Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ReThink This

This is in response to Matthew Apler's book The God Part of the Brain. In it he biologically explains spiritual experiences, and accurately so. However, he then makes the conclusion based on this that because a spiritual experience has a physical explanation, it has no truth to it.

If a psychological mechanism can exist to alter reality in order to increase the survival of an individual (as he argues is the purpose of the transcendental mechanism).
Then, the transcendenal mechanism may be an illusion.
and, the ego mechanism may be an illusion.
If the ego mechanism and the transcendenal mechansim are mutually exclusive.
It is impossible to determine if the transcendental reality is the illusion or if the ego reality is the illusion.
As for the experience itself is concerned.
There is no defnite way to dtermine if any experience has truth in itself because experiences are only within one's own realm of consciousness.
Thus, the explanation of a physical mechanism behind an epxerience cannot disqualify the truth of that experience.


BigL said...

Yes it does. If we find a normal cause to what was previously thought to be a supernatural occurrence, it means that it was not a supernatural occurrence, and simply something that occurs in your brain which we choose to assign meaning to depending on our particular world vies.

Brian Liebman said...

Dude you missed the point, I'm saying that its impossible to tell if that state of mind was more correctly percieving the universe or not. It's not a matter of spirituality its a matter of truth.

Its not a supernatural occurance. Nothing is supernatural, because anything that happens is natural. Why is there is the need for supernaturality for spirituality makes no sense to me?

BigL said...

Spirituality is by definition supernatural as it deals with the spirit.

Eric Reitan said...

William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, is very good on this issue, even though he predates by about a hundred years the specific research addressed in this and similar books. Here is my own reframing of his argument: Suppose I am looking at a bright light. Associated with the experience of the light will be brain activity which can be studied by neuroscientists. But that there is a certain kind of neurological activity that can be carefully tracked and described tells us nothing about the veridicality of the experience, that is, whether there really is a bright light out there or not. And the fact that direct stimulation of the relevant parts of the brain can generate the experience of bright light even when there is none does not, in any way, undermine the authenticity of those experiential claims made by people who, looking skyward, see a bright ball that they call the sun.

Of course, spiritual experiences COULD be nothing more than neurological misfirings in the brain. But the neurological evidence as such gives us no special reason to think so. Every experience--veridical and delusional--is associated with neurological activity.