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  •  one problem with our use of scientific method (3+ / 0-)
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    mkor7, Timaeus, worldlotus

    is that it often disregards individual cases and only relies upon collective 'data'.

    'Data' aren't everything.

    And to be honest, I think that some things are beyond 'True' or 'False'.

    •  No, data aren't everything. (8+ / 0-)

      It's impossible to quantify emotions (yet), for example, and emotions are undoubtably real.  However, keep in mind that the scientific method, however limited it is, actually works!  It can reliably distinguish between verifiable fact and fantasy.  In the modern world, we need more than one person's subjective account of his unconscious experience to constitute as proof.  You are free to believe whatever you like, but Dr. Alexander's account is not proof by any accepted standard.

      -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

      by gizmo59 on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 09:50:34 PM PST

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      •  it works for certain things. I find it unhelpful, (2+ / 0-)
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        SoCalSal, worldlotus

        even harmful, for example, in many areas of social science.  (I this as a social scientist myself)

        The method is a wonderful thing--but there are times where its rigor is an impediment to an open mind.

        (but I never said that Alexander's account was proof--although I wouldn't disregard anything out-of-hand)

        •  how is it science (2+ / 0-)
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          skohayes, pasadena beggar

          without at least some adherence to the scientific method? What gives you confidence in the conclusions?

          "I have more than two prablems" - The Coach Z

          by AaronInSanDiego on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 10:10:37 PM PST

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          •  I think my point is that (3+ / 0-)
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            MRA NY, peregrine kate, worldlotus

            not everything is attainable via the scientific method.  I think that things happen that are too complex/chaotic/incomprehensible to be repeatable or testable.  The scientific method really relies on parameters--and really a minuscule number of parameters at that.  When these are definable, then you have something worthy of the scientific method.  When they're not, then I think it often gets in the way.  (I did a whole paper loosely based on this idea in archaeology--hopefully it'll come out soon--in a peer reviewed journal  :)  (if they like it, that is...)

            •  The scientific method can be somewhat employed (5+ / 0-)

              here, however.  We do have a collection of a great deal of data regarding OBEs--namely, the accounts from the individuals who experienced them.  While they do mostly seem to follow a pattern for how they start (white light, floating above things), the problem comes when people recount the actual "afterlife" experiences they had.  By and large, people tend to experience the afterlife they expect, based on their lifelong religious/spiritual beliefs.  Alexander's experience is about the most optimistic one an agnostic would have.  Others have reported seeing a distinctly Catholic heaven, or a Muslim one or a Hindu one, etc.  In that light, the most logical explanation is that the experiences are indeed products of the brain rather than any encounter with a real afterlife.

              •  not that i believe Alexander's story--but (2+ / 0-)
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                Timaeus, The Marti

                why does there have to be a single afterlife?  Each one of us has a conscience--maybe we get our own afterlives :)  If some kind of afterlife/heaven WERE real, I don't think any of our rules of reality would necessarily apply...

                •  If you continue to add.... (4+ / 0-)
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                  skohayes, tommymet, corvo, Scott Wooledge

                  ....theoretical planks to an already unsupported and rickety structure, try not to be so upset when others smile.

                  "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

                  by sagesource on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 11:51:41 PM PST

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                •  Its seems it would be more likely than not (4+ / 0-)

                  that there would be a universal afterlife experience rather than an individual one.

                  After all, one of the common elements in NDEs is reunion with loved ones.  Were we all in our own individual afterlives, then of course that wouldn't work.  It would mean the loved ones are fictions, hallucinations created for our comfort.  And if we figured that out, it would likely make us upset.  

                  I know that if I were to realize I was in a tailor-made afterlife that was akin to a Star Trek holodeck, I'd ultimately find that deeply unsatisfying...

                  •  well--it requires faith to assume that we're not (1+ / 0-)
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                    living a solipsistic existence...

                    Ulitmately--none of us really knows a damn thing about anything--we just act as if we do because it's kind of pointless otherwise...

                    •  If we were living a truly solipsistic (1+ / 0-)
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                      existence then where does the appearance of experience come from? And, just as importantly, how can we be wrong about anything if we are the only thing in existence?

                      The existence of some sort of external material world is the most basic and simplest explanation that accounts for these two problems.

                      The revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

                      by AoT on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 03:23:49 PM PST

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            •  Gets in the way of what? (6+ / 0-)

              Of trying to impose someone's subjective interpretations on the rest of the field?

              It is certainly true that there are numerous conjectures & hypotheses that cannot be rigorously tested via the scientific method for lack of data or control over conditions. The scientific method then serves to remind everyone that no matter how reasonable or attractive or fruitful such conjectures are, they remain unproven and therefore at best provisional.

              It's not a "fiscal cliff," it's a Fiscal Bluff--so why don't we call them on it?

              by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 11:55:41 PM PST

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        •  If you consider the scientific method (6+ / 0-)

          "unhelpful, even harmful, in many areas of social science," then maybe we need to retire the term "social science." Without data and its analysis under the scientific method, there is no such thing as "social science"--there is only an amorphous body of biases, prejudices, subjective interpretations and "gut feelings."

          The method is a wonderful thing--but there are times where its rigor is an impediment to an open mind.
          If you seriously believe that, you have no understanding of the scientific method regardless of how many degrees you hold, & for the sake of honesty you should probably stop referring to yourself as a "scientist."

          The only things the scientific method ever "impedes" is the ability of some to impose their preferred interpretations on others as "truth" via specious, illogical &/or unsupported arguments.

          It's not a "fiscal cliff," it's a Fiscal Bluff--so why don't we call them on it?

          by Uncle Cosmo on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 11:46:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  you should have stopped with your first (1+ / 0-)
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            paragraph.  That's a respectable debate--is social science indeed science?

            But no, you go on to insults and a pretty narrow interpretation of what I've put forth.

            Are you familiar with Tukey's concepts of exploratory data analysis?  Hypothesis testing is often problematic in the sciences.  More so in the social sciences because of missing or essentially infinitely complicated datasets.

            And scientific rigor is very much an impediment to an open mind--AT TIMES.  One needs to have an open mind to understand that concept, though--this is something that is, paradoxically, sorely lacking in the academic world.

            •  FYI I have USED Tukey's methods (1+ / 0-)
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              in my 35-year career in applied math/stat.

              I apologize if I misinterpreted your post. It certainly sounded to me as if you were ready (even eager) to pitch the scientific method overboard, & I simply do not understand how one could call oneself a "scientist" without a healthy respect for it. Maybe that was in part a function of what seems to me the decidedly unscientific (if not antiscientific) tenor of this diary & most of the comments.

              Nothing in the scientific method prevents anyone from making conjectures as to what is "really going on" in any given situation. It does challenge the community to find ways to test such conjectures. And if they cannot be tested--or if whatever tests can be conducted produce inconclusive results--then they remain conjectures. They may be plausible, appealing, aesthetically pleasing, they may even seem "intuitively obvious"--but they are not proven.

              NB--These issues have been much on my mind recently as I reread Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics (2006) in which he notes (p. 170) that the elegant "theory of everything" called string theory
              has failed to make any predictions by which it can be tested, and some of its proponents, rather than admitting that, are seeking leave to change the rules so that their theory will not need to pass the usual tests we impose on scientific ideas. (emphasis added)
              I grant that there are many scientists who really don't understand that this is a limitation of the scientific method. "Unproven" ideas can be real advances in scientific disciplines, as they can impel other researchers to develop the methods & data by which they could be tested, or lead to further conjectures which might be testable. After all--
              To test a hypothesis for significance is relatively easy; to find a significant hypothesis to test is much more difficult. (Allen L. Edwards)
              Too often a scientist will reject conjectures s/he sees no way to test--
              The first composer
              could hear only what he could write

              (W.S. Merwin)
              --& that hobbles them & the progress of the discipline. The ordered society of hypothesis/theorem/law needs the wilderness of wild-eyed conjecture to remind it that there is more between the heavens & earth than is (yet) dreamt of in their society.

              And if that's what you were driving at, then we do not significantly disagree.

              It's not a "fiscal cliff," it's a Fiscal Bluff--so why don't we call them on it?

              by Uncle Cosmo on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 05:50:49 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm an archaeologist--I absolutely use scientific (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Uncle Cosmo

                method in everything I do!  It's a wonderful development in rational thought.

                I think in the end we basically are on the same page--my contrarian comments in the diary are essentially to challenge some of the more closed-minded posts. Obviously the initial story in question would fail to pass scientific muster--it's an anecdote, and we can do with it what we wish.  I do have far less disdain for unproven phenomena--even wild conjecture--than some other posters here because I think that the failure to allow for possibility leads to closed-mindedness--and I DO see a lot of that in these religious discussions.

                As for hypothesis-testing and scientific method--one thing that is an issue--certainly in archaeology and in probably all other social sciences--is that since the parameters are, as I mentioned, so loose--there tend to be a very, very limited number of ways in which people pose and test hypotheses--and I would argue that in many cases this tunnel-vision is SO narrow that it, in itself, strongly biases any scientific analysis.

                For example, in archaeology you see discussions of 'egalitarian' societies, or 'complex' societies.  Or 'large' sites and 'small' sites'.  Or 'cultic' or 'functional' objects.  Everyone knows that these are really simplistic categories--but because people are afraid of conjecture, we wend up with questions like 'Were these socities egalitarian or not?  Were they run by elites or not?  Did they live in a central location, or were they scattered?'

                What no one asks--because such things are inaccessible--are qustions about, say, the nature of part-time employment. Or Neolithic education.  Or anger.  Or Neolithic bullying.  Or imagination.  Because we don't have the data sets.

                But the few academic papers that DO consider these untestable issues--it allows at least for broadening of thought, imagination and creativity that while possibly not correct--does in fact move the discipline forward.  In some cases, strict application of scientific method can prevent these kinds of advances from taking place--and can lead to stagnation or competing 'schools of thought' that swing like a pendulum every 10 or 15 years...

                Ok, I'm all typed-out for today!

                •  Slightly o/t, but I somewhat envy you (1+ / 0-)
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                  as a practitioner of the only academic discipline this side of the heavens that could turn everything we think we know about human history topsy-turvy in a Nieuw Amsterdam minute.

                  (...he said, licking his chops in anticipation of a day when the grunts crash through a wall at Akrotiri to find a cold-fusion generator with the sales tag still attached...)

                  But only somewhat--I have neither the patience nor the hand-eye coordination for the detail work.

                  It's not a "fiscal cliff," it's a Fiscal Bluff--so why don't we call them on it?

                  by Uncle Cosmo on Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 11:37:07 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

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