Monday, December 16, 2013

A J Ayer's Near Death Experience

Here. 

38 comments:

Karl Grant said...

Hmm, two things stood out when I read that piece one was Ayer's rather candid admission:

my recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no God.

It is so refreshing to see an atheist / materialist admit that his beliefs serve an emotional need and is a form of wish fulfillment. The other was:

In these two pieces—the second in particular—Ayer was clearly at pains to preserve his reputation, of which he was almost childishly proud. In the public imagination he was the champion slayer of theological nonsense, the pioneer of logical positivism, and the winner—in his own eyes at any rate—of his famous 1949 BBC radio debate about the existence or otherwise of god with Father Frederick Copleston, Britain’s most formidable modern Catholic philosopher. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, listening in distant Dublin, took a typically waspish view, complaining to a friend that Copleston had contributed “nothing,” and Ayer had been “shallow.”)

Well that is what I figured. Ayer has built his career on atheism, it his life's work, it's what made him moderately famous. He's argued for it so much that it has become the very foundation of his worldview, in essence a part of him and questioning it is akin to questioning his very existence and value as a person. It would take a pretty strong experience to even shake that up.

im-skeptical said...

It took a strong emotional experience to shake his rational belief.

It would be so refreshing to see a theist admit that his beliefs serve an emotional need and is a form of wish fulfillment.

Karl Grant said...

It took a strong emotional experience to shake his rational belief.

Wrong Skeppy, Ayer specifically said:

my recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be.

His belief has, and always had, an emotional underpinning.

It would be so refreshing to see a theist admit that his beliefs serve an emotional need and is a form of wish fulfillment.

Theists aren't typically the ones who go on and on about how their beliefs are 100% rational, that they have no emotional investment in said beliefs and than turn around and try to deny half the time they actually hold any beliefs.

im-skeptical said...

"His belief has, and always had, an emotional underpinning. "

So you agree.

"Theists aren't typically the ones who go on and on about how their beliefs are 100% rational"

Tell that to all the ones who insist that materialism is irrational, that atheists are impervious to logic, and that the AFR is solid logic.

Karl Grant said...

So you agree.

Your reading comprehension is truly abysmal, isn't it? Or do you just see what you want to see in the text? I said His belief has, and always had, an emotional underpinning. In other words, I said it was never based purely on reason and logic. Rational is defined in the dictionary as being based on facts or reason and not on emotions or feelings. If I said his belief always (always, as in both before and after the incident in the hospital) had an emotional underpinning then I am saying it was never a purely rational belief.

Tell that to all the ones who insist that materialism is irrational

The minute someone has an emotional investment in materialism it ceases to be truly rational; the same as any other belief, idea or concept. Also, saying a belief that somebody else holds is irrational is not the same thing as saying that your beliefs are 100% rational. Those are two very different statements.

that atheists are impervious to logic,

Well you hardly help your case there when you tell people, like you so recently told grod, Maybe I do have it all wrong, but you will never convince me of that. That's the kind of thing that shows people you are nothing more than a close-minded ideologue who has zero interest in a logical, reasoned discussion. You have also admitted, to multiple people and more than once, you don't actually read any articles your opponents cite. You don't want charges like the above leveled at you? Than don't do shit like that.

that the AFR is solid logic.

It is logically sound; if the initial premises of the AFR are correct everything after flows logically from them. All of it's professional critics understand this. That is why they challenge those premises, such as reason cannot come from non-reason. If you actually understood logic you would understand this too.

im-skeptical said...

"His belief ..." Yes, I had the wrong reference for 'his'. I thought for a moment that you were making an honest statement about theists, but it was my mistake.

Karl Grant said...

Yes, I had the wrong reference for 'his'. I thought for a moment that you were making an honest statement about theists, but it was my mistake.

Exactly how did you manage to have the wrong reference for 'his'? The only person I mentioned specifically was Ayer. There was no other 'his' to refer to. Also, your idea of a "honest" statement is one that supports your preconceived biases; not one that is actually the truth.

im-skeptical said...

Don't sweat it, Karl, I said it was a mistake.

Karl Grant said...

Don't sweat it, Karl, I said it was a mistake.

I am not sweating it. I am just adding it to list of examples of how piss poor your reading comprehension is. I mean I find it rather interesting that on a discussion thread discussing Ayer's experiences, with Ayer being the only person I specifically mentioned by name and the sentence coming immediately after a quote from Ayer how you would get the wrong reference for 'his'. Besides Ayer there is only me and you addressed specifically in my posts and I don't refer to myself in third-person. I mean this is something a first-grader would be ashamed to screw-up.

frances said...

Victor,
I'm not sure what your point is here, Elderly atheist nearly dies, describes experience which presumably we all agree was just the product of his oxygen starved brain, recovers and is still an atheist.

So?

Gyroman said...

I think you should read "proof of heaven" (terrible title I agree) - it blessed a massive (unfillable hole) in the oxygen starvation theory of NDEs - if it's true it really does terminate that particular theory/explanation.
I would be interested To see more discussion on the emotional underpinning of atheism - there is likely to be some as we are emotional beings.

frances said...

Gyroman,

Thanks for the reference. I did google it, but it looks as if it has been generally de-bunked. I always try & read both sides, but in this case, the only sites I could find in support were David Icke's (no thanks) and web-sites selling the book itself.

But I did take a look at this:
http://www.thesimplepastor.co.uk/not-proof-of-heaven/
The author (as you will readily apprehend) is not by any means a fan of atheism, but he dismisses it too.

im-skeptical said...

"I would be interested To see more discussion on the emotional underpinning of atheism - there is likely to be some as we are emotional beings."

That's fine, but you must realize that since we are all driven to some degree by our emotions, Christians are not in any way immune. It think upon rational, dispassionate examination, you'll find that the religious theme of 'after-life' is purely a product of the human fear of dying, and if you add in the concept of reward or punishment, you have a strong motivation to tow the line as set out by the church.

Crude said...

which presumably we all agree was just the product of his oxygen starved brain

No, I don't think an oxygen starved brain suffices to explain NDEs. And I'm skeptical of them myself.

Oxygen-starved brains are decent explanations of Gnu atheism, I grant you.

I would be interested To see more discussion on the emotional underpinning of atheism - there is likely to be some as we are emotional beings.

I think it's great that the first response to this is an immediate, reactionary change of the subject to anything BUT the emotional underpinnings of atheism.

frances said...

crude,

No, I don't think an oxygen starved brain suffices to explain NDEs. And I'm skeptical of them myself.

I wasn't talking about NDEs in general. Just this particular one. But if you think that Ayer's experience of meeting 2 beings in charge of the universe and trying to impress them with his grandfather's fob watch, is some form of real event, then fine. That's what you think. It's always interesting to know what people think.

BenYachov said...

I find it interesting a blind non-rational Universe "conspires" to make humans believe they live on after death.

That is a mega-coincidence if you ask me.

Papalinton said...

"I find it interesting a blind non-rational Universe "conspires" to make humans believe they live on after death.
That is a mega-coincidence if you ask me."


We know about hallucinations big time. I suspect an NDE, the operative descriptor being 'near death' and this side of the existential event horizon rather than death itself, is a state about which it is reasonable to infer either a condition of oxygen-deprived or carbon dioxide-rich state is well within bounds of an explanation for induced hallucination.

Punting right through that event horizon is sheer speculation of the deeply religiously-inspired kind, one for which we rightly assume a negative. The optimal approach is, consistent, testable, verifiable evidence, first; interpretation of data and conclusion second.

Crude said...

Frances,

I wasn't talking about NDEs in general. Just this particular one.

I suppose my criticism about Cultists of Gnu lacking oxygen in the brain gains more ground if I say I don't believe it's true of Gnus in general - just the ones in this thread.

But if you think that Ayer's experience of meeting 2 beings in charge of the universe

Are you getting enough oxygen, Frances? Remember what I said:

"And I'm skeptical of them myself."

Just because I'm skeptical of NDEs doesn't mean someone waltzing in and yammering 'oh I bet it was because oxygen' is making a reasonable criticism.

Papalinton said...

Be careful with your response, Frances. You might well be about to throw Skep and me under a bus, again, as we apparently are want to do with each other. What's more, I hate that view. It brings not so happy memories of having to look to the heavens for answers.

im-skeptical said...

"Just because I'm skeptical of NDEs doesn't mean someone waltzing in and yammering 'oh I bet it was because oxygen' is making a reasonable criticism. "

There is no mystery about "religious experiences". They clearly result from various physical conditions, and can be induced fairly reliably. The interesting thing about these experiences is that they tend to be consistent with the subject's notions of God and heaven, so people who have very different conceptions of God have different religious experiences. There's powerful evidence that these experiences are simply manufactured by the brain.

Incidentally, even atheists have some kind of conception of what God would be like if it existed. They too can have one of these experiences, and sometimes it fools them into believing, even as it serves as confirmation for theists.

Crude said...

There is no mystery about "religious experiences". They clearly result from various physical conditions, and can be induced fairly reliably.

Skep, considering you can't go a thread without revealing yourself to be completely pig ignorant about whatever subject you're speaking with authority about, let's just fast forward to the part where you start babbling about how everyone's misunderstanding you and you didn't mean to quote that crazy Illuminati conspiracy buff to support your NDE points, but you think his science is pretty solid anyway. ;)

Be careful with your response, Frances. You might well be about to throw Skep and me under a bus, again, as we apparently are want to do with each other.

Yeah, Frances. You're on Team Atheist, don't you know? Free thinking means marching in lockstep and making sure you have the same story as all the other atheists, so none of you feel left out of the group. That's what skepticism and independent thinking means!

im-skeptical said...

"revealing yourself to be completely pig ignorant about whatever subject you're speaking with authority about"

When it comes to science, I'm always ready to point out your misguided attempts to sound like you know what you're talking about. It is your own ignorance that keeps you from understanding just how shallow your understanding is. As for marching in lockstep, we all know how you like to project all the worst characteristics of religion onto the rest of the world.

Papalinton said...

PapaL: "Be careful with your response, Frances. You might well be about to throw Skep and me under a bus, again, as we apparently are want to do with each other."

Crude: "Yeah, Frances. You're on Team Atheist, don't you know? Free thinking means marching ......."

So bound by his own anxieties he fails to recognise the parody of his own making, although I have to acknowledge it was Karl who actually framed the bus bit. Crude nonetheless, has uttered similar responses to either frances, Skep or me inadvertently blowing up the others' arguments or some such nonsense.

But I try hard not to 'put' Crude down. That's just negative. Oh no. I have a much more positive strategy. I try very hard to 'send him up'.

frances said...

Crude,

You have got completely the wrong end of the stick.

"experience which presumably we all agree was just the product of his oxygen starved brain" -my reference to its being "just this one" referred to the agreement, not the experience.

And do your posts have any aim other than to attack me personally? Do you think that Ayer's story is evidence of life after death or not? What position is it that you are trying to defend vis a vis this particular story? If any?

The big difference between us is that I want to argue, whereas you only want to quarrel.

PS - Paps was being ironic.

BenYachov said...

I just find it interesting that even if you see you don't believe.

BenYachov said...

>The optimal approach is, consistent, testable, verifiable evidence, first; interpretation of data and conclusion second.

Positivism still fails the test of itself so how can we by it's own standards know it to be true?

frances said...

Ben,

See what?

Crude said...

Frances,

And do your posts have any aim other than to attack me personally?

When do I attack you personally? I attack your arguments and claims. You should be thanking me - they're rotten. Make better ones. Criticism will help in that respect.

Do you think that Ayer's story is evidence of life after death or not? What position is it that you are trying to defend vis a vis this particular story? If any?

Some evidence, sure. That's another problem you have - you seem unwilling to admit that there can be evidence for a view you don't ultimately accept for yourself. I can accept that there is evidence for say... Islam, without committing myself to believing Islam is true. You need to learn this.

What I am criticizing is your flippant remark of 'Well of course we all know this had to be the product of low oxygen in the brain or the like', which was A) presumptive, and B) weak. Someone claims to have had an experience of type X and you don't believe in experience X so you rush to 'mental fluke'. It's not impressive.

The big difference between us is that I want to argue, whereas you only want to quarrel.

No, I argue plenty. I think the big difference between us is that I argue and point out flaws in your reasoning, and I'm willing to go into detail. You avoid details at all costs and prefer to speak in terms of broad generalizations and unwarranted assumptions.

PS - Paps was being ironic.

Or stupid. Trust me, Frances, you don't want to appeal to his track record on this one.

Papalinton said...

"Positivism still fails the test of itself so how can we by it's own standards know it to be true?"

Oh dear. In this age of illogical positivism, no one wants to sound negative, right Ben?

frances said...

When do I attack you personally?

Well, let's see:
Just because I'm skeptical of NDEs doesn't mean someone waltzing in and yammering 'oh I bet it was because oxygen' is making a reasonable criticism.

That is a personal attack. You have not actually presented any argument against my position. All your comment amounts to is an unsupported assertion that I am not being reasonable. That's obviously a bit thin, so you pad it out by using imagery like"waltzing"& "yammering" which are intended as insults. So now, instead of bare unsupported assertion, yay! Result! You have bare unsupported assertion with insults thrown in! Well done Crude.

I could play that game, if I wanted. I could have opened this reply by saying "Crude, your posts are so full of shit, you should just cut out the middleman and send them straight down the toilet." Do you see how silly this way of arguing is?

I attack your arguments and claims. You should be thanking me - they're rotten

Show don't tell, Crude. If you show, if you really show, then you don't need to tell. Leave your arguments to speak for themselves. Saying "That was a terribly good point I made just now! See how clever I am! See how I have annihilated my opponent!" is what lawyers call a "self-serving statement". Self-serving statements are not admitted in evidence because they are worthless.

I don't have any problem with admitting that there can be evidence for a view I don't accept myself. In fact, I'd like to know what your evidence is for saying otherwise. I don't see in the story about Ayer's NDE any evidence for life after death. If you think it constitutes evidence, in what way do you say it evidences it?

No, I argue plenty. I think the big difference between us is that I argue and point out flaws in your reasoning, and I'm willing to go into detail. You avoid details at all costs and prefer to speak in terms of broad generalizations and unwarranted assumptions.

More chest-thumping. Those who wish to assess the truth of his claims are advised to check out Crude's previous posts for themselves.

Papalinton said...

" More chest-thumping. Those who wish to assess the truth of his claims are advised to check out Crude's previous posts for themselves."

BOOM!)

Crude said...

Frances,

That is a personal attack. You have not actually presented any argument against my position.

No, it's not a personal attack. It's an attack on your argument - it is little more than yammering.

And I haven't 'presented an argument against your position' because, as I illustrated, there's not much there to argue against. It was a bald assertion with little to support it. I said as much.

I could play that game, if I wanted. I could have opened this reply by saying "Crude, your posts are so full of shit, you should just cut out the middleman and send them straight down the toilet." Do you see how silly this way of arguing is?

What I see as silly is having to pretend that your 'arguments' have merit when they don't. Likewise, the comparison is nonsense, since I pointed out that your argument was weak - it was little more than a presupposition that we all agreed that NDEs are just 'a lack of brain oxygen.'

Now, I never said I was polite. In fact, I'm not - when people argue poorly and behave poorly, I don't feel the need to treat them with respect. Notice: I treat various atheists with respect, because they're sincere, civil, and they reject Cult of Gnu antics. Got a problem with that? Consider ditching the cult.

Show don't tell, Crude. If you show, if you really show, then you don't need to tell.

I already have, Frances. See, what you should really consider doing instead of complaining and whining is actually, you know, paying attention to valid criticisms. If you say something weak and unsupported and another person points it out, whimpering about how they haven't provided a compelling argument for the position you're attacking is not the proper response. As I said: when I point out the flaws in your arguments, I'm doing you a favor.

Now, you can certainly continue to ignore what I point out, or - in other engagements - my arguments, and continue to hope you can get by simply by complaining and pouting. Your call. But I'll still point out when your comments fall short and your arguments fail. That's my call.

I don't have any problem with admitting that there can be evidence for a view I don't accept myself. In fact, I'd like to know what your evidence is for saying otherwise. I don't see in the story about Ayer's NDE any evidence for life after death.

Thanks for illustrating your problems, Frances. If someone has what seems to them at the time to be a convincing experience of the sort they'd expect to have if (there were life after death / if theism were true), that's evidence. It doesn't mean those things are now true, but evidence it is. Even the mere existence of an alternate explanation doesn't suffice to remove it as evidence, or else you wouldn't have evidence you even wrote these posts - alternate explanations are available.

It's pretty simple: Ayer's NDE is evidence. Is it compelling? That's another question. But it's evidence. Why is it so hard to admit that?

More chest-thumping. Those who wish to assess the truth of his claims are advised to check out Crude's previous posts for themselves.

I advise them to do exactly that. It's funny, Frances - you love to use this line, but I endorse checking out my past posts, and your past exchanges, happily. I even go out of the way to hold them up on my blog to illustrate points about Cult of Gnu atheist thinking. Based on the reactions I've seen so far - including from atheists - the consensus is pretty much what I told you in the past: you're not nearly as good at reasoning as you want to believe you are.

As the resident liar and plagiarist would say - boom. ;)

Papalinton said...

" It's pretty simple: Ayer's NDE is evidence. Is it compelling? That's another question. But it's evidence. Why is it so hard to admit that?"

Evidence of what? That Ayers had an NDE? But then everyone who experiences an NDE can be said to have had an NDE. An NDE is not a death. The only rational, commonsense and logical recall of that experience is an hallucination, precipitated by either oxygen deprivation or carbon dioxide suffution or a combination of both. It is both unnecessary and silly to go beyond that pontificating on some imagined weirdoworld filled with floating phantasmagoria. It really does go beyond a joke when supposedly intelligent people doggedly persist in this netherworld nonsense. Do do so is a mark of perpetuated ignorance.

Papalinton said...

suffusion

frances said...

Evidence of what? That Ayers had an NDE? But then everyone who experiences an NDE can be said to have had an NDE. An NDE is not a death.

Precisely so, Paps. The observant among you will have noticed that not a single, solitary person has answered my reasonable question, which let me remind you, was to ask what Victor's point was. A man doesn't die and somehow his experience of what happened when he didn't die is supposed to tell us....something. The implication is that it can tell us something about what happens when we do die, but you will search the theist posts in vain to find any hint of what inferences we are supposed to draw from it. And if they had an answer they would have put it forward by now.

What happens when someone doesn't die is no evidence at all of what happens when you do die.

Anyway, "bored now" as Vampire Willow used to say.

Have a good Xmas & I'll be back in the New Year, when no doubt all the wannabe apologists from DI will have made it their New Year resolution to argue instead of pick fights. LOL! Not holding my breath, or the result would be more than just an NDE.

Victor Reppert said...

The point is that NDEs appear to happen to people who don't believe already.

Papalinton said...

"The point is that NDEs appear to happen to people who don't believe already. "

Correlation is not causation.

im-skeptical said...

"The point is that NDEs appear to happen to people who don't believe already."

My point is the NDEs happen as a result of physical causes. There is nothing religious about them, except that they invoke feelings that can be interpreted as a religious experience. But if that's all it takes to meet God, doesn't that prove that God is nothing more than a physical phenomenon produced by the brain?