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  1. #41
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    I appreciate everyone’s responses. I can tell you’re all giving very serious thought to the question.

    I feel like I should say that when I say something like “…If we experience an event in the natural world, by what means can we effectively eliminate potential natural explanations to the extent that a supernatural one must be the only sort of explanation that remains?, I’m not suggesting that there can only be a natural answer. I say this because I don’t want anyone to feel any particular pressure to prove that angels, ghosts, God, etc exists. The problem I have comes down to what we can experience, how collective human experience informs us about nature, and what it means to “know” a thing relative to that.

    My central concern is that we can only credit ourselves with a certain amount of knowledge, and that knowledge is relative to what it is possible for us to sense or detect. Maybe the problem will become more apparent if we remove some senses, and/or make some senses useless to a problem.

    Below I will try to create a scenario where sight is the only available/useful sense, and otherwise we can only rely on what we know about nature to inform us about the thing in question.

    Consider:

    You are in a room with no doors or windows. The room is lit so that you can see the entire room. There are no light switches in the room (no means of turning the light on or off), and you cannot reach the light bulb by any means. The light source itself is what appears to be an opaque, glass bulb in the ceiling.

    So, in this scenario, we’ll talk about what we can know is possible about the characteristics of the light source itself.

    Well, first, it’s obviously lit because we can see the entire room. We can be fairly certain of at least this much.

    Can we know that the light is electric? Well, no. We know it is possible that the light source is electric, because our experience of the world informs us of types of lights and electricity. But recall that the material the bulb is made out of is opaque; we can’t see if there is an electrical filament inside the bulb. So while it could be electric, we can’t be certain because it could also be a chemical light source (similar to a light stick). Or it could be a fire of some sort.

    Can we know the bulb is made of glass? Well, no. Again, our experience of the world informs us of other kinds of opaque materials that can resist heat. But we know glass is possible.

    But can we even know if the light is hot? No. Glow sticks don't necessarily put off heat, for example. But we know that it is possible that the glass is hot.

    So all of those things are possible, but unless we can figure out a way to utilize our other senses, we won’t get anywhere.

    Now, here’s where the crux of the issue is for me:

    Can we know that the light is a magical elven light? No. I have no idea what “magical elven light” even means, let alone know that I’m looking at one. Can I know that it’s possible for it to be an elven light? Again, no. Because if I don’t know what a “magical elven light” is, I can’t say whether it’s possible for the light to be one. Moreover, looking at the light doesn’t inform me about whether it’s a “magical elven light” any more than it informs me that it is a chemical light or some sort of fire. All my other senses are equally useless for this problem, precisely because I don't know what a "magical elven light" is. There's literally NOTHING for me to deduce.

    So the difference between the “magical elven light” and all the others is that “magical elven light” doesn’t have any meaningful context. I have no idea what it means to experience a “magical elven light”, and if I don’t know what it’s like to experience one, I am utterly incapable of saying whether the thing is possible or not. I might have even heard stories from a friend who told me they saw a “magical elven light”, but that doesn’t tell me what it is. It only tells me that my friend believes he saw one. There’s no explanatory power in saying “I saw a magical elven light” because even if my friend did in FACT see a “magical elven light”, all I have him saying that he saw it. The fact that he SAID he saw one doesn’t tell me anything about the thing itself, and there’s no sense whatsoever that I can employ, no knowledge of the world to which I can refer, that will bring with it MORE information about what “magical elven lights” actually are.

    EDIT:

    I want to add that, even if another person were in the room with me and said...

    "You know, that's definitely a magical elven light. I know because I was with a large group of people that saw one once, and we all agreed that we definitely saw a magical elven light. And did you know that there are lots of other stories about people who have seen magical elven lights? Because there totally are. And you know what? There's this guy, a "Dr" somebody who has a PHD in Dendrology who wrote a book about magical elven lights, and I'm pretty sure what he said verifies that only a magical elven light can light rooms in this way. There were graphs and stuff. And so I definitely know that that magical elven lights exist and I know what they look like. Let me tell you, I'm pretty sure that only a magical elven light could light this room like this."

    ...that still doesn't tell me anything about what it is. And if I have no idea what it is, how can I possibly draw a line of deduction from the event (the lit room) to a supernatural cause (the magical elven light)? THAT is the problem I believe we're facing, here.

    END EDIT

    So, when it comes to supernatural events, I believe we are in precisely the same predicament. The problem isn’t that people who claim to have had a supernatural experience must be lying or deluded. I don’t doubt a person’s sincerity or sanity by default. The problem is that, just as with “magical elven lights”, there is no sense that I can employ, no knowledge of the world to which I can refer, that will bring with it MORE information about what a supernatural event or thing is.

  2. #42
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    O.K. so there is a bit of back and forth, but I want to go back to this idea.
    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    Can we know that the light is a magical elven light? No.
    In your discussion you refer to magic elven light, but if you don't know anything about it, then it isn't a thing at all being referenced. Magical Elven light is jibberish.
    I think however there are some things we can know about it if it were Magical Elven light actually lighting the room(per your example).
    The first being that it can light a room in that way.

    What I see though is a bit of a run around of ideas here. I mean when we speak of God or angels there are certain definitions that come with that (or else it is jibberish) and you seem to fail to account for that in your examples.

    I think that there is also the problem of your example that you can't even tell the object is something we know of (namely a light bulb. While the example certainly serves to make your point (that we don't know/can't know) .. It appears to suffer from substantial differences in supposed accounts of the supernatural.

    So my contention is that.
    1) We can and do have a working definition of the supernatural
    2) Some examples of the supernatural do tell us information of the nature of the supernatural (if they are indeed supernatural)
    - Such as some examples I mentioned earlier.

    - The problem as I see it is this.
    Given a real instance of the supernatural.. can we know it is real?

    If we can not, then we have our answer.
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  4. #43
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Thanks, MT.

    Ok, so I'm glad that you see what I mean about the given thing being gibberish. But I want to point out that my use of a non-informative term wasn't an accident or an oversight. It was quite intentional. Now, that doesn't mean it's used to mock or belittle or marginalize or anything of the sort; it was to illustrate the point I've been making about supernatural beings.

    Sure, people say that an angel is this or that (just as they can say the same thing about God). But if there's no way to examine these definitions - to compare them to the thing in question itself and see if the thing exhibits these characteristics - the whole thing is an exercise in speculation. And if all we have are speculative definitions, and we have no experience with the thing itself, then that's where the story stops. I can give you all sorts of definitions of magic and elves and so on, but if you can't compare it to actual examples of those things themselves, in what sense have I given you a working definition? Moreover, how could I possibly draw a line from any observed event to "magical elven" anythings?

    And regarding the light bulb example and that it suffers from 'substantial differences in supposed accounts of the supernatural', I think it's worth talking about those substantial differences. The reason is that the reason this thread was created was because I asked for an example of an event (or effect) that can be, by deduction alone, tied unquestionably to a supernatural source. And in fairness to both yourself and Eye, you've provided examples where people have claimed to have seen or been a part of a supernatural event, but it seems to me that both of your are skipping something. You go from "event" to "supernatural cause" for what seems to be only either people having claimed it and/or many people having claimed it. And that's what my example spoke to. Again, I'm not factoring OUT the "supernatural". I'm trying to understand what it is so that I can see a good reason to factor it IN.

    Bear in mind that we don't even have to say what the source is; we just need to be able to, by deduction alone, tie said effect to something other than the natural world.

    *******************EDIT*******************

    Let me add something that (hopefully) hasn’t been plainly requested up until now:

    Suppose for a moment that a dozen people did in fact witness, right before their eyes, a person with stage 4 cancer begin to glow with heavenly light (I’m using words that both MT and Eye have used here) and be healed of cancer and restored right there in the hospital room. Moreover, suppose that the whole event was planned and there were live feeds to every major news outlet in the world, and they all broadcasted the whole event, unedited and uninterrupted to millions of people throughout the world. Suppose that the dozen people were praying for the sick person person to be healed at a specific time, and that the event correlated exactly with the time specified in the prayer.

    If this were to happen, what do we actually know about the supernatural that would tell us that the cause of this event is, unquestionably, supernatural – and definitely NOT natural – in origin? What specific characteristics would define the event in that way? How could we, by deduction alone, determine that the source of the event was in fact supernatural?

  5. #44
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    --The name it claim it problem

    I don't think you are pointing to a problem with supernatural claims.

    For example "If there is no way to examine these definitions.

    In what way exactly can I "examine" gravity? or if that is not a good choice for example some other high ended science experiment. I can't go to the Hadron colider and watch it work.
    I must rely on the experience of others. But here, such a thing becomes "hear say" and apparently crippled as evidence. So it seems to me that there is an awful lot that is an exercise in speculation. Which makes it an us problem.
    Would you agree?

    To me this means that I am forced to either
    1) Lower the bar of admissible evidence.
    2) Reject most of science as "speculation" as I will never actually be able to experience them. For all intents and purposes nuclear power is magic to me personally as I have no access to it's tangible proof.

    Bottom line at some point "people or many people claiming it" is evidence. If only for what a concept and it's qualities should be for us to look for.
    Myself having never seen or experienced X machine, having a factory worker/many describe the machine and what it is from their own experience, should inform me of what the qualities of the machine is.. even if I never lay eyes on one personally.



    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    If this were to happen, what do we actually know about the supernatural that would tell us that the cause of this event is, unquestionably, supernatural – and definitely NOT natural – in origin? What specific characteristics would define the event in that way?
    I hate to say that I have made this point a few times
    But my answer to that (for your consideration) Is that the answer is implied in the evidence.
    If prayers are directed to God and it is answered, then it is reasonable to conclude that it is God answering.
    Just as, if a person is healed in the name of Jesus, then it is reasonable that it is his name(him) the did the healing.
    Or
    Just as a judge with the seal of the country issues an order, it is the country issuing the order and it is the countries authority through which he is acting.

    (IE for some examples the information is contained in the example)
    To serve man.

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  7. #45
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Hey MT,

    You certainly CAN go to the Hadron collider and watch it work. What I mean is, that information is just as available to you as it is to anyone (sure, plane tickets could be a barrier, but the point is that it's entirely possible).

    Same thing with gravity. Want to see it work? Push something off your desk. Stand up. Lay down and breathe; feel the weight of your body being pulled to center of earth's mass.

    I can prove to myself that the earth is a sphere: I can build and launch a rocket to take pictures at high altitude. I can watch a ship sail away and begin to disappear from the bottom up as it goes around the curve of the earth. I can put measured sticks protruding up from the ground in various locations some distance apart and have a friend stand at each one and, at the same time of the day, have them measure the angle of the shadow (which will change relative to its position on the curve facing the sun).

    And these aren't simply stories. You can do these things yourself. Hell, I do at least the last one right here from Atlantis as I watch supply boats sail away.

    But I agree that many people claiming that they saw a thing IS evidence of a kind. But 1) anecdotal evidence is the weakest form of evidence and 2) if it's the only kind of evidence available for a given event, it certainly doesn't help us deduce anything (other than lots of people seem to claim "X" for some unknown reason).

    Remember that thing we're burdened with in this thread is whether or not we can prove the existence of a supernatural thing by its effects alone. So even if lots of people claim to have seen a thing; even if lots of people did in fact see a thing; even if the event was recorded for the world to see, I still don't have an example of an event that would, by deduction alone, be definitively called 'supernatural'. HOW is the 'supernatural' "implied in the evidence"? What characteristics imply that?

    To take your example, if someone said "heal this person in the name of Jesus" and the person was healed, even if we allow that Jesus did in fact perform the healing, what makes the event "supernatural"? What makes Jesus "supernatural"? Why couldn't it be that Jesus in fact has the ability to heal people in that way, and that there's nothing "supernatural" about it; nothing that transcends nature?

  8. #46
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    You certainly CAN go to the Hadron collider and watch it work. What I mean is, that information is just as available to you as it is to anyone (sure, plane tickets could be a barrier, but the point is that it's entirely possible).
    Assuming such a thing exists to begin with
    But one could say that you "CAN" experience the supernatural healing power of God if you simply buy the ticket of faith and just so happen to have a disease.
    .. of course that too assumes such a thing exists.

    I consider my lack of ability to purchase a ticket and visit the Hadron collider, is equivalent to a limitation of my senses just like the room with a light example.

    The limitation of our senses is an important aspect to the question at hand, and I hope that by applying it to the otherwise considered known natural world, we may discover how that limitation should effect our judgment.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    Same thing with gravity. Want to see it work? Push something off your desk. Stand up. Lay down and breathe; feel the weight of your body being pulled to center of earth's mass.
    Well, same thing could have been said in regards to your elvin light example. For all I know, gravity fairies or the FSM is holding me down to the earth.. and is just really consistent.
    I think it would be fair to say that calling it gravity doesn't tell me anything about it, which I believe to be in line with your complaint about other things.


    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    And these aren't simply stories. You can do these things yourself. Hell, I do at least the last one right here from Atlantis as I watch supply boats sail away.


    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    Remember that thing we're burdened with in this thread is whether or not we can prove the existence of a supernatural thing by its effects alone. So even if lots of people claim to have seen a thing; even if lots of people did in fact see a thing; even if the event was recorded for the world to see, I still don't have an example of an event that would, by deduction alone, be definitively called 'supernatural'. HOW is the 'supernatural' "implied in the evidence"? What characteristics imply that?
    Well, I think those are good questions but we need to nail down some frames of reference and recognize the weaknesses with those frames of reference.
    As above, if we are going to hold that the supernatural is of the weakest evidence because it is hear say, then we must recognize that "science" is also of the weakest evidence because it is also hearsay (unless you are doing the experiments yourself).

    Which also means we have to apply "Can do X" equally to both. I "can" get in a rocket and personally view the glob and the existence of the content called Africa. But what distinction is that "can" from being told (per above) that if you buy the ticket of faith then you "can" be healed?

    To me the bottom line for that is either you have personal experience, or you are relying on hear say.
    We just need to agree on which one we are going to approach it from.

    Quote Originally Posted by DIO
    To take your example, if someone said "heal this person in the name of Jesus" and the person was healed, even if we allow that Jesus did in fact perform the healing, what makes the event "supernatural"? What makes Jesus "supernatural"? Why couldn't it be that Jesus in fact has the ability to heal people in that way, and that there's nothing "supernatural" about it; nothing that transcends nature?
    Well, it is of course perfectly natural for God to be able to heal with his word.
    However, by the definition of created things.. It would be supernatural because it's cause was not one of the things created on the 7 days of creation.

    So, at this point .. and I have no preference. I'm perfectly fine with saying there is no such thing as the supernatural, because everything in existence naturally exists and acts according to it's own nature.
    Which makes the answer to the op title "no because there is no possibility of such a thing existing and that has no effect on the concept of God.

    Or
    Yes, but it may require personal experience of a specific kind of supernatural event (such as one that contains the information).

    IE, X(who I am personally experiencing) claims to be supernatural and is acting in accordance with a supernatural thing, therefore it is supernatural. (deductive reasoning?)



    ----Notes----
    In the above I am simply trying to apply the standard used here to my personal general experience. I believe that the point about the line between personal experience and hear say is very strong and really cuts both ways in our challenge to define and recognize the supernatural as well as the natural. I am aware that this can be a very agitating tactic to the reader, but it is not intended as such. I believe that the OP brings out some very important questions but who's basic assumptions (stated and otherwise) can bring up some difficult issues for our general life experience.
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  9. #47
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    Saying that there could be a thing that “transcends the spatiotemporal realm of impersonal matter and energy described by modern science” seems to me to be another way of saying there could be a thing that “we know nothing about”, because adding words like “transcends the spatiotemporal realm of impersonal matter and energy” doesn’t carry with it any explanatory powers about the thing itself.
    Why is it necessary to know details about a principle or force or power that is not subject to natural laws and the limits of time and space (transcends the spatio temporal realm) in order for us to observe or experience and possibly learn from effects and influences that it yields by interacting with our natural laws?

    Again, this conversation is to figure out how to factor something in to a conversation; not to factor it out.
    I understand. Would it be fair to say that another way to say that is to figure out how to factor something in to the conversation that we can investigate. Can we investigate a principle that is not subject to our natural laws by observing and studying its effects and influences? I think we can; what do you think? Does an experience or phenomena have to be physically predictable, directly observable, consistent and reducible to a materialistic cause for it to exist and offer our natural bodies (life) and environment benefits or harm?

    Going to claims of past lives and so on, believe me, I’ve looked at all sorts of claims like this and, once you wipe everything away, it always, always, always comes down to people simply making claims about it.
    I think it’s important not to make hasty generalizations here. Claims are claims. Scientific investigation that validate claims is something else.

    That is to say, even if the memories are genuine and reincarnation is an actual phenomenon, what characteristics of that phenomenon make it supernatural?
    One characteristic would be the survival of consciousness after physical death – unless you want to define consciousness without a physical body as natural – with could be an interesting topic, but I assume you don’t want to go there.

    How do you know that it is something that transcends the spatiotemporal realm of impersonal matter and energy described by modern science?
    Isn’t physicality subject to time and space (spatio temporal) as far as we know? If consciousness survives physical death then that would mean it’s not temporal or subject to the same set of natural laws that it was subject to when it was transmitting (working) through the confines of a physical brain.

    What does it mean for an existing thing to ‘transcend the spatiotemporal realm of impersonal matter and energy described by modern science’ apart from being something that we know nothing about?
    A principle that is not subject to the boundaries and limits of natural laws which include time and space.
    Last edited by eye4magic; January 17th, 2015 at 11:44 PM.
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  10. #48
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Same thing with gravity. Want to see it work? Push something off your desk.
    This is an interesting case, I think. How does this grant us knowledge of gravity?

    Naively, a person might think "That's God pushing us down because of our sin" or something, not understanding the nature of gravity.
    Less naively, a person might view gravity as a force generated by mass.
    Even less naively, a person might view gravity as the warping of spacetime by mass.

    But we don't see gravity. We see how objects move, and infer the existence of gravity. So what's lifting the epistemological weight, here? Not our senses, because we can't see gravity (light doesn't bounce off it), we can't touch it, we can't feel its temperature on our skin, etc.

    Additionally, how do we know things like "There are other minds", or "The universe didn't come into existence five minutes ago with the appearance of age" (a belief that, on its face, is preferable under Occam's Razor)? It seems to me that in the case of gravity, as in the case of other minds and the young universe hypothesis, we do have knowledge, but not strictly from our sense data.

    And if we can have knowledge sources other than our sense data, then a lack of sense data with regard to P doesn't necessarily mean we can't have knowledge with regard to P.
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  12. #49
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    I have to admit that even as I was writing that, part of me was saying (yeah, but you still can’t see gravity itself). But then I CAN feel its effects with my sense of touch, which is quite different, I suspect, than the "feelings" someone has when they sense a "presence" in a room, such as that which a medium might claim to "feel".

    I think the problem I still have isn’t that I can’t see the supernatural, but rather, it’s either that:

    • I can’t employ ANY sense I possess to detect supernatural effects, OR
    • I know so little about what it means for a thing to BE supernatural, that I don’t know if I have the sense to detect it or not.

    That’s the biggest hang-up I have at this point, and I have no idea how to even begin to resolve it.

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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Quote Originally Posted by Dionysus View Post
    I have to admit that even as I was writing that, part of me was saying (yeah, but you still can’t see gravity itself). But then I CAN feel its effects with my sense of touch, which is quite different, I suspect, than the "feelings" someone has when they sense a "presence" in a room, such as that which a medium might claim to "feel".

    I think the problem I still have isn’t that I can’t see the supernatural, but rather, it’s either that:

    • I can’t employ ANY sense I possess to detect supernatural effects, OR
    • I know so little about what it means for a thing to BE supernatural, that I don’t know if I have the sense to detect it or not.

    That’s the biggest hang-up I have at this point, and I have no idea how to even begin to resolve it.
    That's a valid point and it probably goes off into a different discussion. What we can't detect with physical senses doesn’t mean that you (we) don’t have another sense that can detect supernatural effects. So where is this sense and why can’t we physically examine it? I submit because it’s not a physical sense but a non-material sense. Can we learn to work with this sense in a rigorous and objective way to see if can yield any sort of consistent, repeatable results? The reason I think the answer is yes to that question is because:

    1. Our universe seems to be governed by laws and exacting principles.
    2. We’ve figured out on our tiny dot of existence here on earth how one set of those laws work -- physicality, but most of our intellectual giants acknowledge that this is not the complete picture.
    3. The universe does not seem to be schizophrenic.
    4. If physicality has laws that can be studied, understood and prove to be predicable and useful, what is non-physical and not subject to natural laws most likely also has laws that govern their effects because the universe seems to run on laws.
    5. One set of laws (natural laws) cannot conflict with another set of laws (non-physical laws) because that would be counter-intutive and the universe does not appear to be schizophrenic. We observe order and unity.
    6. So, any evidence from effects of non-physical laws (some people refer to these as spiritual principles) that may interact with our natural laws and our lives, may prove to be quite consistent and predictable if we understood their underlying framework.
    7. However, even if we don't understand the details of how non-physical laws work, this doesn’t mean we can’t learn to work with what those laws/principles may govern and influence (effects) -- our non-physical sense that makes us sensitive to the supernatural -- (phenomena/experience not subject to our natural laws).
    Last edited by eye4magic; January 18th, 2015 at 03:58 PM.
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Dio, I think you make a great clarification in your last response. Essentially, as I read it, you are warning that we should avoid a gaps argument, which I think is correct. We shouldn’t say “X, Y, Z are natural causes that are eliminated, therefore the cause is supernatural.” The cause could well be a naturalistic A cause.

    I would go so far, initially, as to submit that any argument of this nature could be problematic (the notable exception being when you make the X,Y, Z categories that include all possible naturalistic explanations, but lets set that aside).

    Rather, I would think that any sound argument towards a supernatural cause would need to invoke some property of the effect that requires a non-natural cause. In this sense something that either argues specifically towards the traits of a supernatural cause or against the traits of a natural one. IE if we were to argue that the only sufficient cause for event A was atemporal, that might be a sound argument. Or, if we were to say that that the only sufficient cause for event A must lack a physical component, etc.

    I think the appropriate equivalent might come if we were to ask ourselves where the power for the light was coming from. A better example is if we had a telegraph receiver of the kind they used in the old west. Essentially a spring with a couple of magnets tied to an electrical wire that runs out of the room (which I took to be our proxy of the universe in the analogy). If we were to see that telegraph receiver begin operating and tapping out a coherent message, we know from the nature of the effect that it must be related to something outside the room. The effect needs an electrical induction and it would need some form of intelligence to compose a message.

    It isn't a perfect example by any means, but it is as close an analogy I can think of in this scenario.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


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  17. #52
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    I think you said it all when you said "a supernatural cause would need to invoke some property of the effect that requires a non-natural cause"; YES. That's EXACTLY it. How do we link a given event with a supernatural cause, especially when we 1) don't have any meaningful sense of what the supernatural is and 2) by extension have no idea what property to invoke that we can say is specific to a non-natural cause?

    However, I do want to clarify this bit where you said "We shouldn’t say “X, Y, Z are natural causes that are eliminated, therefore the cause is supernatural.” The cause could well be a naturalistic A cause." (I agree that we shouldn't say that, by the way.)

    Going back to the bolded question above, even if we eliminate all the natural causes we can invoke, without a meaningful sense of what the supernatural is, how can we know what properties to invoke. Moreover, even if we were to perfectly know and perfectly understand every single knowable thing about the physical universe there is to know, what does that tell us about the supernatural?

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  19. #53
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    I would add that a small clarification to the italicized text in saying that the effect could also invoke some trait contrary to a natural cause, which would have the benefit of needing a less precise definition of supernatural to fulfill.

    One of the problems with this argument I think has been that we are struggling to prove/disprove a category of concepts that may well be an artificial category. We might not have a good definition for supernatural because no such coherent category exists except out of the convenience for human speech when we wish to group the ethereal "other," ghosts, demons, etc all into a single group. It might be as simple as saying that we are talking about all conceptual elements that are not contingent on a presence within the natural structure (laws & dimensions) for their logical coherence. Or as simple as saying the group, as a group is a meaningless lump. We can talk about individual causes which could be called supernatural, but that that doesn't mean there is a category of concepts that are supernatural, it is just a convenient placeholder.

    Think of the old show The X-Files. How would you define an X-File (perhaps this is too close to our existing discussion)? It seemed to be a lumping of all the "other" cases the FBI didn't want to do, not that there was necessarily a coherent, underlying concept of what those cases were, not something like a clear concept of kidnapping. We might be struggling with a definition because the category is, itself, too broad.

    Which is why I suggested earlier (and I think we came to an emotionally unappealing agreement) that it was simply logically coherent concepts that exist absent contingency upon this universe (I realize I changed the wording a bit, but this was a bit more technical and made it sound cooler).

    And as for what we would know about such a concept we would be limited to direct revelation (not the topic of this thread) and what we could deduce as necessarily the case via effects (if any). I wouldn't necessarily say we need to have a pre-existing property conceptual framework for the supernatural from which we invoke items based upon the effect, but rather we would have to back out necessary properties based upon the details of the effect. Our telegraph machine, for example, we can deduce that the cause of its movement is outside the room (based upon the only source of information to the machine being the wire) and that it is connected to some kind of intelligence (based upon the information content in the message). That intelligence could be a computer, a person, a demon, further deduction would seem unsupportable. But we can grasp, at least, a limited picture of the cause, even if we don't have direct experience with it as an entity or concept.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    There has been some discussion amongst participants in this thread, and to be honest on ODN in general, about getting resolution to threads. Dio has brought up an excellent idea of creating a capstone summary of this thread and then pruning it and closing it.

    In the longer term, we are looking to make this type of thread a common occurrence amongst the Peers group, and hopefully a good example for everyone on constructive dialogue and sound argumentation as well as how fun and interesting it can be to explore these questions, especially between people who are not aligned in the way they think about it.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


  22. #55
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    Re: Can Deductive Reasoning of Effects Alone Prove the Existence of a Supernatural Be

    Hey all,

    THIS IS THE FINAL POST IN THIS THREAD:

    For those of you who have been following this discussion, though it was not the original intention, this thread became something of an experiment for the Online Debate Network.

    It started with me wanting to minimize the use of the quote feature, in order to give the discussion a more conversational tone, rather than the more competitive tone that taking and parsing snippets and blurbs seems to generate.

    So, what the heck were we talking about?

    The central question under discussion in this thread was:

    Can we use deduction alone to analyze an observed effect in the natural world and conclude that the source of the effect is supernatural?

    My position was essentially that we use our senses to authenticate what we know about nature, and that - if we have no experience with a given aspect of nature - then we are unable to deduce anything about it. I extended this position into claims about the supernatural, and very quickly we learned that we needed a useful, working definition of “supernatural” before we could make any meaningful progress.

    There was some initial discussion about our ability to know something and our experiences, perhaps enough for a different thread. It was put forward, but by no means resolved, that it is possible to deduce what could be called “self-evident truths” even without experiential knowledge. These truths were offered as truths that arise from their own definitions rather than empirical observation. The largest drawback to such a concept was that it isn’t clear that fundamental ideas being defined were themselves capable of comprehension without a mind’s ability to experience something similar (in our example it was separate identity).

    Several ideas where offered, and in the latter parts of the thread, it was something of a toss-up between:

    • ”Anything that existed prior to the 7 days of creation” (this one has a clear Christian theme) and
    • ”A principle that is not contingent upon the boundaries and limits of natural laws which include time and space.”



    Unfortunately, we reached eventually something of an impasse. For my part, I was stuck on whether or not either definition provided enough explanatory power to provide a sense of what ‘supernatural’ even is, and because I never had a good sense of that, my position remained unchanged from the opening post. I understood quite well what the words themselves mean, but unfortunately, I was unable to connect the words themselves to any relevant meaning to the questions I had.

    On the other hand, some of my opposition seemed to feel that certain testimonies and experiences of what some might call “miracles” were and are perfectly sound proofs of the existence of the supernatural. These experiences ranged from healing of sick people to reincarnation and detailed accounts of past lives. In their views, the fact of so much overwhelming testimony of these kinds are self-evident proofs of the existence of the supernatural. Also, it was suggested that there is a sort of cognitive bias against things we don't understand that plays a role in the inability of many to be sensitive to things that might be called "supernatural".

    The alternative opposing view point was that a supernatural cause could be determined in cases where a sufficient explanation of the effect required properties that were supernatural (by the above second definition). IE That the effect required some property in its cause that is either, by its nature, supernatural or is contrary to a naturalistic explanation.

    So what now?

    At this point, we simply wanted to provide something that is hopefully interesting and fun to read and discuss. Our view is that sometimes, a thread going on forever dilutes the impact that the thread might have otherwise had.

    So, while this thread is by no means a comprehensive discussion, nor are the participants anywhere near the greatest minds to have talked about things like this, the hope is that we’ve given any prospective reader enough compelling information to start them thinking about and researching the question themselves. In essence, we wanted to stop the discussion while intentionally leaving the central question unanswered, so you, the reader, can seek the answers yourself.

    So, if you’ve stayed with the thread this far, thank you. If you’ve found it useful and interesting, we’re very glad to hear that.

    Thanks for reading!

 

 
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