Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2007, 01:48:37 am »
I suppose I would require a technical definition of the argument from ignorance fallacy.

As someone saying that it is "too improbable..." or "science can't explain..." is relying on solely on current limitations of knowledge, I would say an appeal to ignorance would be what it should properly be called.

Regardless, it is enough that you recognize such arguments as fallacious.


Also, you seem to agree that a supernatural agent or entity is one that is not natural, nor can be natural.
Under this impression of "supernatural" would you say Jesus was natural or supernatural during his time on Earth (assuming the Christian scriptures to be accurate in relating His life).

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Drm970

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 11:24:42 am »
I suppose I would require a technical definition of the argument from ignorance fallacy.


Here you go.

10. Appeal to Ignorance (Argumentum ad Ignorantiam)
When the premises of an argument state that nothing has been proved one way or the other about something, and the conclusion then makes a definite assertion about that thing, the argument commits an appeal to ignorance. The issue usually involves something that is incapable of being proved or something that has not yet been proved.


These examples do, however, lead us to the first of two important exceptions to the appeal to ignorance. The first stems from the fact that if qualified researchers investigate a certain phenomenon within their range of expertise and fail to turn up any evidence that the phenomenon exists, this fruitless search by itself constitutes positive evidence about the question.


Patrick J. Hurley. A Concise Introduction To Logic. Fifth Edition. Wadsworth Publishing Company. 136-137

The second exception(if you caught that I left it out of the quote). Has to do with courtroom procedure and the fact that pointing out the prosecution's failing to provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is akin to an argument from ignorance. However, it is permissible in the courtroom.

As someone saying that it is "too improbable..." or "science can't explain..." is relying on solely on current limitations of knowledge, I would say an appeal to ignorance would be what it should properly be called.


We can always make the appeal that there is something we are missing. That there may be some knowledge waiting for us in the future which will explain all which seems unexplainable by our current methods. The probability claim is actually very much not an argument from ignorance. Such can be shown easily by considering the fact that the probability claim is itself a claim to a piece of knowledge. You buy a lottery ticket. I tell you "The chances of you winning the lottery are very low. Therefore you probably won't win the lottery." That follows the same structure as "The chances of life arising naturally are very low. Therefore life probably didn't arise naturally." Thus the crux of such origin of life arguments tends to be whether or not the probability of life's arising naturally really is low. Most admit that it is low, for any given planet or universe, but posit that the abundance of planets or (hypothetical) universes makes it somewhat probable all things considered.

It's also important to keep in mind that you need to be careful when coming back at such an argument with claims about our "limits of knowledge" in order to avoid committing the very same fallacy.

Under this impression of "supernatural" would you say Jesus was natural or supernatural during his time on Earth (assuming the Christian scriptures to be accurate in relating His life).


The philosophical issues surrounding this question are thick and obscure. I think the standard reply is that, since Jesus was both fully God and fully man, he is supernatural in his God nature and natural in his human nature. That opens up a large, smelly can of worms about whether it is possible to have both natures without contradiction. If it is impossible to have both natures, then obviously Christianity must abandon the incarnation doctrine, and that is not a pretty sight. However it seems there is no obvious problem with this doctrine, as per the book The Logic of God Incarnate and the shorter(easier) explication in Craig and Moreland's Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview.



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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2007, 05:04:56 pm »
The primary difference between the lottery ticket and the origin of life is that we are are actually able to come up with a realistic probability for the former, while the latter has far too many unknowns.
We cannot even confidently make the assertion that life originating by natural causes has a low probability.

As for the whether Christ was natural or supernatural... I am willing to accept compound natures, though by my definition the two remain exclusive.
For example, if you wish to posit that man has a supernatural "spirit" or "soul" yet his physical body is strictly natural, then I would not see that as a contradiction.

Yet any part of a subject's nature that can be observed is natural.  It seems we sidetracked a little... I think we have a decent understanding of the terms now... would you say it is possible to have evidence then, for the supernatural?


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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2007, 06:46:07 pm »
I think the primary issue with origins of life is the issue of natural processes. Natural processes tend to be regular. We can, it seems, legitimately claim that if we know of no natural processes which would produce life, then there probably aren't any. We would say that such a process, it seems, would be regularly observable if it existed. In the absence of such a process, the probabilities seem fairly workable. We have an, admittedly vague, idea about what it would take to get things started off, and we can make a decent guess at what the probabilities of those occurrences would be. I think this is, perhaps, avoidable, but those in favor of the natural origin of life need to give up the claim that life probably exists many places in the universe. If that were so, it seems we would observe life-generating processes now. I mean by life-generating processes, not the more mundane things such as birth, but that which reproduction presupposes.

As for consciousness being reducible to physical processes, I think the clearest problem with the idea is the one brought up by Thomas Nagel famously in his article "What is it like to be a bat?" you can access an online copy of the article here:

http://www.clarku.edu/students/philosophyclub/docs/nagel.pdf


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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2007, 04:38:44 am »
Now now, keep in mind it is not so simple!

First, we would need a perfect understanding of the environmental conditions.  Exactly what chemicals were present in what quantities is very important.  Temperature, pressure, fluid turbulence, electrical discharges... all could play a role.

Secondly, once life originated, natural selection would do the work of diversifying and keeping it around.  Assuming that past conditions were favorable, and further assuming that present conditions are still favorable, it is entirely possible that abiogenesis is a fairly regular occurrence... but what are the odds that this arrangement of proteins would be successful enough to escape falling prey to more advanced organisms and reach the point that it would actually be noticed.
Were it so successful, who would think anything of it, other than that a new microbe has been discovered?

Regarding the link and consciousness... I see no argument demonstrating that it must be from a non-natural or physical source.  True, it would be wrong to claim any kind of certainty at this point regarding the nature of human awareness, but that does not mean it must forever be outside the scope of empirical science.

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2007, 06:01:38 pm »
Ah, but the lack of simplicity is the problem.

As you pointed out, several variables are significant. We would be justified, I think, in saying that the chance of all of the variables falling within the required ranges would seem, prima facie, to be low. Of course, it may actually be high. That is certainly possible, but, it seems that a belief that the chances are low is the more justified belief at this time. The argument turns out the same either way.

Natural selection is more mystifying than it seems at face value. I grant that it has power, but I've been somewhat more skeptical of it lately, after having read Jerry Fodor's new paper on the matter.


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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2007, 06:15:38 pm »
I forgot to address your response to Nagel's paper. It seems you either think Nagel has no argument, or you missed the force of his argument. His argument, if it establishes anything, establishes precisely that consciousness will remain outside the bounds of science of necessity. Since science is essentially a 3rd person practice, and consciousness is a 1st person phenomena. Science seeks the objective, but consciousness, by its nature, is subjective. No 3rd person description of phenomena will be able to capture the 1st person nature of consciousness. That is his argument, and it remains powerful even to this day.

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #22 on: October 26, 2007, 11:56:34 pm »
I agree it is not enough for there to be no known natural explantion.  Rather according to my method, there must be the reaosniong provided that all possible natural explanation are considered and none of them are plausible.  That is what section 2.5 of my pdf addresses.


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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #23 on: October 26, 2007, 11:59:17 pm »

In my pdf, I present objective reasoning for evaluating claims about the supernatural.  The reasoning is based on the key logical principal of science, proof by elimination.  There are atheist and theists who just prefer their positions for subjective reasons.  The reasoning to reject the supernatural because the natural explanation is more simple or less ad-hoc (ocman's razor) and the reasoning of always waiting for possible evidence that will dismiss the supernatural, are approaches the can be used in an unfalsifiable way to dismiss evidence for the supernatural regardless of how objective, or strong the evidence is.  Philosepher of science, Popper pointed out the scientifc approaches should be falsifiable.

My approach is the type that the unbiased scientist as described below would follow.  

Considering three observers of a hypothetical Guru. The presupposed naturalist, the presupposed super-naturalist and the unbiased scientist. They all sit and watch the Guru flip a supposedly fair two sided coin and the coin keeps landing heads. The more it lands heads the more the presupposed naturalist believes it has heads on both sides. The more it lands heads the more the presupposed super naturalist believes in the super natural powers of the Guru. After the Guru is done the presupposed walk away with their strong opposing beliefs that contradict each other so they could not both be correct, but these two do not ask any further questions. The unbiased scientist is not convinced either way; however, for him the more the coin lands heads the more he wants to check out the coin to see if the super natural is occurring. After the Guru is done he goes up and ask the Guru if he can look at both sides of the coin. Also, he asks the Guru to do the same thing with his own coin he brought that he knew was not rigged. If the Guru still keeps getting heads even with a truly fair two sided coin, then the unbiased scientist becomes convinced that the super natural has intervened. However, if the unbiased scientist discovers a trick of the Guru such as the coin has heads on both sides then he is not convinced the Guru was performing a supernatural event.

I do not think anybody is a perfect Presuppositionalist or unbiased scientist; however, I think a honest thing to do whenever we are developing our beliefs is to honestly ask if am I thinking more like a Presuppositionalist or an unbiased scientist. This should give better insight into oneself as they better understand their own presuppositions and why they hold onto them.


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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #24 on: October 27, 2007, 11:05:35 pm »
Though we may never be able to use scientific methods to qualitatively describe consciousness in detail, that does not mean we cannot demonstrate its roots exist in neurology.

Again, I will admit that I have not read on this area, but would it not be entirely possible to link consciousness to a specific area of the brain, just by differing neural activity when one is conscious and when one is not?
Could we not show that cognitive function is lost when a certain area of the brain is damaged, or that those with underdeveloped brains never demonstrate self-awareness in the first place?

This would be enough evidence to support that consciousness has a natural origin, even if it will never be completely explainable empirically.

As for the likelihood of abiogenesis, it seems we are at an impasse.  Many people would say something seemed unlikely before natural processes explaining a phenomena were adequately understood.  It would seem very unlikely to me that similar fossils are found on continents separated by vast oceans... if I was unfamiliar with plate tectonics.




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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #25 on: October 27, 2007, 11:15:36 pm »
rrr333 wrote: I agree it is not enough for there to be no known natural explantion.  Rather according to my method, there must be the reaosniong provided that all possible natural explanation are considered and none of them are plausible.  That is what section 2.5 of my pdf addresses.




From your pdf:


Reasonable assumptions can be made that limit the number of possibilities to a finite number. For example, if your car is
seen being driving away, it can be assumed if this is a natural phenomenon that a human is driving it away or there is a
remote control device in the car. If you just thoroughly check the car and found no remote control device, then if it occurred
naturally, one could assume a human was driving it away. Since the number of humans is finite, the number of possible
thieves is finite. In this case to determine the actual individual who stole the car, one would have to show that all other
humans except for a certain one was driving the stolen car. If it can be shown no human was in the car and since there is
no remote control device, PE would indicate the supernatural intervened.



You set up a false dichotomy, in saying that a remote control device and a human thief are the only way your vehicle could be driving away.  It could be autonomously equipped, such as the DARPA vehicles.
Any assumptions you make will prove insufficient regarding natural causes, as we do not possess full knowledge of all natural possibilities.  In order to possess full knowledge, and thereby allow the valid potentiality of proving the supernatural through PE, we would ourselves be omniscient.
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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #26 on: October 27, 2007, 11:39:42 pm »
rrr333 wrote:

The reasoning to reject the supernatural because the natural explanation is more simple or less ad-hoc (ocman's razor) and the reasoning of always waiting for possible evidence that will dismiss the supernatural, are approaches the can be used in an unfalsifiable way to dismiss evidence for the supernatural regardless of how objective, or strong the evidence is.



Give me an example of such evidence.


Given your scenario, I would say the unbiased scientist was not thorough enough.  I would say in addition to using another coin, he should also require the guru to perform the same feat in another location.  

At this point I must ask you in what way you define supernatural.  What if the Guru had discovered some repeatable, verifiable method by which he can generate a force through a mental exercise?

Though the method would not be understood at the time, would this necessarily be supernatural, or just some innate ability of humankind (or perhaps even only this specific man through some mutation) .


I now have a scenario for you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3f-WPrKnRU

Criss Angel is a very talented magician.  In addition to this instance, where he manages to walk through glass, he also has the impressive ability of levitation.

However, I have seen the levitation trick explained.  Very clever, and it was done without using any of the natural tricks I would have considered.  However, I would have been wrong to assume it was supernatural, as all of the possible natural methods did not encompass all it could possibly be.

Still, I am yet to hear the explanation for how he walks through glass.  I notice that it appears he has something under his shirt.  There seems to be no seem in the glass, so it is unlikely that he removes or slides part away and then reinserts it.  Obviously he is not moving through it as a liquid, as glass at that temperature is far too brittle.  If he increased the temperature that far he would himself come to physical harm, and the paper would burn.  I'm guessing that those in the crowd are in on the trick... or at the very least the man on the inside.  Video editing is possible, but at least Snopes agrees that it is one, unedited continuous take.

Assuming the video was unedited, would you feel that this was supernatural?


I don't.  I believe there was a natural explanation, and that explanation lies behind a thin sheet of paper.  Our view of the scene was incomplete.  We were withheld key data that is necessary to properly understand the phenomenon witnessed.

I think this is an excellent analogy for all insufficiently understood phenomena.  If not a direct hindrance to observation, at the very least ignorance of physical properties and natural principles limits our field of view... and obscures the key to full understanding.

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Drm970

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #27 on: October 28, 2007, 03:41:01 pm »
That which is not natural is, well, not natural. So, if one were to eliminate all possible natural explanations, one would be justified in believing in a supernatural explanation. You seem to be confused in that you think "all natural explanations" is equivalent to "all natural explanations I can think of."

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2007, 08:24:41 pm »
Drm970 wrote: That which is not natural is, well, not natural. So, if one were to eliminate all possible natural explanations, one would be justified in believing in a supernatural explanation. You seem to be confused in that you think "all natural explanations" is equivalent to "all natural explanations I can think of."



Obviously.  My point is how can we ever possibly know that we have eliminated all natural explanations without ourselves being omniscient.
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Drm970

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Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention
« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2007, 10:01:00 pm »
That's true. But we cannot possibly know something doesn't have an overdetermined supernatural explanation without being omniscient either. Not much follows.