Monday, April 19, 2010

The Haisch God Theory (II): Atheist Complaints

In the previous blog I briefly reviewed the hallmarks of Bernard Haisch's God Theory, and showed its warp and woof within the reasonable limits of a blog entry (as opposed to a book). For those that wish to get the full perception and from the author, I suggest getting the God Theory and reading it. The cautionary tale here is never to follow criticism which hasn't first come from reading the source, and also, never make criticism yourself until and unless you have read the book you purport to criticize.

Now, having read Haisch's book, I am now prepared to critique it from an atheist's point of view. This will be divided into several parts, as pertains to the key or critical aspects of Haisch's thesis:

1. The material brain is not the source of consciousness.

Haisch makes a good subjective argument for this, based on his internal perceptions (and extending them generically to others), viz. p. 57:

"I know with absolute certainty, with an inner conviction that no amount of external logic can refute, that I am alive and conscious....The fact that I am alive and conscious is a deep, direct experience that transcends all other rational acquired knowledge"

Of course, this may be so for Haisch, but not for strict rationalists! Yes, we can acknowledge the same perceptions as he does, but we would not go so far as to parlay those into a "God theory".

Haisch also offers a good analogical argument (e.g. comparing purely physical sourced-brain consciousness to a car on the highway- but lacking a "driver" it will not get to its destination. All the fuel-gasoline, gauges, brakes etc. are purely peripheral to the task and not primary. Likewise the human brain is only peripheral to the activity of consciousness, not primary)

However, this comes perilously close to the phantasm of a "soul". (The classic argument that a non-physical "soul" is needed to be the "captain" of the brain, or at least the active agent for the origin of its thoughts). Thus, in this light, Haisch is surely correct when he complains (p. 52) that "most scientists do not regard this topic (of a primary consciousness) as appropriate to discussion". He's also correct that they "cannot imagine any other model".

But here's the deal, Haisch as a practicing scientist, ought to know full well that once models are offered they must be put on a testable basis, including offering tests to falsify them. He has offered a model of mind in which consciousness is a sine qua non non-physical agent, independent of the brain itself, despite the fact that when brains cease to exist (so far as we can discern) so does consciousness. After all, when EEG machines are attached to a dying brain they soon detect, at some point, no activity- hence brain death. The lack of activity is interpreted as a lack of recognizable consciousness.

If there is a mode of consciousness independent of what can be detected on our machines - then HOW do we establish it exists? Where is it? HOW do we know that it is really there? He makes a few passing references to NDEs or near death experiences (e.g. page 21), but like others who do so, doesn't flesh out his case. The fact is: 1) NDEs are not actual death experiences, and 2) the manifestations that emerge can be explained by brain stressors and release of chemicals (e.g. dopamine, opioids etc.) that actually trigger hallucinations. The "white light" commonly reported, or even "demons" (in some cases) are likely just brain-incepted hallucinations and nothing else. In any case, it's the claimants' job to prove otherwise, not skeptics' job to prove they aren't! (Since proving a negative is logically impossible)

What Haisch needs to do is to now make his theory a real theory by detailing tests for its falisifiability. May I suggest something along the lines of what the late quantum physicist David Bohm did, in a series of papers on "Real de Broglie waves" published in Foundations of Physics? That is, he postulated that if consciousness was nonlocal, then there must exist real deBroglie waves that can be associated with the (psi) wave function of the Schrodinger equation (see diagram). The experiment he proposed was actually designed by Rapisarda and Gozzini and became known as the "Gozzini experiment". It was originally to be conducted near Pisa, Italy ca. 1995. Alas, up to now - so far as I know, it hasn't been carried out. But if it had, and real de Broglie waves had been detected - then this would be at least an indirect basis for Bohm's claim.

2. "Filtering" the Infinite:

A central contention of Haisch, is that the infinite power and consciousness of the "infinite Intelligence" has to be "filtered" through human brains. Via this mechanism, the God Theory posits that the Infinite makes itself manifest in the world through evolution. Thereby It funnels its consciousness into its finite creatures, whose finite brains can bear only discrete "fragments" of the original consciousness, but no more. Our brains, in other words, are simply not structured to contain or process all of "infinite consciousness", especially if we wish to live on this planet with finite challenges. Because only limited consciousness of the divine is available to us, we are prone to making mistakes, or even committing crimes- since we don't or can't see "the whole picture". This is part of the problem of inhabiting a world in evolution which must be inherently imperfect.

Now, it would be nice if Haisch had provided a process or basis for this to be understood. Instead he offers up anecdotal evidence(pp. 55-56) citing autistic people and (idiot) savants - e.g. people that can multiple two ten digit numbers together and get the exact answer minus any devices. These can, alas, be explained by other means and don't necessarily require the brain filtering hypothesis of Haisch. It is merely that he personally believes his transduction of infinite into finite conscious elements sounds plausible.

What about using modern, nonlocal Quantum mechanics to forge a more convincing basis? Haisch ought to be able to do this (analogous to Bohm with his holomovement) by invoking the quantum potential. Then again, from other aspects of his God Theory, it appears Haisch is convinced that a supernatural domain may well be the basis for his Infinite Intelligence - unlike Bohm's holomovement- which is restricted to physical dimensions and fields.

3. Problems of Theodicy:

I was most interested to see how Haisch dealt with the problem of human and natural evil. Unfortunately, what I read (at least in The God Theory) shows he is probably still working this out for himself. He seems, indeed, to be oscillating between two degrees of moral axis as manifest in the world:1) An axis based on karma and reincarnation, and 2) the Science of Mind position that one can control or at least exercise partial control over negative happenings via the use of mind. (If one then obsesses over some evil act happening to him, his creation equation: thought + belief = creation, will bring it about. So, the moral is, don't think about such! Think positive!)

Two key passages embody the author's theodicy issues and merit closer examination. This first, on page 21, introduces the aftermath of what happens if suicide bombers take lives from their insane action, and is relevant to (1) above. Haisch writes:

"Where will they find justice? Whether driven by pure malice or by the misguided view they were accomplishing some good, consequences will follow which may well be hellish. Under the God Theory that justice will be meted out by the action and reaction of the law of karma, which is built into the fabric of creation as surely as the conservation of momentum is built into the laws of physics. It is only your snapshot view from the perspective of a single lifetime that outrages your sense of justice or causes you to demand a day of divine judgment. Better to think of karma as a multi-lifetime process of re-education, rehabilitation, and inescapable balance."

So, in this sense, the God Theory follows closely the teaching of reincarnation of eastern religions, though not necessarily exactly. (For example, in Haisch's version, people would only come back as people, not as cows as Hinduism allows. In this sense his version may have more in common with the metempsychosis doctrine of Origen, the early Church Father - before the RC Church declared such teachings "give Man too much time to seek God" - and formulated the Heaven-Hell baloney.)

The reincarnation principle of "karma" and balance, is okay so far as it goes, but some aspects don't sit well with serious atheists. The reason is that the karmic basis often allows arguments and conclusions every bit as outrageous as one spouted by my Christian friend in Barbados - who argued that God allowed the 11-year old girl to be killed in Florida some years earlier to "preserve her innocence" and "get her into heaven before she could prostitute herself". ('Problems of Theodicy(I)'). Thus, God did a measurably "good deed" by allowing the girl to be abducted, raped and killed before she could mature and become a whore. In this way, which "appears crude and brutal to us because we see it only from a limited time dimension") she surely made the heavenly short list!(Or so my friend John argues!)

Similarly, I've heard karmic espousers tell me when pressed (when asked how to account for the Holocaust) that: "The Jews that died in those gas chambers and ovens were simply receiving karma for what they had done to many others in previous lives. They were just all collected in one place in this life and punished one time".

Now, maybe in this so-called karmic cosmos that is really how it went down. BUT- it comes over as brutish, nasty, totally insensitive and downright horrific! Something deep inside me yearns for a better, more empathetic explanation than that cold blooded one based on a karmic calculus. In that line of thinking, I imagine that the 11 -year old girl that was abducted, repeatedly raped and buried alive was also undergoing her just desserts, or karma. But for what?

You see - this is what the karmic theodicy leaves unanswered. Because unless we humans living at the time of these abominations KNOW what the original infractions were (say that the girl was a serial child killer in a previous life), we're not going to buy into karma as a moral justification or answer in this life. (Since if we did, we'd allow the perpetrator to go free as simply fulfilling his karmic duties - keeping the universe in balance. Of course, we now must ask the karmic brigade if he now will receive HIS karma or no? Where does it end? Or does it?) Saying we "can't know" is no answer, and leaves us unimpressed. The Socinian deity is probably better, in these terms, implying an evolving God but one who isn't infinite or infinitely intelligent - but simply reduced to no more than what the maximally enabled sentience allows. Not much!

Haisch then goes on to cite some evidence for "multiple existences" but mainly to do with near death experiences. I don't think this is adequate, for the reasons given earlier. How about instead finding people who make the claim, tracing them to their putative origins and then having them give detailed accounts of their past lives which can be checked against extant historical records?

In respect to (2) Haisch's answer is the golden rule: live by it, do right by it, and for all practical purposes all good will emerge. As he notes (p. 20):

"Under the God theory, the requirement that you treat others with respect and compassion is for all practical purposes, a moral absolute, since all beings participate in the infinite consciousness that created them"

But what about the suicide bombers mentioned earlier? What about the savage beast that defiled and killed the 11 year old girl? Are we to treat THEM with "respect and compassion" after the fact? After the SS slime exterminated 6 million were we obliged to treat them with"compassion and respect" - or were we not entitled to hang them based on the Nuremberg trials?

Then we have this (ibid.):

"But under the God theory, you never have to worry about whether God himself is offended by your behavior"

Even after someone raped a child, and buried her alive? Bombed a market and killed hundreds? Or, flew jet planes into trade towers believing it earned them a visit with 72 virgins?

Haisch, as it seems from reading his "theory", needs to do much more to flesh out its theodicy aspects. Are we to expect karmic justice in this life for the human evildoers, or is it only to come in future lives? On what basis is there a difference? If God is "not offended" by his individuations of divinity or rather, conscious "fragments" of the divine that rape, steal, mass murder- then can one say he is really good?

Or, as one recent commenter (Jani) noted (comments in previous blog entry) is this all just a big play for divine amusement? No one really gets killed, or raped, or hurt's all more or less like a virtual game which will end ultimately with everyone united in one Being and Intelligence.

We would like to know, and maybe a future book by Haisch, after he's firmed up these issues in his own mind, will help us see better where he is coming from. Right now, the jury is still out - at least for atheists. Until Haisch firms up the metaphysical flab we will withhold belief in his deity like the others. (Though it is encouraging that at least his God theory takes major steps toward credibility, especially in terms of resolving the basic ontology).

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