image description image description

LATEST DIALOGUES In Defence of Theology: a Reply to Jerry Coyne

photo by: Carl Finocchiaro

photo by: Carl Finocchiaro

Theology has been the subject of much bashing by neo-atheists over the past several years. A fresh blog post by Jerry Coyne today seems to encapsulate the essence of their grievance: theology is claimed to be a discipline with no subject of study. Correctly defining theology as “the study or science which treats of God, His nature and attributes, and His relationships with man and the universe,” Coyne asks rhetorically: “What good is a discipline that tries to tell us about the qualities of a nonexistent object? It’s as useful as a bunch of scholars trying to tell us about the characteristics of the Loch Ness Monster, or Paul Bunyan.” (the hyperlink is mine) Any counter-argument to this is delicate, since it necessarily requires defining the most overloaded word in the history of language — ‘God’ — in some particular way that many are bound to disagree with. Yet, there are some common attributes almost always associated with ‘God,’ and ‘God’ alone: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Thus, it is fair to say that, if one can identify a subject of study for which there is concrete, objective evidence and which incorporates the three attributes just listed, then one will have debunked Coyne’s argument against theology. This is precisely what I intend to do in this essay. But in order to make my argument, I first need to take you on a brief tour of a more parsimonious, logical way of interpreting the facts of reality than the materialist metaphysics entails. Bear with me.

Here is a narrated, video version of this essay:

Consciousness is the only carrier of reality anyone can ever know for sure; it is the one undeniable, empirical fact of existence. As I elaborate extensively upon in my book Why Materialism Is Baloneywe do not need more than this one undeniable fact to explain reality: all things and phenomena can be explained as excitations of consciousness itself. As such, the ground of all reality is an impersonal flow of subjective experiences that I metaphorically describe  as a stream, while our personal awareness is simply a localization of this flow — a whirlpool in the stream. It is this localization that leads to the illusion of personal identity and separateness. Moreover, it is your body-brain system that is in consciousness, not consciousness in your body-brain system. Think of reality as a collective dream: in a dream, it is your dream character that is in your consciousness, not your consciousness in your dream character. This becomes obvious when you wake up, but isn’t at all obvious while you are dreaming. Furthermore, the body-brain system is the image of that process of localization in the stream of consciousness, like a whirlpool is the image of a process of localization in a stream of water. For exactly the same reason that a whirlpool doesn’t generate water, your brain doesn’t generate consciousness. Yet, because the image of a process carries valid information about the inner dynamics of the process — just like the color of flames carries valid information about the microscopic details of combustion — brain activity correlates with subjective experience. This worldview entails that the brain we can see and measure is simply how personal experience looks from the outside. In other words, neurons are what our thoughts, emotions and perceptions look like when another person views them from the outside. They aren’t the cause of subjective experience, but simply the outside image of experience.

For example: a neuroscientist might put a volunteer in a functional brain scanner (fMRI) and measure the patterns of his brain activity while the volunteer watches pictures of his loved ones. The neuroscientist would have precise measurements showing a pattern of activity in the volunteer’s brain, which could be printed out on slides and shared with the volunteer himself. The patterns on those slides would represent what the volunteer’s first-person experience of love looks like from the outside. In other words, they would be the image of subjective processes in the volunteer’s personal consciousness; the footprints of love. But if the neuroscientist were to point at the slides and tell the volunteer: “this is what you felt when you looked at the pictures of your loves ones,” the volunteer would vehemently, and correctly, deny the assertion. The first-person experience of love doesn’t feel at all like watching neurons activate, or ‘fire.’ You see, the image correlates with the process and carries valid information about it — like footprints correlate with the gait and carry valid information about it — but it isn’t the process, for exactly the same reason that footprints aren’t the gait. Looking at patterns of brain activity certainly feels very different from feeling love.

As our personal psyches are like whirlpools in a broader stream, so the broader stream itself is an impersonal form of consciousness that underlies all reality. Aldous Huxley ably called it ‘mind-at-large,’ a term that I will adopt from this point on. Now, for the same reason that the experiences of another person appear to us as a seemingly objective image — namely, an active brain — the seemingly objective world around us is the image of conscious experiences in mind-at-large. Moreover, for exactly the same reason that feeling love is completely different than watching the brain activity of someone in love, the first-person experience of mind-at-large will feel completely different than your watching the world around you right now. The world is the image of conscious experiences in mind-at-large, but mind-at-large doesn’t experience the world the way we do, for the same reason that our volunteer inside the brain scanner doesn’t experience patterns of firing neurons! The volunteer experiences love, not firing neurons. When we look at the world around us, we do see the footprints of conscious experience, but not the gait. And this is why theology not only has a concrete and worthy subject of study and speculation, but perhaps the ultimate one. Allow me to elaborate.

George Berkeley used to say that empirical reality was an experience in the ‘mind of God,’ his term for ‘mind-at-large.’ The term, although admittedly old-fashioned and highly ambiguous, was and remains appropriate: if all reality consists of ripples (that is, inanimate objects and phenomena) and whirlpools (that is, living creatures) in the stream of mind-at-large, then the attributes ‘omnipresent,’ ‘omniscient,’ and ‘omnipotent’ apply to the stream for obvious reasons. Therefore, it is fair to say that all empirical reality is the image of ideas in the ‘mind of God.’ We cannot know how the world is felt by ‘God’ simply by looking at the world, for the same reason that a neuroscientist cannot know what love feels like just by looking at brain scans. Yet, when we contemplate the magnificence and incomprehensible magnitude of the stars and galaxies through our telescopes, we are essentially looking at a ‘scan of God’s brain.’

Thus, theology does have a very concrete subject: mind-at-large, or ‘God.’ And theology also has concrete data to make inferences about this subject: nature itself. After all, nature — from atoms to galaxy clusters — is an image of God’s mental activity, just like a brain scan is an image of a person’s subjective experiences. Theologians themselves have explained this in their own language, as a careful read of, for instance, Henry Corbin will reveal. If one denies the validity of nature as data for the study of ‘God,’ one must deny the validity of brain scans as neuroscience data. What theologians call ‘Creation’ is the ‘scan’ — the image, symbol, metaphor, icon — of ‘God’s’ ongoing, conscious, creative activity. “All the world an icon,” as Tom Cheetham summarized it. Goethe, in Faust, preferred the word ‘symbol’ instead of ‘icon.’ He wrote: “All that doth pass away / Is but a symbol.” What in nature doesn’t pass away?

Coyne could counter this by saying that we already have the natural sciences for studying nature, and that the scientific method is much better suited for this purpose. This is as strictly correct as it misses the point: theology is an attempt to see past the mere images and make inferences about the subjective processes behind those images, which include emotions and intentionality; it is an attempt to see past the ‘brain scan’ and infer how it ‘feels to feel’ love in a direct way; it is an attempt to see past the footprints and understand where the hiker wants to go, as well as why he wants to go there. In this sense, theology and the natural sciences are entirely complementary.

And this isn’t all. If we are whirlpools in the broader stream of mind-at-large, then the implication is clear: at bottom, our personal psyches are not only one with each other, but also one with mind-at-large. After all, there is nothing to a whirlpool but the stream itself. This way, we are merely alters of mind-at-large, in the exact same sense that people with Dissociative Identity Disorder also have multiple alters. It follows that the expression of the deepest, most obscure and obfuscated regions of the human psyche (which depth psychology has come to erroneously call the ‘unconscious’) may reveal something about the direct subjective perspective of mind-at-large itself. And here is the key point: people express their ‘unconscious’ perspectives through symbols and allegories, much of which forms the basis of religious texts. Carl Jung’s masterpieces Aion and Answer to Job make this abundantly clear. Therefore, insofar as theology provides a way of interpreting the symbols and allegories of the ‘unconscious’ psyche so to make sense of ‘God’s’ subjective perspective, it also has a valid subject of study and a valid source of data.

In conclusion, both nature itself and religious texts are expressions of a mysterious divine perspective and, as such, valid sources of concrete data for theological study. Theology has a clear, concrete subject, as well as a clear and concrete challenge: to decode the divine mystery behind the images (both ‘unconscious’ and empirical) that we can ordinarily access during life. Coyne is simply wrong. While the natural sciences attempt to model and predict the patterns and regularities of nature, theology attempts to interpret those patterns and regularities so to make some sense of their first-person perspective; that is, God’s perspective. Theology also attempts to interpret the symbols and allegories in religious literature so to reveal the ‘unconscious’ psychic processes behind them, which betray something about the inner-workings of ‘God’s mind.’ In both cases, theology represents an attempt to provide a hermeneutics of texts and nature. This is essential, because a life worth living isn’t only about practical applications, but also meaning and purpose.

Related Dialogues

Please select the social network you want to share this page with:

We like you too :)
Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering with specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world's foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the "Casimir Effect" of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). Bernardo has authored many scientific papers and philosophy books. His three most recent books are: More Than Allegory, Brief Peeks Beyond and Why Materialism Is Baloney. He has also been an entrepreneur and founder of a successful high-tech start-up. Next to a managerial position in the high-tech industry, Bernardo maintains a philosophy blog, a video interview series, and continues to develop his ideas about the nature of reality. He has lived and worked in four different countries across continents, currently residing in the Netherlands.
close

37 Responses to “In Defence of Theology: a Reply to Jerry Coyne”

  1. September 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm, Chikkipop said:

    My goodness, what an exercise in nonsense!

    You’re very articulate, which illustrates my contention that belief in bad ideas is more a function of emotional need than lack of smarts.

    So many mistakes. So many unwarranted assumptions.

    Coyne will ignore you, as he should, and as all cranks should be ignored.

    I’ve already said too much.

    • September 14, 2014 at 7:37 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      What are the mistakes and why are they mistakes? What are the unwarranted assumptions and why are they unwarranted? Without this, your comment is, well, nothing.

      • September 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm, Chikkipop said:

        My “nothing” comment is sometimes the best way to respond to nothing.

        So many times we have seen those who put their intelligence in the service of defending what they WISH were true. You are the “theist of density” rather than the other common type, the dense theist.

        You hope that if you cram enough nonsense into a “theory” and do it with sufficient elegance, it is somehow less nonsensical than mere dense theism (“Well then, how did we get here?” and “How do you decide what’s right & wrong?”, etc).

        It is not.

        Constructing an elaborate theory for the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin deserves a response in kind. In the humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, Anders Sandberg has presented a calculation based on theories of information physics and quantum gravity, establishing an upper bound of 8.6766×1049 angels.

        In other words, Ha ha ha!

        Intellectual theists may well be the worst kind, certainly because they should know better, but also because they invariably expect the doubter to wade in atomistically, examining the entirety of their tower of babble piece by tedious piece. That we refrain from such a fruitless endeavor is, to the theist, a victory, as you will no doubt claim.

        What we can be fairly sure of is that you began with a god belief and then worked to construct an elaborate apology for it. What we can also be sure of is that, having built such a construction of pseudo-sophistication, what has been left unsaid is what you originally believed in its simplest form: “There is no god but Allah”, or “Jesus died for your sins”, or some variation. The smart theist knows to avoid showing his emotional underside, instead attempting to dazzle with arcane postulates & bizarre propositions (“..nature itself and religious texts are expressions of a mysterious divine perspective and, as such, valid sources of concrete data for theological study”).

        William Dembski is a mathematician and philosopher who prattles on about “specified complexity” and creates such high-minded sounding entities as the “Evolutionary Informatics Lab”. Very smart guy, but get him in a bar at 2:00AM and he’ll eventually own up to his humble “Jesus loves you” beginnings. In fact his fellow ID proponents probably wish he’d keep his mouth shut, since he’s given away the game with howlers like this one: “Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” Brilliant, eh!?

        Read this excerpt from the Rational Wiki on him:

        “William Dembski was originally slated to be an expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District lawsuit [Creation in the classroom, Evolution on trial!] but shortly before he was to go into deposition he withdrew himself from the case. This was along with two other ID fellows: Stephen Meyer and John Campbell.

        Dembski’s withdrawal is particularly noteworthy considering his obsession with having Darwinism on trial in a court of law, as evidenced by this quote from his Uncommon Descent Blog:

        ‘I’m waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve
        subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length on their views.
        On that happy day, I can assure you they won’t come off looking well.’

        He also went as far as developing a “vise strategy” and taking pictures of a Darwin doll in a vise as an analogy.

        Sadly it seems that Dembski’s ability as a prognosticator is on a
        par with his ability to define CSI mathematically, as the Dover trial
        became a tour de force for evolution, with the conservative Judge
        scathing in his criticism of the blatantly creationist ID side of the
        case.

        Following the defeat of intelligent design in the courtroom,
        Dembski produced an animation featuring Judge Jones. And fart noises.
        The best bit? He did the fart noises himself, apparently. Classy. ]]

        When push came to shove, and he was actually expected to deliver, he withdrew from a case wherein his ideas would have been subjected to examination for all to see. Just what he – and you – claim to want!

        Don’t be another Dembski. Don’t be a victim of your own weak wishes.

        If you have any intellectual integrity, try to understand the psychology, the obvious emotional and cultural basis of what you are doing, and start putting your fine intellect to good use!

        • September 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          >> My “nothing” comment is sometimes the best way to respond to nothing <> You hope that if you cram enough nonsense into a “theory” <> Constructing an elaborate theory for the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin deserves a response in kind. <> What we can be fairly sure of is that you began with a god belief and then worked to construct an elaborate apology for it. <> If you have any intellectual integrity, try to understand the psychology, the obvious emotional and cultural basis of what you are doing<<

          On this one is a pearl! 🙂 A little more self-awareness will help you see the delicious irony of what you wrote. 🙂

          Be well, man.

          • September 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm, Planet Shayol said:

            My my, Chikkipop has struck a nerve, hasn’t s/he? So much so that you embark on the same “hysterical rampage” you accuse him/her of. Lighten up, man, and thanks for being a living manifestation of why Thomas Jefferson said “A professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution (the University of Virginia)”.

          • September 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

            Oh look, I just voted your down! oops 😉

          • September 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm, fragmeister12 said:

            Boiled down to its absolute core, this is an essay in solipsism since, you claim, the only undeniable fact is consciousness. Thus, I have invented you in some subjective experience and can I invent you. If that is what you mean, give me a reason why I should accept a word you say since I can verify anything you tell me as it is all subjective experience.

            Looks to me as if this one leads down a hole.

            PS How can I be sure that there is consciousness?

          • September 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

            >> Boiled down to its absolute core, this is an essay in solipsism since, you claim, the only undeniable fact is consciousness.<>PS How can I be sure that there is consciousness?<<

            Maybe you are just a computer temporarily passing the Turing Test on my account! Humor aside, if you are serious about this question, you are beyond help.

    • September 14, 2014 at 7:45 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      And unlike Coyne, I won’t ignore your reply if you decide to actually explain what you think is wrong in this article, instead of mere cynical handwaving. I will debate you. Why the difference in attitude? Because I can argue my case all the way, and Coyne can’t (clue for why he will indeed ignore me). Now, the question is: can you?

  2. September 13, 2014 at 9:51 pm, Snoopy said:

    This wanders deep into Deepak territory 🙁

    • September 14, 2014 at 7:37 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      Does Deepak have a monopoly on ‘God’ and theology?

      • September 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm, Snoopy said:

        Certainly not, but he’s the current reigning grandmaster of pretentious obscurantism. His drivel is insufferable to many.

        Ask 10 different listeners what the main message behind his last 5
        minutes of talk is, and you’ll get 10 different nonsensical explanations. Despite being laden with lots of great words and flimsy references to complex concepts, his language remains deliberately vague, leaving as much room as possible for his audience to fill his words with meaning. And apparently, people love him for giving them the opportunity to make sense of all the free floating garbage in their heads and making it look like a sparkling stroke of genius at the same time. Many folks have called him out for being a huckster. And rightly so.

        I witness a similar appearance of pretension in your writing. You allude to concepts without being precise, you build merely grammatical bridges between different parts of your reasoning without demonstrating why they connect in substance.

        You have criticised Chikkipop for not giving specific examples. The problem, as I see it, is this : Most, if not all, sentences of your text lack the same qualities, lack the stringency of thought required to pack them into something which then can be deconstructed and criticised. It’s not possible to single something out, because it all falls apart to the slightest touch.

        Having said this, I understand that you are not a Huckster like Deepak. You’re a blogger and you mean to write about things you deem interesting and worth talking about. But I have to tell you, there is a particular audience out there whose epistemological demands will not allow them to connect with your writing in any meaningful way.

        • September 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          >> You allude to concepts without being precise, you build merely grammatical bridges between different parts of your reasoning, and you offer examples without demonstrating why they’re connecting in their substance. <> Most, if not all, sentences of your text lack the same qualities, lack the stringency of thought required to pack them into something which then can be deconstructed and criticised. It’s not possible to single something out, because it all falls apart to the slightest touch. <> But I have to tell you, there is a particular audience out there whose epistemological demands will not allow them to connect with your writing in any meaningful way. <<

          Your epistemological demands are yet to be seen, since you cannot point at anything concrete, apparently. You try to hide your inability to sustain an argument behind your gaseous vagueness and gratuitous generalities. You desperately try to hand-wave at holes you can't pinpoint. This is a rather cowardly way to try to engage in a discussion, but I don't mind because it's pretty obvious to anyone reading this.

          Point out what is wrong in the essay and explain your position, then maybe I decide to spend more time on you next time around. For now, sorry, just can't take you seriously.

          • September 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm, Snoopy said:

            I was unusually generous with my explanation, in hope you would take a minute to compare your writing against what I wrote. The hostility of your answer once more reminds me that giving an blogger the benefit of a doubt, is an objectively stupid thing to do.

            So, let me express myself in a way you can appreciate:
            Your article was shite.

          • September 17, 2014 at 8:33 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

            Thank you! You’re very kind.

  3. September 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm, Amod Lele said:

    An intriguing post. How do you define “consciousness”?

    • September 14, 2014 at 6:41 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      Consciousness is subjective experience itself. I attribute no other structure or complexity to it.

      • September 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm, fragmeister12 said:

        This is shallow nonsense. It’s so simple to sit there and make such vague claim without substantiation, isn’t it?

        It must be easy. You just did it yourself.

        • September 15, 2014 at 5:22 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          This ‘shallow nonsense’ happens to be the phenomenological definition of consciousness in philosophy…

  4. September 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm, Troy Tice said:

    Thanks for the interesting post, Bernardo. Coyne has already replied. I largely agree with him when it comes to the excesses and evils of organized religion, but he knows nothing about spirituality or parapsychology. Trying to engage with him on these fronts is bound to be an exercise in futility.

    As for the whole “the universe existed before consciousness” argument, it is interesting to read Henry Stapp on the subject: http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/replytosearle.txt

    • September 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm, Troy Tice said:

      I should also mention that he knows little about philosophy. Philosopher Edward Feser’s take-downs of Coyne on things like “intentionality” are fun reads.

    • September 16, 2014 at 7:54 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      Thanks Troy! I replied to Coyne’s reply:
      http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2014/09/jerry-coynes-reply.html

      And I am very fond of Prof. Stapp, who I’ve had the honor to become personally acquainted with this year.

      • September 16, 2014 at 8:14 am, Troy Tice said:

        Excellent reply, Bernardo! I often shake my head when Coyne wanders into these debates. He wrote a piece attacking Jeffrey Kripal’s article in the Chronicles of Higher Education that was a real howler.

        In more positive news, the Esalen group behind “Irreducible Mind” have a new book coming out in 2015: “Science-Based Spirituality: Why Physicalism Must be Abandoned.” Henry Stapp has a chapter on quantum mechanics, and physicists Bernard Carr and Harald Atmanspacher have chapters as well. In conjunction with historian of science Andreas Sommer’s book on the early history of psychical research, I think it’s slated to be a good year for vigorous intellectual defenses of empirically-informed spirituality!

        • September 16, 2014 at 8:16 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          Sounds interesting! Will keep an eye out for it! 🙂

  5. September 15, 2014 at 11:39 pm, beanfeast said:

    We know that if we stimulate certain regions of the brain magnetically or electrically we can, with a reasonable degree of certainty, reproduce particular sensations. It doesn’t take much imagination to conceive of a machine (putting practicalities to one side) that could scan your slides and stimulate the brain in such a way as to recreate in the volunteer’s brain the signals recorded on those slides, thereby creating a facsimile of the feelings experienced during the experiment.

    Wouldn’t such a, not too unrealistic, scenario invalidate the concept of conciousness you describe in your second and third paragraphs?

    • September 16, 2014 at 7:53 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      Think about it. Unless you are implicitly assuming a form of dualism, everything is just processes in consciousness, whether they unfold within ‘whirlpools’ or not. The fact that a blow to the head or a psychedelic substance can alter your first-person experience is, thus, no more surprising than the fact that, e.g., your thoughts can alter your emotions. These are all just interacting processes in consciousness.

      Now, if it’s true that the image of a process contains ALL information relevant for the process, then it is conceivable that we could reconstruct experience from brain scans, the way you suggest. In other words, ALL information about first-person experience has to be encoded in brain activity. That would not invalidate the ontology in the essay at all: it would all still be interacting processes in mind, some within ‘whirlpools’ some outside ‘whirlpools.’

      Personally, however, I think it is a big demand to expect that the image of a process carries ALL information about the process. Flames don’t carry all information about combustion. Lightning doesn’t carry all information about atmospheric electric discharge. There is no guarantee that our sense organs (i.e. the rim of our whirlpool) evolved to capture all relevant information in reality.

      • September 16, 2014 at 11:07 am, beanfeast said:

        Would it be possible to draw an analogy between your speculation about the nature of conciousness and something I am more familiar with? I imagine it to be all pervasive, perhaps like the fields described in quantum field theory or maybe luminiferous aether, that was meant to have a detectable flow.

        You speculate that there is something about the nature of our brain that allows us to interact with this field in such away that we introduce localised disturbances. It is the results of the effect of these interactions that you suggest produces conciousness in us and that are detected in the brain scan. The brain scan is recording a 2nd order effect and by stimulating the brain as described we would be reproducing the 2nd order effect, not the original interaction that lead to it.

        What is required to produce or detect these disturbances? Does a rock produce them, just as it does in a stream of water? Would there be a difference in ones ability to detect them if you were, for instance, fully blind due to eye disease, injury or loss, because of degeneration of the optic nerve or because of damage to the visual cortex, lateral geniculate cortices, etc? Which of these is ‘the rim of our whirlpool’?

        Objects passing through gases or liquids at different speeds produce very different types of flow. Do you expect people travelling at different speeds to experience different types of conciousness?

        Your proposition is that this ‘stream’ has a direct impact on the physical world as experienced by our brains and presumably other things as well. You must have spent time thinking about methods of testing it. What testable predictions are there that would go some way to either validating or invalidating your speculation?

        • September 16, 2014 at 11:20 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          There is a lot here. The analogy is the stream, but one has to be careful not to literally objectify it. The stream is consciousness itself, not an object. Now, the stream’s behavior can manifest as inanimate objects, which are ripples. It can also manifest as living creatures, which are localizations of the flow of subjective experiences, whirlpools in the stream. You are one such a localization. Our perceptual apparatuses are the ‘rim’ of our whirlpools. We perceive consensus reality when ripples in the broader stream (photons, sent molecules, air vibrations, etc.) penetrate our whirlpool through its rim (sense organs). The localization in the whirlpool also has the effect of amplifying ripples that penetrate it, thereby obfuscating everything else (the image of this amplification is known in neuroscience as neural reverberation). That’s why you can’t see anything if you close your eyes: your thoughts, emotions, and other sensory modalities still within the whirlpool get amplified and obfuscate the rest like the sun obfuscates the stars at noon. The stars are still in the sky, just like what you can’t see when you close your eyes is still in consciousness (mind at large). Finally, you can see me because my whirlpool imprints disturbances on the stream, which propagate out as ripples that eventually penetrate your whirlpool. Now, the stream doesn’t have ‘an impact’ on the physical world… it entails the physical world. The physical world is a manifestation of the stream; ripples on its surfaces. All this is much better explained in the book (Why Materialism Is Baloney). It isn’t really possible to address every valid point in the form of brief comments. Cheers, Bernardo.

  6. September 16, 2014 at 11:20 am, jhog said:

    It’s funny seeing Bernardo’s detractors dismiss his ideas yet never dare engage in the reasons why.

    • September 16, 2014 at 11:23 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      It is, isn’t it? I wonder how much self-awareness is there behind this… I don’t think it’s really intentional, but rather semi-conscious.

  7. September 16, 2014 at 6:55 pm, Tom Thorpe said:

    As a scientist who is also a psychotherapist, I suppose I should be able to see both sides of the complementary approaches to ‘understanding’ nature but I found this article difficult to understand – perhaps because it covers so much in 1,748 words, perhaps because it argues from analogy (I think). However, I sense that my lack of understanding where the author is coming from might be shared by some of the commentators below.

    I have tried to think of a way to grasp a suitable perspective on this article and I’d like to suggest: I understand all too well the view that “the scientific
    method is much better suited for this purpose” and the many examples that support this, so perhaps a way for me to grasp the alternative view is for the author to give some examples of verifiable ways in which “theology…. sees past the
    mere images and make inferences about the subjective processes behind
    those images, which include emotions and intentionality”.

    the
    scientific method is much better suited for this purpose – See more at:

    https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/in-defence-of-theology-a-reply-to-jerry-coyne/#sthash.GrgAc7QH.dpuf
    the
    scientific method is much better suited for this purpose – See more at:

    https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/in-defence-of-theology-a-reply-to-jerry-coyne/#sthash.GrgAc7QH.dpuf

    Then I might be able to ‘grock’ this.

    • September 16, 2014 at 8:02 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      I will try a very simple example just to give you a flavor, so you can fill in the rest from there. The example is in my mind right now because I just wrote it elsewhere:

      Scientific view: we study the regularities of nature and derive
      the second law of thermodynamics (entropy)

      • September 16, 2014 at 9:22 pm, Tom Thorpe said:

        Thank you for your quick reply.

        I’m afraid that your answer did not enlighten me in the way I had hoped. However, your use of the words ‘correspondences’ and ‘intuition’ suggests that a different type of ‘thinking’ to purely analytical ‘scientific’ thinking is required to appreciate this type of approach.

        Mmmmm. If I am right, that’s food for thought and I’ll have to chew it over. Thank you.

        • September 16, 2014 at 9:27 pm, Bernardo Kastrup said:

          Hi Tom. Yes, that’s the point. The thinking function is useful for the pattern/regularity detection of the ‘outside’ view. The ‘inside’ view is another game altogether (based on introspection), that being the reason I insist on the complementarity between science/logic on the one hand, and theology/psychology/art/etc. on the other hand. All the latter seek the view from the inside, the view of feeling, emotion and intentionality. It’s a whole other game. Jung did understand this, if you re-read him with these ideas in mind. So did Hillman and others.

  8. September 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm, malf said:

    With phrases like:

    “And here is the key point: people express their ‘unconscious’ perspectives
    through symbols and allegories, much of which forms the basis of
    religious texts”

    … and

    “While the natural sciences attempt to model and predict the patterns and regularities of nature, theology attempts to interpret those
    patterns and regularities so to make some sense of their first-person
    perspective”

    I’m not sure that this a defence of theology any more than it is a defence of any good literature or art.

    We’ve started a thread on this over at Skeptiko, btw:

    http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/in-defence-of-theology.1287/

  9. September 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm, malf said:

    With phrases like:

    “And here is the key point: people express their ‘unconscious’ perspectives

    through symbols and allegories, much of which forms the basis of

    religious texts”

    … and

    “While the
    natural sciences attempt to model and predict the patterns and
    regularities of nature, theology attempts to interpret those

    patterns and regularities so to make some sense of their first-person

    perspective”

    …. I’m not sure that this a defence of theology any more than it is a defence of any good literature or art.

    We’ve started a thread over at Skeptiko:

    http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/in-defence-of-theology.1287/

    • September 17, 2014 at 7:27 am, Bernardo Kastrup said:

      Hi malf, nice to see you here. You wrote: >>I’m not sure that this piece is a “defence of theology” any more than it is a defence of any good literature or art.<< I am actually totally comfortable with this! But think about what I am implying by saying it…

Leave a Reply

RELATED DIALOGUES

The Fiction of Being

Photo: ID

Every life is a work of fiction. That’s what I tell my memoir students. People come to me wanting to tell their life story, the narrative that sums them up, the myth that captures their essence….

Read More...

The Indra’s Net

img_spider_web_sm

“Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions….

Read More...
image description image description

Thanks To Our Sponsors

Wishlist Member WooCommerce Plus - Sell Your Membership Products With WooCommerce The Right Way .