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No Subject
Sat Feb 6, 2010 09:42


‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel

Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe).

U: That is one possible way to define "supernatural."

From Merriam Webster:
Main Entry: su·per·nat·u·ral 
Pronunciation: \ˌsü-pər-ˈna-chə-rəl, -ˈnach-rəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin supernaturalis, from Latin super- + natura nature
Date: 15th century
1 : of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
2 a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature b : attributed to an invisible agent (as a ghost or spirit)

Q1: The term implies that another ‘realm of being’ exists apart from the universe that is the domain of God(s), spirits, demons, etc. and is also the source of events commonly referred to as ‘miracles.’

U: Again, this is one possible way to define things.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: Again, would you please give another example?

Q1: I will attempt to demonstrate that this concept provides no useful information in explaining or understanding our phenomenal experiences, and hence is a meaningless construct.

U: I know you haven't really started yet, but it seems to me that you can't do so. It's like trying to prove a negative. But, let's go on.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: Thank you verra much. (ovation) There ARE some negative propositions that CAN be proven wrong via logical analysis. “There are no square circles.” “There are no married bachelors.” You get the picture. These are analytical propositions, of course, the predicate being contained in the subject, or BY DEFINITION. In addition to the linguistic contradiction implied in their structure, one of the defining qualities of these propositions is that they confer no meaningful information. This is also true of supernatural claims - they provide no meaningful information for the decoding of reality. Supernatural is actually a conflict of terms. We can only interpret information that comes to us through our perceptual apparatti i.e. light, sound, pressure, taste and smell. This information is presented to the perceptual /organizational/decisional (frontal cortex) systems of the human brain. These are all dependent on the laws of physics to function meaningfully. They are part of and at the same time define the extant universe in which we reside and participate.

The supernatural does not take part in our ‘natural’ phenomenological reality; if it did, to somehow influence our lives, it would have to utilize our sensory channels and in so doing, must become and remain continuous with the laws of physics. At this point they can no longer claim a supernatural status, since while they participate meaningfully in our universe they will be regarded as a naturally occurring event. They can only be meaningfully supernatural in supernaturaland. You cannot reflect light, induce chemical reactions affecting our sensory organs, generate heat and sound without at that time participating existentially in our ‘natural’ universe. Supernaturals are very supernatural when they at home in supernaturaland, but not when their on our turf.

Q1: Supernatural propositions typically focus on two primary constructs: the domain of God(s), spirits, angles, demons, ghosts, etc. and, the source of events emanating from that domain, commonly referred to as ’miracles.’

U: You are really limiting yourself here, and artificially so.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: Would you please explain how I‘m limiting myself, and not genuinely so?

Q1: It is usually described as ‘outside’ the physical dimensions of spacetime and is therefore not subject to the laws of physics as they are currently understood.

U: Again, not only is this merely one way to describe it, attempting to use words that convey natural, physical relationships (next to, outside of, near, above) may not be anything more than analogous to the reality of the relationship.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: Again you’re telling me that I’m only looking at one option, but you don’t provide a reasonable alternative (no alternative at all, actually). Also U: “….use words that convey natural, physical relationships (next to, outside of, near, above) may not be anything more than analogous to the reality of the relationship.” basefont color="blue/> Q2: And what kind of descriptors would you want me to use, those that I don’t have the faintest clue as to what their meaning is? I can only employ that which has meaning for me, like anyone else.

Q1: The primary argument proposed here is that supernatural explanations or interpretations for events (miracles) so considered are fundamentally indeterminable and therefore resist attempts to substantiate their existence; as such they provide no meaningful information with which one can more fully comprehend the universe and our place in it.

U: I would say that it depends. For someone like yourself, I can see that all this foolishness would certainly have no meaning, would provide no usable information to assist in comprehending the universe. You do not believe that it has any bearing.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: Yes, that ‘foolishness’ hasn’t any bearing. 8-)

Q1: I wish to minimize also the magnitudes of any ‘leaps of faith‘ (and any position requires some form of leap) that are necessary within one‘s world view. In my opinion the distance required for any leap is inversely proportional to the likelihood of any given proposition‘s truth value. I believe any other position generates diminished logical soundness.

U: You ignore the very real possibility that one might have incorrect information and believe it to be correct. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Yes. That is exactly the whole problem here. U: This would definitely spoil the relationship between the "distance" of a leap of faith and the likelihood of it being true. These distances are relative.

basefont color="blue/> Q2: No they are not relative. If someone asks “How was the universe created?” and I answer that it has always existed in some form, and you counter that it was created by God, who has always existed in some form, your leap is twice as long as mine since you now have twice as many steps in the regression.

Q1: Additionally, I wish to include the consideration of Occam‘s Razor, whereby constructs should not be included beyond what is necessity.

U: No, you don't really. Example: there is a light connected to a circuit that is barely open. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Like it’s faintly flickering? U: A spirit is encouraged to close the circuit to light the light in answer to questions. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Like one flash for ‘yes’ and two flashes for ‘no?’ U: A series of questions produces what seems to be logical and directed responses from the light. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Like full, solid bursts from the light implying that the spirit was actually engaging the task. OK, fine. U: I highly doubt that you would go with the simplest conclusion - that the responses were logical and directed. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Of course I would, there is no good reason at this point not to. U: You'd probably demand that we believe that the pulses of light were random, and only SEEMED to be logical and directed. basefont color="blue/> Q2: If I simply walk into a room with a light that flickers, then displays a few bursts, and that is ALL I know, of course I wouldn’t intuit that there is a ‘spirit’ in some hidden location sincerely participating in the questioning. But this is an arbitrary condition. There are millions of random sense inputs, like flickering lights that we encounter every day. Am I to suppose that any number of them are secret messages from the great beyond? If this be the case then I’ll never interact meaningfully with the proposed supernatural event, since I can’t know which sets of stimuli are really attempts at influence from supernaturaland. But once I know about the spirit, it becomes obvious to me that the spirit is in this case is currently part of MY universe and is no longer supernatural (at least until it returns to supernaturaland).

Q1: Through a process referred to as ‘Cartesian Doubt’ Descartes questioned the reality of his phenomenological perceptions. Perceiving himself sitting in his study before a fireplace, he questioned whether those perceptions were true and real, or whether they might actually be the work of a demon or in more modern parlance, an alien, planting percepts that have no truth in reality. He deduced that there was no way to evaluate the truth value of these percepts in a non-arbitrary fashion.

If the concept of supernatural is to provide any foundation of sound and meaningful interpretations of reality, it must be subject to an analysis that unequivocally leads towards a more truthful understanding thereof.

U: Why? Why can't a paranormal experience simply be what it is? Why do you HAVE to be able to open the box and count the gears? basefont color="blue/> Q2: What does the box actually do for me? If someone told me the box does something for me, the box should provide its service for me in a way I can understand, through my perceptions and further cognitive activity. Those gears need to function in my reality, to meaningfully influence me. When they do, they become participating elements of the natural world. At that point I don’t need to see them; I need to decipher their output, therefore their output must be conforming to naturaland. U: If you cannot do so, does that somehow invalidate the information that came from the box? basefont color="blue/> Q2: I believe I just answered that.

Q1: The real defining question is ‘what means do human beings possess which demonstrate, beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt, that any given event requires the employment of the term ‘supernatural‘ for explanation? How is it that one can argue some given event did not, in actuality, originate in the ‘natural’ universe by means of a natural origin? For example, if an event is completely outside of an individual‘s experience or that individual‘s exposure to anyone else‘s similarly reported experience, that person may then be motivated to apply the supernatural construct in the explanation of that event. Another example might a claim made, either from another individual or an important text that some spectacular (i.e. supernatural) event took place at another time and place that bears the hallmark of ‘supernatural.’ An example of this would be the claim made in the Bible of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after three days.

What are we to make of these claims? How could one prove beyond any reasonable doubt that examples like those given above demonstrate a truth that yields to meaningful inspection?’ I would say that in the same fashion that theists (or deists for that matter) refute an atheist’s claim that God does not exist by reminding the atheist that they cannot be at all places at all times, one can apply this argument to claims of supernatural events. Since the supernatural claimant also cannot be at all places at all times, what he/she claims as supernatural might well be explained as completely natural at another time or in another place. This very argument has been played out many times through history where in an earlier time something that was first labeled ‘supernatural’ (e.g. the sun moving across the sky) was later revealed to be completely natural.

U: I think you are frittering. basefont color="blue/> Q2: As long as its apple. U: Making a meaningless argument. I accept your right to make the claim that something one person calls "supernatural" might indeed have a natural explanation. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Thank you verra much. (more ovation) U: But until you can provide one that does not, itself, stretch credulity to the breaking point, you cannot claim that the supernatural does not exist. basefont color="blue/> Q2: But I’m not really claiming that. What I’m saying is that when any event occurs in phenomenal reality, it must be regarded as natural, if it is to have any influence in our lives. As long as it remains in Supernaturaland it retains its supernaturalism. If it enters our reality without manifesting substance or interacting with any extant part of the universe, it MIGHT still retain supernaturalism, but it would still not manifest in our experience. Once it crosses that line, interacting with us through the regular channels, it yields up any claim of supernaturalism. That’s what I’m claiming, and you haven’t provided any compelling arguments countermanding that position…at least in my opinion.

Q1: In this case, Occam’s razor would suggest a simpler interpretation, rejecting supernatural events as an unnecessary construct in the interpretation of reality. As far as sacred texts are concerned, the seemingly arbitrary acceptance of a claim for supernatural events requires a ‘larger leap of faith’ due to the inability of the reader to verify, empirically, the truth value of these claims, all else being equal.

U: You weren't there, you didn't see it with your own eyes. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Absolutely true, which makes it that much less believable, since I’ve never seen it happen ANYWHERE in my 57 years of existence on this merry-go-round, or heard claims of someone ELSE ever witnessing it (short of the big 4). U: Understandable. But at some point, you have to call the witness a liar. It is easy to call men dead for thousands of years liars. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Well its certainly easier to see them as either very gullible or very devoted to an ideal, real or not. U: Not so easy when you are faced with a sincere, living witness. basefont color="blue/> Q2: Every bit as easy (as long as they don’t have a gun).

Q1: In closing, the greater leap of faith, the introduction of unnecessary constructs, the lack of meaningful information in the interpretation of reality and the premature conclusion of supernaturality to an unfamiliar or so-called ‘numinous’ experience renders the term ‘supernatural’ unnecessary and misleading for the purpose of comprehending reality.

U: I disagree. The subject is far broader than what this particular approach can contain. Consider magic. Magic has rules. An understanding of a magical event can give one insight into reality, basefont color="blue/> Q2: Yes, insight into his or her sleight-of-hand, and that isn’t any good for more than ’you can’t always believe what you see

    • Re: No Subject ~ Anonymous, Sat Feb 6 09:49
      > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). U: That ... more
      • Re: No Subject ~ Anonymous, Sat Feb 6 09:58
        > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). U: That ... more
        • Re: No Subject ~ Anonymous, Sat Feb 6 10:00
          > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). U: That ... more
          • Re: No Subject ~ Anonymous, Sat Feb 6 10:21
            > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). U: That ... more
            • Re: No Subject ~ Anonymous, Sat Feb 6 10:28
              > > ‘Supernatural’ as a Meaningless Concept - The Sequel Q1: The idea of ‘Supernatural’ involves a belief in events that have no grounding nor origin in ‘Nature’ (i.e. the physical universe). U: That ... more
              • OK ~ OK, Sun Feb 28 13:23
                • B ~ B, Fri May 28 15:39
                  • C ~ C, Fri May 28 15:42
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