10: The Materialist & Sceptical Viewpoint
"There are two ways to be gullible: one is to believe too readily what is false, and the other is to disbelieve too readily what is true."
There is nothing wrong with being sceptical. It is healthy. None of us should accept an idea just because someone suggested it. That scepticism should be applied equally to all ideas, spiritual, psychic, materialist, or whatever, unlike the "religious" approach that chooses one sector of ideas to accept uncritically, while remaining sceptical of all others. The important thing is to be able to retain an open mind, and to review evidence sceptically, but without prejudice.
In the Second Humanist Manifesto (written in 1973, and still quoted by humanists today) it states:
"There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body. We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture."In other words, it seems that to be a humanist, you have to accept that there is no credible evidence for the afterlife. That, by itself, sets up an automatic bias against against accepting the evidence that exists. It is amazing how many people there are out there who believe that this humanist statement (apparently written by the same Paul Kurtz who struggled to debunk the James Leininger story, mentioned on the Reincarnation page above).
Some people, including most humanists, call themselves sceptics (or, in America, skeptics). However, a true sceptic is one who doubts everything, or always plays the devil’s advocate. But the typical humanist sceptic doubts only religious, spiritual and psychic phenomena. He is not sceptical of claims that science can answer everything, or that there is a physical explanation for the origin of consciousness. That is why they are often called pseudosceptics. I usually prefer to call them materialists, but definitely not sceptics. After all, everybody is sceptical of whatever they do not believe in, and these so-called sceptics are no different from everybody else in this regard. A so-called sceptic who will accept without demur a statement by a prominent fundamentalist materialist evangelist, such as Professor Richard Dawkins or the professional illusionist James Randi, is not a true sceptic at all.
(For the sake of anyone who may want to dispute my terminology, a fundamentalist of any stripe is someone who is certain in his own mind that the fundamental tenets of his belief are beyond dispute. A fundamentalist materialist is therefore a person who will go to any lengths to find a materialist answer to any phenomenon, however persuasively it may be pointing towards a non-material cause. He then typically believes that the existence of a speculative theory that matches his own prejudices is equivalent to proving the correctness of his view, a lack of actual supporting evidence notwithstanding. And an evangelist, of course, is just someone who enthusiastically tries to get everybody else to adopt the same basic philosophical or religious stance that he himself has - often as a form of self-affirmation.)
The point about the non-scepticism of so-called sceptics is made in much greater detail on these videos
from the SCEPCOP (debunking sceptics) website:
Part 1, Part 2, and in the primary article presented on that website: Debunking PseudoSkeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers.
Materialists can be compared to the Easter Islanders before 1722 (the year of the first European visit to the island) who, in the light of the absence of any evidence to the contrary, "knew" that they were the only people in the world. But there is one big difference between materialists and those Easter Islanders: actual evidence of alternative realities, and of people inhabiting them, is available for anybody who looks. In fact, the modern materialists are simply the living embodiment of the old proverb; "There is none so blind as he who will not see".
"One of the commonest of mistakes is to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." - C.W. Leadbeater
The section of the Near-Death Experiences website that presents NDEs by atheists is certainly interesting to peruse.
Keith Augustine puts up a vigorous argument against the existence of an afterlife in his article: The Case Against Immortality. However, most of his argument lies in the fact that the elements of evidence for the afterlife can also be found in other unhealthy situations, such as when under the influence of marijuana, oxygen deprivation, medical drugs or endorphins, all variations of the Light-Switch argument referred to in the <Introduction to these pages. (Michael Shermer uses the same argument when citing the Canadian Dr Persinger’s evidence that magnetic fields can induce out-of-body experiences.) Augustine also refers to many cases of out-of-body phenomena that did not produce evidence of accurate perception of physical events. These are simply cases of looking for the needle in the haystack and finding only straw. Jeffrey Long’s book Evidence of the Afterlife refers to sixty cases in which the needle was produced – cases that reported information that was subsequently confirmed.
Augustine also refers to neurological studies (studies of the brain), that indicate that consciousness depends on the brain. Of course, if you will look only at the brain, then brain-affected consciousness is the only form of consciousness you will find. If the brain is damaged, then the consciousness manifested in that brain will also be badly affected. The same thing happens if you damage a radio set. But nobody takes that as evidence that the phenomena found in a radio set all originate in that set. These pages point to various different forms of evidence that do not study the brain, but still find evidence of consciousness, and the evidence is consistent, whichever of the various forms you wish to look at.
Many materialists do seem to have a strong resistance to the kinds of ideas set forth in these pages, despite all the actual evidence seeming to go against them, and only untested speculations going for them. Despite all this, they can still say: "It is all nonsense, just look at the facts." But what facts? If pressed, they will generally give nothing more than materialistic speculations, such as those mentioned on the introduction page in this set.
In general the information that comes from the afterlife teaches that a rigid materialist falls into a deep stupor, particularly if he has dogmatically refused to consider the evidence, and has also taught others to be materialists also. They will eventually awaken again, maybe after only a century or two, or longer, if their materialism was not too tightly held, but much longer if they were staunchly adamant in the face of all reason. But by then the bulk of humanity will have moved on in their development, and they will be among the laggards, the real victims of the workings of karma.
Many a sceptical materialist is so because of the harsh nature of some of the religious theists and their misguided teachings. Those who teach narrow and restrictive doctrines can make spiritual truths seem quite unpalatable to a free spirited person, and that person may seek refuge in the ideas of materialist skepticism, so as not to have to face what is actually a false restrictiveness, but in fact throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
This is not meant as an attempt to set up a form of "Pascal’s Wager", but rather an attempt to illustrate that these ideas, and the evidence for them, do in fact have potentially significant ramifications, and therefore need solid evidence against them before they can be properly dismissed. In other words, it is not sufficient to trot out a theory that could, conceivably, provide an explanation for the evidence, and then say that the evidence does not exist, even if there is no other evidence as to how the imagined explanation would actually work. The evidence for the afterlife needs to be actually disproved.
Quantum physics is now postulating the existence of eleven dimensions. We are currently aware of four, including one of time. So there are at least seven dimensions that we have no conscious awareness of. What is going on in those seven dimensions? If you can see how much is happening in these four dimensions, imagine how much more can be happening if just one additional dimension was available, let alone seven of them! Is the realm of the afterlife somewhere in there? Is this an idea that materialists could grasp?
These dimensions cannot be seen directly from our four-dimensional space, and they cannot be directly observed in a laboratory. It is, therefore, quite possible, that the "sceptical" materialists might not accept the possibility that they exist, as they do not accept much else that does not fit into a laboratory. (I am not sure how they get on with such phenomena as aesthetic appreciation, such as of the wonders of nature, or of a Beethoven symphony.) However, materialists are required to understand phenomena as seen by quantum physicists, who are at the leading edge of understanding the basic nature of our physical world, the world that materialists invest their entire philosophy into.
Unfortunately, we can only speculate here, as to what actually goes on in the mind of a stubborn materialist, which is exactly what the materialists do when postulating theories to "explain" some of the afterlife evidence.
There is a Page on the BoingBoing website that postulates that the observable physical universe is nothing more than a virtual reality. There is a link on that page to a PDF article by Brian Whitworth, a New Zealand-based computer scientist, explaining the idea, including the reason for coming to it. It lies primarily in the apparent irrationality of the physical world, and the strangeness that is gradually being uncovered and explored by quantum physicists.
In the face of the apparent irrationality of quantum physics, why does the idea of an afterlife seem odd to a materialist, who must rely heavily for their view of the ultimate reality of the world on that very physics?
There is an oft-repeated myth, popular among materialists, that all ideas of God, the soul, and survival after death arose merely as a result of wishful thinking, the attempts of primitive early man to try artificially to create some meaning for his life and for the world around him. But the existence of the types of evidence indicated in these pages shows quite clearly that it was not mere wishful thinking. All such ideas arose as attempts to explain the observable evidence. The materialist myth about wishful thinking can survive only as long as they blindly and wilfully refuse to acknowledge that the evidence exists.
Why is it so necessary to shoot down upon sight, and without reasonable or rational consideration, but purely by mere assertion, any evidence that challenges the materialist perception that "these three (or four) dimensions that we can perceive with out physical senses are all that exist"? How can he be so certain that his view is the only correct one, in the face of such evidence. Surely it cannot just be in order to uphold the sanctity of their Humanist Manifesto scripture, maybe a fear that they will be made to attend Sunday School?
I am not saying that they have to be convinced that the evidence comprises absolute proof – that is up to the individual to assess for himself. But in the light of the wealth of evidence of different kinds, all telling similar stories, they cannot legitimately claim that there is no evidence. If they wish to keep asserting that there is no evidence for the afterlife, (as they still do), and wish to do so honestly, then they will have to shoot down each and every one of the pieces of evidence that exist, of which these web pages present a mere sample. Yet, so far, they continue blindly on with their baseless assertions.
It is, I am afraid, is one of the unexplained mysteries of the universe.