Eoin Moloney writes and asks:
I have read you for some time, and respect your opinion, but I was hoping you could respond in more detail to the claims advanced by the commenter on Strange Notions, the one that is quoted earlier in this thread. I reproduce here a few of the choice points that the commentators seem to be making against you.
This is the second time I have been asked this. It is a complete waste of time. I thought I was clear that there is no point to answering heckling. One cannot reason with a sneer because a sneer is not a rebuttal of anything.
However, out of sheer courtesy and generosity of soul, I will answer what I can. The questions are in bold.
-That you are engaging in empty praise of Catholic writers and empty scorn of atheist writers instead of meaningful criticism.
The document in question is not an argument meant to convince skeptics of the existence of God, nor to criticize atheists. It was a report, a historical document, meant to trace my thought at the time. When I refer to conclusions, I do not give the arguments leading up to any conclusions, merely report the historical fact that these were my conclusions at such-and-such a time.
I cannot answer this point because there is no point to answer: the words “empty” and “meaningful” are not here defined, and not meaningful, and so, with the best will in the world, no one can tell what passages are being criticized. It is, ironically, an empty criticism.
-That you “had not considered the very real possibility that you were actually hallucinating”, which, according to him “was a standard mystical experience that could be emulated by anyone with a few cents of LSD”.
I had considered that possibility very carefully. Occam’s razor cuts it out. Hallucination would not explain how I came to know a passage in a book that I had not read, nor explain why the heart attack came when it did, why it ceased when it did, nor why it answered certain deep philosophical conundrums otherwise not answered. But assuming for the sake of argument that the statement is true, if there was no LSD nor other hallucinogen present, how is it that the alleged hallucination happened both at that time, and a month later?
Also, the person saying this had probably not looked into ‘standard mystical experiences’ very closely, as I have, because I did indeed read up on such things after my experience, and the signs of hallucination were simply not present in this case.
Not to bore the reader, but I thought I should reproduce an abbreviated list:
Some of the more common possible causes of hallucinations include:
- High fever – A high fever, especially in children, can evoke hallucinations, consciousness changes, or dream-like states that resemble hallucinogenic states. Requires urgent medical attention.
- Drug intoxication -LSD intoxication; Marijuana intoxication; Cannabis;
- Psychotic disorders – these are typified by hallucinations and/or delusions: Schizophrenia; Manic-depressive disorder; Mania ; Drug-induced psychoses
- Grief – will rarely cause hallucinations in very severe grief: Postpartum psychosis; Korsakoff’s psychosis
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder – causing flashbacks after use of hallucinogen drugs: Alcohol abuse; Alcohol poisoning; Delirium tremens; Alcoholic hallucinosis
- Physical / medical conditions that may lead to hallucinations include: High fever; Dehydration; Extreme fatigue; Kidney failure.
- Brain disorders - Dementia; Delirium ; Confusion; Alzheimer’s disease; Stroke; Migraine; Brain tumor; Seizures; Temporal lobe epilepsy.
I am waiting patiently for anyone to make the case first, that one of these causes was present, and, second, that they caused an hallucination in this case. No one has even asked me the names of the persons who saw me during that period of time.
-(not from the same person, but a related comment): “if your entire motivation for ‘studying philosophy all your life’ is a fear of death, you shouldn’t be too surprised to land on an emotionally appealing mysticism that promises you continued existence after a heart attack.”
This is not a criticism at all, merely an unsupported statement that my motives are bad and that I lack intellectual integrity. Where is the evidence?
For that matter, it is falsehood that this was my primary motive for studying philosophy. I was quoting Socrates, who said, I believe correctly, that philosophy is meant to prepare for death. But the heckler here is merely making the assertion that I (and, by extension, Socrates and every philosopher or intellectual from ancient Athens to the present day) are prone to ‘land on’ an emotionally appealing mysticism due to the fact that (unlike the heckler, and unlike the field mouse of Robert Burns) one is aware that men are mortal.
This is a childish and worthless thing to say.
I might as well accuse him of seeing God and then hallucinating that he did not, in order to fool himself into the comforting believe that he can indulge his sins with impunity.
If my baseless pseudo-psychological accusation does not persuade him immediately to plunge into baptism, why should his baseless pseudo-psychological accusation persuade me immediately to plunge into apostasy?
As for the emotional appeal, pfui. Christianity does not appeal to me. It calls upon me to be humble and lovable and turn the other cheek, and promises an eternity of hellfire if I dare to disobey.
The loon who makes this insulting claim knows nothing of what appeals to me emotionally. Were I to choose my belief by emotional appeal, I would have selected a cross between the manly cult of the Norse Vikings and the bloodthirsty heresy of the Mohammedans, so that I could pillage and loot and split skulls with my savage war-axe, drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentation of their women, and after a glorious death in battle, be serviced by seventy-two round-hipped glancing-eyed houris while feasting and fighting in Valhalla.
But perhaps I should not make jokes, lest the humor-impaired think I am actually a Viking. In reality, if you want to see the philosophy toward which my emotions as well as my passions and reason inclined me, why speculate? I held to the same philosophy ever since childhood. It is called Stoicism. You can read of it here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/dep/dep102.htm and here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/aurelmed.htm
Make of it what you will, but rather than speculate about what I found or find emotionally appealing, just ask me. I will speak the truth.
- “I have had people recount drug-induced experiences in almost exactly the same terms. And of course you can go and find the equivalent testimonies for any religion. Or put your head under a powerful magnet. What’s lacking is that these self proclaimed bodhisattvas never can articulate the rational, compelling insights that were revealed to them.
Irrelevant. Straw man. Ad Hominem. I made no proclamation to be a bodhisattva, self or otherwise. In fact, if one actually reads what I said, I said the opposite: that I have no new truth to proclaim.
And false, I can explain at least one of the rational and compelling insights revealed to me in clear terms, and have done so on many occasions. Specifically, I mean the three year long debate I had with Dr Andreassen concerning determinism.
The comment is doubly irrelevant because putting someone’s head under a magnet does not allow him to know word-for-word what is inside a book he has not read. The magnet hallucination theory also does not explain the timing of the heart attack and the recovery, nor does it explain the content of the visions, nor their coherence, and so on.
Since there was no magnet present at the time, the comment merely asserts that something happened to me for reason he knows not why, and then he assumes there was a material cause; but he gives no evidence, nor even an argument, as to why I should not assume it had a spiritual cause, if my hypothesis explains the facts better and fits the facts better.
-Nothing in his article would preclude the events he describes from being due to chance, placebo and psychosomatic effects, and/or the part of this brain that is so good at creating fantasy getting ahead of the part that usually keeps us from fooling ourselves.
False, and irrelevant.
The placebo effect assumes that my subconscious mind has fantastic powers to make me sick and well again just in such times as to accidentally fit the model of a supernatural effect, but there is no supporting evidence that a placebo effect was present.
Indeed, there is an argument against this. When my wife’s practitioner prayed for me, I was not someone who believed it would work. The placebo effect concerns people who believe the sugar pill is an effective drug, not skeptics who believe a drug is a sugar pill, and are surprised to find themselves mistaken.
I was a skeptic then. I did not believe in the power of prayer before then, I did not believe it during, and I found it hard to believe after, because everything in my philosophy and experience told me such things were simply impossible. It was a miracle, it happened to me, and I saw it, and I did not believe it. So say that it was not a miracle but a self deception that happened because I believe it simply is contradicted by fact.
This theory of the case also assumes that the placebo effect acted in concert with the hallucinations to give a coherent account of the events, but that would posit that my subconscious mind can turn on and turn off heart attacks at will, that it was motivated to trick me, that it rewrote my memories to suit this conspiracy, and can write detailed dialog for visiting dream figments in a fashion no dream can. In effect, this theory attributes so many godlike powers over my subconscious mind, not one of which has ever been proven to exist in me or any other person, that it is a supernatural theory, merely one that places Descartes’ deceiver inside my brain rather than outside.
The rest of this so-called criticism is merely an assertion that I lack intellectual integrity. But there is no evidence for that assertion. And even it true, it would be ad hominem and ergo irrelevant.
-It is a classic bit of special pleading with extra sentiment and tearjerking self pity to boot. Since I’ve read some of Wright’s other blog posts I can assure you that if someone were to frighten him out of his new found religion and back into his old supposed logical atheism he wouldn’t become a worse person. He never altered his basic attitude towards other human beings which is contempt for them–especially for women who aren’t feminine by his standards. He simply transferred his contempt from believers to atheists. He remains, as he always was, an authoritarian personality in search of a group to oppress, and a stronger group to cling to for protection. C’est tout.
BWAHAHAHAAHAAHAA! Do you honestly expect me to answer this absolutely one hundred percent pure-quill and unadulterated horseshit?
I should answer it with the back of my hand, or with pistols at dawn. Talk to the diseased homosexual witch whom I put up in my own house for months when she was thrown out of her house. I never would have done that when I was an atheist. This hate-filled jackass knows nothing about me. Oppress? I opened my house to her, at considerable hardship to myself.
A group to oppress? Me? A strong group to cling to? ME?? I, who have never once in my life clung to anything by the stark and naked truth, by myself, with no help, and no request for help, no matter the cost, no matter what the world said?
By thunder, I cannot think of person who fits his pretend psychoanalysis less well than I.
I defy anyone to give a single example of my life that even hints at the opposite.
Come now: if I am an oppressor bent on oppression yet also a coward clinging to a strong group, there should be some public example of someone I oppressed and some strong group to which I clung?
Well? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
And is he describing the Catholic Church as strong? Really? Someone wake me up when we excommunicate Nancy Pelosi, or declare the Fifth Crusade against CAIR.
And, unfortunately, the fool shoots himself here in the foot. If his analysis is that my previous 35 years of existence were someone with an authoritarian personality disorder hunting for a strong group to cling to, well, unfortunately, my previous 35 years of existence were atheist. The group to which I allegedly clung was the atheists, the freethinkers. His group.
So he has defined his own group as strong oppressors attractive to authoritarian personality disorder bullies. What does that say about him?
Self-Pity? Tear-jerking? Do I strike anyone as being the kind of man who asks for sympathy? I cannot even tell what this lunatic is trying to say. What is he referring to?
Ask yourself a simple question: How does he know the secret springs motivating my subconscious mind that even I am unaware of? I do not recall taking any psychological tests or taking to any psychiatrists, or even whispering to him all my hidden sins in a confessional booth. A mere telepath scanning my conscious thoughts would not detect any trace of these buried and sinister motivations, since I do not know them myself. How did he come to know more about me than even a telepath could discover? By reading one short article I wrote once?
It is also irrelevant. Assuming for the sake of argument that I am a bad person and the chief of sinners, that does not mean I did not see what I say I saw, experience what I say I experienced, and it certainly does not mean that my interpretation of the events (which I believe to be accurate rather than an odd stream of thirteen or so unlikely coincidences, placebo-miracles, strange memory tricks, and hallucinations when there is no medical evidence of hallucination) is an inaccurate interpretation. A bad man can still be a good observer. By all historical accounts, Galileo was an ass and Newton was nasty — are their observations and interpretations wrong?
The old ‘authoritarian personality’ schtick comes from Erich Fromme, a communist. It is a one-size fits all argument used to evade and dismiss a real argument. It is intellectual laziness at its worst. For shame.
He does not know what ‘special pleading’ is. It is a term of art among philosophers and logicians. Special Pleading is the informal logical fallacy claiming that a case is an exception to a rule, but the claim is based upon an irrelevant characteristic that does not define an exception. I made no claim here about any general rule, nor claimed my testimony was an exception to it by any characteristic, irrelevant or not.
Amateur internet pundits should not use technical terms (or big words) they do not understand. It makes them look foolish, and the cool kids will laugh at them.
-the distance between “I’m a atheist philosopher and a genius, and all you Christians are yammering fools” and “I’m now a Christian philosopher and a genius, and all you atheists are yammering fools” is a pretty short distance indeed.
Again, this is both false and irreverent. And Ad hominem. Again. Yawn.
If a man wants me not to call him a yammering fool, the least persuasive way to do it is to yammer like a fool rather than give a rational argument.
Do I really need to explain to people why Ad Hominem arguments are irrelevant?
Come now: Suppose the same events in the same order had happened to a humble man, would this critic then believe? St. Paul, by all accounts was arrogant. St. Mary, by all accounts, was humble. So the yammering fool does not prove that St Mary was hallucinating when she heard the Annunciation by pointing out that St. Paul was arrogant.
Not one of these points in the whole list given above — NOT ONE! — actually speaks to the only question at hand, which is whether my testimony can be believed. That is an astonishing statistic: a perfect zero percent score.
In order to show that my testimony cannot be believed, there are only two arguments to be made: one, witnesses who know me and know my past, who have discovered my lying in times past about matters like this, so that I do not have a reputation for honesty among my peers; two, some benefit, financial or otherwise, which accrues to me if I testify falsely, such as an allegation that I have been bribed, or that I have a personal and vested interest in the outcome, and so on.
Both arguments would be difficult to make, but these amateurs have not even attempted to make either. They do not know how to impeach a witness.
The short answer is that the hallucination theory is not supported by the facts. No one has brought forth any medical evidence or credible evidence to show I was hallucinating on the three different occasions mentioned. A merely speculation that an hallucination is remotely possible does not make it automatically the best theory to fit the facts.
Indeed, the speculation does not fit all the facts. Why did the heart attack happen when it did? Coincidence. Why did it stop when it did? Coincidence, or placebo effect. Why did the hallucinations start when they did? Coincidence. Why were the hallucinations present despite that I have no family history of hallucination? Coincidence. Why was there no known physical cause, no drug and no powerful magnet present to cause the hallucination? No reason given. Did the alleged hallucination behave as other hallucinations known to medicine? No. Is there testimony from my physician that I was hallucinating? No. Was I incoherent at the time? No. Was I disoriented as to time and place and person? No. Was I unaware of the moral implications of my actions? No. Do I allege my five senses reported objects in the room not visible to other observers? No. Why where the visions coherent like a narrative rather than incoherent like a dram? No reason given. Why did the visions refer to a Christian mythical background, which I hated, rather than to some mythology much more to my personal taste, like the Norse or Greek? No reason. Why did the visions solve the problem of free will and determinism for me? Coincidence. Why did the visions, if they came from my head and mine alone, contain material I thought at the time was clearly contradicted Christian teaching, but which I, a month or so later, found to be exactly in keeping with Christian teaching? Coincidence. Why, in other words, did the alleged hallucinations contain material from a book I had not yet read? Coincidence. Or perhaps I read the book and forgot the material and then remembered the book later, but did not remember that I remembered. What is the evidence that I can play such memory tricks on myself? None. What is the evidence that, even if I were able to play memory tricks on myself, I did so on this occasion? None.
I am not saying one cannot construct a theory to explain all these facts. I am saying my lazy critics have not done so, nor even attempted to do so. They have called no witnesses, introduced no evidence, made no rational arguments, nor made even one non-irrelevant comment.
(Nor made they any polite comments. Not one of them assumes I am an honest man who makes an honest attempt to explain and understand the bizarre things I witnessed and experienced. Not one. Their rebuttal is not a rebuttal at all, merely one unsupported accusation after another that I lack intellectual honesty. What does that say about them?)
I am saying that if the juror hearing my testimony posits as an axiom that the supernatural explanation must under all conditions be wrong, and then he speculates that a material cause (like a giant magnet) must have been present in this case despite the lack of evidence for the same, on the grounds that the magnet must have been the cause because the supernatural could not be the cause, then he is reasoning in a circle. He is not following where the evidence leads.
I am saying that the supernatural explanation posits only one entity, God, whose behavior is in accord with many, if not all, other theories and accounts said of Him, and that this explanation therefore makes fewer assumptions, far less far fetched, than the dozen-happy-coincidence placebo-amnesia-convenient-hallucination theory offered in its place.
The critics are merely reasoning in a circle. They assume that any eyewitness report of the supernatural must be false because by definition the supernatural does not exist. That is not the way honest men reason.
Honest men, if I give a report of something that sounds unusual or fantastic, would first find out what my reputation for honesty was among my peers, and then find out if I had any ulterior motive, such as a bribe, for falsifying my testimony.
Merely raising the possibility that I am a proud or fearful is not evidence showing that pride or fear overwhelmed me in this case, and so bent my honesty out of whack that I decided to make a public laughingstock of myself, call myself a fool for having been so wrong for so many decades, and drive away customers, all by proclaiming my loyalty to Christ.
Indeed, there seems to be some evidence that my self interest should have strongly inclined me to silence, not to speak.
Moloney, I cannot believe you actually thought it worth my time to answer this totally foetid and mephitic bullshit. Can you seriously, really, not tell the difference between someone who makes a sound legal, lawyerly argument to support a position, and someone who writes down a list of sneers and personal attacks?
If you really need a random internet science fiction writer to tell you that a sneer is not an argument, or that argumentum ad hominem is an informal logically fallacy, go sue your teachers for malpractice.