Can personal experience be evidence of the paranormal?

Split from 'Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?'

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Can personal experience be evidence of the paranormal?

#1  Postby blue triangle » Mar 15, 2016 9:55 pm

kyrani99 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
kyrani99 wrote:You should consider that a theist, a true theist, not someone parading as a theist (I have seen plenty of them out to deceive others and try to lay down the letter of the law to hurt others).. a true theist does not believe because of reason. They believe because of direct spiritual evidence. They can't explain it but so what? The enlightenment experience, even when fleeting, brings knowledge, but it is not the sort of knowledge that you can discuss intellectually. That is why there are koans, myths, parables and various other metaphors. They are all statements that to point to Truth, but which cannot be understood by the rational mind .


This is a good, nay essential, point. The only real basis for belief in the supernatural is direct first-hand experience. Knowledge of the divine - gnosis - is the driving force behind all genuine conversions and true faith involves holding on to that knowledge despite your moods (as CS Lewis said), despite the arguments of others and despite the evidence to the contrary mundane life appears to lay before us.

I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way. The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural. The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science. That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#2  Postby Cito di Pense » Mar 15, 2016 10:26 pm

blue triangle wrote:I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way.


All parties do not understand the terms of the discussion merely on your say-so. I don't agree that this is an intellectual discussion. It's an expression of feelings that you're trying to dress up in intellectual gear. That's why I call this style of spirituality 'pretentious claptrap'. It's spirituality pretending to be something else? Why?

blue triangle wrote:The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural.


Believers, by and large, do NOT accept this.

blue triangle wrote:The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science. That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.


Skeptics, by and large, do NOT accept this. Claims of personal experience are anecdotes and stories. Call them literature, if you like, but most claimants are just not very entertaining writers. And who are you to go around telling people what they should or should not accept? Bend any spoons lately? If you don't like that metaphor, try this: Led any congregations in prayer, yet?

What is the matter with believers who are not content in their own spiritual communities, and who feel the urge to plead their case to skeptics? Do they think they have the big rational mojo for doing this? By and large, they do not. They're people used to expressing spirituality as a feeling, and who've gotten tired of preaching to the faithful.

Even if you're lucky enough to find one or two people to toss around some woo at a rationalist forum, your conversation isn't protected from skeptics who will critique what you're doing. Doctrinaire spirituality is too rigid, and do-it-yourself spirituality is amorphous story-telling that you somehow have to get good enough at to publish your own pamphlet. It sounds to me as if you're between a rock and a soft spot. That soft spot is the remains of the last spiritual quester who tried to go in under the radar.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#3  Postby blue triangle » Mar 15, 2016 10:54 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
blue triangle wrote:I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way.


All parties do not understand the terms of the discussion merely on your say-so. I don't agree that this is an intellectual discussion. It's an expression of feelings that you're trying to dress up in intellectual gear. That's why I call this style of spirituality 'pretentious claptrap'. It's spirituality pretending to be something else? Why?

blue triangle wrote:The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural.


Believers, by and large, do NOT accept this.

blue triangle wrote:The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science. That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.


Skeptics, by and large, do NOT accept this. Claims of personal experience are anecdotes and stories. Call them literature, if you like, but most claimants are just not very entertaining writers. And who are you to go around telling people what they should or should not accept? Bend any spoons lately? If you don't like that metaphor, try this: Led any congregations in prayer, yet?

What is the matter with believers who are not content in their own spiritual communities, and who feel the urge to plead their case to skeptics? Do they think they have the big rational mojo for doing this? By and large, they do not. They're people used to expressing spirituality as a feeling, and who've gotten tired of preaching to the faithful.

Even if you're lucky enough to find one or two people to toss around some woo at a rationalist forum, your conversation isn't protected from skeptics who will critique what you're doing.


I see your age is 1, Cito di Pense. Nothing is on my 'say so'. I said I would argue for those guidelines, because they might form a 'safe space' within which theists and atheists could rationally and civilly discuss the ontological status of spiritual and other supernatural experiences. What you seem to be saying is that there is nothing at all I could say to you about personal experience of the supernatural that would convince you even to be civil to me. Now, here's your rattle back and goodbye.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#4  Postby Cito di Pense » Mar 15, 2016 11:28 pm

blue triangle wrote:I said I would argue for those guidelines, because they might form a 'safe space' within which theists and atheists could rationally and civilly discuss the ontological status of spiritual and other supernatural experiences. What you seem to be saying is that there is nothing at all I could say to you about personal experience of the supernatural that would convince you even to be civil to me.


What I was telling you was that you should, instead of merely proposing to have a conversation about some guidelines (or maybe a conversation about some guidelines for proposing a conversation -- you can see where that's going!) you should just fucking discuss your opinion of the ontological status of spiritual and other supernatural experiences, and let the chips fall where they may. If you have something really impressive to say, someone, I dare say, will be impressed. I think maybe you were hoping somebody would ask you a leading question to draw you out, give you an opening paragraph for your essay, but sadly, I'm not the one to do that for you. You made an idiotic public utterance about the status of spiritual opinions, as if you thought (without actually trying, yet) you could do it better than the last guy who tried, and I told you where to take it. Now you're doing just that. When all else fails, William, demand civility before indulging in willingness to lay your fee-fees on the line.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#5  Postby Calilasseia » Mar 16, 2016 12:06 am

blue triangle wrote:
kyrani99 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
kyrani99 wrote:You should consider that a theist, a true theist, not someone parading as a theist (I have seen plenty of them out to deceive others and try to lay down the letter of the law to hurt others).. a true theist does not believe because of reason. They believe because of direct spiritual evidence. They can't explain it but so what? The enlightenment experience, even when fleeting, brings knowledge, but it is not the sort of knowledge that you can discuss intellectually. That is why there are koans, myths, parables and various other metaphors. They are all statements that to point to Truth, but which cannot be understood by the rational mind .


This is a good, nay essential, point. The only real basis for belief in the supernatural is direct first-hand experience.


Oh, does this mean that the six foot cockroach I "experienced" back in 1991 was real?

Except that even back then, before I learned more about insect physiology in detail, I was aware that what I was purportedly seeing wasn't real. Even while my brain was being cooked at 104°F in the hospital by meningococcal meningitis, I had enough presence of mind to realise that I was seeing something that was most definitely not real, because even back then, whem my knowledge of insect physiology was less robust than it is now, I was aware of cogent reasons why such an entity could not exist for real. As a consequence, I decided, at that juncture, that since my brain was obviously manufacturing a fairly florid hallucination (though, as is frequently the case with my dreams, several of which were also delightfully unreal, rendered in IMAX cinemascope with Dolby surround sound), I might as well put the incident to good use, and see if I could determine which species of cockroach I was hallucinating. Recounting this later with the nursing staff led to some hilarious exchanges, I can tell you.

This isn't the only example where purported "experience" does not correlate to real, concretely existing entities. As I said, I have had numerous dreams, involving such scenarios as my being shrunk to six inches in height, and chasing my tropical fish around the living room in a Lego helicopter gunship. Or the time I dreamt about taking part in a scaled-up version of the Wacky Races cartoon, complete with cars fitted with hilariously improbable cartoon weaponry. Which were all rendered, as my dreams tend to be, in full-bore CGI with all the pyrotechnics. Or the time I dreamt about chasing butterflies through a piece of giant topiary in Papua New Guinea, that was shaped like a live sized Sauropod dinosaur.

Indeed, as a corollary of having such "experiences" (and no, none of them involved drugs, my own natural brain endorphins can be pretty inventive when they want to be), I'm aware of the manner in which 'personal experience' can be a wholly unreliable guide to the nature of observable reality. As a corollary, anyone telling me that they have "experienced" their magic man, has their work cut out providing a rigorous test distinguishing their "experience" from my six foot cockroach, which seemed supremely real at the time I was "experiencing" it.

The human brain is capable of manufacturing all manner of spurious sensory "experiences", it's a supremely equipped virtual reality generator whose prowess is the stuff that the dreams of computer scientists are made of. Which is why those of us who paid attention in class, are deeply suspicious about claims of "experience" of bizarre or unusual phenomena. The idea that every fabrication of the human brain is purportedly informative about real, concrete entities, fails at this hurdle.

There is no reason for "belief" at all. Because as critical examination of supernaturalist claims repeatedly and reliably demonstrates, belief consists of nothing more than treating unsupported assertions as fact, regardless of what the DATA from observational reality has to say on the subject. You wouldn't accept any claims on my part that I could fly like Superman, unless I provided live television footage of me doing so, so why should I accept blind assertions that supernaturalists have "experienced" an invisible magic man?

blue triangle wrote:Knowledge of the divine


How can one possibly have knowledge of something that is merely asserted to exist, and which has never once been placed upon a proper, evidentially supported and rigorous footing?

blue triangle wrote:gnosis - is the driving force behind all genuine conversions


Oh really? Please explain to us all once again, how one can have genuine knowledge about something that has only ever been asserted to exist, and never once accompanied by genuine DATA?

blue triangle wrote:and true faith involves holding on to that knowledge despite your moods (as CS Lewis said), despite the arguments of others and despite the evidence to the contrary mundane life appears to lay before us.


In short, you're admitting here that faith consists of "if reality and my favourite assertions differ, reality is wrong and my favourite assertions are right". I'll vgive you three guesses what I think of that approach.

blue triangle wrote:I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way.


Strange how vast classes of entities and phenomena, that the authors of mythologies were incapable of even fantasising about, have not only been supported by DATA, but placed within precise, usefully predictive quantitative frameworks by scientists. I wonder why that is? Oh, this might have something to do with those entities and phenomena being more than the stuff of mere blind assertion.

blue triangle wrote:The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural.


Except that this is precisely what a lot of supernaturalists do assert, namely that the fabrications of their endorphins are genuinely existing entities.

blue triangle wrote:The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science.


fMRI scanning is becoming a game changer in this respect. I suggest you familiarise yourself with the neuroscience literature.

blue triangle wrote:That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.


Please explain to me how trying to turn fabrications of the imagination into real entities, just because it tickles the erogenous zones of those engaging in said fabricating, equals an "intellectual" discussion? Would we be having this "discussion" about the fantasy faeries I depict in my artwork? Er, no. But at least I present those honestly as fictional entities, despite attempting in said art to give the imagery a realistic visual aspect.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#6  Postby blue triangle » Mar 16, 2016 2:53 am

Calilasseia wrote:
blue triangle wrote:
kyrani99 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:


This is a good, nay essential, point. The only real basis for belief in the supernatural is direct first-hand experience.


Oh, does this mean that the six foot cockroach I "experienced" back in 1991 was real?


No it doesn't. It could possibly have been a symbol, though, of your state of mind at that time. Your Lego and dinosaur dream may be the same. What state of mind? Interestingly, I once had a very vivid dream of myself as a large cockroach (although not six feet long), walking with with a very mechanical gait. A hand came down and lifted it up, whereupon it transformed into a multicoloured bird of paradise. It was one of many similar dreams I was having at the time - another one was of being a brown trout then leaping out of the water and transforming into an eagle - all pointing to a change in worldview from my previous atheism and scientific naturalism to one that included spirituality. Your dreams perhaps showed your sympathies there. Just a guess, since you mentioned them in some detail. I dream in technicolour too, incidentally.

Except that even back then, before I learned more about insect physiology in detail, I was aware that what I was purportedly seeing wasn't real. Even while my brain was being cooked at 104°F in the hospital by meningococcal meningitis, I had enough presence of mind to realise that I was seeing something that was most definitely not real, because even back then, whem my knowledge of insect physiology was less robust than it is now, I was aware of cogent reasons why such an entity could not exist for real. As a consequence, I decided, at that juncture, that since my brain was obviously manufacturing a fairly florid hallucination (though, as is frequently the case with my dreams, several of which were also delightfully unreal, rendered in IMAX cinemascope with Dolby surround sound), I might as well put the incident to good use, and see if I could determine which species of cockroach I was hallucinating. Recounting this later with the nursing staff led to some hilarious exchanges, I can tell you.
And did you identify the species?

Indeed, as a corollary of having such "experiences" (and no, none of them involved drugs, my own natural brain endorphins can be pretty inventive when they want to be),
How do you know that your brain endorphins were inventing the experiences? Or were you just being loose with words?

I'm aware of the manner in which 'personal experience' can be a wholly unreliable guide to the nature of observable reality. As a corollary, anyone telling me that they have "experienced" their magic man, has their work cut out providing a rigorous test distinguishing their "experience" from my six foot cockroach, which seemed supremely real at the time I was "experiencing" it.
Please don't use the derogatory term 'magic man'. Let's be civil. There are reasons why spiritual experiencers believe they have encountered the divine (or the demonic). I only had one waking hallucination in my life, after working my first nightshift, and I immediately recognised it as such and reinterpreted the situation a second or two later. The cockroach you encountered sounds like hypnogogic imagery, which I believe can be the source of genuine visions (not always though). This is exactly what I wanted to discuss (civilly). Paul's visions, the word of God spoken to prophets, Muhammad's encounters with the angel Jibreel, modern spiritual experiences: they are the very inspiration for religious belief.

The human brain is capable of manufacturing all manner of spurious sensory "experiences", it's a supremely equipped virtual reality generator whose prowess is the stuff that the dreams of computer scientists are made of. Which is why those of us who paid attention in class, are deeply suspicious about claims of "experience" of bizarre or unusual phenomena. The idea that every fabrication of the human brain is purportedly informative about real, concrete entities, fails at this hurdle.
Again, please don't assume that theists didn't pay attention in class. There is a very, very long list of theists who did pay attention and whose scientific excellence is a matter of record. That doesn't prove they were right about God, but it does indicate you should be more careful about the epithets you apply to them.

How do you know the brain has generated all sensory experiences? I'm interested to hear more about this, because again it cuts right to the heart of the matter. I am saying that my unusual experiences were not generated by my brain. In fact I'm not sure that the brain can generate even dreams. I'd call it the mind, not the brain. You would presumably say that consciousness is wholly a product of brain processes. I'm saying that consciousness is fundamental. Perhaps that's one reason why the debate is so ferocious, because what on first inspection looks like disagreement over the ontological status of a few types of unusual experiences and what they gave given rise to in human society, turns out to be a gulf between two wholly opposing views about the very nature of consciousness itself. This is the central question: is consciousness wholly a product of brain functioning? If so then it is probably game over for supernaturalism. If it is not wholly a product of brain function, or doesn't even require a functioning brain, then there is everything to play for and in fact it is probably game over for naturalism.

There is no reason for "belief" at all.
In your opinion.

Because as critical examination of supernaturalist claims repeatedly and reliably demonstrates, belief consists of nothing more than treating unsupported assertions as fact, regardless of what the DATA from observational reality has to say on the subject. You wouldn't accept any claims on my part that I could fly like Superman, unless I provided live television footage of me doing so, so why should I accept blind assertions that supernaturalists have "experienced" an invisible magic man?
I'm not asking you to accept them. I'm asking you to accept the possibility that they may be real. Remember, the person having the experiences already knows they are real, in some instances (not all). They just can't prove it is real to anyone else, because spiritual experiences are on the whole not repeatable. Again, as always, this goes right to the heart of what constitutes knowledge, belief, certainty and scientific credulity. But we don't need a raft of scientific studies or even the opinion of others to inform us about every tiny detail of life. In many personal matters we just learn by experience. Animals learn by experience and don't need science to tell them anything for their survival. That's knowledge of a kind. I accept that anecdotal evidence is not enough for scientific acceptance and again this is why reasoned discussion here, especially the sharing of experience and a willingness to learn from both sides is essential. There is also the interesting and very moot observation made by many on both sides of the fence that the beliefs or even the presence of experimenters can influence the results of some experiments, especially in psi functioning and even reputedly in sensitive physical measurements. I think it was Wolfgang Pauli who was notorious for jinxing experiments. If the mind really is independent of or more fundamental than the brain then we might expect such effects. A mind strongly motivated to disbelieve might dampen effects (and it always seemed to me that all we need to do there o get round that is make sure the experimenters were all either neutral or pro-psi functioning but design the experiment to preclude the possibility of cheating even unintentionally).


blue triangle wrote:Knowledge of the divine

How can one possibly have knowledge of something that is merely asserted to exist, and which has never once been placed upon a proper, evidentially supported and rigorous footing?
Well, that is most certainly arguable but I also said above that there are different kinds of knowledge and degrees of certainty. If I see a white crow then it flies away I know I saw a white crow but I can't show it to you to prove it. It's possible I miscounted or hallucinated it, of course, but if it happens repeatedly, I know with every greater certainty that white crows really exist, even though I can't prove it to you. You may say there were no other witnesses and I'm either lying (and those who reported camelopards during their expeditions to Africa were disbelieved at first) or mistaken or deluded. But I know what I saw, that I was sober and that I usually don't hallucinate, so if I have a modicum of courage I place my faith in myself and not in the majority who have never seen one. This is essentially what faith is, and it's a restatement of CS Lewis' definition.

blue triangle wrote:gnosis - is the driving force behind all genuine conversions

Oh really? Please explain to us all once again, how one can have genuine knowledge about something that has only ever been asserted to exist, and never once accompanied by genuine DATA?
Genuine data is the result of a method, the scientific method, that seems to work very well for the material world but not for phenomena such as miracles that cannot be subjected to scrutiny under controlled conditions and which many insist are real. Therefore the problem isn't whether they are real but whether we will ever be able to capture them and decide whether they are real or not - or even if reality is what we may believe it is. It follows from that statement that scientists have no business commenting on whether miracles can happen, since because they are beyond science's purview science can have nothing to say about then at present. So when some atheists make derogatory or dismissive comments about religion and the objects of religious belief they are talking from a position of ignorance, in every respect. Of course they can criticise some derivative aspects of religions, but not the basis for it.

blue triangle wrote:That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.

Please explain to me how trying to turn fabrications of the imagination into real entities, just because it tickles the erogenous zones of those engaging in said fabricating, equals an "intellectual" discussion? Would we be having this "discussion" about the fantasy faeries I depict in my artwork? Er, no. But at least I present those honestly as fictional entities, despite attempting in said art to give the imagery a realistic visual aspect.

You're begging the question here. Please don't do that. Anyway, if that's your position, why are you even discussing it with me?
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#7  Postby RealityRules » Mar 16, 2016 4:28 am

kyrani99 wrote:
... I thought this was a debate about whether Jesus was a historical figure or not ...

No, it isn't.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#8  Postby Cito di Pense » Mar 16, 2016 5:04 am

blue triangle wrote:
You're begging the question here. Please don't do that. Anyway, if that's your position, why are you even discussing it with me?


We're not discussing it with you any more than you're discussing it with us. But you're still blaming somebody else for the fact that the conversation you claim to be seeking just isn't happening.

blue triangle wrote:Please don't use the derogatory term 'magic man'. Let's be civil. There are reasons why spiritual experiencers believe they have encountered the divine (or the demonic).


There are excuses. There are waffles. Big, syrupy waffles. Often including quantum woo, wholesale misinterpretation of quantum theory and experiment to support spiritualist fantasies. There's never any evidence for the spirit world when there's a skeptic in the room.

From your previous stint here, now several years ago:

blue triangle wrote:
Anyway, good day to you. I think I've spent more than enough time around here.


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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#9  Postby Shrunk » Mar 16, 2016 2:21 pm

kyrani99 wrote:I am simply pointing out that there is evidence that can be found outside of reason.


"Outside of reason." And would that differ in any way from "unreasonable" or "unreasoned"?

It matters little. I'm just happy you've found a harmless subject regarding which to spout uninformed nonsense. Better the existence of "Jesus the prophet" than cancer treatment.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#10  Postby Shrunk » Mar 16, 2016 3:05 pm

blue triangle wrote:I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way. The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural. The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science. That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.


IOW, the skeptics should start by conceding that the believers are correct. Then we can all have a discussion on whether the believers might be correct.

I see a slight problem with that plan. And "highest quality" would not be the adjectives I would expect to describe the ensuing discussion.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#11  Postby blue triangle » Mar 16, 2016 4:48 pm

Shrunk wrote:
blue triangle wrote:I would argue however that such knowledge can be discussed in an intellectual way, as long as all parties understand that such experiences are normally highly personal and difficult, perhaps impossible, to validate in any scientific way. The believer should accept that personal experiences, even in large number, do not constitute evidence for the truth of any religion or even the reality of the supernatural. The skeptic should accept that there are some areas of personal experience that may currently be outside the purview of science. That could be the starting point for an intellectual discussion of the highest quality.


IOW, the skeptics should start by conceding that the believers are correct. Then we can all have a discussion on whether the believers might be correct.
I'm not sure how you could have derived this summary of my words. Please show me your reasoning here. Let me be clear, however. I am not saying that skeptics should begin by conceding anything more than that science may not at present be able to explain all types of personal experience. That is all that is required to begin a civil dialogue with a believer.

I see a slight problem with that plan. And "highest quality" would not be the adjectives I would expect to describe the ensuing discussion.
If understanding spiritual experience is the real motive of each side then a high quality discussion could indeed follow. This might be an opportunity to extend the borders of scientific knowledge or demonstrate the explanatory power of science. It might also indicate that there are limits to what science can explain.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#12  Postby Shrunk » Mar 16, 2016 4:59 pm

blue triangle wrote: I'm not sure how you could have derived this summary of my words. Please show me your reasoning here. Let me be clear, however. I am not saying that skeptics should begin by conceding anything more than that science may not at present be able to explain all types of personal experience. That is all that is required to begin a civil dialogue with a believer.


Uh huh. Then you have no understanding whatsoever of the claim of which skeptics are skeptical. So perhaps the beginning of "civil dialogue" would be, rather, for you to first understand the position of those with whom you are dialoguing.

If you could just demonstrate this marvelous, new, non-scientific means of understanding "spiritual experiences," there would be no need for concessions on anyone's part. Or, as Cito might say, bend a spoon. Then we can civilly dialogue.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#13  Postby Shrunk » Mar 16, 2016 5:30 pm

To clear up one possible source of confusion: When you say "science may not at present be able to explain all types of personal experience," that does not mean that there is another, non-scientific means that is able to explain them, nor that science will not be able to explain some or all of these "experiences" at a future date. So if that is all the concession you are asking, then I don't see why anyone would disagree. But I also don't see why you think concession of such a trivial point would even need to be made explicit, or that anyone is refusing to make it. Which is why I think you have some other sort of concession in mind.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#14  Postby blue triangle » Mar 16, 2016 9:07 pm

Shrunk wrote:
blue triangle wrote: I'm not sure how you could have derived this summary of my words. Please show me your reasoning here. Let me be clear, however. I am not saying that skeptics should begin by conceding anything more than that science may not at present be able to explain all types of personal experience. That is all that is required to begin a civil dialogue with a believer.


Uh huh. Then you have no understanding whatsoever of the claim of which skeptics are skeptical. So perhaps the beginning of "civil dialogue" would be, rather, for you to first understand the position of those with whom you are dialoguing.
Civil dialogue is also assisted when one of the participants doesn't jump to conclusions about what the other participant understands or has experienced.

If you could just demonstrate this marvelous, new, non-scientific means of understanding "spiritual experiences," there would be no need for concessions on anyone's part. Or, as Cito might say, bend a spoon. Then we can civilly dialogue.
Who said it was new? It's simply personal experience, which skeptics reject (rightly) as scientific evidence but which for the experiencer is often compelling, compelling enough for them to change their entire worldview. Therein lies the gap between what experiencers find credible and skeptics find credible. Now many people are too easily persuaded by personal experience. They hear that white feathers are a sign from an angel, then next day they see a white feather on the ground and are convinced their guardian angel was saying hello, when in all likelihood they were simply more aware of feathers because of what they'd just heard. Most people would require more evidence than that. But skepticism can be taken to unhealthy extremes too, as evidenced by the perjorative terms bandied about on this forum and elsewhere for religion and its adherents. This speaks of an entrenched hostility towards religion that rejects a priori any and all claims made by religionists and enters into discussions about them merely to trash them, which is hardly civil. Neither approach - childish credulity or pathological incredulity - is helpful for a reasoned discussion. I'm simply arguing that both sides need to come to the discussion table with a willingness to listen to the other side without judgment and the reason I need to say it at all is because many conversations between theists and atheists, here and elsewhere, quickly descend into little more than mudslinging. There is a wall between theists and atheists but instead of chucking mud over it, we could examine the wall itself. If we did we might see that the bricks are made of lack of experience on one side and lack of scientific knowledge on the other side, and they are cemented by prejudice on both sides.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#15  Postby blue triangle » Mar 16, 2016 9:34 pm

Shrunk wrote:To clear up one possible source of confusion: When you say "science may not at present be able to explain all types of personal experience," that does not mean that there is another, non-scientific means that is able to explain them, nor that science will not be able to explain some or all of these "experiences" at a future date. So if that is all the concession you are asking, then I don't see why anyone would disagree. But I also don't see why you think concession of such a trivial point would even need to be made explicit, or that anyone is refusing to make it. Which is why I think you have some other sort of concession in mind.


That is exactly what I mean, but it is far from trivial, because many participants seem to lose sight of it very easily. I suppose what I'm really doing is focusing on the real issue between theists and atheists, which isn't the dogma of any religion or the human rights record of religionists or the content of religious books or the missionary fervour of the New Atheists, if that term is still accepted. The real issue is the ontological status of supernatural experience and this is all that really needs to be discussed. But before it can be discussed in a civil manner, both sides, I would argue, need to accept that the other side may have something of value to bring to the discussion: personal mystical experience on one side and the findings of science on the other side. It is obvious from the attitude of some posters that these basic preconditions are not accepted by all here. For instance when a poster uses the term 'magic man' instead of 'God' or 'Jesus Christ', or describes all the claims of religionists as 'woo', what their attitude is likely to be towards supernatural claims. This discourages the kind of meaningful discourse I believe is necessary for a thorough examination of supernatural claims.

'm aware this is very off topic, and apologies for that. Maybe it needs a new thread.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#16  Postby Shrunk » Mar 16, 2016 9:51 pm

For instance when a poster uses the term 'magic man' instead of 'God' or 'Jesus Christ', or describes all the claims of religionists as 'woo', what their attitude is likely to be towards supernatural claims. This discourages the kind of meaningful discourse I believe is necessary for a thorough examination of supernatural claims.


My, how judgmental and close minded of you! You don't seem to consider that such terms are the consequence of repeated requests for evidence to support the claims being made, which go unmet. After a point, "woo" seems to cover things quite well. OTOH, I've never heard of a scientist who abandoned pursuing an idea for which he had convincing evidence, just because people said hurtful things about it.

I find I need something more specific from you, and not just sour grapes. Exactly what are you suggesting we take more seriously? If someone says he encountered an angel, and points to white feathers as evidence, you dismiss that. But if someone says he encountered an angel, and offers nothing in evidence other than the apparently firm conviction that he encountered an angel, and not even so much as a white feather, are we suddenly supposed to take this as a serious claim? I must say, the distinction escapes me.

Over on the other thread, we've been trying to pin down your fellow traveller kyrani99 into providing some reliable evidence that she actually had metastatic cancer that was cured purely thru personal meditation. She's finally clarified that these cancers were tumours that she visualized being in her body thru her meditations, rather than anything that was actually diagnosed by a doctor, and which she then visualized disappearing. So, hey, great, things like CT scans and pathology reports are of no use there. Such a claim is obviously "beyond science". Is that the kind of thing you feel is not receiving sufficient respect from skeptics?
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#17  Postby Matt_B » Mar 16, 2016 10:21 pm

I'm not ready to accept that Christians can bring the value of their personal experience to the table. The big stumbling block is that there's nothing they can point to that makes their personal experience more valuable than that of, say, Raelians or Scientologists, to give a couple of examples. Let's face it; most Christians consider those two cults to be either delusional, fraudulent or both every bit as much as most atheists would. And in both cases, the basis is largely not believing their claims of personal experience.

And no, that doesn't mean I consider Christians on a par with UFO cultists. They're generally a much more reasonable bunch of people; it's just the claims of supernatural personal experience that I have to hold to the same standard, as I can't see any other consistent way of doing it.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#18  Postby Thommo » Mar 16, 2016 10:30 pm

Personal experience is a red herring. What's being discussed isn't personal experience at all, or at least certainly not of Jesus, or the Christian God.

One of the critical things about actual experience is that it has meaningful content. If I tell you I watched Gary Lineker talking on TV last week about an upcoming England friendly then not only is that an experience which was open to others, with informational content (e.g. Gary Lineker has sticky out-y ears and you can check that for yourself against your own experience), but Gary Lineker can tell me things that I did not already know. It's a pretty feeble god (and certainly not the god of the bible) that can't match such mundane feats.

The truth is that in almost every case, it's not "personal experience" that convinced people of the truth of Christianity at all. It's being told about it, being told it was true, over repeated and extended periods at an impressionable stage of life. Often as a child by trusted parents.

Any omnipotent god who has both the power and desire to literally carve commandments into stone and part seas, as well as speak to people, who wanted to give people experience that would convince them, could do so. And he could do so in ways at least as convincing as Gary Lineker can manage.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#19  Postby blue triangle » Mar 17, 2016 1:24 am

Shrunk wrote:My, how judgmental and close minded of you!
What? I was giving an example of the kind of discourse we might want to avoid if we actually want to engage with the other side of the argument. It wasn't a judgment, merely an observation.
You don't seem to consider that such terms are the consequence of repeated requests for evidence to support the claims being made, which go unmet.
Two points here. Firstly, such terms are not the consequence of hearing too many unsupported claims. They are the result of a lack of humility and having a mind closed to other worldviews. Not a good plan. Secondly, 'repeated requests' for 'scientific' evidence' may be futile if the claims are beyond the purview of science. It may be because the claims are erronious, but it may also be because they are beyond scientific scrutiny and that therefore science has limits, either in its current state or in principle. This is the unknown country I would hope to explore.
After a point, "woo" seems to cover things quite well.
It's derogatory and therefore inflammatory.

OTOH, I've never heard of a scientist who abandoned pursuing an idea for which he had convincing evidence, just because people said hurtful things about it.
And you will seldom find a convinced theist abandoning their faith simply because people call it 'woo'.

I find I need something more specific from you, and not just sour grapes.
Again, what? I'm trying to outline a basis for rational and civil discussion, of which I see very little here. I prefer sweet grapes (and new wine) to the sour kind.
Exactly what are you suggesting we take more seriously?
Claims of spiritual experience.
If someone says he encountered an angel, and points to white feathers as evidence, you dismiss that.
No, I gave an example of what I would regard as very poor anecdotal evidence for angelic communication. And I wouldn't dismiss it. I just wouldn't be convinced on the strength of that alone.
But if someone says he encountered an angel, and offers nothing in evidence other than the apparently firm conviction that he encountered an angel, and not even so much as a white feather, are we suddenly supposed to take this as a serious claim?
If someone claimed to have seen an angel but gave no reason for it, we'd be under no obligation to believe them. But we might want to enquire a little further, surely. That is exactly what we are supposed to be doing right here on this forum. But if we really wanted to hear the full story we would do well to avoid words like 'woo' and 'magic man', especially at the beginning of the conversation. It just puts pople on the defensive. But we would have every right to ask searching questions.
I must say, the distinction escapes me.
Not me.

Over on the other thread, we've been trying to pin down your fellow traveller kyrani99 into providing some reliable evidence that she actually had metastatic cancer that was cured purely thru personal meditation.
Interesting.
She's finally clarified that these cancers were tumours that she visualized being in her body thru her meditations, rather than anything that was actually diagnosed by a doctor, and which she then visualized disappearing. So, hey, great, things like CT scans and pathology reports are of no use there.
I'd have to read through the thread before I comment further.
Such a claim is obviously "beyond science". Is that the kind of thing you feel is not receiving sufficient respect from skeptics?
[/quote] Yes, I've seen it happen all too often. I would not expect you to believe her, of course, but I would expect you to be respectful as you enquire about her apparently remarkable healing, at the very least because it would likely be a precious memory for her, and also because she and others might reveal more if they felt they weren't going to be mocked. And you might learn something new. It's potentially a win-win situation.
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Re: Is Jesus mythicism "denialism"?

#20  Postby blue triangle » Mar 17, 2016 1:37 am

Matt_B wrote:I'm not ready to accept that Christians can bring the value of their personal experience to the table. The big stumbling block is that there's nothing they can point to that makes their personal experience more valuable than that of, say, Raelians or Scientologists, to give a couple of examples. Let's face it; most Christians consider those two cults to be either delusional, fraudulent or both every bit as much as most atheists would. And in both cases, the basis is largely not believing their claims of personal experience.
I would say that if we want to understand more about spiritual experiences we do not need to examine the specific claims of any religion, just accounts by adherents of their spiritual experiences, especially those that led them to follow a particular religion. This approach is a great equaliser and might even give a way of distinguishing between genuine, 'God breathed' religions (should they exist) and man-made cults. For instance if the spiritual experiences of Christians were of a different type and quality than those of scientologists, we might be able to conclude something from that.

And no, that doesn't mean I consider Christians on a par with UFO cultists. They're generally a much more reasonable bunch of people; it's just the claims of supernatural personal experience that I have to hold to the same standard, as I can't see any other consistent way of doing it.
I agree.
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