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July 11, 2013

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Spong says that none of the famous miracles in John happened - Jesus turning water into wine, feeding 5000, or raising Lazarus from the dead. What he doesn't tell us is that he doesn't think miracles happen so, of course, these miracles never occurred. Since he doesn't think they happened in history, he has to surmise some literary reason for them.

With regards to miracles, it seems to me there are three possibilities.

1) They occurred
2) They were actually parlor tricks
3) The were made up

Given that every instance of "miracles" that we are aware of in our modern world fall into category (2) or (3), the onus is on those who adhere to (1) to provide evidence that would convince people that it is the correct conclusion. I understand that Christians think that because they are recorded in the bible that that makes them true, but given that there are no other sources outside the bible that record Jesus' miracles there seems to be little reason to believe that they actually did occur.

And the difference between John and the other gospels cannot simply be attributed to a different perspective. If I were to change the name of Jesus in John's gospel to Judas, hardly anyone would say that it was related to the synoptics other than taking bits of them and crafting a completely new story. There is simply no way that one can read Mark and John side by side and conclude that the differences are only a matter of two people's perspective.

The influence of Greek philosophy and gnostic thought in John's gospel is so obvious that only someone who is willfully blind to it couldn't see it.

AJG - just out of curiosity, can you support your contention that "Given that every instance of "miracles" that we are aware of in our modern world fall into category (2) or (3),..."?

What do you think about the evidence presented by Craig Keener in his book Miracles: The credibility of the New Testament accounts?

John's Gospel has a high Christology (theology of Jesus' divinity) and has the most unique material not included in the other three Gospels.  Spong thinks that high Christology must have taken some time to evolve, well past the lifetimes of eyewitnesses.

This is a conclusion of academic research, though. It is presuppositions to Spong's argument in the book, sure, but it's not a baseless presupposition.

It's not as if Along is just wildly speculating and using thatspeculation as his presupposition . He's taking a previously researched, previously argued position and using it as a foundational supposition for additional arguments.

That arguments have presuppositions doesn't do anything to diminish arguments. Presuppositions are necessary I'm academics so we don't spend our time rehashing everything we've said previously every time we want to make a new point.

Sorry autocorrect got me there.

As I've noted before, since Mark identifies Jesus as YHWH in Chapter One, Spong and his friends don't really have much.

AJG - just out of curiosity, can you support your contention that "Given that every instance of "miracles" that we are aware of in our modern world fall into category (2) or (3),..."?

Of course I can't support that because I don't know about every single supposed miracle. Rather, I have never seen nor heard of a reputable instance of a miracle. Miracles, by definition, violate the laws and principles that govern the physical world. The onus is one the person claiming a miracle has occurred to prove it. 2000 year-old texts of dubious origin are not proof.

What do you think about the evidence presented by Craig Keener in his book Miracles: The credibility of the New Testament accounts?

I haven't read it. To what evidence are you referring?

2000 year-old texts of dubious origin are not proof.

speaking of presuppositions...

"Miracles, by definition, violate the laws and principles that govern the physical world."

Really. I'm not familiar with that definition.

As far as I can tell, miracles are the supernatural interfering with the natural. Once the supernatural so invades the natural, it seems that the laws of nature simply accommodate the interference.

My striking the cue is an interference on physical order of the pool table but it does not violate the laws of physics. Instead the laws of physics simply accommodate the interference.

God's creating a zygote in Mary is an interference in the biological realm, but the zygote so created is as subject to the laws of biology as any other...it took nine months (and a little bit) for Jesus to be born, just like every other child of Eve.

You are assuming that the universe is a closed system. But the laws of physics, biology and so on have absolutely nothing to say about that. Those laws only tell us what will happen of its own accord on the assumption that there is no external interference.

But, BTW, God maintains the laws anyway. The fact that the law of gravity is the same on both sides of my study is all down to God's careful maintenance.

Wisdom Lover

"Once the supernatural so invades the natural, it seems that the laws of nature simply accommodate the interference."

So how does one tell that there has been an 'interference'?

Mike

Something happens.

Do you think that the laws by themselves can create the things they govern?

There has been at least one grand interference that is rationally undeniable.

"This is a conclusion of academic research, though. It is [a] presupposition[] to Spong's argument in the book, sure, but it's not a baseless presupposition."

Unless the academic research is itself baseless.

The thing to understand about academics is that they often are not terribly interested in truth, but in controversy. So baseless 'research' actually ends up happening quite a lot.

The claim is that John has a high Christology, but the Gospel Spong (falsely) believes to be first, Mark, has a lower Christology. But this claim is spectacularly false. It is a prime example of that baseless research.

Each and every Gospel identifies Jesus as YHWH, usually in the first chapter. Christology doesn't get any higher than that.

In chapter 1, Matthew speaks of the angel who tells Joseph to name Mary's Son "Jesus" or "YHWH-Saves" for He, the boy, will save His people. Thereby identifying Mary's Son with the Savior: YHWH.

In chapter 1, Mark identifies the Baptist as the voice crying to prepare the way of YHWH in the wilderness. John was clearly preparing the way for Jesus. Who immediately upon being baptized, goes into the wilderness now amply prepared. Jesus is thus YHWH. (Matthew has the same story in a bit more detail, and this makes the identification in this way too, but you have to wait for chapters 3 and 4 in Matthew).

In chapter 1, Luke records the angel as identifying John as the forerunner prophesied in Malachi 4 who would prepare the people for the coming of the day of YHWH (Luke 1:17). Zachariah sings of his own son, John, as being the one who would prepare the way for the Most High. And, of course, all this preparation is for Jesus when spoken of in the the NT text and for YHWH when spoken of in the OT texts.

Because Jesus=YHWH.

Luke, also tells, in Chapter 3 and 4, of John's preparation of the way in the wilderness of Jesus-YHWH and of Jesus-YHWH's subsequent sojourn in the wilderness.

Spong's claims are baseless because he presupposes something that anyone, just by reading the texts, can see to be false. He says that the Matthew, Mark and Luke had a low Christology. This is just patently false.

Wisdom Lover

"Something happens"

So how does one tell the difference between a miracle and an event which looks spectacular but actually has natural causes after all?

Mike

Like this event for instance:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/mar/21/fabrice-muamba-on-the-mend

Natural or a miracle? How do we tell the difference?

God's creating a zygote in Mary is an interference in the biological realm, but the zygote so created is as subject to the laws of biology as any other...it took nine months (and a little bit) for Jesus to be born, just like every other child of Eve.


Really? So the virgin birth followed physical laws? Of course not. My assertion is that a miracle is a violation of natural processes. You're arguing that laws are not violated because of an event you term a "supernatural interference". That event itself is the violation of physical principles. Simply because the world reacts to that event in an expected manner does not mean the event itself did not violate natural processes. Your referring to a miracle as "supernatural" is exectly what I am saying.


You are assuming that the universe is a closed system.


All observation indicates this is so. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Or at least some evidence.


But, BTW, God maintains the laws anyway. The fact that the law of gravity is the same on both sides of my study is all down to God's careful maintenance.

Unsubstanitiated assumptions usually lead to incorrect conclusions.

speaking of presuppositions...

The gospels, particularly John's gospel, are anonymous. There's no good reason to believe they were written by the persons to whom they are attributed. It's possible, by highly unlikely hence the term dubious.

My striking the cue is an interference on physical order of the pool table but it does not violate the laws of physics. Instead the laws of physics simply accommodate the interference.

That's a ridiculous comparison. You are constrained by the natural laws of the universe. Your strike does not break any physical laws because your body is subject to those same laws. God's isn't. He supposedly creates matter from nothing. Can you do that? Jesus somehow makes enough food to feed 5000 from five loaves and two fishes. That is the creation of matter from nothing. How does that not violate the physical laws of the universe?

Please tell me which natural law says that Nature is a closed system.

The law of the conservation of Mass/Energy says zip, zero, nada about the quantities of Mass and Energy in open systems. It is about what happens when there is no interference from the outside, i.e. when the system is closed. It cannot have anything at all to say about whether the system is closed.

As long as the pool table remains a closed system, there will be no motion of the balls on the table. The laws of nature do not make anything. They say that IF one thing happens, THEN another thing will happen in consequence (barring interference). So the pool table analogy, far from being ridiculous, is on precisely on point. When it is closed, nothing happens, when it is open something happens. Either way, no law of physics is broken.

"Unsubstanitiated assumptions usually lead to incorrect conclusions."

Thus your posts. You assume that Nature is closed to interference. Something that you really have no reason to believe.

I on the other hand have every reason to believe that Nature is not closed because, well, stuff happens. The Law of the Conservation of Mass-Energy cannot make one thing happen. It only says what will happen if some mass-energy ever comes to be.

"All observation indicates this is so."

No. All observation indicates the exact opposite. Because, you see, stuff happens. We've got some Mass-Energy (including, for example, our own bodies) to work with. Something that the Laws themselves never could have given us (even if, contrary-to-fact there were something necessary about the laws). Something that had to come from interference.

"There's no good reason to believe they were written by the persons to whom they are attributed."

Really. So the accounts of individuals centuries closer to the events is not evidence about their authorship.

But what would be? A title page? The fact that the author mentions themselves by name?

I'm curious. I honestly don't know this. Is there any early source that says, for example, Mark didn't write Mark or John didn't write John?

I think that by the time the canon was identified, the four Gospels weren't even 'voted' on. It was simply a given that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

And of course the Virgin Birth followed natural law. Physics, much less biology, has not one law that says that things cannot be added to Nature from the outside. So to say that the Virgin Birth violated the laws of Nature would be to say that, nothing interfered to make it so, and Mary got pregnant without lying with a man.

But that is precisely what the Biblical account does not say. Or did you miss the bit about God interfering?

This comment is a little out of place, but I didn't know where to put it.

I recently wrote a rebuttal to a Greg Koukl piece about the Problem of Evil from a few years back. I hope you don't mind my putting a link here. I'd enjoy any comments.

[From the moderator: Bob, we don't allow people (Christian or not) to post off-topic links advertising their blogs, but you're welcome to join the conversations happening here.]

@Bob Seidensticker:

I just read your rebuttal to Greg's "Problem of Evil" and suggest that you backtrack and catch up on all of the many posts about this on this blog about moral relativism and about the grounding of the concepts of good and evil. Greg co-wrote a book Moral Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (sorry, can't underline with the current format) which you should acquaint yourself with so this subject doesn't have to be re-run. The Believer is well acquainted with the reality of the deplorable condition of the human race! Only seeing it from its inception and realizing the inherent condition of our sinful nature can we observe our own contribution to such evil! The difference is that we recognize salvation when we encounter it.

I think Greg is saying that the Problem of Evil is a universal problem, not just one that the Christian must answer for. As an atheist, you must account for it as well and acknowledge that simply saying, "It just IS. It just EXISTS" does not really satisfy the "why" question that lies in every heart. And the atheist's heart wants to lash out at Christians who believe in an omnipotent God and say, "Why doesn't your 'God' do something about this? Why does He let this happen? But since it does happen, He can't be God or He'd do something about it." If He simply abolished the problem by getting rid of those who do evil, we would all disappear in a heartbeat--because we're all part of the problem!

In our own personal economy, we puff up our chests and rationalize, saying, "Yeah! If He's so powerful, why doesn't He COME and fix this mess?" Truth is, He did! He took YOUR sin, YOUR contribution to evil in this world, and He took MINE, and He took them to the cross. And they were nailed there--the Perfect dying for the imperfect.

So be careful when you use words like "Idiot" to respond to the bearer of the message of salvation! The "atheist at the bed of the dying child" cannot offer words of comfort or funny jokes to counter the grim nihilistic thought that he will simply be lowered into the ground and that will be the end of him. The Believer can assure him that, because Christ died and rose from the dead and said that we, too, will rise, he can look forward to eternity with the One who made him, the One who loves him more than he can ever imagine, and the One who will take away every fear, every pain, every sorrow from him. And that hope in Christ is not a fairytale, but is the fact of His coming, His dying, His resurrection and His vast love.

I pray you will see this truth, grasp it, and humble yourself before God and be saved, like the dying child on the bed.

Wisdom Lover

I'm still not sure how, when confronted with an event, how you tell whether there was a supernatural agent involved or not.

Mike

I know your question is directed to Wisdom Lover, Mike, but I wanted to say that I think it's a fair question. I read about the footballer mentioned and his extraordinary return to a functioning heartbeat after having none for over 78 minutes. In this instance, it would seem that something supernatural was going on since his heart had quit beating for so long. However, it's also extraordinary that they kept working on him that long! I have heard of that happening only a few times before (that they kept at it so long), usually with a well-known celebrity or high-profile person, so maybe that has something to do with it. As a Believer, either way I give God the glory and whether it was a miracle or not, that glory is well placed.

I should have thought the answer was obvious. How do you determine if something has interfered with an otherwise closed system? If something happens in the system that cannot be adequately explained without assuming interference from the outside, then the best explanation is that something interfered from outside.

(I almost feel silly writing that down because it is so obvious)

But W/L, dont you know that since science needs emperical, testable, repeatable...sense perception to make a determination of cause? It cannot be obvious as you suppose, there is nothing beyond the physical--dont you know.

Nevermind that most modern day practioners have jettisoned philosophical restraints that used to reign over method, so the many write checks that cannot be cashed by their beloved Naturalism, all the while they proudly pronounce things we know, even though sense perceptions can never yeild true knowledge. But, if it could done humbly, or circumspectly, mindful that what it can yeild is much much less certain knowledge without honest philosophical underpinnings ruling method.

Wisdom Lover

So the real answer is that you cant tell?

And as to the supernatural, you 'know' it exists but can only 'know' this through philosophy?

Mike

"So the real answer is that you cant tell?"

No Mike, that's not what I said. You might try reading the post.

How would you ordinarily go about finding out whether an otherwise closed system has been interfered with? Or is it you contention that that is something that we just can't tell? If so, silly contention.

So the point, which I think I made pretty clearly, is that, since a miracle is interference with the otherwise closed system of nature, you detect miracles the same way.

"And as to the supernatural, you 'know' it exists but can only 'know' this through philosophy?"

Well, as I said before. Stuff happens, so I know there is a supernatural something that made the stuff that the laws of nature can govern.

I don't know whether that's philosophy or not. I'm not even sure what you are attempting to contrast it with (science I guess). Frankly I don't care. Isn't it kind of stupid to reject a sound argument because is is or is not philosophical?

Wisdom Lover

"How would you ordinarily go about finding out whether an otherwise closed system has been interfered with?"

That's precisely what I'm trying to find out your opinion on.

You previous answer (which I read, no need to be tetchy about it) said this:

"If something happens in the system that cannot be adequately explained without assuming interference from the outside, then the best explanation is that something interfered from outside."

And therefore what I'm trying to get at is the basis for this assertion. You are simply saying "I cant understand it, therefore it must be supernatural"

I dont see how that's a sound argument. In fact I can be more bold than that - it isnt.

"Stuff happens, so I ASSERT there is a supernatural something that made the stuff that the laws of nature can govern."

FIFY. You can only 'know' by using Philosophy (it cant be science, what empirical test would you apply to work that out?), but all sorts of things could be true in a philosophical sense.

The pool hall was locked all night. There was no earthquake or other disturbance. The room itself is free of things like elephants and big horn sheep that might have disturbed the tables overnight. You did a thorough sweep of the room to insure that everyone had cleared out. The tables were level last night and remain level this morning. Etc.

But, for all that, when you come in in the morning, the balls on one of the tables are in a different position than they were when you left them last night.

Is that not sufficient information for you to infer that someone interfered with the otherwise closed system that is the pool hall?

Maybe the information given so far is not sufficient in the sense that it logically entails that there was interference. I don't think any information could be sufficient in that sense.

But then, I never intended to suggest that for any event, it is possible to provide information that logically entails that it occurred as a result of interference. You can get that idea out of your head right now if you think that's what I was saying.

But isn't the best explanation that someone somehow got into the pool hall and disturbed the arrangement of the pool balls?

You seem to be saying that my inference is of the form: "I don't understand how the balls got rearranged, therefore an intruder rearranged them."

It is not like that at all of course.

And while, like every cogent inductive inference ever employed, the argument above is not deductively sound (it isn't even deductively valid), it is certainly a cogent inductive inference.

As for the primal miracle of creation, good luck on getting the laws of nature to make it the case that there is something that they govern.

Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern. So, the fact that nature is not empty is proof that there is a super-natural creator.

BTW. That thing above in the last few sentences...the technical term for that is "argument" not "assertion".

Understand first, then fix if you still think you can.

So appropriate a rsponse W/L, I think the pitch was grooved down the middle and you drove it over the outfield bleachers.

It's important for the dr.'s of methodological naturalism to understand that evidence doesn't speak brutely enough for them to make bold claims about anything'(s) being.

The philosophical presuppositions that are necessary for one trying to understand the world as it really is should restrain these who practice physical science from making claims that exceed the limits of the discipline. You know you are dealing with one who is unrestrained/unburdened by these restraints when they say things like Mike/AJG have. One presupposition that seems to be most overlooked is that the scientific method can never produce certain, or IOW-necessary, knowledge.

One would hope that all curious to understand the physical world would be honest enough to challenge what they are imposing onto the evidence, to see if they are maintaining integrity within the discipline. How do they do this...philosophical dissection of motive, method, and conclusions. To suggest that philosophy has nothing to do with science is to be ignorant of mankind/anthropology and is a recipe for the kind of wild assertions that we have become use to seeing.

Brad B

Let's not start doing high fives and whooping quite yet.

BradB - science produces knowledge in terms of models that reflect reality as accurately as we can. Whether it is certain or not - who cares! I have no idea what you mean by certain or necessary knowledge so do define terms.

Wisdom Lover

Your Pool Hall Analogy - is the Pool Hall meant to be the observable universe?
If so its utterly flawed. You take a natural situation and then tell me that is has a natural answer, whilst trying to persuade me that absence of natural explanation MUST equal supernatural explanation.

Have you seen the moving statue in the Manchester Museum?

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/07/07/mysterious-spinning-egypt_n_3558108.html

Is this an example of a supernatural event? How would you tell?

"As for the primal miracle of creation, good luck on getting the laws of nature to make it the case that there is something that they govern.
Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern. So, the fact that nature is not empty is proof that there is a super-natural creator"

Absolute rubbish! This is bald assertion and nothing else.

Hokey analogies and wishful thinking do not cut it. And lets face it, you have a reason to WANT there to be a supernatural - your brand of mythology needs it (well, your American fundamentalist variation, Church of England and Roman Catholics dont seem to have these issues).

So you are biased.

Im quite happy to accept that its philosophically possibly for there to be such a thing as the supernatural - its just we have no way of telling. As I've demonstrated, you are merely asserting (and that is the right word, go look it up) that it's the absence of a natural explanation where the supernatural exists.

I'm done here. You are a super naturalist with no good reason and your moniker is just too ironic for my liking.

WL:

As for the primal miracle of creation, good luck on getting the laws of nature to make it the case that there is something that they govern.
Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern. So, the fact that nature is not empty is proof that there is a super-natural creator
Mike:Absolute rubbish! This is bald assertion and nothing else
.
.
.
More Mike:
As I've demonstrated, you are merely asserting (and that is the right word, go look it up) that it's the absence of a natural explanation where the supernatural exists.
The irony is so rich that you almost have to wonder whether Mike is trying to make a joke.

Apparently, this train of reasoning:

  1. Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern.
  2. Nature is not empty.
  3. Therefore, there is a super-natural creator.
Is not an argument.

However this:

Absolute rubbish!
Is.

I guess I better go 'look it up'.

Mike, seriously man, before you start demanding proof for the super-natural, know what proof is.

Ah! And we end the 'argument' with what has probably become my favorite fallacy of all time: the Argumentum ad Nominem attack. Nice!

When I first selected the handle "WisdomLover" on a different blog many moons ago, it was my second choice (maybe third if you count "Wisdom lover" which I might have tried first only to be rejected because of the space). I don't even remember what my first choice was. Whatever it was, I couldn't get it.

And oh! How grateful I am for that...I had no idea the endless mirth that that simple event would give me.

At first it hurt my feelings when I was attacked on the basis of the handle (not much...I just thought I might have committed some internet faux pas). Then at some point I came to realize that the attack almost always worked out kind of like Mike's attack above and, well, I'm sorry to say, it started making me laugh.

Wisdom Lover

Im not demanding proof for the supernatural.

Im just suggesting that your notions of the supernatural as reaching into the universe and tinkering and then disappearing without trace are nothing but philosophical notions.

Therefore, the only use they have is in providing (baseless) foundations to your brand of mythology.

Also, just because you can right down a syllogism it doesn't make it useful or worthwhile.

Seriously man, your use of the word 'proof' is way off the mark. Proof is for maths and the law courts.

YOU are the one claiming the supernatural can reach into the universe, make changes and scarper without trace. How does that work?

Please read the example about the moving statue. How could we tell if that is a supernatural event or not?

Your answer should be - we cant! (If you disagree, then please tell me why and how you can tell) So therefore, what's the point of accepting that the supernatural can tinker with the ordinary working of the universe?

Oh! I thought you were done here Mike? Welcome back.

You make a series of statements in your latest post. Please permit me to reply to them in the order in which the inspiration to do so strikes me. I don't think I'll be upsetting anything that way. The statements appear to be related, but not in such a way that order matters a great deal.

What's more, a persistent intermittently recurring problem with the STR blog is that it sometimes rejects longer posts. No, I am not claiming that that is a miracle ;-) What I AM claiming is that that problem appears to have reared its ugly head again.

So I will reply to you, Mike, in a series of posts. Please be patient.

Let's start here:

Proof is for maths and the law courts.
"Proof" is another word for "Demonstration"...something you actually claim to have carried out by writing the phrase "Absolute Rubbish!"

Is "Absolute Rubbish!" a mathematical term of art? Or is it a form of legal jargon I am unaware of?

The word "Proof" is also a synonym for "Good argument". When the proof is deductive, we are talking about a valid deductive inference with true and obvious premises. If a proof is qualified as inductive, then we are talking about strong inductive inference with true and obvious premises.

Be they deductive or inductive, proofs are used everywhere. And no discipline aiming at knowledge, from physics to philology, can do without proofs (because "X knows that P" means, more-or-less, "Either P is self-evident to X, or X can prove P").

Next:

Please read the example about the moving statue. How could we tell if that is a supernatural event or not?...Your answer should be - we cant!
Well, I would think that because the rotation is constant, in order for it to be miraculous it would be the constant interference of a supernatural agency. While I can't rule that out. It seems that the best explanation in this case is one that does not involve supernatural interference.

I'm not exactly sure what the point of the Manchester curiosity is. You've given an example where it seems pretty clear that no miracle is involved (though you, curiously, claim that we should say we can't tell).

OK. And so???

Wow! The post-length rejection monster has gotten really bad! I had to log out of TypePad and then enter the comment logging in with my e-mail account to get it to accept that. (I tried logging out of TypePad and logging back in, but to no avail.)

Responses to Mike continue in the next post.

Moving on:

just because you can right down a syllogism it doesn't make it useful or worthwhile.
It is true that the mere fact that one can write down a syllogism does not make that syllogism useful or worthwhile. It does, however, make it a syllogism...which is a type of argument and not a mere assertion. So at least we've gotten over that hump.

Moving on again

YOU are the one claiming the supernatural can reach into the universe, make changes and scarper without trace. How does that work?
Actually, the first bit is precisely what I am NOT claiming. The supernatural does leave a trace. That trace is called a miracle.

And that leaves me wondering what you even mean by "How does that work?". Do you mean "How does the supernatural get in and out without leaving a trace?" If that's it, then the answer is "It doesn't."

Or are you simply asking how the super-natural gets in (and leaves a trace)? If that's it, I imagine that there are a number of ways the supernatural could get in. The most straightforward, I suppose, would be that God could create something ex nihilo in a particular locality the same way that we already know He did in order for there to be anything in nature at all.

Finally this:

Im just suggesting that your notions of the supernatural as reaching into the universe and tinkering and then disappearing without trace are nothing but philosophical notions.
For starters, again, the supernatural leaves a trace. It's those very traces we have been talking about.

But, addressing the larger point, suppose I say, "You got me! The idea of the supernatural is a philosophical notion."

And then what?

Do you suppose that the idea of the natural is not a philosophical notion?

What kind of a move are you even making when you categorize something as philosophical and something else as non-philosophical? Isn't it a philosophical move?

What sort of discussion did you think we were having here?

In the end, I don't think this hermetically sealed distinction between philosophical and non-philosophical claims is even logically coherent (and I have a pretty good idea how to prove that). Every claim, I suspect, has some philosophy in it. But that probably goes beyond the scope of this thread and surely of this post.

Wisdom Lover

Ok, we are being civil again. Good. Apologies for not being so before.

What we need is a modern day reference point - which is what I was seeking with the turning statue. For the record, I think it much more likely that traffic vibration or some differential friction is involved, but its difficult to tell. So no, I wouldnt say its the finger of some God leaning in and moving it round.

So the question I hark back to is - how does one tell the difference when an event happens between a supernatural cause and a natural one? I honestly have no idea how one can ever do that. So whats the point of thinking a supernatural cause is there? It yields no useful information or explanatory power - its better where the event is inexplicable to say "I dont know what the cause or process was in that case"

And actually our track record of finding natural causes for the previously alleged supernatural is remarkably good.

Modern day miracles seem (to me - and a quick google has confirmed my suspicions) to revolve around curing ill people. Such events are prone to confirmation bias and subjective reporting.

"God could create something ex nihilo in a particular locality the same way that we already know He did in order for there to be anything in nature at all."

You might think this. But this isnt knowledge - this is your opinion.

Having read the History and Philosophy of Science I am well aware of the basis and process of science. Science is internally consistent and makes no ontological claims. And that's why science cant deal with the supernatural. It's not presuppostional bias like Warner Wallace wants you to believe. As humans we simply arent equipped with the tools to detect the supernatural.

Having had an issue with my work truck today keeping me from my usual schedule, I had the unusual opportunity to check in during the daylight hours. I'm a little amused, Mike says:

"Having read the History and Philosophy of Science I am well aware of the basis and process of science. Science is internally consistent and makes no ontological claims."

Then, for some reason he clearly makes an ontological claim:

"As humans we simply arent equipped with the tools to detect the supernatural."

What kind of claim is this? It's a claim of universal certainty regarding the nature of man, of his being. Does physical science provide the exaustive, or dare I suggest omniscient, thorough detective ability to cash the check Mike has written? Did purely imperical investigation of this coherent system provide science with the proof of this claim?

I dont think so, and neither does Mike if you read his earlier more sober comment:

"science produces knowledge in terms of models that reflect reality as accurately as we can."

Somebody or something is incoherent here.

BradB

"It's a claim of universal certainty regarding the nature of man, of his being. Does physical science provide the exaustive, or dare I suggest omniscient, thorough detective ability to cash the check Mike has written?"

So we can detect the supernatural?

If you answer yes, please tell me how.

And that isn't a scientific claim. Its an epistemological claim - it isn't a claim about the nature of being, its a claim about the limits of knowledge. So it isn't an ontological claim. Either way, there is no contradiction.

I would find it far easier to accept that God, if He is omnipotent and omniscient (I assume you agree with this) doesnt tolerate miracles. He doesnt need to tinker - it is as he has ordained, according to His laws, which (as WL informs me) He has ordained. So why does he need to resort to petty tinkering? We as mere fallible humans just interpret things wrongly.

I think this in line with other philosophers, but it escapes me as to who right now. I can look it up if you wish.

Mike

Mike

Hi Mike, }`m back to work, thankfully. on my smartphone so I can't respond well right now. Will be on the site later tonight to respond.

Brad B

Great - its an interesting conversation. Im genuinely interested in what you and WL have to say, altjhough it may not seem that way sometimes ;-)

Mike

Hi Mike, maybe W/L can speak to the nature of your comment, he's demonstrated an acute ability to dissect and identify arguments. I dont agree that your statement about humans not being equipped is not an ontological claim about being. I dont think the metaphysical inquiry of ontology limits investigation of essential properties, or even accidental properties or attributes. As far as whether naturalism accounts for philosophical ordinances, it doesn't, this is why so many unskilled empericists scuttle the philosophical constraints that it should have over it so their preffered conclusions aren't hogtied by pesky little logical difficulties.

As far as nature, I dont want to speak for W/L, but I think he, like I, dont accept your working definition. You ask:can we detect the supernatural? What do you mean by detect? I think you mean by sense perception, your worldview doesn't provide for anything else. My understanding and probably W/L's would be that nature isn't just what is physical, and that what you call miracles aren't breaking the laws of nature, but using them more fully. God doesn't break natural law when He does something out of the normal. "In Him we live and move and have our being"

Maybe a better way to ask your question for me to answer it would be to ask "how would you know" a supernatural event took place? W/L's answers still apply, I think another telling circumstance is biblical prophecy. No man naturally predicts future events with the precision that biblical prophecy has.

If the scientific method could be coherent, it would never allow conclusions that rule out the possibility of supernatural involvement--even in mundane events. Most practitioners of the scientific method pridefully do these days though.

Brad B

How would you involve the supernatural in science? You make it sound like it's unfair that science cant deal with the supernatural!

For instance, you burn sodium in oxygen a large number of times. Every time it burns with a bright orange flame. However, on one occasion it burns with a strong red flame.

How do you know if this is the supernatural burning sodium with a red flame on just one occasion?

"God doesn't break natural law when He does something out of the normal. "In Him we live and move and have our being""

Sure. So if you are saying God does break natural law (i.e. what we see as the regular working of the universe according to His laws (W/L's statement, not mine) then why would he need to do something out of the ordinary? This looks like an admission that he has to do things out of the ordinary in order to make events work the way he wants - which is hardly omniscient. So what's going on?

Besides, what modern day examples of miracles do you have? They are almost always about medical 'miracles'.

I thinks its fair to say that the supernatural has historically, and to this day, operated at the edge of our scientific understanding. But that means it exists in a place where it's an explanation in lieu of a scientific explanation - it fills a gap, rather than being positively identified.

Mike

Hi Mike, I dont think that physical science has to deal with the supernatural, rather the practioners should understand the philosophical limitations that reality puts on it. Take for instance you example of burning sodium in oxygen, physical science method has no justification to know for certain that there wasn't a supernatural intervention in all of the orange results and that the red result was left to natural physical law. To say that it has that certainty, is overstating.

"How do you know if this is the supernatural burning sodium with a red flame on just one occasion?"

I dont, or wouldn't without some other supernatural revelation, but I know for certain one thing, that the physical science can yeild useful information....useful, but still limited.
(sorry, dont have any more time this morning, will pick this up later)

  1. Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern.
  2. Nature is not empty.
  3. Therefore, there is a super-natural creator.
Now that we are finally agreed that this is an argument and not merely an bald assertion. I do wonder what part of the argument you find objectionable.

It cannot be whether the premises follow from the conclusion.

To say "A without C" is another way of saying "If not-C, then A". So the pattern is this:

  1. If not-C, then A
  2. not-A
  3. Therefore, C.

Now, let B=not-C, if so C=not-B.

With this (consistent) substitution of symbols we get:

  1. If B, then A
  2. not-A
  3. Therefore, not-B.
Which is the well-known valid inference pattern Modus Tollens.

So the argument is valid.

I also take it as obvious, from experience, that the second premise of the argument is true. Nature, manifestly, is not empty. Stuff, as I have said before, happens.

So it comes down to the truth of the first premise.

Is nature empty without the interference of a super-natural creator?

Well, I suppose the answer to that question is going to come down, at least in part, to what we mean by "nature". That's really no surprise. I suppose the temptation is to say that "nature" just means "everything". But that won't serve. For if we just mean "everything", then there can be no talk about our knowing anything about laws of nature, at least, not by simple experience. We cannot see everything well enough to know whether all of it is governed by laws.

What I mean by "nature" instead is that she is a system of empirically discoverable laws and the set of observable things subject to those laws.

Given that meaning, nothing about nature herself can make it the case that the set of things subject to the laws of nature is not the empty set. The laws say stuff like "In a closed system, the amount of energy is a constant". Fine. Zero is a constant. Maybe the constant is always zero. Nothing about the law can bring the things it is to govern into existence.

So at the very least, this is true: "Nature is empty, unless soemthing apart from her fills her with things for her laws to govern".

I now coin the phrase "supernatural" to refer to something apart from nature.

I now coin the phrase "creator" to refer to a super-natural entity capable of filling nauture with things for her laws to govern.

So this is true: "Nature is empty without a super-natural creator of things for her laws to govern"

That is, the first premise of my argument is also true.

So I have not only given an argument for the the conclusion that a super-natural creator exists (as opposed to merely asserting the existence of such a supernatural being), I have given a manifestly valid argument with true premises for that conclusion.

The map is not the terrain

I know this is a bit old, but I would like to weigh in on another debate that Brad and Mike were having.

Mike made these two claims:

  1. Science is internally consistent and makes no ontological claims.
  2. As humans we simply arent equipped with the tools to detect the supernatural.
Brad argued that these two claims conflict because the second is an ontological claim.

Mike then wanted to deny that. I think the second claim might be viewed either from an ontological or from an epistemological perspective. The sentence seems to be saying that no human supernature detection faculty exists. In that respect it is clearly ontological, since it makes a claim of existence. On the other hand it also implies that we know nothing about the supernatural. And, as a partial answer to the question "What do we know?" it is epistemological.

I suppose that Mike might evade Brad's attack by saying that it is not a scientific claim.

On the other hand, I think it's obvious that science certainly does make ontological claims...at least in the negative. For example, "There are no magnetic monopoles". They are all, of course, subject to revision based on new information. But this is true of all contingent claims.

Indeed, as I've already noted, I think the distinction between philosophical and non-philosophical claims is incoherent. I similarly think that the distinction between scientific and non-scientific claims is also incoherent.

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