Why I believe in God

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brianmmulligan
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Post by brianmmulligan » Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:23 am

Just a question on your reasoning techniques, Patrick.

An event happens. You think of a plausible explanation. You, or someone you speak to, thinks of a few more possible explanations.

What methodology would you use to determine which of the possible explanations is most likely to be true.

To illustrate the answer, you could use the experience you had that you suggest was metaphysical. Tell us of some of the alternative explanations you considered and how you came to your final determination.

Reading back over that I sound like a patronising teacher setting an exam question.
Brian
smiffy
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Post by smiffy » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:53 am

brianmmulligan wrote:To illustrate the answer, you could use the experience you had that you suggest was metaphysical. Tell us of some of the alternative explanations you considered and how you came to your final determination.

Reading back over that I sound like a patronising teacher setting an exam question.
I don't think so. With respect to Patrick, I think that's the key question which hasn't been put to him (or, at least, not put as clearly as that).

Patrick, you state that:
So I have scrutinized the experience and considered the experience being material in origin (and after much reflection come to the conclusion that the experience was, almost, certainly divine in origin).
What's missing is the basis of that conclusion. Would you accept experiences similar to yours can be, and have been, induced physically (through drugs, fasting, meditation etc)? If not, why not? If you do accept this, then on what basis can you claim that your experience was divinely-inspired?

One could, of course, accept for the sake of argument that you did experience a revelation of the divine but go on to challenge your extrapolation from that to an acceptance of Catholic dogma, but that's an entirely different thread.
Atheism is a religion the same way that NOT collecting stamps is a hobby - Scott Adams
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:05 pm

Brian
brianmmulligan wrote:Patrick Fowke wrote:

"What is beauty in the natural world (where there is no functional reason for there to be such a thing). What is human wit, humour, personality, and so on?"

Don't be too quick to say that there is no functional reason for something. Beauty, music and humour may be explained by the theories of Evolutionary Psychology. Like the peacock's tail, these are ways of showing off your fitness.
With respect, there is nothing controversial (at least, not as far as I have come across) about differentiating between functional and non-fuctional beauty in the natural world (I used the word "functional" apropos the natural world).

Functional beauty (in the natural world)

A peacock's tail is appealing so as to attract a mate, so that the peacock's genes get passed on.

Non-fuctional beauty (in the natural world)

Inanimate objects such as the moon, a snowflake, a raindrop, can be beautiful - there is no functional purpose in their beauty.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

You could add that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Yes, but:

- Many people will agree that the moon is "beautiful". They will agree that it induces an experience of happiness, awe, and so on. If not the moon, then something ..

- Most people agree in the idea of beauty (I mean the idea of beauty where it has no utilitarian purpose in nature, for example) even though they might have different ideas about what beauty could be (and where there is difference, at some point, there is going to be overlap / commonality).
Why do people share such an idea of "beauty"? What is "beauty"? Where does it exist / reside?

Aesthetics

These questions aren't new. Philosophers have been asking these sort of questions for generations, back to Plato and Aristotle. Some would argue that beauty is something metaphysical that resides, ultimately, in otherselves (it is something within ourselves that brings out the beauty in the natural world), others that it resides in nature - and others, that it resides in both ourselves and in nature.

What do you think?

Will wait for you to get back (and will try and get back to others before long).
bipedalhumanoid
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Post by bipedalhumanoid » Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:28 pm

When I take a piece of information and encrypt it and then lose the encryption key, that encrypted information can no longer be considered to be information.

Similarly, take away the brain that interprets the moon to be beautiful and you can no longer consider the moon to be beautiful. The moon is not objectively beautiful. Nothing is objectively beautiful. The 'beauty' exists only in the brains of those who claim it exists.
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Mon Dec 29, 2008 6:08 pm

bipedalhumanoid wrote:
Similarly, take away the brain that interprets the moon to be beautiful and you can no longer consider the moon to be beautiful. The moon is not objectively beautiful. Nothing is objectively beautiful. The 'beauty' exists only in the brains of those who claim it exists.
OK. But this is a subjective belief of yours, right, as opposed to a claim based on some kind of scientific evidence?

You might be right but which part of the brain performs this? How? And why?
smiffy
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Post by smiffy » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:26 pm

Patrick Fowke wrote:OK. But this is a subjective belief of yours, right, as opposed to a claim based on some kind of scientific evidence?

You might be right but which part of the brain performs this? How? And why?
You're begging the question here somewhat, in assuming that a statement, or assertion, such as bipedal's about beauty only existing if it's perceived as such, can only be either a 'subjective belief' or an evidence-based claim. It could, alternatively, be an argument.

Now, you can disagree with bipedal's claim if you like (and, to be fair, s/he hasn't come close to engaging with the deeper philosophy roots of the question of truth, including aesthetic truth - not that one would expect him or her to at this point). However, in order to do so, you need to able to present a counter-argument, or explain why you disagree.

It's not sufficient to simply state that it's a 'subjective' view. At least, not if you're interested in a fruitful and open discussion, which so far you certainly seem to be.
Atheism is a religion the same way that NOT collecting stamps is a hobby - Scott Adams
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:18 pm

smiffy wrote: You're begging the question here somewhat, in assuming that a statement, or assertion, such as bipedal's about beauty only existing if it's perceived as such, can only be either a 'subjective belief' or an evidence-based claim. It could, alternatively, be an argument.

However, in order to do so, you need to able to present a counter-argument, or explain why you disagree.
Requesting the scientific evidence for this claim (RE: the part of the brain that performs this, how, and why) are, I think, logical questions to ask in response.
smiffy wrote: At least, not if you're interested in a fruitful and open discussion, which so far you certainly seem to be.
I certainly am interested (and thanks for the debate so far).
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:42 pm

Smiffy

To try and answer your questions / points
smiffy wrote:
brianmmulligan wrote:To illustrate the answer, you could use the experience you had that you suggest was metaphysical. Tell us of some of the alternative explanations you considered and how you came to your final determination.
.
Firstly, when I had the experience, I was thinking to myself: this is extraordinary, extraordinary, otherwordly (not: "I wonder what the material explanation for this is"). But then afterwards, and for many years, I began to scrutinize the experience. Trying to think of some physical reason for all of this. I couldn't. It is still as extraordinary, extraordinary, otherwordly, now as it was then. The more I consider it, the more sure I am that it was divine in origin.
So I have scrutinized the experience and considered the experience being material in origin (and after much reflection come to the conclusion that the experience was, almost, certainly divine in origin).
smiffy wrote:
What's missing is the basis of that conclusion. Would you accept experiences similar to yours can be, and have been, induced physically (through drugs, fasting, meditation etc)?
No. I have had morphine in hospital. It was great. Fantastic. But nothing in comparison to the experience in quesiton. The morphine experience was one-dimensional. It was pure pleasure. But my experience was more than pleasure. There was joy and peace at all sorts of different levels. Sorry, that's the best I can do to describe this subjective experience.

What other people have had similar experiences as this? Only I can really say because only I really know what my experience was like (let-alone trying to match this to the experience of others).

You would accept that many poets have experienced metaphysical experiences (perhaps of a similar kind). Shakespeare, Yeats, Blake spring to mind. I have already quoted Shakespeare and Yeats on this point (earlier on in thread - twice, I think) so don't want to again. I, also, refered to people such as Francis of Assisi who is meant to have had various metaphysical experiences. One was so powerful that it led him to give up his comfortable life, and take to the roads as a beggar - to help, and live with, the poor (including lepers) - for the rest of his life (over 20 years or so). It must have been a pretty significant experience. And I have heard of many other people who have had such experiences (not of the magnitude of Francis of Assisi) and who would descibe them as, ultimatley, metaphysical, not material in nature and origin.
smiffy wrote:
If not, why not? If you do accept this, then on what basis can you claim that your experience was divinely-inspired?
There just seemed to be someone behind it. Some plan to it (just as many people think that about their lives in general). The experience was just so extraodinary that I cannot even begin to believe how the natural world could create something like that. And I felt a presence - one of love, of beauty, of joy. Can't say more than that. All I can say to end with: to be experienced to be believed (and I sincerely hope others get to experience God - and I sincerely believe we are all equally open to God - and that we can all experience God in powerful ways, not necessarily in the same ways but in equally valuable and significant ways).
smiffy
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Post by smiffy » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:23 pm

Patrick Fowke wrote:No. I have had morphine in hospital. It was great. Fantastic. But nothing in comparison to the experience in quesiton. The morphine experience was one-dimensional. It was pure pleasure. But my experience was more than pleasure. There was joy and peace at all sorts of different levels. Sorry, that's the best I can do to describe this subjective experience.
Fair enough, but I'm not aware of anyone suggesting that morphine can induce the kind of experience you described. It would be very unlikely to, given that it's a narcotic, which is used to dull the senses. However, the effects of other drugs have been known to create - pretty much - the kind of experience you mention. Which brings us on to ...
What other people have had similar experiences as this? Only I can really say because only I really know what my experience was like (let-alone trying to match this to the experience of others).

You would accept that many poets have experienced metaphysical experiences (perhaps of a similar kind). Shakespeare, Yeats, Blake spring to mind. I have already quoted Shakespeare and Yeats on this point (earlier on in thread - twice, I think) so don't want to again. I, also, refered to people such as Francis of Assisi who is meant to have had various metaphysical experiences. One was so powerful that it led him to give up his comfortable life, and take to the roads as a beggar - to help, and live with, the poor (including lepers) - for the rest of his life (over 20 years or so). It must have been a pretty significant experience. And I have heard of many other people who have had such experiences (not of the magnitude of Francis of Assisi) and who would descibe them as, ultimatley, metaphysical, not material in nature and origin.


Just to be pedantic for a moment (because I am) what you're talking about isn't 'metaphysical' per se. Metaphysics refers to a realm of philosophy dealing with fundamental questions of existence, which may invoke questions of the supernatural, but isn't confined to them. I think a better term to describe what you're talking about would be the numinous, or the transcendant.

As for who has experienced what you describe, certainly I would agree that certain poets have, or appear to have, Blake being a prime example. However, the very fact that others have described similar sensations to yours is, frankly, rather irrelevant to the discussion here, which deals with the origins of those sensations.

What we can do, however, is point to those who have described similar experiences and who have given material explanations of how they came about. Just to throw a few in, one could list Sam Harris' exploration of the subject of the transcendant towards the end of his 'The End of Faith', Terrence McKenna's studies of shamanism and the use of psilocybin mushrooms in religious rituals, Timothy Leary's experiments with LSD and other mind-altering substances (in fact, we might throw in Aldous Huxley's 'The Doors of Perception' while we're at it), if you like poetry: much of Allen Ginsberg (including his descriptions of his hallucination of hearing Blake reading 'Ah Sunflower') and a lot of comedian Bill Hicks' less funny material.

Also, whoever it was on here earlier saying that they experienced the same thing through the use of LSD.

Now, obviously, each person's experience is subjective. However, the very fact that the experiences detailed above very closely resemble what you're talking about suggest - at the very least - that there is a biological basis to the phenomenon. If so, something stronger than simple personal intuition is required if the God hypothesis is to be convincing, in this case.
There just seemed to be someone behind it. Some plan to it (just as many people think that about their lives in general). The experience was just so extraodinary that I cannot even begin to believe how the natural world could create something like that. And I felt a presence - one of love, of beauty, of joy. Can't say more than that. All I can say to end with: to be experienced to be believed (and I sincerely hope others get to experience God - and I sincerely believe we are all equally open to God - and that we can all experience God in powerful ways, not necessarily in the same ways but in equally valuable and significant ways).
Again, fair enough, but that's really just repeating the initial claim rather than supporting it. It doesn't quite answer the argument that if other people have experienced the same phenomenon, and their experiences don't require a supernatural explanation, then there's no reason to think that yours does either.
Atheism is a religion the same way that NOT collecting stamps is a hobby - Scott Adams
Patrick Fowke
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 11:34 pm

Post by Patrick Fowke » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:53 pm

smiffy wrote: Just to be pedantic for a moment (because I am)
No. I don't think you are being pedantic at all (pedantic is, I think, wasting time on some matter that is of no real consequence to the overal discussion. You are scrutinizing something that is, I think, of value to the overall discussion).
smiffy wrote:
what you're talking about isn't 'metaphysical' per se. Metaphysics refers to a realm of philosophy dealing with fundamental questions of existence, which may invoke questions of the supernatural, but isn't confined to them. I think a better term to describe what you're talking about would be the numinous, or the transcendant.
I accept that. I use "metaphysical" really to differentiate between material / physical and non-material / physical existence. At the moment, that is all I really want to do (with such a word). I like "metaphysical" because it carries less emotive weight than "transcendental". Rather than using emotive-sounding, vague, subjective words, my real concern is to try and describe / evoke what I mean through various non-emotive words. If you get me. If not apologies (and sorry for waffling). For the moment I am stuck on "metaphysical" (please bear with me ..).
smiffy wrote:
As for who has experienced what you describe, certainly I would agree that certain poets have, or appear to have, Blake being a prime example. However, the very fact that others have described similar sensations to yours is, frankly, rather irrelevant to the discussion here, which deals with the origins of those sensations.
One of the poets / writers I refered to was Shakespeare. The spefic quote was:

"the clouds methought did open up and show riches ready to drop upon me that when I wak'd I cried to dream again" - The Tempest. There is something religious (a hint of, at least) to me about this experience.

Let me try and qualify that. Elsewhere in The Tempest, Shakespeare writes:

"Full fadom five thy Father lies,
Of his bones are Corrall made:
Those are pearles that were his eies,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a Sea-change
Into something rich, & strange:
Sea-Nimphs hourly ring his knell."

- The common understanding of this (as far as I understand it) is the passing of the passing of the soul into eternal bliss. This, again, has a religious touch to it.

And we come across other religious touches, elsewhere, in Shakespeare. In particular, from my limited experience of his plays, in King Lear, and Cordelia, who, can be seen to represent unconditional, divine love.

Many well-known poets have written poems about metaphysical / mystical / transcendental experiences like this - with a religious touch to them (not forgetting that the arts are often subtle in their meaning, just as Christians believe that divine revelation is often subtle - why is divine revelation often subtle? - this is worthy of a further discussion if you are interested?).

Apologies for the waffly bits above - will try to be more clear and brief next time ..

PS

Few other things would like to discuss (if you are interested):

- what exactly is "evidence" (apropos: science, mathematics, philosophy, the arts, theology, ordinary everyday experience etc ..).
- the difference between rational thinking and creative thinking (/lateral thinking / holistic thinking). How rational-thinking, alone, is not enough to develop science / how rational-thinking, alone, is not enough to understand some of the most important ideas in science, philosophy, the arts, and learning in general. * This is something haven't touched on in this thread, and I think it is of value to the discussion of "belief in God".
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