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View Diary: Schrödinger's Church, or Wait Wait, don't Convert Me! (153 comments)

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  •  My perspective on the afterlife, etc. (6+ / 0-)

    I was going to post something similar to what Noisy Democrat said, but s/he beat me to it.

    Here's what I believe about the afterlife: God loves us, and wants what is best for us, and is able to accomplish what is best for us.

    Does that mean eternal sleep? Eternal consciousness, either separately or in some kind of merged or communal consciousness? Reincarnation? I don't know.

    I think much of the Bible is humanity's attempt to create God in humanity's image. But I do think there is more than we can understand through intellect and analysis; some things we can understand only through metaphor and intuition.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 08:47:55 PM PST

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    •  I will add you to the list (11+ / 0-)

      of apologists/evangelists on my thought-experiment panel, and respectfully choose to neither believe nor disbelieve your assertions, in the absence of concrete evidence.  Thanks.

      I was told there would be sandwiches

      by Aunt Acid on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 09:00:09 PM PST

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    •  Evolution (16+ / 0-)

      Evolution is the acid that eats through this belief.

      At what point in the evolutionary process did a "soul" evolve? And how actually could a "soul" evolve as an appendage to an animate object? (we do though have good ideas about how life evolved from non-life)

      Did the "afterlife" evolve? If so does every animal have one, every plant, every single cell organism? And just how exactly (or even roughly) did that happen?

      Of course the parts of us have an eternal life. We are all literally made of star dust, all the heavier atoms having being formed in supernovas etc of long ago, and the atoms in us will live forever ... but that is far different from saying that the current collection of atoms that is you has some form of joint "afterlife".

      Unfortunately the idea of an "afterlife" is very much an idea that has been created by man, an idea that has no evidence in its favor, and yet, for now is still widely accepted.

      There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

      by taonow on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 04:14:04 AM PST

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      •  Probably every living thing has an "afterlife" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        because participating in the ongoing waves of events in the material world is only part of the journey for each spark of consciousness that manifests here. As for the details of how all this works, that's way above my paygrade.

        Please visit: http://www.jkmediasource.org

        by Noisy Democrat on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 06:00:25 AM PST

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      •  I doubt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ailanthus

        that you would have the time or the patience for the answer to that question.  It's actually quite technically involved, while your position strongly implies that you don't really want it to exist and therefore wouldn't sit still long enough for the explanation.  That's a problem with a lot of spiritual things.  My old Asian religions teacher made a very good point: some religions, mostly in the East but ancient ones in the West as well, have METHODS to enable one to observe some Truths for oneself.  The methods take time and effort.  If you aren't willing to make the effort, then you can accept the word of those who have, just as we who are too lazy to do calculus regularly accept the word of the theoretical physics community on their latest theories regarding the nature of the universe.  But if you want to see it for yourself, you're going to have to devote a decade at least to practicing the methods.  I can tell you that it does work if you do, but you can only know that for yourself by doing it for yourself.

        •  Understanding Religion (8+ / 0-)

          The desire to find "meaning" in existence is apparently an integral part of human nature. I've been convinced that this is a major factor in the invention of religion.

          Just finished reading a book called THE OPTIMISM BIAS which indicates another possible psychological trait that contributes to belief in religion.

          Here is a LINK to an extract from the book.

          I'll quote a bit from the article here:

          We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella. But both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being. People hugely underestimate their chances of getting divorced, losing their job or being diagnosed with cancer; expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted; envision themselves achieving more than their peers; and overestimate their likely life span (sometimes by 20 years or more).
          You might expect optimism to erode under the tide of news about violent conflicts, high unemployment, tornadoes and floods and all the threats and failures that shape human life. Collectively we can grow pessimistic – about the direction of our country or the ability of our leaders to improve education and reduce crime. But private optimism, about our personal future, remains incredibly resilient. A survey conducted in 2007 found that while 70% thought families in general were less successful than in their parents' day, 76% of respondents were optimistic about the future of their own family.
          To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities – better ones – and we need to believe that we can achieve them. Such faith helps motivate us to pursue our goals. Optimists in general work longer hours and tend to earn more. Economists at Duke University found that optimists even save more. And although they are not less likely to divorce, they are more likely to remarry – an act that is, as Samuel Johnson wrote, the triumph of hope over experience.
          Although the author does not discuss religion in her book, it seems to be another result of optimism bias.

          Citing the Bible as proof of God is like citing comic books to prove the existence of Superman. (h/t to Stevie Ray Fromstein @ TheHolyAtheist.com)

          by rdbaker43 on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:20:36 AM PST

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          •  TED video on optimism bias (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril

            Citing the Bible as proof of God is like citing comic books to prove the existence of Superman. (h/t to Stevie Ray Fromstein @ TheHolyAtheist.com)

            by rdbaker43 on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 07:57:24 AM PST

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          •  Had seen the extract (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, Noisy Democrat

            already this week.  Very interesting, not surprising, quite incisive light on human behavior in general.  Don't know if I'll have time for the long version.

            And yes, there is a great deal of literature on the propensity of humans to attribute meaning to even random collections of information.  Much of Magick IS Applied Psychology; we witches must keep up with the state of the science.

        •  The methods that you speak of don't lead to (6+ / 0-)

          objectively verifiable -- I.e., replicable -- truths because the experiences that they produce are totally subjective.  Also, from what I've been able to tell (I consider myself a neophyte Buddhist), the conclusions that people draw from such experiences are highly variable and the behaviors produced thereby in the "believers" highly variable.  I've met Buddhist teachers who seemed to be truly enlightened saints and some who were just out and out assholes -- exactly like my experience of Catholic priests, nuns, and other believers.  And, of course, most Buddhist and Catholic true believers are some mixture of the two -- saint and asshole -- just like all of us.

          •  Ah. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Alexandra Lynch

            My own experience is that you can easily recognize those who "know" from those who have simply been vested with power by official apparatus, like the majority of high-ranking officials in the Catholic Church.  Much of this is really very similar to what you seen in a scientific consensus -- those who Know, can recognize others who Know the same thing (or something similar); it takes experience to evaluate experience and that common experience is the "verifiable" or "replicable" part  . . . which can indeed be found in Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Taoists, as well as many other outward window-dressings.  As the theosophists say, "The ways are many, but the Light is One."  Or Nothing, of course.

            •  And dismiss those who don't "know" what you do (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Smoh, tommymet

              Self congratulatory mutual back slapping among people who "get it" while dismissing people who don't "get it"  is akin to the republican party's bubble of unreality. It is nothing more than a self-reinforcing delusion.

              It is nothing like scientific consensus, which comes from people who doubt, very very much doubt that some result is true, and do everything they can to prove the result false, and fail to do so, and bitterly, reluctantly force themselves to change their minds to agree with what they have actually seen.

              Perhaps it is true that those who "Know" can recognize others who do so. But people who falsely believe can also recognize others with the same false beliefs.

              The best and highest masters say, "If you do not feel what I am saying is right, DO NOT BELIEVE IT. Believe only what your own common sense tells you to." False masters say, "Believe what I tell you despite what your own common sense says. I, and others like me are special. We have special knowledge that you do not."

              The best and highest masters say that everyone has a common experience, and everyone has and does apprehend the highest Truth, and it is only words and imaginations that get in the way of this. False masters say there is some special truth that you, the neophyte, do not have, and only by sitting at the false master's feet for twenty years can you hop to attain that truth.

              My own experience is that, if I do not "recognize" certain people's special spiritual wisdom, they become very angry with me and dismiss what I have to say, because I do not "know" what they know. I feel sorry for those people, but what can you do? You lead a horse to water, the horse licks the sand next to the water and says, "I am not thirsty, I have water, and you are deluded."

              On the other hand, certain other people and I have great fun bantering back and forth about the present moment, and how neither one of our hands can pass through a wall, as it is the same sort of solid for both of us.

            •  "It takes one to know one" is not exactly a method (4+ / 0-)

              that lends itself to objectivity.  But, in fact, I do believe that meditative methods can lead to an experience that is quite liberating and enlivening for many people -- otherwise I wouldn't be a neophyte Buddhist.  But that doesn't mean that the theistic interpretation of that experience shared by many of them has any veridical value.  There seems to be much in common among a significant portion of "near-death" experiences, but that hardly necessarily  means that these are experiences of a heavenly existence, any more than the shared delusion of a folie a deux is necessarily true by virtue of its being shared.  

        •  The "revealed truth" still depends on tradition (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Smoh, tommymet, Nowhere Man

          Different traditions lead to different revealed truths. A Zen Buddhist master, for example, might not want any truth except "this." And "this" is something we all experience, at every moment. For that master, reincarnation is a moot point. Meanwhile, a Tibetan Buddhist master would espouse the view that reincarnation is real, and takes certain forms.

          I really don't care how long one has sat and pondered, or what techniques one has used. False beliefs backed up by self hypnosis and a religious hierarchy are still false beliefs. To me, the only real Truth is the present moment. Everything one says about it is to some degree or another, false, illusory, not Real but only imagination.

          The whole debate is moot if one accepts the idea that Buddha taught, that there is no separate self. To me, all the things people have added on top of that teaching, to bring "self" back into the picture after Buddha rejected it, are patently ridiculous and simply more proof that Ego does not want to die.

          The matter seems very important to you. It seems as though you take personal insult in someone saying your beliefs, or those of certain "masters" might not be true. That seems like an attachment to me. But what do I know? It doesn't seem very important to me. I know this.

        •  Actually (3+ / 0-)

          As my spouse is a Buddhist (and one who can meditate for up to 6 or 7 hours at a stretch) we have similar discussions quite frequently, perhaps too frequently. I am very well aware of the other side of the argument.

          Then again Richard Feynman (somewhat of a renowned physicist) had a great line: The easiest person to fool is yourself.

          There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

          by taonow on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 11:05:24 AM PST

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        •  Christianity makes the same kind of claim (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SethRightmer, mudfud27, tommymet

          or at least many Christians do: that if I were to pray long enough, or hard enough, or in the right way, that God would communicate back to me in some fashion. And if that doesn't happen, it's because I wasn't praying long enough, or hard enough, or in the right way; or because I didn't recognize God's message when it came to me.

          Such claims are extremely weak, because they promise nothing more than a subjective experience. If I heard a claim that included some objective means to verify the results, something to detect and measure, then that would be much more powerful, if it could be verified.

          For example, suppose that we're told that a person receives God's message via an electromagnetic frequency-modulated waveform at 370 MHz, +- 5 MHz. The fact that this waveform would be measurable in the near vicinity of the believer means that we could put the believer in an electromagnetically shielded room, rule out all external sources of electromagnetic interference or generation, and wait for the signal to arrive. If it did, now, that would be something. Decoding the message would be entirely secondary, in my view, to the fact that it happened at all.

          (Of course, we'd also need to run control experiments to determine whether the same signal could be generated without prayer -- but you get the idea.)

          Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

          by Nowhere Man on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 11:53:43 AM PST

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        •  Let me get this straight (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tommymet, radmul

          You have "proof" of how souls exist, but it's just "really complicated" and you can only know it by joining your religion and performing its practices? And of course, it's not verifiable by outside methods?

          Sorry if I sound skeptical.

      •  I thought of this recently when viewing the (4+ / 0-)

        reconstruction of a Neanderthal male, which easily could've passed for a short, stocky "sapiens." and, of course, we evidently were similar enough to the Neanderthals to swap DNA with them -- I.e., produce hybrids.  So did Neanderthals have a "soul"?  If not, why not, since evidence continues to slowly mount that they had symbolization and some form of language?  

        It appears that homo erectus did not have speech as we know it, at least at the stage of development represented by the Nariotokome or Turkana boy, whose spinal chord was not large enough to have contained the nerve processes necessary for the brain to control the speech apparatus enough to produce the complexly sequenced multi-syllabic constructions of modern speech.  And Allen Walker, the Leakey associate who discovered the boy's skeleton, in "The Wisdom of the Bones" in a fantasia on what it would have been like to meet the boy face to face, suggests that it would have been like confronting a very alien, unhuman  presence.  Yet, as he admits, homo erectus would have many more "human" characteristics, both as individuals and as groups than even our closest living relatives, the chimps, whose behavior often strikes as extremely human.  

        So at what point in evolution did an immortal soul "emerge"?  I suppose one could argue that it was with the emergence of language -- man as the speech animal.  But it is unlikely in the extreme that language emerged de novo all at once with a single mutation.  So at what point in the development of language did God add a soul to the previously totally animalistic homo genus?  

        Considerations like these start to make Hinduism or some form of pantheism much more believable than any of the Semetic monotheisms.  Or, of course, the agnostic atheism of the diary.

        •  hmm? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SethRightmer, Fishtroller01

          a soul "evolves" .... ??? with language. I'd agree if you said it was an invention of the mind - as in the invention of a meme. Because in reality physically it can not evolve as you propose, at least not in the way I understand a soul to be.

          There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

          by taonow on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 11:08:10 AM PST

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          •  I don't believe souls can evolve because I don't (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SethRightmer, taonow, Fulgour, radmul

            believe in the "soul,"  which is a metaphsical construct with no observable or verifiable characteristics except the behavioral or the psychological.

            •  Cool... so might I say... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              HeyMikey

              I'm pretty sure about some form of physical 'reality'
              but nothing seems to be able to really pin it down...

              So, imagine, given how 'spirit' does seem to manifest
              and may be as empirically provable as so called reality
              that the two, physical and spiritual, are co-dependent,
              that they're both part of something incomprehensible.

              All life is (and we know so little about it) life... Reality
              in terms of organic dynamics. Perhaps physicality is a
              requisite for spiritual 'existence' ~ we are a bit of life,
              made of star stuff...and, all in all, we're God stuff too.

              God is an idea in my mind, a jumble of information...
              I find no other proof than my thoughts. I am of God.

              God would love a cheeseburger and fries, pleeeeease.

        •  Quibble (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SethRightmer, HeyMikey
          It appears that homo erectus did not have speech as we know it, at least at the stage of development represented by the Nariotokome or Turkana boy, whose spinal chord was not large enough to have contained the nerve processes necessary for the brain to control the speech apparatus enough to produce the complexly sequenced multi-syllabic constructions of modern speech.
          The explanation given for this is unlikely in the extreme, as the corticobulbar tract (the motor pathway that controls the face) and the vagus nerve (which innervates the larynx) are not carried in the spinal cord at all. (Sorry, the academic neurologist in me comes out at times like this.)
          •  perhaps (0+ / 0-)

            he's saying the space for the dura mater was too skinny to carry the amount of cerebro-spinal fluid needed to irrigate and nourish a brain of the (supposedly) necessary size.

            why? just kos..... *just cause*

            by melo on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 03:05:22 PM PST

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      •  Many religions and/or denominations (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Smoh, CBrachyrhynchos

        have no problems with evolution. The literalists have a long tradition (peaking in fundy circles with the rise of Darwin, of course, mostly as reactionism from the less than well-educated). I think it's just some of the Christian denominations that hold the belief that 'afterlife' includes the matter of the physical body. Most others that believe in 'afterlife' believe it's a spiritual existence uncontaminated by gross matter, or a recycling of gross matter into the next life form down the line.

        As for 'souls', that's a fairly undefined concept that covers a pretty wide range of suppositions. Seems to me these questions derive from a couple of things we don't actually know, and aren't likely to know - the true nature of time, and the true nature of consciousness. People generally have enough to concern themselves with just trying to deal with life as it is, so individuals leave those sort of existential questions to religious hierarchies that come along with the culture into which they are born.

        And just so you know, we do not know how life 'evolved' from non-life, though there are lots and lots of half-baked suppositions that haven't proved very convincing. In fact, the term 'evolution' as applied to life forms deals only with life already in existence - descent with modification. It says nothing about how life comes from raw matter, and only a fringe element believes that atoms are themselves somehow 'alive' or capable of descent with modification.

        •  Actually (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau, tommymet, SethRightmer
          And just so you know, we do not know how life 'evolved' from non-life, though there are lots and lots of half-baked suppositions that haven't proved very convincing.
          The field of abiogenesis research has provided quite a bit more than "half-baked suppositions" and some quite convincing theories are emerging. Recent insights into extremophile biology and modern theory of mineral surface catalysts are of particular interest, I recommend looking into them.

          Of course you are correct about evolutionary theory really only being applicable to life after it has taken hold.

          •  As a one-time practical sort (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mudfud27

            of biophysicist, I have great interest ongoing in many broad and targeted investigations of the details of life - all life. So I actually do follow incoming investigatory tidbits fairly closely. Closely enough to see that theories of abiogenesis pathways are more numerous and less baked than even the many contradictory theories that appear on a semi-regular basis to explain how primates came to see red (development of trichromatic vision). All interesting just-so stories, none particularly convincing.

            We never observe life arising spontaneously from inert matter. And scientists have looked in a great many places on this planet, and tried a vast variety of altered conditions to see what arises. Perhaps someday they might observe such a thing, but until that happens it's just a subjective supposition (belief, faith) for which they seek objective confirmation.

            Once life does exist, it does many much more fascinating things than inert matter is capable of doing. I always liked Carl Woese's [RIP] 'HGT Field' idea of promiscuous gene 'invention' swapping, later crossing a 'Darwinian Threshold' where vertical inheritance overtakes and suppresses to a large extent the horizontal MegaMart. Voila - differentiation of kinds and descent with [slight] modification.

            •  Well (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joieau

              Obviously what is "convincing" can be subjective, but I hold a PhD in cell biology and am currently an NIH-funded researcher. I find much of the current work in the field to be quite plausible and, with continued progress, likely to soon bear fruit. Surely discoveries in the areas of functional ribozymes have pushed the field ahead (with practical applications to boot!)

              There are a great many reasons why we "never observe life arising spontaneously from inert matter" that really have no impact on how it occurred in the past-- that fact is certainly not a convincing argument that it is an article of "faith" that it appears to have happened (life does exist, after all). It is more an inference based on the preponderance of evidence, just as most science is.

              •  BTW (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau

                Chemical Society Reviews did a themed issue on prebiotic chemistry in 2012 which did a pretty nice job in 18 articles updating the current state of the field. The articles covering prebiotic chemistry on Titan were especially cool.

                http://pubs.rsc.org/...

                •  Wouldn't it be a gas (0+ / 0-)

                  to discover life on another planet/moon in our system? I've been holding out hope for Mars, but have heard Titan (and at least a couple more of the gas giant moons) hold possibility.

                  If we were to find firm evidence of life (even primitive, single-cell) on Mars at least in ancient times, we'd have a potentially realistic pathway for the appearance of early life forms on this planet. I suppose the same could be postulated arising from any solar system body, given early bombardment going on almost everywhere in the envelope. But since all the bodies originated around the same time (one or more may have been captures), that still wouldn't tell us how life originated... originally. It would give us some new and different conditional parameters to play with, though. Plus, it would obviate the possibility that much more ancient life (in terms of origin) could have 'seeded' our early forming system.

                  One of the more interesting hypotheses I've seen about the origination of consciousness (if one considers the physical correlates to be ubiquitous and fairly universal to life forms great and small) is that the operative physical structures arrived by symbiosis, well before the theorized symbiosis that gifted us with mitochondria. Likely partnership from the late HGT Field days, because they also happen to serve the primary mechanism of vertical inheritance [gene replication /reproduction].

              •  As I said, the scenarios (0+ / 0-)

                are fascinating, if (to me) less than convincing. We have the self-evident fact that life exists - at least on this planet - to start with. Hence we can deduce that it got here somehow at some time, likely after the planet became a planet. That's a finite period of time, a mere slice of the totality of time since what we theorize to have been been the beginning of time. But then, we're not too clear on the precise nature of time either, so there's always an uncertainty ghost in the machine...

                It can be easy for us to overlook - fail to factor - things that are so obvious and universally evident that nobody thinks of examining them too closely. Gravity was one of those (apples fall? Well DUH!). Time is another, recently (on a relative scale) thrown into some serious confusions both due to relativity and quantum mechanics. Yet another is consciousness. Also just recently opened to fresh multidisciplinary examination with the aid of many absurdly wealthy "AI-Guys" who are confronting a need for clear definition. We do not yet have clear definition or detailed quantifications of any of these phenomena we all 'know' to be real. Those avenues of research and philosophy are also fascinating (to me).

                On the philosophical level, a priori assumptions about the existence of life are either informed by cultural socio-political (primarily religious) beliefs, or informed by strict adherence to objectivity and scientific method. Which, philosophically speaking, are also beliefs until and unless actual empirical knowledge based on objective evidence is found and accepted. 'The' small-t truth, not 'a' possible big-t Truth.

                I don't know how - or why - there is life. But I've no trouble at all accepting that it exists.

      •  Nope. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        What I meant to say--sorry if I was unclear--was that I am unsure whether or not there is an afterlife. Not only that, but I tend to believe it is impossible for any human to be sure that there is or isn't.

        Evolution does not destroy the idea of an afterlife. What caused the Big Bang? Nobody knows, and likely nobody will ever know. But if the answer is "God," then any God who could cause the Big Bang could figure out how to implement both an afterlife and evolution.

        (No, I'm not arguing for "Intelligent Design." I accept that a Creator God could allow evolution to proceed without steering it.)

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 12:59:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  So, ahh... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tommymet, pvasileff, radmul
      Here's what I believe about the afterlife: God loves us, and wants what is best for us, and is able to accomplish what is best for us.
      Not to be mean or anything, but the important question is: WHY do you believe this?  What evidence do you base this belief on?
      •  Keep reading... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo

        From the same comment:

        I do think there is more than we can understand through intellect and analysis; some things we can understand only through metaphor and intuition.
        I freely admit there isn't any evidence, at least none that's objectively verifiable.

        But you must admit people just can't know everything there is to know. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason explained why: we can only know what we can detect with our senses. (And scientific instruments are only extensions of our senses.) There are some things we can't detect, or can detect only imperfectly.

        For instance, in the days when people were hunter-gatherers, x-rays existed, and viruses and bacteria existed, and planets whirled around other stars. The fact primitive people could not detect these things did not mean they did not exist. The fact primitive people could detect gravity, the stars, smallpox, and the occasional atmospheric-exlpoding meteor did not mean they had any real understanding of these phenomena.

        Similarly, there are likely still many things we cannot detect, and things we can detect that we are far from understanding (Higgs bosons, prions).

        I do not suggest that if we create a sophisticated enough God-O-Scope we will discover a bearded, robed figure waving back at us. I merely suggest that there are some things that cannot be defined by observation and reason.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 12:49:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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