Tuesday, April 25, 2006

God vs. Psychics

This started out as a comment to this post on the Dilbert Blog, but it got so long I wanted to make a copy of it here. Read the Dilbert Blog post first (and probably the one after it), then this.

God = no
Psychics = yes

I had a feeling my combination would be the least common - so uncommon, in fact, that you don't even mention it. I'm not sure psychics exist, but I think it's possible. My reasoning goes like this.

1) I believe in science, in the sense that we must follow our observations to the extent that they are applicable. However, as beings that have evolved only with what we need to survive (traits not needed for survival tend to get weeded out, even when they're cool). We did not, therefore, evolve to be able to understand everything. It follows that there are things we can't understand without either evolving ourselves or inventing the right technology, and we certainly have a lot of technology left to invent. So, there are things we can't observe right now, even though they are factually correct and extant.

2) As a culture that follows science, we've taken it too far. Science stipulates that variables be controlled, and so hard to control and measure variables, such as human emotion, are not even allowed into the picture (hence double-blind testing and reproduction of results by teams with different incentives). We didn't take these out because they don't make a difference, but because they *make the biggest difference* in many cases (things like positive doctor interactions making a bigger difference than medications). Thus, our culture tends to dismiss things that are heavily human-feeling, touchy-feely based.

3) Related to point 2, we also don't interact well with cultures that do value those human-feeling things. I've heard enough stories about African shamans predicting things with creepy accuracy, seen martial arts masters do things that shouldn't be humanly possible... but they're not going to show us rude westerners what it is they do. Even the westerners that interact with them aren't taken seriously because they go to the same level as the tribal/traditional groups they work with.

These points make it plausible that psychics exist, and provide some anecdotal evidence (part of which is my personal observation) that they do. How can I believe all this without believe in God? I suppose it's a matter of what level of disbelief I'm willing to suspend. I can believe that a woman in Africa predicted the arrival of a photographer, and what kind of camera he had, through some kind of weird power (rather than, say, having somebody in her tribe see the photographer and run back and tell her before he got there) because I can construct an explanation from things I have observed (the chi of the martial arts master, for instance). I also have a psychological critical mass of cases like this, so that I'm inclined to believe the "supernatural" explanation. However, all the things that are posited as having been done by God can be explained (=I can construct an explanation) by some variant of chi (or are just bogus, like saying God called Katrina on the evil people of New Orleans), plus an active subconscious (for which there is plenty of scientific evidence). So it's kind of Occam's Razor. I can explain all these things with chi, therefore, I don't need to construct any larger things (like God) to explain them.


Before anyone completely starts flaming me for being an atheist, I'm not actually against the idea of a god; I just don't think it's been characterized right. I think it's quite possible that there's a great force of some energy (like chi) out there; I just don't think it's conscious, or that there's anything like heaven or hell. If anything, I think a force like that would be generated by all the living (or maybe just conscious) things (yes, this is starting to sound Star-Wars-ish, but that's because that was a rip-off of eastern philosophy), and any sort of 'will' it has is a sort of average of the things that contributed to it.


Blogger skape7 said...

Nice reasoning, I definately agree with most of that. I beleive in psychic ability simply because I had an experience personally when I was very young. Only ever happened once. I'm sure there's a lot of fakers out there too, but that one experience means I am absolutely certain that there are others out there who must be able to "see" things before they occur on a regular basis.

4/26/2006 1:41 AM  

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