Thursday 16 May 2019

The "evidence" trap: Why so many modern people are 'stuck' in materialism

To move beyond materialism is not easy - it is a well-constructed trap. For many (or most) people in the West; it isn't just a matter of 'opening your mind' to other realities; because what we think we want is self-contradictory...

Most people - when pressed - will say (along the lines of ) "I can't believe in the spiritual world without evidence".

By evidence they mean either a vivid personal miracle ('inexplicable' by materialism) - like hearing a voice that they believe to be God telling them something, especially when backed-up by a vision of a being that they are 100% convinced (with zero possibility of error) is an angel, or Jesus or a similar authority; accompanied by an overpowered conviction of the validity of this experience; and that one's memory and verbal expression of the experience is perfectly accurate and complete...

(Hmm, we can already see problems about asking for a miracle, can't we?)

Or else they mean something that official (government-certified, mass media disseminated) 'science' has told them, and that 'everybody' whom they respect (like primary school teachers, or wise people David Attenborough) assures them really is real and objectively true (like CO2-driven Anthropogenic Global Warming, or that one's sex is a choice...).

Yet the fact is that - unless they already have a change-of-consciousness, unless they develop a new way of thinking - these people would not be convinced of the spiritual realm either by a miracle or by science.

Because they would explain-away any miracle in materialist terms (error, coincidence, hallucination, delusion, dishonesty, manipulation etc.); and because science foundationally and by-assumption excludes the spiritual, so must inevitably fail to produce evidence for the spiritual.

Indeed if science did produce evidence for something spiritual - such as telepathy, or near death experiences - it would, by becoming science, cease to be spiritual; and would instead be explained materialistically.

What this 'circularity' of the argument tells us is that materialism is a metaphysical assumption, not the result of evidence.

In modern public (and private) discourse; we have already assumed that reality is material; and we will interpret all possible evidence in that light.

(i.e. Materialism is Not based-on-evidence; instead, materialism determines what counts as evidence.)

Therefore to demand 'evidence' before we will be convinced of the spiritual just makes no sense! It is just a mental trap. It simply ensures that you (and everyone) will remain trapped in materialism - whether it is true or not.

This means the modern person has, in reality, a choice: to remain inside the metaphysical assumption of materialism or not. And if not, he will need to assume a broader reality that includes a spiritual reality.

The one impossible thing is to be 'agnostic' - because there is no ground from-which to be agnostic about this question.

(One could of course change one's mind, back and forth, between materialism and acknowledging the spiritual realm. Indeed this is likely, across a lifespan. Such psychological fluctuations are part of the human mortal condition. But at any moment one is either a materialist or not - and to assert agnosticism as a current situation is an error or dishonest.)

How to choose, and on what grounds? There are just two main ways in which people choose their metaphysics:

1. Unconsciously and passively to absorb one's assumptions from the social environment (from 'other people'), and - because the process is passive and unconscious - to assert the objective factuality of assumptions by denying that they are assumptions, and denying that there exists any choice...

2. To become consciously aware of one's assumptions and to choose them.

One what grounds? This can only be on the basis of expilicit intuitive reflection - choosing what one intuitively knows (from the heart, at the deepest level one is capable of reaching, where knowledge is most solid) to be the truth about the reality of things.

This is another instance that modern life is becoming very simple and dichotomous, and evil is operating by trying to convince us that life is Not simple!

To win, evil simply needs to keep us confused. So far, evil is winning...


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I think it's worth spelling out exactly what science excludes by excluding "the spiritual," and exactly what aspect would be lost from such concepts as life after death, telepathy, prophecy, non-physical intelligences, etc. if empirical evidence for them were to emerge. (Not really a hypothetical situation; some degree of empirical evidence for all of the above does exist.)

I would say that science absolutely excludes any real (i.e., not merely psychological) concept of the Good and the Beautiful, and it excludes the idea of agency or free will (and the converse idea of ineluctable fate) -- none of which could ever be supported by any sort of empirical evidence, even in principle. That's it. That's the essence of "the spiritual," insofar as that word describes those realities that science is unable to deal with.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I have added a link to my book about science (Not even trying), where I discuss this.

Science excludes a great deal - although what exactly it excludes does vary through history, and by subject.

For example, quantum physics allows a great deal that is excluded by biology, at least so far as I understand it. Quantum entanglement seems to be a kind of 'direct' and instantaneous knowing; of the kind that biology regards as woo-woo ridiculous. Owen Barfield pointed this out many decades ago (in Saving the Appearances, and even more so in World's Apart) - i.e. that physics includes as routine universal 'dogma' much that is excluded from mainstream culture. This is perhaps why more (real) physicists used to be deists than biologists.

I would say that all science excludes a personal God with specific interest in specifci humans; indeed science excludes God as a purposive creator (with purposes related to the transcendentals such as truth, beauty and virtue). By excludes, I mean taht there is no place for these concepts inside science.

Therefore, what would be lost from- say - telepathy, would be exactly the possibility of considering it as a detached materialist process, considering it in isolation from God's personal and creative purposes.

Michael Dyer said...

I often think about this. They’ve redefined evidence to exclude anything they don’t like. Eyewitness testimony is accepted in every court in the world, by that basis alone the evidence for the supernatural is overwhelming. Here’s how the conversation goes.

“No evidence!”
:presents evidence:
‘That’s not evidence, no evidence!”
Repeat on a loop until bored

It’s why I’ve become more convinced that gospel transmission needs to be our primary model. I still believe in apologetics because it helps prepare the ground for acceptance. It creates cognitive dissonance with the “narrative”.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Michael - what do you mean by 'gospel transmission'; I'm not familiar with the term. I'm guessing that it might be something like the strategy of conservative evangelical protestants?

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Bruce, are we talking about what science in fact excludes as a matter of contingent historical fact, or about what it must necessarily exclude because empirical evidence is impossible in principle? I'm considering only the latter. For example, science traditionally excludes telepathy and precognition, but it needn't.

Science in a broad sense can deal with the idea of a creator, just as there could be empirical evidence that something is manmade rather than natural (Paley's argument), but there cannot be empirical evidence that the creator is a free agent, or that he is "good," or that his purposes somehow constitute The Purpose Of Life in an absolute sense -- and this is what "God" usually implies.

Adil said...

The modern mind has metaphysically claimed and postage stamped reality, instead of being open- to it. Saying matter is extraneously fixed out there - (us being particles moving in it) - is a metaphysical claim on something that is presumably outside mind (which we can't know). It is therefore a leap of faith. It is extrapolating from the senses and subsequently disregarding oneself instead of intuititing from the mind that we are an intrinsic part of the world. Indeed, when a person dies, a little part of the world dies with him.

Materialism is therefore a bigger step than assuming that mind is out there (matter being contingent upon mental activity), as mentation is closer to us than the 'things' we percieve. We don't know what is behind mentation, therefore materialism is guesswork. A quantum reality seems more plausible than a material one to me, where things come forth as we look at them and 'collapse' into solid form. If this is true, the modern world has it upside down.

So the world is there, as an information field, that gets instantaneously 'uploaded' as we look at it or come to it. This gives beings primacy, not matter. The question is, do we want to be mere onlookers (idolatry) or participators?

Even if it is possible to be a good 'ethical' materialist, its metaphysics has been collectively destructive. It also encourages a constrained signpost approach to reality, instead of taking it on directly, naturally and merging with it (like water if you will).

Perhaps the end point is to dissolve the mind-matter duality, which also gives rise to the destructive "private religious" and "public secular" divide.

This mind-split must be healed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William " are we talking about what science in fact excludes as a matter of contingent historical fact, or about what it must necessarily exclude because empirical evidence is impossible in principle?"

Neither. I am talking about what science, the discipline beginning in the seventeenth century, foundationally excludes - which is 'god explanations' of phenomena.

Science is more like a tool than a world view, but is taken to be a world view by neglecting/ denying/ regarding as 'empirical', what are actually its assumptions.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Eric - Well said!