Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dedication to reality at all costs

Psychiatrist M Scott Peck in his various visits to psychiatric wards tells us that when he would interact with the inmates they tended to behave in a way that sent the message, Don't bother me; don't disturb my delusions. They were comfortable with and wanted to continue living in irreality. And that Peck argues is hardly a good thing since he defines mental health as the "dedication to reality at all costs." Delusions obviously and precisely lead us astray and away from reality.

Well, I see this delusionary attitude operative as well in those infected with the (mind) virus of faith, those with supernaturalistic delusions. In order to protect their vacuous beliefs supernaturalists erect various barriers to render their claims more or less immune. They may say for instance that their deity should not be tested/investigated, that their deity demands complete belief and frowns upon doubt, that should their faith be as tiny as an amoeba they could propel the planet Jupiter to another galaxy. But of course those too are claims which necessarily elicit the question, How do they know those are true?

Given that the supernatural is defined as phenomena lying outside the natural realm and has characteristics, forces, mechanisms, processes, etc. that are totally non-natural then it is probably, in principle, not possible to have any test whatsoever that can confirm the reality of the supernatural. If in principle there is no suite of tests that can ever confirm the existence of the supernatural, then that's a death warrant to the belief of supernaturalists. That would mean that they do not know and can never know whether deities and supernatural events are factually true.

Needless to say, because they cannot even know that this very fundamental claim is true--that the supernatural exists--all the subsequent and second order claims thereafter (eg. Allah commanded this, Satan did that, Yahweh made so and so and ordered such and such, winged cherubims relayed voice mail to Mr and Mrs. Clueless, etc.) cannot be known to be true.

And what about the problem of contradictions between the claims of supernaturalists of different religions? The god of one religion is different from the god of other religions. How does Christianity for instance know that its deity is the true one instead of the deities of Hinduism? That its cosmology is the correct one? It certainly can't be based on mere belief. There must be hard evidence at hand in order for one brand of supernaturalism to claim that theirs is factual and true and others wrong.

Supernatural claims have totally nothing going for them. Saying that the problems facing supernaturalists is enormous is an understatment.

To someone who wishes to dedicate himself to reality at all costs, fantastical claims such as the supernatural is certainly among those that must be subjected to unrelentingly rigorous skepticism, investigation, and critique. Since it has not passed muster (and it looks bleaker as we become ever more scientifically and intellectually savvy) then it must be summarily dismissed. Supernatural claims and beliefs are neither necessary for understanding the world or for living our lives nor are they borne out by careful systematic study of the universe.

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