I’ve often been dumbstruck by the similarities between hardcore materialists and religious fundamentalists. Along these lines, Neal Grossman wrote:
One of my earliest encounters with this kind of academic irrationality occurred more than twenty years ago. I was devouring everything on the near-death experience I could get my hands on, and eager to share what I was discovering with colleagues. It was unbelievable to me how dismissive they were of the evidence. “Drug-induced hallucinations,” “last gasp of a dying brain,” and “people see what they want to see” were some of the more commonly used phrases. One conversation in particular caused me to see more clearly the fundamental irrationality of academics with respect to evidence against materialism:
I asked, “What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?”
“Oh,” came the reply, “they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format.”
“Well,” I responded, “what about cases where people report veridical perception of events remote from their body?”
“Oh, that’s just a coincidence or a lucky guess.”
Exasperated, I asked, “What will it take, short of having a near-death experience yourself, to convince you that it’s real?”
Very nonchalantly, without batting an eye, the response was: “Even if I were to have a near-death experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain.”
He went on to add that dualism—the philosophical thesis that mind and matter are independent substances, neither of which can be reduced to the other—is a false theory and that there cannot be evidence for something that is false. This was a momentous experience for me, because here was an educated, intelligent man telling me that he will not give up materialism, no matter what. -Neal Grossman, Who’s Afraid of Life After Death
Later in the piece, Grossman coins the term fundamaterialist to describe such people. I almost wet myself! I may not agree with all of Neal’s conclusions in the paper, but he sure hit the nail on the head there. Grossman continues:
Now, the term “irrational” has a wide range of mean- ings, and there is no doubt room for differences of opinion with respect to what consti- tutes irrational and illogical thinking. But everyone agrees that the domain of rational discourse is structured by basic rules of logic. Those who, while defending their own cherished beliefs, violate these rules may be fairly said to be behaving irrationally. Fun- damaterialists, like fundamentalists, are so self-righteously certain of the truth of their beliefs, that they are often blind to the elementary logical errors they commit in defense of their beliefs…
Why is it the case that otherwise rational people, when it comes to discussing empirical evidence for dualism, cheerfully commit all sorts of logical errors—errors that they would never let their students or colleagues get away with. I think there are three interrelated factors, or causes, that converge to generate academia’s collective irrationality with respect to this issue: (a) resistance to paradigm change, (b) intellectual arrogance, and (c) social taboo…
It seems there is something very deep in us humans that causes us to dismiss and ridicule any way of thinking different from our own. There is a natural resistance to forms of thinking that differs from what was internalized during the educational process…
Academic philosophers matriculate within a paradigm that is largely atheistic, materialistic, and reductionistic. There is no God; only material objects and processes exist; and human experience and behavior are to be explicated mechanically in terms of brain states. Books with the terms “mind” or “consciousness” in their title, for example, tend to have as their primary goal the reduction of mental and conscious experience to neurophysiology. To one who has internalized this paradigm, this way of approaching things appears to be right, reasonable, objective, and sensible. The paradigm itself is rarely questioned; it is the very water in which the academic philosopher swims, which is why it is so difficult for one who is immersed in the paradigm to see it as a paradigm, rather than as the way things “must be.” Someone operating out of a different paradigm appears to be out of touch with reality, irrational, and so forth.
Lastly, the clencher:
For the fundamaterialists and debunkers would have us believe that the burden of proof is on us to first disprove every alternative hypothesis they can imagine.
Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? This is nearly word-for-word what I’ve been saying to various skeptics in recent discussions on NDE and other things. I tip my next beer–God willing–to you, Neal Grossman.