Leaving Islam




For the complete debate with materialists see this list

The Self Deception of a Materialist 

The following is a response to Avijit Roy's defense of Materialism 

Dear Avijdit,

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 discussed.

You wrote:
“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 exclusive.

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 the heading:

“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 proof.

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 of dreams.

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 piece:

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.

You wrote:

“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 unimpressive."

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 objective? 

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 objective evaluation.

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.

You wrote:
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 perfect.”

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 unexplainable ability.

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?

You wrote:
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 selective sampling.

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.

You wrote:
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 them.

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 or keys.

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 laws.

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 said:

"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.

Ali Said,


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.

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 others".

I will be busy for next couple of weeks. I may not post anything in this thread further. Thanks for allowing me to participate.


Avijit Roy

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 arrogance.

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 doubters






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