Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lesson in Argument: Critique of Dialogue with Atheist souper genyus


 this is a dialogue I had with an atheist on CARM the message board

Originally Posted  by souper genyus View Post

the context of this post was an argument I made that is basically my old cosmological necessity argument. It says that some from of being is eternal and therefore, not contingent (necessary). Since this primordial being is the basis of all that is, it must be considered the ground of being.That means three of the major attributes of God actually exist and all there is is based upon them. Then we need only consider they are bound together by mind to believe in God. This is a pretty good warrant for belief. No it's not proof, it doesn't have to be proof. It warrants belief. Hey don't look know bu this is far from "no reason to believe" it's far from  the "nothing" upon which atheists think faith is based.

The indented segments attributed to me (Meta) are what I said on the board. The regular segments are what I'm saying in commentary for this post.

And, everything we observe is "contingent upon prior conditions." Whether or not this applies to the universe as a whole is a matter of contention, which means the answer is not within the scope of human knowledge. To say that there is a condition prior to all other conditions, and that condition is God, is unknowable. 

It's not unknowable. It's unknowable by your means. I know it. Your means are not the only means of knowing. Al thought hey may be the only means that you will accept as proof. Be that as it may I don't argue for proof but for warrant, and I think what you say about prior conditions is enough to warrant the belief.
These means of knowing to which I refer include Logic, intuitive sense such as the feeling of utter dependence, as well as experiential means such as mystical experience. They also include scientific knowledge from disciplines other than cosmology. I support a concept of global knowledge. Knowledge is reducible to just scinece. We have to make use of all the forms of knowledge we have. We discount one's that don't pan like reading tea leaves.

But you end the contingency of events to prior conditions at God, which is special pleading. Your idea is that one needs "grounding" to make claims about reality, and that "grounding" is God, or Being Itself, or Ideal and Ultimate Being. 

 that is not special pleading. It's still subject to the rules of logic that your assertions are subject to. It's not true that I assume that is the only possible grounding, I just don't see any other that works. to be more precise it so fits the nature of the case that I hold for God I don't see that find of fit elsewhere. I see no reason to deny it when it works.
 The atheists are trying to argue special pleading a lot these days and they don't seem to know what it means. Special pleading means my argument conforms of a special case that doesn't have to fit under the same rules as everything else. I'm saying that. Nowhere did I say "all grounding is God.k" That's BS. I don't say that. I use the same rules of logic for my arguments that I used to refute their objections. They think atheism is entitle to presumption in any argument. So if you don't give presumption they assume you are special pleading.

Of cousre I link being itself with God as does Tillich and the major Christian tradition. I have reasons for doing so. I've spelled out those reasons many times.

This is not consistent with the view that you are proposing, a view that I propose as well—that all conditions observed are dependent upon prior conditions. Knowledge is wrought from the intelligent control of concrete conditions.

Sure that is consistent. I've deduced the warrant for belief from that premise, I don't base the premise upon the warrant. By "intelligent control of concrete conclusions" he means reductionism. So what he's really saying is that his ideological basis is the given for all facts and it's permissible to just lose the phenomena anytime it doesn't coordinate with his facts. That is also the Atheist fortress of facts.

what we are about to see here is the atheist question begging in action. He's going to use arguments from taxonomy ("this is metaphysics") and the genetic fallacy (that comes from idealistic assumptions).

The pursuit of knowledge assumes change, assumes prior conditions, and in fact relies upon it. These principles are "true" without a grounding in metaphysics,


I said:
no they are not! the assume metpahiscs. your views are No  less dependent upon metaphysics that mine. weather you say "the dialectic is made of green cheese" Or "metaphysics is BS" you are making metaphysical assumptions. if you say "Metaphysics is carp" you are making a metaphsyical statement.

your ideology has staked out certain metaphysical assumptions that are cool and others that are not cool.


without appeal to self-sufficing Ultimate Being, in that they are predictive and applicable to the concrete, measurable conditions that they aim to explain. These principles explain how current conditions came to be, through change, from other conditions, and predict how they will change into other conditions in the future. Why conditions change according to these principles, in an ultimate or metaphysical sense, is not within the scope of human understanding.

no they don't. they don't explain it we don't know it. they certainly don't. we have no idea what brought it all about and don't try to pretend we do becasue we know we don't. you dont' know what it's made of. we don't know lots of things, none of your ideological metaphsyical assumptions can explain mystical experience or give life transformation or meet any of the epistemic criteria required to suffice as warrant for belief.

See the moves he's made? He's first secondment my whole position as "metaphysics." that in itself says "nothing you have to say matters." then tried to establish reasonable sounding rules that steak out his position as the only permissible one: reductionism. From it's a down hill coast just to use taxonomy (which is part of the genetic fallacy) so show my position comes from the forbidden realm of stuff that he doesn't deem as knowledge.

This is where we disagree and this is where I keep trying to direct the discussion, but you always redirect. Our disagreement is in the usefulness or validity of metaphysics.

no it's in the hidden assumptions you don't know you have which are metaphsyical. you have an implied metaphysics you don't know you have. you are forbidding the positions that ideology counters for no reason except ideological reasons.
I try to redirect it he says, in other words, if I don't agree with him I'm getting us off track! Are the assumptions me makes Metaphysical? Atheists want us to think metaphysics is just about God and unseen realms and miracles. No Heidegger says metaphysics is grouping of sense data under a single organizing principle that defines reality. That's just what these guys are doing, the scientism does it. Reductionism does it. They only allow as "knowledge" and "reality" that which they can control, that which supports their view. Anything that counts against their view they just dismiss as "beyond the pale, this is "metaphysics" it's not knowledge. That move is totalitarian.

I hold that understanding the fundamental nature of being is not within the scope of human understanding. The scope of human knowledge only contains propositions concerning concrete conditions that are contingent upon prior concrete conditions, and predictions about future conditions based upon these propositions.

that is no different form saying "I refuse to accept any implications but the one's that legitimate my truth regime. unless you accept my conclusions and the whole ideology that it implies then you can't have truth. I say I can. i dont' have to accept your means of knowing truth. I have a broader base for knowing than you do. you are doing the reductionist thing of cutting off the bits you can't control losing the phenomena.
see what he said? first of all if understanding the fundamental nature of being is not in the scope of human understanding what is science working toward? Why can't it be? What he really means is it's not in the scope of the aspects of knowledge that my ideology. Certainly there are such aspects that pepople feel they have come to undersatnd by various means that aer not acceptable to his view but nonetheless have demonstartion that they do impart some form of knowlege.

Mystical experience for example has a quality called "noetic" which means it imparts knowledge about reality. The proof that it has is the universality of the experience and the effects of having it such that one is transformed into a better life. That would be proof of a better understanding of the fundamental basis of being if the fundamental basis of being is about being transformed. Part and parcel of the mystical experience itself is a deep abiding sense that one has come to understand reality and the fundamental nature of being in a deep intuitive way.

Why can't this be so? All it would mean is that the scientism guys don't have the only from of knowledge. What is so unthinkable about that? Then they say "but it doesn't conform to our rules, it doesn't demonstrate it they way we want it to, which means it simply doesn't doesn't conform to their controls, that position is not all of the truth. They are totalitarian they have to feel that have all truth.

You keep assuming that I am trying to hold up a different metaphysics than yours, when in fact I am affirming strong agnosticism in reference metaphysical claims in general. Please discuss this.

yes of cousre you are. just don't realize what metaphysics is. you think it's just belief in God. It's not. Science is metaphysics too. you are cutting reality becuase it doesn't' your truth regime. that's metaphysics.
 In many ways he's illustrated classic symptoms of them ideologue. He has the only form of knowledge, just identifying the other guy's position as outside the turf of proper bounderies of knowledge is enough to destroy it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gaining Clearity On The God Concept


An atheist on CARM, having read no theology and understanding nothing about it, voices the uninformed opion that all talk about God is incoherent and confused.

Again atheists prove the totalitarian nature of their ideology becuase they can't accept diversity of opinion. They just can't stand the idea that there could more than one school of thought. They are outraged that Christians get to think and hold opinions while they must learn a set of facts and reduce all life to that list of facts.

There is nothing incoherent about my idea of God but these guys are confusing unproved assumptions with incoherent ones. They also confuse their own inability to understand with incoherence.

The most striking thing about my concept of God is that is is extremely clear and well thought out. It might be hard for them to see this becasue they get hung up on ideas they don't understand and don't know about, like being itself. they also require absolute scientific proof so they confuse speculation with incoherence.

here's a thumbnail of my view:

this is not a God argument it's a set of observations. they do have relation to each other but don't necessary flow out of one another logically.

Pertaining to Method

I. God is beyond our understanding.

Mythical theology is at the core of my ideas. "mystical" doesn't mean magic realms and hokus pokus it means we don't know. God is beyond our understanding. Rather than make up a bunch of theory that can't be proved, we just admit we don't know and look for what we can know--the logic of the lamp post.

II. Religious language is analogical.

Becuase God is beyond our understanding we can only talk about the aspects of the divine that we experience in some sense, although most such experiences are intuitive and not deep, such the feeling of utter dependence. Nevertheless to talk about them we have to filter them through cultural constructs. So we get ideas about "fathers" and "kings" and so forth because in the ancinet world these were ways to make transcendent experience immediate. Then have to bridge to gap with metaphor and that means the bridge is trailing off into the darkness and we don't see the other end. That's ok becuase our end is very light and we can step out on it and see that it's solid.

III. We can speak of the reality of God functionally

We can't observe god empirically (except through mystical expressive and divine union--then we can't talk about it accurately) we have to speak of the functionality that we see in god based upon the experiences we do have.

............A. Love.

We can talk about god's love because we can experience that. That's a concrete thing: I didn't feel it, I never felt it until I got saved then I felt it all it all the time.


We can experience redemption in terms of both psychological healing and transformation in life.

there are other such functionalities based upon either experience or logic. By that I mean the function God plays in our relationship with him. Those functions include, redeemer, creator,father, leader, friend and other things.

God's nature

I. We can draw analogy to mind.

God is universal mind. those who would call this "new age" don't know anything about the Orthodox chruch. No figurine in Church history is more center to the Orthodox than Dionysus the Areiopagite. Calling him "New age" would be ridiculous. He is the one who spoke of God as universal mind.

The relationship of god to mind is analogy becuase we don't even know enough about our own minds to say what they are. Then of course there's the problem of the relationship of brain to mind.

Nothing in the data on brain proves that it is anything more than access point for mind. Property dualism is not proof of anything,it's a theory. It's a better theory than that of Dennett and it's better than reductionism, but it's not proof. Nothing there proves that brain anything more than an access point. It's like the relationship between hardware and soft ware.

II. We don't have to know things like what God is made out of.

We can speculate. I equate spirit with mind. It's more popular to take the Greek word Pneuma and it's Greek root to mean "wind" or "air" or "breath" but it also means mind. In the tradition of German philosophy that relatinoship is made explicit.

Speculation is limited in it's value. The most popular answer to "what is God made of?" would be "energy" and is energy so that might fit. The problem is it's absurd to speak of God as being "made of" something. That would contradict the reality of God as unmade, without beginning and non contingent.

That's a problem of language but there's a point to it. God is the most basic thing there is. God is the stopping point for subatomic particles and for all cause and effect. Whatever is down that far we have not a clue. It makes sense it would be akin to what's going on in our heads, a mental process. That makes sense because the mind is so unlimited and God is certainly unlimited.

our own minds are suitable to frame a coherent world. It just makes sense to analogize God as universal mind. another aspect of that is through omnipresence and omnipotence. These aspects would work well a mind, where as not so much for brain unless the world as a product of the mind being produced by the brain.

III. Equating God with mind is only speculative and analogy

............A literaizing the metaphor

We must be careful not to take it too literally. It's better to keep thinking in terms of function and not to answer questions about physical make up or lack there of. Certainly I don't think God has a physicality. But such questions are best left to science fiction.

We need to distinguish between image, metaphor and hard answer. we relate hazy understanding through mental images. We draw analogy through mental imagery. That makes it appealing to take literally but we should fight against the urge and keep remembering it's all just a set of constructs.

............Mind is the best analogy we have.

It encapsulates aspects of God's attributes we see in consciousness, will and volition. Consciousness is the ability to understand oneself as separate from others and the world.

will is desire and volition is the motivation to obtain desire.

we see these qualities in God through mystical experience and relationship with god..

Bottom line:

analogical ontology of God gives us a vital means of constructing a coherent, clear and meaningful concept of God by relating the functionalists of divine analogically to our own cultural constructs and experiences. while this is limited to our experience and understanding, what isn't? Everything for us is so limited, we cant' understand anything beyond this conceptual framework of pattern establishment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The New Version of my argument from eternal necessary being


Atheist take on first cause argument is wrong headed. What they get right is the possibly that we might not need to ascribe to the universe a "first cause" per se. what they don't seem to understand is that we don't need to prove the necessity of a first cause to find that belief in some form of prior condition such that a creative agent is necessities is rationally warranted.

two observations:

I. We dont' need to think in terms of proof.

There reason why a potion has to be absolutely proven when even science doesn't prove. If the issue is belief then the warrant for belief is sufficient to justify belief.

II. The concept of something from nothing is not only contrary to all observed phenomena but also not satisfying.

It just takes us back to magical thinking or duecex Machina. on in this case it's not "gods out of the machine" but Unbelief out of the machine.


(1) All Naturalistic Phenomena Are Contingencies

Karl Popper:

"Empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something."(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)

We can draw distinction between eternal and temporal, the eternal will be synonymous with necessary and temporal with contingent.

(2)Universe is not a Necessary Outcome

Paul Davies:

"You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe."

"Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality." First Things: Physics and the Mind of God: The Templeton Prize Address (1999)

(3)Space and Time constitute parts of space-time.

Dr. Sen Odenwald,Astronomer Nasa

Astronomy Cafe

ibid What is the relationship between space and time?

"Mathematically, and in accordance with relativity, they are in some sense interchangeable, but we do know that they form co-equal parts of a larger 'thing' called space-time, and it is only within space-time that the most complete understanding of the motion and properties of natural objects and phenomena can be rigorously understood by physicists. Space and time are to space-time what arms and legs are to humans. In some sense they are interchangeable, but you cannot understand 10,000 years of human history without including both arms and legs as part of the basic human condition.

This means that the one reality designated as "space/time" the four coordinate system, is the prior condition under which we find space and time. that means that both space and time are contingent upon space/time.

this brings up the question about the existence of Space/time. It grows out of universal expansion from the big bang, from singularity. What is the singularity and what produces the expansion?

(4) Total absolute nothing as a putative state of affairs is illogical and impossible.

*change in a timeless void is universally agreed upon by scientists to be impossible, this is why they assume no change beyond time or in a black hole. There is no sequences and thus no cause and effect.

* time is not nothing, time is something thus time can't exist in a state of total absolute nothing

*that means nothing could change so nothing come to be.

(5) Warrants the Notion of eternal Necessary Being.

*ENB = my definition of God.

* total absolute nothing as PSA is impossible thus something must always have been.

*It's only logical to assume that whatever is the eternal necessary aspect of all being would be the thing that produced all else.

ergo: there is rational warrant to believe in ENB which is to say, my concept of God is rationally warranted.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Where is God and What's He Doing?


I just don't know what the deal is with atheists? Two different people yesterday on CARM, one asked "where is God," the other "what is God doing?" I've seen them ask these things before. They just can't think logically about it. I felt like saying "God used to be off inspecting dew drops and making sure sparrows don't fall, but now lately he's taken to playing Parcheesi with the angels, and hanging out at the post office so he can pick up his social security check." Come on, where is God? Use your brain, why do you think they call it "omnipresent?"

Are they trying to get at the idea that an omnipresent mind is unacceptable becuase they can't conceive of it? Or do they just refuse to think about it? Then when I tell them they are thinking of God like a big man in the sky they go "O I am not!" No you just think he's located in a single place. My view is that God is a mind and the universe is a thought in that mind. So God is bigger than the universe and encuposes the entire universe as a passing fancy. That means God is everywhere and yet no where. It also means we can't possibly know where God is. It doesn't matter becuase a better question is "where are we?"

Of cousre that leads to the question "how can there be a mind without a brain?" That's an unfair question becuase they are basing that as a difficulty upon such a limited sample, biological organisms on one planet. God is not a biological organism so there's no reason to  expect God to function in that way. Moreover, God is the basis  of our entire world. That totally removes him form any such questions. How can we even ask, much less expect an answer? It also raises the issue about the reality of our own lives, and implies a form of determinism. I just think we don't have to live with either option they because they are untenable from an existential stand point. The rules don't have to be the same so God doesn't have decide our every move as we do characters we imagine. We have no choice but to live our lives as though life is real and we are free. Things just work better when we make those assumptions.

This led to the issue about God and Time. My fellow Christians and I posting yesterday were assuming the standard model of big bang cosmology, thus positing that God is outside time. This lead to a great deal of consternation by one atheist, "how can you know that? that's just speculation." Yes, sure but if great created the universe the most efficient way for him to do it would the big bang, which what the evidence indicates. That puts God outside of time becuase he would have to be existent prior to the big bang in order to cause it, he would have to be outside it if he's not subject to it. These are just logical inferences, but this atheist (and many others I've seen) treat logic as though it's cow dung. the only thing that matters is hard empirical data. Then they will turn right around and act like the combustive is a dune deal when in fact there is no empirical evidence to back it and ti's all logical inference from math. Every time I would say something like "God is beyond time, we can't say 'before time' becuase there can't be a "before" before time (no sequential order without time see?). Then he would seem to indicate that this was a "secret answer" for Christians that no atheist would accept. I don't know how he worked out that we were sharing the secret with him.

Then we come to the burning issue "what is God doing?" this makes me wonder "do these guys not have enough to do? Maybe I should tell them about golden age comics?" I mean come on, what's he doing? they can't imagine a couple of things. What would one do if one was everywhere and all powerful? Maybe stuff work right? Check up on all the sparrows to make sure the don't fall out of the sky? Number hairs on people's heads, with six billion (or is it nine?) we have a lot of hairs to count.

Really, be honest now it's this just a big like treating God like a big man? He doesn't have enough to do? How do we know he's not out creating multiverses and stuff? That question is just a function of underrating the concept of God. God is not a big man in the sky who is looking for something to do. We don't have to assume he get's board or that he doesn't' have some higher thing to be doing like meditation or calculating things. It's a very real possibility that he might just be creating lots of other stuff. He could be answering prayers and figuring what to do for and with billions upon billions of creatures in billions upon billions of universes.

Really and truly though I don't accept that God has to figure. I don't accept that he get's board or needs to do things like we do. I have no idea what being God entails and I don't need to know. I can well imagine. But asking the question is like asking what the laws of physics are doing? Or, what is the universal sense of justice doing? Not to equate God with his own creation or make any pantheist implications but it is also a bit like asking what is the universe doing?

I don't really mind them asking these questions, even though they do imply a rather limited imagination. What I really resent is the question begging tone they take to the answers. One such implication that makes, aside from "this is the secret knowledge Christians hide form atheists," is the idea that "you are just making this up." They express like zero amount of faith in logic to be a proper guide or even a tool for excluding contradiction. While at the same time their own world view is about 60% speculation. Then of cousre the question begging:

Christian: God doesn't need to be doing anything he's not like us he doesn't get board

Atheist: Wrong he doesn't exist so he can't do anything!

Christian: so why did you ask?

Atheist: just to show how stupid it is!

Christian: O it show how stupid IT is? I see....

Then of course they throw in the inevitable: who created God?

Christian: he was designed by committee.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Greatness has Left the Planet: George McGovern dies

In Memory George McGovern (July 19,1922-Oct 21, 2012)
"the Senator"

That's all my brother and I ever had to call him. We knew which Senator we meant. His ill fated Presidential bid in 1972 was our baptism of fire into the world of politics. No more egar, idealistic, stary eyed kids ever burned up the spare time of their sophomore high school year than us. My first crushing political defeat, so devastating it led to my first drunk (the defeat party) and my first hang over (which felt like death).

From the defeat party they dorve me to the home of some guy they knew in the Hill Crest area of Dallas. Upper middle class homes. I'm left in the car while they do in. This guy has an Eastern European name which I wont say but that night I was so drunk I could not say it. So I began wondering the neighborhood knocking on doors and going "is this Less snlorebloxk bosh kie house?" They had to track me down several houses down the way from where they left me.

McGovern was born July 19th, that day day keeps popping up in m life. Herbert Marcuse, another hero died on July 19th and that same July 19, 1979 the Nicaraguan revolution triumphed.


He was a bomber pilot in WWII, he flew a B-24 and was decorated for valor.. Elected to the senate from his native South Dakota in early 60s, he pushed a program of "food for peace," fighting communism by feeding the third world. The Senator was one of the first to speak against the war in Vietnam, a courageous pioneer who was mocked and ridiculed, labeled a communist but who stuck to his guns. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated McGovern was ask to stand in as the replacement candidate for his campaign.

He ran for President again in 84 or 88. and of cousre lost in the primaries and fairly early. He spent his last years in Eruope working for United Nations. See Los Angles Times coverage. McGovern was a Methodist when to a Wesleyan college on the GI bill after the war. He was an avid reader of philosophy and in his college days was taken with the works of Walter Rauschenbusch a leader in the "social Gospel" the forerunner movement of liberation theology.

 His 72 Campaign got off to a rocky start then went down hill. He said he was behind Egalton "a thousand percent." Then dropped him form the ticket when it was revealed he had been in a mental institution. He chose Kenndy bother-in-law R.Sargent Shriver (father of Maria) to replace Egalton. Everyone  began to say "O he just flip flopps all the time and can't make up his mind." Nixon, the master of atheist style campaigning, branded him a communist. People said "he's a wild eyed radical it would be a disaster if he was in." They never read his campagin literature, they didn't know his popsitons on anything. They were certain he was a dangerous radical. He changes his mind all the time. I had debats in every calss I was in. The other side was always stunned with how rational he sounded when I got through. No one changed their minds.

During the campaign I couldn't keep track of how many people said "it doesn't matter, that Watergate thing is no big deal." That next year after Watergate summer everyone said "O guess you were right." some said 'I guess I should have voted for McGovern after all." I lost count of how many people said I see you were right after all.

Just the way people are. they don't reason, they don't bother to learn the facts they just go along get along until it's too late then look to the past and go "we should have listened." But we are not going to listen now!

I think McGovern appealed to the Texan upbringing of my brother and I. We raised to admire the Alamo and the fight-to-the-death-for-your-beliefs mentality. That's what McGovern always symbolized for me. He was a symbol of my youthful idealism, my compassion or the oppressed, and the never say die fighting spirit that's willing to risk and lose all for higher beliefs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That's More Like IT!


 Get the details of Romney's Tax Plan

 This is a quick note, I'm strapped for time so I apologize that I can't do a proper blog price. I do want to drop a line to readers about the President's performance in the debate last nite. Much better! Not as good as Biden's but much better than before. Looking at the polls I saw discussed on early morning news about 6am I would say the immediate national reaction is excitement, boarder on hoopla, and the overwhelming opinion that Obama won.

It did look like the Candidates would come to Blows a couple of times. There was one segment where Romney got to deliver a long impassioned statement about Obama's failures and Obama was not given a chance to respond. He was never able to respond to it. That's unfair because Romney's assertions are unfair to begin with. He really couches it in terms of "well he's been in for four years what's he been doing?" Just like nothing been going on. All the realizations Obama brought out about the gaint mess they had to clean up and how hard it was to get started, the wrench in the works by the oil spill in the gulf, the summer of discontent when the insurance companies organized the tea party to raise hell about the reforming health care. Most of that time of course we still had to pay for two wars. Then of course no one regards the economic stemulus as meaning anything when in fact it created 2 million jobs. Romney dismisses the creation of five million jobs in four years, but given the inertia of a depression (yes, a depression! be honest) crating five million jobs in those years was a pretty big feat.

Romney tired to make Obama's record on drilling of oil a big thing. Republicans just to drill for oil. That's a con job because they like to war for it most of all. That's what the Gulf war was about. Romney demonstrates his opportunistic spirit in saying "O 25 birds and other animals were killed by the drilling but we really need the oil." Nature is some little discordable thing. Now I say opportunistic because he's smart enough to know that oil drinking and coal mining do a lot more than just kill 25 birds or so. He knows it's about ecosystsems and drilling for oil destroys eco systems. The plant is losing its ability to regenerate life.He know that, he's willing to capitalize on public ignorance.

Obama spelled out a detailed plan to move away from foreign oil and in fact any fossil fuel over the long haul. So typical Republican short term, "we need it now" vs. typical Democrat "don't stop thinking about tomorrow." As a matter of fact, and Obama said this, oil drilling is way up under Obama and they had direct class over the facts about the amount of drilling being done. Obama also pointed out that his administration is pushing natural gas as well. That is a big thing here in Texas. All of Fr Worth is sitting on top of a huge bubble of natural gas called "the Barnet Shale" and it's being drilled extensively. That's a big thing here you can't help but hear about it all the time.

One of the highlights of the evening was Obama's criticism of Romney's tax plan and the assertions he makes that he can cut taxes for both the rich and the middle class, increase defense spending and pay for it all while reducing the deficit. Obama stressed the "arithmetic" (The Clintonian word) doesn't work out. Romney insists it does,  but the fact is his real plan obviously to do away with all social programs. That's the only way he can make it work. no more disability, medicare, social security. that's why he wants to privatize social security and turn medicare into a voucher system. If you are fifty or under you just wont have those things when you are old as your parents and grand parents did.What we are ally contemplating is the mass annihilation of the old, the poor, the mentally and physically challenged.

Romeny bogged the proceedings down in a ridiculous attempt to Blame Obama for saying that the attack on the Ambassador in Libya was a protest as opposed to pre conceived terrorism. The fact checker proved Obama right when she pointed out he did say it terrorism in that first press release in the Rose Garden the day after the attack. I really don't see what difference it makes. It was a confusing event. Obama wasn't there we have to go by what the people on the scene told us. so obviously they said it was demonstration they were wrong so what?

Much was made of the alleged Apology that the President extended to Muslims about the film. Romney spun it as though he apologized for fighting terrorism. That of course is nothing like what happened. The President early on sympathized with Muslim community in their outrage over the film. There's nothing wrong with doing that, it was stupid and unfair film. I think the Muslims are too touchy. People say worse about Jesus every day and we don't blow them up. But all the Koran burning and so on it's not bad to sooth things over and he was not apologizing for being Libya or for fighting terrorism.

Overall Romeny showed his opportinaitsic nature and poor take on the issues. Obama tended to Sermonize too much he was sharper and more to the point and more combative.

Monday, October 15, 2012

debate lesson: burden of proof

Actual debaters at a Tournament but I don't know
who or what tournament.

I put up a piece on this blog on Jan 22, 2007 and this very day that piece drew fire from an atheist commenter. Before getting to the comment, I first explain the context. The reader can see the entire piece on Atheistwatch today as I put it up there under a different title; "Atheists Con fussed About the Nature of Presumption and Scientific World View."

here's an except from the article:

The problem is this kind of atheist fundi fools himself into thinking that eh as some real verification and objective demonstration of his world view, but he's only being fooled by a self induced con job. It works like this. First he imposes a self privileging ideology upon the world. He privies doubt, so in his mind doubt comes to equal truth. Then he orients his world view around a value of accepting "only empirical evidence." He cons himself into thinking that he only accept ideas that are proven with empirical scientific evidence. Then attaches such importance to this concept that he is able to make a leap of faith and pretend that somehow valuing induction proves the materialist conclusions that he leaps to. So he think just because he wants all of his positions to be proven with empirical evidence, they must really be so. And of course he convinces himself that the task of science is to protect form religion and then science becomes his get out of hell free card. Let's review these steps.

(1)Impose ideology privileging doubt
(2)accepts value of empirical data only
(3)leap of faith from value of empirical data to assumption of empirically based conclusions
(3) sanctions with the aura of science.

Of course he has no such data. There is no data that God doesn't' exist or that there is nothing beyond the material world.He has no of proving this at all. But that's OK he says because it's having a scientific way of life that counts. At least his over all view is supported by his love of "objectivity" so that sanctions his conclusions even if logic doesn't' sanction them.

The truth is he has no such proofs and his bold scientific way of life is a sham because he has many assumptions upon which his world view is predicated, the basis of which cannot be supported by science. I've made lists like this before, they include all the basic epistemic assumptions:
here's the comment


Anonymous said...
Atheists are not supposed to provide evidence for the existence of god. You can't argue on negatives. Proof has to be offered by the person who makes the clam. Atheists make no claims. I can't give you evidence for a giant teapot at the other side of the universe and you can't ask evidence for that. It is the same thing. the burden of proof lies on theists.

This comment illustrates a great deal of confusion that atheists are inflicted with quite a bit. Many, not all of cousre, but many, think that their world view is guaranteed some kind of magic lionization or privilege just because they wish it was based upon scinece. What they are really getting at in real debate (by "real" debate I have reference to the rules of National Forensic League--high school Debate in the United States, and NDT, "College Debate" or the major arm of college debate in U.S.). There are other organizations* for debate now days and other rules but all of them basically assume the concept "presumption."

Presumption in debate is similar to the legal concept of being innocent until proved guilty. Its' the assumption that the status quo is right until it is proved wrong. It's the basic concept that one is innocent until proved guilty. In debate the concept is that the status quo is assumed to be fine until proved otherwise. To prove that there should be a change the Affirmative team has to present a prima facie (PF) case. Prma facie means "on face value" that says the case as presented before there's any refutation appears to all reason and logic to be a valid case. When a team meets he PF burden presumption is overturned.

Extrapolating to God arguemnts, I take this partly from Toulmin who talked about rational warrant for an argument, setting forth a logically valid reason to believe a concept would be rational warrant, which meets the PF burden. At that point presumption turns over, it then becomes the negative team's burden to show that the Affirmative has not made a PF case. Now the original argument this guy responded to is not about what happens when one presents a God argument. It was talk about the original presumption of atheist belief. Atheists don't get presumption merely becuase they want to dub their views "scientific." They may wish they were taking their ques form science, but they have no more privilege to assume their view of doubt is proved by scinece than a Christian does to assume that God is proved by science.

"Proof" is for mathematics. Just in terms of world views atheism is not the status quo. Atheism would actually be making the change thus they must prove that a change is warranted by demonstrating that belief in God is not warranted. The thing that gives atheists their idea that there's some reason why they should have a privilege, they thing about which they are right, is that when one ties to prove the existence of God the burden of proof is on the one who would prove. In that case the atheist assumption has presumption, becasue then, and only then, is it the status quo (in other words, he who asserts an argument must prove it and the doubter is not trying to prove the argument). Aside from the case in which a believer has made a positive God argument atheism as no basic presumption just because it's a lack of belief.

In this case it really matters what the claim is. If one says "God is proved becasue..." he has a burden to prove the argument. If one says "my personal conviction is that God exits" that person has no burden of proof becasue he's only discussing his habit (his belief--not trying to prove anything). The atheist has no privilege to assume that scinece offers presumptions against belief in God. That is purely a matter of personal conviction and all personal convictions have neutral and equal status in terms of privilege until the argument is made. Because while we are debating (theoretically) we are not dealing with government policy but with personal belief.

Some atheists are even more confused becasue they think that all beliefs are wrong and they mange to talk themselves into thinking that if atheism is the absence of a belief then scinece guarantees a factual world views so not believing is not a belief and thus is sanctioned by science. That is true only to the extent that one doesn't' try to gain privilege for it over other views. The reason is because absence of a belief functions as a belief in comparison to other convictions. The atheist is still working on conviction and a conviction is a belief. The belief is the belief that there's not enough proof to be compelled to believe that's still a belief.

Recently on my boards one of the most confused atheists I've seen (on carm) came over to Doxa forums and tried to contend that he had no beliefs. The discussion was sort of like, "so you believe you have no beliefs?"
"Isn't that a belief?"
"no it's a fact"
"Isn't it a fact that I believe in God"
"yes, and that 'tupid cause no proof"
"you believe that?"
"then you have a belief."
"no that's a fact"
"it's it a fact that I believe in God?"
"so my belief is a fact"

Yes, I know it's just a whimsical trick. His position is no less ridiculous obviously the notion that there's no God is a belief in comparison to the reality that there's no proof there's no God. then the unwary atheist will fall back upon the bromide "I don't need proof I have no belief." They are just confusing the two different senses of the word belief. That whole mess can be fixed up by just understanding the nature of presumption. One does not have presumption for one's doubt of another person's belief until and unless the other person is trying to prove something. In the neutral public square when one is merely deciding what to believe (or yes what not to bleieve) there is o privileged "scientific" views. Presumption only comes into play when proof in argument emerges from discussion.

I've seen atheists try really dumb things like saying "I assert that Christians are all insane, you have to prove they are not becuase you have the burden of proof." That's just making an assertion with no support couched as a negative (in a not very cleaver way--rather transparently) merely to play off of the misunderstanding about presumption.

No view has presumption unless one if trying to prove something. Religion has presumption in society in the fact of anti-religious attacks because it's the status quo. Atheists take on the burden of proof when one of two conditions are the case: (1) when the seek state assertively and positivity "there is no God" (2) when the God argument meets prima facie burden of it's own.

The orignial comment was not speaking about the status of presumption in a God argument but the position of doubt and belief before the argument when one is making a Dickson about one's convictions. Thus the criticism of the comment dose not apply. The point is atheist do have proving to do before the can assert privilege for their views.

*Debate Organization

The oldest organization for college debate in America is the debate fratenity Pai Kappa Delta. The older high school organization is National Forensic League. Before those (1920s) debate in U.S. schools war organized by states. The highest championship one could win up to 1948 was the state championship, although they had national topics since the 1920s.

National Debate Tournament began in 1848 and created national championship for college debate although before that there was Pi Kap but you had to be in the fraternity. In 1980s CEDA was created as another form of cross examination debate for both high school and college. Parliamentary debate always exist but in the last few decades it has gotten popular, In my day (70s) it was not on the radar for most debaters. In all of these forms the rule is that the negative has presumption in defending the status quo. I don't know how they do it "Parli" as it's called. The form of debate I participated in and am discussing is called "policy" debate, or "poly." There is also the National Urban League and the YMCA that have debate organizations but they are not nearly as popular as NFL and NDT. There is a debate organization for homeschools.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Is There Free Will in Heaven?

Gustove Dore's illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy

I see this topic raised by atheist from time to time. It never seems to die out. I get the feeling they think they have some big air-tight contradiction or something. I can't really really figure out what it's supposed to prove. I want to state from the outset before I start analyzing it, my own bias is free will. I am opposed to the sort of Calvinistic predestination that removes from us any part in choosing to follow God. I think God must like free will and value it highly to place it above the consequences of having it. I can see why he would because free will is a wonderful thing. Why should God want a robot who has to do his will when he could have a free moral agents who obeys out of love and wants to please God becuase he loves God? So to be a free will loving God God must be a loving God who wants a love relationship with his "children."

For many atheists free will in heaven is not just a wrench of the works of belief in after life, it's actually a dilemma they use to make a point about this life. Many atheists don't like the idea of free will because it means they must choose. Since they refuse to choose God's way they must choose their sin they want to either believe that they have to choose sin and thus are not blame worthy, or the blame God for giving them the choice when he could just as easily avoid it. So they construct a dilemma like this:

(1) If God allows free will in heaven it will undermine heaven's righteousness becasue sin nature will force us to sin.

(2) on the other hand if he takes away free will in heaven why not take it away on earth and avoid the conflicts and problems?

It beats me why anyone would want to be a robot. I suspect their genreation were trianed to be docile and accept being told what to do. My generation, the Woodstockers, did not accept being told what to do. We loved free will and want it all cost. I don't see the allure of being a robot but I have seen many atheists argue for it's virtues.

To complicate matters more this generation "y/z"* as I call them, they understand determinism. They confuse determinism with regular cause and effect. So they think any kind of C/e is automatically deterministic. That means they think regular motivations are deterministic and thus no temptation is resistible. If you have given the power by God to resist sin you are already a determined robot.

Start with answering the question "if god hates sin so much, why allow us the ability to sin?" I theorize that God wants free moral agents who willingly choose the good. Why does he want that? Becuase it's more satisfying and is the product of love, to have creatures (children?) who willingly do what you want becuase they love you. Jesus said "he who is forgiven much loves much." This implies that as free moral agents we are given free will so that we can willingly seek the good. To seek the good we must internalize the values of the good. If we don't do that then we are vainly seeking something we don't understand or care about. It is through interlaizing the values of the good that we come to "love much" because it's that way that we realize we have been forgiven much. It's a learning process one must go through first hand.

That also means we have to have the risk of evil choices. To have free and seek the good we have to risk making the wrong choice and getting off track and choosing the wrong thing. If we don't risk that then we don't have a true choice. It's only through choice that one makes moral depictions and without moral decisions we don't have a moral universe. All of this assumes we have a world in which to work, a world in which we mus search for truth, in searching we internalize the values. If every time we faced problems and dangers everything fell into place through miracles there would never be a search.

Given this answer let's take the first side of the dilemma. If God allows free will people will sin and screw up the good in heaven. No this wont happen becuase no one wants to sin in heven. no one in heaven wants to sin. Everyone in heaven has been through the search, forgiven much, loves much wants to be with God and doesn't want to sin. I'm sure there a sustaining aspect to being in heaven, not that have no free will but that being face to face with the source of all goodness and love and having no problems and being with one's departed loved ones there not much motivation to leave. I would imagine one probalby can leave heaven but why would they? If they had it in them to leave why would they be there anyway?

The second side of the dilemma is automatically answered. God allows free will in heaven so there's no inconsistency in allowing it on earth. To that answer they usually say, "well why not just have us born with all the knowledge of the search?" This is like trying to cheat the process. It's saying why go through this? It's a learning process you can have it given to you it just wouldn't mean as much as doing the search and finding the truth yourself. The sign posts to point the way to truth are there and there are many of them, if you have the right attitude. It really is an absurd delimma.

Why don't we turn the tables and ask them why they are so delirious of not having to search? I can't claim to know the hearts of all atheists but I would image for many it's that they don't' want to let go of sin. They are saying, and I've heard them say it many times, why should God care if I want do X?" So don't take away my pet sin. That may be the hardest part it may the par we have to do, is let go of sin.

Of course at his point my Calvinist brothers/sisters become concerned because think this is works. Letting go is not works. It's not earning slavtion it 's being good enough to make it, it's not making it on your own, it's almost passive. It's one active move, let go. That basically amounts to wanting it. That's the same free will. Free will is not earning it it's no more than just wanting the truth really.

*What comes after generation "y/z?" generation "Duh!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was


A book by Joan Walsh. This is an excellent book. Walsh argues that government action built the American middle class in the years after world war II. The things government did to create a strong middle were not available to blacks and Hispanics, until the social action of the 60's opened them up to minorities through the civil rights act. From that point on the Republican propaganda merchants begin selling the white middle class on  a mythical golden age and feeding them the line they did it all themselves by their own worthiness as superior people. They totally forgot about the G.I. Bill, legislation that fair housing possible controlled lending, created cheap housing for middle class families, medicare which freed people from huge expense being wiped by illness in their "golden years."

Walsh, who is white, daughter of a Steam Fitter and union man, traces the rise of the American middle class from the New deal. Republicans in the Reagan era spread about the myth that Roosevelt didn't do anything. By the time that happened most of the old Roosevelt supporters and the adults of the depression who weathered the storm and aw what he did for them, were old and dying and not longer taken seriously by their children. So no on Remembers what Roosevelt did. The New deal a life saver for millions of people. It put the country back to work at a time when unemployment was 30% (we think we have trouble when it's at 8%--it just fell below 8% but no one cares). Even before the new deal American society was a fudealistic culture with the Rich ruling like monarchs in an unoficial capacity and whole states living in darkness with no electricity. Rural electrification was one of the major things that created the middle class, it gave people lights and telephone labor saving devices like washing machines. The old rich monarch of the community is seen, although most people probably don't know it, in the character of Mr. Burns on the Simpsons who is patterned after characters on Orson Well's film "the Magnificent Ambersons." (see about novel) The joke is Burns is so old he's a hold over from a past age int eh 19th century; the old money families are still in charge, as robber barons they ran coal mines, how they run the nuclear power plant.

The Tennessee valley authority is an example of the kind of government help that got the American middle class on its feet. This problem would be called "socialism" by tea party types it's what up American into the 20th century. About the time programs like fair housing started being administered to minorities, Republican pitch began laying the ground work for the Reagan era by spinning myths of a golden age when conservative Christianity was the norm and everyone was a republican and all white Americans pulled themselves up by their own boot straps. That was the major propaganda line for Reagan. The "America is Back" theme harkened unto that non existent golden age. On Tavis Smiley (the dreaded PBS) Walsh talked about how modern conservatives will speak of "getting government out of medicare" as though medicare is not a government program or an entitlement. It is both. It was major thing that made economic independence of the middle class possible.

SF GATE: Book Review

'What's the Matter With White People?'Joel Whitney

Updated 3:16 a.m., Monday, August 27, 2012

Reagan wielded the phrase "welfare queens," and pushed a false view that most recipients were black, lazy and happy not to work. This helped galvanize a false sense among working-class whites that they themselves had never received government help on their way to the middle class. "I once blamed the conflict solely on wealthy capitalists and their politician-servants such as Nixon and [Pat] Buchanan," Walsh writes, "pitting the two groups at the bottom against each other." No more. Her own side, including the race-obsessed left, played, and plays, into this.

In a sense, Walsh sees herself taking up the actual "sweet, reasonable middle." She describes a whiplash, "one day calling out the racism of the president's worst critics, the next day being accused of racial bias by Obama's defenders if I described his disturbingly centrist political maneuvering."Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/What-s-the-Matter-With-White-People-3814027.php#ixzz28tFiQBzM

 Now the myth is that government is always bad, it's destroyed our way of life. what's destroyed the prospects of the middle class is Bush's policies, before him Reaganomics. The Republicans billed the poor "a special interest" while maintaining that the true special interstates (the 1%) are escaping the rising tide of taxes on the middle class. The label democrats "tax and spend" while they themselves are the one's whose tax cuts were primarily for the rich. Rowney's policies put the tax burden squarely on the backs of the middle class while allowing the rich to escape. Obama's tax policy would give the middle class the break and put the burden on the 1% who have 90% of the wealth and don't pay taxes. While middle class feels ignored because Republican rhetoric has made them feel that regulation is to blame for all their problems. It was the destruction of regulation that allowed the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush years, the need for the big bail out of banks. Despite what Romney said in the debate he had campaigned all along on a formula of decreasing revenue and cutting social program (such as medicare which he would replace with a voucher system). So he's just continuing the policies and the myth of the golden age and the self reliant self made boot strap white people who never had relied on government and are now oppressed by too much government. what they really mean by "too much government" but less protection from rip off and more burden on the middle class, few social programs.

 Walsh's book is also a personal memoir of her family. I traces where they came from and what they've been through. This helps the reader relate and to puts our own experiences and our own family histories into focus.


I looked up "what was he accomplishment of the new deal on Yahoo just to see what the popular misconception is:

best answer chosen by voters
The purpose was to give the economy a boost. It's major accomplishment though was to keep us stuck in the Great Depression for years longer while the rest of the world was already recovering and out of their depressions.

Primarily, it tried to put unemployed people to work rather than creating jobs for them to get. The difference being that the jobs created by the New Deal were similar to paying some homeless guy to clean your dining table. Sure it's a nice gesture to help out that person, but it's not any sort of real job that impacts the economy. All it does is end up keeping millions of people dependent on the government so they can keep their pseudo-job since no one else would pay them to do that job.
They didn't create any jobs and it was the New Deal that kept us in the depression. those who lived through unanimous to the least 1% new it saved their lives. The know nothing doesn't even realize the rest of the world was coming out of it because they were trying similar things to the new deal.

 The New deal created millions of jobs. So that perception of it is a total lie. one can find it being taught in economists class all over the country.

Monday, October 08, 2012

 Ralph Hood Jr. The University 
of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Empirical Supernature

 Why should we assume that such experiences are experiences of the divine? The first reason is because the content of the experience is largely that of the divine. Even when the experience is interpreted by the receiver not be about God the receiver has been known to act in way consistently with belief in God, and the experience described is the same experience as those described by those who say ‘this was God.’ Ergo it’s just a matter of interpretation. The vast majority of those who have these experiences do believe they are about God.[1] Secondly, there is a voluminous and ancient tradition of writing about experiences by people from all over the world, and the brunt of this tradition is that it’s an experience of the divine. Literary and philosophical works such as Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill,[2] The works of W.T. Stace[3] and many other such writings which catalogue the writings of these experiences, and many more works of the experiences of individual mystics by the mystics themselves. Thirdly, grounded in empirical evidence, the universal nature of such experiences implies the experience of a source external to the human mind encountered by all who have such experiences. When I say “external” I mean it originates externally but is experienced internally. This includes human brain structure and brain chemistry as a conduit not that it circumvents natural processes.
            The works of W.T. Stace are very influential. He shows that, as Ralph Hood Jr. put it, “within and eventually outside of the great faith traditions mysticism has flourished.”[4]  Stace offers five characteristics that demonstrate the commonalities to mystical experience; these are characteristics that are found universally in all cultures and in all forms of mystical experience:

The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):
1.      The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the experience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience.
2.      The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words.
3.      The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms.
4.      The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect.
5.      The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggests that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two.[5]

            In speaking of “mystical experience” we are not talking about visions or voices. We are not talking about miracles or God speaking to people. We are talking about “the sense of the numinous,” a sense of presence, a sense of undifferentiated unity of all things. The claim is often made that this is an unmediated experience of reality. The veil is taken back on the thing behind the façade and reality is experienced directly. The notion of an unmediated experience is debatable and not essential to an understanding of the experience. A couple of examples might be helpful. It’s helpful to understand that mystical experiences come in two forms, introvertive and extrovertive. Intorovertive experiences are without time and space; they are not keyed to any external landmark or visual que. They seem to be beyond word, thought, or image. Extrovertive experiences are often keyed to a land mark and seem like projecting a sense onto the image of nature. For example the sense that God is pervading the physical space in nature around which one views a scene in nature. Or a sense that all the natural landscape around forms some sort of whole that’s meaningful and indicative as an understanding of all reality.

Common Core vs Perennial philosophy

            Hood takes these kinds of statements as phenomenological and descriptive of a personal experience. The true nature of that experience as unmediated is not important. The issue is that its universality, since it should be culturally constructed is indicative of more than just a trick of brain chemistry or cultural constructs. Ralph Hood Jr. argues for what is called “the common core hypothesis.” This is not a perennial philosophy one often finds discussed as part of mystical experience. The distinction is hat perennial almost construct a separate religion out of mystical experience and puts it over against faith traditions. The common core hypothesis merely recognizes that there is a common core experience that is universal to mystical experience, and thus it can be argued that it’s an experience of some reality external to just human brain structure. Yet it doesn’t try to collapse faith traditions into a particular theological formulation. Moreover, the common core hypothesis just takes the common core as a phenomenological reality not a theological or ontological demand about reality. Yet mystical experience “promotes a special type of human experience that is at once unitive and nondiscursive, at once self fulfilling and self-effacing.”[6] Introvertive mystical has been identified as “pure consciousness.” This kind of experience lacks content and can’t be tied to a cultural construct or personal influence.[7] While it is the case that these kinds of experiences are interpreted in various ways, and it is the case that various theological explanations tailored to a given tradition are advanced for these, as many as there are mystics to have the, the real diversity comes not from the experience but from the explanations attached to the experiences.[8] Much of the discussion about common core is tied to the texts of a given literature. There various bodies of mystical literature, the important once for our purposes is the empirical. This is a measurement based empirical scientific literature such as the work of Hood.[9]
            Many names loom large in that body of literature; Greeley, Maslow, Wuthnow, Nobel, Lukoff and Lu, none more prolific or significant than Hood. Hood entered the field in the early 70s when he was a young man. Since that time he has done a huge a mount of research and is best known for developing what is called ‘the Mysticism scale,” or “M scale.” This is a 32 item questionnaire that is scored in a particular way and is calculated to test the veracity of Stace’s theories. In other words, if actual modern mystics around the world experience the things Stace thought they do, in the way Stace thought they experienced them (see the five point list above) they would answer certain questions in a certain way.[10] Hood’s work in the M scale is becoming the standard operating procedure for study of mystical and religious experiences. It hasn’t yet been understood by everyone so we find that people evoking religious experience by manipulating stimulation of the brain don’t use the M scale for research and thus can’t prove they are evoking real mystical experiences.[11]  Dale Caird said that “research into mystical experience has been greatly facilitated”[12] by Hood’s M scale. Caird did one of the studies that validated the M scale. Burris (1999) has shown that the M scale is the most commonly used measurement for the study of mysticism.[13]
            The M scale enables us to determine the validity of a mystical experience among contemporary people. In other words, did someone have a “real mystical experience” or are they just carried by the idea of having one?[14] There are two major versions of the M scale, what is called “two factor” solution and a three factor solution. The two factors are items assessing an experience of unity (questions such as “have you had an experience of unity?”) and items refereeing to religious and knowledge claims. In other words questions such as “did you experience God’s presence?” Or did you experience God’s love?” In each section there are two positively worded and two negatively worded items.[15] The problem with the two factor analysis is that it tried to be neutral with Langue, according to Hood himself. It spoke of “experience of ultimate reality” but with no indication that ultimate reality means reality of God. As Hood puts it, “no langue is neutral.”[16] One group might want ultimate reality defined as “Christ” while others who are not in a Christian tradition might eschew such a move. In response to this problem Hood and Williamson, around 2000, developed what they termed “the three factor solution.” They made two additional versions of the scale one made reference where appropriate to “God” or “Christ.” They had a “God” version and a “Chrsit” version and both were given to Christian relevant samples. The scales were “factor analyzed” that just means they weighed each difference as a factor such as it’s mention of God or mention of Christ. In this factor analysis, where the scale referred to “God,” “Christ” or simply “reality” the “factor structures were identical.” This means the respondents saw “God,” “Christ” and “ultimate reality” as coterminous, or as the same things. That means Christians who have mystical experience understand God, Christ, and Reality as reffering to the same things.[17]
            For all three versions matched Stace’s phenomenologically derived theory. “For all three intervertive, extrovertive and interpirative factors emerged.”[18] That means respondents were answering in ways indicative of having both types of mystical experience and deriving interpretive experiences from it, they understood their experiences in light of theological understanding. The only exception was that the introvertive factors contained the emergence of ineffability because there was no content to analyze. Of course where the scale has been validated the same technique was used and tailored to the tradition of the respondent. Buddhists got a version appreciate to Buddhists and Muslims got one appropriate to Islam, and so on. The same kinds of factors emerged. This demonstrates that mystical experiences are the same minus the details of the tradition, such as specific references to names. In other words Buddhists recognize Buddha mind as ultimate reality, while Vedantists recognize Brahmin as ultimate reality, Christian recognize Jesus as Ultimate reality, Muslims recognize Allah as ultimate reality, but all say they experience ultimate reality. This is a good indication that the same basic reality stands behind this experience, or to say it another way they are all experiences of the same reality.
            Hood wrote a Text book with Bernard Spilka[19]

Hood and Spilka point three major assumptions of the common core theory that flow out of Stace’s work:
(1) Mystical experience is universal and identical in phenomenological terms.
(2) Core Categories are not always essential in every experince, there are borderline cases.
(3) Interovertive and extrovertive are distinct forms, the former is an experience of unity devoid of content, the latter is unity in diversity with content.
The M scale reflects these observations and in so doing validate Stace’s findings. Hood and Spilka (et al) then go on to argue that empirical research supports a common core/perinnialist conceptualization of mysticism and it’s interpretation.
The three factor solution, stated above, allows a greater range of interpretation of experience, either religious or not religious. This greater range supports Stace’s finding that a single experience may be interpreted in different ways.[20] The three factor solution thus fit Stace’s common core theory. One of the persistent problems of the M scale is the neutrality of language, especially with respect to religious language. For example the scale asks about union with “ultimate reality” not “union with God.” Thus there’s a problem in understanding that ultimate reality really means God, or unify two different descriptions one about God and one about reality.[21] There is really no such thing as “neutral” language. In the attempt to be neutral non neutral people will be offended. On the one had the common core idea will be seen as “new age” on the other identification with a particular tradition will be off putting for secularists and people of other traditions. Measurement scales must sort out the distinctions. Individuals demand interpretation of experiences, so the issue will be forced despite the best attempts to avoid it. In dealing with William James and his interpreters it seems clear that some form of transformation will be reflected in the discussion of experiences. In other words the experiences have to be filtered through cultural constructs and human assumptions of religious and other kinds of thought traditions in order to communicate them to people. Nevertheless experiences may share the same functionality in description. Christians may want the experiences they have that would otherwise be term “ultimate reality” to be identified with Christ, while Muslims identify with Allah and atheist with “void.” The expressed is important as the “social construction of experience” but differently expressed experiences can have similar structures. Hood and Williamson designed the three factor analysis to avoid these problems of language.[22] This is a passage from my own work, The Trace of God[23]:

In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies[24] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[25] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[26] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[27]

            The upshot of this work by Hood is two fold: on the one had it means there is a pragmatic way to control for the understanding of what is a mystical experience and what is not. Using Stace as a guide we find that modern experiences around the world are having Stace-like experiences. Thus Stace’s view makes a good indication of what is and what is not a mystical experience. That means we can study the effects of having it. Now other scales have been attempted and none of them had the kind of verification that the M scale does, but taken together the whole body of work for the last fifty years or so (since Abraham Maslow) shows that religious experience of the “mystical” sort is very good for us. People who have such experiences tend to find positive, dramatic, transformation in terms of outlook, mental health and even physical health.

Over the years numerous claims have been made about the nature of spiritual/mystical and Maslow's “peak experiences”, and about their consequences. Wuthnow (1978) set out to explore findings regarding peak experiences from a systematic random sample of 1000 persons and found that peak experiences are common to a wide cross-section of people, and that one in two has experienced contact with the holy or sacred, more than eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature and four in ten have experienced being in harmony with the universe. Of these, more than half in each have had peak experiences which have had deep and lasting effects on their lives. Peakers are more likely also, to say they value working for social change, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. Wuthnow stressed the therapeutic value of these experiences and also the need to study the social significance of these experiences in bringing about a world in which problems such as social disintegration, prejudice and poverty can be eradicated. Savage et al., (1995) provided clinical evidence to suggest that peakers produce greater feelings of self-confidence and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Mogar's (1965) research also tended to confirm these findings.[28]

The body of work I refer to here consists of about 200 studies (one could say 300 but let’s be conservative). A huge part of that (about 50) is taken up with the prolific work of Ralph Hood. Not all of these studies use the M scale but it has become standard since the 90s. The body of work here discussed stretches back to the 1960s and the studies of Abraham Maslow. The study of mental health aspects has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. Since the deployment of the three part solution of the M scale the studies have been more empirical and better controlled. The effects and their transformative qualities could be understood as rational warrant for belief in God, I have so argued in my former work The Trace of God.[29] Skeptical critics have tended to speak as though I don’t realize that I haven’t proven God exists. I never argued that I could prove God exists. The concept of proving God exists is passé and outmoded. That’s not even a valid issue anymore and as we realize there is no way to prove anything exists—and Tillich argued the language of “existence” is not applicable to necessary being. God is not contingent so speaking non contingent things as ‘existing’ is a misnomer. The issue is not proving God exists but providing prima face justification for assuming the reality of God. So we may rationally equate the co-determinate of the experiences as divine. In The Trace of God I made make several arguments for this I’ll only give two of them a brief summary:
            First is the argument of the co-determinate. This is the reason I called that work “trace.” It’s the Derridian concept of a trace, track or foot print that is testimony to the absence of something that must have been present. In other words, we see a footprint in the snow, something must have made it. We know something was there. It may be a Bigfoot or it may be a Bigfoot hoaxer but something made the track. When this “something” is constantly associated with the sign it forms a co-determinate. Thus the presence of the sign informs us of the presence of the co-determinate; like finger prints match the finger of the person who made the print. The association between the divine and mystical experience is solid; religious experience forms the basic reason for the existence of religion in the first place, and is bound up with the nature of the experience itself. The sense of the numinous is a deep all pervasive since of love. What is doing the loving? The basic assumption made by those who have the experience is overwhelmingly that it is God. Secondly, there is the argument from epistemic judgment. I used a Thomas Reid style epistemology[30] to advance criteria that I think is habitually applied by humans in sorting out which experiences to trust and which to discord: Regular, consistent, inter-subjective, and promotes navigation in the world. When our experiences match these criteria we assume they are valid and accurate as a representation of reality. I then show that the studies indicates that mystical experience fits this criteria so we should trust it.
            The other aspect of importance to this work is the universality argument. The universality argument could be taken as a warrant for belief, but I use it here to show that there’s a reason to equate these experiences with Supernature. When Hood took out the name specific to a religious tradition (from the M scale) and just ask general questions about experience, the experiences described were the same. This indicates that what is being experienced is the same for all the people having religious experiences. This actually the same as saying Stace’s theory was validated. If it wasn’t validated the would not describe the same experiences. The indication is that they there an objective thing they all experience. The reason is because religion is a cultural construct. If they were just describing a constructed set of expectations resulting form culture, the experiences would be conditions by culture not transcending it. So that mans Iranian Muslims experience that they think of as “Allah” and Baptists in Cleveland experience what they think of as “Jesus” in the same way. This is should not be the case if they are merely experiencing culturally conditioned constructs. The implication is that they may be experiencing an objective reality that both understand through culturally constructed filters. This is not the only argument that
            The answer atheist most often give to this argument is that the experiences have a commonality because they are all produced by human brain structure. In other words the names from the various religions are the constructs but the experiences that unite the subjects and that transcend the individual cultural filters are the same because they are products of a shared structure that of the human brain. On the surface this may seem like a good argument but it’s really not. The problem with this argument is even though we all have human brain structure we don’t all have the same kinds of experiences. We can’t assume that universal experiences come from brain structure alone. First, not everyone has mystical experience. Even though the incidence rates are high they are not 100%. We have all human brain structure but all have these experiences. Secondly, even among those who do there are varying degrees of the experience. William James saw it as a continuum and Robert Wuthnow, one of the early researchers who did a modern scientific study on the phenomenon also theorized [31]that there is a continuum upon which degree of experience varies. If the brain structure argument was true then we should expect to always have the same experience; we should have the same culture. We have differing experiences and even our perceptions of the same phenomena vary. Yet the experience of mystical phenomena is not identical since it is filtered through cultural constructs and translated into the doctrinal understanding of traditions that the experiencers identify as their own.
            The brain Structure argument is based upon the same premises reductionists take to the topic of consciousness and brain/mind. They are assuming that any subjective experience is ultimately the result of brain chemistry. There really no reason to assume this other than the fact that brain chemistry plays a role in our perceptions. There’s no basis, as we have seen in earlier chapters, for the assumption that any mental phenomena must originate in brain chemistry alone. I have had this argument with various skeptics on blogs and message boards many times. At this point skeptics have tended to evoke brain chemistry and the assumptions of Dennett and reductionism; since religious experience is linked to brain chemistry it must be the result of brain chemistry, thus there’s no reason to assume it’s inductive of any sort of supernatural. In those arguments a sense usually emerges that any involvement with the natural cancels the supernatural. I suggest that this is the ersatz version of supernature. The alien realm, juxtaposed to the natural realm and brought in as a counter to naturalism, this is the false concept I spoke about above. The original concept of supernature is that of the ground and end of the natural. Thus it would involved with nature. The ground end of nature is the ontology of supernature and pragmatic working out of the phenomenon would be the power of God to lift human nature to a higher level, as discussed above. How can human nature be elevated without supernature being involved with the realm of nature? Thus, the fact that supernature works through evolutionary processes and physiological realities such as brain chemistry is hardly surprising. See my chapter on Brain chemistry in The Trace of God.[32]
            If supernature manifests itself in the natural realm through brain chemistry then the conclusion that this is somehow indicative of the divine could go either way. We can’t rule out the divine or supernatural just because it involves the natural realm. What then is the real distinguishing feature that tells us this is inductive of something other than nature? That’s where I introduce the notion of “tie breakers.” There are aspects of the situation that indicate the effects of having the experience could not be produced by nature by itself:

(1)  The transformative effects

The experience is good for us. It changes the experiencer across the board. These effects are well documented by that huge body of empirical research. They include self actualization, therapeutic effects that actually enhance healing form mental problems, less depression better mental outlook and so on. The placebo argument is neutralized because Placebos require expectation and a large portion of mystical experience is not expected. It’s not something people usually set out to have.

(2) Noetic aspects to the experiences

These are not informational but there is a sense in which the mystic feels that he has learned soemthinga bout the universe as a result of the experience. This usually is on the order of “God loves me” or “all is one.”

(3) The experience contains the sense of the numinous or sense of the holy.

This is closely related to the Noetic sense and they clearly overlap but there is a distinction. The snse of the Holy could be more general and gives the sense that some unique and special aspect of reality exists.

(4) why positive?

These experiences are never negative. The only negativity associated with mystical experience is the sense of the mysterium tremendum, the highly serious nature of the Holy. That is not a last negative effect. If this is nothing more than brian chemistry and it’s just some sort of misfire where the brain just forgets to connect the sense of self to the big that says “I am not the world.” Then why is it so positive, transformative? It’s not often such a positive experience results form a biological accident.

(5) bad evolutionary theory

Mystical experience has not been tied to gene frequency. So the argument about adaptation has to rest upon the intermediaries that it provides, such as surviving long winters so one can have gene frequency. Yet all of those kinds of experiences flaunt the explanatory gap of consciousness. Why should we develop a mystically based sense of the world to get through had long winter when we could more easily develop a brain circuiting that ignores boredom? Then this adaptation that is only there because it enabled us to get through beings snowed in has such an amazing array of other effect such as life transformation and better mental health, and leads to the development of such complex fantasisms of errors as religious belief and organized religion. It’s so inefficient. Surely survival of the fittest should take the course of least resistance?

(6) Navigation in life

It does enable navigation in life, these experiences and their effects enable us to get through and to set our sights on higher idealistic concepts and ways of life.

[1] find, Trace of God
[22] Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A study on the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual consciousness. New York: Dutton, 1911.
[3] W.T. Stace, Teachings of the Mystics: Selections from the Greatest Mystics and Mystical Writers of the World. New American Library 1960. A good General overview of Stace’s understanding of mysticism is  Mystical Experience Registry: Mysticism Defined by W.T. Stace. found onine at URL: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/learn/experts_define/stace.shtml
[4] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion.  Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235.
[5] Robert J. Voyle, “The Impact of Mystical Experiences Upon Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format: http://www.voyle.com/impact.pdf.
google html version here:  Voyle is quoting Hood in 1985, Hood in return is speaking Stace.
[6] Matilal (1992)  in Hood, ibid, 127.
[7] Hood, ibid.
[8] ibid.
[9] ibid.
[10] find JL Hinman, the Trace of God, Studies chapter, also Hood ibid, 128.
[11] Find, John Hick
[12] Dale Caird, “The structure of Hood's Mysticism Scale: A factor analytic study.”journal for the Scientific study of religion 1988, 27 (1) 122-126
[13] Burris (1999) quoted in Hood, ibid, 128
[14] Hood, ibid, 128
[15] ibid.
[16] ibid, 129
[17] ibid
[18] ibid
[19] Bernard Spilka, Ralph Hood Jr., Bruce Hunsberger, Richard Gorwuch. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. New York, London: the Guildford Press, 2003.
[20] Ibid, 323
[21] ibid
[22] ibid, Hood in McNamara.
[23] Find  trace of God J.L. Hinman, fn 47-50 are original fn in that source
[24] Ralph Hood Jr., W.P. Williamson. “An empirical test of the unity thesis: The structure of mystical descriptors in various faith samples.” Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 19, (2000) 222-244.
[25] R.W. Hood, Jr., N.Ghorbani, P.J. Waston, et al “Dimensions of the Mysticism Scale: Confirming the Three Factor Structure in the United States and Iran.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40 (2001) 691-705.
[26] R.K.C. Forman, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness. Albany: State University of New York Press, (1999) 20-30.
[27] F.S. Brainard, Reality and Mystical Experience, Unvisited Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. (2000). See also D.Loy, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. Amherst, New York: Humanities Press.
[28] Krishna K. Mohan, “Spirituality and Wellbeing: an Overview.” An Article based upon a Presentation made during the Second International Conference on Integral Psychology, held at Pondicherry India 4-7 January 2001, published in hard copy, Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.On line copy URL: http://www.ipi.org.in/texts/ip2/ip2-4.5-.php  website of the India Psychology Institute. Site visited 9/3/12.
[29] Find,ibid Trace
[30] Reid argued that we go with the experiences that work. We navigate through the world and those experience that enable us to get by we accept and those that don’t we avoid. No soldier in battle conducts a debate about Cartesian doubt while an enemy charges with a bayonet. The solider decides post haste to get out of the way and worry about the philosophical ramifications latter.
[31] find it’s in chapter 4 trace of god.
[32] Trace of God,