Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some hallucination debate from the Christian Think-Tank

This is some discussion at the Christian Think-Tank on the hallucination hypothesis.


Walter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

The mass-halucination-theory is pretty wacky actually.

Gregory said...

Matthew is right.

For instance, if you look at case studies of LSD trips done in groups, you will find that there is no uniform experience occurs; even if everybody is attending to the same sights, sounds and sensations around them. You will find that the reported "experiences" of people dosed with lysergic acid are highly unique, particular to each individual...and, certainly, far from ubiquitous.

The skeptic, from the starting gate, discounts any "religious experience" as originating, ontologically, from some Divine/supernatural source. It just doesn't fit into his/her structure of belief.

So their [skeptic] objection really amounts to a delineation of differing experiences, and not to a "rational" preference for so-called "non-religious" belief and experience.

Therefore, I would argue, this [skepticism] cannot count as a disproof of religious experience, per se. Rather, skeptical non-theists become heuristic illustrations of idiosyncratic bias.

Suppose a person requests this:

"well, prove to me that you had some experience of God"

But this is like trying to prove that I had certain, but unusual, qualia during an LSD trip. Someone, simply, cannot give the subjective textures of their own conscious experience to another person....or translate any aspect of experience into the third person (i.e. objectify experience).

In a sense, there can't really be an objective critique of "religious experience", since such a critique, if successful, would entail a critique of all experience (i.e. consciousness).

But the skeptic is really demanding for a "reason" to believe God exists, and not whether a religious person has had an experience that they believe involved the reality of God.

But if the mystic's "reason" to believe in God is tied into his or her numinous/religious experience/s, whatever that might be, then it's a category mistake to make "rational" demands on such persons. It's like asking someone to prove the sublimity and majesty of Mozart or Handel's compositions to someone who hates Classical Symphony Orchestra's...or hates music altogether.

The skeptic is only able to say that such-and-such religious experiences do not mesh with his/her beliefs....not that such experiences haven't occurred; and not that they haven't occurred supernaturally.

Even in the face of "sound" objections to the existence of God, one has not negated the truth or reliability of religious experience, or God's existence. At best, such "rational" critiques of theism would only show that reason was unable to yield knowledge of God....not that God didn't exist; and not that someone couldn't have an "experience" of God.

Those objections might be convincing to someone who placed all their eggs in one basket: "reason"

As I see it, the argument from reason acts as a bulwark against such skeptical criticisms because skeptical critiques of theism count equally against reason...which, in the final analysis, is self-stultifying.

So, it's odd how skeptics make their own consciousness the sine qua non of all effect, making them a sort of self-styled Prophet whose own mind becomes the oracle for discerning all states and modalities of consciousness and reality. I'm sure that they would disagree with this assessment. By the same token, I'm not sure why they would see this as an illegitimate characterization.

At the very least, this kind of skepticism is akin to solipsism; in that, the only type of "experience" possible is the one the skeptic is having, or has had. This is very near, if not identical, to the idea of a Mono-mind.

So, contrary to the opinions of some, I think William Craig makes a good point about the properly basic nature of religious experience, and why, in lieu of individual religious experience, there isn't any force to so-called "rational" defeaters of theistic belief.