Love’s Mysterious Difference: God is love (I John 4:7)

This post is a follow-up to this one and the comment section.  It may be we can come at this issue of mystery and love from a different angle.  Since focusing on the word “mystery” did not get us very far, perhaps we should focus on the word “love”.

Further, I think some confusion could have been avoided if we would have been more specific as to what type of love we were calling mysterious or more mysterious than all the examples given by Bernard.  It could be that some aspects of love are even more mysterious than other aspects.  We can see this in how the western world understands the word “love” and its use in context.  In English, we use the word “love” to say, “I love this bread” and we use the same word to say “I will love my spouse forever.”  The same word is being used, but very different meanings are in play.

In seminary, we learned that in the Greek, there are several different words used for love, three of which are pertinent to this discussion.  The first is eros, by which is meant sexual desire and passion.  The second is philia, by which is meant deep friendship.  This love is marked by deep loyalty and protectiveness, what we might find among co-workers, in sports, or in what soldiers and police persons often exhibit, but of course may have no erotic aspect whatsoever.  The third is agape.  This is a radical and self-less love for everyone, even the stranger.  The Christian tradition took this even further and said it was love toward even one’s enemies.  We are told this is the type love God has for us and even that God “is” this type love—God isthis love in an ontological way.  This love is God and a gift from God to creation by grace.
Now, it could very well be that Bernard was using hunger to show that it is much like eros.  We know there is a biological sex “drive” and that physical changes take place within our bodies and minds, which can be empirically demonstrated and detected.  All this is much like how hunger seems to function, except hunger is an even more powerful drive because without its satisfaction, we die.  The same is not true if we don’t have sex.  Still, they are similar in many ways and perhaps this is what Bernard meant. 
However, I would hope people would have been able to figure out which type of love I was speaking of, just by context, perhaps I should have been clearer.  I was certainly not speaking of eros, or erotic “love”.  I was speaking more of the philia type, but most specifically, the agape type love.  With this type, I see huge differences between it and biological urges/drives like hunger and much more mysterious than such urges/drives.
Hopefully then, noting the differences within the word “love” itself, will help us understand each other’s view a little better.    

Bernard and JP, please review this link, specifically Section 4.

The view in this link (which is a neutral academic site) that comes closest to describing my own is noted here:
“Expressionist love is similar to behaviorism in that love is considered an expression of a state of affairs towards a beloved, which may be communicated through language (words, poetry, music) or behavior (bringing flowers, giving up a kidney, diving into the proverbial burning building), but which is a reflection of an internal, emotional state, rather than an exhibition of physical responses to stimuli. Others in this vein may claim love to be a spiritual response, the recognition of a soul that completes one’s own soul, or complements or augments it. The spiritualist vision of love incorporates mystical as well as traditional romantic notions of love, but rejects the behaviorist or physicalist explanations.
Those who consider love to be an aesthetic response would hold that love is knowable through the emotional and conscious feeling it provokes yet which cannot perhaps be captured in rational or descriptive language: it is instead to be captured, as far as that is possible, by metaphor or by music.”
Bernard, in his attempt to show that love was no more mysterious than biological drives or the complex behavior of physical objects, seemed to be proposing the same view of love as noted here:
“Some may hold that love is physical, i.e., that love is nothing but a physical response to another whom the agent feels physically attracted to. Accordingly, the action of loving encompasses a broad range of behavior including caring, listening, attending to, preferring to others, and so on. (This would be proposed by behaviorists). Others (physicalists, geneticists) reduce all examinations of love to the physical motivation of the sexual impulse-the simple sexual instinct that is shared with all complex living entities, which may, in humans, be directed consciously, sub-consciously or pre-rationally toward a potential mate or object of sexual gratification.
Physical determinists, those who believe the world to entirely physical and that every event has a prior (physical cause), consider love to be an extension of the chemical-biological constituents of the human creature and be explicable according to such processes. In this vein, geneticists may invoke the theory that the genes (an individual’s DNA) form the determining criteria in any sexual or putative romantic choice, especially in choosing a mate. However, a problem for those who claim that love is reducible to the physical attractiveness of a potential mate, or to the blood ties of family and kin which forge bonds of filial love, is that it does not capture the affections between those who cannot or wish not to reproduce-that is, physicalism or determinism ignores the possibility of romantic, ideational love—it may explain eros, but not philia or agape.
Behaviorism, which stems from the theory of the mind and asserts a rejection of Cartesian dualism between mind and body, entails that love is a series of actions and preferences which is thereby observable to oneself and others. The behaviorist theory that love is observable (according to the recognizable behavioral constraints corresponding to acts of love) suggests also that it is theoretically quantifiable: that A acts in a certain way (actions X,Y,Z) around B, more so than he does around C, suggests that he “loves” B more than C. The problem with the behaviorist vision of love is that it is susceptible to the poignant criticism that a person’s actions need not express their inner state or emotions—A may be a very good actor. Radical behaviorists, such as B. F. Skinner, claim that observable and unobservable behavior such as mental states can be examined from the behaviorist framework, in terms of the laws of conditioning. On this view, that one falls in love may go unrecognised by the casual observer, but the act of being in love can be examined by what events or conditions led to the agent’s believing she was in love: this may include the theory that being in love is an overtly strong reaction to a set of highly positive conditions in the behavior or presence of another.”
*So my questions to Bernard and JP are five-fold:
First, where do you fall within the behaviorist/physicalist/determinist view of love?  Do these three capture entirely your views in this area?  Why or why not?
Second, whether you agree with my view or not, would you agree that such a view (if one holds it) leaves room for many aspects of love to be mysterious in ways other aspects to being human are not, such as biological urges?
Third, if you do not agree with my view, please review the following and tell me, given what is noted by the writer, why we still shouldn’t view love as a greater mystery in some aspects than other first-person experiences, such as stubbing our toe or feeling hunger pains:
“If love does possess “a nature” which is identifiable by some means-a personal expression, a discernible pattern of behavior, or other activity, it can still be asked whether that nature can be properly understood by humanity. Love may have a nature, yet we may not possess the proper intellectual capacity to understand it-accordingly, we may gain glimpses perhaps of its essence-as Socrates argues in The Symposium, but its true nature being forever beyond humanity’s intellectual grasp. Accordingly, love may be partially described, or hinted at, in a dialectic or analytical exposition of the concept but never understood in itself. Love may therefore become an epiphenomenal entity, generated by human action in loving, but never grasped by the mind or language. Love may be so described as a Platonic Form, belonging to the higher realm of transcendental concepts that mortals can barely conceive of in their purity, catching only glimpses of the Forms’ conceptual shadows that logic and reason unveil or disclose.”
Fourth, given my view of love, relying as it does upon a spiritual aspect, wouldn’t the mystery different than that of hunger reside in that very question—“does love have a spiritual aspect?”  Unless one can say it most definitely does not, because none exists, there then must be some difference as to the degree of mystery, true?  Isn’t the difference inherent in not being sure one way or the other whether or not there is a mystical/spiritual aspect to agape love?

Fifth, to this claim regarding the mystical/spiritual aspect to love (God is love), we would think an agnostic could only respond: “I don’t know.”  Since he doesn’t know whether or not God or the spiritual exists (maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t), he must remain open to the Christian’s assertion and cannot rule it out.  Thus, to the claim love is mysterious in a way hunger is not, because of this aspect-he must remain neutral, of no opinion, because otherwise it would require he comment upon the existence of God or the spiritual.  Thus, how can an agnostic disagree or object to my assertion, as an agnostic?
If Bernard and JP will address these questions, perhaps we can get closer to what each is trying to communicate, whether or not we end up agreeing upon everything or every point.
I can see where an atheist/physicalist/materialist would say, “I can’t agree with Darrell’s view here, that there is a mystical/spiritual aspect (God is love) to love, because the spiritual/God does not exist”.  However, since Bernard or JP have never come right out and asserted anything like this, as Burk has, I still do not understand their objection to my claim agape love is more mysterious than hunger.
Putting that aside, I am still baffled as to why Bernard and JP think love no more mysterious than eating a sandwich, regardless.  How is love no more mysterious than experiencing hunger, rolling pumpkins, sneezes, or cars?  What reasonable person would suggest such?  It has been my experience that most people, both educated and not, now or in the past, think love to be one of the most mysterious aspects to existence, our lives, there is.  Thus the reason it has been the source and topic of so much poetry, literature, art, song, and other creative forms for centuries.  It clearly cannot be exhausted.  That Bernard and JP do not share that understanding is rather shocking frankly.  What type of world-view or sensibility would fear recognizing love as mysterious in ways that a rolling pumpkin, hunger, or sneezes are not?  Why this fear?  Does the fear arise from thinking such a view opens the door to the spiritual (God) existing?  I suspect so.  If one is agnostic however, whence the fear?  What is the worse that could happen if we thought love mysterious in a way hunger is not, especially if one has already admitted that love is indeed mysterious?  If we agree love is mysterious, why the parsing and splitting of hairs over the depth/difference of its mystery?  Again, this is baffling.
To repeat: I think love is mysterious in a way hunger is not (I don’t think there is any significant mystery to hunger at all), because the, “…spiritualist vision of love incorporates mystical as well as traditional romantic notions of love…”  This is further qualified by the Christian claim that God is love (agape) and that love is reflected in humans by way of creation/our conscious selves/souls, therefore its source and origin is not entirely biological or physical.
Of course, one need not agree to this aspect of love to still make the case that love is mysterious in a way hunger is not (as noted in the link I gave where even an atheist notes the difference).  Again, hunger (the biological urge/drive) does not meet the criteria of intentionality, will/choice, deep desire/longing (to love and be loved) over a life-time (yet if not met either way, we live, we work, we go on), deep introspection, and the “incalculable” relational aspect.  All these aspects are still relevant, even without the spiritual aspect.
However, I do not need those aspects to still assert love is more mysterious than hunger, because what certainly makes agape love mysterious in a way different than hunger is the mystical aspect or the assertion that “God is love” and all human examples of that type of love find their origin and source in our being images bearers of God, we are capable of that type of love by way of creation, regardless of whether we recognize God existing or not.  The sun shines on the grateful and the ungrateful.  Notice too that such is what makes agapelove intrinsically relational (and “incalculable” in that sense), something hunger doesn’t even come close to having to the same degree, if at all.  Hunger cares nothing about relation nor does its existence have anything to do with the social aspect to being human (which is intrinsic to love).  Bernard tried to tell us, “but, people get together to eat” without realizing he was making my point not his.  Hunger is not why people eat together.  People eat together because of philia or agape love.  He responded, “but you brought the relational” up.  No, relation is intrinsic to philia and agape love; there is no need to bring it up—it is already there.  But to smuggle in the relational or social to try and show love no more mysterious than hunger is to prove my very point.  If there is something one can say about one aspect to being human that one cannot say of another, then within that difference resides the greater degree of mystery.
Finally, this *link and one of the writer’s views (noted below) sums up very nicely how we might think about love and in so doing also tells us why love is so much more mysterious than hunger or whatever other mistaken category we might imagine could be compared to it.  To see this all one need do is replace every use of the word “love” in the quote below with the word “hunger” and one can see how utterly false it would be to say that love is no more mysterious than hunger.
“The English metaphysician F.H. Bradley, who for a short period in the early twentieth century was hailed as Britain’s greatest philosopher, showed us that fundamentally, love is an experience beyond self: love is the experience of the Absolute. Whatever is your life, whether you are a motor mechanic, a dentist, or an astronaut, says Bradley, love is what you experience when you become aware what you really are – when the subject and the object becomes one, whole and indivisible. That is a ‘real’ experience – every other experience is a mere ‘appearance’. What you believe is real experience is like watching a 3D movie. It caters to your senses, it can be either pleasure or pain, but it is never an experience of deepest truth, as love is [can we say this of hunger?]. The problem is that none of us can remain in the present because we live in time, and time is constantly changing. When we learn to stand still, not at the level of the body, but at the level of the mind, and become aware that we are not what we thought we were, then love may manifest itself in experience and become absolute for a simple split second, or more. In Buddhism this is called ‘Enlightenment’; in Christianity, ‘Heaven’; and in our ordinary day-to-day life, ‘Happiness’. So love is happiness experienced at the level of the mind, devoid of time, when you become one with the Universe, without cares, worries, pain or pleasure [is that how we experience hunger?]. Don’t seek it, go after it or chase it, simply experience it – then you will ‘know’ what love is.” -Ignatius Udunuwara, Univ. of New England, NSW

Actually, if we were to look at this a little deeper, we might say that when we replace words like “love” with words like “hunger” and understand them to be the same type of thing, we actually experience hell—we turn heaven into hell.  Hell is an urge that can never be satisfied fully, we always get hungry again.  Hell is selfish and cares only for feeding its own stomach.  Hell is about me and my wants.  Hell is personal consumption.  Hell like hunger is a lack, while love is a satisfaction, not in feeding ourselves, but in meeting the needs of others.  Physically, and literally, when I feed someone else, I don’t get less hungry.  The lack remains; the hunger remains.  However, love is the very opposite.  When I give it away, when I feed it to others, I find I am full now and I have more than when I began.  I am satisfied.  Obviously I’m speaking metaphorically, but if one cannot perceive the difference here, what then are we to say?  If one cannot “get” the difference, then maybe this is just a difference of sensibility.  If so, there is not much I can do about that.  Such is not an educational matter or lack of information; it is not a matter of reasoned argument or logic—it is something else entirely.   

Love is the very opposite of satiating our own hunger or needs and why we experience happiness, or heaven on earth, when we are “in” it and living “out” of it.  As the writer notes, love is “an experience of deepest truth”.  And that is a great mystery indeed-and why we can say, love is truth and truth is love.  Hunger is not an experience of “deepest truth”.  Hunger is just a physical experience, like a sneeze, or any other bodily function or sensation we are aware of mentally.  We cannot reduce one experience to all others, make them all the same, and in that difference, in the distance between a hunger pain/physical sensation, and love, there is a significant difference in mystery, one we can only try and capture, however partially, in poetry, song, art, and philosophy.   We also capture it when we, without words, simply love in our doing and being.  The two (the articulation in art/philosophy and the act of loving) together, speak of an infinite distance between the one experience (hunger) and the other (love). 
I think I’m done here.  I’m hungry; I’m going to go get something to eat.

###

*Before making any general comments or asking follow-up questions, please quote my questions in order and respond to each.  Thank you.

*As an aside, this link might be good for reference too.  From the link (Section 6):
“‘Why do we love?’ It has been suggested above that any account of love needs to be able to answer some such justificatory question.”
No such question need be asked of why we hunger, sneeze, cough, urinate, or defecate, nor does anyone contemplate a justificatory “why?” as to these physical events in any sort of reflective, introspective way—they are purely physiological/biological reflexes.  We seek no justification for these natural processes in our bodies (they are self-explanatory) like we do love, although we study these reflexes and try to learn more for biological/medical reasons.  And these bodily functions have never, as noted of Helen of Troy, had the effect of launching a thousand ships, nor have the poets, song writers, or musicians spoken and sung of their mysteries.  To assert that love is no more mysterious than our experience/sensation of hunger is to reveal, I believe, an egregious lack of historical, cultural, social, and philosophical awareness (which goes to what I was speaking to as far as sensibility, or lack thereof, and against such deficits no argument can prevail).

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192 Responses to Love’s Mysterious Difference: God is love (I John 4:7)

  1. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “The part of my argument that is not evidence based is inductive logic, which we assume in order to generate any knowledge.”

    But how did that assumption “get in” your brain if not evidenced/sensory based?

    “So, back to experience. It doesn't work to claim experience plays the same role in processes drawing conclusions about both physical and spiritual words.”

    I just noted that. You cannot use the earth or some other physical object or force to draw conclusions regarding love or the spiritual. What are you talking about?

    “In the physical case, experience yields information via the senses.”

    With love, experience also (hopefully) gives us information via the senses. And then through a holistic process of learning, we come to any conclusions.

    I’ve addressed your question over and over, answered it, oh, about 50 times now, while you continue to ignore mine. I think at this point, unless you tell me you are not going to address them, I will just keep repeating my questions and comments until you address them.

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  2. Darrell says:

    We can start here (wherever you see a question mark, please respond):

    When it comes to love (remember the point of the post?), all aspects of love, any conclusions you’ve come to regarding what you think love consists of, means, points toward (perhaps it points toward nothing, or just our biology) you do take into consideration, along with all the other holistic factors, your personal experiences of love, true? For instance, you’ve considered your personal experience (sensory/inner thought life/emotions) of your love for your mother, father, siblings, friends, wife, children, and so on, right? You’ve also considered your experience of being loved, right?

    Now, in that, you’ve still been wise enough to know that while those experiences are very important, one must make sure those experiences are not the only factors, on which, he is basing his conclusions, right? You’ve placed those experiences alongside or within the holistic matrix of all the other factors we talked about, right?

    So, unlike the process you used to come to any conclusions you’ve have regarding the sun, or moon, trees, or cars, which we could understand (for the most part anyway) by physical models alone, as far as love, you must include your personal experience as part of that holistic process, true? After understanding all we could about the sun, we rarely (never?) need to ask ourselves, “But how do I feel about this, or how do I experience this information.” Not so with love, however, right? Thus your comparisons to physical modeling fail and are irrelevant.

    Now, depending upon the narrative you inhabit and all those other factors within that holistic process, you may conclude love is like hunger and no more mysterious than such. Or, like me, one may conclude otherwise.

    In neither case, regardless of the conclusion drawn, were the laws of physics or evolution violated and neither view clashes with science or is illogical.

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  3. Darrell says:

    Here is a summary of this conversation and I will also (for the 50th time or so) answer your question:

    First you told us the information could not “get in”. Answer: Holistic process. Then, you told us, “Okay, it gets in, but there is no content.” Answer: Yes, Plato, Kant, Jesus, the western cannon, and currently those like Polkinghorne and Collins. Then, you told us, “Okay, there is content, but where does it originally come from?” Answer: Holistic process. Then you told us, “Okay, but the content is wrong”, which just begs the question.

    And I’ve replied to each question regarding how the information gets in and where it comes from thus: From the same place any content comes from, our experience, reason, education, science, conversation, reading, this holistic process, all of which we interpret through the narrative we inhabit, which “gets into” our brains.

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  4. Hi Darrell

    Here you make a very important point, and I think it's worth dwelling upon:

    “With love, experience also (hopefully) gives us information via the senses.”

    Yes, indeed, we get much experience about love via the senses. the question is, can this give us any information about the spiritual, or extra-sensory world? If it can, how does the information get in, so to speak? If not, how can the process reach a conclusion about the extra-sensory world, if there is no such information to start with?

    It seems to me, either these experiences do yield genuine information about the extra-sensory world, or we can validly infer aspects of this world based upon our information about the physical world. Which of these things do you think is going on? If the first, the question of how the experience yields up such information is vital, and once a model is proposed, I suspect a clash with science.

    If the latter, I'd be interested to see the line of reasoning involved. I'm not aware of any. The most famous approaches, like Kantian ethics, start by making assumptions about the spiritual world for the get go, and infer for there. You may have a different approach in mind.

    Your summary of the conversation to date does rather suggest you're not yet understanding my case. I told you, for the outset, that any process by which information got in would clash with our scientific models. To say 'okay it gets in, but there is no content' would be contradictory (what is the it in question?). Rather, I said that a holistic process can only lead to conclusions about the spiritual world if some information is first available from which this can be inferred. This is the equivalent point to my first. Your third categorization is also wrong. I simply said, if such content does in fact reflect the truth of the spiritual world, then there must be some way of it getting in (the original point re-expressed). I at no point have said this content is wrong, only that if we believe there is reliable content, we must believe it got there some way. So, the same point again.

    Now, you asked how the inductive assumption gets in? Evolution. We are clearly evolved to behave according to regularity. Because evolution acts without foresight, it can only use the past as its filter, and so information processing under evolution has an inductive quality, where past experience is used to produce future expectation. Because the past has displayed useful uniformity, this intellectual tendency has proven useful enough to be selected for.

    So, to return to the key challenge, let me put my question another way. You argue there is a holistic process, which you do not wish to parse, that produces knowledge, however imperfect, of the spiritual world. I am essentially asking, what is the method by which this process produces reliable results. Why does the human mind tend towards accurate, rather than inaccurate, representations of the spiritual world? We know how our models of the physical world are moderated, via feedback by way of the senses. How does your holistic process moderate itself, such that it tends to accurate, rather than inaccurate representations of spiritual reality? My proposed case is that if you answer that, you will betray a methodology at odds with science.

    Bernard

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  5. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    You have told us that by “get in” you mean education, reading, etc., the entire holistic process. Is that correct?

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  6. Hi Darrell

    No, not correct. Education etc are methods which information is transmitted, and implications are drawn out, but the source of this information, if it is an accurate representation of reality, must be something else. Without this base information, the paths reading and education etc can take us are unconstrained. So, reading might be the means by which information gets into my head, but it can not be the means by which it gets into the system as a whole, there needs to be some sort of initial input (in the case of the physical, this input is sensory). This does not preclude speculative information entering of course, one is free to create number systems, imagine dragons etc.

    Let's change the terminology, to see if it helps you any. Let's talk, rather than information getting in, of a model tending towards reality. So, we can ask, for a given view of the world, be it physical or spiritual, what is the process that leads to this model tending towards reality?

    In physical models, we use sensory feedback to test and adjust our models and, assuming regularity, the models therefore become progressively better fits with reality. Models that converged on inaccurate representations of reality would be found out by their failure to match the scenery data.

    How do you see your models or notions of the spiritual world similarly converging? What is the mechanism? Perhaps this formulation makes my question clearer? My claim is that any such mechanism will run into trouble with our current scientific models.

    Bernard

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  7. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “No, not correct. Education etc are methods which information is transmitted, and implications are drawn out, but the source of this information, if it is an accurate representation of reality, must be something else.”

    The source is the same for all of us. Existence, experience, the world, the universe, history, all that we gather through abstract reasoning, and all interpreted through the narratives we inhabit, which are not empirically founded or based. So I am not suggesting any source not available to all of us. Does that help?

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  8. Darrell says:

    By the way, you did tell us that such was how the information “got in” your brain. I therefore assumed that it “got in” the same way for everyone, reading, conversation, etc (holistic process).

    So the source is the issue, correct? Again, I think the source is the same for all of us.

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  9. Hi Darrell

    Yes, I understand the source of this information. the question is very much, what makes the source in any sense reliable. What makes the process hone in on reality, such that it offers a guide that is at least in part reliable? This is what I mean by information, any means that leads us not just to a model of reality, but a reliable one (this being the aspect of our process that distinguishes it from pure fancy, from unicorns if you like).

    So, perhaps convergence with reality is the better way of putting this. We know the process by which physical models converge on reality. The information provided by the senses allows us to create models that are consistent with this information, and further provide feedback against which the further implications of the model can be tested. So information gets in via the senses, and it is this information that allows us to ensure our process of “existence, experience, the universe, history…” delivers up a model at least consistent with the physical reality.

    It's not at all clear to me how this works for the spiritual equivalent. But, if we believe our spiritual models are converging on reality, we presumably believe in some sort of mechanism that allows/enables such convergence. I'm arguing that any such mechanism creates problems for the current science.

    Bernard

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  10. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Yes, I understand the source of this information. the question is very much, what makes the source in any sense reliable.”

    So you agree the information and source (literally existence) is the same for all of us? If so, then I still don't understand your “how does it get in” question.

    Do you not think existence, our experiences, our learning, our education, our conversations, and all that gives us information is reliable? It is as reliable for you as it is for anyone else, right? What is the alternative? All we have is existence, right?

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  11. Hi Darrell

    We all have the same resources, absolutely. The question becomes, what types of conclusions do these resources warrant? And the way we answer this depends upon the sorts of assumptions we bring to the table. What we can do, despite this, is see if different conclusions are consistent. in other words, is there a set of assumptions that can bring us to both conclusions. If not, the conclusions are inconsistent.

    I'm of the opinion that the statements “science best describes our physical world” and “we have knowledge of the spiritual world” are inconsistent.

    So, I understand how our models of the physical world become ever more reliable. They receive feedback from that physical world via the senses and can be adjusted accordingly. We would say that the senses provide information upon which our models of, and speculations about, the physical world are based. So, our information sources warrant our drawing conclusions about the physical world, because there is information transmission from that world to us, via the senses.

    Now, I think we have to relax some of our assumptions about that physical world in order for the same source of information to warrant us to draw conclusions about the spiritual world. How does the spiritual world provide us with an opportunity to adjust and improve our models? Where is the feedback? (If there is none, then our models are pure speculation, we are dealing in unicorns). I think we can only answer this by relaxing the assumptions we use to describe our physical world. We will, when we identify the feedback mechanism, need to contradict science.

    That's my claim, anyway. If you propose a method by which a model of the spiritual world converges upon its reality, rather than a false version, we can see if this claim has merit in your case.

    Bernard

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  12. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    Okay, we may be getting somewhere…

    “We all have the same resources, absolutely. The question becomes, what types of conclusions do these resources warrant?”

    Okay, but you have completely switched from what you’ve been objecting to. You kept asking what the source was, remember? So you agree that we all have the same information and the same source, correct? And you agree that many people have a very good grasp of these resources, true? In other words, these resources (what we are interpreting through the holistic process) the information, is certainly “in” their brains, true? (otherwise, how could Pisent write, teach, and speak about physics?)

    And, I assume you agree that people like Francis Collins and Andrew Pisent, who certainly have plumb these resources, have good warrant for their conclusions, yes? Or do you think they don’t?

    Are you suggesting that from these resources (existence) we cannot conclude there is a God or a spiritual aspect to existence, or that if we did conclude such, some physical law is violated? I get that you disagree with these people and me, but I’m trying to understand if our coming to these conclusions clash with science or the actual belief in God or the spiritual (the conclusions) clash with science, which would just beg the question? If the coming to these conclusions violates some law of physics or evolution, then are we proof those laws can be violated? Or do the beliefs violate some law? Because, again, that would just beg the question. So is it the process and source (which you seem to have just agreed we all us) that clashes with science (which would mean it clashed with everyone) or the conclusions, which, would just beg the question?

    Answering this question alone might bring this matter to a close.

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  13. Hi Darrell

    No switch. I'm just looking for some terminology that gets us on the same page, as I'm not sure I've made my case clear to you yet.

    So, we're all using experience etc to reach our beliefs, and in this sense, that's our source. But, in the case of the physical model, part of that source consists of information being passed from reality to us via our senses. It's not necessarily perfectly accurate, but it gives us a stream of information against which our models can be calibrated. As such, there is a mechanism by which our models can tend towards reality, so to speak. We can improve our approximations, and in this sense gain knowledge of the physical reality.

    Can we do the same for the spiritual world? Who knows? Here's what I do think though. I think that in order for us to be able to do so, there would have to be a fundamental flaw in our current scientific models. This is because, those models appear to allow no way for our spiritual models to be calibrated. In the sense of the backdrop of reality providing a reference point for our developing models, if information about this backdrop gets in, it does so in a way that would appear to contradict our current understanding of the physical world.

    This is because, whatever we make of the mind and its understandings, each understanding state is apparently accompanied by a physical brain state. So, for understanding to emerge, there needs to be a physical mechanism by which the brain gets itself into that state. And at the point of the information from the spiritual world providing a reference point for our models, that implies some kind of interaction (or a brain that is created with an in-built tendency). Depending upon which of these solutions you go for, you hit an objection from either physics or evolution.

    So, to answer your question explicitly, if we conclude we know something about the spiritual realm, if it exists, we conclude that knowledge somehow makes it into our brain. To conclude this is to run up against science, I think. So, while material models use exactly the same source, the point is that the physical source has an explicit mechanism for entry into the brain, the senses. How would this source work to bring on board knowledge of the spiritual world? That has been my question throughout. I apologize if changes in language have caused confusion here (I've tried data, information source, calibration, tendency etc). They've all been getting at exactly the same point, but as one seems to have caused confusion, I've just kept trying to simplify.

    Think of it in these terms, perhaps. How do you think the process you mention is nudged towards representing spiritual reality, as opposed to the infinite unreal speculations available to the imagination? In physical models, the direction comes from sense data. Where does it come from for spiritual modes?

    Bernard

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  14. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “So, we're all using experience etc to reach our beliefs, and in this sense, that's our source.”

    No. We are all using a holistic process, of which, experience is only one element. The source is existence (all that we can possibly consider—all that can be interpreted through the narratives we inhabit), correct? So, I will ask again:

    So you agree that we all have the same information and the same source, correct? And you agree that many people have a very good grasp of these resources, true? In other words, these resources (what we are interpreting through the holistic process) the information, is certainly “in” their brains, true? (otherwise, how could Pisent write, teach, and speak about physics?)

    Do you agree that all the same information is “in” our brains, via our senses and holistic processing?

    If so, are you suggesting that from these resources/source (existence) we cannot conclude there is a God or a spiritual aspect to existence, or that if we did conclude such, some physical law is violated? I get that you disagree with these people and me, but I’m trying to understand if our coming (the process) to these conclusions clash with science or the actual belief in God or the spiritual (the conclusions) clash with science?

    Answering this question alone might bring this matter to a close.

    Like

  15. Hi Darrell

    Well, whatever way you wish to name the process, we can say for our conclusions about the physical world, that there is a feedback mechanism (sensory data) by which our models home on on reality. Hence, our models tend towards reality, however imperfect they may be.

    Now, this same holistic process/existence/experience (whatever term you prefer) does not appear to have any mechanism compatible with science whereby it can receive feedback from spiritual reality, such that its models home in on the spiritual reality. As such, we are left with nothing but pure fancy.

    My occlusion then, is that those who believe our models of spiritual reality amount to more than fancy (and I'm not judging the reasonableness or otherwise of this stance) must commit to a feedback mechanism which clashes with our basic understanding of science.

    If you were to share with us the way you think your spiritual models work to approach or reliably approximate reality, we could then look at my claimed clash between this mechanism and our best science. It will need you to put this mechanism up, however. To say it's the same mechanism misses the point. The mechanisms we use have a clear way of calibrating with physical reality. Why should we think they can also calibrate with spiritual reality?

    Bernard

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  16. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Now, this same holistic process/existence/experience (whatever term you prefer) does not appear to have any mechanism compatible with science whereby it can receive feedback from spiritual reality, such that its models home in on the spiritual reality. As such, we are left with nothing but pure fancy.”

    No one is talking about “feedback” from a spiritual reality. We are talking about reasoning from this same holistic process, from the same source, same evidence, same science, and then interpreting everything and coming to the conclusion there is a spiritual aspect to existence. We are talking about seeing from a new perspective what was already true, already present.

    You said the “feedback” was information, the same information we all have, from the same source. So you agree, it “gets in” for everyone, true? You agree that Pisent and Collins know the science (feedback) as well as you, right?

    So if the “getting in” is not where the clash resides, is it the conclusions?

    Like

  17. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard,

    “Now, this same holistic process/existence/experience (whatever term you prefer) does not appear to have any mechanism compatible with science…”

    You are confused here. The process is different from the source, which is all aspects of existence, the evidence, the information, if you will. The process is taking all this information into our minds and interpreting what it means through the narratives we inhabit.

    So, are you saying our minds cannot do this? Then what do you make of the great majority of people who have indeed come to those conclusions? Clearly our minds, especially like those of Pisent and Collins, can take the information into their brains/minds and interpret it such that they conclude there is a spiritual aspect to existence (as they indeed have done). And these same people know the science fairly well.

    So again, are you simply disagreeing with their conclusions from a philosophical point of view? And where is the clash with science in any of this?

    We know people reason their way to these conclusions (whether one agrees with the conclusion or not), so there can't be a clash there. If the clash is with their conclusions (there is a God, there is a spiritual aspect to existence), then it would mean you think the science proves those conclusions false, and therefore you should be an atheist rather than agnostic. So, this still doesn't seem like a logical argument to me–along with the other problems.

    Like

  18. Hi Darrell

    “No one is talking about “feedback” from a spiritual reality. We are talking about reasoning from this same holistic process, from the same source, same evidence, same science, and then interpreting everything and coming to the conclusion there is a spiritual aspect to existence.”

    Yes, precisely. And I am indeed arguing that if there is no feedback from spiritual reality, then there is no holistic process that can provide any reliable model of this reality. Her is an admittedly silly example. I am imagining a Graphus. In my head I know what it is and certain things about it. Now you, no matter what holistic process you use, can discern nothing of the Graphs' nature unless some information flows from my mind to yours (even if it is by the circuitous route of going firs tot others, then into books, then via a lecture, discussion, whatever).

    So it is with the spiritual world. If we are to conclude anything about the spiritual world, and consider our conclusions reliable, then we can meaningfully ask how do they come to be reliable? I can't see how they could be, unless there is some information flow out of the spiritual reality to us. And this flow, I maintain, once elucidated, will contravene our best scientific models.

    At times you appear to be arguing there is no such information flow, and I maintain knowledge without information is simply impossible (in fact I'm not sure the notion makes any sense). You then move to this:

    “You said the “feedback” was information, the same information we all have, from the same source. So you agree, it “gets in” for everyone, true? You agree that Pisent and Collins know the science (feedback) as well as you, right?
    So if the “getting in” is not where the clash resides, is it the conclusions?”

    This is a misunderstanding, and I'm not sure how to be any clearer. Yes, information gets in, via the senses, on the nature of the physical world, and this is the same for everybody. If information is also coming in regarding the spiritual world, then it is possible to draw valid conclusions regarding the nature of this world (as your cited authors no doubt believe). My argument is that any process by which this information could come in, once carefully explained, will reveal a clash with science (which amy be why vague terms like 'holistic' are preferred).

    So, again, how does your process ensure our models tend towards spiritual reality, rather than some fanciful alternative? It's a reasonable question. if you intend to keep avoiding this, maybe let me know. Otherwise this becomes sort of pointless.

    Bernard

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  19. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Yes, precisely. And I am indeed arguing that if there is no feedback from spiritual reality…”

    Again, no one is arguing that there is. I don’t even know what that means. Where have I written that we get “feedback” from a spiritual reality? We get feedback from existence. if we come to believe that such feedback has given us reasons to believe there is a spiritual aspect to existence, then I guess one could say, on the other side of the conclusion so-to-speak, that it was feedback from a spiritual reality(because the Christian belief is that all of reality is spiritual), but on the other side, before reaching that conclusion, we are all getting the same feedback, information, knowledge, what-have-you. We are not arguing that we are getting physical feedback and spiritual feedback. It is all the same feedback. What we come to conclude however as to what that feedback means and how it should be interpreted of course differs depending upon the narratives we inhabit.

    “At times you appear to be arguing there is no such information flow, and I maintain knowledge without information is simply impossible…”

    But we’ve agreed about the knowledge and flow. We all have the same source, remember? We all have the same “flow” of information available to our senses, brains/minds, right?

    “You said the “feedback” was information, the same information we all have, from the same source. So you agree, it “gets in” for everyone, true? You agree that Pisent and Collins know the science (feedback) as well as you, right?
    So if the “getting in” is not where the clash resides, is it the conclusions?”-Darrell

    “Yes, information gets in, via the senses, on the nature of the physical world, and this is the same for everybody. If information is also coming in regarding the spiritual world…

    No one is arguing that information is coming in regarding the spiritual world. Where have I argued that? What is being argued is that the information we all have, from the same sources, from the same science, from the same sensory input, can be interpreted to mean there is a God or spiritual aspect to existence. Do you not agree it can be interpreted that way?

    Since you agree we have access to the same information, the same sources, and use the same holistic process of interpretation, and that nowhere in that process is there a clash, the only area I can see where you think the clash might exist is in the conclusions. Is that correct?

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  20. Hi Darrell

    “No one is arguing that information is coming in regarding the spiritual world.”

    Superb. Then we agree. Now let's look at the implication of that. Can we deduce anything about the nature of the spiritual world, given no information regarding it is coming in? No, we can not. So, we can reasonably conclude there is more to life than the spiritual, but as soon as we choose to believe that our experiences speak to any aspect of the beyond (so, perhaps that our feelings of love speak to some deeper purpose) we are exceeding this limited warrant. Without any information coming in, we know nothing about this world, whether or not we choose to believe it exists. Perhaps it is hatred, not love, that best reflects the true universal imperative. How could we possibly know, in the absence of any information?

    At this point, we can not speak of love being mysterious because it reflects or speaks to the spiritual world. We know nothing of the spiritual world, by your own admission.

    Or, to put it in your own words:
    “Since you agree we have access to the same information, the same sources, and use the same holistic process of interpretation, and that nowhere in that process is there a clash, the only area I can see where you think the clash might exist is in the conclusions. Is that correct?”

    Yes. If we conclude nothing about the nature of the spiritual world, there is no clash with science.
    If we claim to know nothing about the spiritual world, there is no clash with science.
    The clash occurs only at the point where we claim to have knowledge of that spiritual world. An alternative to this, is that we claim to be able to infer something about the spiritual world without any information coming from that world. Here this is no clash with science, just a failure of reason. One can not process one's way to knowledge of the spiritual world any more than one can process one's way to knowledge of a Graphus. This is precisely the problem that emerges when we claim to have knowledge of moral truths. If no information regarding the moral universe is getting in, then it is not possible to reason our way to it.

    Bernard

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  21. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Superb. Then we agree. Now let's look at the implication of that. Can we deduce anything about the nature of the spiritual world, given no information regarding it is coming in?”

    Yes, because the information (the same information we all have) that is coming in can be interpreted to mean there is a spiritual aspect to existence. But so much for the “getting in” argument, right? So, are you arguing that science proves we cannot interpret the information to mean there is a spiritual aspect to existence or that God exists? I guess I will just keep asking.

    “…So, we can reasonably conclude there is more to life than the spiritual, but as soon as we choose to believe that our experiences speak…”

    Again, it is not just our experiences. It is a holistic process, based upon many factors- all interpreted though the narratives we inhabit.

    “At this point, we can not speak of love being mysterious because it reflects or speaks to the spiritual world. We know nothing of the spiritual world, by your own admission.”

    No, my admission is we can believe there is a spiritual aspect to existence or that God exists, based upon the interpretation of all the information (existence), which of course would include our experiences.

    Or, to put it in your own words:
    “Since you agree we have access to the same information, the same sources, and use the same holistic process of interpretation, and that nowhere in that process is there a clash, the only area I can see where you think the clash might exist is in the conclusions. Is that correct?”

    “Yes. If we conclude nothing about the nature of the spiritual world, there is no clash with science.”

    So if one concludes, after interpreting the same information, the same science, the same sources, that God exists (the spiritual), that conclusion clashes with science? You are asserting that science proves if we interpret the same existence we all experience, the same science, the same information, and come to a belief in God or a spiritual aspect to existence, those beliefs are false, true? Whence, then, the agnosticism? And clearly you would then hold beliefs most do not hold. Further, you are then just making the same argument as Burk or any other philosophical naturalist/physicalist. You get that, right?

    We may have finally smoked you out Bernard.

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  22. Hi Darrell

    “So if one concludes, after interpreting the same information, the same science, the same sources, that God exists (the spiritual), that conclusion clashes with science?”

    No, you still don't quite have my case. First, and crucially, it's not about whether the spiritual exists, but whether we can know anything about it, if it does.

    If we believe we know something about it, because we have some source of reliable information (as most theists do, by the way) then there is a clash with science.

    If, however, we take your approach, and claim we can draw conclusions about the spiritual based upon a holistic method, which includes no information passing to us regarding the nature of the spiritual world, then we are claiming the ability to deduce something about the spiritual world based purely upon our non-spiritual experiences (what you refer to as the “same experiences”). And that is as impossible, it seems to me, as your drawing reliable conclusions as to the nature of the Graphus. But by all means sketch out such an approach if you have one.

    Bernard

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  23. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “No, you still don't quite have my case. First, and crucially, it's not about whether the spiritual exists, but whether we can know anything about it, if it does.”

    To accept that something like the spiritual or God possibly exists is to accept we can know something about each. So if you are open to or don’t think their existence clashes with science, then it logically follows we could know something about each, if you accept the description (or definition) of the God you agree possible existence doesn’t pose a clash with science.

    “If we believe we know something about it, because we have some source of reliable information (as most theists do, by the way) then there is a clash with science.”

    What is the reliable source you think most theists believe they have?

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  24. Darrell says:

    Also Bernard,

    “No, you still don't quite have my case. First, and crucially, it's not about whether the spiritual exists, but whether we can know anything about it, if it does.”

    We can know something about it or reason our way to its existence from the same information we all have. My argument isn’t that coming to a belief in a spiritual aspect to existence gives us specific information or knowledge as to exactly, specifically, what the spiritual consists of. We will never have information or knowledge of the spiritual like we could of a physical object or force we could investigate empirically and scientifically where we can measure, weigh, and map that object or force. You get that, right? To ask for such or assume such is to completely confuse philosophical categories and criteria.

    But I don’t need specific knowledge or information regarding a spiritual aspect before I can reasonably, from that premise (that it exists), believe love is a part of that aspect or finds its origin and end in that aspect.

    We are getting closer here all the time however. We are past the “getting in” (all the same information from the same sources gets in for all of us to interpret) issue and now we are speaking to conclusions, and we see more and more the philosophical nature of the issues here, and not science or any clash with science.

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  25. Hi Darrell

    Yes, we are getting much closer, and that's good. Thank you for your patience.

    So, to your two points. One can reasonably hypothesis the existence of something without claiming to know anything about it. There is crucial difference between saying:
    – Perhaps there is a great deal beyond our perception.
    – This world beyond the perception has qualities X,Y, Z (e.g there is a loving God).

    The second type of statement provides a model (no matter how indistinct) and at this point we can legitimately ask where the model gained whatever level of reliability it might have.

    Now, the second point you make, that our knowledge of the spiritual is not like our physical knowledge, is fine. Of course. Being non-physical, the descriptors we use will not be quantifiable, of course. But, if they have any degree of accuracy at all (in other words, if we can know anything of the spiritual realm at all) we must first believe that there is some way of constructing that knowledge.

    You make this claim:
    ” We can know something about it or reason our way to its existence from the same information we all have.”
    This highlights well our key disagreement. The information we all have is our experience of living. Now, for this experience to lead us to knowledge of the spiritual, we have exactly two options:
    – The spiritual world yields information at some point in the process (perhaps through our experiences, perhaps through our evolutionary/design past)
    – There is some process of inferring, from purely physical data (the implication of the spiritual world yielding up no data) information about the spiritual world.

    My claim is that if you take the first path, there is a clash with science, whereas there is no known established example of the second path. We can surely simply guess or speculate, but at the point we believe our speculation is right, we are claiming that something has guided it to this conclusion, hater than any incorrect alternative.

    So, I claim, you're stuck either way. And so I repeat, by what mechanism does your process home in on the true spiritual world, rather than some false alternative? Beyond the vague 'I use a holistic process' can you show, just by working through the simplest example you can think of, how this might work? If you try, I believe you'll get caught tin one of the two binds outlined above. Still, we're closing in on 200 comments, and you're doing a fine job of avoiding my only question, so I'll not hold my breath.

    Bernard

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  26. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “So, to your two points. One can reasonably hypothesis the existence of something without claiming to know anything about it. There is crucial difference between saying:
    – Perhaps there is a great deal beyond our perception.
    – This world beyond the perception has qualities X,Y, Z (e.g there is a loving God).”

    I would suggest however that it is more than saying “perhaps.” It is saying, “I believe” there is a spiritual aspect to existence that touches everything (this would have to be a logical conclusion once we believed in such as aspect), even though I don’t know any more than that. But that admission alone changes everything.

    “…But, if they have any degree of accuracy at all (in other words, if we can know anything of the spiritual realm at all) we must first believe that there is some way of constructing that knowledge.”

    The constructing comes from the same tools of reason, logic, and reflection, along with experience (and all the other factors). But we are not “constructing” the knowledge, we are reflecting upon what we now believe was already and always there.

    “This highlights well our key disagreement. The information we all have is our experience of living.”

    Which includes reason, logic, education, reading, conversing, knowing the science, and so forth (the holistic process). So, the information (existence) is interpreted through all that (the narrative we inhabit).

    “- There is some process of inferring, from purely physical data (the implication of the spiritual world yielding up no data) information about the spiritual world.”

    The process is the very same process that one could infer the opposite. It is the same process you use and every thinking person uses. And if it indeed led one to infer there was a spiritual aspect to existence, then that alone would be information enough. As to the spiritual, I have no idea what you mean by “data” as that doesn’t even apply. “Data” is what we get from measuring physical objects or forces.

    So, I will ask again: What is the reliable source you think most theists believe they have?

    And again: Are you telling us that if we interpret existence (the source) through the same holistic process you use, but infer differently from you, that God exists (or the spiritual), science proves us wrong?

    You have shown nowhere in this same holistic you use and we all use where a clash with science is even close. If you were able to show one, it would apply to all of us—including you. I don’t see any way out of that dilemma, thus you must find it in the conclusions (which Burk could have just told us as much and saved a lot of time here) and thus whence the agnosticism?

    I am not suggesting a process any different than yours or a source any different than yours. You cannot keep arguing against a straw-man. You must address my argument, not the one you wish I were making.

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  27. Hi Darrell

    To be clear, are you saying you believe there is a spiritual aspect to existence, but know absolutely nothing about it? (Not whether love is good or bad, not whether it gives life purpose, not whether some forms of living will bring you closer to God, etc?) If this is the case, then you my friend are agnostic on almost everything religious, and I welcome you aboard. it's a grand place to stand.

    If, however, you have some sense of what this spiritual thing is all about, then you can not claim this:
    “The process is the very same process that one could infer the opposite. It is the same process you use and every thinking person uses.”
    You see, the process I use can not tell me anything about the nature of the spiritual world. this is a clear limitation of my process, which uses reason to extrapolate for experience. But, if our experience tells us nothing of the spiritual world, we can not reason our way there.

    So, when you write:
    “I am not suggesting a process any different than yours or a source any different than yours. You cannot keep arguing against a straw-man. “
    You are missing a vital point, that makes this very much not a straw man. if you are concluding anything at all about the spiritual world, apart for the existence of the unknown, then I am arguing that the process and sources I use are incapable of getting us to such a conclusion. In other words, you are either sneaking in some presupposed spiritual knowledge (violating science) or you are making a deductive error.

    So, how about instead of just doing the hand-waving 'there's this holistic process, same as yours' how about you choose the simplest spiritual belief you have (maybe that a loving God exists, or torture is objectively bad) and show how you get there, using the process you believe in? My bet is, if you ever tried this, the problems with it would become apparent. Not sure why you want to avoid this, but clearly it's serving some purpose for you to stretch out this conversation by never addressing the fundamental claim.

    Over to you.

    Bernard

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  28. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “To be clear, are you saying you believe there is a spiritual aspect to existence, but know absolutely nothing about it?”

    I think knowing it exists is enough to see the world differently.

    “You see, the process I use can not tell me anything about the nature of the spiritual world.”

    But it does. You’ve been telling us it does. You’ve been telling us that if it exists, we cannot know anything about it or experience it. That tells us much about the spiritual. It tells us that existence is a dichotomy and one world cannot impinge upon another, which is modernity. It is a philosophical view, not a scientific one.

    “…if you are concluding anything at all about the spiritual world, apart for the existence of the unknown…”

    It’s not unknown; if we designate it as spiritual, we are saying there is more to existence than just the physical. And what might we infer from there? God? Soul? Life beyond Death?

    Here is what you seem to be struggling with: You can’t seem to believe that someone who has had the same (or similar—everyone’s are unique) experiences of loving and being loved, reflected upon such, knows the science very well (Polkinghorne/Collins), and considers all they know through education, conversing, reading, and every source available to each of us, can come to a different philosophical conclusion than you regarding what love means or if there is a spiritual aspect (or God) to existence.

    The narrative you inhabit (philosophical naturalism/physicalism) forces you to believe that anyone who disagrees with you, takes a different view in these areas, is either illogical or has views that contradict the science (and therefore false).

    So, I will ask again: What is the reliable source you think most theists believe they have?

    And again: Are you telling us that if we interpret existence (the source) through the same holistic process you use, but infer differently from you, that God exists (or the spiritual), science proves us wrong?

    Like

  29. Hi Darrell

    I still haven't quite got through to you, have I? I'm happy to take responsibility for this failure, but there is a basic difference between the case I'm making and that you're responding to. How to fix that?

    So, do you know nothing about the nature of the spiritual world? You dodged this, so let me ask again. Is this your stance? If, by the spiritual, you mean only that there exists something, whose qualities you know nothing about, beyond that we can perceive, then our positions on the spiritual are identical.

    “But it does. You’ve been telling us it does. You’ve been telling us that if it exists, we cannot know anything about it or experience it. That tells us much about the spiritual.”

    Here you get ahead of yourself. I don't claim that we can know nothing of the spiritual world, that's a long way down the track. My claim is rather more modest – that any method by which we gain knowledge of the spiritual world will clash with science. This claim contains not information about the spiritual world, but rather the physical world. It says, I can't see how we can get our science to align with a particular physical state, that where the brain is in possession of knowledge of qualities of the spiritual world. And that argument moves from what we know of science, by way of deduction, to limits of brain function with regard to the extra-physical.

    “if we designate it as spiritual, we are saying there is more to existence than just the physical. And what might we infer from there? God? Soul? Life beyond Death?”

    Precisely so. At this point, you claim we can get an inference going. How? What does it mean to designate the unknown as spiritual? Does that endow this spiritual with any particular qualities? If not, how can you infer anything for it? Why not show us how one of these putative inferences works, so we can judge it? If it does endow the unknown with qualities, for whence does the information regarding these qualities come?

    By the way, I have no trouble at all understanding how people can reach different conclusions. if we could get past our current point, you'll even see i'm nt convinced that a clash with science represents a philosophical barrier to belief, there are respectable means of simply rejecting science's implications, I think, the most compelling for me being pragmatism. But, first, let us establish whether this clash is occurring.

    To your questions:

    “So, I will ask again: What is the reliable source you think most theists believe they have?” Most theists through time, from Plato to Kant to Hegel and beyond, have believed that their human intuitions carry information from a world beyond the spiritual. See Plato's eternal soul and its memories, or Kant's a priori truths etc.

    “And again: Are you telling us that if we interpret existence (the source) through the same holistic process you use, but infer differently from you, that God exists (or the spiritual), science proves us wrong?”
    No. I am saying (again) if we infer from our experiences that the unknown has a particular quality, we are either claiming information from the spiritual world (which does clash with science) or making an error of deduction.

    Now, play fair, and finally address my question. You've begun to identify a chain of inference – we denote the unknown as spiritual, and from there infer life after death, for example. As this is one of the examples you offer, how about showing how this inference works. My bet is that at this point you will either be assuming certain qualities for the spiritual world, or committing an error in your inference. Let's find out if I'm right.

    Bernard

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  30. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “So, do you know nothing about the nature of the spiritual world?”

    “Here you get ahead of yourself. I don't claim that we can know nothing of the spiritual world, that's a long way down the track.”

    And so it is a long way down the track for me as well. For the purposes of this discussion and its relation to love, simply believing there is a spiritual aspect to love is enough to establish its mystery, even if we knew nothing more than that.

    “My claim is rather more modest – that any method by which we gain knowledge of the spiritual world will clash with science.”

    But you have already agreed that we can gain knowledge. You agreed that from the same holistic process we all use (and live within) and from the same sources, it is reasonable to conclude there is a spiritual aspect to existence. So your “getting in” objection has gone away. What you are now telling us is that even if we can come to that reasonable conclusion, we cannot experience the spiritual or know anything about it. Now you are into a problem of logic. If our premise is that the spiritual may exist, then our conclusion cannot be that therefore we cannot experience such or know nothing about it.

    “if we designate it as spiritual, we are saying there is more to existence than just the physical. And what might we infer from there? God? Soul? Life beyond Death?”

    “Precisely so. At this point, you claim we can get an inference going. How? What does it mean to designate the unknown as spiritual?”

    We are not designating the spiritual as unknown. We are designating the spiritual as the spiritual—that which is non-physical.

    “Does that endow this spiritual with any particular qualities?”

    Perhaps down the road, as you put it, it does, but none of that matters right now for the purposes of this discussion regarding love. The point you need to deal with is once we believe there is a spiritual aspect to existence, why wouldn’t we then explore that and why couldn’t we begin to make inferences (regardless what they are)? In principle, to be logical, you must agree that we could.

    (Continued)

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  31. Darrell says:

    (Continued)

    “By the way, I have no trouble at all understanding how people can reach different conclusions.”

    And I didn’t say that you did. What I said is that the narrative you inhabit forces you to believe that if they do reach a different philosophical conclusion as you, they must have reached them illogically or their views are false (because of the supposed clash).
    “Most theists through time, from Plato to Kant to Hegel and beyond, have believed that their human intuitions carry information from a world beyond the spiritual. See Plato's eternal soul and its memories, or Kant's a priori truths etc.”

    I disagree. That is a very simplistic understanding. Notice you write they “believed”. How did they arrive at those beliefs or their philosophical positions? It wasn’t through intuition alone. It was through the very same holistic process used by all of us. You are putting the cart before the horse. So, your point?

    “And again: Are you telling us that if we interpret existence (the source) through the same holistic process you use, but infer differently from you, that God exists (or the spiritual), science proves us wrong?”-Darrell

    “No. I am saying (again) if we infer from our experiences that the unknown has a particular quality, we are either claiming information from the spiritual world (which does clash with science) or making an error of deduction.”

    What? Read my question again. We are inferring that it is known and that the particular quality it has is spiritual or “God”. Thus, it would appear you are indeed claiming, like Burk, or any other run-of-the-mill naturalist/physicalist, that these conclusions are false, based upon the science, yes?

    I am not claiming information from the spiritual world. I am claiming we can infer (interpret) from the same information we all have (existence) that there is a spiritual aspect to existence. So, again, you can either keep addressing a straw-man or address my argument. There is neither an error of deduction here nor a clash with science.

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  32. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Let me make something clear here. The following (“if we…”) is not (NOT) what I'm arguing or asserting:

    “No. I am saying (again) if we infer from our experiences that the unknown has a particular quality, we are either claiming information from the spiritual world (which does clash with science) or making an error of deduction.”

    You need to quit wasting time and address my argument. I'm not going to keep replying to a straw-man argument. I will just start replying “straw-man” until you can address what I'm actually writing rather than what you imagine or hope I would write. I'm not going to keep pointing this out to you. You're a smart guy. Either you can get this or not.

    We can interpret and infer from existence (not just our experiences-but the totality) not that there is a particular quality to the spiritual or that we are receiving information from a spiritual reality, but that one exists. And if one exists, we can then infer from there, explore, and continue learning more “down the road” as you put it. I think such is what I have done with my assertion God is love. Unless God doesn't exist, unless the physical is all that exists, how in the world does such a claim clash with science or logic? You are no close to showing this than when you first began–in fact, you are even further from it.

    So now that the “getting in” objection is gone, please show where my actual assertion (which is nothing more than we can philosophize, theorize, reflect, converse, read, learn, and come to our own conclusions regarding metaphysical areas and issues) clashes with science or is illogical.

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  33. Hi Darrell

    ” And if one exists, we can then infer from there, explore, and continue learning more “down the road” as you put it. I think such is what I have done with my assertion God is love.”

    Here's precisely what I don't think can be done without either assuming some qualities for the spiritual, or making an error in one's deduction.

    So, why not eventually put up the process, and show how you get from 'there is much that is unknown' to 'God is love.' At the point where you speak of a God, and of creation itself having a loving quality, you are drawing conclusions about the nature of the spiritual world. And all along I've asked, 'well, how would one go about drawing these conclusions?'

    If we are to progress, at some point you need to step out from the behind the 'I use the same process we all use' and show what this process is, and how it might work. I'm claiming there's going to be a problem with science, or that you're going to be making a faulty deduction somewhere along the way. Why just assertI'm wrong, when you could show me by explaining how your process calibrates with spiritual reality? Show us the process, is all I'm asking.

    Bernard

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  34. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    ” And if one exists, we can then infer from there, explore, and continue learning more “down the road” as you put it. I think such is what I have done with my assertion God is love.”–Darrell

    “Here's precisely what I don't think can be done without either assuming some qualities for the spiritual, or making an error in one's deduction.”

    We know you think that. Unfortunately, you just haven’t been able to show us why it would be so.

    “So, why not eventually put up the process, and show how you get from 'there is much that is unknown' to 'God is love.'”

    The process is the same one you use—that we all use. Same source too. I have no idea what “calibrates” with spiritual reality even means.

    “And all along I've asked, 'well, how would one go about drawing these conclusions?’”

    The very same way you draw your conclusions.

    Please address my full responses (not straw-men). Thank you.

    Like

  35. Hi Darrell

    The process I use is to take the sensory data, and then using our shared standards of inductive and deductive reasoning, build models of the physical world.

    How would one use this process to build models of the spiritual world? In other words, how to move from sensory information (which by your line, is all we have, as our experiences yield no information about the spiritual world) to infer anything about the nature of the spiritual?

    So, the process I use, to conclude things about our physical world (and then test them against the sensory input) can not be the process you use, as in the case of the spiritual ,model, there is apparently nothing to test them against. Now you offer that you don't know what calibrates against spiritual reality means. perhaps that's our problem.

    Let's take two alternative hypotheses about the spiritual world. One, that it is neutral, with regard to morality, the other that it contains a moral code. Now, one could work towards either of these conclusions but, if there is indeed a spiritual dimension to life, only one of them can be true. So, what is it in your process that leads you towards the true rather than false description? in my process, which hypothesises about the physical world, I would attempt to get my model to generate a prediction, against which it could be tested. This is what I mean by calibrate.

    Now, you have no way of doing the equivalent for the spiritual if you claim that no information for the spiritual world reaches us. nevertheless, you also claim we can build up a sense of the spiritual world and some of its qualities. When I ask how, you say by the same process I use. Well, that's very puzzling. If it doesn't use evidence, it's not the same process.

    The other alternative is to use a process of reason. So you may be claiming we can reason, from no information beyond the physical, something about eh nature of the spiritual. I don't see how you can do this. Of course, you may well be able to, and I'm open to demonstration. But you refuse to demonstrate. Are you simply never going to in this conversation? Just say, if that's the case, and we'll leave it.

    Bernard

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  36. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Let’s assume that by holistic process we mean experience, reason, education, understanding the science, conversation, reading, etc., of which all are important and all of which are interpreted through the narratives we inhabit. We make any inferences out of that process.

    And let’s assume by source we mean existence, the totality of physical existence (including our mental thoughts, reasoning, and examination of history), as the source of information (knowledge, data) we then examine through this holistic process. Now, can you agree to that? Do we mean the same thing by process and source? At this point, I am assuming nothing regarding the spiritual, or *God; I am considering only what is available to each of us within our mental thought lives, history, and the physical world. Do we agree?

    Now, before you answer, if your answer is “yes”, you agree- you understand this will then mean we have addressed the “getting in” objection. Do you understand that?

    If we cannot agree here, then there is little point in moving forward.

    *Let’s even assume that I was raised in a Christian home, so that I do have some assumptions regarding God and the spiritual, but none that I have really reached on my own. And let’s assume the same for you. Now let’s assume that both of us have said to ourselves, “regardless of what I was taught as a young man, I’m going to figure this out for myself.” And we then proceed as to this holistic process.

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  37. Hi Darrell

    Yes, we agree upon the resources available.

    Now, how do you, assuming nothing about the nature of the spiritual, manage to deduce anything about it using only the sensory data (remember, you say our experiences yield no information about the spiritual, so in terms of information, the physical input is all you have)?

    Take us through the reasoning you employ. Here's your chance.

    Bernard

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  38. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    “Yes, we agree upon the resources available.”

    You agree on source AND process, correct? And you agree that removes the “getting in” objection?

    If so, then you agree we both (anyone in fact) use the same “process” (the one I just outlined) of coming to our philosophical conclusions regarding whatever the question may be, correct?

    If so, this will remove your “how do we process, or build models” questions, you see that, right?

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  39. Hi Darrell

    I hold there are two options:

    Either we receive information from the spiritual world (which clashes with science)

    or

    We are unable to build models of the spiritual world, because the process we all use, if bereft of informational input from the spiritual world, can not from reliable conclusions about it.

    You have suggested the process we all use, without input from the spiritual world, can nevertheless yield reliable models of that world. I've asked you to show how you might go about that, and you've refused. And so we are stuck.

    Bernard

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  40. Darrell says:

    Hi Bernard,

    Okay, I will ask again:

    You agree on source AND process, correct? And you agree that removes the “getting in” objection?

    If so, then you agree we both (anyone in fact) use the same “process” (the one I just outlined) of coming to our philosophical conclusions regarding whatever the question may be, correct?

    If so, this will remove your “how do we process, or build models” questions, you see that, right?

    And I have said nothing about “reliable” models. My beliefs about love and the spiritual are no more or less “reliable” than yours (whatever “reliable” could possibly mean in this context–we are not talking about gravity).

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  41. Darrell says:

    Here it is again, for reference:

    Bernard,

    Let’s assume that by holistic process we mean experience, reason, education, understanding the science, conversation, reading, etc., of which all are important and all of which are interpreted through the narratives we inhabit. We make any inferences out of that process.

    And let’s assume by source we mean existence, the totality of physical existence (including our mental thoughts, reasoning, and examination of history), as the source of information (knowledge, data) we then examine through this holistic process. Now, can you agree to that? Do we mean the same thing by process and source? At this point, I am assuming nothing regarding the spiritual, or *God; I am considering only what is available to each of us within our mental thought lives, history, and the physical world. Do we agree?

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  42. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    Please respond within the new post. No point in adding anymore to this one. Thank you.

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