the complete debate with materialists see this
The Self Deception of a
The following is a response to Avijit
Roy's defense of Materialism
I believe we have come to the end of our discussion since all I read now
is repetition of the same old arguments which has been already
|“but there is a method to
scientific thinking and it includes being constantly vigilant
against self-deception and being careful not to rely upon
insight or intuition in place of rigorous and precise empirical
testing of theoretical and causal claims.”
Naturally no one can see that he is deceiving himself. I debate with
Muslims who in my opinion are the most self deceived people and yet they
are the most convinced people you can find.
Bertrand Russell said: "The whole problem with the world is that
fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people
so full of doubts."
The core of my philosophy is doubt. I am afraid I can’t allow myself
the luxury of certitude. I do not say I admire your certitude, because I
do not see it as a virtue.
Unlike you I do not think it is my duty to be “careful not to rely
upon insight and intuition”. Insight and intuition are not substitutes
to rigorous and precise empirical testing of theoretical and causal
claims as you seem to believe.
Intuition and insight are powerful human faculties that provide hints at
a subconscious level. The next stage is for the conscious mind to verify
and test those hints. They are complementary therefore and not mutually
I am afraid you did not read my long article on Rational Spirituality
where I laid the crux of my philosophy. There I published examples of
scientific discoveries that were revealed through dream. If you do not
wish to read the whole article, (which I think if you did perhaps we
would not be having this discussion) I strongly recommend you to read
“If here is no intelligent being
running this Universe, what is the source of consciousness?”
It is at the middle of the article.
There you can see how some household names, scientist, inventors and
musicians claimed having received their inspirations through dreams.
What they received were in the form of hints. For example Elias Howe
dreams of being attacked by a group of savages with a hole at the tip of
their spears. This is all he needed to resolve if he placed the hole at
the tip of the needle he can solve the problem of sewing machine that
was occupying his mind.
The dreams per se are meaningless. They do not provide direct solutions.
They however provide hints. It takes then critical thinking to decipher
those hints and understand their meaning.
In the above article I also named a few musicians who have claimed
having heard their music prior to composing them.
Insights and intuitions are great human faculties. We only disregard
them to our own loss.
However, intuitions are not rational. Sometimes they come to us in
bizarre ways. In dreams they use images to express themselves. Sometimes
those images seem unrelated, but they convey the feeling anyway.
My mother’s dream of a giant’s fall and its scattering everywhere
was very poignant. Our neighbor’s maid may have been innocent, but her
innocence was not the subject that mattered in my mothers dream. My
mother saw her as a big oversize woman. In her dream this feature was
exaggerated and a giant represented her. The rest of the story was
identical. The point is that the elements of the size of the person, the
fall, the scattering of the body all around and more importantly the
trauma associated with the experience were all present. This is how our
intuitive power works. For most of us this happens during our dreams. I
can tell you countless stories of my own. I often do not have a clue
what these dreams mean but when the occurrence happen, I often realize
it was forewarned. Now why the dreams are so cryptic? I don’t know.
Are they useful? Sometimes they are, especially in the stories I
mentioned in the Rational Spirituality, but most of the time they are
not or at least they are so confused that they can’t be understood.
It is also an art to be able to interpret the dreams. Someone wrote and
said he dreamt that his friend was smoking and since he does not like
smoking in his dream he started shouting at him. The next day he asked
whether his friend smokes and he said no. To this person this was
indication that dreams are false. The problem is that this person did
not know how to interpret his dream. The message of the dream was not
whether his friend smokes or not but rather his inability to control his
temper. I told him the meaning of his dream and I was proven right since
this person turned to be an obnoxious person and his consequent letters
were full of mockeries and insults. I am ignoring him but you are
posting the emails of this individual in your site and they stand as
The point is not to prove that psychic ability is useful. That is
another discussion. If we could understand it, perhaps it would be
useful. The point here is to show that it exists. And if it exists the
implication is that there is a reality beyond the matter and this world
as we see it is not all there is.
Once again I urge you to read that section of Rational Spirituality
where I talk about how many useful discoveries were done with the help
You gave a very valid definition of self deception. You wrote:
|Before starting, I would like
to state one term clearly - "Self Deception".
Self-deception is the process or fact of misleading ourselves to
accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.
Self-deception, in short, is a way we justify false beliefs to
ourselves. Here is one example of self deception from Ali Sina's
The example you gave to prove that I am self deceiving was your mere
opinion. Since you have never seen Van Praagh you logically can’t say
anything about him or me deceiving myself by saying his demonstration
impressed me. You base your opinion of him on what Randi, Michael
Shermer and Marcello Truzzi have said. My observation of Van Praagh was
different from these gentlemen. Now may I ask you why you chose to
believe them and not me? The answer is clear. These people validate your
bias and I don’t. What if these people are wrong? They are not
prophets of course and even if they were they could be wrong. So how as
a rational person you explain your blind faith of the observation of
others? If your answer is that these people are some sort of
authorities, then why you blame the Muslims for following Muhammad whom
to them was the ultimate authority?
Do you see the similarity? You have never seen Van Praagh, you have no
clue about his abilities, yet you have formed your opinion based on what
others say. This is self deception.
You constantly repeat that all the claims of paranormal are anecdotal.
Aren’t the opinions of the above gentlemen anecdotal? And you accuse
me of having a selective mind?
Now let us analyze the statements of these gentlemen about Van Praagh.
|“Michael Shermer of Skeptic
magazine calls Van Praagh "the master of cold-reading in
the psychic world." Sociologist and student of anomalies,
Marcello Truzzi of Eastern Michigan University, studied
characters like Van Praagh for more than 35 years and he
describes Van Praagh's demonstrations as "extremely
Shermer says Van Praagh is “the master of cold reading in the psychic
world”. In other words Van Praagh is the finest and the greatest
deceiver of all the deceivers. He must be really impressive then.
Now let us read what Truzzi says. He says Van Praagh’s demonstrations
are “extremely unimpressive”.
I am not a Van Praagh's fan. I only saw him once. My first impression of
him was that he is genuine. However if I have to be accurate I need to
study his video tape more carefully to be 100% sure. I am not defending
him but merely using him to make my point.
Let us say you never saw Van Praagh and can’t make any judgment of him
based on your own observation. As a rational person what can you gather
from the above two contradictory statements? Is Van Praagh’s
demonstration impressive or is it not impressive? Why is it that two
“rational” persons, both from the same school of thought, opine on
the same person and their opinions are so contradictory? Were they
This is the problem my dear Avijit First you pass judgment over a person
whom you have never seen. That is not something a rational person would
do. Then you believe the opinion of people who are not objective without
ever occurring to you that their opinions about Van Praagh are
contradictory. All they wanted to do is to berate him. That is not an
Then again one has to see what the credentials of these two gentlemen are. Both of them are “anti paranormal activists”.
Their opinion of Van Praaph is as much objective as the opinion of the
Mullahs about the Bahai Faith. A rational person would not quote the
opinion of those who are biased as if authoritative. I am biased against
Muhammad. I do not expect anyone rely on my opinion. That would be a
terrible mistake. That is why I quote facts and bring evidences to back up my views.
What are the facts quoted by these two gentlemen about Van Praagh? They
stated their opinions, and though both of them are derogatory, those
opinions are contradictory.
That is why I say materialism is just another religion. The beliefs are
different but the methodology and the mindset are the same. Mankind will
not evolve until we learn to be skeptics in the true meaning of the
word. What now is claimed to be skepticism is a mockery of skepticism.
If the same methodology is used by the religionists and because of that
they are mislead, what makes you believe this very same methodology
leads you to discovery of the truth?
Atheist is one who does not believe in anything. Or at least that is how
it should be. I think believing is demeaning and is an insult to human
intelligence. Alas, old habits die hard. Today the atheists are those
who believe in materialism. It is not that they do not believe in any
god, they simply have a different name for their god.
|I am sure Ali Sina does not
have any expertise like Randi or Michael Shermer to know how to
critically test Van Praagh just as Randi has less expertise to
critically see Quranic verses than Ali.
Are you sure? How can you be so sure? Well you are mistaken. I am less
experienced in menal games and magic but far more knowledgeable in ESP
than the gentlemen you mentioned.
Randi is not an authority on psychic power. As a mater of fact he does
not understand it. He is a magician. These two are different. As I
explained in my previous message, if a magician makes you believe that
he is severing somebody’s head it is no proof that all those
who commit this crime are playing games. Magic is the art of make believe.
Decapitation is totally a different thing. I think it is rather naïive to
try to explain away the psychic ability with the art of a mentalist.
Randi is an expert mentalist but he has no understanding of ESP. In fact
in this field, without being an expert, I know much more than him. He
basically knows nothing.
You wrote quoting your gurus:
|“It is known that Van
Praagh can’t get a good bite, he reminds his audience that
sometimes the message is in fragments, sometimes he doesn’t
understand it, sometimes he misinterprets it, etc. If he’s
wrong, don’t blame him since he never claimed to be
If he is a fraud, then he has a good alibi. However, he is also right
about the nature of psychic ability. Just as the messages conveyed to
you in your dream come in fragments, some times you do not understand
them, sometimes you misinterpret them, etc. so a psychic. If he had said
anything different then we could suspect that he has some tricks off his
sleeves. Psychic ability is never clear. It is like a dream, it is
cryptic and in codes. Sometimes it is clear, sometimes it is confused.
|“Shermer also tells us how
he debunked Van Praagh on Unsolved Mysteries. Yet, no one in the
audience was sympathetic to Shermer. One woman even told him
that his behavior was "inappropriate" because he was
destroying people's hopes in their time of grief!!!
I saw Shermer in the same program I saw in Discovery Channel, also for
the first time. I too felt he was talking nonsense, and denying the
obvious. He was repeating the same old triad that we heard ad nauseam
and I perfectly understand why the public was not sympathetic with him,
although my reason for not siding with him are not the feel good factor.
I was not sympathetic with him because I could see in him a religious
zeal and denial that I am too familiar with by now. I was disappointed
to see someone calling himself a skeptic act with so much devotion and
faith. And contrary to your claim, I did not expect to see anything
unusual in Van Praagh’s demonstration. As I said there are more
charlatans around than the real psychics, so my natural reaction was to
catch his bluff. I watched carefully and I was impressed. Now how in the
world you diagnose the reason I think he is genuine when you never saw
the man? And you call yourself a rational person? If your methods are
irrational how can your conclusion be rational?
Again, many famous scientists even do not understand how
psychics use techniques such as warm and cold reading just like
many of us do not know how good magician's magic works.
That is not true at all. There is no magical act that cannot be
understood upon scrutiny or test of the artifacts the magician uses. If
scientists have not been able to understand the “techniques” of some
of the psychics, it is because there is something they can’t
understand. That is the impression I got from watching Van Praagh at
Larry King Live. He was not prying the information as these gentlemen
claim and you believed without even seeing the guy. Some times he was
saying things that are commonsense, like “he sends you his love”.
That is not what I paid attention to. I paid attention to things that
were specific and he had not pried from the caller. There are only two
explanations for that. Those callers were known to him or he has some
You also talked about The Law of Truly Large Numbers. The Law of Truly
Large Numbers cannot explain someone being right 60 or 70 percent of the
times on odds that are one in a thousand. It is wise not to accept
anything until all possible explanations are explored, but when all of
them are explored and you still insist to deny and claim there must be
one that I can’t think of, then you are no more a freethinker but a
dogmatic. This is precisely how the religionists behave.
About Edgar Cayce you wrote:
“Gardner notes that Dr. J. B. Rhine, famous for his ESP
experiments at Duke University, was not impressed with Cayce”
It is interesting that you deny all the thousands of stories reported
about Cayce’s extraordinary ability claiming all of them are anecdotal
but rely on one person’s opinion whose views matches yours and that is
the only view that is not anecdotal. If this is not self deception I
don’t know what it is.
Ironically after that you wrote:
“This is an example of selective thinking. Selective thinking
is the process whereby one selects out favorable evidence for
remembrance and focus, while ignoring unfavorable (common)
evidence for a belief.”
Isn’t your thinking selective? We have thousands of reports from very
honest people, yet to you all that are lies or hallucinations. However,
you state as facts the contradictory opinion (even among each other) of
people who confirm what you already believe. Isn’t that selective
thinking? Remember I said don’t call a kettle black if you are a pot?
|We use to have bad dreams
hundreds of times in our entire life, but how many times our
dream comes true?
I already explained this. If a detective collects a thousand clues and
just one of them is related to the crime, one cannot say this is
We may have many dreams that may mean nothing. If we have just one that
is “prophetic” that is proof that the mind is not limited to the
world of matter. We have more than one such dream. Through the course of
our lives we have hundreds of such dreams. This is clear proof that the
material world is not all there is.
I wrote: “I came to believe that psychic power is not implausible or
incredible. It is a reality. How it works and why is now what I would
like to learn. I have no doubt that it exists.”
You were soon to exclaim:
|"I have no doubt" -
is not a process of critical thinking, Ali. You have to have
doubt in mind, unless you have already came to your own biased
conclusion. How can you be so sure that psychic power exists?
Well, may I ask the same question from you? How can you be sure that
such faculty does not exist? You apparently have never experienced it
yourself but does that mean it does not exist? How can you be so sure?
Please do answer that.
I can answer you why I am sure that the psychic faculty exists. It is
because I experienced it myself. This is the same Descartes logic.
Cogito ergo sum. If I experience something that thing must exist. Now
what is the nature of that thing is to be studied. Is it hallucination,
is it natural phenomenon or is it something different?
There is nothing illogical recognizing the existence of an experience.
Whether the experience is real or imagined is something that can be
discussed. However I see nothing logical in your stance. You simply deny
the experience. You also “have no doubt” that the experience was
imagined and not real.
My certainty of the occurrence of the experience is an acknowledgement
of the experience based on my own observation. Your denial of it or your
“knowing” that all such experiences are hallucinatory is dogma.
Again we see the pot decrying the kettle.
I said psychic ability is not about seeing the winning lottery numbers
and you asked why not. Actually I have to correct myself. You can even
dream of winning lottery numbers. Basically you can dream of anything.
However, the problem is that you are not in control of what you dream.
In my essay, Rational Spirituality, I mentioned an experience I had
while showering. I learned things that were not exactly my questions. I
was just an observer. The experience was not interactive at all. When
you dream you are not in control of what you dream. The images come to
your mind without you having any control over them.
|The testimonial of personal
experience in paranormal or supernatural matters has no
meaningful value. If others cannot experience the same thing
under the same conditions, then there will be no way to verify
the experience. If there is no way to test the claims made, then
there will be no way to tell if the experience was a delusion or
was interpreted correctly.
As I said, this debate is exhausted. We are repeating the same things
over and over without adding any thing new. I already said that this is
a flawed logic. Can you prove that the history of mankind happened the
way it was written?
Also if you already know that the claims of ESP cannot be tested then
what is the meaning of the million dollar challenge? Isn’t this a
clear attempt of deception? On one hand you say this cannot be tested,
which is correct and on the other Mr. Randi offers one million dollars
to anyone who can stand to his test.
The fact is that ESP cannot be tested. It is a feeling, a perception, an
intuition or insight. However not because it can’t be tested it should
be discarded as unreal. The experience is real. What we have to do is to
understand it and make sense of it. The approach of the pseudo
rationalist community is highly irresponsible and dogmatic.
|It's however, quite valid to
use personal experience to illustrate a point; but such
anecdotes don't actually prove anything to anyone. Your friend
may say he met Elvis Priestly or Mahatma Gandhi in the
supermarket, but those who haven't had the same experience will
require more than your friend's anecdotal evidence to convince
We are not asking you to believe in things that you did not experience.
That would be credulity and unreasonable. But it is also unreasonable to
deny things that you did not experience.
On one hand you categorically deny that anything beyond matter exists.
On the other hand you seem to say yes something might exist but since we
can’t test it we can’t accept it. If the latter is your position, I
am in agreement with you. But this is not what I gather from your
writings. It seems that you deny such reality may exist at all. That is
a dogmatic position.
Spoon bending is a magician’s art. This person you are talking about
may call it psychic power or mind over the matter power but that is
because in this way he can impress more people. In reality the mind has
only the power over our own body. Of course our voluntary actions are
originated in our mind. But also the involuntary function of our body is
caused by our mind. We can even heal ourselves with mental power. That
is how placebos or hypnosis work. However mind has no power over spoons
The following is the final response of Avijit
From the very
beginning of his article and responses, Dr. Sina made it very clear that
he was going to do nothing but rehash tired, worn-out inerrancy
arguments that have been repeatedly answered, some of them in earlier of
Aparthib, Randi, Meeker and my responses to clarify the stand. However,
since Dr. Sina subscription began with his own personal experience, and
we can no way verify his claim, here is no point of arguing any more we
can understandably excuse him for not knowing how those alleged
paranormals can be easily explained without violating known naturalistic
We are supposed to be open to changing their minds when presented with
new data and evidence. The reason for skepticism is not because we are
"arrogant" or "pseudo rationalist", rather it is
that we need replicable data and a viable theory, both of which are
missing in Ali's research. The testimonial of personal experience in
claimed paranormal or supernatural matters has no meaningful value to
us. If others cannot experience the same thing under the same
conditions, then there will be no way to verify the experience. If there
is no way to test the claims made, then there will be no way to tell if
the experience was a delusion or was interpreted correctly. If others
can experience the same thing, then it is possible to make a test of the
testimonial and determine whether the claim based on it is worthy of
belief. Randi's challenge is a good way to test. Just repeat your psi
experience(s) and prove that psi exists.
Lastly, I would Like to quote from Carl Sagan to explain the further.
When asked how he would explain a "genuine mystical
experience," Sagan responded: "Your question presupposes the
existence of a genuine mystical experience and I'm not sure what that
is. People have vivid hallucinations. How do you distinguish between
altered states of consciousness? " If someone who has had an
experience that tells us something about the universe that we didn't
know and that later turns out to be true, then we'd have to say, 'My
goodness.' "But that," he said, "would have to be more
than the anecdotal reports that typically are used to support religious
experiences." Before ending, just one comment on Ali:
"I have no doubt" - is not a process of critical
thinking, Ali. You have to have doubt in mind, unless you have
already came to your own biased conclusion. How can you be so
sure that psychic power exists? Well, may I ask the same
question from you? How can you be sure that such faculty does
not exist? You apparently have never experienced it yourself but
does that mean it does not exist? How can you be so sure? Please
do answer that.
may I ask the same question from you? How can you be
sure that such faculty does not exist? You apparently
have never experienced it yourself but does that mean it
does not exist? How can you be so sure? Please do answer
My response: I don't know any skeptics who deny the POSSIBILITY that
psychic power exists, and it would be a very useful tool if it existed.
We can start rescuing abducted children from child molester straight
away, or even prevent it from happening. Communication costs could
probably be reduced too. If Lary Kings father's death can be predicted
successfully, this can be done too. Mind it it is no "loterry"
now. It's a win/win situation, and there's $1 million on offer to get
ESP (or talking to the dead like Praagh can supposedly do) out of the
closet and into our society. One can say he has an experience to meet
Allah, Harculis, Thor or Jesus or whatever and claim in the same tune,
"How can you be sure that such faculty does not exist? You
apparently have never experienced it yourself", what will be my
answer, you guess? Answer will be, "I am not denying the possibilty",
but, "You have to come out substantial proof verifiable by
I will be busy for next couple of weeks. I may not post anything in this
thread further. Thanks for allowing me to participate.
Anytime Muslims fail to come up with logical answers and they sense
defeat they resort to insults. I compared the pseudo rationalists to
religionists and your rude message proves my point.
The first it was this Paul Edwards who from a “fan” turned to a
hostile and arrogant mocker. And now you who feel your best way to save
face is through arrogance. I said it in my previous message that the
discussion is over because everything you write is repletion of what you
and others have said. I do not see any need to answer your last message
either as it too contains nothing new. The only thing new in it is your
I am not at home and I do not have access to my computer. By tomorrow I
will try to post the responses I gave to you and others in this site
orderly and I hope you will provide correct links to all of them.
Once again it becomes clear that the sickness of mankind is belief.
Humanity will not evolve as long as we do not convert from believers to