Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dialogue on Mystical Experience: Eliminating Alternate (naturalistic) Causes

 photo ecstasy_zpsc471511b.jpg
Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa*

This was a discussion on CARM that I had a couple of days ago.I know, CARM is usually just toxic slag heap these guys are not worth taking seriously. This is guy, Pixie, he's one of the best. I was debating him 1x1 when my brother died, so we didn't finish the debate. I came to respect him becuase he gave one of the few really good hits on my experience arguments that I've ever gotten. Here he tries to save a thread that went south thanks to the idiocy of CARM trolls, he's trying hard to salvage something of a serious discussion I think I did a good job responding. So it deserves to be seen by those who can appreciate both attempts.
Quote Originally Posted by The Pixie View Post
It is not a sticking point, it is something you have failed to address entirely.

Post #31 raises these points (some of which I think you have addressed when responding to others). (post 31)
False dichotomy

You are saying either the experiences come from culture - in which case they would be diverse - or they come from God - and they are all similar. Other possibilities exist. Maybe they come from the mind. We all have a human mind, with very similar biochemistry, it would seem at least possible that mystical experiences originate in a certain chemical imbalance in the brain. The same imbalance would give the same result all across the world.

I have answered the human mind arguemnt many many times.

(1) if it were true that just having human mind means we have these same experiences then why don't we have the same acid trip? why don't we all like the same color? why don't all men love the same woman and women love the same man?

(2) you are just creating a poinciana becasue you have no real answer. I don't think you can show me any empirical evidence that proves that we have any experiences that are the same just because we have human brains, except for perceptual sense, but that's not what Mystical experience is.

(3) mystical experience is most often associated with religion. it's played through religious symbol. religion and it's symbols are totally cultural construct. they are not based upon the kind of brain we have.
 [note: The first argument is in answer to my argument that the like-ness of mystical experience--which is alike the world over when we allow for the differences in names--indicates that they are really experiencing an objective reality--ie God.]


Not obviously correlated

We can observe a finger making a finger print, so we have overwhelming reason to associate fingerprints with the person. No one has ever observed the divine doing, well, anything.

we have ample reason to associate the two.

(a) mystical experience leaves the effects promised as effects by religious belief.
(b) the association is historical and has been made since neanderthal
(c) mystical experience is always found at the core of every organized religion
(d) anthropologists and comparative religionists theorize that religion began as explanation of mystical.

the correlation is strong, it's in all cultures and religions.



You are essentially saying they feel like they come from God, therefore they do.

wrong, they are often about God. they are about the things connected with God, the meaning of life, the nature of reality, the undifferentiated unity of all things (which includes the divine)and as I have said the association is historical and old.


I do not feel that that is a warranted belief, and it seems to me, in part from reading about Hood, that religious people tend to associate mystical experiences with the divine, and non-religious people do not. That leads me to think that the religious feeling is cultural.


that's not true. you set it up to look that way in your mind. there is no such data. there plenty of examples of atheists converting and coming to believe in God from their experiences, I'm one of them. There are also atheist refusing the experience because they don't want to believe in God.

the sharp dichotomy that if you are not religious you don't see it as religious is not just true.
[note: I should have also argued that if it's just cultural then you lose that first argument about the experinces of the human mind all being alike since cultures means no genetic part to it--in which case the alike aspects are a good indication that they are experiencing the same objective reality]


Filtered results?

The danger here is that you say it is only a mystical experience if it has positive transformative effects, and then use the fact that all mystical experiences have positive transformative effects as evidence for God. I am not sure if that is what is happening here, but it does look suspicious.
(1) It's empirical. there is no data showing the kind of thing mystical experience imparts (unity and numinous) and in a negative form.

(2) there's a larger umbrella that mystical experience is placed under and that includes a negative type of experience although not coming from mystical per se. IN that umbrella only 3% are negative.[note: Ken R. Vencient "Scientific Investigation of "the dark Side"--
the umbrella term is "Spiritually trans-formative experiences (STE) that includes mystical and others; mystical, near death, death bed visions, after death communications, the negatives are under the other sections, not mystical. I would also include out of body. I don't to use the term "transformation" in relation to negatives to me it's  a positive term].


Also from drugs

These positive transformative effects can arise from drug-induced mysical experiences..
drugs are a problematic case.

Hood's receptor arguemnt takes it out.

that argument: physiological mechanisms are required for physical results, even by God. If God want you to hear him verbalize he must give you ears. If he wants to make you feel is presence he must give you some form of receptor and chemical link so it can register on the brain because that's how biological critters work. Drugs just trigger those receptors.

problem: the good friday experiment found that the drug takers were must more profoundly effected than the natural mystics, and not only only more deeply but more of them. But guess what? all of the people in the experiment had had mystical experiences as children. so the drug may have been just reawakening something they already had. that's contaminated data.

a lot of evidence to separate the two types, drug and natural.

[this begins an evidential block from Doxa that I posted there]
Cannot be reduced to Drug inducement.

Most Skeptics are not going to argue that all mystics take drugs. But many will argue that since drugs can induce mystical experience this proves it is merely a chemical reaction in the brain, whether naturally occurring or induced by some foreign agent. However, this is a mistake. Mystical experience cannot be induced by taking drugs. This is a popular fallacy and many studies disprove it.

The Religious Experience: A Social-Psychological Perspective.
Batson, C. Daniel, and Ventis, W. Larry. (1982).
New York: Oxford University Press.

"If this analysis is correct, two implications follow. First, drugs can facilitate but cannot produce creative religious experience. They can facilitate it if they are used in the context of an ongoing intrapsychic process that includes not only self-surrender (incubation) and new vision (illumination) but also a preceding struggle with one or more existential questions (preparation) and a subsequent new life (verification). If the individual is not already wrestling with existential concerns, psychedelics are not likely to evoke a creative transformation. This point is underscored by the findings of Masters and Houston, of the Spring Grove project, and of Pahnke; in each study religious insight seemed limited to those actively addressing existential questions (preparation). At the same time, if the experience is to be more than psychic "fireworks," there must be positive consequences for one's everyday life (verification)." (page 115)

Ecstasy in Secular and Religious Experiences.
M.Laski. (1990).
Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher.

"I conclude, then, that though mescalin may occasionally give momentary ecstatic feelings, as it may have done to Mr. Mayhew, it does not typically do so and that mescalin experiences do not feel like ecstatic experiences. This is not affected by the fact that some people may believe that what they have experienced under mescalin is religious experience; but I should have thought that for anyone seeking the Beatific Vision (which was, before Mr. Huxley, granted only to Moses and St. Paul) there were surer and pleasanter ways of attaining it than by taking mescalin. "(pages 271-271)

Laski complies quite a lengthy list of differences between mescaline use and spiritual ecstacies, to summarize:

"Ecstatics always unanimous about high value of their experince, mescaline users are not. (pages 263-264) Mescaline experience is always extrovertive, extacy of the highest type introvertive Escstatic experience always goes either from escstacy to extacy or despair to ecstacy, never the reverse. The Mystical experience may be momentary or last a half hour, but it is never hours, and it is always transformative, leaving a long term sense of the highest value, the Mescaline user may feel very casual approach, last for hours. Also mystic in introvertive state cannot function, Mescaline user do any ordinary things (pages 264-265) Feelings about time are vastly difference. Mescaline user has casual attitude, but the mystic systeses eternity. (page 265) Major differences in triggers are recorded, the escatic usually taking the trigger form that which is found to be beautiful or valuable, the Mescaline user form whatever ordinary object seems enhanced. (pages 267-268) Differences toward a sense of a transformed world, (page 269) pleasure and pain (page 269-270)

The Evidential Force of Religious Experience. Davis, Caroline Franks. (1989).
Oxford: Clarendon Press.

"There is a great deal of evidence that drugs cannot produce religious experiences on their own, in the way that, say, a blow to the head produces an experience of 'stars'. At the most, it appears they can act as a catalyst, and so it is open to the theist to argue that it was other, nonpathological factors which were crucial to the religious content of the experience. John Bowker informs us, for instance, that drugs do not introduce anything new into the mind or behavior or affect stored information in a discriminatory and meaningful manner, but can only initiate or inhibit brain activity. ..."

"The discussion in the previous section showed that, in some respects, typical drug-induced experiences are like psychotic experiences in the way they differ from typical mystical experiences. It is, moreover, clear from the literature that drug-induced mystical experiences are almost always extrovertive rather than the introvertive type extolled by most mystical traditions, and there is rarely a sense of personal presence or of union with another being. The use of drugs to induce religious experiences cannot be recommended, partly because of the dangers of drug use, and partly because experiences produced in such a way tend to be regarded as something separated from normal life and so may not become properly integrated into the subject's religious, psychological, and cognitive development."[Ibid.(pages 218-221)]

Davis also adds that subjects given drugs do not have mystical experiences in sensory deprivation, another indication that the convetional triggers have to be in place, that the drugs merely facilitate but cannot cause the experiences; the setting has to be appropriate.

Gagenback also Docujments Lukoff , Alexander, and other sutdies which find important differences in Drug induced states and pure consciousness, such that pure consciousness is not reduceable to mere drug induced states.



Hood's questions are far to vague to make the claim that everyone experiences the same thing.

nonsense. they may look veg to you but that's becuase you have not read Stace. they are right up the Stace alley. that's why they are the way they are they are calculated to reflect Stace.



Post #37 looks specifically at the qualitative difference between seeing an apple on the desk and having a mysical experience and believing it is God, with reference to regularity, consistency, intersubjectivity and navigation. (37)


You can refer to the original posts for the full text.
that's sounds pretty meaningless. talk about vague.

(1) you are mixing apples and more oranges, sorry. you are comparing one kind of thing to another and saying why isn't this other kind of thing like my kind of thing? well its just not

(2) the idea that something as to be tangible and observable or it can't be true is certainly disproved by science. Look at the things science posits that can't be gotten at through those means:

laws of phsyics.
string theory
laws of nature
dark matter
big bang singularity

there's more if I wanted to belabor the point

(3) that's exluding

(a) the tangible nature of spiritual experience. Not mystical becuase that invovles no work thought or image (making tangible pretty impossible for it). This invovles tangible. examples: speaking in tongues, healing, palms burning in prayer is a common thing. a magnetic like force pulls my arms up when I lift them to pray.

(b) other tangible aspects of God arguments such as cosmology or fine tuning.

*the image is misleading because mystical experience is not about visions or voices. Yet some major mystics had visions as well, this is one of St. Teresa of Avila's major visions.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Resurrection of Christ, Historical or History Making?

Jurgen Motlmann

 Atheists have argued, but more importantly historians have argued, that a view like that of the resurrection of Christ can't be understood as a historical event, thus can't be proved by historical evidence becuase history is intrinsically naturalistic. Historians must make naturalistic assumptions thus miracle can't play role in history. The first thing to notice about this argument is that far from contradicting what I've said, it supports my position in that I argue that atheist's only have ideological objections to the resurrection. There's no historically based disproof. If untrained non-historian apologists mistakenly argue "this is historical" they atheists objects are not based upon disproving the historically based evidence they are only based upon ideological assumptions. Evoking the rules of hsitory is also ideological assumption.

Secondly, I don't say "O I'm going to prove the resurrection historically." In the heat of argument I may have said words to that effect, but my actual position is not "yes we definitely prove the resurrection." There is no way to prove something that hapepned 2000 years ago, at least not to the point of making it indubitable. The only way to do that would be to go back in time and watch it happen. It's as unfair a requirement that it be "historical" as it is to say we are going to prove it historically. Either way is an unfair requirement becuase it's not something that can be proved. The prohibition on supernatural evidence in history not withstanding it's unrealistic, and therefore, unfair, to expect it to be proved. Be that as it may all is not lost for the historically minded apologist. There is still a good argument to be made for the resurrection and it invovles historically-based evidence.
 The better decision making paradigm is not "proof," that is unrealistic, but "warrant." If we don't claim we proving historical events but rather that understanding an event in a certain way (as true) is warranted by the evidence, then we are not imposing the unrealistic burden of proof nor are we evoking the category of "history" to explain it thus we are not transgressing historical protocols. Rather we are finding that the placing of confidence in a hypothesis for private belief is warranted by the evidence. Toward this end we need to see text as an artifact. So rather than say "this is true becasue so and so says it,"we are saying "this is what the early community of faith believed as evidence by their texts. To the extent that we can trust their testimony we can place confidence in the hypothesis that this belief may communicate a truth. Thus private belief that this is the case is warranted. Thus the resurrection, not put in the cateroy of "historical fact" is nevertheless understood as both a religious symbol and a likely event.
 Religious Symbol and Historical Likelihood.

I affirm the literal resurrection of Christ, as I affirm the Nicene creed. Unfortunately, affirming it and proving it are two different things. Many apologists try to use the Resurrection as proof in itself that Jesus was the Son of God. The problem is, the event itself has to be proven, and is of equal dispute to the claims of Christ deity. Thus, I doubt that it makes a great tool for verifying the claims of the faith, since it is itself such a claim. On the other hand, let us ask ourselves, "was the true purpose of the resurrection as a proof of Jesus validity?" I think not. I think the true purpose was not offer modern scientific "courtroom evidence" of the event, but to confirm in a religious way, for insiders, by provision of an important symbol. Tillich says that a symbol participates in the thing it symbolizes. Thus a bull fighter dying young is a symbol of darning courage going awry, but a non specific figure like the American flag is not a symbol but an emblem. Thus the resurrection of Christ can be a theological symbol and still be a real event! Thus the true importance of the event is its theological significance and not its market place value as an apologetic tool.

Be that as it may, the event of Christ's resurrection offers more to the unbeliever and the cause of Christian apologetics than one might think given what I wrote. Rather than give up on it as an argument, we need to put it into a different context: we need to abandon the "court room" model of proof in apologetics, and take up a historian's perspective. The point is not that we can prove the resurrection "really happened." The importance of historical evidence surrounding resurrection is its possibility as a history making event. By that I mean, it's not as important to prove "conclusively" that it happened, as it is to show that the perimeters shaped by the evidence still leave open the validity of the possibility that such an event occurred, once one clears away the ideological clutter of naturalism. The evidence need only point to the fact that the belief tenet is still "in the running" as a possibility, not that it actually happened, although we believe, as Christians, that it did happen. The event described cannot included as a historical event, because history as a modern social science is constructed upon naturalistic assumptions; but it can be understood as a history making event, one that shaped the nature of our society and culture.

 Away with the Court Room Model

So much past apologetics has been based upon the model of a court room debate, then declared to "prove history." We see this most especially in McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict (the classic case). We also see it in the works of a vast array of apologists who say things like, "the man who invented rules for court room evidence (Simon Greenleaf--1783-1953 ) argued for the Resurrection, and he was a smart lawyer, so he must be right." But historians do not "prove" historical 'arguments' by holding courtroom debates! If we are going to make historical claims for the resurrection, we have to think like historians, and not like lawyers. We have to hold the evidence to the perimeters of historical evidence, not to those of jurisprudence.

History is probability. It's not mathematical probably, but it is probabilistic. One cannot go back in time and verify the assumptions of historians, all we can do is argue from extrapolated data as to the most likely conclusion based upon the "facts." But how are these "facts" ascertained? They are not derived from debate, they are not derived from physical artifacts, and they are certainly not given in any kind of absolute certainty. Many skeptics place the level of confirmation they seek on a par with a TV camera recording an event it happens. History is documents! History is not a documentary featuring live footage, although such material is no doubt going to be included in future historical records. But history is the impression we find most likely as a probabilistic guess based upon the data we find available in written documents of the past. Historians do debate documents, but they do not say things like, "would this be accepted in a courts of law?" Historians don't a flying spit wad about what is accepted in a court of law (but one hears that phrase in apologetics quite a bit). Thus, in accessing the prospects for the validity of the resurrection, one cannot worry about courtrooms, or about exact proof as though we could take a TV camera to the tomb and watch the angel move the stone. The best we can ever do is to access the possibility and its place int he likelihood of events, given our world view assumptions vis a vie, supernatural events.

 The History Making Concept.

In his great ground breaking work, Theology of Hope (1964) Jurgen Moltmann did something radical. It suited Moltmann to be radical because he was one of the major influences upon radical theology of the 60s, including liberation theology. Being German Moltmann took the structures of historical scholarship very seriously. He knew that historiography of the nineteenth century had ruled out any but naturalistic assumptions in the category of "historical." Moltmann argues, the rules of history exclude the miraculous. This is because historians, as heirs to the enlightenment, automatically exclude the supernatural. For this reason the resurrection cannot be seen as historical, a priori, for the rules of making history are set by an ideology of metaphysical assumptions which dogmatically exclude anything miraculous. History must be predicated upon the assumption of a coherent natural world, therefore, the supernatural cannot be part of history (176). Yet he felt it was important to make a place for the resurrection in modern thought. So he argued for changing the rules. Rather than calling the resurrection "historical" he calls it "history making." The belief itself has shaped the outline of historical event. This is apart from the question of its truth content, the fact of belief in it made history what it is. This introduces the concept of understanding the belief as history making thus the evidence that supports the belief is also history making. His solution: change the rules. We wont call it "historical" but "history making."

"The resurrection of Christ does not mean a possibility within the world and its history, but a new possibility altogether for the world, for existence, and for history. Only when the world can be understood as contingent creation out of the freedom of God...does the rising of Christ become intelligible as nova create [new creation]. is necessary to expose the profound irrationality of the rational cosmos of the tech scientific world." (179)

"The resurrection of Christ is without prattle in the history known to us. But it can be for that very reason regarded as a 'history making event' in the light of which all other history is illumined, called into question and transformed." (180)

Skeptics are too quick to argue that the resurrection is not historical fact. Before they jump into this fray, they should first ask themselves about the nature of historical facts. Most historical "facts" are not proven. "History" (whatever that is) says that Davy Crockett died at the Alamo, yet evidence indicates he did not. History, like science is a social construct, and is determined by those with the clout to write history. In modernity we have gained an anti-supernatural bias, and so the believer is forced to ask rhetorical questions like "did Jesus raise form the dead?" and then to answer them rhetorically. The German Theologian Jurgen Moltmann changes the rules. Rather than ask if the resurrection is "historical" he merely argues that it doesn't have to be, it is history making. We change the rules of the debate because predicated upon the preaching of the resurrection is one of the most profound developments of world history; the growth of the Christian faith which has shaped the entire Western tradition. We view the Resurrection of Christ as history making because the belief in it did change history, the doctrine of it has made history, and belief today shapes the basis of all Christian doctrine. We put aside the hypocritical skepticism of naturalistic circular arguments and allow ourselves to accept the verdict of a history that has been made by faith in the event, in light of the fact that there is enough there to base faith upon. (see Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 1968).

The doctrine furnishes the basis for hope, when grasped in faith, that offers a much more profound answer to any of questions about life and death than any form of skepticism or pride in confusion ever could. Rather than merely declare a rules change, I will argue that this rules change is warranted based upon the evidence. In other words, not that the resurrection can be "proven" in the same sense that any other aspect of historical research can be proven, but that the resurrection evidence is credible enough that one can feel confident in asserting its truth as a tenet of faith. The actual case can never be proven, or disproved, but the evidence allows one to believe with impunity.

In keeping with my policy of enlightening the reader about my sources, I must point out that I do lean heavily upon two major evangelical sources here: F.F. Bruce, and William Lane Craig. Bruce is, however, one of the most highly respected Evangelical scholars, even among the liberal camp, and Craig is renown as a highly credible and effective apologist. The other sources such as D. E. H. Whiteley, Stephen Neil, Gaalyah Cornfeld, and Luke Timothy Johnson are basically liberal or moderate.A few major liberal theologians, such as Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg have defended faith in the resurrection.

Historical Verdict Reversed

"The real case for skepticism of the resurrection of Christ was actually developed by 19th century liberal theology, and though they don't know it, the objections of most Internet skeptics today are echoes of those arguments. But in the postwar era even major liberal theologians began to defend the resurrection. Ernst Kasemann, student of Bultmann, at Marburg in 1953 argued that Bultmann's skepticism toward the historical Jesus was biased and Kasemann re-opened a new Quest for the historical Jesus. The great modern liberal theologian Wolfheart Paennberg argued for the resurrection of Jesus. Hans Grass argued that the resurrection cannot be dismissed as mere myth, and Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen defended the historical credibility of Jesus empty tomb." (in William Lane Craig, "Contemporary Scholarship and The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth, 1 (1985): 89-95. "Equally startling is the declaration of one of the world's leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapid, that he is convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Lapide twits New Testament critics like Bultmann and Marxsen for their unjustified skepticism and concludes that he believes on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead." (Craig, Ibid.)

"According to Jakob Kremer, "By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb" and he furnishes a list, to which his own name may be added, of twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more names that he failed to mention. Thus, it is today widely recognized that the empty tomb of Jesus is a simple historical fact. As D. H. van Daalen has pointed out, "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions." But assumptions may simply have to be changed in light of historical facts.:"(Ibid.)

Before the apologist can even posit the turth of the resurrection, his truth is refuted by the very nature of historical "facts" as modern thought construes them; supernatural events cannot be part of history. But Moltmann turns this around on the nature of modern thought by arguing that before modern thought can posit a naturalistic history, the content of history is already shaped by supernatural claims.


The standard I set my arguments:The Resurrection was a history making event. Whatever truly happened, the actual events which are make by the claims of witnesses and faith in the veracity of those witnesses, the upshot of it all is that the historical probabilities suggest the likelihood of an event, and that event shaped the nature of history itself. The faith claims cannot be historical claims, but they don't have to be. The faith itself is justified, it cannot be ruled out by history, but instead lies at the base of modern history in some form. We can suggest throughout the strength of the evidence that those actual events were the very events attested to in the Gospels. We cannot prove this claim with absolute certainty, but the warrant provided by the evidence itself is strong enough to make the historical nature of the religious hope valid. Some religious hopes are just ruled out by the facts. For example, the idea that the Native Americans are part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel; this can be dispelled by genetics as well as dentistry. The Resurrection, on the other hand, can be accepted as likely Given the suspension of ideological objections of Naturalism.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Film fest friday: The Legond of Boggy Creek

 photo boggycreek2_zps0f17ee47.jpg

Here is another funky little film that has that student film feel such as Brighty of the Grand Canyon (see my review). This one is directed by Charles Peierce (June 16, 1938-March 5, 2010 (aged 71). He was born in Hammond Indiana. As a small child he was moved to the same general area in which the action of Boggy Creek takes place. This is no doubt where the learned the legend of the "Fouke Monster," the Bigfoot-like creature that is the center of the film. He drafted customers from the local gas station to act in the film,[1]  (released in 1972). One might suspect the gas station approach to casting judging by the armature acting feel of the film. Even though it's about a  dark, scary,  confusing, if not corny, wacky subjet, it has a positive harmless student film quality. It's something about that amature quality I find appealing. It's not a great film, it's not even a fine film. Yet it's appealing in a home-spun way. It reminds me a lot of Brighty of the Grand Canyon. It was also Pierce's directorial debout. He moved Carmel, befriended Clint Eastwood, Eastwood helped him get a job directing Sudden Impact (1983) a major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood (It's really Dirty Hary No.4). He is said to have invented the phrase "make my day."[2] He made other films including Boggy Creek II (which lacks the magic of BC I). The film was Written by Sean Taylor . (according to the IMBD). Wikipedia says it was written by Earl E. Smith.

There is a magic to this film. It is quite strange because all the individual elements suck. It's a pile of crap in every category from acting, to production values, yet it just has a feel the way it all comes together, innocent, sincere, alarming, scary, but somehow postive. It harkens back to child hood.

From IMBD page:
Cast overview, first billed only:
Vern Stierman ...
Chuck Pierce Jr. ...
Jim as Boy
William Stumpp ...
Jim as Adult
Willie E. Smith ...
Lloyd Bowen ...
B.R. Barrington ...
J.E. 'Smokey' Crabtree ...
Himself (as Smokey Crabtree)
Travis Crabtree ...
John P. Hixon ...
John W. Oates ...
Buddy Crabtree ...
James Crabtree
Jeff Crabtree ...
Fred Crabtree
Judy Baltom ...
Mary Beth Searcy
Mary B. Johnson ...
Louise Searcy ...
The nerration begins with a framing device that opens and closes the film. Plays the narrating charter, who has returned to the cabin he lived in as a child. His mother and he were trying to eek out a living in that rural community, described as so small you would miss it if you blinked while driving through. The man peers through the windows of the empty abandoned house, as he sentimentally examines the property and his eyes room to the wooded horizon that sounds the poetry completely. It's moving toward dusk and he's thinking, i the dying evening sun light, "it's still out there." He ponders his memories of the creature.

We see him a as a boy, , dashing through a huge field of ankle and waste high grain or grass. he's climbing a fens and talking about how the creature had shown up he often heard it screaming from the woods. No one knew what it was but some felt it sought a mate. He hears the scream from the woods off in the distance and hurries along his way even faster. He comes to the little story on a dirt road were three old men are, one watching the other two play checkers. The boy comes in and asked teh owner, his landord, to come to the farm as his mother asks, investigate the strange noises. The landlord tells him there is no booby man in the woods, but he will change his mind by the end of the film. The boy hurries back, again hearing the scream. Then we move into the action of the film narrated by the adult version of the boy. This framing device is one of the best decisions the director made. It really takes us into the action. That scene would have been played out in the 40's when the Fouke monster first showed up. It was a latter version of a phenomenon from the 20's in neighboring county of Johnson called "the Johnson monster." Some form of Harry monster can be found roaming that area as far back as white settlers were there to record it. The framing device close the film with the man pondering "is it still there, is it watching me now?" The sun is setting and  sense of tension grows that he's goign to be there after dark in an abandoned house and the thing is right outside. But he leaves just in time and the film ends. In the middle of these two segments he narratives the actions that happened years latte, in the 1960s. The resurgence of the Fouke monster in the 1960s is really the most famous period of activity. The film centers around a family called "Crabtree" who in real life is the family of Smoky Crabtree who has made a carrier out of the monster. He written many books and so on such as Smoky and the Fouke Monster. Notice Travis Crabtee plays himself. Oddly enough buddy Crabtree is played by James Crabtree. Kind of makes you wonder.
One member of the family sees the creature while sitting by a river bank. He only has bird shot in his gun so he doesn't fire on it. It's maybe a hundred years away so he just watches it. We catch only a fleeting glimpse of it. That is the second initiative choice the director makes that creates the magic of the film aside form the narrative framing device, that is the indirect approach to the horror. That is always the most effective appraoch to a horror tale, as evidenced by the Blair Witch Project. The whole film is really series of vignettes of various sightings. The man who owned the little story and laughed at the narrator's mother's fear saw the creator and shot it but the gun had no real effect. He now believed in the harry monster. Another saw it take two hogs one hundred pounds each, one under each arm, and step over the fence and walk away. Two boys found three towed foot prints in the mud while fishing. One of these scenes shows one of the only three semi direct views we get of the creature in the whole film. One is the scene with the Crabtree man by the bank. The other the major scene that all these little views of it are moving toward, where we see it grab a man on a porch. But it's dark and you only see ti fro a second. There's an extremely well done scene where a boy is out near his house with a shot gun he's looking for the origin of a noise. This on toward evening, it's perfectly light. He walks right up within feet of it but he has his back to it so he doesn't see it. It's only obscured by a few leafless three branches so we can see clearly it's a Bigfoot-like thing similar to the Patternson film. The creature makes a noise, the boy turns with great alarm sees it standing right there, nd fires! The creature is clearly hurt, annoyed but not damaged. It is angry! He's screaming and hitting trees. They boy is running to his house.

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 Three major event-scenes that describe the film and fill in the action leading up to the denumont, which is the siege of a certain familie's house. Strangely enough there's a song in the film. It's like an Innocent Disney kind of song about what a wonderful life it is in the woods, "hey Smoky Crabtree." It's so corny and out of place. Here's this horror thing running around, no one knows what it is, it's scary but there's this innocent little song about how great it is. It's so kitschy and out of place. In trying to figure is it that this song doesn't spoil the film for me even though it's ridiclous, makes the film see like "a hoot," or does it work with the flim to help the "magic," I would have say it works with it. It would be so easy to ruin it. The song is a prelude to a since with an old hermit who Travis Crabtree befriends. He brings the old man tobacco and stuff. The old man seems to say he's never seen the creature then latter says he doesn't bother it and it doesn't bother him. It leaves one wondering "why is this here in this film?" It seems to serve no function. It's almost like he was going to make a different film and then put it in for filler. Coming right after the song seems even more superfluous.  Yet like the song it doesn't destroy the film.  For one thing part of the charm of the film is its armature nature. So this helps on that score. Then I think it's characterization. The population of Fouke and the surrounding area is a major character in its own right, this is part of charactoriztion where we see the nature of the populace.

In terms of action of the creature we see a scene in which a young girl goes to bed, taking care of her siblings. The creature comes right out side. Earlier that evening as she drew water for the house she watched the woods feeling something was there. Now she watches through a window as we hear it growling. It's supposed to be killing a cat but I can never make anything out, not even on DVD. It's all dark. Another scene shows three girls in a small clap board house, alone. They are going to bed they are having a pajama party. The three hear the creature breathing outside. It tries to get in. They put a chair at the door and get the father's shot gun. They don't necessarily know how to load or shoot it. They are not harmed but the sense of tension and vulnerability really words to make a scary scene. We do not see the creature at all. The idea the three women alone raises a question echoed throughout the film as a theme, it it looking for a mate. It's either horrassing women alone or taking live stock as food. Since it's appearances seemed to run in periods, punctuated by long periods of absence, as the Johnson monster in the 20s, the Fouke monster in the 40s, and 60s, they speculate that it get's lonely. One wonders why they would assume it's the same creature after all those years? There have to be others or it would die off.
The community has a big monster hunt with hunters from all over the state bring dogs, coon hounds and so on. But the dogs wont move in on the scent once they get it. The hunt goes nowhere. One guy sees it and is thrown from his horse. All of the scenes in the film are based upon "real" claims of sightings and stories in the community. It's narrated as a documentary but shows some dialogue in scenes as a docudrama.

Then we come to the major point, the siege. A family has moved in to a rent house along a back road in the area. The husbands are working near by and the two women and children are accompanied by a brother of one of the woman, a young man who may be the one grabbed on the porch. They hear the thing outside at night and are frightened. It comes up on the porch and tries to get in. It even turns the knob but they put a chair there. It reaches into the living room at one point through the front window. All we see is a hairy arm. It almost grabbed one of the people. It also reaches in through a bathroom window and almost gets the young man visiting his sister. The men come home and go out to confront it. All they have is flash lights. You would not find me doing that. The thing comes up on the porch behind one of them and grabs him and throughs him. I say he got off easy. They rush him to a hospital at  Texarkana. The boy is in shock. This is said to be a true story. The people decide to pack up go at first light they never come back. That's basically the end of the film.

Then the framing devise closes it with the man wondering is it watching me now. Leaving just before dark. It's not an art film and not a fine film, it has a quality to it that I find appealing. It works on a couple of levels. Maybe that's it's secrete. It's a cult classic for Bigfoot hunters but no one regards it as a serious source of information because nothing it says about the creature is advanced knowledge, so any bigfoot hunter worth his wood knocks knows that information anyway. It's not really documenting anything because no attempt is made to actually demonstrate the veracity of the stories, no story teller is really identified other than the fictitious narrator. On one level its a laughable amateurish attempt that makes the work a hoot. On a deeper level it's a respectable first attempt to bring to light a subject that the director no doubt grew up with and wants us to take seriously. But it's an innocent presentation that doesn't seek to scare the viewer with horrific nonsense but just tells its tail outright. The two best choices are the framing devise, which pulls us in to the guy's plight and his naustalgia and the wonderment at "what happened to the thing?" The indirect appraoch to presenting the horror is always very effective. The imagination can compel us to look.

accessed April 24, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

Watch the entire film on Youtube

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reductionism part 3 (final): Holism, the Altnernative

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We might be remiss if we did not mention the major methodical nemesis of reductionism, holism. In some ways holism might be thought of as the opposite of reductionism: often summarized as “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” the relation of the parts to the whole is such that the individual parts do not explain the state of the whole. This includes aspects of emergent properties that can’t be reduced to the parts that produce it. This latter formulation is the Cousin of holism, nonseperablity. This is the idea that the state of the parts do not explain the state of the whole.[1] Holism as a mythodological thesis can best be understood as the idea that “the best way to study the behavior of a complex system is to treat it as a whole.”[2] Holism may also be a metaphysical thesis. In that sense it’s about the relation of the whole to laws that govern it and the independence of the law from the individual parts. There are three types of metaphysical holism:

Ontological Holism: Some objects are not wholly composed of basic physical parts.
Property Holism: Some objects have properties that are not determined by physical properties of their basic physical parts.
Nomological Holism: Some objects obey laws that are not determined by fundamental physical laws governing the structure and behavior of their basic physical parts.[3]

            Apparently most physicists are holists in methodological terms, but there are notable exceptions. Both methodological and metaphysical versions of holism and reductionism are assumed in different ways among physicists.

It is surprisingly difficult to find methodological reductionists among physicists. The elementary particle physicist Steven Weinberg, for example, is an avowed reductionist. He believes that by asking any sequence of deeper and deeper why-questions one will arrive ultimately at the same fundamental laws of physics. But this explanatory reductionism is metaphysical in so far as he takes explanation to be an ontic rather than a pragmatic category. On this view, it is not physicists but the fundamental laws themselves that explain why “higher level” scientific principles are the way they are. Weinberg (1992) explicitly distinguishes his view from methodological reductionism by saying that there is no reason to suppose that the convergence of scientific explanations must lead to a convergence of scientific methods.[4]

Carl Popper rejected holism because it has a long standing relationship with totalitarian thinking. In social terms the individual is determined by the whole, social groupings play out on a massive scale. According to the social holist individuals are formed by the social groupings to which they belong.[5] Popper was critical of holism for this reason, this doesn’t mean that physicist using holism as a methodological tool think in a totalitarian fashion. It’s a matter of how you look at it. The reductionst reducing everything to one thing is totalitarian. The reductionist move of losing phenomena of religious experience and categorizing such experiences which they have never had is totalitarian.
            We clearly see philosophical implications and repercussions in these matters. In physics science interfaces with philosophy to such a degree its hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. It would seem that what is needed a sharper focus on the use of reductionism/holism as a methodology and better fences between philosophy and physics. The problem the spreading ideology of scientism, that seems to detract from any respect for philosophy, while ransacking its territory. One commentator and blogger wrties:

I don’t know what’s the matter with physicists these days. It used to be that they were an intellectually sophisticated bunch, with the likes of Einstein and Bohr doing not only brilliant scientific research, but also interested, respectful of, and conversant in other branches of knowledge, particularly philosophy. These days it is much more likely to encounter physicists like Steven Weinberg or Stephen Hawking, who merrily go about dismissing philosophy for the wrong reasons, and quite obviously out of a combination of profound ignorance and hubris (the two often go together, as I’m sure Plato would happily point out). The latest such bore is Lawrence Krauss, of Arizona State University.[6]

This is no mystery but what we’ve been observing. There is a tendency even among “regular science” or shall we say “real science” to infuse scientific work with philosophical assumptions. The scientistic/reductionist mentality has fomented the notion that science is the only form of knowledge. Those who take his credo seriously are assaulting real philosophy to clear it out of the way so they can make room for their ideology. If this is the only form of knowledge it’s proponents are clearing away all the non knowledge. The only problem this only knowledge is made up of different approaches to philosophy and other disciplines.

This is by no means an exhaustive account of holism. It’s very complex and just doesn’t allow for streamlined summary. There’s just too much there to justice to the topic. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss briefly one upshot of holism which is downward causation.

Downward Causation

            Systems theory has been construed as anti-reductionism. In this stance it says “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” Reductionism says that we can know the nature of the whole by knowing the nature of the parts, because the whole is nothing else but the sum of the parts and can be reduced to the parts. The basic assumption of systems theory in its anti-reductionist stance is that because the whole has emergent properties it is more than the sum of its parts thus it can’t be reduced to the parts. This means that mind can’t be reduced to brain. “Emergence” is sometimes a veg idea thus some thinkers prefer to call it “downward causation.”[7] Downward causation is the opposite of the reductionist premise: “The behavior of the parts is determined by the behavior of the whole.”[8]  “Top-down causation refers to the effects on components of organized systems that cannot be fully analyzed in terms of component-level behavior but instead requires reference to the higher-level system itself.”[9]
            There are five types of downward causation or “top-down” causation: (1) Algorithmic top down causation; (2) Non adaptive information control; (3) adaptive selection; (4) adaptive information control; (5) Intelligent top down.[10] Random processes allow all of these forms of causation to work at the same time without negating other causal processes. Each of these five forms of causation takes place in the human brain.[11] As an explanation of number one, (1) Algorithmic: Ellis tells us that “physics is the basic science underlying physical reality, characterized by mathematical descriptions that allow predictions of physical behavior.”[12] He raises the question are other forms of causation merely epiphenomenal grounded in purely physical causation? This is the view of strong reductionsits. He argues that the other forms of causation do exist in the real world and that they are acting within the framework provided by Aristotle of the four kinds of causes. He gives a table that provides a simplified scheme of hierarchy of levels of reality. “Each lower level underlies what happens at each higher level in terms of causation.” Level 1: particle physics, level 2: atomic physics, level 3: chemistry, Level 4: Biochemistry, level 5:, cell biology, level 6:, physiology, level 7: psychology. Level 8: Sociology/Economics/politics.[13]

Downward Causation also contains
Other dierections.

But downward causation does not assert that the only direction of causation is downward. There is causation both ways; the whole is to some extent limited to the parts and vice versa. The example that Heylighen uses is that of a snow flake. Snow flakes all contain a six point similarity but within that similarity, which is the whole because it’s universally found, each crystal contains it’s totally individual shape. The shape is the result of the chemical composition of water molecules but the shape is confined to the whole.[14]

The appearance of this "two way causation" can be explained in the following way. Imagine a complex dynamic system. The trajectories of the system through its state space are constrained by the "laws" of the dynamics. These dynamics in general determine a set of "attractors": regions in the state space the system can enter but not leave. However, the initial state of the system, and thus the attractor the system will eventually reach is not determined. The smallest fluctuations can push the system either in the one attractor regime or the other. However, once an attractor is reached, the system loses its freedom to go outside the attractor, and its state is strongly constrained.
Now equate the dynamics with the rules governing the molecules, and the attractor with the eventual crystal shape. The dynamics to some degree determines the possible attractors (e.g. you cannot have a crystal with a 7-fold symmetry), but which attractor will be eventually reached is totally unpredictable from the point of view of the molecules. It rather depends on uncontrollable outside influences. But once the attractor is reached, it strictly governs the further movement of the molecules.
The same principle applies to less rigid, mechanistic systems such as living organisms. You cannot have organisms whose internal functioning flouts the rules of physics and chemistry. However, the laws of physics are completely insufficient to determine which shapes or organizations will evolve in the living world. Once a particular biological organization has emerged, it will strongly constrain the behavior of its components.
 For example, the coding of amino acids by specific triplets of bases in the DNA is not determined by any physical law. A given triplet might as well be translated into a multitude of other amino acids than the one chosen in the organisms we know. But evolution happens to have selected one specific "attractor" regime where the coding relation is unambiguously fixed, and transgressions of that coding will be treated as translation errors and therefore eliminated by the cell's repair mechanisms. [15]

Downward causation extends from a level above a given system downward to affect that system. When the direction of causal influence extends from beyond the system downward to affect the system we have downward causation. That means the system can’t be explained totally in terms of its individual parts. In terms of consciousness it means consciousness can’t be explained entirely in terms of brain chemistry.[16] Cartesian dualism envisioned only two levels to reality but in modern terms modern emergantism pictures the world in multiple levels. The Cartesian levels were consciousness and extension, but…

…In contemporary emergentism the world is pictured in terms of a multilayered structure, with microphysical entities at the bottom and with higher-level entities (such as molecules, cells, organisms, and social groups) being mereologically composed of these lower-level entities, yet characterized by a set of properties distinctive of the relevant higher level. In a way, so-called nonreductive physicalism, which more or less became the received view in the philosophy of mind of the last quarter of the twentieth century, may be seen as nothing but a modern application of classical emergentism within the philosophy of mind. Although it holds that, ontologically speaking, all there is are physical entities and mereological aggregates thereof, it argues that psychological properties are irreducibly distinct from the underlying physical and biological properties.[17]

            There are two other major examples ideological reductionism: (1) Brain/mind; mind is reducible to brain function. (2) Determinism; free will reducible to an illusion by determinism.

Summary and Conclusion:

            Reductionism is a valid scientific methodology, but it is more than that. Science itself is infused with ideological and philosophical implication. There is no pure human endeavor that is all knowledge and no politics. Reductionism is basically traceable to the Greeks and implies a metaphysics that would reduce all reality to one thing: in modern time in the scientistic circles that one thing can only be science. This philosophical tendency issues forth in rhetorical strategies that empirical tricks of reducing, such as labeling the loosing the phenomena. The alternative is holism, which offers philosophical alternative as well as methodological and rhetorical options. Holism opens up our thinking to a vast possibility of multidimensional reality. It offers explanations of emergent properties and top down causation that rule out much of the reductionist’s repertoire.

[1] Healey, Richard, "Holism and Nonseparability in Physics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .visited 4/25/2012
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[6] Massimo Piglicci, “Rationally Speaking: “Lawrence Krauss: Antoher Physcist With an Anti-Philosophy Complex.” Truth from Argument Among Friends. Blog book Review URL: visisted 4/27/2012
[7] Francis Heylighen, “Downward Causation.” Principia Cybernetica web On line resource. Sept 15, 1995, summarizing work of Donald T. Campbell 1974. Heylighen is research Professor at Free University of Brussels and director of Global Brain Institiute. URL:   visited 5/9/12
  • see also Campbell D.T. (1990): "Levels of Organization, Downward Causation, and the Selection-Theory Approach to Evolutionary Epistemology", in: Scientific Methodology in the Study of Mind: evolutionary epistemology, E. Tobach and G. Greenberg (ed.), (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ), p. 1-17.
  • Campbell D.T. (1974): "'Downward causation' in Hierarchically Organized Biological Systems", in: Studies in the Philosophy of Biology, F.J. Ayala & T. Dobzhansky (ed.), (Macmillan Press), p. 179-186

[8] ibid
[9] Mary Ann Meyers “Top Down Causation: An integrating theme within and across the sciences.”  A symposium by the John Templeton foundation, Participnats from the Royal Society,  Contact Mary Ann Meyers Senior Fellow, 2010, website: URL  visited sept 25,2012.
[10] George F.R. Ellis, “Top Down Causation and The Human Brain,” Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will: Understanding Complex Systems. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag,  Ed.Nancy Murphy, George F.R. Ellis, Timothy O. O’Connor, 2009, 63
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid., Table 4.1
[14] Meyers, “top Down Causation…” Symposium, Op. Cit.
[15] ibid.
[16] Gale Cengage, “Downward causation,” Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. New York: Macmillan, Wentzel Van Huyssteen edit 2003. quoted in Enotes, Downward Causatoin, on line resource for teachers:
[17] Ibid.