Re: Debunking Synchronicity

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Fri Jul 13 2001 - 02:43:59 MDT

Lee Corbin wrote:
> I had asked,
> > > Samantha and Amara have defended spirituality, synchronicity,
> > > and (I think) religiosity. I want to get down to the truth
> > > of what's really going on here.
> > >
> > > 1. Why do some people gladly debunk what they see as clear
> > > falsehoods where others, equally skeptical, don't want to?
> Samantha provided the helpful answer
> > b) perhaps we don't consider skepticism inherently and
> > unquestionably true or good for all purposes.
> Would you elaborate? Now I'll admit that there are many ordinary
> day-to-day situations in life where *speaking* skeptically isn't
> to the point, e.g., your boss tells a funny but highly improbable
> story, your brother tells your sister that the meatloaf was
> superb, or you visit a friend's church just out of curiosity.

Skepticism as a philosophical position holds that doubting
everything is good and further that there is no reason to really
believe much of anything. Most "skeptics" don't go that far. I
don't believe science and critical inquiry that affirms only
scientific methodology has a good handle on the many things that
simply are not addressed by science like values and ethics,
esthetics, qualia and so on.

> But I care a lot about what I think, and I can't think of any
> reason not to have a skeptical attitude about what is and what
> is not to be believed. You probably also care a lot about what
> you think. Don't you ALWAYS want to be skeptical of memes as
> you encounter them?
> > > 2. Why do the latter embrace terms, e.g., "spirituality" and
> > > "synchronicity" overwhelmingly used by people who mean
> > > things completely different from them?
> > > About the latter question, there is no shortage of words and
> > > phrases in English to distinguish shades of belief. Articulate
> > > people could easily always find suitable substitution phrases---
> > > but they didn't do so, and mostly resist doing so. Why?
> > Because what I am speaking of is spiritual in the truest sense I
> > know and to call it anything else is imho improper. It is also
> > essential if one is to reclaim spirituality from the worst of
> > the luddites and from the conceptual shrinking it into something
> > easily dismissed that too easily misses and disowns what I
> > believe is important in it.
> I don't think that terms are often worth fighting for. But I will
> wax sympathetic here by giving a very parallel case of my own,
> where, perhaps it turns out that I'm doing the same thing as
> you are---or perhaps not.

If I didn't think the area referred to contains vastly important
actualities and possibilities I wouldn't fight for it either.

> I think that it's best to admit that we have "free will". True,
> I am a strict materialist who thinks even people and complex
> computer programs are entirely mechanical. So why "free will".
> I say that it's simply easist to go on saying that we have free
> will---and so does an extremely complicated program when it
> weighs a lot of evidence and finally comes to a decision, because
> as soon as we start saying that we *do not* have free will, we
> are beset by all sorts of difficulties.

I am not sure even in my most materialistic periods that I
believed that anything much is "entirely mechanical". I can't
attach a lot of semantic meaning to that phrase. It seems like
something that went out with Newtonian physics. The universe is
build up from some pretty un-mechanical (in the sense of being
pretty unpredictable in detail although so in aggregate -
generally speaking). Chaotic systems are not exactly
classically mechanical. Beings who incorporate states that we
have very little (so far) understanding of and act from them and
even wierder things within qualia sure don't look very
mechanical or behave very mechanically. A system that makes
choices among complex alternatives and generates new
alternatives based on the manifold of its knowledge, goals,
desires and so on is extremely unpredictable and full of
surpises. I have a hard time calling that "mechanical". As we
cark ourselves into greater intelligences and open up ever more
possibilities for ourselves is all that change and all of those
new options and which ones which of us will explore when and how
all mechanically determined? If so then it is fatuously so
because it lends little to our ability to understand what is or
will be. It is almost one of those unfalsfiable theories.

> Now (thinking out loud here) is your case parallel? Perhaps it
> is. Right now I can't think of why it's not. Can anyone?

Not sure as I'm not sure of the parallel you are drawing. I
hold spirituality both because I find it very beneficial
personally and believe it is can or will be beneficial more
globally and because I personally experience much of what is
within it as deeply true.
> > > Now a semanticist might retort, "because the term in question
> > > has so many favorable semantic links, that it's very useful
> > > for the purposes of communication". But if this were the case,
> > > then you'd see people who use terms like "God", "spirituality",
> > > and "synchronicity" qualifying their remarks. In other words,
> > > the terms would always be followed by words like "in the sense
> > > of...", or "-like", or surrounded by scare-quotes. But it
> > > doesn't happen. Why?
> Whenever I mention free will, it is ALWAYS in a context that
> allows me to thoroughly separate myself from people who believe
> in souls, and I vigorously criticize non-materialist beliefs
> as I do so.

I don't see how that is particularly necessary to pointing out
the obvious value of freewill beliefs and its probably factual

> That's maybe what is not parallel in our cases. Do you actively
> separate yourself from all those "luddites" as you called them,
> by also ALWAYS disparaging their beliefs while putting forth
> your own about "spirituality"?

I don't find "disparaging" their beliefs very fruitful often.
What I attempt to do instead is to show how what is really
important to them in their beliefs leads to different
conclusions than they might have had before or in the case of
their hopes and dreams for a better life and such, how those
hopes can be actually fulfilled rather than just hoped and
prayed for. Not that I have anything against at least some
types of prayer. They can knit together a person's
understanding, acceptance and determination and so on when done
in some fruitful ways. So no, I don't go out of my way to
disparage others.

I count on what I am saying and doing to distance myself from
others who consider themselves spiritual but who are doing
things that are actually pretty befuddled at best and filled
with hatred and bigotry at worse. Where I can get an audience I
try to show them that their own religion doesn't actually call
for or justify such actions and stances and attempt to get them
to look again.

Now sometimes it is necessary to say that what some of them is
doing is evil and wrong-headed and to make no bones about that.
But for it to be effective you must also understand their world
a bit and say it in a way that penetrates that world.

When I was in my teens and a freshly minted uber-atheist, I used
to spend a lot of time trying to persuade people of the error of
their ways. I found that with a lot of patience and empathy
many people can be at least partially reached that you would not
think could be.
If I came on hard instead of starting where they were and
working out from that I got immediately cut-off from

But sometimes the best of them would say, "You've shown me a lot
I can't argue with but in my heart I still believe I must follow
this way although I will probably follow it differently now".
At the time I look at that as being stubborn and irrational.
Now I am not so sure.

- samantha

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