Saturday, March 01, 2008

Debate on God argument: Mysticla Experience


One of my best arguments for the existence of God is from mystical experince. Atheists always attack it from the stand point that the experiences are not miraculous and can be accounted for by counter causality. The argument looks like this (for the full argument see above link).

Decision Making Paradigm: logic of the lamp post

AT the heart of all religious belief and all organized religions is experience and the sense of the numinous. This is the foundation of religious belief. If we are going to argue for God it would behoove us to examine the nature of this sense of the numinous.

The logic of the lamp post is this: we can't find our keys in the dark. We look under lamp post even if we did not drop them there because that is where we will find them. We can't find God in sense data, because God is not given in sense data. So we look in place we will find him, personal experience. Since this is the basis of religious belief it makes sense to look there.

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 inviable man in the snow. You can't see the inviable 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.

Now how do we know the co-determinate? Schleiermacher saw it as the feeling of utter dependence, because the object or correlates of having such a feeling was the thing that evokes the feeling. Just feelings of sublimity imply that one encounters the sublime, feelings of love imply that there is a beloved, so feelings of utter dependence imply that there is a universal necessity upon which the live world and worlds are supremely utterly dependent. We can also include mystical experince and life transformation because these are part and parcel of what is meant by the idea of religion and the divine. As far back as we can dig for artifacts we seem to find some form of mystical experince at the heart of all organized religion. So we can conclude that God, religion, and life transformation always go hand in hand. The studies themselves tell us that life transformation always accompanies dramatic experiences which are understood as and which evoke a strong sense of the Holy. Is this really phenomenological? We can screw up our phenomenological credentials by responding to it in a non phenomenological way. But it is the product of the phenomenological method, because it derives from observation of the phenomena and allowing the phenomena to tell us what categories to group the data into.

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 answerer in the argument below. Here let us set out some general perameters:

(1) The trace produced content with specifically religious affects

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

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

this is the actual argument,


(1)There are real affects from Mystical experince.

(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 explanations we should assume that they are genuine.

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

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-determinate is the transfomrative power of the affects. Since those are real we can assume the apparent cause is real.

Atheists constantly argue that the experince can be induced by naturalistic things and that they are not miraculous.

these quotes are from Doxa forums (my boards) with a friend named Quantum Troll:

Oh come on, you said "Cannot be accounted for by alternate causality or other means." and "These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena."

You can't just make those two statements without backing them up. Perhaps an argument for rational warrant shouldn't be using such absolutist wording? If you want us to accept a premise, it needs to be supported. Where's the support? Otherwise, you can re-word the statements: "I believe the effects cannot be accounted for by alternate causes" and "I believe these effects cannot be reduced to naturalistic phenomena". If I accepted these assumptions as true, then I think your argument holds perfectly. I just think that accepting your assumptions is not a correct thing to do. Lower down in the post, I make some arguments for the naturalistic explanations of religious experiences.

First, these are not "absolute statements." The phenomena is lost when one tries to reduce to alternate causality. Not that anyone has ever produced data to indicate the validity of a counter causality, but even if they did it would just lose the phenomena. What do I mean by "lose the phenomena?" you have to reduce it to a point where no longer measuring it but broken aspects of it in order to reduce to some counter causality. One example is seen when atheists often try to argue that any kind of major life change produces good effects. But they usually do not have data from personality tests measuring self actualization. Sot hey are not talking about the kinds of results measured int he studies I use, they talking about their own straw man idea of what the positive effects would be if they got their way.

secondly, I do back it up. I have a ton of data. Here's a link to the page of the original God argument on my God argument list. Look at how many links are there to other pages of data? It's five or six pages now for the argument.from mystical experince.

Argument pt 5 (A5) is wrong. The trans formative power of the effects is a measure of the magnitude of psychological change. An experience doesn't have to be true for it to have consequences.

Since it 's not proof in the demonstrative sense, but in the rational warrant sense, it only has to be rational to believe it. Real consequences mean real event. If you can't produce alternate causes it is reasonable to assume the content is as real as the effects, and thus, it was an encounter with the divine.

But, I can produce alternate causes. If I couldn't, then I wouldn't be so sure of myself, now would I?

(Meta: I don't know, would you?)

Basically, my counter argument is this:
1a) Your argument A2 is unsupported. Transformative religious experiences are consistent with pure naturalism.

Meta: having whip lash is proof you were in a wreck. there could be other reasons for whip lash, but if you have it and you claim to have been in a wreck your claim is rationally warranted. you have to show a reason why one should not be believed.

But if the whip lash was from a roller-coaster ride, then you'd be wrong if you believed in the wreck. If we're at a theme-park, then I'd have to seriously question whether you're thinking clearly. The way I see it, we're in the theme-park of naturalism, and you're claiming the whip lash of religious experience is proof of the wreck of divinity. It's not the best explanation for the available evidence (as I see it).

2) Therefore religious experience does NOT prove the reality of the divine.

Meta:ok those are nice labels. now make the argument.

(that is so totally ridiculous. the theme park of naturalism? more like the lunatic assylum of naturalism)

I think I have just one main premise that you wanted to see support for: Religious experiences can be positive transformative experiences without a trace of the divine.

First, I will show that the content of an experience is not validated by the magnitude of the response. Consider this story of an office prank gone wrong (the first one, by |Raziel|). The poor man was moved to tears by the experience of smelling his rotting dead dog, even though that's not what he was smelling at all.

First of all, your assumption here about my premise is wrong. I have never argued that the notion of it being the divine is what makes the response great. Almost half the experiencers are children and have no doctrinal expectation of cnocpt of what they are doing before the experince.

Secondly, you are arguing by analogy. The guy has a shocking experience and so that's supposedly be the same as the dramatic spiritual experiences. Not only is argument from analogy fallacious, but this i not analogs. You can't demonstrate long term positive effects from a negative experince like this so why would you think it's analogous?

There is also a slew of psychology that supports this premise: placebo effect, the slight academic advantage of people whose names start with 'A' vs. 'D', the positive feeling you get when you hear good news doesn't have any bearing on the veracity of the news, etc, etc. What you feel in response to some experience doesn't affect the truth value of your interpretation, and the truth of the experience doesn't affect the response you'll have. All that matters is your perception, i.e. what happens in your head.

You really have two different arguments here:

(1) placebo as altnerate causality

(2) effects of the experience don't determine the truth content of the cause.

As for placebo, that is not analougs to religiuos experience. you can't reduce RE to placebo, and that I have proven elsewhere.

Now let's deal with the second idea, consonances don't indicate cause. I think they do, and if you think about it that is only logical to think so. In fact it's in the nature of the case as to what cause is. Newton says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Certainly then, we should expect the cause to produce an effect commensurate with it. If you use a powerful explosive you expect a big blast. If you hit really hard you expect it to be felt. You offer no data to indicate that trival things produce dramatic trans formative changes.

Your claim seems to be that there is no natural explanation for profound life-changing experiences, and that is what I'll address now.

Nope that is not my argument. you have construed that erroneously.I never said any such thing. that's very important to understand because it's at the crux of the whole argument. It's so important I'm going to do a blog spot on it again after this one. In order to understand what is wrong with that assumption we will have to discuss what nature and super nature really are. Basically I will say here the argument does not turn on amazement indicating the divine. It turns on construing the effects as co-determinate because we understand that this what we expect God to do. It's consistent with the content of the experince and its' consistent with your expectations of the divine. that means it's rationally warranted, not that it's absolute proof.

For example, let's take a hypothetical woman who just quits drug use after a particularly powerful praying session with the Virgin Mary. Did God touch her and heal her, or did she do it by herself? It's definitely possible that she did it by herself, since people quit using drugs all the time.

First of all I have not argued drug abuse in particular. But as a matter of fact it is notoriously difficult to quite, especially by yourself. this is common knowledge. if it was easy everyone would do it and addiction would not be addiction. It is certainly an exaggeration to say "all the time." this is why they have programs.

Oct 12, 2005 ... He said 95 percent of people who try to quit outside of a program fail, the same statistic for those trying to quit heroin without a program ... - 16k -

What kept her from going back to drugs was renewed interest in hobbies and friends, so the idle moments of the day when she'd be tempted were few and far between. Then why did she feel as if Jesus saved her from drugs? Because in her view, she was unable to save herself, and was stuck in a cycle of depression. When Mary answered the prayer and Jesus saved her, it was her mind that finally kicked itself out of a self-destructive mode and tapped into the energy that she had all along. Obviously, I can't prove one way or the other what's happening to these people, but I strongly believe that a simple natural explanation can be found in the vast majority of cases.

The problem with this kind of reasoning is argument from sign. He's just making up what he wants to believe did it and then assuming without evidence that tis' the reason. The idea that some could kick drugs, I'm thinking in terms of a real addiction to real drugs, like heroin, from hobbies and interests is perpsoterious. The stats I just quoted show 95% failure rate for those trying to go it alone. But this is not the issue because the effects of RE are not just that you do well in some area like getting off drugs. the are long term, dramatic and posative. so they last a life time and work over many areas.

*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


*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

while it is true that some of these things can be achieved to some extent from getting therapy or joining toastmasters, the fact is these can result dramatically form one experince. this cannot be doublicated in other ways, not hobbies or anything else. Atheists can produce no data to support this claim.

Here's another argument for natural causes of religious experiences. People with all kinds of beliefs have these experiences. The interpretation of the experience differs, but the common thread is that all people can have them. There is probably a common source for these experiences. Since beliefs differ, and some don't even believe in God, the interpretation that it's the touch of the divine isn't universal, and it's clearly not belief that triggers the experience.

You give no reason not to assume that the common source is God. The idea that RE among many beliefs systems proves anything is missing the point and begging the question. That doesn't' prove that it's not God, it' just making assumptions about God that are not in evidence. All God's point to God. religious traditions are different because they are filtered through cultural constructs not because they don't have the same source as a referent.

There are some atheists who have these experiences, but that is very rare. Usually the experiences they have are based upon content about God but in some rare cases it doesn't lead some to religious belief.Maslow basically argued that which ever way one goes is a matter of how one wants to view the evidence. But the atheists who have these experiences could just as well be experiencing God.

The one common thread that links all people together is that we're all human. Our brains grow in the same patterns, and are based on the same chemistry and internal structure. If there's a purely subjective experience that all kinds of people can experience, then it's very likely that the experience is due to our brains. Sleeping, waking, imagination, drowsiness, we can all relate to these experiences and we all accept that they're due to our brain activity. So why can't you accept that religious experience is caused by brain activity?

This tells nothing new, and it certainly doesn't answer the argument. To say t's the brain doesn't tell us anything about what's behind the triggers. The argument is already answered, since its' been proven that there are centers of the brain that are hard wired for God. This is clearly part of the same impulse. It certainly doesn't tell us that God didn't do it, may well just tell us how he did do it!

In closing, I just want to say that 'yes, it could be God, touching the core of our being', but a natural explanation exists and isn't even very far-fetched.

Since you have no data of any kind to show any naturalistic cause that can do this there is very little reason to assume that's it.

I mean, maybe I didn't even write this post, it's just God editing the TCP stream as it gets to your computer and putting in text for you to read.

that is supercilious Grand cannon logic. I have said nothing to indicate that such experiences equal total control of all of one's actions.

Possible, but not as likely as the natural explanation. I've tried to explain why I believe that natural explanations exist for mystical experiences, now could you try to explain why you don't believe they exist?

To explain that, which I will but not necessarily now, we would have to discuss the nature of nature and super nature. Of course, I just stated one reason, you offer no data and no one ever has. No one has been able to show me anything that produces long term positive effects that are life trans formative. Moreover, I fail to see why we should assume that naturalistic causes can produce religious content and wind up with positive results, the results we would expect to see if God really was on the case.

This disbelief of yours is what your entire argument is based on, yet you haven't explained or supported it at all. None of the observations detailed in the tail end of your OP are in my opinion difficult to explain naturally.

No, that's fallacious reasoning. That's what it's based upon. Obviously the argument is not based upon a disbelief in naturalism but a rational warrant for the co-determinate. the basic assumption lurking underneath all this terminology is the assumption that mystical consciousness is at the heart of all religious tradition. I had experiences that led em to believe God was real; that belief led to God as a way of life and has born itself out in a lifetime of further experince. the experiences themselves are self validating in their results.

In the next post I will deal with the problem of why the assumptions about naturalism don't' really get at the argument.

Then why did she feel as if Jesus saved her from drugs? Because in her view, she was unable to save herself, and was stuck in a cycle of depression. When Mary answered the prayer and Jesus saved her, it was her mind that finally kicked itself out of a self-destructive mode and tapped into the energy that she had all along. Obviously, I can't prove one way or the other what's happening to these people, but I strongly believe that a simple natural explanation can be found in the vast majority of cases. [/quote]

Here's another argument for natural causes of religious experiences. People with all kinds of beliefs have these experiences. The interpretation of the experience differs, but the common thread is that all people can have them. There is probably a common source for these experiences.

Read about my legs



James F. McGrath said...

I wish you could at least verify the spelling of the TITLES of your posts, if not the rest of the post. I've very often wanted to share links to your blog in my Google Reader feed on my own blog, but have refrained from doing so because of this. It really does distract and detract from the good content of what you have to say on many occasions!

J.L. Hinman said...

I try to do that as much as i can. what do you have reference to?