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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review of G.M. Woerlee' "Insights form Atheism"

.......Someone sent me a link informing me of a certain atheist website. I was actually grateful for the material to critique as I was looking for something more worthy than bunch of illiterates on a message board. This is the website of G.M. Woerlee, "insights form atheism." He tries to trade upon his background as an anesthesiologist. He spaeks as though this parepared him to know all things:

Many years spent as an anesthesiologist, regulating people's level of consciousness, heart and circulatory function, their reactions to extreme pain and stress, revealed many insights in the practical description of the actions of anesthetic drugs on the human body, as well as their use in managing the pain experienced by women in labor. Moreover, these same insights show how the functioning of the human body and natural laws both generate and confirm human beliefs in the immaterial pantheons and worlds preached by all religions.

.......Sorry I just can't buy that being an anesthesiologist makes one all knowing. I had a friend in sixth grade whose father was an anesthesiologist. He was a Christian and he didn't doubt the existence of God nor did he claim to be all knowing. Of course the opinionated Worelee trades in prejudices and acts as though his prejudices are insight. He falls prey to the usual atheist assertion that he understands why people believe and that through science he can clear up those reasons. He says: "In fact, believers in all religions have only faith to sustain their belief. But faith alone fades away unless it is supported by proofs supporting this belief; so there must be some sort of proof sustaining belief in religions. So where is this proof? What sustains religious belief?" Typical atheist straw man argument to chalk belief up to some form of imagination then arguments warranting belief become nothing more than some need to prove the imaginary. So the argument form incredulity is in there undermining any kind of proof the believer could advance. The problem is argument from incredulity is circular reasoning. It literally says "becuase I don't bleieve that proves it can't be true." It's like accusation proves guilt. Assuming that faith is merely imagination and using that to write off  proof is both circular reasoning and straw man argument. Faith is not imagining. Faith is not belief without reasons. See my article on Metacork's blog "Nature of Faith is Confusing to Modernity."
.......There's a pretty good indication that he doesn't really understand anything about religion. He has his opponent totally down graded and underestimated. He probalby just assume as a matter of course that religoius people stupid and therefore have stupid reasons for believing. His understanding is entirely rooted in the notion of empirical evidence and objectivity. He only understands belief in terms of the objectified physical evidence rooted in what can be seen:

The Christian Bible and the Islamic Koran tell us that the behaviour of people on this physical world determines the fate of their immaterial souls during the eternity their souls will exist after death. People not only believe in these things, but believe in them so intensely, that many are even willing to die for their belief in these things. Yet when you look at these beliefs rationally, you come to a number of very definite conclusions.
  • You cannot see, touch, smell, or detect the reality of this immaterial God, or gods.
  • You cannot see, touch, smell, or detect the reality of the immaterial soul, or the immaterial eternal consciousness preached by all religions.
  • You cannot see, touch, smell, or detect the reality of the immaterial demons, devils, angels, or all other entities listed in the Torah, Bible and Koran.
  • You cannot see, touch, smell, or detect the reality of the immaterial eternal life after death promised by all religions.
He's giving this as his understanding of why people believe, but it really makes his misunderstanding becuase everything he says is rooted in that. Even when he deals with more complex issues  such as existential self authentication and transformation power he still reduces it to "feelings" objected sense of the subjective. Of course like all atheists he disvalues the subjective tot he extent that it's reduced to mere "feelings."
.......Before getting to that I want to deal with his major issue, he seems to think that Near Death Experience is a major impetus for belief. It may be for him but I don't think it is for most people. I really think relatively few people ever think about that. He claims that is profession of putting to sleep gives him expert insight into NDE but I hardly think. I don't think there really are any experts expect those who have experienced it. But of course he talks like his profession gives him expertise in all things. NDE is far from cut and dried. There's no magic bullet evdience that proves it's true. It's not disproved either. The NDE argument that I make on my list of 42 God arguments was at one time the most read arguemnt on the list. It's old and outdated it had weaknesses even in it's best days, but it's still wroth reading. There are two major studies supporting the issue: One in the Sunday Telegraph article on my page,The study's authors, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a consultant neuropsychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Dr. Sam Parnia, a clinical research fellow and registrar at Southampton hospital and one appearing in the Lancet at the end of the 90s. These two studies are must reads.
,,,,,,, In dealing with "feelings" (he means "religious experience") of cousre he is totally unaware of the evidence.


Belief in subjective reality: I know God is real, because I feel it is true...

Imagine you spin yourself around and around until you are very, very dizzy. You then lay on the ground and close your eyes. You feel the world is turning around you, or you feel you are spinning and the world is standing still.
You feel yourself spinning, or that the world is spinning around you. You believe intensely in one of these two choices, but an observer does not see you spinning, nor does an observer perceive themselves as spinning with the world around you. All an observer sees is a person lying on the ground with closed eyes. This illustrates the difference between subjective and objective experience. The subjective experience has no relation to the reality about you. It is an internally generated sensation without any relationship to the physical world in which you live. Here is an extreme example of an experience where there is a very large discrepancy between subjective and objective reality.
This is so pathetic becuase he has not even bothered to do any research on the nature of religious experience. He just assumes its analogous to some physical sensation such as spinning and that's all there is to it. It's the fact of its "subjective" nature that turns him off. He doesn't even understand the concept of inter-subjectivity. Just because some aspect of a situation is subjective doesn't mean that other people can't experience the same kind of thing. Inter-subjectivity is when more than one person has experiences that are so similar they form an analogy and thus create mutual understanding. Such is the case with mystical or religious or "peak" experience. The irony of it is there is a huge body of empirical research (well over 200 studies) that bear this out.[1] One of the major developments in the field is that of the M scale (Mysticism scale) invented by Ralph Hood Jr. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The M scale provides us with a means of understanding objectively what is and what is not a valid religious experience, Once we understand that we can study the effects of it since it is no longer merely a matter of opinion as to what is what. One of the major findings in connection with the M scale has been that mystical experiences are universal in all times, places, cultures and faiths. Even though the doctrines associated with them differ the actual experiences themselves are the same.[2] For my page: (on religious a prior.):  defense of the M scale.

 Worlee goes on:
For example, a man believes he can fly without the aid of any machines. He jumps from a high building, and while falling, he thinks he is flying. He really does experience his fall as flight, because as he falls, he feels himself flying through the air. His sensations of flight prove the truth of his belief to him. But observers see something quite different. Observers see a man who leaps from a high building to fall to the ground below. Observers are neutral, while the man who believes he is flying really does experience his fall as flight. The belief system of this man does not correspond with physical reality, because the reality is that the man jumps and falls to the ground below, no matter how fervently he believes he is flying. His flight lasts as long as his fall. This is physical reality, and his belief system is a delusion.
The last two examples are of sensations resulting from normal body function, albeit with misinterpretation of the reality. However, abnormal body function can also generate very real and powerful sensations and visions. Consider the example of the divine hallucinations generated by tumours in the temporal lobes of the brain. Here is an example of a "conversion experience" of a patient with a tumor in a temporal lobe of his brain (Dewhurst 1970)
The patient's first religious experience occurred in St. Ebba's Hospital during photic stimulation. He had a vision in which he was in the cockpit of an aeroplane flying over a mountainous region of France. The aircraft gained altitude and brought him to a different land, a land of peace. He had no cares and no burdens. He felt that the power of God was upon him and was changing him for the better. (Case 3 in Dewurst 1970)
These experiences are real, but their interpretations as religious experiences are iinterpretations made without any reference to reality. And there are countless other subjective experiences, some of which provide apparent proof of the paranormal, of a soul, of life after death, of God, and of religion. Nonetheless, regardless of the sometimes intense and profound nature of these experiences, they constitute no proof of the reality of any religion.
.......Of course he's distorting the nature of religious experience to pretend that they are representative. This is basically a straw man argument because it's not what most who argue experience as a warrant for belief argue. He thinks the way in which the experiences are real have to do with the texture of the experience themselves and the thinks that is what the argument turns upon. He's just saying that the experincer finds it so real seeming but it's not based upon reality. Yet this is total misconception about the nature of religious experiences and it shows his incredible lack of research. The argument from the experience does not turn upon the intensity of the feeling. The reason the experience is "real" is that it has real effects and proves it's an experience of soemthing. Only real things have real effects. It's not merely a trick of the mind something is actually being experiences because it leaves a real effect. The experience can be traced in brain waves.  Here is a distillation of two of the major studies and the effects found upon the experincers.
Long-Term Effects

Wuthnow:

*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

Noble:

*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

Because the studies have this kind of effect we can draw several conclusions. Upon these conclusions drawn from data the arguments turn:

I. The Arguments from Co-determniate.

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisable man in the snow. You can't see the invisable man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the wrold.

The only question at that ponit is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answere in the argument below. Here let us set out some general peramitors:

(1) The trace produced content with speicificually religious affects

(2)The affects led one to a renewed sense of divine relaity, are transformative of life goals and self actualization

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alteante cuasality or other means.




Argument itself:


(1)There are real affects from Mytical experince.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explaintions we should assume that they are genuine.

(4)Since mystical experince is usually experince of something, the Holy, the sacred some sort of greater trasncendent reality we should assume that the object is real since the affects or real, or that the affects are the result of some real higher reailty.

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-dterminate is the transfomrative power of the affects.


II. Argument from Epistemic Judgement:


(1) No empirical evidence can prove the existence of the external world, other minds, or the reality of history, or other such basic things.

(2) We do not find this epistemological dilemma debilitating on a daily basis because we assume that if our experiences are consistent and regular than we can navigate in "reality" whether it is ultimately illusory of not.

(3) Consistency and regularity of personal experience is the key.

(4) religious experience can also be regular and consistent, perhaps not to the same degree, but in the same way.

(5) Inersubjective

RE of this type has a commonality shared by bleievers all over the world, in different times and diffrent places, just as the exeternal world seems to be perceived the same by everyone.

(6) Real and Lasting effects.


(7) therefore, we have as much justification for assuming religious belief based upon experince as for assuming the reality of the external world or the existence of other minds.


III. Universal Nature of Experience

.......The issues here are epistemological, they are about how we know what we know. They are not merely psychological or emotional so the argument about subjectivity has no place in the discussion. Not that subjective knowledge doesn't come int it, but the argument is not based the way the experience feels.

The Third argument is that from Universal nature of the experience. I urge the reader to read the essay in fn 2 for the details and data  defending this argument. The universal nature of the experiences not only prove the inter-subjective nature of the experience but they also indicate the experience of soemthing outside the human mind. This is so because religious belief is a cultural construct. It's based upon cultural systole, they can't be genetic. Cultural symbols are agriculturally constructed, they are not genetic, that there is a universal sense of the experience indicate something objective is being experienced.



[1] This is a list of studies that I have researched. There are near 200 of them and they all show the positive value of religious experience both in terms of transformation of the experience and in terms of disproving such allegations as a link ti mental illness. The list is on my site Religious A priori and is found here: http://religiousapriori.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-list-of-religoius-experience-studies.html
[2] Ralph Hood Jr. "The Common Core Study in the Thesis of Mysticism,"Where God and science meet,Westport, CT: Praeger. P, McNamar (Ed.) Vol. 3, pp.119-138
scroll to page 119 this is a preview on Google books so it doesn't have all the pages.
http://books.google.com.cu/books?id=0bzj3RtT3zIC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

4 comments:

JBsptfn said...

Woerlee always tries to discredit the famous Pam Reynolds NDE case, and he is a thorn in the side of NDE proponents like Titus Rivas and Chris Carter:

http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2012/12/interview-with-afterlife-researcher-and.html

http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com/2012/07/review-by-skeptic-gerald-woerlee-of.html

In the second one, Carter said that he embarassed him in the Fall 2011 Journal of Near Death Studies regarding the Reynolds case, which is why Woerlee wrote another Amazon rebuttal to him(Atheists like Gerald seem to like to go to Amazon and give bad reviews to religious and spiritual books no matter the quality, although Carter's books have 4.5 ratings overall).

Metacrock said...

I actually didn't get to any of his "wacy" stuff. It's not significant enough to worry about. I have not argued NDE stuff out like I have other arguments. I have read the two studies I mention.

JBsptfn said...

Quote"He claims that is profession of putting to sleep gives him expert insight into NDE but I hardly think. I don't think there really are any experts expect those who have experienced it. But of course he talks like his profession gives him expertise in all things."Quote


This quote here is spot on. As far as the NDE is concerned, I believe the experiencers on NDERF more than some biased Anasthesiologist who twists the Holy Bible to support his evil agenda.

In those accounts, the people usually say that it isn't a dream, and that they have at least some change in their life, if not great change. Also, a lot of them say that they have no fear of death.

Metacrock said...

yes I have read that. I think that's transformation. I think transformation is a good measure of the reality of an experience. Of cousre it has to be a mediated experience since the cultural symbols seem to be relative to one's background in such NDE.You know Buddhists see Buddha and Chrsitians see Jesus.