Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Scientific Evidence and God Arguments part 1


One should not be fooled into thinking that we need to "prove the existence of God." This a fools errand not even on them menu of reason. Like reality itself God is not something that can be demonstrated through empirical means. Scientific evidence can only be empirical. That means there can't be any evidence, not of a direct nature. Atheists capitalize on this with their contrast mantra demanding scientific proof and trying pretend that they have a scientific view point while denying that they have an ideology. If one has been following my posts on philosophy of science and religion one will see immediately the problem; to say "we have the scientific vie point" is by its nature an ideology. Thus to make that boast atheists are demonstrating that they have an ideology then dyeing they have one.

How is scientific data used in relation to God arguments when God is not given in sense data? The point is not to prove the existence of God, which is a contradiction in terms if one uses Paul Tillich's understanding of divine reality. Instead we want to demonstrate that belief is rationally warranted. Thus we can use scientific to establish premises. One of the primary examples of this would be the cosmological argument. Several of its' incarnations thrives upon understanding modern cosmology and that is certainly the result of scientific data. See my God argument list no's:1, 31, 42, and others. The fine tuning argument relies quite heavily upon scientific data and it's conclusion is rooted entirely in the empirical. There's a quite a bit of data there.

The God pod argument is rooted in scientific data. Researchers study how chemical dye travels through the blood vessels of the brain and coordinate that with ideas the people are thinking about to correlate ideas with the parts of the brain that are stimulated when they think bout them. They find that thoughts about God talk stimulate the brain in ways nothing else does. Based upon that many propose that ideas of God are innate, or that they are result of genetic endowment. That's not really born out yet. It's too early to tell. There two really good books on it. One is Why God Wont Go Away by Andre Newberg. Newberg is one of the pioneers of the field although this book is written on a popular level. A lot of atheists have compared about it becuase they don't feel like they are getting big time scientific stuff since it doesn't read like a big time scientist wrote it. That doesn't mean that Newberg's research is not important. The other book is:
Lee A Kirckpatrick, “Religion is Not An Adaptation,” in Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion Vol I: Evolution, Genes, and Religious Brainm .Patrick McNamara (ed). London, Westport Connecticut: Praeger. 2006. 159-180,
The Kirckpartick book is written in a much more scientific seeming way and includes a great deal more research. It's an anthology and has articles form many researchers. The two books are at odds in that Newberg argues that there is a gene for religion, far from seeing that as counting against belief in God he sees it as a reason to believe in God. Several authors in the Kirckpatrick book argue that there is no nearly enough data yet to establish a gene for religion and that the explanation could be a spandrels, a combination of genes coming together to produce a certain behavior. Whichever is the case what is clear that they all agree upon there a lot of evidence that belief is a result of some kind of genetic endowment in some way.

There are atheists who argue this a counter to belief but I it's much more likely to be a good reason to believe. A God argument based upon this evidence would center around the fact that innate ideas are considered impossible but here is an innate idea. this clearly innate idea that is clearly part of our "wiring"just happens to be around the one thing perpurts to give us meaning and exaplin everything. Since innate ideas are supposed to be impossible that's a good to think some higher aspect of reality "designed it in to us in some way." Newberg says:

A skeptic might suggest that a biological origin to all spiritual longings and experiences, including the universal human yearning to connect with something divine, could be explained as a delusion caused by the chemical misfiring of a bundle of nerve cells. But …After years of scientific study, and careful consideration of the a neurological process that has evolved to allow us humans to transcend material existence and acknowledge and connect with a deeper, more spiritual part of ourselves perceived of as an absolute, universal reality that connects us to all that is. Newberg(ibid 7-10)

…Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.(newberg Ibid, 10)

He goes on to destroy the convenient little atheist pretense of the pile of scientific facts secuaring thier world view:

The medieval German mystic Meister Echkart lived hundreds of years before the science of neurology was born. Yet it seems he had intuitively grasped one of the fundamental principles of the discipline: What we think of, as reality is only a rendition of reality that is created by the brain. Our modern understanding of the brain’s perceptual powers bears him out. Nothing enters consciousness whole. There is no direct, objective experience of reality. All the things the mind perceives—all thoughts, feelings, hunches, memories, insights, desires, and revelations—have been assembled piece by piece by the processing powers of the brain from the swirl of neural blimps. The idea that our experiences of reality—all our experiences, for that matter—are only “secondhand” depictions of what may or may not be objectively real, raises some profound questions about the most basic truths of human existence and the neurological nature of spiritual experience. For example our experiment with Tibetan mediators and Franciscan nuns showed that the events they considered spiritual were, in fact, associated with observable neurological activity. In a reductionist sense this could support the argument that religious experience is only imagined neurologically, that God is physically ‘all in your mind.’ But a full understanding of the way in which the brain and the mind assemble and experience reality suggests a very different view.(ibid.34)
The atheist pile of facts is high selective and dishonestly arranged to screen out facts that count against it.

Yet another issue involving scientific data is the existence of a huge body of scientific work in the form of empirical studies done in psychology that show the valuable effects of religious experiences These studies can be used to back several arguments:

Decision Making Paradigm."

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisible man in the snow. You can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the world.

The only question at that point is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answer in the argument below. Here let us set out some general perimeters:

(1) The trace produced content with specifically religious affects

(2)The affects led one to a renewed sense of divine reality, are transformative of life goals and self actualization

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alternate causality or other means.


(1)There are real affects from Mystical experience.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explaintions we should assume that they are genuine.

(4)Since mystical experince is usually experince of something, the Holy, the sacred some sort of greater trasncendent reality we should assume that the object is real since the affects or real, or that the affects are the result of some real higher reailty.

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-dterminate is the transfomrative power of the affects.

Real Affects of Mystical Experience Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experience is only one aspect of religious experience, but I will focus on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious expedience are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experience can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback


Gackenback website is Spiritwatch


"The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining characteristics.


"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.

3)Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experince scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.



"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation" (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).

4) Incidence.



"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973".

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;

B. Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness.some of the major studies Sources:

Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long-Term Effects

Wuthnow study findings:

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style

Noble Study findings:

*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate

*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

There is a huge amalgam of data that I wrote a book about and I don't feel ike re writting the book in this text box. I have a few pages on Doxa and also some other articles by other people to which I can point the reader. One can find a summery of many of the major results on Doxa here. There's an excellent summary of these studies and the general field what some of the major studies done in the 90s found. It's by an Indian psychiatrist named Krishna Mohan.

One of the major scientific aspects of these studies is the breakthrough by Ralph Hood (Univ. Tennessee, Chattanooga ) the development fo the "mysticism scale" (M scale) which allows one to determine a true mystical experience form some other state of mind. This allows for the scientific study of experiences, as discussed briefly above. The M scale has been verified in a half dozen countries in dozens of studies. It's become the standard opporating procedure in the study of mystical experience.

The argument is caped by phase II:


(1) No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

(2) We do not find this epistemological dilemma debilitating on a daily basis because we assume that if our experiences are consistent and regular than we can navigate in "reality" whether it is ultimately illusory of not.

(3) Consistency and regularity of personal experience is the key.

(4) religious experience can also be regular and consistent, perhaps not to the same degree, but in the same way.

(5) Inersubjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by bleievers all over the world, in different times and diffrent places, just as the exeternal world seems to be percieved the same by everyone.

(6) Reala and Lasting effects.

(7) therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experince as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds.

See note on the Thomas Reid project and Reid himself end page 2

*We assume reality by means of a Jugement

*we make such jugements based upon certain criteria

*Because RE fits the same criteria we are justfied in making the same assumption; ie that these experinces are idicative of a reality.

VIII. The Thomas Reid Argument.

A. How do we Know the external world exists?

Philosophers have often expressed skepticism about the external world, the existence of other minds, and even one's own existence. Rene Descartes went so far as to build an elaborate system of rationalism to demonstrate the existence of the external world, beginning with his famous cogito, "I think, therefore, I am." Of course, he didn't really doubt his own existence. The point was to show the method of rationalism at work. Nevertheless, this basic point, that of epistemology (how we know what we know) has always plagued philosophy. It seems no one has ever really given an adequate account. But the important point here is not so much what philosophers have said but what most people do. The way we approach life on a daily basis the assumptions we make about the external world. Skeptics are fond of saying that it is irrational to believe things without proof. I would argue that they, an all of us, believe the most crucial and most basic things without any proof whosoever, and we live based upon those assumptions which are gleaned with no proof of their veracity at all!

In other words, the studies bear out the assumption that the experiences fit the criteria that we use anyway to determine the trust worthy nature of our experiences. Because religious experiences fit the criteria for epistemic judgment they can be trusted as indicative of reality.

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