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Hyman's Categorical Imperative states: Do not try to explain something until you are sure that there is something to be explained. (Quoted from Ray Hyman) Unfortunately, parapsychology appears to be one massive violation of what Hyman advises. There is no particularly good reason to think that there is anything "paranormal" to explain in the first place, much less that parapsychology has anything substantive to offer in terms of explaining human experiences or the universe.

 

Read Article: Parapsychology & Psychic Phenomena: Science, Pseudoscience, Religion?

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September 23, 2007 at 4:53 pm
(1) tracieh says:

>Hyman’s Categorical Imperative states: Do not try to explain something until you are sure that there is something to be explained.

Lately I’ve been considering the idea that Xians argue both sides of any issue and call it proof of god or of their religion’s validity. A few examples would be:

1. Prayer: If you get what you pray for, god answered “yes”; if you do not, god answered “no” or “wait.” But either way, sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t—which is also the case without prayer. So, is it necessary to employ a divine explanation to an event that would work the same way without divine intervention?

2. Creationism (ID) indicates that the universe itself in all its precision is proof of an intelligent/divine creator who built it as a haven for human life. But if you point out what would count as flaws—such as birth defects or tsunamis, you’re told that flaws do indeed exist, but only as the result of sin. So, the fact that the universe is not perfectly suited to solely and completely benefit people is actually NOT evidence for a universe which is NOT designed to solely and completely benefit people, but is, rather, proof of a perfect universe designed to solely and completely benefit people—it’s just that it was mucked up at a later date. Again, is it necessary to posit that the universe USED to be utopia, but fell into sin and fault—when we could just as easily claim that universe has never been ideally suited to human life (where is the evidence of the prior utopia?). So, we have an explanation for the “faults” that arises from the unsupported claim/explanation that things used to be utopian. Why claim it was perfect in the first place—is that “explanation” necessary based on the natural world we observe?

Ironically, I’m reading George Smith’s “Why Atheism?” and I came across several interesting passages that mirror this. He quotes a passage from Aquinas: “What can be accomplished by a few principles is not effected by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle, which is nature, and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.” (From Summa Theologica)

Smith considers this as a rephrasing of Occam’s Razor—and I agree. The odd thing in Smith’s opinion is this: “…it is an interesting argument nonetheless, because it implies that Occam’s Razor, when used to argue that ‘there is no need to suppose God’s existence,’ is relevant to the claim that ‘God does not exist.’ In other words, if there is no cognitive reason to posit the existence of God, if what needs to be explained can be explained by more economical means, then we may conclude that God does not exist.”

Of course, Smith understands that “failure to justify the need for God as an explanatory principle cannot prove his nonexistence,” and that “the real existence of a being…does not depend on whether our concept of that being is necessary for explanatory purposes.”

However, Smith goes on to ask about Santa Claus. Most of us were told to believe in Santa as children, and many of us probably did. But what happened to our belief in Santa when we found those gifts addressed to us from SANTA in our parents’ bedroom closet the first time? POOF! There went Santa. Why? Because Santa’s purpose was to explain the mysterious toys that appear under the tree at Xmas. Once we know how the toys REALLY get there we understand that all of the rest is a lie as well.

Smith goes on to address logical versus material “possibility”—mainly to explain that “logically possible” has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a thing actually exists—which is something I do not think can be too strongly stressed. Both Santa and god are logically possible. But there is no more reason to believe in Santa than in god. Just as the packages sitting under the tree don’t need Santa in order to exist, neither does nature require god as an explanation for its existence. “Nature exists” provides just as much information as “god created nature”—and it requires far less explanation. This becomes more clear when we consider that “mom and dad put the packages there” is far more believable—since we know mom and dad can provide us with toys on other occasions. I think it’s mainly the fact that mom and dad have lied that leads most children down the Xmas garden path and keeps them believing in Santa for so long. Again—not unlike Xianity. The “lie” might be well-meant and more of an error than a “lie”—but it’s our trust in our peers and family that keeps us believing.

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