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Author Topic:   Immaterial "Evidence"
Straggler
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Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


(1)
Message 1 of 154 (516669)
07-26-2009 5:40 PM


Why The
Immaterial evidence. Non-empirical evidence. Call it whatever you will. Can any entity that is completely and inherently immune from detection by means of our five empirical material senses, or related scientific instruments of physical detection, possibly be considered to be evidenced by personal experience?

Is it possible for immaterial entities or beings to be evidenced as aspects of reality external to the mind by personal experience?

http://www.yourdictionary.com/immaterial writes:

im·ma·teri·al (im′ə tir′ē əl)
adjective

  • not consisting of matter; incorporeal; spiritual
  • http://www.yourdictionary.com/incorporeal writes:

    in·cor·po·real (in′kôr pôr′ē əl)
    adjective

  • not consisting of matter; without material body or substance
  • of spirits or angels
  • I say no. I say this on the basis of the following:

    1) How? If a concept inherently cannot be detected by our empirical senses then how can any "experience" relating to such a concept be anything but internal to the mind? A sixth sense?

    2) What is evidence? If a form of "evidence" cannot ever be shown to lead to results that are superior to just guessing then how can this form of "evidence" be deemed worthy of the term?

    Once the beguiling terminology and various conflations have been cast aside most theistic positions that claim an evidential basis for the object of belief ultimately boil down to a dependence on "immaterial evidence". Does the concept have any value at all? Or is it just an exercise in confirmation bias whereby those who believe in immaterial beings manage to convince themselves that the object of their belief can be, and therefore is, evidenced by means of personal experience?

    If promoted then "Is It Science" is the obvious place for this.
    This thread is being proposed as a result of RAZD's response Message 393 in the "Is My Hypothesis Valid" thread. In this post RAZD strongly indicates that immaterial entities undetectable by empirical means can indeed be somehow evidenced by "subjective evidence". I want to find out exactly what is meant by this.

    For months RAZD has trumpeted the value of personal experience ("subjective evidence" as he calls it) as a means of evidence. I challenge him to justify this with specific regard to immaterial entities that are unable to be detected by means of empirical material sensory perception. Aliens, Nessie, Bigfoot, gravity, G forces, cats crossing roads and any other such material concepts are "off-topic". As are any creationist style claims that gods are empirically evidenced by geology, the balance of physical constants or whatever else. Personal experiences. Immaterial entities. Only.

    FAITH: NOT INTERESTED AND OFF TOPIC
    Finally let me make it absolutely clear that this thread is not about personal faith. I have no desire to discuss the personal faith based beliefs of others and no desire whatsoever to convince deists/theists that they should be atheists.

    I simply want to know whether or not there is any rational reason for me to consider the actual existence of some immaterial entities as more likley than others. And yes, in case it isn't obvious, that does include using our dear old friend the "Immaterial Pink Unicorn" (IPU) as a point of comparison.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : Add faith qualifier to avoid confusion and eliminate that misconception.

    Edited by Admin, : Fix non-printing unicode characters. Minor grammar fix. Major edit to 2nd to last paragraph.


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    Admin
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    Message 2 of 154 (516679)
    07-26-2009 7:19 PM


    I'm going to suggest an interlude. I'll close this now, but if you're still interested after a couple weeks then please request reconsideration at the Topic Proposal Issues thread.


    --Percy
    EvC Forum Director

        
    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 3 of 154 (519165)
    08-12-2009 6:33 AM


    Editing completed.

    Over to you for final consideration.


      
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    Message 4 of 154 (519178)
    08-12-2009 7:41 AM


    Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
    Thread copied here from the Immaterial "Evidence" thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
        
    Stile
    Member
    Posts: 3501
    From: Ontario, Canada
    Joined: 12-02-2004
    Member Rating: 4.2


    Message 5 of 154 (519211)
    08-12-2009 11:46 AM
    Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
    07-26-2009 5:40 PM


    Subjective Evidence - Oxymoron
    Straggler writes:

    I say no. I say this on the basis of the following:

    1) How? If a concept inherently cannot be detected by our empirical senses then how can any "experience" relating to such a concept be anything but internal to the mind? A sixth sense?

    2) What is evidence? If a form of "evidence" cannot ever be shown to lead to results that are superior to just guessing then how can this form of "evidence" be deemed worthy of the term?

    I agree. Especially with point number 2.

    Evidence, at it's most basic level, are facts about reality.

    In bird watching, one may very well personally and individually witness a rare bird in a region where it's not generally present.

    Is this evidence? No. We are people, we can be mistaken, and we don't remember or know everything.
    At worst, the evidence is "I think I saw something interesting." The sighting may have been so far away that it wasn't even a bird, perhaps it was a bat, or a leaf.
    At best, the evidence is "I think I saw a bird which closely resembles (insert rare bird name here)."

    Is this a reason for other equally avian-passionate searchers to basically overwhelm the area looking for duplicate sightings?
    Of course it is.

    Of course, my pure imagination (if presented in the right way) is also a reason for other equally avian-passionate searchers to start combing a certain area. This then becomes a level of trust of the individual, evidence does not require trust by any means.

    Evidence never requires trust. Conclusions drawn from evidence do, but not evidence itself. Subjectivity always requires trust, therefore "subjective evidence" doesn't exist as the two terms are opposites.

    Subjective reasons for looking for evidence certainly exist, there are plenty. But not subjective evidence.


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 1 by Straggler, posted 07-26-2009 5:40 PM Straggler has responded

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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 6 of 154 (519220)
    08-12-2009 12:24 PM
    Reply to: Message 5 by Stile
    08-12-2009 11:46 AM


    Re: Subjective Evidence - Oxymoron
    I agree with your assessment of "subjective evidence" as applied to material entities (e.g. rare birds) on the whole. But in this thread I want to specifically target "sightings" (or whatever) of things that are supposedly visually, and otherwise empirically, undetectable.

    A rare bird may or may not have been seen. Ultimately who knows until further sightings are made? But if someone "sees" or "hears" an immaterial empirically undetectable god how can the experience possibly have been anything other than an internal vision? How? A sixth sense?

    Birds and gods are inherently different in terms of whether or not they can be evidenced at all. Whether or not we accept "subjective evidence" (i.e. single isolated unverified sightings) as valid is immaterial to that point.

    (pardon the pun )

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


    This message is a reply to:
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    Stile
    Member
    Posts: 3501
    From: Ontario, Canada
    Joined: 12-02-2004
    Member Rating: 4.2


    Message 7 of 154 (519225)
    08-12-2009 12:52 PM
    Reply to: Message 6 by Straggler
    08-12-2009 12:24 PM


    Re: Subjective Evidence - Oxymoron
    Whoops, I made half that post, had to do some stuff, then came back and finished it. In between that, I forgot to tie in with the immaterial stuff, I'll do that now:

    Again, at the basic level "evidence" is facts about reality.

    Possibly sighting a rare bird may be a fact about the reality of those specific rare birds in the vicinity. But it may not. Until we are able to confirm that it is a fact about reality, it can never be called "evidence."

    The picture is even worse for anything immaterial.

    At least with a rare bird, it's possible to one day have others confirm that they saw the same rare bird. It's possible to confirm with pictures or video or dung or feathers or a unique nest or even the bird itself so that everyone can be witness to the rare bird. If such external, verifiable things ever do happen, then and only then does it become evidence.

    With immaterial aspects, we can never compare two "sightings." How can it be determined that one person's subjective, immaterial experience is the same as another person's subjective, immaterial experience? There will never be external, verifiable things that could happen that would bump such subjective reasoning into the realm of actual evidence.

    We are no longer able to objectively discern between imagination and reality. Such difference may possibly exist, but we will never know.

    It is this same lack of objective-differentiation between experiences that erases the line between imagination or a "real" experience and drove The Dark Ages. During The Dark Ages, it was possible to tell the difference between imagination and "real" experiences, but people just didn't do it. They ignored evidence and relied upon subjective reasons to discern reality. This reliance upon a method that is indistinguishable from imagination is what caused the confusion, allowed the manipulation, and threw the (known) world into hundreds of years of useless stagnation.

    Granted, when speaking of inherently immaterial things, we do not have a choice to use factual evidence. However, this does not negate the fact that it too soley relies on a system that cannot distinguish between a "real" subjective, immaterial experience and pure imagination. Because of that fact, all the pitfalls and stagnation that came with The Dark Ages is alive and well and just waiting to spill over within the realm where subjective, immaterial experiences are allowed to be a valid method for detecting reality.

    It's not that it's strictly impossible for inherently immaterial beings to exist, it's that if we allow ourselves to make non-objective methods valid in finding them... we begin a downward spiral where we already know the outcome.

    And, of course, if something (even an inherently immaterial something) cannot affect objective reality in any way, and therefore never has and never will... is it worth pursuing?


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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 8 of 154 (519236)
    08-12-2009 2:38 PM
    Reply to: Message 7 by Stile
    08-12-2009 12:52 PM


    Re: Subjective Evidence - Oxymoron
    Good post Stile. I'll just respond to clarify my own position on a couple of points.

    With immaterial aspects, we can never compare two "sightings." How can it be determined that one person's subjective, immaterial experience is the same as another person's subjective, immaterial experience? There will never be external, verifiable things that could happen that would bump such subjective reasoning into the realm of actual evidence.

    I would go further. Not only is it impossible to compare and verify. I don't see how any experience of an immaterial entity can possibly relate to any reality external to the mind. How can it have been detected at all if immune to detection by our material senses?

    We are no longer able to objectively discern between imagination and reality. Such difference may possibly exist, but we will never know.

    Oh I have never once disputed that immaterial entities might conceivably exist. But I do dispute that we can in any way experience them. Unless we invoke a sixth sense or something.

    It's not that it's strictly impossible for inherently immaterial beings to exist, it's that if we allow ourselves to make non-objective methods valid in finding them... we begin a downward spiral where we already know the outcome.

    It is philosphically possible that the Immaterial Pink Unicorn exists. Certainty and impossibility are not being cliamed by anybody regarding anything here.

    And, of course, if something (even an inherently immaterial something) cannot affect objective reality in any way, and therefore never has and never will... is it worth pursuing?

    If it is genuinely immaterial then I see neither how it could be pursued nor how it could have been experienced in the first place to inspire the idea that there is something to pursue?


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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 9 of 154 (519380)
    08-13-2009 12:28 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
    07-26-2009 5:40 PM


    Immaterial Argument
    Alas RAZD has declined to take part in this thread and continues to insist that I am a "liar" Message 161. I repeat that RAZD's faith is of no interest to me. Any conflation between personal experience as a source of faith or a form or evidence is entirely of his own making. Regardless of the whole "who said you said what" shenanigans the bottom line here is this:

    Does RAZD consider the existence of immaterial entities to be evidenced or not?

    If "Yes" then perhaps he would like to justify that position by tackling the problems cited in the OP of this thread? Also if "Yes" then I must be the most perceptive person in the universe as, apparently, RAZD has never given us any reason to think that subjective evidence and gods are connected in any way whatsoever.

    If "No" then we can all agree that no immaterial entity is any more evidenced than any other. Thus we can also all agree that the Immaterial Pink Unicorn is a legitimate argument when deployed to expose the need for special pleading and irrational judgements when treating some immaterial entities with less atheism than others.

    I am happy either way.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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    Blue Jay
    Member (Idle past 860 days)
    Posts: 2843
    From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
    Joined: 02-04-2008


    (1)
    Message 10 of 154 (519636)
    08-15-2009 4:14 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
    07-26-2009 5:40 PM


    Re: Why The
    Hi, Straggler.

    Straggler writes:

    Can any entity that is completely and inherently immune from detection by means of our five empirical material senses, or related scientific instruments of physical detection, possibly be considered to be evidenced by personal experience?

    Look at it the other way around: if something immaterial could be detected, what would the sensation of detection be like?

    Certainly, you couldn't detect it like you detect light or hearing. In fact, I can't imagine that an organ could be made to detect it. The mode of detection would have to be internal and unquantifiable, wouldn't it?

    I know this makes it hard to use as evidence, but, what else could it be like?


    -Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

    Darwin loves you.


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 1 by Straggler, posted 07-26-2009 5:40 PM Straggler has responded

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    Rahvin
    Member (Idle past 1349 days)
    Posts: 3964
    Joined: 07-01-2005


    Message 11 of 154 (519643)
    08-15-2009 5:46 PM
    Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
    08-15-2009 4:14 PM


    Re: Why The
    Look at it the other way around: if something immaterial could be detected, what would the sensation of detection be like?

    Certainly, you couldn't detect it like you detect light or hearing. In fact, I can't imagine that an organ could be made to detect it. The mode of detection would have to be internal and unquantifiable, wouldn't it?

    I know this makes it hard to use as evidence, but, what else could it be like?

    But how would we differentiate actual detection from any of the innumerable human mental quirks that cause us to believe in falsehoods through the same subjective "evidence?"

    Studies have been undertaken to measure the effects of prayer, since the mechanism that causes prayer to work is supposed to be undetectable. No significant pattern has ever been shown as to the effectiveness of prayer.

    Internally convincing events such as songs that play at just the right moment on the radio that perfectly match your mood or give a sudden jolt of needed insight are an obvious case of confirmation bias. The same is true of dreams, and many "feelings." All require that you ignore the vast majority of cases where the song didn't help, or the dream or feeling was wrong.

    What subjective experience has had any kind of real effect aside from altering the beliefs and behavior of the person in question? Is there demonstrable consistency? Why can't we show quantifiable results for the effectiveness of incorporeal beings if they're supposed to be able to affect the world?

    If the proposition that deities are figments of human imagination results in identical observations to the proposition that deities do exist, is not the inclusion of deities a violation of parsimony? If the only sort of evidence we can use could equally support either position, aren't we forced to obey parsimony and suggest that the simplest position, the one with the fewest extraneous terms, is most likely the correct one?


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    slevesque
    Member (Idle past 2803 days)
    Posts: 1456
    Joined: 05-14-2009


    (1)
    Message 12 of 154 (519673)
    08-16-2009 3:15 AM
    Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
    07-26-2009 5:40 PM


    Re: Why The
    Interesting subject. Maybe the first questio nto ask would be 'Can an immaterial person have a detectable effect in the natural world ?'.

    If we are talking about the Christian God, I do think that the answer to that question is yes. But the thing is, whatever effect he could have, it would be non-repeatable, and so all you would have is testimonies and personnal experiences.

    Example: 'Jesus walked on water'. Now if that claim is a genuine miracle, whoever saw it would have seen it with his eyes and so with one of his physical senses. If it is not genuine, then it could just be a figment of the persons imagination. Either way, all you have is testimonies and personnal experiences, and in my opinion, that is always what you are going to get.

    Now the question is, can you go from this 'subjective evidence', as RAZD calls them, and conclude a positive statement about the reality of the existence of an immaterial being ?

    The only way I could see this question being answered by a 'yes' would be through an impecable 'police investigation' kind of process on a particular claim. How many eye-witnesss accounts of the event ? How reliable are these eye-witness accounts ? Is there a possible physical explanation to the event ? etc. etc.

    All in all, I consider this to be very difficult to do for any given claim, and so I think that miracle-claim can only reinforce (rightly or wrongly) a pre-existing belief in the supernatural, and cannot necessarily be the starting point of such a belief.

    On another note, this does not mean that I do not believe that the existence of God cannot be supported by objective facts, but you determined this as off-topic in your OP, so I won't go any further.


    This message is a reply to:
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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 13 of 154 (519694)
    08-16-2009 11:35 AM
    Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
    08-15-2009 4:14 PM


    Abuse
    Hey Bluejay

    Good to have some input from our resident thoughtful theist.

    Certainly, you couldn't detect it like you detect light or hearing. In fact, I can't imagine that an organ could be made to detect it. The mode of detection would have to be internal and unquantifiable, wouldn't it?

    I have been thinking about how I would answer my own question if I were a theist. I think I would claim that humans have an immaterial component that is able to detect immaterial entities. A "soul" by any other name.

    The question I would then ask is how we differentiate that claim from delusion, wishful thinking and biased guessing? At that point I think personal subjective conviction and circular reasoning (i.e. I must have a method of detecting the immaterial because I know I have detected the immaterial by means of the immaterial inner soul that I must therefore have)

    What do you make of my attempt at thinking theistically....? Pretty poor huh?

    I know this makes it hard to use as evidence, but, what else could it be like?

    If it's only distinguishable feature from biased guessing is the degree of personal conviction it induces then I would argue that the term "evidence" is being abused.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

    Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


    This message is a reply to:
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    Straggler
    Member
    Posts: 10285
    From: London England
    Joined: 09-30-2006


    (1)
    Message 14 of 154 (519695)
    08-16-2009 11:40 AM
    Reply to: Message 12 by slevesque
    08-16-2009 3:15 AM


    Re: Why The
    Jesus, by all accounts (and if he existed), was a material entity. Thus he has no bearing on this discussion. Sorry to be so brusque but I can just see this discussion heading down the "gods are empirically evidenced" route when that is exactly what I am trying to avoid. That is another question.

    Immaterial entities. Personal experience (AKA subjective evidence). Only.

    The question remains - How can any genuinely and wholly materially undetectable entity be evidenced given that we only have material senses?

    And if you believe it can (e.g. sixth sense) how do you show that this "evidence" leads to superior results than just guessing?


    This message is a reply to:
     Message 12 by slevesque, posted 08-16-2009 3:15 AM slevesque has responded

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    straightree
    Member (Idle past 2913 days)
    Posts: 57
    From: Near Olot, Spain
    Joined: 09-26-2008


    Message 15 of 154 (519697)
    08-16-2009 12:24 PM
    Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
    07-26-2009 5:40 PM


    Re: Why The
    Its a very well stated pertinent question. The simplest and more direct answer to it, is NO. We have not any sensual capabilities to detect inmaterial entities. If you beleive that your senses is all you need to direct your life, quite good.

    If you consider that your intelligence can work on entities and concepts that do not come through your senses, then, maybe your personal experience and reasoning can lead you to believe in the existence of inmaterial entities, mainly in God. Then, it may be that you can arrive to consider that all that comes through your senses belongs to a world created by God, and then all your sensations are evidence of God.

    So, in fact is a question of all or nothing.


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