Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chemicals do not Disprove Religious Experince part 2


I was given an argument by an atheist which echos what I hear all the time in answer to my religious experience argumetns. The studies don't' conclude "God exist" so therefore they don't prove God exits. Of course they ignore the fact that I don't claim direct proof but argue for the rationally warranted nature of religious belief. They are not apt to accept anything not even slightest ground so they always fall back on brain chemistry. The fact that brain chemistry is somehow involved is just absolute proof to them that this naturalistic and has nothing to do with God. Of course they are totally ignorance the answers I give but assume that if chemicals are within 45 feet of the answer then it's a done deal.

My answer is that they are begging the question. They start out assuring there can't e a God. So evidence could ever count in favor of God. Having assumed the impossibility of God they further fall back on what they take to an absoltue certainty of disproof becasue chemicals are somehow involve and so it must be naturalistic. But this is disproved in two ways, through Newberg who argues that God would have to use brain chemistry so that doesn't tell us anything, and Hick who shows that the researchers who claim to have evoked RE through chemicals or stimulating the brain have really failed to measure in any reliable way that they are in fact getting mystical experince out of it. Since that's the atheist argumet in its entirety that actually beats their whole argument.

The real problem is they beg the question in terms of the role of the effects of having had the experince. The effect is that this is the real debarkation of God's role in the thing since no other pathology, chemistry or experince aside from these "mystical" ones can ever produce the same kinds of outcomes. Their role is to be the ultimate tie breakers. But the atheists continue to assume that as long as they can beg the question and assert that brain chemistry explains it all they just further assert that the effects could be produced if we really tried.

Here I dialogue with a carm atheist called "Phoenix."

Phoneix: on CARM


If we take HRG's example of the unicorn (analogous to your God), WHERE is there ANY kind of independent observation, i.e., the empirical evidence like the observable fact that it's people who have fingerprints and leave the footprints/fingerprints for you God. Religious experience exists (the edelweiss flowers) BUT what you don't have is any equivalent evidence that your God (the unicorn) exists in the same way the fingerprints and footprints do. It seems that you want us to "overlook" this fact that you haven't connected the dots (where's the observable evidence that would justify the rational warrant?) between religious experience and the existence of your God? (my post to you on this subject that you never responded to, so you can't really claim that I have abvoided your arguments, can you?)

Yes we know the figner prints are real, but I have given sound reasons why we should assume the effects are the trace of the divine:

(1) Its' the reaosn why there is relgion, the concept was a consruel of the meaing of the experinces and goes back 65,000 years. That's a lot of presumption for an assumption. It's never been disrpoved, and it's grown with humanity throughout the ages righ ton up into the scientific era.

(2) The effects, being unproduceable in any other way indicate something different, no realtted to the chemicals alone (althought hey are invovled)

(3) Its' what we should expect of the divine because it's what religion is suppossed to do, transform our lives.

thus this is ample reason to make the assumtion that if the correlations holds and it has over four decades of scietnific study, then there' s every reason to make the construel. Thus belief is warranted.

(4) Not to foget that I'm not claiming proof but warrant for belief.

He links to the following:

Also by him on CARM

How does religious experience "justify" your assumption that the "cause" is your God, Metacrock?

1. The most plausible explanation is that the attribution of this experience to some external source is really a misinterpretation of the effects of a particular kind of brain chemistry in a particular location of the brain (what we actually observe).

Of course that's begging the question. Who says it's more Plausible? To say that you would have to know in advance that God is less plausible. If you had a way of knowing that you would just answer God arguments with that rather than asking how they prove things?

This seems plausible because you are begging the question by assuming your belief as a fact, and also because you have inaccurate info about RE being evoked by brain chemistry. I've quoted John Hick several times on this and I've beaten this with Hicks comments. Of atheists, not being interested in reason never take note of that. Hick argues that the researchers who make these claims offer no means of understanding how to judge a real religious experience. They based it upon someone's dream or a person talking about God after the alleged stimulation and that's supposed to prove they evoked a religious experince.

My theory has accounted for the use brain chemistry and its role in the process of RE through the work of Newberg. I've quoted Newberg at length when when shows that God has to use brain chemistry if he wants to experience soemthing. We could not experience anything with brain chemistry becasue it is through neural transmitters that we feel anything. So the receptors are opening to God and that can been seen as a physical process. Just because it' snot amazing flat out miracle doesn't mean God is not involved. This is part of the baby way of thinking that atheist use to think about religious things.

Newberg says:

A skeptic might suggest that a biological origin to all spiritual longings and experiences, including the universal human yearning to connect with something divine, could be explained as a delusion caused by the chemical misfiring of a bundle of nerve cells. But …After years of scientific study, and careful consideration of the a neurological process that has evolved to allow us humans to transcend material existence and acknowledge and connect with a deeper, more spiritual part of ourselves perceived of as an absolute, universal reality that connects us to all that is (Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 157-172).


2. It seems to me that IF what is termed "religious experience" is really a "conduit to the divine" (so to speak), then WHY are there thousands of God(s?)-concepts STILL out there?

Religious experince is beyond words. When we speak of it we have to filter it through our cultural constructs, becasue that's our understanding. Constructs are the way we understand the world. So that's why religions are different, because people have culturally relative and culturally bound constructs. RE is primarily about presence. One senses a presence.So there's no question of total enlightenment or being told all the answers to all the mysteries.

* Let's assume for the sake of argument that there is a "Creator(s?)" that is the author of this Universe, then such a powerful Entity would have no trouble in using such power to override ANY cultural theistic prism and reveal the TRUTH™ about Itself (His/Her/Themselves?) to every "experiencer".

But that wont work because you are trying to cheat. I've explained this already. You are trying it both ways. You are trying to have God be a big guy in the sky and still overcome the limits of a guy in the sky. The terminology you use is indicative of this kind of thinking. You call God "an entity" and you say "a powerful entity." God is not a powerful entity, not an entity at all. The ground of being is not just another thing in creation. A big man in the sky, even if the most powerful man anywhere, is still just another thing in creation. God is much more than that. In being more he's actually limited in a sense because he is beyond thinking like a man. Moreover, he's still limited to logical necessity so one thing he can't do is allow us freewill and yet unburden us from the limitations of our infinitude. We are human we are finite we have to see things through cultural constructs that's what language is and that's what thought is. There's no other way.


* The fact that people interpret these experiences through what I will call the "cultural theistic prism" [the God(s?) concept prevalent in a particular culture] says to me that this is NOT due any "outside (supernatural?) influence, but to particular interpretation (an erroneous one IMO) of a specific combination of brain chemistry and culture.

These kinds of experinces are in all cultural all over the world. Even in traditions such as Vedanta where they don't feel a presence but a void and where they don't believe in a personality of God they still relate to the void in the same way that theists relate to the presence. This proves that these experiences are universal. they not just limited to people who believe in a certain idea of God. They in all cultures and all traditions that proves it's external to the traditions.

3. Humans are just now able to sort out what is really going on and what we actually observe is due to natural, physical causes.

that's begging the question. There's no guarantee were even beginning.

The bottom-line here is WHY should I think that there's anything other than brain chemistry (one that pleasurable and for that reason ultimately beneficial) going one here. This is the hypothesis that fits the facts and doesn't require the introduction of "assumptions".

Because it can't account for the effects. When nothing else produces the kind of effects, no pathology, no mental illness, no external naturalistic poison or substance or pathological state, and no other context in which brain chemistry does, there's just no reason to attribute it to such things. You are only begging the question in making that attribution because it's all you've got. Without that assertion you would have no answer at all and since your ideology will not allow you to accept any other possibility that's really you can say.

It seems to me that because previous studies can document that these experiences have beneficial effects that you are attempting to stretch that into a justification for "God (your liberal Christian version)-did-it" . I don't see anyone denying that these experiences exist or that they can be beneficial. What I can understand is the very legitimate objection of attempt to use this phenomenon (one with a demonstrable physical cause) into an a very obvious case of special pleading (my God-did-it!). In other words, connect the dots:

You can't explain the effects. Come now you don't actually expect a scientific study to say "the finding of our study is that God exists?" That would be totally unscientific. But the researchers in private do often believe. There's nothing wrong with making the assumption based upon the study that well we can construe that since the experince is real the content is real and the content is God so it's logical to assume this is an experince of God. You keep ignoring the fact that this is the way we reason about all things experiential. How do I know I had a car wreck? The car is dented. I have whip lash. I have a memory of a car wreck. Now why should I know conclude that the car really did wreck? It's not really proved, and it could well be that I looked around too fast and got whip lash, a wrecking crew wrecked my car while it was parked and I hallucinated the wreck. But since the effects match the content, the effects are real, the experince is an experince of something why not conclude that the content is really what was experienced?

The criteria we use to understand reality at the epistemological level is that experiences are:

shared (inter-subjective--the same types of experience)

So Re matches the basic criteria we use to determine the reality of our experiences. So we have reason to trust it.

Since the skeptic can't show any other explaination for the effects, can't duplicate them with any other method, that's ample warrant for the assumptions.

Newberg again:

Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.(37)


Religious experience (physical evidence==>derived from a set of brain chemistry/brain location, one that can be induced by certain psychoactive drugs and in some cases by brain lesions like temporal lobe lesions) to ....(your justification)......"God-did-it" (no disrespect intended with this phrase, just my "shorthand" for your alleged mechanism).

But you can't prove they have been! I have said this so many times. Read the John Hick book. He shows that there is no valid research proving this. they just assume anything about God is a religious experience. They don't use the M scale and they don't a means of measuring religious experince. it's that simple they can't prove they evoked it.

Me from my book:

Hick complies a short list of the major arguments proposed as to the neurological causes of RE:

(1) Epileptic seizers and frontal lobe stimulation by the Presinger helmet cause religious visions.
(2) Psychotropic drugs cause various forms of Religious experience
(3) ‘Pure Consciousness,’ consciousness of the void, emptiness, sunyata is caused by consciousness continuing after cutting off the perceptual input.
(4) The sense of unity with all reality is caused by closing down the awareness of the bodily boundaries of the individual.
(5) The sense of the presence of God or other supernatural beings is caused by splitting of the self-system into two, one half seeing the other half as a distant entity.

This seems like a very impressive case, and the reductionisms make it sound as though they have really uncovered a one to one correspondence between brain and mind. Punch here, get this experience, and punch over there get this other experience. If you want the feeling of God’s presence stimulate this area, if you want the sense of undifferentiated unity stimulate this other area over there. In reality, however, such is not the case. This argument is essentially Hick’s argument, the researchers not well versed in theology or the study of mysticism, and thus they think that unusual experiences structured loosely in religious language constitutes “mystical experience.” They are missing the whole nature what RE is and what it does because they are trying to formulate this simplistic argument from sign. That’s exactly what their argument is, an argument sign. It’s not a demonstration of the naturalistic causality of RE, it’s a correlation between two events, one supposedly causing the other, but not necessarily producing authentic mystical experience. What is produced is an odd experienced loosly structured in religious language. I don’t include Newberg or D’Aquili in my broad swipe at “reductionists” but even they exhibit some of these tendencies, but to a lesser extent because they knew enough to use real mystics. The association between the physiological and RE is the crux of the whole naturalistic argument. It’s really nothing more than an argument from sign. For the average atheist message boarder or blogger the connection is very simple. It’s quite common to hear them say “if damage the brain our body stops working, so we are just nothing more than collections of brain function and extensions of brain function.” The more sophisticated argument made by scientific researchers isn’t that different from the same argument. Ramachandran links seeming mystical experiences with epileptic grand mal seizures. Of course I quote a study in chapter 3 (“Studies”) from Lukoff and Lu, which shows that mystical experience is not related to epilepsy. Indeed, it would be absurd to assume that for all the 350 studies all of these subjects are epileptic or have something wrong with them and no researcher thought to check that out. Newberg disregards the idea that RE is the result of epilepsy or exhaustion, drugs or hallucination might trigger any other aspect of brain disfuciton such as. He argues that delusional people return form such states understanding they’re incoherence but mystical visions are coherent and meaningful and mystics never back off the idea that they were shown something meaningful. Ramarchandran draws no conclusion about the existence of God. He is merely giving a descriptive analysis of findings. He backs away from saying this disproves God. He also lists a host of other conditions such as temporal lobe personality that cause mystical experience besides epilepsy. It seems pretty ridiculous, however, to assert that everyone who has such an experience is either sick or has some form of mental abortion such that they are hallucinating or having some form of brain dysfunction. After all the study finds show that mystics tend to be healthy both physically and mentally, to be successful, accomplished, not delusional. As demonstrated in chapter 3 several studies show that the behavior of mystics does not tally with that of the mentally ill.

Hick argues that these researchers are equating RE with unusual experiences structured in religious terms but they are not really dealing with the experiences mystics talk about. He says this because Persinger, for example, always goes to great lengths to report visions and feelings of supernatural beings, both God and satan and visions of Jesus and Mary all sorts of things that his helmet wearing subjects have seen or felt. But these are not necessarily what mystics talk about. Most mystics discount visions and few mystics have them. Most mystics don’t sense an evil presence, although a subject discussed by James did feel such an evil presence but its ambiguous to what that person though it was (see Chapter on Proudfoot). These examples, rather than being good examples of science disproving religious experience, are really good examples of reductionism’s ability to lose phenomena. This may sound like great scientific research because it uses high tech gadgetry and advanced knowledge of brain anatomy. In reality, as a scientific study, it basically fails social research methods 101. First, because no control group, no administration of the M scale or any other measurement of mystical experience, so that means there’s no way to actually prove that these subjects had mystical experiences. It sounds like they had strange experiences but not necessarily “mystical.” The examples that Hick quotes include visions of Jesus figures. They do include a sense of divine presence. But there is no follow up to see if their lives change or if they experienced any sort of transformative effects on a long-term basis. For that matter Newberg’s work seems to suffer in that regard too, although with him since he uses monks and nuns one can be assured there is a much greater likelihood since these are authentic religious adherents who live life styles conductive to the mystical experience and presumably spend a great deal of their time cultivating this sort of experience. Hick makes the point that Presinger and Ramachandran are neurologists studying people who go to them because they have problems. They are not studying actual religious adherents whose lives are oriented toward cultivating the mystical, as is Newberg. This could make a profound differnce. But the reductionist mentality just says hey the experience lines up with the stimulus, argument form sign; we see sign we assume causality case closed. They make no attempt to consider the context or nature of the experience.( John Hick, The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experince, Neuroscience and The Transcendent. Playgrave:Macmillion, 2006, 66)

pardon me for quoting myself from my unpublished ms but the published material there is more important since it comes from experts, Hick and Newberg. That is published and I do document it.

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
the Lourdes evdience is obvious and certain.
I suppose you mean like the one you are so fond of:

Society for the Little Flower (Website) FAQ (visited 6/3/01)
St. Theresse of Lisieux

http://www.littleflower.org/therese/faq.html#4 (the one is the new site for your claim, your old link doesn't work)

Regarding St. Therese, in 1923 the Church approved of two spontaneous cures unexplained by medical treatment. Sister Louise of St. Germain was cured of the stomach ulcers she had between 1913 and 1916. The second cure involved Charles Anne, a 23 year old seminarian who was dying from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. The night he thought he was dying, Charles prayed to Therese. Afterward, the examining doctor testified, "The destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs, carrying out their normal functions and about to revive the entire organism. A slight emaciation persists, which will disappear within a few days under a regularly assimilated diet." These two miracles resulted in Therese becoming beatified.
This is your evidence?! I have emailed this society, asking just what physical evidence exists that would validate the claim in bold (destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs). There's no actual evidence posted here, Metacrock. We don't even know the location or the actual date this or the other alleged miracle (maybe 1916-17 for the ulcer cure). The location and date are important because the issue would be one of documentation, i.e., for instance X-rays of the lungs "before" (the alleged miracle) and "after" (the alleged miracle). If this incident was in some isolated hamlet in 1913-1923, then X-ray devices were far and few between. If this incidence happened during WWI then there would probably have been a shortage of the photographic glass used to create the images as well:

Physics, Techniques and Procedures--X-ray film

Historically, photographic glass plates were used as the X-ray film base. After the supply of photographic glass from Belgium was cut off by World War I, cellulose nitrate, used as a base for photographic film was adapted for use with X-ray film. A cellulose triacetate base was developed in 1924 to avoid the highly flammable nature of cellulose nitrate. Finally, a stronger, thinner, more dimensionally stable film base made of polyester was developed in 1960.


So what do we have here in the way of evidence? The say-so of a maybe not disinterested physician or what, Metacrock? I very much doubt that there are X-ray pics of this case in existence. IF you are going to claim this as a miracle, then one would need something other than the word of the physician because this is an extraordinary claim (no physical cause possible).

You are committing a total violation of the rules of evidence. I use a published source, authoritative that douments the existence of medical evdience and show that that diagnostic technique did exist at that time.You have more more to so of any substance so you question the physician's interest level as though that's goign to really prove soemthing. Like the xray doesn't work if the physician doesn't care enough. that's really nuts and it's totally unfair. Xrays are objective diagnostic procedure they do not depend upon the interest level of the physician to work right. I guarantee if the guys lungs grew back over night the doctor would find some interest. That is gainsaying the evidence and its' totally unfair and it tells me you are clutching at straws.

This could be a case of spontaneous remission. Here's a recent example:
Papulonecrotic tuberculid with spontaneous remission, by Tsuyoshi MITSUISHI, Kazumi IIDA, and Seiji KAWANA

ahahaha in one night!???ahahahahahahahahahahaahahaha

you really think lungs are going to grow back over night that's remission???! O get a brain man! that's stupid! learn something about it man. God almighty! Love love a duck! talk about clutching at straws!

We describe a 62-year-old Japanese woman who had skin lesions involving her extremities, chest and back that showed spontaneous remission. The skin lesions consisted of slightly atrophic scars and crusted, reddish or necrotic papules. A tuberculin test showed induration and bulla, which was regarded as strongly positivity. Histopathologically, a tuberculoid granuloma with necrosis was present in the upper dermis and the deep dermis, including the adipose tissues. Bacterial cultures were not positive from sputum, urine or stool, and the chest X-P was also normal. After skin biopsy, all the lesions disappeared within 1 month. No relapse was noted in the entire body.

Did it happen overnight? Is that the same as growing a new lung. I don't think so.
document where that's from.

Is the above a "miracle", Metacrock? Let's hope that these researchers are going to actually study this woman to find out what happened to see if they can find any way to help other suffers rather than just ASSUME that God(s?)-did-it (totally useless "explanation" with regard to helping anybody else).

do you have a reason to assume it was God? Does it not mean anything to you taht remission never mans going away without a trace it doesn't mean growing back new organs it doesn't mean over night and to call something a Miracle there as to be a reason such as the person was prayed for or something.

why don't you try to learn something about the things you are criticizing? it's the height of ignorance.



A Hermit said...

"My answer is that they are begging the question. They start out assuring there can't e a God."

No more than you beg the question by assuming there is...;-)

J.L. Hinman said...

No more than you beg the question by assuming there is...;-)

Assuming your beliefs is not begging the question. Expecting your assumption to be granted at face value is begging the question, what atheists do all the time.

J.L. Hinman said...

atheists always are arguing from analogy and begging the question. Two most prevalent mistakes hey make all the time.