TED Conversations

Devin Tarr

Master's Student, California State University Chico

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Why should presuppose that the cause of religious experience must be natural?

As I was watching Mr. Haidt's talk, I was struck with what he categorized as the "million dollar question". He says:

"Is the staircase a feature of our evolutionary design? Is it a product of natural selection like our hands? Or, is it a bug? A mistake in the system . . . religious stuff just happens when the wires cross in the brain?"

It seems, considering the testimony of those having such experiences, that we should at least consider whether they're caused by a super-natural explanation. It struck me as odd that Mr Haidt's logic went like this:

1) People have self-transcendent experiences, through religion or other means
2) What could be the cause of these experiences?
3) They must either be a natural feature of humanity, or a delusion producing bug in our biological system.

It seems to me there's an obvious third question as well. Is there something beyond us (super-natural) that we're connecting to, or is connecting to us.


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    Mar 15 2012: We should not assume the supernatural realm is myth or delusion. There are aspects of life which defy natural explanation. For example Faith, Hope and Love elude scientific explanation. I think more than two or three questions must be answered before classifying the supernatural as ecstatic fiction. I suggest seven questions. Since secular science has introduced the theory of multiple universes it is necessary to specify which possible world is intended, thus I use the nomenclature " W1" to designate the universe (world) in which the writer, and readers, share conscious, simultaneous existence.
    1.Does it appear that W1 is designed, created and controlled?
    2.Are there any candidates suggested to be W1’s designer/creator/controller?
    3.Do any of the candidates claim to possess the necessary qualifying attributes of infinite, eternal and immutable?
    4.Has any candidate provided an understandable, written explanation of the past, present and future of W1 which confirms man’s body of non-theoretical knowledge, i.e. archaeology; astronomy; biology; cosmogony; cosmology; geology; history; psychology; sociology; etc.?
    5.Does any candidate provide and explain a way for humans in W1 to attain to everlasting, perfect existence?
    6.Does any candidate actively participate in conscious, real-time, two-way, super natural communication with humans of W1?
    7.Does any candidate communicate naturally and supernaturally to humans of W1 about
    what behavior is expected; the consequences of disobedience; and the reward for obedience?
    It seems to me that one affirmative answer constitutes sufficient doubt to demand additional discussion, research and observation.
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      Mar 15 2012: Edward,

      I fail to see how "Faith, Hope and Love elude scientific explanation." Why do you think so?
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        Mar 16 2012: I guess the discipline that would take it upon itself to explain faith, hope and love would not be one of the natural sciences, which are governed by Natural Laws, but perhaps philosophy or psychology. I am unaware of any experiments conducted in accordance with the Scientific Method which explain why someone believes in God; or clings tenaciously to hope for a better tomorrow; or is driven by such unconditional affection that their own safety and comfort is sacrificed for the benefit of the object of that affection. I think that explanation will always be the "elusive butterfly of love." Do you have some suggested reading for me? Thanks Mr. Margiotis. Best wishes.

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