Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Can you be trusted to know your own experiences?

Dr.Ralf Hood,

The Mysticism scale (aka "M scale") invented by Dr Ralph Hood (Psychology, U Tenn. Chattanooga) is a questionnaire designed to distinguish between mystical experience and other kinds of experiences. Having identified the experience it can then be studied more scientifically. This figures promenantly in my argumemts about the existence of God, although I never claimed it as direct proof.The artist known as "I'm Sceptocal" (aka "Skepie") tries to argue against the M scale in many ways but seems to have an aversion to actually reading Hood. This post is in answer to comments he made on a post below.*

m-skeptical said...
So let's take a look at this. What does it tell us?

The first thing to note is that confirming the three-factor structure simply means that the factors chosen by Hood are correlated with the self-reported aspects of a psychological phenomenon that you call the "mystical experience".

I seem to detect an implication there that mystical experience is not real and the research can;t be trusted because it involves the respondents own ideas."self reported" I detect a tinge of shamein that phrase. But real social scientists (of which Hood is one) do not see it that way. Interviewing subjects is a major part of social science research.

Interviewing is a method of qualitative research (used by sociologists and other social scientists) in which the researcher asks open-ended questions orally. This research method is useful for collecting data that reveal the values, perspectives, experiences and worldviews of the population under study.Aug 15, 2019[1]
see Other documentation about the validity of interviews [2]

But that says less about the intrinsic nature of that phenomenon than about how the phenomenon is perceived by the subjects. OK, so there are commonalities in what some people think about the experience they had, and Hood has identified some of those.

There it is almost in the open, people can't be trusted to know what their experiences mean,"that says less about the intrinsic nature of that phenomenon than about how the phenomenon is perceived by the subjects." There is the "intrinsic nature of the phenomenon," and the experiences people have of it, which of course can't be trusted. Except  that in this case the phenomenon in question is the experiences  people have of the divine. So the whole point is what is experienced. But according to Skepie that's just misleading we don't need to know it.

The second thing I see is that there is some cultural difference noted in this study. Iranian Muslims apparently don't correlate as strongly on the phenomenology factors.

That's not what the source said. He's not quoting Hood, he's quoting a source I quoted becasue it says the M scale is validated. He implies it's not because there's a difference in answers between one population and another but he neglects to document the nature of that difference he asserts its about his argument,

A second study confirmed the presence of these three factors in not only another group of Americans (N = 188), but also in a sample of Iranian Muslims (N = 185). Relationships of the introvertive and extrovertive factors with the interpretation factor were essentially identical across these two cultures, but the Americans displayed a stronger association between the two phenomenology factors.[3]
Ioe(1) They are not talking about Hood's study but their own study:Wiley.

(2) They [Wiley] said as i just quoted Hood is validated,Less so with Iranians (maybe, it doesn't say that) but that does not mean Hood is invalidated even among Iranians. In the Trace I show that he is validated in every country where the M scale has been used. Including Iran.

(3)In the Trace of God I wrote a great deal about Hood's methodology and I documented that his work has been validated in every country in which it has been studied including Iran.[4] Sweden.India,Japan.Versions of the M scale exist for Hindu's. Mulsems. Bhuddists and secular.

The third thing is that this study is far from being comprehensive. It covers (mostly) religious people from two different cultures. It might be worthwhile to obtain a broader sampling of different cultures and religious backgrounds, including atheists.

U just dealt with that. It's used all over the world; But Just because Wiley's study is not international does not  make it noncompressive.

It could be the case that Hood's factors hold up more within certain religious/cultural groups than others. And if that's true, then that certainly amplifies the concern that we are talking more about people's subjective perceptions rather than the intrinsic aspects of the phenomenon.

Nothing you have quoted said anything about Hood's view failing. They [Wiley] weren't even talking about Hood's study but their own. They did not say no correlation in Iran, they said "less so
that does not mean none. I present evidence in the Trace... that shows Hood validated n India, Jpan, Iran and other countries.see fn 4

You can copy an abstract without knowing what its significance is. It doesn't make your case to simply say "I have a study to support my thesis" if you can't examine that study with a scientific eye and understand what it tells you and what it doesn't.

I wrote a book 354 pages, examoned 200 stidies. wrpte extensivelly of thier methodology andused social sience research methds gleaned froma compeltedd maor in sociology.But that is not what you mean by scoentific. You mean dogmaticly rejectivimg regardlesss of the data because it challenges your ideology, For you science = ideology

I have a book full of studies that you refuse to even look at.Quoting abstracts is  invalid practice. You keep ignoring the fact that it says It validates Hood. It does not say Iranians contract hood's theory, You want to male ;ole my quoting the abstracts slipshod but you quote nothing..


*"Mystical Experience More than Gut Feeling" 40 Comments - Show Original Post Collapse comments

[1] "why do social sciemtists use interviews?"

Interviewing is a method of qualitative research (used by sociologists and other social scientists) in which the researcher asks open-ended questions orally. This research method is useful for collecting data that reveal the values, perspectives, experiences and worldviews of the population under study.Aug 15, 2019

[2]Zubin Austin "Qualitative Research: Getting Started," Nayional Library of Medicine

Qualitative research involves asking participants about their experiences of things that happen in their lives. It enables researchers to obtain insights into what it feels like to be another person and to understand the world as another experiences it.

Qualitative research was historically employed in fields such as sociology, history, and anthropology.2 Miles and Huberman2 said that qualitative data “are a source of well-grounded, rich descriptions and explanations of processes in identifiable local contexts. With qualitative data one can preserve chronological flow, see precisely which events lead to which consequences, and derive fruitful explanations.” Qualitative methods are concerned with how human behaviour can be explained, within the framework of the social structures in which that behaviour takes place.3 So, in the context of health care, and hospital pharmacy in particular, researchers can, for example, explore how patients feel about their care, about their medicines, or indeed about “being a patient”.
[3]Wiley,Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 691-705 (15 pages) Published By:

[4] Joseph Hinman,The Trace of God: Ratinal Warrant for Belief. Colorado Sprigs: Grand Viaduct. 2014.168.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

My Second Book Ready for Publication

The book God,Science and Ideology, by Joseph Hinman. I argue that atheists and skeptics who use science as a barrier to belief in God are not basing doubt on science itself but upon an ideology that adhere's to science in certain instnces. This ideology, "scietism," assumes that science is the only valid form of knowlege and rules out religious blief. Science is neutral with repect to beleif in God.

While he [Hinman] is professedly theistic, the work exudes care and some respect for the various perspectives. Its sheer breadth and depth of scholarship and capacity in articulating it attests the generally due respect of the many sides, which often exhibit the rational and irrational in one commentator. The central theme, which ties the various sub-arguments together, is that ideologies outside of the sciences themselves are informing science-based, evidential arguments about divine existence. Many sides of the debate, including the monotheistic, are equally guilty. Hinman’s ideology-scorning approach, in the end, exerts notable force and a new voice in the controversy. His book has brought together many positions in the debate. Hinman’s most persistent targets are the contemporary theories maintaining that a divine’s existence can be decided solely by scientific theories. Most thinkers, except possibly extreme agnostics, seem to harbor ideologies. Perhaps ideologies have their place somewhere in the life of the mind. That caveat, and whatever place ideologies may hold, are not the point here. Rather, it is that too many researchers in this area either do not admit their own ideology or deny its importance to the discussion of divine existence. Hinman details how many a contribution to the discussion is steeped in ideology, without their authors’ acknowledging—or even seeing—it. Only by bringing these ideologies explicitly into the discussion can it gain significant traction to get the discussion out of the mud.[1]

It should be out June 16th.

[1] Philosophy in Review Vol. 42 no. 2 (May 2022)

The Empirical Study of Mystical Experience (2) : Brain Structure Objection

The major objection to the universality argument stems from a vast movement that has arisen just since the turn of the century, the rapidly expanding field of Neuro-theology (or Cognative Science of Religion):

In recent years a number of books have been published in the United States which argue that religious experiences and activities can be measured as neural activity in the brain...these theories purport to explain why there are common patterns of religious behavior and experience across culture which are observable in the field of comparative religion..Most such theories assert that as our understanding the brains activities develop through exploration of its underlying structures and mechanisms so the origin of religious experiences and ritual behavior will be revealed...These theorioes purport to explain why there are common paterns of religious behaviors and experience across cultures.[1]

R. Joseph states, “that The brain underlies all experience of living human beings is an absolute statement It subsumes all religious phenomena and all mystical experiences including hyper lucid visionary experiences, trance states, contemplating God and the experience of unitary absorption.”[2] Since religious experience is linked to brain chemistry it must be the result of brain chemistry, thus there’s no reason to assume it’s indicative of any sort of supernatural causation. This view has become standard in the scientific community. Tiger and McGuire state:

Religion as a process generates remarkable action, countless events, numberless provocative artifacts. Yet what factual phenomenon except perhaps slips of ancient holy paper underlies and animates one of the most influential and durable of human endeavors? We've an answer. Shivers in the moist tissue of the brain confect cathedrals our proposal is that all religions differ but all share two destinies: they are the product of the human brain. They endure because of the strong influence of the product of the human brain. The brain is a sturdy organ ith common characteristics everywhere. A neurosurgeon can work confidently on a vatican patient and another in mecca. Same tissue, same mechinisms. One such mechinnism is a readiness to generate religions.[3]

Skeptics argue that the experiences have a commonality because they are all produced by human brain structure. In other words the names from the various religions are the constructs but the experiences that unite the subjects and that transcend the individual cultural filters are the same because they are products of a shared structure that of the human brain. Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser state the argument:

Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.[4]

In other words, the discussion about origins of religion there are two genetic choices, a specific gene, or spandrels. The weight of the evidence, according to Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, leans toward the latter (spandrels: pre-existing cognitive functions based upon combined genetic functions from other areas). The deeper level of complexity comes with the finding that religion evolved from spandrels and yet it is still subject to adaptation manifesting in a system for cooperation (religion). What their findings really suggest is that moral motions are more basic than religious doctrine and that moral decision making transcends social structure or organization. Religion is perpetuated because its conducive to cooperation but there is an underlying sense or moral motion that's tied to the specific religious affiliation. Moral reasoning is not the same as mystical experience. Religious experience is a passive apprehension and moral decision making is an active use of deductive reasoning. Moreover, in finding religion is not original adaptation they are really negating the brain structure argument for uniformity of religious experiences. Their findings show that moral decisions transcended the religious background, thus the religious symbols, ideas, and presumably experiences are not reducible to moral motions since the latter transcends the former.[5] If religious experiences are of the same nature because of the state of human brain structure we should expect to find a conformation between moral motions religious experience. Frederick Schleiermacher argued that religion is more than just enhanced ethical thinking.[6] This has led to the widely accepted theory of the religious a priori. Religion is understood as it's own discipline separate from ethics. The a priori is seen as a “special for of awareness which exists alongside the cognitive, moral and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them.” [7]

As an argument about the origin of religion, the genetic aspects would only be the proximate cause. It doesn't rule out a distal cause in the divine. Andrew Newberg, one of the pioneers in researching neural activity of religious experience and God talk tells us that none of the research disproves God, nor could it:

…Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.[8]

Just being connected to brain chemistry is not enough to disprove the universal experience argument.

The problem with the brain structure argument is that even though we all have human brain structure we don’t all have the same kinds of experiences. We can’t assume that universal experiences come from brain structure alone. First, not everyone has mystical experience. Even though the incidence rates are high they are not 100%. We all have human brain structure but not all have these experiences. Secondly, even among those who do there are varying degrees of the experience. William James saw it as a continuum and Robert Wuthnow, one of the early researchers who did a modern scientific study on the phenomenon also theorized that there is a continuum upon which degree of experience varies.[9] If the brain structure argument was true then we should expect to always have the same experience; we should have the same culture. We have differing experiences and even our perceptions of the same phenomena vary. Yet the experience of mystical phenomena is not identical since it is filtered through cultural constructs and translated into the doctrinal understanding of traditions that the experiencers identify as their own.

The brain Structure argument is based upon the same premises reductionists take to the topic of consciousness and brain/mind. They assume that any subjective experience is ultimately the result of brain chemistry. There really is no reason to assume this other than the fact that brain chemistry plays a role in our perceptions. There’s no basis for the assumption that any mental phenomena must originate in brain chemistry alone. In those arguments a sense usually emerges that any involvement with the natural cancels the supernatural. I suggest that this is the ersatz version of supernature. The alien realm, juxtaposed to the natural realm and brought in as a counter to naturalism, this is the false concept of Supernatural that Eugene R, Fairweather spoke about.[10] The original concept of supernature is that of the ground and end of the natural. Thus it would be involved with nature. The ground/end of nature is the ontology of supernature and pragmatic working out of the phenomenon would be the power of God to lift human nature to a higher level, as discussed by Fairweather and aslo Mathias Joseph Scheeben.[11]] How can human nature be elevated without supernature being involved with the realm of nature? Thus, if it is true that bonafide experiences of God are mediated by brain chemistry, then the fact that supernature works through evolutionary processes and physiological realities such as brain chemistry is hardly surprising.

Some studies have explored questions about brain function and the texture or mechanics of mystical experience. Van Elk et al explore the hypothesis that the sensation of supernatural presence is an adaptation from the need to over-detect presences of predictors in the jungle. There findings did not coroborate that hypothesis. He does makes the statement that it otherwise lacks empirical proof.[12] In other words if one sets out on a jungle trail, and there is darkness, sensing a predictor and turning back from the trek would be helpful. If the sensation was wrong and there was no predictor the mistake of being wrong would be less grave than that of being right but ignoring the sense. Thus, the sensation of presence is selected for. This might be used by a skeptic to answer the argument from mystical experience. Elk has five experiments that that seek to explore weather processing concepts about supernatural agents enhances detection in the environment.

Participants were presented with point light stimuli representing kinds of biological motion, or with pictures of faces embedded in a noise mask. Participants were asked to indicate if the stimuli represented a human agent or not. In each case they used three “primes,” one for supernatural, one ofr human, one for animal. They found that supernatural primes facilitated better agent detection.[13] So the argument is that the perceived presence of agents in threatening situations and tendencies to anthropomorphizing leads stronger belief in ghosts, demons, angels, gods and other “supernatural” agency.[14] They point to a body of work consisting of several studies showing that particular paranormal beliefs are a reliable predictor of illusory perceptions of faces and agency detection. These studies include Willard and Norenzayan (2013), Reikki et. al. (2013), and Petrican and Burris (2012).[15] “although these studies provide tentative support for the relation between agency detection and supernatural beliefs, the notion that reigious beliefs are a byproduct of perceptual biases to detect patterns and agency has been challenge by several authors...” (Bulbulia, 2004, Lisdorf 2007, and McKay and Efferson, 2010).[16]

While it may be true that some aspects of mystical experience are genetically related, and may be related to agent detection, that is no proof that mystical experience originates wholly within a naturalistic and genetic framework. First, because these studies only demonstrate a correlation between supernatural beliefs and agency detection. There is no attempt to establish the direction of a causal relationship. If there is a connection between supernatural and agent detection it could as easily be that awareness of supernatural concepts makes one more sensitive to agent detection. Secondly, of course just being genetically related doesn't reduce the phenomenon wholly to genetic endowments. Thirdly, there is a lot more to mystical experience than agent detection. Both involve sensing a presence beyond that point the differences are immense. I am not even sure that facial recognition and sensing a predator are similar enough to count for anything. In sensing being observed one is not usually aware of visual ques as one would be in facial recognition. There's no guarantee that the quality of the sensing is the same. Feeling the divine presence is much more august and involves levels and textures. Such an experience is, overall, positive, life changing, transformational (even noetic) but merely feeling one is being observed could be creepy, negative, or even trivial. The vast differences can be spelled out in the tiebreakers I discuss in The Trace of God.

[1] George D. Chryssides and Ron Geives, The Study of Religion an Introduction to key ideas and methods. London, New Deli, New york: Bloomsbury, 2nd ed. 2007, 59-60. Chryssides is a research fellow with the University of Birmingham. He has an MA in Philosophy and D Phil in systematic theology from University of Glasgow. Among the books he mentions as examples of the trend are Why God Wont Go Away, by E. Aquili andAndrew Newberg(1999) , and Nuero-Theology by R. Joseph (2003)

[2] R. Joseph, Nuero-Theology:Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience. University Pr; 2nd edition (May 15, 2003) 22.

[3]Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire, God's Brain, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2010. 11. [4] Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, "The Origins of Religion: Evolved Adaption or by Product." Science Direct: Trends in Cognitive Science, Volume 14, Issue 3, (March 2010), 104-109.

[5]Ibid,. 105=106.

[6]Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason, Hugh S. Pyper. The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought:Intellectual, Spiritual and Moral Horizons of Christianity, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000, 483

In the Trace of God I do two chapters defending Schleiermacher's notion and the religious a priori against reductionist based attacks by philosopher yne Proudfoot. (Hinman, Trace...op. Cit., 179-241).

[7]David Pailin, “The Religious a priori,” Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, Alan Richardson and John Bowden, ed.,1983, 498.

[8]Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 37. [9]Robert Wuthnow, “Peak Experieces, Some Empirical Tests,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 183 (1978) 61-62.

[10]Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” in New Theology no.1. New York: Macmillian, Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman ed. 1964. 235-256

[11]Mathias Joseph Scheeben in Fairweather, Ibid.

[12]Michiel Elk, Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Joop van der Pligt,& Frenk van Harrveled (2016) Priming of Supernatural agent concepts and agency detection, Religion, Brain and Behavior, 6:1, 4-33, DOL: 10.1080/2153599X.2014.93344

[13]Ibid., 4

[14]Ibid., 5.

[15]Ibid., 5. A.K. Willard and A. Norenzayan, “Cognative Biases Explain Religious Belief and belief in life's purpose,” Cognition 129 (2013), 379-391. T. Reikki, M.Litterman, et. al. “Paranormal and religious believers are more prone to illusary face perception than skeptics and none believers.” applied cognitive psychology 27 (2013) 150-155, and R. Petrican and C.T. Burris, “Am I a Stone? Over attribution of agency and Religious Orientation,” Religion and Spirituality 4 (2012), 312-323.

[16]Ibid., 6. J. Bulbulia, “The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion,” Biology and Philosophy 19, (2004) 655-686, A. Lisdorf, “What's HIDD'n in the HADD,” Journal of Cognition and Culture 7, (2007), 341-353, and R. McKay and C. Efferson, “Subtitles of Error Management,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 31 (5)(2010) 309-319.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Mystical Experience More than Gut Feeling

I've been doing apologetics on the net since 1998. In that time I have noticed that many if not most atheists think of religious experience as "gut feeling." Of course they think of gut feelings as totally unreliable. There is evidence that gut instincts are not entirely unreliable.

For the first time, researchers devised a technique to measure intuition. After using this method, they found evidence that people can use their intuition to make faster, more accurate and more confident decisions, according to the findings, published online in April in the journal Psychological Science. The study shows that intuition does, indeed, exist and that researchers can measure it, said Joel Pearson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales in Australia and the lead author of the study.[1]

In another study:

"For the participants who had been asked to use their intuition, however, expertise made a huge difference – vastly increasing the accuracy of their gut reactions. Indeed, the experts using their intuitions were about 20% more accurate than those using analysis alone."[2] Still further research indicates:"Intuition alone can guide the right choice."[3] I am sure those studies will be attacked, but that's not what I want to talk about.

Religious experience (RE) is not merely a gut feeling.Religious experience is a broad term that refers to a range of experience; "mystical" is a subset of that category. "mystical" experience is not a synonym for all religious experience but is a particle kind of experience.Mystical expeience is to religious experience in general as empirical observation is to observation. It is the ultimate, the most accurate and the most advanced. Not everyone has it (although I am of the opinion that everyone can have it).

I do not pretend that what I am about to discuss exhausts the field of RE. I will speak of a few aspects only those I have experienced myself. The aspects I will discuss are:

(1) Presence

(2) still small voice

(3) Mystical experience.

The feeling of God's presence is one of the first experiences I had that changed my outlook from naturalism to supernaturalism. Its just a sense that someone is there, not unlike the feeling of being watched when one is alone. That describes the sensation; it does not link the two as produced by the same cause. I first experienced this the night I had my born again experience.I had just prayed and asked God to let me know him and dedicated y life to hi. Suddenly I began to feel a strong sense thatI wasn't alone in the room, The person with me loved me. This feeling has continued whenever I pray. That was Easter, 1979.

That is quite different from merely a gut feeling. The sense of presence is not gut. It's more like all over. The feeling of being watched is not a gut feeling. I'm drawing an analogy. I'm not saying the sense of God's presence is related to the feeling of being watched. That sense of presence is clean, loving and holy. It pervades with a sense of holiness that can fall over a room. In my experience one must grow into a sense of apprehending this phenonenon.

I also equote the presence with certain physical sensations that I've experienced since the beginning. One Of them is burning palms. The palms of my hands would get very hot asI prayed and praised God. I talked with others about this it's  quite a common experience among Charismatics and pentecostals. I had a friend whose palms burned so hot could not hold hands with her in prayers, Once she was cut while making dinner we prayed for her. I placed my handover hers the back of her hand to pray andI felt head coming up from the palm to the top of the andand through the bandage. Another aspect was magnetic lie force whenI prayed,it pulled my arms up. That is why I began raising hands when I pray.

Of these three experiences the still small voice is closest to being a gut feeling. It is not an audible voice but more like the effect of being spoken to. Not to say hearing words but just knowing a thing is right or true. It's still and small because it's subtle.

Mystical experience is too complex to go into deeply. I wrote a whole book about it.[4] Essentially there are two kinds of Mystical experience, imtorvertove and extrovertive. Mystical experience is the experience of God beyond word, thought or image. Extrovertive can be described images to soeextet because it involves a sense of God providing the natural world.

What makes an experience mystical?:

a. a sense of getting a look behind the scenes at the meaning of life.

b. a sense of the undifferentiated unity of all things

c. a sense of all pervasive love of God or the divine.

d. extrovertive is keyed through nature, a sense of the unity of all nature is key. Iterovertove cannot be described as the basic idea of mystical s that the experience is beyond words.

I had a powerful experience while praying in the foothills of the Sandia mountains outside Albuquerque New Mexico. I sensed the presence of God everywhere and in all things. God was radiating from the rocks and dirt, the mountain, the scrub brush,sticks on the ground. Then I felt as if a door opened in the sky and Jesus came,I knew it was Jesus there though I saw nothing. Then I was being taken up into space and I felt I understood all things. Life seemed beautiful and miraculous and like a gift of God.Then I had to sleep. it was all strung together by a great unity of God's presence. That was an extrovertive mystical experience.

Transformative effects

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

also see [5]

Sources and Notes

[1]Cari Nierenberg,"The Science of Intuition: How to Measure 'Hunches' and 'Gut Feelings,'" Live Science(May 20, 2016),accessed 6/7/22.

[2]David Robson, "Intuition: When is it right to trust your gut instincts?" BBC Worklife (4th April 2022), accessed 6/7/22.

[3]Staff "Going with your gut feeling: Intuition alone can guide right choice, study suggests"Science Daily(November 8, 2012), accessed 6/7/22.

[4] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God:Rational Warrant for Belief. Grand Viaduct Publishing, Colorado Springs, 2014.

[5]Joseph Hinman."The Empirical Study of Mystical Experience (2) : Brain Structure Objection" The Religious A priori 2010., accessed 6/7/22.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

HADD Turnaround: It's evidence of God

Anders Lisdorf "Evolutionary Psychology attributes the origins of religion to something they call the hyperactive agency detection device" (HADD).'s_HIDD'n_in_the_HADD

The consensus in the cognitive science of religion is that some sort of hyperactive agency detection in the human mind is responsible for the origin and spread of beliefs in superhuman agents such as gods, spirits and ancestors among human populations. While it is expressed differently in different authors, they all agree that hyperactive agency detection is a basic function of human cognition. Most well known perhaps is the formulation of this by Justin Barrett as the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device or HADD. Problems, however, arise when we begin to consider the neural basis of this: It doesn't add up, or more precisely the HADD does not work that way. Like the magician pulling rabbits from the hat this explanation may be a "self"-conjuring trick, only for us the hat is a HADD and the rabbits are superhuman agents (no reference to were-rabbits intended). This paper will try to point to a more parsimonious explanation[1]
Elizabeth Palermo tells us:

"HADD is the mechanism that

lets humans perceive that many things have 'agency,' or the ability to act of their own accord. This understanding of how the world worked facilitated the rapid decision-making process that humans had to go through when they heard a rustling in the grass. (Lions act of their own accord. Better run.)"[2]

HADD is seen by many in evolutionary psychology as the origin of religion. Religious ideas emerged as a side effect. Humans began to extrapolate to attribute agency to things that don't have agency such as the wind perhaps.[3] Then of course they went on too attribute meaning to the "actions" of supposed agents such as wind and rain.[4] This reduces religion to a naturalistic origin and is being touted by some atheists as a good probabilistic disproof of God.[5] "When debunkers of religious belief appeal to hyperactive agency detection, they are already assuming that the agent that is being detected (e.g., God) is of the false-positive kind, the sound in the dark room. But I don't see how they can assume this in a non-question begging sense.”[6]

Anthropomorphism, operationalized as the tendency to project human-like attributes to non-human entities, was not related to belief in God in our model. In our adult sample, it was not related to belief in God even in a zero-order correlation. This may be surprising given theories that argue that anthropomorphism and hyperactive agency detection are an underlying feature of all supernatural belief (Barrett, 2000, 2004, 2008; Guthrie, 1993, 1996)[7]
Anders Lisdorf finds that HADD doesn't work according to what we know about the adaptive process:

supplying  an  evolutionary  explanation about how a stipulated cognitive function would have been adaptive is some-times detrimental to understanding the phenomenon at hand. Because of the eagerness and easiness with which an adaptive function was supplied, reflection on the phenomenon. Further reflection and research into philoso-phy and neuroscience would have revealed the insuffi ciency of the argument, and led to what I have presented here. In short, we should be wary of supplying ultimate explanations  for phenomena whose proximate explanations are not sufficiently worked out.[8]
Helen De Cruz:finds the atheists are begging the question:

…sometimes agency detection does go awry, as when we hear wooden planks creak in an old house and form the belief that there's a burglar in the house. But many more times, we form the belief that there is an agent, when there actually is an agent (e.g., when you see someone walking across the street from you on a clear day. When debunkers of religious belief appeal to hyperactive agency detection, they are already assuming that the agent that is being detected (e.g., God) is of the false-positive kind, the sound in the dark room. But I don't see how they can assume this in a non-question begging sense.”[9]
Even if we assum, HADD is correct there i no way they can prove the phenomenon is not placed in us by God so we can intuate his presence. The atheist is merely begging the question. their circular reasoning says there is no God therefore any evidence for God must be false.Then they assert God can't effect nature things so any naturalistic effects must be just naturalistic in origin. Bit HADD is a natural God argument. What are the odds that this accident of the neural net would produce so powerful it leads to a mistake that 90% of humans swear by? Agency detection works well enough to get primitive humans out the jungle so to speak, why not assume it's there by design?

End Notes

[1]Anders Lisdorf,"Evolutionary Psychology attributes the origins of religion to something they call the hyperactive agency detection device" (HADD). Research Gate, (sept 2007)'s_HIDD'n_in_the_HADD

IT University of Copenhagen [2] Elizabeth Palermo,"The Origins of Religion: How Supernatural Beliefs Evolved." Live Science,(October 05, 2015)

[3] Ibid. [4] Clark quoted in Palermo (James Clark, a senior research fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.) [5]Helen De Cruz, “Thoughts on Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Against Religious Belief” (Sept 2012): Online.

[6] Ibid. [7] Aiyana K. Willard and Ara Norenzayan, "Cognitive biases explain religious belief, paranormal belief, and belief in life’s purpose," Cognition

no publication date given, Article history: Received 4 March 2013 Revised 25 July 2013 Accepted 27 July 2013.6.2

They site the orignal article: [Aiyana K. Willard, Ara Norenzayan “Cognitive biases explain religious belief, paranormal belief, and belief in life’s purpose.” Cognition 129 (2013): 379-391.] [8]Anders Lisdorf op cit 350 [9]Helen De Cruz op cit

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Answering J.L Schellenberg

 photo chess-with-death-ii-300x216_zps7ckqdhik.jpg
The Knight (Max Von Sydow) plays chess with death
Igmar Berman's The Seventh Seal (greatest
film evervmade).

published on religiou a priori

J.L. Schellenberg argues that the presence of non-resisting unbelievers disproves God.The basic concept is that if there are such non-resisting non-believers surly God would reveal himself to them because if God is all loving God would want a relationship with them. That they don't find God shows God is probably not there to show them.

So where can we go from there? Well, an argument can be developed for supposing that nonresistant nonbelief would not exist if there were a God. Let me set out the argument as clearly as possible, and then we can discuss its nature and its force.
  1. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God are in a position to participate in such relationships--i.e., able to do so just by trying to.
  2. No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists.
  3. If there is a perfectly loving God, all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists (from 1 and 2).
  4. It is not the case that all creatures capable of explicit and positively meaningful relationship with God who have not freely shut themselves off from God believe that God exists: there is nonresistant nonbelief; God is hidden.
  5. It is not the case that there is a perfectly loving God (from 3 and 4).
  6. If God exists, God is perfectly loving.
  7. It is not the case that God exists (from 5 and 6).[1]

He draws analogy to human relationships. After all what other means do we have to understand love but our relationships with those we love?
I am suggesting is that there is something remarkably odd about the idea that, supposing there really is a God whose love is unsurpassed perfect, such creatures should ever be unable to exercise their capacity for relationship with God--at least so long as they have not got themselves into that position through resisting the divine in the manner earlier indicated. What sense can we make of the idea that capable creatures should be open to relationship with a perfectly loving God, not resisting it at all, perhaps even longing for it, and yet not in a place where they can have such a relationship, if there really is a perfectly loving God? I suggest that if we look carefully at the matter, we will not be able to make any sense of that at all. A perfectly loving God--if those words mean anything--would, like the best human lover, ensure that meaningful contact with herself was always possible for those she loved.
Notice how our everyday use of the language of love pushes us in this direction. The perfectly loving mother or husband or brother or friend will see to it that nothing he or she does ever puts relationship out of reach for the loved one.

I have three basic arguments, but first I am going to grant that there are non resisting unbelievers. I don't really believe there are and I don't believe it can be proved. He has no crystal ball we cannot look upon the heart as God does. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Rationalizing what we do and our own nobility is one of the things Humans do best. Making such an argument is perhaps an act of resisting in and of itself. Yet I will grant for the sake of argument and take on the argument on it's own terms. Toward that end grant for argument sake there are non resisting unbelievers, I still have three responses:

(1) Human relationships are only analogy

Through our own experience  loving and being loved we have a notion of what love is. Yet we do not have a perfect notion, we have no example of perfect love save that of Christ dying on the cross. Humans do not love each other perfectly. Some times human love is standoffish we don't always act on our feelings for others. In that sense we might conclude  that God doesn't care, but that's only because we are comparing God's love to imperfect human love. The comparison of God's love to human love is only a metaphor anyway. There is no 1x1 correspondence to the effect that's God's agape should be perfectly analogous to human philos.

Human relationships are only analogous to God's love, all analogy has a"not-like" was well as a "like" dimension. Jesus himself provides the perfect role model for God's love. Using Jesus as the model God.s love is not always self explanatory. I'll deal with the issue of God's hidden presence in point three. But for now suffice to say God's love is not always obvious, that doesn't mean it is occulted or absent.

(2) Either the non resisting phase, or the non believing phase, may be temporary. 

Assuming that there are unresistant unbelievers, that does't mean they stay that way There can be times in a person's life when they are non resisting and open to God but don't find the signs stacking up in such a way that that they would find God.There will come a point at which they will either find God or begin to resist. Which to say they found God but for some reason don't want to find God. The factors in tracing that out would be enormously complex, they would different from case to case. Trying to pin down an exact profile of belief would be like profiling snowflakes. Because this argument does involve soteriological issues it takes us into point 3. But before going there I have to deal with one other issue.

The temporal answer is only a stopgap solution. The skeptic can still raise the point why doesn't God make his move, so to speak, in that short time when the unbeliever is open and not resisting? To say that the non believer begins resisting at that point is really a problem because that would indicate that he wasn't open after all. But to answer that we should have to know the complex variables that make for decision making in this area, we can't really know that. Given that caveat I think Jesus gave us a hint in the parable of the sower (Mark 4: 1-19).

The seed is the world and the type of soil or other problems that prevent the seed taking root represent things that can happen that might separate one from belief. Those include symbols for riches and cares of they world for example. None of these people are throwing away the seeds,so in that sense they are non resisters.  The seeds are taken by weeds, thrones, birds. The seeds are spread and fall where they may, then they are intercepted or negated in some way, now of course question arises why does God not prevent this? Surely if Love of God means anything he should get through to those who are not resisting him, even if the message is negated. I think he does, that is a theological issue and thus leads us to point three.

(3) God's love is not hidden but it is prehended

This point breaks down into three major issues all three of them theological. These are prhension,  salvation and theodicy, It's a theological issue because it draws upon core of theology proper, faith seeking understanding (in the classical model). The prehension issue deals with the nature of our understanding of God and it answers P2 in Shallenberg's argumemt: No one can be in a position to participate in such relationships without believing that God exists. That depends upon what relationship we are talking about. No one is going to be a great lion of God and not know it, One will not be Kierkegaard's knight of faith and not know it. One might be saved and not know it,one is being communicated to by 'God and most people don't  know it,. God is communicating through prehension: 

a. prehension

Through Whitehead's category of prehension, the nonsensory sympathetic perception of antecedent experiences, we are able to reduce several apparently very different types of relations to one fundamental type of relation. [It] explains not only memory and perception, . . . but also temporality, space, causality, enduring individuality (or substance), the mind-body relation, the subject-object relation in general, and the God-world relation. [2]
But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't kno why God seems to chose to make his presence known to some and not others But I accept that the basis of mystical experience is real,discernible, noetic and from God. I do think God is putting this out to everyone and some have a greater capacity for receiving it than others, In place of resisting God I find a lot of people want their own way, they want God to do it their way, to that extent they are not content with God's choices for them.That amounts to resisting while not resisting per se.
The experience of no one single witness is final the "the proof" but the fact that there are millions of witnesses who, in differing levels from the generally intuitive to the mystical, experience must the same thing in terms of general religious belief the argument is simply that God interacts on a human heart level, and the experiences of those who witness such interaction is strong evidence for that conclusion.

b. Salvation

If God is always speaking to us all why are we not all Christians? Because we are getting it at an instinctive or subliminal level and to understand it we have to formulate ideas based upon the impressions. Ideas have to be formed in language and thus they must be filtered through cultural constructs. That's why faiths appear so different. That's why they  reflect their cultures. Jesus was not a cultural construct he was a real guy with a history so he was the person he was and he was adapted to the culture of his day.

Christians believe that Jesus is necessary to salvation,I believe this. But it is not necessarily the case that one must know this to be saved. If one is saved it is Jesus who does the saving. it is not necessarily the case that only people who know this are saved. Since this is a theological issue we turn to the theology of St. Paul for an answer. On Mars Hill he told the Greek philosophers they knew God. He told them he came to proclaim to them what they already knew.
26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[3]
Of course we laugh at the primitive naivete of this statement.There is a deeper meaning under there, that God is interacting with people of all cultures and that different cultures are not boundaries for belief but that God is Interconnecting with each one. God is near to us all he's drawing us all. Are all saved? Paul indicates that all have the moral law written upon the heart and if we are true to that moral law we may be saved:

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a]To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.[4]
This is not an argument that one can cease seeking or that we don't need Jesus. Jesus is truth we should keep the whole truth, We don't need to feel that those not in the Christian club are necessarily going to t to hell. The good news is we can turn to Jesus and know God this is not negated by the bad news that 60% of the world is going to hell.[5]

c. theodisy 

But then why does the truth of God seem so not obvious? It's not hidden but it's  not conspicuous.If God wished to get everyone signed up he could hold a press conference the UN building and tell the world. Obviousness there is meant to be a level of seeking.

Let's assume that God's purpose in creation is to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good. Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated). Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices.  The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free will outweighs all other considerations, since without it there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama: No one would seek in the heart. If God was obvious in this way we would all give lip service to it and resent it. Only through searching that one internalizes the values of the search and thus loves having found. Jesus said "he who has been forgiven much loves much."

Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us. We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart. Therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

This explains why God is not obvious even though he's not exactly hidden. No one who is seeking and not resisting is turned out or condemned even if they don't wind up in the Christian club.

Schallenberg makes a big thing out of hidden evidence. But why would God hide evidence? He did not! It's there for anyone who is willing to experience it. Speaking of that my books shows you the extend of religious experience and how it changes your life, it;s obvious that the experience is there waiting to be experienced for those who seek,

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Order from Amazon 
Ground breaking research that boosts religious arguemnts for God to a much stronger level. It makes experience arguments some of the most formidable.Empirical scientific studies demonstrate belief in God is rational, good for you, not the result of emotional instability. Ready answer for anyone who claims that belief in God is psychologically bad for you. Order from Amazon 


[1] J.L. Schellenberg, "What Divine Hiddenness Reveals, or How Weak Theistic Evidence is Strong Atheistic Proof," The Secular Web  (2008) on line resource, URL:  acessed 6/20/16

[2] David Ray Griffin, "Charles Hartshorne," in David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Jr., Marcus P. Ford, Pete A. Y. Gunter, and Peter Ochs, Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 209. Griffin's writing in this book is quoted extensively in"Charles Hartshorne's Psychicalism".


[3] New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 byBiblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Read my essay "Why I don't beleive in Hell"

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Popper's Improbability Criterion

I made a post where I discussed my idea that I call the atheist fortress of facts.That means internet atheists

Me: Not Facts but Verisimilitude: in other words I am saying science does not give us a big pile of facts but an approximation of facts which functions as models of reality. That is what verisimilitude means. I guess Skepie doesn/t know that word. then he says:

- 'Science doesn't give us facts. It gives us models of reality. Those models are based on observed facts.'

I say: Unfortunately for our purposes we will only be able to skim the surface of Popper’s thoughts on the most crucial aspect of this theory of science, that science is not about proving things but about falsifying them.

Skepie says:

- Who ever told you that science was supposed to provide proof? [I didn't say it did i was criicizing atheists for thinking it does] Skep: "You didn't get that from Popper or Dawkins, or anyone who understands science. It's a misunderstanding on the part of people who expect certainty. Could that be religionists?"

That is a cute little tactic turnimgit around,Gotdy ehere does heget the stupid idea thatreigiom gve us certainty? "we walk by faith not by sight." Secondly, why would Bible believers seek certainty in science? Clearly we do not do the scientific fortress of fats. Of course he uses his highly insulting term for religious believers, equivalent of the n word. Just like a Dawkamentalist.


- I've talked to countless theists who don't share your understanding of God. But when I argue with you, the argument is about what you believe, not about the "old man with a white beard".

Of course I'm going to defend my views and not someone else's. Why is that no reasonable?

skep: There are plenty of atheists who have a scientific understanding. There are plenty of atheists who are scientists. And you're arguing against them. So why don't you gear your argument to what they believe?

so I should ignore the countless atheists who do the fortress of facts because there are some who don't? I don't see Skep making any effect to even know there are Christian thinkers who are serious intellectuals. He makes no effort to acknowledge that. If he encounters a major thinker such as Paul Tillich he must be ignorant he's a "religionist."

Skepie acts like no atheists does the FF but anytime proof for God comes up he takes the FF Line we have the pile of facts "religionists" have none.

Now out of the blue he asserts this Popper theory about probability in choosing theories, Here is a valid article that states the theory:

John C. Harsanyi [Popper's]"...methodological rule that out of several alternative hypotheses equally consistent with the empirical data, we should always accept the one possessing the lowest a priori probability (he uses the term logical probability),"[1]

Skep refers to  the article I just quoted  from:

 "... it is as Pix suggested. What he's talking about is the theory that makes the most precise predictions (which is equated with information content) - NOT the theory that is most likely to be true by some measure of probability that could be assigned by theists to their God arguments."

That's what I was wating for. He really had that in mind all along, that this is a disproof of God arguments. Even though Popper says explicitly  it's about choosing scientific theories, belief in God is NOT a scientific theory. Popper says it's among many theories where the data is equally strong.Of course he thinks Christians have no data (fortress of facts) so clearly does not apply to religious ideas.

He's so clever he turned the tables on himself. Hey I admit his views are more probable than mine, Now that means you should choose my view. read the theory.

In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd venture to guess that this article is your source of information about Popper. The wording is remarkably similar. But I think you miss the real point of what he's saying. There is one crucial thing Popper said that you left out of your discussion: "Thus, the statements which are of special interest to science are those with a high informative content and (consequentially) a low probability, which nevertheless come close to the truth. That last phrase says that the theory must survive scientific testing and verification. As the article goes on to say: "the severity of the test to which a theory can be subjected, and by means of which it is falsified or corroborated, is of fundamental importance."
I just got through pointing out it's about theories with equally strong data, which is the same as high information content. Of course his ego is always on the line so he has to denigrate my education. The only way he can feel good about himself is to put down others.Even if that article was the only thing I ever read about Popper he is still ignoring what it says. It says he;s using the theory wrongly.

I have to laugh because I quoted that article time and time again for several posts trying to get him to understand what's wrong with his use of the theory so he says I talk like the article so that's all I've read.

Here is the kicker. I begin Fortress part 2 (I will poston blog next week) thus:
Above we see that Dawkins, Stenger and company place their faith in the probability engineered by scientific facts. The problem is probability is not the basis upon which one chooses one theory over another, at least according to Popper. This insight forms the basis of this notion that science can give us verisimilitude not “facts.”
That shows me using the theory that Pix and Skep are touting,I wrote that about ten years ago I already read it and used and knew and forgot it. He didn't even understand what I said, He quoted it and used it to say I know nothing about Popper.

[1]John C. Harsanyi,"Popper's Improbability Criterion for the Choice of Scientific Hypotheses," Philosophy,Cambridge University Press, Vol. 35, No. 135 (Oct., 1960), pp. 332-340 (9 pages)' also available on Jstor with preview:

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Debunking the Atheist Fortress of Facts Part 2

Karl Popper

Originally posted on relkgious a priori

footnote numbers taken over from part 1.

Not Facts but Verisimilitude:

Karl Popper (1902-1994) is one of the most renewed and highly respected figures in the philosophy of science. Popper was from Vienna, of Jewish origin, maintained a youthful flirtation with Marxism, and left his native land due to the rise of Nazism in the late thirties. He is considered to be among the ranks of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. Popper is highly respected by scientists in a way that most philosophers of science are not.[15]

He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed ‘critical-rationalist’, a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism, conventionalism, and relativism in science and in human affairs generally, a committed advocate and staunch defender of the ‘Open Society’, and an implacable critic of totalitarianism in all of its forms. One of the many remarkable features of Popper's thought is the scope of his intellectual influence. In the modern technological and highly-specialised world scientists are rarely aware of the work of philosophers; it is virtually unprecedented to find them queuing up, as they have done in Popper's case, to testify to the enormously practical beneficial impact which that philosophical work has had upon their own. But notwithstanding the fact that he wrote on even the most technical matters with consummate clarity, the scope of Popper's work is such that it is commonplace by now to find that commentators tend to deal with the epistemological, scientific and social elements of his thought as if they were quite disparate and unconnected, and thus the fundamental unity of his philosophical vision and method has to a large degree been dissipated.[16]

Unfortunately for our purposes we will only be able to skim the surface of Popper’s thoughts on the most crucial aspect of this theory of science, that science is not about proving things but about falsifying them.

Above we see that Dawkins, Stenger and company place their faith in the probability engineered by scientific facts. The problem is probability is not the basis upon which one chooses one theory over another, at least according to Popper. This insight forms the basis of this notion that science can give us verisimilitude not “facts.” Popper never uses the phrase “fortress of facts,” we could add that, science is not a fortress of facts. Science is not giving us “truth,” its’ giving something in place of truth, “verisimilitude.” The term verisimilar means “having the appearance of truth, or probable.” Or it can also mean “depicting realism” as in art or literature.”[17] According to Popper in choosing between two theories one more probable than the other, if one is interested I the informative content of the theory, one should choose the less probable. This is paradoxical but the reason is that probability and informative content very inversely. The higher informative content of a theory is more predictive since the more information contained in a statement the greater the number of ways the statement will turn out to fail or be proved wrong. At that rate mystical experience should be the most scientific view point. If this dictum were applied to a choice between Stenger’s atheism and belief in God mystical God belief would be more predictive and have less likelihood of being wrong because it’s based upon not speaking much about what one experiences as truth. We will see latter that this is actually the case in terms of certain kinds of religious experiences. I am not really suggesting that the two can be compared. They are two different kinds of knowledge. Even though mystical experience per se can be falsified (which will be seen in subsequent chapters) belief in God over all can’t be. The real point is that arguing that God is less probable is not a scientifically valid approach.

Thus the statements which are of special interest to the scientist are those with a high informative content and (consequentially) a low probability, which nevertheless come close to the truth. Informative content, which is in inverse proportion to probability, is in direct proportion to testability. Consequently the severity of the test to which a theory can be subjected, and by means of which it is falsified or corroborated, is all-important.[18]

Scientific criticism of theories must be piecemeal. We can’t question every aspect of a theory at once. For this reason one must accept a certain amount of background knowledge. We can’t have absolute certainty. Science is not about absolute certainty, thus rather than speak of “truth” we speak of “verisimilitude.” No single observation can be taken to falsify a theory. There is always the possibility that the observation is mistaken, or that the assumed background knowledge is faulty.[19] Uneasy with speaking of “true” theories or ideas, or that a corroborated theory is “true,” Popper asserted that a falsified theory is known to be false. He was impressed by Tarski’s 1963 reformulation of the corresponded theory of truth. That is when Popper reformulated his way of speaking to frame the concept of “truth-likeness” or “verisimilitude,” according to Thronton.[20] I wont go into all the ramifications of verisimilitude, but Popper has an extensive theory to cover the notion. Popper’s notions of verisimilitude were critixized by thinkers in the 70’s such as Miller, Tichy’(grave over the y) and Grunbaum (umlaut over the first u) brought out problems with the concept. In an attempt to repair the theory Popper backed off claims to being able to access the numerical levels of verisimilitude between two theories.[21] The resolution of this problem has not diminished the admiration for Popper or his acceptance in the world of philosophy of science. Nor is the solution settled in the direction of acceptance for the fortress of facts. Science is not closer to the fact making business just because there are problems with verisimilitude.

Science doesn’t prove but Falsifies

The aspect of Popper’s theory for which he is best known is probably the idea of falsification. In 1959 He published the Logic of Scientific Discovery in which he rigorously and painstakingly demonstrated why science can’t prove but can only disprove, or falsify. Popper begins by observing that science uses inductive methods and thus is thought to be marked and defined by this approach. By the use of the inductive approach science moves from “particular statements,” such as the result of an experiment, to universal statements such as an hypothesis or theories. Yet, Popper observes, the fallacy of this kind of reasoning has always been known. Regardless of how many times we observe white swans “this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.”[22] He points out this is the problem of universal statements, which can’t be grounded in experience because experience is not universal, at least not human experience. One might observe this is also a problem of empirical observation. Some argue that we can know universal statements to be true by experience; this is only true if the experiences are universal as well. Such experience can only be a singular statement. This puts it in the same category with the original problem so it can’t do any better.[23] The only way to resolve the problem of induction, Popper argues, is to establish a principle of induction. Such a principle would be a statement by which we could put inductive inferences into logically acceptable form. He tells us that upholders of the need for such a principle would say that without science can’t provide truth or falsehood of its theories.[24]

The principle can’t be a purely logical statement such as tautology or a prori reasoning, if it could there would be no problem of induction. This means it must be a synthetic statement, empirically derived. Then he asked “how can we justify statement on rational grounds?” [25] After all he’s just demonstrated that an empirical statement can’t be the basis of a universal principle. Then to conclude that there must be a universal principle of logic that justifies induction knowing that it ahs to be an empirical statement, just opens up the problem again. He points out that Reichenbach[26] would point that such the principle of induction is accepted by all of science.[27] Against Reinchenback he sties Hume.[28] Popper glosses over Kant’s attempt at a prori justification of syetnic a priori statements.[29] In the end Popper disparages finding a solution and determines that induction is not the hallmark of science. Popper argues that truth alludes science since it’s only real ability is to produce probability. Probability and not truth is what science can produce. “…but scientific statements can only attain continuous degrees of probability whose unattainable upper and lower limits are truth and falsity’.”[30] He goes on to argue against probability as a measure of inductive logic.[31]Then he’s going to argue for an approach he calls “deductive method of testing.. In this case he argues that an hypothesis can only be empirically tested and only after it has been advanced.[32] What has been established so far is enough to destroy the fortress of facts of idea. The defeat of a principle of induction as a means of understanding truth is primary defeat for the idea that science is going about establishing a big pile of facts. What all of this is driving at of course is the idea that science is not so much the process of fact discovery as it is the process of elimination of bad idea taken as fact. Science doesn’t prove facts it disproves hypotheses.. Falsifying theories is the real business of science. It’s the comparison to theory in terms of what is left after falsification has been done that makes for a seeming ‘truth-likeness,’ or verisimilitude. Falsification is a branch of what Popper calls “Demarcation.” This issue refers to the domain or the territory of the scientists work. Induction does not mark out the proper demarcation. The criticism he is answering in discussing demarcation is that removing induction removes for science it’s most important distinction from metaphysical speculation. He states that this is precisely his reason for rejecting induction because “it does not provide a suitable distinguishing mark of the empirical non metaphysical character of a theoretical system,”[33] this is what he calls “demarcation.”

[34] Popper writes with reference to positivistic philosophers as the sort of umpires of scientific mythology. He was a philosopher and the project of the positivists was to “clear away the clutter” (in the words of A.J. Ayer) for science so it could get on with it’s work. Positivistic philosophers were the janitors of science. Positivists had developed the credo that “meaningful statements” (statements of empirical science) must be statements that are “fully decided.” That is to say, they had to be both falsifiable and verifiable. The requirement for verifiable is really a requirement similar to the notion of proving facts, or truth. Verifiability is not the same thing as facticiy or proof it’s easy to see how psychologically it reinforces th sense that science is about proving things. He quotes several positivists in reinforcing this idea: Thus Schlick says: “. . . a genuine statement must be capable of conclusive verification” Waismann says, “If there is no possible way to determine whether a statement is true then that statement has no meaning whatsoever. For the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification.” [34] Yet Popper disagrees with them. He writes that there is no such thing as induction. He discusses particular statements which are verified by experience just opens up the same issues he launched in the beginning one cannot derive universal statements from experience. Therefore, theories are never theories are never empirically verifiable. He argues that the only way to deal with the demarcation problem is to admit statements that are not empirically verified."[35]

But I shall certainly admit a system as empirical or scientific only if it is capable of being tested by experience. These considerations suggest that not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation. In other words: I shall not require of a Scientific system that it shall be capable of being singled out, once and for all, in a positive sense; but I shall require that its logical form shall be such that it can be singled out, by means of empirical tests, in a negative sense: it must be possible for an empirical scientific system to be refuted by experience.

What this means in relation to the “fortress of facts” idea is that it transgresses upon the domain of science. Compiling a fortress of facts is beyond the scope of science and also denudes science of it’s domain.

He deals with the objection that science is supposed to give us positive knowledge and to reduce it to a system of falsification only negates its major purpose. He deals with this by saying this criticism carries little weight since the amount of positive information is greater the more likely it is to clash. The reason being laws of nature get more done the more they act as a limit on possibility, in other words, he puts it, “not for nothing do we call the laws of nature laws. They more they prohibit the more they say.”[37]

see also my note on Popper's Improbability Criterion


[15] Steven Thornton, “Karl Popper,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2011 edition Edward N. Zalta Editor, URL: vested 2/6/2012

[16] ibid

[17] Miriam-Webster. On line version of Webster’s dictionary. URL: visited 2/7/2012

[18] Thornton, ibid.

[19] ibid

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London, New York:Routledge Classics, original English publication 1959 by Hutchison and co. by Routldege 1992. On line copy URL: digital copy by Cosmo oedu visited 2/6/2012, p4

[23] ibid

[24] ibid

[25] ibid, 5

[26] Hans Reinchenbach (1891-1953) German philosopher, attended Einstein’s lectures and contributed to work on Quantum Mechanics. He fled Germany to escape Hitler wound up teaching at UCLA.

[27] Popper, ibid, referece to , H. Reichenbach, Erkenntnis 1, 1930, p. 186 (cf. also pp. 64 f.). Cf. the penultimate paragraph of Russell’s chapter xii, on Hume, in his History of Western Philosophy, 1946,

p. 699.

[28] ibid, Popper, 5

[29] ibid, 6

[30] ibid 6

[31] ibid, 7

[32] ibid

[33] ibid 11

[34] ibid, 17, references to Schlick, Naturwissenschaften 19, 1931, p. 150. and Waismann, Erkenntnis 1, 1903, p. 229.

[35] Ibid 18

[36] ibid

[37] ibid, 19 the quotation about laws is found on p 19 but the over all argument is developed over sections 31-46 spanning pages 95-133.

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