Can materialistic science answer life’s big questions? |317|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 27, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Can materialistic science answer life’s big questions? |317|
    by Laird Shaw | May 27 | Spirituality

    Science is notorious bad at answering life’s big questions, but can the methods of science bring us closer to truth?
    [​IMG]

    photo by: Marcello Maria Perongini
    [NOTE: Larid Shaw has authored this terrific post synthesizing many contributions from Skeptiko-Forum participants. Please join us on the forum to continue this discussion.]

    Sixteen years ago, I was immersed in a crisis of dark encounters that defied conventional explanation. The voices and negative entities that surrounded me became my reality… and my confusion. As disturbing as this experience was, it got me questioning the nature of existence. What was the truth of my situation, and of the greater metaphysical reality that I was encountering?

    Even before these experiences, I had wanted to know the truth about reality. But after them, there was so much more that the truth had to account for. I am – and have been since as early as I can remember – a fan of rational thought as a means of approaching such questions: rational thought as a broadly “scientific” endeavour; as a generally critical, systematic and methodical approach, extending beyond just repeatable experiments, and – especially where physical experiments are not possible – into thought experiments, into asking critical questions, into probing for inconsistencies, and into comparing models with one another to see which best fits what we know about reality.

    In this blog post, I adapt an aspect of this scientific approach to one of “the big questions.” I use model-fitting, identifying a set of data for which to account, identifying various models to which to fit that data, assessing both the internal consistency of each model as well as how well it fits the data, and then (which this blog post does not cover) adjusting the models as necessary, and seeing whether they make any new predictions that we can test.

    The aim of this blog post is to sketch the approach so that others on the Skeptiko forum (and beyond) are inspired to get on board, and to collaborate on a “reality modelling and comparison” project.
     
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  2. "Can materialistic science answer life’s big questions?"


    Yes. All of these great scientist who believed in something paranormal (eg. consciousness is non-physical, or the universe was designed) because of the evidence would answer "yes". Who am I to argue with them?

    https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/eminent_researchers

    Nobel Prize Winning Scientists:
    Max Planck
    Wolfgang Pauli
    Erwin Schrödinger
    Werner Heisenberg
    Albert Einstein
    Guglielmo Marconi
    J. J. Thomson
    Brian D. Josephson
    William Phillips
    Richard Smalley
    Ernst Chain
    Charles Robert Richet
    John William Strutt
    Marie Curie
    Pierre Curie
    Eugene Wigner
    John Eccles
    Otto Stern
    Arno Penzias
    Charles Townes
    George Wald
    Arthur Compton
    Antony Hewish
    Christian Anfinsen
    Walter Kohn
    Arthur Schawlow

    More Eminent Researchers:
    Charles Darwin
    Kurt Gödel
    Sir Fred Hoyle
    John von Neumann
    Alan Turing
    Wernher von Braun
    David Bohm
    Karl Popper
    Louis Pasteur
    Carl Jung
    Alfred Russel Wallace
    Sir William Crookes
    Sir Robert Boyle
    "Science is notorious bad at answering life’s big questions, but can the methods of science bring us closer to truth?"

    Science is not bad at answering life's big questions. Materialist scientists are.
     
  3. It's an odd title for the show thread, given the essay in question seems to cover a much larger question than materialist science? No big though, moving on...

    Credit to Laid for doing this. It's nice to see the discussions on the forum collected into this commentary, especially those that reach beyond the arguably necessary yet often tiresome debates about whether Psi is real or NDEs are just brain signals.

    I suspect that if it's true there are subtle worlds interlocking with our worldy consensus reality many of the options might be true. Imagine a vast track of wilderness - surely it can be used by human societies as a school, a prison, a scientific experiment, a pen for livestock, and so on?

    If our reality, or just our world, is an intersection point between many different realities it might serve a variety of purposes for a variety of different beings. We tend to think that the spiritual world as a transcendent place but there are medium reports of something much more mundane as well. Where you end up might have as much to do with geography, or even astrology, as it does the beliefs you had in life.

    As for accounts where people have mastery over space and time...there's an infinite amount of both so being a master of a small pocket may be all it takes to convince a human they're godlike.

    "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space..."
    -Hamlet
     
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  4. Ian Wardell

    Ian Wardell New

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    Providing an answer to such a question seems to me to be beyond our ability to provide. Might as well ask dogs or cats their opinion. Having said that some of these possibilities seem a bit outlandish. Materialism for example, or incarnation is God’s self-entertainment or due to some amoral demiurge. These don't *feel* right. 2 seems probable, but I agree about the problem of evil.

    None of them will be correct, but "7" might possibly be not completely and wholly incorrect
     
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  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    That is an interesting list of scientists, including some I had not seen before - where did you get it from?

    However, perhaps the point is that none of those scientists really found the larger picture, and if they had they wouldn't have used orthodox scientific methods I think.

    David
     
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  6. I got the list from the link I included just above the list.

    https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/eminent_researchers

    The link has references and explains the beliefs of the scientists. It is from my web site. I did the research myself.
     
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  7. You get the larger picture from using the techniques of sociology - interviewing NDErs and Mediums etc.

    It is not realistic to expect a physicist to become a sociologist because he believes the universe was fine tuned to support life.

    Science is not materialistic, but some scientists are. Science is just a process of making observations and testing hypotheses.

    The early psychical researchers included scientists. Some of them got the big picture.
     
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  8. Judith

    Judith New

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    Personally, I think it's #2. The other choices don't make sense to me based on my own experiences.
     
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  9. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    First I would like to congratulate Laird on his compilation of theories and their plausibility!

    I agree that #2 seems the most likely. However, most accounts of mystical experiences of all sorts - NDE's, entheogen experiments, OBE's, extreme meditative states etc - seem to contain two critical elements:

    1) A sense of timelessness.

    2) A sense that what was revealed is simply inexpressible after leaving the state.

    Timelessness seems to change everything, because on the face of it, without time most verbs become meaningless. For example, to 'discover' means to go from a state with less knowledge to one with more. Concepts like spiritual enrichment likewise imply a before state and an after one. This suggests to me that understanding what reality is all about may be all but impossible. Perhaps the inexpressibility that so many express about parts of their experience, reflects this very point.

    I also think that it is noticeable how much we enjoy playing roles and immersing ourselves in experiences that would normally be extremely dangerous (bungie jumping etc). Virtual reality is an extreme example, but even kids in the playground demonstrate it - someone plays the role of getting shot and writhing about on the ground. I can't help but suspect that after death we will reflect on our lives rather like we reflected on a playground game after it is over. Possibly the most wretched, evil experiences don't impact on us for more than a certain length of time.

    I wonder if there is in fact a sort of meta-time out there so that the entire world line (to use the relativistic concept) evolves in meta-time.

    David
     
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  10. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    First of all I would like to thank and congratulate Laird on an excellent, clear, detailed and thought-provoking post, which I found extremely useful to put some order in these matters - often people do not realise that they hold logically self-contradictory beliefs (I'm of course thinking of the theodicy problem in particular) and although this can be useful for them to find consolation, if truth is what one is looking for this is certainly not satisfactory. The main reason why I'm here on Skeptiko is to make sense of this 'stuff' - in other words, not just to ascertain whether psi etc is "real" but, much more importantly, what all this weirdness is about, exactly. Is there a purpose in human beings experiencing this (well, some human beings are experiencing it at least)? Is it some kind of "involuntary thinning of the veil" or is it some kind of intentional communication (perhaps even an intentionally, malevolently misleading one?) from "other realms"/"other beings", and are they communicating something that can make sense to us? By this I mean: will science -and philosophy-, after recognising that at least some of these "bizarre phenomena" are real (and this is by no means the case yet, but hopefully this will come), eventually help us arrive to a theory that can be considered credible thanks to its intrinsic logic, or is what lies beyond our consensus reality more akin to art or a dream, and therefore something that cannot make sense OBJECTIVELY unless each of us is able to convince himself/herself that it makes sense by coming up with a "likely story" that cannot be proved/demonstrated, not even on a logical level, but still satisfies them?

    As Laird explained so eloquently, all we can do is come up with hypotheses and test them on the basis of our experience and our human logic. But that's the problem - we may be unable to make logical sense of the intentions of "something"/"someone"/"some beings" whose nature is so different from ours.

    As requested by Laird, I'm going to expand on hypothesis #6. As I have said in previous posts, I don't believe in a single God. Or rather, I hope he doesn't exist because this would mean that we are in the hands of a dangerous, very powerful entity whom we cannot understand from our human, vulnerable standpoint - and, more importantly, who does not understand us (supposedly, his creatures). He certainly does not understand me, or if he does, he does not care about my needs - first and foremost, the need to know why I'm here, or at least to know why I have to accept to live in this deep mystery. A lot of people here appear to enjoy the mystery. I don't. But this deepest felt need of mine doesn't matter to this supposedly benevolent deity.

    This was the point of my hypothesis about "God" (supposing he exists - and in that case he would not be the benevolent entity people think of when they use this word) being some kind of artist....it's very clear (and I don't need to explain why because Laird did this brilliantly already) that he does not have a problem with us living in mystery and hence experiencing this world as unsafe and realising that we cannot be sure of anything, really - nor does he have a problem with evil happening, otherwise he would prevent it - in fact could have prevented it "upstream" by creating a material world where no death, disease, suffering, natural disasters etc existed (Laird explained this brilliantly already so I don't need to repeat it).

    I would like to point out that this is not my working hypothesis, but it's a logically plausible one - God as an all-powerful cosmic artist whose work has no moral purpose (and that moreover I happen to dislike, too) is just another hypothesis, but certainly the worst-case scenario as far as I'm concerned. Bizarrely, some people (like Yogananda, for example: I posted this before I'm sure http://www.theself.com/lifeisadream_yogananda.cfm) still love and worship this God although they do not truly understand him, just because they are in awe of him and feel inferior, so they say we should force ourselves to accept God's point of view (it's what Yogananda advocates in the linked article: "The director of the movie sees the murders and the suffering and the comedy and the drama as means to create interest for the audience. He stands apart from the play and directs and observes it. God wants us to behave with detachment realizing we are only actors or observers in his cosmic movie.") It's an extremely twisted attitude which I find very dangerous ethically because it means abdicating one's values in the face of somebody who is awe-inspiring, just to please him - it's like the story of Abraham being told to kill his son just because an almighty deity wanted this. I could never love an almighty deity who demands something that contradicts ethical values. It's also a very dangerous attitude on a human level - when Hitler was "cool" and powerful it would have meant becoming a Nazi just because he was so "awe-inspiring" ("awe" is actually a morally dubious concept in my book). Nowadays I guess the equivalent would be the Islamic terrorists' view of Allah - and this is what their violent message to us is: "shut up and submit to the cosmic movie which now entails a return to the Middle Ages - how do you like this as a way to create interest for the audience?". So God as an amoral artist/movie director is a truly disturbing but possible explanation for our experience as humans. However, the word "God" implies benevolence, so a more apt word for this morally inferior deity would be "Demiurge". Which also is a hopeful term because it implies that he's not an all-powerful being - there might be some kind of "resistance"/ alternative spirituality / more benevolent spiritual beings out there to connect with, hopefully (this may just be wishful thinking of course)! :) In other words, if I feel this way about "God"/ the Demiurge, hopefully I'm not the only one (in this dimension and - if they exist - in other dimensions too) and there's strength in numbers :)
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
  11. tim

    tim New

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    2 for me with an added clause. School implies to me that we didn't know much before we arrived but I don't believe that's the case (based on my own memories). To "experience" first and foremost and then "learn." I might learn that I'm wrong though....:)
     
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  12. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    I always feel like I'm being awkward when presented with a list of options (and maybe I am!). But as usual for me, my answer is "none of the above".

    Right now, I'd say I see this as (mostly) a place of healing and restoration. That's what this current life is for me, and has been since I started thinking on these matters in my late teens. What I won't do is to extend that and declare that that is what it is for everyone else. Now where does that fit in the list of options - frankly I'd rather not try, that's like being obliged to vote in an election from a list of unsuitable candidates.

    Now that's a personal view. But maybe that's as good an answer as there is - there are as many answers as there are people.
     
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  13. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    Would those who have expressed their preference for a specific option (#2 in particular) be so kind as to answer Laird's questions (I copy and paste some excerpts from his post below) so that we can follow the logical reasoning that made them opt for it? The point of this thread is that of analysing the logic and evidence behind the various theories, not that of knowing what the prevailing sentiment is among those posting on Skeptiko.

    Many thanks in advance.

    "How, the objection runs, could we reasonably believe that a good, powerful God, who wants us to learn, would teach us through such violent means as occur in this world? It is unthinkable, runs the objection, that He could not have devised, nor that He could lack the power to implement, a more compassionate system of education.
    We might wonder why an omnipotent God would put us through all of this learning in the first place. Presumably, it is to achieve an end goal (really a starting point): the state in which we have all learnt our lessons and can “get on with it”, whatever that is – presumably, living together in perfect peace, love, harmony and ever-evolving creativity. But if that is God’s end goal, and if He is all-powerful, then why not create us in that state to start with? Why not create us as peaceful, loving, harmonious and increasingly creative right from the beginning? (...)
    ....can this view really account for the extremities of evil in this world? What “lesson” could be worth the Holocaust, or the years-long, gruesome torture of a victim of a psychopathic paedophile?(....) incompatible with a good, all-powerful God who desires to teach His creatures (how to) love (...)"
     
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  14. hypermagda

    hypermagda Member

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    Great post, very thought-provoking indeed. Yes, another possibility is indeed that it's all a big mess, just like our consensus reality appears to be :)
     
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  15. tim

    tim New

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    I don't usually try to deal with this because I think it's one of the ultimate questions for which we are not going to get the answer (here anyway... nor remember it when we come back from "there" which already sounds like complete bollocks to many people)

    What Laird is asking is from where comes evil, why do bad things happen to people, how can a loving God allow concentration camps, children getting cancer the list is endless. Obviously for me to suggest that "I" know the answer to these problems is the height of idiocy and I don't even have a PHD so in some people's eyes that makes it even worse.

    But my thoughts are this. We've (probably) always existed, we (probably) leave the perfect existence to experience the "not perfect" so that we can then go back and realise just how perfect and fantastic the perfect place is with the perfect "us" in it. If we didn't have some "crap" experience from the earth do compare it to, how would we know it was so good.

    As regards children getting cancer (which is one of the favourite atheist "sticks" to bash "god" with and understandably so) how can that NOT happen sometimes.... with the way we've organised our world. Children also fall out of skyscrapers, get eaten by sharks, choke on grapes etc. What should we do ? Don't build skyscrapers ? Kill all the sharks, don't allow grapes to exist ? Get rid of everything that threatens to harm anyone, what kind of absurd world would that be ?

    And if children are "spirits" (returning to experience some more of this "crap" that we have to deal with down here) and they "know" they are fundamentally indestructible beings and the "body" is only a costume etc then would it matter ultimately ?

    These are some of my gut feelings about existence but that's all they are and I don't pretend otherwise.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
  16. Not necessarily a mess. In a city you can have prostitution, drug trafficking, reckless gamblers, heartless thieves....but New York also has areas other than Wall Street. ;)

    You also have museums, clubs, temples, universities. If this world is a nexus point of interlocking realities (as per Eric Weiss' Doctrine of Subtle Worlds) you can have various agencies utilizing it for different reasons.

    I mean just because we're all human on this level doesn't mean we can't come from vastly different realities...if those realities are real we're dealing with a wildly large universe where we might not even be close to the top - as Gordon White suggests maybe "Gnosticism is the Map, Animism is the Territory".

    OTOH, take a look at Murphy's suggestion that we live in a panentheistic, evolving reality. As shards of pleroma, the divine light, we might be taking the universe's momentum in a more positive direction over time. White argues against Hermeticism, the idea that humankind is the focal point of divine energies because s/he originates from the Divine but divided in a moment of self-reflection. Instead he says what I suggest, that there are a variety of different subtle worlds....but can't it be both?

    So we don't have an omnipotent God refusing to answer the world's suffering, but rather a God that descends into (or possibly as) lower levels of reality and seeks to push all of this creation back to an enlightened state?
     
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  17. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    A truly great post Laird. I wish to add some more points of data:

    -You write: "Psi is seen to be the natural means of spirit perception/communication, which is inhibited when a spirit’s consciousnes is “filtered” through a brain." To me, this has a big problem which is the index: http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...stockholm-syndrome-296.2851/page-2#post-81417

    To me, it is more likely that "psi" is spoon fed to us by a separate intelligence(s) than it is likely that this is the product of some kind of "talent" or "gift".

    -In my opinion, psi is regulated. http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/suggestions-for-alexs-book.698/ There are no mediums with lottery numbers! There are no crashed UFOs (yes, we can argue Roswell). All these subjects are sterile and never progress! How can this be? My answer, we are not dealing with phenomena - we are dealing with intelligences who are deliberately keeping things mysterious. I do believe it is in the plural but I also believe that somebody (God?) is preventing certain information being disclosed (like lottery numbers). God is a God of plausible deniability! Why? Because the important thing is for us to think about it.

    -This matrix has no glitches. To me this mitigates against demiurge ideas or ideas where there is an equal battle. Battles leave wreckage!

    -It is my “gut feeling” that evil is somehow absurd. I cannot imagine an omniscient being being evil. Just a feeling.

    So, one more separate point. It is my view that, in some ways, a fairly conventional Christian view plus a bit of reincarnation makes sense. Christianity teaches that i) Satan really exists ii) Satan is "less than" God and will be thrown in the pit (God vs Satan is not a real fight - God is infinitely greater) iii) demons (and by extension) spirits exist and that messing around with them is a bad idea (which is true, visiting psychics to check on your dearly departed is potentially psychologically harmful). I know I haven't fleshed this whole "conventional Christianity has something to offer" assertion out properly but I wanted to mention it. I don't really understand the Bible but I do think it seems more remarkable the more I learn about it.
     
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  18. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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  19. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    I'm not commenting on PSI here, but rather on the idea that we are deliberately being kept in the dark. My feeling is the complete opposite. It seems much more likely that there are vast numbers of benevolent intelligences who are actively communicating with us. And more importantly, there are those who are asking us to listen to them, but who can often only look on as we blindly stumble along.
     
  20. Alan Amsberg

    Alan Amsberg New

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    One last thing.

    Is it static or is it evolving? To my mind, things are happening. For example:

    -The internet is allowing conversations like this to occur and for the data to be collated. Perhaps progress is actually being made in studying these things? Certainly, I could not have gained my current “understanding” (if you can call my confusion that) back in 1990. You would have to buy hundreds of books back then and you would have been on your own.

    So, to me, God (and all this other crap) is being slowly revealed. A “revelation” of sorts IS occurring. The Skeptiko podcast and forum (and similar podcasts and forums) are leading the way. It may take 50 years but it is occurring. (BTW, I am aware that two posts ago I kind of argued the opposite!)

    We are confused but certain things are absolutely clear - psi exists and we are not biological robots. Materialism can be demonstrated to be false. That is something new.

    -The fact that God has allowed evil for a long time does not mean that God will allow it forever. The Bible ends with the Kingdom and peace on Earth (after the mayhem of the Apocalypse).

    Could this crazy stuff be part of the Apocalypse? Consider:

    i) Chapter 12 of David Jacob’s book The Threat: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/thethread/thethread12.htm

    Sounds Apocalyptic to me.

    ii) I estimate that 20% of very deep NDEs are Apocalyptic

    http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/amy_c_nde_4720.htm
    http://ndestories.org/erica-mckenzie/
    http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/jean_r_nde_6166.htm
    http://www.near-death.com/experiences/notable/reinee-pasarow.html

    I’ll admit I have a bee in my bonnet on this. I was psychotic and delusional about it back in 2009. So, probably you shouldn’t trust me on it
     
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