From a 2007 Salon interview with the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker and his wife, philosopher Rebecca Goldstein:

I know neither of you believes in paranormal experiences like telepathy or clairvoyant dreams or contact with the dead. But hypothetically, suppose even one of these experiences were proven beyond a doubt to be real. Would the materialist position on the mind-brain question collapse in a single stroke?

PINKER: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, if there was no other explanation. We’d need to have such clear evidence. I have to tell you, I’ve had some uncanny experiences. Once, in fact, I had a very strange experience where I seemed to be getting information from a dead person. I racked my brain trying to figure out how this could be happening. I did come up with an explanation for how I could reason this away. But it was a very powerful experience. If it could truly be demonstrated that there was more to a human being than the physical body, this would have tremendous implications.

True — but one wonders what sort of demonstration would satisfy an atheist materialist. That is, are their materialist beliefs truly falsifiable, or is it rather the case that they could dismiss any conceivable demonstration as hallucinatory? I am reminded of this lyric from that Joan Osborne song from the 1990s:

If God had a face what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that
you would have to believe
in things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints
and all the prophets?

In other words, when you say “I don’t believe in God,” are you really saying “I won’t believe in God”? That was the case with me during my undergraduate years. I thought I was being intellectually honest, but in fact I had decided that I would only have God if he would be the kind of God I was prepared to live with. If he was, then He wouldn’t be God at all, but a me-shaped facsimile of God. But I couldn’t see that then.

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