On Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 12:46 AM, Brent Meeker <meeke...@dslextreme.com> wrote:
> Scientifically I think there are possible data
> that would count as evidence against physicalism. For example, if persons
> reporting out-of-body experiences could actually gain knowledge not
> otherwise available via these experiences. Another example would be prayer
> healing studies. If it happened that prayers by say Sikhs were effective
> with statistical significance while prayers by other religionists were not;
> that would be strong evidence against physicalism.
First, one might prefer the physicalist "Nick Bostrom" style
explanation that we are in a computer simulation over adopting a
supernatural explanation. In effect making God physical. The "deity"
outside the computer simulation can arrange things however he
likes...including allowing OBEs and Sikh prayer healing. Or those
might be a sign of a flaw in the simulation's programming.
Second, both OBEs and Sikh prayer healing might be explained by
entanglement style "action at a distance" mechanisms. Certainly one
could start with that claim, quantum mechanics having already blazed
the trail. Why only Sikh healing? Well, presumably different beliefs
would be associated with different physical brain structures, and
maybe only some brain structures have the right "triggering"
Third, even without action at a distance or resonant brain structures,
there's still the equivalent of "dark matter" style explanations.
That there is an additional physical layer that only weakly (and maybe
probabilistically) interacts with the layer we have relatively easy
If the OBE/prayer process could be mathematically modeled, then it
would just be a matter of assigning physical interpretations to the
equations of the model. As the Many Worlds, consistent histories,
copenhagen, and Bohmian interpretations do for quantum mechanics.
And again, it seems to me that in an infinite universe, SOMEWHERE
someone should find what seems to be statistically significant
evidence of Sikh prayer healing and OBEs. Since it seems to me that
in enough trials with all possible initial conditions and all possible
outcomes of probabilistic causal laws, *someone* should see a false
positive...in fact, a lot of false positives. So many false positives
as to establish reasonable belief that there is a causal connection.
And that's just off the top of my head.
So, I don't see how OBEs or prayer healing would in any way falsify
physicalism, or even dent it. Though they might demolish the Standard
>> An idealistic accidentalist would take an instrumentalist view of
>> quantum mechanics. As opposed to some form of scientific realism that
>> a physicalist might support.
> Many physicists take an instrumentalist view of quantum mechanics, c.f.
> Asher Peres graduate textbook.
For the record, I didn't claim that physicalism entailed scientific realism.
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