I'm Possessed by a Spirit...

of massive frustration. Modern forms of superstition, such as materialism and scientism, are apparently completely immune to reason. And the people who embrace the myths put forward in establishing these superstitions hold to them with a tenacity that exceeds that of any Young Earth Creationist.

Consider:

The Ancient Greeks thought epilepsy involved possession by a spirit.

Today, we "know" that epilepsy occurs when physiological processes X, Y, and Z take place.

So this contradicts the Greek view, correct?

It is almost unbelievable that people think that with such assurance, since there is absolutely no logic supporting the conviction.

What?! Don't these views posit mutually exclusive explanations for the same thing?

Of course they do not. It is a symptom of the complete confusion people have been put into by the rise of scientism and positivism that anyone even suspects that they do. Let us first imagine what an ancient Greek thought, and then see if we can detect even a hint of a contradiction between their view and modern medical evidence.

1) Did the ancient Greeks deny that anything physiological was going on during an epileptic seizure? Of course not! They damned well knew that something physical was occurring: there was the victim's body, writhing around on the ground right in front of their faces! In fact, they (correctly, it turns out) prescribed fasting for epileptics to reduce the incidence of seizures.

2) Did the ancient Greeks have some alternate view of what was going on physiologically that is ruled out by our modern understanding? Well, no, they did not.

So let us transport an ancient Greek physician, convinced of the theory of possession, to the modern world, and have modern specialists in epilepsy fully explain to him every bit of our physiological knowledge of the disease. Having mastered all of this material, he sits back on his στοα and says, "Aaah, so that is what happens in the body when it is possessed by a spirit! It is wonderful you people have discovered all of this."

"No, no, you don't understand! We can actually stop the seizures using a drug!" the modern doctors tell him.

"Excellent: you have found a way to block the entry of the spirit, much like I would block a thief's entry with a lock. Well done!"

Is there anything logically contradictory about the Greek's interpretation of modern findings? Absolutely not.

Are there any modern findings that he cannot fit, quite comfortably, into his understanding? No, there are not.

One of the semi-educated will inevitably invoke Ockham's razor at this point. But materialists shave with this very selectively: they pay no attention to the fact that materialism itself falls to this razor, or that attempts to sustain materialism in the face of modern physics lead to massive violations of the principle. The invocation of Ockham's razor only works here if we already have some good reason to think materialism is true. And there is no such good reason: modern materialism is an ideology, cooked up during the Enlightenment to aid the philosophes and their friends in their power struggle with the old order.

The idea that, if we can trace the physical processes leading to event X, that therefore we have ruled out any spiritual explanation for X, is, quite simply, a piece of Enlightenment propaganda, an attempt to wield the prestige of science to discredit religion. It makes no sense at all, but it can be very useful as a rhetorical weapon.

6 comments:

  1. One could make any numbers of other non-falsifiable statement about epilepsy.

    If I believed "Epilepsy only occurs become some people fail to recognize the superiority of libertarian ethics" then nothing you could say could prove me wrong.

    Maybe I'm missing something but what is the value of holding a view that has not been proven and has no evidence to support it , just because it is impossible to disprove it?

    (Perhaps some things are worth believing for their sake, independent of whether there is any evidence they are true or not ? I guess that's possible)

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    1. rob, are you really going to just keep completely missing the point of this entire thread? I guess the answer is yes.

      The point is, again, I repeat for the umptieenth time, not that we SHOULD believe spirits cause epilepsy, but that showing a physical cause has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not spirits do cause epilepsy. If you want to participate, youshould really, really really try to discuss the point I'm making, and not other points you might wish I made or you would prefer I made or whatever.

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    2. Is your point that it is possible that the spiritual cause could be the cause of the physical cause?

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    3. No, Samson. Think of this: I see you on the street. I shout out, "Hey Samson!"

      Observer A says, "Gene was trying to communicate with Samson."

      B says, "Not so fast! All that was happening was that some sound waves reached Samson's ears!"

      The point is that these are complimentary understandings of the same event, not two mutually exclusive understandings.

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  2. "One of the semi-educated will inevitably invoke Ockham's razor at this point. But materialists shave with this very selectively: they pay no attention to the fact that materialism itself falls to this razor, or that attempts to sustain materialism in the face of modern physics lead to massive violations of the principle."

    How does a defense of materialism lead to theories about the existence of a multiverse?

    "And there is no such good reason: modern materialism is an ideology, cooked up during the Enlightenment to aid the philosophes and their friends in their power struggle with the old order."

    No, it's not. At least I don't think it is. Crap? Yes. But, I don't think every single bad philosophical position, no matter how fervently defended, can necessarily be called an "ideology" as you use the term. This is kind of treading close, I think, to way Marxists prattle on about "false consciousness". Especially with the power struggle bit.

    (For some reason, your blog is not accepting hyperlinks in the comments.)

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    1. "How does a defense of materialism lead to theories about the existence of a multiverse?"

      The idea was developed to counter the earlier interpretation of QM, in which it was the (conscious) observer who collapsed the wave function.

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