Is Naturalism against super-natural?
#1
This post is in context of this article which was in response to this article.

After reading the response, I had some doubts about naturalism. They are as follows
1. Is naturalism truly against super-natural?
Before I dwell on to this I will try to define natural and super-natural. Natural is anything that can be perceived directly or indirectly by our senses. super-natural comprises of things that are "not fully caused" by natural world. Kindly read the post in context of these definitions ONLY. I do not mean super-natural as magic or anything divine.

Now what would be the stand of naturalism if Science provides overwhelming evidence for super-natural causes. Quantum physics is already on that route where some behaviors of small particles are not fully caused by the natural world.

2. I always assumed naturalism was not truly against super-natural, but about avoiding it wherever not necessary. Am I mistaken in this assumption?
For e.g. there are reasonable explanations for human consciousness without invoking a need for super-natural soul.
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#2
I had read the articles and had some questions. So thanks for bringing it up here.

The way I see it, naturalism relies on science to decide what exists and what does not. The question I had is, what gives science such authority. The only answer I could come up with is, it is the only methodology that has been successfully in explaining the world around us and in providing models to predict how it will behave.

Now given that, science has only given us evidence of one type of world - what we call as the natural world. Any other world which science doesn't have evidence for is the supernatural and as such doesn't exist. There seems to be some circularity in the way this is defined and is another question that I had. The the only answer I could come up with is, that's just the way it is. Something similar to Hume's problem of induction. We don't know how induction works. It just works.

Coming to your questions, I think this would answer them:

Quote:The epistemic allegiance to science – not scientism – takes us to the basic metaphysical position of naturalism, that what exists is the natural world. There isn’t in addition a categorically separate supernatural realm since there’s no good evidence to warrant belief in such a thing. Now, what exists in nature is for science to determine, and it may turn out that there exist very strange things indeed, we don’t know in advance. Naturalism should therefore not be equated with naïve materialism. For instance, if our best, experimentally validated and conceptually transparent explanation of consciousness turns out to include the existence of something like mental particles (“psychons”), or something ultimately representational (something neither mental nor physical as standardly conceived), so be it.
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#3
Lije thanks for sharing that article. It makes sense to me and that is how I perceived naturalism to be. The article that I had mentioned doesn't really share this essence and hence wanted to confirm.

About the other things that you have written
Quote:The question I had is, what gives science such authority. The only answer I could come up with is, it is the only methodology that has been successfully in explaining the world around us and in providing models to predict how it will behave

Science, or rather natural science, doesn't have any special authority, its just a very logical approach to understand the natural world. It just requires its practitioners to believe in rationality and logic or to phrase it otherwise - logical inconsistencies don't exist. If this is assumed the rest pretty much follows. Science is interested in the natural world, hence by its definition it regards "observations" as the absolute truth. Now to create successful models to understand those observations theories are to be populated. Science demands a theory should explain all observations, because that is the main intent behind the whole exercise. Secondly it should be able to make predictions which are falsifiable, thus making the theory falsifiable. Falsifiable is a very important attribute because without it verity of anything can never be ascertained making it completely useless.

In short Science principles follow directly from logic.

Quote:Now given that, science has only given us evidence of one type of world - what we call as the natural world. Any other world which science doesn't have evidence for is the supernatural and as such doesn't exist.

The last part of your statement is not true. Science never claims non-existence or existence of super-natural. It just holds that its completely futile to dwell on such questions because they are non-falsifiable.

Also, Science can develop evidence for super-natural. Science can discover whether a specific natural world entity is completely caused in the natural world or not. If its not it has provided evidence for non-natural world or typically referred to as super-natural world.

Induction needn't be that big a mystery. If our universe is governed by unchanging laws, then its bound to work. The only problem is that we can never really know whether our universe belongs to that category. So its just a normal problem about our epistemology limits.
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#4
(14-Sep-2011, 10:37 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Science, or rather natural science, doesn't have any special authority, its just a very logical approach to understand the natural world. It just requires its practitioners to believe in rationality and logic or to phrase it otherwise - logical inconsistencies don't exist. If this is assumed the rest pretty much follows. Science is interested in the natural world, hence by its definition it regards "observations" as the absolute truth. Now to create successful models to understand those observations theories are to be populated. Science demands a theory should explain all observations, because that is the main intent behind the whole exercise. Secondly it should be able to make predictions which are falsifiable, thus making the theory falsifiable. Falsifiable is a very important attribute because without it verity of anything can never be ascertained making it completely useless.

In short Science principles follow directly from logic.

I guess I was questioning the assumptions. But as you say later on, that might just be due to us hitting the limits of epistemology.

(14-Sep-2011, 10:37 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:
Quote:Now given that, science has only given us evidence of one type of world - what we call as the natural world. Any other world which science doesn't have evidence for is the supernatural and as such doesn't exist.

The last part of your statement is not true. Science never claims non-existence or existence of super-natural. It just holds that its completely futile to dwell on such questions because they are non-falsifiable.

A clarification - I meant, given science, what can be inferred to exist and what does not exist, practically speaking.

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#5
(14-Sep-2011, 11:17 PM)Lije Wrote:
(14-Sep-2011, 10:37 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote:
Quote:Now given that, science has only given us evidence of one type of world - what we call as the natural world. Any other world which science doesn't have evidence for is the supernatural and as such doesn't exist.

The last part of your statement is not true. Science never claims non-existence or existence of super-natural. It just holds that its completely futile to dwell on such questions because they are non-falsifiable.

A clarification - I meant, given science, what can be inferred to exist and what does not exist, practically speaking.

I am not exactly clear what you mean, hence for clarification purpose, I will restate what I had said about science's take on existence and non-existence of non-falsifiable entities. The intent is also to clarify what several people are mistaken about when applying the Occam's razor principle. The principle is simple, weed out unnecessary variables. But it doesn't take any stance on whether the variables exist or not. The take is "don't-care" as they don't add any information to our understanding.

As about the assumptions that govern Natural Science's - they are just derived from the way we learn things, observation, modelling and repetition.
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#6
(15-Sep-2011, 02:40 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: I am not exactly clear what you mean, hence for clarification purpose, I will restate what I had said about science's take on existence and non-existence of non-falsifiable entities. The intent is also to clarify what several people are mistaken about when applying the Occam's razor principle. The principle is simple, weed out unnecessary variables. But it doesn't take any stance on whether the variables exist or not. The take is "don't-care" as they don't add any information to our understanding.

Strictly speaking, science cannot categorically say that something does not exist. But we do say stuff like "god does not exist". I meant it in that sense.

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#7
(15-Sep-2011, 04:31 PM)Lije Wrote:
(15-Sep-2011, 02:40 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: I am not exactly clear what you mean, hence for clarification purpose, I will restate what I had said about science's take on existence and non-existence of non-falsifiable entities. The intent is also to clarify what several people are mistaken about when applying the Occam's razor principle. The principle is simple, weed out unnecessary variables. But it doesn't take any stance on whether the variables exist or not. The take is "don't-care" as they don't add any information to our understanding.

Strictly speaking, science cannot categorically say that something does not exist. But we do say stuff like "god does not exist". I meant it in that sense.

Science can prove some qualities of the super-natural, as I had already said. For e.g. if an event is not fully caued by our natural world, we can still analyze to see if there is any pattern. Based on that we can infer qualities of the super-natural cause. Currently we hold the notion that certain behavior of electron is "probabilistic", because of the pattern that is observed.

Applying similar logic some properties can be easily understood about THE GOD. For e.g. by the problem of evil we can conclude that god is definitely not morally-perfect (based on our moral standards), etc. Thus we can defy the concept of such a god. But if suppose somebody is to say that the reason why gravity exists is because god made it so, then such a god cannot be defied by science. But science's take is simple, its useless to contemplate about such god. So don't care. We think in a similar fashion and discard the concept of god on same grounds. Pedantically we do not believe in no god but we do not believe in god because we don't have to.
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#8
(15-Sep-2011, 06:32 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Science can prove some qualities of the super-natural, as I had already said.

I would use "unknown" rather than "super-natural".

Quote:For e.g. if an event is not fully caued by our natural world, we can still analyze to see if there is any pattern.

You cannot know that it is not fully caused by the natural world. You can only know that you are yet to figure out what causes it.

Quote:Based on that we can infer qualities of the super-natural cause.


The phrase "super-natural cause" is meaningless from a scientific perspective, unless what you really mean is "unknown cause".
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#9
(15-Sep-2011, 07:21 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(15-Sep-2011, 06:32 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Science can prove some qualities of the super-natural, as I had already said.

I would use "unknown" rather than "super-natural".

Quote:For e.g. if an event is not fully caued by our natural world, we can still analyze to see if there is any pattern.

You cannot know that it is not fully caused by the natural world. You can only know that you are yet to figure out what causes it.

Ajita, are you referring to the hidden variable theory that Einstein adopted for Quantum theory? You are right in pointing out that we can never assert with absolute logical certainty that an event is not fully caused by the natural world, but using principles of induction we can state there is high probability that it is not fully caused in natural world. The example would be quantum behavior of electrons. It is possible that we might be missing a variable, but there is huge probability that they actually behave in a very peculiar fashion which is not fully caused in natural world.

(15-Sep-2011, 07:21 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
Quote:Based on that we can infer qualities of the super-natural cause.


The phrase "super-natural cause" is meaningless from a scientific perspective, unless what you really mean is "unknown cause".

You are right about "super-natural cause' meaning "unknown cause" in the sense that it can't be known through this natural world. Thats exactly what I have defined super-natural as in my first post. Infact "partially-uncaused", "unknown cause" or "super-natural cause" all can be treated with equivalence in such cases.
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#10
(15-Sep-2011, 07:44 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: You are right in pointing out that we can never assert with absolute logical certainty that an event is not fully caused by the natural world, but using principles of induction we can state there is high probability that it is not fully caused in natural world.

Not really. I am saying that all we know is the natural world. The rest is unknown. We do not know whether there is such a thing as a super-natural world, unless what you mean by "super-natural" is "unknown". You cannot use induction or any other form of logical inference to talk about a world that we have absolutely no evidence for.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#11
(15-Sep-2011, 10:33 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(15-Sep-2011, 07:44 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: You are right in pointing out that we can never assert with absolute logical certainty that an event is not fully caused by the natural world, but using principles of induction we can state there is high probability that it is not fully caused in natural world.

Not really. I am saying that all we know is the natural world. The rest is unknown. We do not know whether there is such a thing as a super-natural world, unless what you mean by "super-natural" is "unknown". You cannot use induction or any other form of logical inference to talk about a world that we have absolutely no evidence for.

I tend to disagree. There can be standards by which we decide if something external is present. A very crude e.g., borrowing from Carl Sagan's "Contact", would be if it turned out that pi has some information coded in some number system. We can always agree its a chance occurrence, but the probability suggests something external.

Basic stance is this. We model our natural world based on observations. We don't stop at saying its unknown. Same is very much applicable for a non-natural/super-natural/unknown world.
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#12
(15-Sep-2011, 11:03 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: A very crude e.g., borrowing from Carl Sagan's "Contact", would be if it turned out that pi has some information coded in some number system. We can always agree its a chance occurrence, but the probability suggests something external.

The information present in Pi is applicable to our natural world, and this is the only information we can know of. Carl Sagan was not talking about supernatural worlds, but about unknown natural worlds. The probability of a supernatural world existing is very very small, since there is no evidence we have to apply towards it, but we have plenty of evidence of previously unknown things becoming understood as being part of the natural world.

Quote:Basic stance is this. We model our natural world based on observations. We don't stop at saying its unknown.

"Unknown" doesn't imply that one should stop attempting to know. On the contrary, "unkonwn" implies that we must make an attempt to investigate and to make it known. Religious believers use the concept of the "supernatural", a word suggesting that something is not caused by the natural world, as a way of inhibiting knowledge. Science dispenses with assumptions about supernatural worlds and attempts to understand that which is unknown.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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