The Science of the Supernatural

If Darwinism fails then supernatural causes are back on the table and should be included in science.

I do not think there can be a science of the supernatural.

I do not think that if Darwinism fails that supernatural causes will become acceptable.

If the hope of ID is that supernatural causes will be allowed back into science if they can only just get rid of Darwinism, ID is doomed.

The tools and methods of ID cannot differentiate a supernatural cause from a natural cause anyways.

Thoughts?

347 Replies to “The Science of the Supernatural”

  1. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Corneel,

    But is it real?

  2. Corneel Corneel
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    Alan Fox: But is it real?

    Let’s first tackle the definition of supernatural. If we all end up agreeing with Fifth that human beings are supernatural entities, then that question will become a lot easier.

  3. walto walto
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    Corneel: Yes, super-natural = above natural. But he also claimed that humans and mathematics were supernatural, and that doesn’t quite fit the picture, no?

    Not sure. If you believe that people (and only people) are created in God’s image or something along those lines, then maybe you extract us from the natural world. I mean, that was Descartes’ view, I think: animals are machines, but people aren’t.

    Dunno about math.

  4. Corneel Corneel
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    walto: Not sure. If you believe that people (and only people) are created in God’s image or something along those lines, then maybe you extract us from the natural world.

    Possibly. Fifth hasn’t explained yet why human beings are not reducible to physics.

    I do not feel like a supernatural being though.

  5. walto walto
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    Corneel: Possibly. Fifth hasn’t explained yet why human beings are not reducible to physics.

    Well, I know that it can’t be because we like Schoenberg, because I had a dog that did too.

  6. Corneel Corneel
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    walto: Well, I know that it can’t be because we like Schoenberg, because I had a dog that did too.

    😀

  7. Mung Mung
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    Corneel: The supernatural is ill defined and this tends to bog these discussions down.

    The natural is ill defined and this tends to bog these discussions down. 🙂

  8. Mung Mung
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    Alan Fox: Repetition isn’t a convincing argument.

    But it is real. And detectable.

  9. walto walto
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    Mung: Alan Fox: Repetition isn’t a convincing argument.

    But it is real. And detectable.

    Oh yeah.

  10. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    walto: Let us agree that “supernatural” is to mean inexplicable by the best physics–now or at any time in the future

    That does seem reasonable enough at first glance. But it ends up writing a blank check, because we cannot know what would or would not be explained by some possible future physics. So Hempel’s dilemma kicks in.

    To be sure, I very much agree that the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” has to be drawn in some non-question-begging way based on a criterion that isn’t itself presupposing any sense of “natural” or “supernatural.” I’m just not sure that writing a blank check to any possible future physics will do that for us. That’s why I tried to put the point in terms of measurements, and specifically, in terms of intensive and extensive magnitudes assigned to spatio-temporal regions.

  11. BruceS
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    Kantian Naturalist: . But it ends up writing a blank check, because we cannot know what would or would not be explained by some possible future physics. So Hempel’s dilemma kicks in.

    What’s wrong with saying that the demarcation of supernatural can change with time?

    I understand Hempel kicks in for physicalism because one wants a definition that is not dependent on time. But why have the same criterion for the supernatural?

    With regard to Walt’s definition, I would focus simply on current physics and say that methodological naturalism emerges from the practices of science and that supernaturalism is that which it rejects as suitable for scientific explanations under methodological naturalism.

    I like Boudry’s formulation of that as “Provisional Methodological Naturalism”
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10699-010-9178-7

    That’s why I tried to put the point in terms of measurements, and specifically, in terms of intensive and extensive magnitudes

    If one is a scientific realist and includes the unobservables posited by the best IBE model which includes such measurements, then that seems to be along the same lines as my approach.

  12. Neil Rickert
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    Kantian Naturalist: To be sure, I very much agree that the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” has to be drawn in some non-question-begging way based on a criterion that isn’t itself presupposing any sense of “natural” or “supernatural.”

    Or perhaps talk of “supernatural” is intentionally question-begging.

  13. Entropy Entropy
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    Mung: The natural is ill defined and this tends to bog these discussions down.

    It’s only natural that it would bog these discussions down.
    😀

  14. walto walto
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    Kantian Naturalist: That does seem reasonable enough at first glance. But it ends up writing a blank check, because we cannot know what would or would not be explained by some possible future physics. So Hempel’s dilemma kicks in.

    To be sure, I very much agree that the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” has to be drawn in some non-question-begging way based on a criterion that isn’t itself presupposing any sense of “natural” or “supernatural.”I’m just not sure that writing a blank check to any possible future physics will do that for us. That’s why I tried to put the point in terms of measurements, and specifically, in terms of intensive and extensive magnitudes assigned to spatio-temporal regions.

    I’m not too troubled by the fact that we don’t know whether or not (e.g.) the mental will end up being considered part of the “natural world” by future physicists. I’m content to let those chips fall wherever they may. As Bruce says, though, it may be a bit of cheat to do that with “the physical” or “physicalism.”

    OTOH, I’m not wedded to the definition I proposed for “supernatural” either. I’m happy to use whatever FMM likes–so long as he sticks with it!

  15. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS: What’s wrong with saying that the demarcation of supernatural can change with time?

    Indeed! Our collective knowledge base grows all the time.

  16. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Neil Rickert: Or perhaps talk of “supernatural” is intentionally question-begging.

    It’s certainly reifying.

  17. BruceS
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    Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua’

    In this interview, I read Dr Loeb, the astronomer, as characterizing the argument for the object being of alien origin as being a scientifically-acceptable argument from design. So that is why I see it as on topic.

    There is a thread about this a PS that I started after a podcast late last year involving Dr Loeb. There I characterized the argument as an fine tuning argument with the best explanation being that aliens created the object (although it could just be debris, not a probe). In turned out that one of the thread participants worked with Dr Loeb and asked him about this. His reported answer was, as I understood it, that he was not claiming it was the best explanation.

    https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/fine-tuning-argument-for-alien-origin-of-object-as-made-by-harvard-astronomer/3285

    For some reason, the reported response by PdotQ in that PS thread has disappeared. Although my reply thanking him for the feedback to it is still there.

  18. petrushka
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    That the visitor is the first we have detected by no means implies it is the only such object.

    https://www.space.com/43015-interstellar-visitor-oumuamua-not-that-special.html

  19. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    BruceS,
    Bizarre! I check in at Peaceful Science regularly and pick up “unread”. Never came across that thread. Have to say, I think either discourse software is crap or Joshua isn’t making the best of it. I’ve definitely ruled out adopting Discourse as forum software for any project I might ever be involved in..

    And now it’s closed to further comments. Bizarre!

    Quand même, good thread!

  20. Neil Rickert
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    Alan Fox: Have to say, I think either discourse software is crap or Joshua isn’t making the best of it.

    The latter, I think. They are exerting too much control.

    Please take note, TSZ whiners who want stronger controls.

  21. BruceS
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    Alan Fox:
    BruceS,
    Have to say, I think either discourse software is crap or Joshua isn’t making the best of it. I

    I agree with Neil that this is likely the way Swamidass has configured the software, not a hard-coded restriction. FWIW, discourse appears to do well on this comparison:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Internet_forum_software

  22. BruceS
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    petrushka:
    That the visitor is the first we have detected by no means implies it is the only such object.

    https://www.space.com/43015-interstellar-visitor-oumuamua-not-that-special.html

    The linked space.com article ignores Loeb’s arguments.

  23. petrushka
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    BruceS: The linked space.com article ignores Loeb’s arguments.

    It contradicts most of them.

  24. fifthmonarchyman
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    Alan Fox: Error is another imaginary concept.

    So when I show that your argument is self defeating your response is to deny even the existence of error.

    You certainly are not making a case as to why someone should take your argument seriously.

    Alan Fox: Truth does not exist in reality.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

    I have a couple of questions

    1) Is it true that truth does not exist in reality?
    2) How exactly did you use the tools of science to detect that?

    LOL

    peace

  25. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: Fifth hasn’t explained yet why human beings are not reducible to physics.

    Here is a thought experiment for you

    quote:

    I would be glad to know your Lordship’s opinion whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.

    End quote: Thomas Reid

    The reason the experiment “works” is because humans aren’t reducible to physics

    peace

  26. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: anything that doesn’t meet the definition is not part of nature obviously, so there are no contradictions. It’s just that you don’t like to include “random and arbitrary” things to become part of the supernatural

    If your definition means that the outcome of a rolled die is supernatural and God is not it probably means you need to go back to the drawing board.

    peace

  27. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: Especially since God cannot violate the laws of nature according to you, which seems a bit odd for a supernatural being.

    They are God’s laws he decreed them after all. If nothing else the Christian God is trustworthy.

    Any hypothetical being who would violate natural laws might be considered supernatural but he is certainly not God.

    Now if by calling them natural you want to say that beings that don’t violate natural law are not excluded from being the subject of scientific exploration. I would be happy to join you in your conclusion though I would disagree with how you got there

    peace

  28. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: But randomness in nature is accommodated by your definition? Are “random and arbitrary” processes reducible to physics?

    As a Calvinist I would say there is no such thing as random and arbitrary. Everything that happens in the universe is decreed by a good God and for good reason.

    Though I would agree that apparent randomness and arbitrariness are everywhere you look in nature. That is because we have a very limited subjective perspective.

    peace

  29. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    Alan Fox: Error is another imaginary concept. “Error exists” is a nonsense phrasethat is, according to some, self-evident.

    I actually like the argument from error, as originally developed by Josiah Royce. Here’s a good overview:

    Royce announced the beginning of his professional career with a novel defense of absolute idealism, “the argument from error.” Kant had introduced the notion of a “transcendental argument” by asking what the world must be like in order for knowledge of the world to be possible. In The Religious Aspect of Philosophy Royce took the experience of error — a particularly compelling aspect of the phenomenon of knowing — as the starting point for his own transcendental argument. According to the correspondence theory of knowledge an idea (or judgment) is true if it correctly represents its object; error obtains when an idea does not correctly represent its object. It is indisputable that finite minds do sometimes entertain erroneous ideas. Royce pointed out that in such a case the mind must contain an (erroneous) idea and its (false) object, while simultaneously intending, or “pointing toward,” the idea’s true object. If the mind is able to intend the true object then that object is somehow available to the mind. How can it be that the true object is in this way available to the mind, but not known? Consider what happens in an ordinary example of error: if I think that my keys are on the table, but later discover that they are in my pocket, I do not conclude that my keys never existed as the object of my thought. Rather, I focus on an idea that I had all along — that my keys do definitely exist somewhere. The keys, their location, and all other facts about them are the true object of an idea. At the moment when I discover that my keys are not on the table, it becomes apparent that this true object was only imperfectly available to me. The fact that such error does occur indicated to Royce that the true object of any idea must exist, in a fully determinate or absolute state, in some actual mind with which my own mind is or may be connected. From the possibility of error, Royce concluded that there is an Absolute Knower, a mind for which all thoughts do correspond correctly and adequately to their true objects.

    (from Josiah Royce at SEP).

    The article then conveys the gist of Royce’s criticisms of realism, mysticism, and Kant’s “critical rationalism” as alternatives to his own version of absolute idealism: that the fundamental, essential character of reality is that of a single infinite mind.

  30. newton
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    fifthmonarchyman: Here is a thought experiment for you

    quote:

    I would be glad to know your Lordship’s opinion whether when my brain has lost its original structure, and when some hundred years after the same materials are fabricated so curiously as to become an intelligent being, whether, I say that being will be me; or, if, two or three such beings should be formed out of my brain; whether they will all be me, and consequently one and the same intelligent being.

    I guess it depends if you think that different patterns of things have different properties is physics.

    peace

  31. Corneel Corneel
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    fifthmonarchyman: The reason the experiment “works” is because humans aren’t reducible to physics

    I am not familiar with the works of Thomas Reid, but I read that paragraph as suggesting that the new being is not him, and that continuity is required. Thus it is basically restating that we aren’t reducible to physics. Did I understand that correctly?

    Leaving aside the matter that we don’t actually know the outcome of that thought experiment, doesn’t the logic apply equally well to walto’s dog? Why is it restricted to humans?

  32. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Corneel: Leaving aside the matter that we don’t actually know the outcome of that thought experiment, doesn’t the logic apply equally well to walto’s dog? Why is it restricted to humans?

    Reminds me of the Captain Kirk transporter malfunction. Who is the real Captain Kirk?

    Why, they both are, of course!

  33. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Kantian Naturalist: I actually like the argument from error, as originally developed by Josiah Royce.

    Thanks for reminding me. It’s a while since this last came up at Uncommon Descent when I could still comment there. StephenB was fond of the argument, too. The problem with the argument is that the initial premise, “Error exists”, is unsupportable.

  34. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    fifthmonarchyman: So when I show that your argument is self defeating your response is to deny even the existence of error.

    Yup. Define “Error”. Think, man, for a change. Think for yourself and not in platitudes!

    You certainly are not making a case as to why someone should take your argument seriously.

    No indeed.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

    Oh, I think you lack imagination.

    I have a couple of questions

    1) Is it true that truth does not exist in reality?
    2) How exactly did you use the tools of science to detect that?

    I asked you earlier, what is “Truth”? Even though you ignored it, I’ll do you the courtesy of answering yours.

    I) is incoherent as, in my view, “Truth” is a mathematical concept. So I can say yes, no and both, quite truthfully.

    2) is thus irrelevant.

    LOL

    Is that true? I wonder.

  35. Corneel Corneel
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    fifthmonarchyman: If your definition means that the outcome of a rolled die is supernatural and God is not it probably means you need to go back to the drawing board.

    Somebody in this thread told me: “Reality can seem strange at times especially to someone with limited subjective knowledge.”

    To make things clear: I do not regard stochasticity as a problem for my definition, because even stochastic processes have regularities* That is your interpretation, not mine. It’s interesting that you appear to have a distaste for randomness, and refuse to view it as part of the supernatural realm.

    * described by statistics, a subdiscipline of mathematics. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? 🙂

    fifthmonarchyman: They are God’s laws he decreed them after all. If nothing else the Christian God is trustworthy.

    That part seems clear at least. Thanks.

    fifthmonarchyman: As a Calvinist I would say there is no such thing as random and arbitrary. Everything that happens in the universe is decreed by a good God and for good reason.

    Though I would agree that apparent randomness and arbitrariness are everywhere you look in nature. That is because we have a very limited subjective perspective.

    But all the (truly, not apparent) non-deterministic stuff was due to personal choice, wasn’t it? Does that mean God can choose to have processes deviate from their deterministic course?

  36. Corneel Corneel
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    Alan Fox: Reminds me of the Captain Kirk transporter malfunction. Who is the real Captain Kirk?

    Why, they both are, of course!

    Your intuition is correct: When I googled Fifth’s quote, it took me straight to wikipedia’s lemma on the Teletransportation Paradox.

  37. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: Thus it is basically restating that we aren’t reducible to physics. Did I understand that correctly?

    Yes, what the experiment does is bring to focus what you already know to be true. You aren’t exactly the same thing as your physical body.

    That realization does not require you to accept dualism just common sense

    peace

  38. fifthmonarchyman
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    newton: I guess it depends if you think that different patterns of things have different properties is physics.

    The point is that the two physical bodies have exactly the same physical properties and yet are not the same person.

    peace

  39. fifthmonarchyman
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    Corneel: doesn’t the logic apply equally well to walto’s dog?

    Walto’s dog is not reducible to physics precisely because of it’s relationship to Walto. In fact everything in Walto’s life is an extension of him in this way.

    On the other hand if you remove Walto and all other persons from the equation then it’s all physics and differentiation of any kind is impossible. You need observers.

    That is because persons are above nature

    peace

  40. fifthmonarchyman
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    Alan Fox: Why, they both are, of course!

    LOL

    Now that is comedy. Especially because your previous comments make it seem like you might be actually being serious.

    peace

  41. Corneel Corneel
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    fifthmonarchyman: Walto’s dog is not reducible to physics precisely because of it’s relationship to Walto. In fact everything in Walto’s life is an extension of him in this way.

    Once in every exchange I have with you, you make a statement that I find so bewildering that I don’t know how to properly react.

    This is it.

    Walto’s dog is supernatural because walto owns him?!?!?

  42. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    fifthmonarchyman: LOL

    Now that is comedy. Especially because your previous comments make it seem like you might be actually being serious.

    I meant what I wrote. How would you differentiate two perfect copies of Captain Kirk (or two electrons)?

  43. Alan Fox Alan Fox
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    Corneel,

    And he calls me not serious! 😉

  44. newton
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    fifthmonarchyman: The point is that the two physical bodies have exactly the same physical properties and yet are not the same person.

    peace

    For an observer or for the person?

  45. Mung Mung
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    Alan Fox: The problem with the argument is that the initial premise, “Error exists”, is unsupportable.

    So?

    Alan Fox: And he calls me not serious!

    you are not serious. You continuously disagree with him, as if he is in error, while denying that he can be in error or that what you say can be true.

  46. BruceS
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    petrushka: It contradicts most of them.

    Wrong.

  47. walto walto
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    Corneel: Leaving aside the matter that we don’t actually know the outcome of that thought experiment, doesn’t the logic apply equally well to walto’s dog? Why is it restricted to humans?

    I had just come here to ask FMM the same thing this morning. All those Parfitian thought experiments seem to have the same result with a number of non-human species. Not too many people agree with Descartes about all non-human animals being machines anymore. It’s a purely religious view at this point, it seems to me. Utterly implausible.

    BTW, Reid was a really great philosopher. FMM and I agree on that!

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