Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Answering Dan Lawler's review of my book, the Trace of God (availabe on Amazon)

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Lawler's cutsie ultra cleaver review is given brilliant title:"Listen To What The Flower People Say"

By Dan Lawler May 20, 2015

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

This is not a review it's the typical mindless knee jerk atheist mocking that so obviously forms the signature move of their movement. to wit:

he quotes a few statements I made about love and mystical experience

"Mystical experience is like love; it is love, in a very real sense." Location 5649.

"Mystical experience is not going to tell us what God is made of; it will tell us God is love. Love is a matter of experience and we can experience that. We need not make doctrines about love, we need only love. " Loc. 5774.

"God is love, and love is the foundation of everything." Loc. 6156.

Than his incisive commentary:
That's right folks, all you need is love, love; love is all you need. If you missed the 1960s or haven't otherwise had a mystical experience of love (or "God," as God is love), then a dose of psilocybin combined with a Good Friday church service might be just what the love doctor ordered for that life changing encounter with the Absolute.

Out of an almost 500 page book he isolates three comments about love then characterizes the whole work by that. Forget over 100 (maybe more like300) empirical scientific studies, the ground breaking M scale that gives us a basis of comparison between experiences so that we not just guessing about subjective states, water off a Duck's back for Lawler.

Pardon the sarcasm, but even the author himself concedes the lollipops-and-rainbows content of his peace and love message. After telling us for the umpteenth time that mystical experience provides a sense that God is love and "the sense of God's love enables one to cope and to love others" (Loc. 6131), he states: "I admit this interpretation does sound a bit 'New Age-like' or pie in the sky; one might go so far as to say 'sunshine and candy lambs.'" One might indeed.

Pardon it? without the sarcasm there's nothing there. In this quote he tries to insist that the "message of the book" is summed up in these three statements, not "umpteen" but three, despite two whole chapters on study findings and study methodology. The message of the is stated explicitly in more than three places (like the subtitle and the back cover)is that good scientific research provides a rational warrant for belief. He knows that:
Mystical experiences that God is love provide the "trace of God" from the book's title, and pragmatism provides the "rational warrant for belief" of the subtitle. People are justified in believing that God is love if they have a mystical experience to that effect and the experience allows them to better cope with life. This rational warrant is said to justify a belief in God without the need of otherwise proving his/her/its existence. The author desires to "free the believer from the need to prove." (Loc. 125.) In the process, however, he also frees them from truth and reality.

Notice that he's still trying to confuse the real message with mocking point (his fear of love is symptomatic of Dawkamentalism. In this statement Lawler reveals his inability to follow a simple argument. Love is a universal or ner universal aspect of the experie3nce, it is not warrant for belief. The warrant is the transformative effects that tells religious belief does what it says it will (changes your life), thus acts as a measure of veracity. That may be over his head. It's Understandable why love is s8uch a red flag for him. Dawkamentalists hate love and thus fear it.
The pragmatic test 'Does it work?' is the author's substitute for truth. "Working equals truth in the epistemic field of our assumptions." (Loc. 5295.) Mystical experiences "work" because they allow one to better cope with the "human problematic" of life being nasty, brutish and short. Magic mushrooms work even better.

Are we dealing with Donald Trump here? If working is not an empirical test what is? Science? You mean like the 50 years of scientific studies with no negative findings? In the book I actually made a big deal out of the atheist refusal to acknowledge this point. If you ask them how they know science is true they will say, it works! they make little pithy comments like "you can ask that and you are using a computer?" The connection between working and truth is foundational to atheist thinking. It's the core of empiricism. That's the basis of prediction and explanatory power. Apparently Lawler doesn't understand the distinction between epistemic matters and propaganda. Insisting upon "truth" while ignoring the means to find it is mere propaganda.

then he wants to throw the good Friday study at me.

In 1962, two groups of Harvard divinity students were sent to church on Good Friday; members of one group were given a placebo and the others a hit of psilocybin. All the members of the drugged group reported experiencing profound, positive mystical experiences (save for the one guy who "totally freaked out"). (Locs. 2553, 5105.) Subsequent experiments in the late 80s and early 2000s had psilocybin takers similarly reporting mystical experiences that increased their personal well-being and life satisfaction (though "about a third of the subjects reported significant fear, with some reporting transient feelings of paranoia"). Loc. 5089.

The psilocybin trips were, for some, an effective coping mechanism for the human problematic. They "worked" according to this author's pragmatic standards. The author steadfastly denies that the administered hallucinogens caused the reported experiences, and says the cause of the experience is beside the point anyway. If the subject reports an experience that adds to his well-being, the experience is deemed "real" because it has "real" effects. (Loc. 1092.) This is where the author's pragmatism cuts its ties to reality. If a drug induced hallucination helps you to cope with life's problems, you can say you've experienced God and that is all the rational warrant you need for living in fantasy land.

First of all I acknowledged the link between transformative experience and the drug. he just doesn't talk about my answer. I wonder if he read the whole chapter. Secondly he relates an answer I did not give. He says, "The author steadfastly denies that the administered hallucinogens caused the reported experiences, and says the cause of the experience is beside the point anyway.." I said no such thing. He mistakes my challenge to the study to supply proof of cause but makes it sound like I am denying something the study supplied. Moreover, I prove that the good Friday data is contaminated so it can't tell us anything. totally ignores it. He also misses the fact that I pointed to that the subjects of the original Panke study (Good Friday) all had mystical experiences before the study, some in childhood. That opens the door to the prospect that the drugs opens receptors that allow the memory of the experience. That's why the data is contaminated.

Another misimpression he creates is that two subsequent studies back up good Friday. The study in the 80s was a follow-up to good Friday, same people same bad data. The study in the first decade of the century was Johns Hoppkins (the researcher's name is Griffiths), that was a new study. Lawler ignores my point that the author of the study buys the receptor argument (above) and says it doesn't rule out God. I quoted his statement in a news paper and also communicated with him in emails.

The final part of that quote: "If a drug induced hallucination helps you to cope with life's problems, you can say you've experienced God and that is all the rational warrant you need for living in fantasy land," this is a ridiculous exaggeration. That kind of data is not existent in the Griffiths study, They did not follow the subjects for years to determine if they experienced transformation, many studies on mystical experience have done so. The findings in Griffiths show high score on the M scale and the subjects themselves reported experiences, There is no data on transformation. The receptor argument explains the M scale scores but since there is no data on transformation there's no proof the drug produces that. The critics still can't explain how the mystical experience without the drug does that, Lawler can't explain how all those people who did not take the drug, in other studies, did have the transformation.

Whatever the Bible might say about God, truth and reality is of little account to the pragmatist, so don't go looking there for guidance.

He didn't read the last chapter where I show how an experiential apologetics is Biblically based.

He exhibits another little technique that atheists use on message boards, labeling. They think if they label your position then they beat your argument. This excessively stupid because atheists are usually pragmatists. I am not a pragmatist at all, it's stupid to use that label just because I use social science data.

Pragmatism rejects representation and correspondence, that is, language does not truly represent an objective reality and our concepts do not truly correspond to an objective reality.
that's ludicrous and shows massive ignorance about pragmatism. Lawler is on the verge of making a beginner's mistake in argumentation. Let's watch:
Consequently, language cannot convey true knowledge of reality. Religious language in particular is "basically guaranteed to be wrong" insofar as it purports to correspond to reality. (Loc. 5035.) Language, like religion, is merely a culturally constructed coping mechanism. To the extent it allows one to better survive in the world it "works," and for pragmatists that's as good as it gets vis-à-vis truth and reality.

That is not the result of pragmatism but of mystical theology. Nor does it apply to all language, speaking directly about talk of the transcendent.

Because words are mere cultural constructs that do not accurately represent reality, religious doctrine is not all that important. In fact, doctrine exacerbates the human problematic as it "creates religious differences and religious problems." (Loc. 3092.) The world's mystics all experience the same ground of being, its only the words they use to describe the experience that differ: "Jesus," "Jehovah," "The Void," "Vishnu," "Allah," "Krishna," "Christ." (Locs. 2771, 5880.) The words are insignificant. The experience is what counts. Why bother with those troublesome words and religious doctrines when one can just mystically experience love?

That's an exaggeration of what I said and I never said anything like Jesus = Vishnu. I did not lump Christ in with Krishna. or any other god in a theological sense..To not understand the link between J (OT God) and Allah is totally ignorant. Even so that doesn't bar one side being wrong.

I never said words are unimportant I did made caveats against ignoring it. In fact I made a big deal out of the point that I would not base doctrine upon mystical experiences I use doctrine to make sense of it. My point is we can know love apart from language.

Altogether now:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

I have a counter quote from an old 60s song, one I always liked better: "a man only sees what he wants to see, and dis-regards the rest, lie lie lie lie lie lie lie --The Boxer, by Paul Simon.
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