Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In the nick of time

This is a sequel to an earlier post:
Among other things, Braude says:
The potential psychic strategies are obvious enough: (1) Relevant people could come to know our prayers through ESP and respond consciously or otherwise.

i) One problem with this statement is what he means by "respond consciously or otherwise."

Does he mean they consciously know our need, but unconsciously respond? If so, that's less than self-explanatory. If they become aware of our need, then either they'd consciously respond, or they wouldn't bother to respond at all–if they don't care what happens to us, or don't wish to assume a personal risk.  

Or does he mean we plant a subliminal idea in their minds, which they carry out. Their action happens to meet our exigent need, although they were oblivious the relevance of their action to our exigent need. They didn't know our situation. They didn't know what we needed. But we did. So what they do has the unintended consequence of benefiting us. 

ii) One problem with that interpretation is that it seems to be one of those flexible explanations you resort to to cover your bets. An explanation that makes your theory consistent with any scenario. It can't be falsified, but by the same token, it's hard to see how it can be verified. If nothing counts as evidence against it, what counts as evidence for it? It seems to be independent of the evidence one way or the other. 

iii) Another problem is that this isn't a naturalistic alternative to theism. If there is a God, then he can alert others to our need or influence others to carry out the needed action. 

iv) But there's another problem with Braude's secular explanation. Take the case of retroactive prayer. Suppose I go jet-skiing late afternoon. In the middle of the lake, my jet-ski conks out. Let's say it's too far for me to swim to shore. Moreover, I don't wish to abandon my jet-ski.

Or let's say it's dusk. I if try to swim back in the dark, I could end up swimming in circles. I can't see the shore at night. I will become disoriented. I will drown from fatigue or die from hypothermia. 

So I pray. Just in the nick of time, somebody in a motorboat comes to my rescue, heaves me into the boat, and tows the jet-ski.

But to answer my prayer in time, he had to be on the way before I prayed. How could Braude's alternative account for that?

Braude might appeal to precognition, but there are problems with that appeal in this situation:

i) I didn't know in advance that I was going to find myself in this predicament. 

ii) And if I did have a premonition, I wouldn't put myself in this dire predicament in the first place. I'd have my jet-ski serviced before I went jet-skiing. 

iii) Perhaps Braude might say I had a subconscious premonition. But even assuming that's meaningful, how would I be able to plant an S.O.S. in the mind of my rescuer based on a subconscious premonition? If I'm unaware of my future predicament, how can I telepathically communicate that to a second party? 

iv) For that matter, my rescuer is a perfect stranger to me. How does my mind know ahead of time to reach out to that person?

Now, admittedly, this is a hypothetical example. For now I'm just considering the kinds of answered prayer that Braude's theory lacks the resources to replace. 

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