Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The curious case of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

My intent here is to show that most Christians and Muslims (et. al.) are deeply and profoundly hypocritical when it comes to what they accept as claims and evidence.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba of India claimed to be God until his death only in 2011, tens of thousands of miracles are attributed to him (including raising the dead, appearing to his followers after his death, appearing in distant locations instantly, producing objects including their holy ash, vibhuti). There are literally millions of living eye-witnesses to these "miracles". So we have the benefit of knowing with unquestionable certainty that this individual actually existed and claimed to be God and what the claims of his followers are.

If you reject that evidence and accept anything lesser (such as the mere claims from the Bible or Quran) then you are an intellectual hypocrite - there is no way around that that I can see.

You can say you feel emotionally that the 1 god out of thousands you've decided to believe in is the real one, but that is all you have at the end of the day.

We know for a fact that human testimony and subjective experience can be extremely unreliable, especially under altered states of consciousness in which "personal experiences" happen (see cognitive biases, memory biases, logical fallacies, etc).

And you would think that a God would know better than to rely on such extremely unreliable testimony.

And unless you believe that EVERY religion is completely true in its foundation then you must understand, on some level, that just because a group of people start believing something does NOT make it true -- especially when it comes to deeply superstitious and supernatural claims.

The human brain is wired by evolution to accept false positive detection of intention and agency.

The 'skeptic' who waited around to see if the rustle in the bushes was really a predator/enemy didn't tend to fair very well. And when there was a rustle and you figured out there was no animal you then would misattribute it to some other invented agency, ancestors or spirits and eventually gods -- precisely because we know that we falsely attribute agency where there is none.

That works out fine for our hunter-gatherer ancestors (more or less) but it is inexcusable to KNOW these things and ignore them and fail to account for them in your epistemology and claim about reality.

A couple of more quick points to consider...

I ask Christians to read 1 Kings 18 and ask themselves if they *really* believe they could set bull meat on fire with prayer and if they failed to do so, should they then be slaughtered as their holy book claims was done to others?

And before you come back with any moral arguments you'll first need to account for why the Bible clearly endorses slavery and never once condemns the practice and why the Bible never speaks on the age of consent and indeed, has numerous relationships we would today label as illegal conduct with underage children.

Then ask yourself, since it is lacking in the Bible, how is it that you come to know that an adult having sex with a child is wrong? Is it possible that you ARE able to make moral determinations even when you are lacking a directive from on high?

What we do know is that our sense of empathy for others is absolutely critical for the advancement of our ability to live in larger groups (and we can see in those lacking empathy that they are sociopathic or psychopathic).

People often incorrectly view 'natural selection' as cutthroat -- but if you actually look at nature you'll find EVERYWHERE evidence of symbiosis (your cells only work because of a symbiotic relationship with mitocondria), cooperation, and interdependence because these traits allow the whole to be greater than the mere sum of the parts.