Thoughts for food

Mikko Tanni 2000
[ updated 11.7.2000 ]

This page is divided into two sections. The first one deals with the problem tinnitus produces for strict empiricism. The second one is about atheist vegetables. This page is not intended as anan attack against anyone. I have criticized only arguments, not ideologies or persons. My intention was not to cover every single detail; these small articles are meant to be "food for the thought".

[  1  ] - Tinnitus - a threat to strict empiricism and atheism?
[ 1a ] - What is tinnitus?
[ 1b ] - Threat to some skeptic arguments
[ 1c ] - First Christians made up stories of Christ
[ 1d ] - It is unreasonable to look for Desing in the Universe because there's no proof of existance of the Designer
[ 1e ] - Conclusion
[  2  ] - A vegetable - a perfect atheist?

Tinnitus - a threat to strict empiricism and atheism?

Your patience is requested; to understand my idea you have to understand the basics first. For those who are looking information about tinnitus, I recommend this site.

Allow me at first to explain:

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is often described as "ringing in ears." This is good enough description in most cases, though a bit misleading. First of all, tinnitus is not necessarily a "ring" -- it could be almost any kind of sound. However, a very common tone is a high pitched sine-wave. Often tinnitus is the result once a person has been exposed to loud noise, like in rock concerts. Tinnitus is like a fever; it is not an illness itself, but rather a symptom of something else. But in this article, I'll just call tinnitus an illness.

Two kinds of tinnitus exist, objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is often caused by blood circulation or tumours, and can be cured and observed, like the name suggests. But I will not deal with this kind of tinnitus here.

Unfortunately, almost always tinnitus is subjective. From now on, whenever I use word 'tinnitus', it refers to subjective tinnitus, which cannot be observed, measured or cured. This is because the sound comes from the brain, not from ears or veins. I won't go into details; it is not my intention here. And to make it clear, tinnitus is not a mental illness, nor the result of imagination; it is very real for it's victims.

Threat to some skeptic arguments

Other than being a pain in neck for all of it's victims, tinnitus threatens certain ways of "skeptical" thinking. The classic "I don't believe it if I cannot see it"-argument has already been criticized heavily; thoughts and arguments can't be seen, so do they not exist? Neither can things like gravity be seen. Of course one might want to develop that argument a little, and say: "I believe only in things that can be observed somehow." Let's assume for sake of the argument that things like abiogenesis, the Big Bang, and macro-evolution actually happened. Even if they did, they can't be observed the way gravity can (history vs. present-day). But I digress.

Before I continue I have to clarify some things; tinnitus is a real problem for millions people all over the world. Imagine listening to a high pitched sine-wave 24 hours per day, for the rest of your life. Sometimes the sound can be masked with soft music or "white noise." But not always; at times the only way to deal with tinnitus is to commit suicide or at least be ready to spend fortunes looking for a cure. (Gee, I contradicted myself, didn't I just say that it can't be cured? ;)

But are people just making these things up to get attention or sympathy? Perhaps. It is true that tinnitus is not always taken seriously. There might be people who like throwing money away just for fun. In case you don't take tinnitus seriously, my argument collapses and there's no need to go on. One reason to not consider the threat of tinnitus is that to do so means abandoning a certain non-caring way of life (hey, does this sound familiar? ;). If you don't believe me, try telling your party-animal friend that one night at loud club might give him/her tinnitus as very faithful companion for rest of his/her life.

It seems I got bit carried away again! Anyway, there are two kinds of "skeptical" arguments to be dealt with here. Wording might vary, but the type of argument is the same:

The first Christians made up stories of Christ

...but they were willing to die for these stories. People don't want to die without a good reason, nor kill themselves without one. Could the sound in your head be good enough reason to commit suicide? Would you make up stories, or steal them from pagan myths, and still be ready to die for these stories? Maybe the disciples were just insane. Perhaps. Maybe tinnitus is just one's imagination, or a way to get attention? Perhaps. But ask any T-victim, does it go away when you stop believing it? It is safer to pretend that things like tinnitus are not real, but is it worth it?

It is unreasonable to look for Design in the Universe because there's no proof of existance of the Designer

Is it also wrong to look cure for tinnitus because there's no evidence it even exists? How can the evidence be found if there's no one even looking for it?! There is research being done to find a cure for tinnitus, though this research might not be funded well enough. In the meantime, there is also research going on to detect Intelligent Design in nature. Needless to say, since tinnitus is not a threat to atheist worldviews, looking for a cure for it is not labeled as being irrational. Using standard "skeptical" logic, tinnitus sufferers do not deserve to be cured, because their "illness" does not even exist, because it can't be proven to exist.


Doesn't it refute my argument that tinnitus might, and it most likely does, have a natural explanation which will be found in the future? It doesn't change anything. As well it could be said that in the future the Designer will show up! The point is, how do you deal with the concept of tinnitus at the moment.

Materialists have defined science to explain origins only with materialistic explanations, and this is why science cannot say anything about the supernatural. [1] There might not be anything wrong with that, but it is only atheistic circular reasoning to say that there is no scientific evidence that God exists, because the science was defined to ignore the possible evidence, or not to search for it at all. Could this same logic be used to deny tinnitus?

I have not used tinnitus as an example of "irreducible complexity" to prove materialism wrong. I use it as an example to refute claims that only observable things exist. What can be said about tinnitus in the future is irrelevant. Let's imagine for sake of the argument that tinnitus might not have a naturalistic explanation. Wouldn't "skeptics" label any research done to find cures for it as pseudo-science? [2] Following this logic, only things that are likely to have naturalistic explanations are "allowed to exist."

Strict empiricism is a poor worldview. There are things unreachable by current naturalistic science, and for a tinnitus victim this is painfully clear.

- - - - - -

[ 1 ] Richard Dawkins has used the term designoid, and admitted that nature sometimes looks like it is designed, but actually is not. However a person with nickname "Mike Gene" on ARN forum proposed the term evolvoid to be used when something looks like it evolved, but actually didn't.

[ 2 ] ID is sometimes unfairly criticized because "it discourages scientific research." This is really a desperate claim, as well it could be said that ID encourages scientific curiosity by making one ask questions like; how the design was done, for what purpose, etc. Actually it is matter of an opinion; ID'ers could say that non-design is not particularly interesting because "once given enough time, anything can happen." If anything can happen, what's the point in building science on certain absolutes?

Vegetable - a perfect atheist?

It is sometimes proposed that if religions would not be taught from generation to another, the concept of gods would soon disappear. This might sound like a clever idea at first, but once you give it a second thought, you'll notice how it becomes an embarrassment for it's users.

Religions can be seen as knowledge of the supernatural. Science does not tell The Truth (you don't have to look further than Darwinism to realize how The Truth is not absolute, but always... evolving?), it tells us something we think of as The Truth. Knowledge does not have to be absolute. If we did stop teaching the knowledge we have, wouldn't atheism find it's most satisfied followers among vegetables?

Just about everything must be taught to kids; without social contact with other humans they might not even learn how to talk. Yes, we do have tacit knowledge of language (BTW, where does it come from? "Once given enough time..."?). But again, maybe we do have tacit knowledge of the supernatural too? To stop teaching about the supernatural would be just about the same thing as not teaching anything at all. What's wrong with the idea of teaching something that is thought to be true? Saying "God exists" does not make Him exist, but neither would He cease to exist if all knowledge of Him would disappear. This atheist argument is circular reasoning, because it starts with the presumption that atheism is true. Following the "since it must be teached, it is not true"-logic, atheism and absolute lack of knowledge would be just about the same thing. I'm sure that this is not how "skeptics" want their ideology to be represented.