• SUPPORT THE SHOW AND ENJOY A PREMIUM PARACAST EXPERIENCE! Welcome to The Paracast+, five years young! For a low subscription fee, you will be able to download the ad-free version of The Paracast and the exclusive After The Paracast podcast, featuring color commentary, exclusive interviews, the continuation of interviews that began on the main episode of The Paracast. We also offer lifetime memberships! FLASH! For a limited time, you can save up to 40% on your subscription. You can sign up right here!

    Subscribe to The Paracast Newsletter!

Main Discussion

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
key phrases such as "realer than real" that comes up in NDEs - Ray Palmer said he had a test, some detail that told him whether a report was true - leaving all that baggage aside - are there actually key words or objective ways in which language is used (like trying to determine authorship) that validates my sense that UFO experiencers are talking about something that is distinct from what mystics are experiencing that is distinct from what users of psychedelics are experiencing or is there no way to tell anomalous subjective experience apart?
I suppose we could all be brains in a vat, but assuming that's not the case, it's not reasonable to suppose that UFO reports are all subjective experiences, and the more evidence we have to the contrary, the better the case is.
We do this every day in ordinary subjective states when for example we try to determine if someone really loves us by the words they use and we might be pretty good at it - I think Chris or Jerome last week maybe said no one had identified any real patterns in the experience phenomena and surely someone has looked at the language used? - Huxley does this informally in The Perennial Science - noting that mystical reports from all times and places sounds a lot alike . . . Underhill classifies levels or types of mystical experience, has anyone done this kind of scholarly work with UFO reports? is it even possible considering the volume?
I don't think that the assertion that there are no patterns is accurate. What those assertions do is take into account a variety of objects and possibilities outside the definition we're using here for the term UFO. Ultimately if we make any topic vague enough we can say there are no patterns. But in ufology there are patterns, beginning with the common idea that we're dealing with engineered transports ( craft ). Craft are a set of objects that all have certain things in common and therefore represent a "pattern". There are also the so-called UFO hotspots which are defined by an increased frequency of sightings. An increased frequency compared to other locations reveals another type of pattern. There are also UFO waves. There is also the common factor of the elusive nature of UFOs which could be considered to be a pattern of behavior. There is also the performance characteristics of these craft, which are historically far beyond that of known aircraft.
Huxley worked with the mystical literature of the time from all over the world, Underhill with the Christian tradition and the language was strikingly similar to me - but to say a computer could sort all of this out by an analysis of language . . . I don't know, Plantinga's argument for belief in God being properly basic does hinge on some things he considers to be unique to deity, for example that we have an innate cognitive sense of God and that our ability to accurately apprehend reality hinges on theism and not naturalism, so I don't know if it would be useful - but my thought was to look at this and see if there is anything about UFO experience that is analogous that lets us say "ok, your belief in x is rational, even if we can't prove it" - it seems that would make a difference in how we view and treat experiencers . . . I haven't gotten any further than that
As I've already mentioned, I have yet to see Plantinga deal with the core issue of what it means for something to be a God, and therefore everything else that follows runs the risk of being irrelevant. Perhaps he does address this issue someplace. I'm not at all familiar with his work. But to make a key distinction here in a not so subtle way, I've not heard of any instance where God has been tracked on radar and intercepted by military jets. So although we cannot deny the psychological effects of observing a UFO, we're not dealing with assumptions based solely on faith or belief.
 
S

smcder

Guest
I suppose we could all be brains in a vat, but assuming that's not the case, it's not reasonable to suppose that UFO reports are all subjective experiences, and the more evidence we have to the contrary, the better the case is.
agreed - but I am talking about looking at the subjective reports for common features in the language

I don't think that the assertion that there are no patterns is accurate.

right, I'm talking about no known patterns yet in the language of subjective reports

As I've already mentioned, I have yet to see Plantinga deal with the core issue of what it means for something to be a God, and therefore everything else that follows runs the risk of being irrelevant. Perhaps he does address this issue someplace. I'm not at all familiar with his work.

You've only seen the one 20 minute video, is that correct? I am focusing on one aspect of reformed epistemology - the idea that belief in something is "properly basic".

We can engage on the propositions I've put forward - 1) an analysis of language in UFO experiencer's (subjective) reports and comparison to language in other anomalous cognitive experiences (mysticism, psychedlia, mental illness, etc . . . ) and 2) Plantinga's work on "properly basic" beliefs as applied to beliefs formed by UFO experiencers or we can go in another direction . . . I'm game either way
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I suppose we could all be brains in a vat, but assuming that's not the case, it's not reasonable to suppose that UFO reports are all subjective experiences, and the more evidence we have to the contrary, the better the case is.
agreed - but I am talking about looking at the subjective reports for common features in the language
So for example, are you referring to reports obtained by hypnotic regression and channeling? Or do you mean something else?
I don't think that the assertion that there are no patterns is accurate.

right, I'm talking about no known patterns yet in the language of subjective reports
Hmm, I guess that depends on your answer to the question above. Can you provide an example of what you mean by "subjective reports".

As I've already mentioned, I have yet to see Plantinga deal with the core issue of what it means for something to be a God, and therefore everything else that follows runs the risk of being irrelevant. Perhaps he does address this issue someplace. I'm not at all familiar with his work.

You've only seen the one 20 minute video, is that correct? I am focusing on one aspect of reformed epistemology - the idea that belief in something is "properly basic".
Right, that's why I said I'm not the least bit familiar with his work and asked if maybe you had run across it ( Plantinga's view of what it means to be a God ) in your travels. This would seem to be a key component to set in place before we try to determine if the existence of God is something that can be properly basic. I would argue that depending on the God we're talking about, it may or may not be. In the segment of the video in which Plantinga provides an example by way of a biblical quote presents the same problem we have with the watchmaker analogy. It's flawed logic to assume that simply because something exists that a divine maker is responsible for it.
We can engage on the propositions I've put forward - 1) an analysis of language in UFO experiencer's (subjective) reports and comparison to language in other anomalous cognitive experiences (mysticism, psychedlia, mental illness, etc . . . ) and 2) Plantinga's work on "properly basic" beliefs as applied to beliefs formed by UFO experiencers or we can go in another direction . . . I'm game either way
Hmm. I guess we still need to get that question above answered before we can continue along those lines. But in the meantime you may find some of this relevant:

John Mack Excerpt

 
Last edited:
S

smcder

Guest
1) Subjective reports - the reports of the person who has a UFO experience in their own words to compare with the reports in their own words of persons who claim a psychedelic or mystical or other anomalous subjective state.

2) What it means to be a God to Plantinga . . . he is is an orthodox Protestant. All I can do there is point you to 2,000 years of literature. ;-) Or, from Wikipedia:

"Plantinga has also argued that there is no logical inconsistency between the existence of evil and the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, wholly good God."

Does that help? (sorry, don't know what happend to my font here!!)
 
S

smcder

Guest
i'll check out the John Mack video, thanks!! I've listened to a lot of his stuff and like it.
 
S

smcder

Guest
quintessential Mack! - he even mentions Ezekiel . . . was there something in particular you wanted me to get from the video?
 
S

smcder

Guest
"Plantinga’s “Religious Belief as ‘Properly Basic’” is a very rich paper. He is attempting to defend a radical position on which it can be reasonable to believe in God even in the absence of argument or evidence." - Plantinga: Religious Belief as 'Properly Basic'

and this is very good too, I haven't read this in a couple of years, so I will brush up when I get some time - but it's a good primer on arguments for the existence of God

"I've been arguing that theistic belief does not (in general) need argument either for
deontological justification, or for positive epistemic status, (or for Foley rationality or
Alstonian justification)); belief in God is properly basic. But doesn't follow, of course
that there aren't any good arguments. Are there some? At least a couple of dozen or so."

http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/two_dozen_or_so_theistic_arguments.pdf
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
Heinlein's "Job" is also a personal favorite. I'm wondering how many more decades we might have before such works are again labeled "heresy" by people with authority to make the charge stick. Shudder! But they would also have to tackle Mark Twain and Melville and so many other such greats as well, so perhaps we are safe.

I hadn't expected the subjects of deity and the nature of the UFO phenomenon to merge in quite this way. But perhaps this is yet another opportunity to explore this whole crazy business.

I think I have stated here before my opinion that the history of the UFO and our attempts to analyze it in post-Enlightenment fashion, suggest a process much more akin to a religious belief system than study of a particular slice of nature. Again--we long for Science and the reassuring sense of control it gives us. But the UFO remains firmly in control and apparently thinks otherwise. This is no failing on our part. But parallels between humankind's UFO experience and religious tradition seem too obvious to simply ignore.

This remains a primarily personal, anecdotal phenomenon based on testimony that is as utterly irrational as it is wholeheartedly sincere. People (the Greers of this world notwithstanding) experience life changing visions. Their psychic landscape is often permanently changed. We are intellectually puzzled and emotionally moved by them, and so wind up placing ourselves somewhere on the spectrum of belief vs. non-belief. We exchange views based on the power of "testimony" (and it truly is powerful) and choose amongst competing models. The problem is not that good models are not workable. It is that so many are workable but simply untestable. So for the time being, we long for revelation: An all knowing government disclosure or the legendary "landing on the White House Lawn". Nuts and bolts to analyze. An alien cadaver. But realistically we expect little to change.

And again--this is not what we want. Nor is it what we should want. It is simply what we get in spite of so many best efforts to dislodge the UFO from its unique operating space somewhere between the realm of mind and matter.

This smells a lot like the two-cents worth I've thrown in here before. I must be old and out of new ideas. :p
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
quintessential Mack! - he even mentions Ezekiel . . . was there something in particular you wanted me to get from the video?
Nothing specific. I just thought that one was a good choice for introducing Mack into the discussion because he touches on things we've been discussing. It looks like the complete video would be worth getting. Losing Mack was really unfortunate for the field.
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
Nothing specific. I just thought that one was a good choice for introducing Mack into the discussion because he touches on things we've been discussing. It looks like the complete video would be worth getting. Losing Mack was really unfortunate for the field.
Just watched the Mack video and am reminded again what a loss his untimely death was for us all. No justice in the world.....
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
"Plantinga’s “Religious Belief as ‘Properly Basic’” is a very rich paper. He is attempting to defend a radical position on which it can be reasonable to believe in God even in the absence of argument or evidence." - Plantinga: Religious Belief as 'Properly Basic'

and this is very good too, I haven't read this in a couple of years, so I will brush up when I get some time - but it's a good primer on arguments for the existence of God

"I've been arguing that theistic belief does not (in general) need argument either for
deontological justification, or for positive epistemic status, (or for Foley rationality or
Alstonian justification)); belief in God is properly basic. But doesn't follow, of course
that there aren't any good arguments. Are there some? At least a couple of dozen or so."

http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/two_dozen_or_so_theistic_arguments.pdf
You'll have to forgive me. I'm not a student of academic philosophy or philosophy history, so I'm not familiar with philosophese, and therefore find myself having to look up the terms as I go and reduce them to familiar terms. If you're familiar with Plantinga, can we begin where he defines God ( what does it mean for something to be a God ). I don't think we can make any sense out of the rest of it until we know what he thinks about that first.
 
S

smcder

Guest
"You'll have to forgive me. I'm not a student of academic philosophy or philosophy history, so I'm not familiar with philosophese, and therefore find myself having to look up the terms as I go and reduce them to familiar terms" - lol, you and me both! The main thing I got is that Plantinga doesn't think he needs arguments for his belief in God to be rational, to be "properly basic".

". . . can we begin where he defines God ( what does it mean for something to be a God ). I don't think we can make any sense out of the rest of it until we know what he thinks about that first." -
I'm not sure what you are looking for in terms of a definition? I'm no expert on Plantinga, but I feel confident to say that his God is the Orthodox Christian God . . . in this quote: "Plantinga has also argued that there is no logical inconsistency between the existence of evil and the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, wholly good God." - so there are already some characteristics: all-powerful, all-knowing, wholly good . . . but, remember, he says for him God is a person and he believes God exists in some of the same ways he believes other people exist and that he has a relationship with God, so it would be a bit like asking Plantinga for his definition of his wife, or son or mother . . . (we could get him in real trouble there! ;-) . . . but I also want to stay focused on what it means for a belief to be "properly basic": "

"He (Plantinga) is attempting to defend a radical position on which it can be reasonable to believe in God even in the absence of argument or evidence."

the original thought was to see if some of these arguments could be applied to beliefs formed after abduction experiences - are these beliefs "properly basic" - the analogy being that some of the definition or characteristics or nature of God come from what people have brought back from mystical experience . . . so, I do think my idea here is a bit hare-brained but I'd like to see if there is anything in it!
 
S

smcder

Guest
Hi Boomerang! I enjoyed reading your post:

"I hadn't expected the subjects of deity and the nature of the UFO phenomenon to merge in quite this way. But perhaps this is yet another opportunity to explore this whole crazy business."

me either - and I wasn't particularly looking to talk about God - but I'm happy to! It started on the Jerome Clark thread, I noticed that a lot of the attempts to classify and talk about UFOs: event versus experience, etc - reminded me of apophatic and cataphatic theology; basically apophatic theology is talking about God in terms of what He is not . . . and we seem to do this sometimes in talking about paranormal phenomena. I also noted that the language used by UFO abductees or contactees seems or "feels" (cognitively) like the language mystics used (drawing from two books: Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy and Underhill's Mysticism - which feels like that used by persons who've had a psychedelic experience or NDE or experienced other extreme mental states . . . so maybe it's just what happens to language at the limit of experience and maybe these experiences aren't communicable in the same way we talk about "ordinary" feelings, but there do seem to be similarities, key phrases such as "realer than real", paradox, etc - so scholarly work has been done on this for mysticism and I wondered what was out there for the other types of experience?
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
"
... the original thought was to see if some of these arguments could be applied to beliefs formed after abduction experiences - are these beliefs "properly basic" - the analogy being that some of the definition or characteristics or nature of God come from what people have brought back from mystical experience . . . so, I do think my idea here is a bit hare-brained but I'd like to see if there is anything in it!
OK, I can see where you're trying to go now. On the issue of alien abduction, I would say that in the case of those with a conscious firsthand experience, the evidence would seem to be self evident and therefore properly basic. However I use the word "seem", because people can be misled by misinformation, illusion, and deception. The abduction experience is so overwhelming that jumping to conclusions and blind acceptance is to be expected. I've run across this time and time again in abduction stories. For example we often hear the trite warnings about our mistreatment of the environment as if to impart the idea that we should have more respect for nature, and the experiencer seems to take this deeply to heart without question.

Yet a critical look at this repeating theme is that although nature is beautiful, it's also deadly. Nature would kill us without reservation if it weren't for the fact that we've learned to manipulate our environment and defend ourselves against predators. Stick a few of these aliens out on the African savannah for a week without their fancy spacecraft and technology and see how long they last before getting eaten by the lions. Even worse than their namby-pamby out of touch with reality scolding of their helpless victims is their hypocrisy. If they are so smart and wonderful then how about a little help? But no, never, not once have we been given any information that is beyond the scope of our present day technology that would help reduce our environmental impact on the planet. Nothing but platitudes :mad: !

These factors lead me to suspect that alien abduction stories are largely fabrications or hoaxes, either by the so-called experiencer or those who have perpetrated a convincing hoax on the experiencer. This doesn't rule out the possibility of genuine alien abduction, but there's still no definitive evidence that it's actually taking place.
 
S

smcder

Guest
These factors lead me to suspect that alien abduction stories are largely fabrications or hoaxes, either by the so-called experiencer or those who have perpetrated a convincing hoax on the experiencer. This doesn't rule out the possibility of genuine alien abduction, but there's still no definitive evidence that it's actually taking place.

And I think that's where an analysis of the language of reports of mystical experience could come in - see if this makes any sense - first let me try a more concrete example: I trained as an EMT and one of the things we learned is that there are often phrases uses by patients to describe pain or other symptoms that are almost diagnostic in themselves. On one level patients may often describe a pain as dull/throbbing or sharp/stabbing and that in conjunction with a couple of other quick observations gives you maybe a 90% certainty that a specific thing is going on - enough to make the possibly life-saving decision between "stay and play" or "load and go" - on the next level - a patient reporting "an impending sense of doom" or some other very specific phrase (granted the wording may vary from place to place and person to person) . . . but EMT folks feel like there are phrases that when they hear them - they know with near-certainty what is wrong with their patient . . . this ties in with Ray Palmer's claim that when he heard a certain detail, he knew a UFO report was true. Again, just an example - as far as I know, no one ever found out what that detail was (if it existed) . . . so . . . the question is, are there kinds of things that come up over and over in the language of an abduction that we could use to discriminate between someone's (subjectively) real experience and a fabrication or hoax? Like a lie scale in a personality test or the computer programs that tried to determine the authorship of Shakespeare's plays by analyzing texts -
 
S

smcder

Guest
i think there is a real abduction experience - a real subjective experience, people talking psychedelics have some fairly reliable subjective experiences, sometimes very similar content regardless of cultural background - seeing particular entities for example; Chris O'Brien often points to the Antonio Vilas Boas case because it came earlier than most and wasn't out there in the literature (reducing the possibility of conscious or unconscious copy-catting) and yet people did report similar experiences . . . going back to historical cases, say fairyland abductions also strengthens this hypothesis. Is it literally abduction by aliens in spacecraft? That is what you are skeptical of - but we don't have to even look into a spontaneous release of DMT into the brain or into exotic technologies for abduction without leaving traces or without even physically taking the body (some kind of telepathic abduction) - we only have to look at how modern medicine came to recognize the phenomenon of child abuse, or rather how they failed to recognize it - this was relatively recent - I think in the 50s and it's a fascinating story - the medical community vehemently denied it- apparently one doctor (I need to look up the reference) was persistent and he showed the relatively new field of radiology how to look for multiple fractures of the same bones, patterns to look for and slowly built a consistent picture to gain acceptance - partly it was denied b/c of how widespread it appeared to be - doctors simply wouldn't believe so many parents and caregivers would abuse their own children - he even suppressed or didn't bring to the fore the evidence of sexual abuse because he was afraid denial would become even stronger, so he didn't introduce this aspect for maybe another 20 years . . . I'll look this up when I get a chance for details . . . but my point is that the experts failed to recognize wide spread physical and sexual abuse of children
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
These factors lead me to suspect that alien abduction stories are largely fabrications or hoaxes, either by the so-called experiencer or those who have perpetrated a convincing hoax on the experiencer. This doesn't rule out the possibility of genuine alien abduction, but there's still no definitive evidence that it's actually taking place.

And I think that's where an analysis of the language of reports of mystical experience could come in - see if this makes any sense - first let me try a more concrete example: I trained as an EMT and one of the things we learned is that there are often phrases uses by patients to describe pain or other symptoms that are almost diagnostic in themselves. On one level patients may often describe a pain as dull/throbbing or sharp/stabbing and that in conjunction with a couple of other quick observations gives you maybe a 90% certainty that a specific thing is going on - enough to make the possibly life-saving decision between "stay and play" or "load and go" - on the next level - a patient reporting "an impending sense of doom" or some other very specific phrase (granted the wording may vary from place to place and person to person) . . . but EMT folks feel like there are phrases that when they hear them - they know with near-certainty what is wrong with their patient . . . this ties in with Ray Palmer's claim that when he heard a certain detail, he knew a UFO report was true. Again, just an example - as far as I know, no one ever found out what that detail was (if it existed) . . . so . . . the question is, are there kinds of things that come up over and over in the language of an abduction that we could use to discriminate between someone's (subjectively) real experience and a fabrication or hoax? Like a lie scale in a personality test or the computer programs that tried to determine the authorship of Shakespeare's plays by analyzing texts -
I don't think we can establish a reliable set of criteria by which to evaluate alien abduction reports based solely on existing data. Unlike medical data, we have no verified baseline to work from. However I do believe we may be able to evaluate a real-time personal abduction experience based on our own past experience as compared with what is happening at the time. I also think we can have a degree of confidence in an alien abduction report that includes verifiable information never before gathered by humans and beyond the capability of the experiencer to conjure up on their own. Exactly what kind of information that would be might include instructions for SETI that allows them to tune into an alien signal that matches the description provided by the experiencer.
 
Last edited:
S

smcder

Guest
the medical data wasn't there until it was looked for - it started with a theory of what to look for - but I agree, we probably don't have that yet - we certainly don't have the wherewithal (access to technology, financing and will) to pursue it -but it is inspiring that one man was able to make this happen from a very unpopular position in his field . . . but anyway, to clarify, I'm talking about trying to assess the validity of the subjective experience apart from the objective reality - to go back to the mystics, validating whether or not someone truly had a mystical experience was very important to the Church for many reasons, theological and political - for example it might be used to determine Sainthood . . . even the most cynical of Bishops or Popes didn't want to get hood-winked by a facile tongue . . . so that part of it is a very old problem - i.e. trying to determine if someone was telling the truth when they claimed to have an experience of God (and yes, that's independent of the ability to proof there is a God! ;-)
 

Derek Wood

Skilled Investigator
Hypothesis: god exists.

Experiment.

Independently test and test again.

Add time.

Can a Theory be developed?

Yes? Add more experiments
No? Add more experiments
----

The hypothesis that God exists is untestable on even the most basic level.

The Theory that God exists is scientifically refutable.

God doesn't exist.
 


Top