This is my favorite Christmas song. The Trintarian doctrine is so well expressed this song could be used as a Creed. Charles Wesley's greatest work!
hear the music
A. Universal Moral Law.
The Apostle Paul tells us that there is a universal moral law written upon the human heart. We can see evidence of this universal law throughout the world. Now scoial science is quick to tell us that moral codes of all cultures differ throughout the world; some are so drastically different as to allow for multiple marrages, in some cultures gambling and even cheating each other are expected, and in a few cultures there doesn't seem to be any notion of right and wrong.But we shouldn't expect that all the moral codes of the world would be uniform just becasue there is a moral law. The evidence of a universal law is not seen in structured belief systems but in the humanity of humans.People in all cultures have concepts of right and wrong, even they may attach different kinds of significance to them. There are a few cultures that are actually pathological examples, but in the main most people are capable of being good, exhibit a basic human compassion, and feel moral outrage at cruelty and injustice.
It is this sense of moral outrage and the ability to empathize and to feel compassion that marks the moral law best of all. In Nicagua in the 1980s members of the contra army fighting the Sandinistas conducted a campaign of terror to prevent the people from supporting the revolutionary government. To enforce a sense of Terror they cut off the heads of little girls and put them on polls for all to see (see Noam Chomsky Turning The Tide...Champsky's example comes from United Nations Human Rights Report in 1984). There is something about this act, regardless of our political affiliations which fills us with anger and revulsion; we want to say it is evil. Even those who believe that we must move beyond good and evil are hard pressed not to admit this sense of outrage and revulsion, yet if they had their way we would not be able to express anything more than a matter of taste about this incident for nothing is truly evil if there is no universal moral law.
Moreover, the nature of the moral universe is such that we are capable of elevating basic moral motions to the level of ethical thinking. We understand by this that we must deliberate about moral conditions and to do that we must have free moral agency, a sense of the meaning of duty and obligation, and a notion of grounding for moral axioms. All of these things are without foundation in the relativist scheme but they are part and parcels of what ethical thinking is about. Before trying to link the universal moral law to the existence of God we must first explore the objections to it.
B. Objections. 1) Philological argument.
There are no root words for good and evil universally shared by all cultures, as there are for gender and other things.
Answer: notions of good and evil are metaphysical constructs based upon religious notions. We should not expect cultures that understand God in different ways and have different cosmological and metaphysical schemes of the universe to share the same terms for designation of good and evil when they do not share the same metaphysics. But, this is actually a greater argument for the universal moral law, because despite different metaphysical schemes of the universe there is still an underlying humanity, which was recognized by people in cultures as diverse as Gandhi in India and even head hunters in Barnio.
2) Genetic Origin of Morality.
This seems like a really overwhelming objection. The notion of "herd instinct" has been around as an explanation for morality for a long time. But, in the 1970s E.O.Wilson invented the theory of sociobiology, which basically said that our genes determine everything in an attempt to mate, and what seems like our own ideas and concerns are all really a ploy my our gene pool to further itself. Morality, in this context is just an attempt to aid the pack. Even self sacrifice is just an attempt to save some part of the gene pool. IN the 1980s sociobiology became known as "naturalistic psychology" and under the lead of Richard Dawkins became an overwhealming force; thousands of websites exist to support sociobiology, and there is no real adequate Christian response. This seems like such an overwhelming flood time of support that there doesn't seem much hope for the moral argument.
Answer: The genetic argument really doesn't defeat the notion of a universal moral law, but it is problematic. The moral law "written on the heart" (Romans 2:7) could well be genetic at its root. Those Chrsitians who have no trouble understanding that God used evolution as a method of developing life can easily imagine that the moral law in encoded into the evolutionary process and is found from the ground up. The problematic part is that it blunts the thrust of the causality argument. Perhaps there is a basic humanity to humans which recognizes moral motions, but how to use that as a proof of God's creation when it could as easily be the product of evolution? More on this at the end of the argument.
a) sociobiology enshrining values of reductionism and consequential ethics.
First Things, May 98, 59The Social Meaning of Modern Biology: From Social Darwinism to Sociobiology. By Howard L. Kaye. With a new epilogue by the author. Transaction. 208 pp. $19.95 paper.
"Sociobiology is a secularized form of natural theology, Kaye explains: an attempt to "translat[e] our lives and history back into the language of nature so that we might once again find a cosmic guide for the problems of living." But the attempt fails, he argues, because in order to derive moral guidance from things like genes, sociobiologists first have to attribute to them various cognitive and moral attributes (e.g., "selfish genes"). In short, the sociobiologist first reads his own moral program into nature and then, unsurprisingly, discovers it from nature.
b) Reductionism of Sociobiology negates ability to discuss ethics.
(from First Things )"Moreover, Kaye argues, these attempts at moral guidance are logically incoherent, given sociobiology's reduction of human beings to "mechanisms," "programmed" by natural selection. What, then, can it mean to talk about choice and values? Evolutionary psychology avoids some of the cruder reductionism of the older sociobiology. But by attempting to unmask all thought and feelings as genetically programmed survival strategies, Kaye warns, it may still "have a corrosive effect on our moral principles, social order, and even our souls."
c) Sacrificial (moral) genes is confusion of members and sets.
Val Dusek, Science As Culture "Sociobiology Sanitized: the Evolutionary Psychology and Enic Selectionism Debates"
http://www.shef.ac.uk/~psysc/rmy/dusek.html"Despite the new name, the general lessening of totally off-the-wall speculation, far-fetched animal analogies to very distantly related species, and the avoidance of grossly sexist remarks, evolutionary psychologists present the same theories as the sociobiologists. Central to the work of most of them is the genic selection theory, claims that genes, not organisms are selected. It is most well known as selfish gene theory in popularizations by Richard Dawkins. This doctrine, genetic selection, has been criticized by biologists such as Gould and Lewontin, but many journeyman biologists accept the theory, even attributing the details of the theory to Dawkins himself, when he was only popularizing certain trends in genetics and theories of Hamilton and others. The debates concerning evolutionary psychology have revived the debate about genetic selectionism. Part of the debate concerns whether genes alone are selected, as Dawkins claims, or whether individual organisms and species (and perhaps also groups) are selected as well...."
"This fits with the theory of kin selection, in which and individual can reproduce some of "its" genes by sacrificing itself for a relative which carries a proportion of the altruist's genes. Lewontin has criticized Dawkin's theory by claiming that it confuses classes with individuals. The genes which are reproduced by the relative are not physically identical with the sacrificed individual's genes, but are simply similar, the same kind of gene. Lewontin counters Dawkins claim that an extraterrestrial, to gauge earthly intelligence would ask "Do you understand the theory of natural selection?" with the Platonic question "Do you understand the difference between a class and its members?"--which, according to Lewontin, Dawkins, in his "caricature of Darwinism" flunks. Sober and Lewontin have put the distinction in more philosophical jargon, distinguishing genotokens from genotypes." (Sober and Lewontin, 1982, p. 171)
d) Other scientific objections and ethical problems.
Dusek:"Lewontin, Gould, and some other writers have emphasized against selectionism a number of random and non-selective factors in evolution. These include 1) purely random recombination 2) genetic drift, in which random sampling errors in reproduction change the distribution of genes in a population 3) so-called non-Darwinian evolution, which involves the random mutation of the third letter in some DNA code words, in which two or more words are synonyms which code for the same amino acid, and hence the difference in the third letter makes no difference in the resultant organism, and is not selected for (a significant theory Dennett does not even mention) 4) structural constraints, such as basic body plans, which may become far from optimally adaptive, but which are too difficult to change by piecemeal natural selection without making many other features of the organism maladaptive. 5) geological or astronomical catastrophes such as the asteroid collision causing mass extinctions. 6) species selection, in which differing rates of extinction, and, more importantly, speciation (branching) produce more species in some lineages than in others....."
"There is [in Dennett] a discussion of the naturalistic fallacy in ethics, but no further discussion of scientific reduction. Apparently all that Dennett means by "draining the drama" from the problem is to deny that awful ethical consequences directly follow logically from selfish gene theory. But this ignores the more indirect ideological consequences in terms of cosmologies or models of nature that in turn can have ethical effects. An interesting sidelight of this is that Dennett, like Dawkins holds the Dawkinsian vision of all lower organisms. The are robots, but we, in Dawkins words can rebel against our genes. Surprisingly Dennett, the militant denier of dualism and of non-naturalistic mind, draws as strong a line between humans and other animals as does Descartes."
"What Dennett would have to counter is Lewontin and Sober's argument that when selection coefficients of genes are context-dependent and selection acts on gene complexes, the artificially constructed selection coefficients of genes do not play a causal role. (Sober and Lewontin, 1984). It is true that if one claims that what is selected are not genes but replicators as the later Dawkins does, then whole genomes, incorporating all the contextural effects of genes on each other, might be the object of selection. This would preserve the restriction of selection to the genic level, but it would give up the atomization of modular traits with which evolutionary psychologists work. On the other hand Dennett, surprisingly, does not dismiss the "selfish gene" image as a "mere metaphor" as do many scientists (somewhat in bad faith) but claims that if corporations can have interests, then so can genes (neglecting that corporations are made up of individuals who have interests but genes are not) (p. 328). Perhaps Dennett holds a view which "dissolves" the issues concerning reductionism in relation to levels of selection, but he nowhere argues for it of even states it clearly."
"Although Dennett chastises B. F. Skinner and E. O. Wilson for assuming that their opponents must be religious mysterians, Dennett himself accuses Steve Gould of all people of having secret religious motivations, based on the fact that Gould often quotes the Bible as literature the way he does Shakespeare. Ironically, the one "Biblical" passage in Gould that Dennett quotes is in fact not from the Bible but from a familiar African American song. Similarly Dennett grossly misrepresents the anthropologist Jonathan Marks, portraying him as a new Bishop Wilberforce, denying humans ape ancestry. In fact Marks pointed out the worse than shoddy treatment of data by C. G. Sibley and J. E. Ahlquist in their claims concerning hybridization of human and ape DNA. Dennett makes it sound as if Marks criticisms of Sibley and Ahlquists data was roundly condemned by the scientific community, as evidenced by an apology in the American Scientist. What Dennett neglects to note is that there was a lawsuit threatened against the magazine threatened by one of the criticized authors because Marks review suggested excessive massaging of the data. Despite the quality of Sibley and Ahlquists earlier raw data on bird classification based DNA, it is generally agreed that their work on human-ape relationships was worthless, and molecular evolution anthropologist Vincent Sarich has suggested that even the published versions of their bird conclusions is valueless, despite the value of the voluminous but unavailable raw data. Because of Sibley's eminence the human molecular evolution community has been unwilling to criticize the work, for fear of harm to the reputation of the field. This is far from the sort of replay of the Huxley-Wilberforce debate in which Dennett and other evolutionary psychologists wish to portray themselves as involved."
"Interestingly several of the leading sociobiologists and popularizers of evolutionary psychology, such as E. O. Wilson, Randy Thornhill, and Robert Wright hale from Alabama. One can speculate that the religious fundamentalist atmosphere of the American Deep South may have led those who defected to Darwin to find in Darwinism a cosmic world-view answering the same questions that the dominant religious view claimed to answer. Robert Wright (1988) is quite explicit about this."
"The notion that human beings have evolved from other animals and are a part of biological nature is tremendously important. It is unfortunate and misleading that the evolutionary psychologists make it appear that a commitment to evolution and to the importance of natural selection necessitates a commitment to pan-selectionism, genic selection and the "selfish gene." We have seen how Wilson and now Dennett attempt to identify their opponents with anti-evolutionism. Even Barbara Ehrenreich dubs her opponents the "New Creationists." The split between selfish gene evolutionary psychology and cultural constructionism in anthropology can only prolong the delay in the development of a genuinely evolutionary view of humanity. "Evolutionary psychology" by preempting the field of evolutionary accounts of human nature and potential helps to prevent a non-reductionist biosocial account of humans.
3) The Inhumanity of humanity.
Many skeptics point out the extreme cases of the holucost in which normal law abiding citizens, chruch goers and Christians, did the most horrid things to babbies and old people and suffered no pangs of guilt over it. Moreover, we have seen on the evening news in Bosnia, in Ruwanda, and other places the most inhumane treatment of helpess victims which surely demonstrates that there is no moral law.
Answer: The explanitory power of the moral argument is demonstrated in this argument. The other side of the moral argument equasion is that we are not able to live up to the moral law. There are times when we turn it off, when it can be circumvented. Urges and temptations, ideology, socialization, many things can divert the basic motivations of compassion. If it was simpley genetic and the instictive urge to save the gene pool than why are we so bad at keeping it? While certain exptreme examples where the moral law is circumvented do not disprove that there is no moral law (because speical circumstances interveened) our anguish (ours not that of those whose consciences were ceared but that of those who look in horror at their deeds) demonstrates, along with our feelings of failure at living up to the mark, that there is a moral law. But it if is genetic why are we unable to live up to the standard that we feel passionately should be met?
C. Explanatory Power argues for God.
How can these moral motions demonstrate that God is the origin of such motions when there are also such strong indications that is genetic? Isn't this merely assuming God as an explanation when none is required?
That we feel such moral motions, both for compassion, and outrage over injustice, is better explained by an appeal to the God hypothesis since it demonstrates the depths of human depravity in man's fallen nature.So much of what we term "evil" is "over the top" and pointless, while the noble aspects of humanity cannot be reduced to mere behaviors. Morality is more than mere behavior, it is also deliberation, moral agency,and the ability to understand constitutive frameworks which embody self and our deepest values. This is so much more than just behavior, an attempt to save the gene pool. That is take is merely enshirining the ideology of consequentialist ethics. See also my take on the Fall of Humanity and what this means on the Gospel page. Without the notion of God a merely genetic morality reduces to behavioral urges and becomes relative and discardable. Yet the outrage and feelings of compassion remain. These are reduced to unimportant epiphenomena without God. This means that we are actually explaining away the phenomena. God is crucial as an postulate of practical reason; without metaphysical assumptions we cannot derive an ought from an is (Hume). But if we think of this observation in terms of the explanatory power of the God hypothesis that hypothesis becomes more than just a useful fiction. Since God explains morality and human nature better than any other view, in so far as it is honest about human depravity and nobility, we have a strong indication of the validity of the God hypothesis.
1) Regulative principle of practical reason (Kant)
We have this urge to condemn with outrage human atrocities and to extend compassion and justice. As with the Holocaust, we know it is evil; merely saying that it violates our genetic code isn't enough! But without assuming God as a regulative principle the alternative is that it does reduce to mere behavior and the moral outrage is groundless; yet we never lose it. That doesn't prove there is a God, but it at least justifies the notion as a regulative principle.
2) Regulative principle has explanatory power.
Both in explaining why we have these moral urges and yet can't live up to them, and in explaining why we need a regulative principle, why we can't just say it's not right or let it go.
I eagerly clicked that link…only to find that it’s the same tired list of arguments you’ve been giving for ages. Not one of them is evidence for the existence of any gods.
Terms like "Necessity" are used by those who feel incomplete and insecure if they cannot feel to be part of a Great Plan. I'm perfectly rational about realizing that my existence is quite contingent.
IOW, you should have read my post. I said "If an ICR is an 'arbitrary necessity', then the decision of your God to create the universe is one too".
HRG:Which universe are you talking about ? Our local universe patch or the total universe.
HRG:And what happened during the time when no universe existed yet, IYO ?
HRG:Fine. Then an ICR or an eternal universe is not an arbitrary necessity either. That's what I said.
HRG:Why must it be contingent on a necessity ? Methinks you confuse contingency #1 and contingency #2.
HRG:You completely misunderstood my point. It is you who introduced the concept of "arbitrary necessity". The decision of your God to create the universe (according to your model) is arbitrary.
don't agree that it actually means anything to "ground moral axioms," or that the categories of "necessary" and "contingent" are meaningful in any way, or that "self actualization" is a meaningful or measurable quality, so I don't find any of your arguments or challenges meaningful or useful in any way.This is just extremely stupid stuff. Grounding ethics axioms means nothing more or less than showing the reasons why the axioms chosen are valid. Axioms can be grounded in logic, or tradition, or science (empirical data) or almost anything. One could ground them in supersition. It's really just another way of say "show a reason." To say they don't need to be grounded is to say we don't reasons for doing things. Ethical axioms stem form values of cousre. Values are not easily pinned down. Yet most would agree that we chose our ethical values for more important reasons than mere taste or out of anger or for reason more valid than mere bigotry. So what he's actually saying is we don't need ethics. We don't' need to worry about being ethical. Either or that or he's saying valuing a choice based upon hatred, bigorty, superstion, stupidity, or indifference is just as good as having a valid reason.
However, let's assume that you are entirely correct on all three of these points. The question then would be, what difference does it make? What is all of this supposed to convince me of? None of it works in any way as evidence that God exists.
That people find God best "grounds" their moral axioms doesn't mean he exists.It's a good reason to assume so. There's also more to it than that. There's a dilemma. We feel deeply about certain actions that they are right or wrong, laudable or outrages against humanity, but there's no way to ground the choice in the feeling. The feeling works better as an indication of a higher truth. That higher truth points to the divine.
That he is the only explanation their limited minds can imagine for the origin of the universe doesn't mean he exists. That belief in him makes them "self-actualized" doesn't mean he exists.It's a good reason t think he does since it's the content of the experience and it's Demosthenes emphatically in the outcome. That he is the only expatiation is a fine reason to believe. What kind of statement is that? that shows me that he doesn't care what's true and what is not. He's not searching for reasons he's just stuck on refusing. He wants to ask "why do people believe"then when you tell him the can't stand the fact that we do have reasons. If the explanation, God being the only one that works, is not a good enough reason then why have scinece? That's the basis of scientific belief isn't it?
So...what exactly are these arguments accomplishing? Is it just to say that I'd have a more coherent belief system and better well-being if I believed in God?They are answering the original thread.
Even if I agreed with that (which I don't), I can't just choose to believe in God. I don't find the evidence of God's existence remotely persuasive, so I can't choose to believe in him any more than I could choose to believe that I have a million dollars in my bank account. I must be persuaded to believe. I can't make it happen. No matter how much you say my life would be better if I believed there was a million dollars in my bank account, I just can't believe it. Same goes for God.
I am interested in this one:
What he' saying here is so stupid it could be a feature attraction on a hypothetical tv show called "stupid atheist tricks." He is confussing the nature of the chian of cause and effect in the ICR (infinite causal regress) with the logic that is used to support it. Just the concept of the ICR is that of a linear prgression of cause and effect doesn' mean the logic used to put it over is linear. I contend it's put in place by circular reasoning becuase you just attempt to explain each couplet of c=>e with itself as the basis for the next one. With no beginning there's never a point where you have a cause for the causes. I also argue that this is arbitrary necessity it's just putting a string of contingencies in place of necessity for no other reason than to avoid a God argument. That's what really get's me about it. there is no good reason for assuming ICR other than that one doesn't want to believe in final cause, since final cause = God. It's like cheating. It's saying "I refuse to believe so that proves it's not true, and if it is true I will still pretend it's not." see my arguments against ICR.It's not circular, it's clearly linear and un-bounded.What's wrong with just saying origin is based upon contingencies?challenge: the atheist cant' produce a suitable origin theory that is not based upon arbitrary necessity.
Super Genyus says:Frankly, I'm sick of hearing about mystical experiences from you, so I didn't continue. I think we've exhausted that debate. I'm just going to say that they are completely compatible with a naturalistic framework. And, before you comment on that, look up the definition of compatible.
Originally Posted by MagritteHis categorical imperative is categorically retarded. Who can come up with a practical moral system? Immanuel can't.\
Originally Posted by MagritteThen no amount of screeching and obfuscation will change the fact that we are ultimately responsible for choosing, preferring, judging. We cannot shrug off responsibility onto God, or Nature, or "a system". We have to man up and face the fact that we are the creators of our tables of values.
I concur with howgoodisthat, and I *do*, er, "know the studies". I could *perform* the experiments that I think you're referring to (Miller-Urey is the most famous, but you seemed ambiguous). Unless you meant the soft sciences, the "How happy are you" studies that you referenced in the post, which are humorously easy to refute. I'll start with one easy refutation: People are equally happy regardless of which religion they follow, including Unitarian Universalists, whose views are indistinguishable from atheists. Controlling for other factors, no religion gives its followers a substantially better life than any other, including atheism. In fact, it has recently been theorized that people are happy because they go to church, not because they are religious.
Defining characteristics of mystical experience include:
"In a recent review of the mystical experience, Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."
Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences, which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:
1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.[i]
The Voyle study sets out defining characteristics that are very similar and based upon Stace. Stace’s work was a watershed; it influenced Hood, and has continued to influence many:
The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):
1. The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the experience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience.
2. The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words.
3. The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms.
4. The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect.
5. The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggests that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two.[ii]
While it is probably impossible to study the actual experiences as people have them, it is certainly very possible to rather empirical data about RE and ME (mystical experience). A vast body of work has grown up around this phenomenon. Statistical scales and psychological instruments have been developed to study the authenticity of RE. It is possible to understand if one’s experiences do fall within the range of what is understood as ME. In essence the basic idea is construct a typology of the “peaker” by collecting data from surveys about experiences, then compare with standardized psychological personality theory instruments. Three major instruments have been developed for determining the authenticity of ME. Greeley’s questionnaire (1974), the “M” scale (“M” for mysticism) by Hood (1975, and the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI) by Alexander and Boyer (1987). Greeley asked the question "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" He used this in several national opinion surveys. Thomas and Cooper (1980) demonstrated that Greeley’s answers were general and varied considerably. Subjecting Greeley’s data to their own criteria they found that only 1% of his “yes” responses were genuine mystical experience. Thus Hood’s scale is more widely favored. Holm and Caird validated the “M” scale with cross-cultural data in 1982 and 1988.[iii] The SCI by Alexander and Boyer is the most researched. As the authors tell us, "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."[iv] The SCI is more focused upon meditation practices and their results. Items are constructed based upon first person but also drawn from authoritative literature. Subscales are added to differentiate experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic, and schizophrenic experiences. A misleading item scale is used. The authors assume that the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and out that emerges higher states of consciousness.
Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that “during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310).” Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;[v]
How common are such experiences? Skeptics used to suggest that these experiences were confined to “strange people” who just had “that sort of temperament.” While estimate very as to incidence rate, all the major finds show that the rate is so high that this is one of the major reasons to rule out mental illness. We can that ME is really quite common and RE to some degree may be almost universal.
Several studies have charted the incidence rate of RE or ME: Greely (1974) found 35%, In 1970 Back and Bourque reported increases in frequency of such incidence from 20% in 1962 to 41% in 1967.[vi] Researchers once treated them as rare events limited to a small group of the fortunate. They were dealing mainly with regular experiences as a way of life. Alexander quotes Maslow: "In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."[vii] On the other hand Maslow also suggested that everyone probably has them to some degree. While most research focuses upon the dramatic and constant events, Maslow felt that everyone experiences some degree of transcendence at some point.[viii] In his 1978 study Wuthnow asked three different questions designed to reflect a general sense of how commonality of “peak” experience.[ix] The three questions were: “have you ever had the feeling that you were in contact with something holy or sacred?” This was designed to reflect a religious dimension to the experience. The second question: “have you experienced the beauty of nature in a deeply moving way?” The third: “have you had the feeling that you were in harmony with the universe?” For those who answered affirmatively for any of these three questions they were asked it had a lasting and deep influence upon their lives. The findings show that one in two has experienced contact with the sacred. Eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature. Four in ten have experienced harmony with the universe. Wuthnow concludes that Maslow was right, and the right kind of probing would show that virtually everyone has had some degree of experience of this kind. “This data clearly demonstrates that peak experiences are not just the domain of mystics or artists or people with unusual talents for having such experiences…”[x] Noble found in her 1984 study that 100% of her 120 subjects drawn from Seattle area college experienced transcendence; measured by both Hood’s “M scale” and Mathes’ et al. “Peak scale.” [xi]
Incidence rate suggests no pathology.
A group of professional psychiatrists called Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry has made the statement:
Numerous studies assessing the incidence of mystical experience (Back and Bourque, 1970; Greeley, 1974, 1987; Hay and Morisy, 1978; Hood, 1974, 1975, 1977; Thomas and Cooper, 1980) all support the conclusion that 30-40% of the population does have such experiences, suggesting that they are normal rather than pathological phenomena. In addition, a recent survey (Allman et al., 1992) has demonstrated that the number of patients who bring mystical experiences into treatment is not insignificant. Psychologists in full-time practice were asked to estimate the percentage of their clients over the past 12 months who had reported a mystical experience. The 285 respondents indicated that of the 20,670 clients seen during the past year, the incidence of mystical experience was 4.5%. This clearly challenges the GAP report on Mysticism, which claims that "mystical experiences are rarely observed in psychotherapeutic practice" (Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, 1976, p. 799).(website: Spiritual Competency Resource Center)[xii]
“The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) is an organization of nationally respected psychiatrists dedicated to shaping psychiatric thinking, public programs and clinical practice in mental health. GAP meets twice a year at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains, New York.”
There have been a few studies with negative findings. When I say no skeptic has been able to supply the data that is true, Wuthnow supplies it in his own article. Prince in 1966 found that ME “may be associated with pathological regression.” Adler in 1972 found that such people were antinomian personalities who can’t cope with their problems.[xiii] These seem more like judgments imposed by the researcher rather than the result of data. Wuthnow’s study is much more systematic and rigorous, and most of the positive studies are latter and better done. He finds that “peakers” have more confidence, more self assured, and more apt to find life meaningful. These experiences do make a big difference between those who have had them and those who have not. Peakers are more apt to be analytical, to feel that their lives are meaningful, and that there is meaning to life. 68% of those who had had such experiences in the past year said their lives were meaningful, compared with 46% of those who had had such experiences but not in the past year, while 39% of those who had not had them but wanted to have them, and 36% of those who neither had them nor wanted them.[xiv] Noble found that the negative effects were only temporary, or short-term disorientation.[xv]
The M Scale
The “M Scale” (Mysticism scale) was developed by Ralph Hood Jr. at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It has become the standard study instrument by which validation of mystical experience is accomplished empirically. Hood’s instrument has been cross culturally validated and is probably represents the cutting eduge of research in this field of Religious experience. The scale is a series of questions and a scoring technique, which has been worked out according to standard social scientific assumptions. The scale has been so successful it has become the standard operating procedure[i] and replaces the former practice of the researcher trying to develop her own scale, a practice that led to as many scales as there were studies. The M scale is by far the most successful and has been cross culturally validated with great successes. It is based on the phenomenological categories of mystical study by W.T. Stace and makes certain assumptions of William James. Hood’s original measuring instrument, the REEM, was based upon the categories of James. The M scale follows the phenomenological development of Stace. The scale uses 32 items (these are questions that are asked of the subject). The items are organized with 16 Positive and 16 negatively worded. Independent studies supported Hood’s original design, (Caird, 1988, Reinert and Stifler, 1993).[ii] Originally M scale measured two factors: (1) Assesses items of an experienced unity (introvertive or extrovertive). (2) Assesses items of a experience of religious or non religious and knowledge claims. This is consistent with Stace’s concept that Mystical experience can be interpreted in many ways. Reinert and Stifler suggested religious items and knowledge items might emerge as separate factors. This would split the interpretative factors between religious and non-religious factors. That would not contradict Stace. There is a distinction between “spiritual” and “religious.” Mystical experience can be interpreted (as we have seen already) as “spiritual” without being thought religious, or as “mystical” without involving God. The two-item approach allows greater interpretation. But the interpretive factor was religious in nature. The assumptions made in the study and taken to answering the questions tended to be religious.[iii]
Hood changed his strategy from two analytic factors to three (“the three factor solution”). The Three factor solution sets up three categories, which more closely follow the predictions of Stace based upon his reading of mystics and person experience. (“phenomenological”). The three categories for Stace were: Staces’ categories of Introvertive and extrovertive mysticism emerging as two separate factors. The third factor is an interpretive dimension where the respondent relates the experiences to knowledge claims (“God is love” or some such). Interovertive means the mystical experience is beyond word though or image, it is iner directed and not related to any outside phenomenon and I supposed to be beyond description. This will also be discussed more in chapter five (“Religious Apiori”). Extrovertive means the subject’s experience is related to nature or to some external image in the immediate environment, a sense of the numinous, the harmony underlying all of nature or something on that order. The tables below demonstrate the basic structure Stace’s theory and the three factor test. They demonstrate the closeness with which the latter validates the former.
Stace Model of Mystical Experience (phenomenologically derived).
a. contentless Unity
a. a unity in diversity
b. Inner subjectivity
c. Positive Affective
d. Paradoxicality (Not measured in M scale)
e. Ineffability (alleged)
Hood Model of Mystical Experience (Empirically Derived): (triple solution)
Introvertive Mysticism (12 items)
Extroverstive Mysticism 8 items
a. Contentless Unity Items
a. Unity in diversity items
b. Time/space items
b. Religious Items
c. Ineffability items
c. Positive affect items
Interpretation (12 Items)
c. Positive Affective
This chart is from the Spilka/Hood book.[iv]
One thing that will become important in Chapter eight (“Drugs”) the fact that Hood’s M Scale is designed to measure mystical experience related to Stace’s theorizing, not the wide verity of experiences labeled “Peak” experiences that may not even relate to mystical experience. Such as the case with Panhke, who did the “Good Friday” experiment (Drug induced mystical experiences).[v] That will become important in Chapter eight as well.
Several different versions of the M scale were made, and they were designed to reflect cross-cultural validation. Rather than just measuring two factors, they measured three factors or “general categories” that more closely mirrored Stace’s reading of mystical accounts and experiences. The important thing is the empirical studies demonstrate the findings that corroborate Staces’s theory of mystical experience. This demonstrates the basis for a body of work confirming the common core theory: the idea that mystical experiences are the same, minus the details of individual traditions. That is a good indication that the same basic reality stands behind all of these experiences regardless of the religious tradition. The tailored the questions to treat the overall ontological structure of a belief system. So “God” is treated not as a specific personality but as the transcendental signifier (although Hood does not use that term). This means atheist mystics who sense a void and Christian mystics who sense Christ are talking the same things, because weather they call it “a void” or “Jesus” the void or Jesus function the same way in the over all economy of an ontological system. That means that mystics the world over is probably experiencing the same thing, but they load that into different cultural constructs in order to explain it.
The M scale follows Stace’s phenomenological accounts of mystical experience. It also reflects, therefore, Stace’s theoretical concerns. The major such concern is known as “the common core” hypothesis. The common core assumption is a universalistic approach, whereby it is assumed that a verity of different interpretations and descriptions match the same experiences. A corollary might be that one reality stands beyond the many different mystical traditions. One of the major critics of this view, who we will meet again in defense of Proudfoot (chapter six) is Steven Katz (1977) who wrote an edited an anthology against Stace’s work. He assumes that the common core thesis is asserting that mystical experience is unmediated. Thus he argues that extreme language is used not just to describe mystical experience but that langue itself is experience. Language used in description constitutes the experience itself rather than merely describing it. This position will be critically examined in chapters five and six (a priori, and Proudfoot). [vi] But Stace doesn’t argue that the experience is unmediated. Hood points out that Stace only says there are degrees of interpretation and descriptions can makes similar but not identical experiences. Hood also points out that Foreman marshals opponents against Katz. He argues that since introvertive is devoid of description language can’t really play a role in constituting it.(for more on this issue see chapters five and six).
Hood and Spilka point three major assumptions of the common core theory that flow out of Stace’s work:
(1) Mystical experience is universal and identical in phenomenological terms.
(2) Core Categories are not always essential in every experince, there are borderline cases.
(3) Interovertive and extrovertive are distinct forms, the former is an experience of unity devoid of content, the latter is unity in diversity with content.
The M scale reflects these observations and in so doing validate Stace’s findings. Hood and Spilka (et al) then go on to argue that empirical research supports a common core/perinnialist conceptualization of mysticism and it’s interpretation.
The three factor solution, stated above, allows a greater range of interpretation of experience, either religious or not religious. This greater range supports Stace’s finding that a single experience may be interpreted in different ways.[vii] The three factor solution thus fit Stace’s common core theory. One of the persistent problems of the M scale is the neutrality of language, especially with respect to religious language. For example the scale asks about union with “ultimate reality” not “union with God.” Thus there’s a problem in understanding that ultimate reality really means God, or unify two different descriptions one about God and one about reality.[viii] There is really no such thing as “neutral” language. In the attempt to be neutral non neutral people will be offended. On the one had the common core idea will be seen as “new age” on the other identification with a particular tradition will be off putting for secularists and people of other traditions. Measurement scales must sort out the distinctions. Individuals demand interpretation of experiences, so the issue will be forced despite the best attempts to avoid it. In dealing with William James and his interpreters it seems clear that some form of transformation will be reflected in the discussion of experiences. In other words the experiences have to be filtered through cultural constructs and human assumptions of religious and other kinds of thought traditions in order to communicate them to people. Nevertheless experiences may share the same functionality in description. Christians may want the experiences they have that would otherwise be term “ultimate reality” to be identified with Christ, while Muslims identify with Allah and atheist with “void.” The expressed is important as the “social construction of experience” but differently expressed experiences can have similar structures. Hood and Williamson designed the three factor analysis to avoid these problems of language.
Hood and Williamson (2000) created two additional versions of the M Scale. Each paralleled the original M scale, but where appropriate made reference to either God or to Christ. Both the original M Scale and either God language Version or Christ-langue version were given to relevant Christ-committed samples. The scales were then factor analyzed to see weather similar structures would emerge. Basically, whether the M sale items were phrased in terms of God, Christ, or more neutral terms the structures were identical. The structures for all three versions of Stace’s phenomenologically derived model quite well. For all versions of the scale, clear introvertive, extrovertive, and interpretative factors emerged. [ix]
M scale and Cross Cultural Validation
In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies[x] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[xi] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[xii] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[xiii]
The M scale developed by Hood has been validated by many studies in cross cultural context, while Greely’s Gallop Poll questions have been used both cross culturally and longitudinally.
The two major exceptions to the lack of shared instrumentation are the mysticism scale by Hood (1975) which has been used in quite a number of studies by Hood and others, and the repeated use of certain questions in survey research by Greeley and the Gallop Organization over a sixteen year period.[xiv]
Holm (1982) “mysticism and intense experiences” demonstrates another level of cross-cultural validation.
Method: The author translated into Swedish several Hood scales designed to measure mystical experiences. The items describing religious experiences drawn from William James, on Hood’s (1970) Religious Episode Experience Measure (REEM) with narratives taken from Nordic anthologies. Eighteen teachers of religion and psychology each administered the scales to 6-9 persons.
Findings: The study replicated most of Hood’s findings with the same instruments. “The results of our empirical study of mysticism in a Finnish-Swedish environment largely coincide with Hood’s results in an American environment…The cross-cultural testing that some of Hood’s methods have received as a result of our research on another continuant and in another linguistic area means that the results have received a wider range of applications.[xv]
Holm (1982) presented a Swedish M scale administered to 122 Swedish “informants.” Factor I correlated best to non Christian profiles, while factor II worked best with those who had Christian assumptions. Holm accounts for a general mysticism factor and general religious factor. This parallels earlier research in Sweden (Solderblom—see Holm 82, 275-76) .[xvi]
The M scale has been validated with Iranian Muslims.
In a mostly Christian American sample (N = 1,379), confirmatory factor analysis of Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale verified the existence of Stace's (1960) introvertive and extrovertive dimensions of mystical phenomenology along with a separate interpretation factor. A second study confirmed the presence of these three factors in not only another group of Americans (N = 188), but also a sample of Iranian Muslims (N = 185). Relationships of the introvertive and extrovertive factors with the interpretation factor were essentially identical across these two cultures, but the Americans displayed a stronger association between the two phenomenology factors. In both samples, the interpretation factor correlated positively with an intrinsic and negatively with an extrinsic religious orientation, and the introvertive factor predicted psychological dysfunction. Associations of the interpretation factor with relative mental health appeared only in the Iranians. These data offered general support for Stace's phenomenology of mysticism, although the ineffability he linked with interpretation proved to be as much or even more a feature of the introvertive experience, as hypothesized by Hood.[xvii]
The M Scale in Relation to other measurement scores.
The over all result demonstrates the superiority of Hood’s model (and Stace’s categories) over other models. “Thus empirically there is strong support to claim that as opporationalized from Stace’s criteria mystical experience is identical as measured across diverse samples, whether expressed in “neutral language” or with either “God” or “Christ” references.”[xviii] M Scale has been correlated to scores on standardized personality measures in two studies. In 1985 Hood found that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) “did not correlate with the M Scale. Different correlations of factors between factors I and II were compatible with non pathological interpretations of mysticism.”[xix] The score for the MMPI applies to people who are apt to lie or present themselves in a favorable light to their own advantage. But Hood argues that high scores on factor II (religious) may be due to the fact that traditional religious people are less likely to engage in deviant behavior. Thus the score doesn’t apply to them.
Spanos and Moretti (1988) directly correlated M scale scores with Tellegen and Atkinson absorption scale.
A sample of 124 female university students was administered measures of mystical experience, diabolical experience, absorption, hypnotizability and psychopathology. The mystical experience scale correlated significantly with measures of absorption and hypnotizability but failed to correlate significantly with indexes of psychopathology. However, the diabolical experiences scale correlated significantly with indexes of neuroticism and psychosomatic symptoms as well as with hypnotizability and absorption. Subjects who reported out-of-body experiences scored higher than those who did not on all measures of hypnotizability, but these groups failed to differ from one another on absorption, mystical or diabolical experiences, or on most indexes of psychopathology. Theoretical implications are discussed.[xx]
The scale correlated positively with all measures. Absorption proved to be the single most important veriable in regression analysis with 29% verience. None of the other hypnosis scales added predictive power. John Kilstron’s website:
By any standard, the most frequently studied correlate of hypnotizability is absorption, or "openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). A series of studies from our laboratory by Martha Glisky and her colleagues offered a close examination of the relationship between absorption, hypnotizability, and a broader trait of openness to experience identified by Costa and McCrae as one of the "Big Five" traits of personality measured by various versions of the NEO Personality Inventory. The first of these studies (Glisky et al., 1991) confirmed the basic absorption-hypnotizability relation, and showed that absorption was related to those facts of Openness having to do with imaginative involvement (i.e., Fantasy, Aesthetics, and Feelings), but not with those facets having to do with sociopolitical liberalism (i.e., Actions, Ideas, and Values). The second study (Glisky & Kihlstrom, 1993) showed that hypnotizability was related to Absorption, but not to either Sociopolitical Liberalism or Intellectance (an alternative construal of Openness). For a review of the early literature on absorption, see Roche & McConkey (1990).[xxi]
Spanos and Moretti concluded that “although Mystical experience can occur among distraught and troubled individuals, it is as frequent among psychologically untroubled people.”[xxii] In other words hypnotizablity is a standard of other traits that can indicate mental instability. From this scale there is no indication that mystical experiences tend to be any more unstable than the average person.
Research by Hood and Morris in 1981 shows that mysticism is better known than previously thought and that while the full advanced from of intervertive experience may be somewhat rare, there is a continuum of experience and most people have had some experience. This research further shows that mystical experience is not the result of mental illness, it’s normal among healthy individuals, but it is not confined to healthy individuals alone.[i]
Thus the M Scales remains the state of the art standard for research and measurement of religious experience in terms of that which is known as ‘mystical.” This is very important was we will see in the chapters on “god part of the Brain (“God Pod” chapter 7) and in the chapter “Drugs and Placebo” (Chapter 8).
[i] Ibid. Spilka and Hood.
[ii] Robert J. Voyle, “The Impact of Mystical Experiences Upon Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format: http://www.voyle.com/impact.pdf.
google html version here: http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:avred7zleAEJ
[iv] Alexander, C.N., Chandler, K. & Boyer, R.W. (in press). Experience and understanding of pure consciousness in the Vedic Science of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In Gackenbach, J.I. & Hunt, H. (Eds.). Higher states of consciousness: Theoretical and experimental perspectives, N.Y.: Plenum.
[v] Gackenback, Ibid.. Alexander, C.N., Davies, J.L., Dixon, C.A., Dillbeck, M.C., Oetzel, R.M., Muehlman, J.M. & Orme-Johnson, D.W. (1990). Alexander, C., Boyer, R. & Alexander, V. (1987). Higher states of consciousness in the Vedic psychology of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: A theoretical introduction and research review. Modern Science and Vedic Science, (1), 89-126.
[vi] Ibid. the increase might be explained by the growth of he counter culture in those years, practices such as transcendental meditation, yoga, and greater general awareness of the spiritual. This is my own speculation.
[vii] Alexander, C.N., Chandler, K. & Boyer, R.W. (in press). Experience and understanding of pure consciousness in the Vedic Science of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In Gackenbach, J.I. & Hunt, H. (Eds.). Higher states of consciousness: Theoretical and experimental perspectives, N.Y.: Plenum.
[viii] Abraham Maslow, Toward a psychology of Being, Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand company, 1962 sited in Wuthnow, Robert. Journal Humanistic Psychology Vol. 18, no. 3 summer 1978, p60
[ix] “Peak experience” is Maslows term. It is often used by sociological and psychological researchers, and is not highly distinctive from “mystical” experience. “Peak” is used because “mystical” has religious and metaphysical overtones which my not apply to the one doing the experiencing.
[x] Wuthnow, Robert, pp. 61-62.
[xi] Katheleen D. Noble, The Counseling Psychologist, vol. 15, no. 4 , Oct. 1987, p602
[xii] This is a statement Group for the advancement of psychiatry, which is a collection of qualified psychiatrists . URL: http://www.virtualcs.com/se/dxtx/types/mysticalexperience.html
Group for advancement of psychiatry website URL: http://www.groupadpsych.org/
[xiii] Withnow, 64
[xiv] Ibid, 65
[xv] Kathleen D Noble. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.