Tuesday 7 November 2023

The question of "evidence" of life after death - from Philip K Dick

I feel as if I am channeling WmJas Tychonievich, in reporting this following (sort-of) "synchronicity" -- which is that immediately after writing my post on the question of evidence of God; I continued my re-reading of The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K Dick (1982), in which I came across the following (edited, and with my additional emphases):


"Is there any proof of God's existence?" Bill said. 

After a pause, Tim said, "A number of arguments are given. Perhaps the best is the argument from biology, advanced for instance by Teilhard de Chardin. Evolution - the existence of evolution - seems to point to a designer. Also there is Morrison's argument that our planet shows a remarkable hospitality toward complex forms of life. The chance of this happening on a random basis is very small... 

"There are proofs," Tim said. "But God doesn't talk to anybody," Bill said. "No," Tim said. He rallied, then; I saw him draw himself up. 

"However, the Old Testament gives us many instances of Yahweh addressing his people through the prophets. This fountain of revelation dried up, finally. God no longer speaks to man. It is called 'the long silence.' It has lasted two thousand years." 

"I realize God talked to people in the Bible," Bill said, "in the olden days, but why doesn't he talk to them now? Why did he stop?" 

"I don't know," Tim said. He said no more; there he ceased.... "I really wish you would explain it to me," Bill said to Tim. "Because it's impossible. It's not just unlikely; it's impossible." ... 

"Jeff [i.e. Tim's deceased son] has communicated with the two of us," Tim said. "Through intermediary phenomena. Many times, in many ways." ..."It is God Himself working on us and through us to bring forth a brighter day. My son is with us now; he is with us in this room. He never left us. What died was a material body. Every material thing perishes. Whole planets perish. The physical universe itself will perish. 

"Are you going to argue, then, that nothing exists? Because that is where your logic will carry you. It isn't possible right now to prove that external reality exists. Descartes discovered that; it's the basis of modem philosophy. All you can know for sure is that your own mind, your own consciousness, exists. You can say, 'I am' and that's all... 

"What you see is not world but a representation formed in and by your own mind. Everything that you experience you know by faith. Also, you may be dreaming. Had you thought of that? Plato relates that a wise old man, probably an Orphic, said to him, 'Now we are dead and in a kind of prison.' Plato did not consider that an absurd statement; he tells us that it is weighty and something to think about. 'Now we are dead.' 

"We may have no world at all. I have enough evidence - your mother and I - for Jeff returning to us as I have that the world itself exists. We do not suppose he has come back; we experience him as coming back. We have lived and are living through it. So it is not our opinion. It is real.

"Real for you," Bill said. "What more can reality give?" "Well, I mean," Bill said, "I don't believe it." 

"The problem does not lie with our experience in this matter," Tim said. "It lies with your belief-system. Within the confines of your belief-system, such a thing is impossible. "Who can say, truly say, what is possible? We have no knowledge of what is and isn't possible; we do not set the limits - God sets the limits." ...

"What do you believe, then? In objects you get into and drive around the block. There may be no objects and no block; someone pointed out to Descartes that a malicious demon may cause our assent to a world that is not there, may impress a forgery onto us as an ostensible representation of the world. 

"If that happened, we would not know. We must trust; we must trust God. 

"I trust in God that he would not deceive me; I deem the Lord faithful and true and incapable of deceit. For you that question does not even exist, for you will not grant that He exists in the first place. 

"You ask for proof. If I told you this minute that I have heard God's voice speaking to me-would you believe that? Of course not. We call people who speak to God pious and we call people to whom God speaks lunatics. 

"This is an age where there is little faith. It is not God who is dead; it is our faith that has died." 

"But -" Bill gestured. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would he come back [from the dead]?" 

"Tell me why Jeff lived in the first place," Tim said. "Then perhaps I can tell you why he came back. Why do you live? For what purpose were you created? You do not know who created you - assuming anyone did - and you do not know why, assuming there is a why. 

"Perhaps no one created you and perhaps there is no purpose to your life. No world, no purpose, no Creator, and Jeff has not come back to us. Is that your logic? Is that how you live out your life? Is that what Being, in Heidegger's sense, is to you? 

"That is an impoverished kind of inauthentic Being. It strikes me as weak and barren and, in the end, futile."...


It strikes me that these are strong, valid arguments; despite that "Tim" - Timothy Archer - is depicted as the worst kind of trendy-leftist, self-justifying hedonic Episcopalian Bishop from the 1960s! And despite that Tim's belief in the return of his deceased son is depicted by the agnostic narrator (his daughter in law, widow of the deceased son) as merely a wish-fulfilling yet dangerous delusion. 

The modern mainstream idea of "evidence" has always (as seen above) been ultimately incoherent in its own rationalistic terms - even when its professional practice was honestly-applied and coherent in terms on a basis in circular assumptions and reasoning. 

Yet nowadays (and since the 1990s) the public and in-practice conceptualization of evidence, of facts, of reality has been thoroughly corrupted into (literally) nothing more than the current, official, Establishment consensus; as currently propagated by the official mass media. 

"Evidence" in practice therefore means nothing more than a very vague, diffuse, and open-endedly changeable impression of what seems acceptable to those with power, wealth and high status... 

The more that people (or institutions, or algorithms) talk-about and assert evidence/ facts/ realism and their importance - the more manipulative, dishonest and intentionally-evil is the actuality. 

Earlier standards of evidence (which existed - at least in England! - within several discourses such as science, academia and law) have by-now been annihilated, as coherence of reasoning and statement have themselves been annihilated. 

Therefore arguments such as those of Bishop Timothy Archer in the above passage, have altogether lost traction. 

There can be no basis for argument (or evidence!) when there is no commitment to truth, and no interest in knowing reality.


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