Materialism and NDEs
A partial response to Bradford's posting on conversations with materialists and NDEs.
Science as the NEW "FAITH" Actually Superstition - BELIEF
Most people have never looked through an electron microscope. Some people have looked into an electron microscope. In today's world, most people believe what people who say they have looked, say they have seen. And whatever conclusions the "scientists" have drawn about what they have seen or other "clinical studies", "scientific studies" and "scientific research" they have done.
For example, people are willing to give gazillions of dollars to cancer research based on the belief that scientists have already found "cures" for ailments, such as aspirin for a headache. This example is particularly ironic given the fact that the bark of the white willow was used by the Native Americans to relieve pain. This bark contains the same chemical compound that is found in aspirin. Many of our modern "drugs" have been extrapolated and sythesized from elements and compounds used for thousands of years in herbal and "natural" preparations.
Even taking aspirin, or any other medication that the doctor prescribes, is an act of faith. Prescribed medicines don't work for everyone, or all of the time, but we choose to believe that it will work for us based on our own past experiences, or that of others.
People have such a strong belief system inculcated into them about anyone who is called a "Doctor" that they will buy any product, over the counter drug or gimmick if it is sold on TV by a person in a white coat even with a disclaimer that the person they are listening to is NOT a doctor! Perhaps one of the reasons that medical malpractice payments are so high is that we are inherently indignant that such a "priest" of science would ever make a mistake or be wrong!
Our society wants to believe in the infallibility of Science and Scientists, the way societies in the past millenium have wanted to believe in the infallibility of the Church. People want to be able to trust in a form of guidance that does not require much, if any, thought or research on their part. Even so, it is a fact that so many people are being made ill in various horrific ways by the world that has been created by all of this "research". The unavoidable realization of this has spurred many people into questioning this supposed "infallibility" and the whole economic and power base of the scientific corporations, especially in America.
Nevertheless, a wide base of Americans refuse to pay attention to the counter-research, such as that on the destructiveness of aspartame. They refuse to read the articles published about its effects. They refuse to associate various illnesses that they may be suffering from with the consumption of aspartame. And they refuse to stop consuming diet drinks and food, in spite of the fact that they continue to gain weight, rather than lose it. Until the deaths and lawsuits pile up to unmanageable heights and the government is forced to take the substance off the market, people will continue to use it.
The scientists themselves, being human, fall prey to this kind of faith-based thinking just as much, if not more so, as the rest of us do. In fact, to be a scientist working in the mainstream culture, one must be absolutely brainwashed into believing that the educational system one has come out of and the research and development culture supported by the corporate and governmental institutions are as near perfect as humanity can get. Errors must therefore be the result of individual failure, not of the operating system as a whole. One must also have a concurrent belief that the scientific-technological culture has by and large, created the "best of all possible worlds" up to the level of our current scientific and technological achievement. By extension, only by faith and adherence to this scientific-technological culture will we continue to better our standard of living in every sense of the word.
Definitions and Quotes from Wikipedia:
c.1175, replaced O.E. geleafa, from W.Gmc. *ga-laubon (cf. O.S. gilobo, M.Du. gelove, O.H.G. giloubo, Ger. glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed." The prefix was altered on analogy of the verb. The distinction of the final consonant from that of believe developed 15c. Belief used to mean "trust in God," while faith meant "loyalty to a person based on promise or duty" (a sense preserved in keep one's faith, in good (or bad) faith and in common usage of faithful, faithless, which contain no notion of divinity). But faith, as cognate of L. fides, took on the religious sense beginning in 14c. translations, and belief had by 16c. become limited to "mental acceptance of something as true," from the religious use in the sense of "things held to be true as a matter of religious doctrine" (c.1225).
IN BRIEF: Complete confidence in a person or plan; A strong belief in a supernatural power that controls human destiny.
A man of courage is also full of faith. Cicero, (106-43 BC), Roman orator, statesman, philosopher and writer.
"Faith is a continuation of reason." - William Adams
"In order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." - Henry Christopher Bailey
"Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe." - St. Augustine
"Faith is a higher faculty than reason." - Henry Christopher Bailey
"Faith has to do with things that are not seen, and hope with things that are not in hand." - Saint Thomas Acquinas
Faith as the basis for human knowledge
Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of all knowledge. One example is St. Augustine of Hippo. Known as one of his key contributions to philosophy, the idea of "faith seeking understanding" was set forth by St. Augustine in his statement "Crede, ut intelligas" ("Believe in order that you may understand"). This statement extends beyond the sphere of religion to encompass the totality of knowledge. In essence, faith must be present in order to know anything. In other words, one must assume, believe, or have faith in the credibility of a person, place, thing, or idea in order to have a basis for knowledge.
One illustration of this concept is in the development of knowledge in children. A child typically holds parental teaching as credible, in spite of the child's lack of sufficient research to establish such credibility empirically. That parental teaching, however fallible, becomes a foundation upon which future knowledge is built. The child's faith in his/her parents teaching is based on a belief in their credibility. Unless/until the child's belief in their parents' credibility is superseded by a stronger belief, the parental teaching will serve as a filter through which other teaching must be processed and/or evaluated. Following this line of reasoning, and assuming that children have finite or limited empirical knowledge at birth, it follows that faith is the fundamental basis of all knowledge one has.
Even adults attribute the basis for some of their knowledge to so called "authorities" in a given field of study.
This is true because one simply does not have the time or resources to evaluate all of his/her knowledge empirically and exhaustively. "Faith" is used instead.
However, a child's parents are not infallible. Some of what the child learns from them will be wrong, and some will be rejected. It is rational (albeit at a perhaps instinctive level) for the child to trust the parents in the absence of other sources of information, but it is also irrational to cling rigidly to everything one was originally taught in the face of countervailing evidence. Parental instruction may be the historical foundation of future knowledge, but that does not necessarily make it a structural foundation.
It is sometimes argued that even scientific knowledge is dependent on 'faith' - for example, faith that the researcher responsible for an empirical conclusion is competent, and honest. Indeed, distinguished chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argued thatscientific discovery begins with a scientist's faith that an unknown discovery is possible.
Scientific discovery thus requires a passionate commitment to a result that is unknowable at the outset. Polanyi argued that the scientific method is not an objective method removed from man's passion.
On the contrary, scientific progress depends primarily on the unique capability of free man to notice and investigate patterns and connections, and on the individual scientist's willingness to commit time and resources to such investigation, which usually must begin before the truth is known or the benefits of the discovery are imagined, let alone understood fully. It could then be argued that until one possesses all knowledge in totality, one will need faith in order to believe an understanding to be correct or incorrect in total affirmation.
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While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha in various scriptures, or sutras) nevertheless requires a degree of trusting confidence and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment and salvational knowledge of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on belief in the Buddha as a supremely Awakened being, on his unexcelled role as teacher of both humans and gods, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism functions as a form of motor, which propels the Buddhist practitioner towards the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana.
As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and weigh its merits rather than believing something outright.
My Definition Faith is the Belief in the Unknown based on the Known.
In spite of the reality of scientific and pseudo-scientific fanaticism today, it is encouraging that the façade of known "truth" is cracking at the edges. Looking into that electron microscope long enough and deeply enough is taking the renegades of scientists past the material. Breaking down the atom and then breaking down the parts of atoms leads one to nothing! Yet, the atom is the basis and building block of matter. Matter is not nothing. Matter is something. Therefore, Matter cannot be built on nothing, it has to be built on something. And if that Something is no longer sense perceptible, then it must have crossed over into realm of the "Supersensible" or "Spiritual". Bingo! Matter is built on and created out of Spirit! This kind of thinking, is of course, totally heretical and without practical application in the "real world". It is a crack, nevertheless.
On the other end of the observable spectrum, there is Space. Just taking the most superficial look at the images sent back to us from the Hubble telescope should inspire even a plebian soul to a kind of wonder. Of course, the true plebian would find this feeling of wonder rather uncomfortable and probably would try not to look too long or too often. They can return to the comfort of WWF. But for those of us who have a slightly higher tolerance for the sensation of wonder, these images must lead our imaginations outward and beyond the "known" universe, again to something that we as yet, cannot perceive, much less explain. Why should there be such beauty, drama and suggestive form about these space phenomena? After countless millenia of being just a black field with white dots, the Universe can be seen as infinitely varied, complex and magnificent. Again, we can perceive more than we may be able to understand at this time. The photos to be found at the websites below (and others like them) seem less like mechanical constructions and much more like the Veil Paintings of God or the Eurythmy Forms of the Hierarchies.