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Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby Heart of Gold » Mon Nov 21, 2016 1:31 pm

Seriously, do you truly believe that our world contains invisible entities (demons, spirits, angels) and that they interact with people and events?
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 21, 2016 1:48 pm

Yes I do. There are obviously many things about life that are not physical. One example is time, which is definitely a reality but has no material substance or physical nature. But there are even things about us that aren't physical: memories, intuitions, giving meaning to language—these things all show that we as humans possess non-material attributes. Our language ability, for one, demonstrates that we possess obvious and profound significant non-material capacities within ourselves. Therefore, since material causes cannot account for linguistic phenomena, among other realities, we can reasonably conclude the very real possibility, if not the high probability, of immaterial beings with mental faculties similar to our own but vastly superior.

In addition, through history there has been a never-ending stream of alleged experiences that people have had with numinous beings. While these are cavalierly brushed off by many as the foolishness of ignorant and superstitious people, any honest investigation has to give them more research than a haughty and disdainful brush off.

The religious books and experiences of human cultures also claim the reality of the spirit world. It's only the arrogance of modern culture that assumes the material is all that exists, the only knowledge we have is that which can be proved by science, and anyone who thinks differently is unhinged.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby Heart of Gold » Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:24 pm

Surely you understand that the presence of.something without physical qualities doesn't mean that demons, spirits and ghosts exist.

There are properties attributed to quantum physics that appear to have no material quality, but that doesn't translate to the supernatural.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:41 pm

You are right. I agree that the presence of something without physical qualities doesn't necessarily or unavoidably lead us to the spirit world, and that quantum physics doesn't incontrovertibly translate to the supernatural. Agreed, with banners and party blowers.

By the same token, all of these non-material realities alert me to the very real possibility of the spirit world. Quantum mechanics, as an example, opens the door pretty wide for the possibility of divine special action in the world. While scientists working in the classical model (Newtonian) feel that the universe is a closed system, and naturalism may be all there is, QM sort of blows the doors off that theory. Its most pertinent contribution to the discussion is that of indeterminism—a distribution of probability across many possible outcomes instead of a straight cause-and-effect continuum. Things like miracles and spiritual activity are widely concordant with QM since QM doesn't determine a specific outcome for a given set of conditions. Therefore QM doesn't prohibit divine providential action, spiritual activity, or even miracles, as classical physics is said to (though classical physics doesn't either, at its core). The existence of a spirit world is consistent with science, especially from a QM vantage point. Even God's three-in-one nature, nonsense to a Newtonian theorist, has some possible points of analogy with quantum superposition.

Surrealist painter Salvador Dali saw the same relationship. In an interview he said: "The discoveries in Quantum physics of the nature of energy, that matter becomes energy, a state of dematerialization. I realized that science is moving toward a spiritual state."

So while I am not claiming that non-material reality doesn't guarantee the reality of spirit beings, I am contending that the belief in spirit beings is not an unreasonable way of thinking.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby Slip in the Stream » Mon Nov 21, 2016 4:04 pm

Is it possible that science will solve the non-material brain that you think exists and show us that there really is a deep neural network at play that can be mapped and understood?

Is it also possible that humans are simply good at misreading normal physical events and attaching supernatural explanations to them? The foolishness of ignorant and superstitious people simply means that people are infallible - and it means we don't have to explain why thousands of different gods, spirits, and demons are having supernatural battles and exposing themselves to different humans and cultures. Occam's razor works quite nicely here.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 21, 2016 4:12 pm

> Is it possible that science will solve the non-material brain that you think exists and show us that there really is a deep neural network at play that can be mapped and understood?

There's no telling where science will take us. It's an amazing resource and discipline. In one sense, it may take us as you foresee, with much better understandings of neural activity. In another sense it may raise more questions than it answers, and the possibility of the concordance of spirituality with materiality may become more accepted as well. We'll have to watch with excited anticipation.

> Is it also possible that humans are simply good at misreading normal physical events and attaching supernatural explanations to them? The foolishness of ignorant and superstitious people simply means that people are infallible - and it means we don't have to explain why thousands of different gods, spirits, and demons are having supernatural battles and exposing themselves to different humans and cultures. Occam's razor works quite nicely here.

Anything is possible, but in my experience educated people can be just as foolish as illiterate ones, just in a different way. While it's possible that many events attributed to supernatural forces are just natural occurrences, but then again, those lines are impossible to see and impossible to know. We should be reluctant to draw solid lines when there are still other alternative possibilities.

You want to use Occam's razor, but you're presupposing, it would seem, atheism and scientific naturalism. But is that a valid presupposition? Possibly, just possibly, if there is a spirit world, Occam's razor defaults to a different conclusion. Reverting to an explanation of " a world without God is the simplest explanation" is only true if that is your presuppositional bias, and therefore Occam's razor is not particularly a legitimate reference point in this case.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby Slip in the Stream » Tue Nov 22, 2016 11:00 am

I really hate how you always say I'm the one presupposing atheism. You're presupposing God and then saying that anyone doing anything else is presupposing atheism. Atheism is the default, null hypothesis. Without reading the Bible, we wouldn't think God exists...correct?
I'm just surprised how skeptical you are about science when it time and time again makes God into a smaller and smaller instance of our ignorance. At what point will science completely usurp supernaturalism? If science solves the soul/consciousness question adequately, will you rescind your belief? Is that possible?

It's definitely possible that many events attributed to supernatural forces (oxymoron) are just natural occurrences - but the real question is - is it more likely, and I think the answer overwhelmingly is yes. Supernatural is simply a fancy term of labeling our ignorance when it comes to natural. It would be like saying the new EM drive is supernatural and that God hates microwaves which is why the drive can generate force or it means that our current understanding of physics is lacking and needs to be updated.

A world without thousands of competing, contradictory gods that rely on faith-based claims is simpler than the alternative. I think you'd agree. For some reason, you don't believe in all the other religions out there when the reasoning for them is strikingly similar to Christianity.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Nov 22, 2016 11:13 am

> I really hate how you always say I'm the one presupposing atheism. You're presupposing God and then saying that anyone doing anything else is presupposing atheism.

On the contrary, there is evidence for God (though atheists don't give it weight), but there is no evidence for atheism, since it would entail a negative argument. My belief in God is based on logical and empirical evidences; your belief that there is no such entity as god is a presuppositional hypothesis, since negative evidence is impossible to mount. Therefore, you *are* the one presupposing atheism.

Why should atheism be the default? Anthropologists tell us that every culture through all of history around the globe has believed in a divine being of some sort, even those that haven't believed in the Bible. Based on that "science," I would assume that theism is the default position.

> I'm just surprised how skeptical you are about science when it time and time again makes God into a smaller and smaller instance of our ignorance. At what point will science completely usurp supernaturalism? If science solves the soul/consciousness question adequately, will you rescind your belief? Is that possible?

I'm not skeptical about science at all. I love science, and honor it. It's a magnificent discipline that has taken humanity to unbelievable places and capabilities. It only makes God smaller in your mind. The recently discovered (last 30 yrs?) wonders of the cell, microparticles, and the astounding pictures from the Hubble telescope make God bigger and more majestic. As the world becomes more understandably complex, balanced, fine-tuned, mathematically precise, and filled with one sensation after another, the possibility of pure scientific naturalism and unguided evolution shrinks into oblivion.

> It's definitely possible that many events attributed to supernatural forces (oxymoron) are just natural occurrences - but the real question is - is it more likely, and I think the answer overwhelmingly is yes. Supernatural is simply a fancy term of labeling our ignorance when it comes to natural.

The problem is that you have no proof for this proposition. It's a faith statement on your part. You can't begin to prove that "natural occurrences" are just that, with no metaphysical or spiritual component. It's what you presuppose and therefore believe, with no evidence to support it.

> For some reason, you don't believe in all the other religions out there when the reasoning for them is strikingly similar to Christianity.

Christianity is unique among world religions and other belief systems. The dissimilarities are what are striking, while the places of true overlap and similarity are quite small. There's just nothing like Christianity in and among the thousands of desperate wanna-be's.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby Geo Man » Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:09 pm

This is really great. You give all the reasons why everything you're saying isn't true and then just brush it all off with... nothing.

Like this: " any honest investigation has to give them more research than a haughty and disdainful brush off."

Here's your problem: people haven't been giving these things the brush off. They've been investigating them and trying to prove them for hundreds of years.. And no one has ever gotten a positive result. No. One. Ev. Er.
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Re: Do you truly believe in spirit beings?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Dec 26, 2016 3:03 pm

You seem to be making an error in thinking all things are provable by science. The most recent election, if nothing else, should prove to you that isn't so. Also any football game. We can predict the full moons and eclipses of the sun for millennia to come, but science can't predict the outcome of a football game. Or of an economic plan. Or guarantee what people will do in a particular situation. Science can't investigate the depth of my love for my spouse, the amount of forgiveness I'm willing to give, or how kindness will or will not change another person. Scientific investigation won't show whether a person got justice from a judge and jury, whether a prisoner's heart has been reformed by his incarceration, or predict what I can and will remember and what not. Ev. Er.

The spirit world is simply not subject to investigation. It's not a scientific pursuit. You know what I think? Science can't tell you that either, no matter how much investigation you do. You will only know my thoughts if I tell you, because no experiment, MRI, CT Scan or anything else will tell you what I am thinking. If you're looking for positive results from scientific experiments about the spirit world, you are asking for your sense of smell to tell you what color my eyes are.


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