I'm going through old emails today (I have some really old ones) and just came across a not-so-ancient message from November 2021 that a woman sent me after reading a post I'd written about miracles.
The miracle story she shared struck me as so strangely wonderful, it deserved to be made into a blog post. The person who sent it to me called it a boring story, but I heartily disagree. Her story was so honestly told, I didn't find it boring at all.
My wife is hyper-conscious of matching colors, so even though Laurel is an atheist, I can easily see her becoming a believer in Goddess if She were to perform a miracle along the line described below.
I had a sort of insignificant and measureable (but significant to me) miracle. It is a boring and wordy story be forewarned.
Lululemon came out with the perfect workout top design, which is their most copied design (but poorly copied). But this design was discontinued by Lululemon loooong long ago and are unavailable. It's the only top I'm almost perfectly comfortable in and hugged in smoothly all over. Their materials are superb. It is expensive but lasts probably 10+ years if one avoids destroying the 4 way elasticity in high heat drying.
So I bought one or two used ones on ebay since they are very pricey even there, used. Oh LULULEMON has a HUGE used market.
So I'm super invested in this top. I found it several years ago in wine-red straps/trim and overall it is that color but blended ("heather"ed).
On the back there is a small section which is very fine net and it is a lighter unpleasant red, I was sad that it wasn't that deeper red, but ....particularly when I saw someone ELSE with the exact top at my fitness club and that back net section in their top is the deepest cool-toned purpley red.
It just killed me that that top looks so beautifully restful in that color in the back and my top seems garish in the light red on that small back section.
This went on probably for many months of me irking about my top, and more so when that lovely woman would come to my class and my eyes would follow that section of her top, how beautiful it looks, and I'm like why oh why oh why oh why is my top not that deep calm beautiful dark cool color, instead of the garish red color in that section.
Sometimes we"d wear our tops on the same day.
One day after many many months of agonizing about the garish red section in contrast with the rest of the top, I put that top on and the back section was now that deep darker restful tone, the part which used to be the garish red area. I kid you not.
Magically the garish red disappeared in the back and it was a darker cool toned purpley red. I have never told anyone this. Who'd care? Or believe it.
That material couldn't accidentally "get dyed" without the blended parts being affected. It is really hard to dye that kind of material at all. Nothing could have accidentally bled into that section that deep of a color and stayed, contained to that area. I also never mentioned this longing to anyone.
It's a small thing and probably didn't change the course of anything except made me VERY happy. Maybe that's why that miracle could happen. It is concealed and relatively insignificant. It was a shock. Maybe also because that implies someone hears all my inner whining.
The miracle today Brian Ji is that you are not trying to explain it, dismiss it or claim she is wrong, that it isn't a miracle. Nor is the woman doing that, but both you and she accept it as it is, without necessity of explanation. And you are both a little happier. It's a tiny miracle, easier to accept. She is happy not only because she got what she wanted (miracles don't always work that way, nor does getting what we want the basis for a miracle) but because she chose, perhaps in humor, to accept it as such. And that delight she shared and it resonated with you.
She accepted the fact that she didn't do it. She didn't take credit for it. And that makes it even more delightful.
Every moment can be like that. Even the hard ones contain, within them, a miracle. But these, and even the bigger ones are much harder to accept. So they typically go into the subconscious denial bin. As if they never happened, or remembered as a vague dream when they were in fact actual events.
But accepting the tiny ones is a great start.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 07, 2022 at 07:50 PM
"The miracle today Brian Ji is that you are not trying to explain it, dismiss it or claim she is wrong, that it isn't a miracle. Nor is the woman doing that, but both you and she accept it as it is, without necessity of explanation. And you are both a little happier."
This kind of thinking I simply cannot comprehend.
Absolutely, rejoice in whatever makes you happy. It would be silly not.
But almost 100% sure, this admits of a perfectly reasonable explanation. (I say "almost" only to be technically correct, otherwise that term is redundant.) Sure, not every thing requires an explanation. But why even call it a "miracle"? (Except maybe colloquially, not precisely. Colloquially used, sure it is a valid enough term.)
My point is, if you did "investigate" this phenomenon, and ended up finding out the why of it, then why on earth do you imagine, Spence, that that would kill the joy of it? To think that is the mark of the inveterately supersititous.
I see a lovely rainbow outside. The Christian thinks it is Jesus farting, the Muslim thinks it is Mo the pedo lolling on a couch while his latest and youngest child bride dances for him, the Hindu thinks it is Krishna playing the flute while his harem dances for him, and the Godless but credulous think it is unicorns farting (instead of Jesus!). And they're happy, smiling.
But if you do understand the how of the rainbow, the exact mechanism of how it is formed, as all/most of us do today, how does that take away from the wonder and the happiness? In my view that leaves intact the original happiness and wonder and pleasure from the sight itself, and adds a further dimension and depth to one's appreciation of this phenomenon by knowing the how of it.
No, that thing there isn't a miracle, not literally, absolutely not. But sure, it is indeed a miracle, in a loose colloquial sense. And no, the pleasure that one derives from that (colloquially phrased) miracle is NOT predicated on necessarily being in ignorance about the how of it.
This kind of thinking, this logic, is so very twisted that I don't know what to make of it. The thinking that imagines that only in not actually knowing lies happiness, and only in not fully understanding lies satisfaction.
Of course every moment can be like that, as you say. That requires acceptance, as you say; and it requires an openness to wonder. What it most emphatically is NOT predicated on, is the requirement of, as you insist, "not trying to explain it"; and nor is it at all predicated on, as again you insist, lacking the understanding that this isn't a (literal) miracle.
You're conflating two separate and unrelated things. One is wonder and appreciation; and the other is knowledge. The one has nothing to do with the other, not directly.
It is possible to be perfectly ignorant and superstitious and entirely credulous of every idiotic religious idea, and still be a brute that is unmoved by beauty, whether physical or scenic or circumstantial or of ideas. And it is also possible to be perfectly canny and knowledgeable, both generally as well as as regards some specific thing, and yet be fully alive to the wonder of every passing moment.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 07, 2022 at 10:00 PM
Revisiting my comment above:
The fifth paragraph, in my comment above (fifth paragraph of my comment itself, and leaving out Spence's quote), is unnecessarily insulting of the faith of Christians and Muslims and Hindus. That was uncalled for. Apologies to any religious folks whose sentiments I may have hurt.
To be clear, what I'm taking back is the unnecessarily aggressive and unnecessarily confrontational tone in that paragraph. I totally stand by the rest of my comment, and indeed the essence even of that particular paragraph. Just, it makes no sense to unnecessarily denigrate people's sincerely held faith, especially when it's unnecessary to the argument being presented; and I regret having done that here.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 07, 2022 at 11:49 PM
@ AR : [ Of course every moment can be like that, as you say. That requires acceptance, as you say; and it requires an openness to wonder. What it most emphatically is NOT predicated on, is the requirement of, as you insist, "not trying to explain it"; and nor is it at all predicated on, as again you insist, lacking the understanding that this isn't a (literal) miracle. ]
My memory drifts back... to a moment when intuition hushed logic and
quietly overruled religious credulity. Logic scoffed "It was just random...
fuses failed and saved the day. Intuition shakes you gently, whispers:
No, it wasn't".
--Based on a story of a mining engineer and his subordinates during the
British Raj as told by Daryailal Kapoor in "Call of the Great Master".
Posted by: Dungeness | May 08, 2022 at 01:05 AM
Good comments and questions!
" But why even call it a "miracle"? (Except maybe colloquially, not precisely. Colloquially used, sure it is a valid enough term.)"
That is the only usage one can offer for this word. Miracle implies beyond all known laws and dynamics. But that can only be for the individual at the time. And it is the state of all events without investigation. Everything is a miracle, and beautiful one. And of course, there are causes behind all of it.
So to use the term "miracle" as opposed to, say, "disaster" is more about how it affects us, our world view.
"My point is, if you did "investigate" this phenomenon, and ended up finding out the why of it, then why on earth do you imagine, Spence, that that would kill the joy of it? To think that is the mark of the inveterately supersititous."
I think you did not read what I wrote, AR. I was referring to the need to label something, explain something as a means of dismissing it.
You could actually investigate it as a means of honoring it. That is the whole of point of science. Science is the best worship of the creation. It listens and looks, and doesn't judge. It confirms dyamics, it seeks to understand first, and from every possible angle, before labelling. Not labelling then shoot down the straw man. That's Pseudo science; scientism.
False science uses the word science but only to promote a particular theology, politics, etc...could be a religion, could be atheism, etc.. Not real science.
But labelling first, then asking questions later, is like what Tom Peters wrote in In Search of Excellence, the habit of bad managers:
"Ready, Fire, Aim".
That can often be a means of dismissing or denigrating the experience, ar even a new idea.
But I guess calling it a Miracle is really to converse of the same thing: raising something to a wonderment simply for our own reasons, that it benefits us personally.
However, all things can benefit us, so an enlightened view would say all things, understood rightly, from that perspective, are miracles.
You conflate the term with the attribution of God's and Goddesses. But that also could stand some deeper review. People label things all the time. Science uses labels for dynamics. But long ago people labelled the same things with personalities. Pre-science it was easier to combine dynamic principles into the personality of an unseen god or goddess. Functionally, it served the same purpose of creating a sense of reality behind the reality and principles we should honor as factual. But these are just culturalbound explanations: Having some objective truth, but also being the best humans can come up with at the time to understand the part of reality they can see.
Because, without projecting some other mechanism or personality, or laws of physics or chemistry, reality is beyond comprehension. And even with those things, it is still way more than we can fully comprehend.
So we limit ourselves to what we can see, and make explanations of the hidden dynamics. Science calls them laws. Ancient religions called them personalities.
It isn't necessary to explain something to enjoy it. But it may be necessary to do so to dismiss or denigrate it.
And it isn't necessary to insist you know better about something when actually you have only labelled it with what you prefer to take as the other person's view, rather than their actual view.. which would require not explaining, at least for a little while, but looking and listening.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 08, 2022 at 07:30 AM
The reason, AR, why I love this story is that Brian Ji doesn't try to explain it. He accepts it.
That is actually the first step of every good scientist. See, Listen, Accept, and then look deeper, if you like...and looking deeper only requires more open-minded listening and looking. We could spend our lives doing that.
Along the way we would learn lots of things, lots of things we could label. But there would be no conflict at all.
Because the other person's view is just reality from where they sit and stand. Their use of language is their reality from their conditioning.
It's all just reality. We don't exist except as a point of view from where we are in this vast reality. And the miracle for us is that by looking and listening carefully, openly, quietly, we can see from a broader view and different perspectives. Then we begin to actually UNDERSTAND...quite a big word. I wish I could make it bigger!
U N D E R S T A N D :)
It is the biggest miracle of all.
Posted by: spence tepper | May 08, 2022 at 07:56 AM
I guess the thing that stood out for me in this blog is the fact that the woman was so caught up in wanting a top that she was 'super invested' in having one. For a workout kit its the practicality of the garment that is most important. Obviously one would not choose one that was a ghastly diarrhoea colour or something; but why this sort of obsession.
The lady goes on to say that the miracle made her very happy. And - “maybe also because that implies someone hears all my inner whining.” This is a usual reason for peoples' prayers or wishes – a petition, a bargaining. I have heard it said in regard to the division between well off people and the poor that 'We're well off because that's what God wants for us'.
Miracles or whatever, if one wants to get to the cause of what ails humanity, the above is a good example.
Posted by: Ron E. | May 08, 2022 at 08:54 AM
Everyone has their own sort of wealth.
This might be the only wealth this woman can identify with.
Understanding her and accepting is much more important than any claim that you have a higher set of standards or a more durable wealth.
Often, it is the fleeting things...the years we can go to the gym looking healthy, attractive, sexy are fleeting. And this makes them dear. This makes them sacred, Ron.
She will have time to raise her standards when appropriate. But she needs to be in the gym in top shape and appearance for a number of reasons. That is all sacred.
U N D E R S T A N D I N G ....
What a concept.
Posted by: spence tepper | May 08, 2022 at 09:26 AM
It's amazing how sangat are programmed to hink all miracles happens that are for the good are projected onto the sicko bent baba of beas Gurinder Singh Dhillon, thus anchoring disciple more onto their guru. But when something bad happens , we are told it's our karma , that we have sinned. How dare we enjoy the pleasures of life; and that we must meditate harder to work through these bad karma. How ridiculous and guilt driven these sheepish and gullible sangat have become, set in a trap that they can never get out unless they take responsibility and wake up from their deep sleep. Realise that contract with the narcissist baba is win win on his side, and always lose lose on the side of the sangat.
Posted by: Uchit | May 08, 2022 at 12:43 PM
Spence. A huge amount of imagination and conjecture there. You comment has a decidedly apologist leaning to it regarding this lady's motives. You have labelled her actions “with what you prefer to take as the other person's view, rather than their actual view.” (your comment to AR.) Simply, her view was to acquire a 'Lululemon' top which displeased her and later changed to how she wanted it to be – which in her view was a miracle. That's the thrust of the story, nothing to do with 'understanding' her motives – which is just conjecture.
As I've said before, coming as many of us do, whether we realise it or not, we still carry a bundle of Christian precepts around with us affecting how we wish the world and people, to be. This aspect of our psyche is important and definitely needs understanding – before we try to understand other people.
Posted by: Ron E. | May 08, 2022 at 02:12 PM
Some dyes, such as pink, lavender, and red, can undergo colour reactions (usually red to blue) from contact with water or any water-bearing substance, including sweat from perspiration."
She said the color turned purpley red. The red dye shifted toward blue with repeated washing and exposure to perspiration. Red plus blue makes purple.
Another Festivus miracle!
Posted by: umami | May 08, 2022 at 05:41 PM
Hi Ron E.
"we still carry a bundle of Christian precepts around with us affecting how we wish the world and people, to be. This aspect of our psyche is important and definitely needs understanding – before we try to understand other people."
It is often in keeping an open mind we learn to do both.
If you understood what this woman values, you may not wish to place your values over her, or mark her as an example of all the old of society, but take another look at them and see them for what they are: important.
It is in trying to understand others that we may find opportunities to examine and better understand ourselves.
And it all starts with an effort to see and hear better.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 08, 2022 at 07:42 PM
That reference of yours? I googled “Call of the Great Master”, and apparently it’s an RSSB book written by Maharaj Sawan Singh. I’m guessing Daryaiyal Kapoor would be a follower. Not very clear what he’s referring to, specifically, but in general terms I suppose he’s discussing some event in his life that he chose to look on as miraculous intervention by his Master, in his (the disciple’s) favor. Is that about right?
Actually, in a way, this kind of adds to what I’d been saying.
See, Spence had been arguing that trying to pin down some rational explanation is a buzz-killer, as far as the wonder element. And my objection had been, that it’s not, really, and knowing the mechanism actually adds to the wonder of it; and, what’s more, when properly approached knowing the “how” actually *enhances* the wow element rather than diminishing it. Like how when you look at a rainbow you appreciate the beauty of it; but also, and in addition, if you’re so constituted, you can further find wonder, and indeed pleasure, by contemplating the natural processes that come together to bring together this wonderful and fragile (in the sense of ephemeral) phenomenon.
But reading your comment makes me think of an addition factor in play here. Clearly in your example the disciple is not just leaving the phenomenon blank and unexamined and merely accepted at face value, as Spence advocates; he actually chooses to see the literally miraculous in whatever happened to him. Likewise, when you think about it, this lady Brian writes about.
The fact is, we’re evolved to find patterns. I suppose we can train ourselves to suppress that tendency selectively; or maybe some rare individuals come naturally with that tendency suppressed; but in general, at least for things that are important (to the individual concerned), in practice people end up attributing some cause to whatever might have transpired. If they’re not given to seeking out real, true causes, then they tend to latch on to fictional, false causes. Much like that disciple did, and this lady here did as well.
Which provides us with yet another reason why it’s actually a good idea to seek out real, rational, ‘true’ causes for things and phenomena. To spell it out: So as to not leave fertile ground for false beliefs to take root in and to flourish.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 09, 2022 at 09:17 AM
Thanks for clarifying your thinking behind your original comment, in those two subsequent comments addressed to me.
First, you clarify that you’re using term “miracle” only figuratively, not literally. Well fine then, no reason why you shouldn’t refer to something serendipitous by loosely terming it a miracle. But let’s be very clear, this is a very different animal than a literal miracle.
Second, you’ve clarified that you oppose unexamined dismissal of some claim. Again, that sounds fair, generally speaking: except I’m not sure why you’d even bring it up. (That is, if you’re introducing this as a fresh subject, tangential to the original discussion, then sure, why shouldn’t you. But it does not really relate with the original discussion.)
As far as that goes, sure, I agree with you. But let’s unspool that just a bit more, to make sure we’re on the same page as this.
Take this very instance Brian writes about here. This lady here seems to see some kind of literal miracle happening. (Unless she too is speaking only figuratively. But, hell, if everyone’s going to be sometimes using words literally and sometimes figuratively, then it’s going to be difficult to know what anyone’s actually saying at all, and we’d need to preface every discussion with a compendium of terms where we clearly explain, Socratically, how exactly we’re defining our terms! -----So anyway, I’m going to assume the lady in Brian’s article was speaking literally, and meant a literal miracle.)
Going by the sense discussed within the parentheses, while it’s technically true that I can’t dismiss her literal miracle out of hand without clearly examining the individual case in detail; and that is why I’d taken care to insert the “almost” in my original comment addressed to you; but still, you know what they say: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, or words to that effect. To claim that a literal miracle has happened within the contents of one’s closet is an extraordinary claim; and while technically this isn’t quite in accord with the steps of the scientific method, but still, in a rough-and-ready everyday kind of heuristic, it would be safe, and in keeping with a broadly scientific worldview, to dismiss such a claim (about a literal miracle) out of hand, even without investigation --- unless such a claim is accompanied with compelling evidence.
Are we agreed on that?
(This kind of takes us back to that long-drawn discussion of ours, about a scientific worldview --- where how we arrive, in practice, at every element within the broader worldview is not quite identical with the actual step-by-step details of the scientific method itself. Otherwise every time some random madman or charlatan made some crazy claim, you’d either have to rush in to conduct a thorough formal investigation, or else you’d have to stay literally agnostic about every crazy claim made; and that last is basically “keeping your mind so open that your brain falls out”, to paraphrase Sagan I think it was, and which is the point I was trying to make by bringing up Shadowfax in that past discussion of ours.)
Let me now focus on this part of your second comment to me: “The reason, AR, why I love this story is that Brian Ji doesn't try to explain it. He accepts it.”
Now I realize we’re wading more and more into semantics here, but it seems to me apposite, at this stage, because clearly you’re using words ...well, somewhat differently than commonly used, and certainly differently than I’d imagined it. Whence I suppose my disagreement with your original comment --- I’m thinking it’s not a real disagreement at all, but merely a misunderstanding over semantics. Like the “miracle” thing, and now this:
Clearly you’re using the word “explanation” to mean an unjustified papering-over. That isn’t how I would normally use that word, and that isn’t how I’d viewed that word when I saw it in your original comment. To me the word “explanation” means “a true explanation”, generally speaking. The other kind of explanation would be a “pseudo-explanation”. Clearly you’re using the word “explanation” here to mean “pseudo-explanation”.
Using the word “explanation” literally, I suppose you’re agreed with me, that seeking and offering explanations does not take away from the wonder or worth of a phenomenon or an experience? I hope the answer is Yes; because absolutely, I agree with you that throwing out pseudo-explanations does no one any good.
(Except, I have to say, I’d then have to wonder why you’re bringing in this angle at all. Why even talk about pseudo-explanations at all, and why commend Brian on not trying to come out with one in this instance? Unless you’re suggesting that that is something he’s generally given to doing? Because I don’t think that’s true; I personally have found Brian’s approach scientific enough, generally speaking --- that is, in keeping strictly with the scientific method where apposite, and more loosely with a broad scientific worldview where that latter is what is called for --- and not pseudo-scientific, at all.)
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 09, 2022 at 09:38 AM
Oh, and Spence, in addition to the above: What I said to Dungeness just now.
If you're going to advocate for keeping things open, rather than going for closure (in terms of a rational explanation for things), then my essential argument was that first, the rational explanation takes nothing away (on which it seems, basis your two comments to me, we're agreed), and further that it may actually enhance our pleasure in something.
But that apart, here's the thing. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does our pattern-seeking brain. If you go out of your way not to fill it up with rational explanations for phenomena observed, then while a very few exceptional people might be able to train themselves to keep themselves actually open-minded, but in practice most people are going to fill that gap up with the easiest-accessed random nonsense that comes their way or that takes their fancy: and chances are that such random nonsense, whether religious or otherwise, will turn out to be wrong. As with Dungeness's example, from the RSSB book, and as with this lady here.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 09, 2022 at 09:45 AM
"This lady here seems to see some kind of literal miracle happening."
Not sure. She can't quite explain it, so she has chosen to elevate the experience to "Miracle" and seems to enjoy doing so. This allows her some freedom to imagine fantastic possibilities. I like that very much, and say "bravo! Yes, a true miracle!" but only in that light.
We already know there are no such things as miracles, in the sense that there are no events that escape the laws governing reality. Everything is governed by law. But we don't know all the laws. And having something occur outside of what we know, that reminds us we don't know everything, is a good thing. A wonderful mystery.
Paradoxically, should there be saints in this world, they would not have the pleasure of miracles, but they might have the ability to work things out on a different set of laws they can access. Laws that are just as real here as any known laws. But no mystery.
Rational explanations using what is known are not actually scientific, because they close the door to science with scientific sounding explanations.
The need to explain things away as nothing new is a very bad habit. It requires explaining things that may actually be the result of other new dynamics. They are practical explanations for non-scientists to dismiss strange stuff and get on with their lives. That's OK. It's practical. But it impedes science when it tries to lead the way without investigation.
Some practical folks think the need to explain things in scientific terms, from known existing principles, is scientific.
It is only one small part of science that actually follows the more important piece: Open minded scientific study, investigation, learning.
Discovery is where science starts. Explanations happen downstream.
But where explanations start at the top, pushing discovery away as unnecessary, there you do not have science. You have Pseudo science. And "practical" thinking, which is not actually scientific.
This is one of the reasons why science can plod so slowly. But necessarily so.
It is the discovery that has all the wonder of science. Though at times Science demonstrates the result was not from a new force or dynamic. But actually, science today has many more laws, forces and dynamics than before. Yet reality hasn't changed! What a strange thing, right?
Occam must be turning over in his grave! No, reality isn't quite so simple!
The tendency to explain all things within what we know today has been very roundly disproven by science itself, which is constantly discovering new stuff causing events all the time.
The more closely we can examine things, the more stuff we never knew before comes to light.
So, before throwing out tired explanations, we first acknowledge we don't actually know, and then try to....
That's a miracle!
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 09, 2022 at 12:18 PM
@ AR : [ If they’re not given to seeking out real, true causes, then they tend to latch on to fictional, false causes. Much like that disciple did, and this lady here did as well.]
Hi Appreciative, you've nailed it. Thank you for helping me sort out my
thoughts. Multiple fuses failing to function... averting massive damage to
property as well as to the reputation of the Indians illustrates a beautiful
story of causation. No less so because it's mysterious and remains
unsolved. They examined the fuses afterwards and found them fully
functional (the fuses worked successfully in subsequent trials). So,
rather than attributing it to "random" failures and dropping a further
exam or latching onto divine intervention, it becomes a more intriguing
tapestry. Thorough investigation and intuition come into play. Science
Posted by: Dungeness | May 09, 2022 at 04:12 PM
@ Spence : [ It is only one small part of science that actually follows the more important piece: Open minded scientific study, investigation, learning. ]
Wonderful explanation (entirety), Spence. I think it affected me subliminally and I tried to
channel it in a subsequent post.
Posted by: Dungeness | May 09, 2022 at 04:47 PM
I'm sorry, Spence, but your last post addressed to me is just a random bunch of platitudes that don't address anything I said --- although you do lift a single sentence from my post to quote out of context and riff off of. I mean, no one can possibly object to what you're saying here, but why even bring all of that in? I'm not going into this another time, because I've already spelt out what I wanted to say very clearly, in all of the portions of my post that you've simply ignored here.
Anyway, I don't want to force the issue, beyond just pointing out that I note the evasion, the side-step. If you don't wish to get into a clear discussion of the issues I'd raised in my post, well then I'm happy to step back, no issues.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 09, 2022 at 09:57 PM
I'm sorry if I misunderstood.
You had mentioned closure, which science doesn't advocate.
Keep in mind actual scientists doing actual science. They are looking for what no one knows yet. They are seeking discovery. Active scientists are very cautious to dismiss findings as simply something already known.
One of the most famous examples of this flaw was committed by Edison. He noted that when he opened and closed one circuit to turn on or off a new light bulb, he heard another circuit, completely independent of the first, click in unison. He presumed it was a power draw issue. And went on studying how to make better light bulbs.
But Fessendon in Canada, and Marconi in Italy realized this was due to the electromagnetic fields produced by the current running through the wires. And so Radio was born for the world. And blown by Edison.
Drawing conclusive statements is a very touchy and careful process for those actually practicing science.
An open, investigative, Appreciative mind is best.
So, let us enjoy the miracles we can see and the possible mechanisms behind it, without concluding it can't be miraculous. All of creation is miraculous and doubly so that we can actually, occasionally, understand a fraction of it.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 10, 2022 at 08:42 AM
"An open, investigative, Appreciative mind is best."
Heh, yes, it is, indeed it is. *raises toast in appreciation*
(Incidentally, and rereading my own comment, that may have come out sounding somewhat confrontational. I didn't mean it that way --- as perhaps you would know without my clarifying, given that we go back some way and you know me by now, or at least my online persona. All I wanted to do was quite literally to point out the evasion, as it appeared to me, without pushing for anything more than that, that's all. Apologies if the result came out sounding less than fully courteous.)
"You had mentioned closure, which science doesn't advocate."
Science per se, the scientific method per se, doesn't, true. But a scientific worldview does. We've done this dance before, this long dance spanning long days. And concluded it with your agreement, remember?
I don't want to beat this thing to death, and in any case I've clearly spelt this out in this thread itself, but still, to summarize in brief what I'm saying, one last time:
(1) Our pattern-seeking mind seeks closure. There may be the occasional exception, but for most, if that closure is not arrived at with rational explanations, then wild irrational ones will be latched on to. As demonstrated. So that it makes sense to go for closure.
(2) Closure will not take away from the wonder, or from full appreciation, not necessarily. In fact, done right, it will only enhance wonder, because you now have an additional thing to appreciate, this mechanism, the how, as well the larger picture that that opens up, chaotic and unpredictable but beautiful nevertheless.
(3) You seem to see all explanations as pseudo-explanatlons. Both generally, as well as specifically when it comes to Brian's treatment. I disagree on both counts. In case of Brian's treatment of issues, I disagree absolutely. And in case of pseudo-explanations vis-a-vis true explanations, as well as the other one about miracles, this appeared to me a semantic misunderstanding rather than an agreement over the issue itself. I was inviting your confirmation for this, because otherwise we do have (yet another) real disagreement on our hands, that maybe we might profit from clearly examining and discussing, if we both wish to that is.
(4) As far as your last comment, although this touches on our earlier discussion, and I'd not wanted to wade into those waters all over again, but seriously, the lay person's approach must needs, necessarily, differ from that of the scientist-in-action. That goes for the scientist himself, in fields other than his own, or at least, other than those he's willing to expend effort on. Because otherwise we'll all walk around gaping like idiots, looking on with round-eyed naivety bordering on the literally imbecilic, seeing every Nigerian prince and every scamster and every thing that science hasn't actually directly examined via some specific paper, as an open case, that we must necessarily remain literally agnostic on. That would be as much of a parody and a caricature of the real scientific temper, as Spock's emotion-free uber-rationality would be of real actual rationality (or at least, not so much Spock's, because even he was half-human after all, but his Vulcan brethren's).
(5) Tying this back to Brian's correspondent --- and, if she's reading this, without any disrespect meant towards her, but only to properly discuss the issue she raises, as presumably she herself would want otherwise she wouldn't have raised it publically --- it's silly to remain so very open to what she describes as to seriously consider the possibility that that might be a true literal miracle. Not unless she's able to furnish some extraordinary evidence to back up such an extravagant claim. Lacking such evidence, and even in the absence of specific investigation, it is entirely and perfectly in keeping with a scientific temper to find closure in the kind of solution umami describes, in a post on this thread.
(6) To clarify: this doesn't mean I'm discouraging actual research. By all means, if someone wants to take the trouble to actually go research this curious incident she describes, then sure, that's best of all, certainly. What we're talking of now is what it might be reasonable to conclude in the absence of such investigation --- which after all I'm not seeing anyone setting out to actually perform here.
..........And my "short" summary ends up extending to a long full-blown post, somehow, and quite in spite of myself. Nah, I won't hammer this poor beast any more after this, and in any case I've said all I can on this, already. No more from me on this, although obviously I'll read with great interest any response you might want to make. (Perfectly fine if you wish to drop it here, that's cool too, no issues.)
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 10, 2022 at 09:40 AM
"(3) You seem to see all explanations as pseudo-explanatlons"
Let me clarify. Science helps us build a better understanding of what we can't see with better, more accurate explanations.
But practical folks attempt to explain things that are new to them using what they know of science.
That's OK too. Science does that also, creates theories and then it does something else... Science creates testable hypotheses. Science doesn't accept anything as fact without rigorous testing.
The problem is when practical explanations are taken as fact without any testing.
All of science today exists on the faith that all things cannot be explained by existing knowledge. And every day science proves this with new findings.
But the practical thinker, as far as learning and knowledge are concerned, dismisses all things new as merely the old stuff in a different format.
In this current post neither Brian Ji nor the woman in the narrative, dismiss her experience in the practical way. And I say that's very good.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 11, 2022 at 06:20 AM
"what it might be reasonable to conclude in the absence of such investigation --- which after all I'm not seeing anyone setting out to actually perform here."
My suggestion is to leave that open to investigation, if one can do so practically.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 11, 2022 at 06:22 AM
One more point. There has been quite a bit of research demonstrating that people see what they are conditioned to see and miss things they aren't looking for.
So de-program yourself with open minded observation. Things that were invisible to you may become visible!
And the classic invisible Gorilla experiment
Posted by: Spence Tepper | May 11, 2022 at 06:29 AM
"My suggestion is to leave that open to investigation, if one can do so practically."
Indeed, Spence. I'm 100% with you there. Like I said, in no way am I discouraging actual research. But the point was, in the absence of this research, then what is the reasonable conclusion one draws? *That* is the question. Like I clearly mentioned in my post. When you receive an offer from a Nigerian prince that you'll be paid one million dollars if only you did such and such and such, then sure, by all means investigate it: but pending that investigation, lacking that investigation, what is the correct conclusion one draws? It's silly to remain literally agnostic in every such instance. (By the way, obviously I'm not likening this dress thing to a scam. Merely pointing out how a very many things in our everyday life it is silly to remain agnostic about, even in the absence of direct, specific research.)
Once again, Spence, you're conflating two separate things, and ending up with a conclusion that does not actually follow from your premise. Your starting point is that we go for actual research where possible/practicable. And I'm fully with you there. But then you suggest that we remain agnostic about this business even when no research is actually happening, as if that somehow makes it more likely that you'll do the research. Which is not true at all. Whether you'll actually conduct research or not is a whole separate question, and I'm all for it, like you.
So I'm criticizing your approach, as spelt out in your last post, on three, no four grounds:
(1) First, because it comes from a misunderstanding of what a scientific temper entails. (Won't go further into that, because it harks back to our earlier dicussion.)
(2) Second, because it's utterly silly. We can easily do an argumentum ad absurdum on your proposal by seeing what all things we'll then need to remain literally agnostic about. Like the Nigerian prince, for instance.
(3) And third, because it isn't as if remaining in naive wide-eyed agnosticism about everything does anything to actually further research, as you're clearly if implicitly claiming here, by conflating two unrelated things, . Doing the research is altogether a separate matter from what conclusion you provisionally draw in the absence of the research ---- and, again, I'm all for it, for actually doing the research itself.
(4) And you don't mention it here in these two posts, but since you do in all of your earlier posts: No, the wonder thing, the appreciation thing, has nothing to do with this either. That too is a conflation of two unrelated things, like I'd discussed earlier on.
"de-program yourself with open minded observation."
Agreed 100% with you there, and appreciate that that is something we'd do well to always remind ourselves.
But I don't agree that has anything to do with whether every trivial color-changing dress, and every Nigerian-prince scam-letter, and every tree branch in the woods that might be ghost, is something we need to remain scrupulously and literally agnostic about until specifically researched, in order to "deprogram ourselves with open-minded observation". Once again, that's conflating two separate and unrelated (or at least, only tangentially related) things.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 11, 2022 at 07:15 AM
Heh, I just realized, I just, compulsively, rushed in to respond, despite saying I wouldn't.
Well, at least I caught myself retrospectively, but I guess I need to work more on the aware thing, eh? *rueful smile*
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | May 11, 2022 at 07:39 AM