I just read a very interesting Cracked article that, surprise surprise, confirms something else I've been saying for 10+ years. Granted, I did not know the specifics. I was not aware that low-frequency noise was the culprit. But what I did know, was that "ghosts" were yet another result of people overestimating the value of their own perception. Here, we have a stimulus that went undetected, but elicited an emotional response. The person experiencing it feels it requires an explanation, but has none available. So, imagination to the rescue! I am a man of science. I don't believe in the supernatural. None of it. Ghosts, angels, demons, God/gods, astrology, psychics, the afterlife. Am I forgetting anything? I believe any of these things can be explained by some combination of all or some of the following: statistics, coincidence, psychology, human exaggeration/misrepresentation/imagination, and missing information. And when we believe we are sensing an external supernatural presence, it is simply that we misunderstand what we are experiencing internally, and how it contributes to our perception.
But why do I care, you might ask? Why should I give two shits about what anyone else believes? For the most part, I don't. But, it’s a conundrum. I respect people’s rights to have their own beliefs. I hesitate to say that I respect the beliefs they have, though. That’s just the reality of the situation. We can talk about respecting each other’s beliefs all we want, but be honest. If you met an adult, like 30 or 40 years old, who sincerely believed in Santa Claus, you might respect them as a person, but how much would it be possible for you to respect that belief? “Well then, how do you explain that the cookies and milk were gone, and there were presents under the tree?” Forget what your response would be, what would actually be going through your mind, after hearing that? Well, no offense, but to be honest, that’s about what my reaction is, when people offer up what they believe to be evidence for all of the things I mentioned. Ironically, an ad on the same page took me here. Someone claiming to have reasons I should believe in God. I was pretty sure I knew what to expect, but I’m always willing to listen and consider what is being put forth. I’d be willing to listen, just the same, if someone claimed to have solid evidence that Santa Claus exists. But I’m going to approach it analytically.
And every reason that site gave, is wrong. All six reasons. Believe in God if you want, for whatever reason you want, but the reasons given on that site don't hold up. Faulty reasoning abounds:
Reason 1: Assumes design in order to prove it. Assumes conditions were designated with life as we know it in mind, rather than life having developed according to the conditions that were present.
The eye and brain. Actually, evolution does explain them. Primitive versions of both organs exist in the some of the earliest forms of life that are still around, and just like every other aspect of living things, the process of natural selection makes it inevitable that those organs will be improved according to what constitutes survival in the given conditions, through a gradual process of minor changes occurring over hundreds of millions of years. The mistake made by those who deny evolution, in the case of referring to complex organs, is that they ignore the existence of much simpler organs that gave rise to the complex ones, and pretend that evolution is claiming something as complex as the human brain developed randomly. Trace it back through a series of increasingly primitive organisms, and you’ll get a much clearer picture of how it ultimately developed from something so basic that occurring “randomly” (which is actually an incorrect term when referring to evolution and natural selection) is not such an outlandish idea. We really have come away with a very detailed description of the process, which is impressive, considering what a tiny percentage of all the life that has ever existed on Earth we actually have access to, and that does a lot to drive the point home, about how long it takes for the process of evolution/natural selection to produce significant changes.
In addition, evolution explains why our organs and our bodies are prone to the many various malfunctions we know they experience. Something that the concept of a perfect designer fails to account for. The problem here is that people tend to have what I call the threshold of absolutes. That is, once a number gets too big, it may as well be infinity. Or once something gets too complex, it may as well be impossible to explain. The thing is, those absolutes are not actual, they’re just products of one’s limitations.
Reason 2: Oh man, you have NO. IDEA. None of us do. We have no idea what existed before the Big Bang, if anything existed at all. But the absence of an explanation does not mean that you can just invent one, and call it plausible. You need to get used to the idea that “we don’t know” actually does mean “we don’t know”.
Reason 3: Consistent laws of nature ultimately come down to consistent identity. A proton is a proton, and behaves as a proton. A neutron is a neutron, and behaves as a neutron. No design is necessary, for that. If things are what they are, then consistency is the only possible result. The laws of the universe are simply how we interpret and express that consistency. And again, cause and effect are reversed, here. It’s not that the universe obeys math, it’s that we developed math to describe the way everything in the universe behaves.
Reason 4: DNA? Once again, we’re beginning with the end result of a long process of incremental alterations, and ignoring the simpler structure that preceeded it, namely RNA, and it’s entirely possible that something even more basic preceeded that. It should be obvious that DNA evolved in parallel with organisms as a whole, and in much the same way, considering DNA is responsible for defining the organism. That is, organisms evolved and became more complex BECAUSE their genetic material evolved and became more complex. So this is essentially reason 1, put a different way.
Reason 5: There is nothing remotely valid about this, as a reason. Not for anyone but the person who experienced it. And believe me, all this is saying is, “I was not able to properly process and explain what I was doing, and what I was feeling, and this alternative offered some easy answers for me.” It’s possible for a person to be an atheist for the wrong reasons, just like it’s possible for them to be a Christian for the wrong reasons. This person may have been an atheist, but trust me, they had no idea why. The reasons they’re giving here clearly demonstrate that.
Reason 6: Oh, come on. You know what? You had 3 reasons. Not 6. Two were basically the same, and these last two are sheer nonsense. Let me put it this way, accepting reasons 5 and 6 as evidence requires you to first accept what they’re attempting to prove. Obviously, if I believe Jesus was really the son of God, I already believe God exists. Jesus performed real miracles? Prove it. Prove the accounts of his miracles are not lies. Or exaggerations. Or that the people who witnessed them were not deceived in any way. I know people TODAY who believe in psychics, and astrology, and ghosts, and all of that stuff I mentioned. Today. I would not trust an account of an event offered by a huge crowd of people TODAY. I have one word for you: Roswell. That was a lot less than 2,000 years ago. Prove that the story is true. Don’t prove that it’s heartwarming, don’t prove that it’s fascinating, don’t prove that it’s inspirational, prove that it’s true.
But that doesn’t really explain why I care what people believe, does it? Why do I care? Could it be that the author of that “6 Reasons” article is right? Could it be that God is pushing me to seek him, and that’s why I’m bothered that people believe? Hey, you can believe that, if you want. This is my reason, though: Like I said, for the most part, I don’t care what people believe. I do care about their reasoning, though. You can tell me you believe in God, and I’ll most likely just shrug and say, “That’s fine.” It’s when people tell me why that I feel inclined to respond. Because every reason I’ve heard, I consider bad logic. Bad reasoning. And reasoning is important. We have to decide all kinds of things, as a society. We have to more or less collaborate, and make very important decisions. What are our priorities? What rights do people have? What laws and policies will most effectively protect those rights? What do we do about people who break those laws? I don’t mind telling you, I think we’ve got it very, very, very wrong. And I see faulty reasoning as the culprit. And I see the same faulty reasoning that leads us to fuck up on all of those points, leading people to believe in the supernatural.
Still, you know I would never support the suppression of those beliefs. People must be free to believe whatever they want. I just think we could use some leaders who know better.