Well, the responses I got to my previous post, "Objective reality is validated by the reality-based community," were underwhelming.
Not really surprising, since I said:
The question I'd pose to those who hold a mystical, religious, or intuitive view of reality is this: what alternative to Rauch's approach below do you suggest for determining the nature of objective reality?
Meaning, it is easy to criticize reason, rationality, facts, science, open discussion, criticism of propositions about reality, and such. But it is difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a better approach than the Constitution of Knowledge.
Read what follows.
Then, if you disagree with some of what Rausch says below, leave a comment on this post describing the nature of your disagreement. Others can then submit their own ideas. This is how knowledge is gained: by a reality-based community willing to engage in the social pursuit of truth.
No one could suggest a better approach for gaining knowledge than a reality-based community willing to engage in the social pursuit of truth.
So in this post I'm going to take a different approach, with the goal of convincing those who hold a mystical, religious, or intuitive perspective that there isn't any other valid means of gaining knowledge of objective reality.
Note that I said "objective reality." Obviously we all gain knowledge of subjective reality just by being ourselves. Every experience each of us has is subjective, since it isn't evident to other people.
There's no way anyone can put a thought, emotion, perception, or any other content of consciousness on a table and say, See, this is my experience.
Thus a basic assumption here is that there are almost eight billion subjective human realities, one for each person on Earth. Yet there is only one objective shared reality. Rausch writes:
The main idea of the Constitution of Knowledge, as we have seen, is that reality is what we know, not what you or I know. No purely personal belief can be knowledge, no matter how much merit you or I might think it possesses.
...A corollary is that members of the reality-based community accept that, despite their diversity, they are all exploring aspects of one reality. The Constitution of Knowledge does not require them to see the world the same way or to agree on facts.
In fact, it only works where people see the world differently and disagree on facts, so that they can test their ideas and surmount their biases.
Its unique capacity, however, is to force individual differences toward social convergence. It does so by requiring persuasion, which in turn requires that we try to account for our differences by comparing them.
Science has made astounding progress in the past several hundred years by doing just that. By and large, scientists the world over agree on the knowledge gained from the scientific aspect of the reality-based community.
By contrast, religious believers and mystics have made essentially zero progress in arriving at a common spiritual knowledge. The same questions are being debated today as were being debated hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Why? One obvious reason is that there's no persuasive evidence that a supernatural realm exists. Thus there's no way to test propositions about what that realm consists of, since almost certainly it exists only in the subjective minds of individuals.
Consider the religious belief system that I used to accept, that of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), a form of Sant Mat, an India-based religiosity that claims Perfect Living Masters can guide their disciples back to God by connecting them to the shabd, or Sound Current, the power that activates the cosmos.
That'd be amazing if it was true. But how would it be possible to determine the truth of RSSB or Sant Mat?
It can't be by accepting someone's claim that they're experienced divine light and sound. Hallucinations of that sort are commonplace. Psychedelic drugs can produce those phenomena. People can be mistaken. People can lie. People can fool themselves.
No matter how strongly someone believes in a religious, mystical, or supernatural tenet -- whether this belief is held by a small number or billions -- the question remains, Why should anyone else believe what you believe?
Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God. Muslims believe there is no God but God and Muhammed is His prophet. Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, plus adherents of thousands of other religions all have their own unique beliefs.
Atheists and agnostics are skeptical about all of those beliefs. For good reason, because there is no reality-based community in the realm of the supernatural. Again, almost certainly this is because that reality doesn't exist.
Yet suppose you're someone who has had such a profound experience of a supernatural reality that you feel the need to speak your truth to others? (A number of those someone's leave comments on this blog.)
Again, why should I or anyone else believe you?
It can't be because you've done the experiment of meditation, or whatever you want to call it, and the rest of us haven't. I haven't done any quantum mechanics experiments nor genetics experiments, but I accept the scientific knowledge in these areas.
I do so because there is a reality-based community -- researchers, journals, conferences, peer review, universities, government agencies, science writers, etc. -- that's skilled at assessing the validity of scientific propositions.
If a single scientist claims this or that is true, no one should believe them. Yet if their claim survives careful scrutiny by the reality-based community, there's good reason to believe them. At least until the claim is debunked.
With religious and mystical claims about the supernatural, so far none have become validated knowledge.
Not miracles. Not ESP. Not life after death. Not astral projection. After thousands of years of attempts by humans to find proof of the supernatural, there's so little to show for this search, we might as well round it off to zero.
The reason is that what Rausch says in his book is correct.
By extension, the empirical rule also dictates what does not account as checking: claims to authority by dint of a personally or tribally privileged perspective. In principle, persons and groups are interchangeable.
If I claim access to divine revelation, or if I claim the support of miracles which only believers can witness, or if I claim that my class or race or historically dominant status or historically oppressed status allows me to know and say things which others cannot, then I am breaking the empirical rule by exempting my views from contestability by others
...You have to check your own claims and subject them to contestation from others; you have to tolerate the competing claims of others; you have to accept that your own certainty counts for nothing; you have to forswear claiming that your god, your experience, your intuition, or your group is epistemically privileged; you have to defend the exclusive legitimacy of liberal science even (in fact, especially) when you think it is wrong or unfair.