Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Debaet with Mitch LeBlanc on CARM

This is my opening statement:

It's a 1x1 debate. The topic: Atheism is philosophically Banckrupt.

LeBlanc seems bright. He's one contributor to a blog called Urban Philosophy.

I wont transcribe the whole debate here. I may give a couple of summaries latter.

Opening Statment: J.L. Hinman

I don't expect any atheists on CARM to agree with me. I'm telling them that their main thing is bankrupt. I know they won’t like it. Lurkers will find it meaningful. I will present two arguments:

I. Atheism is not a complete Philosophy

This is a statement that will be agreed to by almost all atheists. Such was not the case before the internet, in the days when Madeline Murray O’Hare was one of them major forces behind atheist growth in America. But today most atheists accept the idea that atheism is merely the lack of a belief and nothing more. That is not an advantage it's a problem.

Like minded people tend to form alliances and tendencies emerge. Tendencies have emerged in atheism; while they do not constitute formal definition of atheism they do plague the atheist community. There is no way to stop this because there is no atheist ethics or code of behavior or any corrective one can point to and say "you are not being a good atheist." There is such a corrective in Christian teaching. There is no such thing in atheism.

A. Philosophies not corrected by atheism

This leaves the atheist community filled with tendencies of reductionism and with scientistic and also hate group mentality in some quarters. I have been doing the Atheist Watch blog for a couple of years now and I have large body of evidence to demonstrate this hate mentality. But it's there on every message board. No atheist had taken my challenge to go on a board pretending to be a Christian. I find it amusing and telling that no one will do it. They know and I know how they would be treated if they did.

I believe this hate group aspect is the result of hatefully minded people banding together under the rubric of "atheism" because there is no corrective, there is no ethics and are no teachings that would same them into civilized behavior.

One tendency I've noticed is atheists often become polarized in argument and fearing that anything could be a God argument take the nee jerk reaction and support extreme positions. I think this happened in the recent discussion about consciousness.

B. Logical Contradictions at the heart of atheism.

There three contradictions I’ll deal with here:

(1) Atheist thinking originally ruled God out of science on the basis that we had no need for that hypothesis since we had natural cause and effete to explain everything rather than God.

This is the famous statement made by La Place and that is basically why he said it, because he had cause and effect to fall back upon. But now atheists abandoned cause and effect to a great degree to get away from the cosmological argument. In so doing they have eliminated their basic ordinal reason for leaving God out of science.

a. Materailism based upon cause and effect
Dictonary of Philosphy Anthony Flew, article on "Materialism"

"...the belief that everything that exists is ether matter or entirely dependent upon matter for its existence." Center For Theology and the Natural Sciences Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999) Is the Big Bang a Moment of Creation?(this source is already linked above)

"...Beyond the Christian community there was even greater unease. One of the fundamental assumptions of modern science is that every physical event can be sufficiently explained solely in terms of preceding physical causes. Quite apart from its possible status as the moment of creation, the Big Bang singularity is an offence to this basic assumption. Thus some philosophers of science have opposed the very idea of the Big Bang as irrational and untestable."

b) Something from nothing contradicts materialism
Science and the Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead.
NY: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76

"We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... science which is employed in their development [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved."[Whitehead was an atheist]

c) Causality was the basis upon which God was expelled from Modern Science

It was La Place’s famous line "I have no need of that Hypothesis" [meaning God] Which turned the scientific world form believing (along with Newton and assuming that order in nature proved design) to unbelief on the principle that we don’t' need God to explain the universe because we have independent naturalistic cause and effect. [Numbers, God and Nature]
2) Materialism Undermines Itself
a) Big Bang contradicts causality (see quotation above)
b) QM theory seems to contradict cause/effect relationship.
c) Rejection of final cause
3) Probabilistic Justification for assumption of Cause

We still have a huge justification for assuming causes inductively, since nothing in our experience is ever uncaused. The mere fact that we can't see or find a cause isn't a proof that there isn't one.

Alfred North whitehead pointed this out as a major reason for understanding a contradiction in science and atheism both. Because it leaves the field open for final cause but both atheists and scientists are afraid to take that up.

II. Atheism is Bankrupt because it denies the vastly well documented transformative power of religious belief while offering no such supported assumptions of it’s own.

A huge body of empirical data has been amassed through several hundred empirical studies by real social scientists. Religious experience, “mystical” or “peak” experience as it is called, has been demonstrated to provide real, positive and lasting changes. While atheists claim to “feel better” after leaving certain religious environments there is no one single study of any kind that backs up any such claims on the part of atheism.

Two major studies, the wuthnow study and the Nobel study both show a huge list of changes in people’s lives, for the better as a result of religious experience:

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.
``Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences
``It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)
"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."

(4) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Argyle, M., and Hills, P. (2000). Religious experiences and their relations with happiness and personality. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 157-172.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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Recent Empirical Studies Prove Religious Believers have less depression, mental illness lower Divorce rate, ect.

J. Gartner, D.B. Allen, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., Natiional Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3090

"The Reviews identified 10 areas of clinical staus in whihc research has demonstrated benefits of religious commitment: (1) Depression, (2) Suicide, (3) Delinquency, (4) Mortality, (5) Alchohol use (6) Drug use, (7) Well-being, (8) Divorce and martital satisfaction, (9) Physical Health Status, and (10) Mental health outcome studies....The authors underscored the need for additional longitudinal studies featuring health outcomes. Although there were few, such studies tended to show mental health benefit. Similarly, in the case of teh few longevity or mortality outcome studies, the benefit was in favor of those who attended least 70% of the time, increased religious commitment was associated with improved coping and protection from problems."

[The authors conducted a literature search of over 2000 publications to glean the current state of empirical study data in areas of Spirituality and health]
70% of the time believers are more likely than non believers (or at least experiences are more likely than non experiences) to have these effects of self actualization.

Atheism teaches one to doubt these effects even though hey are well documented. Especially the “new” atheism would evangelically and actively seek to disuad people from experiencing these effects even though they are basically the best thing in life. Atheism would seek to instill in its adherents a tendency to gamble with their own happiness and fulfillment betting on the depressed, less adjusted and less well end of the continuum of human experience merely because accepting the advantages would mean placing faith in a reality that atheists cannot control and that they cannot feel special advocating.

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