Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More on Realizing God

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On CARM this guy "sofa King" one of the major trolls makes the bold assertion that
if God existed he would know it.






That's a good question. To make the statement "if God existed I would know it" requires several assumptions not in evidence:

(1) That God can't be be hidden

(2) that belief in God is only adding a fact to the universe

(3) That you don't know it and aren't just refusing to accept what you know.
(atheists really hate that one)

(4) That god is given in sense data



All of these assertions are wrong headed. You can know and you would know if you would allow yourself to realize God's reality; but you can't know by proofs or by empriical observational of sense data.

Since the latter is the only kind of evidence you accept then you can't know and you will never know.

It's not a matter of proof but realization. This is because God is not given in sense data, God is not another fact about the universe. God is not just another thing in the universe.

God is the basis of all reality. I used to make an analogy that was whimsical and meant to be; a fish scientist is hired to find water. He spends all his time looking at the ocean floor and never finds it because it never occurs to him he's looking through it. God is the medium in which we live. God sit he basis of reality and what we call reality is a thought God entertains. Thus you can't find God by examining empirical data.


you can only find god by ascertaining the nature of being and your place in being (ie a contingent creature). You can't prove God, you can't discover God you have to realize God and you do that by realizing the nature of being and your place in it.

God wants to be hidden because the point of life is the search; the search is a mechanism whereby we can internalize the values be gain by doing the search.

God arguments serves as focal points that enable to us lack on to coordinates so we aren't just saying 'all kinds of junk and stuff proves God." You have to have a place to start making realizations, but the place to end up is in the heart. the heart is the field where all actions takes place God-wise.




The idea that "I would know if there is a God" I suggest you do know, but you have yet to realize what you know, and the reason is becasue you don't want to face what it means to realize your place in being.

For example, the transcendental signifier argument (or "focal point"). There has to be a thing at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy that lends meaning to all the lesser meanings which we use to mark the world.

We cannot think coherently or communicate with out this. We may think of it as "reason," or "maths" or "laws of physics" but there is a top to the metaphysical hierarchy, even if you say "I don't believe in Metaphysics, that's bull" you are making a metaphysical statement and assumption by saying that. You cannot escape Metaphysics, you have to engage in it even to reject it, and thus you must subjective to an organizing principle because that's what Metaphysics is, grouping and organizing the world under some single organizing principle (Here I"m speaking of Heideggerian metaphysics).

Even the most Dawkamentalistic atheist has an er zots version of God.


This is just a part of the overall realization that the basis of reality is "holy" and special and has everything to do with the meaning of our place in the world.

That's the bottom line of belief in God, the object of ultimate concerns. Realizing that there is an object of our ultimate concerns is realizing God.


25 comments:

Kristen said...

Very good points, Metacrock. I don't think "I would know" logically follows from "If there is a God." Why would it be a necessary conclusion that if God were there, you would know it? Especially since we humans are so prone to tunnel vision?

On the other hand, I don't think this reasoning necessarily follows either:

The idea that "I would know if there is a God" I suggest you do know, but you have yet to realize what you know, and the reason is becasue you don't want to face what it means to realize your place in being.

Even if someone does know somewhere deep down that there's a God (which we can't be sure of), without knowing Sofa King personally, how can we know what his reasons are? How can we know what he does and doesn't want to face-- especially since we are human too, and not even completely sure of our own motivations in every instance?

But I agree that if one is going to know God, it has to be by opening one's heart. After the realization has come, it becomes very hard to deny.

Metacrock said...

I didn't mean to say atheist really know Jesus is Lord they just holding out. But everyone does sort of sense there's something going on, except the new atheist who have sort turned off the knowledge.

Not every single individual knows this but most of the human race assumes it. Like the way we call major accidents "acts of God." We make a collective assumption that something beyond our selves is in charge.

Dave said...

I sympathize with atheists in this instance, at least insomuch as it involves knowing there is a God. People like to use euphemisms such as "opening your heart", which is great, but that and Metacrock's comment about motivations make it seem like people are too lazy to find some inner realization or that they are in denial. Moreover, these attitudes and euphemisms do precious little to give anyone a clue as to how to actually seek such realizations or what they would mean/how they would be experienced by someone actualizing them.

Dave said...

Following Kristen's profile to her blog, I came across this fairly recent post. The discussion of some Presence, of said Presence talking to her through her feelings, etc., this is NOT something that everyone experiences. It just isn't. Whether it is some deity speaking to her, some psychological phenomena unrelated to some separate being, or something else, it is not fair to suggest as Metacrock does that "everyone does sort of sense there's something going on", let alone that what they sense has any connection to the kind of experience that Kristen describes.

I am also curious to know what Metacrock thinks to this passage from that post:

Looking at those huge caverns, so beautiful, which were there and had been beautiful before any humans even knew they were there, I had the sudden overwhelming conviction that there had to be a God. I can't explain it intellectually, really. It's just that it seemed absurd to me that something so awesomely, overwhelmingly beautiful was unintentionally so. I just knew that Someone had to have planned it, and Someone had to have enjoyed its secret beauty long before humans ever knew it was there. But that's as far as things went. I felt that there had to be a God.

How does that square with God not being reduced to a person, even a superpowerful person? Of God not just being an exaggerated human mind floating in higher dimensions above the cosmos? This isn't a disparagement of what Kristen experienced or wrote about, but it is the kind of thing that, if it were being used in an argument for God's existence, could easily be dismissed as the human mind's presumption of agency. Someone else may have thought that the same caverns were boring, or that they were cool and but that they were the result of natural processes with no need to have been planned or appreciated by anyone in order to exist.

Again, this isn't a knock on Kristen, her experiences, or her beliefs, but they can't be generalized or extended to most or all people.

Metacrock said...

That's a real consideration Dave. by "realization" I don't mean to use a euphemism and I don't mean to say "you are not just trying hard enough, just shut up and realize it." maybe you can suggest a better term?

I'm trying to capture the essence of a sort eastern like moment of enlightenment when it just comes together. Maybe for a lot of people it doesn't.

I've heard that Buddha said it goes both ways, like lightening and real slow.

"opening your heart" is indeed a euphemism yet it sort of describes what you have to do. You have to stop resisting, let go of the skeptic's credo "If something can be doubted it must be doubted however likely it might seem" and just allow God to come in.

maybe that wont be marked by fireworks or great experiences or amazing things. I think embracing the attitude of belief and acceptance will allow the manifestations of this realization.

I don't know any other way to put it. I'm not trying to say they are lazy and I remember my own struggles as an atheist. when I try to recount those they just mock and ridicule and say "you think your experiences are universal." I don't think my experiences are universal. I just don't have any experiences except my own to deal in.

I can't really tell you how I did it except just that at one point when I was desperate I called on God. that's when it all began to come together.

Metacrock said...

Following Kristen's profile to her blog, I came across this fairly recent post. The discussion of some "Presence, of said Presence talking to her through her feelings, etc., this is NOT something that everyone experiences. It just isn't."

>>>It is quite common. Perhaps not everyone but it's no unheard of eitehr. probably most Pentecostal/charismatics experience it.




"Whether it is some deity speaking to her, some psychological phenomena unrelated to some separate being, or something else, it is not fair to suggest as Metacrock does that "everyone does sort of sense there's something going on", let alone that what they sense has any connection to the kind of experience that Kristen describes."

>>>those are two every different things.I don't see how you can assert that it's unfair to suggest it. It's not as though I'm saying that everyone feels God's presence. If you just look at society and history you see that most people do accept an idea that some higher truth that not readily apparent. Polls show 90% of American public believe in God.

Atheists want to chalk all belief up to "their parents told them so so and they are too stupid to figure it out" but that's obviously just self serving.

the religious experience studies that I have written about demonstrate that the incidence rate is quite high.

Metacrock said...

"I am also curious to know what Metacrock thinks to this passage from that post:

Looking at those huge caverns, so beautiful, which were there and had been beautiful before any humans even knew they were there, I had the sudden overwhelming conviction that there had to be a God. I can't explain it intellectually, really. It's just that it seemed absurd to me that something so awesomely, overwhelmingly beautiful was unintentionally so. I just knew that Someone had to have planned it, and Someone had to have enjoyed its secret beauty long before humans ever knew it was there. But that's as far as things went. I felt that there had to be a God.

How does that square with God not being reduced to a person, even a superpowerful person?"

>>>>> That's an expression of personal piety not a philosophical argument. As a philosophical argument I have a couple of problems. (1) I don't like design arguments and that really is one in a sense, unless you understand it as an intuitive sense then to explain it (because intuitive sense kinds of seems unacceptable) she tries to transform it into a design argument.

(2)God as a planner does kind of reduce God to the level of a building contractor in the sky.

Yet as a statement of personal piety I think it's just a manifestation of what I talked about in my previous article on "realizing God" that when one has this realization everything reminds one of the reality of God becuase it's actually manifestations of depth of being.

there's an intuitive link between beauty and the sublime and realization of God. I think I'll post it on friday as a God argument. this is actually one my arguments from my list of 42 God arguments.

sublime

to make sense of the sublime, becuase we can't she makes a design argument.

Metacrock said...

Of God not just being an exaggerated human mind floating in higher dimensions above the cosmos? This isn't a disparagement of what Kristen experienced or wrote about, but it is the kind of thing that, if it were being used in an argument for God's existence, could easily be dismissed as the human mind's presumption of agency.

Yes I agree that would have t be handled differently to be part of a God argument. I agree that God can't be a disembodied mind floating about in the world that would make God just a jumped up anthropomorphism and a thing in the world.

I see God as a mind but the mind that thinks the world. God is not a mind in the world. the world is a thought in the mind of God.



Someone else may have thought that the same caverns were boring, or that they were cool and but that they were the result of natural processes with no need to have been planned or appreciated by anyone in order to exist.

It's not about the caverns it's about what they suggest. Read the sublime argument that I link to please.



Again, this isn't a knock on Kristen, her experiences, or her beliefs, but they can't be generalized or extended to most or all people.

that's cool. I understand and I think Kristien will as well.

Metacrock said...

one thing i didn't say at the time (that argument was written like 12 years ago)-- and since then I've done a of research on religious experience--the sublime is a trigger for the transcendent, that which mystical experience is an experience about.

there are many naturalistic triggers of such experience. they are not causing it but they are trigger it.

Mozart is one such trigger, and all classical music, no 5. Mescaline and serotonin and other such drugs are also major trigger (like no one). The beauty is a trigger and sublime is a trigger.

The sublime is not necessarily positive or good. There is also a terrible sublime that is a bad thing that so outstrips our sense of proportion that it astounds us and leaves us in this state of transcendence. 9/11 was such an event.

Dave said...

Just to clarify and provide a chance for others to speculate further:

It is indeed unfair to claim that because many people are either affiliated with religion or presume there is a God we can assume that *everyone* really knows something divine is present. You clearly implied that what people really know deep down is that there is a God. Even with a vague or malleable interpretation of that term, it still generally suggests some kind of cosmic intelligence or conscious organizing force.

If God is so subtle as to be thought of simply as the ground of Being, why should anyone detect it? How would it be distinguishable from the typical conception of a godless universe, i.e. the absence of deities (either plural or as a single super-charged specimen)? You could argue philosophically about it, but that isn't the same as direct intuitive knowledge that is unambiguous and available to all.

If God is not so subtle, then why doesn't everyone detect it? I gave the disclaimer that Kristen's experience needn't be the only kind considered. There is, however, no obvious and unimpeachable insight into the existence of God that is accessible to all.

Moreover, many people do in fact participate in religion and or assume God exists as a sociological phenomenon, not as an unambiguous revelation of God's presence. That cuts down the numbers a bit. Peak experiences cannot be seen as clear evidence of God, as there are many different ways to explain or understand them. God is one possibility but not the only one.

The same is true for a sense of the sublime. Not everyone is readily given to such emotional responses or experiences them to the same degree, what triggers them isn't constant, and again, multiple explanations as to their source and significance are plausible.

My point is that since there is no clear, unmistakable and direct knowledge of available to all people at all levels of intelligence and awareness of anything we might rightly call God in the sense that the term is typically used, it is in fact not fair to suggest that everyone knows on some level that God exists. Unless that knowledge is buried so deep or requires such elevated states of perception that it is not part of ordinary consciousness. In which case people still aren't lying, making excuses, or in denial when they say they have no knowledge of God's existence.

This actually argues, of course, against the idea that you quoted from a self-identified atheist that she or he would know if God was real.

Metacrock said...

Just to clarify and provide a chance for others to speculate further:

It is indeed unfair to claim that because many people are either affiliated with religion or presume there is a God we can assume that *everyone* really knows something divine is present. You clearly implied that what people really know deep down is that there is a God. Even with a vague or malleable interpretation of that term, it still generally suggests some kind of cosmic intelligence or conscious organizing force.

>>>>no you changed my words in two different ways. I said something like "everyone knows something is going on" and you changed that to "divine is present" and "Everyone knows there's a God." I really meant something much more general and veg than that.

That's in explaining it I said something like "the transcendent" or some kind of higher truth rather actually calling it God.


If God is so subtle as to be thought of simply as the ground of Being, why should anyone detect it?

>>>I think that's true. That's what I've said that we need special revelation, but through natural theology and reason we can come to the conclusion that 'something is out there' but we can't can't really have a clear idea of it without revelation.

there is a downward move of God to us.



How would it be distinguishable from the typical conception of a godless universe, i.e. the absence of deities (either plural or as a single super-charged specimen)? You could argue philosophically about it, but that isn't the same as direct intuitive knowledge that is unambiguous and available to all.

Tillich says if we know that being has depth we know God is real. That's more or less what I'm talking about is being has depth. There's more to reality than just the surface appearance. what that really is requires experience of the divine.

If God is not so subtle, then why doesn't everyone detect it? I gave the disclaimer that Kristen's experience needn't be the only kind considered. There is, however, no obvious and unimpeachable insight into the existence of God that is accessible to all.


>>>I am arguing that we wouldn't necessarily know without god making it clear to us, except we might have an inkling. We have certain natural indications about the depth of being but no real clue without God giving it to us. But he will give it to us.

Metacrock said...

Moreover, many people do in fact participate in religion and or assume God exists as a sociological phenomenon, not as an unambiguous revelation of God's presence. That cuts down the numbers a bit. Peak experiences cannot be seen as clear evidence of God, as there are many different ways to explain or understand them. God is one possibility but not the only one.


>>>> that's not true, read chapter 3 of my book.

The same is true for a sense of the sublime. Not everyone is readily given to such emotional responses or experiences them to the same degree, what triggers them isn't constant, and again, multiple explanations as to their source and significance are plausible.


>>> the sublime is not just emotional. anyone can experience it. It obviously had emotional reaction built in but it's not reduce able to just emotion. That's a stimulus thee make sit sublime.

Metacrock said...

Dave I didn't hang up on you on purpose. give me a call again ok?

Kristen said...

I think Metacrock knows where I'm coming from, but just to clarify:

(1) I don't like design arguments and that really is one in a sense, unless you understand it as an intuitive sense then to explain it (because intuitive sense kinds of seems unacceptable) she tries to transform it into a design argument.

I wasn't making any kind of "argument" at all. I was relating my experiences and perceptions at the time. If you read the whole story on my blog, remember that I was about 10 years old at the time of this experience.

(2)God as a planner does kind of reduce God to the level of a building contractor in the sky.

Words are such blunt, slippery tools. When I say "Someone had to have planned it," that is the way I thought of it at the age of 10. And I still think "Someone" (a conscious Intelligence, or "the mind that thinks the universe," as you put it) is what God is. "The ground of being" is also true-- but no, I don't think God is an impersonal force. Nor does "ground of being" have to mean that.

When I say, "planned," I do understand that idea now in a more metaphorical sense than I had the ability to employ when I was 10. Think more poetically, and you'll get closer to what I meant. I still do think God intended for the Caverns to be there and for them to look the way they do. I also believe God allowed them to form naturally. There really isn't a dichotomy there unless you employ too-strict logical binaries. This isn't about logic. It's about experience.

And it wasn't written as an "argument for God" in any sense. I was there, this is what I felt. The "sudden, overwhelming conviction" I had was not a mental nod based on a good argument! It was something that rushed into my consciousness in a flood and was no more deniable than breathing. My blog doesn't ask my readers to read and be convinced-- in fact, my introduction to that post makes clear that I wasn't writing it for that purpose. I simply wanted to share what happened to me. That's all there was to it.

Metacrock said...

that wasn't meant as any kind of criticism of you Kristen. I said it has to be taken as a statement of piety not an argument, becuase I know you don't make arguments. Not that you wouldn't be good at if you did but I think you are on track with what I mean about the realization things. you don't need to make arguments.

Kristen said...

"I think you are on track with what I mean about the realization things. you don't need to make arguments."

Exactly, Joe. Which is why I didn't "try to turn my intuitive sense into an argument from design" -- which is what you said I did. I realize you weren't intending it as a criticism; but that is what you said. It's ok, though. I'm not offended-- just trying to clarify what I meant in my blog post. :)

Metacrock said...

Exactly, Joe. Which is why I didn't "try to turn my intuitive sense into an argument from design" -- which is what you said I did.

No I did not say you did it.I said the oppossite. I said it's a statemnt of peity it's not meant to be an argument. I speaking of it as an arugment not saying you made it that.

I guess I wasn't clear enough about it.

Kristen said...

Oh, ok. No big deal anyway. :)

Dave said...

Dave wrote: Moreover, many people do in fact participate in religion and or assume God exists as a sociological phenomenon, not as an unambiguous revelation of God's presence. That cuts down the numbers a bit. Peak experiences cannot be seen as clear evidence of God, as there are many different ways to explain or understand them. God is one possibility but not the only one.


Metacrock replied: that's not true, read chapter 3 of my book.

It isn't true that God is one of the explanations for peak experiences, or that God is only one potential explanation? Seriously though, you are incorrect. And I am well aware of what you wrote in Chapter 3 of your book.

The problem with your assertions there and here is that you seem to presume that a sense of the numinous or a connection to the transcendent must be extra-physical and even extra-mental. That is, that it extends to something beyond the body and even beyond the mind as these terms are conventionally understood.

Even granting that we are not talking about sense impressions from external sources, that does not tell us anything about what is actually happening other than the subjective descriptions offered by those who have so-called peak experiences. Your logic assumes that if we have an impression of something, a sense that something exists, that we can assume that A) it exists and that B) it is what we think it is.

If we go to sense data just for an easier analogy, that would be like saying that just because we think we see a ghost that a ghost exists. However, it may be that our senses are being fooled or that our perception (the interpretation of our senses) is inaccurate. That is, what we think we see may not actually be there and if there is something there it may not be what we think it is.

(continued)

Dave said...

Nor should we limit this to sense data. It is also true that we can have flaws in our reasoning, so that we come to erroneous conclusions. This is especially true of basic, everyday reasoning that is largely subconscious and which results in what are referred to as common logical fallacies.

So your assumption that assumes that if we have an impression of something, a sense that something exists, that we can assume that A) it exists and that B) it is what we think it is, is flawed. Just because a sense of the numinous *feels* extremely important, profoundly meaningful, and strongly connected to something greater than oneself, it does not automatically follow that this is so. That is, that one has found and plugged into some pre-existing transcendent order to the universe. That is certainly a possibility, but it isn't necessarily true.

That alone leaves the door open for other potential explanations of why some people have such experiences, which supports the assertion you were contesting. But that isn't all. Because there isn't just an opening for other explanations, other explanations exist.

Nor do they involve dismissive claims such as saying that people who have a sense of embracing and nurturing transcendence are just victims of brainwashing or wishful thinking or perhaps mentally ill.

Take an evolutionary argument. A currently popular hypothesis is that the human brain didn't just get better and better at particular tasks by increasing neural processing power to particular area; rather, the increased interconnections between these various functional loci in the brain was just as if not more important.

All brains try impose artificial meaning on the world based on certain goals such as finding food, detecting danger, and the like. This can include making general assumptions about the nature of the world and its properties based on experience and sense data.

This also extends to making predictions about what will happen next. In more sophisticated brains, this includes an assumption of agency on other living creatures, which itself extends to attributing purpose and motive to what is happening around the organism.

An even more advanced feature is empathy, the capacity to guess what another creature is experiencing and to mimic that experience; examples would include sharing another organisms fear or pain. This is thought to be more common among more social animals with more sophisticated brains.

Now if we take these and similar features and qualities of the brain, and we boost their capacity and then increase the interconnections of their circuits, we might expect that this would lead to new properties of the brain and qualities of the mind. Complexity theorists would call them emergent properties.

Some of these properties might be beneficial, some might be detrimental, and some may be neither. Some may also be both depending on circumstance. If we assume this kind of model, a more balanced system may lead to artistic and intellectual genius, intense creativity, and a heightened capacity for social perceptiveness. A less balanced system could lead to obsession, neurosis, schizophrenia, etc.

(continued)

Dave said...

Now, consider a species where fitting in, security in belonging, social and personal empathy was important; where agency detection and theory of mind (being able to "get inside someone else's head) was important; where recognizing or creating sophisticated and overarching patterns of causality is important; and where attributes such as creativity and suspension of disbelief (needed as much for activities such as thought experiments as for enjoying a good story) are important.

It is not at all unlikely that such a species, when the connections between the circuits for these attributes are increased, might have develop a tendency for an innate sense that the world is ordered and logical, that this is due to a greater intelligence or consciousness, and that one is connected to this greater whole. It would need not be something clearly articulated, say, in the strictly logical aspects of conscious awareness. It could instead hover as a profound sense of wonder and interrelatedness. It could even seem to precede the subjectively created experience of the world that one takes for granted as actual reality.

Now, could this suffice as an explanation for the sense of the numinous? Sure it could. It could also explain why some people have such a sense or have it more readily and experience it in a more pronounced way while others seems to lack it or to experience it less frequently or in a more subtle fashion.

One could counter that the same evolutionary process and reconfiguration of the brain could have enabled people to sense an actual pre-existing transcendent order in the same way that the evolution of photosensitive cells allowed for an awareness of the phenomena of light, but this would still pre-suppose the existence of this transcendent order. And it would also mean that some people would, biologically, have little or no access to it.

Again, the point at this time is not an argument over which explanation is best, but rather that there are multiple explanations. Peak experiences, the sense of the numinous, etc, COULD point to God but don't necessarily do so.

Kristen said...

Dave, your alternate explanation for peak experiences would indicate that the positive, long-term transformative effects of these experiences on those that have them, come about as a result of people believing they have perceived something which is, in fact, not in accordance with reality.

Why should a false perception of reality have long-term, positive transformative effects? Would not the disconnection with "real" reality, be much more likely to have negative results?

Why should it be the case that disconnection with reality should actually cause us to cope with it better? Shouldn't it rather be the case that understanding how truly meaningless everything is, and facing that with courage, would be the thing that is positively transformational to us poor deluded souls?

Instead, according to this viewpoint, we have experiences that delude us into thinking something is real that isn't, and that delusion is what works, what makes us better able to function at our best.

What about "the proof of the pudding is in the eating?" Doesn't common sense tell us that eating good pudding (thinking in accordance with reality) should give long-term good results-- and eating bad pudding (delusional thinking) should give long-term bad results?

Dave said...

Hello Kristen, I appreciate your reply but I don’t concur with your extrapolation of my scenario. Your objection has two problems according to my own interpretation of my alternative explanation of peak experiences.

The first is that I am not talking about delusion, per se. At least not in any gross sense. Everything you think you know about the world is a smoothed over unitive experience of a set of integrated perceptions, which themselves are limited and biased and massaged to a degree of unreality. This blending of limited and distorted information is what we think of as the “real world”, yet studies on perception show us how flimsy it can be. Students of consciousness such as the masters of contemplative practices tell us as much from their own insights. Yes, it is using flawed perceptions to understand our perceptions, so it isn’t perfect, but that takes us into a separate issue about epistemology. Suffice to say the even with these problems we can detect bias and distortion in how we construct the subject reality that we take for granted as a faithful representation of (or just assume to in fact be) an objective world.

In my hypothetical scenario, this deep sense of order and concordance with a comforting and transcendent presence is proposed as something which precedes our conscious awareness of reality (which in fact would be our subjective experience of reality). It would be foundational, and in that mental ontological sense it could be compared to a ground of our being. As such, it is not a flaw in the perception system on the level of bad data or bad data processing (the typical implication of “delusion”, but rather it is part of the build of the system itself. There are many things our perceptual-cognitive system tells us are real and that they have this list of qualities, yet on some level we know these are mental constructions based on the interaction of our nervous system with external stimuli. In this case, the origin of such a sense of the numinous as connected to peak experiences would not depend on a particular experience, it would depend on a core aspect of the generation and sustenance of human consciousness itself.

That is, it isn’t a delusion in the typical sense. If we called it that, it would be misleading. It is a fundamental bias in the way human create and organize their cognitive experience of reality. It may introduce errors into that experience, but so do any number of other components of the apparatus of perception, reason, etc. These biases may be useful, neutral or harmful. We cannot presume a priori which they will be. There is no more reason to assume that this kind of “God bias” would be any more harmful than pariedolia. It may even have beneficial effects to creativity, sociality, and other aspects of human life. In fact, many disconnects with what we think of as external reality are quite useful, as otherwise we would have trouble distinguishing between all our sensory input and making sense of it, especially connecting it to memories of previous experiences and the like. These kinds of distorted short-cuts are not a automatically a disadvantage.

(continued)

Dave said...

As for health benefits or coping mechanisms, they are a separate issue. You are imposing and answering judgments made by those who claim God is a comforting delusion. I am not suggesting that the emergence of this God bias has anything to do with coping at all. In the scenario proposed, it is simply a part of the cognitive system that is foundational to our mental construction and the subjective experience of reality as we know it. Just as the structure and physiology of the eye, the optic nerve, and the areas of the brain receiving and processing their signals affects what we see, what we are discussing here is how neural architecture involved in rudimentary awareness and sentience might shape everything that is built on top of it.

Regarding the issue of the false perception of reality, we have already established a distinction between a notion of objective reality and the subjective reality which we actually experience. There is quite a bit in our subjective version of reality which can directly affect our health given the brain’s influence on both the nervous and endocrine systems. Otherwise, why talk about reducing mental and emotional stress, which are generated as responses to our subjective take on reality? Then of course there are the placebo and nocebo affects, which further demonstrate such connections. If the God bias is fundamental to our experience of consciousness, and is the ground of our subjective being, then actually why wouldn’t relating to it in an intimate and positive way have beneficial effects on health and well-being?

To conclude, I don’t see any contradiction between what is associated with God experiences and my proposed thesis of an evolved God bias. Keep in mind, my intent was not to suggest such a thesis was superior or preferable, only that there are valid alternatives to what Metacrock proposes. Whether it is a better explanation is a different matter altogether.

Kristen said...

Dave, you said:

"There are many things our perceptual-cognitive system tells us are real and that they have this list of qualities, yet on some level we know these are mental constructions based on the interaction of our nervous system with external stimuli."

And yet, in the case of numinous experiences, we do not "know on some level" that they are "mental constructions." I can look at the "face" on Mars and say, "Oh, but I know that isn't a 'real' face-- at least, not in the sense of being an intended artistic representation of a face." And yet there is a sense in which it really is a representation of a face-- intended or not.

But in the case of numinous experiences, we've got no mental "check," nothing telling us, "this is all in your head." In every other area of life, I take my conscious experiences as real unless something tells me otherwise. In this case, according to this line of thinking, I'm supposed to just doubt them from the start. Even though humanity's idea that the universe is orderly and behaves predictably, turned out to be true, along with other things that are subjective like this.

Don't get me wrong. I think in some ways we're talking past each other. I am talking in terms of what is the best explanation. You are talking in terms of what could be another "valid" explanation, without putting it forward as the "best." I agree that this other explanation is possible. I have not intended to say otherwise. I just don't think, given my own experiences, that it's plausible enough for me to believe it.