2 of 10
2
the presumption of naturalism
Posted: 31 January 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  102
Joined  2007-09-14
morgantj - 03 January 2008 02:44 PM

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. - Lao Tzu

That makes me think of a paraphrase I used in a discourse on environmental governance:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Pay a man for a fish, and he’ll drain the oceans seeking his fortune.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 January 2008 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3349
Joined  2007-11-21
faithlessgod - 31 January 2008 11:57 AM

I can’t be bothered to reply to another long-winded post of yours where you keep on changing the subject and ignore answers I give.

Nor can you be bothered to support your smear with examples or evidence, I expect.
I didn’t write that much.  Most of the post is older material retained to preserve the context.  My reply consisted of about 950 words (some of it quoting old material without using block quotes).  Your present reply was about 240 words.  Am I long winded (relative to you) if you need 1/4 the space just to duck out of the conversation?

The only question I have been debating here with you is “Can methodological naturalism refute metaphysical naturalism?”

Hmmm.  So we were talking about metaphysical naturalism, at least in part.

The only mistake I made was creating an unnecessarily extreme hypothetical, it is much simpler than that. If anyone claims to be a metaphysical naturalist today they would deny the supernatural exists. If you asked for examples they would give some list like the following:- telepathy, telekinesis , precognition, astrology, spiritual healing, the power of prayer, astral travel (OBEs), ghosts, remote viewing and so on and so forth. Well first methodological naturalism has investigated all these and more and to date the consensus is t hat there is no evidence to support these supernatural phenomena. Now it does not matter what you, I or anyone else thinks might happen, what is important that methodological naturalism could  reliably, independently demonstrate one or more of these phenomena, there is nothing in principle that can prevent this. If it did that then anyone who is a metaphysical naturalist today would have to change their position, however they did that, including now incorporating this as natural. But that is all that is required to refute metaphysical naturalism today.  So if methodological naturalism does succeed in one of the above noted areas or similar then metaphysical naturalism would be refuted . QED

I think that even a moderately sophisticated metaphysical naturalist would believe that his metaphysical naturalism would not be refuted by the demonstration that a phenomenon formerly thought non-existent was in reality existent and the product of nature and nature’s laws.  It is not metaphysical naturalism that is refuted in that case, but the former specific dismissal of a claim such as the reality of telepathy.

I would think that metaphysical naturalists would be excited about the prospect of telepathy.  Why should the consciousness end at the limits of the body?  Couldn’t communication with another neural network take place via means other than neural tissue, like networking computers?  You should be able to hop in a vat of electrolytic fluid with another person and read her mind.  smile

The issue I’m interested in is the principled distinction between “natural” and “supernatural.”  You don’t seem to be much help with that.  And that’s OK.  It may just happen that we more-or-less agree.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 January 2008 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  823
Joined  2008-01-23

Your last response just confirms that you do not know how have a rational conversation.

One last point to answer your question and then I am clocking off from this waste of space

There is no “principled” distinction between natural and supernatural and it is mistake to ask for and make such an imposition.  Either one accepts a static distinction now or at some fixed point in the past or allows that as new discoveries are made the distinction might possibly move. However historically there was far more supernature than nature - from our modern perspective as the thread starter pointed out - and there has been only one way through the last few hundred years this distinction has been moving supernatural->0 and there is no evidence to indicate this is going to change or is not already=0. Thats it, get over it!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 January 2008 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3349
Joined  2007-11-21
faithlessgod - 31 January 2008 01:07 PM

Your last response just confirms that you do not know how have a rational conversation.

If I did, then I suppose I’d just let you slander me without retort.

One last point to answer your question and then I am clocking off from this waste of space

There is no “principled” distinction between natural and supernatural and it is mistake to ask for and make such an imposition.

Your statement implies the affirmation of my suggestion that naturalism is able to subsume all other worldviews (regardless of evidence).  I have no qualms with that (I don’t mind if metaphysical naturalism seems silly as an idea that explains everything and therefore nothing), but your skeptical brethren might.

Either one accepts a static distinction now or at some fixed point in the past or allows that as new discoveries are made the distinction might possibly move.

If it is a mistake to impose a static distinction then from what point should the distinction move in the first place????
You can’t have movement without a starting point, can you?

However historically there was far more supernature than nature - from our modern perspective as the thread starter pointed out - and there has been only one way through the last few hundred years this distinction has been moving supernatural->0 and there is no evidence to indicate this is going to change or is not already=0.

How could it be otherwise, with the definitions rigged as they are?  Any confirmation of the supernatural makes the supernatural natural, a principle to which you have already alluded.

Thats it, get over it!

Your reasoning is brilliant (seriously!).  Too bad you apparently don’t see the consequences of your conclusion.  I don’t take a hit when you agree with me, chum.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 January 2008 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  823
Joined  2008-01-23

I don’t agree with you period. Our knowledge of how the world is has changed over history and will probably again. The natural/supernatural divide is pragmatic and not principled. Now we are talking about metaphysical naturalists not skeptics. Ask anyone who claims to be a metaphysical naturalist what they think does not exist as in the list I gave you. Should any of those be shown to be exist by methodological naturalism, regardless of how exciting such a discovery is, they will have to revise the divide between the supernatural and the natural. Thats it. There is nothing more to say on such a trivial non-issue.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 31 January 2008 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3349
Joined  2007-11-21
faithlessgod - 31 January 2008 03:21 PM

I don’t agree with you period.

Did you change your position just to be different, then?
It looks like we agree that when “supernatural” is observed in the natural world it inevitably gets turned into “natural” regardless of the content of the observation.

Our knowledge of how the world is has changed over history and will probably again.

No, I don’t agree with that.  Just kidding.

The natural/supernatural divide is pragmatic and not principled.

No, I don’t agree with that.  Just kidding.

Now we are talking about metaphysical naturalists not skeptics.

I’m almost certain I mentioned “skeptics,” but you’re the expert.

Ask anyone who claims to be a metaphysical naturalist what they think does not exist as in the list I gave you. Should any of those be shown to be exist by methodological naturalism, regardless of how exciting such a discovery is, they will have to revise the divide between the supernatural and the natural. Thats it. There is nothing more to say on such a trivial non-issue.

Except for you to emphasize how much we don’t agree even when we do.  wink

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 February 2008 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6095
Joined  2006-12-20

It seems to me that what science does is explains things in terms of what is there and how it works.

I think there are no ultimate natural explanations for questions beyond this, like why is it there at all, or why does it work like that?

So I think it follows that naturalism presumes that these questions are meaningless.

I’m really uncertain about this but am interested to see what the responses are.

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 February 2008 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4080
Joined  2006-11-28

Stephen,

I would generally agree that the “ultimate” questions are likely meaningless. In other words, if by “why” one means “what is the cause,” naturalism and science can weigh in. But if one means what is the meaning or value, well I think we just make those up becuase there is no intrinsic meaning or value to the physical universe.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 03:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6095
Joined  2006-12-20

Hi Brennen,

mckenzievmd - 03 February 2008 10:36 AM

Stephen,

I would generally agree that the “ultimate” questions are likely meaningless. In other words, if by “why” one means “what is the cause,” naturalism and science can weigh in.

Ok by “why” I mean what is the explanation.

I’ll try and lay out an argument. It’s not what I believe b.t.w it’s just what I, for the moment, see as potentially a valid argument against naturalism.

If I was to ask what is the explanation for my computer being here and what are the reasons it is behaving like it is, we could find what people call perfectly natural explanations. These explanations would always refer to parts of the universe and the natural laws that they operate by.

But if I was to ask what is the explanation for the universe being here? Then it does not seem reasonable to think we can answer by refering to parts of the universe and the rules they operate under.

So if the question is a meaningful question, which has an answer, then it is not reasonable to suppose natural causes can be the explanation.

Stephen

[ Edited: 04 February 2008 03:28 AM by StephenLawrence ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4080
Joined  2006-11-28

So if the question is a meaningful question, which has an answer, then it is not reasonable to suppose natural causes can be the explanation.

Well, I would say:

1) I doubt it is a meaningful questions. It is a reasonable and understandable one for us to ask. We are meaning-seeking creatures and we live at scales where mechanistic cause/effect relationships are deducible. But that doesn’t mean that our way of understanding phenomena nor our experiences in our familiar environemnts are necessarily applicable to quantum phenomena, the origins of the universe, and other things very different in nature from the context in which we evolved.

2) Even if it is a meaningful question, I don’t think it follows that any answer must not rely on natural causes. That presumes our ignorance of how such causation might work is evidence against its very existence. It may not “seem reasonable” to you to assume that the existence of the universe can be explained by naturalistic mechanisms, but I think that just represents the limitations of human knowledge and thought, not any fundamental characteristic of the universe.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6095
Joined  2006-12-20
mckenzievmd - 04 February 2008 10:00 AM

So if the question is a meaningful question, which has an answer, then it is not reasonable to suppose natural causes can be the explanation.

Well, I would say:

1) I doubt it is a meaningful questions. It is a reasonable and understandable one for us to ask. We are meaning-seeking creatures and we live at scales where mechanistic cause/effect relationships are deducible. But that doesn’t mean that our way of understanding phenomena nor our experiences in our familiar environemnts are necessarily applicable to quantum phenomena, the origins of the universe, and other things very different in nature from the context in which we evolved.

I’ll leave 1) aside for now.

2) Even if it is a meaningful question, I don’t think it follows that any answer must not rely on natural causes. That presumes our ignorance of how such causation might work is evidence against its very existence. It may not “seem reasonable” to you to assume that the existence of the universe can be explained by naturalistic mechanisms, but I think that just represents the limitations of human knowledge and thought, not any fundamental characteristic of the universe.

I don’t think it’s a question of the limits of human knowledge, we don’t know anything for sure (or almost anything) so we need to use our ways of knowing about the world and apply them in this case as in every other case.

If I said why is the universe here and you replied well if the universe came into being depended on what exists and the way it works, it feels to me like I couldn’t possibly imagine how that could be true and I can’t see what reason there is to presume it is true.

If you argue a natural cause might not depend upon what exists and the way it works, then I wonder what definition of natural cause we could use which would allow for this?

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4080
Joined  2006-11-28

Stephen,

You’re just making an argument from incredulity. “I can’t possibly imagine it” is not evidence for or against something. What I’m saying is that the universe exists and has certain characteristics. That’s about all we can say about it. If you ask “why?” you’re just servicing your own psychological need for meaning, which has nothing to do with what must or must not be the case about the actual universe. The absence of a concrete explanation for how the universe came to be within the confinces of natural processes is a knowledge gap, and like all such gaps it is posisble, and for some tempting, to fill it with something outside of nature. But the only justification for doing so is that it makes us feel better.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6095
Joined  2006-12-20
mckenzievmd - 04 February 2008 01:34 PM

What I’m saying is that the universe exists and has certain characteristics. That’s about all we can say about it.


Yes, so isn’t presuming there is a natural explanation that explains why it is here and has those characteristics going too far?

We don’t have a reason to do this, do we?


Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 February 2008 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4080
Joined  2006-11-28

so isn’t presuming there is a natural explanation that explains why it is here and has those characteristics going too far?

It goes no farther than presuming a non-naturalistic explanation, and historically the naturalistic explanatory path has been by far the more successful. Again, I think the question of “why” is meaningless in the first place, but if you insist on asking it all I’m pointing out is that there is no sound basis I can see for the answer to require something outside of nature.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 February 2008 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6095
Joined  2006-12-20
mckenzievmd - 04 February 2008 05:28 PM

so isn’t presuming there is a natural explanation that explains why it is here and has those characteristics going too far?

It goes no farther than presuming a non-naturalistic explanation,

I think perhaps it does.

If I have a jigsaw puzzle and I’m putting all the pieces together, and someone says what goes in that gap and I say the answer is in that pile over there somewhere and they ask how do you know? I can answer by saying, everytime I’ve looked it has been before and the gap looks like a jigsaw piece type hole.

But if they asked me why all the pieces exist at all, to answer that question by saying you’ll find that piece of the jigsaw in the pile over there somewhere, doesn’t seem to make sense.

It seems more reasonable to presume the answer doesn’t depend on what is there and the way it works, than it does.
 

and historically the naturalistic explanatory path has been by far the more successful.

Yes because we are finding out about what is there and the way it works, a totally different thing than why it is there and why it works like that.


Again, I think the question of “why” is meaningless in the first place,

That is where I place my bet too!!

but if you insist on asking it

It’s the 64 thousand dollar question. I don’t think we can say that natural causes are all the explanations we need, without addressing it, because that is just missing out the question which there is reason to doubt has a natural explanation.

I believe there are natural explanations for everything leaving out this question too.

Stephen

[ Edited: 05 February 2008 05:56 AM by StephenLawrence ]
Profile
 
 
   
2 of 10
2