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Wed Jan 9, 2013, 04:46 PM

 

An empirical god?

I suppose I'm an atheist, although I may be an agnostic. I really don't care what labels are used.

But suppose I decided to believe in God. What kind of god would I believe in?

My training is in science and engineering. I'm an empiricist. I need evidence to consider before I can consider whether or not to believe the evidence. Now the whole subject of God and gods is an area where evidence is in short supply. Some might even say non-existent. But suppose I really, really, really wanted to believe in some kind of God or another. How would I approach the problem?

Long ago, a farmer in France brought a meteorite that he witnessed fall to the French Academy. He was dismissed without a hearing because the learned folks at the Academy knew for a certainty that stones do not fall from the sky. His "evidence" wasn't evidence at all, it was mere anecdote.

Well, there is a stage in any field of study when anecdote is all we have. Remember, "anecdote" means "observation made by somebody else." Anecdote is not evidence, but at least it's a starting point. We don't have evidence regarding God but we certainly have no shortage of anecdotes. I would start by considering the most consistent subset of this body of anecdotal information, the stories told by "near death experiencers'. They have the advantage of being almost entirely consistent from one culture to another, and from one generation to another. So I would give them a level of credibility slightly (slightly) above that of "mere" anecdote. They deserve consideration if for no other reason than their cross-cultural consistency.

I would examine these accounts and distill out the common essence, and that would be the cornerstone of what I believed God to be like. Then if somebody asked me to defend some particular article of my faith I could say "I believe this because 72% of all NDE accounts claim it to be true, and only 2% claim it to be untrue, with the remaining 26% not mentioning that particular point."

At least I wouldn't have to resort to "because this ancient book written by illiterate bronze age goat herders says it's so." At least I could make a halfway reasonable argument for being objective and led only by the hard data.

And, like a true scientist, as more data became available, I would not only be free to change my beliefs, but I would consider myself required to follow where ever the evidence leads.

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Arrow 23 replies Author Time Post
Reply An empirical god? (Original post)
Speck Tater Jan 2013 OP
JustFiveMoreMinutes Jan 2013 #1
humblebum Jan 2013 #2
NoOneMan Jan 2013 #17
humblebum Jan 2013 #18
NoOneMan Jan 2013 #19
humblebum Jan 2013 #20
cbayer Jan 2013 #3
Speck Tater Jan 2013 #5
cbayer Jan 2013 #6
tama Jan 2013 #22
struggle4progress Jan 2013 #4
tama Jan 2013 #7
trotsky Jan 2013 #8
Ligyron Jan 2013 #9
trotsky Jan 2013 #10
Speck Tater Jan 2013 #11
trotsky Jan 2013 #12
Speck Tater Jan 2013 #13
trotsky Jan 2013 #14
Speck Tater Jan 2013 #15
trotsky Jan 2013 #16
ZombieHorde Jan 2013 #21
Speck Tater Jan 2013 #23

Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 05:36 PM

1. I don't get the link from NDE to a 'god'.

But great great thoughts!

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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:05 PM

2. I agree with much of what you say and find it very interesting, but I question your

 

opinion on evidence. Evidence can be either objective or subjective, subjective evidence being that such as circumstantial evidence in a court of law.

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Response to humblebum (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:47 PM

17. What if your subjective evidence contradicts everyone else's?

 

Then your right and everyone else is wrong?

Everyone else is wrong and you are right?

You are both right or both wrong at the same time?

How do we know we are really interpreting this subjective evidence properly and not according to cultural bias?

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Response to NoOneMan (Reply #17)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 07:59 PM

18. That is why it is called subjective evidence. Just because something is recognized as evidence

 

does not mean that it will be interpreted the same by everyone. If it is interpreted the same by everyone it would be objective evidence.

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Response to humblebum (Reply #18)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:21 PM

19. I get that. Im questioning its usefulness in forming belief

 

You never know if you aren't just going damn nuts.

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Response to NoOneMan (Reply #19)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:05 PM

20. There is no objective evidence to empirically prove God or deities. Many people have their

 

own specific reasons for believing however. And not everyone accepts those reasons as worthy enough to form a belief upon. But to many of those who believe, they have examined such evidence, compared it against reasons to not believe, and have given the evidence enough credibility to believe - many to the point of little or no doubt.

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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:06 PM

3. Interesting and reasonable POV.

If *proof* were needed for a belief in god, then very few would believe.

But that is apparently not the case.

That doesn't make anybody else beliefs of lack thereof less worthy. Many report that they have all the proof they need through their own, personal, non-verifiable or replicable experiences.

I see no reason to say that these experiences are false or falsified.

One point you make, that I have also made (and met a tremendous amount of resistance) is that if the majority of a population believe something, even without any clear evidence, than the probably of it being the case increases. I use this when people make flying unicorn comparisons and such.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:46 PM

5. Personally,

 

I believe in reincarnation, and globally, the majority is on my side. I also think that in light of the credible evidence a belief in reincarnation is not irrational. (Carl Sagan said it was one of three "paranormal" claims that were worthy of further investigation.) I have no proof, and never will, but I have strongly believed since I was very, very young, and was very surprised to discover that not everybody took it for granted the way I did.

But I'm still not sure about "god". I'm not even sure what the word means, except that NDE stories tell of "all encompassing love and acceptance." And that only two things matter: Loving and learning. I could really respect a religion built around loving and learning, rather than around blind obedience and forced ignorance.

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #5)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:51 PM

6. My views have changed, and continue to change, over time.

Frankly, I'm a little worried about reincarnation. I'm so far up the food chain that I wonder if I would have to start over or something, lol.

There have been lots and lots of articles in the past year about alternative *churches* and the U/U's seem to filling the gap for many. They are close to what you describe - loving and learning communities who embrace a wide variety of both believers and non-believers. I think we will see more and more of this.

Anyway, it's a journey, and even those that think they know would benefit from continuing to question.

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #5)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 05:47 AM

22. Memory

 

The evidence for "reincarnation" (both mental and biophysical memories) if accepted falsifies the hypothesis that memory is purely neurological phenomenon.

Scalable levels of cognition/aware and contents of mental images that I mentioned in another post is one possible scientific approach, and one way to start building such model is to make Planck constant scalable (cf. problems of uniting QM and GR).

In this way it could be hypothesized that individual lives are mental images of some scaled up level of consciousness ("higher self"), which could open path to explain not only memories of "past lives" but also possibility of precognitions.

PS: size scales and question of smooth vs. foamy space-time reminded me of pendulum waves:



And

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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 06:40 PM

4. You might consider a more cultural and literary exegesis of the old texts

and to the traditions that are based upon them

In particular, the texts as products of particular times and places, as are the various modes of interpretation of the texts: both text and interpretation reflect the problems that their authors faced and the worldviews that shaped their responses

Read in this manner, all modern modes of understanding can be brought to the project: one can search for insights into the form that well-known human problems have assumed in differing times and places, by using (say) the insights of Freud or of Marx, or by using tools from (say) anthropology or history

One critical thing to remember, is that the original texts exhibit detectable layers of modification; another thing to remember, is that the various interpreters do not all share a single view, not matter how unflexibly and absolutely some of them assert their own views


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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Wed Jan 9, 2013, 09:25 PM

7. An empirical god

 

What's the experience (Gr. empeiria) of our (self)consciousness? In self-reflection, "a finite container of mental images" sounds plausible hypothesis to start from, some sort of space-time sheet filled with mental images (various sensations and linguistic thoughts). And from cognitive science we know that this space-time sheet has at least the aspect of electro-magnetic field that can be measured (EEG) and correlates with various mental states.

By "God" we usually mean, at least, something bigger than us. So hypothesizing god(s), a natural suggestion would be that it is scaled up level(s) on conscious experience, inside which "we" etc. of included size scales are mental images, "Gods thoughts". A "
Russian doll" continuum of scales of consciousness would be next natural hypothesis, each level would be finite container of mental images, but the continuum of scales could be infinite.

In this hypothesis godhood would be relation of inclusive scale to it's contained mental images, e.g. from perspective of single cell in human organism the organism would be it's god. And the whole infinity of size scales could be defined as the God with capital Gee.



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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 09:08 AM

8. Or it could be that similarities in NDEs are due to the fact that we all have human brains

and as we are dying and our brains get less and less oxygen, we experience similar hallucinations. Seeing a dark tunnel with light at the end, reliving old memories, etc.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:01 AM

9. This is true

and I'm not at all sure we share this "same experience" everywhere with NDE. I'll bet people see all kinds of different things depending on which culture their mythology comes from.

I've seen that "light at the end of a tunnel deal" when they knocked me out for an operation. I wasn't anywhere close to being dead either. It was just a routine colostomy.

yeah, let's use Occam's Razor here

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Response to Ligyron (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:15 AM

10. Also common during pilot training...

when subjected to high G forces, depriving the brain of oxygen.

And it's true, there are cultural differences in NDE experiences.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #10)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:08 PM

11. I'll have to look up the reference for you, but

 

one pilot who has experienced both high-G effects AND an NDE says that while the descriptions of the two experiences sound similar, the experiences themselves are not at all similar. For one thing, the high-G experience is accompanied by a sense of unreality while the NDE experience is accompanied by a sense of hyper-reality. Of course the debunkers want to be able to say X = Y so they can conclude that what causes X causes Y, but the flaw in that reasoning is that X does not equal Y. At best, X superficially resembles Y.

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #11)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:23 PM

12. Sure, I'd love for you to produce that reference.

I could certainly understand why a high-G blackout and an NDE might not be exactly the same; after all the way the brain is being deprived of oxygen is a little different in those scenarios. But the similarities are remarkable and the fact that they are strongly suggests a correlation.

But condescending use of terms like "debunkers" for people who don't automatically support your pet theory when a simpler explanation is at hand is unnecessary and rude.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #12)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:38 PM

13. I was a faithful reader of "Skeptical Inquirer" until...

 

Sometime in the 1980's (I don't recall exactly, but I recall the experiement was done on an early home computer, so that dates it) they did a "debunking" of Sheldrake. Now I don't think Sheldrake's morphic resonance makes any sense, and I'm pretty confident that it's false, but the "debunking" they did was as follows:

Briefly, if morphic resonance were true, then, Sheldrake claims, once a particular substance has been successfully crystallized for the first time, it would be easier to crystallize that same substance in the future. So some S.I. "scientist" makes the claim that writing data into a memory chip is exactly like crystallization. Therefore, if he wrote a computer program to write the same data into the same computer memory location over and over, that the writing of the data would get faster and faster.

So they wrote a program to write the same data over and over and the program didn't get any faster as they let it run, therefore Sheldrake was falsified.

That was such unbelievable garbage junk science that I couldn't even believe that they had published it. I realized that S.I. is not at all interested in truth. They are only interested in debunking. That is my justification for using the term. Junk science used in the interest of supporting a particular dogma is not following the evidence. It is debunking. Susan Blackmore falls into that category of debunkers. I've read her stuff and it doesn't hold up to objective scrutiny. Her conclusions are made before the fact and her "evidence" cherry picked to "prove" her a priori "conclusions".

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 12:52 PM

14. Ah, I see now.

Yeah, the folks who throw out unsupported theories like Sheldrake generally expect the rest of the world to prove them wrong. An experiment is proposed, and run, and the charlatan says, "No, that was a bad experiment and doesn't disprove my theory." It's a hopeless situation when one takes the position by default that their pet theory must be proved WRONG rather than accepting the more reasonable request of proving their theory RIGHT.

By the way, I'd like to see that SI writeup if you can find it. Your memory seems to be lacking a lot of details.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #14)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 01:20 PM

15. You know what. I've been down this road too many times already.

 

To quote X-Files, "The truth is out there." We're both interested in finding the truth, and we both approach the problem differently. We both believe in our heart of hearts that our way is the best (or possibly the only) way. I'm scientifically trained with an M.S. in engineering, and I respect real science.

I will never convince you that what I have to say is worth listening to, and you will never convince me that what I believe is without merit. So tell you what, you post one more reply telling me that I'm copping out and ducking the question, and don't forget to tell me I didn't answer your question or provide the reference you asked for. It's decades ago. I don't have back issues. They aren't on-line. It's more trouble than it's worth to me, because I, personally, already know about it and I don't care whether you do or don't. The truth is out there. Go find it if you want. But leading you by the hand is not my job.

So yes, I'm ducking out. I'm sneaking out the back door without answering your challenge. I'm slinking away with my tail between my legs. Go ahead and tell yourself what ever makes you happy, but I'm done with this discussion. I've already had the same discussion too many times, with too many people over the last 30 or 40 years.

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Response to Speck Tater (Reply #15)

Thu Jan 10, 2013, 02:08 PM

16. Actually, you could easily convince me that what you have to say is worth listening to.

All you have to do is provide some evidence. I don't think that's such a big challenge, but for those who say to themselves "I want to believe!" (another X-Files tidbit), it's apparently more than a little difficult, and so they lash out with some insults, as you have done, and run away claiming the high ground over those mean old "debunkers." Doesn't bother me. The truth is indeed out there, and I prefer to analyze evidence to find it rather than go with what sounds good to me and pretend it's up to someone else to prove me wrong.

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Response to Speck Tater (Original post)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 04:26 AM

21. How do illiterate goat herders write a book?

They can write, but they can't read?

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Response to ZombieHorde (Reply #21)

Fri Jan 11, 2013, 11:40 AM

23. Stories were passed down by word of mouth until writing was invented.

 

Oral transmission is another thing that makes the stories so unreliable.

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