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insanecarbonbasedlif's Journal: [Religion] Thoughts on readings (pt. 8) 21

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Well, I finished a book a week ago, which, though not a book about religion, was definitely informative for my current thought process. It's called The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. Pinker does talk about religion, but only in terms of what religion says about personality, and how that lines up with or contradicts science. In terms of religion, and specifically in relation to the question of a non-material part of the personality (a soul, or what not), all the evidence is that there isn't anything non-material to our humanity, consciousness, or personality. Now, this isn't absolute, it's just our best understanding of the mind, but for me, the burden of proof is definitely on the side of the non-materialists in this arena.
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[Religion] Thoughts on readings (pt. 8)

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  • This is getting into an area though - where the scientific method by definition wont work. Right? I mean think about that statement "...all evidence is that there isn't anything non-material to our humanity..." Well that has to be the case. If there were some physical evidence for it, it wouldn't be non-material.

    The mystic, spiritualist, religious person - whatever - they can't make a scientific case for their position. Because what is at issue lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

    The problem i

    • by Chacham (981)

      If there were some physical evidence for it, it wouldn't be non-material.

      Well said.

      I will even go a step further and say that Science limits itself from proving such things. How can a deity prove to you that it exists? [slashdot.org]

      • Things don't have to be alike to affect one another. If there is a non-material component, that doesn't preclude it from affecting the physical world. The interesting thing is (and this addresses your second point) that if a non-material component affects the physical world, it would break causality, there-by calling into question all scientific conclusions. So, if there is a deity, all they would have to do is break causality repeatedly, and we would see the effects, and know that science is insufficient t

        • by Chacham (981)

          Things don't have to be alike to affect one another. If there is a non-material component, that doesn't preclude it from affecting the physical world.

          The physical cannot affect the non-physical through a physical action itself.

          The interesting thing is (and this addresses your second point) that if a non-material component affects the physical world, it would break causality, there-by calling into question all scientific conclusions. So, if there is a deity, all they would have to do is break causality repea

          • The physical cannot affect the non-physical through a physical action itself.

            This is backwards from what I said, which is that there is no reason to suppose that a non-material component could not have effects in the material world. Also, I'm pretty sure that your statement is wrong - how would you even know that the non-physical cannot be affected by the physical? It strains any metaphysical system to the breaking point to claim that it is unaffected by the physical world. But even if that is the case, then, by virtue of the fact that we could never affect this non-physical thin

            • by Chacham (981)

              This is backwards from what I said, which is that there is no reason to suppose that a non-material component could not have effects in the material world.

              Understood. Though, i think the reasoning would be the same for both.

              Also, I'm pretty sure that your statement is wrong - how would you even know that the non-physical cannot be affected by the physical?

              I figured that looking at how the physical affects the physical would be a good start. The physical affects other physical items through their physical as

              • Only if there is no combination of physical and non-physical. Body and soul is an example of just such a combination, and would be why such a being can affect both.

                I'm having the hardest time imagining a scenario in which this doesn't lead to the body being affected by the spiritual world, and the spiritual world affected by the body. I can imagine three types of connections, and I'm going to use some shorthand to lay out what I see. Let's call the physical world pw, the physical personality pp, the metaphysical world mw, and the metaphysical personality mp.

                So, type one, the mp and the pp affect each other. In this case, we should see actions of the pp that ar

                • by Chacham (981)

                  Please explain PP and MP a bit more. I am not sure what you mean by them, and as such, i cannot fully appreciate your comment.

                  • The PP (physical personality) is the part of a person that exists in, is affected by, and affects the physical world. The MP (metaphysical personality) would be the part of a person that exists in, is affected by, and affects the metaphysical (that is to say, non-material, beyond sensation, non-physical) world. So the types of interactions that I listed above are an examination of how the whole personality could work as a combination of the PP and the MP.

                    • by Chacham (981)

                      Thank you for the explanation.

                      First things first. Metaphysical and non-physical do not mean the same thing. I am assuming that you did not mean to differentiate between the two.

                      So, type one, the mp and the pp affect each other. In this case, we should see actions of the pp that aren't fully explainable via the pw. I have yet to come across some part of the pp that isn't fully within the scope of the pw.

                      The usual answer to this is free will. Of course, free will can just be denied existence because it hasn't

                    • First things first. Metaphysical and non-physical do not mean the same thing. I am assuming that you did not mean to differentiate between the two.

                      I did not mean to differentiate, but I used metaphysical purposefully, as the "soul" is often described as the metaphysical part (or, in some cases, source) of personality, humanity, or intention. I believe the word "metaphysical" has enough variance in common usage that to use it as a term for "non-physical" is pretty defensible.

                      The usual answer to this is free will. Of course, free will can just be denied existence because it hasn't been proven, but then we'd never get anywhere.

                      If something can't be proven, it is a poor basis for further speculation. That is, if free will has been clearly proven, then yes, it points clearly either to the physical world be

                    • by Chacham (981)

                      I did not mean to differentiate, but I used metaphysical purposefully, as the "soul" is often described as the metaphysical part (or, in some cases, source) of personality, humanity, or intention.

                      If using a wide brush, yes.

                      I believe the word "metaphysical" has enough variance in common usage that to use it as a term for "non-physical" is pretty defensible.

                      I know that. Personally, i differentiate inbetween the two. Given the variance of "metaphysical", i would think non-physical to be more descriptive. Ultim

                    • But, that is exactly the problem. I can't given you something that Science cannot prove, because it is not considered a valid point unless Science has already proven it. I see a viscous cycle here.

                      No, that's a mistatement of the situation. If you can present something that is observable but unexplainable by science, you have a valid point. If you claim things based on unobservable claims, there is absolutely no limit to what can be claimed. Therefore, there must be some basis for accepting or rejecting claims. If observation (via any sense) is not the basis, then what is?

                      The example i gave was the non-physical does affect the physical, but the physical does not affect the non-physical. But even if neither could affect the other, that is still broken in the body/soul combo. That is, if the soul is attached to the body, it is affected by it. So, even if the change in the soul has no change while in the body, should it ever leave, it would then react differently with the non-physical.

                      That would fall under the third type of interaction that I imagined, with all the requisite problems.

                      A crude example, perhaps, that only works on one point, would be a set of non-alkaline batteries. I take fresh batteries out of my clock and put them in my flashlight. I then use my flashlight and drain the batteries. I finally put the batteries back in the clock and find the time to be slow. In this case, although the clock and the flashlight have no relevance to each other, the batteries were affected by one and ended up indirectly affecting the other because of the common item.

                      So, even if there is no observable effect now, who says there isn't one later?

                      Well, this would be observable

                    • by Chacham (981)

                      [I apologize for the delay in responding. It took a bit to digest, and i was busy at the end of last week. Just now, this took me an hour to re-read, respond, and reply. It's amazing how much time these things can take.]

                      If you can present something that is observable but unexplainable by science, you have a valid point. If you claim things based on unobservable claims, there is absolutely no limit to what can be claimed. Therefore, there must be some basis for accepting or rejecting claims. If observation (

                    • [I apologize for the delay in responding. It took a bit to digest, and i was busy at the end of last week. Just now, this took me an hour to re-read, respond, and reply. It's amazing how much time these things can take.]

                      No worries - I understand completely... We're not being paid to discuss things on Slashdot, and it can't be the highest non-work priority either :)

                      Let's get something straight. Whether things are true or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether they are observable, repeatable, effectable, or provable. It could even be that most of what happens in the world falls under that category.

                      Not to abbreviate your points, but I'm going to respond to this section directly, and hopefully indirectly to the rest of your points. My position is that observation gives me a tool of discerning what claims are substantial versus insubstantial. If I were to concede the statement that observation is too limited to encompass all useful truth, I am then faced with

                    • by Chacham (981)

                      My position is that observation gives me a tool of discerning what claims are substantial versus insubstantial.

                      Observation is objective. Whether something is substantial or not is subjective. In a sense, you have chosen to use observation as your basis for finding truths. There are different disciplines for find truths. I mused about them here [slashdot.org].

                      If I were to concede the statement that observation is too limited to encompass all useful truth, I am then faced with the question of how do I determine what other t

    • This is getting into an area though - where the scientific method by definition wont work. Right? I mean think about that statement "...all evidence is that there isn't anything non-material to our humanity..." Well that has to be the case. If there were some physical evidence for it, it wouldn't be non-material.

      Well, if the argument is that there is something there, but there is absolutely no physical evidence for it, then what are the bounds of that kind of claim? I mean, what then informs our understanding of this non-physical thing? If something is to be accepted without any evidence, then it seems like the door is wide open to accepting everything.

      The mystic, spiritualist, religious person - whatever - they can't make a scientific case for their position. Because what is at issue lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

      Again, to refer back to my comment above, if they are making claims of something that has absolutely no interaction with physical reality and is thus untestable, the

      • There aren't any bounds- that's the problem. The root question is something like, "Is there a supernatural component to the universe?" And your answer to that question will drive the outcome of any investigation in this regard.

        One can't use science to answer the question. Science operates on the assumption that the answer to that question is no. Most religious systems and similar world views work on the assumption that the answer is yes. That's why I'm saying that when one decides to take a pur

        • There aren't any bounds- that's the problem. The root question is something like, "Is there a supernatural component to the universe?" And your answer to that question will drive the outcome of any investigation in this regard.

          So the burning question for me is, if there are no bounds, how would I know which presuppositions about the supernatural to believe? What is the measure of truth there?

          Until then we are just friends with different viewpoints that provide us with very different ideas about what is real.

          Yeah, I agree, and I am glad that you're not writing me off as some sort of worthless heathen. I really do respect your willingness to engage in discussions which are critical of your world view.

          • Yeah, I agree, and I am glad that you're not writing me off as some sort of worthless heathen. I really do respect your willingness to engage in discussions which are critical of your world view.

            You mean I'm not welcome with my pitchforks and burning torches?

            Well, crap.

            Cheers,

            Ethelred

            • Well, um, if you bring really big marshmallows, and the pitchforks and torches are used exclusively for roasting desserts, I think we can make an exception :)

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