The Instigator
Cliff.Stamp
Con (against)
Winning
8 Points
The Contender
tigg13
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

The existence of personal witness of the holy spirit is an an empirically falsifiable fact

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,524 times Debate No: 15592
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (2)

 

Cliff.Stamp

Con

This debate stems from a forum discussion :

http://www.debate.org...

To clarify :

Empirical falsifiability is as defined by Popper[1]. To affirm the resolution then one would have to design an experiment which would produce a set of observations which would refute any personal witness of the holy spirit.

Witness of the holy spirit is personal revelation of the divine, spelled out in some detail by William Lane Craig one of the more prominent Christian apologists [2]

"By that I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premiss in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as "God exists," "I am condemned by God," "I am reconciled to God," "Christ lives in me," and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity's truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it. "

[1] http://www.stephenjaygould.org...

[2] http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
tigg13

Pro

First, I would like to thank my opponent for giving me this opportunity.

Given the description of divine or personal witnessing, as provided, wherein it states that it "does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence", and " that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity's truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit", it seems clear that the fundamental test for such an experience would be to ask, "Do you believe it was what it appeared to be?"

If the subject isn't convinced, if he or she has any doubts or is unsure, then the experience has been falsified.

Note that the question should not be, "Do you believe in God?", or "Do you accept Christ as your savior?" or other questions of this sort because one could accept that the experience is valid and still reject God. As Dr. Craig put it, "the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable)".

So, if the subject is totally and completely convinced that they have indeed experienced a personal witnessing of a divine entity then, for them, it is a fact. The empirical evidence was the experience itself.

For everyone who didn't experience what the subject experienced, though, there needs to be some supplemental evidence as they are not privy to the empirical evidence themselves. This evidence would need to be obtained through a battery of tests designed to show that something other than contact with a divine being was responsible for the subject's experience. These tests would include CAT scans, MRI s, EEG s and blood tests along with other possible procedures and those performing the test should look for the symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson's, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's alcoholism, drug addiction and the possible presence of neurotoxins or other environmental sources.

If the subject tests positive for any of these possibilities and, after treating or removing this source, the experiences quit happening, then the experience has been falsified.

But, what if the subject had only one experience? How do we know that the condition or disease isn't a coincidence? Any reasonable person would, when confronted with evidence of a mental disorder or disease, would have to doubt that there experience was real, thus proving it to be false.

So what happens if no natural or external sources can be found or once found and eliminated, the experiences continue? Well, there's still one other test that needs to be done – a lie detector test.

I count myself fortunate that, just today, I received a letter (addressed to resident) from Saint Matthews Churches containing my very own prayer rug (an 81/2" x 17" piece of paper with a picture of Jesus on it) and instructions telling me to kneel on the rug, pray for all the things I want, mail the rug back to them (along with a modest donation) and wait for God to give me everything I wished for. It also included a pamphlet containing stories from people who have followed these instructions and swear that they got everything they prayed for. Now I'm certain that few, if any of these people would test positive for any sort of disorder, but I doubt any of them would pass a lie detector test.

www.saintmatthewschurches.com
http://www.houstonpress.com...

So, if the subject's honesty and integrity are intact, they are of sound mind and body and they are confident that they're experiences are valid, then it should be considered to be a fact that it happened.
Debate Round No. 1
Cliff.Stamp

Con

"So, if the subject is totally and completely convinced that they have indeed experienced a personal witnessing of a divine entity then, for them, it is a fact. The empirical evidence was the experience itself."

In short, as with most of the response by Pro, this is an argument for knowledge in spite of lack of empirical evidence. Now one could argue that divine witness can be a true belief, or knowledge - but this is not at all the same as asserting that the event can be empirically falsified as noted by Popper.

By definition empirical evidence is that which can be sensed, meaning it can be measured[1]. An individual who has a personal (by definition subjective) divine experience of the messenger/voice of God can not claim to have empirical evidence simply because they had an experience they have to have measured it.

Note clearly this is only the first step because the resolution does not simply state the event is empirical it notes that it can be empirically falsified. To prove that witness of the holy spirit is empirically falsifiable Pro has to

-Note what measures the manifestation of the holy spirit and what is being measured

-The metric, this means the thing that quantifies the measuring (produces a number)

-An experiment (a set of conditions by which anyone can replicate the event and perform the measurement)

-The results of the experiment (the measurements) by which the observer can tell if the witness happened or it did not happen

This is of course the very familiar verification/falsification part of the scientific method which is founded on inductive empiricism.

So for example, to empirically falsify gravitational attraction :

-The measurement is of the attraction between the two masses which has a direction and a magnitude (it is a vector)

-The metric is force which is measured in Newtons (SI units) by any number of probes

-A experiment can be as simple as to drop an object of a known weight

-The observations will be the speed of the object during the fall, and gravitational attraction is falsified if the speed as a function of time does not produce a=g.

This is what is needed to show an event is empirically falsifiable.

[1] http://sociologyindex.com...
tigg13

Pro

I would like to begin this round by pointing out that my opponent's ground rules did not include the definition for empirical evidence that he linked to in round 2. This is not the definition that I would use for a discussion of this sort. Instead I would prefer the following:

http://wiki.answers.com...

My opponent provided an example of what he would consider to be the proper way to empirically falsify a claim. I would like to provide an example of my own to demonstrate my point of view.

I claim that Mickey Mantle hit 536 career home runs.

Now if I were to test this claim by going up to several people and asking "Can you say for a fact that Mickey Mantle did not hit 536 career home runs?' I doubt that anyone would say yes. This would seem to verify my claim, but this is exactly what Karl Poppler described as an unscientific test. Poppler, according to the text my opponent provided, states that, in order for a claim to be scientific it must be tested in a manner that is designed to refute the claim. Nowhere does he say that these tests need or require metrics or measurements.

The experiment that I would conduct in this case would be to consult a valid and respected reference guide that lists historical baseball statistics.[1] Note that this test has the required risk factor as the guide may show that Mickey Mantle's career home run total may not be 536. As I read the statistics, I am directly observing the results that will either prove or refute my claim. The answer will either be true or false with no middle ground upon which to make any measurements.

Likewise, the test that I presented in round one - to ask, "Do you believe it was what it appeared to be?" - is a simple true or false question. Now Con has indicated that because we are talking about a personal experience, which he contends must be, by definition, subjective, that it cannot be measured empirically. But according to the definition by Dr. Craig that Con provided, the subject doesn't just experience the event subjectively but objectively as well. Thus his personal experience would be an empirical observation of the experience and he would either be certain it was real (true) or not certain (false). In other words, according to Dr. Craig, in order for the experience to be a true witnessing of the Holy Spirit, the subject must be objectively certain that it is an actual experience of the Holy Spirit. If there is any doubt at all, it is not, by Dr Craig's definition, a true divine experience.

Since either answer is possible, this meets Poppler's criteria for being falsifiable, and thus, scientific. And, because the results are obtained by direct observation it is, technically, empirical.

[1] http://www.baseball-almanac.com...
Debate Round No. 2
Cliff.Stamp

Con

"I would like to begin this round by pointing out that my opponent's ground rules did not include the definition for empirical evidence that he linked to in round 2."

That is a fairly strong assertion, note the reference in the above is actually devoted specifically to defining what it means to be empirical. A direct quote :

"I often formulated my problem as one of distinguishing between a genuinely empirical method and a non-empirical or even pseudo-empirical method — that is to say, a method which, although it appeals to observation and experiment, nevertheless does not come up to scientific standards."

In short, Popper extended empiricism to be that which is falsifiable, he was not content to have simply observation or experiment but demanded falsifiability be implicit. For Popper it was like saying tuna fish, obviously tuna is a fish, you don't need to say tuna fish as you can not buy tuna chicken (unless you are Jessica Simpson[1]).

So empirical evidence to Popper was that which is observed and is falsifiable. But Popper's view was (and still is) challenged and thus we speak of empirical falsification and not simply falsification or empirical evidence. We still have to note it explicitly (especially if we are actually talking to Jessica Simpson).

"The experiment that I would conduct in this case would be to consult a valid and respected reference guide that lists historical baseball statistics."

If someone could observe through the senses the data needed to verify the claim then it would be considered to be empirically verified indeed. Since the specific claim is one what can be verified through sight this satisifes the definition of empirical and thus a well kept record of these visual observations which are verified by many capable observers would indeed be empirical evidence.

"Thus his personal experience would be an empirical observation of the experience and he would either be certain it was real (true) or not certain (false)."

From Pro's own reference :

"Derived from naturalistic observation or from experimental procedures."

Pro has to thus show what natural observation can be used to verify the claim and be very specific that the claim happened and not something else. Note of course terms like metric are not required for trivial visual observations (home run) as the metric is obvious. These terms only come into use when the claim gets non-trivial and it has to be defined what is being sensed and how exactly can we measure that to ensure that is actually the thing being claimed and not something else.

Note still, that the resolution is even more specific. Even if Pro could actually define the natural observation which is specific to the holy spirit (which is no small feat) - they still are not even close to affirming the resolution because of the very particular (and extremely intentional) way in which it was phrased. Consider carefully :

"The existence of personal witness of the holy spirit is an an empirically falsifiable fact"

Note in particular,

"The existence of ..."

Lets assume Pro claims to have witness of the holy spirit but they are unable to provide the natural observation of such. Would that actually falsify the existence of personal witness, of course not, it would only at most note that Pro could not empirically verify their claim only, not that the thing itself as a general event does not exist. Again to refute the claim in general we are back to experiment and again we await the experiment which can generate divine witness and the way to naturally observe it which is it and nothing else.

[1]
tigg13

Pro

I am disappointed to find that I have apparently been duped. Here I thought that my opponent was providing me with an honest and arguable debate and now I learn that he was simply setting me up with a logically inarguable position.

Instead of debating whether or not a given claim of divine witnessing can be falsified, Con now claims that, what I was supposed to do was to disprove the existence of divine witnessing altogether. In other words, he expects me to prove a negative.

I'm sorry that I didn't realize what Con was up to sooner. I'm not sure what upsets me more, my gullibility or his dishonesty.

If this is the extent to which he is willing to go in order to feed his desire to be seen as correct, then I will forfeit.

I have no desire to waste my time in this matter.
Debate Round No. 3
Cliff.Stamp

Con

As noted clearly in the opening, this debate stemmed from :

http://www.debate.org...

where Pro argued that evidence commonly used by theists such as witness of the holy spirit is actually empirical in nature and can be falsified. This was part of a claim by Pro that all evidence had to be empirical in order to be considered evidence, an outdated approach to knowledge which is known as positivism, extended to logical positivism when it includes reason. As one of the main proponents of positivism has noted :

"I suppose the most important [defect]...was that nearly all of it was false."

Yes the resolution is false, obviously that was the claim being made - hence Con.

However consider for example "The existence of hyper-mass particles due to high energy string vibrations is an empirically falsifiable fact". This resolution is true because all that has to be done is generate energies of which string theory theory predicts that the string vibrations would generate much higher mass versions of elementary particles. If these energies are generated and the particles are not measured then of course the theory is falsified through empirical measurement.

In opposition, it is not possible to produce an experiment which would force the holy spirit to manifest and in such a way that the manifest would be observable through empirical means - of course it should be obvious that this is true because such an experiment would answer the question does God exist and some fairly great minds have struggled with that, and will continue to struggle because by definition the holy spirit is outside of measurement it is not constrained by definition to the physical reality we can observe.

[1] Hanfling, Oswald (2003). "Logical Positivism". Routledge History of Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 193f.
tigg13

Pro

I had always framed this issue in regards to any given claim of divine witnessing and the only point I made was that any given experience can be proven to be false. I never claimed that divine witnessing itself was impossible, only that it had yet to be substantiated.

I cannot believe that he would not have ascertained my position and I can only assume that his goal was to make me run in circles while intentionally ignoring what it was I was trying to say.

I am insulted by his disrespect and dismayed at his maliciousness.

Please vote for Con. I doubt his ego could survive it if you didn't.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
"I am insulted by his disrespect and dismayed at his maliciousness.

Please vote for Con. I doubt his ego could survive it if you didn't."

Don't worry, Dark Jesus forgives you.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Nice round tigg.
Posted by tigg13 5 years ago
tigg13
Well, I would agree with you on that point. In fact, I tend towards the idea that objective truth, while extremely probable, is ultimately unknowable - all we can ever really know is our own subjective experience. Sooner or later, though, we have to make some assumptions about which experiences we should treat as true and which we shouldn't and build on those truths as though they are objectively true; else we throw out all reason and knowledge and spend the rest of our lives in the fetal position.

To answer your question about whether God does not exist if He does not reveal Himself, I'd say lack of evidence only shows a lack of evidence. God may exist and simply choose not to make His existence known. But even if said God did exist, if there isn't verifiable evidence of His existence, then there's no reason to believe in Him.

If you have an experience that convinces you that a given fact is true, then that experience is your evidence . But, because experiences are subjective, just because you are convinced that the fact is true doesn't mean that it is true - which is why nobody else ought to treat it as evidence.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
No worries, that is exactly why I put it up as a debate as it would clarify the points a little. One of the foundational points I was making was that knowledge can come from a pure subjective source, and fundamentally, it is even arguable that everything is subjective anyway. Consider for example how do you really know that an objective truth is objective, i.e., that reality exists outside of your perception. My general argument would be similar to - if God does not reveal itself in a way which can be verified through empiricism then does that mean God does not exist? Note that knowledge only comes from empiricism and/or reason, logical positivism, is not a popular current epistemological perspective .
Posted by tigg13 5 years ago
tigg13
I think we were talking past each other somewhere.

When you included divine witnessing as evidence I assumed you were talking about whether some other person's experience would be convincing. This is why I phrased my example in terms of "If I told you I had an experience would you believe me?" I honestly didn't even consider the idea of personal experience as evidence.

I'm going to have to reread our discussion with this in mind and see where else I was missing your point.

Even so, I think I could still argue the Pro side of this debate as you have outlined it but I'll need a little time to reevaluate the circumstances.
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
Tigg13, we can discuss the resolution here or in the thread.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RougeFox 5 years ago
RougeFox
Cliff.Stamptigg13Tied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con did win. Pro didn't link to his position. Also, bad conduct. You lost.
Vote Placed by m93samman 5 years ago
m93samman
Cliff.Stamptigg13Tied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: The debate began to fall apart with Pro's round 2. I'm voting for Con because he won, not because his ego would explode if I voted otherwise.