Calling all skeptics, logicians, scientists, and the just plain cynical.

Inspired by this thread.

I have had cause in my life to feel the mysterious and mystical. I often have no explanation except those that come about by testing the bounds of logic to a straining point. Surely, in any given life one experiences certain personal events that are both inexplicable and beyond the bounds of science, or at the very least beyond current scientific understanding. Even the hardest skeptic or scientific mind must be moved occasionally and question the nature of reality and one’s place in the universe in more or less mystical terms according to meaningful circumstance. This is the human experience…

I am not looking to be contentious, but rather I want to hear your experiences. Hopefully, this will be a thread to share deeper meaning. Anything that is outside of the order, that which gives you pause and stirs emotion. Where and how does life draw you closer to its mystery?

Are you saying you want skeptics *et al * to share their inexplicable life experiences? They have none. That’s why they’re skeptical.

I’ve certainly had things screw up on my computer at work that can’t be explained, but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. I’ve never personally seen a ghost, UFO, or any actual occurence of magic, other than the performance kind. I’ve never had a religious experience because I’m not religious. My skeptical nature prevents that sort of stuff from happening, I guess.

I’d have to say the closest I’ve come to seeing anything inexplicable is martial arts demonstrations. A friend of mine broke a 2 x 4 seemingly by just touching it with his foot. He broke a cement block with his head as well. He also claimed he could increase his body weight by muscle contraction, but I couldn’t tell any difference when I picked him up. I once worked with a part-time pastor who said he studied karate once but had to give it up because because it countered his Christian beliefs.

A lot of these phenomena get veracity because the observer wants to believe it true. The observer will purposely skew a fact or two to achieve this end. What one observer sees can mean something totally different to another. You see a UFO, I see a flying hubcap.

I am a deeply spiritual person, and have often felt “the mysterious and the mystical.” But here’s the thing - my feeling them and reporting them will do nothing at all to change the ideas of the skeptical. Why? Because I can never communicate the true feeling involved, and it’s the feeling that makes it mysterious.

Without the feeling, you have: a. coincidence b. mistakes or c. electric or seritonic reactions in the brain d. delusions e. hysteria or f. simple cause and effect
which can account for everything that can possibly happen and quite a few things that can’t.

Can I be assured that my feeling of peace and oneness with the universe isn’t the result of a temporary excess of seritonin creating nerve impulses which my brain interprets as euphoria? Well, no, I can’t. In fact, I accept that that’s what’s going on. On the other hand I FEEL that Creator made those synapses in my brain so that I could FEEL Its presence. Can my sharing my experience convince someone else? No. They don’t feel what I feel.

Could they be right and nothing at all created those synapses? Sure. Do we have any compelling evidence on one side or the other? Not really. So I’ll live in my little “delusional state” because it makes me happier to do so. When I suffer a crisis of faith and don’t believe, I feel like crap. So I choose to believe. I choose to believe that my feeling like crap is Creator’s signal to me that I’m not doing what I should be doing, and I get myself back on track. Simple enough for me.

Same thing for the ghosts, spirits and elementals I work with. Could they be a projection or hallucination I’m experiencing because of mental illness or random synapse firing? Sure. But when I do certain things in response to what I percieve as their actions, I feel better. Reminds me of The Old Man in The Shack: “It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat.”

As long as I refrain from harming anyone (or myself) in the process or using up resources others need, I don’t see why it should matter to anyone else. I’m not a great fan of prostletyzing, even by atheists and agnostics. I suppose, in the most literal sense, I’m an agnostic, as I freely admit I can’t know the status of Divinity. But in a practical sense, I’m a very spiritual person and believe in the existence of a Divine.

No, not really.

I often find the universe thrilling, but not in a mystical way. I love looking a tall tree and thinking about the crazy evolutionary arms race that drove it to put its photoreceptors 100 feet off the ground. I love watching my kids’ cognative skills unfold like blooming flowers. I love going to a museum and seeing a 5000-year-old piece of pottery with the sculptor’s thumbprint still visible in the clay.

I find people who are wrapped up in mysticism kind of sad. It’s like someone who spends their whole life watching soap operas on TV. You want to shout “Come outside and play in the sunlight!”

I’ve only lived about 1/3 of my (potential) given life. But I tell you what: if anything inexplicable or beyond the bounds of science happens to me in the next 66 years, I’ll write about it here. :wink:

I’m a scientist and a skeptic, and of course, there have been moments when I’ve been awed by what I’ve seen or heard or learned. Such as the first time I laid eyes on the Grand Canyon! And sure, I’ve questioned “the nature of reality” and have read as much as I can on the best ideas (scientific and otherwise) out there on this question. And out of all this I’ve formed my own opinions on my place in the universe. It’s this … don’t overthink it. You’re here and I’m here as the by-product of an incredible cumulation of chance events. In the grand scheme of things, everyone is pretty insignificant. But in each of our own lives, we can have significance for those around us – to offer friendship and fellowship, to be good parents, to do good work, to leave the world in a better way for those around us. And you know what? I even pray sometimes, even when every rational part of me says that no one’s listening.

It seems that you’re missing the whole point of having a scientific or skeptical mind, which is that for such a mind “mysterious” does not translate into “mystical.”

I am struck with awe when I comprehend how huge the Universe is, and when I think that we, all of us, and all the people and all things we will ever touch and hold and care about, are a thin scum on the surface of a big ball of rock. I’m amazed that we, nothing more than an organized bunch of chemicals, can wander around, eating popsicles, writing dirty poetry on walls with magic marker, building baseball stadiums and cathedrals and rocket ships, wondering whether it’s time to refinance our home mortgages, and making more of ourselves. The human race has grown up from unthinking animals, and will probably die out, unmourned, all in a blink of the geological eye, and be replaced by . . . what? Something as different from as as we are different form the dinosaurs, surely.

But none of that gives me a desire to invent some kind of supernatural explanation for it all. To do so would be to deny the single most frustrating, painful, hopeful, thought-provoking, inspiring, beautiful thing about the Universe: the fact that it follows natural laws. It unfailingly, consistently, indifferently follows a set of rules, and—perhaps this is the most amazing thing of all—we have one and a half kilograms of fatty tissue that can actually figure those laws out.

So why do we turn our backs on this fact and declare that the mysterious is mystical? Why do we call the unexplained supernatural, and relish the idea that there is something beyond all natural laws and thus beyond our intellectual capacity? Even when, again and again and again, we find natural explanations for phenomena that were once thought to be the whim of the gods, the work of demons, or visitations from another world, people still inexplicably foster a belief that there’s some special, powerful thing that lies always just beyond our intellectual limits but which, for some reason, is intimately connected to us. Why? I just don’t get it.

Exactly! Nor does “unexplained” mean the same as “unexplainable.” A good point that I neglected to include in my own reply. :slight_smile:

You do realize that people with mystical experiences probably express the same pity towards you.
Re: OP. I would think that ego-death is probably the most common mystical experience. What it means, who knows.

I **know ** they do. But I suspect very few of them realize that it’s reciprocated. “Poor atheists. How dreary the world must be for them!” is a fairly common sentiment.

Well said.

I think I understand that feeling - it would be a boring universe if we understood it completely, and I’m glad there are things in the universe we can’t explain. I’d try to explain it, of course, and I know that eventually it will be completely explained, which is what disqualifies me as a mystic. But in the meantime I’m happy that there’s a seemingly inexhaustible supply of mysteries in this universe.

I’m a fairly skeptical person. That doesn’t mean I never experience anything I can’t explain, but it does mean I don’t jump to far-fetched conclusions, no matter how popular they might be. Once in my life, I saw a UFO. I saw an object moving through the sky in such a way that I was convinced it was not an aircraft, satellite or other commonplace thing. It was quite literally an unidentified flying object. But my skeptical nature means that I didn’t immediately assume it was an alien spacecraft. I just know it was something unusual that I still can’t explain. And that’s fine. I’m OK with saying, “I don’t know.” I guess that’s why I’m an agnostic. Heh…

When it comes to skepticism vs. mysticism, I find the the Bad Astronomer’s recent words say it best.

Once again we get down to the same question that is running through three current threads and I would imagine lots of old ones. As we have stated before, and I say this not wanting to set Liberal off: We cannot prove that science and mathematics are discovered or invented. To me, contemplating how a tree grows from a biological sense is sterile and sometimes has nothing to do with what is important about it. So all these people expressing this Carl Sagan-like wild-eyed wonder at the world because they can apply their artificial slide rule to it really doesn’t prove anything to me other than they are trying really hard to express the same wonder the mystical inspires. Gee Whiz! When I see these accounts I imagine something like this:

“It’s amazing to me that man is able to create things with science like the hydrogen bomb and Viagra.”

It is truly taken on faith that our current beliefs based on science will hold for any longer than the immediate future. My basis for believing this is outlined in some of the writings in those threads I spoke of earlier. If you choose to disregard these beliefs on the basis of “only science can explain the world” then you are as close-minded as a Torqueamada. It is taken on faith that no God exists as well as the belief that He does.

Now science doesn’t explain one thing for me. It has the “what” and “how” to some degree but not the “why.” I don’t understand how believing in sheer chance is not something taken on faith. Science for me cannot explain away something that St. Thomas Aquinas implied in his ontological proofs for the existence of God or a higher intelligence. First in my mind is that everything can be explained by cause and effect. What was the first cause? Aquinas says that this is God. Science says that it’s the Big Bang. My question is, what was before the Big Bang? What caused this to simply BE? How is the Big Bang easier to believe than a God being that God in the past was reasoned from what was taken for absolute truth in the same way science reasons the Big Bang. Both are self-referencing and therefore true per se.

The only thing we can know is that we exist, ourselves (speaking for myself). Reality seems to be perceived through the senses. I can only express what simply feels right to me. My belief is that goodness is something to be strived for in and of itself because it is the basis for what is real. There is no light without darkness, along with a million other binary comparisons, but there is truth without a lie. I perceive the truth (reality) subjectively and this exists in my mind without there having to be a lie to distinguish it from. Other than this, things of this world gain existence in time by their position between the two poles of something and its opposite. Is time itself existence? I’m not really sure.

Or could it be that the universe is something that diverges from the metaphysical and in such allows an infinity of variations and possibilities? All of this leads me to believe that what we believe is what is real. Now, for some reason, I myself cannot alter reality, so I believe that there are rules to this reality that is if I was omnipotent, the variation in the world would decline. So the rules are in place to allow existence. It is my belief that there are some sort of rules (that are impossible or very hard to disobey) to the universe to preserve the integrity of the place. If you were able to have or do anything your mind would fall apart. Suppose that mind was omnipotent, wouldn’t it create variation to make the place more wonderful? Wouldn’t it enforce rules to make sure this variation is appreciated? I hope someone will help me ponder this.

But why does there need to be a reason ‘why’? Can’t some things happen just because the conditions were right, or by accident?

It is. It’s really amazing. Have you read up on how Viagra actually works? It’s nothing short of spectacular. Imagine trying to explain it to a Neanderthal. And we don’t just understand it, we’ve fucking done it.

Not really. Something may show up to disprove some of our current scientific tenets (in fact, something certainly will), but each time a tenet is reinforced by empirical evidence, the probability for that becomes smaller.

Again, not really. Until I see evidence that God exists, I’ll keep assuming he doesn’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with faith. Sure, there may be a god out there. I just haven’t seen any indications of it yet.

“Why” implies a will, and usually, in the matters where science answers questions, there is no will. Gravity, evolution, electricity, these things have no will, so there is no “why”. There is just what happens.

If Big Bang created time, nothing could possibly have been “before” the Big Bang.

Dunno, exactly.

We see evidence of the Big Bang, none of god. You may disagree on the latter.

To devilsknew: Sure, I’ve seen a few things I cannot explain. Some of them are probably due to random chance, and some of them probably depended on factors I don’t know anything about. I knew a dog who seemed to be more intelligent than some humans I’ve met, and I can’t figure out how he did some of the things he did without actually being more intelligent than some humans I’ve met. Still, I don’t believe he was, because it seems more likely to me that I’ve missed something than that he was a mutant superdog, or that all dogs are intelligent and this one just didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to hide it from humans, or that he was possessed by a spirit.

We have physical evidence for the existence of the Big Bang.

We have no physical evidence for the existence of God.

Scientists didn’t seek out the Big Bang. They were driven to it by the realization that no other explanation so closely matched the physical evidence.

The universe is HERE. Right NOW. We can look at it and understand it. It’s a wonderous, marvellous thing. And it’s REAL.

Turn off the television and come outside.

My name is glee and I am a scientific type.
I believe the scientific method (which has taken us to the Moon, revealed our genetic code and created the Internet) is the business.
I expect there will be aliens somewhere else in the Universe (but have no evidence they have arrived here yet).

I have exchanged correspondence with, for example, dowsers and believers in astral projection. Sadly (and this always happens) they were unable to demonstrate their powers.

You mention personal experiences that were ‘inexplicable’. The problem is that these can never be reproduced for investigation.
We know, for example, that eye-witness accounts can be honestly mistaken, or that a combination of circumstances can produce an eerie effect. (See UFO reports for countless examples.)

As for one’s ‘place in the Universe’, I don’t see any evidence of design that leads me to believe in a Creator. For example, if a merciful God exists, why are there natural disasters?

We are born, we pay taxes, we die. :eek:
Of course we should take the time to admire sunsets and fractals, to love our families and treat others with respect, to listen to music and to travel.
But there’s no reason to assume anything mystical exists.


Is this because anything is possible? Like it’s possible that the squirrel in the back yard is an auto mechanic on weekends?
Not everything is possible.

Pretty much, yeah.


What’s impossible?