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Refuting supernatural - Comments

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 1 by Alan4discussion

The supernatural is gapology.
Sometimes it is claims about genuine gaps in the totality of human knowledge - filled up with god-did-it-by magic, so as to hide the ignorance of those who will not admit they do not know, or those contriving to put their made-up claims beyond evidenced challenge.

All too often it has been shown to be (now closed) historical gaps in human knowledge at some time in the past,
or even more frequently :-
massive gaps in some creationist's personal knowledge of the science of nature which they are too lazy or bigoted to remedy!

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 13:28:27 UTC | #948963

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 2 by Steve Zara

The title of supernatural is given to the subject if it is beyond current scientific understanding and the known laws of nature, provided the available evidence was demonstrated to be unreliable or inaccurate.

That's not quite correct. The title of supernatural is given to the subject if it is considered to be beyond scientific understanding in principle. Angels are supernatural. That doesn't mean we don't yet know enough about them, it means that they are defined to be forever beyond the reach of science.

The reason why 'supernatural' doesn't work is because it is both impossible to justify and actually impossible in reality. There is no way to prove that a phenomenon is beyond the reach of science. The attribute of un-testability is itself nonsensical, and so there can be nothing supernatural.

The division of reality into natural and supernatural these days (as against historical meanings) is an attempt to keep science at bay by insisting that science is only able to investigate the natural. This is not true. Science can investigate anything at all. Science is simply testing ideas against reality; it makes no assumptions about the nature of reality. If we discovered fairies you can bet that some scientists would at least try and classify them, and see how they evolved! If we discovered that prayer worked, we could investigate if prayer power fell away with an inverse square law.

The supernatural is nothing more than a 'keep out' sign for science and reason. But we should ignore that sign, trample it to the ground, and march happily onwards.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 13:56:24 UTC | #948965

Sample's Avatar Comment 3 by Sample

Supernaturalism is a bit like a vehicle without a replicator. A bright red sleigh without packages (of information).

Mike

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 14:14:31 UTC | #948966

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 4 by Jos Gibbons

Steve's in-principle point is important because it's only if science couldn't understand something that naturalism is wrong, and it's only because such claims are made that supernaturalism is a load of nonsense. But I think a better way of tackling the issue is like this:

A: Do you believe in the supernatural? B: That term's vague. Let's discuss specific examples to see which, if any, we both believe in. A: Well, what about X? B: No; there's no evidence for X.

You literally don't even need to hesitate there, because the one thing all "supernatural" claims have in common (although this isn't exclusive to them) is that no evidence supports them, so you therefore shouldn't believe in them. This suggests a related approach:

A: Do you believe in the supernatural? B: That term's vague; but, since to believe in the supernatural I'd have to believe in some specific supernatural thing, let's see if you can name a single example of one for which evidence exists. All other beliefs are unwarranted. I won't ask you to prove it counts as supernatural, or to give a definition thereof; but I'm sure whatever example you'd have in mind will be unevidenced.

If they have a decent comeback to that, call a press conference; if not, it'll hopefully shut them up. (We should probably work on my wording though; it's pretty long-winded.)

My point is "supernatural" is a word which, like "faith", stunts thinking about what beliefs are being defended.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 15:52:27 UTC | #948974

adiroth's Avatar Comment 5 by adiroth

  1. Nothing can both exist and be outside of nature, as nature is the sum of everything in existence.

  2. Nothing that exists can defy the laws of nature. The subjects existence is proof that the laws of nature do not work in such a way that would prevent it from existing. The subjects existence is proof that it complies with the laws of nature.

  3. Any assertion of truth in regards to the subjects existence is a claim for its natural existence.

  4. The title of supernatural is given to the subject if it is beyond current scientific understanding and the known laws of nature, provided the available evidence was demonstrated to be unreliable or inaccurate.

  5. The title of natural is given upon the subjects proven existence. Our understanding of the laws of nature must change to comply with the subjects proven existence. The laws of nature themselves continue to remain in harmony with the subject.

  6. Either modification of the known laws of nature or a rewritten definition of the supernatural subject being discussed is required for the subject to exist.

Point 1 through 3 would be the points of contention for someone arguing for the supernatural.

  1. By its definition, "nature" is the physical world, while "supernatural" is whatever beyond it. It is conceptually consistent, though it does not mean that such thing can exist physically, like invisible pink unicorns.

  2. Nothing that exists IN nature can defy the laws of nature. If it's supernatural, it won't be bound by the laws of nature as long as it does not cross into the natural world.

  3. If you consider truth to be existence in the natural world then you're right. But if the supernatural object only exists in the supernatural realm, then you can't apply the rules of the natural world to it.

So, a supernatural object can only exist in a supernatural world, but once it crosses into the natural world it has to play by the natural world's rules. However, the fact that it is possible to cross or affect the natural world would mean that the supernatural object's world is part of the natural world in the first place, because if a connection can be established, then the supernatural is not SUPER(above or beyond)natural anymore.

Therefore, the point is: The supernatural cannot exist or affect the natural world, or it would lose its very definition. The supernatural can exist only in the supernatural world or another worlds that's separate from the natural world, one of which is our imagination.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 16:01:49 UTC | #948976

jay29's Avatar Comment 6 by jay29

GENERICGUY- in a bid to refute supernatural claims- affirms that " Nothing can both exist and be outside of nature, as nature is the sum of everything in existence." I am at loss to understand how this refutes supernaturalism since it merely amounts to defining supernaturalism out of existence; it furthermore commits the fallacy of begging the question since it turns out that an argument which is supposed to show that supernaturalism is impossible depends on a premise which rules out supernaturalism from the outset! Jay

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 19:49:44 UTC | #948991

jay29's Avatar Comment 7 by jay29

Jos Gibbons writes " A: Do you believe in the supernatural? B: That term's vague; but, since to believe in the supernatural I'd have to believe in some specific supernatural thing, let's see if you can name a single example of one for which evidence exists. All other beliefs are unwarranted. I won't ask you to prove it counts as supernatural, or to give a definition thereof; but I'm sure whatever example you'd have in mind will be unevidenced. If they have a decent comeback to that, call a press conference." Unfortunately, Jos commits, implicitly, a logical fallacy here, an argumentum ad ignorantiam: there is no evidence for x therefore x is false. And, of course, it isn't true that there is "no evidence" for the supernatural, rather one might say that the status of the evidence offered (arguments for religion, Biblical claims etc..) is contentious, i.e. there is disagreement concerning whether the evidence is good or bad. Perhaps Jos needs to call that press conference! Jay

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 20:13:02 UTC | #948993

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 8 by Mr DArcy

Why do we need to refute the so-called "supernatural"?

Let those who believe in it produce the evidence.

Invariably, it's either what was written in holy books or a load of anecdotal bollocks.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 20:19:42 UTC | #948994

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 9 by Jos Gibbons

it merely amounts to defining supernaturalism out of existence; it furthermore commits the fallacy of begging the question since it turns out that an argument which is supposed to show that supernaturalism is impossible depends on a premise which rules out supernaturalism from the outset

Arguments of the form "A, therefore B" are not invalidated by A being equivalent to B or, equivalently, by the converse "B, therefore A" being as valid. If you wish to invalidate the argument, either show A doesn't imply B (but you've already conceded it does) or critically assess A. Indeed, tell us: what is your definition of the supernatural? If you won't give one, stick with the one used here.

Jos commits, implicitly, a logical fallacy here, an argumentum ad ignorantiam: there is no evidence for x therefore x is false.

No I don't. "I don't believe X because X is unevidenced" is different from "I know from X being unevidenced that X is false". The burden of proof is on those who believe in the supernatural.

it isn't true that there is "no evidence" for the supernatural, rather one might say that the status of the evidence offered (arguments for religion, Biblical claims etc..) is contentious

Either A is evidence for B or it's not. If there is a contention over whether A is good evidence for B, that doesn't say anything about whether or not it is evidence for B. Whether it is or not is an epistemic matter which, whether or not it is a matter of consensus among human beings, is nonetheless a matter of fact. Now you've never posted on richarddawkins.net before this thread, so here's an interesting question: what example, if any, of "Supernatural claim X is well-evidenced by Y" do you personally think is true? One will do for discussion. As I said before, I prefer to talk about individual examples rather than assessing "the supernatural" without ever defining it.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 21:02:22 UTC | #948997

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve Zara

Comment 4 by Jos Gibbons

Yes, you are right that there are better ways to tackle the issue of the supernatural with believers. What I'm trying to do is to show non-believers that they don't need to be scientifically cautious. The issue of the supernatural isn't one we should put on some kind of 'awaiting evidence' list, alongside the matter of alien crop circles and the Yeti. We might think we are being good and rational and scientific by not dismissing the supernatural out of hand. Such caution is admirable, but it really isn't needed. The idea of the supernatural, at least as it is today, is logical nonsense. We can attack the idea free from evidential concerns if that is what we want.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 21:17:17 UTC | #949000

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 11 by Jos Gibbons

If the definition needed for your a priori argument is provided up front then, indeed, you can manage that. The main thing that strikes me about "the supernatural" as a term is that such a definition is often not forthcoming in these debates. My method is designed to get around this problem automatically. Admittedly if the X they present can be ruled out through logic alone then no discussion of evidence is required. All the same, the advantage of the get-specific approach is they immediately lose the argument, because they jump straight into an example you can't struggle to address, especially since the burden of proof is then on them. And this works even if they don't define "supernatural" in such a way that the contradictions discussed above can be obtained. Such a definition would undo itself through the necessary conditions it contains. Unfortunately, some conceptions of the supernatural have sufficient conditions. "Imagine if you could make an object come into existence by drawing it with special equipment, like Penny Crayon. Well, that's supernatural."

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 21:35:45 UTC | #949003

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 12 by VrijVlinder

When I think of supernatural , I associate it with imagination. Anything that can only happen in the imagination is supernatural.

Also examples of a supernatural happening: A man flies in the sky. Neo in the matrix and all that went on in there , supernatural.

We also tend to call it supernatural when not many people can do it. He has supernatural strength beat the world record in lifting weights. He does not really have supernatural strength. That is an exaggeration. If he had supernatural strength, he would have lifted the weight with his pinky finger and threw it into space.

Exaggeration leads to supernatural claims. Supernatural is an exaggerated explanation. Sans Explanation..

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 21:53:27 UTC | #949005

jay29's Avatar Comment 13 by jay29

Replying to Jos Gibbons

it merely amounts to defining supernaturalism out of existence; it furthermore commits the fallacy of begging the question since it turns out that an argument which is supposed to show that supernaturalism is impossible depends on a premise which rules out supernaturalism from the outset

Arguments of the form "A, therefore B" are not invalidated by A being equivalent to B or, equivalently, by the converse "B, therefore A" being as valid. If you wish to invalidate the argument, either show A doesn't imply B (but you've already conceded it does) or critically assess A. Indeed, tell us: what is your definition of the supernatural? If you won't give one, stick with the one used here.

None of this is pertinent to my earlier rebuttal since the fallacy of begging the question is an informal fallacy: in this case it just involves assuming (as a premise) what you are attempting to prove. Such fallacious arguments do not provide any support for their conclusion.

Jos commits, implicitly, a logical fallacy here, an argumentum ad ignorantiam: there is no evidence for x therefore x is false.

No I don't. "I don't believe X because X is unevidenced" is different from "I know from X being unevidenced that X is false". The burden of proof is on those who believe in the supernatural.

If you are merely stating that you personally do not believe in x because you consider that x is unevidenced then I have no objection: you are, then, simply making a statement of your lack of personal belief not attempting to present a general argument showing that belief in the supernatural is untenable.

it isn't true that there is "no evidence" for the supernatural, rather one might say that the status of the >>evidence offered (arguments for religion, Biblical claims etc..) is contentious

Either A is evidence for B or it's not. If there is a contention over whether A is good evidence for B, that >doesn't say anything about whether or not it is evidence for B. Whether it is or not is an epistemic >matter which, whether or not it is a matter of consensus among human beings, is nonetheless a matter >of fact.

If there is disagreement concerning whether, say, some claim or other is good or bad evidence then, of course, there needs to be careful evaluation of the claim being made. Such evaluation is common in, for example, a legal context. My point was just that there needs to be an examination of what the supernaturalist presents as evidence for supernaturalism not merely an a priori assertion that “there is no evidence”.

Now you've never posted on richarddawkins.net before this thread, so here's an interesting question: >what example, if any, of "Supernatural claim X is well-evidenced by Y" do you personally think is true? >One will do for discussion. As I said before, I prefer to talk about individual examples rather than >assessing "the supernatural" without ever defining it.

Well, I should say that my purpose was principally to critique the argument presented here. So far as definitions of the term “supernatural” are concerned I would probably find any definition from a reputable philosophical dictionary acceptable.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 21:58:41 UTC | #949006

jay29's Avatar Comment 14 by jay29

Steve Zara writes: The idea of the supernatural, at least as it is today, is logical nonsense. We can attack the idea free from evidential concerns if that is what we want.

Your claim that "the idea of the supernatural... is logical nonsense" is merely unsupported assertion. if you wish to claim that supernaturalism is nonsense then you owe us a coherent logical argument establishing such a thing. Do you have one?

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 22:13:46 UTC | #949007

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Comment 13 by jay29

My point was just that there needs to be an examination of what the supernaturalist presents as evidence for supernaturalism

Not really, no. Because such evidence isn't evidence for supernaturalism, it's evidence for phenomena that the believer wants to identify as supernatural. That's very different.

To provide direct evidence for supernaturalism, you need to provide evidence that some phenomenon is, in principle, beyond the reach of scientific investigation. As I'm sure you can see, such evidence is impossible. Therefore evidence for the supernatural is impossible.

There is persistent confusion between evidence for supernaturalism and evidence for something strange happening, or evidence that people believed they saw a miracle. These are not the same thing at all.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 22:14:06 UTC | #949008

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

Comment 14 by jay29

Your claim that "the idea of the supernatural... is logical nonsense" is merely unsupported assertion. if you wish to claim that supernaturalism is nonsense then you owe us a coherent logical argument establishing such a thing. Do you have one?

I actually don't owe anyone anything. I'm careful about borrowing. Instead, I have been handsomely funded in terms of support for my claim by philosophers through the ages, who have freely given valuable insights into this matter. More recent providers of high-interest intellectual payment have included J.L. Mackie and Daniel C. Dennett.

However I am happy to provide some arguments here. Science is the process of testing ideas empirically. It doesn't insist on philosophical naturalism, but instead uses methodological naturalism, which, put simply, is the assumption that no-one is playing tricks behind the scenes.

Supernaturalism today is defined as being beyond science, because it is beyond naturalism. However, this view is mistaken because science doesn't require naturalism, it only assumes naturalism as a way of getting started. If science finds that more is going on, this doesn't make it redundant. For example, if people started to say that they had seen angels, this doesn't mean that we can't investigate this scientifically, even if angels do exist.

Supernaturalism is nonsense because science has no limits. In fact, the idea of separating reality into naturalism and supernaturalism is itself nonsensical. It's like a child's drawing where a gap is left between land and sky. There are things that are real, and that is all we need to say.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 22:38:53 UTC | #949013

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 17 by Alan4discussion

Comment 13 by jay29

So far as definitions of the term “supernatural” are concerned I would probably find any definition from a reputable philosophical dictionary acceptable.

But that would only be an opinion of a dictionary writer, so would be subject to the tests and self-inconsistencies identified here. A specific definition would have to be examined.

Do you have one?

I could produce a dictionary definition of a flat earth. That does not prove the claim valid!

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 23:04:06 UTC | #949017

Slightly Permanent's Avatar Comment 18 by Slightly Permanent

Just because something isn't visible/tangible, doesn't mean it isn't there. The limited scope of human perception amuses me in it's infinite arrogance. For instance, if somebody breaks wind silently, we may smell it but not be aware of it's initial point of creation and emission. It's a rather crude analogy, I am aware of that - but it's late and I require rest.

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 23:46:58 UTC | #949022

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 19 by QuestioningKat

Comment 18 by Slightly Permanent :

Just because something isn't visible/tangible, doesn't mean it isn't there. The limited scope of human perception amuses me in it's infinite arrogance. For instance, if somebody breaks wind silently, we may smell it but not be aware of it's initial point of creation and emission. It's a rather crude analogy, I am aware of that - but it's late and I require rest.

Not sure of your view here...We know about our digestive system and whether or not we know the exact person who caused the gas, we understand this phenomenon. Smell is still considered evidence as much as sight and touch.

Are you trying to say that just because the supernatural isn't visible or tangible doesn't mean it isn't there? If so, why jump to that conclusion? Out of all the explanations why assign it to a supernatural cause? What is arrogant is jumping to the conclusion that something supernatural is the cause rather than searching for a more likely answer.

One argument is as follows: If someone claims that they have a dog and you see no evidence of the dog in the person's home or elsewhere - no bowl, no toys, no fur, no scratch marks on the floor, no dog smells, no leash, no photos of the dog, no stools, no dog, nor anything that supports the person's claim that they have a dog, you really have no way of confirming that they have a dog because no evidence was given. You could question where the dog is and get a far fetched answer. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 02:18:31 UTC | #949029

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 20 by Jos Gibbons

Jay29

None of this is pertinent to my earlier rebuttal since the fallacy of begging the question is an informal fallacy

It’s quite pertinent. Because to complain about an “informal fallacy” is a criticism of the premises rather than the form of the argument, you actually need to explain what is implausible about a premise when you make this complaint. Do you or do you not have an alternative definition of the supernatural in mind?

you are, then, simply making a statement of your lack of personal belief not attempting to present a general argument showing that belief in the supernatural is untenable.

Actually, that’s not true; that a claim is unevidenced is not merely an excuse for not believing it, but a reason why to believe it is irrational, and hence the source of an obligation of all not to believe it.

My point was just that there needs to be an examination of what the supernaturalist presents as evidence for supernaturalism not merely an a priori assertion that “there is no evidence”.

That was not all of your point; you said, “of course, it isn't true that there is "no evidence" for the supernatural”, which means you are saying it is true, in fact “of course” true, that evidence for the supernatural exists. That is going a lot further than it taking hard work to adjudicate on whether something claimed to be such evidence in fact is; it’s to say it actually is. And you can’t get out of this by saying, “well, it is evidence, but the debate concerns whether it’s good evidence”, because “bad evidence” is a contradiction in terms; that which does not give good reason to warrant a conclusion isn’t evidence of it.

I would probably find any definition from a reputable philosophical dictionary acceptable.

Then Google one and copy-paste it here (linking to the source) and show it can’t be used to reach the conclusions for which the present definition was used. DO you even know such a definition? If not, how do you know the one used here is “wrong”?

Come to think of it, what is a reputable philosophical dictionary? (There's little enough consensus on what is reputable philosophy.) Not that there seem many to choose from online, & the ones I just looked at don't even seem to have definitions of the supernatural you could use to "prove" your "point". But if you can track one down I'll be all eyes.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 06:14:52 UTC | #949035

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 21 by Alan4discussion

jay29 I would probably find any definition from a reputable philosophical dictionary acceptable.

Comment 20 by Jos Gibbons - Then Google one and copy-paste it here (linking to the source) and show it can’t be used to reach the conclusions for which the present definition was used. DO you even know such a definition? If not, how do you know the one used here is “wrong”?

Come to think of it, what is a reputable philosophical dictionary? (There's little enough consensus on what is reputable philosophy.) Not that there seem many to choose from online, & the ones I just looked at don't even seem to have definitions of the supernatural you could use to "prove" your "point". But if you can track one down I'll be all eyes.

It is indeed jay29 who is "begging the question", by asserting the existence of an undefined "supernatural" and then asking others to disprove this undefined and unevidenced assertion.

Any philosopher's definition of the "supernatural" is likely to be based on" imaginary concepts" in magical stories from mythology. "Some author made up a story about imaginary events", is not evidence.
(Harry Potter books and films, are not evidence of supernatural "wizard magic".)

In order to have any connection to reality or existence, some definition of "beyond" the normal/natural/ or science etc, needs to be made.

This "beyond ..xxx..... definition" - can only be made AFTER defining the "normal/natural/or science". Defining the properties of nature, (that is what science is and where its "boundaries" [if any] are), must be established before any "beyond" can be defined.
These would have to be physical boundaries - not merely boundaries of personal knowledge or understanding (as with the example given by Slightly Permanent @18).

As has been pointed out:- trying to define "beyond a boundary", without first defining the boundary and establishing evidence of its existence, is illogical.

As Steve says @16:-

Supernaturalism is nonsense because science has no limits. In fact, the idea of separating reality into naturalism and supernaturalism is itself nonsensical. It's like a child's drawing where a gap is left between land and sky. There are things that are real, and that is all we need to say.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 09:11:49 UTC | #949040

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 22 by Mr DArcy

And here's the great thing about science, - it works! It detects things like dark matter, dark energy, Higgs bosons, neutrinos etc. which the human senses alone could never detect. No-one would ever claim such things are beyond science, even though they are undetectable to ordinary humans without specialised equipment.

Of course, God, conveniently remains outside of investigation, despite the great claims for such a being. It's almost as if He ain't there!

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 12:27:26 UTC | #949047

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

Comment 22 by Mr DArcy

course, God, conveniently remains outside of investigation, despite the great claims for such a being. It's almost as if He ain't there!

Interestingly, God isn't outside of investigation! We can investigate in considerable detail why people believe in gods. If we find that why people believe in gods isn't actually because of gods, then we can show that the belief in gods is unconnected with whether or not gods exist. If there is no connection, then the simplest position to take is that they don't, and so we arrive at atheism.

It's actually very simple, almost trivial, to demonstrate that gods don't exist, because no reason for believing in gods has ever been shown to be justified.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 12:58:32 UTC | #949049

jay29's Avatar Comment 24 by jay29

My point was just that there needs to be an examination of what the supernaturalist presents as evidence for supernaturalism

Not really, no. Because such evidence isn't evidence for supernaturalism, it's evidence for phenomena that >the believer wants to identify as supernatural. That's very different.

Of course this depends on what is offered by the supernaturalist as evidence! You are begging the question again here; you cannot know in advance whether what the supernaturalist will offer will be good or bad evidence.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 17:45:57 UTC | #949084

jay29's Avatar Comment 25 by jay29

Supernaturalism is nonsense because science has no limits. In fact, the idea of separating reality into naturalism and supernaturalism is itself nonsensical. It's like a child's drawing where a gap is left between land and sky. There are things that are real, and that is all we need to say.

Science clearly does have limits in the sense that there are matters which it cannot investigate. The issue of supernaturalism versus naturalism pertains to ontology not science. I agree with you btw that science adopts a methodological naturalism rather than philosophical naturalism.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 17:52:19 UTC | #949085

jay29's Avatar Comment 26 by jay29

Steve Zara writes:Interestingly, God isn't outside of investigation! We can investigate in considerable detail why people believe in gods.

Yes, I agree that this can be investigated scientifically. However, we cannot scientifically investigate whether He exists or not.

It's actually very simple, almost trivial, to demonstrate that gods don't exist, because no reason for believing in gods has ever been shown to be justified.

There clearly in't a consensus on this; many would say that there is good justification. Hence there needs to careful examination of the arguments for and against His existence. In any case, even if it were universally agreed that no reason for believing in gods has even been found it would be fallacious to infer that no god exists. That is merely another argumentum ad ignorantiam (there is no evidence for x, therefore x is false).

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 18:05:19 UTC | #949086

jay29's Avatar Comment 27 by jay29

Alan4discussion writes It is indeed jay29 who is "begging the question", by asserting the existence of an undefined "supernatural" and then asking others to disprove this undefined and unevidenced assertion.

No, you are confused here and commit a category error. A fallacy of begging the question pertains to arguments not to (single) asserted propositions or questions; hence there was no fallacy from me.

Any philosopher's definition of the "supernatural" is likely to be based on" imaginary concepts" in magical stories from mythology.

I have no idea what you mean here. My Penguin dictionary of philosophy defines "supernatural" as: "supernatural adj., n. Supernatural beings exist above or beyond nature, where "nature" is to be understood in a wide sense to take in all of space and time and everything existing within that framework, i.e. the whole of the physical universe. It is especially in the context of religious belief that the concept of the supernatural has been used...supernatural beings run no risk of having their existence disclosed by scientific or everyday observation." This definition seems to correspond to the manner in which the term "supernatural" is used in philosophical or, indeed, everyday discourse. I do not consider that arguments for a supernatural realm are, for the most part, best presented as "stand- alone" arguments: rather someone arguing for such a supernatural realm might argue for the existence of a deity from which (with the aid of auxiliary premises) one might infer the existence of a supernatural realm.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 18:25:31 UTC | #949088

jay29's Avatar Comment 28 by jay29

Jos Gibbons that a claim is unevidenced is... a reason why to believe it is irrational, and hence the source of an obligation of all not to believe it.

This claim is clearly self-undermining. To see why consider the (your) claim "that a claim is unevidenced is a reason why to believe it is irrational" Now since there is no evidence for this claim on your own account it is irrational and we ought not to believe it!

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 18:35:45 UTC | #949090

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 29 by Jos Gibbons

Please start writing multi-responses as single posts; racking up our post number leads us to start new pages unnecessarily soon, harming navigation.

Science clearly does have limits in the sense that there are matters which it cannot investigate.

Why is that clear? Give an example of something it clearly can't investigate & say why that's clearly so.

This definition

says nothing in spacetime can ever count as supernatural. Which things that don't exist in spacetime do you nonetheless contend exist?

This claim is clearly self-undermining. To see why consider the (your) claim "that a claim is unevidenced is a reason why to believe it is irrational" Now since there is no evidence for this claim on your own account it is irrational and we ought not to believe it!

I wish you'd stop saying "clearly"; it doesn't add to your case, but it does mean your case needs to prove more, since "X is clearly true" is stronger than "X is true".

Anyway, I can give evidence it's irrational to believe that which is unevidenced; by definition evidence for X is a route by which the truth of X leads to its acceptance, so to believe that which is unevidenced is to believe without the belief's truth (if any) being the cause of that belief, which means there's no indication the belief is true. But by definition, a belief is a belief about what is true, making it irrational to have a belief without an indication that it is true. (In this case, the reason that argument counts as evidence for its conclusion is because it is the route by which the conclusion was reached, in which the conclusion's truth led to its being deduced. Thus, sound arguments are by definition evidence for their conclusions.)

Look: are you going to discuss specific examples of supernatural claims you entertain or not? This is the whole point I was making in my first post on this thread; anyone who entertains the supernatural entertains some specific supernatural thing, which they're wrong to do if that specific thing isn't suitably evidenced - so let's jump into that discussion right away. Of course, you've already said you don't accept that evidence is needed to get conclusions. What pray tell would warrant a conclusion?!

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 19:10:13 UTC | #949093

jay29's Avatar Comment 30 by jay29

Jos Gibson writes: Please start writing multi-responses as single posts; racking up our post number leads us to start new pages unnecessarily soon, harming navigation.

I have no problem with this request as the number of responses is indeed increasing at an alarming rate- soon it will be more than I have time for.

Science clearly does have limits in the sense that there are matters which it cannot investigate.

Why is that clear? Give an example of something it clearly can't investigate & say why that's clearly so.

Well, I gave an example already: science cannot determine whether God exists or not. Why? Because one cannot specify, even in principle, an experiment whereby His existence/non-existence could be determined.

Which things that don't exist in spacetime do you nonetheless contend exist?

One example would be mathematical entities such as numbers. Many (perhaps even a majority) of mathematicians adhere to such mathematical Platonism.

his claim is clearly self-undermining. To see why consider the (your) claim "that a claim is unevidenced is a reason why to believe it is irrational" Now since there is no evidence for this claim on your own account it is irrational and we ought not to believe it!

I wish you'd stop saying "clearly"; it doesn't add to your case, but it does mean your case needs to prove more, since "X is clearly true" is stronger than "X is true". Anyway, I can give evidence it's irrational to believe that which is unevidenced; by definition evidence for X is a route by which the truth of X leads to its acceptance, so to believe that which is unevidenced is to believe without the belief's truth (if any) being the cause of that belief, which means there's no indication the belief is true. But by definition, a belief is a belief about what is true, making it irrational to have a belief without an indication that it is true. (In this case, the reason that argument counts as evidence for its conclusion is because it is the route by which the conclusion was reached, in which the conclusion's truth led to its being deduced. Thus, sound arguments are by definition evidence for their conclusions.)

I’m not clear what you are saying here, but in any case that does not matter since I have (above) provided a demonstration that your claim that (“that a claim is unevidenced is a reason why to believe it is irrational") is, on your criterion, itself irrational and therefor ought not to be believed.

Look: are you going to discuss specific examples of supernatural claims you entertain or not? This is the whole point I was making in my first post on this thread; anyone who entertains the supernatural entertains some specific supernatural thing, which they're wrong to do if that specific thing isn't suitably evidenced - so let's jump into that discussion right away. Of course, you've already said you don't accept that evidence is needed to get conclusions. What pray tell would warrant a conclusion?!

A sound argument (i.e. one which has true premises and is deductively valid) would “warrant” a conclusion; such arguments are truth preserving.

Fri, 13 Jul 2012 20:52:51 UTC | #949110