Little imaginary beings

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I recently mentioned the way some serious theologians believe in demons and exorcisms. I can't help it; I find these notions ridiculous to an extreme, and the absurdity of serious scholars blaming diseases on demonic possession in the 21st century is something one has to find laughable. I was being hard on Christianity, though. I left out an important exonerating factor for these people.

Some of them believe in angels, too.

Yes, I'm joking when I say this is an exonerating factor. This merely makes them even more silly. But no, you say, they can't possibly argue for demons and angels being real agents in the natural world, can they? This must all be metaphorical, not literal. Judge for yourself.

Here's a passage from the foreword to a 2002 book by Peter S. Williams, The Case for Angels. This is a book that argues for the literal reality of angels, and that they are important because "Angels (with a capital 'A', good angels) are worth studying because they are true (real), noble, right pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Fallen angels (demons are worth studying because they are real and because it behoves every army, including the army of Christ, to know its enemy." The author of the foreword agrees. Can you guess who it is?

Peter Williams' The Case for Angels is about…the theological rift between a Christian intelligentsia that increasingly regards angels only as figurative or literary devices, and the great mass of Christians who thankfully still regard them as real (a fact confirmed by popular polls, as Williams notes in this book). This rift was brought home to me at a conference I helped organize at Baylor University some years back. The conference was entitled 'The Nature of Nature' and focused on whether nature is self-contained or points beyond itself. The activity of angels in the world would clearly constitute on way nature points beyond itself.

Continue reading "Little imaginary beings" (on Pharyngula)

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230 Comments

I’m sorry. I thought PT was for pro-evolution, anti-ID, anti-creationism postings- not for stigmatizing religion and Christianity. It’s one thing if they’re offering scientific evidence for angels or demons, using quote-mining and false studies and political maneuvering. But if I want to read anti-religious bias, I can go to Dawkins, or start reading Pharyngula again. I’m interested in supporting evolution- not trying to drive a wedge between those who are against evolution, a wedge so great that they can never come to see the truth of evolution.

Yes, you’re right to critize Dembski’s back-door attempt to get more support for his pet project, ID. There was no need to attack those who have religious beliefs, without claiming scientific background, while doing it.

This isn’t just about rank-and-file believers, though. This is about “serious theologians.” People who teach this mumbo-jumbo at universities as if it were something real, something objectively true. That’s exactly what’s being put forward above, and if it’s being touted as objectively and empirically the case that Angels (with or without the capital A) are real, then a scientific statement is being made.

Teaching theology at universities makes every bit as much sense as teaching a course on how to capture leprechauns’ pots of gold.

We are, of course, merely after their lucky charms.

I’m not surprised or alarmed if Christian theologians believe in angels; they do, after all, figure in important parts of the Christan scripture, not just as metaphors but as personal figures. Consider, for instance, the visitation of Mary by an angel before the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

Angels and demons don’t really enter the domain of science proper unless you make claims that their existence or activity can be demonstrated scientifically. The issue here appears to be that Dembski, as quoted, *does* at least implicitly make that claim, specifically in this sentence:

“The activity of angels in the world would clearly constitute on[e] way nature points beyond itself.”

If you’re claiming that *nature*, something that is well understood as subject to scientific inquiry, points “beyond itself” to angels, then *that* claim should reasonably be subject to scientific evaluation, even if a general belief in angels (or demons) might not be.

I second Jedidiah’s comment. Can we please stick to evolution here? And tone down the hatred a bit…

I think it’s posted because of the Baylor reference, but I suppose it is more of a “Why People Believe Weird Things Blog” post.

Jedidiah Palosaari is right that the theme is certainly not evolution. However, “Creationists are wacky in more ways than one” is important in the larger picture. With just the slightest urging, or under oath, they’ll start on Demons, Angels, flying saucers, you name it. This is one reason so few of them will testify in court, or be allowed to testify by their lawyers. There is some small, repressed voice inside that tells them “You’re nuts, you know”.

a wedge so great that they can never come to see the truth of evolution.

you might try actually arguing with a creationist some time.

or perhaps you should have watched the debate between Lennox and Dawkins last night? the people who COULD be driven away from science by attacks on RELIGION are already beyond help.

but, looking at your approach, would you encourage someone to embrace a delusion just in order to try to get them to see your point? seems like your approach would be doing a disservice to both yourself and the person you are talking to.

What’s bizarre is that ideas like “naturalism” were actually conjured up primarily in order to let theologians, and whatever species of dolt Dembski is (and my “dolt” comment is not meant to extend to theologians in general), to have their precious angels and demons, while we’d (including theistic scientists) ignore all of that nonsense and deal with what can be shown to exist. Dembski’s just not willing to leave us alone, though, wanting to use the government to force acknowledgement of, and subsidies for, his religious beliefs.

Anyway, that will make a nice passage to bring up in some possible future court proceedings. Dembski can’t limit himself to claiming his unknown designer whose capabilities, goals, and purposes are completely beyond our present knowing is responsible for life, he has to claim that angel-denial in science and the rest of the intellectual universe is the result of an atheist conspiracy.

And no, I don’t think PT has any basis for refusing PZ’s anti-religious take on the matter. He makes reasonable arguments as to the connectedness of the two issues, so that unless conclusive arguments against the connections can be produced, we ought to stick with our intellectual standards by allowing his take on the matter. My own position is, however, that such diversity prevail within an overall emphasis on science issues at PT, meaning I’m glad that the stance toward religion here is different from those at PZ’s blog (I’m not faulting the latter, either, preferring merely that different voices speak differently).

The fact is that this angelology of Dembski’s is highly relevant to the PT audience, and I’m glad that PZ posted it here and at Pharyngula. And again I’d emphasize that there is no justification that I can see for censoring PZ’s overall opinion about it.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

“And tone down the hatred a bit…”

Why do so many Christians find it necessary to lie?

I agree that this is not the best use of resources. To start off the blog entry ridiculing someone for believing in angels is bad form. If you want to be specific and focus on the absurdity of trying to make a scientific case for angels that’s fair, but the beginning of the blog entry sounds like nothing more than an attack on religion. I thought we we’re trying to highlight it is possible to hold a wide variety of religious views and understand evolution to have been a true historical phenomena

I’m not surprised or alarmed if Christian theologians believe in angels; they do, after all, figure in important parts of the Christan scripture, not just as metaphors but as personal figures.

So what? So do talking donkeys and serpents. Just how “personal” does a talking snake have to be before it’s “personal” enough for the serious theologians?

Consider, for instance, the visitation of Mary by an angel before the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

Big deal. So make Mary and Jesus metaphors too. Big yippity hoo-haw. What’s a matter, aren’t the serious theologians serious enough? The more serious, the more metaphors. Do the math.

These sorts of ‘CHRISTIANITY LOL’ posts from PZ do a great disservice to the Thumb and it’s mission, methinks.

“I think it’s posted because of the Baylor reference”

So you didn’t click on the “continue reading” link?

Those blathering about this post about William Dembski being “an attack [on] those who have religious beliefs” or displaying “hatred” protest too much, methinks.

“These sorts of ‘CHRISTIANITY LOL’”

This post isn’t about Christianity per se. I ask again, why do so many Christians find it necessary to lie?

But frankly, if a criticism of belief in angels is an attack on Christians and Christianity, then Christians and Christianity are idiotic.

I thought we we’re trying to highlight it is possible to hold a wide variety of religious views and understand evolution to have been a true historical phenomena

The scope of PT goes far beyond that, largely because of the activities and theses of people like Dembski. Read again (if you read it at all) what he wrote as quoted by PZ:

Why is it important to know about angels? Why is it important to know about rocks and plants and animals? It’s important because all of these are aspects of reality that impinge on us. The problem with the secular intelligentsia is that they deny those aspects of reality that are inconvenient to their world-picture. And since the intelligentsia are by definition intelligent (though rarely wise), they are able to rationalize away what they find inconvenient. This is what Bishop Sheen was getting at with the previous quote when he referred to the intelligentsia rationalizing evil, and this what Williams is so successful at unmasking in the intelligentsia’s rejection of angels.

There exists an invisible world that is more real and weighty than our secular imaginations can fathom. I commend this book as a way of retraining our imaginations about that reality.

I agree that people need to finish reading the post on Pharyngula before criticizing it as not belonging on PT. PZ quotes Dembski criticizing scientists for not studying angels. That is what this post is about.

Life Long Atheist Howard Storm did not believe in Angels or demons either until he had a NDE. Now he is an ordained minister!! Please Don’t laugh at what you don’t understand,,,or are you so foolish as to think that this is the only possible realm of existence in all of reality? Your arrogance in your ignorance is astonishing to say the least and could be a gamble that you lose drastically! PLEASE WAKE UP! Storm describes that he felt he was dying, and after saying goodbye to his wife, eventually passed out. He was a life-long atheist and contemptuous of spiritual matters, but found himself outside of his body. He says he was drawn by voices calling his name and followed them, but eventually realized that he was being led into darkness and the creatures were malevolent. They turned on him and attacked him savagely, and his NDE became a negative experience, rather than the type of NDE typified by a “being of light” or sensations of peace and calm. His book chronicles an experience that involved being torn to pieces by the creatures, yet he retained consciousness and experienced severe pain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Storm

http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_skep[…]response.htm

“This post isn’t about Christianity per se. I ask again, why do so many Christians find it necessary to lie?”

Because Christians are human, plain and simple.

“But frankly, if a criticism of belief in angels is an attack on Christians and Christianity, then Christians and Christianity are idiotic.”

Surely the point is that criticising that belief isn’t part of the mission of this blog. We have enough trouble with people coming in saying “You’re attacking Christianity!!!” without actually doing it.

Bond, James Bond:

Life Long Atheist Howard Storm did not believe in Angels or demons either until he had a NDE. Now he is an ordained minister!! Please Don’t laugh at what you don’t understand,,,or are you so foolish as to think that this is the only possible realm of existence in all of reality? Your arrogance in your ignorance is astonishing to say the least and could be a gamble that you lose drastically! PLEASE WAKE UP! Storm describes that he felt he was dying, and after saying goodbye to his wife, eventually passed out. He was a life-long atheist and contemptuous of spiritual matters, but found himself outside of his body. He says he was drawn by voices calling his name and followed them, but eventually realized that he was being led into darkness and the creatures were malevolent. They turned on him and attacked him savagely, and his NDE became a negative experience, rather than the type of NDE typified by a “being of light” or sensations of peace and calm. His book chronicles an experience that involved being torn to pieces by the creatures, yet he retained consciousness and experienced severe pain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Storm

http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_skep[…]response.htm

So a man had a dream and it scared him to convert to Christianity. Well a dream is not concrete evidence, by any stretch. Why can’t we ALL see angels, demons, and other supernatural beings, even in our conscious state?

But I agree with others that directs attacks on Christian beliefs like that above are not appropriate.

BJB said:

Life Long Atheist Howard Storm did not believe in Angels or demons either until he had a NDE. Now he is an ordained minister!!

So? All that demonstrates is that even the most brilliant of us can come to believe bizarre things if we have a strong enough emotional experience. Did it ever occur to you that someone who has had such an experience is the worst person you would want to trust to be objective?

Please add my name to the list of those who don’t appreciate seeing The Panda’s Thumb polluted by Myers’ malignant maunderings.

I quit reading Myers’s blog (and several of his fellow-ilkers) precisely because of his religious need to spend so much of his time and blog-space demeaning and insulting Christianity and its adherents. It serves no useful purpose and it makes him look like a petty, stupid little putz. Which is a pity, because I’d like to think there’s more to him than that.

I come here for information on new discoveries in evolution and the latest word on the battle against the creationists. Please, can the operators of the Thumb make sure that that’s what does get posted here, and that this blog doesn’t decay into another vat of the feculent sludge that drove me away from Pharyngula?

“Surely the point is that criticising that belief isn’t part of the mission of this blog. “

The point is some very insecure people who are uncomfortable having their most foolish beliefs challenged trying to suppress the speech of others. Read the “about” link to find out about the “mission of this blog” is.

“We have enough trouble with people coming in saying “You’re attacking Christianity!!!” without actually doing it.”

Do you have “pathetic coward” stamped on your forehead?

“feculent sludge”

I think “petty stupid little putz” counts. It is you aholes who come in whining about attacks on religion who drag this place down.

So who are you that PZ & PT should pay any attention to what you want?

“But I agree with others that directs attacks on Christian beliefs like that above are not appropriate.”

In the 21st century, it is perfectly appropriate to say that belief in angels and demons is stupid, especially in the much more limited framework of PZ’s post, namely Dembski’s attack on “secular intelligentsia” for their lack of belief in angels (or intelligent design). As Reed says, “PZ quotes Dembski criticizing scientists for not studying angels. That is what this post is about.” Those complaining about the post or failing to see how it connects to the “mission of PT” provide evidence of how religiosity tends to rot the mind.

“So who are you that PZ & PT should pay any attention to what you want?”

Indeed. These idiot whiner trolls have pulled this crap over and over, attempting to muzzle PZ and other sane people, to no avail, fortunately.

“The point is some very insecure people who are uncomfortable having their most foolish beliefs challenged trying to suppress the speech of others. Read the “about” link to find out about the “mission of this blog” is.”

Ah, I see…one of those who likes to use “Free speech! FREE SPEECH!!!” as an excuse to be rude and confrontational. Gotcha.

The ‘About’ link says the mission is: “…giving another voice for the defenders of the integrity of science, the patrons of “The Panda’s Thumb”.” I’m not sure how pointing and shouting “Ha, ha, you believe in an-gels!!!” gives a voice to science. Sounds more like giving a voice to playground bullies to me.

“Do you have “pathetic coward” stamped on your forehead?”

Nope - just “basic manners”. Try looking it up.

This post over at Denialism may be relevant to divergent reactions the PZ here.

Implying that it is silly to believe in any supernatural beings that are brought up does not equal criticizing religion overall. Granted some do that as well, but they are not the same thing. Call those invisible beings Fairies or Elves or Cupid and it’s superstition. Just relabel them angels and criticism is of limits?

…rude and confrontational

Pass the smelling salts, I may faint. As if being confrontational is a bad thing.

“Nope - just “basic manners”. Try looking it up.”

You whined about people saying PT attacks Christianity – now you have blatantly changed the subject. That makes you an ahole and liar in addition to being a coward. The truth about some people is inherently rude.

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Popper’s Ghost–

You are so totally, totally correct. I did fail to address anything you wrote, and just went back to what I thought was important. I’m terribly sorry about that.

Have a lovely day.

Popper’s Ghost:

Here’s what I don’t agree with about PZ’s post. PZ says that THEOLOGIANS’ beliefs that angels/demons are real- are ridiculous.

Did you read his piece in which he explains why? Where JP Moreland makes false analogies between cosmetic surgery and exorcism?

I can see how some would take offense to this.

Some people take offense at all sorts of things, like people of different skin color, sexual preference, or political views, so of course there are people who take offense at someone thinking that their superstitions are ridiculous. But so what? Why should PZ or anyone else have to hide their (quite rational) views just because someone might be offended by their expression? How does the existence of such people support your disagreement about PZ’s post? Do you think he doesn’t find those superstitions ridiculous? After all, that’s all he said: “I can’t help it; I find these notions ridiculous to an extreme, and the absurdity of serious scholars blaming diseases on demonic possession in the 21st century is something one has to find laughable.” Perhaps it’s not so much laughable as sad, but it certainly is a propos to the concerns here about science education and the evaluation of biological cause. Do you find serious scholars blaming diseases on demonic possession unproblematic?

PZ is entitled to his opinion, and to write whatever he wants, and believe whatever he wants.

My point was that some would percieve PZ’s disdain of those beliefs held by religious scholars (theologians) about a religious subject matter to be offensive - here’s why

the perception has nothing to do with the validity of the premise that angels/demons exist or not, what some could perceive as offensive is to subtext of the snark “how can a scholar/ educated person in the 21st century believe in angels, only uneducated, stupid, unsophisticated, or brainwashed individuals literally believe in angels”

then he goes on to show Dembski figuratively putting his foot in his mouth

“Why is it important to know about angels? Why is it important to know about rocks and plants and animals? It’s important because all of these are aspects of reality that impinge on us. The problem with the secular intelligentsia is that they deny those aspects of reality that are inconvenient to their world-picture. And since the intelligentsia are by definition intelligent (though rarely wise), they are able to rationalize away what they find inconvenient. This is what Bishop Sheen was getting at with the previous quote when he referred to the intelligentsia rationalizing evil, and this what Williams is so successful at unmasking in the intelligentsia’s rejection of angels.”

it is legitimate for theologians to express their expert opinion about their religion

it is legitimate for scientists to express their expert opinion about science

Dembski likes to claim that he’s a scientist - PZ was correct in calling him out for expressing a unscientific viewpoint in a religious context and implying it was be scientific

IMO PZ’s comments (about the belief in angels/demons being ridiculous)are out of line, he is expressing a religious viewpoint in a scientific context.

I have a great deal of respect for PZ - that does not mean that I have to agree with him in everything he says (or in this case how he says it)

I can’t believe there are people actually defending belief in angels and demons here. Damn, people, it’s the 21st Century, not the 12th. Respecting people’s rights to practice religion doesn’t mean you have to respect people who willingly live in a fantasy world.

I enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it’s a documentary.

it is legitimate for theologians to express their expert opinion about their religion

it is legitimate for scientists to express their expert opinion about science

another apples and oranges comparison from a theist.

If (and I’m sure there is somewhere), there exists a group of “Santaologists” who try to form apologetics surrounding the belief in Santa Claus, calling someone an “expert” in that field is about of similar comparison to a calling a theologist an “expert” as they attempt to justify the existence of angels. Comparison to an actual expert in science is so far off as to be laughable, and actually draws distinction to the key difference: EVIDENCE.

Moreover, would YOU personally be offended by calling a Santa Claus apologist a silly bugger?

I’d guess not, but can you say why, and still maintain a logical premise for maintaining a different opinion of your standard theologist?

I have a great deal of respect for PZ

oh yes, that comes through soooo clearly…

not only do you not have respect for PZ, you don’t have respect for any argument from evidence, most likely.

for the record, I am a Catholic. I also have a B.S, in Biology from the University of Illinois. I am a certified high school Biology teacher (but not currently employed as one) I am VEHEMENTLY opposed to creationism or religious apologetics of any kind being part of public school curricula - I do have respect for PZ (that does not mean I have to agree w/him on every post he makes)

Ichthyic said: apples and oranges.… that is my entire point Dembski shouldn’t call himself a scientist if he believes that disease is caused by demons etc.

NDT said: I can’t believe there are people actually defending belief in angels and demons here. Damn, people, it’s the 21st Century, not the 12th. Respecting people’s rights to practice religion doesn’t mean you have to respect people who willingly live in a fantasy world.

I’m not defending the belief in angels I’m not qualified to do so nor do I personally hold the belief that angels/demons literally exist- I’m saying its silly to expect some christian theologians not to believe in angels or to ridicule his/her belief. its like saying “the pope is so stupid - he actually believes in Jesus”

My point was that some would percieve PZ’s disdain of those beliefs held by religious scholars (theologians) about a religious subject matter to be offensive

So bloody effing what? Why should anyone care if someone somewhere is offended by the fact that a rational intelligent person expresses perfectly reasonable disdain for ridiculous beliefs rooted in goatherder superstitions and Roman politics?

I’m saying its silly to expect some christian theologians not to believe in angels or to ridicule his/her belief.

Staying that it’s silly to ridicule a ridiculous belief is offensive to intellectual honesty.

its like saying “the pope is so stupid - he actually believes in Jesus”

Whether or not the pope is stupid, many of the things he believes are ridiculous and deserve ridicule. Saying that it’s offensive to ridicule a ridiculous belief just because some famous and widely respected guy believes it is intellectually offensive. George Bush has some ridiculous beliefs that one can expect of a right wing president of the U.S., but that doesn’t exempt them from ridicule.

it is legitimate for theologians to express their expert opinion about their religion

How can someone be that dishonest? The claim that angels or demons exist is not a claim about any religion. The only thing theologians are experts on is the history of their religion, the facts about their customs, the claims that their religion makes, and so on … facts that are quite independent of any theistic belief. But actual ontological claims about angels, demons, etc. are something that theologicians are the opposite of experts on, just as flat-Earthers are the opposite of experts on the shape of the Earth.

PZ is entitled to his opinion, and to write whatever he wants, and believe whatever he wants.

My point was that some would percieve PZ’s disdain of those beliefs held by religious scholars (theologians) about a religious subject matter to be offensive - here’s why

At best that would be a strawman. But you wrote

Here’s what I don’t agree with about PZ’s post. PZ says that THEOLOGIANS’ beliefs that angels/demons are real- are ridiculous.

I can see how some would take offense to this.

Did PZ or anyone else assert that no one would find it offensive? Of course not, so what were you disagreeing with? PZ ridiculing theologicians’ beliefs is something you disagreed with about PZ’s post, because some would take offense with it. That is, you (like others in this ridiculous thread) challenged his entitlement to write what he wrote. And if he was entitled, then you have no beef. Some might find it offensive – duh; no news there.

“how can a scholar/ educated person in the 21st century believe in angels, only uneducated, stupid, unsophisticated, or brainwashed individuals literally believe in angels”

Are you seriously arguing that the Pope isn’t brainwashed? How else would you explain his belief? It isn’t based on logic or evidence. So it’s based on faith – where did that come from?

If he actually believes, which is not established – many “men of the cloth” don’t belief some, or in some cases any, of the dogma of their religion.

IMO PZ’s comments (about the belief in angels/demons being ridiculous)are out of line, he is expressing a religious viewpoint in a scientific context.

PZ is entitled to his opinion, and to write whatever he wants, and believe whatever he wants.

So he’s entitled to make “out of line” comments? You are the one who is out of line, bub, with your arrogant judgment about what PZ is not entitled (out of line) to comment on. The claim that belief in real angels and demons operating in the world is ridiculous and that exorcisms are brutal abuse is not “a religious viewpoint”, it’s a rational viewpoint.

I think I have failed in communicating clearly I was trying to answer, objectively, if any of PZ’s comments could reasonable be found to be offensive (as some were saying)

I saw some comments on the thread reacting to PZ’s comments - (who seemed to be offended, specifically about comments about the belief in angels/demons)

and many responses to these comments basically defended PZ’s statements - and implied that PZ’s post wasn’t offensive

I merely stated that I could see how some of PZ’s comments COULD BE offensive and WHY I believed this- I also observed that the passages that some seemed to be taking offense to- weren’t even about the POINT that PZ was making (which I agreed with)

the main point IMO = here’s more evidence that Dembski is a wacko- He not only literally believes in angels/demons but believes that science should take into consideration the actions of angels/demons. (science that does not account for the MIRACULOUS is incomplete)

PZ is entitled to post in his own style, even if that is intentionally provocative. It’s a free country, it’s OK to offend, provoke, push people outside of thier comfort zone etc.

Do I think PZ’s post was offensive? NO - and I never said I believed his POST was- I agree with his point.

Do I think that the implication that people of faith are somehow less rational/ less intelligent (as people) because faith by its nature isn’t rational - yes

I think I have failed in communicating clearly I was trying to answer

No, you’ve failed to think clearly or to be honest.

I merely stated that I could see how some of PZ’s comments COULD BE offensive and WHY I believed this

No, liar, you said you “disagreed about” his post, and later stated that he was “out of line”. And on top of being a liar you’re a stupid effing idiot, as I just noted that no one claimed they weren’t offensive so there was nothing to disagree with and no reason to point it out – you were disagreeing with his having written what he did. So aside from being dishonest and stupid, you’re cowardly, distancing yourself from your judgment when it is called out.

Do I think that the implication that people of faith are somehow less rational/ less intelligent (as people) because faith by its nature isn’t rational - yes

That’s not a complete sentence. You seem to have lost track of what “isn’t rational” pertains to (nature, not implication). If you’re trying to say that you disagree with the view that people of faith are less rational due to the irrational nature of faith, well, people like you provide confirming evidence of the view. Faith is at its core intellectually dishonest.

I have a friend with very high IQ (over 170)who is a buddhist and believes in ghosts, and claims to have “seen” them through meditation. I used to make fun of her and call her “nuts” in her face and “idiot” in private thoughts. The point I want to make is this: religion is basically childhood brainwashing. Highly intelligent people are also susceptible to it. So belief in Angels and Demons may have nothing to do with intelligence. Second point. When seemingly normal people say they “see” spirits, are they crazy, or are we narrow-minded if we laugh at them? Another point. Most people’s thoughts are influenced by their instincts and emotions, and we have no “rationality meter” by which we can judge other people’s thoughts, just our own subjective judgement. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but its not always reliable.

Indeed there are very bright people who believe ridiculous things. But that doesn’t make the beliefs any less ridiculous, and no one is “out of line” to ridicule the beliefs. When people start whining about being offended and all that, they actually imply that the ridiculousness of the beliefs attaches to the believers, as if it were impossible for intelligent people to abandon ridiculous beliefs.

When seemingly normal people say they “see” spirits, are they crazy

Are people who see things in their dreams crazy? Of course not. But who claims that, because you dream it, it must be true? It’s not crazy, but ontologically wrongheaded, to confuse one’s mental experiences with reality. Mental experiences are not necessarily veridical. Visions of spirits can be induced with drugs and brain probes, but that doesn’t mean there are spirits.

Popper, I see your point, but we can tell our dreams apart from reality, generally, and in case of my friend seeing “spirits” she is not taking any hallucinogenic drugs, and no probes are attached to her brain. Also, according to her, meditation is a state of higher consciousness, not subcon. as in the case of sleep. As I said, before I dismissed my friends claims as proof positive that she needs to be institutionalized. But some events in my life made me more open to consideration that maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny possibility that somehow our consciousness survives death, and on occasion communicates with starange people for no apparent reason. I tried meditating, and even chanting, but aside from my brain telling me I am a moron, received no other communication.

I see your point, but we can tell our dreams apart from reality, generally

Not while we’re having them. Perhaps people who see spirits only realize that they aren’t real while they are dreaming. :-)

in case of my friend seeing “spirits” she is not taking any hallucinogenic drugs, and no probes are attached to her brain

So what? My point was only that we know that not all mental experience is veridical. That isn’t only true when taking drugs or having the brain probed. The brain readily spins narratives that have no connection to external reality – there are striking examples in Oliver Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat”.

Also, according to her, meditation is a state of higher consciousness, not subcon. as in the case of sleep.

So what if according to her? She’s no authority. And what the heck is “higher consciousness”?

As I said, before I dismissed my friends claims as proof positive that she needs to be institutionalized.

Well that was foolish of you, but that she isn’t crazy doesn’t mean her visions are real.

But some events in my life made me more open to consideration that maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny possibility that somehow our consciousness survives death

No events in your life could properly provide evidence for that; you have misinterpreted them. Can 70 mph survive a car crash? Can your browser survive running your computer through a trash compacter?

and on occasion communicates with starange people for no apparent reason

Once again, mental experiences are not necessarily veridical. That it may seem to you that you are mentally communicating with others is no indication that you are.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on October 4, 2007 2:00 PM.

Behe v Sean Carroll was the previous entry in this blog.

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