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Old 03-15-2014, 10:16 AM
 
Location: OKC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
By general consensus a god is supernatural and demands worship, fealty, subservience, dependence. An advanced alien is not supernatural and if such a race got to the point it did, would not demand our worship (or, indeed, need it). I would not apply god as a label to them, even in quotes.

Of course even here in the 21st century the appearance of such a being would inspire worship by some. But that doesn't prove that such worship wouldn't be misplaced.
What does "supernatural" mean to you?

I think it is a substitute word for "things we can't explain."


For example, if I said I believed in other dimensions, would you say that is a supernatural theory or a natural theory?

If I called the other dimension a "spiritual" dimension, you would likely call it supernatural. If I told you I was talking about String Theory, you would likely describe it as natural.

So even though the object itself is exactly the same, your understanding of it as natural or supernatural depends on what I call it, which is to say, whether I have an explanation for how it came to be.

Thus, if we could explain how a god could come into existence, does that make him no longer a god?
That is the root of my question.


And if that is truely the case, maybe gods did use to exist, but now they no longer do. Not because they died off, but simply because we came to understand their origin.
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Old 03-15-2014, 10:26 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,197 posts, read 9,094,403 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
What does "supernatural" mean to you?

I think it is a substitute word for "things we can't explain."
It is, itself, an attempted explanation. Super = above, greater than, or in this context, outside of. It is not part of the natural order or subject to natural laws.

Thunder was once inexplicable. The supernatural explanation was Thor using his hammer.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
For example, if I said I believed in other dimensions, would you say that is a supernatural theory or a natural theory?

If I called the other dimension a "spiritual" dimension, you would likely call it supernatural. If I told you I was talking about String Theory, you would likely describe it as natural.

So even though the object itself is exactly the same, your understanding of it as natural or supernatural depends on what I call it, which is to say, whether I have an explanation for how it came to be.
The difference is that spiritual dimensions are merely asserted, whereas n-dimensional space is hypothesized and then is subject to mathematical (in)validation. So yes, a testable / falsifiable explanation is what distinguishes the two. The claim that there is a 9th dimension does not include the claim that the 9th dimension isn't part of nature or isn't explicable in terms of natural science. The claim that there is a spiritual dimension populated by gods is actually an explicit claim that it's supernatural. That claim is needed to overcome the slight problem that the asserted things are invisible, undetectable and untestable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Thus, if we could explain how a god could come into existence, does that make him no longer a god?
That is the root of my question.
If a god were explicable then he could only be explicable to us members of the natural order, in natural terms, and yes, then we could not classify him as supernatural. Since gods are supernatural beings, we could no longer classify him as a god, either. He would not cease to be god anywhere but in our minds, of course. He'd be what he had always been -- a member of the natural order.
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Old 03-15-2014, 10:28 AM
 
Location: The backwoods of Pennsylvania ... unfortunately.
5,846 posts, read 3,359,734 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
What does "supernatural" mean to you?

I think it is a substitute word for "things we can't explain."


For example, if I said I believed in other dimensions, would you say that is a supernatural theory or a natural theory?

If I called the other dimension a "spiritual" dimension, you would likely call it supernatural. If I told you I was talking about String Theory, you would likely describe it as natural.

So even though the object itself is exactly the same, your understanding of it as natural or supernatural depends on what I call it, which is to say, whether I have an explanation for how it came to be.

Thus, if we could explain how a god could come into existence, does that make him no longer a god?
That is the root of my question.


And if that is truely the case, maybe gods did use to exist, but now they no longer do. Not because they died off, but simply because we came to understand their origin.
It's not that he is no longer a god, but that he was never a god in the first place.

In the natural world, there just isn't any evidence of the supernatural. Despite the huge diversity of species, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, not a single one of them has ever evolved a supernatural ability. For instance, no animal can smiply create their food out of nothing by sheer force of will. No animal can suspend gravity by levitating an object from one location to another. No bird can, for instance, teleport itself from the ground to its nest.

If any animal were ever discovered to do such things, I would describe them as supernatural. SOMEthing is going on there that just doesn't fall into the predictable path of what we've come to expect from nature.
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Old 03-15-2014, 10:30 AM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Evolution is still fine as defined, because while our alteration of DNA is not natural selection, if we alter it in ways that tend to the successful reproduction of the modified humans, and the changes are carried forward by offspring, then natural selection will still tend to favor the introduced changes.

If the changes we introduce aren't included in offspring but have to be artificially reintroduced in them, then natural selection is not having its say in our survival, however.

If you incorporate a chip inside your brain it will not exist in your offspring and is not subject to natural selection. Of course technology "develops" (it can be metaphorically said to "evolve") but I think we are confusing things by overloading the term "evolution" like this.
I don't think breeding will be the center of the evolution of our species in a 1000 years time.

I think we will have infinite life spans, and perhaps we will have no need or desire to breed.

In that scenario, changes to the species wouldn't occur the same way as they have in the past, but I would include them in definition of evolution nonetheless because I think they are an offshoot of evolutionary psychology; we have an inborn drive to ascend and improve.
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Old 03-15-2014, 10:54 AM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post

If a god were explicable then he could only be explicable to us members of the natural order, in natural terms, and yes, then we could not classify him as supernatural. Since gods are supernatural beings, we could no longer classify him as a god, either. He would not cease to be god anywhere but in our minds, of course. He'd be what he had always been -- a member of the natural order.
I find that line of reasoning problematic, though I agree that is how the terms are usually used.

Theist typically make no claim that the origin of their god is unknowable or inexplicable. They are simply asserting that a being with a certain set of characteristics exists. But the atheist denial, under your reasoning, isn't so much that a being with those characteristics doesn't exist, but instead that the being's characteristics would be explainable if the being did exist. I'm not sure the theist would disagree with that point. In other words, the point of debate should be focused on whether or not a being with the characteristics exists at all, not whether his existence is explainable.

Because I don't think theist are saying gods aren't part of the natural order. Even if they were shown to be part of the natural order theist would still say they are gods, because of their characteristics.

In fact, I'm not sure the words "natural order" mean anything different than "natural as opposed to supernatural." The same problems exists.
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Old 03-15-2014, 11:00 AM
 
Location: OKC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirina View Post
It's not that he is no longer a god, but that he was never a god in the first place.

In the natural world, there just isn't any evidence of the supernatural. Despite the huge diversity of species, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, not a single one of them has ever evolved a supernatural ability. For instance, no animal can smiply create their food out of nothing by sheer force of will. No animal can suspend gravity by levitating an object from one location to another. No bird can, for instance, teleport itself from the ground to its nest.

If any animal were ever discovered to do such things, I would describe them as supernatural. SOMEthing is going on there that just doesn't fall into the predictable path of what we've come to expect from nature.
There have been several times when things that were not part of the known natural world have been discovered. At that point we chose not to call them supernatural, but instead decided to expanded the concept of the natural world to include those new discoveries. Otherwise, any physics outside of Newtonian physics would be considered supernatural. Dark matter and Dark energy would be considered supernatural. String Theory would be considered a supernatural theory.
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Old 03-15-2014, 01:12 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
I find that line of reasoning problematic, though I agree that is how the terms are usually used.

Theist typically make no claim that the origin of their god is unknowable or inexplicable. They are simply asserting that a being with a certain set of characteristics exists. But the atheist denial, under your reasoning, isn't so much that a being with those characteristics doesn't exist, but instead that the being's characteristics would be explainable if the being did exist. I'm not sure the theist would disagree with that point. In other words, the point of debate should be focused on whether or not a being with the characteristics exists at all, not whether his existence is explainable.

Because I don't think theist are saying gods aren't part of the natural order. Even if they were shown to be part of the natural order theist would still say they are gods, because of their characteristics.

In fact, I'm not sure the words "natural order" mean anything different than "natural as opposed to supernatural." The same problems exists.
No, theists do not -- can not -- claim that their god is literally unknowable or they would not know to tell anyone to follow him. Yet they claim he is supernatural, or at least Christianity regards him as "outside of the natural order" as he must reside there in order to be exempt from infinite regressions and be the "uncreated creator and unmoved mover", and to avoid his omniscience being limited in any way by the natural order. I maintain that if god must be uncontaminated and unrestricted by the natural order and remains outside it he cannot be known. It's my argument.

I have never known a theist to be comfortable claiming their god is part of the natural order, at least not one with any sort of personal transcendent monotheistic god. Polytheists and, especially, animists are another matter. Perhaps new age / new thought as well. Nature = god, the universe = god, existence = god. But since those are inherently meaningless claims we don't generally engage with them here.
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Old 03-15-2014, 03:42 PM
 
Location: OKC
5,426 posts, read 5,732,803 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
No, theists do not -- can not -- claim that their god is literally unknowable or they would not know to tell anyone to follow him. Yet they claim he is supernatural, or at least Christianity regards him as "outside of the natural order" as he must reside there in order to be exempt from infinite regressions and be the "uncreated creator and unmoved mover", and to avoid his omniscience being limited in any way by the natural order. I maintain that if god must be uncontaminated and unrestricted by the natural order and remains outside it he cannot be known. It's my argument.

I have never known a theist to be comfortable claiming their god is part of the natural order, at least not one with any sort of personal transcendent monotheistic god. Polytheists and, especially, animists are another matter. Perhaps new age / new thought as well. Nature = god, the universe = god, existence = god. But since those are inherently meaningless claims we don't generally engage with them here.
If one were limiting their theism to Christianity, I think that most theist would say that we don't know the origins of god, but I don't think they would say it is unknowable. They probably don't have a position one way or the other.

But I'm still not sure what you mean by "the natural order." Is "a time before time existed, where the rules of known physics don't apply" part of the natural order? Because both theories in physics and theories of religion are contemplate that reality. Is "something being created from nothing" part of the natural order? Other dimensions of reality? Truth may be stranger than fiction, and science may be more unnatural than religion.

It could be that our universe came into existence because of causes outside of our universe. Is that part of the natural order? Because you can find support for that theory in both science and religion.


Beyond that, the picture gets even murkier when you stray outside of Christianity to other religions. Many religions have an explanation for how their gods came to be that seem quite natural. How do we deal with those claims? Should we no longer call them gods simply because their theory of origin is too mundane?
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Old 03-15-2014, 09:01 PM
 
40,112 posts, read 26,772,494 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant View Post
No, theists do not -- can not -- claim that their god is literally unknowable or they would not know to tell anyone to follow him. Yet they claim he is supernatural, or at least Christianity regards him as "outside of the natural order" as he must reside there in order to be exempt from infinite regressions and be the "uncreated creator and unmoved mover", and to avoid his omniscience being limited in any way by the natural order. I maintain that if god must be uncontaminated and unrestricted by the natural order and remains outside it he cannot be known. It's my argument.

I have never known a theist to be comfortable claiming their god is part of the natural order, at least not one with any sort of personal transcendent monotheistic god.
AHEM!!! Care to rethink that claim, mordant!!
Quote:
Polytheists and, especially, animists are another matter. Perhaps new age / new thought as well. Nature = god, the universe = god, existence = god. But since those are inherently meaningless claims we don't generally engage with them here.
::Sigh::
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Old 03-15-2014, 09:23 PM
 
Location: OKC
5,426 posts, read 5,732,803 times
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post

The difference is that spiritual dimensions are merely asserted, whereas n-dimensional space is hypothesized and then is subject to mathematical (in)validation. So yes, a testable / falsifiable explanation is what distinguishes the two. The claim that there is a 9th dimension does not include the claim that the 9th dimension isn't part of nature or isn't explicable in terms of natural science. The claim that there is a spiritual dimension populated by gods is actually an explicit claim that it's supernatural. That claim is needed to overcome the slight problem that the asserted things are invisible, undetectable and untestable.
.
Sorry, I missed this part which I think merits a response.

I don't believe you are correct, in the sense that supernatural claims in general can be proven to be true. However rather than accepting them as proof of the supernatural existing we simply change our definition of the natural to include them.

Thus our objection to supernatural claims is based on circular reasoning - we claim they can't be proven, but that's only because if they are proven then we would revise history and no longer acknowledge their supernatural character.

As indicated earlier, if a god was proven to exist we would no longer call gods supernatural.

Another example - for many years all that was thought to exist was matter, and all phenomena were caused by interaction of matter. Then we discovered such things as dark matter/energy, which as far as we can tell doesn't play by the same set of rules as the rest of the universe. One could rightfully call that a supernatural discovery, but instead we changed our definition of the natural to include it.

It's cheating really.
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