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hippy4christ
Skeptic Friend

193 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  15:01:03  Show Profile Send hippy4christ a Private Message
Hello Board:

The supernatural, which I define as 'that which is impossible according to the laws of physics', is excluded a priori from 'scientific' examinations. The major reason for this that I've heard is that no such event has been 'scientifically' documented. This is about as reasonable as saying that no two snowflakes are alike because no two alike snowflakes have been found. Considering the billions upon billions of snowflakes that are formed every year, how can one even begin to get enough of a fair sampling to state that no two snowflakes are alike? Considering the billions upon billions of events which occur every year, how can one state that the supernatural does not exist?

Furthermore, scientific documentation, as defined by the majority of those who call themselves scientists, requires repeated, controlled scrutiny. Why should we expect a supernatural being to submit itself to our scrutiny? (I know that the definition of 'supernatural' is broad enough to include occurances which are not directed by a personal being, but I don't think that that's relevant to the discussion.)

Another reason given for rejecting the supernatural is that it's considered as giving up looking for an answer to a question. My response is that it is illogical to rule out any explanation for an event without giving that explanation due consideration. Let me make it clear that I would need a really good reason for accepting something as a supernatural event because it has been my experience (and probably yours, too) that the vast majority of events have natural explanations. For instance, in the past few years there have been recorded instances of huge hailstones falling from cloudless skies. Most weigh between 25 to 35 pounds, but one was measured at 440 pounds. I am inclined to believe that this may be supernatural for two reasons: 1) not only does it not have a natural explanation, it goes against all known knowledge about hailstone formation; and 2) the Bible predicts that such a thing will happen. Furthermore, if it is discovered how these hailstones are formed I will have no problem accepting them as natural.

Millions, perhaps even billions, of people have reported having supernatural experiences. I do not know of one ancient culture which completely rejects the supernatural. I think that it is presumptive and arrogant to dismiss every single one of them out of hand.

Hippy

Faith is believing what you are told, whether it's by a priest or a scientist. A person's scientific beliefs are ones based on personal observation and experimentation.

Lists of Logical Fallacies

Edited by - hippy4christ on 11/10/2005 15:15:35

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  15:38:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
Uh, Hippy, you do understand that saying the supernatural is excluded a priori from scientific examinations is not the same thing as saying the supernatural does not exist, right? Science is just not equipped to deal with supernatural claims. Science can't investigate phenomena which by definition are not a part of the natural world.

So does science rule out the supernatural? No. It just means that if there is a supernatural realm, science can tell you nothing about. So for the purposes of doing science, people look only at natural explanations.

Religious people seem very often to be confused on this point. For instance, many want the notion that a supernatural diety created the Universe taught in a science class, despite the fact that science cannot even begin to address such a premise. Such metaphysical claims are best left to philosophy departments and churches.

P.S. Where in the bible does it "predict" large hailstones?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 11/10/2005 15:44:36
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Siberia
SFN Addict

Brazil
2322 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  15:59:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Siberia's Homepage  Send Siberia an AOL message  Send Siberia a Yahoo! Message Send Siberia a Private Message
To be blunt: science is a method and, as a method, does not apply to the supernatural, much like biology doesn't try to explain the formation of stars.

Science deals with the natural, and the natural alone. Anything outside the natural, is metaphysics/religion/philosophy's business.

"Why are you afraid of something you're not even sure exists?"
- The Kovenant, Via Negativa

"People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs."
-- unknown
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dv82matt
SFN Regular

760 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  16:32:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send dv82matt a Private Message
Hey hippy good to have you back.

The main problem I have with supernatural explanations, even outside of science, is that for any observed phenomenom there are an infinite number of equally plausable supernatural explanations.

Using your hailstones example, you apear to give credence to the supernatural explanation "God did it" but not to the equally plausible supernatural explanations, "The toothfairy did it.", "Telepaths did it.", "They materialized from nothing.", "An invisible giant did it.", and on and on... Why do you dismiss these alternative supernatural explanations?

To paraphrase Stephen F Roberts:

"When you understand why you dismiss all other supernatural explanations, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  17:11:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
The supernatural, which I define as 'that which is impossible according to the laws of physics'


What do you mean by "impossible" and "laws of physics"? Impossible, if you mean that what we can't do, changes with time, and so do the laws of physics.

H. Humbert said, "So does science rule out the supernatural? No." Which is partially true, depending on how you interpret it. Science doesn't say that the supernatural doesn't exist. However, science will only look for natural causes. So for all intensive purposes, science does assume that everything has a natural cause, and thus, rules out the supernatural.

quote:
Why should we expect a supernatural being to submit itself to our scrutiny?


Why should we trust results which haven't been?

quote:
Another reason given for rejecting the supernatural is that it's considered as giving up looking for an answer to a question. My response is that it is illogical to rule out any explanation for an event without giving that explanation due consideration.


But can we really consider the supernatural? What can we predict if we assume that God created that hailstone? Nothing. How can we test if God made it? We can't.

You're explaination is ad hoc, and thus, rejected, in the same way that any ad hoc explaination is.

Edit:

quote:

Millions, perhaps even billions, of people have reported having supernatural experiences. I do not know of one ancient culture which completely rejects the supernatural. I think that it is presumptive and arrogant to dismiss every single one of them out of hand.


How many people believe we only use 10% of our brains? How many people think raindrops look like a ball with a tail as they are falling towards earth? How many people think that there are aliens in area 51?

Are you really going to appeal to the stupidity of the masses to suggest that the supernatural exists?

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 11/10/2005 17:17:32
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  17:31:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ricky
H. Humbert said, "So does science rule out the supernatural? No." Which is partially true, depending on how you interpret it. Science doesn't say that the supernatural doesn't exist. However, science will only look for natural causes. So for all intensive purposes, science does assume that everything has a natural cause, and thus, rules out the supernatural.
Assuming that everything has a natural cause for reasons of practicality is not the same thing as ruling out supernatural causes. Ice may melt because invisible fairies breathe on it. Science cannot rule that explanation out. But science does provide an alternative natural explanation, which it arrived at by pursuing only natural causes.

Like anything, people are free to reject the findings of science for whatever explanation they choose. They just can't bitch when science fails to back up their pet beliefs.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 11/10/2005 17:34:15
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  17:35:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by H. Humbert

quote:
Originally posted by Ricky
H. Humbert said, "So does science rule out the supernatural? No." Which is partially true, depending on how you interpret it. Science doesn't say that the supernatural doesn't exist. However, science will only look for natural causes. So for all intensive purposes, science does assume that everything has a natural cause, and thus, rules out the supernatural.
Assuming that everything has a natural cause for reasons of practicality is not the same thing as ruling out supernatural causes. Ice may melt because invisible fairies breathe on it. Science cannot rule that explanation out. But science does provide an alternative natural explanation, which it arrived at by pursuing only natural causes.

Like anything, people are free to reject the findings of science for whatever explanation they choose. They just can't bitch when science fails to back up their pet beliefs.



If you assume everything has a natural cause, what is left for the supernatural?

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 11/10/2005 17:36:11
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  17:39:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ricky
If you assume everything has a natural cause, what is left for the supernatural?

In science? Nothing. But science is only one way of looking at the world. Plenty of people suppliment their science with faiths that do accomodate the supernatural.

To make the claim that science "rules out" the supernatural would have to mean that science makes a belief in the supernatural impossible. Obviously this is not so. It is correct to say that science simply doesn't deal with the supernatural.


Edited to add: Ok, I've been thinking about this a little more and maybe I can explain it more clearly.

If I am conducting a murder investigation and I rule you out, I'm saying that you couldn't have commited the murder. When science investigates a particular phenomenon, it is precisely because they can't rule out any supernatural explanations that it doesn't bother to waste its time examining them.

It's exactly like dv82matt said--tooth fairies, telepaths, invisible giants, take your pick. If science didn't draw a line somewhere, the number of supernatural candidates would be literally limitless. So science bars them from consideration not because it has ruled them out, but because they cannot ever be ruled out. Make more sense now?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 11/10/2005 18:17:43
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  18:16:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
In science? Nothing. But science is only one way of looking at the world. Plenty of people suppliment their science with faiths that do accomodate the supernatural.


When I say, "rules out," what I mean is that science always assumes that there is a natural cause. When you observe phenomenom X, science assumes that it is natural, thus there is no chance for the supernatural to ever come in.

I was talking about the world in scientific terms. That is, in the scientific world, there is no supernatural.

I believe we are saying the same thing in different words.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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Espritch
Skeptic Friend

USA
284 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  18:24:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Espritch's Homepage Send Espritch a Private Message
quote:
The supernatural, which I define as 'that which is impossible according to the laws of physics', is excluded a priori from 'scientific' examinations. The major reason for this that I've heard is that no such event has been 'scientifically' documented. This is about as reasonable as saying that no two snowflakes are alike because no two alike snowflakes have been found. Considering the billions upon billions of snowflakes that are formed every year, how can one even begin to get enough of a fair sampling to state that no two snowflakes are alike? Considering the billions upon billions of events which occur every year, how can one state that the supernatural does not exist?


All you have to do to prove that two snowflakes can be alike is present two snowflakes that are alike. It would be unreasonable to require scientists to examine every single snowflake before they could draw a conclusion about the uniformity of snowflakes. It is also unreasonable to require scientists to examine every event in the universe before they draw a conclusion about the existence of supernatural forces. The onus is on those making the claim that supernatural events occur to present the evidence to support the claim because they only need to present one conclusive piece of evidence. If they can't do even that, their claim is not worth considering.

quote:
Furthermore, scientific documentation, as defined by the majority of those who call themselves scientists, requires repeated, controlled scrutiny. Why should we expect a supernatural being to submit itself to our scrutiny? (I know that the definition of 'supernatural' is broad enough to include occurrences which are not directed by a personal being, but I don't think that that's relevant to the discussion.)


If supernatural entities have any effect on the universe, there should at least some evidence of their existence. If supernatural entities have no effect on the universe, why even assume they exist?

quote:
Another reason given for rejecting the supernatural is that it's considered as giving up looking for an answer to a question. My response is that it is illogical to rule out any explanation for an event without giving that explanation due consideration. Let me make it clear that I would need a really good reason for accepting something as a supernatural event because it has been my experience (and probably yours, too) that the vast majority of events have natural explanations. For instance, in the past few years there have been recorded instances of huge hailstones falling from cloudless skies. Most weigh between 25 to 35 pounds, but one was measured at 440 pounds. I am inclined to believe that this may be supernatural for two reasons: 1) not only does it not have a natural explanation, it goes against all known knowledge about hailstone formation; and 2) the Bible predicts that such a thing will happen. Furthermore, if it is discovered how these hailstones are formed I will have no problem accepting them as natural.


So you don't understand how a 400 lb hail stone could fall from a cloudless sky. Therefore god did it? And you don't see why such a conclusion precludes any search for a scientific explanation?

By the way, I'd really like to see where the Bible says 400 lb hail stones will fall from they sky. Also I'd like to see some evidence to support the assertion that this has actually happened (links? research papers on the phenomenon?).

quote:
Millions, perhaps even billions, of people have reported having supernatural experiences. I do not know of one ancient culture which completely rejects the supernatural. I think that it is presumptive and arrogant to dismiss every single one of them out of hand


I'm sure that millions of people have had experiences they consider supernatural, but those are still anecdotal. They generally cannot be tested. People hallucinate. They misinterpret natural events as supernatural. They lie. Without a way independently verify such experiences, there is no way to rule out a natural cause so there is really nothing science can do with such evidence. Science requires testability. Anecdotes are not testable.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  18:26:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
Ricky, I was editing my comment while you posted. I just didn't want you to miss my additional commentary. Hopefully, I made the distinction between "rules out" and "doesn't consider" more clear.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  18:42:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by hippy4christ

Hello Board:

The supernatural, which I define as 'that which is impossible according to the laws of physics', is excluded a priori from 'scientific' examinations. The major reason for this that I've heard is that no such event has been 'scientifically'
documented...scientific documentation, as defined by the majority of those who call themselves scientists, requires repeated, controlled scrutiny. Why should we expect a supernatural being to submit itself to our scrutiny?...


We don't. That's why scientists don't need to consider "supernatural" claims.
The supernatural is also excluded from aircraft design, (which is a science.) Instead, tested scientific principles of aerodynamics are included. Or would you prefer to ride in a plane that was built by designers who simply crossed their fingers and recited holy chants instead of double checking the math, the computers and the wind tunnel tests?

Diversity, independence, innovation and imagination are progressive concepts ultimately alien to the conservative mind.

"TAX AND SPEND" IS GOOD! (TAX: Wealthy corporations who won't go poor even after taxes. SPEND: On public works programs, education, the environment, improvements.)
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26001 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  19:20:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ricky

When I say, "rules out," what I mean is that science always assumes that there is a natural cause.
Nope. As has already been pointed out, there are an infinite number of supernatural hypotheses to explain any phenomenon. Where would science begin in such a situation? Similarly, just how would one go about testing a supernatural hypothesis? And if, for some hypothesis, a natural explanation is not available (for example, "how did the Big Bang get triggered?"), then there simply is no natural explanation.

In other words, a scientist might assume that there's a natural cause for something, but step two of "the" scientific method is not "formulate a naturalistic hypothesis to explain the observation(s) made in step one." People are quite free to begin with the hypothesis "goddidit," but how they'll test it (step three) is beyond me.
quote:
When you observe phenomenom X, science assumes that it is natural, thus there is no chance for the supernatural to ever come in.
The supernatural is more than welcome to make itself amenable to the tools and methods of science, which include testability and replicability, along with having no privileged observers. Of course, as soon as any supernatural phenomenon lends itself to these restrictions, it'll become part of the natural world.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  19:45:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.
Similarly, just how would one go about testing a supernatural hypothesis?
[bangs head on desk] How could I forget the wise lessons of "Rev. Dr." Lenny Flank? Here once again is what he said:
quote:
The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won't (and doesn't) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID's claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5.
Thanks, Dave, for reminding me that there is no "naturalistic bias" in science, and that people are more than welcome to propose supernatural hyptheses so long as they can test them using the scientific method. Perhaps this will help address some of Hippy's concerns.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 11/10/2005 19:46:00
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26001 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  20:51:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Anytime, H.

The basic problem is that the political aims of the ID movement are working in that lots of people now think that science is somehow anti-God. While science is "atheistic" (in the most-strict sense of the word, that is, science doesn't depend on any theology), most fundamentalists seem to think that any activity which doesn't glorify God is an act against God.

Of course, these people forget that modern science was invented 400 years ago almost entirely by Christians, many of them Protestant. And it was Christian geologists who, using the methods of science, discovered that Bishop Ussher (of "Oct 24, 4004 BC" fame) and the story of Noah were simply and demonstrably incorrect. On the other hand, when faced with these facts, many fundamentalists would assert (without evidence) that this science is a tool of Satan and those otherwise-wonderful scientists were tempted away from God.

But that necessarily rejects God. Wiser theologians than I have observed that God's creation is written twice: once in the Bible, and once in the Earth itself. Rejecting what the evidence of the planet tells us is a violation of Jesus' number-one Commandment. Those who do so because the Bible says otherwise can justifiably be called biblio-idolators, in violation also of the Second Commandment of Moses (as understood by the Protestants).

So, deny science and you'll go to hell.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2005 :  21:05:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.
Wiser theologians than I have observed that God's creation is written twice: once in the Bible, and once in the Earth itself. Rejecting what the evidence of the planet tells us is a violation of Jesus' number-one Commandment.
This reminds me of a passage in Blood Meridian, (which I still can't recommend enough to everyone), in which the character of the Judge lectures to his fellow travellers:
quote:
... In the afternoon he sat in the compound breaking ore samples with a hammer, the feldspar rich in red oxide of copper and native nuggets in whose organic lobations he purported to read news of the earth's origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. The judge smiled.

Books lie, he said.

God don't lie.

No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words.

He held up a chunk of rock.

He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.

--Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, p. 116


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 11/10/2005 23:46:09
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