else.
Now I appreciate that one person might say 'I cannot know if the entity exists so e)' to which I ask, "yes, but do you hold the belief that it does?"
The IPU is just a placeholder for such an entity, and various others have been thought up. Let us consider a person who looks deep into a fire and comes to a sudden understanding about why the neighbour's barn burned down, the experience is profound and life changing. The person knows with utter conviction that within the fire is a spirit who must be placated with sacrifices of porridge. Failure to do so makes the spirit grow restless and likely to play a prank. To the spirit it is just fun and games but the prank involves burning down a barn by causing sparks to fly out onto dry straw - possibly even killing those that are working within the barn. This invisible spirit has a long beard (possibly made of brass or moss) and laughs like a dog.
Or how about the revelation that a spirit/woman lives behind the stove who comes out at night and spins around and looks after the chicken and if the house isn't well kept she'll also tickle the children in bed who can only be appeased by washing ones pots and pans in tea. Other than exceptional circumstances only those that are about to die can see her and she can be recognized by her chicken feet (and that she is spinning).
Or maybe a shapeshifting water spirit, that takes the form of an old man with a green beard, or a mossy fish or a flying tree trunk. A spirit that drags people under water and drowns them, but can be placated by fishermen by throwing some tobacco into the water to be rewarded with a fish in return. Butter works too - as does the throwing back the first fish you catch. But don't retrieve the bodies of the drowned because that will anger him.
Now - without hunting around can you tell which of these entities are made up and which have been (or still are) geniunely believed in?
They are all equally evidenced, are they not? And I'm sure we could think up similar types of entity that nobody yet believes in but one day they might.
So - and this isn't solely directed at you Catholic Scientist - but how do we discriminate between which entities are true and which ones are 'silly' or 'ludicrous' or otherwise IPUish?
If you decide that any of the entities described, including those yet to be experienced, are ones that you do not believe are real entities - why do you hold that the entity that you have experienced is any more beliefworthy? Is it because you personally have experienced them and your own experience is more beliefworthy than other people's experiences? What if you had a second experience that was contradictory to your first? Would you abandon the first? If so, can you not conceive that it is possible you could have such an experience?
...people are being honest and simply trying to make sense of their real experiences by discussing them along side ways that are more reliable...
I appreciate that people are being honest and are honestly trying to make sense of things - but with all the data out there about how many varied and surreal religious experiences there are - why have any confidence in your own? Do you think you are specially privileged? Or maybe you are feeling safety in numbers? 33% of living humans believe approximately similar things to you, 60% maybe believe broadly along the same lines and a good number of them have probably had religious experiences. Is that it? Your experiences are more trustworthy because they are reinforced by the majority?
Or would you still believe the way you do even if nobody else remotely had a tiniest conception of 'god' and they all believed in elemental spirits and djinn and the like?
As I said CS, not all of that is specifically directed at you. A broad braindump regarding those who accept the kind of 'revelatory' form of evidence under discussion and who think that the IPU is intrinsically absurd. I really do wonder what they make of some of the strange, but sincere, beliefs that are floating around to this day in humanity's consciousness.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by New Cat's Eye, posted 08-22-2009 7:17 PM New Cat's Eye has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 51 by Kitsune, posted 09-01-2009 9:32 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 59 of 154 (522171)
09-01-2009 4:05 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by Kitsune
09-01-2009 9:32 AM

Re: Strange but sincere
Hi Modulous,
It's been an interesting experience reading this thread, and there are many thought-provoking posts here. It was difficult to pick one to reply to. I had been hoping to continue discussing with you in the faith/delusion thread so here goes.
Hey, good to see you again, nice response.
First of all, since it is one individual claiming they have experienced the IPU (and no photographs or videos), then it is obvious that all the rest of us cannot validate that experience empirically.
Does anyone else claim to have seen the IPU? No.
Is belief in the IPU part of a mainstream religion? No. (Consensus gentium is obviously not infallible but sometimes it can be an indicator of truth; it needs to be considered along with other pieces of evidence.)
OK, fair enough. But a large number of beliefs have been outside the mainstream at their origin, and many different religions have been 'mainstream' and are no more. Consensus Gentium is useful, but its limits have to be acknowledged and it shouldn't be used beyond those limits. 'Everyone' used to know that time ticks the same for everyone under any circumstances. 'Everyone' used to know the earth was at the centre of the cosmos. To me such a method is herd mentality - follow the crowd it has its own wisdom. This might have been a great tool to unify a group of primates - but it seems it is only 'useful' not necessarily a good way to gain confidence in the truth of a proposition.
Had the viewer been taking drugs or anything else that would alter normal consciousness?
I'm geniunely curious as to how an affirmative would influence your decision as to the reliability of the testimony.
Could the IPU have been a mirage, or could the viewer be otherwise mistaken about what they thought they really saw?
Could the viewer be lying for some reason? Maybe hoaxing?
Always a possibility, and thus always a good thing to consider in testimonies of religious visions.
To be clear, I wasn't referring solely to 'visions' or even auditory sensations.
What was the nature of the vision? Was it silent, radiating peace? Or perhaps it told the viewer to pull his clothes off and run naked through the streets? The former has often been reported as a characteristic of religious experience; the latter seems to be more an indicator of mental instability.
Sounds like prejudice to me. Some religions have spontaneous acts such as stripping naked, thrashing oneself, making crazy noises, jumping around, rolling around or speaking gibberish as part of their religious experiences.
How has the viewer reacted to the experience? Does it seem to have been a positive influence on their life? Or has it, for example, led them to commit acts of violence? I said in the faith/delusion thread that the vast majority of people belonging to a religion believe in a deity that is peaceful and loving. I suppose it's conceivable that the IPU was a malevolent entity bent on getting people to do its will but I personally find it difficult to see any easy way of telling this apart from mental illness.
I'm not sure how you'd count the experience as being positive as being indicative of truth. I understand that in order to brand something as being a mental illness we'd generally look to whether the subject was disturbed or upset by the experience. But just because they aren't mentally ill, doesn't mean their experience means what they think it means - surely?
After thorough investigation, we may be no closer to establishing the validity of such a vision. Then what? Several here have expressed doubt that it is possible to separate genuine religious experience from delusion. But no one has asked why that seems to be so very necessary.
Well, we can skip 'delusion' and just stipulate that the options are that the religious experience correctly interpreted by the subject or it isn't. It might be a temporary aberration of the brain (a not necessarily unpleasant, but non-normal brain event), but they might interpret it as being sent from a being that doesn't exist.
Let's say that a psychologist has established that the viewer of the IPU is perfectly sane. They lead an ordinary life and were not expecting to have such an experience. It has not since been repeated. The vision was peaceful and reassuring somehow, though it did not speak. It most certainly did not give instructions to carry out harmful acts. In the viewer's mind, this will forever be a strange but real experience.
Why is it so vital for some to draw a definitive line between what we perceive to be real and fantasy? If as above, there are no negative consequences to adopting a faith that something is real, then why is this such a bad thing?
I'm not currently making a value judgement on a person's quality of life. Just whether there is evidence that can discriminate a brain 'illusion'/glitch/fatigue/epilepsy/tumour/whatever. The value judgement is whether or not the method others use to determine the existence of supernatural or such entities is sound or unsupportable.
You seem to be conceding that one cannot be sure if someone has experienced a geniune religious experience, and by extension that you have had a geniune one. By geniune I mean one actually that is the result of a supernatural/spiritual entity of some kind.
I'd like to add that empiricism puts limits on what we can allow subjective evidence to tell us. We know that the earth cannot be 6,000 years old. We know there was never a worldwide flood. It also seems pretty clear that there are no personified deities living in the sky, hurling thunderbolts or otherwise smiting the wicked; nor do they shout commandments down at us in booming voices. I personally look for the commonality in all religions and religious experiences and view that as some indicator of what the truth might really be. This is of course opposed to Straggler's claims that this commonality is simply a sign of humanity's tendency to make things up.
You seem to have already concluded that the truth, whatever it might really be is not a sign of humanity's tendency to make things up (or readily believe comforting stories made up by others (or even more readily believe the stories, comforting or otherwise, that you are taught about by other members of society (parents, friends, books etc)).
By readily discounting that the commonality might be down to a common neurology / culture, you've discounted a researchable (and researched) avenue of learning what the truth might really be. For tens of thousands of years humanity has followed the pattern of thinking these cultural ideas mixed with a numinous experience are indicative of there really being spirits and gods. For only a handful of centuries has there been a serious grouping of people seriously looking into the possibility that instead of what humanity has for so long thought, the truth might really be something else.
I agree - that commonality is indicative of truth, but I'm not so quick to dismiss one possibility. Especially when that possibility is something that can be investigated and comes up with testable/verifiable ideas as to the truth. The other possibility seems to be to say 'I don't know what it is, but it definitely isn't the answer the closed-minded physicalists would have us think, except in some cases - but I don't know which.'.

Let's say that out of 100 people, 99 of them are mistaken about the objective truth of a religious experience. That leaves one with a genuine experience. You could use whatever numbers you want: one in 1000, one in a million. That one genuine experience could possibly lead us to new truths.
So how do you intend to weed through the false, and find which one is geniune? How can you safeguard against going down pointless, perhaps even retarding blind alleys? What is your method if
empiricism is a poor investigative tool where religious faith is concerned
Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 51 by Kitsune, posted 09-01-2009 9:32 AM Kitsune has not replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 92 of 154 (522925)
09-06-2009 12:32 PM

The magic organ between the ears
Human bodies have organs.
A fact I think, we can all agree on.
If I have a stomach ache, I feel something nobody else feels. It cannot be empirically tested that it aches. It can be empirically supported that signals are going to the brain which are consistent with pain - but the experience itself is unobtainable to science.
However, if I have a stomach ache, I can usually pin it down thusly:
1) Something I ate.
2) Some bacterial or viral invasion.
3) Acid reflux
4) Something else
Normally, unless there were some extraordinary circumstance I would not associate this private experience being caused by an immaterial entity or even a material entity whose influence cannot be detected conventionally (or it can but those who are capable are unwilling). So if I said demons were causing my stomachache, or a secret government agency, I'd be met with very high levels of scepticism.
Likewise, if my stomach felt warm and comforting and I associated this not with having a good meal and fine wine but with the benevolent influence of otherwise undetectable fairies (that is, they can only be detected by the positive influence they exhibit upon the stomach) - people might think my ideas are 'harmless' but they'd still be (quite rightly) sceptical.
This is true of any organ in the body. Strange occurances with the heart, even pleasant experiences, are generally associated (upon reflection at least) with physical causes. If they are suitably unusual one might even recommend seeking medical attention just to be sure.
The commonality of stomach aches, satisfied appetites, and chest pains is very rarely cited as evidence for immaterial entities, but rather as evidence for a common anatomy and common physical things that can affect them.
However, if an unusual experience occurs within the brain, it is not unusual for people to associate that experience as being indicative of a magical, immaterial or otherwise 'publically' undetectable entity. It is almost always associated with an entity that is commonly believed by the culture of the person involved. Instead of thinking that the commonality of these experiences is due to a commonality of brain anatomy and associated physical causations, many people take that commonality to mean that there is 'something out there' causing it. Many even go so far as to commit to defining certain characteristics to that 'something'.
Even though, in our age, we know that identical experiences can be replicated due to epilepsy, tumours, strokes, and other discoveries of neurotheology and associated knowledge of neuroscience and psychology - brains find it difficult to shake the conviction that it must 'mean something' as long as what it means is not disappointing.
The result is that a great number of people take 'but it could be something' open mindedness too far, but seemingly only when it comes to the magic organ between the ears.
Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.

Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by Straggler, posted 09-08-2009 7:40 PM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 96 of 154 (523209)
09-08-2009 9:29 PM
Reply to: Message 95 by Straggler
09-08-2009 7:40 PM

Re: The magic organ between the ears
So are you saying that "subjective evidence" as the basis of faith amounts to nothing more than a warm and fuzzy equivalent of a tummy ache for the mind? That we might as well make conclusions about the nature and existence of immaterial reality based on our internal gastric experiences?
It seems as good a method as any. If this god is meant to move in mysterious ways then what better way to detect it than my own mysterious movements... No wait, I've got it, If the brain is the seat of consciousness maybe the digestive system is the stool of the soul.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 95 by Straggler, posted 09-08-2009 7:40 PM Straggler has seen this message but not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 97 by Kitsune, posted 09-17-2009 3:21 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 107 of 154 (524534)
09-17-2009 10:57 AM
Reply to: Message 97 by Kitsune
09-17-2009 3:21 AM

tod und verzweiflung
Sorry I dropped out of the conversation a while back.
Please, don't feel the need to apologize. Anyone who is upset that someone might have other things to do with their life from time to time deserves to be upset
I've had some difficulties; these are the sorts of things that test whatever faith a person has.
I understand.
I think we're all agreed that we can't measure the divine by empirical means.
Do we also agree that this didn't have to be the case? It is a possibility that the divine could have allowed itself to be empirically testable.
Now you offer more empirical evidence - a man who didn't die because he heeded the warnings of an voice he believed he heard the day well as the voice that warned him seconds beforehand.
But you also concede it doesn't definitely give us an answer - it could be interpreted to mean many other things. This leads me to address a misunderstanding of your opponents:
For some that's the end of the matter: if it can't be detected in such a way, it doesn't exist. As I've expressed before, I believe this is a closed-minded approach.
I'm sure this is true of 'some', but I've not seen that view expressed commonly here. Neither Straggler nor I feel that the inability to detect something necessarily implies it doesn't exist unless the thing in question should be detectable.
However, you seem to think that the above is synonymous with
"I don't believe the divine exists because it cannot be measured by empirical means"
But they are quite different.
Think about being on a jury.
If the jury says "There is no evidence that this man committed the murder therefore he didn't do it." that is quite different from the jury saying "There is no evidence that this man committed the murder therefore we cannot convict him of the crime."
In the latter case, the jury isn't saying the man didn't commit murder whereas in the former case they are.
I'm not saying the supernatural/divine/etc doesn't exist, I'm just saying that there is no evidence that indicates it does with any degree of confidence whatsoever so I have no reason to believe that it does.
When the likes of Straggler and I say this, we get accused of saying that 'absence of evidence is evidence of absence', despite explicitly saying that we do not believe that there is (and in some cases that there can be) evidence of absence of certain entities. People also say 'but there is evidence', and this thread is about that evidence.
So, let's go to the murder case. Here is the evidence that X murdered Y:
Everybody in the village believes that X killed Y (ie., Consensus gentium)
This belief is based on a 'gut feeling' and intuition.
Somebody heard a voice that said that X killed Y.
We all agree that it is possible that X murdered Y - but we cannot convict them based on this evidence can we?
Straggler's position goes one step further. We also consider that X is a black man with no family in the village and that Y is a young white daughter of the mayor and that the village is insular and racist (in the 1890s in the US deep south, say).
It is possibly that my pen just fell off my desk because of goblins, fairies, elves, unicorns, gremlins etc etc. Or it could be that it was cylindrical and I knocked it with my elbow which is low on nerves so I didn't feel it. I see no reason to believe it was a gremlin, despite its possibility. That is different from holding the belief that gremlins definitely don't exist - which would be 'closed minded', though from a pragmatic point of view I am likely to say "Don't be silly, gremlins don't exist.", but that is just a convenient short-hand method of getting my point accross and not a complete epistemological statement of my position.
Is there any kind of evidence in favour of the supernatural that if we translated it into a murder case would result in you being comfortable with convicting someone of a serious crime?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 97 by Kitsune, posted 09-17-2009 3:21 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 108 by Kitsune, posted 09-17-2009 11:27 AM Modulous has replied
 Message 109 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-17-2009 11:30 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 112 of 154 (524551)
09-17-2009 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 108 by Kitsune
09-17-2009 11:27 AM

Re: tod und verzweiflung
I guess that depends on how one views the divine.
Exactly, it depends on our definitions. But it could have been the case that an entity we all agree is 'divine' could have been empirically detectable (such as a God wandering around a garden cursing and blessing people in tangible ways). Obviously - such a blatantly detectable divinity isn't around.
Lots of strong circumstantial evidence (logic).
Lots of eyewitness testimonies that have consilience (anecdote).
I also am against the death penalty; a wrong conviction can never be reversed.
I don't think we have these things for any supernatural entity. If everyone is giving evidence that a black man comitted the crime, but they disagreed as to the height, the clothes, the hair etc etc what then? At best we have a bunch of witnesses that claim that a black man gone done it. But then we're in a pickle - is this evidence of the racism of the villagers or is it evidence that a black person comitted the crime?
In this case we have the luxury at least, of being able to independently confirm that black people exist. But that's a complication for another time.
What's more, empirical evidence can sometimes be misleading. You might be one of the unlucky ones whose DNA matches that found at the scene of the crime when in reality it is not yours. Someone might do a good job of framing you, for example by planting evidence on you.
You know, most miscarriages of justice can be put down to faulty or malicious eyewitness testimony? Nevertheless, I'm not suggesting that empricism alone should be enough to convict someone. I'd hope to see multiple independent lines of evidence point to a single person (fingerprints + DNA + motive + oppurtunity + matching clothing fragments + blood of victim on shoes + shoe treads matching etc etc).
I think you've clarified the point. But it's far, far more logical to conclude that you knocked your pen off the desk yourself. What if, instead, it seemed to fly on a strange trajectory, perhaps travelled too slowly or too quickly, and came to a dead stop when physics says it should have rolled on the floor? What if it seems to have appeared on your desk from nowhere and is slightly warm to the touch? What if you hear a zipping noise while you are bent over reading alone, and suddenly your pen hits you on the back of your head? I know this all sounds utterly ridiculous but these are the kinds of phenomena that have repeatedly been reported in poltergeist cases all over the world, for centuries. They happened to people I know. Though maybe this point won't mean anything to you if you are unwilling to admit the possibility that they could happen to anyone at all.
And I'm not saying that it is impossible that they are ghosts, though unfortunately they ghosts stubbornly refuse to show themselves in a fashion that lends to decent scientific study.
I've experienced this kind of thing, and friends and family have too. Indeed - given how many people have experienced this, one has to wonder why they only seem to occur when the ability to verify is low. Human memory is very frail and easily changed. Ever heard of the idea that a person has told a lie so often they believe it themselves? Well it turns out it is quite true, and more.
I'm not saying all these people are lying. If a person tells a story how they remember it, it is common for another person to ask questions about it...or for the person telling it to ask themselves those questions. If there is no definitive answer, humans are great at inventing an answer. It has been studied, observed and measured for decades that humans can supply details about a witnessed event that definitely did not happen.
There is an old party game where the victim is asked to leave the room while another person describes a dream they had and they will have to ask yes or no questions to try and get to the dream. When they have left the room the person explains to everyone else that there was no dream, and that every question that ends with a letter a-m the answer is "yes" and if the question ends with n-z the answer is "no" (or some other easily observed rule) as long as a new answer does not contradict an older one.
It is possible to construct interesting and amazing stories in this fashion. The human memory seems to be somewhat analagous to this. In asking questions, an answer is often created. This then becomes retrodicted into the memory and the rememberer is none the wiser for it having happened.
That is just one possibility, of course, and this is not particularly on topic. After all - what you propose is still empirical evidence. It is just not very solid evidence, and it could mean any number of different things.
Interesting subtitle, rather grim
Exploding manholes, near death experiences and felt fitting

This message is a reply to:
 Message 108 by Kitsune, posted 09-17-2009 11:27 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 124 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 11:05 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 115 of 154 (524555)
09-17-2009 1:08 PM
Reply to: Message 109 by New Cat's Eye
09-17-2009 11:30 AM

Re: tod und verzweiflung
Now, when the question is asked: "Did he do it?" (not 'can we convict him')
What is your answer? Yes, no, or I don't know?
Obviously, the answer is "I don't know". The confidence I have that he did it would be split between all the people that had an equal opportunity to commit the crime - so it would probably be fairly low.
Even with this extra evidence, when the question is asked: "Did he do it?"
What is your answer? Yes, no, or I don't know?
Still, it is "I don't know", but I'd be even more strongly inclined towards the view that it is even more likely he was a victim of fear and suspicion and nothing more. Indeed, if I was going to place a bet on the guilty party, I'd put the money on the mayor (since most murderers of females are related or are otherwise close friends with the victim).
Nope. And I don't know that god exists, but I think that he does.
But why do you think that he does? Is it because of some evidence?
Not convicting, but it could make me think that he did do it.
You might think someone murdered someone else just because a whole village has a 'gut feeling' that he did it and that one person even heard a voice saying that he did?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 109 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-17-2009 11:30 AM New Cat's Eye has not replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 125 of 154 (524748)
09-18-2009 11:15 AM
Reply to: Message 123 by New Cat's Eye
09-18-2009 10:58 AM

Re: degrees of acceptance
In my position atheism answers the question "Does god exits?" with "No."
If that 'no' is definite then there are probably about three atheists in the world, and I've met none of them.
If that 'no' is the same kind of 'no' you might hear if you asked someone "Do fairies/goblins/elves exist?' then I probably qualify. Obviously I can't say 100% that elves don't exist, but I am comfortable in not splitting hairs and saying 'no' for practical purposes.
However, according to your definition - Richard Dawkins is likely not an atheist. I'm fairly sure most people would be comfortable with the position that Dawkins is an atheist, so it might be that your definitions are a little off kilter.
Dawkins has a seven point scale which, copying from wiki looks like this:
1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'
2. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.'
3. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.'
4. Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'
5. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic but leaning towards atheism. 'I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'
6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.'
7. Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'
Iano is a 1, Dawkins, Straggler and myself are about a 6.
Dawkins says that he would be
surprised to meet many people in category 7
and that
I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden
He doesn't believe there are fairies there, or a God elsewhere. Neither do I. I think it is fair to say that anybody that does not believe that there is a god or fairies is an atheist and an afayist.
At the very least - you should probably keep it in mind that most people that are called atheists are agnostic in your view and that many people that are called theists are agnostic in your view.
Its just that I'm comfortable being irrational and allowing for faith to let me cross that line into theism
Then you join the ranks of Percy and we technically have no quarrel with you on this subject. There are some people on this board, that think there is evidence that rationally justifies crossing the line. This thread was meant to give them the opportunity to explain.
To quote Bertrand Russell
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods

This message is a reply to:
 Message 123 by New Cat's Eye, posted 09-18-2009 10:58 AM New Cat's Eye has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 127 by Hyroglyphx, posted 09-18-2009 11:29 AM Modulous has seen this message but not replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 126 of 154 (524750)
09-18-2009 11:27 AM
Reply to: Message 124 by Kitsune
09-18-2009 11:05 AM

commonality of causes....
Why not? The fact that so many people throughout time have been inclined to some sort of spiritual practice indicates to me that the spiritual might exist. I know that others here think that this can be explained by wishful thinking, wanting explanations for the unexplained, imagination, and so on. I don't deny that those factors exist but I think it's unlikely that they explain away every person's spirituality since the dawn of time.
I said that we do not have what you said you would accept for any supernatural entity. Can you tell me which supernatural entity about which everybody agrees on the properties?
I guess what I'm saying is that I think a large body of anecdotal information can point to the possibility of something legitimate.
I've not seen anybody advance the position that religious or other 'spooky' experiences are not possibly something legitimate.
The more anecdotes, and the more consilience between them, the likelier they are to be true (though of course that's no guarantee).
I think we should be careful. We certainly agree that they point to a common cause - but I don't think that, given other evidence, we can hold the position that they are particularly likely to be interpreted correctly by the subjects. If I went back in time and showed a primitive village an optical illusion which looks like it is in motion, but is not - they might all report that a man with a magic picture came to them.
That doesn't mean the picture is magic. It just means that they were all affected by a common cognitive shortcut.
So - the question is, is there any evidence that suggests that poltergeists, gods and so on are anything more than the results of common cognitive shortcuts and problems, that they are the result of a common experience of actual ghosts or gods?
I hold that the only thing we can be sure about, is that many people did have experiences that they geniunely believed were of ghosts or gods. One explanation is that some of them did. One explanation is that they were all victims of their own flawed brain. We have evidence that brains make significant and convincing errors. Do we have any evidence that ghosts or gods exist independently of these reports?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 124 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 11:05 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 133 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 3:52 PM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 134 of 154 (524790)
09-18-2009 5:15 PM
Reply to: Message 133 by Kitsune
09-18-2009 3:52 PM

Re: commonality of causes....
Some people will give lip service to this, while at the same time doggedly (or dogmatically) sticking to the belief that all alternative "rational" explanations must be correct. I've seen this with people like Robert Wiseman and Susan Blackmore, who seem simply unable to admit the possibility of genuine phenomena and so fall back on standard claims such as, "The methodology must be flawed somewhere," or the old argument from disbelief, which becomes a tautology: "That's just impossible." I'm not accusing anyone on this forum of thinking this way; just that sometimes it's easy for someone to say they're open to possibilities when perhaps if they're honest with themselves they aren't.
I can't speak for people I'm unfamiliar with and their reactions in contexts I am ignorant of. I can say that the quotes you attribute to them are not necessarily problematic.
I don't think this could be applied to my own theology, though you're welcome to pick my brains on this one. How do I say "Goddidit" about anything if I don't believe in a conscious god in the sky?
Have you ever had a feeling of warmth, elation, joy and 'oneness' that you attributed to some plane of existence or unseen entity? Have you ever seen something move and attributed it to unseen 'energies' or spirits? Have you ever returned to something and found it different than before and thought that some agent was responsible?
Have you ever spoken to someone who is dead, or otherwise absent as if they were there?
Have you ever held a belief purely because your parents or other authority figure told you it was true?
Have you ever thought about something, dreamed about it, and then had it happen and attributed it to something 'going on' behind the scenes?
I'm not sure how a cognitive shortcut would produce what sometimes are labelled as core phenomena, because they occur so often in these cases. I know personally of some that have happened and like the imaginary case of the misbehaving pen, they don't seem to make any sense. People find them odd, surprising, often annoying. But to be honest, I don't know what I could say that would convince anyone here even to admit, "We don't know." This was one of the first topics I discussed on EvC and I think we got to the point where I was told that no one could rationally consider believing me anyway because I'm just someone relating my experiences on a forum.
Neuroscience shows us many interesting results about the kind of shortcuts the mind takes. This includes erroneous perceptions of motion, a tendency to attribute agency to mysteries, a tendency to rewrite memory to conform with this attribution and to enquiries and investigation.
As a quick (somewhat trivial) example, a sizeable number of people, when asked, said that they remembered seeing the first plane hit the WTC building on television on September 11th. Various other memories surrounding the event were equally cloudy.
People have been asked to watch a video of an event and then answer questions about what they saw just minutes later and they remember details that simply weren't there to begin with and they are absolutely positive they saw them.
A good example might be so called UFO waves. When a town or other region has been primed by lots of media reports of UFO sightings, that tends to fuel more sightings. Here is one account:
He explained why to his wife and, a little
farther, they saw the light that then appeared to them as integrated in a vast dark and elongated unit, where they
could make out a tail and even ailerons. But the object speed was so slow that it could not be a plane. Finally, the
two witnesses who drove then very slowly decided to stop for better observing. The object, that revealed only a
greyish and fuzzy structure, as drowned in the fog, carried on moving slowly and noiselessly. The initial light
seemed now to be on the side of the structure and looked like a broad elongated picture window brightly lit from
inside. The driver somehow felt a presence behind this window. Under the structure, there was a flashing red
light. The driver’s initial anxiety, perhaps triggered by dreams full of flying saucers that it had made for ten years,
gave way to a peaceful feeling: it is only that, he thought. A painter with a higher education, he drew very
precisely what he had seen. His sighting, illustrated by his sketch, was published in SOBEPS magazine, where,
without the least hesitation, the investigator and the editors built a beautiful UFO case.
(From Renaud Leclet's "The Belgian UFO wave of 1989-1992 - a neglected hypothesis -")
He felt a 'presence', and 'peaceful feelings'. Here is what he drew:
A helicopter. The man was seemingly 'primed' into thinking 'alien space craft' rather than 'helicopter'.
Being able to identify which known cognitive flaws may be behind x or y is obviously difficult (because it is difficult to know which details the witness experienced at the time, and which are later retrodicted additions), but the fact remains that we have evidence of people jumping to extraordinary conclusions and making significant memory errors.
So we have evidence for one explanation behind these reports. Is there any evidence (as per this topic) to suspect that there might be something above and beyond this that is 'going on'?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 133 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 3:52 PM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 135 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 5:46 PM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 136 of 154 (524808)
09-19-2009 1:47 AM
Reply to: Message 135 by Kitsune
09-18-2009 5:46 PM

Re: commonality of causes....
Have you ever had a feeling of warmth, elation, joy and 'oneness' that you attributed to some plane of existence or unseen entity?
Not that I can remember. I've always thought it was different kinds of energy I was experiencing. Chi is everywhere.
Chi counts as an unseen entity.
You can remind me of all the ways the human mind can be flawed but I think we're going to end up disagreeing on where we each set our plausibility meters
You asked me how the cognitive flaws might be affecting your set of beliefs, so I answered.
Have you ever spoken to someone who is dead, or otherwise absent as if they were there?
No, but I know people who have.
Really? I do it all the time. It's not like I have conversations with them - but I do talk to them.
"It's a shame you missed this one Adam!"
"I guess you were right, Dad!".
Are examples of talking to the dead and the absent that I've engaged in.
Have you ever held a belief purely because your parents or other authority figure told you it was true?
If anyone did, does that invalidate the belief?
Whoever said anything about invalid beliefs? I certainly have held beliefs, and maybe still do, purely because by parents/guardians have told me it was so. But even scientists count. It's a cognitive shortcut, you trust someone else to do the mental work/have had the experience - rather than doubting and being sceptical of everything. It is a vital practice otherwise children would step out in front of trains and drink a lot more bleach to test if it really is lethal.
Have you ever thought about something, dreamed about it, and then had it happen and attributed it to something 'going on' behind the scenes?
Even so, as I've asked here before, how is any of this proof of the divine?
It doesn't prove, or disprove the divine. I said "It just means that they were all affected by a common cognitive shortcut." and you asked me,
"I don't think this could be applied to my own theology, though you're welcome to pick my brains on this one. "
So I went ahead and accepted your invite.
IMO these are phenomena that will eventually be accepted as real and normal.
They already are accepted as normal. The difference is that they aren't attributed to anything 'spooky' by psychologists or neuroscientists or the like. I dream and think about a heck of a lot of things. Most of the time the dreams and thoughts only match the future in general ways, occasionally there will be a match that is a little more than general but it is rare. However, having a brain that loves to pattern match, the times when a dream or thought has matched to the future is given much more significance in my mind than those times when they don't.
For the account you gave, no. Not all UFO sightings are as easy to explain as this, though it has to be said I have little knowledge of this area.
Of course not - some are easier, some are harder. There were plenty of other examples of helicopter identifications and the document I linked to. That wasn't the point I was making though. The person who witnessed the event felt a 'presence' and suddenly 'at peace'. It would appear that both he and the UFO investigators that interviewed him, having been primed to think alien spaceships, truly and sincerely believed that was what was going on.
The rational mind would logically deduce, no doubt, that since many cases have normal explanations, then they all do; and the unsolved ones simply don't present enough evidence to be rubber-stamped to that effect. I've simply been saying all along that I'm not convinced that we ought to be rationalising all of these things away because we could be missing something.
Maybe so, but we have evidence that people make catastrophic mistakes. People mistake flares, weather balloons, bolides, Venus, the moon, street lights, helicopters, planes and clouds for alien spaceships time and time again. Indeed, in proven cases of hoaxes 'experts' have come forward (air traffic controllers and pilots are favourites) and said "It's definitely not a flare" only for the hoaxters to release a video of them setting up their flares.
I think we're getting off topic again here, though. I don't believe that UFOs are evidence of the divine and I'm not aware of anyone who does. I don't think poltergeists, ghosts, telepathy, or precognition are either, necessarily. If the reality of all of these things were proved, I don't know that we'd be any closer to finding God.
The thread is about immaterial evidence. I am merely explaining the case as to why the kinds of evidence for immaterial entities you have proposed as avenues to explore is unreliable and problematic. I have evidence over here showing that humans can and do make big mistakes in the kinds of areas under discussion. I can show that they are practically hard wired to make certain kinds of mistakes and that these can be repeated, and tested and thus verified. So I can verify with good confidence that things exist that can serve as potential explanations for these kinds of events.
Now, the counter explanation is that some of the underlying phenomena are gods, aliens, chi, ghosts or whatever. Can you verify with any confidence at all that the things you are proposing to explain these phenomena exists beyond the beliefs of those that experience them?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 135 by Kitsune, posted 09-18-2009 5:46 PM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 137 by Kitsune, posted 09-19-2009 2:27 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 140 of 154 (524974)
09-20-2009 6:49 PM
Reply to: Message 137 by Kitsune
09-19-2009 2:27 AM

Re: commonality of causes....
It depends on what you mean by "verify with any confidence." When we have reached the limits of empiricism, and no new evidence appears forthcoming? Difficult question. I'm still not satisfied with, "We know that the human mind is fallible, therefore every single one of these phenomena are due to the fallible human mind." I think it's too all-encompassing.
I'm not suggesting we do that. I am simply saying that when we are using error-prone recording equipment we should not jump to conclusions if we see a lot of errors. The fact that there are a lot of similar looking glitches being reported can't really be used as evidence that there is something going on. Preferably we would want a completely different kind of recording equipment available with different kinds of glitches so that we can compare the two and filter out as best we can what is and what is not.
Plus, however gently people insist that this is always the rational stance to take, it is insulting to myself and others who believe we have had genuine experiences
If I believed my experiences were due to spiritual energies I wouldn't take it personally. It's not like I'm denying that you had a strange experience.
I'm just saying that we have evidence that these kinds of strange experiences can occur due to the way all of our brains are wired up and that though it is compelling to believe they are geniune - it might be wise to be more sceptical about it (pending corroborating and independent types of evidence) lest we come to believe in an illusion (a Maya as the Hindus would call it) which might have a negative affect on our ability to make sound decisions.
Bless, we really want to believe but sadly we're deluded, aren't we?
Without independent evidence, how can we know?
I'm sensitive to energy and I've felt chi, though I have a feeling no one here would believe it because it's likely I'm making it all up even if I think I'm not.
I have had a number of experiences that I have referred to as the workings of chi before now. I did not make that up any more than you did. I have experienced channelling chi, opening another's chakras and pulling out negative 'tangled' energy and have even seen chi. None of that is made up.
The fact that chi is as real to Eastern philosophy and religion as the sunlight on the grass makes no difference because it's mass delusion, right?
Not all eastern philosophies and religion. But it does make a difference: It means that there is likely a commonality of cause for this belief. This fact alone does not weigh in one direction or another as to its explanation. It could be that the cause is that chi is a real independent thing. It could be that deeply rooted cultural ideas combined with the cognitive shortcuts effect might lead to it being believed.
Only the latter has any independent evidence confirming it might be true (in that it requires only entities that have been observed and tested).
It's been interesting thinking about all of these things but I suspect I will walk away from this discussion feeling the same as I always do -- that this was an intriguing but otherwise somewhat frustrating and pointless exercise.
A lot of the time, you seem to ascribe to me a stronger hard-line position than I am actually taking.
Ultimately, all I am saying is that the proposed evidence that 'lots of people have reported experiencing something similar' isn't really evidence of the entities being real. It is evidence that there is some commonality (or commonalities) of cause. We know what some of these causes are with reasonable confidence because they have been tested. There maybe other causes that we have yet to confirm. We could propose an infinite number of different entities that might explain the reported experience - but without an independent test of existence or for the ability for it to be a cause, why think any of them are a cause?
We could say it is the holy spirit or chi or love or healing energies, the rosy fingers of the daughter of dawn or secret undetectable poison administered by the CIA by skin contact... it doesn't matter.
Some causes may be undiscovered by science, they probably are. It seems premature to speculate with any confidence on what those other causes actually are if we have no hope of testing that hypothesis.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 137 by Kitsune, posted 09-19-2009 2:27 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 150 by Kitsune, posted 09-25-2009 5:47 AM Modulous has replied

Member (Idle past 96 days)
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

Message 151 of 154 (525885)
09-25-2009 6:38 AM
Reply to: Message 150 by Kitsune
09-25-2009 5:47 AM

Re: commonality of causes....
I think I'm fairly certain about what I do believe. I believe in a metaphysical philosophy similar to Buddhism. I believe in spirits and unseen but palpable energies. I believe certain things about what the mind and consciousness are capable of. I believe that some paranormal phenomena are real and normal, and able to be investigated scientifically if it's gone about in the right way. I believe in synchronicity, and possibly in some kind of fate or destiny.
Thanks for the update LindaLou. Here's to hoping whatever ails you is identified and resolved before too long (aka get well soon!). If you know of any evidence, immaterial or otherwise, that the things you believe in are something above and beyond what is going on in your mind then by all means bring it here. If you find some later I hope you'll share it.
I guess we'll meet in another thread sometime.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 150 by Kitsune, posted 09-25-2009 5:47 AM Kitsune has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 152 by Kitsune, posted 09-25-2009 7:45 AM Modulous has seen this message but not replied

Newer Topic | Older Topic
Jump to:

Copyright 2001-2023 by EvC Forum, All Rights Reserved

™ Version 4.2
Innovative software from Qwixotic © 2024