[From Bruce Nevin (980708.1647)]
Bruce Gregory ((80708.1403)--
I'll ask you the same question I asked Richard Kennaway. How can we test the
belief that Jesus was God incarnated in human form? it is difficult to make
a case that the statement is true, but it is impossible, or so it seems to
me, to show that it is untrue.
Science, or verification in science anyway, is grounded in consensual
reality, a common denominator of agreements about perceptions. Awareness of
the presence of God is not consensually available across a generic
population. This may seem dicey because, for example (a hackneyed one),
ability to interpret tracks in cloud chambers is not consensually available
across a generic population. However, the lower-level perceptions are
available, and also for the experimental procedures in which cloud chambers
are used, and the skill is probably not so difficult to attain as something
like piano playing.
People can learn to control perceptions that are not consensually familiar,
and people have differing talents in this regard, somewhat like differences
as to color blindness and perfect pitch. My wife teaches people to control
socalled "psychic" perceptions. Seems to me that PCT has nothing to say
about such differences. PCT gives no basis for declaring that what a person
describes perceiving is a delusion, a hallucination, or a lie. You may be
able to perceive something that the description fits for you, or to
remember or imagine so perceiving, or you may be unable to imagine any such
perception, and numbers of people in whom you place credence may agree with
you, or not. That's about the extent of what is available for that kind of
judgment, and none of it is specified in PCT. It seems to me that these
judgments are antecedent to science.
But usually religious convictions are based on something other than direct
gnosis of deity. The vast majority of practitioners of one religion or
another are not practicing mystics. Mystics are not testable because their
perceptions are not consensually available; dogmatic believers are not
testable insofar as their beliefs, in order to qualify as properly faithful
beliefs, are placed beyond empirical test.
There are religious dogmatists who have learned about science but always
with a religious agenda; "creation science" comes to mind. There are many
scientists who are religious; in my experience, they they have been mystics
rather than dogmatists. And there are serious students of spiritual
disciplines who bring to their work the intellectual discipline of science.
Verification and replication are difficult for them because the consensual
basis for them is not well established. Also in many communities or
schools, especially in the west, there is a tradition of concealment that
developed as a protection against religious authorities hostile to any
seeming rivalry. Because of this, teachings that already because of the
nature of the work relied heavily on symbolic and icononic materials and
methods can become quite arcane and indeed downright obfuscatory. Add to
this the guru industry as a field for personal ambitions. Discernment is
needed, and how else to learn it but by experience, which itself calls for
discernment. So much easier to stick with what is agreed to be science!