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Old 03-16-2014, 12:55 AM
 
Location: Greenbelt, MD
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Granted I have never known that many atheists but the ones I have known/know are all confident.

I didn't know there are atheists who aren't confident.

I thought those who are not sure or "confident" are agnostics, not atheists.
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Old 03-16-2014, 05:40 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
I would expand the definition of evolution to include the purposeful directed changing of DNA as well as natural selection.

In other words, we as humans are just on the technological cusp of being able to manipulate DNA directly, rather than having to let mother nature do her trick. We are getting to the point that designing DNA is possible, and soon it will be trivial. In a thousand years, all of our DNA could be synthetic.

I would also include in the term "evolution" the incorporation of computers into the brain and robotics into the body part. It may be that in 1000 years the human brain is made mostly of silicone, that we are connected to the internet directly into our thoughts, one giant hive mind making it impossible to tell if we are one billion individual people or just one person.
That sound to me like breeding (if the genetic change is passed on) or prosthetics (if it isn't). Evolution should definitely be limited to undirected changes though natural selection of advantageous mutations.

Including deliberate tinkering by forward-planning entities (whether alien scientists, human Darwinist eugeniticists or 'God') would further confuse an already misunderstrood and misused term. Though i know what you mean with idea of taking evolution in hand. We have been doing this since the first foraging female had a bright idea:'Instead of go searching for all these bloody grasses, why don't I just replant them outside my hut?'
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Old 03-16-2014, 08:00 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
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.
Supernaturalists assert a supernatural realm. It is a "realm of the gaps" that doesn't exist.

When something new is discovered, we reclassify it from "unknown" to "known", not from "supernatural" to "natural". People who believe in the supernatural may be forced to drop supernatural claims about that thing, but that is their problem.

The dark matter analogy is not even that good because so far as I know no one was claiming it existed as a supernatural thing before it was discovered. It may be that some theists will seize upon dark matter as a confirmation or explanation of some of their supernatural claims -- they will generally do that with anything that is not fully quantified, and the very name "dark matter" screams for people to jump to conclusions -- but, again, that is no indication that dark matter was ever anything but what it is now -- something in nature that we are discovering and learning how it fits in.
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Old 03-16-2014, 12:12 PM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by AREQUIPA View Post
That sound to me like breeding (if the genetic change is passed on) or prosthetics (if it isn't). Evolution should definitely be limited to undirected changes though natural selection of advantageous mutations.

Including deliberate tinkering by forward-planning entities (whether alien scientists, human Darwinist eugeniticists or 'God') would further confuse an already misunderstrood and misused term. Though i know what you mean with idea of taking evolution in hand. We have been doing this since the first foraging female had a bright idea:'Instead of go searching for all these bloody grasses, why don't I just replant them outside my hut?'
If I were to use a phrase like the "evolution of the automobile from the model T to the Tesla" or talk about how societies evolve, most would accept that meaning of the word. But the exact word to use for what I am describing is not that important to me.


The important point to me is that there are probably around 60 Billion planets capable of habitation withing the milky way alone. Given that, one could assume that species tend to spring up there just as they have here.

If some of them progressed at a rate slightly faster than us they would likely be near omnipotent, (I see that as a relative term, not an absolute term.)

Then as a matter of semantics I would argue we should include them in our definition of gods. We as skeptics have a bias against doing so, but I think we cheat when we continually change words to avoid admitting a supernatural discovery.

If you accept the proposition that their are likely advanced beings in the universe, the question of whether there is a god all turns on semantics. You wouldn't be denying that a being with all the characteristics of a god exists, you would only resist calling him a god because you could explain his origins. I would disagree.

Last edited by Boxcar Overkill; 03-16-2014 at 12:22 PM..
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Old 03-16-2014, 12:21 PM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Supernaturalists assert a supernatural realm. It is a "realm of the gaps" that doesn't exist.

When something new is discovered, we reclassify it from "unknown" to "known", not from "supernatural" to "natural". People who believe in the supernatural may be forced to drop supernatural claims about that thing, but that is their problem.

The dark matter analogy is not even that good because so far as I know no one was claiming it existed as a supernatural thing before it was discovered. It may be that some theists will seize upon dark matter as a confirmation or explanation of some of their supernatural claims -- they will generally do that with anything that is not fully quantified, and the very name "dark matter" screams for people to jump to conclusions -- but, again, that is no indication that dark matter was ever anything but what it is now -- something in nature that we are discovering and learning how it fits in.
Let's use "other dimensions" as an example then.

Lets say that we one day discovered that Asgard actually exists, in another dimensions, as per string theory.

Questions
(1) Was the belief in Asgard ever a supernatural belief, even back when it was mainstream Viking religion?
(2) Would the belief in Asgard still be a supernatural belief after it is discovered to really exists and we were able to explain it's existence via string theory?
(3) Would we still be able to claim that supernatural claims are not true after that discovery?
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:01 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Let's use "other dimensions" as an example then.

Lets say that we one day discovered that Asgard actually exists, in another dimensions, as per string theory.

Questions
(1) Was the belief in Asgard ever a supernatural belief, even back when it was mainstream Viking religion?
(2) Would the belief in Asgard still be a supernatural belief after it is discovered to really exists and we were able to explain it's existence via string theory?
(3) Would we still be able to claim that supernatural claims are not true after that discovery?
I don't know enough about Norse mythology to know if Asgard and the Norse pantheon was considered part of nature or not (or if such distinctions were even pondered by the Norse). If they were claimed to be supernatural, then it was a supernatural claim. If not, then it wasn't. Regardless, at that point in time, any Asgard that actually existed in this dimension or any other, was in fact part of nature, and any supernatural claims concerning it would have been mistaken.

Therefore if Asgard were discovered to exist it would simply be substantiated to exist for the first time. It would never have been supernatural in the first place. In other words what I'm saying is that all claims of a supernatural nature are inherently unfalsifiable and outside the realm of science, and can be assumed to be invalid.

In essence I'm making a very simple argument: no one can claim to know anything about the supernatural because any such thing would by definition be inherently unknowable. As material beings we can only assess material things. As natural beings we can only assess natural things. If someone claims knowledge of what they claim are immaterial or supernatural things, it is like claiming that a head of cabbage is actually a gold ingot -- it's inherently nonsensical. Anything that is perceivable is not supernatural.

Now ... if you depart from the etymology of the word "supernatural" and you define it as not literally outside of or beyond nature, then we might be having a somewhat different discussion. I suspect that in many people's minds, "supernatural" simply means "things that seemingly violate natural laws" or some such. From the point of view of some hapless 17th century person transported to my 21st century world, I do things almost every minute of the day that would be seen by them as miraculous / supernatural and probably demonic. Right now I'm wiggling my fingers and glowing words are appearing on a panel a foot away, so clearly I am a magician, right?

So even there, any "magic supernatural" or violation of natural laws is imagined / misunderstood into existence in between the observer's ears. There is no reason to imagine that ANY such claim isn't a product of the observer's mind.
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:14 PM
 
Location: OKC
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It seems to me you are using the term "supernatural" to mean "things that aren't likely to be true" and "natural" to mean "things that are likely to be true," and that is the only clear distinction.

Which is my point.

If something is found to be true, it becomes natural by definition. We change our rules of nature to include the thing or phenomena and move on.

Which is why I believe the distinction between natural and supernatural beliefs is spurious. Claims are either true or not true, and there is no reason to label some supernatural and others not, except to discredit them as not likely to be true.

Because of that, I don't think we must include the term supernatural in our definition of god. All we are saying is that it must not be true in order to be a god.
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:59 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
It seems to me you are using the term "supernatural" to mean "things that aren't likely to be true" and "natural" to mean "things that are likely to be true," and that is the only clear distinction.
It may work out that way in practice, but that's not my point, because if it were, the distinction between the two would be entirely arbitrary and based on what I think to be (un)likely. I have good reason to think the supernatural exceedingly unlikely: it's inherently impossible, by definition.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Which is why I believe the distinction between natural and supernatural beliefs is spurious. Claims are either true or not true, and there is no reason to label some supernatural and others not, except to discredit them as not likely to be true.
I don't label things (super)natural, and I doubt most unbelievers do ... unfortunately we have to deal with the concept because theists have created that false dichotomy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Because of that, I don't think we must include the term supernatural in our definition of god. All we are saying is that it must not be true in order to be a god.
In the case of Christianity, god is invisible, immortal, omnipotent, omniscient -- I think most Christians would agree with this statement. But I don't think your average Joe Christian thinks of whether god is inside or outside of nature unless perhaps you press him concerning the origin / creation myths. He will then go and Google his Bible expositor of choice and insist that god must be above / outside of nature because he is an uncaused cause (or unmoved mover, etc). To be within creation is to be subject to it. This is a fundamental problem for them. Besides, no one (including Christians) credit claims of invisible beings unless you're in Special Pleading mode for god, and perhaps angels and demons -- this necessitates a special category for these beings for which there is zero evidence and which no one has seen, which is, essentially that they are supernatural.

Your average evangelical (at the very least; maybe any Christian) is going to have massive slippery slope concerns about regarding god as within nature, anyway, because if he thinks about it for three seconds he'll realize that the ineffable and transcendent nature of god is then subject to being constantly eroded by scientific progress. The old "god of the gaps" problem.

So ... no, you and I can dispense with the superfluity of the supernatural when discussing god (or anything else), but I do not think many theists would be so sanguine about it -- even though their claims of the supernatural are inherently illogical and self-invalidating.
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Old 03-16-2014, 03:37 PM
 
Location: OKC
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First, obviously being an atheist means more than being "not a christian." You only have to believe in one version of a god to disqualify yourself from atheism. I only add that because I am purely secular, but since I would qualify a near ominpotent alien as a god, I don't think I can call myself an atheist. I think our current understanding of astronomy allows that one of those might exist somewhere.

But as you state, your definition of the supernatural is something that is "inherently impossible, by definition." Thus one could not prove that a supernatural being exists; not because a posited entity or phenomena isn't real, but only because you would change it's name after it was discovered to be real. It's purely a circular argument: a god can't exist because by definition they are supernatural. A god is supernatural because it can't by definition exist.

That's why it feels like cheating to me. Theist want to debate the possible existence of a particular being with a certain set of characteristics. An atheist should state whether or not such a being exist, but not try to claim victory by changing the being's name if the theist should happen to meet their burden of proof. Whether or not you want to claim that being is from an outer multiverse or is part of the nature and laws that we know is irrelevant.


Finally, the multiverse theories are as disprovable as a theory positing the existence of heaven. The only way to disprove either of them would be to claim that they are inconsistent with other known laws of nature, which in many ways they both are, but you couldn't test them otherwise. Yet we label one as a natural theory and the other as supernatural even if they draw the exact same conclusion.
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Old 03-16-2014, 07:40 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
But as you state, your definition of the supernatural is something that is "inherently impossible, by definition."
Not exactly. My definition of "supernatural" is "outside of the natural realm" and THAT definition is what makes it, not impossible precisely, but completely unknowable. There can BE no information about such a realm and therefore it is not even up for discussion. You can not discuss what you cannot know.

Theists of course claim to have received "revelation" -- contact from the unknown -- but that would inherently bring it into the realm of the known, which IS impossible if the source is outside of nature. Thus the supernatural is an illogical concept.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Thus one could not prove that a supernatural being exists; not because a posited entity or phenomena isn't real, but only because you would change it's name after it was discovered to be real. It's purely a circular argument: a god can't exist because by definition they are supernatural. A god is supernatural because it can't by definition exist.
Anything that can be proven to exist, is not supernatural. I would go so far as to say that anything that exists to BE proven is not supernatural, or more simply, there is nothing that is supernatural.

That doesn't preclude the existence of your god-like alien, or even Mystic's universal consciousness, because those aren't, by the actual meaning of the word, "supernatural".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
That's why it feels like cheating to me. Theist want to debate the possible existence of a particular being with a certain set of characteristics. An atheist should state whether or not such a being exist, but not try to claim victory by changing the being's name if the theist should happen to meet their burden of proof. Whether or not you want to claim that being is from an outer multiverse or is part of the nature and laws that we know is irrelevant.
Ok, we'll have to agree to disagree on that I guess. I am sorry to disappoint theists by denying them any supernatural claims, but it's not purchase I'm willing to give them. It's not cheating or changing names or labels, it is simply stating the obvious: if something is not part of nature, no one can claim knowledge of it. If a theist does not claim their god or their heaven or whatever is supernatural, or if they have a different definition for supernatural, e.g., simply beyond scientific or human understanding or the known laws of nature, then I have no quarrel with it. This is what, e.g., "ghost hunters" do, they strive (and fail) to explain and document ghosts in naturalistic terms -- EMF fields, infrared or ultraviolet light, etc. Clearly they aren't claiming ghosts are outside of nature, or at least not entirely.
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
Finally, the multiverse theories are as disprovable as a theory positing the existence of heaven. The only way to disprove either of them would be to claim that they are inconsistent with other known laws of nature, which in many ways they both are, but you couldn't test them otherwise. Yet we label one as a natural theory and the other as supernatural even if they draw the exact same conclusion.
As far as I know science regards the multiverse as a hypothesis even though it's popularly referred to as M-theory. And there is some controversy as to whether it qualifies as a hypothesis and thus is still in the realm of speculation -- or if it is even an appropriate topic of scientific inquiry -- perhaps belonging more to philosophy. I tend to think it highly speculative, which is to say, the only thing it has over on the existence of heaven is that it has some hope of being mathematically proven.

Heaven is a very specific concept with detailed characteristics claimed for it; it is not merely a parallel universe with different constants in play or something of that nature. It is one thing to speculate about parallel universes, it is another to describe a parallel universe's appearance, the nature of its street paving, and the beings who live there and what they do, before we even have a chance to determine that it exists and how to examine it. It would be as misguided as science trying to prove not just that there is a 7th dimension but that it's populated with talking mice who are great trumpet players. That is slathering on too much mere assertion to sustain any reasonable burden of proof.
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