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January 07, 2007

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I don't know about this analysis, because I cannot see or measure a thing does not mean it does not exist, but neither does a belief in it make it exist. I simply becomes an unknowable (for the time being).

Atheism and deism are the same things to me, they are both faithes. Agnosticism seems much more rational to me than exercises in proving something currently outside our ability to do so. Algebraic logic has been applied to this question for an awfully long time and it still relies on assumptions that it simply cannot factually make.

Jon knows the statements are not true, simply because...he knows. What he knows is that he cannot prove them true, a different proposition entirely. Bad move, he should know better.

Chuck, it seems that you're making a common logical mistake. There isn't an equivalence between an inability to prove something is true, and an inability to prove something is false.

I mean, often you hear believers say, "But you can't prove God doesn't exist!" Well, this isn't the way the scientific method, or more generally, the authentic life method, works.

We trust and accept what is proven; if we also trusted and accepted what hasn't been proven, but neither has been proven false, almost anything would be capable of being believed.

An often-quoted example is that we can't prove there isn't a teapot circling the sun. But it is so unlikely, we say, "There isn't one in orbit."

Jon isn't trying to prove God, the soul, and afterlife don't exist. He is arguing (in my reading of him) that what we know, we know here and now. If the soul is eternal and an integral part of our present being, as most believers say, then it is here and now, not there and then.

I agree with you that algebra and logic don't lead very far when it comes to pursuing the deep mysteries of life. But I like how Jon takes common assumptions about the soul and "heaven," and shows that they don't make the sense that believers consider they do.

Algebra is such a terrible thing to get wrong. I looked at Jon's blog. I disagree with his initial premise that X = ZY, by which he means that whatever survives our physical death (X), if anything, is a proportion (Z) of our "earthly body" (Y). I don't know that my spiritual existence, whatever that means, is contained within who and what I am on Earth. It could be something much different and much larger. Tradition has been that spirit and flesh are different things, not just a division of who I think I am naturally. Therefore there is no reason to have confidence in this equation.

Forget that for a moment, though. In Jon's third equation, he claims that Z = A, (A) being the heavenly being that is the same as X and the same as ZY.

Now wait a minute. Suppose we accept Jon's model and guess that a soul is 70% of us. So Z = 0.7. So X = 0.7Y and A = 0.7Y. How is it then that Z = A? Z is simply a proportion. In physics it would have no units, while X, Y, and A would all have units related to existence, whatever that is. Maybe we could name them after Descartes.

What Jon has done here is that by introducing this unjustified equation Z = A, he has changed his model from something general to something that can only be true if the soul and all these bodies are just the same, in which case Z = 1 and everything else equals 1 as well. Then he pretends that is his conclusion instead of the truth, which is he introduced this as a false premise.

No, his third equation is his error, making everything in his writing here erroneus.

Claiming to know something is a strong claim. The power of science is in taking what you think you know back to reality and see if it works. As long as it works, that's comforting. If it doesn't work, that can be even better, because you can improve your model. Yet even as our knowledge seems to grow, God could change the laws of physics tomorrow, and none of us really knew anything.

It's a free country. Atheists love to claim that their way to knowledge is better than others. As far as science goes, I think that's pretty good, but there are more possibilities than are reachable by science. That's what many atheists should know, but ignore. It's a mistake. I think it's the biggest reason I include atheism when I say, "All religions are false, including atheism".

We don't know what we have no way of knowing. Lots of us make mistakes so what we don't know is even more than that. We don't know many things we could know as well as those things we can't. Jon is in that category. It takes persistence and willingness to get out of that ignorance. But as a first step, I'd be careful about claiming so boldly what I know.

DavidD has pointed out in detail a common mistake of gnosticism. I know what is in the here and now to be true, but what is true is not necessarily confined to the here and now of my knowledge.

While I agree with Jon in principle, that, "There will be never be anything else because this (This) is all there is and ever will be… ," the proofs will always be fraught with the contradictions of linguistics. As the eye does not see itself, and the hammer cannot hit itself, a logic statement cannot describe itself.

The extrapolation is that: if my knowledge has brought surety, then what is outside my knowledge is suspect, (unsure). The tautology is: part of the base of my knowledge is the ability to extrapolate the specifics of my experience into the general world, and I know my extrapolation is accurate because extrapolation is part of my knowledge.

I am not even saying that what Jon and Brian have to say is untrue. I am saying it is unprovable, and for me the ignition is always faith. It doesn't take much, just enough to kick off the metaphor generator.

By the way, what is imagination? Where does it come from? Is there something about it that's real?

I got my undergraduate degree in physics and spent a career in neuroscience and know from that that a number of concepts we take for granted are very difficult to discuss scientifically. Where do dreams come from? We know brainstem mechanisms for REM sleep, but how does an actual dream initiate and where do the images and story of a dream come from? Can my brain really make composites or extrapolate from reality to make my dreams so novel? Is that imagination with me when I'm awake, too, or is my waking imagination, where I imagine the consequences of some proposed action, something entirely different? I don't know. There are many possibilities.

People assume a lot. People assume that I have control over my imagination, that my will directs it. What is will? Scientifically minded people have imagined a cartoon of a little man inside our head, seated at a desk, with many phone lines coming in from the rest of the brain, someone to make final decisions for the rest of us. There is nothing anatomically or physiologically in the brain like that. It is a metaphor, an idea expressed in images and relationships rather than words, but processed by our brain much as our language is, only nonverbally. There is some reality to that metaphor, as there often is with both nonverbal and verbal metaphors. How much?

Where am I in all this? Huge parts of my body can be cut off, and I am still here. Even parts of my brain can die, and I am still here. At some level of loss, I am not who I was. At another level, I'm not here at all any more, just a body that resembles me. It's not a precise thing. I know that's reality because of experience. Experience is the only way I can know anything, from my experience or that of others, unless there really is a spiritual way to knowledge that bypasses sensory experience or perhaps extends it, cooperates with it instead of being an alternative to sensory experiences.

When I hear people claiming to know reality through their five senses and how science has extended those senses, simultaneously calling everything else imagination, I hear people who have not tried hard enough to imagine the possibilities for imagination. I suppose many people think that if I suddenly decide to imagine ice cream I will pull an image of ice cream from my memory, not a photo, but a composite image I have, corresponding to my cognitive associations with "ice cream", both verbal and nonverbal. Then that image will have a correlation with a pattern of neurons firing in my brain, as all the entities mentioned in forming that image in my visual cortex are also just patterns of neuronal firing. Many people think that. Neuroscience has a long way to go to show all of that happens in the brain and what "I" have to do with that. Did I start that mention of ice cream right now or was it a part of my brain I don't call "I"? How much of my consciousness do I take credit for when in fact I don't control it? Much of it I don't even see. Is it so horrible to acknowledge the possibility that part of my consciousness doesn't come from my brain, maybe not even from something in the 4-dimensional physical universe? Yes, that's imagination, but is it also real, like ice cream? There are more possibilities than most people like to acknowledge, theists or atheists.

So if you're dedicated to reality as you think you know, how much of life are you cutting yourself off from, 3%, 99.9%? I don't know. I doubt such a thing could be quantified if one could understand it. But that is the price for saying I will only pay attention to what I think is real. If the existential joy that comes from such a limited life were enough for me, maybe I would still wear my blinders, too. It's not. There is an emptiness. I don't want to embrace fantasy to fill it, though if that's what my spiritual experiences turn out to be, it's not so bad. I want to know the greater reality. That's where I found God, not the micromanager that people believed in thousands of years ago, but modern people can know doesn't make sense. God is whoever and whatever God is, the one who answers when I pray, "God help me!". That answer exists. I experience it everyday. How much metaphor there is in how I perceive that answer is beyond me, but that's in keeping with all of our existence. All of our knowledge may be indirect and metaphorical. As long as I live, there's a chance for me to know that better, rather than just say here is reality, and I'll trust that, no matter how little that reality loves me, no matter how much my fantasy of controlling that reality is just a childish fantasy. There is more than people know. God has shown me so and told me so, in conventional ways and spiritual ways. Many people think the latter are nuts, both theists and atheists. They're prejudiced, as people are naturally believers in their own version of reality. Science has gotten around some of that prejudice. There are other ways, including some that visit our consciousness individually. That subjectivity doesn't make all that imaginary.

It is very difficult to prove false many things, sometimes they don't work as well as they should and a model needs to be refined, it isn't false, it's just not quite right. Take for instance dimensions, we assume the 3 physical and the 4th time are right, then physicists start messing about and we find 27 dimensions, then 31. Now I don't have the math skills to get 31 dimensions and I have to shake my head at the idea and say wow. Is it wrong because I can't do the math?

I don't get along with religion, personally. I don't mind other people having them, it's just not for me. I don't like blanket statements about God from fallible small humans, I particularly don't like exclusive clubs. That's all about me and what makes sense to me but it has not squat to do with algebra. No, 2+2 does not = 5, but with 31 (?) dimensions there's a lot of room for what doesn't fit our narrow 4 dimensional experiences. Look at this, if God improves a peron's life that's a nice thing, if God is a drawback to a person's life that's not so good, but messing about trying to prove something in that question is not time well spent. You don't get to know. If you don't want a God, so what? If you do, so what? It's just up to you, the rest of us will figure out what we figure out.

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