The Case for God (by realpc)

October 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm (By Realpc) ()

There is a new book called The Case for God, by Karen Armstrong. It was recommended to me and I read some reviews, but I did not read the book. Of course I can’t really know what a book is like just by reading the reviews, but the reviews convinced me not to read it, and I will try to explain why. The title led me to think it might be a logical and scientific argument explaining the evidence against atheism, which is the kind of book I might want to read. The reviews I read , on the other hand, suggest that it’s the old “religion and science inhabit completely separate worlds and have nothing to say about each other” argument. Which I do not agree with at all. And furthermore, scientific atheists are impervious to that argument because they “know” science has shown that the “god hypothesis” is unnecessary. They “know” that consciousness, intelligence, only can occur as the product of a physical brain.

The form of pro-god argument expressed in that book says that god is beyond human comprehension and cannot be studied by science. It says that god is not a person, is not tangible. And it says that faith in god can make us a better, nicer, happier person. Ok, there might be some truth in some of that, but there is untruth in it also, and the truth it contains is incomplete and inadequate.

I had read one of C.S Lewis’ books, having heard that it was a logical argument for god. But it wasn’t. It was the old “god is beyond science and reason, and faith in god will make you happier and nicer” argument. It just makes scientific atheists laugh scornfully (something they do a lot of).

I’ve had many arguments with scientific atheists, and I have never won, and they never accepted a single one of my points. But the experience has made me aware of exactly what scientific atheists believe (and their beliefs are pretty much identical). I think I know exactly what the major holes in their logic are, and how they misinterpret the evidence. I won’t try to explain all that in this post. I just want to say something about my beliefs regarding science and religion, why I have always considered this of great importance, and why scientific atheism is becoming a powerful force in our society. And why that’s too bad.

I first learned that god is not real many years ago in college. I believed the professors because I didn’t know much, and they seemed to know a lot. They said that science had demonstrated there are no such things as gods, spirits, angels, devils, etc. It was all the childish unscientific fantasies of ignorant uneducated people.

“Knowing” this made me feel smart and superior, but sometimes I still wondered. Why did so many people believe these silly fantasies? Why had people in all corners of the world, in all cultures, held similar beliefs in spirits, demons, etc.?

So I was motivated to find out if what I learned in college was true. Or was it just another myth, another product of human imagination, a story “smart” people told themselves so they could feel superior and scientific? I set out to learn if scientific atheism is actually based on logic and evidence. I read a lot and I thought a lot, for many years.

I found that no, scientific atheism is not based on scientific evidence or logic. Richard Dawkins is not a voice of reason, fighting the dark forces of ignorance — he is a promoter of a myth. And no, science and religion do not inhabit separate worlds, and yes it is possible to study “god” scientifically.

You can say that god is infinitely beyond human comprehension, but that is saying nothing. Almost everything is beyond human comprehension. And what does the word “god” mean anyway? I don’t even frame the question that way. Instead of asking if god exists and is real, I ask whether “Matter creates Mind” or “Mind creates Matter.” To me the latter is obviously true, and is supported by evidence and logic.

We don’t have to seek evidence for an ultimate infinite God, an all-knowing source of everything that is. We can simply ask whether Mind creates Matter. Is the brain a machine that generates consciousness, or a machine that allows consciousness to interact with the “physical” world of our senses (as described by Sheldrake)?

Dawkins’ basic premiss is that Darwin’s theory of evolution has been proven, and that it shows that natural selection acting on random, purposeless events caused life to appear and evolve. The world is made of lifeless “matter” which assembled itself through the Darwinian process into ourselves, and all other living things.

An enormous amount of evidence has been found for evolution, and for the Darwinian process of adaptation by natural selection. Anyone who doubts these facts is stubborn and silly, or ignorant. But there is nothing whatsoever in any branch of science that suggests this is how and why life originated and evolved. Evolution is true. Natural selection is true. They are two different things; one did not cause the other — I have never been able to explain that to an atheist!

The purpose of the Intelligent Design movement is to show that, although evolution occurred, we do not know how or why. ID is a criticism of the Darwinian theory, which says lifeless, mindless matter can generate life and mind. ID says it is mathematically impossible. ID has not convinced the scientific atheists; they just laugh scornfully at it.

I believe our universe is made out of information, not “matter.” Science has shown us that “matter” is not “physical.” Everything is made of relationships, forces, differences. There are dimensional levels above and beyond the world of our senses. The universe is an infinite Mind, I believe.

So Mind creates Matter, and Mind can and does exist separately from physical brains. There are higher, or different, planes of existence than our own. There are beings, entities, “people,” gods, demons, spirits, angels, devils — why can’t there be? Millions have seen them and heard them and felt them — they were not all hallucinating, in my opinion,

This is not a case for “god,” it’s a case for Mind over Matter. The universe is an infinite Mind and it generates Minds, beings, spirits, etc. Each of us is a face of the ultimate infinite God. There are infinitely many aspects of the ultimate God, and there are an infinite number of mental beings, gods, spirits, etc., on all levels.

I am trying not to make this a long post. I have many reasons for what I’m saying, but I know someone might say it’s ridiculous and unscientific, that I am taking vague and untested scientific theories and spinning wild fantasies. No, I am not. But it would take hundreds or thousands of pages, which you would not read, to explain. I will just say for right now that there is more than enough evidence from parapsychology that Mind can exist and operate separately from matter.

I am not basing everything on parapsycholgy, but I am saying it’s at start, and you can’t just deny and dismiss it. Many times I showed scientific atheists evidence from parapsychology and, after they laughed scornfully, they were unable to explain why they refused to believe it. It must be a mistake, it must be fake. They stopped laughing and started yelling and cursing. I was banned from their blogs.

So .. the case for god. I believe in god and I experience god in my own way. I don’t have a definition for it. I feel I am part of a living conscious universe. And actually, yes it does make me a happier person. Nicer I am not sure about.

Advertisements

108 Comments

  1. realpc920 said,

    (I forgot how to categorize it.)

  2. Jason (the commenter) said,

    I’m a scientific atheist and I don’t seem to fit your model. I don’t think there is a way to prove the existence of God, but if someone did I would believe. Anyone who says differently isn’t scientific. As for calling myself an atheist instead of an agnostic, it’s because many people have tried to prove the existence of God, or used God to explain things inappropriately. It gives me the impression that they don’t know what they are talking about.

  3. realpc920 said,

    “I don’t think there is a way to prove the existence of God, but if someone did I would believe. ”

    I tried to explain that I am not talking about proving the existence of God. I thought I said that we can’t agree on what we’re saying if we talk about God, and therefore I was not talking about God. I said that if we can agree that Mind creates Matter, instead of the other way around, then we don’t have any good scientific reasons for thinking that god, spirits, devils, angels, etc., could not possibly exist. If the universe is an infinite mind, then it is probably full of minds of all types.

    I am really saying something different than the tired old arguments about god, I hope.

  4. realpc920 said,

    And, Jason, all scientific atheists — not just you — say they would believe in god if someone proved\ it. Knowing that of course no one can prove something that no one can define or comprehend. But I said that we CAN prove that Mind can operate without matter. We CAN prove that materialism is false. That doesn’t prove god, but it shows there is no reason to deny the possible existence of beings who exist on a different level of reality than our own. It show that there are mental, or spiritual, realms, which materialist science tries to deny. Non-materialist science already has provided enough evidence. but scientific atheists (who are not scientific, by the way) won’t admit it. They will not let go of their mythology.

  5. Jason (the commenter) said,

    I said that if we can agree that Mind creates Matter, instead of the other way around, then we don’t have any good scientific reasons for thinking that god, spirits, devils, angels, etc., could not possibly exist.

    You don’t need that theory though. Science doesn’t say that none of them could possibly exist. The scientific atheists you talked to weren’t scientists, they were apostates of science. A scientist should say: “I would believe in God if someone could come up with a valid proof.”

    I am really saying something different than the tired old arguments about god, I hope.

    Actually it sounds like George Berkeley, (early 1700’s). Berkeley went so far as to say that since mind creates matter, as you put it, God must exist to observe everything when we aren’t observing it. Don’t get excited though, David Hume continued work on his theories and ended up becoming an atheist.

    The existence of God is metaphysics, outside of the realm of science, so is the “mind creates matter” theory. All you’ve done is put one metaphysical theory on top of another.

    Don’t feel bad though, you got up to Berkeley, most people who try proving God use Pascal’s Wager.

  6. Donna B. said,

    What you’ve presented is a false dichotomy. There’s no evidence to support either “mind creates matter” or “matter creates mind” other than a feeling that it must be one or the other.

    And, in fact what you describe would more correctly be “mind creates mind” and you would actually have a better chance of supporting that assertion.

  7. Jason (the commenter) said,

    I believe our universe is made out of information, not “matter.” Science has shown us that “matter” is not “physical.” Everything is made of relationships, forces, differences. There are dimensional levels above and beyond the world of our senses. The universe is an infinite Mind, I believe.

    Energy and forces are physical. When philosophers talk about Mind the way you are, they are talking about something like God, not energy which can be monitored by a physicist.

  8. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Okay, first off, if we’re trying to do this scientifically, define for me what Mind is, and as a side-effect, define consciousness so that it can stand up to Turing’s gedankenexperiment. That is, define consciousness for me in a way that either can be distinguished from a computer that can “pass” for human over an IM, or in a way that stands up to Searle’s Chinese Room.

    Oh, and while you’re at it, tell me what you think “scientific” means.

    For me, I come down on the side that if you can’t tell a computer is a computer over a long IM conversation, then it’s “conscious”, whatever that means, and I define scientific in the Karl Popper Logik der Forschung sense that a theory is “scientific” when an experiment can be constructed that would disprove the theory if it succeeded. “Falsification” is the buzzword. (Read “experiment” as “some repeatable process that comes to a well-defined conclusion in a feasible, finite time.”)

    This gets a little confusing because of the double-negative form, but falsifiability really is a necessary way to state it. The point is that for the existence of God to be scientific, we need a way to distinguish between God and No-God. So we propose an experiment that would disprove the existence of God.

    Given that, I conjecture that neither the existence, nor the nonexistence, of God can be proven scientifically. I propose this proof:

    First, let’s define God in the conventional sense of a Creative Superior Being — superior to us — who designed and constructed the Universe in which we’re embedded. Omnipotent, or at least sufficiently potent to build a universe to order, a universe that does what It wants. Similarly, omniscient, or at least sufficiently “scient” to be able to predict or control the progress of the universe. (You take your pick of the Deist Clockmaker or the conventional cosmic meddler.) We also assume that this God doesn’t want to be known. (Otherwise, It could have just signed the Moon or something.)

    Now, for the existence of God to be a scientific fact, we need an experiment that, by some predictable outcome, would tell us there was no God. But if such an experiment existed, then assuming God is at least as smart as me, It would realize that conducting that experiment would give away the game. The Deist Clockmaker would build the Universe in such a way that the experiment would never be conducted, or else resolve the bug and eliminate the experiment from possibility; the Cosmic Meddler would just prevent it from happening. So the existence of such as experiment would contradict the definition of God used.

    Well, let’s take it the other direction: take as the hypothesis that God doesn’t exist. Then we need an experiment that would disprove that and demonstrate the existence of God, even in the face of God’s intention to stay hidden. But this would suggest God isn’t particular smarter than us, which seems like a pretty chintzy kind of God. Again, the very existence of such an experiment contradicts the notion of God.

    Thus, I conclude that the question of the existence or nonexistence of God is not a “scientific” question.

    Jason, while real hasn’t linked to it, the notion that information is primary has some scientific respectability. A look at this Google for “computable universe” will lead you into it.

  9. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Dammit. You need a preview, Amba.

    In the meantime, though, Futurama has it from the horse’s mouth.

  10. wj said,

    Part of the difficulty in all discussions like this is that people are amazingly (OK, maybe it isn’t amazing, but still) sloppy in their terms. First off, there are not two positions, but three:
    – theists (for lack of a better term): those who believe in the existence of God (or, to be complete, gods)
    – atheists: those who believe that God does not exist.
    – agnostics: those who consider the existence, or non-existence, of God not proven

    A lot of those who call themselves atheists (Jason being the current example) are actually agnostics. If you say that you do not believe that the existence of God has been proven, but are willing to consider such a proof if it comes along, you are not an atheist. You may well get called one, by those on both side of the belief question who have difficulty accepting that something might be simply “not proven.”

    A real atheist is someone who says: “I believe that there is no God.” And that is the critical point — it is a matter of faith (albeit a negative one) just as much as the theists’ faith that God exists. And, like anyone with a strong belief, the chances of influencing that belief with mere evidence is nil. Nor is there much chance of holding a calm, logical discussion of the issue. Because you are not dealing with evidence and logic; you are dealing with belief.

    Evidence may be of some use when holding a discussion with an agnostic. But presenting it, no matter how good it is, is a waste of time when dealing with a believer. On either side of the question.

  11. amba12 said,

    You can say that god is infinitely beyond human comprehension, but that is saying nothing. Almost everything is beyond human comprehension.

    Ha!!

  12. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Charlie (Colorado): Jason, while real hasn’t linked to it, the notion that information is primary has some scientific respectability.

    I was aware, I just didn’t see how I could fit it in.

    I think Realpc did a very good job in general. If we can get him used to coming up with theories a few times a day and having people disagree with them, we could make a natural philosopher out of him in no time.

  13. amba12 said,

    Speaking of belief, Sam Harris — who might be described as a spiritual atheist, who thinks unusual, transcendent brain states have evolved that serve a purpose for us — just published a paper on the neural correlates of belief. (Haven’t read it yet myself.) A summary by Lisa Miller in Newsweek says the study’s main finding is that religious belief and ordinary factual belief look the same on an fMRI.

  14. amba12 said,

    “Belief in God, disbelief in God, and belief in simple empirically verifiable facts all lit up the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs your sense of self. We are, in some sense, what we believe.”

  15. amba12 said,

    “what [Harris] called the ‘blasphemy reaction’: that when atheists disagreed with a Christian belief, or when Christians affirmed one, their pleasure centers lit up—proof that the combatants in the faith-versus-reason wars really do enjoy the fight, equally.”

  16. amba12 said,

    What can save us from zealotry, per Harris: the iota of agnosticism, or humility, blended into most true belief. Says Miller: “Participants retrieved their religious beliefs and their historical facts from the same place and in the same way, but they showed less certainty when thinking about the religious statements. It took them a little longer to push the button, and a part of the brain having to do with uncertainty, or cognitive dissonance, lit up. If even the strongest believers are a little unsure about God, and the strongest atheists are a teeny bit anxious that they might be wrong, there’s room, perhaps, for one person to begin to try to imagine the world view of another.”

  17. realpc said,

    I was trying to explain that parapsychology is relevant to the case for god. I was trying to say that the evidence from parapsychology doesn’t prove there is a god or gods, but none of us know what we mean by the word “god,” so all that is irrelevant. I tried to make it short — always a bad idea because then everyone misunderstands, unless they already knew what I was saying. But making it long would be a mistake also because no one would have the time or patience to read it.

    And Jason, I am using all my will power to resist returning your insults. It is not your fault — you just failed to understand what I said. Resist resist resist.

    Dean Radin’s book The Conscious Universe, for example. The evidence from parapsychology suggests to him that the universe is alive and conscious. And I agree, not just because of Radin but because of everything else I have read for or against materialism. Materialism is a goner, whether you are able to see that or not.

    But we need more parapyschology and it has to evolve to a more sophisticated level, which is hard when the atheists are loud and politically active, and influence scientific funding.

    In recent years, angry organized atheists were able to shut down an Intelligent Design lab.

    Intelligent Design and parapsychology are not the same thing, by the way, but their messages are similar. The universe is conscious and alive, a great Mind. Mind creates matter.

    And if the universe is an infinite Mind, then it may well be full of Minds, on an infinite number of dimensional planes. Why would it not be?

    But I don’t want to get beyond my first simple point, because someone will try to tear apart anything I say if it is in the least speculative. The first simple point — which drives atheists insane — is that we already have enough scientific reasons to throw away materialism.

  18. realpc said,

    [f you can’t tell a computer is a computer over a long IM conversation, then it’s “conscious”, whatever that means]

    Charlie, a computer has never passed the Turing test, after decades of trying. The brain is not simply a computer, so a computer cannot have real intelligence. It is a materialist myth, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the brain is the same kind of machine as a computer.

  19. Donna B. said,

    realpc — “But I said that we CAN prove that Mind can operate without matter. We CAN prove that materialism is false. That doesn’t prove god, but it shows there is no reason to deny the possible existence of beings who exist on a different level of reality than our own. It show that there are mental, or spiritual, realms, which materialist science tries to deny.”

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument here that I accept that Mind can operate without Matter.

    I do not see how it follows that Mind creates Matter.

  20. Jason (the commenter) said,

    realpc: I was trying to explain that parapsychology is relevant to the case for god.

    You should have used that word to begin with, I would have told you to look up the work of the Amazing Randi:

    From the website: During a live radio panel discussion, James Randi was challenged by a parapsychologist to “put [his] money where [his] mouth is”, and Randi responded by offering to pay $1,000 to anyone who could demonstrate paranormal powers in a controlled test.

    The reward is up to a million dollars.

    realpc:And Jason, I am using all my will power to resist returning your insults. It is not your fault — you just failed to understand what I said. Resist resist resist.

    You specifically said you hoped your theories weren’t old and provided them for criticism. You have no right to be angry if we had in fact heard of them before or found problems.

    You have completely misrepresented my philosophy, okay? We, like you, spend long periods of time trying to come up with theories and then, when we present them to the world, we *expect* everyone to try to disprove them.

    And saying “Materialism is dead” is not shocking to a scientist. Disprove it and we wont use it anymore.

    Since you suggested a book, I’ll recommend Anathem, by Neal Stephenson, to you. It’s science fiction, but it explains our philosophy and deals with all sorts of things you seem to be under the impression science can’t deal with.

  21. Ron said,

    No offense to anyone in particular, but this thread reads to me like Dr. Phil just picked up and started reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

  22. realpc said,

    Jason,

    I know all about Amazing Randi. The ONLY argument materialist/atheists can provide against the evidence from parapsychology is Randi’s prize. You have complete faith in Randi’s honesty and fairness, and it outweighs the evidence from thousands of scientific experiments.

  23. Jason (the commenter) said,

    realpc: The ONLY argument materialist/atheists can provide against the evidence from parapsychology is Randi’s prize. You have complete faith in Randi’s honesty and fairness, and it outweighs the evidence from thousands of scientific experiments.

    I’m not a materialist and according to some here I’m not an atheist.

    You have all these assumptions about what things mean and we keep trying to tell you that you are misinformed, but you just wont listen.

    In this thread I have declared myself open to God existing and materialism being false. You are not open to parapsychology not being true, neither are any of the people who did the thousands of scientific experiments you mentioned. This is why none of them are valid experiments.

    Randi has probably done more to advance parapsychology than any man alive. There’s a million dollars sitting there! The people who go to Randi with positive results and get criticism for their methods should be improving their methods.

    And you realpc, have written an essay which you now admit has problems. Use our criticism and go back and fix the problems.

  24. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Charlie, a computer has never passed the Turing test, after decades of trying. The brain is not simply a computer, so a computer cannot have real intelligence. It is a materialist myth, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the brain is the same kind of machine as a computer.

    Focus a bit here, Real. You’re making an argument,and this is all proof by vehement assertion.

    First off, I don’t claim that there has been a computer that has passed the Turing test, and I’m not necessarily claiming that there would be one. I am, however, challenging you to refine your notion of Mind and consciousness so as to make them useful concepts about which to argue.

    It’s a serious question, too, because after 40-odd years of Buddhist meditation, learning Sanskrit and Chinese in which to read the sutras and the Chinese classics, after learning to cast horoscopes and read Tarot and studying with folks at the Rhine Institute I certainly don’t know what the hell Mind is.

    (Aside: Amba, did you realize the Rhine folks are still in Durham?)

    But back to Turing’s experiment, the point is to try to make something that’s a scientific statement about the definition of “consciousness” or “intelligence.” The basic idea, as I said, is that Turing argued that if you are having a conversation by IM, and you can’t tell if the difference between the entity at the other end and a person, then you have to presume the entity at the other end is a person, a consciousness, a sentient being.

    (Another aside: did you realize that Turing’s original formulation was as a party game in which you attempt to tell a man from a woman? Given his homosexuality, I’ve always thought that pretty interesting.)

    You appear to be taking the position, along with John Searle, that if it’s a “mere” mechanism that only appears to be holding a conversation, it can’t be “conscious”. His argument for this is the Chinese Room, in case you haven’t run into it in the past.

    But you’re purporting to make a scientific argument, so if you’re going to assert that a computer that passed the Turing test isn’t conscious, then what is the experiment you propose that would distinguish the computer from a “really conscious” being? Mere assertion is what you offered above, and that won’t sell me; and I can tell you, having seen some brains on the inside when I was at the medical school, there’s nothing in there but meat. I can’t observe anything about the brain that suggests the meat isn’t the seat of consciousness, while I can perform a lot of experiments that demonstrate that if you muck up the meat sufficiently, consciousness goes away.

  25. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Sorry to make a run of comments here — actually I’m not, or I’m only conventionally sorry, it’s easier to separate my arguments into chunks — but I think the three categories need to be extended:

    theists — believe there is a God
    atheists — positively believe there is no God
    agnostics — from the negation of gnosis, to know: they don’t know for sure either way

    and a fourth category, for which i’m not aware of a nice greek-root term: people who say the question is unanswerable, it’s unknowable. (Which, interestingly, is also the position that Siddhartha took.)

  26. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Amazing Randi: Randi’s position appears to be that if he as a stage magician can come up with a way to fake the results of a parapsychological experiment, then that’s what the parapsychologists must be doing too.

    I’m unaware of any other area in which the ability to fake a result by trickery is considered evidence against a result.

  27. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    And thanks for repairing my HTML above.

  28. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Charlie (Colorado):Randi’s position appears to be that if he as a stage magician can come up with a way to fake the results of a parapsychological experiment, then that’s what the parapsychologists must be doing too.

    Randi does something different than that though. He shows how he would fake the results and then tries to see if the people with positive results are faking their data the same way. He doesn’t hurt parapsychology, it’s the people he catches who hurt parapsychology.

    He’s a blessing. I can imagine how hard it would be to investigate something if your field was full of people producing bad data. How would you know who is getting the best results and where you should be trying to help with improvements? Let Randi clear out the bad apples.

  29. realpc said,

    “You appear to be taking the position, along with John Searle, that if it’s a “mere” mechanism that only appears to be holding a conversation, it can’t be “conscious”. His argument for this is the Chinese Room, in case you haven’t run into it in the past.”

    Don’t worry, I have run into all of that. I am not taking that John Searle position — it’s ridiculous to speculate if a truly intelligent computer is conscious because there is no truly intelligent computer. That’s all part of the materialist mythology — that the brain is just a computer, so computers can be made intelligent. We would have to worry about computers running amuk like HAL in 2001. It turns out we don’t have to be afraid of computers because they are mindless, and they will always be mindless. They are merely tools that do exactly what we tell them.

    My job is computer programming so I know what they’re like. It seems to have a mind of its own and to ignore my instructions, but then it turns out my instructions weren’t exactly right. The computer did exactly what I said — I just didn’t say precisely what I meant.

    When I write a program, the program is just an extension of my mind. Like a bicycle or a car, it amplifies our abilities, but it’;s still a mindless machine, under our control.

    Science fiction tends to be materialist, and it has spread the myth that computers will have their own minds. It’s all part of our culture’s mythology. Philosophers have wasted many hours debating whether an intelligent computer would be conscious or not. They should have first wondered if there would ever be an intelligent computer.

    There won’t. Our brains are not the same kind of thing as a computer. Our consciousness is not generated by our brain. At least there is not the slightest shred of evidence that it is. Yes we need a functioning brain to communicate and appear conscious, so materialists jumped to the conclusion that the brain creates consciousness.

  30. realpc said,

    “He’s a blessing”

    I don’t care how much you adore Randi. The fact remains that he has not debunked all of parapsychology. He’s had nothing to say about most of it. There are many experiments that skeptics have found nothing at all wrong with. They still don’t believe the results. Because they can’t — it would overturn their mythology. So they just get angry and yell about Randi’s prize.

    I know that most “psychics” are probably fake. That isn’t news. But it certainly doesn’t follow that all parapsycologists are fakes or fools. But that is exactly what the activist atheists believe, and they will not look at the evidence. It just makes them so mad.

  31. realpc said,

    “Amazing Randi: Randi’s position appears to be that if he as a stage magician can come up with a way to fake the results of a parapsychological experiment, then that’s what the parapsychologists must be doing too.”

    Yes, IF he could fake the results. But he can’t and I don’t know where you heard that he did. Most parapsychology experiments were never debunked by Randi or any other “skeptic.”

  32. realpc said,

    “You have all these assumptions about what things mean and we keep trying to tell you that you are misinformed, but you just wont listen.”

    No you won’t listen, or you can’t listen, or you don’t want to understand anything I said. I said very clearly that most things are beyond our comprehension and that we don’t know what anyone means by “god.” I don’t have stupid assumption about what things mean, but I have to use words or I couldn’t say anything. And it would take forever to define every single word I use.

    The problem is just that you don’t like what I’m saying so you will never hear it.

  33. realpc said,

    “No offense to anyone in particular, but this thread reads to me like Dr. Phil just picked up and started reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.”

    On you’re just so fabulously smart Ron. I am in awe.

  34. realpc said,

    “the study’s main finding is that religious belief and ordinary factual belief look the same on an fMRI.”

    Amba, I don’t think they will learn very much about this by looking at MRIs. It just lets them appear very scientific, using all that technology. But it can’t show anything about how the brain actually works. They can see which areas are more active during certain mental states, and they have some vague ideas about the functions of different areas. But they are pretending to understand much much more than they actually do. Oh now we can scientifically observe religious faith, and we can see that it is nothing but brain activity. It helped us to survive in some way, or it would not exist. Because we smart scientists know for an absolute fact that there is no spiritual reality.

  35. realpc said,

    “Charlie (Colorado): Jason, while real hasn’t linked to it, the notion that information is primary has some scientific respectability.

    I was aware, I just didn’t see how I could fit it in.”

    Yes that is what I was talking about. The idea that the universe is made out of information , not matter, makes sense scientifically and logically. That’s why I think materialism is dead, or should be.

  36. Ron said,

    real, sarcasm is…what, an argument for your position?

  37. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Don’t worry, I have run into all of that. I am not taking that John Searle position — it’s ridiculous to speculate if a truly intelligent computer is conscious because there is no truly intelligent computer. That’s all part of the materialist mythology — that the brain is just a computer, so computers can be made intelligent. We would have to worry about computers running amuk like HAL in 2001. It turns out we don’t have to be afraid of computers because they are mindless, and they will always be mindless. They are merely tools that do exactly what we tell them.

    So you say. But what is this “Mind” you’re talking about.

    You’re simply repeating the assertions, Real. Have you got anything here becsides the assertions?

    My job is computer programming so I know what they’re like. It seems to have a mind of its own and to ignore my instructions, but then it turns out my instructions weren’t exactly right. The computer did exactly what I said — I just didn’t say precisely what I meant.

    Well, Real, my PhD work is in computer science, so I’d have to say I’ve got a passing acquaintance with them myself. So, now let’s dispose of the appeal to authority, and get down to it. What is this “consciousness” to which you refer, and how would you tell the difference between a HAL 9000 and a “real” consciousness?

    Your notion that computer programs always do exactly what you tell them is, within some limits, a reasonable one. none the less, you and I can write computer programs that display unexpected behavior, and even do so on purpose. We merely refer to a source of pseudorandom or random numbers. So, let’s say I pick up a source of good random numbers, something like an unbiased diode or the interarrival time of random cosmic rays, and use that to make a complicated program make decisions: surely in some sense it’s doing what I tell it to — but that doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, knows what it’s going to do next.

    There won’t. Our brains are not the same kind of thing as a computer. Our consciousness is not generated by our brain. At least there is not the slightest shred of evidence that it is. Yes we need a functioning brain to communicate and appear conscious, so materialists jumped to the conclusion that the brain creates consciousness.

    You keep saying that, but you’re not offering any evidence for it. I think we’ve all gotten that you believe this, but you’re making a claim that you came to this “scientifically.” So, either present the experiment you belive would falsify the notion — in other words, how can we tell if it’s true or not? — or exp[lain to me what sense of ‘scientific” you’re using here.

    You say:

    Our brains are not the same kind of thing as a computer.

    I say: tell me what experiment or science leads you to think this?

    Our consciousness is not generated by our brain.

    So? tell me what “consciousness” is, and how you would tell the difference?

    At least there is not the slightest shred of evidence that it is

    What evidence is there that it’s not?

    Yes we need a functioning brain to communicate and appear conscious, so materialists jumped to the conclusion that the brain creates consciousness.

    So, you’re saying that we know by experiment that it takes a functioning brain to exhibit consciousness, and that causing a brain to cease to function causes consciousness to disappear. This seems, prima facie, to be evidence that it takes a functioning brain to exhibit consciousness. If you’re claiming that it doesn’t, tell me of the case in which you can identify something exhibiting consciousness without a functioning brain.

    No you won’t listen, or you can’t listen, or you don’t want to understand anything I said. I said very clearly that most things are beyond our comprehension and that we don’t know what anyone means by “god.” I don’t have stupid assumption about what things mean, but I have to use words or I couldn’t say anything. And it would take forever to define every single word I use.

    So, what you’re saying is we should just take what you’re saying as true on its face, without being considered or criticized?

    I am trying not to make this a long post. I have many reasons for what I’m saying, but I know someone might say it’s ridiculous and unscientific, that I am taking vague and untested scientific theories and spinning wild fantasies. No, I am not. But it would take hundreds or thousands of pages, which you would not read, to explain. I will just say for right now that there is more than enough evidence from parapsychology that Mind can exist and operate separately from matter.

    Real, I’m reasonably confident that if you present an argument, I can follow it. But what you’re saying here is that you know this is true, you don’t care to present your arguments or the evidence because after all we’d neither understand it nor be willing to follow it.

    Sadly, I don’t find your argument that you would convince me if you only bothered to tell me what would convince me to be convincing.

    >i>On you’re just so fabulously smart Ron. I am in awe.

    Ad hominem. Five yard penalty and loss of down.

    Yes that is what I was talking about. The idea that the universe is made out of information , not matter, makes sense scientifically and logically. That’s why I think materialism is dead, or should be.

    So, what is this hard stuff I feel when my fingers hit my kays?

  38. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Yes, IF he could fake the results. But he can’t and I don’t know where you heard that he did. Most parapsychology experiments were never debunked by Randi or any other “skeptic.”

    Real, remember me mentioning that I’d spent some time at the Rhine Institute in Durham? I’m reasonably familiar with parapsychology research; I was also arguing that Randi’s position doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Randi certainly has shown that he can, by fakery, reproduce a number of parapsych experiments; some others turn out to not be very statistically sound. There are a number of other experiments that aren’t so easily dismissed by people who look at them seriously and with an open mind. But saying that since we don’t understand how that works, it must be that your idea is true, is just the argument from ignorance.

  39. Ron said,

    “ After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’”

    – Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

    Fabuously Smart Awesome Ron (you also forget Sexy, bon-vivant, racountour and man-about-town Real, but I’ll let it go…for now!)

  40. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Science fiction tends to be materialist, and it has spread the myth that computers will have their own minds. It’s all part of our culture’s mythology. Philosophers have wasted many hours debating whether an intelligent computer would be conscious or not.

    Some science fiction does, but other science fiction takes the position that computers can never have consciousness.

    No you won’t listen, or you can’t listen, or you don’t want to understand anything I said.

    Maybe you didn’t express yourself clearly, maybe there was an error in something you said, maybe I think you are confused.

    But you are more than confused because you didn’t even entertain the idea that you might have been at fault. You think your mind functions perfectly, that you can know things with absolute certainty. This egoism is why you said in the above quote that philosophers had wasted their time debating whether computers could be conscious. Who are you to denigrate people for trying to think about things? I have rarely heard such closed-mindedness expressed.

    You can either accept criticism and possible improve your understanding, or reject it and remain ignorant.

    I don’t have stupid assumption about what things mean, but I have to use words or I couldn’t say anything. And it would take forever to define every single word I use.

    What would make an assumption about the meaning of a word stupid, is if the person had different assumptions about the meaning of a word than everyone else they were trying to talk to. And, everyone tried telling them the assumption was wrong but they refused to do anything about it.

  41. amba12 said,

    (Another aside: did you realize that Turing’s original formulation was as a party game in which you attempt to tell a man from a woman? Given his homosexuality, I’ve always thought that pretty interesting.)

    Wow. Is everything connected??

  42. amba12 said,

    Charlie, how do you explain an out-of-body experience like the one Theo Boehm recounted — I forget if it was at Althouse or here. He wasn’t dying except in the Shakespearean sense (i.e. he was in bed with a girl). He left his body and went up to the ceiling and saw the top of a dresser he had never seen before. He went back and checked it later and it was exactly as he had seen it without physical eyes.

  43. amba12 said,

    Also, Charlie: there’s a fifth category. When you don’t know if it’s unknowable.

  44. amba12 said,

    You can see why scientists prefer to focus on something they can know, like the permeability of a locust’s rectum. Seriously: I ran across a paper on that tonight. Talk about finding a niche.

  45. Donna B. said,

    Scientists have also produced out of body experiences.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/03/health/psychology/03shad.html?_r=1

    Amba… I like your paraphrase of Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns” :-)

  46. realpc said,

    “real, sarcasm is…what, an argument for your position?”

    Sorry Ron, I have fallen into that trap many times before. Atheists call me stupid and ignorant, rather than debate logically, and I use all my will power to not fight back, and eventually the sarcasm just spills out. I have limited self control. Not that you were necessarily calling me stupid and ignorant, but the others were, and your comment was insulting, and well that’s how it goes. That’s how I got banned from an atheist blog. I was being polite and logical and scientific and I definitely thought I was winning, but they got angrier and angrier and more and more insulting. It is not possible for them to accept non-materialism because their self-esteem depends on their being oh so smart and superior to the stupid ignorant believers.

    Anyway, I was not going to be sarcastic at Amba’s blog. Sorry.

  47. Theo Boehm said,

    While scientists may have found an underlying physiological cause and perhaps mechanism for out-of-body experiences, it still does not explain the ability of the disembodied person to “see” things in the environment from a new temporary perspective.  Here is the original Althouse comment, where I describe an out-of-body experience during which I took pains to note things I could see from my new point-of-view that I would have no knowledge of otherwise.  I did this quite consciously to find out if this experience, which I had once before, was only a kind of daydream, wherein our brains simply fill in the blanks with dreamlike material.

    Out-of-body experiences are not uncommon after injury or trauma, such as the guy I knew who was struck by lightning on the golf course, and which I described in this other Althouse comment.  He said he could see the edge of the clubhouse roof, the trees in the distance, etc., but had no way of confirming if what he saw was real, or what you might see in a dream.

    It should be fairly obvious to anyone familiar with metaphysics that finding a physical cause for these unusual mental states profoundly begs the question.  I don’t have an answer, except to say that my own personal, direct experience has told me that the relationship of our consciousness to the physical world is not that of what we might imagine an operating system to be with the computer it runs on.  In the end, I only have my experiences and consciousness to give me knowledge and define my relationship with the world.  And I know, as much as I know anything, that the relationship of my mental being with my physical body is not quite as simple and obvious as those who continue to insist on dreaming the dream of Newton would have me believe.

  48. Theo Boehm said,

    …but they got angrier and angrier and more and more insulting. It is not possible for them to accept non-materialism because their self-esteem depends on their being oh so smart and superior to the stupid ignorant believers.

    Yes, realpc, I say here that “hell hath no fury like a materialist annoyed.”

  49. Donna B. said,

    realpc – I don’t see this discussion as you against atheists. You really have a group of rather sympathetic listeners here. You project your experiences with others onto us without really engaging in what we’re saying.

    For examply, I suggest that Mind can have a “life of its own” to paraphrase clumsily. What I don’t understand is how that negates materialism.

    It is a false dichotomy that either your view (which I’ve never quite understood because when you are asked a question you get defensive and refuse to engage in discussion) or materialism (again, I’ve never understood what your definition is) are the only two possibilities to choose from.

    I simply cannot imagine the universe being quite so simple.

  50. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Charlie, how do you explain an out-of-body experience like the one Theo Boehm recounted — I forget if it was at Althouse or here. He wasn’t dying except in the Shakespearean sense (i.e. he was in bed with a girl). He left his body and went up to the ceiling and saw the top of a dresser he had never seen before. He went back and checked it later and it was exactly as he had seen it without physical eyes.

    I don’t know that I can; I certainly can’t explain some of the experiences I had playing with remote viewing. The thing is that it’s hard to tell what really happened. Two of the remote viewing things that happens for me:

    – I was driftily half asleep — remote viewing seems to require something like the hypnogogic state preceding sleep — and became aware I was looking up close at a odd tiled surface. It started to slide away, and I saw it was the Space Shuttle which slid away until I was able to see the Earth below. The Space Shuttle was indeed in orbit at the time.

    – I was talking on the phone with an old girlfriend in Houston and “saw” a highway overpass that, when I described it to her, seemed to be the overpass closest to her apartment.

    Both of these impressed me, but remote viewing is notoriously hard to control or predict; it’s tough to get where you want to go. And people, humans, have an amazing talent to see patterns in things that don’t have them, as a thousand tortilla images of the Virgin of Guadalupe will attest.

    Was it a real experience? You bet. Do I know how it happens? No.

  51. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Um, “happened to me.”

    More coffee.

  52. realpc said,

    Donna,

    I would never say there is anything simple about the universe. And you may be sympathetic to some of what I am saying, but most of the commenters were not. I hate arguing with atheists because they always get condescending, then scornful, angry and derisive. And Amba has been so kind to let me blog here, and you never see her being angry or sarcastic or defensive. Never. I am just not nearly as nice as she is. Maybe I have been fighting atheists for too long.

    But it seems I can’t stop! I feel like it’s part of my reason for existing, and I have felt that way for most of my life. And it’s kind of fun and challenging in a way. But what I hate are the insults, and my own inability to not react. I try and try and try, but I get possessed by the sarcasm demon.

    I thought I made it clear in the first place that I was not trying to explain all my ideas about religion and science in a short post. I said it would take hundreds or thousands of pages to explain things I have been concerned with for decades.

    I just wanted to start an interesting conversation, assuming that some of the readers here would be sympathetic to ID. That is the reason i wound up at ambivablog years ago, because Amba is interested in ID.

    Well ID has been out of the news — the organized atheists won that battle, but definitely not the war. Anyway, I miss talking about ID and therefore I quickly wrote this post. Not expecting such an immediate and intense backlash.

    But I am a fighter, I guess. I am not fighting for an ideology and I do not feel I have the big answers. Just the opposite. No, nothing at all is simple. I would be the last person to say that. I am fighting for understanding, for humility; I want people to feel respect and reverence for the infinitely mysterious creation we are part of.

    I have questions, not answers. But I do have an attitude of respect and wonder, and I strongly oppose the materialist atheism or our day. It’s fine with me if people want to be atheists — I think a certain percent of the population is naturally non-mystical and needs to disbelieve. That’s fine — live and let live.

    But I would like to defeat their political agenda of closing down research facilities, blocking funding for alternative medicine, preventing parapsychology from getting the respect and funding it deserves. This has to change.

  53. realpc said,

    Materialists will go to absurd lengths to explain away near death experiences, out of body experiences, remote viewing, etc. Susan Blackmore came up with a convoluted explanation and all the Dawkins-ites and Randi-ites loved it. But the SRI remote viewing research was never debunked. Most parapsychology was never debunked, especially the more recent experiments where they go to extremes to prevent cheating. They are more careful than researchers in most other branches of science, because they know the organized “skeptics” will desperately try to debunk them. The only argument the “skeptics” have is the Randi prize. Randi is a politician, not a scientist. Serious scientists won’t agree to his ridiculous rules. And they don’t trust him, because he has a political agenda.

    I don’t know if anyone knows the real story about Randi, or whether he is honest. But even if he is honest, the fact remains that he has NOT debunked parapsychology. He became famous for supposedly debunking Uri Geller, but there is controversy over that. It’s possible he just made Geller nervous. It’s also possible that Geller has powers but they are unreliable, so he resorts to tricks some of the time. I think that is true of many psychics — it’s impossible for them to control their powers, so they cheat sometimes to maintain their reputation.

    But whatever, who knows. The point is that millions of people, in all times and places, have had paranormal experiences, which are in some ways very similar. And parapsychology has supported the reality of these experiences.

    Materialism is attractive to many because it helps them feel that humanity is in control of nature. If nature is lifeless and mindless, then we don’t have to be afraid of it. If there are no ghosts of evil spirits, we can feel safe in the darkness at night.

  54. realpc said,

    “no ghosts of evil spirits” should be “no ghosts or evil spirits.”

  55. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    This will probably amuse you in context.

  56. Ron said,

    Real, perhaps the reason you get scorn is that you tell people you respect their views, and then promptly insult their views, if they’re different than your own.

    example: in post 53 you say: “But I do have an attitude of respect and wonder”, but then, immediately, in post 54 you say: “Materialists will go to absurd lengths to explain away near death experiences”.

    I have no dog in this fight, but I get offended when I see you saying that “my opponents go to absurd length”, like that’s not a blunt judgement of them, but me, Realpc, I’m really respectful.

    As a rule of thumb, respect and humility are things others get to say about you, not what you get to say about yourself, as it sounds too much like “Gee, I’m wonderful!”

    I think you get scorn because you write as if you, and you alone, have knowledge of things which are problematic at best. Who are you to tell me I’m insulting you when most of your post insults atheists, materialists, and just people who don’t go along with what your saying?

  57. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    But it seems I can’t stop! I feel like it’s part of my reason for existing, and I have felt that way for most of my life. And it’s kind of fun and challenging in a way. But what I hate are the insults, and my own inability to not react. I try and try and try, but I get possessed by the sarcasm demon.

    Real, I looked back over the comments, and honestly, you were complaining about Jason’s “insults” long before Jason said anything that I could imagine being cast as insulting; you seem to have gotten snarky firstest and mostest.

    Are you sure you’re having this argument with us, and not some mental image of those nasty materialists?

  58. realpc said,

    ” think you get scorn because you write as if you, and you alone, have knowledge of things which are problematic at best.”

    No actually my message is that no one knows. The organized atheists believe they know, they are certain, they have no doubt. I have debated them in person (very bad idea, and I gave it up long ago), in email and on blogs. I debate them anonymously because I would literally fear for my life, they are so full of rage.

    When I mentioned “respect” and “humility” I meant in relation to nature, not in relation to other humans. Other humans are my equals, no matter how “smart” they may be. Materialist/atheists have absolutely no respect for nature — they always complain about how badly designed it is and what a pile of junk it is. Implying they could do a much better job!

    My post was not arrogant or insulting. I started insulting back after I was told what an ignorant idiot I am. Your comment was not exactly sympathetic. It was quite abrasively arrogant.

    But ok, this is the internet after all. No offense taken or intended.

  59. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    I think you get scorn because you write as if you, and you alone, have knowledge of things which are problematic at best.

    +1

    Also, you then reject — as uninformed or unthoughtful — questions and counterarguments. Cf the Turing thing above: you never actually answered any of my questions or arguments, and then found yourself in the position of saying “well, I’m a computer programmer and I know better” — only to find that I’m a programmer too. (In fact, depressingly, it’s very good odds that I’ve been a programmer since before you were born.)

  60. realpc said,

    “Don’t feel bad though, you got up to Berkeley, most people who try proving God use Pascal’s Wager.”

    That was the first condescending remark, made by Jason. Everything was polite up to that point.

  61. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    My post was not arrogant or insulting. I started insulting back after I was told what an ignorant idiot I am.

    Read back through the comments again, Real. You pretty well were on that train before it arrived.

  62. realpc said,

    Charlie,

    I answered you about the Turing test very explicitly — I said it has NOT been passed, not even close. I said the idea that it could ever be passed is a materialist assumption, that the brain is something like a computer.

    So if the Turing test has not been past, it’s silly to wonder what passing of the Turing test would imply about consciousness.

  63. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    My post was not arrogant or insulting. I started insulting back after I was told what an ignorant idiot I am.

    Wow. I think you need that trigger pull adjusted.

  64. realpc said,

    Charlie,

    I only mentioned that I’m a programmer because whenever I say computers aren’t really intelligent someone always assumes I hate computers and all science and all technology and I am profoundly primitive and ignorant. So I was trying to make sure you know that I understand computers, and my statements that computers and brains are different kinds of machines is based on knowing a little about both.

  65. realpc said,

    And materialism is such an important part of our cultural mythology it’s understandable that people go nuts if you criticize it. It represents the power of science to control nature, cure diseases, make our lives ever more comfortable and pleasant. But what if nature is smarter than we are, and if our interventions always backfire in unexpected ways? What if the world’s problems are not the result of greed, ignorance, intolerance, and lack of a scientific education? What if our problems result directly from our relationship with nature? Then we are in trouble.

    So people don’t want to hear that there might not be any answers.

  66. realpc said,

    “Wow. I think you need that trigger pull adjusted.”

    And you too.

  67. Donna B. said,

    real — here’s some “materialistic” research saying that we do respond to nature in a good way.

    http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2009/10/nature_and_compassion.php

  68. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    I answered you about the Turing test very explicitly — I said it has NOT been passed, not even close. I said the idea that it could ever be passed is a materialist assumption, that the brain is something like a computer.

    You’re definition of “answer” needs some work. Especially since I didn’t claim it had been passed, and I’ve noted a couple of times that I find your repeated assertion that it couldn’t be passed unconvincing without further argument.

    Real, you’re not having a discussion here: you’re repeating assertions of what you just know, and getting more and more cranky when we don’t just accept them.

    So look, let’s just start with the assumption tjhat I’m capable of following the arguments and seriously interested in the answers, but don’t know where you’re coming from, and go back again.

    I agree that scientific knowledge is a good thing. I defined “science” in line with Popper’s falsifiability, which comes down to this:

    IF you have multiple possible explanations, THEN to know “scientifically” which ones are better, there must be feasible experiments that can distinguish among them. You need to have an experiment that can show one or more of the possible hypotheses to be false.

    Do you agree with this definition? If not, what definition are you using, so we can be talking the same language?

    I agree that no computer has passed the Turing test yet. But what I asked is different:

    You claim that computers can’t be “conscious”.

    IF a computer program could pass for human on IM, THEN what experiment or procedure could be used to show that computer wasn’t really conscious?

    You claim that things like remote viewing prove that Mind isn’t attached to the meat. I see how you could see that as evidence; even after experience with remote viewing, I’m not convinced. I can imagine, for example, physical mechanisms that could give information at a distance, and I can also imagine psychological explanations that could lead an observer and the experimenter to conclude there’d been a “hit” without there being information transmitted.

    So tell me, what experiments convince you that none of these other possibilities can be the case?

    I can certainly imagine some. I’d be very impressed by, say, a remote-viewing experiment where the observer could, with good accuracy, read off a string of random digits generated in real time by a physical process like an unbiased diode. That would nicely falsify the notion that it was a psychological effect.

  69. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    And you too.

    Yup. That’s me, just flying off the handle.

  70. Jason (the commenter) said,

    It just makes scientific atheists laugh scornfully (something they do a lot of).

    Or was it just another myth, another product of human imagination, a story “smart” people told themselves so they could feel superior and scientific?

    This is how he described me in his original post!

  71. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Francis Bacon says it best: The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination, the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

  72. Jason (the commenter) said,

    realpc :Materialist/atheists have absolutely no respect for nature

    And yet for some reason they turn to Nature to test their theories. They’ll even capitalize Nature in some instances.

    I, like a lot of commenters here, first thought realpc was responding to some earlier bad experiences he had. Something tells me every experience he has ever had has been just like this thread.

    He’s even gone after Charlie (Colorado), someone who would seem to be the most sympathetic person towards his views that could be asked for.

  73. realpc said,

    Jason, your problem is you think you are just so smart. I can’t have a discussion with you. I didn’t post this to stir up antagonism, but that is what you immediately brought into it. And because you don’t agree with me you are trying to prove that I can’t change my ideas when faced with evidence. What evidence? I am criticizing a certain group for denying scientific evidence, so you accuse me of the same thing without offering a trace of evidence that opposes anything I said.

    Anyway I give up, have better ways to waste my time.

  74. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Real, you’re seeing great antagonism, and lashing out against it, where there is very little or none.

  75. realpc said,

    No Charlie, if you read any of Jason’s posts carefully you will see condescension and contempt. Yes I admit I read between the lines, but most of what people say is between the lines. There is an awful lot of hatred directed against religion these days, as a backlash to the Christian fundamentalist movement. I can understand that to some degree because I don’t get along with fundamentalist Christians any better than I get along with fundamentalist atheists. Both groups are rigid and emotionally welded to their positions. I have already learned I cannot reason with them.

    I question everything, and sometimes that makes people mad. I never intend to make people made and I am usually shocked when simple logical statements drive people into a frenzy.

    I think you just don’t see the antagonism that was immediately directed at my post, especially by Jason. I was very disappointed because I was just trying to start a conversation about something that is important to me. I have a lot of information on the subject and did not expect to be slammed down the way I always was at atheist blogs.

    If you can’t see the antagonism then maybe you don’t believe in reading between the lines. I could show you exactly how and why I interpreted things the way I did. It seems perfectly obvious to me that the comments were immediately condescending and showed not a hint of interest in finding out what I was trying to say.

  76. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    If you can’t see the antagonism then maybe you don’t believe in reading between the lines.

    Exactly right. Especially when it causes me to get my panties in a bunch about how awful someone is being in that stuff I’m reading in between the lines.

  77. Theo.Boehm said,

    I think Jason is a great commenter. It’s not that he isn’t a pain in the ass sometimes, but he brings a certain French sensibility—without any other Gallic pretentions—to the threads he comments on: That’s because he is always probing, critical, and thinking. The French love thinking about things. They regard thinking as sexy and adventurous. They also are a nation of critics, which tends to drive Americans nutz.

    Well, Jason is a one-man critic of everything, and he doesn’t do too bad a job of it. So, don’t be too hard on him if he’s a pain in the butt.

    That’s in his job description.

  78. realpc said,

    “here’s some “materialistic” research saying that we do respond to nature in a good way.”

    Donna, that has nothing to do with what I meant. First, that isn’t “materialist” research just because it uses technology! There is nothing “materialist” about technology, or science. That is such a misconception. Materialism is a philosophy, from a time before physics discovered that there is no ultimate particle of “matter.” Now we should know better. Science and materialism have nothing in common, but they are somethings thrown together and I can’t understand why.

    Science is a method for studying nature, and there is nothing in science that says nature is made out of “matter,” because no one even knows what matter actually is. I believe what we call “matter” is made out of information, relationships. That is a theory that has been around for decades, and lots of people believe it.

    There is nothing unscientific about that theory. And it leads directly to the idea of a conscious universe.

    All these ideas are hard to define and talk about, so of course it gets confusing. But I found that some commenters here were much more interested in slamming me down and elevating their egos that they were curious about what I have to say.

  79. realpc said,

    Theo,

    I love thinking and I question everything and I am skeptical about everything. Jason just hates what I have to say and must convince everyone that he is oh so smart and I am oh so dumb. So I give up on him.

  80. Jason (the commenter) said,

    realpc: No Charlie, if you read any of Jason’s posts carefully you will see condescension and contempt.

    I started out liking realc but seeing how he has treated the commenters here (not just me) with disrespect, I do hold him in contempt. I apologize to any who thinks me in bad taste for expressing so openly.

    Maybe I do have too much pride. I work on it all the time. But realpc is a liar and he deserves to be treated as one.

  81. realpc said,

    I didn’t lie about anything Jason. You are way too arrogant for me.

  82. realpc said,

    “Don’t feel bad though, you got up to Berkeley, most people who try proving God use Pascal’s Wager.”

    This is exactly the comment that started all the contempt. Is it possible to read that and not think it’s condescending? I wasn’t try to “prove god” anyway, so he completely misunderstood everything i said. Then decided I’m just another idiot who is too stupid to be an atheist. And of course I would be an atheist if I had his great knowledge and wisdom.

    I know what Berkeley and Pascal said. I am not an idiot.

  83. Theo.Boehm said,

    Well, I suppose we can console ourselves that at least this thread has been WAY more polite than the usual Itchy & Scratchy Shows we might see elsewhere.

  84. Donna B. said,

    realpc – I actually thought from reading several posts and comments on different threads that YOU thought science was at least related to materialism and that you rejected both. That accounts for some misunderstanding on my part, at least.

  85. realpc said,

    I really tried to be polite. I guess there is a certain thing that sets me off, and you find it more in atheists than anywhere else. As soon as they notice you believe in god they immediately make a whole crowd of assumptions. Like that you haven’t ever read a book other than the bible, have never ventured outside your trailer park, and can’t figure out how to turn your computer on (and the only reason you have one is because someone threw it away and you happened to find it in the dump which is where you spend all your free time, which is a lot because you don’t have anything to do.) In other words, you just gotta be a mindless moron. Because if you had any brains at all you would just “know” that life has been explained by Darwin’s theory, and you would “know” that because you read The God Delusion, and because you worship Amazing Randi and believe everything he ever said.

    And I can just imagine their scornful expression while they’re thinking all that about me, even though they don’t know a single thing about me. Just that I believe in god. Must be a moron, or I wouldn’t be under the God Delusion.

  86. realpc said,

    “YOU thought science was at least related to materialism and that you rejected both.”

    Incredible. How could I reject science? Unbelievable how people read into things and misinterpret.

  87. Donna B. said,

    What’s more incredible, is that when I asked you about that on previous thread, you thought I was “slamming” you and never bothered to explain that I misinterpreted something you wrote.

    And there is a HUGE difference in misinterpreting something and “reading something into” someone’s else’s words.

  88. realpc said,

    Donna,

    It’s unrealistic to expect me to read and remember every single thing everyone says. I’m sure you don’t have time for that either. It’s hard to see what is so “incredible” about my not answering every single thing you ever asked. But it is sometimes shocking to me how you misinterpret so much of what I write, and I sometimes can’t tell if you are doing it on purpose. But this is probably just what happens when people are on completely different wavelengths and have completely different ideas, with not much common ground. All kinds of things are assumed or misunderstood.

  89. Donna B. said,

    Forget it, real.

    Honestly, I’ve tried as best I can to understand where you are coming from. And from this thread, it doesn’t look like I’m all that alone in being unable to communicate with you in the precise way you wish to be communicated with.

    Perhaps the problem in communication is yours, not everyone else’s.

  90. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Real, I pretty much make my living as a writer. If nobody is getting what I mean, I don’t get paid.

    (It’s been a year, now, Amba! How about that!)

  91. realpc said,

    Charlie,

    I have done a lot of writing, mostly for graduate school papers. And in recent years just blogging and commenting. I have found that people who already agree with what I’m saying can be extremely appreciative and encouraging. But people who are on a different wavelength are either apathetic or hostile. But I don’t want to just preach to the choir all the time. What’s the point of that? I went through two different graduate programs — one was kind of new-agey and I got these amazing wonderful responses to some of my papers. The next one was real serious and scientific and they just didn’t get me at all. By some miracle I got through it and got a PhD, but it was such a discouraging ordeal. I had one professor who literally turned purple after reading something I wrote.

    So I should know by now that my ideas are going to antagonize a lot of people. I have not once converted a materialist to holistic science. I probably haven’t even made one of them think twice about their beliefs.

    I felt I’ve had so much experience debating atheists on blogs that I would know exactly what to avoid and how to qualify everything so as not to be misunderstood or provoke rage. I guess not.

  92. realpc said,

    “Perhaps the problem in communication is yours, not everyone else’s”

    I just assumed the readers here were more new-agey and holistic than you actually are. There aren’t many Sheldrake admirers here, that’s for sure. Probably most of you never heard of him.

  93. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Dude.

    I’m a 40+ year Buddhist Tarot reader in Boulder Colorado. And yes, I know about Rupert Sheldrake and his monkeys, I hung out with Robert Anton Wilson, I knew Tim Leary and Choegyam Trungpa. I get more New Age than this picking my breakfast cereal.

    Your ideas aren’t antagonizing anyone: we just aren’t finding them very well thought out, And you’re doing a miserable job of supporting them. Absolutely execrable.

    What is starting to get annoying is your repeated “oh I’m a visionary, I can’t be bothered to go through the explanations, and you all are picking on me” schtick.

    Now get off the fucking cross. Someone else can use the wood.

  94. realpc said,

    I never said or implied any of that. And I wasn’t talking about you anyway but since you decided to join the attack then I am . I can’t believe the degree of anger going on here. This blog used to be civil. I don’t care what you think about my ideas or the way I express them and I never said they were my ideas or anything new. And I said, more than once, that I wasn’t trying to explain it all in detail, just wanted to have a nice conversation. Forget all that. You got what you obviously wanted — I won’t post anything here anymore. You are so fucking nasty I can’t believe it. And I have never used that word on the internet in my life.

  95. realpc said,

    It’s just like hens in the barnyard — once one starts pecking someone they all join it. You’re a bunch of stupid hens.

  96. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    What? That’s what I got from reading between the lines.

  97. Jason (the commenter) said,

    I LOVE The Little Red Hen!

    Peck, peck, peck!

  98. Theo.Boehm said,

    Well, this is the most disgusting thread I’ve seen or could imagine here. I’m with realpc. She may not have the most perfect style of expression (and who among us does? Charlie??), but the attack mode everybody got into is shocking and, frankly, very depressing.

    I basically agree with realpc, but there are a number of areas that I would have liked to have explored including the whole question of parapsychological research, and why it ought to be funded and by whom.

    But it was impossible to get that far, because everyone piled on, making a mockery of anything like civil discourse.

    So, yes, count me out around here, too. I thought this was supposed to be different.

    If I want to slug it out in the Althouse comments, I’ll slug it out in the Althouse comments.

    If I want civil conversation, or an empty room, I don’t care, I’ll go to my own blog.

  99. Randy said,

    When a thread approaches 100 comments, its usually a good bet that Godwin’s Law has been proven yet again. Or someone ought to invoke it out of compassion for all concerned. I looked in here with some degree of hope, but this was apparently not an exception to prove the rule.

    Frankly, I’m very tired at the moment, and haven’t read ALL or even MOST of the comments, or given any of them the thoughtful attention they deserve, but I’ll just say that I believe that everyone involved here is, at heart, a person of goodwill.

  100. Charlie (Colorado) said,

    Theo, I suppose it would have helped if we had a warning sign that said “I don’t want any of my ideas challenged.”

  101. amba12 said,

    Whew. Here I am struggling to get some work done, nightmarishly unable to get any traction, and I missed all this.

    Real doesn’t know Jason, and so she (yep, Jason, she!) is taking him as a standard-issue warrior-atheist of the kind she has, in fact, had terrible battles with. Theo is right about Jason. He is a devil’s advocate, challenges everything, and has an attitude which is not condescending but rather supercilious, in the literal sense of a raised eyebrow. (I much appreciate the rich moderation and mediation provided here by Charlie, Theo, Ron, and Donna.) Real is mistaking Jason’s constant (in the sense of “faithful”) ‘tude for hostility specifically to her ideas. She has been so burned by flame wars with militant atheists at Panda’s Thumb and the like that she sees it coming a mile away even when it isn’t.

    But underneath (and perhaps driving) his equal-opportunity irony towards everything, Jason evidently is as passionate a skeptic as Real is a mystic, and so when Real attacked skeptics, Jason took it personally. When Michael attacks me as a right-winger, the barbs don’t go into me because they’re intended for someone else. I’d probably be (and have been) more stung by someone saying the middle is always a gutless, mushy cop-out.

    My own feeling lately is that ALL human ideas are wrong, or at best very partial, and so there’s no point in getting identified with any of them. Thinking should be taken as a provisional hypothetical activity. Start from the assumption that we’re all wrong, and then we can have some fun.

    I think my biggest concern about the scientific mindset is its reductionism — that it dismisses experience by reducing it to something we can’t experience but can only conceptualize, like neurotransmission. People now talk about their serotonin levels instead of their anguish. That reductionism definitely comes from a need for control over overwhelming experience — a control that anyone with real clinical depression can only be grateful for. But at the same time, it’s shutting down the realm of the subjective, turning three dimensions into two. There was a vast inner world to explore that is being shrunk down and freeze-dried into fashionable molecules. What matters is not even whether that is purely a product of the brain or not. If it is purely a product of the brain, how amazing is that that the brain can produce the richness of experience? I think our obsession with the physical brain is leading us to ignore or minimize the experience (which is getting lost in all our arguments about whether it’s “real” or not). And maybe that’s ultimately because of a fear of the experience. But all the talk about unhappiness and anomie is related to the shutting down of experience. It’s rather dreary to be talking about brain molecules rather than directly experiencing our sensations and emotions. If this has diminished fear and despair, it’s correspondingly diminished joy, wonder, and pleasure.

  102. amba12 said,

    “Don’t feel bad though, you got up to Berkeley, most people who try proving God use Pascal’s Wager.” I thought that comment was playful and funny. These skirmishes can actually be playful.

    I wonder if gender is relevant or if it’s just temperament. I’ve heard that men are better at “fighting” (arguing, debating) than women in that they don’t take it as seriously or personally. Supposedly it has to do with their sports training, and maybe with something even older or more innate than that.

    I doubt it, though. I suspect it’s passion, taking ideas seriously.

  103. Ron said,

    Charlie — I, too, have been a programmer since the mid ’70’s! Oy! (programming without a terminal! Just an IBM 029 keypunch!)

  104. amba12 said,

    There are pitfalls to the new-agey holistic thing, too. It’s also gotten too codified and cloying, its mysticism too easy. I masochistically go to Mystic Bourgeoisie from time to time to get any such tendencies scalded out of me.

  105. amba12 said,

    All right, I hadn’t read all the comments when I wrote all the above. Now I have and I’m virtually in tears at the thought that ANYBODY is storming out, never to return.

    I’ve wasted more than an hour trying to say something about it all that would make sense, erased it all, and now, crap, I’m farther behind than ever.

    When you see someone getting vehement and defensive, taking things too personally, why take that personally? That’s the best time to take a step back, not forward into battle. When someone believes their back is against the wall, because of past experiences (yes, some of those organized materialists can be quite viciously contemptuous, and they do believe they are smarter than anyone who entertains the remotest possibility of what they call an “Imaginary Friend”), you’re not going to get a fair fight from them. If they’re wrong about you, instead of telling them how wrong they are (which makes them right), why not show them they’re wrong by backing off temporarily? It doesn’t entail your ideas suffering a defeat, it entails being able to distinguish ideas from emotions, message from medium, signal from noise . . . oh, hell. I gotta sleep.

  106. Ron said,

    Amba, — and I can’t believe I’m getting to say this! — this is, sincerely, nothing to lose sleep over! Morpheus always wins debates like this anyway!

  107. Ron said,

    sez the man up at 5:30! :)

  108. trooper york said,

    Yeah Amba I really hate it when someone gets insulted and flounces off a blog site never to return.

    What a baby!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: