Best Reason

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

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Best Reason

Postby marxiavelli on Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:11 pm

I am here by invitation. I have been told the owner of this site had some very good reasons for believing in God. At this point I would like to invite him to discuss with me his best one.

- "marxiavelli"
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Re: Best Reason

Postby Metacrock on Mon Dec 08, 2008 9:20 pm

marxiavelli wrote:I am here by invitation. I have been told the owner of this site had some very good reasons for believing in God. At this point I would like to invite him to discuss with me his best one.

- "marxiavelli"



hey glad you could make it. That was me, Metacrock. This is my boards. We have a great community here, it's "our boards."

anyway, I have 42 arguments for the existence of God. I'll point you to the two best.

recently I've started a new approach. But before we get into that I'll just start off with three basic ideas.

First here's the link to my 42 arguments in case you want to read about them.


http://www.doxa.ws/meta_crock/listGodarguments.html


Secondly, here are the three basic arguments I think are the best:

since I don't want to overload you all at once with too much info I'll just start by putting up one argument here and then the others in other threads.

two stages to this argument:

(1) Argument from co-determinate

(2) argument from epistemic judgment.

the point of it is are really one argument because they both stem from the data which are 300 empirical studies about the nature of religious experince.

stage I: Argument from Co determiniate


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

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

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

(1) The trace produced content with speicificually religious affects

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

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

Argument (1)There are real affects from Mytical experince.

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

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

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

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


Analysis:
Real Affects of Mystical Experince Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experince is only one aspect of religious experince, but I will focuss on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious expeince are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experince can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integrationm (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback


http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/cehsc/ipure.htm

Gackenback website is Spiritwatch

Quotes:

"The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining charactoristics.

[Gackenback]

"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.


3)Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experince scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.

(Ibid.)

Quote:

"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation" (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).



4) Incidence.

(Ibid.)

Quote:

"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973".

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.


Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;


stage 2: Epistemic judgment:

Argument:


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

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

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

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

(5) Inersubjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by bleievers all over the world, in different times and diffrent places, just as the exeternal world seems to be percieved the same by everyone.

(6) Reala and Lasting effects.


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


See note on the Thomas Reid project and Reid himself end page 2

*We assume reality by means of a Jugement

*we make such jugements based upon certain criteria

*Because RE fits the same criteria we are justfied in making the same assumption; ie that these experinces are idicative of a reality.

VIII. The Thomas Reid Argument.

A. How do we Know the external world exists?

Philosophers have often expressed skepticism about the external world, the existence of other minds, and even one's own existence. Rene Descartes went so far as to build an elaborate system of rationalism to demonstrate the existence of the external world, beginning with his famous cogito, "I think, therefore, I am." Of course, he didn't really doubt his own existence. The point was to show the method of rationalism at work. Nevertheless, this basic point, that of epistemology (how we know what we know) has always plagued philosophy. It seems no one has ever really given an adequate account. But the important point here is not so much what philosophers have said but what most people do. The way we approach life on a daily basis the assumptions we make about the external world. Skeptics are fond of saying that it is irrational to believe things without proof. I would argue that they, an all of us, believe the most crucial and most basic things without any proof whosoever, and we live based upon those assumptions which are gleaned with no proof of their veracity at all!

B. Consider Thomas Reid's Common Sense Philosophy of Foundatinalism and Fallibalism.

The point of departure here is Reid's discussion of Hume and the problem of justification of the external world. This is discussed in lecture notes of a contemporary philosopher, G.J. Mattey, in his lecture notes.

1) Skepticism about the External World

Thomas Reid
Theory of Knowledge lecture notes.
G.J. Mattey
Philosophy, UC Davis

"Consider the question whether we are justified in believing that a physical world exists. As David Hume pointed out, the skepticism generated by philosophical arguments is contrary to our natural inclination to believe that there are physical objects." "[T]he skeptic . . . must assent to the principle concerning the existence of body, tho' he cannot pretend by any arguments of philosophy to maintain its veracity. Nature has not left this to his choice, and has doubtless esteem'd it an affair of too great importance to be trusted to our uncertain reasonings and speculations. We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the existence of body?, but 'tis in vain to ask, Whether there be body or not? That is a point, which we must take for granted in all our reasoning." (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part IV, Section II)

"Nonetheless, after considering the causes of our belief in the existence of body and finding them inadequate for the justification of that belief, Hume admitted to be drawn away form his orignal assumption that bodies exist. 'To be ingenuous, I feel myself at present . . . more inclin'd to repose no faith at all in my senses, or rather imagination, than to place in it such an implicit confidence,' because ''tis impossible upon any system to defend either our understanding or senses." His solution to these doubts was "carelessness and in-attention,' which divert the mind from skeptical arguments."


2) Reid's Defense of Commonsense Beliefs.

Mattey again:

"Thomas Reid, who was a later contemporary of Hume's, claimed that our beliefs in the external world are justified.'I shall take it for granted that the evidence of sense, when the proper circumstances concur, is good evidence, and a just ground of belief' (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX). This evidence is different from that of reasoning from premises to a conclusion, however."

"That the evidence of sense is of a different kind, needs little proof. No man seeks a reason for believing what he sees or feels; and, if he did, it would be difficult to find one. But, though he can give no reason for believing his senses, his belief remains as firm as if it were grounded on demonstration. Many eminent philosophers, thinking it unreasonable to believe when the could not shew a reason, have laboured to furnish us with reasons for believing our senses; but their reasons are very insufficient, and will not bear examination. Other philosophers have shewn very clearly the fallacy of these reasons, and have, as they imagine, discovered invincible reasons agains this belief; but they have never been able either to shake it themselves or to convince others. The statesman continues to plod, the soldier to fight, and the merchant to export and ijmport, without being in the least moved by the demonstations that have been offered of the non-existence of those things about which they are so seriously employed. And a man may as soon by reasoning, pull the moon out of her orbit, as destroy the belief of the objects of sense." (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX)

"Here Reid shows himself to have foundationalist tendencies, in the sense that our beliefs about physical objects are not justified by appeal to other beliefs. On the other hand, all he has established at this point is what Hume had already observed, that beliefs about physical objects are very hard to shake off. Hume himself admitted only to lose his faith in the senses when he was deeply immersed in skeptical reflections. But why should Reid think these deeply-held beliefs are based on "good evidence" or "a just ground?" One particularly telling observation is that a philosopher's "knowledge of what really exists, or did exist, comes by another channel [than reason], which is open to those who cannot reason. He is led to it in the dark, and knows not how he came by it" (Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Essay IV, Chapter XX). Philosophers "cannot account for" this knowledge and must humbly accept it s a gift of heaven."

"If there is no philosophical account of justification of beliefs about the physical world, how could Reid claim that they are justified at all? The answer is the way in which they support common sense."

"Such original and natural judgments [based on sense-experience] are, therefore, a part of that furniture which Nature hath given to the human understanding. They are the inspiration of the Almighty, no less than our notions or simple apprehensions. They serve to direct us in the common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the dark. They are part of our constitution; and all the discoveries of our reason are grounded upon them. They make up what is called the common sense of mankind; and, what is manifestly contrary to any of those first principles, is what we call absurd. (An Inquiry into the Human Mind, Chapter VII, Section 4)"

"One might say that judgments from sense-experience they are justified insofar as they justify other beliefs we have, or perhaps because they are the output of a perceptual system designed by God to convey the truth. (Of course, if the latter is what gives these beliefs their justification, the claim that we are designed in this way needs to be justified as well.)"



C. In other words, We accept the existence of the external world as a matter of course merely because we perceive it.

1) Acceptance of Perceptions about the world.

But it is not merely because we percieve it that we accept it. It is because we perceive it in a particular sort of way. Because we perceive it in a regular and consistent way. This has been stated above by Reid. The common man goes on with his lot never giving a second thought to the fact that he can no more prove the veracity of the things around him than he can the existence of God or anything else in philosophy. Yet we accept it, as does the skeptic demanding his data, while we live out our lives making these assumptions all the time.

2) Consistency and Regularity.

If every time we woke up in the morning it was in a different house, with a different family, but one which make the assumption that we did nevertheless belong there and always had, and if the route to work changed every morning, if we never went to the same job twice, if our names and our looks were always different each day, we might think less of direct observation. But because these things are always the same from moment to moment and they never differ, we learn to trust them and we trust them implicitly as a matter of course. We do not try to prove to our selves each day when we get up "I am the same person today that I was yesterday," precisely because we learn very early that we always are the same person. We observe early on that we cannot penetrate physical objects without leaving holes and so we do not try to walk though walls; we know that doesn't work because it never works.

Hume observed that when we see two billiard balls we do not really see the cause of one making the other one move. What we really observe is one stopping and the other one starting. But, in practical terms, we do not observe the causality of a car running over the pedestrian as causing the pedestrian to fly across the road, but we know from experience that these two factors usually go hand in hand and so we don't play in the street.

a) Empirical proof?

In making this argument on boards many skeptics have argued "I see that the world is real with my own eyes." That's the point, why trust your eyes? You cannot prove they are seeing things properly. Everything could be an illusion everything we observe could be wrong. We cannot prove the existence of the external world, we assume it because it is always there. Some try to claim this direct observation as empirical proof. But they are confusing the notion of scientific empiricism with epistemological empiricism. Before we make the assumption that scientific data is valid we first make the epistemological assumption that perception is valid. Otherwise there would be no point in assuming the data. So epistemological empiricism is prior to scientific methods. In fact we have to simply make this assumption a priori with no proof and no way around the problem in order to able to make the assumptions necessary to accept scientific data. WE do usually make these assumptions, but they are assumptions none the less.

b) Science cannot prove reality.
Still others try to content that empirical scientific evidence proves the reality of the external world. But of course if the world were an illusion than any scientific evidence we gather would be part of the illusion as well. So there is no other way to demonstrate the truth of the external world, the existence of other minds, or the reality of our own existence except through the consistency and regularity of our sense data.

Next: Reid Argument Page 2

the background data on studies (not all 300 but an overview) is found here:

http://www.doxa.ws/meta_crock/Supernature4.html
Have Theology, Will argue: wire Metacrock
Buy My book: The Trace of God: Warrant for belief
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Re: Best Reason

Postby marxiavelli on Mon Dec 08, 2008 11:38 pm

First of all I would like to say that I find both of these arguments to be interesting. I was expecting the typical cosmological or ontological arguments, but these are legitimately new. Trying to admit religious experience as a form of empirical evidence is an interesting move.

1. Co-Determinate Argument.

I must confess that my intuition is that people who literally hear the voice of God are probably insane or delusional. In fact, the idea of anyone doing anything in the real world because a voice in his/her head commands them to do so, or because a mystical experience guides them to do it, fills me with a certain degree of fear. I freely admit that this is a bias of mine that may or may not be fully justified by the psychological evidence available. I think of schizophrenics who hear voices in their heads. They may or may not hurt people because of it, but the presence of an irrational agent is deeply troubling.

That being said, I'll do my best to reserve judgment and review the relevant studies if you have them available. Of particular interest would be having legitimate criteria for distinguishing between the effects of psychotic disorders and other causes of hallucination and experiences that actually correlate to supernatural beings. I'm not sure what such a criteria would look like.

The second step would be conditioned by the first, and would involve isolating what could be positively said about the correlate of those experiences. It might turn out that God does not exist but that something like demons or ghosts do, for example. Or it might turn out that we live among and can have contact with supernatural beings, or one great supernatural being, but that this supernatural being didn't create the universe and isn't in the habit of producing human offspring with migrating Hebrews.

2. Epistemic Judgment Argument

My main problem with this argument is that it relies upon 18th-century epistemology. Almost all epistemology of that time revolved around what I call a transcendentally real view of the world. This view of knowledge largely died out in the 19th century, with the exception of British philosophy, where it experienced a revival associated with positivism. This revival spread to the United States in the early 20th century. But by and large it is as inadequate and troubling today as it was three hundred years ago. Why people go on discussing it, and why they ignore the philosophy of the century between then and now, is something I have never understood. But that is another topic.

I say this because I think the argument over transcendental realism and its ability to "ground" a scientific view of the world is a secondary topic.

The real heart of this argument seems to be similar to the Co-Determinate Argument: whether or not religious experiences are admissible as a form of empirical evidence.

One of the advantages of all other forms of empirical evidence is that they can be confirmed at will by other people, particularly by even by people who have a vested interest or bias against recognizing the evidence.

Let us say that I don't believe that water is actually H2O. The nice thing about the science of chemistry is that I can repeat the experiment multiple times, with different people, and get the same result. I can even repeat the same experiment myself and get the same result.

Now, let's say that only 5% of the human population could actually in principle run an experiment showing that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. I say "in principle" because in practice the number is probably far lower, and the vast majority of people on Earth accept their findings without verifying it themselves. So the principle that they could review it independently seems to be a key to admissibility. If 95 out of 100 people ran an experiment analyzing the structure of water and found that "water" was actually an atomic element itself, or found that water was actually helium and oxygen, not hydrogen, and then we would expect that the hydrogen-oxygen contingent would have some serious explaining to do.

So now let's say that the ability to evaluate the existence of God was in fact as public as the ability to evaluate the chemical composition of water. In other words, you and I could go to a laboratory and, under predictable conditions, have an experience which somehow unequivocally indicated the existence of a supernatural entity in our midst. Again, as with argument 1, there would have to be some convincing way of distinguishing reproducible mental illness from legitimate interactions with a supernatural being.

I would have to say that if such a thing were possible, I would say that religious experience would have to be admitted as empirical evidence.

So now that I've laid out my preconceptions on the table, I will go and have a closer look at some of the studies you've mentioned.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby sgttomas on Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:59 am

marxiavelli wrote:The second step would be conditioned by the first, and would involve isolating what could be positively said about the correlate of those experiences. It might turn out that God does not exist but that something like demons or ghosts do, for example. Or it might turn out that we live among and can have contact with supernatural beings, or one great supernatural being, but that this supernatural being didn't create the universe and isn't in the habit of producing human offspring with migrating Hebrews.


Fair and honest criticisms and these scenarios are quite possible. I believe that one comes to discriminate between the options as one becomes familiar with the agent one is "in contact" with. In a sense, as Jesus is reported to have said, "my sheep know my voice".

My main problem with this argument is that it relies upon 18th-century epistemology. Almost all epistemology of that time revolved around what I call a transcendentally real view of the world. This view of knowledge largely died out in the 19th century, with the exception of British philosophy, where it experienced a revival associated with positivism. This revival spread to the United States in the early 20th century. But by and large it is as inadequate and troubling today as it was three hundred years ago. Why people go on discussing it, and why they ignore the philosophy of the century between then and now, is something I have never understood. But that is another topic.


You should post on it! ….are you talking about all that French postmodern stuff?

I say this because I think the argument over transcendental realism and its ability to "ground" a scientific view of the world is a secondary topic.


There was a nascent discussion on this topic in the “secular” forum here. I’ve been meaning to post something more expansive on it.

….c’mon lazy bones (me). Lol.

One of the advantages of all other forms of empirical evidence is that they can be confirmed at will by other people, particularly by even by people who have a vested interest or bias against recognizing the evidence.

Let us say that I don't believe that water is actually H2O. The nice thing about the science of chemistry is that I can repeat the experiment multiple times, with different people, and get the same result. I can even repeat the same experiment myself and get the same result.

Now, let's say that only 5% of the human population could actually in principle run an experiment showing that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. I say "in principle" because in practice the number is probably far lower, and the vast majority of people on Earth accept their findings without verifying it themselves. So the principle that they could review it independently seems to be a key to admissibility. If 95 out of 100 people ran an experiment analyzing the structure of water and found that "water" was actually an atomic element itself, or found that water was actually helium and oxygen, not hydrogen, and then we would expect that the hydrogen-oxygen contingent would have some serious explaining to do.

So now let's say that the ability to evaluate the existence of God was in fact as public as the ability to evaluate the chemical composition of water. In other words, you and I could go to a laboratory and, under predictable conditions, have an experience which somehow unequivocally indicated the existence of a supernatural entity in our midst. Again, as with argument 1, there would have to be some convincing way of distinguishing reproducible mental illness from legitimate interactions with a supernatural being.

I would have to say that if such a thing were possible, I would say that religious experience would have to be admitted as empirical evidence.

So now that I've laid out my preconceptions on the table, I will go and have a closer look at some of the studies you've mentioned.


This is the nail on the head. The problem is how we share our knowledge of what is real. Do I know that matter is made of atoms? Well…in a sense, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t made of the kinds of atoms of the 18th century. So I often wonder who’s imagination I am tapping into when I think about atoms…and if they are in fact crazy ;)

If we speak more generally about water as conforming to certain attributes, then whatever the “essence” of matter is is entirely irrelevant. I have a relative definition of water. Water is like this when that happens. Water has characteristics. Again with God, it’s irrelevant what the essence of God is….really a demon, a ghost, an alien? If we are discussing the characteristics of God, we are discussing God, and this can be easily verified.

The question is whether or not a person will reify these characteristics, the way we reify atoms in our mind.

Peace,
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Prophet Muhammad (God send peace and blessings upon him) is reported to have said, "God says 'I am as My servant thinks I am' " ~ Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol 9 #502 (Chapter 93, "Oneness of God")
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Re: Best Reason

Postby Metacrock on Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:34 am

marxiavelli wrote:First of all I would like to say that I find both of these arguments to be interesting. I was expecting the typical cosmological or ontological arguments, but these are legitimately new. Trying to admit religious experience as a form of empirical evidence is an interesting move.



thanks man I appreciate that. I forgot to say that my arguments are aimed at providing a rational warrant rather than actual proof.




1. Co-Determinate Argument.

I must confess that my intuition is that people who literally hear the voice of God are probably insane or delusional. In fact, the idea of anyone doing anything in the real world because a voice in his/her head commands them to do so, or because a mystical experience guides them to do it, fills me with a certain degree of fear. I freely admit that this is a bias of mine that may or may not be fully justified by the psychological evidence available. I think of schizophrenics who hear voices in their heads. They may or may not hurt people because of it, but the presence of an irrational agent is deeply troubling.


Mystical experince is not about hearing voices. Its' a sense of God's presence and reality that is beyond words. It's not about voices or visions. Most mystics discourage such things.

a vast body of work in empirical sciences demonstrates that religious experience is not mental illness.

Not the result of Pathology or technique

1).Effects indicate that Mystical expereince cannot be reduced to Mental Illness.

Mental illness is usually either treatable or progressive (gets worse), but it is not positive over a long term. Mentally ill people do not gian long lasting postive effects from thier illness that gives them a heightend sense of well being and lasts for long term. Mental illness does not improve the sense of self-actualization or make one a "whole" person. Religious experience does this and mystical expereince or "peak experience" so so all the more. Evidence to document this point is found above under argument III, but more studies can also be sited.[see above, Larson, The Faith Factor, Study search]

2) No relationship Mysticism and Mental Illness.

[Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.]

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (unpublished paper 1992) http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/cehsc/ipure.htm
Jayne Gackenback

"Scientific interest in the mystical experience was broadened with the research on psychoactive drugs. The popular belief was that such drugs mimicked either mystical states and/or schizophrenic ones (reviewed in Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990). Although there is likely some physiological similarity as well as phenomenological recent work has shown clear differences. For instance, Oxman, Rosenberg, Schnurr, Tucker and Gala (1988) analyzed 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug experiences, and mystical ecstasy as well as 28 control accounts of important personal experiences. They concluded that the: "subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike" (p. 401).

(Ibid) "Relatedly, Caird (1987) found no relationship between reported mystical experience and neuroticism, psychoticism and lying while Spanos and Moretti (1988) found no relationship between a measure of mystical experience and psychopathology."




a. Trend toward positive view among psychologists.

Spiriutal Emergency

MYSTICAL OR UNITIVE EXPERIENCE

"Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation."



b. Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive.
(Ibid)

"Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".



c. Incidence rate suggests no pathology.


"Numerous studies assessing the incidence of mystical experience (Back and Bourque, 1970; Greeley, 1974, 1987; Hay and Morisy, 1978; Hood, 1974, 1975, 1977; Thomas and Cooper, 1980) all support the conclusion that 30-40% of the population do have such experiences, suggesting that they are normal rather than pathological phenomena. In addition, a recent survey (Allman et al., 1992) has demonstrated that the number of patients who bring mystical experiences into treatment is not insignificant. Psychologists in full-time practice were asked to estimate the percentage of their clients over the past 12 months who had reported a mystical experience. The 285 respondents indicated that of the 20,670 clients seen during the past year, the incidence of mystical experience was 4.5%. This clearly challenges the GAP report on Mysticism, which claims that "mystical experiences are rarely observed in psychotherapeutic practice" (Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, 1976, p. 799).



2) Not the restult of deprivation or fantasy; mystics tend to be successful people.

Council on Spiritual Practices

State of Unitive Consciousness http://www.csp.org/experience/docs/unit ... sness.html
"Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. "

3) Mystisicm offers therapeutic insights.

"...Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' [-- page 665 ) [Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

See Also: Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184. Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.



That being said, I'll do my best to reserve judgment and review the relevant studies if you have them available. Of particular interest would be having legitimate criteria for distinguishing between the effects of psychotic disorders and other causes of hallucination and experiences that actually correlate to supernatural beings. I'm not sure what such a criteria would look like.



see the studies above.

The second step would be conditioned by the first, and would involve isolating what could be positively said about the correlate of those experiences. It might turn out that God does not exist but that something like demons or ghosts do, for example. Or it might turn out that we live among and can have contact with supernatural beings, or one great supernatural being, but that this supernatural being didn't create the universe and isn't in the habit of producing human offspring with migrating Hebrews.


the nature of mystical experince is such that it has been associated with the divine since well before humanity was human (65,000 years ago Neaderthals felt mystical experience and believed in life after death--from the way they buried their dead--and we know this because the mushrooms they used). This association is so strong that it's the basic reason we have the idea of religion today. So to try and slough off some notion of the divine in favor of some less likely entity is not a very strong proposition.

Because of this association we expect the divine to vivify and transform our lives, we don't expect this of demons or ghosts. Consequently when lives are transformed by these experinces it makes much more sense to assume it's the trace of God and not something else. Of course this is barring naturalistic counter causality which must be dealt with.




2. Epistemic Judgment Argument

My main problem with this argument is that it relies upon 18th-century epistemology. Almost all epistemology of that time revolved around what I call a transcendentally real view of the world. This view of knowledge largely died out in the 19th century, with the exception of British philosophy, where it experienced a revival associated with positivism. This revival spread to the United States in the early 20th century. But by and large it is as inadequate and troubling today as it was three hundred years ago. Why people go on discussing it, and why they ignore the philosophy of the century between then and now, is something I have never understood. But that is another topic.



The idea hat it died out in formal philosophy has nothing to do with how we actually look at the world. philosophers understand the world in different terms. Reid was taken to have lost to Hume and we move on from Hume to Kant and then other post Kantians. But in fact Reid did not lose. Hume got more press, Reid actually was right and Hume was wrong. Moreover importantly Reid was concerned with the way people really see things not with formal philosophy.

If you think about it you will see what I mean, "do you feel hot or is it only me?" "did you see that?" we are still taken roll of others to determine if our perceptions are regular, consistent, and shared. The shared part is "inter-subjective" which is a phenomenological category.

I suggest that my whole take on this epistemology is very much alive in phenomenological circles. Think of Schleiermacher and the feeling of utter dependence and his influence upon Heidegger.


I say this because I think the argument over transcendental realism and its ability to "ground" a scientific view of the world is a secondary topic.


transcendental realism is irrelevant. It doesn't' matter what you call it, or what you think about Post Kantian view of epistemology. The fact of the matter is we do not play on the freeway because we observe that people who do seem to have problems, and thus we judge our perceptions to be such that we fare better if we don't play on the freeway.

Ordinary pedestrians are staying off the freeway while the philosophers over at the universe are arguing that the freeway is just a cultural construct.

The real heart of this argument seems to be similar to the Co-Determinate Argument: whether or not religious experiences are admissible as a form of empirical evidence.


It is backed by the same studies. that's why I include it as Phase 2 of the same argument.


One of the advantages of all other forms of empirical evidence is that they can be confirmed at will by other people, particularly by even by people who have a vested interest or bias against recognizing the evidence.



Millions of people have mystical experience, some estimate as many as one in four. The same commonalities show up all over the world in all times and cultures. that's above in the initial stuff on the first argument.



Let us say that I don't believe that water is actually H2O. The nice thing about the science of chemistry is that I can repeat the experiment multiple times, with different people, and get the same result. I can even repeat the same experiment myself and get the same result.


God is not a scientific question but a phenomenological one. When we allow the sense data to suggest it's own categories we get God.

Now, let's say that only 5% of the human population could actually in principle run an experiment showing that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen. I say "in principle" because in practice the number is probably far lower, and the vast majority of people on Earth accept their findings without verifying it themselves. So the principle that they could review it independently seems to be a key to admissibility. If 95 out of 100 people ran an experiment analyzing the structure of water and found that "water" was actually an atomic element itself, or found that water was actually helium and oxygen, not hydrogen, and then we would expect that the hydrogen-oxygen contingent would have some serious explaining to do.



we are not dealing with a scientific question, we are dealing an existential/phenomenological one.

Notice the empirical evidence I give is not direct empirical evidence of God but of the "co-determinate" or the trace. the trace is empirical, God is not. The studies demonstrate the trace holds up: 350 studies, and really could be as many as 2000, (just a guess) over four decades.


So now let's say that the ability to evaluate the existence of God was in fact as public as the ability to evaluate the chemical composition of water. In other words, you and I could go to a laboratory and, under predictable conditions, have an experience which somehow unequivocally indicated the existence of a supernatural entity in our midst. Again, as with argument 1, there would have to be some convincing way of distinguishing reproducible mental illness from legitimate interactions with a supernatural being.



(1) the thesis of mental illness is disproved by emprical studies. see above.

a. RE doesnt' confrom

b. it's not degenerative but progressive and therapeutics

(2) no other aspect can be found in terms of counter causality that is long term and transformative. In other words, lasts a life time and is not degenerative but totally revitalizes your life across the boards. nothing else does that. That in itself sets it apart from naturalistic things.

I would have to say that if such a thing were possible, I would say that religious experience would have to be admitted as empirical evidence.



it's clearly empirical, the M scale makes it empriical because it can be measured. the question is the cause. the experince itself is empriical, not that you can study the way it feels to have it but the effects of having had it are measurable.

So now that I've laid out my preconceptions on the table, I will go and have a closer look at some of the studies you've mentioned.



OK sure. I'll get to the other two arguments after we have a go at these.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby marxiavelli on Tue Dec 09, 2008 7:37 pm

Okay, before we proceed I'm going to need some clarity from you. You spend half your time quoting scientific studies about mystical experiences. You spend the other half your time telling me that this is "not a scientific question". I will need to know which standard we are using before we proceed further.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby marxiavelli on Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:19 pm

This is the nail on the head. The problem is how we share our knowledge of what is real. Do I know that matter is made of atoms? Well…in a sense, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t made of the kinds of atoms of the 18th century. So I often wonder who’s imagination I am tapping into when I think about atoms…and if they are in fact crazy ;)

If we speak more generally about water as conforming to certain attributes, then whatever the “essence” of matter is is entirely irrelevant. I have a relative definition of water. Water is like this when that happens. Water has characteristics. Again with God, it’s irrelevant what the essence of God is….really a demon, a ghost, an alien? If we are discussing the characteristics of God, we are discussing God, and this can be easily verified.

The question is whether or not a person will reify these characteristics, the way we reify atoms in our mind.


And I think some level of reification is healthy so long as we retain some kind of access to its phenomenological ground. Let us say that you want to build a house. This may be absurd but the essence of the 2x4 may lie in the forest it came from, the weight it has in your hand, the smell of the organic resins, and if you want to take a Marxist approach, the material history of its production, the social forces that are imbedded in its sale and use. It is a focus on sensuous particulars. We move to reification when we take the 2x4 and abstract it, universalize it... We represent it in terms of cost, average loadbearing capacity, etc. And these fantasies we have about what it is allow is to do things like build houses and move construction materials around the world without ever seeing them, and it works. Usually. And I think that is fine so long as we remember that the wood is there. It's real. It came from a tree. Someone cut it down. Someone else illed it. Brute facts.

But this is somewhat of a tangent. Let us say that Metacrock is right and that there is this entire dimension of human experience that has been ignored for some time... and let us say that we want to "re-admit" this into our categories of what constitutes knowledge.

Let us say that you twirl yourself around for five minutes. When you stop, the world appears to be spinning. And this experience is reproduceable. Anyone who has 5 minutes to spare can have the experience of the world itself moving topsy-turvy. But we would have trouble saying for that this reason alone the world itself is spinning around. Or we could say this, but we would have to quickly amend what we meant ("the world is spinning... but only sort of"). Because as it turns out the world is not spinning in the way we conventionally mean it is, and the reproduceable experience of it doing so turns out to be merely physiological in nature.

But we are able to say that because we can point to some third thing (namely, the Earth itself, and the fact that buildings don't fall and trees don't topple when we decide to spin around for 5 minutes, etc) which is available through our other sense modalities in order to disconfirm our initial sense impressions about spinning.

It is unclear what "third thing" we might point to in the case of mystical experiences in order to tell whether or not they can be taken at face value or if they are "merely" physiological glitches as some evolutionary psychologists suggest.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby Metacrock on Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:49 pm

marxiavelli wrote:Okay, before we proceed I'm going to need some clarity from you. You spend half your time quoting scientific studies about mystical experiences. You spend the other half your time telling me that this is "not a scientific question". I will need to know which standard we are using before we proceed further.



whatever can be measured scientifically is a scientific question. what cannot me measured scientifically is not.

Mystical experince can be measured scientifically in certain respects, not the intensity of it but the effects of having had it.

God cannot be studies scientifically in a direct sense. Because God is not given in sense data. But what can be studies the "trace" of god, the co-determinate. that is the concept of the signature. the footprint. The effect of having encountered the divine, which is mystical experince.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby Metacrock on Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:58 pm

marxiavelli wrote:
This is the nail on the head. The problem is how we share our knowledge of what is real. Do I know that matter is made of atoms? Well…in a sense, it isn’t. It certainly isn’t made of the kinds of atoms of the 18th century. So I often wonder who’s imagination I am tapping into when I think about atoms…and if they are in fact crazy ;)

If we speak more generally about water as conforming to certain attributes, then whatever the “essence” of matter is is entirely irrelevant. I have a relative definition of water. Water is like this when that happens. Water has characteristics. Again with God, it’s irrelevant what the essence of God is….really a demon, a ghost, an alien? If we are discussing the characteristics of God, we are discussing God, and this can be easily verified.

The question is whether or not a person will reify these characteristics, the way we reify atoms in our mind.



who are you quoting?




And I think some level of reification is healthy so long as we retain some kind of access to its phenomenological ground. Let us say that you want to build a house. This may be absurd but the essence of the 2x4 may lie in the forest it came from, the weight it has in your hand, the smell of the organic resins, and if you want to take a Marxist approach, the material history of its production, the social forces that are imbedded in its sale and use. It is a focus on sensuous particulars. We move to reification when we take the 2x4 and abstract it, universalize it... We represent it in terms of cost, average loadbearing capacity, etc. And these fantasies we have about what it is allow is to do things like build houses and move construction materials around the world without ever seeing them, and it works. Usually. And I think that is fine so long as we remember that the wood is there. It's real. It came from a tree. Someone cut it down. Someone else illed it. Brute facts.



I'm not sure if that fits my understanding of a brute fact. But I get the drift.

But this is somewhat of a tangent. Let us say that Metacrock is right and that there is this entire dimension of human experience that has been ignored for some time... and let us say that we want to "re-admit" this into our categories of what constitutes knowledge.

Let us say that you twirl yourself around for five minutes. When you stop, the world appears to be spinning. And this experience is reproduceable. Anyone who has 5 minutes to spare can have the experience of the world itself moving topsy-turvy. But we would have trouble saying for that this reason alone the world itself is spinning around. Or we could say this, but we would have to quickly amend what we meant ("the world is spinning... but only sort of"). Because as it turns out the world is not spinning in the way we conventionally mean it is, and the reproduceable experience of it doing so turns out to be merely physiological in nature.




the long term effect of having had the experince is the issue not the sensation in the experince itself. although the commonalities that emerge from the sensation are interesting because they imply that it might be something universal that is being experienced, the effects of having had the experince, the life transformation is also a commonality that emerges. That cannot be accounted for by naturalistic counter causality.


the point of the whole argument, as an argument, is the idea of the rationality of the construeal of God Its' rational to construe this experience as the trace of God. ti may not be proven to others but it is rational to so construe it, thus belief is rationally warranted.



But we are able to say that because we can point to some third thing (namely, the Earth itself, and the fact that buildings don't fall and trees don't topple when we decide to spin around for 5 minutes, etc) which is available through our other sense modalities in order to disconfirm our initial sense impressions about spinning.


but there are no other long term transformational effects connected with any anything that might cause the experiences.

It is unclear what "third thing" we might point to in the case of mystical experiences in order to tell whether or not they can be taken at face value or if they are "merely" physiological glitches as some evolutionary psychologists suggest.
[/quote]


In your example one could easily enough do a test to show that the world is not spinning but the person is spinning. But there is no alternate causality that proves the same effects of mystical experince.
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Re: Best Reason

Postby marxiavelli on Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:57 am

who are you quoting?


I was quoting "sgttomas".

God cannot be studies scientifically in a direct sense. Because God is not given in sense data. But what can be studies the "trace" of god, the co-determinate. that is the concept of the signature. the footprint. The effect of having encountered the divine, which is mystical experince.


I understand that basic premise of your argument. What I don't understand is whether or not you are saying that the "trace" of God is subject to the same rules of inference and warranted belief that other forms of empirical information are.

the long term effect of having had the experince is the issue not the sensation in the experince itself. although the commonalities that emerge from the sensation are interesting because they imply that it might be something universal that is being experienced, the effects of having had the experince, the life transformation is also a commonality that emerges. That cannot be accounted for by naturalistic counter causality.


Okay. First of all, since when does "life transformation" has any inherent relationship to the veracity of the percieved agent of change? Think about how many people's lives have been positively changed by Scientology, for example. As it happens, the Church of Scientology is heavily invested in various drug rehabilitation drug programs. But in any case, let's say that Scientologists start pointing to their reformed addicts as evidence that the Xenu the Galactic Overlord is real. After all, they've had experiences of being occupied by body thetans (or whatever they believe in), etc, and they've had a positive long-lasting life transformation. Does that mean it's all true? Is that all it takes? What I'm trying to do here is take your specific claims and try to figure out what kind of epistemic committments you're working with here.

Second of all, why can't "life transformation" be accounted for by "naturalistic counter causality"? I mean, there are basically three broad categories under which someone in your position would know this. (a) Enough research has been done to show that there is no naturalistic cause for "life transformation" as a result of having had a mystical experience. (b) No naturalistic cause is possible in principle. (c) You're just speculating.

Are you claiming (a)? I assume you are not since ruling out naturalistic causality for the phenomena you're referring to would require an enormous amount of research. For the sake of charity, I will assume you are not simply (c) speculating. Is there (b) a reason in principle natural causes alone could not generate these experiences? If so, what would that reason be?

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