Search

Scepticism

Irrational Nonsense

irrational

‘Irrational’ and ‘real’ are not incompatible in mathematics or life ..and ‘nonsense’ is either merely pejorative or an assertion that a proposition is meaningless as in ‘lightning runs faster than gravity’; most of these theories/beliefs are not meaningless in this sense. Nevertheless an amusing chart and I assume its title is self-referential.

Wittgenstein has some interesting things to say about ‘nonsense’.

In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s writings, the word “nonsense” carries a special technical meaning which differs significantly from the normal use of the word. In this sense, “nonsense” does not refer to meaningless gibberish, but rather to the lack of sense in the context of sense and reference. In this context, logical tautologies, and purely mathematical propositions may be regarded as “nonsense”. For example, “1+1=2” is a nonsensical proposition.

From an article on ‘nonsense’ in Wikipedia

The Conjurer’s Fallacy

Does Chi energy exist? This video suggests that it does:

This video, on the other hand, seems to have been made to challenge the testimony in the first:

While I agree with the premise that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof I think that this is an example of what I would call the ‘conjurer’s fallacy’, the notion that any feat, claimed to be paranormal, that can be reproduced by conjuring has been produced by conjuring. There is more to the video about Dynamo Jack than the burning of a newspaper and it is the whole testimony rather than a part of it that is suggestive of a paranormal energy.

Beyond Belief

Prahlad Jani is a hermit who claims not to have consumed food or water since he was eight. His claims are disputed by rationalists such as Sanal Edamaruku whose Guardian article suggests that the doctors studying this phenomenon are either not very bright or are colluding in a hoax. Edamaruku has been involved in exposing hoaxes by prominent gurus but the existence of fakes does not prove the non-existence of the authentic.

Ram Bahadur Bomjan (“Buddha Boy”) is another example of this ‘extreme fasting’ phenemenon.

The documentary showing him being continuously recorded sitting in meditation without food or water for 96 hours is evidence that Ram Bomjan is doing something that contradicts what is known by medical science. The sceptical position seems to be that because it is scientifically impossible it must be a fraud.

After his initial disappearance Ram Bomjam re-emerged and now runs a successful guru practice dispensing wisdom (and scarves) as Dharma Sangha aka Palden Dorje:

Perhaps the extreme fasting abilities of Prahlad Jani and Dharma Sangha are clues (rather big clues) that meditation works and that it is possible to transcend the limits of physical laws. Sceptics and ‘realists’ will insist that since physical laws cannot be transcended the inedia phenemenon must be a scam but I am prepared to provisionally accept its authenticity on the basis of this evidence. Whether the phenomenon, these psychic accomplishments, point to spiritual enlightenment is a different matter. There is a problem with gurus but it is not the one that the sceptics are concerned about. The problem for me concerns the incongruities between the teachings and the practice of the gurus. As I read more about Dharma Sangha I found references to a scandal alleging violence, kidnapping and sexual abuse. There is an extremely interesting discussion, following an article referencing the allegations, on the Irregular Times blog.

Does God have a Future.

Interesting debate titled ‘The Future of God’ but really a debate between two advocates of ‘New Age’ spirituality and two Atheistic sceptics. Deepak Chopra has some interesting points but articulates them very badly. Does the moon exist without a conscious observer? Not if you make any sort of distinction between your perception of the moon and ‘the moon itself’. Every perception in an interpretation of what is ‘out there’; this does not need quantum whatever. There is an important point to be made around the primacy of consciousness versus the primacy of the material world. Perhaps Sam Harris is right to say (quite generously) that Chopra is trying to merge two different ways of talking about the world. I don’t think that it’s impossible to do this but Chopra makes a poor job of it. He takes a brutal and embarrassing beating, like an overweight, overaged and unprepared boxer who has no business in the ring.

Bookmarks