Sunday, January 30, 2011

Resurrection: Historical or History making?


Overview:my position

A. Religious Symbol and Historical Likelihood.

I affirm the literal resurrection of Christ, as I affirm the Nicene creed. Unfortunately, affirming it and proving it are two different things. Many apologists try to use the Resurrection as proof in itself that Jesus was the Son of God. The problem is, the event itself has to be proven, and is of equal dispute to the claims of Christ deity. Thus, I doubt that it makes a great tool for verifying the claims of the faith, since it is itself such a claim. On the other hand, let us ask ourselves, "was the true purpose of the resurrection as a proof of Jesus validity?" I think not. I think the true purpose was not offer modern scientific "courtroom evidence" of the event, but to confirm in a religious way, for insiders, by provision of an important symbol. Tillich says that a symbol participates in the thing it symbolizes. Thus a bull fighter dying young is a symbol of darning courage going awry, but a non specific figure like the American flag is not a symbol but an emblam. Thus the resurrection of Christ can be a theological symbol and stil be a real event! Thus the true importance of the event is its theological significance and not its market place value as an apologetical tool.

Be that as it may, the event of Christ's resurrection offers more to the unbeliever and the cause of Christian apologetics than one might think given what I wrote. Rather than give up on it as an argument, we need to put it into a different context: we need to abandon the "court room" model of proof in apologetics, and take up a historian's persecutive. The point is not that we can prove the resurrection "really happened." The importance of historical evidence surrounding resurrection is its possibility as a history making event. By that I mean, it's not as important to prove "conclusively" that it happened, as it is to show that the permitters shaped by the evidence still leave open the validity of the possibility that such an event occurred, once one clears away the ideological clutter of naturalism. The evidence need only point to the fact that the belief tenet is still "in the running" as a possibility, not that it actually happened, although we believe, as Christians, that it did happen. The event described cannot included as a historical event, because history as a modern social science is constructed upon naturalistic assumptions; but it can be understood as a history making event, one that shaped the nature of our society and culture.

B. Away with the Court Room Model

So much past apologetics has been based upon the model of a court room debate, then declared to "prove history." We see this most especially in McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Virdict (the classic case). We also see it in the works of a vast array of apologists who say things like, "the man who invented rules for evidence in court (Greenleif?) argued for the Resurrection, and he was a smart lawyer, so he must be right." But historians do not "prove" historical 'arguments' by holding courtroom debates! If we are going to make historical claims for the resurrection, we have to think like historians, and not like lawyers. We have to hold the evidence to the permitters of historical evidence, not to those of jurisprudence.

C. The View from the History Depeartment

History is probability. It's not mathematical probably, but it is probabilistic. One cannot go back in time and verify the assumptions of historians, all we can do is argue from extrapolated data as to the most likely conclusion based upon the "facts." But how are these "facts" ascertained? They are not derived from debate, they are not derived from physical artifacts, and they are certainly not given in any kind of absolute certainty. Many skeptics place the level of confirmation they seek on a par with a TV camera recording an event it happens. History is documents! History is not a documentary featuring live footage, although such material is no doubt going to be included in future historical records. But history is the impression we find most likely as a probabilistic guess based upon the data we find averrable in written documents of the past. Historians do debate documents, but they do not say things like, "would this be accepted in a courts of law?" Historians don't a flying spit wad about what is accepted in a court of law (but one hears that phrase in apologetics quite a bit). Thus, in accessing the prospects for the validity of the resurrection, one cannot worry about courtrooms, or about exact proof as though we could take a TV camera to the tomb and watch the angel move the stone. The best we can ever do is to access the possibility and its place int he likelihood of events, given our world view assumptions vis a vie, supernatural events.

III. The History Making Concept.

Skeptics are too quick to argue that the resurrection is not historical fact. Before they jump into this fray, they should first ask themselves about the nature of historical facts. Most historical "facts" are not proven. "History" (whatever that is) says that Davy Crockett died at the Alamo, yet evidence indicates he did not. History, like science is a social construct, and is determined by those with the clout to write history. In modernity we have gained an anti-supernatural bias, and so the believer is forced to ask rhetorical questions like "did Jesus raise form the dead?" and then to answer them rhetorically. The German Theologian Jurgen Moltmann changes the rules. Rather than ask if the resurrection is "historical" he merely argues that it doesn't have to be, it is history making. We change the rules of the debate because predicated upon the preaching of the resurrection is one of the most profound developments of world history; the growth of the Christian faith which has shaped the entire Western tradition. We view the Resurrection of Christ as history making because the belief in it did change history, the doctrine of it has made history, and belief today shapes the basis of all Christian doctrine. We put aside the hypocritical skepticism of naturalistic circular arguments and allow ourselves to accept the verdict of a history that has been made by faith in the event, in light of the fact that there is enough there to base faith upon. (see Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 1968).

The doctrine furnishes the basis for hope, when grasped in faith, that offers a much more profound answer to any of questions about life and death than any form of skepticism or pride in confusion ever could. Rather than merely declare a rules change, I will argue that this rules change is warranted based upon the evidence. IN other words, not that the resurrection can be "proven" in the same sense that any other aspect of historical research can be proven, but that the resurrection evidence is credible enough that one can feel confident in asserting its truth as a tenet of faith. The actual case can never be proven, or disproven, but the evidence allows one to believe with impunity.

In keeping with my policy of enlightening the reader about my sources, I must point out that I do lean heavily upon two major evangelical sources here: F.F. Bruce, and William Lane Craig. Bruce is, however, one of the most highly respected Evangelical scholars, even among the liberal camp, and Craig is renown as a highly credible and effective apologist. The other sources such as D. E. H. Whiteley, Stephen Neil, Gaalyah Cornfeld, and Luke Timothy Johson are basically liberal or modernate.A few major liberal theologians, such as Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg have defended faith in the resurrection.

A. Historical Verdict Reversed

"The real case for skepticism of the resurrection of Christ was actually developed by 19th century liberal theology, and though they don't know it, the objections of most Internet skeptics today are echoes of those arguments. But in the postwar era even major liberal theologians began to defend the resurrection. Ernst Kasemann, student of Bultmann, at Marburg in 1953 argued that Bultmann's skepticism toward the historical Jesus was biased and Kasemann re-opened a new Quest for the historical Jesus. The great modern liberal theologian Wolfheart Paennberg argued for the resurrection of Jesus. Hans Grass argued that the resurrection cannot be dismissed as mere myth, and Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen defended the historical credibility of Jesus empty tomb." (in William Lane Craig, "Contemporary Scholarship and The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Chrsit," Truth, 1 (1985): 89-95.

"Equally startling is the declaration of one of the world's leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapid, that he is convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Lapide twits New Testament critics like Bultmann and Marxsen for their unjustified skepticism and concludes that he believes on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead."
(Craig, Ibid.)

"According to Jakob Kremer, "By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb" and he furnishes a list, to which his own name may be added, of twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more names that he failed to mention. Thus, it is today widely recognized that the empty tomb of Jesus is a simple historical fact. As D. H. van Daalen has pointed out, "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions." But assumptions may simply have to be changed in light of historical facts.:"(Ibid.)

B. Not Historical but history making

Jurgen Mosltmann, the greatest living Protestant theologian, has argued in Theology of Hope, that the rules of history exclude the miraculous. This is because historians, as heirs to the enlightenment, automatically exclude the supernatural. For this reason the resurrection cannot be seen as historical, a priori, for the rules of making history are set by an ideology of metaphysical assumptions which dogmatically exclude anything miraculous. History must be predicated upon the assumption of a coherent natural world, therefore, the supernatural cannot be part of history. (Motmann, 176)

Moltmann's solution: change the rules. The resurrection is not historical, it is history making. "The resurrection of Christ does not mean a possibility within the world and its history, but a new possibility altogether for the world, for existence, and for history. Only when the world can be understood as contingent creation out of the freedom of God...does the rising of Christ become intelligible as nova create [new creation]. is necessary to expose the profound irrationality of the rational cosmos of the tech scientific world." (179)

"The resurrection of Christ is without prattle in the history known to us. But it can be for that very reason regarded as a 'history making event' in the light of which all other history is illumined, called into question and transformed." (180)

The point of making this distinction between history and history making is to change the rules which ideologically limit the possibility of God's actions in the world, and limit the horizon of hope for human being which responds in faith and is transformed in light of the resurrection. To claim that the resurrection is a historical even makes no seen for the reason that no such event could be, history exclude consideration of such things. But by the same token, the skeptic's objection that it is not historical and lacks "historical proof" is also meaningless. How could it help but lack historical proof? IT cannot be a historical assertion. Only faith can tell us about the resurrection. But the resurrection has make the faith of millions of people to an extent that that faith became a history making faith and altered the course of human events profoundly. It makes no sense to assert historically ether way, but the evidence suggests that there is a rational warrant to believe. There is a nice sturdy platform from which make a leap of faith. That being the case we can declare the history making aspects of the ressurrection.

The genius of Moltmann is the rules change afforded Christian thinkers by the history making concept. Modern historiogrophy and Historacism both forced upon us naturalistic assumptions in the form of history as a social science. In the making of modern hisotry, all supernatural assumptions are forbidden. Thus, the resurrection begins with the assumption that it has to be myth, within the ideological nature of modern thought. But Moltmann gets under that ideological assumtion and unseats it by chaning the rules. We aren't speaking of "history" but of "history making." In other words, before the apologist can even posit the turth of the resurrection, his truth is refutted by the very nature of historical "facts" as modern thought constures them; supernatural events cannot be part of history. But Moltmann turns this around on the nature of modern thought by arguing that before modern thought can posit a naturlistic history, the content of history is already shaped by supernatural claims.

III. Conclusion

The standard I set my arguments:The Resurrection was a history making event. Whatever truly happened, the actual events which are make by the claims of witnesses and faith in the veracity of those witnesses, the upshot of it all is that the historical probabilities suggest the likelihood of an event, and that event shaped the nature of history itself. The faith claims cannot be historical claims, but they don't have to be. The faith itself is justified, it cannot be ruled out by history, but instead lies at the base of modern history in some form. We can suggest throughout the strength of the evidence that those actual events were the very events attested to in the Gospels. We cannot prove this claim with absolute certainty, but the warrant provided by the evidence itself is strong enough to make the historical nature of the religious hope valid. Some religious hopes are just ruled out by the facts. For example, the idea that the Native Americans are part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel; this can be dispelled by genetics as well as dentistry. The Resurrection, on the other hand, can be accepted as likely Given the suspension of ideological objections of Naturalism.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rashomon: A film by Akira Kurosawa

Adventure in Theodicy (problem of evil)

Monday, April 26, 2010


Rashomon 1950

Akira Kurasawa (March 23-1910-Sept 8, 1998)

I can't do Bergman and forget my other favorite director.

Toshirô Mifune... Tajômaru
Machiko Kyô... Masako Kanazawa
Masayuki Mori... Takehiro Kanazawa
Takashi Shimura... Woodcutter
Minoru Chiaki... Priest
Kichijirô Ueda... Commoner
Noriko Honma... Medium (as Fumiko Honma)
Daisuke Katô... Policeman

Kurasawa is one of my two favorite directors, alongside Ingmar Bergman. Like Bergman, Kurasawa is renown the world over as one of the finest directors of all time. In honor of his centennial year, I will review what I think is his greatest film, Rashomon. Although his most famous film is The Seven Samurai which served as the inspiration for American western series the Magnificent Seven (and all its many spin-offs), a good argument can be made that it is his finest film.

Kurasawa received a top grade education in Japan at a leading private school. He was not only taught Japanese scholarship and even trained as a Samurai himself, he was also well schooled in the world of Western arts and letters. Roshomon is patterned after a classical Greek tragedy, with the three narrators serving as a kind make shift chorus. The narrators are a small cast of three characters who take shelter from a driving rain storm on the front steps of a dilapidated temple. Even though it's a wooden structure this is no log cabin. The structure is massive, the pillars are made from whole trees shaped smooth and the classic Chinese architecture with red tile roof up turned on the corners looms imposing over the land scape. The scene with two men huddled under the over-hang looking worn out and confused. One of them keeps muttering "I don't understand." We soon learn the more distraught of the two is a wood cutter (we never know his name) the other a priest (probably Shinto). A third one approaches, a man I will call "the skeptic" (we never know his name or his occupation). He builds a fire from wood the tares off the massive door to the temple, and asks to be let in on the problem the problem, "what don't you understand?". The problem is a murder has been committed, the court has just been held and the bandit who did the murder taken away, but the men are stunned in disbelief.

The disbelief comes in where the witnesses try to understand the contradictory story each participant told and the twisted motives surrounding the event. The Priest and the Woodcutter relate the story of the witnesses testimony to the skeptic. He is called the skeptic because he is not in the least baffled by the attitudes of heartless cruelty or the conflicting stories. Throughout the film he tells us everything's a lie, all people are bad, he trusts no one, he doesn't care if the story is a lie as long as it's interesting. But will not allow the priest to say anything serious becasue he can't strand to hear sermons and he calls anything that not cynical a sermon. First the Woodcutters tells us about finding the body of a samurai in the woods. Then the priest an woodcutter relate the stories:

The first story

bandit's tale.

This related by the two narrators but they learned it from the bandit's own words at the trail. It's actually his testimony. Kurasawa uses an interesting technique for the testimony. We never see the judges. We see the witnesses testifying looking at the camera and speaking as though they hear but we do not hear the words of the judge. In this way the audience is place in the position of the judge. Thus Kurasawa is telling us he expects us to judge. We are to make sense of he conflicts and moral dilemmas.

The Bandit is supposed to be famous and feared, his name is Tajômaru. Played superbly by Toshirô Mifune (yojimbo) major star of the samurai flick of the era and a stable actor of Kurasawa. A samurai is leading his wife through the woods. He is walking she ride on a horse. A man approaches and shows them a fine sword and tells them he found a whole cash of them. They leave the woman by a stream and go to look at the swords. In the woods the bandit attacks the samurai and captures him, tying him up. He then goes back for he woman and takes her in the woods telling her that her husband fell ill. When they arrive at the place of her husband's captivity he rapers her. After, the woman is shamed before her husband. It doesn't make sense to us today but in that era if a woman was rapped and lived it was her fault. So the husband is angry at her and she feels guilty. She tells the bandit that she can't live knowing that two men know her shame. she wants the two to fight and she will go with the winner.

The bandit is almost as put out as the husband. No one likes a turn coat. Her husband doesn't mean anything more to her than that, why should he want her either. But the two fight anyway. They fight valiantly. Their struggle is realistic, no flying 60 feet in the air, but neither of them is pathetic, they both adequate swordsmen. The Bandit declares to the court that this was the greatest fighter he had ever faced.They crossed swords 23 times and no one had ever done that more 20 with him before. He was very impressed with the guy, even though he killed him. The woman ran off he couldn't find her. He sort of makes a point of what a true man he is because he was able to rape the woman and kill the husband.

Woman's tale

She portrays herself as weak and helpless. no fight,no rape, but husband is captured. He looks at her with hate in his eyes and shame and she can't stand it. He thinks she has been rapped but she hasn't. She nobly implores her husband to kill her, he wont do it. she faints when she comes too the husband is dead and she runs away.

dead man's tale

The skeptic asks how can a dead man testify. They got a spirit medium to get his testimony.

In the husband's story the woman asked the bandit to killer her husband. She can't stand him, he did lose the fight and was captured after all, so he's not a real man. He's so upset about it he wants to die. ranting about how he suffers in great darkness, "cursed are those who sent me this dark hell" (Mary Poppins it ant). The bandit cuts him loose, runs after the woman who runs away and the husband sits dazed not knowing what to think. He's totally devastated by his wife's treachery. Voice over shows him thinking "someone is crying, who?" It's him, and he doesn't know it. Samurai don't cry but he was crying. He kills himself with a knife. In this tale the husband is properly outraged by the mercenary wife, he has nothing to be ashamed of because the wife is the evil one.

wood cutter's version

wood cutter is upset becuase he says "there was no knife" the skeptic figures out that he (the woodcutter) saw it all. He lied because he didn't want to get involved. He claimed to only find the body but he really saw everything. He tells his story. The woman is mocking both the bandit and the husband saying they are both weak. She is laughing at them. the bandit was begging her to go away with him and be his wife. But she mocks the bandit for not killing the husband, and mocks the husband for not being man enough to kill the bandit and then punish her. They two men fight, their fight is pathetic. Neither is very skilled.


Thus the stage is set for a nice little debate about good and evil. This debate reminds me somewhat of the book of job although there is no actual Job figure. But the wood cutter will do. The skeptic is convinced people are evil and there's no truth and so on. the Priest is trying to maintain his faith in man. The Woodcutter, who represents the average working man, is just trying to make sense of it all and aswage his guilt because he took the dagger after the death, it was valuable. The skeptic, who has a great knack for prying the truth out of the wood cutter, tells them: Rashomon was a demon of the temple where they were, who ran away becuase he was afraid of the depth of evil in men.

At that point they hear a baby crying Then find a baby behind the Temple door left there with a charm to protect it. The skeptic tries to take the baby's clothing leaving it to die. The woodcutter is appalled and wont let him go near it. The Priest holds the infant and protects it. The skeptic argues that the parents are the evil ones for abandoning it "they had their fun why shouldn't I get something?" The woodcutter is not willing to assume such horrible motives. He insights the charm placed with the child proves they didn't want to give him up and it was hard. The two men drive the skeptic away. They almost have their own fight as the Priest is suspicious of the Woodcutter until he learns the man has six children already and wants to adopt the infant. There is a powerful moment the audience can feel, without words, when the priest realizes the woodcutter loves the child. Trust is created between the two. They decide that the child gives them hope and they leave together to take the baby to Mrs. woodcutter and its new home. The priest utters the last line of the film, "you have resorted my faith in men."

This is a powerful theodicy story. It feels like reading the book of Job or Homer's Iliad. Theodicy of course is the official theological term for the problem of evil or the problem of pain: if there is a God, or a goodness in the universe, why there is also pain, suffering and, evil? The chorus has discussed how hard life is, the famines, the wars, the pleasures that have been non stop all their lives, these guys have had hard lives. The skeptic constantly beating his drum about the failure of humanity. One realizes the skeptic is projecting his own failure and selfishness onto humanity, excusing his short comings because "everyone is like me." Of course the child represents the future, the potential, the hope that the next generation will be better. The outlook for humanity is bleak until that first ray of hope that comes at the very end of the film. The moment of trust between the two child saving men is the first true expression of human goodness in the film. One realizes hope is the fuel of faith. Without hope, not an idle Mary Poppins hope in nothing but real hope based upon the exercise of love, there's nothing to put faith in. Faith is not a blind irrational leap into nothing. Faith is trust, as the priest placed trust in the woodcutter and it born fruit in the development of faith. Like Saint Paul Kurisawa strings together those three most important aspects of spiritual life, faith, hope, and love. No one ever mentions love, but it's clearly communicated the old fashioned way, though good acting.

Great art doesn't preach, great films don't have a clearly summed up moral, but it's hard not to give the impression of one in dealing with theodicy. The real challenge the director faced in making this film was to communicate insights through the material (through the talk of suffering an evil, the debate in the chorus) without giving the impression of preaching. The skeptic serves to put a damper on preachment when every time the priest says anything of serious nature he says "I don't want a sermon." Kurasawa meets this challenge like the great Master filmmaker he was. There is still enough mystery and enough questions to be asked at the end of film that one wants to see it again and one knows the pondering is endless. Despite all this there is one important insight that comes to the viewer clearly and unmistakably, not to call it "the moral" but an important insight that is not to be missed. Cynicism and skepticism, not the valid suspicion in the face of hokum, but constant unrelenting suspicion of everything good in humanity, can only lead to excusing one's own evil and even foster evil itself. Hope must replace cynicism or it is impossible to do good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Greatest Film Ever: The Seventh Seal

knight (Max Von Sydow) playing chess with death

foundChivalry Now

The Seventh Seal

The knight playing chess with Death.
This movie, from 1957, is Ingar Bergman's greatest film, and considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time.
The story is about a knight returning home from the crusades. He finds the land ravaged by plague and religious fanatics. On his journey, he is visited by Death, who agrees to let the knight live if he can beat him at a game of chess.
The following is taken from the script where the knight mistakenly thinks he is confessing to a priest, but it is Death who is listening. It expresses the existential struggle of this knight searching for truth.

Both the dialogue and the synopsis below are from the link I link to below "Chivalry Now"


A knight tries to pray along the seaside, but is unable to. He is troubled by the requirements of faith. Although he has gone to the Holy Land to fight in the Crusade for God, all he saw there was death and injustice, and men of twisted faith. He asks himself, "where is God? What is the meaning of existence without Him? Where can I find any sense to life?" He is an idealist who is troubled. He is no longer set in the ideals given to him, but questions everything to find a greater truth. What troubled him most is that there seems to be no idealized truth to grasp onto, and this leaves him searching in despair.
The squire is more down to earth, the disenchanted intellectual who demands that everyone else see the world from his disenchantment. He has not only lost his ideals (if he ever had them), but lost the desire to find something greater than what he sees. He is the existentialist. Basically he resents his station, that of serving the more idealistic knight.

Death accepts the challenge of playing the game of chess, giving the knight a chance to continue search for God, and dedicate his life to doing one good act. One wonders if we are not all playing chess with Death, postponing the inevitable, which might be waiting for us around the next corner.

The married couple, the actors, represent a healthy relationship, despite their obvious hardships. They love each other, and their son. The father tells his wife that their son will be a great acrobat, that he will accomplish the incredible (keeping the ball suspended in mid-air). He then explains that the trick would be impossible for him or his wife, but not necessarily for Mikael. In this statement, he expresses hope for the future, and disavows limitations on the next generation. There is a simple idealism expressed in this. We live and then we die, allowing evolution to produce something better. We should facilitate this process. That the actor sees visions suggests that he is in tune with his own mystical experiences, which transcends the rituals of religion.

The squire has great disrespect for priests, whom he sees as taking advantage of common people, using fear as a tool. He degrades those religious idealists who created the idea of a Holy Crusade. The thought of religious fanatics beating themselves out of repentance frightens him.

The man who steals from the dead was previously a student of theology who proselytized going to the Crusade. He is now a thief, and attempts to rape the woman who discovers his treachery. The squire believes that this is the natural progression of religious leaders. The man belittles and threatens the actor, hating him for his simple authenticity. He later dies of the plague.

The burning of the witch demonstrates how our belief in God and angels and the devil are ultimately based on nothing we can see or touch. There is life, and there is death. The witch who believes in the devil is obviously insane. Are the priests who condemn her, and the soldiers who kill her much different? The knight experiences anguish at her death, as the squire points out that only emptiness awaits her.
The actor who has the affair with the blacksmith's wife feigns his own death. Before stabbing himself with the fake knife, he states that he will leave the unreality of his life, and take on the reality of a corpse. This is a powerful statement of existential thought. The living person is not static; he is always creating himself, with every choice and direction that he takes. This is likened to "unreality." The dead corpse is, in comparison, a fixed object, without conscious potential. It's reality does not change. It is dead, not alive.

The knight distracts Death long enough for the married couple to escape. This is his good deed, and the answer to what he was looking for. Our purpose is to preserve life for the future. Other than that, we cannot be sure of anything. Even Death seems pleased by the knight's pleasure. The knight asks Death for what he knows about the mysteries of life. Death can tell him nothing. It appears that Death is more of a reality than God.

The ending is very interesting. Everyone dies, except for the couple and their baby, who have escaped. The knight begs his unseen God for mercy, while the squire complains that he is wasting his breath. They both die, but who is the one who contributed the most to life? It is the discouraged idealist who seeks for truth. His life had more meaning in that he saved the lives of others

Bergmann was an atheist, the son of a minister and Chaplin to the King of Sweden. He produced a huge body of works in the 50's and 60's and set the tone for films in that decade and beyond. In such films as "Hour of the Wolf," "The seventh Seal," "Wild Strawberries," "Virgin Spring," "Crys and whispers," Bergmann wrestled with the oceanic topics of life, aunxt, meaning, the existence of God, the anxiety of being human.

watching those films makes up some of the happiest memories of my youth. For me he will always be the symbol of the greatness of art, the discovery of life, and the search for ultimate meaning.My two favorite films of all time are Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. The only other director I place on the same level is Kurosawa.

Bergman is one of the finest examples of the style of atheism into which I fitted when I was young. Searching, pondering the great questions, an existentialist who is never satisfied with conventional answers. The thing about Bergman as an atheist is that he's the diametrical opposite of Dawkins. He wasn't arrogant about his unbelief, although he was a rebel of theater and film making, originally known as "one of the angry young men" of early 50s. He knew he was great and was very arrogant in the arts, but in terms of eternity and the transcendent, he deals with religion with great respect. Even when he mocks religion he's not mocking the people for believing it, and he never makes a mockery of the search.He's still searching himself. He's like someone saying "If you find anything I would still like to know, but I don't think you are going to." He doesn't handle religion with kid gloves, its obvious he thought most of it was nonsense, but he never degrades the sense of wonder at the holy or the luminosity or realization of our need to seek the ultimate.

"The Seventh Seal" has all of these features. Nothing is more of a slap in the face to blind obedience and unthinking conformity of the religious history of the West than Bergman's scenes such as, burning the girl at the steak, and the girl who has faith Satan will save her suddenly realizes "there's no body there to save me and I'm going to die now." The superstition of the guy smearing the blood and bile of a black dog on the walls to keep the plague away. These are stinging rebuttals to traditional organized religion. The Circus performers, especially the husband, child-like and innocent, happy, only concerned with the happiness of his family and his art, represent those for whom faith is real. The husband sees the Virgin Mary everywhere and at times we see her tripping by in the background while no one else notices.

The sincere seeker is never berated by Bergman, but human frailty is never masked. The old actor is always seeking other men's wives to court, the young woodman's wife is never faithful, the three are always seeking to do each other harm. Yet at the same time this mockery, it's a fares.

The Knight is a seeker but he's also afraid. He seeks certainty. He's not seeking the infinite or the divine necessarily but certainty as to what's true. He confesses this to one whom he takes for a priest but it's really death in disguise. This is how death learns the combination of knight and bishop he's been uses and then beats him. The confession made to death is about his need for certainty and his fear of not finding it. So death is saying in a sense, "I'm the only certainty, and you only find it after you come with me."

Here's an excerpt of the confession to death, on Chivalry Now.

ANTONIUS: I want to confess, as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face, and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.

DEATH: Yet you do not want to die.


DEATH: What are you waiting for?

ANTONIUS: Knowledge.

DEATH: You want a guarantee?

ANTONIUS: Call it what you will. Is it so hard to conceive of God with one's senses? Why must He hide in a mist of vague promises and invisible miracles? How are we to believe the believers when we don't believe ourselves? What will become of us who want to believe, but cannot? And what of those who neither will nor can believe? Why can I not kill God within me? Why does He go on living in a painful, humiliating way? I want to tear Him out of my heart. But He remains a mocking reality which I cannot get rid of. I want knowledge. Not belief. Not surmise. But knowledge. I want God to put out His hand, show His face, speak to me. But He is silent. I cry to Him in the dark, but there seems to be no one there.

DEATH: Perhaps there is no one there.

ANTONIUS: Then life is a senseless terror. No man can live with Death and know that everything is [for] nothing.

DEATH: Most people think neither of Death nor nothingness.

ANTONIUS: Until they stand on the edge of life, and see the Darkness.

Bergman is an odd mixture, he was cutting edge sixties rebel in the arts, worldly, sophisticated, atheist, intellectual. Yet he was sensitive to the search for God and the desire to find truth. His films are paradoxical as well. The film is a combination of Mel Brooks camp humor, with high school play where the drama teacher has made the production very stagy and it's all shot on home movie. There are times when the production seems so rough you can swear it is a home movie. Then you go to the coffee shop after and talk about the existence of God for three hours because you realize you have seen a great film and it has transported you into the search. His films are also paradoxical as he was, they convey this greatness. To appear so cheap and amateur to leave one with the sense of having seen a truly great work of art it has to be truly great.

The major Characters dance over the hill with death, they all die of the plague but all we see is they meat death, then they all dance away with him. They are spied by the only survives of the traveling companions, the hippie-like performers and their young son, who watch them dance over the horizon into eternity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Give me some feed back!

My hit rate was great until I hit Christmas and went on break. I neded a break. the readership didn't come back. No one is reading the block. now. why?

why have I lost the readership? 50 people in a day sux. why? I want feedback.

tell me

The Question of Being part 2: Against ICR


I have done a previous post on the impossibility of ICR (Infinite Causal Regression). There are aspects of the subject that I didn't deal with in that so I am hoping to deal with them here. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has an excellent article on the Cosmological Argument. I am going to deal with issues raised in that article, issues pertaining to contingency and ICR. In counter to the argument of a necessary first cause Russell argues that the universe just is and requires no explanation. In the last post I argued that this is unsatisfying, Russell argued that we derive our concept of cause from observation, thus since we don't observe the final cause, or the cause of the universe (see objection 1 in link above). The obvious answer is that we don't have to observe ever aspect to extrapolate from what we do observe, that's the whole principle of inductive reasoning in scinece. I would argue that we do observe the contingency of the universe because it's all around at every moment, while we can't know the finality of it's contingency, we can see plainly that the only we have of the mode of being of the universe is contingency, which is in everything we see.

Rusell argued that the move from the parts to the whole, from contingent parts to wholly contingent universe, is the "fallacy of composition."

Russell correctly notes that arguments of the part-whole type can commit the Fallacy of Composition. For example, the argument that since all the bricks in the wall are small, the wall is small, is fallacious. Yet it is an informal fallacy of content, not a formal fallacy. Sometimes the totality has the same quality as the parts because of the nature of the parts invoked—the wall is brick because it is built of bricks. The universe's contingency, theists argue, resembles the second case. If all the contingent things in the universe, including matter and energy, ceased to exist simultaneously, the universe itself, as the totality of these things, would cease to exist. But if the universe can cease to exist, it is contingent and requires an explanation for its existence (Reichenbach, chap. 5).(from Stanford article above).
The assertion that the exact duplication of the building material in the overall wall is a red herring. The argument that the size of the bricks is the size of the all is not really analogous to the issue of contingency. The analogy would between the actual state of the material, not it's size divided into increments, but the material itself. A wall made out of all bricks is what we call "a brick wall" that is a wall made wholly of the materiel "brick." If a wall is made up of contingencies then it's a contingent wall.

Some reply that this argument for the contingency of the universe still is fallacious, for even if every contingent being were to fail to exist in some possible world, it may be the case that there is no possible world that lacks a contingent being. That is, though no being would exist in every possible world, every world would possess at least one contingent being. Rowe gives the example of a horse race. “We know that although no horse in a given horse race necessarily will be the winner, it is, nevertheless, necessary that some horse in the race will be the winner” (1975, 164).
Atheist answer:
Rowe's example, however, fails, for it is possible that all the horses break a leg and none finishes the race. That is, the necessity that some horse will win follows only if there is some reason to think that some horse must finish the race.
That is not a real answer because it doesn't prove that the universe is necessary it proves merely that there might be no universe at all. Since that means the universe itself could have failed to exist that makes it contingent (standard definition: that which could cease or fail to exist). The author of the article argues as a back up that we must have a reason to believe that something is necessary: "Similarly, his objection to the universe's contingency will hold only if there is some reason to think that the existence of something is necessary. " That's just the problem, we have no reason to assume the universe is necessary, we have an obvious reason to assume that being is necessary, since something can't come from nothing, there's ample reason to assume an eternal first cause. Being eternal it could not could not cease or fail, the logic of an eternal first cause makes it necessary a prori (ie Necessary: that which cannot cease of fail to exist). If something is truly eternal it could not cease or fail to exist. Consider the lunacy in saying that some thing has existed for ever with no cause but on June fourth, 1955 it cased to be. Why June 4, 1955, why not eons ago? It had infinite chances to cease, why would it do so on that one day and not another much sooner? Moreover, the concept of eternal being is limitless, unnumbered and infinite. To then have it cease would be to put a number to the infinite which is impossible. All of which is reason enough to assume eternal necessary being.

The article at that point goes off into what I think is a tangent arguing for the possible existence of a world with no contingent beings.

One argument given in defense of this thesis is that the existence of one contingent being may be necessary for the nonexistence of some other contingent being. But though the fact that something's existence is necessary for the existence of something else holds for certain properties (for example, the existence of children is necessary for someone to be a parent), it is doubtful that something's existence is necessary for something else's nonexistence per se, which is what is needed to support the argument that denies the contingency of the universe. Hence, given the contingency of everything in the universe, it remains that there is a possible world without any contingent beings.
I think he missed the point. The point is not that there must be a contingent being of some kind in every possible world, but that the state of contingency is mandated for all possible worlds (they are all dependent upon God) since they could all fail to exist. The author of the article, Bruce Reichenbach, argues in terms of individual beings. The point is that the whole is demonstrated as contingent because it is made up of contingent parts. This is not the fallacy of composition becuase if the parts are all the same the over all structure is the same as the parts. We can get off track by being literalistic and saying "the small bricks make a small wall" but they make a wall made of brick.

The fallacy of composition is when one reasons from the parts to the whole. In this case my argument (P2a) reasons from the fact that the universe is a collection of contingent things to the conclusion that the universe is contingent. But this is not my only argument for the contingency of the universe, be that as it may, it is not the fallacy of composition. The fallacy doesn't happen just any time one reasons in this way. It is not fallacious to argue form the parts to the whole if the parts are all alike.

Robert Koons on Leadership University


Phl 327
Contemporary Christian Philosophy
Fall 2000, University of Texas

The argument commits the fallacy of composition: from the fact that each part of the cosmos is caused, it fallaciously draws the conclusion that the whole cosmos is caused. Response: this is a misstatement of the argument. The argument assumes that all wholly contingent situations are caused. We can prove that the cosmos is wholly contingent, so it must have a cause.

The Nizkor Project

vistied 12/13/03

The second type of fallacy of Composition is committed when it is concluded that what is true of the parts of a whole must be true of the whole without there being adequate justification for the claim. More formally, the line of "reasoning" would be as follows:
The parts of the whole X have characteristics A, B, C, etc. Therefore the whole X must have characteristics A, B, C. That this sort of reasoning is fallacious because it cannot be inferred that simply because the parts of a complex whole have (or lack) certain properties that the whole that they are parts of has those properties. This is especially clear in math: The numbers 1 and 3 are both odd. 1 and 3 are parts of 4. Therefore, the number 4 is odd. It must be noted that reasoning from the properties of the parts to the properties of the whole is not always fallacious. If there is justification for the inference from parts to whole, then the reasoning is not fallacious. For example, if every part of the human body is made of matter, then it would not be an error in reasoning to conclude that the whole human body is made of matter. Similiarly, if every part of a structure is made of brick, there is no fallacy comitted when one concludes that the whole structure is made of brick.

Thomas Rauchenstein.Copyright 1997, (link is no good)

The argument (Cosmological) does not commit the fallacy of composition. Just as every part of a puzzle is red, so must the whole be red; if every part of a structure consists of stone, so must the whole consist of stone. Likewise, if every possible being is in potentiality, so the whole of all possible beings is in potentiality, and thus, needs to be actualized (caused). The very nature of the parts demand that the whole be caused as well.

If all the horses break a leg and no one finishes that is analogs to failure to exist not a defeat for the example. There is no reason to limit the example to just individual beings. ICR is made up of a string of contingent universes. For example where ICR is conveyed by the oscillating universe, big bang => big crunch, black whole, pops back out into another big bang, and another big crunch, another black and another popping out, on and on forever with no beginning and no end; the whole is made up of contingent parts. Take out the contingent universes, and you have no eternal string or series of infinite regression. The term "regression" refers to tracing the sting of c/e back infinitely. If the c/e is gone there's no string. Thus there is a possibility the string could have ceased at any point. That means the whole is contingent becuase it's made up of all contingent parts. Koons reflects this answer in his mermological argument:

To avoid any hint of the Fallacy of Composition and to avoid these complications, Koons (198–99) formulates the argument for the contingency of the universe as a mereological argument. If something is contingent, it contains a contingent part. The whole and part overlap, and by virtue of overlapping, have a common part. Since the part in virtue of which they overlap is wholly contingent, the whole likewise must be contingent.

Mememological Aggregation Axiom shows us that wholly congingent sitautions are wholly contingent

Dr. Robert Koons UT (Logician)

1) Every wholly contingent fact has a cause. (facts that are partly or wholly necessary need not)

2) Applying aggregation axiom, anything of a kin dk = such a thing as arrgigate of all kinds.

3) Aggreagates can't exist unless all parts exist (which means necessary aggregate must have Necessary parts, contingent aggregate must have contingent parts. The result is necessary and contingnet facts which means contingent aggregate as a whole). 4) Absolutely necessary facts cannot be caused, therefore, wholly contingent facts (those whith only contingent parts) can be caused.

5) Causal principle can be thought of as empirically supported (effects not limited to a particular region of space/time in the case of physical laws for example, :. we have reason to suspect that all contingent facts have causes).

For an explaination of the fact token/type situation I turn to Dr.Koons himself:

Phl 356
Western Theism
Spring '98, University of Texas

LECTURE #7: Contemporary Versions: My Argument

Facts are the kinds of things that make declarative sentences, like "Caesar has died", true. Facts enter into cause and effect relations with other facts. We can distinguish between "types" and "tokens", to use terms introduced into philosophy by C. S. Peirce. Each individual penny is a token, and the property or kind of penny-hood is a type. Each penny is a token of one and the same type, which is multiply realized in different places at different times. My argument concerns fact-tokens, not fact-types. For example, we can use the phrases "that Caesar died", "Caesar's dying" or "Caesar's death" to refer either to a fact-token, the particular, actual occurrence that constituted the ending of Caesar's life, or to a fact-type, the kind of occurence in which the individual Caesar dies. Thus, the token of Caesar's death includes the actual thrust of Brutus's blade, and that very token would not have existed had Caesar died in some other way, of old age, for example. In contrast, the type, Caesar's dying, could have been realized in many different ways, including the actual assassination and the non-actual dying in old age. My argument focusses on the actual token I call the cosmos. This token includes all of the wholly contingent fact-tokens in the world as parts -- had the slightest detail been different anywhere at any time, the particular token I am calling 'the cosmos'would not have existed. It would instead be replaced by a different token. The fact-type, the existing of a universe, could have been realized by many different possible tokens.

For an explaination of Meremology I again turn to Dr. Koons:

"My argument focusses on the particular token that actually realized this type.If we assume that every fact has a cause, then there could exist no uncaused fact. Instead, I assume that every wholly contingent fact has a cause. Facts that are partly or wholly necessary need not, and indeed cannot, be caused. Since facts are concrete, actual things, we can talk meaningfully about the parts of a fact. Consequently, I use the principles of the mathematical theory of mereology, the theory of the part-whole relation. The most important principle of mereology is the aggregation axiom. This axiom states that, if there are any things of kind K, then there is such a thing as the aggregate of all the K's. For example, there is such a thing as water, so we can talk meaningfully about the aggregate or "mereological sum" of all the world's water. I assume that an aggregate cannot exist unless all of its parts exist. This means that a necessary aggregate must have only necessary parts, since if an aggregate has a contingent part, then that part might not exist, which would mean that the aggregate would not exist either. Aggregates are not like bodies or institutions, which can go on existing without the same parts. However, a contingent aggregate can have necessary parts. If we glue together some contingent and necessary facts, the resulting aggregate is contingent as a whole. I assume that an absolutely necessary fact cannot be caused. If a fact is caused, then all of its parts are caused. So, any fact that contains a necessary fact cannot be caused.

Therefore, it is only wholly contingent facts that can be caused. A wholly contingent fact is a fact that has only contingent parts.I argue that the causal principle should be thought of as empirically supported. We find that a wide variety of facts are caused. This includes conditions both small and large (from atomic physics to astronomy and cosmology), both recent and ancient, both transient and long-lasting. We even discover that many everlasting conditions have causes. For example, the fact that the physical world is approximately Newtonian is caused by certain features of general relativity. Similarly, the ideal gas laws are caused by the underlying dynamics of the gas molecules, and Brownian motion is caused by atomic collisions. In these cases, the effects are not limited to a particular region of space or time. Thus, we have good empirical reason to believe that every fact that can be caused, that is, every wholly contingent fact, has a cause.

Cyclial Universe
The concept that the universe is eternallay ocillating between big bangs and big crunches. When the matter from the explosion of a Big Bang reaches a certain point the gravitational pull draws it back, it callapses into superdense black hole and pops back out again. This notion does not require an initial cause, the cyclical universe is just always there always going through its cycles.

a) Universe continuing to expand

Evidence from three recent studies reveals that the final fate of the universe will be to drift apart and cease all useful functions capable of supporting life due to missing mass, which can't produce gravitational pull to bring it all back together and start again, and heat death in which case energy is useless for work. Several major studies show this to be the case.

[New Scientist Magazine, archive 11, April 98, archive; originally Oct. 96] you should be able to click here, but here's the url just in case) [

"ON THE night of 5 March last year, the huge telescope of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile intercepted a message from deepest space. Transmitted a billion years before the Earth was born, its contents have proved to be of truly cosmic significance. The message was barely readable after its journey halfway across the Universe, and an international team of experts laboured for months to decode it. In January, Saul Perlmutter of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California and his colleagues revealed to the world what they believe to be its gist: "The Universe will never end." A month later, a team led by Brian Schmidt of the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories near Canberra in Australia published the decoded contents of more of these cosmic missives, which arrive as bursts of light from supernova explosions in far-flung galaxies. The message was the same. Now Chris Kochanek and his colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are about to publish more evidence, this time from light that has been bent and sculpted by the gravity of unseen galaxies."

Omega force = Continued expansion forever (no Big Cruch)

"These three sets of cosmic missives all suggest that instead of collapsing in on itself in a big crunch, our Universe will go on expanding forever. And that's not all. They also hint that the expanding Universe is in the grip of a mysterious force that is fighting against gravity--a force that pervades the entire cosmos and springs literally from nothing."(Ibid.)

[mysterious force = "omega" ie the equation of gravitational force vs. mass needed to close the universe; omega must = 1 to close]

Missing Mass.

[New Scientist article April 1999] "If it [the universe] contains enough matter, gravity will eventually slow its expansion, stop it, and reverse it--producing a cataclysmic big crunch billions of years hence. But if there is too little matter--or if there is an extra source of "oomph" at work in the cosmos--then the Universe will expand forever.... Cosmologists call the ratio of the actual density of matter in our Universe to this critical density 'Omega.' And whole armies of astronomers have spent decades trying to work out if Omega is less than, more than or equal to 1.,... "Studies of the gravitational effects of clusters of galaxies have revealed that there must be at least 10 times as much mass tied up in invisible "dark matter" in the Universe as there is in the familiar form of luminous stars and gas. Yet even when all this dark matter is thrown into the equation, it still doesn't make the theorists happy. Despite searching every cosmic nook and cranny, astronomers have never found anything like the amount needed to make Omega equal to 1."

"So the take-home message looks the same as that now emerging from the supernova and quasar surveys: the Universe is going to expand forever, and it may yet prove to be flat. Certainly the idea of the big crunch seems to have gone for good, but the exact values of Lambda and Omega, and the fate of the cosmologists' theories, are still up for grabs. These values may finally be nailed early in the next century, with the launch of NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) and the European Space Agency's PLANCK missions. These will use the heat left over from the big bang to try yet another way of measuring Omega and Lambda, which may lay the question to rest for good ("Genesis to Exodus", New Scientist," 19 October 1996, p 30).

Flat Universe means no contraction

Andre Linde, Scientific American, Sept 1997

"A second trouble spot is the flatness of space. General relativity suggests that space may be very curved, with a typical radius on the order of the Planck length, or 10^-33 centimeter. We see however, that our universe is just about flat on a scale of 10^28 centimeters, the radius of the observable part of the universe. This result of our observation differs from theoretical expectations by more than 60 orders of magnitude." [Messuer is a leading physicist and one of the first to invent the inflationary universe theory]

ABC Scientists: Universe is Flat another link Physics.

Wayne Hu of the Institute for Advanced Studies, School of Natural Sciences in New Jersey said "temperature maps of the CMB form a snapshot image of the Universe when it was extremely young." "The...result supports a flat universe, which means that the total mass and energy density of the universe is equal to the so-called critical density," Wu wrote. "A perfectly flat universe will remain at the critical density and keep on expanding forever, because there is not enough matter to make it recollapse in a 'big crunch.'"

c) End of Universe reveals beginning--universe would have already ceased.

Energy of the universe is being expended, as it burns up,it becomes useless for work. The fate of the universe will be eventual death in ciy darkness as all of its suns burn out and their energy dissipates][New Scientist, April 1999, oct. 96

"But even if the Universe lives forever, its inhabitants will not be so lucky. A mere thousand billion years from now, all the stars will have used up their fuel and fizzled out. There will still be occasional flashes in the perpetual night: the death throes of stars so large that they have collapsed in on themselves to form black holes. Even these will eventually evaporate in a blast of radiation. For the next 10122 years, this Hawking radiation will be the only show in town. By then even the most massive black holes will evaporate, leaving the Universe with nothing to do for an unimaginable 10 to the power of 1026 years. Quantum theory then predicts that atoms of iron--the most stable of all elements--will undergo "tunnelling" and disappear into tiny black holes, which will themselves end in a final fizz of Hawking radiation. In the beginning there may have been light, but in the end, it seems, there will be nothing but darkness. ".[New Scientist April 1999]

Given infinite time and possibility all potentialities would have already come to fruition, the chain would have already been broken before our universe came into being. This just illustrates the impossibility of an infinite series of events. (being a series of events it would be "in time" so it's really redundant to say "an infinite series of events in time.") In other words, if this universe drifts apart because it lacks mass to produce omega, than the last universe would have too because energy and matter would be the same amount, just formulated differently (energy cannot be created or destroyed). The absurdity of the notion of an infinite series of big bang/crunches is driven home; how could there be an "infinite" series if one of the links in the chain can't make it? It can't "already be infinite" and then stop because infinite means no beginning and no end.

Note: If the Skeptic does not agree to this principle, that given infinite time every possibility comes to fruition than he can neither argue infinite chances nor multiple universes against the fine tuning argument.

d) Universe contains finite stock of order, connote be eternal (because it would have burned out by now)

*Scientific consensus:

Paul Davies, in his article, "Space-time Singularities and Cosmology," says,"If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme,we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of space-time, through such an extremity. For this reason, most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view, the Big Bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the MATTER and ENERGY in the universe, but also of space-time itself."[ P. C. W.Davies, "Space-time Singularities in Cosmology," in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1978), pp. 78-79.]

* Laws of Physics break down at singularity

The laws of physics break down at the singularity. 1st Thermo. would apply after the Big Bang, then the fixed amount of energy that is "put in" to the universe (as Davies puts it) would be finite (in quantity) and subject to 1st and 2nd Thermo.

* 1 LTD applies to matter also. Thirdly, the 1st Law of Thermo. applies to matter ALSO. If you argue that energy is eternal, you've got to argue that matter is eternal, which goes against all the empirical evidence we have for the Big Bang.

* 2 LTD Energy burn to heat death

Fourthly, if you opt for 1st Thermo. before the Big Bang, try being consistent and applying 2nd Thermo. as well. If the energy (AND matter) of the universe is eternal, it would have reached MAXIMUM heat death an INFINITE amount of time ago.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies, in his book God and the New Physics, states:

"If the universe has a finite stock of order, and is changing irreversibly towards disorder - ultimately to thermodynamic equilibrium - two very deep inferences follow immediately. The first is that the universe will eventually die, wallowing, as it were, in its own entropy. This is known among physicists as the 'heat death' of the universe. The second is that the universe cannot have existed forever, otherwise it would have reached its equilibrium end state an infinite time ago. Conclusion: the universe did not always exist."

If you deny that the universe has a finite stock of order, you are essentially denying the 1st law of thermodynamics, as it requires a fixed finite amount of matter and energy. (check your Encyc. Britannica)

In your wider universe, does the 1st law of Thermodynamics apply WITHOUT the second? What reversed the entropy of this eternally existent universe? As we saw above, a universe containing eternal matter and energy would have reached maximum entropy an INFINITE amount of time ago. What organizing principle intervened 11-15 billion years ago and organized all that energy and matter that was no longer available for work? What or who (or Who) wound the universe up?

Fifthly, we observe that the universe is expanding uniformly in all directions. Had the universe existed for an infinite period of time, the density of matter would have become zero. (Koons) How do you explain the observable expansion of the universe? We measure the recession velocity of distant galaxies by using Cepheid variables, type Ia supernovas, and now Red Clumps as standard candles. And the microwave background radiation and redshift (Doppler effect that skews the red portion of the spectrum of starlight in proportion to the distance of the star) confirm this expansion also. Furthermore, within the very field equations of General Relativity, is embedded the fact of the expansion and deceleration of the universe. There are now 19 proofs of General Relativity in 12 isolated areas of Physics,making it the most exhaustively proven principle. Are you saying that General Relativity does not apply to our universe as a whole?!! It is accurate to better than a trillionth of a percent precision. Where is your scientific evidence for A) separate portions of the universe which General Relativity does not describe B) separate universes? If its not falsifiable, and there's no evidence for it, then its just not a threat to the standard BB model as it is not scientific.

Since the oscillating universe is the only workable mechanism for ICR it's really a theory in trouble. The other alternatives such quantum tunneling require that the particles cause themselves (soemthing form nothing) then travel in time into he past to continually cause themselves again and again. The other answer is string membranes which is still unproved as something that even exists.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Question of Being: Brute fact or Deep Structure?


This will begin a three part series on the question of Cosmological argument vs. Infinite Causal Regression (ICR).

The meaning of the controversy is the difference between Paul Tillich's view of God as being itself, and the atheist understanding that "the universe just is." Tillich said that if we know that being has depth that it's not just "surface only" then we can't be atheists (Shaking of the Foundations, chapter seven). The atheist understanding has long been their answer to arguments like the cosmological argument. When theists divide up mobes of being into necessary and contingent,the atheist merely says "well what if being just is, it has no meaning or reason for being its' just there?" Of course that's a possibility but it doesn't answer the question, and saying it doesn't make the depth we can see in being go away. What is meant by "depth" of being is that there more to being than just the surface fact of things existing. That's what the concept of "the universe just is" tries to convey, the idea of no reason, not no scientific cause necessarily although they do sometimes try to say that too. These are two totally diametrically opposed understandings. The atheist view says being just is, no reason, nothing to consider or worry about, it's just there for no reason, absurdity. The theists seems more to the nature of being than meets the eye from the surface level. There has to be more to it than just the fact of things existing.

The cosmological argument, for example has different versions, but in generally all CA's assert that there must be final cause to account for the existence of the whole of reality. The atheist's often counter this final cause with an infinite series of contingent causes such as the oscillating universe of big bangs and big crunches. This is called an ICR (infinite causal regression). The atheist asserts that the universe just happens to be for no reason and it's made up of a series of little universes that come in and go out of existence. The whole chain, contingent though it may be (some deny validity of the category "contingent") passes on existence to the next version in the form of a big crunch that then expands avian in another big bang. Some argue that the crunch (contraction of gravitational forces) becomes a blog hole and "punches out" the other side as a new big bang. This is not the only mechanism for ICR. They also posit the notion of quantum tunneling and string membranes. The oscillating universe, however, is the most popular form of ICR becuase it's the only one with proven potential, even though the evidence disproves it (scroll down to (2) Cyclical Universe). As ICR for origin of the universe quantum tunneling invovles self causation where the singularity, or some original element or fragment of reality keeps tunneling back to cause itself at another point in time. This would involve being just having no logical origin but causing itself over and over eternally. String membrane in the sense of ICR is more or less the idea of a floating dimension just drifting along, bashing into another floating dimension and causing a third dimension. Since it posits the idea of a dimension just floating for no reason (2 actually) why bother with the mess? Why not say the universe needs no origin?

There's no absolute proof in any of this. If we want to get technical there's no actual proof that we are even living in a state of "reality." We assume the reality of the world, and thus our ability to study it and formulate hypothesis that "explain it" but if we want to start special pleading about explainations we don't like and just asserting the unproved nature of origins to hedge bets on those we do then we cant' be too picky when the other guy calls our bluff and says "now it's the skeptic's burden of proof." Why? Because presumption is on the side of explainations. Science assumes we need them. No one ever hears a scientist say "we don't need to explain that, let's forget it." The problem is atheists fool themselves. They demand science so much when they need to reach back to philosophy (Kant--the question about brute facts begins with Kant) it's reaching beyond science to philosohpy, which most atheists condemn anyway. There's a loss of credibility there. More importantly, they have already promised explainations then special plead and say "we don't need them in this area." Hey, for religious experiences we need them and they must be naturalistic!

The idea of "the universe just is," in philosophical terms is called a "brute fact." It means there is no reason it' just there. The problem with brute facts is that philosophers usually avoid them excusable they are meaningless, they are provoking and they beg the question. They are not satisfying. As stated, the explainable has been established as the proper procedure for dealing with unknowns, yet in this one reach of the metaphysical nature of being they are willing to just let it go. It's a true case of special pleading. The unsatisfying nature of the brute fact is set off against the basic intuitive sense of being meaning one finds in the question of existence. Meaning is part of the depth of being and we sense the depth of being in even asking the question "where did it all come from?" The issue seems like an arbitrary stand off, either there is a reason or not. Either there is meaning or not. We can't really tell why think there is when the only thing that we can be sure of is the blind random existence of what is? The scietnific evidence does suggest bind random accident and evolution.

The problem is the brute fact in terms of ICR or universal origin is just made up of contingent things. The states of bang and crunch that make up the oscillating universe, for example, consist of constituat parts such as space-time, gravitational field, and naturalistic things. Naturalistic things are contingent. To posit the whole totality of all universal meaning, eternal truth, the nature of all that is upon a meaningless happenstance that just happens to be, while everything else about existence requires explaining and implies something greater than itself (such as truth) creates a state of dissatisfaction. If we are disatisfied metpahyically we have the right to question that state. ICR and brute facts don't answer the questions we ask. The atheist is content to lose the phenomena and pretend there is no meaning and no answers but in so doing is no better off or no more intellectually justified than the faithful making excuses about "no one knows the mind of God." There is a deciding factor or two and they are a prori part of the basic fabric of the question. There's an aspect to the nature of the contingent happenstance that makes up the brute fact of existence that suggests depth of being in a greater sense.

The eternal and necessary nature being suggests the distinction between being as a brute fact and being as depth. The very mechanism the atheist seeks to ply aging final cause is the disproof of the brutish nature of fact. To explain this I must explain the difference in my CA and that of others. For example the Kalam argument is a version of the CA. This says anything that beings to exist needs a cause. That argument, therefore, turns upon the nature cause. Thus arguments about Kalam revolve around efficient cause in nature, and thus ICR (if allowed to stand) is a valid answer. ICR contains cause even though it means an endless series of meaningless cause the whole of which cannot be explained, our own particular universe has its cause then in the previous big crutch and it's blowing back out as a big bang. My version of the CA, however, the Argument from Cosmological Necessity doesn't turn upon causes but upon attributes of God. The argument turns upon demonstrating that the attributes that make up the God concept already exist and are known to us as aspects of reality, thus it's just a matter of understanding their relation to being we can see that they spell out something deep inherent meaning in being that disproves brute fact. After all if being has a deep inherent meaning it can't be a brute fact, that is a prori truth. The deciding factor is the eternal nature of being. There is another version of the argument that turns upon the eternal nature of being.

The reason it's not a moot stand off between the two concepts is because the ICR itself has to be eternal. the individual aspects of the regression that move from one universe to another are contingent and temporal, but the whole string in so far as it must stretch back eternally is both eternal and infinite. Both states evoke the sense of the numinous. That means it's a fit object of worship because anything that evokes the sense of the numinous is a fit object of worship since that state is the very reason religion exists in the firs place. That's what worship is, its the nature being moved by the sense that there is something profound and special in being. The atheist protest that "the universe just happens to be" is self negating becuase it's eternal and infinite nature suggest the quality of the numinous and are thus more in and of themselves than they perpetual to be. That in itself is depth of being. In seeking to posit the whole they actually must suggest something that triggers religious devotion and thus prove the depth nature of being.

Atheists logically should have to support the concept the universe moving from a state of absolute nothing. This is because the ICR just moves the problem back eternally but never really confronts the issue of origins anyway. Since the atheists affirm the idea of brute fact, meaningless accident, irrational existence, and so on they should actually just take their lumps in abandoning ratinoal explanations. This is not all there, however, the issue is not a done deal. We can't just leap from eternal being triggers the sense of the numinous to "therefore God is real." We have to deal with the other attitudes. Even though they all actually flow out of the eternal nature of being, necessity is the more independent one of the lot. The attrubites I emphasis are:

ground of being
first cause

I am also challenged by atheists constantly to include "consciousness" or "personal being." There is no necessity in theology to assume God is personal. Even though I do assume so that is not a priamry quality because other things are personal as well. I'm concerned with the qualitaties that make God God and that God can't share with anything else. Whatever is eternal is by definition necessary (at least ontologically so) because it's not dependent and can't cease to exist. Nothing else really is necessary in the sense that God is (totally, no nature as the effect of a prior cause), so these are primary qualities. If there is eternal necessary being then by definition it is the ground of being. That would only be logical to assume that it is the first cause since nothing else is on a par with it ti would be the best candidate to assume that all else has it's origin in that which is eternal and necessary.

That brings us to the issue of necessity. This is a very important issue because the whole about ICR includes a large part about necessity vs. contingency. That will be discussed on Monday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Atheists Claim they Want Empirical Evidence


I have been touting several hundred studies on religious experience for some time now. The number varies because there are many studies and I have not seen most of them (or course since I can't go get 300 studies and read them all). I began using a ball park figure rounding it off at 300. That was 300 studies that show long term positive effects of religious experience ("mystical" experience). Then I found two sources that each went through a litany of studies show these positive effects. I counted the number in the two sources and lo, it was almost 300. So I counted more form a couple more sources it was 350.This was by combining the bibliographies of
Jayne Gackenback, Krishna Mohan, and Loukoff and Lu. I had to hammer in the concept because the tendency of atheists was to just ignore all those studies completely. Most of the time they would act like their opinions out weighed all the studies. There is a huge body of data that is good scientific data and confirms the greatness of religion. This is completely ignored by atheists so I had to hammer the idea home to them. Of course they still can't accept it so the became resentful. During the past year I've began saying 200 studie. That's closer to the mark. They are all ball park, and it dependent upon how liberal you want to be in defining them. 200 is a conservative estimate.

One of the major things they did was spot the discrepancy between what I used to say "300" vs the new number 350. Well I'm just lying because there are two different numbers. It never dawned on them maybe I found more! Since the number is ball park anyway there are a good deal more I could include. I could probably get it up to about 2000 without damaging the truth too much; that would include studies on religious participation and physical health, these are not included in the 350. Lukoff and Lu found a thousand entries for studies that show positive effects of religious experience, they narrowed that down to a hundred maybe, or maybe 50 for their literature search. That was the early 80s so have been a lot more sense then, but a large of those would have been non applicable because they used of one the early search engines and they weren't very refined. In College debate we used an even earlier version (1977). Looking for things on ultrasound as medical diagnostic tool (it was pretty new then) and got stuff on the sexual tendencies of flat worms.

Be that as it may, the atheist attacks upon these studies have remained pathetic. of course we are dealing with people on message boards, so we run the gamut of who is out there. Some on CARM (where I will not longer post) have attacked my studies in my absence. Since I wont post there anymore, it's safe to attack them. Their attacks are confined to non methodological knit picking. They do not present one single valid scientific criticism about the nature of the science involved. The major stock issues that one would use in attacking social science studies would be arguments about replication, sample size, data base, randomness of the sample, representativeness of the data base or the sample, as well as arguments about controls and double blinding. None of this has ever been advanced. Nor has atheist ever bothered to look up one of these studies. Now in this latest round one tried to do that and upon not finding a certain one on a certain search engine just gave up assumes they are all bad. Atheists tend to treat these studies as though they are all one studies. There's this one group of studies called 'the 350 studies' so that if one is bad they are all bad. If they can't find one then none of them exist. These are not valid approaches. There are not just 350 studies, that's the number of the ones' I've either found, or found mentioned in some other source. Attacks upon the bibliography and the one compiling it (Gackenback) are not valid methodological attacks. Some studies are better than others, so some of the 350 might suck, that doesnt' mean all 350 studies are not good. Another trick they have played is to attack Gackenback's bibliography (the studies are bad because they are listed in a bad bibliography) based upon other sources listed in it. For examlpe, she sites De pock Chopra. They don't even bother to find out whey she sites him. She might be saying he's a complete idiot for all they know, they just indulge in classic guilt by association and conclude that because she quotes Chopra and Hood, then Hood but be in the same league Chopra.

So let's move into the specific arguments in this last round:

phoenix702 (on CARM)

Metacrock relies on some less than credible sources
Metacrock is always talking about his "350 studies" as empirical evidence, but many of them are most definitely NOT "empirical" and of low quality. Let me post this another thread on Meta's sources....

Of course he's judging their "low quality" by the fact he could not find a couple on the only social science search engine he bothered to look for. He has no concept of how many of the 350 are good or not good. But 350 is a lot of studies. Air Bags were determined to be valuable and began to be put on cars on the basis of just three studies. 350 is a lot of studies. If only a few are really good that's all that matters.

Btw I could not find studies by Abraham Maslow, C Wright Mills, Warner and Withers, or the All state Air Bag study on that same search engine. So it failed to turn up some of the major thinkers in the social science field, or any of the three studies that established air bags as valid. Moreover, you have to be a member to use the index. So is Phoenix a member? Or did he just put the title int he search box on the top left of the home page. If that's all he did then he wont get anything, that's not how you use the index. You can't just start using it. What he's really complaining about though, when you boil it down is that these studies are not in JAMA or NEJM because those are the kind of sources you get on SSCI. But they don't index psychology articles, and especially not psychology of religion articles.

Now here's an interesting acid test. show me some of the big atheist studies on that sight? Can you show me Zukerman's study indexed in SSCI? I don't think so. But most atheists have no trouble accepting Zucerman as scientific (even though most sociologists do have trouble accepting his crap as scientific).

SSCI is not the only index and it's not the only social scinece index. It is not social abstracts and there's also Wlson Social Abstracts and a couple of others.

then he quotes me to set up the basis for attacking Gackenbak's bibliography:

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
I found 50 more since I first started saying 300.

I first started using that figure about three years ago.

You can count the core list yourself if you wish. Look at the Gackenback bib and the Mohan bib. those two together. make up a huge chunk.
50 more?! Like Gackenback? I've looked at just her "bib" that you are flogging here as evidence and I've got to tell you if that additional 50 is of the same quality as the Gackenback "bib", the you haven't got much.
Then he responds:

Phoenix: Since you have posted these studies and refer to them multiple times in your posts, let's look at them. One good indication of the quality of the work is where it is published and very little of what you list comes from peer-reviewed, quality SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) journals.
That is aburd. you don't prove the Scottish journal is not peer reviewed. It's stupid to think they are not peer reviewed just because they are on a bibliography with Depoc Chopra. Most of them are coming from major journals. Two of the major sources in the early days (80's) were from Journal of Transpersonal psychology. That is clearly one of the major journals in the field of psychology of religion (a field know nothing about, most of them of them have never heard of it). Wuthnow (who did the first rigorous methodological procedure for such a study) and Nobel (who was lauded for her huge data based--at the time huge, 2,400) were both published in that source. These are some of the major studies in the early period.

here is a swath of Mohan's bibliography. tell me what is wrong with these sources?

Adams, N. (1995). Spirituality, science and therapy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 16 (4), 201-208.

Allman, L.S., Dela, R.O., Elins, D.N., & Weathers, R.S. (1992). Psychotherapists attitude towards mystical experiences. Psychotherapy, 29, 564-569.

Anson, O., Antonovskay, A., & Sagy, S. (1990). “Religiosity and well-being among retirees: A question of causality”. Behaviour, Health & Aging, 1, 85-87.

Atchley, R.C. (1997). “The subjective importance and being religious and its effects on health and morale 14 years later”. Journal of Aging Studies, 11, 131-141.

Ball, R.A & Goodyear, R.K. (1991). “Self-reported professional practices of Christian psychotherapists”. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. 10, 144-153.

Balodhi, J.P., Chowdhary, J.R. (1986). “Psychiatric concepts in Atharva Veda: A review”. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 28, 63-68.

Begley, S. (1998, July 20).Science finds God”. Newsweek, 132, 47-52.

Bergin, A.E. (1980). Psychotherapy and religious values. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48, 95-105.

Bergin, A.E. (1983). “Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta analysis”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 170-184.

Bergin, A.E. (1991). “Values and Religious issues in Psychotherapy and mental health”. American Psychologist, 46, 394-403.

Bergin, A.E. & Payne, I.R. (1993).Proposed agenda for a spiritual strategy in personality and psychotherapy”, in E.L. Wothington, Jr. (Ed.). Psychotherapy and Religious Values, (pp. 243-260). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Bhagawad Gita. (1905). Translation by Besant, A. & Das, B. London and Benares: Theological Publishing Society.

Blaine, B., Crocker, J. (1995). “Religiousness, and psychological well-being: Exploring social psychological mediators”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1031-1041.

Brown, L.B. (1994). The human side of prayer: The psychology of praying. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.

Canda, E. (1988). “pirituality, religious diversity, and social work practice”. Social Casework: The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, 69 (4), 238-247.

Canda, E. (1995). “Existential family therapy: Using the concepts of Victor Frankl”. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 76, 451-452.

Caroll, S. (1993). “Spirituality and purpose in life in alcoholism recovery”. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 54, 297-301.

Carlson,R. & Shield,B. (1989). Healers on Healing. Los Angels: Tarchet.

Chekola, M.G. (1975). The concept of happiness (Doctoral dissertation). University of Michigan. (1974). Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 4609A.

Courtenary, B.C., Poon. L.W., Martin, P., & Clayton,G.M. (1992). “Religiostiy and adaptation in oldest-old”. International Journal of Aging & Human Development. 34, 47-46.

Culberson, C.E. (1977). A holistic view of joy in relation to psychotherapy derived from Lowen, Maslow, and Assagoli (Doctoral Dissertation). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 2853B.
He goes on:

I have a major problem with your strong reliance on Jayne Gackenback's unpublished, hence non-peer-reviewed work (a literature review). Gackenback claims that, dreaming gets one in contact with the Vedic Consciousness. This kind of "I'm-A-True-Believer " rif should be a real red flag that her work on this topic is unreliable due to her bias. Samples of your heavy reliance on this very dubious source:

Strong reliance. I don't quote her as a study. I used her bibliography. See this is the Bib attack I spoke of earlier. It's just the height of stupidity to think that because a source is on a bibliography with a bad source that somehow taints the good source. Foolish. But there's nothing wrong with Gackenback anyway, she's a fine researcher, but her main area is sleep research and that tends to be a bit on the edge. She does, therefore, have an association with some less than sterling publications. But this in now way impends upon the sources she sites becuase she didn't' do the studies. I've done a mountain of research on this topic and I know the major studies are. Here's was the first bibliography of the topic that I found. Bedsides all that she accounts for less than half of the studies. Her biboliogrophy was done in 92, so most of her studies are old. But that doesn't make them bad because the same results have been coming in for four decades. Mohan contains almost half the sources and his bib starts about 92 and goes to 2004.

Then he tries to attack Gackenback herself, as though that means anything on her big must be bad.


The following taken from the Gackenback bib:

1. Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback.

Why are you using UNPUBLISHED work here?
I'm not! I'm using her bibliography. The publication of her article has nothing to do with the publication of the items on her bibliography. Don't you even know what a Bibliography is? Secondly, it is published, on her website. She has a degree, she's a professional researcher, she was the editor of a journal, so why doesn't her website count?

The is NOT scholarly (you're so fond of lambasting others for not being scholars that I find this tendency to cite this dubious kind of work and THEN claim that you have "empirical evidence" to be most ironic.
It's not scholarly. What's scholarly is to act like I'm quoting her when I'm only quoted sources she sites! Your just doing guilt by association, that is not a valid methodological attack. Really none of the attacks he makes have anything to do with replication, representation, randomness, or control.

2. She cites Alexander (really fond of him, she is), but what is she citing? One book, two unpublished manuscripts, and two publications in The Lucidity Letter====>The Lucidity Letter, is a non-professional publication, hence non-peer reviewed==>Guess what, Gackenback is the past editor of this low-quality journal, and Alexander is her bud (more on why this is a problem).

Lucidy letter was a professional publication. It wa snot an academic publication. i'm sure you don't know the difference. Again, her quotations from Alexander do not make his study bad. that's really idiotic to think it does. Moreover, it's total stupid to think that a book is a scholarly source. Yes books are still valid scholarly sources. A studyin a book is still a study. Alexander is a good source. It's not that uncommon for scholarly sources to quote unpublished material ether. You can find that being done all the time. Being unpublished doesn't make the findings go away.l Yes publication is important, and you are right about that,but a book is publication.

He gives this URL which is to Lucidity letter. I'm not sure why he sticks it out there.



Now let's look at her citation partner Alexander. He publishes in Modern Science and Vedic Science that is published by guess who, The Maharishi University of Management Press, another turn in the SAME circle of "True Believers" in Vedic Consciousness). What we have here is a citation circle (never a good sign) that you cite as support which consists mainly of an unpublished papers that reference other non-peer reviewed literature in a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle.

This is one study out of the pack (349, or so left to go). He's also deciding what a citation circle is by assuming that the Academy in India is going to work by the same procedures as ours or that they must be inferior because America is the only country that really knows science. He doesn't present any material to prove any problems with this source. He's just guessing. His assertion that I use Alexander as some kind of support is unfounded. He's in the mix of the 350 that doesn't' mean I've singled his stuff out as any particular support for anything.

3. Not only so we have a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle, but she cites frauds like Deepak Chopra!. Really Meta, this is a serious source and we are to take someone who cites this snake-oil salesman as believable?
see there it is. I've seen this before. She sties a bad source (do we know what she says about him? does she say he's good? we don't know) but that means all the sources she sites must also be bad. That's just plain stupid. Because the major studies like Wuthnow and Nobel and Lukoff are sites by the major people such as Hood. So this means nothing as a methodological attack. Nothing more than guilt by association. What are we really being asked to believe about Gackenback? Only that she found some good studies and some bad ones. That's not hard to believe. If the source I site were not on her bib, had I not told the CARM idiots that there were there, they would never have known it. Then they would have no argument against the studies at all. Because notice: he still has not read a single study and has not made a single mythological argument of any one source.

4. Gackenbach now cites herself (round and round in this citation circle we go!).

that is not a citation circle. you need to learn more about social science research. Quoting herself is a total logical thing to do since she did studies. It has nothing to do with otehrs quoting her. You can't show a single source that she quotes quoting her. That's a circle is stupid.

1. Gackenbach, J.I. & Moorecroft, W. (1987). Psychological content of "consciousness" during sleep in a TM subject. Lucidity Letter, 6(1), 29-36. b. Gackenbach, J.I. (1988). The psychological content of lucid dreams.
2. In J.I. Gackenbach & S.L. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum. (NOTE: The low-quality Lucidity Letter, again!)

5. Not content with these non-SSCI journals ( Lucidity Letter and Modern Science and Vedic Science), Gackenback also cites:

* the Journal of UFO Studies. (you've got to be kidding me...this is serious science!) (non-SSCI)

This is rich and hilarious. I've sen this stupid mistake made by atheists before. He wants you to think that Gackenback is an idiot because she quotes something about UFO studies. That would mean she must believe in UFO's right? But since she is a sleep researcher she's quoting to show that there is a similarity between waking dreams and UFO abduction descriptions. This was back in the late 80s or early 90s when that was not so well known. Rather than supporting belief in UFOs she is actually demonstrating the cause of abduction scenarios as waking dreams, meaning she's agaisnt UFO abduction. She has done the valid scholarly thing and quoted her source, she had quote a crazy source to show that the idea is crazy right? so what's wrong with that?

Let's also say something about his crap on the SSI. Social Science Abstracts is the most authoritative source for social scinece studies. The search engine he found, SSI is not. So he's just making stupid assumptions. I know from having published an academic journal that the indecies do not have people running around looking for good stuff to index. You have to apply to them. Not all do that because it doesn't always fit what you are doing. Just not being in a certain index is not proof that your publication is no good.

* the Scottish Journal of Religious Studies (non-SSCI)
* the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion ( non-SSCI).
* another non-SSCI journal, the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
* The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (non-SSCI) that publishes papers from the likes of Ram Dass . {}
* a doctoral dissertation from the Dept. of Neuroscience of Human Consciousness, Maharishi International University (back to the citation circle)

This is nothing more than ideological pandering. Most of these journals are find and he has no real reason for saying they aren't. I don't know why we should expect a Scottish journal to be in an American index. Ram Dass is a popularizer but that doesn't mean everything he does is bad. He does have a major degree from an Ivy league university. He was involved scientific work before he went native. This guy is just assuming that religious structures have to square with secular academia or with western academia and they don't. I would consider Ram Dass to be half backed. I always have.But that doesn't mean anything, because Gackenback quotes him and he is capable of doing some good. Its' silly to judge academics in other countries by American standards. as though they don't have their own standardizes.

again these are things Gackenback quotes, that doesn't mean the 350 studies are in this pile. He has not showen that one of these is from the same group.

6. Gackenbach, J.I. & Bosveld, J. (1989). Control your dreams. NY: Harper & Row
You identified her popular book as a serious academic work. A popular book is NOT a a serious academic work that one relies upon as evidence for ones case. (Gackenback also cites her own book in her work).
where did I do that? I said she's a serious sleep researcher. Just because she does a popular books mean she's not. Lost of major academics have done popular things. Dr. MacFarland did a coffee table book on Japan and he was the major expert on the New Religions of Japan. This has nothing do to with her study on religious experince or on her bibliography.

The point here is that there is a pattern to the stuff you cite and it is not a good one. The vast majority of them are a joke...unpublished, non-peer reviewed, from joke journals like the UFO rag, and/or as part of strongly-biased citation circle (so much for you "empirical evidence"). If this is a representative sample of what you have, I am totally underwhelmed. Why don't you try writing a paper yourself, using the sources you have cited on your web-site as evidence and see how far you get having it published in a reputable SSCI journal?

the pattern is the bald faced lie you are telling. The pattern is you are mining quotes. You looking at the stuff that makes the case of guilt by association. none of the things you site have anything to do with the 350 studies. The studies you are looking at deal with her sleep research. I don't know if you even have hold of the right bibliography. You are just playing game.s Taking things out of context and trying to make a big muddle. you don't know the scholarly world well enough to discern good from bad.

Now this is just a scan of the "Gackenback bib". I do hope that her work isn't typical of the rest of the now "350" (up from the "300" studies).

you have not yet proved that it's typical of even one of them. you haven not demonstrated that one of them is the 350. You are doing nothing more than playing guilt by association.

Your 350 studies, if they are like the Gackenback lot in their quality, they are NOT going to come close to substantiating the claims you are trying to wringe for them, e.g., God as "co-determinant". Quantity is no substitute for quality.

now you are mixing two different concepts, the studies are not about the co-determinate. that's from schleiermacher not the studies. You don't know anything about quality. You are merely playing guilt by association. He learned the term "citation circle" so he wants to use it a lot.

The point here is that I am NOT saying every one of your studies are like many of those from Gackenback. The question is what will you have is anyone ever puts your source under any kind of
scrutinyyou have not done that yet stupid. all you've done is to assault her bibliography and her work in other areas and tangential associations that have nothing to do with the issue.

* What will you have left once one throws out the low quality stuff?

you have not yet demonstrated a single thing wrong with a single study.

* Will what you have left really support the sweeping assertions you are making with it? They don't now IMO (C&P "linky" to why I don't think so below) ({})
why are they sweeping? you have no concept of what they are based upon or what backs them up. Over all about 2000 studies show that religions good for you. why is that such a amazing claim? only because you are brain washed. you are a zombie brainwashed by a hate group.

What I hope you see, Metacrock, if you read this, is WHY we are having problems with your claims. This is NOT an attempt to make you feel bad, attack your self-esteem, ridicule you or Christianity, etc.

this is not why you are having problems. it has nothing to do with the studies, and no one ever went to this much trouble before, not that you haven't done a totally pathetic job.

all he does is play guilt by association and go off on a tangent trying to build a list of criteria for validity that is not used in academic circles. the search engine he sites is not the only source of valid scientific work. Again he treats the whole 350 as though ti's one thing. If one study has a problem the whole thing is bad. the De Pok Chopra stuff and Ram Dass study he sites has nothing to do with the 350 studies, they are not part of that batch. He's just more atheist stupidity not understanding how to do real social science work and using buzz words and half understood concepts. but they do not mount a single methodological attack.

a loot of his attacks have to do with things he doesn't like. he doesn't like religion so any research about meditation and dreams and things that strike him sas supernatural he atomically dismisses as stupid and bad.

Remember also that he doesn't even look at or mention the Mohan bib, Lukoff, or Voyle, Wuthnow or Noble. so these account for well over half, maybe 2/3 of the studies I use. So he's only getting at a fraction of them. Most of the arguments he makes are guilt by association.