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02/17/10

Permalink 08:55:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 987 words   English (US)
Categories: The Mind

The “Hard Problem of Consciousness” and it Significance

A few weeks ago, I wrote about introspection, which the act of personally observing the workings of one's own mind. With this in mind, I'd like to invite you, the reader of this post, to try to observe your own consciousness. Is this impossible? Am I making a category error here? Well, it depends on what is meant by “consciousness”. On the one hand, consciousness is a state of being. If one is in a conscious state, they can observe things, such as things outside of the self like a desk or chair, or perhaps things going on in one's own mind. Yes, based on this understanding of “consciousness”, one cannot observe consciousness because it is not a thing. We can call this understanding of consciousness “conscious awareness” because it is only in this state of being that one can be aware of things. This is approximately the same concept as the state of being awake. When one is asleep, they are not conscious. There are other definitions of consciousness as well, though they are all similar to conscious awareness in the sense that they are all states that the brain can be in that relate to the degree to which one can interact with the outside world.

What is common to all such definitions, aside from one which I will get to in a moment, is that they can all be studied scientifically and where science has made significant progress in understanding. Conscious awareness can be studied scientifically and, though the brain is extremely complex, advancements in neurobiology and psychology have taken away a lot of the mysticism that surrounded this phenomenon. Modern science is working towards what might eventually be a detailed and reliable understanding of how conscious awareness works, partially through advanced brain scans, partially through computer simulations, and also with the help of several other methodologies.

The fact that conscious awareness appears to be understandable through modern science is what makes it “the easy problem of consciousness”. This contrasts with “the hard problem of consciousness”, as the philosopher David Chalmers calls it. Chalmers argues that there is another understanding of the word “consciousness” that actually cannot be studied scientifically, and he calls this “phenomenal consciousness”. This is where the introspection comes in. Phenomenal consciousness is not really a state of being, but it is instead something that can, in a way, be observed, but the only way to observe it is from a first person point of view. If it could be observed from a more neutral point of view, then it could be studied scientifically. But this is not the case. What is so “hard” about this is that it is hard to demonstrate to others that there is indeed a phenomenon that can be observed in the first person that is entirely distinct from conscious awareness. Remember, conscious awareness can be demonstrated to others and studied scientifically, so those who tend to only believe in scientific knowledge are resistant to accept that there is another form of consciousness. They don't see any evidence for this. Perhaps you, the reader, don't see evidence for this either.

Though it is impossible for me to demonstrate this phenomenon to you directly, there are ways of helping others to get their intuition working so that the others can come to realize this for themselves. First, think about what you see and what you hear. Is there an element of your experience of seeing and hearing that is distinct from the physical world? Think about the objects in front of you. Think about what must be going on in your brain now processing all of this. Now focus on your experience of sight. Is there something more there than what is going on in your brain? Though you certainly don't know everything that is going on in your brain, can you discern that the content of your experience is altogether distinct from the physical objects in front of you and your physical brain? The element of experience that is distinct from the physical world is called qualia. There are many thought experiments that make a good case that there is an element of one's experience that is distinct from the physical world, and I am not going to reprint them here. I do suggest that the reader do a web search for “Mary the color blind neurologist” “What is it like to be a bat?” and “Inverted spectrum”.

David Chalmers argues that there could be two separate people who are physically the same in every way, down to the molecular level, with the exception that only one of the two has actual conscious experience. Both are consciously aware in that both appear, from a scientific perspective, to be aware of their surroundings and to react appropriately, but only one has an actual experience of this. The other is what is known as a “philosophical zombie”, because this is very similar to the traditional concept of a zombie. Philosophical zombies are a logical possibility because of the existence of qualia. We can know that qualia exist through introspection. It may be impossible to scientifically study phenomenal consciousness scientifically, and this is why it is called “the hard problem of consciousness”, but a growing number of people are coming to realize that there is an element of their own experience that is beyond the physical world. Each person who is able to realize this should also realize that the significance of this finding is that science cannot tell us everything about reality and that somehow the physical world interacts with the nonphysical.

What is going on? What else can be known about the nonphysical? The key to finding answers to these questions comes through the process of introspection, followed by reasoning.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is phenomenal consciousness real? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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02/04/10

Permalink 08:53:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 1441 words   English (US)
Categories: Deism

A Deist Conception of Time

I want to explore the concept of time in today's post. As time passes, many things change, but the questions that we ask to try to make sense of our existence do not change over time. Here is one question that has withstood the test of time: “What exactly is time, anyways?”

We all have a conception of the past and the present and have expectations for the future, but how does one actually define time? One way to define time in terms of our experience of change. We see various different types of change: slow change, fast change, dramatic change, unexpected change. If we try to think of what is common to all of these, one thing we can note is that time must pass in order for any kind of change to occur. There are also other ways of thinking about the nature of time. For example, we can define time as a sequence of events or as a sequence of states of being.

These definitions might help us understand our experience of time, but there are physicists who want to get the best idea of what time actually is in reality by looking at the available evidence as objectively as possible. This often means avoiding interpretations that are human-centric in favor of theories that are more science-centric. Some physicists have gone so far as to theorize that the movement of time and the distinction between the past, present, and future as we experience it is a human-centric illusion. There are many formulations of this, but in general these theories say that everything that has happened or will happen should be thought of as factual, just as everything that exists in space at any single point in time is factual. Any infinitesimal point in time has adjacent infinitesimal points in time in the past and in the future, but the argument is that this relation is the same as infinitesimal points in space being adjacent to each other. The argument that many physicists have advanced is that the three spacial dimensions and time actually form a four dimensional spacetime (in many theories, spacetime has more than four dimensions, but this is a separate issue). Some theories ascribe special properties to time that the spacial dimensions do not have, while other theories consider them to all have the same properties in essence, where the only difference comes from point of view.

This conception of time has some major problems. If time is nothing more than a dimension where states of being and events are adjacent to each other, then how did this system come about in the first place? What are the factors that led to this system being the way that it is? It is a natural part of humanity to wonder what is the explanation for things. The problem with this system is that it does not leave room for explanation since one state of being does not actually cause the next state. Within this system, if one state follows another in time, they are just next to each other in a way similar to how two beads on a necklace are next to each other.

I do not see how it can be invalid for one to ask what is the ultimate cause of this system. It seems that this conception of time does not avoid the cosmological argument in favor of the existence of God any more than the human-centric conception of time. The fact remains that the best explanation for the universe being the way that it is and not different is that there it was created by a higher power that can be called God. I have not come across a theory of time that can begin to change this.

It is still necessary to try to figure out the best definition of time that works with the existing conclusion regarding ultimate explanation for existence. The theory of time proposed by physicists as stated above actually cannot be reconciled with this existing conclusion. Simply because a theory is accepted by the scientific community does not mean that it deserves to be respected as scientific knowledge. Most of the time, scientific theories that seem to be accepted by the scientific community at large can also be reconciled with one's philosophical conclusions, but this is not always the case. In rare circumstances, there can be scientific theories that enjoy widespread support in the scientific community but that are flawed because these scientists are not philosophers and they might not realize the philosophical flaws that exist in some popular theories.

From the cosmological argument, the most reasonable conclusion is that all things are dependent on the higher power, and this includes time. It does not make sense to think of God as being beholden to time. The best definition of time that can coexist with the most reasonable conception of God is that time is essentially the actions of God in succession. As God acts, this is what we experience as time moving. The past consists of actions and states of affairs that God has already done. The future is what God will do, though this may not necessarily have been predetermined. To further clarify, it does not make sense to ask what God does between actions, nor does it make sense to ask what happened before God first acted.

So if we see a leaf fall to the ground, what has happened is that God has moved it to the ground, according to the laws of nature. God is not beholden to the laws of nature either. The law of gravity, by all appearances, is God's plan. We see things obey the laws of nature, and this is apparently because God does not wish to deviate from the plan. This does not necessarily mean that God won't. Now, it does make the most sense to focus primarily on understanding the laws of nature and only looking for a supernatural explanation for phenomena as a last resort (which rarely happens), but it is still important to understand that there is a power that is higher than the laws of nature and also a power that is greater than time.

Now, one may ask, what about the theory of relativity? Isn't time relative to motion? Well, yes, according to the laws of nature. Time does appear to be relative to speed and to gravity based on our experiments. Experiments have shown that the Special Theory of Relativity does allow us to make accurate predictions for how much time passes from the point of view of a traveling object relative to that of a stationary object. This may be true, but according to the conclusions have been derived from the cosmological argument up to this point, the notion of “time” that the Theory of Relativity speaks of is actually not God's time. Though this “time” is real, it is actually derived from God's time. There must an absolute time, which is nothing other than the ongoing actions of God.

Just to clarify, in some contexts “absolute” can mean “utter, complete”, as in the highest possible value something can have, while in other contexts, this word can mean “without exception”. In this context, however, “absolute” refers to a quantity that is not purely comparative, but is instead anchored into reality. This differs from comparison terms like “big”, “small”, “tall”, and “short”. All of these terms are purely relative. Something may seem big to you, but to something even bigger, it seems small. So what this means is that while objects have their own local “times” that are determined by the Theory of Relativity, and within this system each local “time” might seem longer or shorter based on the speed and mass of the object, all of these local “times” are all actually relative to God's absolute time, which is not relative to anything. So the local “times” are all relative to each other, but they are all also relative to God's absolute time.

God's time works as changes to the physical world on a consistent basis as determined by the laws of nature, which includes the determination of each object's local “time” by their speed and by gravity. Though time may appear to be continuous, this continuity is an illusion and the actual time is discreet. It is a discreet series of actions that change things according to God's predefined plan, which we know as the laws of nature.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What is the ultimate explanation for the universe? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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01/27/10

Permalink 08:52:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 508 words   English (US)
Categories: Deism, Words and Meanings

What is Nothingness?

I suppose we all know what the word “nothing” means, right? Simple enough concept. Open a box, any box. If there is something inside, remove it. There is now nothing in the box. But then it seems like a lot of us have an incoherent conception of what this word means. If anyone reading this thinks that it is conceivable that there could have been nothing rather than something in existence, then this applies to you.

Here is why: if you are thinking of the possibility of nothing at all existing, then what you are essentially thinking of is the possibility that what exists is that nothing exists. You see, this is self-contradictory. What exists doesn't exist? This is nonsense. This sort of thinking arises when one thinks of two incompatible thoughts at the same time, since the brain is capable of this, and both thoughts contribute to what one says. The definition of nothing that avoids self-contradiction is for it to have a similar meaning to "less". It is a comparison between two things, one of which is missing important stuff but still has something. Like when you open a box and find it has nothing inside. There is still a box, so that is something.

As a thought experiment, think about nothing existing in the universe. If you were to think about the possibility in which no planets or any other matter exists in the universe, then there would still be the laws of nature. Though it may seem like you could eliminate the laws of nature and be left with nothing at all, we have seen that the concept of nothing does indeed depend on something existing in order for this concept to be coherent. So eliminate the laws of nature, but there is still something there. The least that there ever could possibly be is the higher power, which can be called God. It is the only thing that is not dependent on anything else. The concept of nothing is dependent on something, though something is not dependent on nothing.

This is all based on understanding the thought behind the words. It is easy to think in terms of language, but we think in terms of thoughts, not words. I do understand that even thoughts are imperfect. I know that there is kind of a language of thought, and that this language does not model reality perfectly. But this language of thought is not the same as spoken or written language and is closer to reality than spoken or written language ever can be. Some day, I believe, it will be possible, though advanced brain scans and other advancements, to understand the language of thought and how it relates to spoken and written language. I don't need this advancement to understand what “nothing” really means. I already know from careful observation and reason.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What is the ultimate explanation for the universe? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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01/18/10

Permalink 08:48:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 758 words   English (US)
Categories: The Mind, Building Knowledge

Introspection: Personally Observing the Workings of One's Own Mind

We all know that we can observe the external world through our eyes and ears. Well, those among us who are not skeptics or solipsists would agree with that. I don't pay much attention to skeptics or solipsists because their arguments are self defeating if they wish others to believe that they are saying is true. But that is for another blog posting some time in the future.

What I want to write about today is introspection, which is where one observes the inner workings of their own mind. It is possible to come to know things about one's own mind through introspection that would be difficult to know through other means. In a future blog posting I will argue that there are actually some things that can only be known through introspection. I believe that there are certain important truths that are impossible to understand through any means other than introspection. First though, I want to explain the process and limits of introspection in general.

It should be obvious that it is impossible to fully understand one's own mind through introspection, or through any means for that matter. Understanding requires brain cells, and the brain cells that are used to understand the rest of the brain would then not be understood. Actually we humans will only ever have the ability to understand our own brains at a very high level. The details are just far too complex. Billions and billions of brain cells.

There are those who deny that introspection is possible. How, they ask, can the brain ever observe anything about itself? This is possible because one part of the brain observes another and the information gained from this exercise is stored in yet another part of the brain.

The truth is that the information that can be gained from introspection is severely limited because it is only possible for the brain's observational capacity to observe a very small portion of the processes that occur at any given moment inside the brain. Most brain processes are subconscious, meaning that one can never become consciously aware of these processes through any amount of introspection. Subconscious brain processes include those responsible for keeping the body alive, muscle reflexes, intuition, etc.

It appears that the scope of knowledge that can be gained from introspection is limited to the following subjects:

  1. The processes associated with sense data coming into the brain and then being interpreted. This includes when one sees an image, hears a sound, or receives data from any other senses. One who introspects should be able to understand the difference between different types of sense data and to understand which sense any datum comes from. This means that introspection should allow anyone to understand the difference between visual images and sounds and from this they should be able to take inventory of their senses. Although knowledge can be gained from the experience of introspection, this is not a sense, but a way of being consciously aware of brain processes that are not subconscious but that one’s central consciousness has a tendency to ignore unless one engages in introspection.
  2. The processes associated with the generation of mental ideas that simulate sense data. This includes when one imagines a visual image, a sound, or a similar simulation of other senses. This can come either from memory or from mental synthesis. Any sane person should be able to know from introspection whether an idea came from a very recent sense experience, from memory, or from mental synthesis, at least most of the time.
  3. The content of what one is currently thinking about. Most of the processes responsible for thoughts are subconscious, which effectively means that they are beyond the reach of introspection.
    Introspection is made possible because the brain’s conscious awareness can direct its attention to any of the aforementioned subjects. Most of the time, the brain is not engaged in introspection and is thus tends to direct its attention to the content of sense data and to ongoing analysis of facts.

So what kinds of interesting things can be known from introspection? You can know that you are thinking, and that your memories are not the same as your current sense data, but this is obvious. What else can be known that is worth taking time to introspect? I will answer this question in my next posting. Stay tuned.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What, if anything, can be known from introspection? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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01/11/10

Permalink 08:44:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 417 words   English (US)
Categories: Mailbag

Response to Comments from Earlier Post: "Why I am not an Atheist"

Recently I've received some comments and personal emails regarding a post from a while back "Why I am not an Atheist". I was responding to Richard Dawkins' assertion that everyone is an atheist at birth. I argued that this is wrong because, as I said: “The best definition for 'atheist' is someone who makes a conscious decision to not believe in any supernatural higher power (since this is the definition of 'god' that makes the most sense).”

One commenter's response to this was “Therre (sic) are quite a few definitions of aetheist (sic). The one I prefer is that an aetheist (sic) finds no credible evidence for the existence of a supreme being.” Now, I will admit that there are multiple acceptable definitions of "atheist", and perhaps I was overly restrictive with my definition. Upon further reflection, a conscious decision not to believe in God might not be necessary for one to be considered an atheist, but certainly at the very least it is necessary for one to think about this possibility before this label can be justly applied. If one is too young to be able to understand the concept of a higher power, then they obviously have not yet thought of the possibility, and thus it does not make sense to consider such people atheists.

Another commenter's response was “The basis for an opinion cannot be a decision to believe or not to believe anything. A belief is not the subject of a conscious effort.” This commenter brings up a good point and I see now that I didn't choose my words carefully enough. I am not sure if one can consciously choose what to believe given the existing experiences and knowledge that they have at any given point, but I have concluded that people do have free will, and by this I mean that sometimes people make choices that are not entirely determined by existing states of affairs or any prior actions or laws of nature. Sometimes people's will is a deciding factor. So people can choose how much effort they put into analyzing a situation, who to associate with, and many other things that can affect one's experiences, so therefore one's free will can affect what one believes, albeit indirectly. So if one is faced with a choice of what to believe, they can choose to bury their head in the sand or to analyze the situation closely.

Does anyone still wish to defend Dawkins' view that everyone is an atheist at birth?

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01/06/10

Permalink 08:42:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 577 words   English (US)
Categories: Deism, Words and Meanings

Infinity: Why our Common Conception is Incoherent

When explaining to people the reasons for why I have concluded that God exists, it is often that I receive counter-arguments that have logical flaws. One common logical flaw involves an incoherent conception of infinity. This logical flaws seems to lead some people to the conclusion that there need not be a higher power that is responsible for the universe existing as it does. The reason for this is because the cause and effect chain that we know from experience must have started at some point, and the best explanation for why the universe began as it did and not different is that there is a higher power that chose to act as it did to create the universe and could have acted differently.

One common objection that I hear to this argument is that the cause and effect chain that we experience now could go back infinitely. So, according to this argument, the current state of affairs was caused by an infinitely long series of causes. This argument is incoherent and stems from a common misunderstanding of the concept of infinity.

I am aware that this is controversial, but I have concluded that infinity is an epistemic term, not a logical one. Here is why: The only time that one comes across phenomena that can be called "infinite" is if 1) there is a very very large number that is possibly unbounded, which is another way of saying that the this number might be changing over time 2) the actual number at any point in time is unknowable 3) the actual number at any point in time is insignificant to the problem at hand. In such situations, using "infinity" as a placeholder allows us to solve mathematical and scientific problems.

Often times people have a tendency to reify this concept into something logical, just as actual numbers are. This reification is unjustified. The concept of infinity as a logical construct is supposed to be a sequence that never ends. Linguistically, this seems to work, but the thought behind the language actually can be paraphrased as "a sequence that is defined as indefinite". This thought is incoherent. Is the sequence defined or not defined? You see, incoherent thoughts arise when one is thinking two or more incompatible thoughts and they both contribute to what one says.

If infinity has a definition, then it must be definite. If it is definite, then it must have a beginning and an end at a specific moment in time, even if this end is unknowable and irrelevant. If infinity does not have an end, then it is indefinite and therefore has no definition. One of the cardinal rules of philosophical discourse is if one cannot define a term, then it is meaningless. Infinity does have a definition, but it is epistemic, not logical.

From this we can conclude that the idea that there might have been an infinite sequence of causes that led to the current state of affairs in the universe is incoherent. The number of causes that led to the present is definite. It is certainly a very large number, and this number is changing constantly and is unknowable and irrelevant, but we know that must have a beginning and this beginning is the higher power that can be called God.

What are your thoughts on this topic? What is the ultimate explanation for the universe? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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12/19/09

Permalink 08:40:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 449 words   English (US)
Categories: News

Update on Book Publishing Efforts

Now that I have upgraded this site and I am starting a full-on effort to attract more people here, I figured it is a good idea to update everyone on the status of the efforts to get Seeking a More Enlightened Worldview to publication so that it can be available to everyone to read.

First of all, the biggest hurdle to getting the book published is that I do not have a publisher. I haven't even signed with a literary agent, which is usually the most effective way of getting a publisher that will put up the upfront costs of printing the book and distributing and marketing it. In order to convince a literary agent that this book has potential and that they should devote resources to promoting it to publishers, I need to first demonstrate that there is an audience for the book.

This is the purpose of this website. If you are reading the content on this site and thinking to yourself that this book is interesting and unique and can be helpful to people and that you would love to read it, then please send me an email at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com and I will add you to the mailing list. I probably need at least a few hundred people to sign up for the mailing list in order to get the attention of a literary agent. Also, the number of hits that this website gets and the number of forum users and forum postings will also be important evidence that this book has an audience.

Without your help, this book my never be published and we will all have to continue to deal with the status quo of religious advocacy and criticism. The status quo unfortunately involves those who are blindly devoted to religion and those, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who are vehemently opposed to anything religious or spiritual or any concept of a higher power. I strongly believe that there can be a third way, and if you feel the same way then let your voice be heard! We shouldn't allow the extremists to control the debate! This is too important to our future!

Hopefully I will sign on with a publisher soon. When I do, some work will be necessary before the book is ready for publication. I need to expand the book in certain areas and I need to conduct a number of reviews with different people and revisions and detailed editing before it is ready to be published. I am estimating that it might be available for purchase by late 2010 or early 2011. In the meantime though, I am available via email and the forum is always open to new postings.

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12/11/09

Permalink 09:41:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 142 words   English (US)
Categories: News

Site Updates!

It took me a while, but I finally got the forum to have the same visual style as the rest of the site. I think it looks great now and I hope you all enjoy it. I will also soon be updating some of the content on the rest of the site, including a specialized introduction to the book for different audiences, including Christians, Atheists, also introductions that focus on a specific issue, such as the conflict between science and religion and the differing theories for the foundation of ethics.

I've got some more enhancements in mind as well. And I'll also be blogging more in the coming weeks. I will also soon be running ads for this site on numerous other websites. This will likely translate into more visitors and more people to debate ideas with. I'm looking forward to it!

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11/06/09

Permalink 05:52:00 pm, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 1128 words   English (US)
Categories: The Mind, Building Knowledge

Phenomenology, Empiricism & Science

In the early 20th Century, Edmund Husserl sought a new way to understand reality that could be more comprehensive and more reliable than any that had been proposed up to that point. At that time, there were some who were idealists and some who were empiricists. The idealists of the day tended to think of reality as ultimately being in the mind and that everything that one perceives is actually mental stuff, as opposed to actually being something external to ones self or representing something external to ones self. The empiricists of the day believed that perceptions are of things that are external to the self.

It is through the assumption of empiricism that the scientific method becomes possible. In the centuries leading up to Husserl’s time, scientific methodology had become increasingly detailed and the results gained from scientific experiments were increasingly reliable and allowed people to understand the world in a way that was never before possible. In the century since, the belief in empiricism among those pursuing a greater understanding of nature has allowed us to achieve constant progress in many areas of inquiry.
Husserl realized the usefulness of science in his day, but he wished to apply it in a way that was slightly different than that of its empiricist roots. He thought that the first person study of consciousness could become a rigorous science and through this one could better understand reality. He tried to develop a scientific method for this new type of science, which he called phenomenology. He might have been trying to unify idealism with empiricism, since idealists believe that there is something distinct about their first person experiences.
Empiricists tend to downplay any first person subjective data in favor of objective data that everyone can scrutinize. The most reliable way of scrutinizing data for the purpose of understanding reality is through the scientific method. This involves designing and conducting experiments and interpreting the results and forming theories for how things work. Once one comes up with a theory, someone else can come up with an experiment that either verifies or falsifies the theory based on empirical evidence. So there is constant competition among different parties to come up with theories and experiments that better explain nature and are as verifiable as possible.

The problem with applying this methodology to the first person study of consciousness is that it is very difficult to test other people’s hypotheses because one cannot see another’s raw data due to the fact that the raw data is experienced by another person. The gathering of subjective data begins with introspection, which is where a person observes their own consciousness. After people introspect and then describe their experiences, there can sometimes be reports of one entering another dimension or communicating with spirits. The problem with these reports is that there does not appear to be a way of independently verifying whether or not these reports are accurate.

Did Husserl come up with a methodology for verifying or falsifying such reports and for leading to progress in understanding consciousness? Unfortunately not. His phenomenology probably borrowed too much from the idealists because it seems to lead to one interpreting the world as though everything revolves around his or her self.

In this day though, there has been some progress towards a methodology that can allow us to understand things from a first person point of view while still keeping an empirical mindset and a modern scientific understanding of nature. First, it should be noted that modern objective science does not explain all phenomena. One notable example is the fact that there are several competing interpretations of quantum mechanics. Some of these use a first person understanding of consciousness to better understand the data and to formulate theories for what is going on. I believe that this is the right approach to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, though I do disagree with most of the more popular interpretations out there.

So one aspect of modern phenomenology is to use a personal understanding of consciousness in order to fill in the gaps that objective science leaves. Another aspect is study how people behave what people tend to believe and compare this to the data one gathers from introspection. If one introspects and finds that certain things appear to be the case that modern science does not deal with, then this should be considered evidence that this exists, but only to ones own self. If one is able to observe other people’s behavior and what people say and write and then is able to conclude that they have had these experiences as well, then this is more evidence that something exists that beyond the scope of objective science.

Of course, people believe things all the time that are wrong. Simply because millions of people believe something doesn’t mean that it is true. And people tend to misinterpret their own introspection, so it is probably irrational for one to place too much emphasis on this. But there are some things that are near universally believed among people and that should become so clear from introspection that one should conclude that they exist. We discuss these things all the time and it is overly skeptical to deny the existence of everything except what modern objective science tells us is true.
The one thing that I am thinking of here is the foundation of morality. Most people seem to believe that morality has some basis in reality. Not simply as a function of human instincts or cultural norms, but that there is an element that is a part of nature. If this exists then it is outside the realm of objective science. From introspection, I have become certain that all value judgments ultimately derive from a personal experience of positive and negative that I call valence. Though many value judgments derive from other things as well, such as what works or what is necessary in a given situation, there is always an element of these value judgments that comes from this personal experience, and all people act as though this is a real phenomenon.

The belief that subjective experiences such as value judgments, along with objective scientific data, should all be considered true knowledge is called radical empiricism. This belief was first formulated by John Dewey, who lived near the same time as Husserl. The philosophy that I have outlined here is a new formulation of phenomenology and radical empiricism in order to understand consciousness, fill in the gaps of modern objective science, and to realize the foundations of morality in our contemporary age.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Can anything be known subjectively but not objectively? Let your voice be heard in the forum. You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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10/11/09

Permalink 12:34:00 am, by Brandon Norgaard Email , 526 words   English (US)
Categories: Secularism is Flawed, Deism

Why I am not an Atheist

I have heard some people say that everyone is an atheist at birth. I have heard others say that every theist is an atheist with regard to every god but the one that they believe in and that true atheists only take it one step further to reject all proposed gods. I reject both of these statements. The best definition for "atheist" is someone who makes a conscious decision to not believe in any supernatural higher power (since this is the definition of "god" that makes the most sense). Anyone who has not made a conscious decision one way or another should be considered agnostic. Someone who believes in a certain concept of a higher power and rejects others is not an "atheist" with regard to those rejected concepts. This is a misuse of the term that, it seems to me, is intended to make the term "atheist" seem almost universal.

Now, getting to the point of this post, which is the question: Why am I not an atheist? I am, after all, a deist. Some have equated deism with atheism. Shortly after this term was coined and the ideas promoted by Thomas Paine, there was backlash against this belief because many thought it was the same as atheism or close to the same thing. Now, I don't believe that atheism is necessarily bad. Its just that deism is not atheism or even a light version of atheism. Deism, for those who don't know, is the belief that there is a higher power that can be called God and that this can be known through reason as opposed to scripture or revelation. Deists don't believe in any holy book or religious dogma. Deists only believe in things based on evidence.

The belief that the universe was created by a higher power is a logical conclusion that is outlined in what is known as the Cosmological Argument. Now, some formulations of this argument are flawed, but I have posted a version of this argument in the forum thread "Is there a God?" that I believe is sound. In this argument, I logically conclude that the universe was created by a higher power that could have acted otherwise. This higher power is therefore supernatural (precedes the very laws of nature) and can thus be called "God". I do not believe that it is necessary to worship this higher power, nor do I believe that using the word "God" necessarily means that this being is deserving worship. I believe in God and therefore I am not an atheist. I do not believe in a great man in the sky who has humanlike emotions and demands worship and obedience to arbitrary rules for fear of punishment. I also do not, as do atheists, believe that the universe is an adequate explanation for its own existence. I understand that this is not an actual explanation and I also understand that an infinite chain of causes and effects preceding the present is an incoherent concept.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is there a God? Let your voice be heard in the forum. You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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