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Monday, November 14, 2005

Miracles and materialism

There are many ways in which we can say something is a "miracle". There are secular uses of the word - a miracle being something positive and extraordinary, or something that has tremendous emotional impact - which have no bearing on this discussion. Although people have very little understanding of probabilities and can come to believe that extraordinary events must have a greater explanation, we know that the improbable must happen to a lot of people every day, by simple mathematical necessity. Miracles in this sense are the expression of the extremes of natural law.

The theological meaning of "miracle", however, is of great interest to us. A miracle in this sense is commonly defined as an event which breaks natural law because it is created by God's will. For example, God can pop everything from nothing, send an avatar to Earth to be born of a virgin, or send magical plagues. These are all "miracles" because they are impossible from the materialist standpoint, and they are "acts of God".

Obviously the first problem with these events is that, as I said, they are impossible. As such, taking a page from Hume's playbook, we should reject testimonies of such events as being less likely than the possibility that, for example, all the testimonies are lies, fabrications, delusions, or honest but misguided recountings. In the same way, I would not believe someone who said he saw me at this or that place, when I was lying sleeping on my bed, unless I had very good reason to mistrust my memories in this case. But I would never believe, in any circumstance, that this person saw me come back from the dead and rocket into the sky, like "Jesus". I would dismiss any number of such testimonies as either lies, fabrications, delusions, or honest but misguided recountings of a mundane event (such as, perhaps, a cleverly-made hologram of myself). Likewise, I must reject out of hand the Christian stories of the universe popping from nothing, an avatar coming to Earth, or magical plagues, as mythical fabrications.

This is all well and good. But now look at the issue from a materialist perspective. For a miracle to be a miracle, it must be miraculous, that is to say, it must break natural law. And natural law is the result of materialist causation. So the definition of a miracle itself implies that materialism is true ! For it includes both material causation and its "break" for a specific event. If there is no material causation, then the concept of miracle is meaningless.

Let me make this point as clear as possible, as some believers have invoked the notion of "regularity" to try to explain this problem away. The argument goes like this : if there are no "natural laws" but merely "regularities", then there would be no problem with miracles.

But this is mind-numbingly absurd. Consider that natural laws exist because of the law of causality - things change in accordance with their nature. If there are no natural laws, then there is no more causality, and everything is basically random.

Now, take the law of gravity. We know the law of gravity reflects a fact about mass. Things always fall down when we thrown them up, at least on Earth, because of the Earth's gravity field, and proportionally to that field. We can measure it easily. Now, if there is no more causality, only a regularity, we are supposed to believe that the Earth randomly generates a gravity field that is somehow always exactly proportional to its mass. This is the equivalent of rolling a million dice, and rolling a specific, pre-determined distribution of numbers. Then doing it again, and again, and again, and again...

The idea that regularities in nature are merely regularities and not the product of natural law is so absurdly improbable that it merits no examination beyond realizing how absurd it is.

So it turns out that the concept of miracles implies atheism. And since natural law is how we understand reality, this also brings up the question of how we could possibly know that a miracle is happening. For one thing, it would require us to be omniscient and know that natural law is not operating, which is impossible. At best we can say that an event breaks natural law "as far as we know it". But that's not nearly enough.

Finally, as TANG proved, the notion of miracles contradicts the operation and validity of science, most notably in cosmology and biology. Given the tremendous success of science, any position that contradicts it would seem to be very unwise indeed.

There is also an alternate position on miracles that is sometimes used, and that is the exact opposite - that God acts in the universe through natural law. This is more commonly used by the ignorant believers, to say for instance that natural disasters are God's way of expressing its anger, and so on. However, from an ontological standpoint, we can easily see that such a position is completely contradictory. If divine intervention is expressed as natural law, and natural law is a materialist process, then it cannot possibly be "divine". At best, the believer is saying absolutely nothing when he says the event is the product of divine intervention, as adding this label adds no meaning to the explanation, unless one wants to contend that God is very, very material, and is made of tectonic plates or low pressure zones. Ultimately, adding the "God" label to anything cannot possibly be justified, and cannot possibly be meaningful, regardless of one's belief system.

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At 11/14/2005 2:28 PM, Blogger Niels declaimed...

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At 8/17/2006 1:03 PM, Blogger Weight Watcher declaimed...

Visualization is a tool that has been used for thousands of years by initiates of all the metaphysical schools. Today, it is incorporated into top athlete's daily routines and is used in business affairs frequently. It's use is wide-spread among highly successful people, either consciously or unconsciously, aware of its create power. So if it has stood the test of time and is still being used by high achievers we must come to the conclusion that it works! But has it ever worked for you?

If you answered 'yes' to the above question then you know how powerful this technique can be. If, on the other hand, you gave the more likely answer 'no' then take heart for I am about to reveal to you a sure fire way of reaching your objectives through this mostly misunderstood art.

The trouble with visualization is simple - its in its name!

When studying and contemplating the art of visualization most people have the impression that they must create visual images and make them real or life-like. Many people, in fact the majority, find this almost impossible to do. Even if they can formulate a solid picture of their objective they find it extremely difficult to sustain the image for any length of time. Either the image fades, changes or other intruding thoughts intervene.

This type of visualization is almost impossible to sustain and luckily it is not at all necessary. Why? Because it is in the subconscious mind that your visualization needs to be placed and there is good news. The subconscious mind does not know the difference between an imaginary event and a real one. Your visual image only needs to be a strong visually as any other imagined event. However, that is only half the story.

If all you had to do was just imagine stuff and your world automatically changed to reflect your imaginings this world would be full of chaos (not to mention all those creepy crawly bug-eyed monsters!). Therefore, there are a few more steps to complete before the visualization is passed to the subconscious for manifestation.

Let's try a little experiment. Remember a scene from your past that has a lot of good feelings around it. Any good memory will do, like the first time you heard the words "I love you" from your partner, an amazingly spectacular sunset, a great holiday event or your last birthday. Pick one and remember it. How clear is the image? Can you remember any sounds? What way did you feel? Is there any sense of touch, taste or smell? Identify how your memory works. Is it mostly visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or of a feeling nature?

Now we are going to create an imagined event in our lives that has the same strength and potency as that image. So relax and let's go.

Imagine something that you do everyday, something that you did yesterday, today and will do tomorrow. Let us take the example of waking up tomorrow morning. Don't try to add or take anything away, just think about it and analyse the scene. Is it dark or light? Are you lying next to someone in bed? Do you still feel tired? Has the alarm clock sounded? Are you irritable that you have to get up or full of joy at the dawn of a new day?

You will find that the imagined event is very similar to the memory with probably one key difference - your point of perspective. Is the memory behind you and the future event in front of you? Is one to the left and one to the right? Maybe they are both in front of you or the future seems to move in a clockwise direction. Whatever the perspective the thing to notice is that they are very similar in appearance.

Now imagine doing your future event a week from now, then a month from now, then six months from now. Where are those images placed? Are they moving further away, going clockwise, from left to right? This is your time-line and using it is important in visualization as you will see later.

Ok, let's imagine something that is very unlikely to happen and see where it differs from the last image.

Imagine you are sitting somewhere familiar which is extremely comfortable and relaxing to you. Now imagine that a person you know well comes up to where you are and says "hello". Imagine them telling you that they want to show you a new trick. All of a sudden they have three juggling balls. They throw them in the air and begin to juggle with ease. Then they begin to whistle one of your favourite tunes. You suddenly realize that there is a strong smell of flowers in the room and notice a vase of them just behind the juggler. Imagine laughing loudly at the scene and feeling joyful at the experience. Then the person juggling leans forward stands on leg and puts the other leg outstretched behind them. All the while still juggling and whistling. Then they begin to hop on their leg as a small bird flies over to perch on their head. Once you have the imagined event and stayed with it a few moments just let it fade.

Ok open your eyes. What was the difference between the two images? Can you spot any? Did you use more, less or roughly the same senses in your fantasy event as you did in the future one? Did you see them from different angles? Was the picture bigger in one than the other? Was the sound clearer, the feelings more acute or the smell stronger? Take some time and go back to each scene in your mind. How does the future event differ from the fantasy one? Are you looking at both from a different vantage point? Do you see yourself in the image of one but not the other? Analyse the scenes and see where they differ.

Have you identified how the future event differs from the fantasy one? If you have then its time to make visualization work for you! Take a goal that you have been working on or would like to achieve. Nothing too far-fetched at this point please! Pick something that is possible but at the moment seems a little impractical. Once you have it form a mental image of what it would be like to have, be or do that thing or be in that experience. Remember to form it the same way you do a memory. Give it the same strength visually, in sound, feeling, taste and touch - use your mind in its natural state. All you have to do is imagine the scene.

Ok how does it differ from the scene of waking in the morning? Can you identify the differences in perspective, sound, taste, touch, feelings and what you hear?

Now there will be one other key thing that differs in the images- it is very simple but often overlooked. You know that the future event is going to happen! This is reflected in the way we experience the image. So what we are going to do is fool your subconscious mind into thinking your goal is definitely going to happen by manipulating your goal image!

Once you know what the differences are in each image begin to change the goal image so that it is seen the same way as the future event in your imagination. Place the visualized scene in exactly the same position with the same perspective as your future event.

Place it in the correct position on your time-line. You may already begin to feel that the goal is more possible. Visualise in this way everyday and you will condition your subconscious mind to manifest the experiences necessary to make your goal attainment certain.

One more thing to remember: During the day think about your goal often. This reinforces the visualization and will begin to dispel doubt from your mind. hypnosis

At 10/22/2008 7:27 PM, Blogger jack340 declaimed...

This was quite the convoluted article by Francis. What he's saying is that because man has added definitions to processes, that those processes (be they labeled "Natural" or "Regular") are somehow locked in place by definition. This is a lot of circular reasoning. Processes have probability to life has predictability. That is God's design. However, God is "breaking" a "law" when He intervenes - He is simply introducing His own process. To say that science is the standard for believing in miracles is also just as circular in your thinking as "believers" say that faith is the standard of believing in miracles. Both are wrong. Miracles happen, and they can't be proved, because a new process was introduced - there are no probabilities of it happening again. There can be no controls over the experiment. They simply happened in time and space. Whether you agree with them or not, that is up to your prejudiced biases - I suppose Jesus understands that... as the religions leaders stood and watched a man healed of his blindness and dismiss it because it didn't match with their prejudiced viewpoints about "natural" or "regular" events.


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