Can the supernatural be studied? Kiri-kin-tha’s first law of metaphysics

by Greg Mayer

A tactic pursued vigorously by cdesign proponentsists is to claim that scientists assume that God (and other supernatural beings) doesn’t exist, and that this assumption is just that: an assumption, with no empirical basis. Roger Pennock has responded to this claim, most notably in his book Tower of Babel, noting that it confuses metaphysical naturalism (claims about the existence of entities) with methodological naturalism (forgoing explanatory appeals to the supernatural, because such appeals squelch further inquiry), and that all science must adopt the latter, lest it give up investigation whenever a problem proves recalcitrant. Its converse, “methodological supernaturalism”, is essentially a God of the gaps argument: what we do not understand, we attribute to the supernatural.  The fallacy of this argument has been known for millenia, and it has perhaps never been better said than by Hippocrates:

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end to divine things.

It’s also always seemed to me a rather parlous position for a religious person to adopt, because by identifying the works of God with ignorance, the realm of the divine is on a continual retreat before expanding knowledge. A weaker but related claim made by some accommodationists is that science must be silent about existential claims about God(s), because it cannot contemplate supernatural entities, being bound to consider only natural explanations.

I think Pennock’s response is compelling, but I’ve always thought more could be said.  Is it really true that science cannot investigate the supernatural?

If the goal of science is identified, as it sometimes is, as the explanation of phenomena by recourse to general laws (or some such formulation) then it would appear that supernatural events or entities, being unbound by such laws, could not be scientifically investigated. While this characterization of science is not without merit, it ignores a large part of science– much of astronomy, geology, and biology, for starters– which is concerned with history: what has happened.  They are, as R.J. O’Hara has put it, “those sciences which have as their object the reconstruction of the past based on the evidence of the present.”

For these sciences, supernatural events are not beyond their ken. For if supernatural entities have interacted with the world in a way to produce observable effects (and if they have not, then to posit their existence is vain), then we can surely know of them by the methods of the historical sciences.

In light of the latest box office smash, an example from Star Trek is enlightening.  In the Next Generation and some later series, the crew of the Enterprise periodically encountered a being called Q. Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything. The source and nature of his power is unknown to the Federation or any other galactic civilization.  But was he supernatural? Well maybe in some sense he was, but in another sense he wasn’t: he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments.  His actions were known, recorded, and part of documented history. His activities were never explained by general laws, but that his activities took place was well attested.  So although he was not (at least yet) a subject of the sciences of general laws, he was certainly a subject of the historical sciences.

That the supernatural, as exemplified in my example by Q, is not unstudiable, has been proposed in a piece by Russell Blackford and in one of Jerry’s pieces in The New Republic.

But if any supernatural entity in observable contact with the world (i.e. a contact that has consequences) can be studied by the methods of the historical sciences, even if the effects of its contact cannot be subsumed under general laws, is it still supernatural? I would say no. To back me up on this I call on the great Vulcan philosopher, Kiri-kin-tha, and his first law of metaphysics:

Nothing unreal exists.

Or, as I would rephrase his law, anything which exists is natural.

96 Comments

  1. Posted May 18, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Can the effects of intercessory prayer be studied? It is supposedly an event that has observable contact with the real world. But I’ve read a very compelling article on PubMed that laid waste to the notion of even attempting to study it.

    • Pete
      Posted November 24, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      It has been studied. See American Heart Journal: Volume 151, Issue 4, Pages 934-942 (April 2006)
      There are few studies; I guess those who pray prefer to remain ignorant about the effects ;-)

  2. Scott
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Not precisely on-topic, but related enough to warrant a post. NPR’s All Things Considered is running a week-long series of reports on the scientific investigation of mystical experiences (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104240746). The series is titled “The God Chemical: Brain Chemistry And Mysticism”. I heard the first segment this afternoon… and it didn’t suck, but hey– it’s a long week and so there’s time.

  3. David Buckna
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    A Star Trek quiz…Boldly going where no quiz has gone before
    By David Buckna
    Special to ASSIST News Service

    http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2009/s09050064.htm

  4. RichardW
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    Let me refer you to a follow-up piece that Russell Blackford wrote:

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/05/natural-and-supernatural-again.html

    Natural/supernatural is simply not a useful distinction to make in this context.

  5. J.J.E.
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    As a complementary point, I have no idea how any religious person can claim to have faith in any reasonable way. Either: 1) their belief is completely untethered to their experience, in which case they get called insane; or 2) their so-called faith is almost entirely influenced by one or more texts and/or doctrines, in which case they are merely gullible.

    In the 2nd case, the belief isn’t faith, rather it is predicated on questionable claims made by sources lacking with less credibility than your average used car salesman. With the salesman, at least you see a car! And arguing that those sources are actually very credible doesn’t lessen this problem any, as doing so only distances them further from claims of “faith”.

    In combination with your post above, it seems as if the religious claim to know the unknowable, and claim to do so happily in the absence of evidence, though they wouldn’t have come to such a conclusion without evidence of god through some sort of scripture of questionable reliability. Pretty neat trick, eh?

  6. Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    The trouble is that a claim such as “anything that exists is natural” tells you nothing about what actually exists. It just says that if spooks, gods, etc., exist, and behave regularly enough to be studied, or (as you say) leave behind sufficient traces of their actions to be studied, then we will apply the word “natural” to them.

    That may be true, but it’s a kind of semantic point about how we want to use the word “natural”. It doesn’t settle what sorts of claims can actually be investigated by science and reason (or help us to draw inferences about what categories of things actually exist).

    I agreed with all the earlier points in the post, though, and they are more what I (and I think Jerry) have been getting at. I do like the point that something spooky that doesn’t behave with any observable regularity might still leave enough traces for us to examine, and attest to, its actions. That sounds as if it’s probably right, as in the “Q” example.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I agree. I think it is useful to settle on what the words ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ mean, or at least make clear what the possible meanings are. The ‘supernatural’ is often segregated as a class of phenomena inaccessible to study by the means of science. This segregation is then used in two ways. A strong claim is made by cdesign proponentsists that this is a severe epistemological limitation of science caused by science’s gratuitous metaphysical assumptions. A weaker claim is made by accommodationists who see it as not invalidating science, but preserving a place for divine beings or actions whose existence cannot be tested by scientific methods. I think it important to note that if the supernatural phenomena have observable consequences (like Q does), then they are not inaccessible to science. Science is powerless to investigate phenomena without empirical consequences, but Q (and other supposed beings) does (or are claimed to) have empirical consequences, and thus we can study him (them), even if their behavior is not law-like. I (and I suspect Kiri-kin-tha) prefer to regard such investigatable beings/phenomena as natural. To regard them as such, of course, does not establish whether or not they do exist.

      The important point, to me, is that we see that a class of phenomena/beings that is inaccessible to scientific study has not been identified. Whether we therefore say that such beings or phenomena are therefore natural, or instead that some supernatural claims are accessible to scientific methods (and, also importantly, these are the methods of the historical sciences), is not important.

      GCM

    • RichardW
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Russell, perhaps I’m being pedantic, but I’d like to take issue with you on one point.

      You wrote: “I do like the point that something spooky that doesn’t behave with any observable regularity might still leave enough traces for us to examine, and attest to, its actions.”

      Surely the very fact that we’ve recognised some observations as traces of something means that we’ve spotted a pattern, i.e. a regularity.

  7. facilis
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Naturalists want to have it both ways so much. If they do find out that supernatural things exist, they redefine “natural” so that it encompasses everything that exists. Do you realise that that now makes naturalism unfalsifiable?

  8. Dave
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    by Greg Mayer

    —“much of astronomy, geology, and biology, for starters– which is concerned with history: what has happened.”—>

    —>”For these sciences, supernatural events are not beyond their ken. For if supernatural entities have interacted with the world in a way to produce observable effects (and if they have not, then to posit their existence is vain), then we can surely know of them by the methods of the historical sciences.”—

    —“In light of the latest box office smash, an example from Star Trek is enlightening. In the Next Generation and some later series, the crew of the Enterprise periodically encountered a being called Q. Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.”—

    —“I think it important to note that if the supernatural phenomena have observable consequences (like Q does), then they are not inaccessible to science. Science is powerless to investigate phenomena without empirical consequences, but Q (and other supposed beings) does (or are claimed to) have empirical consequences, and thus we can study him (them), even if their behavior is not law-like.”—

    I don’t know how I could have missed such simple points. I’ve gone on and on that science is concerned with natural phenomena only, that “supernaturalism” is simply not part of science, in any way. But, clearly is something “supernatural” is discovered, then it exist. I missed the entire point on definition, that saying “natural” is everything doesn’t tell us what exist or not. I can’t believe how unbelievably blind I’ve been. Clearly, science can study the “supernatural” (depending) and can certainly refute the “supernatural”.

    It’s got me to thinking. It appears that we can say it’s possible that God exist, though very, very unlikely (like Russell’s teapot, tooth fairies, spaghetti monsters, etc. Though, we can still say it’s possible, and after all, tooth fairies and ghost really haven’t historically been given the attributes that God has.

    There’s some debate on Russell’s site about “regularity” and consistent behavior of an omnipotent being that can manipulate things just about any way they want. There’s talk of unfathomable motives (and testing a “supernatural” being with motives).

    It’s also got me thinking about theories in cosmology. Multiverses, eternal space, infinite regress, infinite regress of finite events, how things got started in eternal space and if God exist, who created God.

    Of course something like; –“Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.”– could possibly exist and be amendable to science obviously. I mean if I said, and immortal being that is omnipotent is “supernatural” and not amendable to science, then it exist, well, guess what… I just can’t believe how logical this all fits together.

    Immortal, I’m guessing is meant as not subject to death. Not sure how it was “born” but it’s not going to die. Omnipotent, is all powerful I assume. Unlimited power.

    I can see how that Immortal, Omnipotent being is amendable to science, to be verified to exist, in fact it may exist.

    I also think that it could do virtually anything. We can’t really know the mind of this being, though we may have hints. The problem of evil and contradictions of all good and all powerful, plus obvious “sacred text” contradictions and zaniness, I suppose don’t really matter – after all we are trying to comprehend a being that is all-powerful, never going to die (don’t know how it was created), possible creator of everything, and I suppose if all-powerful, it could be omni anything it wants.

    I have come to the tentative conclusion that a “God” does exist. Maybe something like a “Q”, but I’d imagine that the creator doesn’t need to make everything perfectly clear to us, doesn’t really logically follow to think the God would. Why would there be perfection in nature, if nature was made imperfect by a perfect being. How do we know the exact motives – there may be the mote in the eyes of some believers, but not mine.

  9. Dave
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking about the God I now believe in and started to wonder about scientifically testing to verify immortality. Would this be a provisional truth about this entity (would we be told – no, that’s only a claim by the “being”, I want something to test)? I’m thinking since my God is all-powerful and immortal, than why can’t it be eternal. There’s some cosmologies that identify eternal space and infinte regress, and infinity etc. Though, I guess the next question beyond how do you determine if the all-powerful being with motives is immortal (or all powerful, not sure how to test that, but I’m getting there), how would it be “born” and not die, could I assume it didn’t have to be “born”. Not sure, but the possibility is there and if it wants to reveal itself it will, but why would I assume it would, I mean I’d have to think awfully highly of myself to think I understand the motives of my God. However, one thing I am sure of is that if an all-powerful, immoratal being with motives can be detected, it exist and is thus scientifically amendable, period.

  10. Dave
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Thus I believe

    Since I understand now that my God, and its attributes, such as being immoratal and omnipotent are scientifically testable, then it suddenly hit me, why would I go searching for my God. It only follows to accept the existence, what could possibly be the argument against believing in such a God that can be scientifically test. We can test things such finding out if an entity is immoratal and all-powerful, it is within the reach of science to verify those properties in the God who holds them. Of course being able to do anything it wants, it doesn’t follow to not just accept the possibility is very real. How would eternal space “decide” to activate finite properties? If infinte regress of finite events is logical, than I think a “first cause” immortal, all-powerful entity (which we know is amendable to science if discovered – those features can be verified) actually makes good sense.

  11. newenglandbob
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Dancing on the head of a pin again, I presume.

    facilis @7. I don’t follow why you think naturalism is unfalsifiable if it includes all things that exist.

    If supernatural things exist then they are redefined to no longer be supernatural.

    Dave @8 and 9:

    These posts appear to be illogical spoofs to me. I certainly see no logical flow there.

    Actually, I see little merit in this entire thread.

    • Dave
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      NewEndglandBob,

      I’m just doing a thought experiment and found I believe in a God.

      If we can detect an entity and say it is Immortal, Omnipotent, then how are we determining these characteristics? We are told the entity is able to be scientifically studied, but how did we determine we are studying such a being (both Immortal and Omnipotent) – with science? – if so – how?

      My God is like Q:

      Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.

      And lets take the scenario:

      –“he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments. His actions were known, recorded, and part of documented history. His activities were never explained by general laws, but that his activities took place was well attested.

      That the supernatural, as exemplified in my example by Q, is not unstudiable, has been proposed in a piece by Russell Blackford and in one of Jerry’s pieces in The New Republic.”–

      But if any supernatural entity in observable contact with the world (i.e. a contact that has consequences)…”–

      My God is reality, that is what I believe.

      We know specific characteristics about “Q” (presumably – but still offered as possibly knowable), mentioned above, Immortal and Omnipotent.

      If detected as shown by Greg, it would not be “supernatural”, only natural.

      Now, after reading the part about how we know of “Q” above, how do you use science to determine if an entity shown to exist as described is “immortal” and “omnipotent”?

      If this is assumed true, that it is capable, then go the next step as I have an entertained ideas about certain cosmologies, such as the introduction of eternal space, infinite regress of finite events, infinity etc., we may also assume an entity that is not liable or subject to death; undying; not liable to perish or decay and almighty or infinite in power – and is shown to be just those things, could be shown to be eternal, or presumed possible, so instead of an idea of a non-entity “creating”, I presume we can assume an entity with motives. This makes much more sense.

      Other characteristics are also verifiable using science, such as omnibenevolence, omniscience etc. Because if we say if such an entity is detected, verified, testable, then we are determining those characteristics also – not sure how you can, but if we can assume science capable of determining – Omnipotence, Immortality, Omnibenevolence, Omniscience (which we must assume to determine that if discovered they are able to be studied and we are also assuming that is what we are studying) – we must have an idea of how to determine these characteristics. I say that if this is all true, and we already accept certain theories of cosmology as possible, then whey not believe…

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        As I thought, you are counting the angels dancing on the head of a pin or contemplating your navel.
        I agree with Russell Blackford in #13 below.

        These things did not happen because there is no evidence. Your speculations have no effect upon me, Dave, because they are just idle speculation. The only part of all your words that resonates with me is where you say “my god is reality” and I fixed it for you by taking away the capital letter.

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Do you admit that we can determine if; Q (God) is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything?

        Then further, “if” God exist and is also Omnibenevolence and Omniscience, we can also determine those characteristics? I would say by science, and that would be the most interesting – but, are they determinable by any means we are aware of? You would think so if we hold to an idea that such an entity could exist, it’s just we don’t have evidence (just saying that last part because you mentioned evidence – though, that brings up the problem of thinking we can know or understand such an entities motivations before determining we are detecting its actions – otherwise we are only placing our understanding of actions in the place of how my God behaves and his motivation – you can’t know you don’t have evidence if you don’t know what evidence to look for or if you’re already detecting it – if the argument goes otherwise you once again place yourself in the mind of God – which I find very unlikely to be capable of doing with an Omnipotent, Immortal, Omnibenevolence and Omniscience God).

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        No Dave, I do not admit if Q (God) is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.

        It is equivalent to saying if my arm is 3000 miles long, I can tap Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger on the shoulder from here in New England. It is just childish.

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Are you then saying we can not detect if an entity (God) is Omnipotent, Immortal etc.?

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        I think you misunderstand the question;

        Do you admit that we can determine if; Q (God) is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything?

        I am asking if you think we can detect such a being, and thus determine those characteristics? Not whether God exist or not.

        i.e. if such a God exist, the possibility of God’s existence implies we can determine if God is Immortal, Omnipotent etc.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        I am saying two things:

        1. There is no proof of any deity.

        2. The burden of proof is on those who put forth the proposition that a deity exists and that has not been accomplished.

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Of course the follow up to my last question would be – if so – how? How do you determine if an entity that we can detect and study is Immortal, Omnipotent etc.?

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        I understand about the burden, I’m just asking a simple question.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        “I think you misunderstand the question”

        No, I say the question is not worth discussing.

      • Dave
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Nope, let me remind you of what you said; “No Dave, I do not admit if Q (God) is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.”

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        The punctuation was incorrect. What I meant was this:

        No Dave, I do not admit the following statement of yours being: “if Q (God) is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 5:50 am | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        That’s worse, now it appears you don’t understand that “he can do anything” is only referring to omnipotent.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        The question still stand though, for anyone.

        If my God is observed in someway, detected and verified – my God is Immortal as well as Omnipotent (like “Q” – though my God is also possibly Omnibenevolence and Omniscience – though Q can do anything which takes in a lot)- and this is a given. In fact what makes my God, well “God”, is that he is the Creator with those characteristics.

        (Of course, I’m only following the argument that defining God out of existence by saying he is “supernatural” (therefore outside existence) or science is concerned only with the “natural” (natural not clearly defined also does not tell us if God exist – He may still exist) limit science to much and besides they both don’t answer the question of whether God exist (they only eliminate the potential of science to verify God’s existence).

        How do we verify that a being is Immortal, Omnipotent etc.? What scientific test do we run (right not even since this is an open question – or even ones you may imagine in the future to run) that would determine my God is Immortal, Omnipotent? Do we say, well we can try to kill the s.o.b., but the problem then is if He doesn’t die it still is not nearly conclusive that he won’t die (he is by definition not subject to death). Or how about studying what He is made of to determine Immortality (hopefully you see the problem there without me going into it). We run into larger problems with Omnipotent.

        We can attempt logic to say these contradictory states of being by my God show Him to be unlikely. The problem there is by taking the two things I’ve shown together you have contradiction. First, you can’t say if the God is discovered it is amendable to science when you haven’t offered how science can discern he is God (by the definition of the God – what makes my God, God), you are only saying (again, but in a different reality now), that you are studying what science can study of the God (the “true” aspects are yet to be shown amendable to scientific validation – so you’re either go on claims of the being, or assuming beyond scientific rationality). Second, you would have to be mind reading on a scale of Star Trek 200, to determine there is true contradiction in the characteristics of the God (the problem of evil etc. is only from the perspective of beings (humans) that are not Immortal, Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent and Omniscience.

        Arguments about we would need to posit a God more complex than the complexity in nature, who created God, evil in the world exist, suffering exist, natural explanations work perfectly well to account for origins, probability and finally the faults of humans in claims offered as proofs of Gods – are all fairly superficial when you think about it. All we are doing is placing ourselves (the human species) at the center of the “universe” again (while offering theories of eternal space, infinite regress of finite events, infinity etc. for explanation of an evolving “universe” – the “nothing” may be “everything” yet we are still willing to entertain naturalness as eternal, infinite).

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 6:48 am | Permalink

        The question is still irrelevant.

        There can be no omnipotent being.

        You are still counting the dancing angels on the head of a pin.

  12. Nick (Matzke)
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I recommend everyone read Pennock’s latest on this topic, it’s a response to the various criticisms of the McLean v. Arkansas and Kitzmiller v. Dover decisions & their reliance on methodological naturalism and various definitions of science:

    Robert T. Pennock (2009). Can’t Philosophers Tell the Difference Between Science and Religion?: Demarcation Revisited. Synthese.

    Abstract In the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover Area School Board case, a federal district court ruled that Intelligent Design creationism was not science, but a disguised religious view and that teaching it in public schools is unconstitutional. But creationists contend that it is illegitimate to distinguish science and religion, citing philosophers Quinn and especially Laudan, who had criticized a similar ruling in the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas creation-science case on the grounds that no necessary and sufficient demarcation criterion was possible and that demarcation was a dead pseudo-problem. This article discusses problems with those conclusions and their application to the quite different reasoning between these two cases. Laudan focused too narrowly on the problem of demarcation as Popper defined it. Distinguishing science from religion was and remains an important conceptual issue with significant practical import, and philosophers who say there is no difference have lost touch with reality in a profound and perverse way. The Kitzmiller case did not rely on a strict demarcation criterion, but appealed only to a “ballpark” demarcation that identifies methodological naturalism (MN) as a “ground rule” of science. MN is shown to be a distinguishing feature of science both in explicit statements from scientific organizations and in actual practice. There is good reason to think that MN is shared as a tacit assumption among philosophers who emphasize other demarcation criteria and even by Laudan himself.

    Keywords Demarcation – Intelligent Design – Creationism – Creation-science – Methodological naturalism – Science and religion

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9547-3

    It is also in the 2009 new edition of the book “But Is It Science?”

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Thanks very much for this reference.

      GCM

    • RichardW
      Posted May 20, 2009 at 2:42 am | Permalink

      Nick. I haven’t got access to Pennock’s paper. But from the abstract you’ve posted, I doubt that it fairly addresses the point being made here. That point is not that there is no difference between science and religion. (Do any philosophers really make that claim?) What some of us argue is that factual claims do not become immune from scientific scrutiny by virtue of being labelled “religious” or “supernatural”.

      If you haven’t already done so, I strongly recommend you read Russell Blackford’s two blog entries linked to above. They make the case very effectively.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        RichardW is right of course.

        First off, Pennock and Michael Ruse are accomodationist, as much as or worse than Eugenie Scott.

        I didn’t get why Russell kept saying things in his, ‘Natural and Supernatural again’, blog such as:

        –“That, however, does not prove that gods, ghosts, demons, astrological influences, etc., don’t exist.”–

        –“It only shows us that if ghosts (for example) do turn out to exist,”–

        –“If they [Gods and Ghost] do, then it suggests that science can deal with them.”–

        –“It leaves open the question of whether gods and ghosts exist, for example.”–

        –(“If a “supernatural” mind has the power to interact with the physical world”)”on one [in parenthesis] definition of “the supernatural”, it is not beyond science to examine any claims at all about the supernatural.”–

        But, I’ve come to see the light!

        No matter if we are talking about labeling something “supernatural” or saying “natural” means “everything that exist” etc. etc., we are obviously not closing the door on whether God exist. In fact, God could be amendable to science and we can determine His characteristics (Immortal, Omnipotent etc.)

        See, I got caught up in the claims. I said that science is concerned with natural phenomena only, that a claimant can say that something has “supernatural” causation, but what we are testing is in nature, “supernaturalism” is impregnable to science – one can keep pushing the arguments outside of scientific investigation – nature (I foolishly said science makes no use for the supernatural or God hypothesis). See, I was mistakenly holding to that all there is nature and the mysteries of nature (you can’t make the natural = supernatural, you can’t make the unreal = real etc.). I said these things so much I believed them! But, how do we define nature? Of course, Gods could still exist, and they don’t need to conform to nature at all (since no clear definition etc. etc.).

        See, when someone says; “God created the world 6,000 years ago and created the flood” etc., that claim has been falsified, we are in essence refuting the supernatural. I was wrongly saying that what we were testing was what science does which was testing the claims against reality (what we may consider scientific truths) and the “supernatural” part doesn’t really matter. I held that the God aspect is not answerable by science. However, what if the evidence did match up and the world was 6,000 years old, or the God was just making us believe it’s older (etc. etc., the possibilities are only limited by the human imagination). We would have evidence of the claim of the God. Of course we could say there is other possible explanations, but the claim would be supported (evidence of the Omnipotent God). If a claim that is said to be “supernatural” (created by something outside nature – or having Immortality, Omnipotence etc.) is supported by science, we ARE testing the supernatural (not just natural phenomena – again definition is largely the problem), if the test are verified, we are supporting the claim of an Immortal, Omnipotent being etc. etc.

        We of course already debate hypothesis on “naturalistic” (“naturalism” is a word I don’t use any more) explanation which take in “eternal” space, “infinity”, “infinite regress” etc.

        For why I now believe in God after seeing the fault of my ways see post:

        May 19, 2009 at 8:44 am
        May 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm
        May 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

        Do as Steve Zara, STOP using the word “naturalism” – useless!

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        What convoluted nonsense in your posts, Dave. They are getting more bizarre as you go along.

        You pretend that you now see a new light (revelation) but you are most likely just a poser.

        Type a few thousand more words to convince yourself, I can’t wait to see how convoluted it can get.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Poser!? How dare you!

  13. Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The interesting thing, of course, is that we do NOT find traces of the activities of the God of the literally-interpreted Bible. There is no trace of the world having come into existence 6000 years ago, or of Noah’s flood, or of the Egyptian captivity of the Jews and the subsequent wandering in the wilderness, or of spectacular supernatural events taking place in Jerusalem around about 30 AD when Jesus was crucified. These things should have left traces, but strangely didn’t. That doesn’t rule out the existence of a deist God, or the God of a more sophisticated Christianity that is sufficiently insulated from investigation, or other gods that we could imagine, but it’s no wonder that YECs are upset. Their particular God is one that should have left some dramatically-confirmable traces of his existence … but didn’t.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Russell, you get to the heart of the issue, succinctly.

      Why do people invest so much time and effort in ancient fairy tales? Just because they are afraid of dying and afraid of the unknown? Maybe it is like the fear of snakes that some people have – it is a brain malfunction.

  14. Dave
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Blackford,

    –“That doesn’t rule out the existence of a deist God..”–

    Of course it doesn’t. My eyes have been completely opened by something very simple I missed.

    If we detect and confirm an Immortal, Omnipotent (and in the case of a more rounded God – Omnibenevolence and Omniscience) entity (i.e.- my God) that means we CAN determine those characteristics. If we are determining that we CAN detect those characteristics and also claiming they possibly exist within an entity, then that entity certainly can exist.

    Since we admit this God can exist with those features and we would be able to determine that – then I submit it only makes sense to believe in such a God. It can relate primarily to a “first cause” argument. If we can assume a possible eternal space, or infinite regress (or infinity or infinite regress of finite events) plus our ability of detecting Omni(characteristics) then the questions of proposing something more complex to explain the complexity in nature, as well as who created the God, are moot for the most part. Since we can detect Immortality, Omnipotence (etc. and accept their possibility) as well as the eternal space (etc.), then the “first cause” goes to an entity (or the omni-mind).

    Outside of that is to say; “I don’t know”, but don’t know what? The possibility of eternal space etc.?

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      It has been shown by logical proof that there can be no possibility of a being being omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent.

  15. newenglandbob
    Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    One simple argument of the proof:

    1. God is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent.

    2. God being omniscient, knows the existence of evil.

    3. God being omnibenevolent, has the intention of eliminating the presence of evil.

    4. God being omnipotent, can eliminate the presence of evil.

    5. From 2,3 and 4, we can deduce that the presence of God implies the absence of evil.

    6. There is evil.

    7. From 5 & 6, therefore, we deduce that God as defined in (1) does not exist.

    • Dave
      Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      NewEnglandBob,

      What is more logical, that you can’t say you know if God exist, or you know the mind and motivations of God?

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

        Again, I say there is no proof of existence and the burden of proof is on those who say otherwise. I am open to hearing/seeing that proof.

    • Keith
      Posted October 23, 2009 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Steps 1 to 3, are perfectly reasonable.

      However one has to ask how is evil defined, and how severe would this intended cull be. If as some propose this cull would include the majority, then perhaps the benevolence of God is such that he/it despite the intent, has not carried out this cull (yet).

      logical fallacy. Step 4. 4. God being omnipotent, CAN eliminate the presence of evil.

      can = has the ability to, it doesn’t require God to eliminate evil now. Therefore step 7 doesn’t follow.

      As an alternative to step 4, if God has the ability (being extra extra omnipotent) not only to eliminate evil but also to redeem i.e. fix all the effects of evil after the event.

      The action of allowing evil to continue for a season, may be interpreted as a demonstration of benevolence, giving time for evil people to come to their senses.

      If the objective is maximizing survivability, then this later interpretation gives a better pay off.

  16. Mark C.
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Dave,

    Yes, you were mistaken about the “science could study the ‘supernatural'” idea in a previous post. It was rather bizarre, since Jerry had even said which notion of “supernatural” he was using–you stuck to one of them in interpreting his consideration of both, and then objected when he explicitly switched meanings. What’s important is the substance behind the word, as you’ve come to realize here. We’re only concerned with things that have [observable] effects on things that we know to exist.

    Now, I’ve been reading your posts on this comment thread, and you are confusing me. I don’t know if it’s because your wording is throwing me off (it doesn’t really flow) or what, but I have no idea why you suddenly believe that some omni being you call “God” exists. Leave aside the question of whether or not we could determine, via evidence, that some being has these omni properties. I’m just wondering why you’re suddenly a believer in this entity. If you think that we can’t infer the omni properties from evidence, then you probably believe that this being is necessary for every logically possible world, so I’d like to hear about why you might think that.

    For clarity, I’ll first need to know exactly what it is you’re considering “God”. You’ve said that your god is reality, but I don’t know if I should interpret that to mean “my god is real” or “God is everything” (a pantheistic, and useless, notion). In the former and nontrivial sense, I’d like to know if this entity has a consciousness and why.

    (Note: “Omnibenevolence” and “omniscience” are properties and nouns, not adjectives. Applied to a god, one would say “a god is omnibenevolent and omniscient”.)

  17. Dave
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Mark C.

    –“Leave aside the question of whether or not we could determine, via evidence, that some being has these omni properties.”–

    Why?

    Along with the quotes I’ve offered by Russell.

    Lets take a look at a quote from the OP blog.

    –“Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything. The source and nature of his power is unknown to the Federation or any other galactic civilization. But was he supernatural? Well maybe in some sense he was, but in another sense he wasn’t: he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments. His actions were known, recorded, and part of documented history. His activities were never explained by general laws, but that his activities took place was well attested. So although he was not (at least yet) a subject of the sciences of general laws, he was certainly a subject of the historical sciences.

    That the supernatural, as exemplified in my example by Q, is not unstudiable, has been proposed in a piece by Russell Blackford and in one of Jerry’s pieces in The New Republic.”–

    In some sense he was supernatural? But, in another is wasn’t because he’s observable etc. Well, how do you know Q is Immortal and Omnipotent? Is that the “supernatural” part or something, we just assume that (or does it just mean things they didn’t know)? How do we know we’re studying an Immortal, Omnipotent being?

    It’s like saying the God question is open for science. We look at the claims of those that believe and refute them, that way science is saying something about God (I had mistakenly claimed science was only concerned with the claims to nature and it only confuses the issue to claim that “supernatural phenomena” are within the realm of science). Or, it’s possible God does exist, and in that case may be amendable to science.

    I believe now because clearly we can study a God, the God question is amendable to science, supernaturalism is falsifiable. We CAN “know” God! God CAN exist. However, I think we are mistaken to think we can know the “mind” of God as human beings (you’ll have to go back to my ideas about; the problem of evil, cosmological theories, false claims of Gods etc). It seems impossible to imagine that even though God is clearly within the realm of science, to think we can actually know at this point the motivations, thoughts etc. of an Immortal, Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent, Omniscient God.

    • Dave
      Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      On my last point – part of the reason I think it’s foolish to think we can know the “mind” of my God is because how at this point can you scientifically verify “Immortality”, “Omnipotence” etc…. So, even though the God question is a live one for science and we may find evidence (though, here again, how do you know what evidence, outside of the claims of believers who are only human) I’m not sure we can actually know it’s God at this point, unless we can discern Immortality etc.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 20, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      wrong, the real answer is 1099 angels can dance on the head of a pin.

      Russell’s teapot, sometimes called the Celestial Teapot, was an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), intended to refute the idea that the burden of proof lies upon the sceptic to disprove unfalsifiable claims of religions.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob

        You seem to have this thing about telling me stuff that I already know. In fact, between this blog and Russell’s, I think I’ve mentioned Russell’s teapot half a dozen times.

      • Dave
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Besides that, who says I have to prove anything to you?

        I am referring to the idea that if the claim is made that an Immortal, Omnipotent being is observable, testable etc., as is mentioned in the OP blog by Greg, how do you know it’s Immortal, Omnipotent?

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        well, because you keep saying the same nonsense again and again.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        The question:
        “how do you know it’s Immortal, Omnipotent?”

        is not worth asking. It has been disproved.

  18. Mark C.
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Dave,

    Simply put, I’m asking you why you suddenly started to believe that some being with a set of specific omni properties exists. To justify your belief, you would either need to confirm that some entity has each property or provide a sound argument which would conclude that this being is necessary for the existence of some possible worlds (including ours). That is, you must provide either an a posteriori argument from evidence, or an a priori argument from metaphysically necessary truths.

    If you were to go the latter route, I would be interested to know why this being must have a consciousness.

    Finally, I would like to know the composition of this entity. If it has no composition, I am not willing to call it an entity. I’m not even sure if I would be comfortable saying that it existed at all.

    • Dave
      Posted May 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Mark C.

      I’ve been over most of this, if you’re “confused” that’s not my fault (though I’m sure you’ll believe it is).

      Why can’t we talk about science or otherwise being able to determine if a God is Immortal, Omnipotent? In the OP blog by Greg, he offers the idea “Q” is Immortal and Omnipotent, and says its observable etc. It’s not like he said, well this entity claims to be, we recognize these characteristics as facts which are then used to support the argument that this entity (supernatural entities in general) are amendable to science, my question is how, how can science determine these qualities? I am now willing to say that humans can determine these qualities, I have been convinced that God’s can exist, that science can falsify “supernatural phenomena”. I simply misunderstood about definition and the points Russell made about “this doesn’t tell us if God’s, ghost exist” etc. etc.

      If the God question is amendable to science, and supernaturalism also (and we can not limit science) I can accept these things as possible beyond just believing them possible, they could be scientifically validated, scientific truths, reality. Also, as I’ve pointed out, how could humans possibly know the “mind” and motivations of an Immortal, Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent etc. God. The only way so far is by claims, but they are claims of humans, perfectly imperfect. We can’t assume God would create perfect because that is what our human brain thinks, how could the human brain comprehend the “mind” of an Immortal, Omnipotent etc. God? If we can accept naturalistic (a word I don’t use anymore) explanations about eternal space, infinite regress of finite events, infinity etc., then an eternal God (more or less a “first cause” argument) is what I chose to believe. Remember, scientific truths are confirmed beliefs, at bottom they are about belief regarding what we call reality.

      The response about the “universe” and beginnings could be “I don’t know”, but what don’t you “know”? Don’t know if you can verify “eternity” (eternal space), infinity that is reality, a reality of infinite regress of finite events? We could go all the way to a Ayn Rand type axiom about eternal space (an energy etc. possibly) and say that it is the Irreducible Primary. But, that could be no more than a linguistic place holder, simply a name given to avoid contradiction.

      • Mark C.
        Posted May 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I only regard the following excerpt as relevant to what I was asking:

        If we can accept naturalistic (a word I don’t use anymore) explanations about eternal space, infinite regress of finite events, infinity etc., then an eternal God (more or less a “first cause” argument) is what I chose to believe.

        Why choose the God hypothesis over any other? It seems to me that it runs afoul of Occam’s Razor by introducing an extra entity. Whereas we know that space and time “exist”, and therefore they are candidates for having the properties you mention, it is not at all clear that another, completely distinct thing exists, which, by the way, itself comes with some rather extraordinary properties.

        I am asking why you choose to believe a god exists. Why suppose that this entity exists when it seems unnecessary to explain things, and when it only complicates the explanatory process? (And just for my information, are you familiar with the traditional first cause argument?) Do you have evidence for it that rules out competing hypotheses? Can you use known facts to rule out the type of “naturalistic” universe you describe above?

        If not, and you think that this god is a necessary prerequisite for any other possible state of affairs in any possible world, please explain why it has the complete list of omni properties that you say it has, particularly omnibenevolence and consciousness.

        I am not, at this time, interested at all in discussing the issue of determining if a thing we already know exists is God. Rather, since the existence of God is amenable to scientific reasoning (though the correct identification may not be) and is compatible with evidence, I am interested in how you support your belief in God. That is all.

  19. Dave
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Mark C.

    I’m actually interested in this statement of yours:

    –“Rather, since the existence of God is amenable to scientific reasoning (though the correct identification may not be) and is compatible with evidence,”–

    What does “though the correct identification may not be” mean?

    Is the God question, a question amendable to science?

    • Mark C.
      Posted May 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      I see you don’t actually intend to answer me, Dave.

      My meaning in that qualification was simple: it may be impossible to determine that any entity we know to exist has omni properties. Instead, we could determine that it had limited versions of the same properties (limited to the highest degree that we have observed at any given time).

      Now, if you’ll not answer me–i.e. tell me if you believe in this god based on a priori or a posteriori truths and provide an argument using those truths–then I think I’ll just take my leave.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        Mark C.

        –“it may be impossible to determine that any entity we know to exist has omni properties.”–

        Say What!? What do you mean by “may”? How do you determine Immortality and Omnipotence with science (or otherwise) at “some” level. That is all I’ve asked, I am lead to believe it is possible – Read the OP blog by Greg.

        I saw someone remark that “naturalist” want it both ways, and complaints about limiting science, but look what’s being said here;

        –“Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything. The source and nature of his power is unknown to the Federation or any other galactic civilization. But was he supernatural? Well maybe in some sense he was, but in another sense he wasn’t: he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments. His actions were known, recorded, and part of documented history. His activities were never explained by general laws, but that his activities took place was well attested. So although he was not (at least yet) a subject of the sciences of general laws, he was certainly a subject of the historical sciences.

        That the supernatural, as exemplified in my example by Q, is not unstudiable, has been proposed in a piece by Russell Blackford and in one of Jerry’s pieces in The New Republic.”–

        Of course, if I keep it up they’ll finagle problems with definition or complaints of vagueness. I’m being told that science can study the supernatural, depending how we define it and what we actually observe and detect. Talk about wanting it both ways. I’ve pulled out several quotes by Russell about the possibility of a God existing. And I’ve been told science can refute, falsify the “supernatural”. I have been told the God question is one amendable to science.

        In Greg’s scenerio we are told this Q is Immortal and Omnipotent, that it is observable and can be studied by the historical science (astronomy, geology, and biology, for starters –> “for starters”, um, yes go on Greg).

        So, I’ll ask again, how do we determine we are dealing with an Immortal, Omnipotent being?

        It’s stunning how some very basic ideas seem to confound a small subset of atheist, you guys will dance around this till you start down the road of fantasy land (like we aren’t there already).

        No, of course I don’t believe in any God. And yes, another attempt failed at getting a very basic fact across.

        The God question is not a question for science. Science makes no use for God or “supernatural” hypothesis. None of you have come close to showing how this is wrong (outside of saying we can massage definition and say; “this doesn’t answer the question if Gods exist, and if they do, that means science can study them”. That’s childish garbage. “Supernatural phenomena” are not within the realm of science, when you can show me wrong, do so. But, when you bring up claims said to have “supernatural” causation, such as the earth is 6,000 years old, you are not refuting the “supernatural”, you are falsifying the claims to nature. It is up to the “believers” to accept that evidence. All you guys are doing is holding the rest of us back in your imaginary “war between naturalism and supernaturalism” with debate that makes absolutely NO sense in the scientific sense.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        I want to make something clear here. I’ve been over this several times, especially on Russell’s site.

        What I say in my last post does NOT mean religious claims are off limits, far from it. This position does NOT limit science in any way!

        The belief that science can or does concern itself with “supernaturlism” (a nonsensical statement) is what is limiting, besides what appear to be intelligent people to say really crazy fantasy land stuff to fit their belief about science (and dig a hole of definition far enough to say; “god may exist”) like being able to determine if a being is Immortal, Omnipotent etc.

        By saying that all claims are on the table for consideration is not even close to a proposal of overlapping science and religion, in fact the opposite is true. Religion is not in the business of doing science, their claims about nature are for science to test, they can’t use religion to determine how science is done (even if they believe science discovers “truths” about their beliefs). NO where in the scientific process do we inject some religious belief (“supernaturalism” etc.) as part of the equation or the answer to natures mystery (and I’m speaking in general terms or else I’d take a couple pages here – but the point should be clear). Also, this position does NOT give authority to religion on questions of morality, ethics and “meaning”. Only that science can inform us, but the process is not dogmatic, it is religion which is dogmatic in these matters (mainly) and we go back to the principle of they don’t dictate how the science is interpreted. On questions of morality and ethics it seems very clear that religions will use their dogma’s to ignore and obfuscate scientific understandings.

        We are in many ways left with the real debate resting on questions of ethics, morality and acceptance of scientific rationality on many levels.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Same old nonsense from Dave. He thinks if he says it more times then it will become relevant and true.

        Those with the extraordinary claims must come up with the evidence to prove their claims. It is that simple.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        How did Greg determine that Q was Immortal and Omnipotent? How is the historical science studying Q knowing it is Immortal and Omnipotent?

        —“Those with the extraordinary claims must come up with the evidence to prove their claims.”—

        Though, I may have worded this a bit different, I think the understanding is clear. Show me what I have said in my last two post that would counter that idea?

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        To make another point clear. Since this seems to baffle a few, let me clarify a bit. When I say; -“The God question is not a question for science. Science makes no use for God or “supernatural” hypothesis.”-

        I would hope it’s obvious what I mean (but unfortunately the reactions I get tell me otherwise). We can use scientific understandings, scientific rationality, logic, reason, scientific truths/facts/theories and historical argument, philosophy, textual interpretation (and anything else in our arsenal I’m missing), to counter claims, arguments and so forth for the existence of a God. The “believer” most often holds contradictions about nature, morality etc. without offering factual properties that they assign to a God (to be brief).

        I am not overly concerned with how much contempt, ridicule or otherwise is advocated to use toward “believers” (though, another discussion would certainly entail what we do know about belief systems and how people change world views – a subject, along with some philosophy that folks like Dawkins unfortunately ignore at times and then falsely contribute factors to things without clear evidence). However, claiming that science can falsify the “supernatural”, or “supernatural phenomena” are within the realm of science, or that science can refute the “supernatural” is by an large mistaken, and most often dramatically so (as in Greg’s example). It is often pointed out that “believers” will simply push (or extract) their belief in a God/”supernatural being” further out from nature and sciences reach – well no kidding! That is simply not an argument to claim that science can refute the “supernatural”. The fact they do these things do not make the beliefs rational, or make God’s existence any more plausible. The point then is that the fact “believers” clearly hold contradictory beliefs about reality is not an excuse to make claims about science which are mostly false.

  20. newenglandbob
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Dave,

    Q and Startrek are fiction. Using them to prove a point is meaningless.

    ‘Science’ does not falsify anything. Science is observation and theories.

    Theories can be falsified. Faith and the supernatural are not even theories because they have no falsifiable conjectures. When someone hypothesizes something like ‘prayers are answered’ then that can be falsified by comparison and use of statistics.

    You give straw man claims such as “science can refute the supernatural”. These are not claims made by most scientists and certainly not by Dawkins or Dennett or Harris or Coyne or Myers or Mayer, etc.

  21. Dave
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    NewEnglandBob,

    –“Q and Startrek are fiction. Using them to prove a point is meaningless.”–

    Why are you telling me this? Have you even read Greg’s blog, which I’ve even quoted?

    In fact, the final point of Greg’s I pretty much agree with, though his means of getting there is faulty. As I have said, you can’t make the real=unreal, the natural=supernatural. The way around this of course is deciding on definition, and Russell goes back to the idea of looking at “supernatural” and “natural” in certain ways doesn’t tell us if God actually exist or not. However, in Greg’s example to make a point, he assumes the position of recognizing “Q” as Immortal and Omnipotent (my question still is how do you come to determine this – otherwise your delusional from the get go). Your reaction is to first say I’m wrong some how without explanation, then when the explanation comes, it agrees with my position.

    So, let me ask you. Do you think science can study the “supernatural” (?), you already said that “supernaturalism” is unfalsifiable.

    I went over with Russell several times about his example of the belief that the earth is 6,000 years old. What is being falsified is the claim to nature, not the “supernatural”, “supernaturalism” is not falsifiable.

    Here’s how Russell worded it once:

    –“the claim that the world was created by God 6000 years ago, are not only falsifiable but actually falsified. This claim only becomes unfalsifiable if you add the additional claim that God created the world in a pre-aged state so that it looks billions of years old, but not all religionists do that.”—

    “God did it” is not a falsifiable scientific theory, what was falsified is the claim to nature, that the earth is 6,000 years old. The God hypothesis is of no use to science in this case or any other, it has no basis in reality. However, it is examples like this that Russell and others use to determine if science is studying the supernatural. You see, they say claiming something about nature and giving it “supernatural” causation then testing the claim is like studying the “supernatural”.

  22. Dave
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    BTW, Bob, I’m not sure, but if you can follow along, you understand now the part about science refuting the “supernatural”.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      There is nothing worth following. There is nothing to understand. I’ve said that many times.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Were you satisfied with the conclusions of the Templeton Foundations funded prayer study done not long ago [results in '06] — “found that intercessory prayer had no effect on recovery from surgery without complications. The study also found that patients who knew they were receiving
        intercessory prayer fared worse.”–

        Would you say more test need to be done?

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        I do not know if there were proper controls on that experiment. I have read about other experiments with proper controls that have shown no evidence of any effect of prayers.

        As far as those who know about others praying about them – I have no reason to doubt there could be a psychological effect, but here also, it would need to be shown that the study had proper controls.

        Since the Templeton foundation has one of their goals to award funding to a ‘living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension’ and also gave money to the creators of the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’, then all work funded by them is suspect by me. It is currently run by John Templeton, Jr., an evangelical Christian and an extreme right wing conservative, so I find that the foundation is working against proper science.

        I do not believe that all of the projects they fund are tainted, but hey, even George Bush got one or two things right among the thousands of things he got wrong.

  23. Mark C.
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Dave,

    “I’m just doing a thought experiment and found I believe in a God.”

    “No, of course I don’t believe in any God. And yes, another attempt failed at getting a very basic fact across.”

    Indeed….

    • Dave
      Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, indeed!

      BTW, what exactly does this mean; –”it may be impossible to determine that any entity we know to exist has omni properties.”–

      Read it carefully before answering.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        It means nothing.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        NewEnglandBob,

        Take that up with Mark C., means something to him, he’s the one who said it.

      • Dave
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        BTW, Bob, out of curiosity, do you recognize any obvious problems with Mark’s statement? If so, name one.

      • Mark C.
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Your refusal to answer me is pissing me off, Dave. Instead, you keep asking me about things which you’ve already talked about, my phrasing of which should make the meaning obvious.

        Here is an explanation of the excerpt from my post that you quoted:

        Let’s say we know that some dog exists (through, say, sensory perception). How do we determine that it has some specific, nontrivial property? We devise and run a test. Simple enough.

        Now how, exactly, would you devise a test to determine that some entity we already know to exist (e.g. the dog) could do absolutely everything, or could live for all time through any conditions, for example? It seems to me that the best we could do would be to conclude that this entity could do very many things, or could live a very long time under the limited number of conditions we’ve been able to conceive of. (Or it could just have the power to trick us into believing it has more extensive powers.) We might be able to determine that this entity has these omni properties via induction, but induction doesn’t guarantee truth.

        Hence, even if an entity we knew to exist had omni properties, there is no guarantee that we could ever find out that they were omni! For example, we could conclude, from tests and evidence, that the property “benevolent” applied to some entity, but it may be impossible to test it in all situations in which that term could apply (i.e. we’ll probably never be able to devise and run all possible tests), so we wouldn’t be able to guarantee that the entity we’re studying was omnibenevolent.

        There’s a difference between something having certain properties and us being able to know that it has those properties. That’s my point, in a more succinct phrasing.

        Is this clear now? I certainly hope so, because I’m way past tired of my questions and the issues I raise being ignored.

        Before, you said that you believed in a god (presumably based on the thought experiment you claimed to have done). I asked you why. Taking into consideration my above reasoning, I assumed that you couldn’t justifiably believe in this omni god based on evidence. But it didn’t seem that you believed in it based on a priori reasoning, either. So I asked which it was–I asked why you believed in this god–and you continually failed to answer.

        … until you just recently claimed to have never (during this conversation) believed in this god at all. This confusion wrought by your wording is what my “Indeed….” post points out.

        Say What!? What do you mean by “may”? How do you determine Immortality and Omnipotence with science (or otherwise) at “some” level. That is all I’ve asked, I am lead to believe it is possible – Read the OP blog by Greg.

        The question of how one determines that an entity has properties such as “immortal” and “omnipotent” is exactly what I was talking about, yet you seemed to completely misunderstand this, bringing up, just a couple lines into your response (here quoted), the exact same thing I was talking about.

        But then you say that you believe science can conclude these properties, and you refer me back to the main post. Well, I read the main post, and it just talks about being able to study entities that are many times labeled “supernatural”. It says nothing at all about determining (concluding from evidence) omni properties of these entities. Talking of Q was stupid–in that scenario, it was stipulated that he had omni properties, and no test was devised to conclude that he had them.

      • newenglandbob
        Posted May 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Mark C., you won’t get any real answers from Dave because he has only posted nonsense here. None of his posts have any meaning and none of his questions are relevant.

  24. Dave
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Mark C.,

    —“It says nothing at all about determining (concluding from evidence) omni properties of these entities. Talking of Q was stupid–in that scenario, it was stipulated that he had omni properties, and no test was devised to conclude that he had them.”—

    Let me quote the blog again:

    –“Q is immortal and apparently omnipotent: he can do anything. The source and nature of his power is unknown to the Federation or any other galactic civilization. But was he supernatural? Well maybe in some sense he was, but in another sense he wasn’t: he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments. His actions were known, recorded, and part of documented history. His activities were never explained by general laws, but that his activities took place was well attested. So although he was not (at least yet) a subject of the sciences of general laws, he was certainly a subject of the historical sciences.

    That the supernatural, as exemplified in my example by Q, is not unstudiable, has been proposed in a piece by Russell Blackford and in one of Jerry’s pieces in The New Republic.”—

    Mark, what makes Q “supernatural” at all?

    Are we not told Q is Immortal and Omnipotent (can do anything)? How is this determined I am asking. We are told Q is “supernatural” in some sense, but not in another because “he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments.”

    You seem to misunderstand my question. I am only asking how it was determined Q was Immortal, Omnipotent. It is a given in the scenario, so, is it because of those characteristics that Q is determined to be “supernatural”? If so, how was this determined? How did the those doing the observations, recordings etc. know they were data regarding an Immortal, Omnipotent being?

    Seems to me the argument is that in spite of the “supernatural” characteristics (being Immortal and Omnipotent) it was still possible to obtain data on Q. The final analysis is if we can obtain this data, then we are dealing with something that exist therefore natural.

    BTW, even though I think this scenario stinks and it runs afoul as much as Coyne’s and Blackford’s recent efforts to “study the supernatural” (Dawkins really was the one to get the ball rolling on this new round of these debates) – the final analysis I tend to agree with and have said something like it many times. All there is is the natural and the mysteries of nature. You can not make unreality=reality, the supernatural=natural.

  25. Mark C.
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Mark, what makes Q “supernatural” at all?

    I don’t give a damn, Dave, because I’m not at all talking about natural versus supernatural.

    I’m talking about this:
    1. Find something that exists/manifests.
    2. Determine its properties.

    Are we not told Q is Immortal and Omnipotent (can do anything)? How is this determined I am asking.

    Yes, that is what I’ve been asking this whole “god-damned” time. When determining what properties something has, how do we determine that it has omni properties as opposed to normal ones? I was asking you this, AGAIN, because you appeared to claim to believe in a god and I wanted to know how you justified that belief.

    We are told Q is “supernatural” in some sense, but not in another because “he could be observed, studied, and recorded by all the normal biological senses and scientific instruments.”

    All I’m talking about are things that can be observed and tested. Leave the “natural” and “supernatural” terminology to rot for all I care. Your continual copying and pasting of the Q analogy has nothing at all to do with what I’m talking about, because it does not address how to test for omni properties. Now quit it with the Q crap.

    You seem to misunderstand my question. I am only asking how it was determined Q was Immortal, Omnipotent. It is a given in the scenario, so, is it because of those characteristics that Q is determined to be “supernatural”? If so, how was this determined? How did the those doing the observations, recordings etc. know they were data regarding an Immortal, Omnipotent being?

    ……….

    Dave, man, reread what I’ve been saying to you. You’re adding a dimension to our discussion that was never there to begin with.

  26. Mark C.
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    For clarity, my whole discussion with you was never intended to tie directly in with the main blog post.

  27. newenglandbob
    Posted May 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Rinse, repeat…

    Rinse, repeat…

    Rinse, repeat…

    ad nauseum.

  28. Dave
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Mark C.

    How we determine Q is “supernatural” is a large part of this, Mark.

    I take it you weren’t around, what a week ago, when I went back and forth with Blackford on his and Coyne’s ideas about being able to “study the supernatural”?

    If you were, you would have perhaps recognized my wording when I said; “I tentatively believe a God exist.”

    I think you’re misunderstanding the INTENT of my question, I know you’re asking me the same question, but you would need to recognize the context.

    Here, I’ll quote myself;

    -“You seem to misunderstand my question. I am only asking how it was determined Q was Immortal, Omnipotent. It is a given in the scenario, so, is it because of those characteristics that Q is determined to be “supernatural”? If so, how was this determined? How did the those doing the observations, recordings etc. know they were data regarding an Immortal, Omnipotent being?”-

    Again, how do we KNOW Q is “supernatural” to begin with? Is it because of the Immortal, Omnipotent qualities? You may not want to believe it, but this is an important point. If we take it for granted that Q is Immortal and Omnipotent and this determines his “supernaturalism”, how do we determine this to begin with. See, you can’t just make shit up, like Coyne and Blackford and say, look, this proves that science can study the supernatural. This is the exact same game the creationist play. It’s not even a useful thought experiment (another clue in my wording you may have caught if you read the previous back and forth on this issue), to discuss science (perhaps science fiction – which Blackford and Greg both use but go beyond science to make an unjustified point), or it’s just bad philosophy or a religion.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Same old nonsense, repeated and repeated. Why would any intelligent being want to see the same words written in the same thread, over and over and over and over again?

      I think this is the emergence of a psychological problem. Someone call a doctor!

  29. Dave
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Just to clarify something in my last post.

    When I said; “go beyond science to make an unjustified point”

    In Greg’s case I agree mainly with his final point “anything which exists is natural.” Of course, as we see there is a brief exchange by Blackford and Greg on the point of definition and Blackfords point that saying “anything which exists is natural” doesn’t tell us what exist. Again, obviously, he misses the larger point.

    Which leads back to Greg’s scenario. If we take something for granted, such as Immortality and Omnipotence, then shall we take for granted those properties are potentially real, if so by what means do we determine this to be the case.

    The problem of course is that we are skipping over point A to go directly to point B. If we say, well, the data shows that the claim is potentially verifiable, well, that doesn’t explain why the claim is more justified. Perhaps the claim has contributed something to an idea which has other explanations. Do I say, since I claim an Immortal, Omnipotent being causes me to have ESP, then when we test my ESP and conclude we can give our provisional consent of it’s existence, does this now supply evidence of an Immortal, Omnipotent being, based on my claim. Is it more likely I contributed my experience to something that doesn’t actually exist and that there is other naturalistic explanations available, or should we now search for the Immortal, Omnipotent begin. Of course, the Immortal, Omnipotent being MAY exist, God MAY exist, we MAY consider them natural, part of natural if shown to exist.

    • Dave
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      When I say;

      –“Of course, the Immortal, Omnipotent being MAY exist, God MAY exist, we MAY consider them natural, part of natural if shown to exist.”–

      I am really only demonstrating a point about belief. I can believe something to exist, obviously however this doesn’t actually make it automatically true.

    • Dave
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Since my points seem to cause irritation, let me clarify even further this one;

      -“When I said; “go beyond science to make an unjustified point”

      In Greg’s case I agree mainly with his final point “anything which exists is natural.”-

      My argument with Greg’s (obviously) point is the means to which he gets there. He is making an argument that aligns with science can study the supernatural, but in order to do that we have unjustified assumptions. It makes it useless, even though the idea, “anything which exist is natural” is correct I think.

  30. Mark C.
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    You know what, I give up.

    • Dave
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Funny in a way since I agree for the most part with your argument on “omni” properties (i.e. I think you’re right in your conclusion). You just didn’t want to follow through. It’s like you want me to believe in some God so you could bring out some stock in trade arguments, well, I’m already well versed in those arguments (they are part of why I don’t have a belief in a God etc.). You only asked how I justified my belief.

      It’s true we were at times holding two different conversations, you just didn’t want to let go of yours. Again, wanting to debate the belief in gods most likely. I have no reason to worry that your conversation didn’t work out for you, I’m the other one in the conversation, I didn’t feel like playing along any longer to see your arguments against a belief in god after asking over and over why I feel it’s justified.

      • Dave
        Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Oh, BTW, why did I decide to say that after a thought experiment I had come to the tentative conclusion God exist (?) – well the wording has to do with another conversation on the very subject brought out in Greg’s post – and also the point is if we get to assume Q is “supernatural” by being Omnipotent and Immortal without any clear understanding of why or how it is determined to begin with (it is only said data was collected therefore “supernatural” Q is natural), then we are assuming the potential is real without an explanation of why or how it could be real – so, I said, fine, I believe it.

  31. Anthony McCarthy
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    He is making an argument that aligns with science can study the supernatural, but in order to do that we have unjustified assumptions.

    This doesn’t strike me as being at all more of a leap of faith than Dennett’s and Dawkins’ claims about the highest probability that natural selection would be the force behind evolution anywhere in the universe. Though I’m not really impressed by their understanding of probability.

    Who know? How can you know, without any evidence at all?

    A lot of people have some problem understanding that science is something that people do and that they need to be able to meet the basic requirements of science in order to use it for anything. If you don’t have any material phenomena to observe with sufficient accuracy and in a way to provide sufficient data for analysis, it can’t be done.

    You can’t study any aspect of something outside of those limits. Science, like any system has limits past which it can’t go. If it didn’t have those it would stop being systematic or, maybe, to even have a definable existence. Maybe the problem comes from the rampant adoption of the lousy standards accepted in the social sciences throughout the culture.

    “Studying the supernatural” whatever you might get from that, it won’t be science.

  32. Anthony McCarthy
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    It’s like you want me to believe in some God.

    Can’t speak for anyone else, I’m indifferent as to whether or not anyone believes in God.

  33. Dave
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Anthony,

    –“This doesn’t strike me as being at all more of a leap of faith than Dennett’s and Dawkins’ claims about the highest probability that natural selection would be the force behind evolution anywhere in the universe.”–

    I don’t think I’d go that far. There’s really not much to correlate the two arguments. However, without other possible explanations of how evolution would function elsewhere we are stuck with one example thus far, and the theory of natural selection appears rock solid (the piece of evidence, N1, is earth obviously). There’s potentially different variants, and certainly different routes taken of life forms obviously. Applying probability would be difficult, but it seems an all things being equal approach would give us a certain level of confidence that natural selection would be what we would find. The major problem that I can think of off hand is what are we talking about when we say “universe”. Cosmologically speaking, we are dealing with a fairly decent amount of speculation in this regard. Of course, the safest bet may be “we don’t know”, and that would certainly be an honest answer.

    I agree with your basic assessment about the limits of science, it’s an aspect not readily appreciated these days. Unfortunately it is not recognized very well by certain people who wish to promote scientific thinking (here I’m thinking of a small subset of atheist I’ve encountered recently – I do recognize the problem elsewhere). I have been told on Dawkins’ site in comments that nothing is off limits to science, science can deal with anything. It’s simply absurd, it’s some kind of possible group-think that’s part of an imaginary “war between naturalism and supernaturalism” (which makes no real scientific sense – if you want to promote scientific truth and then say something like that, explaining yourself may be wise).

    I’ve tried to explain that with “supernaturalism” you’re better off facing the very real potential fact we are dealing with beliefs (if one wants, the arguments can remain impenetrable – the belief would need to change), and in this regard science can tell us something about the “supernatural”, but they want to argue that science can study the “supernatural”. They are basically adamant that science can tell us something about “supernaturalism” beyond belief systems (or can potentially without offering an real evidence – just repeat the beliefs of Young Earth creationist etc. – showing a clear lack of understanding the importance of recognizing the meaning of “claims”). In the week or two I’ve been back and forth on this issue they keep coming back with the same argument (then complain I’m being “dogmatic” repeating myself).

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      This post is incoherent and specious.

  34. Anthony McCarthy
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Since we have exactly one known body of life to study, the one we are a part of, and that the present understanding of it holds that natural selection is one of the forces driving our evolution here, there is absolutely no basis for assuming the model is the same on even one other planet. We quite clearly have no phenomenon to observe, never mind analyze.

    While natural selection as understood by Dennett and Dawkins might be the single creative force in every single case in the universe, there is absolutely no basis to pretend that we could possible guess at the probability of that. D&D have gone out on that limb very, very far.

    I won’t go into the fact that other forces of equal or greater strength driving evolution here could be found in time. It could be that our period will someday be looked back at as having been limited by its being ignorant of those forces or excessively wedded to our contemporary notions of natural selection. N.S. could someday mean quite a different thing than it does now. We don’t know today.

    Since we can’t even approach the material aspect of a different set of life forms, having absolutely nothing material to study, we are in exactly the same position in that speculation as we are in regard to that as we are to any non-material realm, which would include any proposed supernatural one. It can’t be “studied” with the means developed by humans to evaluate the material universe. There is nothing “material” to study.

    It’s possible that if another intelligent life form could make itself known to us, they might have an entirely different explanation for how they came to be. If Daniel Dennett is around, I’m sure he’ll be ready to confidently disagree with them, though I’d expect Dawkins would know that particular jig was up and move on to, yet, something else.

  35. Dave
    Posted May 22, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Anthony,

    I think we will need to agree to disagree. Where I found a certain level of agreement with regards to speculation (and I certainly recognize as a scientific theory, natural selection, like all theories in science, is provisional – it is far and away the best we have at this time), I think I covered sufficiently in my last post. It appears we understand each other for the most part, so there’s no reason to readdress the issue.

    However, your point about “supernatural” and speculation on life forms on other planets and the mechanisms of evolution, to me appears incoherent. The fact we do have evidence of life forms to study in the “universe”(obviously), with a working scientific theory that has a great deal of explanatory and predictive power (NS) – it simply does not follow that speculation on the “supernatural” is of the same evidential merit (or equal lack of merit with regards to mechanisms on other planets – speculation on a factual basis of “supernaturalism” has no merit with regards to evidences). It’s not even comparing apples and oranges, it’s comparing the existence of apples to the existence of Gods.

    • newenglandbob
      Posted May 22, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Anthony never said what you attribute to him. His post is very coherent except for his speculation on what Dennett or Dawkins would do.

  36. Anthony McCarthy
    Posted May 23, 2009 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    it simply does not follow that speculation on the “supernatural” is of the same evidential merit

    There is absolutely no basis for making either speculation.

    In blogs with the unfortunate theme this one seems to be developing, the existence of the supernatural is taken to be the delusion of deluded individuals. I don’t think anyone here has taken the rather incredible step that would define the large majority of humanity as being mentally ill, but it is held to be a delusion. A delusion is something that is believed to be true but which has no basis in evidence.

    There is no evidence that any other life form anywhere would have evolved by natural selection, there is absolutely none. The idea that the one example you have of a series of events and conditions as stupendously complex as the entirety of evolution here on earth, is sufficient to make your speculation of it being a universal principle of life in every case, isn’t just delusional, when it’s palmed off as science, it’s fraud. The probability of its happening based on the available information is entirely unknown. It could have happened everywhere, every time, it could have happened only here and absolutely no where else in the universe. Dennett and Dawkins asserted probability of the situation only shows they’ve got a stunningly inadequate grasp of the concepts essential to determine probabilities. Especially stunning in Dawkins considering what he is supposed to do for a living.

    As I pointed out, we don’t even know if people here, in the future will still explain evolution with the classical concept of natural selection. The coercive resistance to modifications of natural selection in the recent history of science doesn’t mean that model will stand a longer test of time or that other forces won’t become as fully established as NS is now. And I’m not talking about ID or other non-scientific speculations, I’m talking about just what can be supported through the adequate analysis of sufficient observation of the PHYSICIAL evidence. I don’t think I’d trust someone with such a flawed grasp of probability to crunch the numbers, though.

  37. Dave
    Posted May 23, 2009 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Anthony,

    –“There is absolutely no basis for making either speculation.”–

    I think you’re 3/4 right. I also think you bring an interesting perspective and I’m certainly one who appreciates a good dose of skepticism leveled where needed (which is in most areas).

    This seems an appropriate time to share a Richard Feynman quote on science I think you may enjoy…

    –““Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts””–

    Now to address the opening quote and further details. As to the problem of speculating on the mechanism of evolution elsewhere in the “universe”, I tend to agree caution is warranted (as I briefly laid out in a previous post). I think your point is well taken, as I noted, NS being a scientific theory is of course provisional (and since we have only have one example of the process, this applies to our earthly abode). As I summed up previously with regards to a mechanism elsewhere in the “universe”, a “we don’t know” approach would be an honest one.

    It would also seem to appear proper to say that applying NS as a “universal principle” may be premature. However, as out on a limb that speculation may be, it does in fact have some fundamental grounding at least to the level of safely assuming the possibility is there to discover NS as a fairly sufficient explanation for evolution on other planets. I base this on a three points. The First being we do in fact have evidence of NS taking place in the “universe” (based on the facts of evolution) – Second, we have basic scientific understanding of what is needed for potential life to develop in the “universe” (again based on our example and current observations of the “universe” – this point does not rest on when or how life first began) – Third, we develop the ideas about potential life through multiple lines of evidences. It is not a mistake in my opinion to attempt to surmise which planets may have or had life (again, primarily done via current scientific understandings of life and the “universe”). I think there would be general agreement that expecting the unexpected based on current modeling is wise (thus remaining open to what may appear at first to be an anomaly – which may in fact be significant).

    That leaves us with the point on a speculation regarding the “supernatural”. I think you are correct in the quote that begins my post when speaking of the “supernatural”. Your argument seems to rest on that we have nothing to study in the “universe” to make the assumptions Dawkins has, well I tend to agree to a certain extent (as I have explained). The problem is we do have what I explained in my previous paragraph, and of course that does include the “material” (I’m not crazy about putting it that way, but you had made your argument by emphasizing material and non-material to study). The material being our examples of life on earth that is in the “universe”, observations and experimentation’s of our known “universe”, fundamental understanding of the material which may allow potential life to develop, current theory of the evolutionary facts.

    When it comes to the “supernatural”, God for example, we have absolutely nothing tangible to go on to speculate about. In fact the characteristics commonly employed to explain the God or “supernatural force” are not applicable in a materialistic sense. The other problem of course is the claims regarding the actions of the “supernatural force” within nature (or our materialistic environment) have not been substantiated to any degree (outside of having faith).

    To sum up – even though I find agreement with your skepticism towards a “universal principle” of NS – I think speculation about the potential of discovering NS, or a variant which could be recognized to fit a NS model (again recognizing it would be different – i.e. life forms would take different forms – we probably won’t find giraffe’s with long necks) is certainly within reason (fully recognizing this is based on current understanding and the provisional nature of scientific theory). On the other hand, there is nothing to use to speculate with regards to the “supernatural”, the idea the speculations can correlate in that each fairs equally as poor is misguided.


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