Humor is acknowledged to exist in Smullyan's piece; it's considered a disorder.
In the story, belief
in the thing called "Humor" is considered a disorder (in the psychiatrists' view) because it is assumed (by them) that Humor, itself, does not exist. I think that's quite clear in this passage: "In the psychoanalytic portions of the treatment the psychiatrist carefully explained to the patient how he had been living in a fantasy world, and how when he started facing reality he would at first find it very painful. And amazingly enough, after about the third treatment, the patient actually agreed that the psychiatrist was right! He said: 'I see now that you were absolutely right. I was indeed living in a state in which I constantly confused fantasy with reality, and I moreover believed in the existence of an entity called Humor. Yes, I actually believed it to be something real rather than a mere figment of my imagination. But now I see the light. I realize how in error I have been!' "
...there are many who at one time believed in the supernatural and had experiences which they once attributed to the supernatural, but who no longer believe. How do you account for that?
I would say that they now interpret their past and present experiences differently than they did earlier. Which happens to all of us, a lot. Every time we find ourselves saying, for example, "Oh, now
I see what you're saying!" It seems that when we're dealing with the purely physical we can often pin down the facts: water boils at such-and-such a temperature at such-and-such pressure, etc. But when we get to things that are more complex (and thus more interesting to us), we find the "facts" can often be ambiguously interpreted. Does she love me? Should I take this new job? Is my conscience really telling me about absolute rights and wrongs, or is it just another appetite clamoring for satisfaction? Etc.
I'm not "demanding rational proofs and explanations," I'm asking for verifiable evidence.
What "verifiable evidence" would you accept as proof that God exists?
Could you explain how analogy would be used as evidence?
All of the integral Calculus is essentially an argument by analogy -- no one has ever really seen the width of those infamous rectangles under a curve go to zero. In fact, every mathematical interpolation is an argument by analogy: we think we know the "shape" of a curve (though no one has ever seen all
the points on any
curve) and we use that assumed knowledge to approximate intermediate values on that curve. A non-numeric example would be when a guy says to his wife, "I bet if we did what our parents did to make us, we could make a baby too." He's arguing by analogy, saying, in effect, "Because we are like our parents in ways X and Y, I bet we're like them in way Z as well." Argument by analogy is not the same thing as proof, of course. But then very few things, relatively speaking, are susceptible of proof. Especially those things that are most interesting and important to us. So we have to make do with the tools available to us.
What other "less-than-mathematically-certain" things do you have in mind to be used as evidence?
Historical evidences, for example. Nothing in history is mathematically certain; and none of history can be repeated under exactly the same conditions, by definition. So historical matters are clearly a different kind
of thing than, say, the boiling point of water, and must therefore be approached using different tools and techniques. Yet historical persons and events often play a major role in both our collective culture and in our individual decision-making. I'm pretty sure my wife and I would not have attempted to have a child in our old age without the historical account of Abraham and Sarah to inspire us. Nor would we have named our little guy, born of Sharon's very own way-past-menopause-57-year-old womb, Chuckles, without that history to imitate ("Chuckles" being a play on the name "Isaac", which means "Laughter"):
Again, if I can't verify what's being presented as evidence, what use is it?
See above. We couldn't scientifically verify, with repeatable and peer-reviewed experiments, that the story of Abraham and Sarah was true. But we could gather enough evidences of other kinds -- analogical, historical, testimonial, anecdotal, etc -- to make us believe in the story and, more importantly, to act on that belief. So in this case at least, the reality (the kid you see above) was, in great part, the result of a belief in an historical event based on non-empirical evidences. As William James put it in the quote I posted above, "Belief creates the actual fact." Or in more traditional terms, "Faith is the substance
of things hoped for; the evidence of things not [yet] seen."
How does it even qualify as evidence at all?
Most of our lives are lived on such non-empirical evidences. Almost every decision we make is based on incomplete (and often at least partially faulty) evidence. It is necessary; there simply aren't the time and resources to ferret out all the facts before we're required to act. And, in cases like the one above -- where we're dealing with the past (Abraham and Sarah and Isaac) and the future (Chuckles) -- we couldn't get the necessary "facts" even with unlimited time and resources.
It seems to me you're saying that we should ignore our critical faculties and just buy into whatever is told to us by purveyors of the supernatural.
Absolutely not. But we shouldn't restrict ourselves to the empirical, either. There's more to reality than can be reached that way. And we can't limit ourselves to the strictly logical and empirical anyway. May as well jump in with both
feet and swim best we can.
If not, how do you propose we should distinguish between bullshit and genuine evidence...
My preferred method is experiment, as above. Not knowing, for sure, that a really old couple can (or should) have a baby -- there were many who told us it was impossible, and many more who told us it was inadvisable -- we studied the available information (historical, analogical, testimonial, anecdotal, and empirical from various fertility clinics), we prayed, we investigated and attempted all sorts of alternative methods (the usual, foster children, the usual, local adoption, the usual, overseas adoption, the usual, artificial insemination, the usual, surrogate mothers, the usual, in vitro fertilization) and found out, by actual experiment, that sometimes a really old couple can and should have a baby.
...for the supernatural?
Most people find the supernatural more difficult to experiment with. Personally, I don't. As I've said in another thread, I'm persuaded that I'm a creature that has one foot in this universe, and the other somewhere else: that when I write this post, for example, I'm imposing my will on this universe, inserting events,
so to speak, and causing this universe to be something it wouldn't otherwise be -- something that can't be explained by the fundamental forces of gravity and electromagnetism, etc, alone. If you'd like to get a taste of a similar experience, stare at your computer as you prepare to reply to this post and ask yourself, "What on earth
could ever make the words I want to say appear on that screen?" Then type a little and stop to ask yourself, "Who
just did that? How
did that actually happen?" Surely, even if I'm utterly wrong and nothing supernatural is going on here, it's still something very, very mysterious...