Fri, 21 Jan 1994 16:35:00 PST

Steve M. (AKA SEEKER1) writes:

>a) I believe in the anthropological literature this is referred to as
>"overgeneralization on the basis of one example."

I made no generalizations, merely provided an anecdote.

>b) Perhaps what he had written *remained* profound, only his brain was no
>longer in a state to realize its profundity. I believe that algebra looks
>like "nonsense" to a chimpanzee, and especially to, say, a protozoa.

I expected someone to make this sort of reply. At this point discourse is
impossible as there can never be disconfirming evidence as (b) represents an
ideological position.

>c) regardless of the 'emic' interpretations of it, revelation remains an
>etic, empirically describable event.

Trivial--certainly there are states of mind that are given the categorization
"revelation" and such states of mind are empirically describable.

> If a person possess a new item of knowledge not derived from sense-data
>or recombination of existing knowledge, 'revelation' has taken place.

What is knowledge? How do you know that what is called "revelation" is NOT
recomination of existing knowledge? If what is called "revelation" is the
product of the brain alone, then it is the recombination of existing
knowledge. If you are arguing that revelation represents a state in which
knowledge which exists outside of human brains (ie. is in some sense part of
the universe) comes into the brain of the person who experiences the state
known as "revelation", then say so directly. That is obviously what is at
issue with revelation: Is it a state produced by the brain through the brain
acting as a material object, or is it the consequence of something
extra-material that arrives into the brain? The latter is outside of
scientific discourse that views the universe as material.

>I believe it is incumbent, then, to
>deal with this matter both emically (what does the 'revelation' mean to the
>person) and etically (what has taken place within the brain.)

No problem here.

>Etically, we must deal with the fact that the person knows something
>they did not know before.

That describes learning in general and not revelation, in particular.

>We can therefore say:
> a) The person did already 'know' it, only the knowledge was present in
>the subconscious mind, not accessible to consciousness.
> If this knowledge is of the future or distant present, this explanation
>is unlikely.
> b) The person was 'given' this knowledge by a 'revealer'.
> This is the most common emic interpretation. Unfortunately, the etic
>reality of these beings remains to be established.
> c) The knowledge was obtained by parapsychological means.

Or (d) it is the fabrication of the brain with the one part of the brain
deceiving another part into perceiving the construction as "real",
"knowledge", etc. (Such abiltiy of one part of the brain to
deceive another part is well-established in, for example, in our
visual perceptory apparatus.)

>I prefer this explanation for various reasons, but then, I suppose this
>brings us back to the factuality of ESP.

True enough.

>I am curious as to whether you are
>1) a priori indisposed to think such a faculty cannot ever exist or 2) a
>posteriori unconvinced at this time that such a faculty does exist based on
>the existing empirical studies. With 2), you are at least being scientific,
>and there may be grounds for discussion. With 1), I suppose this
>conversation can go nowhere.

If by (1) you are referring to someone who rejects the notion of
ESP/revelation on ideological grounds (a priori as a matter of faith), then
by definition scientfic discourse on the topic is not possible. However, one
might be convinced that such a faculty cannot exist within the parameters
one accepts as ground rules for scientific discourse; e.g., there are still
those who believe that it might be possible to find a way to trisect an angle
using a ruler and a compass, despite mathematical proof that such a
construction is impossible, hence discussion about the possibility of
trisecting an angle with a ruler and compass is useless a priori regardless
of whatever arguement someone might advance for claiming that such a
construction is possible. Along the same lines, I reject, for example, a
priori the existence of Bigfoot as a legitimate topic of scientific
discussion based on what the proponents if Bigfoot claim bigfoot is supposed
to be and what is known about evolution, animal behavior, etc. I reject, a
priori, creation as espoused by Christian Fundamentalists, as a legitimate
topic of discussion in a scientific context. I reject, a priori, ESP as it
is generally presented in that most claims for it simultaneously require
material properties (or spiritual ones--take your pick) for which there is no
evidence in the slightest.

However, I do not claim that scientific discussion is exhaustive in its
scope. One can easily posit phenomena that (a) if they existed would (b) be
outside of the purview of scientific discussion (see earlier post about

D. Read