|God and the Multiverse
Humanity’s Expanding View of the Cosmos
By Victor J. Stenger
Review by Bob Lane on Tue, Jun 30th 2015.
|“I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are IMPOSSIBLE.” – William James
“Modern science should indeed arouse in all of us a humility before the immensity of the unexplored and a tolerance for crazy hypotheses.” – Martin Gardner
All the world says: yes we know what’s written in the books but now let’s see what our eyes tell us.” ― Bertolt Brecht, A Life of Galileo *******
Understanding mysticism is undeniably difficult. This is not because it is so complex. It is, in fact, strikingly simple in structure. It is infinitely less complicated than Catholic or Protestant theology. What makes it so hard to grasp is that it is buried in confusion and misunderstanding. People approach mysticism with preconceptions and prejudices that cast a murky cloud over the phenomenon.
Mysticism is not concerned with the supernatural. Miracles are part of popular religion, not of the mystical experience. God is not necessary to mysticism, though some mystics do describe their experience in terms of a relationship to God or Allah or Brahman. Buddha is an example of a major mystic who did not.
Mysticism does not involve having visions or hearing voices. It has nothing to do with the occult, ghosts, extra-sensory perception or out-of-body experiences. It is not concerned with spiritualism or clairvoyance, telepathy or pre-cognition, though it is often muddled in many people’s minds with these phenomena.
Much of the repugnant reaction to mysticism is generated by the fact that the mystical experience is not at all intellectual. It is not rational. Not analytical. It is non-conceptual and non-verbal.
Well, for heaven’s sake! If it is not rational, is it not necessarily worthless? This is an assumption many people fall into because of their overpowering affection for the rational mode of understanding. Of course rationality is absolutely essential to the conduct of human life. Those who think ill of rationality are lost souls wandering in a wilderness. They become victims of their own ungoverned impulses.
The mystical experience is not essential to every day life, but it is a profoundly moving flash of insight into the nature of reality as whole. Einstein put it succinctly: “the experience of all things as meaningful unity.”
You may want to watch a discussion about “Language, Metaphor, and Reality” here.
Suppose you and your spouse pack up the car and leave for a vacation. On your way out of the driveway, you have the following conversation:
Spouse: Did you remember to turn the stove off after breakfast?
Spouse: You know you forgot to turn it off the other day. If we leave it on over our vacation, our house will burn down.
You: You’re right. I’d better go back and check.
Epistemically speaking, what happened in this scenario? One plausible analysis is as follows. Under ordinary circumstances, you know claims like ‘my stove is turned off’. But it would make little sense to go back to the house to verify something that you already knew to be the case, and so in cases like this where the cost of being mistaken rises significantly, your knowledge is lost. This, in a nutshell, is the claimed insight of pragmatic encroachment.
‘Pragmatic encroachment’ denotes a range of views united in claiming that the conditions under which true belief counts as knowledge include at least some pragmatic conditions. In other words, practical considerations are “encroaching” upon the territory traditionally occupied by truth-directed conditions on knowledge. What you know or are justified in believing may depend on the existential import of such beliefs.
It is that time of year for best 10 lists. You know, best 10 movies, best 10 tunes, top 10 serial killers, top 10 mysteries from Arkansas, top 10 venomous snakes, top 10 unpleasant facts about John Lennon, top 10 philosophers’ errors, etc.
For some good thought-provoking material try this top 10 list:
What use is the bible?
There are two contradictory facts about how Americans read the Bible. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, nearly 80% of all Americans believe the Bible is either literally true or is the inspired word of god. The other fact, most Americans have no idea what’s in the Bible. In his presentation at TNP 2013, Yale University Professor Joel Baden, takes a look at an utterly familiar text and has us think about what the Bible says and just as importantly, how it says it.