I made the mistake of hopping over to a different side of Patheos not terribly long ago and stumbled across this: titled Facts and Reason in Paganism – Avoiding Materialist Assumptions, it’s from the same author that claimed hurricanes were people, sorta. So yeah, we’re in for an interesting ride. Again, if this sort of thing bothers you, or if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, it’s best to not hit below the jump. Everyone else? Let’s get this thing started, shall we?
The author starts off by saying that he’s had plenty of atheists criticizing his work lately. Honestly, I’m not terribly surprised, as the atheist community–as fractured as it is at this moment–as a pretty strong skeptical undercurrent. On the whole, an atheist will ask for actual truth when someone makes fantastic claims and they won’t back down until they get that. Now, apparently, he’s fine with this until we veer off into this disturbing direction:
Not all the atheists are arguing in good faith. Some of them are “sealioning” – constantly moving the bar and changing the subject to continue the argument, either because it gives them a juvenile sense of control or because they don’t want to admit a theistic viewpoint has merit. My patience with them is limited.
What does our author mean by sea-lioning? Well, it’s basically this:
Basically, this is term for a particular type of concern troll. Supposedly. Because I’m sorry but what the hell is so damn wrong asking for someone to back their position up with a little thing called “facts”? And most internet disagreements take place out in public domain. Yes, you’re sitting in your nice, cozy chair at home but the poster you’re responding to is doing the same thing. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to because they aren’t actually inside your house!
Already, we’re off to a shaky start. Asking for verifiable facts is not sea-lioning. It’s asking for some damned facts. Hell, over the summer, my husband got attacked by someone on Facebook because he called the guy out on his opinion and the poster got upset, claiming he was the one who had been attacked. Prime had to explain that asking for facts wasn’t attacking anyone. It was asking for some damned evidence to the claims that were being made.
A good number of atheists are skeptics. Saying something along the lines of, “This one time, I did a spell and summoned a dragon in my own house” will get a reaction of a raised eyebrow and a response of, “Oh, yeah? Prove it.” Someone who is a skeptic will not take fantastical claims at face value. The skeptic will do that annoying thing of asking for evidence. That’s what skeptics do and our author seems to not quite grasp that concept. But let’s continue:
Materialism is not consumerism. Materialism is the philosophical assumption that all that exists is matter and the products of its interactions. It reduces human experiences of love and beauty to the interactions of brain chemistry. It assumes that Gods and spirits not only do not exist, they cannot exist.
There’s a problem with that; namely, most skeptics will accept the existence of a god or gods if there is evidence. Again, we have no evidence of gods or spirits, so they probably do not exist. As for the idea of love, well:
That answers that.
Okay, bad jokes aside, just because we know what causes those feelings doesn’t necessarily invalidate them. They are real, we just happen to know what causes them. It’s a bit like the Grand Canyon: you can understand how it was formed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less amazing. Hell, to me, that makes it much more amazing! It’s a reminder of our amazing planet and the forces that have shaped it.
Some scientists believe that quantum physics disproves materialism. I’m not sure it does, and in any case I’m very uncomfortable invoking quantum physics to “prove” anything. As a field of science, it’s still in its infancy. But whether it does or it doesn’t, materialism remains an assumption of science (or rather, of many scientists), not a finding of science.
What our author does not mention about the book he is referencing? It just so happened to be written by a philosopher and not a scientist. So it’s a little hard to take this seriously as a scientific work because it really isn’t.
I’m not saying that science and philosophy can’t co-mingle. But trying to claim a philosophical work backs up scientific claims is a bit of a stretch.
So when someone says “there’s no way magic could work” what they’re really saying is “there’s no way magic could work in a materialist universe.” Magic could work by the intercession of Gods and spirits, but materialism refuses to consider that possibility. It says there is no evidence, but it excludes non-material evidence. All the times magic does work are dismissed as coincidences and confirmation bias, because the evidence points toward conclusions that invalidate their materialist assumptions and they refuse to question them.
That isn’t science – it’s claiming science proves something when it doesn’t.
Again, what we’re looking for here are actual, verifiable claims.
If you claim that you did a spell and a hundred thousand dollars rained down through the ceiling of your house, I’m going to want some evidence. Because what you’re claiming happened is all but impossible. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen but it shouldn’t happen. And if it did, we should be able to recreate the scenario. On that note, if actual evidence of a god or spirits exists, then people will accept that. But it has to be evidence and not “Well, I’ve got this feeling in my bones…”
Some materialists like to say our religious, spiritual, and magical experiences aren’t real. Those people are absolutely wrong – these experiences are undeniably, unquestionably real. It is our interpretations of these experiences that are open to debate. Unfortunately some people can’t seem to separate facts from interpretations of the facts.
Again, what we want is evidence. You can claim that you’ve seen a unicorn and I’m going to want more than your word. (Trust me, I’ve been looking for unicorns since I was seven; the closest thing we’ve found were these things and they aren’t majestic or beautiful at all. But I digress over here.)
You can claim that this was a real experience but again, the skeptic wants facts. Memories can be manipulated. Our eyes and brains can very easily trick us. But some actual quantifiable facts? Those are hard to ignore.
Last June I saw a green glowing bird. It is something that many people say cannot exist, but there it was.
Let me be as precise and as non-presumptive as I can. I saw something that looked and acted like a bird. It was green, and it was glowing in a way that living, this-world creatures just don’t do. It was in a place where there are no native birds that are green, and it was with a large group of other birds that appeared to be of the same species, except they weren’t green.
Years ago, I thought I saw a spider the size of my head, perched in a web that stretched from one side of the dirt road I lived on to the other. I didn’t. Something that large–even in the South–doesn’t exist. It was a trick that my brain played on me. This has happened before, as I’ve “seen” spiders on the walls of our house that aren’t there.
That I saw something is a fact. My interpretation of it is an opinion about which reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements. But reasonable disagreements should only be around the interpretation, not around the facts of the experience.
Too often we do this to ourselves. We have a religious or magical experience, we are unable to come up with a “proper” materialist explanation for it, and so we start to tell ourselves it wasn’t real. It didn’t really happen.
We gaslight ourselves. Or we stand by as other do it to us.
The rational explanation is usually the correct one. Lest we forget, fantastic claims were made during the Satanic Panic. But ten to one, it was a trick of the light–think a grackle or a crow–or something else.
Also, why didn’t the author take a picture of this “glowing green bird”? This happened last June. Most people have smart phones that are equipped with cameras. Granted, he might not have upgraded or may not have had his phone on him, but if he did, why didn’t he snap a quick shot? He could easily silence his critics if he had some photographic evidence.
My experience of the green glowing bird was the effect. What was the cause? I eliminated the skeptical explanations, for the reasons listed in that post and its comments. I considered reports of similar experiences from other people who I trust to relay them accurately. I considered the lore of our ancestors, who weren’t so caught up in looking “educated” and “sophisticated” as we are. I considered other, similar experiences of my own. That line of reasoning led me to conclude (tentatively, since we can never be sure about such things) that the Otherworld is bleeding over into this world.
Only one problem with this line of thinking: shouldn’t there be more evidence of this? Why would something like this only happen to one person? If the “Otherworld” was truly breaking out into this one, wouldn’t more people claim to see the same sort of things? As in, wouldn’t non-believers see this sort of thing as well?
I’d really like to ask the author this, but I’m pretty sure he’d claim I was sea-lioning and delete my question. Because you know, asking about those pesky things called “facts” when we’re dealing with the metaphysical can really screw things up.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with this reasoning. A skeptic can argue that one of the possibilities I rejected is a more likely cause. They might be right. But to argue that there is no reason in that assessment is to argue that reason and materialism are the same things, and they are not.
“I reject your reality and substitute my own.” That’s pretty much what the author is saying here.
“My holy book says my God will send you into eternal torment when you die” is hardly proof beyond a reasonable doubt. “Your beliefs have no evidence (that I approve of)” isn’t either.
Actually it’s “no scientific evidence”. That’s very different from “no evidence that I approve of”. If one of these atheists is saying, “No, sorry, that’s not actual evidence” it’s probably be cause you are offering up unverifiable stories that can’t be fact checked. Again, making claims of this nature will net you a healthy dose of skepticism and you had best have some real evidence to back up your claims.
But if anyone expects me to change my beliefs, the burden of proof is on them, not on me.
And it’s on you to actually prove what you’re saying is true.
You can say you’ve seen Bigfoot but unless you have a photo or some hair or some other evidence, I won’t believe you. I want evidence, pure and simple.
I have to laugh when I see people claiming there’s “no evidence” that magic works. If you want to see evidence for magic, then practice magic. Magic doesn’t work on belief, it works on action. Do the spells and you’ll get results.
Oh? Then why did we have two major hurricanes hit us this year? Why is the Grand Nagus still in power? Seriously, there have been binding spells and all sorts of magick performed this year. Nothing has happened. The Grand Nagus is still sitting in the Oval Office. We’ve had two hurricanes hit the US and one that slammed into Puerto Rico. If magick actually worked, if there were real results, things would be very different right now. People in Puerto Rico would have power and food. We might not have to worry about a possible nuclear war. Trans people would have rights. We’d have single-payer healthcare. You get the idea.
You have to do the spells right. Waving a wand like a baboon brandishing a stick isn’t going to accomplish anything. And understand that magic doesn’t make things happen – it increases the odds that things will happen. It is possible to do everything right and still not get the result you expect. So working magic once or twice isn’t going to prove anything to anyone.
I’ve heard that exact same line and it always comes from fundagelicals claiming that prayer works, but only if you “do it right”. In other words, it wasn’t the spell or the prayer that failed, it was you.
This is a cop-out, plain and damned simple. Because this either works or it doesn’t.
But over time, the results start to add up. Eventually these results are impossible to ignore – it’s easier to accept that magic is real than to continue with denials and rationalizations.
So this is about as trustworthy as a prayer? Because that’s how it sounds. Which means it isn’t freaking trustworthy at all and that it doesn’t work.
I welcome comments from all religious and spiritual perspectives, so long as they contribute to a polite and helpful conversation. Comments that include sarcasm, ridicule, religious proselytizing, or personal attacks will be deleted without warning. Feel free to defend materialism if you so choose, but comments that exhibit the kind of unreflective materialist assumptions described in this post (“you have no evidence!”) will be deleted with glee.
The thing is, YOU HAVE ZERO REAL EVIDENCE!
Ugh, sorry about yelling like that. But the author is claiming to have evidence when all he has are anecdotes. We have stories that we can’t verify, claims that we have to trust are true and no real science to back any of this. I mean, I do not know this guy. I have zero idea whether or not he is trustworthy at all. He might be true in all of his claims but this is the internet. I can claim that my father went to the Moon and saw E.T. and was made Emperor of the Multiverse but that doesn’t mean any of it is true. All you have are my words.
Which is what I have here. I have no evidence, just words. I can’t verify if any of those words contain even the smallest kernel of truth.