Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mikey's Subjective View of Reality

If you talk with religionists about evidence for God, they invariably insist that it is clear and indisputable, if only you are willing to see it.  Atheists, they say, willfully ignore the evidence.  They don't have the "eyes to see", and this is their own fault, because seeing the evidence is simply a matter of choosing to accept the truth of religious belief.  And having done that, all is revealed.  The problem for the skeptic is that this is a catch-22 situation.  The skeptical stance is to withhold belief until sufficient evidence is revealed.  But the evidence isn't visible until you first believe.  Once you become a believer, then evidence of God is everywhere you look.  Ask any theist, and you will hear the same thing.  The evidence is overwhelming, they say, and the skeptic is blind for not seeing it.

This raises the question of how one interprets the evidence he sees.  We all have the same evidence to look at, but the picture in our minds is a matter of how the brain interprets the information.  Belief certainly affects the way we interpret reality.  There is always a subjective element to our view of the world.  A subjective interpretation doesn't imply that it is false, but it does reduce the likelihood that it doesn't correspond to reality.  Objective reality is not dependent on or influenced by the mind or feelings.  An objective view of reality filters out interpretations based on unjustified beliefs and feelings.

But religionists can't admit that their belief in God is not objective reality.  That would be tantamount to admitting that it could be false, which they will never do.  Instead, they try to turn the tables and make it seem as if objective evidence is bad, and their subjective interpretation of reality is the only thing that merits serious consideration.  Mikey at Shadow to Light gives us a perfect example of this.  Not only does he dismiss an objective view of reality, but in trying to drive home his point, he distorts the skeptic's claims of lack of evidence, making it seem as if the skeptic is denying evidence that is visible to everyone.

He does this with the example of a "Where's Waldo" drawing, where the Waldo character is hard to find, but he's in there somewhere, and you should see him if only you look hard enough.  The claim Mikey makes is that this is analogous to the Skeptic's view of the evidence for God.  Having searched thoroughly and not found what he is looking for, the skeptic wrongly concludes that God doesn't exist.  But this isn't really the way skeptics view evidence.  It isn't merely the fact that they fail to see God.  Nobody, whether they are a skeptic or s believer, expects to actually see God, and this is certainly not what skeptics demand. But it is the totality of the objective evidence that they can see that gives us no reason to think that God is a reality.  The objective evidence contains not a single thing that isn't part of the natural world.  Not a single phenomenon that violates nature's laws.  And no objective reason to think that there must be gods or spirits or any unworldly realm of existence. 

There is nothing in our world that requires God for its explanation.  To be sure, there are still some things for which a full scientific understanding is lacking to some degree, but that doesn't justify jumping to the illogical conclusion that God is the only possible way to explain it.  There is ample reason to think, based on what we have observed, that everything in our world is natural, even if we don't have a complete naturalist theory for it as yet.  Nothing has ever excluded any possible natural explanation.  And nothing has ever required God to explain it.  But that doesn't stop theists from resorting to God as the go-to explanation anyway.

Gods and spirits and heavenly abodes are things that religionists don't directly observe any more than skeptics do, but they interpret the evidence in a subjective way based on their beliefs.  They assume that those things are the only way to correctly explain various things that we do see in our world.  But make no mistake - that assumption is based on belief, not on objective observation of the evidence.  To the objective observer, the evidence comes first, and shapes the beliefs that result.  To the religionist, the belief comes first, and shapes the way evidence is viewed.

Having created a false impression of the way atheists view evidence, Mikey then goes on to present his preferred way of looking at the picture, by using the example of the illusion of the young beauty and the old hag.  If you look at the drawing one way, you interpret it as one of those, and if you look at it another way, you interpret it in a different manner.  But this is a poor analogy for the point he wants to make, because neither of these subjective interpretations corresponds to objective reality. This only goes to show that evidence is interpreted subjectively, which is my point - not Mikey's.

Is Mikey trying to say that one interpretation is correct and the other one isn't?  And if so, which one is correct?  A more objective view is that the drawing consists of lines, and is not a true representation of any real thing.  It creates an illusion.  Whether you see a young beauty or an old hag, neither of those subjective interpretations is a true depiction of something that exists in reality.  But Mikey apparently would like us to think that based on this example, his own subjective interpretation of the evidence in our world is the one correct view of reality.  I don't get the logic.  The reality is that the drawing is ambiguous, and subject to multiple interpretations.  And the fact that your brain makes a particular interpretation of what it sees is not a guarantee that this interpretation reflects something that actually exists.

This is where religionists go off the rails.  Their beliefs determine the way they see the world, and they think that because they see things this way, that must be reality.  The more objective way skeptics interpret the evidence is obviously wrong because it doesn't agree with the subjective pictures in the heads of the religionists.  They have convinced themselves that their beliefs are founded upon solid evidence that can only be correctly interpreted in one way, which happens to be their way.  They reject and even ridicule an objective view of evidence because it doesn't support their beliefs.  And they ridicule skeptics for being objective.  It's what they call scientism.  Mikey quotes Blaise Pascal:
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Nice quote, but it gives us a religionist's view of what is meant by 'shadow' and by 'light'.  It is objectivity that sheds light on our view of the world, and it is the religionists who depend on murky ambiguity of the shadows to interpret the evidence in a way that is consistent with their beliefs.


  1. my mention new atheism was not meant to be a dig at you,I thin you took way wrong.I was just saying Maslow was not committed to an advaserial approach to religion, I was not saying that you are.

    I appreciate your contributions on our blogs I hope you come back. I am slowly gettkg over the habit of respondimng with insults.

  2. I don't know how old you are. a not of people who were not atheists before the net don't really understand how atheists were before the net, that's why i was explaining what I think Maslow's attitude toward new sympathies was, it was not amied at you in an insulting way,

    1. OK. Let's not allow it to derail further discussion.