I said that I would answer certain comments made by Brap in the comment section which pertain to my arguments on religious experience. I'm still going to get around to those and I hope Brap will forgive me for pushing them back to Wednesday. This was a post I put on CARM the other where atheists were going wild with certain kinds of statements they always make, such as "where did God come from, what caused God?" that sort of thing.I decided to try and tie it all up in one post.
I see a whole host of problems talked about in many threads that can be all done away with just a couple of simple ideas.
God simple or complex?
where does God come from?
why doesn't God need a cause?
Is God a brute fact?
Is God indifferent?
"God" is a term for a category of existence not a name for a guy. god is not a big man in the sky but a from of existence all its own--eternal, necessary, aka "primordial being."
The nature of that level of existence (the divine) can be varied and debated: for my money the most rational understanding is that God is a mind and the reality we know and take to be so solid is a thought in that mind.
"God" is the framework in which all this stuff of matter, and chemicals and biology cohere and take place. It's analogous to a big mind that is thinking the processes that are contained in that framework.
Because it's a mind is not indifferent, it does love it capable of caring but since it works on a level beyond our understanding we can't really know what it's up to or how it's worked things out or how it's concern is motivated except in so far as we can become agents of its will and express its love for others.
Because it's the basis of reality we can't compare it to things we understand. So we can't say "it's simple," "it's complex" those terms have no more meaning for that level of being as do the terms "up" and "down"in outer space. To use those terms one must have a standard where "up" is always a certain pole and it's opposite is "down." you can't establish that with God becuase God is not a thing in creation but is the mind that creates the reality we think of as "the world."
We are figments in an imagination we take that to be solid "reality" when in reality it's just an idea in a mind. I call this idea "proto-pan-pshychism." Pan psychism is the idea that mind is part of nature. Or that matter is conscoius. I don't any reason to assume that when the same basic evidence of it can also point to a mind not part of matter but standing behind nature, so to speak. This view related to Berkeley but of cousre isn't exactly the same. Berkeley thought that God's observation of reality made it real. I am arguing that God actively thinks reality into being. A similar view is hinted at in my Berkeley-Gaswami God argument. This argument tends to really anger atheists and they always demand immediate proof. Some proof is offered in the argument from temporal beginning (another God argument) where I argue that only a mind really answers the problem of temporal beginning. One might also see my fire in the equations re-boot, as well as my version of the fine tuning argument as these also imply the necessity of a mind in creation.
New paradigms in scientific thinking are on the horizon which radically change our notions of what consciousness is. We tend to think of consciousness as the side effect or sellf awareness that comes from brain activity. This is no longer the only way to think about it as some physicists are actaully willing to consider other views.
One of those is Amit Goswamai, a Physicist teaching at the university of Organ.
Craig Hamilton tells us:
Goswami is convinced, along with a number of others who subscribe to the same view, that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. Without an observer, he claims, it only exists as a possibility. And as they say in the world of science, Goswami has done his math. Marshaling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls "monistic idealism," the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is.
Goswami himself says:
The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents—building blocks—of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief—all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human beings—you and I—think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.
Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness.That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes "downward causation." In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency—it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation—but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.
Goswami actually says that consciousness is the ground of being. This is because the ground of being is what being is grounded in, and if that is consciousness, if the nature of existence is to be a thought in a mind, than the ground of being is consciousness.
Another Physicist, Peter Russell, who studied at Cambridge with professor Hawking also supports Goswami's Vedantic assumptions.
The really hard problem-as David Chalmers, professor of philosophy at the University of Arizona, has said-is consciousness itself. Why should the complex processing of information in the brain lead to an inner experience? Why doesn't it all go on in the dark, without any subjective aspect? Why do we have any inner life at all?
This paradox-namely, the absolutely undeniable existence of human consciousness set against the complete absence of any satisfactory scientific account for it-suggests to me that something is seriously amiss with the contemporary scientific worldview. For a long time I could not put my finger on exactly what it was. Then suddenly, about four years ago on a flight back to San Francisco, I saw where the error lay.
If consciousness is not some emergent property of life, as Western science supposes, but is instead a primary quality of the cosmos-as fundamental as space, time, and matter, perhaps even more fundamental-then we arrive at a very different picture of reality. As far as our understanding of the material world goes, nothing much changes; but when it comes to our understanding of mind, we are led to a very different worldview indeed. I realized that the hard problem of consciousness was not a problem to be solved so much as the trigger that would, in time, push Western science into what the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn called a "paradigm shift."
The continued failure of science to make any appreciable headway into this fundamental problem suggests that, to date, all approaches may be on the wrong track. They are all based on the assumption that consciousness emerges from, or is dependent upon, the physical world of space, time, and matter. In one way or another they are trying to accommodate the anomaly of consciousness within a worldview that is intrinsically materialist. As happened with the medieval astronomers, who kept adding more and more epicycles to explain the anomalous motions of the planets, the underlying assumptions are seldom, if ever, questioned.
I now believe that rather than trying to explain consciousness in terms of the material world, we should be developing a new worldview in which consciousness is a fundamental component of reality. The key ingredients for this new paradigm-a "superparadigm"-are already in place. We need not wait for any new discoveries. All we need do is put various pieces of our existing knowledge together, and consider the new picture of reality that emerges.
Consciousness and Reality
Because the word "consciousness" can be used in so many different ways, confusion often arises around statements about its nature. The way I use the word is not in reference to a particular state of consciousness, or particular way of thinking, but to the faculty of consciousness itself-the capacity for inner experience, whatever the nature or degree of the experience.
A useful analogy is the image from a video projector. The projector shines light onto a screen, modifying the light so as to produce any one of an infinity of images. These images are like the perceptions, sensations, dreams, memories, thoughts, and feelings that we experience-what I call the "contents of consciousness." The light itself, without which no images would be possible, corresponds to the faculty of consciousness.
We know all the images on the screen are composed of this light, but we are not usually aware of the light itself; our attention is caught up in the images that appear and the stories they tell. In much the same way, we know we are conscious, but we are usually aware only of the many different experiences, thoughts, and feelings that appear in the mind. We are seldom aware of consciousness itself. Yet without this faculty there would be no experience of any kind.
The faculty of consciousness is one thing we all share, but what goes on in our consciousness, the content of our consciousness, varies widely. This is our personal reality, the reality we each know and experience. Most of the time, however, we forget that this is just our personal reality and think we are experiencing physical reality directly. We see the ground beneath our feet; we can pick up a rock, and throw it through the air; we feel the heat from a fire, and smell its burning wood. It feels as if we are in direct contact with the world "out there." But this is not so. The colors, textures, smells, and sounds we experience are not really "out there"; they are all images of reality constructed in the mind.
It was this aspect of perception that most caught my attention during my studies of experimental psychology (and amplified by my readings of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant). At that time, scientists were beginning to discover the ways in which the brain pieces together its perception of the world, and I was fascinated by the implications of these discoveries for the way we construct our picture of reality. It was clear that what we perceive and what is actually out there are two different things.
This, I know, runs counter to common sense. Right now you are aware of the pages in front of you, various objects around you, sensations in your own body, and sounds in the air. Even though you may understand that all of this is just your reconstruction of reality, it still seems as if you are having a direct perception of the physical world. And I am not suggesting you should try to see it otherwise. What is important for now is the understanding that all our experience is an image of reality constructed in the mind.
At least some scientists are willing to think of consciousness along new lines, not just as a property of an biological organism stemming from brain chemistry. These two are practicing a form of Hindu mysticism called "Vedanta," I am not in line with Vedanta. But I do agree that reality is a thought in the mind of God. I think this is the answer to many theological problems.
It would make no sense to ask where this primordial nature of being comes from because it's eternal. Time is created by the mind that thinks the universe it s function is that of a conventional frame of reference for us like up and down. It's a temporal up and down.
God is no more subject to these things than we are to day dreams.
For this same reason God doesn't need a cause. We can't speak of God as "brute fact." Brute facts are problematic and may be discounted as exiting merely becuase they are brute facts. God is not a brute fact because the definition of that it has no purpose either within itself or from without.
God's purpose can't be bestowed upon him from without because there's nothing higher.He's the end of the series. The purpose of God is within God. The purpose stems form God's postilion as eternal necessary being, and that is giving and bestowing upon the beings (the contingencies the consequences of its thinking).
In other words love. Love (giving--the will to the good of the other) is the primary attribute of god and is linked to being at the primordial level.
Thus God is not indifferent. God is not without purpose but the purpose of God is within God himself as the mind.
This has often prompted atheists to charge that I'm not a Christian and they call it "new age" to mock it. I'm not new age. I have no affilation with anything one might call "new age." I think new age is bubble brain. This is not new age, pan psychism is not what I support. My view is not that it just bounces off the body of evidence they use and bends the trajectory of some of it to the service of God. There is no statement in Christian doctrine that ays "God is not thinking the universe." The Bible says God spoke creation into existence. What's the difference in speaking it and thinking it? Just becuase I've thought of a way that most christian haven't hit upon yet to answer certain questions doesn't mean it's not within the bounds of Christian doctrine. I use evidence from eclectic sources. Russell and Gaswami are not Christians and do qualify closer to being "new age" than I would like. They also offer knowledge of physicists and show there is a movement among phsyicists, which dos illicit the ire of colleagues, I want to expose both Christians and atheists to thinking outside the box.