Author: David and Joe Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: June 1997
E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at email@example.com
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JOSEPH P. WRITES: Sounds like you can label something 'extraordinary' if that suits you or 'ordinary' if that suits you. DAVID LANE REPLIES: No, re-read what I wrote. I argued that what was "extra-ordinary" was not necessarily the evidence (Babaji showing up is a relatively simple affair in terms of physicality), but the implications (Babaji is several thousand years old and STILL ALIVE [apparently]. That's "extra-ordinary" in light of our current understanding of medicine and aging. Asking Babaji to show so we can verfify his existence seems like a relatively small request, especially if we are going to "believe" he exists in a physical body. JOSEPH POLANIK WRITES: Precisely. Skeptics do not make any demands or tests of normal scientific procedures. Skeptics just make assumptions about how psi events are supposed to manifest. DAVID LANE REPLIES: Joe, I think you better go re-check your history. Science is chalked filled with episodes of scientists questioning their procedures: from medicine to astronomy. As for making assumptions about "psi" (geez, I am not even sure what we are talking about, since such a buzz word can cover so much territory), let those who have defined and believe in such a thing present a possible outline for its testing. We can then do are best to see what "assumptions" they are making. But in either case, let's go back to my first very specific example: Babaji. Hey, I see nothing wrong or adverse or perverse in saying, "You know, I just don't see the compelling evidence to suggest that he really exists. I need MORE, not less, EVIDENCE." JOSEPH P. WRITES: IMHO, It is unlikely that they will see any proof of psychic events until they suspend their existing paradigms. [Need I remind you that 'skeptic' refers more to someone who can suspend judgement or committment rather than to someone who is simply a disbeliever.] DAVID LANE REPLIES: I disagree. Whatever paradigm I may hold, when the car runs a red light and I am crossing the street at the wrong time I get HIT. I think our tendency to invoke suspension of beliefs, contrasting paradigms, is not a testimony to the "truth" of psi (whatever that may be), but rather to the LACK of results and our frustration that we have to prove PSI in controlled circumstances. Again, let's go back to the repeated claim that Babaji physically exists. I haven't asked for a complicated test. I have asked for him to "show" up. He shows up, apparently, to lots of believers. I would be really impressed if he showed up to skeptics in the USA repeatedly. By the way, no matter what paradigm or belief system I may hold, the waves will still hit Pipeline....... JOSEPH P. WRITES: Going back to the beginning of the debate might be a good idea, but I don't think focusing attention on the alleged Babaji has been especially productive. It gives you too much opportunity to act out your 'last guru standing' schtick. DAVID LANE REPLIES: Last guru standing schtick? I vaguely remember this misplaced argument of yours, but let's do what Daniel suggested and replace Babaji with Charan Singh. Fair Enough. I DON'T think there is enough evidence to suggest or indicate that my guru had paranormal powers. Lots of stories, yes, but not compelling evidence. The same skepticism that I am applying to Babaji (in terms of the paranormal claims around his existence) should also be applied (with equal force) to the claims surrounding my deceased guru. IN both cases, I would argue, we do NOT have enough evidence to suggest something "para-normal." Naturally, I may wish to believe otherwise, or I may feel otherwise, or I may have lots of stories that suggest otherwise..... But that's the exact point: they remain at the level of stories and I think Randi and crew would be quite right to severely "doubt" the explicit and implicit claims made by gurus in the R.S. tradition. As Tulsi Sahib once said, "I will NOT believe my guru until I see the proof with my own eyes." I would even add a caveat: I will NOT believe my guru, EVEN with my own eyes (since my eyes can be subject to deception). I will, instead, doubt and doubt some more until the evidence suggests otherwise...... ------- Or, as the classic Vedantic SAGE may argue: Neti, Neti Not this, not that. ------- JOSEPH P. WRITES on the proposed "five digit" test: Perhaps you should tell us why this test *is* suitable in your opinion (and why you are not skeptical of that explanation). DAVID LANE REPLIES: Look, the reason I even mentioned the five digit test in the first place is because there are those who do OBE's who claim that such excursions occur IN the physical world. That is, some report seeing a loved one in Vietnam (think Twitch), some claim to have the ability to enter a Professor's home (think Glen), some claim to be able to even "read" information off a person's wall (think Tracey). Now, if these individuals claim that OBE's can really "see" things during these excursions which are of an empirical nature, then it seems obvious and appropriate to "test" that claim by invoking a simple five digit test. It's that simple, given what the claims of certain OBE practitioners. Naturally, there are those among us who do NOT think that OBE's and NDE's will be able to ascertain that data..... However, I am proposing this very test to "doubt" my own leanings. I could be dead wrong and somebody out there may have the ability to actually read a five digit number during their OBE.... That would be cool. The test is designed for exactly those who make that type of claim. JOSEPH P. WRITES: Perhaps you should explain why you are not more skeptical of this procedure. After all, Einstein told the rest of us: "No, It is the theory which determines what we may see". DAVID LANE REPLIES: I don't think you are getting my drift, so let me spell it out. I am proposing this very test because there are those who claim to be able to "see" empirical things during their OBE's and who claim that these voyages are indeed accurate of the physical surroundings they are perceiving. Okay, so let's find out if that is the case..... Personally, I have a much different take of NDE's and OBE's, since I don't think such excursions reflect physical reality at all (see my article, THE HIMALAYAN CONNECTION: UFO's and the CHANDIAN effect for a different view, for instance [one caveat: I am even more skeptical now, though]. But I am open to being wrong, so that is why I proposed the five digit test. Let those who make such claims (I don't, for instance) PROVE it. JOSEPH P. WRITES: Here you are playing games by suppressing quantification. Let me re-write this sentence so it is true: Where religion thought that Life was *partly* non-material, science examined *only* the physical part." DAVID LANE REPLIES: No, Joseph, I think you missed the punchline. Every single time where religion attempted to "locate" god or spirit in the world or the universe (from thunder to the moon to the sun to the heart to the brain to the universe), it got its butt kicked. Why? Because instead of finding that "spiritual" cause, the scientists themselves found a much more simple explanation: they found something material, something algorithmic. Study the history of religion or mysticism and you will discover how gurus and the like have consistently mistaken a physical cause for a spiritual one. Now, if you really think there is something "spiritual" (whatever that may mean), then by all means show us the lines of evidence or the methodology that we should invoke. But one word of caution: we should be prepared to be shown wrong. For instance, I think the more we study the brain the more we will understand just how biological the phenomena of consciousness is. In other words, I think Francis Crick may turn out to be right: In our scientific search for the soul we will end up NOT finding one, just as in our search for God's CREATION, we ended up discovering biological evolution. Think of the progression of medicine: what used to be a deman is now a headache. What used to be the cure (exorcism) is now replaced by an excedrin. Think of the progression of astronomy: what used to be "heaven" is now the crab nebula. What used to be forbidden as a breach of God's trust (using a telescope) is now the primary means to study stars.... The examples are numerous. Okay, let me back up two steps. I could be wrong. There could be something to all this paranormal stuff. Fair enough. Now prove it. JOSEPH P. WRITES: Then scientists used a classic political strategem: Declare victory and withdraw from the field. Few, if any, people have a problem with letting scientists investigate the physical aspects of life or with acknowledging their findings. There is a problem only when scientists claim, implicitly or explicitly, that they have scientific proof that the physical aspects of life are all that exist. The truth is that the physical aspects of life are all that scientists are capable of investigating. DAVID LANE REPLIES: I think you go back and study the history of religion and science. So many times, religion said: "Don't study this, it is God's domain." Yet, when science did investigate it, it turned out to be something quite empirical instead (read about the discovery of the telescope for instance and what "heat" it caused). Species used to be thought of as "God given." That is, until Darwin and the advent of evolutionary biology, buttressed tremendously by molecular biology. The same with "demon possession." Go back 1500 years ago and see the kinds of "folk psychological" talk that was given for phenomena that today we take as purely physical. Again, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. The scientist, in general, can show you his or her evidence. It is all around you and it is empirical. Show us your evidence and let us see...... JOSEPH P. WRITES: The 'offer' to let psychics demonstrate their 'gift' repeatedly is often made by those who are posturing as skeptics. How many of them have expressed any skepticism toward the validity of this methodology? DAVID LANE REPLIES: I think you are forgetting something here. Yogananda claims that Babaji has an "empirical" existence. Moreover, the psychic who claims to have extra-sensory knowledge invokes that same knowledge to talk about THIS world. They (not the skeptics) are making these sorts of Physical and Empirical Claims. Let us see the proof. Either one can read the five digits or they cannot. Then have those who make the claim explain why or why not. The skeptics are not making the claims on their behalf; they are simply doubting them and asking for evidence. Anybody with a brain would ask questions about a used car, then why not ask the same pertinent questions to a "used" psychic? JOSEPH P. WRITES: I'm not interested in tangy taffy theories because I know of no one who has experienced an OBE, NDE (or a similar experience where consciousness seems to separate from the physical body) and then came back convinced that they were tangy taffy instead of biological machines. But many (not all, but many) OBErs, NDErs and the like do come back convinced that Soul or something like a Soul survives the death of its body. DAVID LANE REPLIES: I have heard lots of different stories concerning NDE's and OBE's. Sorry, but I do know of a woman who thought she saw a huge whole wheat flour tortilla in the middle of the light. She thought God was Cosmic Bread. Raymond Moody, the very guy who made this subject popular in the 1970s with his book LIFE AFTER LIFE, has even written a text on afterlife visions of ELVIS. Some report that after an NDE they realized that they were merely silicon chips fighting against the invasion of wetware...... The variety of reports is quite intriguing. Of course, in light of Dawkins' concept of cultural memes, I am not at all surprised that many report a "Soul" existing after death. That happens to be the most popular folk psychological myth of our time (via Christianity, etc.). I do know that the increase of Star Tek visions has increased tremendously since the show first aired in the 1960s. Cultural context influencing numinous phenomena? Or numinous phenomena influencing cultural context? In any case, my tangy taffy hypothesis has as much "mystical" proof as your "soul" hypothesis. Why? Because in both cases, we are relying on "reports" or "experiences" in the mystical realm.... A realm which is replete with variety..... just like species on earth. Each find their niche, each find their geographical location, each find their advocates. I just want to go back to my simple point: Hey, Babaji, show up to a Skeptic's Meeting..... Or, hey Sai Baba, perform those miracles in the USA under controlled circumstances. Or, hey Mr. Psychic Boy, use your gift and get those lottery winnings. JOSEPH P. WRITES: Agreed. But skeptics act as if scientists may make claims about a postulated non-physical realm *without* evidence. This is what scientists are doing if they claim (or imply) that their success at creating things like televisions means that there is no non-physical component of the human being. DAVID LANE REPLIES: This is an intellectuall no-brainer, an intellectual cul du sac. It is not up to scientists to "prove" that Elvis lives on Venus, or my guru in Sach Khand, or Rebazar Tarzs in Tibet. It is up to those who make the claim to prove it or give sufficient cause. You happen to think there is a "Soul" or some guy thinks that astral travel is a really good way to derive physical information. Still somebody else thinks that the Moon contains Viruses that will kill many on earth, etc. There are so many claims that it is not the task of the skeptic to disprove each and every one of them, but rather for those who make the claim to show sufficient evidence or cause. Joseph, one can invoke ANY-thing non-physical and say, "Scientists shouldn't make any proclamations about it, since that would be non-scientific." Well, why do scientists think this world is merely physical? Because they have overwhelming evidence. Everything I am doing now is patterned by my neural net. Each move, each thought, each action. All of which is located in my brain and my body. Both of which are physical. What is IT that I do that is so non-physical? Pee? Shit? Fuck? Eat? Think? Meditate? Everyone of those things are physically based. Okay, let's take your view. There is something non-physical. Simple point: Give us the evidence or the proof or the methodology. But going back to the original argument: Why is it so difficult to have a psychic predict the lottery consistently? Why is it so difficult for Babaji to show up at a 7/11 when Randi is getting a beer? Here's a beautiful maxim from HUME that may be helpful in our discussions: "THAT NO TESTIMONY IS SUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH A MIRACLE, UNLESS THE TESTIMONY BE OF SUCH A KIND, THAT ITS FALSEHOOD WOULD BE MORE MIRACULOUS THAN THE FACT WHICH IT ENDEAVORS TO ESTABLISH." Quite an instructive maxim...... JOSEPH P. WRITES: That isn't scientific research. It is a pseudo-religion known as scientism. DAVID LANE REPLIES: No, Joseph, you got it backwards. Pseudo religions pose as pseudo science by trying to avoid being tested simply and clearly. JOSEPH P. WRITES: This is a typically one-sided set up. They key is to show either: a. evidence that Souls do not exist; or, b. evidence of phenomena that materialism can't explain. Science, real science, proceeds by refutation not confirmation. Now the one who makes the claim has the burden of proof, not the skeptic. Anyone --- including a skeptic --- who makes a claim has the burden of presenting the evidence for it. DAVID LANE REPLIES: I think you are forgetting something here: I am asking for Babaji to show up. I am asking for people to astral travel (or whatever) to my office and see the five digit number. Why? Because there are those who claim that psychic powers can be physically demonstrated, that astral travel does reflect physical reality, that Babaji is in a physical body. Again, show me the evidence....... I haven't seen anything from you which points to that; just a lot of talk about paradigm shifts which indicates once again to me the sad state of parapsychology. JOSEPH P. WRITES: So far as I can tell, what you and other self-described skeptics are really saying is, "We're only open to being proven wrong by means that are ineffective for that purpose". DAVID LANE REPLIES: This is really silly, Joe. If Tracey reads the five digit number correctly I am going to be really impressed (knowing that even by chance the odds are pretty slim). If Babaji shows up at my house, I will be quite stoked to tell you about it (I also have an open invite to Rebazar too)......... That would be a wonderful start..... Ineffective for that purpose? That's precisely the kind of claptrap that hounds parapsychology. Or, as I might say to Babaji and his claimants: "Show UP or Shut up." I can't believe the kinds of ways we justify the lack of results..... I am not asking for the moon. I am asking for evidence, not theories to wiggle away from the obvious with. JOSEPH P. WRITES: Nor that we can in good conscience raise standards to keep out the mysterious just because we don't wish to believe. DAVID LANE REPLIES: Why would raising standards keep the mysterious out? Do we have such a low opinion of Truth? Do we have such a low opinion of our religious beliefs that they need to be protected from intense rational scrutiny? I am amazed by our gullibility.
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I want to go back to the home base now.