I tried to read most of the posts on this thread, to see if this point was made. But, I may have missed it; if so, please forgive. But I believe it is critical to the discussion.
Suppose, for the sake of argument and testing, that demons exist. Then, consider what demons may be thinking and doing in the midst of a debate that inquires into their existence and function.
1. Getting into it. "Speak of the devil, ..." as we say. Demons are such egotists, when we start talking about them, they get into to it, bragging, and showing off their stuff.
2. Confusing the issue. Here we are, in a land where it is known that calling on the blood of Jesus, or holding up crossed fingers, can cast out demons. Of course, doing it wrong can be damaging. As is true with having sex. But, doing it right, and there are many books citing hundreds of cases of correct deliverance (Pigs in the Parlor is the best), can potentially cause demons great loss. Many of our most devout atheists appear actually to be fairly good scholars. If they ever caught on to a reality of demonic possession and interactions, some might actually figure out how to do successful deliverances. Then the demons would be in trouble. So, it's very important that these non-believers stay the way they are.
So, supposing that demons exist (just for the sake of argument, mind you), and that they have a mixed agenda which includes interfering with the debate, how shall we proceed? It's a fascinating epistemological question.
It's like studying radioactivity. A course of study that takes several months requires lead shields, since the object of the study will kill the student without that shield, before the student discovers what they were looking for.
Therefore, we have to shield the discussion from any potential demons, or else we will never get to the truth. If demons do not exist, the shield is a waste of time, but the study will find them absent. If demons do exist, the sheild will allow us to determine that. But, without the sheild, any conclusions as to the absence of demons could be truth, or could be demonic manipulation.
So, everyone ought to pray, at least, "In the blood of Yeshua, or Jesus, deliver us from evil, as we carry on this discussion." Perhaps the prayer is useless, perhaps critical. We will never know unless we pray it.
Personally, I get all I want to know about demons by asking God directly, to tell me stuff. I figure that if there is no God, but there are demons, I'm *expletive deleted.* If there is a God, and either demons or no demons, He's the best source of reliable information. If there is no God, and no demons, when I ask, nothing will happen. I did ask, He did answer, there are demons, there is a lot to learn about them and it's very useful. They are messing with this discussion. Let us pray.
Sorry, I should have stated my position as a professional scientist whose highly successful (if brief) professional career was based on the hypothetico-deductive method of doing science. I admit that that methodology, thought by many to be the basis of most successful science, is in fact controversial. It works so well in practise, that I have come to regard the controversy surrounding it confirming demoniic intervention in the search for truth by humans.
But, in the H-D method, what one does is take an idea in its fullest expression, assume for the sake of testing that is is true (make it an hypothesis), provisionally believe it long enough to generate logical, or deductive consequences, and then test those consequences, called predictions. If the predictions are a priori unlikely, and later confirmed, the plausibility of the original idea increases.
So, with the idea that demons exist, first we suppose that they do. We look at what that might mean, usually by responding to the idea as presented by previous intellectual colleagues. CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letters presents a fairly clear image of what demons might be like, as well as the Bible, from which Lewis's artistic presentation derives. Milton, Goerthe (sp?), and others have also tried to imagine what Satan is like as a person. We then reason, "If they exist, and are like such or so, what do we expect to happen, say to this discussion? Are those expectations a priori reasonable, or are they weird? Let's test and see."
I've been thinking like this for 40 years, and found it to be the most useful applied epistemological strategy out there. It costs me, of course, since when predictions are rejected, I have to give up beliefs that I adopted to get those predictions. I knew when I took up the beliefs, that "it was for the sake of argument" but it still is painful to give them up, especially when they were at first confirmed, and began to appear to be true.
But, as a naturalist, human evil remains best, most simply explained by the demon hypothesis. A priori, I find the reluctance of many to believe that demons exist most puzzling. Every other species out there has to deal with higher predatory or parasitic beings that they cannot sense, that are smarter and more powerful than they are. Why not us? And now, with the discovery of dark matter and dark energy. I mean, Is dark matter inhabited? Why is that question weird, but we happily invest in SETI, looking for life on other electro-magnetic parts of our universe?
As to evidence of demons, like I say, the nature of the hypothesis puts interesting limits on getting such evidence. But try prayer experiments, bringing God as a truth giver into the study. I found that such experiments readily confirmed the presence of demons as normally hypothesized to exist.
My first taste of data confirming God demonstrated demonic presence was the delightful little book by Frank Loehr on "The power of prayer on plants" where he got prayer groups to pray for plants. Now, I will grant you that the main intent of those experiments was to confirm the God of Orthodox Theology, and so their direct effect on the plausibility of demonic influence was weak. But, as I read it, the argument went like this.
The earth is fallen, and the devil loosed upon it, causing trouble including poor seed germination and crop growth.
When we pray, our prayers normally include or mean "deliver us from evil" and undo the works of the evil one.
So, if we pray, and things get better, this confirms (of course, does not prove) the idea that there was a problem caused by demons, which is now solved, to some degree, by God.
Well, they (and hundreds after them, according to Dr. Larry Dossey, Harold Koernig, others) conducted prayer experiments, and found some reduction in evil.
Meanwhile, if we go after the plausibility of the hypothesis by confirming that God wrote the Bible, the various efforts to do that (Panin, Washburn, Witztum et. al.) are also scientific experiments that validate the point. Witztum's study was the best, since he took the book of Genesis, where the devil first appears, and randomly mixed up the letters. Then he compared the "Bible Codes" found in the text as it has come to us, and that random mix. He found messages that could only be known to a timeless God in the Genesis as written, but those messages were impossibly rare in the random text. Since this book reports the devil's existence, this increase in the plausibility that they are really written by a truth-loving Person outside our ken increases the liklihood that we (still) have demons to contend with.
Some near-death studies, and possibly the soul-weighing experiments, also confirm (make more plausible! Don't prove!) the idea that demons exist.
Your problem believing me, of course, to be handled scientifically, would be solved by your doing the experiments yourself. Get the materials and methods down right ("pray aright" as James puts it), and do the experiments yourself, on evil that you personally are dealing with. It's what I, as a scientist, did, to convince myself. If you are not qualified to pray, take on some evil and get those who are qualified to pray to help you.
There is measurable plausibility that we have 21 gram souls, which when they leave our bodies, enter into a timeless world, where they somehow fall into a black hole and suffer a lot. Donald Carpenter has published an e-book on the matter of the soul's weight, and he seems to be most trustworthy authority on that subject. The near death studies substantially increase the plausibility of souls surviving our bodies. The PEAR work at Princeton the timelessness of the dark-matter, soulish, or spiritual world. Naturally all this is contested, but not by anyone we have any reason to trust.
I got there with Download thousands of books, hundreds free, directly to your computer!, and then searched under Dr. Donald Gilbert Carpenter, Physically weighing the soul. Ask God about souls having weight. I'd like to know what He tells you. I thought I understood Him to connect soul weight to dark matter. And soul energy to dark, or vacuum energy. But talk about prophesing in part, and seeing through a glass darkly!
Thanks for the reference to snopes. I read it, and was not impressed. But then, I have read Carpenter's better analysis of the study. I especially like Carpenter's reminder that souls aren't the only spiritual beings thought to inhabit bodies. And some of the others might be messing around with the experiment. There are also some recent studies on animals, published in the journal for Scientific Exploration, that are relevant.
And remember, I am a hypothetico-deductive scientist. No conclusions, only interest in plausibility. I am attending to all these studies as if I were playing poker and watching showing cards, facial expressions, whatever, trying to estimate what is the most profitable bet. MacDougal's study had problems, but ad hoc explanations are generally regarded as easy. Overall, the results as published raise the plausibility of souls having weight, at least a little. The discovery of dark matter does more, actually, in my estimation. Now we are pretty sure that there is stuff out there that invisible souls could be made of. Stuff that has weight. This raises substantially to me the scariness of black holes.
But I concede that anyone who only attributes zero or one plausibilities to ideas (is dogmatic), would probably remain unmoved by MacDougal's studies. And, I were God, wanting to keep dogmatic people in the dark about reality, deluded, that's the way I would keep it. Maybe that's why no one has bothered to try to replicate MacDougal's studies, and why they remain so "inconclusive."
You say you were a professional scientist? Did you ever study any physics? I do not understand how you arrive at the ability to accept such blatant disregard of the very laws of nature that you would use notions like timelessness. You say there is a measureable plausibility that we have 21 gram souls? Please tell us how you arrive at this.Then you state "where they somehow fall into a black hole and suffer a lot." You have not a lick of incredulity in you I suppose.What a loss
Yes, I was a professional scientist, and so good at it that I got so far ahead of my times, I had to stop, to let everyone catch up. That was twenty years ago. At present my students are enormously successful, and my publications still being cited hundreds of times per year. My last major one I am hopeful will win me long-term historical recognition, as a major contributor to the discovery of cascade effects, and food-chain dynamics, as the central theory of ecology.
I am not a physicist, but I look in on what they are doing. Science makes progress by blatent disregard for the known laws. It's called a paradigm shift.
But, before I am a scientist, I am a lover, and love believes all things, according to one well remembered authority. It's a skill required of all Hypothetico-deductive scientists. I can, and willingly do believe anything for the sake of confirming or rejecting it, from the inside out. Better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.
It has worked for me, as the philosophers of science said it worked for others.
didn't Einstein basically throw out Newton's law of gravity, with his curved space-time ideas? The laws are just explanations of inductive observations. People before Newton didn't need any law of gravity to keep from jumping off cliffs. I don't live in blatant disregard for what the law explains, just how science at this point in history is explaining it.
Rrhain, I gave in message 7, to edge, under "the best scientific method" "Is is science?" the best answer to this question I can offer right now. But the searches should justify my claim to be a trustworthy authority on the matter.
As a hypothetico-deductive scientist, I am conscious of the difficulties explaining anything to a dogmatist like yourself. The former give all ideas plausibilities ranging from (but not including) zero up to (but not including )one. The latter give only the plausibilities zero or one. I can asymptotically approach your way of thinking, but you cannot imagine what I think. That's why you respond to my posts with so many non-sequiturs, and assign to me statements that I never made.
For example, I said that ad hoc explanations are weaker than predictions verified, in assessing the plausibility of an idea. Clearly, if Macdougal's experiments had found only exactly a 21 gram increase, in every trial, the idea that the soul weighs about 21 grams would now be more plausible than it is. But, he got some increases that confirmed, and some that indicated that there was more than one entity present. Now, if he had done a better job with the orthodox theology hypothesis, where our idea of souls might come from, he would have examined each of his patients for demonic possession before his experiment, and predicted that those who came in praising God gloriously might have manifested a heavy soul, those who were praising God shyly, a lighter soul, and those who appeared demon possessed, several entities. If I were to replicate this study, that's part of what I would change. (Recall paintings of Michael the Angel weighing souls, as they depart to heaven-that artist would have told you that God inspired his painting, suggesting that souls might have different weights, depending on how holy they were.)
But, MacDougal didn't do this, so now what? It's weak, but we turn to ad hoc revisions of our hypothesis so the next time around is better. That we can come up with a reasonable one does help the plausibility of the revised hypothesis (bodies have weighty souls, to bodies have weighty souls and possibly weighty demons possessing them.) Note that, now that we are thinking this way, we wonder what would we get if we weighed the pigs that Yeshua sent the demons into? Should we be totally surprized to find some animals experiencing a weight loss at death? And, if we were to weigh fetuses as they were killed in abortions, would we be able to tell when they acquired souls? Could not pro-choicers justify their agenda by showing that newborns were soul-less? Or protect themselves from making a terrible mistake, by discovering that fetuses got souls in their first trimester? What if we did the hypothermal thing, getting souls out of the bodies of some enquiring compassionate person in the room in which an abortion was being carried out. Would they be able to detect any soul leaving the fetus as it died?
See how much fun it is, being hypothetico-deductive?
Anyway, ad hoc is weak, to be used as a last resort. But it not illogical. It is a part of the Lakatosian research programme.