Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Quantum physics: Goodbye to reality?

This from PhysicsWeb

Some physicists are uncomfortable with the idea that all individual quantum events are innately random. This is why many have proposed more complete theories, which suggest that events are at least partially governed by extra "hidden variables". Now physicists from Austria claim to have performed an experiment that rules out a broad class of hidden-variables theories that focus on realism -- giving the uneasy consequence that reality does not exist when we are not observing it (Nature 446 871).

Of course, I suspect that it is not "reality" that quantum physics bids us say goodbye to, but a simplistic materialist idea of how reality works. What if mind comes first, and is not an illusion created by the random fluctuations of matter in our brain. We discuss, in The Spiritual Brain, why that is a reasonable view, based on evidence.

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Thinkquote of the day:The weak point of mysticism

Via Christian quotation of the day, a great early twentieth century divine comments:

The Gospel used to be presented as an appeal to believe in the Savior who "did it all for me long ago," and then retired to a remote heaven where He receives the homage of believers till He comes again to inaugurate the Millennium. The mind of our generation, having little comprehension or taste for such a message, is usually content to try to discover "the Jesus of
history," conceived as a human example and teacher of a distant past. Meanwhile, there exists always alongside all forms of religious belief the great tradition of mystical experience. The mystic knows that, whatever be the truth about an historic act or person, there is a Spirit dwelling in man. In our time, even natural science abates its arrogant denials and admits the possibility of such immanence... The weak point of mysticism, as seen at least by a matter-of-fact person, is
that it is apt to be so nebulous ethically. What the Immanent is, those who claim most traffic with It can often least tell us. Is It a power making for righteousness, or is It a higher synthesis of good and evil? Or is It not a moral--that is to say, not a personal Being at all?... The raising of these
questions is not intended to throw any doubt upon the validity of mystical experience as such; but we have a right to ask what content is given in the experience. Paul was a mystic, but all his mystical experience had a personal object. It was Jesus Christ, a real, living person--historic, yet not of the past alone; divine, yet not alien from humanity.
- C. Harold Dodd (1884-1973), The Meaning of Paul for Today, pp. 128-129 [1920]

The problem Dodd identifies is another aspect of the problem noted earlier, the language of mysticism does not adequately convey the experience. Also, culture certainly plays a role in interpretation of mystical experience. Of course, the confusion and misunderstanding that may follow from different cultural interpretations are not unique to mystical consciousness. It is a fact of everyday life in the large, multicultural city in which I live.

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Materialism watch: The challenges that materialist atheism cannot face effectively

Columnist Frank Pastore weighs in on four challenges to (materialist*) atheism, as follows:

1. Origin of the universe
2. Origin of life
3. Origin of the mind
4. Origin of morality

What I found while researching By Design or by Chance? and The Spiritual Brain is not that materialists have no answers but that their answers are based mainly on promissory materialism (hey folks, we're still working on it. Give us another few centuries ...), when they are not based on merely suppressing dissent or promoting foolish ideas to the popular science media.

Anyway, Pastore advises,
Since the pre-Socratics, atheists have been intellectual parasites living off the host of Western Civilization. Able to con-struct so very little of their own that is either true, good, or beautiful, they live on the borrowed capital of their believing intellectual parents. Atheists have been asserting the same basic mechanistic worldview, and with roughly the same suc-cess, for centuries. They sell books and win converts from time to time, sure, especially among those gullible enough to buy the “just popped” thesis. Don’t be gullible.

The thing to keep in mind, it seems to me, is that the materialist/Darwinist will always come up with an explanation within his system in the same way and for the same reasons as the Marxist could always come up with an explanation within his system for any event.

For example, according to evolutionary psychologists, religion is and is not adaptive - both points of view can be maintained within evolutionary psychology quite comfortably, even though they cancel each other out and imply that the discipline, if discipline it is, is not capable of discovering basic, definite information about the origin of religion.

The only point of view that cannot be maintained within standard evolutionary psychology is that religion is evidence of transcendence - that is, it arose because, at one time or another, people really did contact a reality behind the universe. I am hardly surprised to learn that dying de-spiritualized religious denominations have been flirting with evolutionary psychology; it's only useful function, so far as I can see, is as a sort of humane lethal injection that puts such institutions out of their collective misery before they mislead anyone else about the nature of spiritual experience. The would-be remaining congregants would invariably be better off somewhere else anyway.

*Materialist atheists must derive everything in the universe from chance and necessity. A non-materialist atheist does not believe in a God as such, but need not derive everything in the universe from chance and necessity.

Here are some of my recent posts on related subjects at the Post-Darwinist and here at the Mindful Hack :

Pope Benedict vs. a chance origin of the universe - lines from an early lecture.

Why there is no compatibility between traditional communities of any kind and accounts of spiritual beliefs derived from Darwinism.

A most interesting survey of views in evolutionary psychology on religious belief makes quite clear that there is NO room in the evo psycho paradigm for the view that spirituality relates to any fact about the universe. Hence the folly of trying to get traditional communities to support Darwinian evolution. .

On language and
mystical experience: can language tell us what is real?

Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary ( is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy, and of Faith@Science. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).

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