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John

This video of the Psychic Michelle Whitedove is really amazing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=AU&hl=en-GB&v=RgbALQzZl-s
We are getting closer to the truth. There is an afterlife and we don't have to accept the miserable Atheistic point of view that this is all there is, nothing after death, oblivion theory.
I also recommend everyone to check out Tony Stubbs amazing, amazing, amazing book Death Without Fear. Tony talks in detail about the afterlife.
Love and Light,
John

Maria

Why oh why would people hate you just because you don't have the same beliefs as them.

So... how's the weather in Naivetyville? Sunshine and rainbows as always?

themann1086

It was on a different subject, but someone needs to tell John this:

Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.

You don’t live there.

Grow the fuck up.

Doug from Dougland

Absolutely fantastic themann1086. That says everything I would have liked to say to John's assertions with the addition of glow sticks. Bravo

(trying so hard not to make a "you-the-man" pun)

Screw it, you themann.

Eclectic

John, I'm trying to track down the source. The Daily Mail says it got its news from New Scientist, and only describes the original source as "a leading social science journal", and the NS web site is being slow for me.

Ah, look, The New Scientist Article (see how much nicer it is when there's a clickable link?), which links to a preprint of the actual paper. Now, that is what should have been linked in the first place.

I'm supposed to be working, and it will take me a while to digest the paper, but I'm including the links now to help anyone else interested in the subject.

One major point is that "statistically significant" is usually set at p=0.05, a 5% chance of happening by accident. Which is enough to get your attention, but will (by definition) happen 1 out of every 20 experiments even if there's no effect at all.

The claimed p=1.34×10−11 is a whole different matter entirely.

I strongly suspect some problem with experiment design or methodology (this sort of thing has been tried a lot in the past; there was a real boom in the '70s), but if I'm wrong and the author is right, that's wonderful! As Randi said, if someone claims his million dollar prize using a genuinely new discovery about the world, that's money well spent.

themann1086

New Scientist is... well, to be blunt, it's a rag. It's the same magazine that ran with a "Darwin Was Wrong" cover a year or two ago. They frequently run borderline pseudoscience.

That said, it could be legit. If I find the time I'll give it a look.

Eclectic

It's a 61-page paper, and definitely not obvious crap. Richard Wiseman has a blog post about it, and he's going to replicate it, with some errors he's spotted corrected.

Even though this is a pretty picked-over field, Daryl Bem (the author of the study) has some interesting ideas. In particular, he's looking for unconscious signs, like subtle changes in response times, rather than conscious knowledge. That's very different from most earlier attempts, and makes it intriguing.

Skeptical does not mean reactionary. The study appears serious and thus is being taken seriously.

Henry

Wow Greta... I truly cannot believe the tons of patience that you have had in all these comments! Really, congratulations on being so eloquent and precise in your arguments. All we atheists and/or skeptics ask is one single piece of credible, palpable, real evidence, to even begin a rational discussion. As Greta said: ONE link, at least! Keep up the good work, great job!

greg

hi Greta

so i am surprised that in an article claiming that anecdotal evidence is not worth using, your first four links to evidence (all the 'bogus' links) are all exactly that, anecdotal, case-by-case examinations of individual experiences

where's your standard of evidence now?

in your article/comments you allude to the fact that not much is known about how the brain works, and yet you continue to demand 'rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, internally consistent, accurately predictive research' ... obviously this type of research cannot explain much of what goes on, and yet this seems to be the sole thing you value (well, with the exception of the anecdotal evidence you site)

there is a word in the anishnaabe language for the divine, it translates to 'the great mystery' in english. from my perspective, that seems to be a more holistic approach to 'understanding' the world than a materialistic/scientific approach that admits it only knows about a small amount of what is out there (/in us) but then goes on to discredit anything outside it's realm of expertise.

it's like if you're looking in a certain direction, your range of view can see some things really clear (maybe with the help of glasses) but if you don't turn your head to look around, you're only getting a partial look

if you really want science, here's an article about research on remote viewing: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510762/Could-proof-theory-ALL-psychic.html ... sorry i checked out where some of the researcher's articles are published but i don't feel like paying to be able to access the first-hand results from the particular journals, so you'll have to make do with this article for now (and note, you may be in luck, they were planning further research and maybe it turned out negative? who knows ... but it seems the initial results were pretty conclusive in the positive)

Maria

it's like if you're looking in a certain direction, your range of view can see some things really clear (maybe with the help of glasses) but if you don't turn your head to look around, you're only getting a partial look

And the woos are spinning their heads around and round, making themselves all dizzy and seeing a lot of stuff that isn't there...

greg

yeah Maria that happens to me all the time ... when i turn my head, i see things that people who won't look around claim aren't there ... and then they call me things like 'woo' and 'dizzy' to try and undermine my confidence in what i can see with my own two eyes (and i won't even get into seeing with the third eye, that's getting a bit much for people with a such a limited field of vision)

on a related note, i think it's funny when people will believe in whatever can be 'proven', but won't believe in their (or others') actual lived experience (you know, the real world where things happen that aren't necessarily confined to an 'accurately predictive' subset of reality)

Maria

(and i won't even get into seeing with the third eye, that's getting a bit much for people with a such a limited field of vision)

Oh please do, by all means. Let's see just how unlimited these woo ideas of yours actually are :-)

greg

did you know that LSD came to be because Albert Hoffman had done a bunch of experiments, and put them all aside, and then had a dream about a specific number (of the experiment), went back to that specific one in the drawer, tried it out and well the rest is history, 'tripstory'

(oh but that's anecdotal... :)

i would imagine there's probably a post somewhere on this blog saying how dreams are completely and totally biological creations that have no spiritual manifestation or inspiration

Maria

i would imagine there's probably a post somewhere on this blog saying how dreams are completely and totally biological creations that have no spiritual manifestation or inspiration

Ahhhh... Okay, I get it now! :-) We are being trolled. He's pulling our collective leg. Ha, ha, that's a good one. I really fell for it there for a while :-D

greg

yeah sorry for providing that link, just trying to get you to click it, it's probably a virus right?

(infecting your mind with the god virus :)

i guess troll = someone who doesn't agree with everything on this blog?

Maria

Sorry, greg, I honestly thought you were yanking our chains. Guess I was wrong and you are sincere. But it wasn't because you disagree with us, it was because of the sheer bizarreness of the 'third eye', and 'next you'll be telling me dreams aren't spiritual'-stuff, and similar comments.

I have to check your stuff out another time though, I've caught a nasty flu, and am going back to bed.

greg

the third eye comment was just for fun, the dreams comment was based on the idea that many faiths consider that dreams can be messages from god / spirit(s) ... if NDE's need to be taken apart by atheists to convince others (/themselves) there is no spirituality/god, then i would assume that dreams would also need to be a necessary target

John

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Maria

the third eye comment was just for fun

Then I wasn't wrong then after all, was I? You're a troll, plain and simple. All apologies retracted.

And it seems another troll got around the ban again as well.

Greta Christina

Despite having been banned from this blog, John is continuing to attempt to comment from multiple IP addresses. It has been repeatedly explained to him why he has been banned, but he is ignoring these explanations. His comments have therefore been disemvoweled, as will any future comments from him.

And to anyone else reading this: Do not start arguments about religious beliefs on an obituary thread. It is grotesquely cruel. Thank you.

Greta Christina
when i turn my head, i see things that people who won't look around claim aren't there ... and then they call me things like 'woo' and 'dizzy' to try and undermine my confidence in what i can see with my own two eyes

What makes you think we won't look? Atheists and materialists keep saying, "Show us some good evidence, and we'll change our minds." But we're not just going to take your word for it. Personal experience and intuition are useful and important... but by themselves, they do not constitute good evidence for anything other than an individual's subjective state of mind. They are too flawed, too subject to confirmation bias and other cognitive errors, for us to treat them as unfiltered fact. It is well- demonstrated that people are much more likely to believe what we already believe, and what we most want to believe... and we exaggerate experiences that confirm these beliefs, and discard experiences that contradict them.

This is why, when we care about whether the things we think are really true, we subject those ideas to rigorous testing, using methods carefully designed to filter out these biases over time: control groups, double blinding, placebo controls, replicating studies, etc. And when subjected to this sort of examination, religious and spiritual experiences inevitably fall apart, and are shown to be entirely natural phenomena.

(And if you think you have evidence for supernatural phenomena that can stand up to this sort of testing, I suggest you contact the James Randi Educational Foundation. They have a million dollars in escrow for anyone who can prove, using good scientific methodology, the reality of paranormal, supernatural, or occult phenomena.)

What's more, different people's personal religious experiences are wildly different from one another, and even completely contradictory to one another. And an outside observer has no way to tell which of these experiences is more likely to be an accurate "perception" of the spiritual world. There are people who "experience" or "perceive" God as a loving creator and guide; as a harsh and rigid judge; as an impersonal energy force animating all living things; as a personal being with specific thoughts and desires; as someone who hates homosexuality; as someone who loves homosexuality; as someone with no opinion on homosexuality... etc. etc. etc. As an outside observer trying to decide which religious belief is likely to be correct, if the only evidence I have is people's deeply biased personal experiences, how am I to choose between them?

Finally, as for dreams, I have no idea what your point is. The precise neurological purpose of dreams is still uncertain (although there is some promising research being done)... but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they are an entirely neurological phenomena. Yes, dreams sometimes provide people with inspiration and ideas and new ways of thinking. So what? Lots of entirely natural, physical things do that. How does that in any way support the idea that dreams are a supernatural phenomena?

Locutus7

The real question is, Does wishful thinking survive after death?

Locutus7

Steve Zara said it well: the afterlife is not a location, it is not a state of mind, it is a desire.

A desire to see one's dead loved ones, a desire to live forever, a desire to escape the pains and indignities of growing old.

We call that wishful thinking. And if you allow wishful thinking to subvert your reasoning abilities, you will remain disconnected from reality.

greg

"but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they [dreams] are an entirely neurological phenomena."

this is crazy making talk. yhour argument: because it is connected with a physical process, therefore it must be solely a physical process.

this is not a rational argument, this is dogma.

i've seen this argument in a number of threads on this blog, and it doesn't add up. there is no evidence that states it is solely a physical process, there is only evidence that shows that indeed there is a physical process going on.

why can you not see the difference? does it conflict with your beliefs?

and i do not see why this makes me a troll... ???

Locutus7

Greg,

Let's say you have a laptop in front of you. And it is playing a video, pretty images of butterflies. For simplicity, let's say this laptop is NOT connected to the web of servers we call the internet.

Now, you take a hammer and smash your laptop, hard drive and all. Where do those vivid images of butterflies go?

If the brain is smashed, that is where your thoughts and dreams and personality goes.

Not to a special transcendent place devised in the pre-scientific age by illiterate goat-herders. But rather they simply cease to exist, as they - both the computer images and the mental constructs of the brain - are only properties of a physical entity.

Make sense? If not, please propose your mechanism for the transfer of personality to your transcendent place. With evidence.

greg

aha ... scientific fundamentalism (and dismissal of our ancestors and 'non-advanced' cultures to boot)

if it can't be proven with 'evidence' (of course, only a limited type of such), then it is 'without a doubt' not true

gotta love that train of thought ... actually it might not be scientific fundamentalism, just close-mindedness

DA

"and dismissal of our ancestors and 'non-advanced' cultures to boot"

You wanna live like our ancestors, have fun. A ticket to Somalia is nice and cheap.

Bruce Gorton

aha ... scientific fundamentalism (and dismissal of our ancestors and 'non-advanced' cultures to boot)

How much do you actually know about less-advanced cultures?

As to our ancestors - our ancestors were the ones who pioneered the scientific method and had the forethought to teach us to not repeat their mistakes.

We pay attention to our ancestors, which is why we don't live like them. Every parent dreams of their child doing better than they did - and that's what we're doing.

greg

our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do ... i think 'science' would back me up on that ... we may have more 'knowledge' but perhaps are lacking in 'wisdom'

Somalia is the product of colonialism, imperialism, - modern inventions ... do you really think it was like that before foreign armies came to Africa?

and i guess there's really nothing more to be said about these atheist assertions of fact when all that really exists is that we don't know ... so let's stop making them, shall we?

DA

"our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do"

All due respect, can we define our terms? What does harmony with nature mean? When whole human populations were wiped out by disaease, famine, etc, was that good or bad?

"Somalia is the product of colonialism, imperialism, - modern inventions ... do you really think it was like that before foreign armies came to Africa?"

I think most of the primitive world was like Somalia is now. It used to be a matter of course that, for almost everyone, life was a torurous, impoverished, short affair liable to end in any number of outrageous ways.

Also, plenty of barbaric hellholes were never under colonial occupation. Saudi Arabia is a good example of what happens when people try to live in the modern world by ancient precepts.

Doug from Dougland

our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do ... i think 'science' would back me up on that ...

Aaah, those halcyon days of almost constant starvation, disease ridden samps, seasonal warfare, deaths from predation and the systematic hunting and slaughter of any species that either posed a threat to us or proved too easy to kill.... boy I miss those days. We really lived all nature-like and such, none of our unnatural antibiotics or endangered species lists to fog things up.

greg

interesting, i just came across this interview with Chris Hedges (author of 'I don't believe in atheists' as well as some other good books and online articles)

here is a quote from the interview:

"Unfortunately, what they [atheists]'ve done is offer a Utopian belief system that is as self-delusional as that offered by Christian fundamentalists. They adopt many of the foundational belief systems of fundamentalists. For example, they believe that the human species is marching forward, that there is an advancement toward some kind of collective moral progress -- that we are moving towards, if not a Utopian, certainly a better, more perfected human society. That's fundamental to the Christian right, and it's also fundamental to the New Atheists.

You know, there is nothing in human nature or in human history that points to the idea that we are moving anywhere. Technology and science, though they are cumulative and have improved, in many ways, the lives of people within the industrialized nations, have also unleashed the most horrific forms of violence and death, and let's not forget, environmental degradation, in human history. So, there's nothing intrinsically moral about science. Science is morally neutral. It serves the good and the bad. I mean, industrial killing is a product of technological advance, just as is penicillin and modern medicine. So I think that I find the faith that these people place in science and reason as a route toward human salvation to be as delusional as the faith the Christian right places in miracles and angels."

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/03/13/chris_hedges

Doug from Dougland

Greg,

If you're getting your information about atheists from Chris hedges you have a lot of learning to do. I suggest you start here: www.daylightatheism.com

Greta Christina
if it can't be proven with 'evidence' (of course, only a limited type of such), then it is 'without a doubt' not true

gotta love that train of thought ... actually it might not be scientific fundamentalism, just close-mindedness

No, Greg. None of us is saying that if something can't be demonstrated with solid evidence, it therefore cannot be true. We are simply saying that, if something can't be demonstrated with solid evidence, there is no reason to think that it's true. We are saying that, in the absence of solid evidence for a proposition, we will provisionally reject it until we see better evidence.

There are literally an infinite number of possible propositions that can't absolutely be disproven, but that we have no good reason to think are true. I can sit here all day and make them up. Without good evidence, how are we to decide which of these propositions to accept? You seem to use intuition... but we know for a fact that intuition is deeply flawed, biased towards what we already think or what we want to think, and everyone's intuition says something different, even contradictory. If you don't accept the intuition of Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden about the nature of God and the soul... why should we accept yours? For that matter, why should you accept yours? Do you really think that everyone else's intuition about spirituality is flawed... but that yours is flawless, and needs no confirmation or careful testing? (More on this: Why "I Feel It In My Heart" Is a Terrible Argument for God)

See, here lies the basic problem I have in debating you, and people who take the position you do. I can make all kinds of arguments as to why dreams in particular, and consciousness in general, are almost certainly entirely physical phenomena. But if you're not even interested in whether there's any solid evidence backing up your position... then what point is there debating you? If you can't provide any solid evidence backing up your position... then what possible reason does anyone else have to accept it, or even to take it seriously?

You accuse atheists and materialists of being close-minded. But we are the ones who are saying, "Hey, we could be wrong, give us some good evidence showing that we're wrong and we'll change our minds." In fact, I've even written an entire piece spelling out in detail exactly what evidence would persuade me that God or the soul or the afterlife was probably real. Can you do the same? Can you tell us what evidence would persuade you that God or the soul or the afterlife was probably not real?

And if not, if nothing anyone could ever say on this topic could possibly change your mind, if you're just going to keep trusting your flawed intuition despite being unsupported by any good evidence outside that intuition... then why should any of us waste our time debating with you?

Greta Christina

Greg: As for atheists' supposed "faith in science and reason as a route toward human salvation": No. No, no, no. Atheists and materialists do not have faith in science as a route toward human salvation. We have confidence in science as a route towards a better understanding of reality.

The scientific method is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used to do harm or good. I don't know any atheists who think science and technology will always work for the betterment of humanity.

But there is one thing that the scientific method is massively better at than anything else. And that is a clearer understanding of what is and is not literally true in the external, non-subjective world. Not a perfect understanding -- just a clearer one. A better one. A closer approximation.

There's a reason atheists and materialists care about science. And that's that it works. It has been demonstrated, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times, to be the most reliable method we have of figuring out what is and is not true. It works. It's not perfect, but it's better by several orders of magnitude than any other method of understanding the world that we've come up with. It makes predictions about what will happen, and which causes will produce which effects, that are accurate beyond anything our ancestors could have imagined. And it has shown us things about reality that are radically counter- intuitive, from the earth not being the center of the universe to matter not being solid.

You keep talking about how scientific evidence is limited, and how your hypothesis of supernaturalism is supported by these other forms of evidence. My question: What reason do you have to think that these other forms of evidence are more reliable than the scientific method? Do you have any good reason for rejecting this demonstrably effective method of understanding reality... other than the fact that it tells you things that contradict what you already believe, and what you would most like to believe?

More on this:

The Slog Through the Swamp: What Science Is, And Why It Works, And Why I Care
"A Different Way of Knowing": The Uses of Irrationality... and its Limitations

greg

Doug - I only saw that piece from Hedges after having made basically the same argument myself, saying that we are not necessarily doing better than other 'non-advanced' cultures or our ancestors way of living ... and i thought it kind of fitting that he described atheists as having the kind of attitudes that at least two people here had just expressed

Greta - the problem was that the 'fact' was presented as being true when in fact it is simply unknown. i'll quote it again, "but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they [dreams] are an entirely neurological phenomena."

so say i had a dream(s) where i got information that i had in no way been exposed to in my life. yes it's anecdotal, but isn't that enough evidence for me to know there's something else going on? or should i just dismiss it because no scientist has studied my dreams and done double-blind etc etc studies on me. you can argue for how people can deceive themselves, are too subjective, etc, but perhaps you might also worry about how often people forego their own personal experiences/truth in order to believe in some socially-constructed worldview that is in conflict with what they know ... and really all the science says is that dreams are connected to biological processes. i don't think you will be able to reference any science that proves dreams are not connected to some higher/divine intelligence, so really there's nothing contradicting the truth that i experience for myself... which you seem ready to reduce to something i would 'like' to believe, rather than being anything substantiated, seemingly because you would 'like not' to believe it, and if you can frame it as something that i am making up in order to conform with my desires/beliefs, then you can more easily dismiss it, yes?

did you look into the research i linked to that apparently proves that remote viewing is a real phenomen? that article actually contains the quote someone else had given earlier, from a skeptic saying that regularly this would be good enough proof, but that a different (higher) standard of evidence was needed for remote viewing, basically due to it being something we don't accept as being valid - so you can get the context to the quote that you had asked for previously

Indigo

That's your argument, greg? "You can't prove dreams DON'T come from God!"?
How's this: you can't prove I'm not an invisible dragon who's learned how to type. You can't prove that every time you forget where you left your keys, they weren't moved by secretive gnomes. You can't prove that your next door neighbour isn't a highly advanced robot. And so on.
Please start by bringing us the evidence that dreams DO come from a higher spiritual plane. Then we can talk about it.

greg

Indigo - the problem is you (obviously, as you narrowed down all that i said into one sentence) don't accept personal evidence.

or the evidence/testimony of cultures all around the world, throughout history, that speak of their relationships with spirits, entities, the divine - and the only culture ever to totally discount that overwhelming testimony is our modern day, secular, science-rules-all society

so i guess we won't be talking about it.

Greta Christina
the problem is you (obviously, as you narrowed down all that i said into one sentence) don't accept personal evidence.

No, Greg. The problem is that you do accept it -- apparently without question -- when it fits what you already believe or what you want to believe. And yet you reject other people's personal experience when it contradicts your beliefs.

The serious problems with using personal experience as a reliable source of data have been addressed in this thread. Ad nauseum. The fact that personal experience is demonstrably unreliable; the fact that it's subject to confirmation bias and a wide assortment of other cognitive errors; the fact that different people have wildly different and even contradictory personal experiences of God and the soul and so on, and that we have no way of sorting out which of these "perceptions" are more likely to be true... these ideas have been pointed out to you, again and again and again.

I again ask the question that you have yet to respond to: If you don't accept the intuition of Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden about the nature of God and the soul... why should we accept yours? For that matter, why should you accept yours? Do you really think that everyone else's intuition about spirituality is flawed... but that yours is flawless, and needs no confirmation or careful testing?

Can you please address these points, and make a case for why, despite these flaws, personal experience is still a more reliable form of understanding reality than the rigorous testing of evidence using methods specifically designed to filter out these cognitive biases to the best of our ability? If not -- if all you're going to do is say over and over again, "Personal experience, personal experience, personal experience" without making a case defending it -- then I don't see any reason why any of us should continue to spend time discussing this with you.

Greta Christina
or the evidence/testimony of cultures all around the world, throughout history, that speak of their relationships with spirits, entities, the divine - and the only culture ever to totally discount that overwhelming testimony is our modern day, secular, science-rules-all society

Really, Greg? The argument from popularity? "Lots of people believe this, therefore it's true"? Or "Lots of people used to believe this, therefore it's true"?

There's a reason modern society is beginning -- I repeat, beginning -- to abandon the idea of the supernatural. And that's that we have been coming up with better explanations of phenomena. We have come up with a method of sorting through ideas and figuring out, through rigorous gathering and examination of evidence, which ideas are more likely to be true. And when ideas about God or the soul or whatnot are subjected to this method, they always, always, always fall apart. Over the centuries, natural explanations of phenomena have replaced supernatural ones thousands upon thousands of times. Supernatural explanations of phenomena have replaced natural ones exactly never. Why on earth would you assume that this time, for this particular phenomenon, it'll be different?

And you have yet to address the question of why, despite the fact that so many people around the world and throughout history have believed in God and the soul, these beliefs are so radically different and even wildly contradictory. If these were real phenomena, why wouldn't we all perceive it in the same way? And if we're just going to take people's word for it, how are we to decide whose word to take?

Yes, lots of people throughout history have believed in God and the soul. Lots of people throughout history thought the earth was flat, too. That didn't make it true. This is basically the same argument from personal experience that you keep making... except it's arguing from the personal experience of lots of people who agree with you. But that doesn't make it a better argument.

greg

so to be specific, about dreams.

there is scientific evidence that they are part of a biological process. other than that, is there evidence that explains the content of dreams? that is, evidence that you will take as 'standarized' or whatever?

if not, then perhaps looking at some of the other available evidence would help.

"The fact that personal experience is demonstrably unreliable; the fact that it's subject to confirmation bias and a wide assortment of other cognitive errors; the fact that different people have wildly different and even contradictory personal experiences of God and the soul and so on"

i'll go in reverse order.

is it wrong that people have diverse experiences (of God and the soul and so on, as you say)? or is there room for diversity? should everyone's experience of life be the same? or perhaps we should discount the experiences people have while they are living because different people have different experiences? not to mention that people perceive things differently, even if they are the same phenomenon. people are subjective beings, i think that is a proven fact. i think that with the claim to alwasy need 'objectivity' you might miss out on a lot of the things that are not objective

confirmation bias and other cognitive errors: so if something happens that confirms a hypothesis, even if it isn't replicable, then it should be dismissed as having no validity? and i'm not sure what other cognitive errors you are talking about ... also interesting to note is the quantum physics experiments where the results changed based on what was being measured, a principle that was in effect for the kind of experiments that you would hold to be the 'gold standard' of possible knowledge, and yet the only way they were replicable was if the intention of the experimenter was the same...

personal experience is demonstrably unreliable: unreliable for what? to base one's perspective of things on? must we always defer to the outside experts instead of being able to trust our own perceptions? it seems that is a specific world-view/attitude that is profoundly disempowering to individuals who might have 'different' experiences than the 'normal', or even to anyone who has to struggle for their own answer to what the meaning of life is ... but i guess it is nice to be able to dismiss whoever's individual experiences you don't want to accept (which interestingly enough is what you accused me of doing)

Greta Christina
is it wrong that people have diverse experiences (of God and the soul and so on, as you say)? or is there room for diversity? should everyone's experience of life be the same?

Greg, did you notice how you subtly shifted the grounds of the question there? Did you notice how you equated people having different experiences of God and the soul and so on with people having different experiences of life?

Of course I love the diversity of human experiences of life. I think it's wonderful that people have different experiences of art, food, love, friendship, travel, emotions, values, pop culture, etc. That is a huge part of what makes life interesting and worthwhile.

But there is an important difference between having a diversity of subjective experiences in people's personal lives... and having a diversity of perceptions of what is literally true in the non-subjective world.

The question of whether God or the soul really exist is not a subjective question of what is and is not true for you personally. It is a question of what is literally true about reality. And when we're looking at questions of what is literally true about reality, that's when we need to be rigorously careful about making sure that our perceptions and our understanding are accurate, and that they correspond with reality to the best of our ability. (Or at least, we need to do that if we care whether the things we believe about reality are likely to be true.)

More on this:

"A Different Way of Knowing": The Uses of Irrationality... and its Limitations
Blind Men and Elephants: Religion, Science, and Understanding Big Complicated Things

but i guess it is nice to be able to dismiss whoever's individual experiences you don't want to accept (which interestingly enough is what you accused me of doing)

I am not dismissing whoever's individual experiences I don't want to accept. I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence. And I have stated, again and again, why I am doing that: because individual experiences are far too subject to cognitive biases to be relied on as the sole source of data.

And yes -- you are doing that. You still haven't answered the question of why you accept your own personal experiences as a reliable source of information, but not the personal experiences of people whose beliefs you disagree with, such as (I hope) Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden. Why do you think their spiritual perceptions are flawed, but yours are flawless? This is a crucial question that cuts right to the heart of this debate, and you really need to answer it if you expect anyone to take you seriously.

confirmation bias and other cognitive errors: so if something happens that confirms a hypothesis, even if it isn't replicable, then it should be dismissed as having no validity?

Yes. That is exactly correct. You seem to be unfamiliar with the wide variety of cognitive errors that make unconfirmed and unreplicated personal experience an unreliable source of information. Here's a link to information about a whole bunch of them. You may want to look into them if you're going to continue this conversation, as it cuts to the very heart of the point you keep making.

And finally, I literally have no idea what your point is about dreams. Are you trying to argue that dreams are weird, and we don't understand why we dream about the things we dream about? No argument there -- but so what? Dream content is weird, but all the evidence we have points to the conclusion that it's generated by the brain. There is no reason I know of to think otherwise. And you haven't yet given me one.

Or are you arguing that dreams have content that our brains could not possibly have obtained or generated naturally? If so, you really need to give me some good reasons to think that, since I have not seen a single good, careful study showing that this is the case. The rare occasions when dreams seem to be precognitive or whatever are easily explained by natural means, such as (once again) confirmation bias, and hindsight bias, and retrospective falsification, and so on. Again -- look at the link above about cognitive errors. If you're going to keep arguing that individual personal experience, even when it's contradicted by other people's personal experience, is a more reliable source of information than carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence, you really need to find out more about the deep flaws in personal experience, and why skeptics are so skeptical of it, and why we expect it to be confirmed before we accept it.

Locutus7

Greg,

I will share a confidence with you: whenever I access this blog, I am in a dream state. It appears to be a recurring dream. Which means you are a figment of my mind. The reason I'm telling you this is so you can make preparations, because if I awaken from this dream, you will cease to exist.

Although, now that I think of it, maybe the nightly episodes of flying giraffes and talking butterflies is my recurring dream, and this is reality.

Okay, I'm going to pinch myself, to see which state of consciousness is real. Farewell, if you are a dream apparition.

Well, this is apparently real. I'm glad. I would miss Greta and her blogs. And Greg lives to continue his tortuous journey toward atheism. Now, I need to have a serious chat with a butterfly.

Indigo

greg - a friend of mine was once approached by an earnest classmate, who told her that he'd had a spiritual revelation that they were meant to be together. Apparently he was a bit befuddled when she didn't instantly leave her boyfriend and leap into bed with him.
Now, maybe he had a dream that they were dating or having sex and took this as A Sign. Or maybe he had some tummy-jolting feelings about her that he interpreted as coming from God (or the Goddess, or the World Soul, or whatever) that were this Sign.
Or it's quite possible that he was just lying to get her to sleep with him.
So are we to take this sort of "spiritual revelation" seriously, because it's based on personal experience? Or is it poor interpretation of circumstance at best, outright deception at worst? And if it's the latter, why shouldn't other experiences that can be explained just as easily be interpreted any differently?

Locutus7

Humans are masters (or mistresses) of self-deception. Truly understanding this about yourself is a major step towards wisdom.

greg

Greta, a couple of things

one, you seem to confuse my reference to diverse personal experiences with personal perspectives. and you seem to think that other peoples' personal experience somehow 'contradict' my own. i do not see how what happens to me can be contradicted by something that happens to someone else; i would posit that it still happened how it happened to me. perhaps you are still confusing personal experience with personal perspective or belief

please respect the difference between what is 'true' in terms of has actually happened, versus what is being claimed as 'true' simply due to belief. without differentiating these, the discussion gets really muddled and incoherent.

you ask why i accept my personal experience as being true, when you have all these explanations about why we shouldn't trust ourselves. well, let me start by saying 'scientific evidence' does not explain a lot of reality. so if i would like to go any farther in understanding reality, beyond limiting myself to what can be proven, then i need to start somewhere, and to me my personal experience is a valuable learning tool. perhaps to others, it is something they need to negate?

sorry it is too long a list of 'cognitive biases' for me to read it all at this point, so perhaps my part in this discussion should come to an end.

but you asked, why dreams? well they seem to be rather similar to near death experiences - visions, or hallucinations, or whatever you want to call them, happening when we are not 'conscious'. you say "all the evidence we have points to the conclusion that [the content of dreams] is generated by the brain" - but I ask, when you say "I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence", are you not dismissing most of the experiences that have happened in this world? and so your basis for understanding things is a small fraction of reality, so i hope you ask yourself, is it representative of reality as a whole? and if not, well what does that say about the basis of your beliefs?

and you ask why i think that other peoples' spiritual perspectives might be flawed, but mine flawless? perhaps i don't think that (particularily the mine being flawless), but perhaps i do think there's a reason people have spiritual perspectives that go beyond indoctrination or denial or lower intelligence or lack of understanding, and that there is something going on that is beyond what the science can show (but that is experienceable on the personal level)

and ps Locutus7 "Humans are masters (or mistresses) of self-deception. Truly understanding this about yourself is a major step towards wisdom." - i'm rubber, you're glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you. :) jk, not dismissing this piece of wisdom - but why do you feel that you (and other believers in atheism) are above or beyond self-deception, and others (who hold some spiritual faith) are not? [and no need to answer, it's a rhetorical question]

greg

ok i'm gone

but just had to repay the dropping of wisdom. here's one: "when we talk or write or argue about things, we aren't really trying to convince others of our point of view, we're trying to convince ourselves"

and i'm not saying this applies to only some of us

DSimon
why do you feel that you (and other believers in atheism) are above or beyond self-deception, and others (who hold some spiritual faith) are not? [and no need to answer, it's a rhetorical question]

Greg, there's no need for it to be rhetorical!

The answer is: we don't think we're immune to self-deception, but we are perhaps more aware of how pernicious and prevalent it is, and do our best to find ways of working around it.

Reality is what refuses to change no matter how hard we believe one way or the other. We want the maps we hold in our minds to be an accurate guide to the territory outside. Figuring out when to update those maps is tricky, but it's an important art to learn.

DSimon
when you say "I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence", are you not dismissing most of the experiences that have happened in this world?

Indeed, but not unwisely so! When it comes to evidence, quality is more important than quantity. It's like a single needle instead of a whole haystack. Or actually, it's like tuning in on one frequency to pick up a radio station, instead of listening to the whole spectrum, most of which is just noise.

Individual anecdotes aren't that useful no matter how many of them they are, because they can't really be considered to accurately reflect the outside world. Adding lots more of them doesn't solve that problem more than a little bit.

Eclectic

A point I have made before, but bears repeating: when someone sais "I experienced X" and I say "Actually, I don't think that's what happened", I'm not accusing you of lying. Lying requires the intent to deceive, and it's quite likely that you are accurately trying to describe what you experienced.

But compare it to trying to accurately draw something that you saw. Or are even looking right at. A person who can do that is admired for their skill.

The hardest part of learning to draw in perspective is to bypass all the ways that your brain "fixes" the image that you see, making people at different distances look the same size and generally interpreting the image.

Not having the skill to bypass that natural process is hardly a sin, but it's still a desirable skill to be able to do so.

Similarly, the brain has all kinds of well-known cognitive biases, and it takes actual effort to avoid them.

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