Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beyond God Arguments, Toward Beleif Without Message Boards


The impossibility of proving the existence of God, far from an atheist defeat of apologetic, this is a premise I have long sense accepted. That is why my usual tactic is to argue for "rational warrant." I'm not sure that "proving the existence of God" is even a meaningful phrase, much less a possibility. I think the urge to produce a heuristic structure capable of evoking in the skeptic a sense of the rational nature of belief, is fine and high minded. It might be possible, if one can find a skeptic who is willing to hold still, so to speak. But the whole enterprise runs up against the following problem:

Think of the nature of proving things: Proving things is a "technology." I use this term in the Faucaultian (that is, the postmodern sense) as the manipulation of objects in the world. In this sense "object" does not mean a physical thing, but an idea. We mentally bring before our minds eye objects in the world, such as “being” or “science” or “existence” or the existence of things, the universe for example. We cannot bring before our minds eye a chunk of sanctifying Grace. We cannot manipulate God as an object in creation. Belief Is, therefore, a realization about the nature of reality, not a technology. The use of this technology requires that we have physical referents. We can manipulate ideas in such a way as to understand their reference to physical objects only so long as we understand what we are talking about. We cannot understand God, therefore, we can't manipulate God or bring God before the skeptic as we might a toothbrush or swizzle stick. We make arguments for God in order to demonstrate to others something of the r realization that prompts our own belief. We are actually seeking to trigger in them the same kind of realization. To do so we manipulate aspects of reality, and the skeptic proposes alternate explanations for the various aspects we try to manipulate. Obviously this course will have no more success than trying to cram God into the parade of objects we seek to present and manipulate. But the major reason we make God arguments is because we ourselves do not understand what it is we belief. We seek to nail it down. But this is an impossible task, since God is beyond our understanding. What we should do is seek deeper, ever deeper, experiences of God. But we are rational creatures and we must spell it out for ourselves first.

The God of the Christian tradition is the the concept of the basis of reality. God is Eternal, the basis of all that is (what we used to call “firs cause”) and is always already, and thus, without cause. This means that God is the basis of reality. The basis of what is, the “ground of being” can’t be manipulated as though an object in creation. If we knew the basis upon which the realization of God is triggered in our own minds, we might be able to suggest to the skeptic ways to trigger the realization. But we don’t know. Of course we do not know. All we really know is that once we realize God is real, it works to live as though God is real. What can we tell the skeptic? I’m sure that what I’ve said so far will bring scoffing and trigger an orgiastic bought of “aren’t Christians stupid?” That’s because atheists have cut themselves off from the basic existential sense of reality that enables one to have this realization. At that rate there’s really nothing one can do. Why even write a book then?

The religious a priori is this realization, the argument I make is not an argument to prove the existence of God, but to seek the realization. That's really the strategy involved in God argument making, we seek to show that there is a basis in rationality, a method to our madness. Of course this meets with varying degrees of success. Some atheists are willing to grant even a scintilla of rationality to belief, others are merely waiting for a pay off that never comes. There is a tendency to expect an argument even after it has been stated that we can't prove them. The pay off never comes because they expect that somehow out of all the statements that God is beyond understanding we will show some back door to understanding and make it plain. The less well meaning use this absence of technology, this failure to manipulate God as one more object in the universe, as a sign that there is no God. In a sense there is no God, if by "God" we understand another object in creation. Atheists, and many Christians as well, are always putting God on the level of a big man on a throne, so that God is just one more thing in the universe. This makes God subject to the universe itself. As though the world consists of all these bits and God is just one bit alongside the others: trees, rocks, energy, tin cans, bus tokens, swizzle sticks, God, lotto tickets, ect. Tillich said that God did not exist, and this is exactly what he meant by that; God does not "exist" because "existence" is something contingent things go. God is the ground of being because God is the basis upon which reality coheres.

Atheists expect this to have a high pay off. How could God be that important and not be inescapable? Of course it could be that God is inescapable but they just refuse to look through the telescope. They wont look in the way that finds God because they would mean abandoning their control. By the same token we go on making God arguments because to cease would be to lose our control. We are both sides seeking to manipulate God through a technology, as though God is a physical object to be empirically demonstrated. What we should be seeking is a means of promoting the understanding that our faith is based upon a realization about the nature of our being. What atheists need to understand is that it wont make sense to them until they face it as a realization, not a set of data to be manipulated. This is why belief in God is a phenomenological problem. It's a matter of letting the phenomena suggest their own categories. This is after all what the believe has done to become a believer. S/he has allowed the realization of one's own being to culminate in belief. The joining of a religious tradition is merely a means of obtaining a vocabulary through which one might speak of that which is beyond words. We speak of it because in the tradition we encounter others who have encountered the realization, and thus talk about things beyond talk is meaningful, to a point. It is only meaningful to a point, because we can say "O that sounds like what I've experienced." But to speak of it is still to load it into cultural constructs, and thus to water it down. The only sure method is to go back and allow God to do again what was done before in the obtainment of the original realization. Thus belief is a language of its own, shared between the believer and God that can only be hinted at in discourse between human beings. The only real conversation about God must forever remain a conversion between the believer and God.

The empirical information that we can manipulate, that is related to objects in the world, is the effect of the ideas upon the individual. We can't prove that a certain life turned out as it did becasue the subject was too Hegelian, or not Hegelian enough. But we can trace the effects of an experience if it is dramatic enough and if the changes in one's life in close proximity to that experince are dramatic enough. This is what the studies of RE demonstrate. The empirical effects of these experiences change people's lives long term and in dramatically positive ways. That amounts to saying "it works." The one empirical thing we can prove by way of demonstration is that it works to navigate in life as though God is real, and to allow the experience of the reality of God to guide our perceptions of the world. Of course atheists are going to remain resistant to this notion, they will continue to mock and to demand proof. It's not about proof, it's about realization. The skeptic will always miss it as long s/he demands "proof." The skeptics on CARM used to constantly warn against believing things without proof. The stupidest thing one could ever do was to believe something without being able to prove it. That's because they are hung up on a relationship with things. They have no had the realization of God consciousness, and thus all they can think of is technology. They think in technology, as though thinking this way is a language. All they can understand is manipulation of objects in the world. Of course one can hardly blame them, we don't understand much beyond this point.

The best God arguments, Ontological, (modal), cosmological, design (even though it fails), even non arguments such as the feeling of utter dependence, are all about reality as a whole; the order in creation, the reason for creation, the necessity of first cause and the contingency of its effects. This is because belief is a from of consciousness, and the consciousness is the realization of an aspect of reality that underlays and predicates all that is. The real achievement of the modal argument is that it gives us a clue about reality itself, and its predication. The problem is when we try to approach it as though it is a God finder technology. No amount of philosophizing can make us have God consciousness. Although I am convinced that the modal argument, as a mantra of sorts, is a gateway to the realization of God consciousness. I am sure one could criticize these ramblings as idealizations of arguments I no longer care to debate. Perhaps that's all there is. It is with all this in mind that I present the following. I do not offer these ideas as arguments for the existence of God, but merely as an understanding as to why the skeptical attempt at explaining away religious phenomena doesn't work. I think that's all we can expect in the way of empiricism, or logical demonstration: the skeptic will approach our realization as though it were a technology, and the skeptic will try to demolish the structure (perceived structure) with the technology of skepticism. All we can do is keep deflecting the attempt by clarifying how and why our view is not a technology, not a demonstration, not an attempt to prove, but merely attempts at clarifying what we have "realized" through the higher consciousness. So I am moving to the east, so to say, by treating God belief not an the object of knowledge, around which revolves the qualia and phenomena of sense of data, but as a from of consciousness, the result of an understanding of what it means to be.

The empiricist path which the atheist trudges is the technology of which I speak. Descartes, even though he was a Christian, places the center of consciousness (the "I") at the center of the epistemic universe and makes sense data to revolve around it. Descartes is labeled "rationalist" but his project really kicked off the empiricist reaction. The empiricists take up with the same place but like characters in a Beckett play are immediately stuck somewhere. In this case, not a trashcan but their own need to manipulate objects in such a way that they satisfy their own need to manipulate. But this is a self feeding process, thus never ends. Unable to demonstrate definitive proof of the nature of reality, they will be forever consigned to reduce all clues out of existence. One can only imagine to which circle of hell Dante would consign them. I guess that would be the bean counting circle.

In reflecting upon the nature of reality, the aspect that triggers the realization of the divine, one finds that there is a continuum. On the one hand we have the demonstration of formal logic which is aimed at showing the predication of existence upon the necessary aspect of being itself. This pole includes the modal argument, and all versions of its grandfather, the ontological argument. The cosmological argument can be included here because it is really based upon the ontological principal in a sense; both deal with necessity and contingency. The other pole is that of personal experience; the experience of God, mystical consciousness, and so forth. What both poles have in common, what makes them a continuum is their encompassing natures. At both ends of the spectrum we are dealing with the nature of necessary being as the predication of all contingent existence. This is so for the mystical because mystical experience usually includes undifferentiated unity of all things. At the formal pole we are dealing with it as a formally presented conclusion to logical demonstration. For years now my theory has been that what Anselm really discovered was the feeling of utter dependence. Since he lacked the necessary vocabulary for phenomenology he tried to place it in formal terms. I still believe this. The stating of formal God arguments is really an attempt to approach technologically something that cannot be manipulated but must be experienced.

What can we do when the well meaning atheist asks "why do you believe?" Or when asked "How can I know that these "realizations" have anything to do with actual reality. Lack of a God forbid we should believing wrong, or that we should not be able to prove our beliefs! The only thing we can do is continue to elucidate the inability of naturalistic explanations to really explain things, and to point to the fact that the realization works for navigating through life. Beyond that the skeptic is going to have to seek God.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Against Infinite Causal Regression


The Infinite causal regress is an important issue in dealing with the cosmological argument, especially the Kalam version, and the argument form final cause. It basically means that any infinitely recurring causality for any event is impossible, since one never actually arrives at a cause. The importance of this argument applies not only to the now largely abandoned notion of an oscillating universe, but to any finite causes of space/time. This is because in light of the impossibility it means that the ultimate cause of the universe must be a final cause, that is to say, the cause behind all other causes, but itself uncaused and eternal. These are two major issues because they indicate why the ultimate cause of the universe has to be God. Since arbitrary necessities are impossible, the ultimate cause cannot be something which is itself contingent, such as an eternal singularity. The ultimate cause, or "final cause" must be God, since God is a logical necessity.

But lately skeptics have sought to deny these principles. They have actually been denying that infinite causal regress is impossible. This causes me to suspect that they don' really understand the concept. For no one truly understanding the notion of an eternally repeating cause could seriously consider that an infinite causal regress can actually exist. But this denial takes two forms. First, they just deny it outright. They don't' believe me. And secondly, they sometimes try to provide examples such as the number line, that's a favorite. And of course the ever popular claim that God is also an infinite Regress. That is three arguments to deal with:

1) Out right denial that ICR is impossible

2) The argument that one can find examples in Mathematics

3) The idea that God is also an ICR

Before dealing with the nuberline I will just make a little argument on the impossibility of an actual infinite causal regress (that is that one could actually exist in real life).

1)A beginingless series of events is impossible.

A actual infinite is defined as A beginingless series of events This is not to say that nothing actual could be eternal, but that a series of events with no beginning cannot exist in reality. A thing is said to be actually infinite if part of it is equal to the whole. For example, mathematicians show that the number of fractions is equal to the number of whole numbers, even though fractions can divide whole numbers infinitesimally, because its all infinity and infinity is without number. Now here I'm distinguishing between existence in actuality, the "real world," as opposed to existence in mathematics.

A linear Causal infinite regress is thought to be possible by Aquinas and Farther Copeleston, but only if it has a prior hierarchical cause. In other words, the causality can be not just linear but also hierarchical. A hierarchical infinite regress is also impossible for the same reason, it never really has a cause since it has no beginning. A linear regress of causal nature is impossible without a hierarchical cause.

The great mathematician David Hilbert argues for the notion that a beginingless series of events with no higher cause is impossible. ["On the Infinite" in Philosophy and Mathematics (Englewood Cliffs New Jersey: Prentice Hall), 1964, 139, 141.)

(2) ICR is Circular Reasoning

William Row Quoted on website below

Rowe's version of the standard answer goes as follows: Suppose we are wondering why A exists. Suppose further that A was linearly caused to exist by B and that B was linearly caused to exist by C, etc. Here is a causal series, Rowe says, which might well extend infinitely back in time. This is because we need do nothing other than point out B in order to explain why A exists; although B was itself caused to exist by C, we still need refer no further back than B to explain the existence of A. But, Rowe says, suppose we are trying to explain not why A exists but rather why a certain sort of causal activity - the activity of causing A presently to exist - is going on. Here we cannot as before merely point to B. because presumably B is itself being caused to engage in the causal activity of causing A presently to exist (and is thus only a kind of intermediary). Accordingly, we have to talk about C's causal activity the causal activity of causing B to cause A presently to exist. This, then, is a series that cannot be extended infinitely; this series must have a first member. For if there were no first member, we would never succeed in arriving at an explanation of the existence of the causal activity of causing A presently to exist. We would never be able to explain why this activity is going on.11

(But this author supports Aquinas' and Copleston in saying that linear causal regress is possible but not a hierarchical one. Easy to see why he says this, because he believed the universe to be infinite in time, but he still asserts that there must be a higher eternal generation)

Just extend Rowe's argument a little further to see that ICR is circular reasoning. The need for a cause is granted bye ICR advocate; and that need will be supplied, so they say, by the cause of the previous event (for example in an oscillating universe, the previous Big Bang supplies the need for the cause of this universe). But, when it comes to explaining the ca usual relation to the whole series they will say that is uncessary, because they have that previous link in the chain and it's covered by the infinite serious of previous links, but nothing ever explains how the previous link could be there, except a previous link.

This is just circular reasoning because no matter how far back you go you have a cause that allows for any particular link to exist. Take this example:

a => b, b => c, => d => e, e => f

Now if we say "how can f exist without a cause? They say well it has a cause in e. But e doesn't have a cause except in a equally unexplained d, and go back as far as you will, there is never an explanation for how this could be. Yet they agree that the causal principal is necessary because they keep sticking in intermediate causes. If the causal principal is necessary, then there must be a final cause that explains how it could begin. Causality is linear and if they are going to argue for cyclical universe they have cover a linear concept of cause and effect.

If a series of events go back in time forever it is a beginingless series of events. IF the universe existed forever, for example, this would constitute an actual infinite. This is because the series of events that led to the current universe would be infinite. This is to distinguish it form a "potential infinite" which might be achieved by adding one event to another in a series and going on infinitely. But a series of events that has already transpired infinitely is an actual infinite.

Or let's look at the notion of finishing an infinite series. If a man claims to have been counting for infinity and is at last about to reach zero, he says -3, -2, -1, he's finally finished. Yet, he should have finished eons before, an infinity of time passed eons ago, or centuries, or decades, so he should have finished by now. Another strange paradox is that if we could check this man's counting in the past we would never find him counting. For he would have finished an infinity ago so we could never find him counting at any time that we ever checked his counting. Yet if he never counted he could never finish. Now may skeptics are going to say that it is impossible to count infinitely and so forth, yes, obviously. But these are the kinds of examples used in transfinite mathematics to illustrate this point.

"This illustrates once more that the series of past events could not be without a beginning for if you could not count numbers from eternity, neither could you have events form eternity. These examples underline the absurdity of a beginingless series of events in time, because such a series is an actual infinite and an actual infinite cannot exist. This means that the universe began to exist, which is what we set out to porve" (William Lane Criag in his early work, The Existence of God and The begining of the Universe Here's Life Publishers 1979 p.4 [and don't forget the empirical scientific data which also proves this same pint with the Big Bang).

3) An Actual Infinite Cannot Be Achieved by Adding one event to the series, thus the series of events in time can never be actually infinite.

This can also be understood in the fallacy to trying to count to infinity. This should be pretty obvious, because no matter how many events we add we can always add one more and continue to add events forever. One can never count to infinity. Most people understand this pretty well.So one could never add one event to another and reach infinity, it's the same thing. This is also called The impossibility of traversing the infinite.

Thus an actual infinite could come to exist only if all the members came to exist at the same time. As Craig points out "if an infinite number of Days existed before today, today would never come because one can never traverse the infinite." (50).

Philosopher John Hospers states:

"If an infinite series has proceeded the present moment, how did we get to the present moment? How could we get to the present moment--where we obviously are Now--if the present moment was proceeded by an infinite series of events?" [An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 2nd ed. (London: Rutledge and Kegan Paul, 1967) 434)

This First argument, the impossibility of a beginingless series of events with no higher cause was repeatedly defended and always successfully by G.J.Withrow, Professor of Mathematics at University of London's Imperial College of Science and Technology. see "The Age of the Universe,"British Journal for Philosopher of Science (1954-55) PP215-225. Natural Philosophy of Time (London: Thomas Nelson, 1961) See also Philsopher William Rowe The Cosmological Argument Princeton University press 1975

Now What if someone argues that the infinite series would be beyond time? In that case the skeptic loses the argument that there is no causality before time. IF there is no motion, causality, or change beyond time than there cannot be a series of events leading form one cause to another beyond time.

Now let's examine the three arguments.

1) Out right denial that ICR is impossible.

Well, if they don't believe the logic, they are pretty hopeless. And if they don't' accept the word of the mathematicians that are quoted, there isn't much you can do about it. But it seems pretty obvious that if you have an infinite series of causes leading back infinitely you would never have an actual cause, and the thing to be caused would not exist, just as you cannot count to infinity, or just as the counter claiming to have arrived at zero from infinity would never have actually counted.

2) That the number line is an example from Mathematics that proves the actual infinite, or Infinite causal regress.

David Hilbert has prove, as quoted above, that transfinite mathematics cannot exist in life. The number line is not an actual series of events, it is only hypothetical. Moreover numbers do not cause each other. It is not a causal regress.

3) That God is an ICR

This is merely to confuses an infinite with an infinite regress The ICR is an infinite series of events. God is not a series of events. God is not an event, God is not a recursion of causes, he is one final cause. God is not in time, he is eternal. So the two are not analogous at all. God is not an ICR.

The ICR is an impossibility, it cannot exist in actuality. This means the universe cannot be eternal, for the universe is an infinite series of causes, each one leading to the next. It certainly means the old oscillating universe notion of eternally recurring big bangs and crunches is right out! Therefore, there must be a final cause which is eternal and is not a series of events but one final cause that transcends the chain of cause and effect. It causes the universe but it is not in turn an effect of any other cause.

Aristotle and Bertrand Russell agree

Robert Koons, University of Texas

Lecutre 5 Phil 356 Theism Spring 98

Another example is mentioned by al-Ghazali. Suppose that the sun and moon have each been revolving around the earth throughout an infinite past. There are 12 revolutions of the moon for every revolution of the sun. As we go back in time, the gap between the number of months and years grows ever wider, yet, taken as a whole, there are an equal number of elapsed months and years (both infinite). Cantorian set theory agrees with this paradoxical result: the cardinal number of months and years is exactly the same.

Bertrand Russell discusses a similar paradox, which he called the Tristam Shandy paradox. Tristam is writing is own autobiography. He takes a whole year to write down the events of a single day. In an infinite amount of time, Shandy can complete the task. Here's a time-reversed version of the paradox: suppose that Tristam is clairvoyent -- he writes about his own future. Last year he wrote about today's events; in the year before last, he wrote about yesterday's events. Today, he has just completed an infinite autobiography, cover all the events of his infinite past, despite the fact that, as we go farther in the past, Shandy is every further behind in the task -- i.e., 1000 years ago, he was still writing about the events of only the last three days.

Final note: The paradox of Time.

Some thinkers believe that time is an infinite series. I do not agree with this notion, I accept t=0, time begins in the Big Bang. But this is a valid viewpoint, I just dont' happen to agree. But that does not prove that a beginingless series of events with no higher cause can exist. Time can still have a higher cause, God perhaps, in heierarchical fashion.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Arguments vs. Facts


I keep hearing this really dumb idea that "we don't want arguments we want facts that prove things." They seem to have adopted this tactic as a new mantra along with "there's no proof for your God." It reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python things about the "argument clinic." "Argument is an intellectual process by which one lays out a logical heuristic in favor of a proposition, not the automatic gain saying of anything he other fellow says." "Yes it is." Sounds like CARM. I wonder if people who make this distinction between argument and facts understand what argument is.

The problem is, as with all English words, there many meanings and they are determined by context. When logicians say "argument" they mean something as different in the context of logic from when a historian says "argument" as Black Adder from real history. In general when we have people making arguments for the existence of God, the context in which this discussion arises, they are usually going to be people who have read William Lane Craig or Plantinga, and who are given to the emulation of philosophers and philosophical thinking. In that context the definition is going to be closer to that of the "straight man" (Michael Palin) in the Python sketch linked above; the heuristic supporting a logical proposition.

Many atheists speak as though this is just BS, it's just like saying "I deem that X = Y because I like X, and it has sanctifying grace and it reminds me of my geography teacher in eighth grade." Of course they just skip right over the fact that many such arguemnts are attempts to plug scientific facts into propositions confirming belief in God. I have had three major arguments spanning huge threads about the fine tuning argument. In the first one atheists went 40 posts wit out saying anything more substantial than "that's no good, that's not scinece, I don't like that." Every single post I made was about scientific facts, most of them were quoting a scientist named Andre Linde (on Doxa) who is an atheist but you took Fine tuning seriously enough to write an article several years ago (Scientific American, Oct 97) listing many of the more obvious problems facing the formation of life in the early development of our universe.

This argument is all about facts, it contains thousands of facts. Of course their reaction to it was something "this is stupid. this doesn't prove anything." I have a feeling that what they mean by "a fact that proves something" is something DNA. They want to find God's fingerprint or hair sample, but it has to be so obvious the it can't be questioned. Of cousre they can always question. Like the EPCEP thing, it's just another excuse to raise the bar as soon as the request facts are produced. The fact that half of my God arguemnts turn upon scientific facts (in my list of 42 arguments) doesn't even mean anything to them. What they really want is a done deal, something they can't even begin to question that totally prove it so they are forced to believe and they can't possibly be mistaken.

The idea that you have a fact that proves soemthing and you don't have to make an argument to show how it proves something is ludicrous. That's arguments are, they are connecting links that move from evidence to conclusion and explain things.Arguments are not tricks or emotional tirades that seek to lul one into a frame of mind apart form facts. Arguments can be based upon logic, they don't have to be based upon empirical evidence, but you can't make empirical evidence "prove" something without making an argument.Even if you could somehow pull back the curtain of reality and see God at the controls, so to speak, you would still have to make an argument that this si God and these are the controls that govern the universe, just pulling back the veil itself wouldn't do it.

The only potions atheists embrace are those shaped by arguments. They think that when they say "there's no proof for your God so I have no rational reason to believe" that they are making a statement of fact that needs no elucidation and is transparent when spoken. In point of fact that in itself is an argument.All the atheists potions are the result of argument and not of facts.
Science data is not self explainable or self revealing. It only means something when you shape into an argument and make it mean something.

Facts do not announce themselves as such. Nature is not festooned with little tags that say things like "scientific data, by nature." "This is a scientific fact." There is no scientific data until we transform qulia into data by the process of scientific study. No one just stduies raw data by itself. Economists don't collect dates on coins in the economy, sociologists don't count the number of bricks in housing projects, geologists don't count the grains of sand on the shore, then let it go at that rejoicing that they have found scientific facts. Data is put into context of "meaning" through interpretation. Data always must be interpreted and the complexity of the world means there can be more than one interpretation. This is a very simplistic source but I think anyone naive enough to think that scinece is just a pile of facts needs this level of simplicity:

Understanding Science: How
Science Really Works.

Evaluating an idea in light of the evidence should be simple, right? Either the results match the expectations generated by the idea (thus, supporting it) or they don't (thus, refuting it). Sometimes the process is relatively simple (e.g., drilling into a coral atoll either reveals a thick layer of coral or a thin veneer), but often it is not. The real world is messy and complex, and often, interpreting the evidence relating to an idea is not so clear-cut. To complicate things further, we often have to weigh multiple lines of evidence that are all relevant to the validity of a particular idea.
This is raw data, but what does it mean?
Tests typically generate what scientists think of as raw data — unaltered observations, descriptions, or measurements — but those must be analyzed and interpreted. Data become evidence only when they have been interpreted in a way that reflects on the accuracy or inaccuracy of a scientific idea. For example, an investigation of the evolutionary relationships among crustaceans, insects, millipedes, spiders, and their relatives might tell us the genetic sequence of a particular gene for each organism. This is raw data, but what does it mean? A long series of the As, Ts, Gs, and Cs that make up genetic sequences don't, by themselves, tell us whether insects are more closely related to crustaceans or to spiders. Instead, those data must be analyzed through statistical calculations, tabulations, and/or visual representations. In this case, a biologist might begin to analyze the genetic data by aligning the different sequences, highlighting similarities and differences, and performing calculations to compare the different sequences. Only then can she interpret the results and figure out whether or not they support the hypothesis that insects are more closely related to crustaceans than to spiders.

That process contains a number steps that are not only very similar to argument but that also require argument when interpretations vary. Just interpreting data requires a form of argument sense one is making a connection from sign to conclusion based upon a logical association involving a claim. In the argumentation theory of Stephen Toulmin data is part of the grounds or a claim. The warrant links data and other grounds to a claim, legitimizing the claim by showing the grounds to be relevant. The warrant may be explicit or unspoken and implicit. It answers the question 'Why does that data mean your claim is true?' That process is just like the process through which one assertions the significance of any given data in hypothesis testing.

On a more sophisticated level we can see that entire scientific project rests upon "paradigms" which in effect are arguments. Science changes when the paradigm is no longer able to adsorb and explain or dismiss anomalies that cause us to question the paradigm. This is part of the thory of Thomas S. Kuhn. Kuhn was the biggest name in history/philosophy of scinece for several decades, even beating Popper (the 60s-90s). When the Postmodern project fell apart in the 90's Kuhn went down with the ship even he was only tangentially related to Postmodernism. I think we can argue that Kuhn's fortunes have risen again as I predicted at the time they would. I see much more Kuhn related material, he's still in universities. One such class is that of Professor Frank Pajares, Emory University. He prepares an online study guide and his summary of Kuhn's first chapter in Structures of Scientific Revolutions runs as follows:

Kuhn begins by formulating some assumptions that lay the foundation for subsequent discussion and by briefly outlining the key contentions of the book.

  1. A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs (p. 4).
    1. These beliefs form the foundation of the "educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice" (5).
    2. The nature of the "rigorous and rigid" preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a "deep hold" on the student's mind.
  2. Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" (5)—scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
  3. To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (5).
  4. Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education" (5).
  5. A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly "subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice" (6). These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—"the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science" (6).
    1. New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
    2. When a shift takes place, "a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory" (7).

In other words science is like a status quo of a governmental regime or one might liken it unto the negative in policy debate round, it is the status quo, the way we view the world. If it is going to change it must do so because it can no longer answer crucial questions (absorb anomalies) that must be answered to continue to assume the received view of the world. Kuhn himself tells us:

"scientific revolutions are here taken to be those non-cumulative developmental episodes replaced in whole or in part by a new one..." (Thomas kuhn The Structure of scientific Revolutions, 92). "The choice [between paradigms] is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for these depend in part upon a particular paradigm, and that paradigm is at issue. When paradigms enter as they must into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses it's own paradigm to argue in that paradigm's defense...the status of the circular argument is only that of persuasion. It cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle." The Structure of Scientific Revolutions(94)In section X we shall discover how closely the view of science as cumulative is entangled with a dominate epistemology that takes knowledge to be a construction placed directly upon raw sense data by the mind. And in section XI we shall examine the strong support provided to the same historiographic scheme by the techniques of effective science pedagogy. Nevertheless, despite the immense plausibility of that ideal image, there is increasing reason to wonder whether it can possibly be an image of science. After the pre-paradgim period the assimilation of all new theories and of almost all new sorts of phenomena has demanded the destruction of a prior paradigm and a consequent conflict between competing schools of scientific thought. Cumulative anticipation of unanticipated novelties proves to be an almost nonexistent exception to the rule of scientific development.The man who takes historic fact seriously must suspect that science does not tend toward the ideal that our image of its cumulativeness has suggested. Perhaps it is another sort of enterprise. [ Structures...92-94]
(see my entire summary of Kuhn Here)
The simplistic concept that science is a pile of facts that prove the truth of all reality as long as we peruse the proper scientific methods is just a fantasy. There is no neat simplistic choice between fact and argument. Expecting to test the validity of God belief on the basis of the belief to conform to the norms of scientific is equally stupid. This is why I do not argue for the existence of God. All of my arguments I bill as "rational warrant for belief" simply becuase God is beyond empirical data. It would be as absurd to expect to prove god empirically as it would be to prove reality itself empirically. If you remember what I've said in the past about basic epistemology, that cannot be done. No one has. The only thing that was every produced along those lines is a epistemological judgment based upon warrant. Every time I argue it out with atheists to this point they say proudly and triumphantly "I can rest assured with a very good implication of what I know based upon the probability suggested by empirical data." I love to deflate that line when I say "that's what I get with my God arguments."

That's all they have to do, all we need is a rational warrant becasue the gap there between absolute certainty and warrant, which even the atheists admit they can't fill, that's the gap one leaps over in a leap of faith. The atheist has just admitted he leaps over it too. So the big fortress of facts that seems so assuring in atheist rhetoric is really just propaganda sloganeering.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Is Love Just a Little Feeling form Chemicals in The Head?


This is an exchange I had with an atheist on CARM. I don't even remember the context that prompted it, but it brings up two issues that I think are very important. The first one deals with the near universal atheist acceptance of reductionism and how they truncate reality by reducing ideals such as love and justice to mere momentary feelings, which they dis-value as the result of chemicals and nothing more. The second issue deals with a notion I see more and more, the reduction of concepts to the realm of the un-real. Both of these are extremely important issues because they amount to nothing more than gimmicks, yet I see atheists trading on them all the time as ways of disparaging belief.

(1) feelings are bad, they are subjective, according to most atheists, they are only the result of chemicals in the head, they have no further use or value beyond this.

(2) concepts are always unreal, God is a concept, thus God is unreal (this gimmicky "argument" pulled by "Big Thinker" on CARM incessantly. No matter how many times one disproves it he's always bringing it up again.

So in argument with a particular atheist the issue of love came up. Is it a feeling or is there something more important and wider than just the feelings and physical response that go with the notion of "love?" I say there's a concept to it which of course he says means it's not real.

Below I said to him (in blue) "no it's not' meaning "no love is not just a feeling." Love is more than just the racing heart beat and butterfly stomach of momentary infatuation, in fact love is much more than just romantic infatuation; there are different kinds of love but they all revolve around the idea of the will to the good of the other (agope, the highest form of love).

He says it's just a reaction to chemicals firing across the synapse.

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
no it is not. It's not a feeling at all. It's a concept, the will to the good of the other. The feeling is something that comes with it and reinforces it.

Of course it's a concept. Everything is. But it's not "the will to the good of the other". That's something you have decided to attach to it. And please don't drag out some nonsense like "Oh, so you don't want good things for those you love?"

you are reducing it to little butterfly feeling that's not really even the thing itself. Those are the results of love not love itself. It's a concept.

In saying that this is a concept I've added to love, he's also adding something to it. He's assuming that certain physiological responses typify the term "love" which means he's using a concept to designate a stimulus response, and he is no less evoking a conceptual understanding of a set of responses than am I.

The feeling is love - whatever else comes with that (and, of course, that varies wildly from person to person) is not love - it's a consequence of it for that particular person.
The idea doesn't come with the feeling, how could it? the feel is a consequence of the concept. That's like saying feeling good about voting is all there is to democracy.

Quote Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
obviously it would. you can't just have chemicals promoting a feeling and also have that backing up an idea. There is no such thing as innate ideas.

Who said anything about innate ideas? We are talking about an emotion - love. One which is caused by certain chemical reactions in the brain. That feeling existed before we put the label 'love' on it.
The reason I brought up Innate ideas is becuase we are both attacking a term to a set of stimulus responses. He is limited the set to just certain physiological responses that go with romantic or ludic stimuli while I am taking in a large use that has often been made of the limited English term, "love." He's limited the use of the term in order to cut off the wider concept because that would disprove the propagandist notion that love is nothing more than this little narrow range of physical feeling. His view still henges upon the very thing he says mine henges upon, attaching a term to set of feelings.

Innate idea come in to it because for thousands of years people have been using concepts to describes things they feel that are deeper than just this one little set of ideological responses. Al the conceptual talk that goes with the idea of love (such as "will to the good of the other," agope, koinonia and the like) are descriptions of things people feel. If they weren't feelings that refer to a broader conception there would not be such elaboration on this one concept. To say that it's just chemicals is like saying the concepts that go with it must be innate because they too are suggested by the chemicals.

My position is that love is not just a feeling its an emotion. There's more depth to emotion than just a little momentary feeling. He's arguing that if you attack a broader concept to it then you are just making up a bunch of stuff becuase it's not confined this the narrow range. His view just arbitrarily cuts off most of the what had histrionically been used for. This is done for ideological reasons:

No you have reduced the meaning of emotion:

(1) atheist are scared to death of feelings
(2) anything involving feelings must be discredited by atheist
(3) you reduce love to just a feeling because if you did not it would destroy your world view.
(4) you are dogmatically asserting that the feeling is the thing itself and the word is made up to describe the feeling. that's arbitrary.

that is proved by the fact that other languages have different words for different kinds of love. English doesn't' have that. Greeks were highly educated, the Anglo Saxons were barbarian. The Anglo Saxon's stopped with the feeling,the Greek cataloged all the related phenomena.

Quote Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
then you don't have argument against religious experience. so religious experience is a chemically induced feeling about something real. what's the problem?

Did you actually read what I wrote? I have no problem at all with religious experience in as much as it is a chemically induced feeling. The problem comes up with someone claims that the cause for that religious experience is external - that is, that it is a chemically induced feeling about something real. That you cannot evidence.
The fact of the feelings in relation to the concepts, and the effect of religious experience upon that process, such that one's life is transformed in valuable ways across the board, is the proof that it has to be external. If not you have to accept that it's innate ideas, which against are supposed to be impossible so that would indicate some higher origin. As a direct result of religoius experiencing the person doing the experiencing senses undifferentiated unity, or an all pervasive sense of love (and in that feeling of "love" there is a grander and broader and deeper correspondence to concepts such as "will to the good of the other" than in any other kind of set of feelings to which we attach the term "love).

The effects found by two of the major studies include:

Long-Term Effects

Wuthnow's Sutdy:

*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's study:

*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

The reason for assuming it's an external cause is that these effects are in direct correlation to a sense of presence that the expericer citified as "God" or "higher power" most of the time. One of the most common effects is that the experience is drawn into religious belief, either first time or a deeper sense of commitment, as a result of the experience. This is all in relation to the correlation bewteen sense of presence and the all pervasive sense of love, which the person experiencing identities with the broader concepts not with just the little truckled set of physiological response.

The atheist gimmick would be to say concepts are about unreal ideas in the mind. Yet concepts are about anything. Everything we think is a concept. I have a concept of the world around me. I have concepts of millions of real things all the time. You hae two things working there, the concept and the referent that it is a concept of. Some referents are only in the mind, like Superman. Some referents are real, like the world around me. All concepts are in relation to their referents. Being a concept in no way means the referent is unreal. So the the referent of the concept of Love includes but is not limited to the little set of physiological feelings, but also the deep and broader senses that are attached to the various words that English reduces to the one word "love."

the Greeks even had about several words for different kinds.

eros--the desire to have sex (simiar to ludos)
agope--the will to the good of the other.

All of those are both feelings and concepts. I have a concept of willing the good of the other, but I also feel a sense of the rightness of this. The strong feelings I have for it reinforce the idea that it's right enable me to be committed to it. It's not less just becasue I can put it into words. The words are probable inadequate to give full justice to what is being felt.

If we look though the literature of the world we find vast amounts of evidence for this idea. In Huckleberry Finn when he decides slavery is wrong and feels it deeply enough to say "Ok I'll go to hell then." He's willing to go to hell for the rightness of freeing slaves, and he knows it's true, but he feels it. There the concept is correlated with a physical feeling in connection with it. The feeling backs up the concept. Its' not just an "illusion" brought of my physiology it's concept that he knows is right by the concept of the concept.

We see this reflected all the time in literature around the world, complex idea accompany deep feelings and we call them "emotions." In reducing concepts to feelings and then dis-valuing feelings the atheist reductionists are merely truncating reality and setting up a situation where your world view so automatically privileged and the data that disproves it is lost.

The concept of agope, sometimes translated "charity," although that's inadequate, or "God's love," is not only a Christian concept but had a currency in Greek culture. It is defined by Tillich as the willingness to according the other the basic human dignity due him/her. That requries a complex and compound conceptual referent. Not only does it involve the idea of "good of the other" but also the concept of "human dignity." The reductionist says "you are just sticking a bunch of things on this simple set of physiological responses." Of cousre truncating it in that way takes away the concepts which are felt in themselves. One can have passionate feelings about the good of the other, and about willing the good, about human dignity and according it to people who are being denied it.

I have always sensed that the feelings I feel when responding to something like civil rights workers singing "we shall over come" are must different kind of feeling than a response to the stimulus of a beautiful woman, and I consciously understand that they are and can feel that depth in the feelings at the moment. These are not the same feelings. When thinking of the term "love" in the broader context of agope I clearly sense the connection. There is something in that amalgum of feelings I have about political committment to ideals I care about that I can easily term "love." Che Guevara said Marxism is a strange kind of love, not for gleaming steel factories but for people.

Extraordinary Calims/Extraordinary Proof

Carl Sagan

I have a page dealing with this concept on Doxa, but it's not very good. This is a better version. I will combine the two eventually.

Carl Sagan made this statement popular in its current form, it was originally used by Hume, Laplace and other early theorists, but atheists have sense taken it as a major slogan for their decision-making paradigm.

Marcelo Truzzi tells us:

In his famous 1748 essay Of Miracles, the great skeptic David Hume asserted that "A wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence,"and he said of testimony for extraordinary claims that "the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more unusual." A similar statement was made by Laplace, and many other later writers. I turned it into the now popular phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (which Carl Sagan popularized into what is almost the war cry of some scoffers).

This slogan allows them to raise the bar for any Christian claim, while lowering it for their own purposes. Ed J. Gracely explains the basic logic of the bromide.

First, it is important to understand that the strength of a conclusion is a function both of the quality of the evidence provided in its support and the a priori probability of the claim being supported. Thus there can never be a single standard of "acceptable evidence" that will suffice to render every claim equally plausible. Suppose, for example, that a reasonably reliable source tells me (a) that President Clinton has vetoed legislation that places restrictions on trade with China and (b) that Newt Gingrich has switched to the Democratic party. Most people would be much more confident of the truth of the first report than of the second, even though the source is identical. The difference lies in the a priori plausibility of the claims.

A more precise formulation requires us to cast the a priori probability of a claim into the form of "odds" in its favor. A proposition with 90% probability of being true has 90 chances of being true for every 10 of being false. Thus the odds are 90 to 10, which reduces to 9 to 1. A proposition with 20% probability of being true has 20 chances of being true for 80 of being false. The odds (in its favor) are 20 to 80 or 0.25 to 1. It is more natural to translate the latter case into odds of 4 to 1 against the proposition, but the calculations require us to work with odds "in favor of" a proposition, even if they are fractional. Pieces of evidence alter the odds in favor of a proposition by a multiplicative factor in proportion to the quality of the evidence.

While it is clear that not all evidence weighs the same, some evidence is better than other evidence, nothing in this explanation indicates why evidence must be stronger for “extraordinary claims” than for “normal claims.” Assuming we can even indicate what “extraordinary evidence” is, what makes it more proven than “ordinary” evidence? The statement above merely indicates that probability is higher for a proposition backed by more direct evidence, nothing more. The rationale says that the least likely proposition is less probable, then the assertion that the evidence must be more “extraordinary” (whatever that means) rather than just accurate or valid or to the point is not demonstrated. Most assumptions about what makes evidence “extraordinary” or “ordinary,” or a proposition likely or unlikely is going to be largely a matter of prejudice. Consider the following statement, also by Gracely:
The principle is clear; the difficulty lies in the application. How likely, for example, is it that homeopathy or therapeutic touch really work? Proponents argue that we need to open our minds to new possibilities and grant these systems a fairly high a priori probability (say, 50-50 odds). Then, even modest-quality evidence would make the claims quite probably true. Skeptics argue that these systems violate known laws of physics and their validity should therefore be considered remotely improbable.

Who decides how likely it is that homeopathy is valid or invalid medicine? One would need a statically average for cure rates to compare with controlled group using orthodox practices to see this. He admits that “modest quality” evidence would be proof if it is granted a high probability. Without the proper studies why not so grant? What if one has found such treatments effective already in one’s own life? This is nothing more than prejudice to judge something improbable on the basis of guesswork and matters of taste. Why shouldn’t a standard of evidence adequate for proof of the issue under consideration, be the issue? I have so far been unable to find an atheist who can tell me what extraordinary God evidence is. I’ve seen attempts on message boards, where they argue absurdities like “why can’t God make all the stars spell out the phrase “burn pain is the worst pain, Jesus is Lord, convert now.” Or God could appear at the UN and hold a press conference. I have yet to see an atheist give me a valid option for “extraordinary evidence.” More importantly, we are talking about God, not about finding Bigfoot. God is off scale for empirical investigation. How can the basis of reality be studied as though just another “thing” in creation? What could be used as a basis of comparison? How could one ever establish a base line comparison to determine probability of God? Dawkns tries it but he merely assumes God would be on a par with any other physical object. What basis is used to establish the probability of something that is said to be beyond our understanding?

Gracely argues:

An alternative I have heard suggested is to drop the extraordinary proof argument and instead to hold paranormal and alternative medicine claims strictly to the ordinary requirements of replicability and good research. This approach sounds sensible but it has a serious flaw. Skeptics are not willing to accept the plausibility of most paranormal claims unless the evidence is extremely strong. We risk being perceived (correctly) as disingenuous if we call for solid quality research, then revert to the extraordinary claims argument should it in fact appear.(Ibid)

This standard is the one I have been proposing for years. The term he doesn’t use, the proper term for “ordinary” level of proof would be a “prima facie case.” He may have a point if we are talking about acupuncture or UFOs but the flaw he sees in it is attitudinal, not logical or methodological. The attitude of skeptics is out of line anyway. Atheists are not willing to accept any level of evidence. The experience studies are fine studies, they are scientific and a huge body of work backs them up. For all practical purposes, they are “extraordinary evidence.” Let us not forget there is no set standard any skeptic can offer to define that term. Skeptics are quick to brush aside the experience studies as “subjective” without reading the studies or thinking about the arguments. They never define what “extraordinary” evidence would be. Gracely observes that skeptical attitudes are similar even in other areas:

In some areas of paranormal investigation, such as extrasensory perception (ESP), the research is already often better done than much orthodox scientific research, with controls and double-checks most scientists would regard as overkill. Skeptics mostly still feel that the intrinsic implausibility is so great that nothing short of airtight and well-repeated research would be sufficient to support ESP. Little or none of the existing research rises to that level, so we remain skeptical. (Some recent work has been of high quality, see Ray Hyman's article, "The Evidence for Psychic Functioning: Claims vs. Reality", in the March/April 1996 Skeptical Inquirer, pp 24-26.) Had skeptics said some 40 years ago that all we wanted was reasonable quality replicated research, we might now be having to eat our words.

Skeptics are never satisfied. I have seen this problem over and over again. When their demands for evidence are met, they just raise the bar again and again. The tyranny of “extraordinary evidence” so long as one never defines it, allows for this sort of abuse all t he time. More importantly, why should God be subjected to the same standards of proof as empirical objects? Here the skeptic is just in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.” Truzzi documents the “catch 22” designed into the extraordinary proof standard:

But it is important to remember that the proponent of the paranormal has an uphill battle from the start. The chips are stacked against him, so his assault is not so threatening to the fabric of science as scoffers often characterize it. In a sense, conservative science has "the law" on its side.
In law, we find three varieties in the weight of burden of proof:
1. proof by preponderance of evidence,
2. clear and convincing proof, and, in criminal law,
3. proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In conventional science, we usually use (1), but when dealing with extraordinary claims, critics often seem to demand (3) since they demand all alternative explanations must be eliminated before the maverick claim is acceptable. This demand sometimes becomes unreasonable and may even make the scoffer's position unfalsifiable. Since the anomaly proponent is already saddled with a presumption of "guilt," it would seem to me that (2), clear and convincing proof, might be the best standard, though proponents may reasonably wonder why standard (1) should always be denied them.(Ibid)

But we must also keep in mind that God is not “paranormal.” Truzzi and Gracely are speaking in general of any sort of “paranormal” claim, including the claims of alternative medicine. God is not paranormal, but is status quo, normative for human belief. Nor is God a scientific question. It is absurd to expect us to limit evidence to only the scientific when the question about belief is epistemological. More on this aspect of belief and it is import for evidential standards below. But this does raise a further question about the extraordinary evidential standard:
In addition to defining the term “extraordinary evidence” there is also a need to define the term “extraordinary claim.” Why is God an extraordinary claim? Here the atheist is truly in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.” Atheists make up 3% of the world’s population at best. The overwhelming majorities of people alive today, or who have ever lived, believe in some form of God. Our brains are hard wired to have thoughts of God. Our physical and mental health work better when we believe in God (as will be seen in latter chapters). Obviously we are fit for belief, why would belief be extraordinary? Why should we allow the minor little 3% minority to define what is normative for humanity? Belief in God is is far more than just the average belief; it is normative as a standard of human understanding. It forms the basis of our psyches, it forms the basis of our legal system; it is the chief metaphor regulating meaning and morality. Belief in God illustrates all the aspects of a prima facie case. This is at least so for RE. Marcelo Truzzi makes the same point:

The central problem however lies in the fact that "extraordinary" must be relative to some things "ordinary." and as our theories change, what was once extraordinary may become ordinary (best seen in now accepted quantum effects that earlier were viewed as "impossible"). Many now extraordinary claims may become more acceptable not when they are replicated but when theoretical contexts change to make them more welcome.(Ibid)

Skeptics have argued that religious experience is not regular or consistent because such experiences are all different. Not only do you have so many different religions, but also even from mystic to mystic things differ. Over the years as one develops a disciplined life of prayer, one does encounter growing diversity and newness, but a certain sense of the familiar as well. Experiences become regular and consistent in that the presence of God is usually found in prayer, the sense of the presence is always the of the same quality (although varying intensity) and the sense of God can become familiar enough that it is always recognized as the same, This sense of the familiar is communicable and can be recognized form one believer to another. The mystical and devotional literature presents a kind of ordered sameness. One can read accounts as different form one experiencer to another as those between St. Augustine and A.W. Tozer and still find passages that seem to be talking about the same things. This is amplified times millions of believers in the history of the church who have experienced the same things. Even though there is diversification and difference there is still sameness. This is not even confined to mystics. The same can be said of conversion accounts that the same aspects keep popping up. Once can recognize the work of God from one person to another, form one time to the next, from one culture to all cultures. But, the skeptic will ask, what about the vast array of different religions? These differences are due to cultural constructs. One experiences God beyond words, and when one tries to speak of such experiences one must encode them in a symbolic universe, that is to say, in culture. These differences in symbolic universes over time have spelled out the differences in the many religions. But there is a cretin unity even between all the differences in religion. The data presented long term effects of religious experience (see articles on RE in this blog) represents typologies, which can be used to compare "peak experience" with that of other phenomena. The Peak experiencers can be grouped together into a collection of those who have experiences X. They are not isolated assortments of differing phenomena. These studies do represent differing cultures and times. Thus, religious experience has a consistency to it even between cultures.

Archetypal symbology universal.

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences. Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

"...Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspects simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms of the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.

Archetypal Symbology linked to Peak experience.

The link from Archetypes to religious experience is supplied by Maslow as well, in a quotation already sited in Religious Experience Arguments. He argues that the ability to relate "B knowlege" to "C knowlege" where the female (Or the male) is blanced in the perception of the other between goddess and whore, and the proper ego relation is sorted out, is the managing of the sacred and profane. He points out that anyone can learn to see in this manner and that it is indicative of permeative people in their religious experiences as they explained the world through the sense of the numenous.
d) Anyone can have peack expirence --universal to humanity

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix D. What is the Validity of Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?
"To summarize, the major changes in the status of the problem of the validity of B-knowledge, or illumination-knowledge, are: (A) shifting it away from the question of the reality of angels, etc., i.e., naturalizing the question; (B) affirming experientially valid knowledge, the intrinsic validity of the enlarging of consciousness, i.e., of a wider range of experiencing; (C) realizing that the knowledge revealed was there all the time, ready to be perceived, if only the perceiver were "up to it," ready for it. This is a change in perspicuity, in the efficiency of the perceiver, in his spectacles, so to speak, not a change in the nature of reality or the invention of a new piece of reality which wasn't there before. The word "psychedelic" (consciousness-expanding) may be used here. Finally, (D) this kind of knowledge can be achieved in other ways; we need not rely solely on peak-experiences or peak-producing drugs for its attainment. There are more sober and laborious—and perhaps, therefore, better in some ways in the long run—avenues to achieving transcendent knowledge (B-knowledge). That is, I think we shall handle the problem better if we stress ontology and epistemology rather than the triggers and the stimuli."

2) Why Does God seem Hidden to SO many people?
a) God is not strictly speaking "invisable."

According to Hartshorne, "[o]nly God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or unreflective fashion)." Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.

It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. In previous postings I explained that there a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy. That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory nonconscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.

I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating of sense impressions to awareness). Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our own body and the nonsensory perception of one's past.
b). Atheists basically deny the validity of religious experience because they assume that all perception is sense perception.

Or, they deny sense perception to theists when they actually presuppose it themselves (Hume is a case in point).
c) All people experience the reality of God or the "Holy" all the time.

But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does not have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

The upshot of all of this is religious belief is normative for human behavior. It is not merely "normal" but "normative" meaning it sets the standard. Belief is basic to human psyche, to our understanding of the good, of meaning in life, the ultiamte limits of reality, the grounding of nature and being itself, there is no way belie in God can be thought of as an extraordinary claim! We might think of it as extraordinary in the the sense of being unique, like no other claim, but in that case it makes no sense to subject it to the regular canons of science as though God's presence is given in daily empirical data. Obviously the more intelligent evidential standard is that the evidence has to be fit for the claim. Fit, not dazzling, not impossible, not amazing, no beyond our ability to produce, but it has to fit the case. It has to be rational, and able to stand a prima facie burden, and it has to fit the proof attempted.


Marcelo Truzzi “on some unfair practices toward claims of the Paranormal.” This article was published in slightly edited form in:Edward Binkowski, editor, Oxymoron: Annual Thematic Anthology of the Arts and Sciences, Vol.2: The Fringe, New York: Oxymoron Media, Inc., 1998. It is also found on the website Skeptical Investigations: visited 7/7/08

Ed J. Gracely ”Why Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof. This article first appeared in the December 1998 issue of Phactum, the newsletter of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT). Dr. Gracely is Associate Professor of Community and Preventive Medicine at the MCP*Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia. This article was posted on July 24, 2003. It is now found on:Quackwatch

Abraham MaslowReligious Values and peak Experience,
text online:

url for my RE argument:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Theodicy: Problem of Pain and Short Lives


If you are coming over from the CADRE blog, I apologize for the duplication.I meant to post this here and I thought I was in the Metacrock's blog section but I was in the CADRE section and posted there by mistake. Rather than take it out i thought well those guys could use it too. I'll just post in both places.

Yesterday I had a discussion with atheist on theodicy problem. That's the problem of pain and evil. Why does God allow it. There are two questions there but I think the answers to both are related. My classic answer is my own version of the "Free Will defense." The thing that makes my version different is the twist I put on internalizing the values of the good. This my version from Doxa and here's how it plays out. I call it "Soteriological Drama." Soteriology means the study of salvation. I am saying there's a drama, not entertainment but the kind of real drama one finds in life, concerning the pursuit of salvation. God has designed a serach into the process because it is only by searching that we learn to internalize the values of the good.

Basic assumptions

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so oblivious, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The Actual Argument:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.

On Doxa I designed into the presentation an answer to the issue of babies dying:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internalizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the final tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why must that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of consequentialist ethics. If one uses a deontological standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates because it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.
The connection of the two issues:

The two issues are of course, evil and disaster, or pain not connected to decision making. We can't call disease or weather or problems of accident "evil" because they are not tied ot anyone's personal choice. Moral valuations such as "good" and "evil" only apply where a choice can be made. One could try to charge God with evil in saying that it's his choice to allow it. This is would be foolish since there is no standard of Good if the creator is evil. Then evil would be the original concept, and good would be the fall from evil. That's can't be because evil is not constructive. Evil doesn't build but tears down; evil is rebellion against a standard not the establishment of a standard. Yes it does bother me as an old "red" from the 60s to support "establishment." I tell myself the establishment of this world is the rebellion against the establishment of life.

Thus the connection between evil and disaster is that God can't forestall disasters every time they occur and still expect us to conduct a search. No one searches for what he knows to be the case. The search is the search for truth, the answer to the big question, what are we doing here? what's the point of it all? No one searches if he knows the answers. It would be a dead give away if every time something almost happened some miraculous force stopped it. So there has to be what we might call a "normal world" that runs on its own steam. God can stick his finger in and change things, but there have to certain rules he put in place for doing that, like faith for ex maple, otherwise he's going to have to do it all the time, that would sort negate the need for searching.

This searching aspect is what angered this atheist. He was extremely indignant about it. He accused me of being selfish and self absorbed because I'm letting God off the hook for my desire to learn things and have personal fulfillment. I think what made it so unnerving was the way he spoke as though he knows God is real and just hates him anyway. I am not saying all atheists think that way, just this one guy. It's not that I expect this little answer to really satisfy someone who has lost a child. Of course I do not, and for anyone who has lost a child my deepest sympathy. Had I lost a child myself I would certainly not be content with such answers and I don't blame anyone who is angry at God. That will be a short term anger. One can't let the hurt create a life-long bitterness and negate being able to re-unite if such a thing is possible. Yet I am here to lecture people in what they "should feel."

I find it gulling that this guy tries to abrogate my right to explore life. He wants to control my reactions to pain as though only he has a right to feel and only he knows the right way to feel. I am here in life wondering what it's all about and I have as much of a right to wonder as anyone. I am still doing my own search. I do feel I have the right direction. I have every right to feel that I do since I've been searching all my life. No one has a right to mock or ridicule the answers I"ve found. After all I'm not tryign to impose anything on anyone I'm just offering my little warped ideas and holding up my little end of the conversation.

I don't imagine this answer will make anyone feel good I do think intellectually it's the best answer. Over time when people heal a bit they might be able to see that. The answer is that we have to have a real world. God has to let it go as a real world under its own steam even though that means pain and torment and problems. As Jesus said "in the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." "All things for together for Good for those who love the lord" (Paul said that). In the end it will be worked out. those who seek will find.

If I could think of any more cliches I'd use them.