Monday, August 31, 2015

The Abductive Version of The TS Argukment (1 of 3).


The abductive version of the argument can proceed with no references to Derrida whatsoever, although understanding him would no doubt help. The abductive argument

Terms: TS = transcendental signifier. The Signifier is a written word or a sign of some kind that depicts a word.

Transcendental - the aspect of a system that is fundamental to or sumkmarizes the whole; Trancendental Signifier, there fore, refers to words that sum up the whole system of knowledge, they are universal and not culturally constructed, such as matehematics or God.

TSED = the reality to which the TS refers. While Math is a real thing its only the TSED if it is responsible for everything. These are all Derridian terms. Derrida.

(1) Organizing principles are necessary to development of complexity and systems

(2) understanding of organization is necessary, therefore, for explanatory power

(3) Organizing principles are all-pervasive

(4) no property of physicality is known or theoretically plausible to explain either the necessity or all pervasive nature of these transcendental aspects.

(5) Therefore, no one organizing principle explains the whole as do TS's.

(6) Given the all-pervasive and necessary nature of the TS, the fact of a real TSEd best explains the all-pervasive and necessary nature o the OP's and the TS

(in chapter one I establish the link from TSED to God(Deductive argument premises -6-7). Abduction is a form of inference like deduction and induction:

Abduction or, as it is also often called, Inference to the Best Explanation is a type of inference that assigns special status to explanatory considerations. Most philosophers agree that this type of inference is frequently employed, in some form or other, both in everyday and in scientific reasoning. However, the exact form as well as the normative status of abduction are still matters of controversy.

An example given by Douven: two friends have a falling out. Then they are seen jogging together..[2] You assume they must have reconciled. This assumption is not mandated by the logic of the case. There could be any number of reasons why people who have a falling out would jog together. In deductive reasoning the premises mandate the conclusions. If we know the meaning of the terms and we know the

premises are true the conclusions must be true if they are logically derived. All A's are B. a is an A. Therefore, a is a B. With induction, the premises are not true by definition, but are usually derived as a matter of probability. With abduction the premises may be probable but the real warrant for inference is the explanatory power of the idea not probability per se.[3]Explanatory power is not proof, but it is a guide to inference, as Peter Lipton tells us.

Setting up criteria for understanding “best explanation

According to Lipton not all induction is probability. He draws the line between deductive and inductive at the point where it is no longer impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusions false; when that's the case its deductive. Inductive is weighing probability not proof.[4]Inductive considerations arise out of indeterminism. It is because outcomes are not necessitated that we can have probability. In assessing the nature of the best explanation, Lipton finds that justification supports explanatory power because with indeterminism we can only go by likelihood. If likelihood were the only guide abduction reduces to induction, or a form of it. Rather he finds that we can't construe best as likeliest alone, but we should view abduction as a guide to inference, not as proof. He urges us to see explanatory factors as guides to illuminating likelihood rather than the other way around.[5]To use my own examples: suppose someone argues that its not likely that the former friends are jogging together because they made up; the former friends could be jogging together so that they can insult each other. That doesn't seem believable because one hates conflict, the other is too mature. Thus that is a less likely explanation than the theory that they made up. How would likelihood work with the question of God? How to establish probability of an issue such as the reality of God, where there is an inability to produce empirical proof? Such a discussion could not help but be dominated by prior convictions. Yet if we value explanation and we have reasonable parameters for what needs explaining the explanatory power might give a clue to likelihood. This means we are still left with how to establish “best.”

Gabby and Woods offer a rule to determine explanatory power. The rule sets up a criterion of comparison between hypothesis. At least one element must be more plausible in given hypothesis than its counter parts in competing hypotheses.[6]They develop much more complex statistical theorems. The problem is, even though setting up criteria of comparison is a god idea, we still can't just assert the likelihood of God, or even the unlikelihhod. The individual must decide the values by which to set parameters for comparison. For example if we value explanations that assume a “why” to the universe then God as explanation seems more likely. If we assume flat out there can be no why then we have already eliminated God from consideration. The problem in making a God argument is that God is not given in sense data. Thus God can't be the subject of empirical investigation, not directly. What we can do is to specify parameters and criteria that prepare us to make educated decisions about belief. In other words, we can't draw a picture of the hole in a doughnut, but we can draw the doughnut around the hole. In the case of God that means rational warrant justifies belief. Rational warrant means that a given belief is possible and plausible, thus not irrational.

We might be able to say that the best explanation would account for all the data or account for the most crucial data than other explanations. We could also stipulate that the explanation be the most simple as long as we don't confuse conceptual simplicity with absence of data, or simplicity of structure. For example when Dawkins argues that God would have to be more complex than the universe he creates, he's assuming the laws of physics apply to God.[7]He's ignoring conceptual simplicity. Most of the great apologists such as Aquinas saw God as conceptually simple.[8]In other words God is not made up of physical parts. This raises the issue of Occam's razor and parsimony. Parsimony is a principle akin to abductive reasoning used in science where direct empirical data is lacking. It was based upon Occam's razor but the two are not identical. Atheists have, on occasion, taken Occam's razor as a means of ruling God out of the equation. They either assert that God is not necessary, thus Occam's dictum about not multiplying beyond necessity applies to God, or they think Occam said take the simplest of two hypotheses.[9]

They are also confusing Occam's razor with Parsimony. Occam was a priest and he believed in God he didn't think the razor got rid of God. For that reason I've always been somewhat peeved by their use of this argument. Moreover, what the razor really says is that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity.[10]Atheists assume that since they don't believe in God then God is not necessary. This is begging the question. They are asserting the lack of a God and using that position to deny the God argument.

To understand what Occam was really talking about we must understand his nominalism.

three senses of nominalism:

(1) Denial of metaphysical universals: applies to Occam.

(2) reduce one's ontology to bare minimum, streamline categories: applies to Occam.

(3) Nix abstract entities, depending upon what one means; here Occam may or may not have been a nominalist in this sense. he did not believe in mathematical entities but he did believe in abstraction such as whiteness, or humanity.

Ockham removes all need for entities in seven of the ten traditional Aristotelian categories; all that remain are entities in the categories of substance and quality, and a few entities in the category of relation, which Ockham thinks are required for theological reasons pertaining to the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Eucharist, even though our natural cognitive powers would see no reason for them at all. As is to be expected, the ultimate success of Ockham's program is a matter of considerable dispute.[11]He was not getting rid of God. Occam's razor never allows us to deny what Spade calls "putative entities" which would definitely include God.[12]It merely bids us refrain from positing them without good reason. Of course our atheist friends would tell us there is no good reason to assert God, but answering that is the point of making God arguments. In fact for Occam humans can't really know what is necessary. "For Ockham, the only truly necessary entity is God; everything else, the whole of creation, is radically contingent through and through. In short, Ockham does not accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason.."[13]This is not a contradiction because all the razor says is refrain form multiplying entities without good reason, not “rub out of existence all concepts that can't be empirically verified.” Note that he includes God as the only truly necessary entity. Thus atheist are violating Occam's razor in trying to use it on God. Of course there is equivocation in the of the term “necessary.” Atheists making the argument applying the razor to God speak of causal necessity while believers rest their ontological arguments upon ontological necessity.

An example of how “best explanation” should be considered:

This example is based upon the multiverse argument. The idea of the multiverse is taken seriously in science, even though it is the stuff of comic books and science fiction. The notion is what it sounds like: reality is divided into an infinite array of parallel universes. The argument is used to answer the fine tuning argument for God. The fine tuning argument says that the attributes of the universe that make life possible are so unlikely the game must be fixed. That's a good reason to believe in a planing intelligence as a creator. Our atheist friends say “not so fast.” There are infinite universes, thus infinite chances for life bearing. With infinite chances the odds of hitting life bearing are not so remote so there is not such a good reason to assert the need of a God. There are good answers to this, the argument is defensible. I wont defend it here because its not relevant. I am not asserting fine tuning to save the TS. My purpose in raising it is to make a point about how to consider best explanation. The multiverse argument illustrates how the assumptions we make change the kind of explanation we seek. Is the multiverse necessary? It's a matter of empirical investigation and there may be empirical evidence to support it. Claims have been made of hard data proving Multivese, but when investigated they evaporate. Here's a physicist who opposed string theory and multiverse. He argues that his evaluation of the papers finds irresolvable problems.

In recent years there have been many claims made for “evidence” of a multiverse, supposedly found in the CMB data... Such claims often came with the remark that the Planck CMB data would convincingly decide the matter. When the Planck data was released two months ago, I looked through the press coverage and through the Planck papers for any sign of news about what the new data said about these multiverse evidence claims. There was very little there; possibly the Planck scientists found these claims to be so outlandish that it wasn’t worth the time to look into what the new data had to say about them. One exception was this paper, where Planck looked for evidence of “dark flow.”

If hard evidence turns up for it then we have to deal with that on it's own terms. Until that time Multiverse should be shaved with Occam's razor. We don't need it to explain reality, it's only advanced to keep from having to turn to God. It's naturalistic so it's an arbitrary necessity at best. Arbitrary necessitates are logical impossibilities, contingent things jumped up to the level of necessity to answer a God argument. It's not that we are going to disprove the unnecessary entity (multiverse) but we are going to refrain from advancing it's existence as an assumption until such a time that real empirical evidence makes it empirically undeniable. We can make that kind of ruling about the multiverse because its an empirical matter, even though it may be undetectable; God is not an empirical matter because God is both transcendent and transcendental. Therefore, Multiverse should be taken out of the issues of God arguments, yet we can't make that ruling about God. That's an example of what I meant when I said we can fill in the doughnut around the hole. If we find empirical evidence of multiverse we may have to re-think a couple of God arguments, In the mean time God might be the best explanation for the uniqueness of our world. In any case parsimony is perhaps the best point of inference for abduction.

Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better. But what exactly does theoretical simplicity amount to? Syntactic simplicity, or elegance, measures the number and conciseness of the theory's basic principles. Ontological simplicity, or parsimony, measures the number of kinds of entities postulated by the theory. One issue concerns how these two forms of simplicity relate to one another. There is also an issue concerning the justification of principles, such as Occam's Razor, which favor simple theories. The history of philosophy has seen many approaches to defending Occam's Razor, from the theological justifications of the Early Modern period, to contemporary justifications employing results from probability theory and statistics

Again we have to distinguish between conceptual simplicity as opposed to mere ignorance of the case, or simple structure. In other words Dawkins treats God as a big man who must have more parts than the universe he creates (see above). That is simplicity in terms of structure, the physical structure of God. That is a case we just don't know about. We can't judge that. We can think of God as the simpler concept in terms of the economy of relations. First we can think of God as mind, not brain. We do not know that minds are complex. Brains are complex but we know nothing about mind. On the other hand we might posit that mind is simpler than brain because it's not a set of biological parts, but at least theoretically might be akin to the spirit. In any case God's relation to the whole is simple: one mind which thinks the universe. One mind that in the act of perceiving sets all meaning, creates all that is, and judges all moral value. That is more simple in terms of economical relations between all parts than a multiverse. A multiverse would multiply the problems of fine tuning and something from nothing by every universe.

To spell out the criteria by which we might judge a “best” explanation, not just simplicity alone but conceptual simplicity, we must be able to make comparisons between hypotheses. We can't compare hypotheses if they don't compete for the same results. Belief in God is not a scientific hypothesis, thus it does not compete with science. Thus belief cannot be reduced to the simplicity of “the best science.” For this reason we can call the kind of parsimony of the abductive version as parsimony of elegance. In other words not just take the simplest idea, but take the truly elegant hypothesis. By “elegant” is included conceptually simple in terms of relation to the whole theory, as well as consistant, competitive, and complete (accounts for most data, and most crucial data). To make a list of qualities of an elegant hypothesis. Above I quote Baker as saying elegance is number and conciseness of the theories basic principles. Ontological simplicity is the number of kinds of entities. By that measure God would be both eligant and ontologically simple: one kind and its concise. To that I add the notion of bang for the buck; not just fewer kinds and more concise but accomplishes more for less.

Criteria for choosing the best explanation:

I. Simple (elegant and ontologically simple).

Focus is on God's relationship to all aspects of the universe and reality. It's not about issues like what is God made of or does he have parts. The relation itself of the God concept to the universe is what is at issue. One concept that props up every thing is simpler than trying to account for everything through loose ends. That's why they want a grand unified theory. More concise and bang for the buck.

II. Competitive:

Does the explanation compete with other explanations? In a sense no, the other explanations are not scientific. Science and religion have different domains they are meant to do different things. God and science don't compete. Yet the question is not one of science vs. God but of world views. While science makes up a large part of the world view of scientists and skeptics (and believers too at times) if we think of atheism as a world view there's more to it than just science. Atheism consists of actively cutting out the kinds of existential and phenomenological explanations that are part of the believer's world view. So belief in God answers the questions abou8t life at a more philosophical level, to my way of thinking a more profound level. Science tells us how the physical world works. God tells us why there is a physical world. Of course there are limits to how much we are told. That's the job of Theological to figure out what God tells us and what God does not tell us. Belief in God competes with other philosophical level questions. Religions are often thought of as competing with each other for believers, even though they all point to the TSED as a generic object of faith. This is not to say they are all the same or that it doesn't matter, but for the sake of the TS argument I'm going to bracket that for now. Atheism and belief in God Compete directly because the farmer seeks to explain the world by removing the explanation of the latter. While most atheists turn to science for explanatory power they often embrace an ideological version of science that is tuned to screen out religious explanations.xvi God transcends our understanding and our observations. Thus God belief can't compete with science's answers of how the universe works; nor does it need to. It does answer the why, the best atheism can do is to assert that there is no why. To the extent that both world views seek to account foe ultimate origins.

So the issue is not one of science vs. belief in God, but belief vs. atheism. In other words given equal embrace of science which world view best explains the world? Some will claim that science rules out God because there's no necessary place for God in a world of modern science. That just depends upon what kind of explanation we seek. The believer must not allow the skeptic to pull a bait-and-switch whereby the workings of the physical world are put over as the best explanation just because they are the most certain.

III. Logically consistent with self and world:

No internal contradictions in theory, and if it does contradict what we think we know it has to re-explain it in a way so as to account for the apparent contradiction.

IV. Complete:

Explains more of the data than other hypotheses, and coordinates the answer to all other areas or more other areas than do other hypotheses. Example. God not only explains something from nothing but also accounts for ethics and meaning. The totality of data is all aspects of existence. It can't be limited to just empirical data but all aspects of human being and the nature of existing.

V. Must be a Philosophical or metaphysical answer

The hypothesis should be philosophical in that it considers the phenomena on a higher level than just the physical workings of the universe. We have to be careful, however, not to set up the criteria in such a way that God is the only valid answer because nothing else applies. God must be the best explanation because other alternatives are eliminated. To demonstrate that I have not just set things up to favor my argument, I will, when the time comes to eliminate other alternatives, show alternatives that also fit the criteria. Why a philosophical answer? Why not just content ourselves with the physical universe and how it works? That approach would rule God out before one got started thinking about that question. By Metaphysical I mean in the sense Wiltshire uses it, talk about talk about the world (glossery). Or to put it another way, thinking about how to think about the world. That answer must proceed from a transcendental perspective, analyzing the system of thought itself. The answer must be on a transcendental or metaphysical level but need not involve God. Does we must manufator a reason for things? No but there is a fine line. The answer can't content itself with pure physics and no more, but it can't demand a purposive reason as the only option. The explanation (sans God) on the metaphysical level might involve just dealing with the consequences of a purposeless world. We have to face the possibility that there is no purpose, but by the same token the skeptic must respect a subjective sense as the justification for seeking purpose. It's true that this criterion asks one to acept positions that perhaps can't be proven, but we don't have to prove the actual reality of God to produce a rational warrant for belief. Even a subjective sense can be analyzed and subjected to forms of verification see my first book, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, available on Amazon).

These five qualities taken together are what I call “the best explanation.” The conclusion of the argument posits a TSED which can logically be understood as a generic God Concept. That conclusion has to meet the criteria. I will defend the premises as true statement based upon best educated judgement then show how the proposed conclusion meets the criteria as best explanation for the phenomena sited.


1 Igor, Douven, "Abduction", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 8/3/15.

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Peter Lipton, Inference to The Best Explanation. New York: Routledge, International Library of Philosophy, 2nd ed.,2004, 6.

5 Ibid., 207-208.

6 Dov M. Gabby and John Woods. A Practical Logic of Cognitive Systems: Vol 2, The Reach of Abduction...Amsterdam, The Neatherlands.:Elsevier B.V., 2005, 160.

7 Dawkins 747 thing

8 Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Second and Revised Edition, 1920Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican ProvinceOnline Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.New Advent Catholic Encyclopidia, URL: accessed 8/28/15.

9 “How to Reason: Section 8, Ocam's Razor,” God Would be An Atheist. URL: 8, Occam's Razor,” , accessed 8/6/15

This is a website for atheism, it is not a scholarly site. In fact there is no listing of an author.. I quote it as an example of popular misconception.The site says: “Occam's Razor: in any situation offering two or more explanations, the simpler or simplestexplanationis always best.” Documentation of atheists using Occam to disprove God: Robert T. Carroll, “Occum's Razor,”The Skeptic's Dictionary. Url: Accessed 8/6/15

What is known as Occam's razor was a common principle in medieval philosophy and was not originated by William, but because of his frequent usage of the principle, his name has become indelibly attached to it. It is unlikely that William would appreciate what some of us have done in his name. For example, atheists often apply Occam's razor in arguing against the existence of a god on the grounds that any god is an unnecessary hypothesis. We can explain everything without assuming the extra metaphysical baggage of a divine being.

10 C.K. Brampton, "Nominalism and the Law of Parsimony." The Modern School Men, Volume 41, Issue 3, (March 1964), 273-281.

11 Paul Vincent Spade and Claude Panaccio, "William of Ockham", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Fall 2011 (substantive content change) [new author(s): Spade, Paul Vincent; Panaccio, Claude] on lin resourse URL: accessed 8/18/15.

12 Spade, et al, Ibid.

13 Ibid,

14 Peter Woit, “Hard Evidence for Multiverse Founjd, But String Theory limits Space Brain Threat,” Not Even Wrong,(May 22, 2013 ) online resourse: accessed 8/26/15.

15 Alan Baker, "Simplicity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 8/6/15

Sunday, August 23, 2015

the religious a priori


(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scinetific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines

In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomonology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the litteral sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousnds of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truely empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight corrolation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturslitic c/e and excluding anyting that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm untl there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabalistic assumtions building constructs to form a world view) is inadquate because it is merely a contsuct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be estreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

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apologetics, God talk, phenomenology, religion, Rudolph Otto, Schleiermacher, sense of the holy, Tillich

Friday, August 21, 2015

why people are really jumping on the Trukmp bandwagon (need more shovels part 2)

 photo Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_zpscwtuf807.jpg

would you buy a used country
from thia man?

Make no mistake there is a band wagon. Everyone knew Trump is an idiot but they kept flocking to his cause. Why? They common explanation is "he speaks his mind." As I pointed out before lots of people have spoken their minds and didn't get band wagons. The mind speaking thing is a dog whistle, its code. The translation of the code is the first of the real reasons for his groundswell. There are two reasons, this is the first one: because he says the nasty cruel Draconian things they wish they could say and do to those they fear. An extension of that is the hysteria he capitalizes on over illegal aliens, those brown illegal people taking all those sought after toilet cleaning jobs. The average person can't the bigoted things Trump can say, bur they wish they could. Now he says it for them, and they can applaud without owning up. Why is it Trump can say those things? That's related to the second reason.

Americans idolize the rich. No one without money could say the things Trump says. Any ordinary candidate would have wrecked his chances weeks ago. Rick Perry is an idiot and everyone knew it after his performance in 2012, Trump makes him seem intelligent by comparison. Yet Perry would never get away with saying the stuff Trump has, the proof is that he did not get away with milder statements. Since Americans idolize the rich we put them in a special exempt category and make all allowencs for them.

A lot of people think that if they are dedicated servants of the rich they will somehow be let in on things. They will get rich too. The rich don't want you to have money. They want it all for themselves. If there were any truth to the servant theory of gaining wealth the disparity between super rich and everyone else would not have grown as it has. Other motivations are related. Some don't go for the servant theory but they want things to favor the rich for when they make their fortunjes.

So now there's a groundswell and a bandwagon, just as with Reagan a guy who doesn't have the intellectual capacity to be dog catcher will be the most powerful man in the world. Trump is already one of the most powerful men. He will feel that nothing is beyond him. That will be the bend of social programs, millions will die before their time, no one will care because they will be jaded by Trump's value system that groups people into two camps, rich and losers. Thus the deaths of the poor will be accepted and even lauded as proper justice for those who committed the gravest sin, being poor.

Just as with Reagan, I know its coming. Mark my words and watch the news study the stats you will see life expectancy for the poor take a nose dive. It is coming. It will happen.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We Need More Shovals: why would you ever consider voting for a moron? part 1

Trump devolution photo donald-trump-cartoon1_zpsxmkoxoff.jpg
My friends in Canada will soon find me at their door. Met, Betta, I demand political asylum. Trump is now with in striking distance of Hilary, she is only 4 points ahead. This is a huge tragedy. Trump is an idiot, he's a member of the 1%. He's one of the guys Wallstreet needs taking back from. In 2012 Americans voted for Obama rejecting Romney because he seemed unable to relate to the problems of the common people. Yet they are totally oblivious to the fact that Trump was born into money, he's one of the richest men in America, he has never experienced the feelings most of us have about not seeing where the money will come from. His is not a rags to Riches story.

Pundits have said that people flock to his band wagon like lemings because he speaks his mind. They said it so many times people have began repeating it. Two things wrong with this. First, lots of people speak their minds. It's a total fallacy to think that Hillary and Sanders are not speaking their minds. Joan Baez spoke her mind, the Smother's brothers, Pete Seager and Muhammad Ali all spoke their minds, but they suffered for it. Secondly, the things Trump has been saying are moronic.

He said that prisoners of war are not heroes. Granted, if a prisoner conducts himself in a cowardly way and helps the enemy he/she is no hero. But the original context was about John McCain in Vietnam, he conducted himself admirably. He was clearly heroic. It's how one bears up in captivity not that one was captured that counts. Speaking your mind is one thing but saying stupid things because there is no mind there to speak is quite another. Moreover Trump had five deferments in the Vietnam years, while McCain volunteered to fight. See the article by Michael E. Miller comparing what the two di8d during those years.

Trump said he would bomb everyone in Iraq to get the oil. "I would bomb the hell out of the oil fiels in Iraq to fight Isis." He doesn't care who he kills. I am for fighting Isis but its insane to destroy Iraq to do it. Use the oil don't bomb it! We always think we have to destroy the village to save it. He also made statements painting most illegal aliens as criminals and rapists, "with a few good people."

He'a a bully who is so lacking in any substance at all. He responds to every criticism with name calling. All who disagree are "losers." His immigration program is silly.

NYT reports: After staking his early campaign on caustic and contentious remark
s about undocumented immigrants, Donald J. Trump on Sunday outlined his plan to fix the country’s immigration system and deal with people who are in the country illegally.

The position paper, published on Mr. Trump’s website, centered on three principles. The first stated that “a nation without borders is not a nation” — a theme Mr. Trump has made a constant in his stump speeches — and called for a wall to be built along the southern border.

He also repeated his promise to make Mexico pay for the wall and laid out how he would do it: largely through increasing fees on border movement between the United States and Mexico.

“We will not be taken advantage of anymore,” the plan states.

He's not going to make Mexico pay for the wall. Increasing fees on boarder movement might just make more people try the illegal way, or just over less. Walls never work. Great wall of China did not keep the Mongols out. Berlin wall did not keep everyone in nor did it last. Taking money from the aliens so they can't send it home would mean opening mail, and they get the money for real toil and labor. They still take the jobs no one wants. The American fruit industry wou8ld not survive without them.

One of the more insane aspects of his plan is the paranoid acuzation that illegals are flooding the boarders because of a plot by the Mexican government.
(Ibid NYT above) The crimes committed by undocumented immigrants have been a focus of Mr. Trump’s early campaign. He has accused Mexico of sending criminals and rapists to the United States, and has often infuriated Latinos with his remarks.

In his formal policy, as he has many times before, Mr. Trump maintains that “Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country.”

That's a peranoid idea started back in the 90s by the Arian Nations to work up fear and panic about foreigners. Its been brewing for a long time. I knew people into that back in the 80s. I don't know where Trump got it but it was coming up from Tax revolt groups and right wing extremists. If there were any truth to it Mexico should have done nothing or worked to increase the flow of children into the US. In fact, according to pew research Mexico helped reduce the flow.

The hysteria over illegal immigration is based upon the historical tendency to scapegoat immigrants when times are bad:

Historians have noted a strong correlation between large migrations of foreigners to the United States and increased acts of violence against immigrants. For example, riots and violence erupted in Philadelphia in the mid-1800s following a large influx of Irish Catholic immigrants. The KKK peaked in the 1920s with approximately five million members, at the time lessening its focus on African-Americans and shifting its attention to Catholic and Jewish immigrants. In Texas, during the 1980s, a Klan group systematically harassed and attacked Vietnamese fishermen in an effort to put them out of business and drive them from the town.

The imagined crisis over job loss is laughable. Commentary in Orlando Sentinal:
And, yes, they are taking jobs away from some hardworking folks who are U.S. citizens. But for the most part, they are simply taking jobs that no one else wants. Example: After a federal raid on the Swift plant in Iowa, a strong majority of Caucasians displaced a strong majority of Hispanics in the work force. The turnover rate then soared from 30 percent to 114 percent.

The Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan group, estimates that in 2005, illegal immigrants accounted for 24 percent of farm workers, 17 percent of cleaning workers and 14 percent of construction workers.

It's easy to beat up on the disenfranchised, especially when they can't speak the language and may be here illegally, trying to make a better life for themselves. So we humiliate them every which way, from employers who pay them less than minimum wage, to the vigilantes who try to rustle them up as if they were rabid cattle on a rampage.

Illegal immigrants in production and consruction have been falling since 2007 due to stresses of US economy:

(Pew ResearchBy Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn)
In a reflection of changes in the overall economy since the Great Recession, the U.S. unauthorized immigrant workforce now holds fewer blue-collar jobs and more white-collar ones than it did before the 2007-2009 recession, but a solid majority still works in low-skilled service, construction and production occupations, according to new Pew Research Center estimates.

Trump is capitalizing on the hysteria for his own ego. He saysthe country is goint to hell. That is insane, things are not perfect a lot of people still having hard times but we are much better off now than we were in 2008.

Trump is not popular because he speaks his mind. That is code its a dog whistle. I'll tell you the real reason in part 2.

Monday, August 17, 2015

answering atheist arguments against religious experience

on the blog arguments for atheism.


The Argument | The Refutation

They begin by asserting:

The Religious Experience Argument posits that one can only perceive that which exists, and so God must exist because there are those that have experienced him.

My arguments do not proceed from this premise. I make two arguments in the trace of God. The first proceeds from the reasonable assertion that we are warranted to trust our experiences, thus we are justified in believing on that basis.

The second argument is based upon the premise that our only rational epistemic assumption must of necessity be based upon the results of experiences. Since religious experiences are proven scientifically to correlate with positive outcomes we are warranted in assuming their reality.

argument 1

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisable man in the snow. You can't see the invisable man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the wrold.

The only question at that ponit is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answere in the argument below. Here let us set out some general peramitors:

(1) The trace produced content with speicificually religious affects

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

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alteante cuasality or other means.

(1)There are real affects from Mytical experince.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explaintions we should assume that they are genuine.

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

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-dterminate is the transfomrative power of the affects.

Argument 2

(1) No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

(2) We do not find this epistemological dilemma debilitating on a daily basis because we assume that if our experiences are consistent and regular than we can navigate in "reality" whether it is ultimately illusory of not.

(3) Consistency and regularity of personal experience is the key.

(4) religious experience can also be regular and consistent, perhaps not to the same degree, but in the same way.

(5) Inersubjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by believers all over the world, in different times and different places, just as the external world seems to be perceived the same by everyone.

(6) Real and Lasting effects.

(7) therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experience as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds.


Many people have had what they label as religious experiences or revelations (experiences of the supernatural, like heaven or angels or even God himself), and if we believe the everyday experiential claims which people generally make, it is argued, then we should be willing to believe these claims as well. The fact that there are so many people who testify to having had such experiences therefore constitutes at least indirect evidence of God’s existence, even to those who have not had such experiences themselves.

Rather than just assume that all religious experience is equally unreliable we should base our claims upon the best most reliable evidence. This is what I do in
  • the Trace of God

    I deal with what is called "mystical experience. There is vast evidence, hundreds of studies over 50 years that demonstrate the universality of these experiences as well as the positive outcomes and life transforming effects of having had them,

    this research is demonstrated by a study instrument called "them scale" by Ralph Hood Jr. U Tenn Chatenouga. Here is an essay I wrote on the religious href="">a priarithat demonstrates the veracity of the M scale. The scale has come to standard procedure for study of mystical experience in psychology of religion. to learn more and get a better understanding of the data read:The M Scale and the Universal nature of mystical experience".

    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 fa├žade 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.]

    see link above. Of course I go into all o this much more deeply in the book.

    The Atheist:

    The 19th Century philosopher William James offered a variant on this argument, arguing that all normal people have religious experiences and, since experience is the final arbiter of truth, then God (as the object of religious experiences) must be accepted as factually true.
    The Refutation Back to Top

    James never said any of that. But what if he did? Being in the 19th century didn't make him wrong (the verieties was 20th century anyway).

    what he actually said was that all people have some degree of these experiences but its on a continuum. Robert Wuthnow in his ground breaking study of the 70s agreed as did C Wright Mills. That's covered in the well.

    I will deal with part 2 soon.
  • Sunday, August 09, 2015

    Do religious experinces shrink part of the brain?

      photo getting_smartere.jpg

    Two new studies suggest this may be true. The first article is published in Scientific American and is by Anderw Newberg, [1]author of Why God Wont Go Away. [2] Newberg is a pioneer in the field of studying the brain to understand the result of religious thinking. The research is by Amy Owen at Duke University. "The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression."

     The Owen study used MRI to measure volume of the hippocampus, in the limbic system. This structure is involved in memory as well as emotion. Sample size inckluded 268 men and women, 58 and over, who suffered depression and were taken from a sample of elderly studied for depression. The study only looked at religious involvement and divided the group into those who were born again  and who had life changing religious experiences. "The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.."

     The Theory proposed by the authors is based upon the idea that those involved in struggle over their beliefs are involved in higher levels of stress. Stress results in shrinkage of the hippocampus. Such conflicts release a stress hormone. Newberg, elucidates upon the theroy in stating that

      There is evidence that members of religious groups who are persecuted or in the minority might have markedly greater stress and anxiety as they try to navigate their own society. Other times, a person might perceive God to be punishing them and therefore have significant stress in the face of their religious struggle. Others experience religious struggle because of conflicting ideas with their religious tradition or their family. Even very positive, life-changing experiences might be difficult to incorporate into the individual’s prevailing religious belief system and this can also lead to stress and anxiety.
    Newberg is less than enthusiastic about the findings, points out several flaws in the study, such as small sample size.

    Thus, Owen and her colleagues certainly pose a plausible hypothesis. They also cite some of the limitations of their findings, such as the small sample size. More importantly, the causal relationship between brain findings and religion is difficult to clearly establish. Is it possible, for example, that those people with smaller hippocampal volumes are more likely to have specific religious attributes, drawing the causal arrow in the other direction? Further, it might be that the factors leading up to the life-changing events are important and not just the experience itself. Since brain atrophy reflects everything that happens to a person up to that point, one cannot definitively conclude that the most intense experience was in fact the thing that resulted in brain atrophy. So there are many potential factors that could lead to the reported results. (It is also somewhat problematic that stress itself did not correlate with hippocampal volumes since this was one of the potential hypotheses proposed by the authors and thus, appears to undercut the conclusions.) One might ask whether it is possible that people who are more religious suffer greater inherent stress, but that their religion actually helps to protect them somewhat. Religion is frequently cited as an important coping mechanism for dealing with stress.
    This new study is intriguing and important. It makes us think more about the complexity of the relationship between religion and the brain. This field of scholarship, referred to as neurotheology, can greatly advance our understanding of religion, spirituality, and the brain. Continued studies of both the acute and chronic effects of religion on the brain will be highly valuable. For now, we can be certain that religion affects the brain--we just are not certain how.

     There are more devastating criticisms to be made. First of all, the sample is taken from a study that was done on elderly and depression. Thus while people may have had a valid life changing experience at some point in the past, they were now depressed. That might either cause or indicate stress and would shrink the hippicamus. It masks the ability to determine the causal relationship between religious experience and shrinkage. Experiences do run low. In Wuthnow study the experience faded after one year.[3] While Maslow speaks of some effects lasting a life time, there are those who need a renewed experience (and renewal is possible). More importantly, we are not told what constitutes "life changing religious experience." We don't know if the M scale was used or if some comparable scale was in sue, or were these experiences just subjectively judged as "religious" and "life changing" because they resulted in a conversion.[4] So again they can't even prove they are talking about the kind of religious experiences that are associated with the most dramatic effects. Moreover, the article alludes several times to "Many studies have shown positive effects of religion and spirituality on mental health, but there are also plenty of examples of negative impacts." We are not told if the negatives are related to the actual experience or to some intervening variable such as persecution. Or even if they are among those with mystical experience or if that's the pile where any conversion is considered life changing.

     The important point to to made is religious experience is so consistently positive and good that even clinicians in institutions encourage their patents to seek it for therapeutic effects.[5] Wuthnow and Nobel both found numerious positive results (negative results--which were about stress and anxiety--were short term). [6][7]


    *Say their lives are more meaningful,
    *think about meaning and purpose
    *Know what purpose of life is
    Meditate more
    *Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
    *Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
    *Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
    *Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


    *Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
    *Less authoritarian and dogmatic
    *More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
    *intelligent, relaxed
    *High ego strength,
    *relationships, symbolization, values,
    *integration, allocentrism,
    *psychological maturity,
    *self-acceptance, self-worth,
    *autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
    *increased love and compassion [8]

     This is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a huge body of empirical research going back 50 years demonstrating the positive effects of these experiences it's not logical assume they damage your brain. For years I've searched for examples of detrimental or pathological effects that resulted in transformation (dramatic postiive change for the better). It doesn't happen that way. No form of brain damage results of a really over all better life.

     The Second study is in Science Daily "Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality, Rsearch Reveals," (Feb. 11, 2010).[9]  There is no "by" line to the story, it just points to "cell press." So it's by a staff writer for a popular publication specializing in scinece news. The actual research is by Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy, in February 11 issue of the journal Neuron. This is not too impressive. It leads off with an ideological statment that is little more than pledging allegence ot materialism:

    Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, true empirical exploration of the neural underpinnings of spirituality has been challenging. However, recent advances in neuroscience have started to make the complex mental processes associated with religion and spirituality more accessible."Neuroimaging studies have linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, but information on the causative link between such a network and spirituality is lacking," explains lead study author, Dr. Cosimo Urgesi from the University of Udine in Italy.
    In other words theoretically we assume that there's nothing more to spirituality than brain chemistry but it's been real hard to prove it. This study focuses on the phenomenon known as "self transcendence" (ST) as a measure of spirituality. Changes in ST among patience who had been treated for brain cancer so they changed the changes in ST made by brain lesions. The nature of ST was charted by scores obtained before and after on a test. Self transcendence is the sense of one's own unqieness as a person and one's place in relation to the rest of reality. The results are surprising:

    The group found that selective damage to the left and right posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase in ST. "Our symptom-lesion mapping study is the first demonstration of a causative link between brain functioning and ST," offers Dr. Urgesi. "Damage to posterior parietal areas induced unusually fast changes of a stable personality dimension related to transcendental self-referential awareness. Thus, dysfunctional parietal neural activity may underpin altered spiritual and religious attitudes and behaviors."
     I would have expected the opposite. Make a lesion and it reduces ST but actually makes it stronger. So they are assuming that ST is the result of damage to the brain rather damage merely impairing it. That's grossly ideological because they are actually saying that our sense of self, the individuality that makes us who we are, the thing that gives us a sense of nobility and makes us human is a mistake, the result of brain damage. This fits with the trans human movement. People who now seek to be robots and who actually disregard their own human rights. That's just clearly wrong. All the positive steps we've taken as humanity since the Renaissance have come as a result of having a concept of self transcendence. If this finding is true than all of civilization is a huge mistake. Every postie step we have taken, including the development of brain science the understanding of neurology is a big accident not just an accident but a travesty, the result of brain damage. Doesn't imply that in some sense are true "design" if we can call it that would be to retard our sense of who we are to keep us from growing as people. Thus making the discipline of psycholgoy into a crime. So it undermines the very sciences that aruge for the finding. Of cousre the original research doesn't say if it's talking about positive or negative aspects associated with ST. Leading me to conclude this may just be a biased telling of the result, conditioned by ideological need.


     [1] Andrew Newberg, "Religious Experiences Shrink Part of the Brain." Scientific American, May 31, 2011. on line copy: accessed 7/31/13

     [2]______________ and  Eugene D'Aquili Why God Wont Go Away:Brain Science and The Biology of Belief. New York: Balantine Books, 2002.

     [3] Robert Wuthnow, "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3),  1978. 59-75.

     [4] Metarock, "The M Scale and Universal Nature of Mystical Experience." The Religious A prori
    website, accessed 7/31/13.

    see also 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]Lorraine S. Allman, et al. "Psychotherapists Attitudes Toward Clients Reporting Mystical Experiences." Psychotherapy, Vol 29, no 4, (Winter, 1992), 564-669, 564. on line copy
     accessed 7/31/13.
    [6] Robert Wuthnow, Ibid.
    [7] Kathleen D. Noble,  ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 1987, 601-614.
    [8] findings of Wuthnow and noble summarized by the council on spiritual Practices, "State of Unitive Conscoiusness Research Summary. website URL:
    Accessed 7/22/08
    [9] Science Daily "Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality, Research Reveals," (Feb. 11, 2010).

    Sunday, August 02, 2015

    Transcendental Signifier Argument 4 of 5.

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


    I. Metaphysics is about magic, supernatural are “made up stuff,”

    That was disproved in the things said above. In Heidegger's version of metaphysics science.

    II. we can't test or verify anything about metaphysics

    Modal logic is a limit on any metaphysical construct. Other kinds of logic as well, also assist. We don't need empirical investigation to know that there are no square circles. We can rule them out with logic. so logic can tell us things. Obviously we are not going to build a rocket with just logic. We can use logic to screen metaphysical ideas.

    III. That metaphysics is about magic and psychic powers.

    Nope it's not, not at all. As I said in Heidegger's view science is metaphysics.

    IV. That Christians have to support metaphysical thinking.

    This is false. Especially if one is a Heideggerian Christian because in Heidegger's terms metaphysics is a bad thing. For Heidegger metaphysics is herding or grouping sense data into pre conceived categories. That's actually what reductionism is doing. Reductionism and naturalism are both metaphysics. He called metaphysical anv system that grouped sense data and distilled our understanding of being into preconceived categories and led us to ignore the true nature of being.

    There are two major thinker's whose views of metaphysics I go by. One is Heidegger the other is Bruce Wiltshire.He is a professes emeritus at Ruttger's University. He wrote a book called Metaphysics: An Introduction to Philosophy .15 He defines metaphysics as talk about talk about the world. That's tricky because one might think it's just "talk about the world." It's not talking about the world, it's talking about how to talk about the world. so metaphysics for him is a methodological procedure. What both of these views have in common is that they are about how to organize knowledge about the world. For me that's my idea of metaphysics how to organize knowledge, organizing it in a way that it's all put into preconceived categories. So the same reasons that make me dislike reductionism also make me dislike metaphysics (or that version of it). For me as with Heidegger the alternative is phenomenology, which means allowing the sense data to suggest their own categories. When one says "Metaphysics is no good it's just making things up," or "there's no God" or "science is the only form of knowledge" one is doing metaphysics.

    An example of metaphysics would be Tillich's ideas about the depth of being. Tillich's theological method, is a good example of metaphysical work that's almost scientific and offers more than just speculation. Depth of being is an example of metaphysics. Tillich equates knowing that being has depth with knowing that God is real. This will be the basis of the “realization” that is the end goal and object of my work in this regard. The development of an alternative to endless arguments that must be taken on faith before they prove anything is moving toward an understanding of realization as the alternative to argument:

    "The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not.".16

    This is not a literal one-to-one correspondence. When one concludes that being has depth one has not proved the existence of God in the sense that the ontological argument is supposed to do. This is not a priori truth. It is more than just a “rhetorical” statement. The statement is hermeneutical and ontological although not literal. The quotation itself tells us why he says that if we know being has depth we can’t be atheists. He equates depth of being with the source of being, the source of life, and he tells us that the term “God” means depth. Literally the word “God” does not mean “depth.” He’s saying that the concept of God in modern theology and in the Christian tradition has always been that God transcends the level of mere things in creation. Depth of being means that being is not just the fact of things existing, nor is it only a surface understanding of the causes of things around us. The depth of being is the big picture, the idea that being is more than what we observe empirically, it is the spiritual sense, depth is profundity. He actually uses the term “depth” in more than one sense; suffering as in depth of despair, profundity, as in “deep meaning,” and transcendence, beyond the surface level. He Also uses it in terms of the “ground” in depth psychology.]All of these uses are embodied in his essay..17 According to this statement, when we come to realize that there’s a lot more to being than just surface fact of existence, then we understand that God is real because at that point its futile resist the natural pull of God through religious experience. Thus God and the depth of being are equated. This is because God is not a big man in the sky, but rather, God is the power of being, that is to say the ground upon which all that is has come to be and in which it coheres and continues. In the last book I discussed the possibility that this is the power of mind to perceive or to think the universe. The connection between the possibilities of consciousness as the basis of reality and the philosophical questions raised by this notion, as well as others related to it, form the basis of a good place to start exploring the depth of being.

    In the previous book I discussed the hard problem of human consciousness.. 18 In the opening chapter I discussed philosophical questions at the epistemic level that science cannot answer. The fact that these questions cannot be answered by empirical research or observation is a good indication that there is a depth of being beyond the surface of things existing. This in and of itself proves that being has depth. The fact that we have these questions to ask, they mean something to most people, and we can answer them through science, which is to say, through empirical observation of the surface fact of existence or thing-hood, indicates that there is a depth there that can be probed through reason. I refur in large paet to religious experience, but also to arguents The point is that in understanding the depth of being one is forced to confront the realization of the reality of God. Since my overall point is to produce a theology of the realization toward a new apologetic, these “focal points,” are like stepping stones that lead us down the path to realization.

    In his essay The Shaking of the Foundations, Tillich discusses depth of being. At this point, however, I will depart from Tillich’s organizational scheme but not from his basic thought and intent. There are what I like to call “deep structures” in reality that can be observed, or teased out. These deep structures can be organized into ideas that might serve to illustrate the point of depth of being, or might even serve the function of arguments either for the reality of God or for the rational nature of belief. This is what I call the “focal points,” or a term of my invention I also like, “signifiers of depth.” The signifiers of depth highlight the deep structures. These consist of Tillich’s ontological categories. These categories are empirically derived forms of speaking. Because they are ontological, considered with the nature of being, they are in everything, not limited to religion. We (humans in general) make our world out of the categories, which determines the content. That is to say the world of our constructs, the world in our minds that consists of what we understand and how we understand it (Lebenswelt—life world. The cause of the big bang is not part of this world because we don’t understand it or observe it. The attitudes we perceive in others may be mysterious or they may be understood wrongly or rightly but what we perceive about them is part of the world of our constructs because we perceive and it registers upon our understanding in some way. It is out of this amalgam of understood constructs that the categories are forged. This is all empirically deduced by . 19 The categories do not include the unconditioned (God) because it transcends our understanding. But we have ideas about God that are derived from experiences and teachings and these are part of the categories, but they are not the unconditioned, they are not the reality of God they are perception of God.

    The categories are:

    Being and non being,..20

    The forms of finitude:

    *time: central to finitude because it limits being

    *space: to be special is to be limited by the possibility of non being

    *causality: determinate of being enables symbol and logical interpretation

    *substance: the nature or mode of being

    When Tillich gets even more specific forms of finitude include at some point self and the world. Much was said about self and the world in chapter 3.. 21 Tillich teases out problems of insecurity relating to each category:

    *temporal (finitude) = we die.

    *spatial = limitation of space (another form of finitude) remind us that we are limited in duration and in reach.

    *causality = remind us of being and non being

    *substance = we limited to accidents of being;

    Some of these categories produce anxiety at the prospect of non being (death). This is where Tillich plugs in the object of ultimate concern. The fact that we have an ultimate concern and that we can be bothered by the prospect of our finitude and cessation of being points to the deep structures of reality; it shows us that there’s more there than just the fact of existence, there’s the fact of cessation of existence and that it bothers us. Some may try to deny that they have an ultimate concern or that they care about death. Even if one doesn’t feel the ultimate concern it’s logically there, and all one need do is to read the literature of the world to know that for most of humanity death is the ultimate concern. Some might be inclined to say this is all just speculation and can’t be proved. Actually there is no reason to doubt any of this so far. We can deduce all of this; Tillich says it’s empirical, from the universally expressed observations and aspirations of humanity. These idea is, there is time, there is space, there is ultimate concern, time and space are forms of finitude and they remind us we are going to die, this is hardly arcane metaphysics or the ravings of a mad man. These are things most great writers throughout human history have said in one way or anther (from the book of Job to farewell to arms, or Sarte's Roads to Freedom Trilogy).. The relationship of duration to finitude is deductive and hardly brain surgery. From these categories, that are more or less universally understood, we derive equally basic epistemological questions. These basic epistemological questions are indicative of the meaning and nature of being; they are born out of the way our insecurities about our own being strike us. We are caused to reflect upon what we know and how we know it. The fact that we are caused to reflect upon such basic aspects is indicative of deep structures in being; since being is more than just a surface inventory of things that exist, but must be understood in relation to how we know what we know, there is reason enough to consider that being has depth. These questions may sound silly to the uninitiated in philosophy, but they have a serious

    in being asked. This has already been presented in my previous work. Questions such as “why is there something rather than nothing?” “Why am I here?” “What is life about?” The very fact of these questions, are important, and that they are asked seriously and at times with great longing indicates to us the depth of being and our ultimate concern..

    these numbers follow the chapter in book I'm writing,that's why this set starts with 15.

    15 Bruce Wiltshire, Metaphysics: an Introduction. Indianapolis, Indiana:Bobbs-Merrill Co (June 1969), introduction.

    16 Paul Tillich, Shaking of the foundations: Op cit,(2015) (chapter three) 52.

    17 Tillich, IbId., 52-53.

    18 my own unpublished source. You have not missed it, it's not published. This article is from a source in que. But read my blog enoufh and you will get the idea:

    limits of science in the search for god, part 1.
    part 2
    Notes 19Paul Tillich. Systematic Theology, Vol.I.: University Of Chicago Press ( 1973), 197

    20 Ibid., Tillich actually lays out these categories in systematic I., 197-200

    21 Ibid.