Naturalism Assumes that Humans are Supernatural
Fun quick debate:
I will be arguing that Naturalism assumes that humans are supernatural and is therefore self defeating.
"Naturalism is "the idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world; (occas.) the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world." Adherents of naturalism (i.e., naturalists) assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws"
24 Hours to respond
Best of luck to my opponent.
Well, the reason why Naturalism assumes Supernaturalism so is self defeating is as follows:
There is no other way to divide naturalism and supernaturalism than by the human ability to explain something. As soon as there is an explanation, the subject becomes natural. All the while there is no explanation, the subject is supernatural.
But the naturalist believes that there is no such thing as supernaturalism. He therefore believes there is nothing that a human cannot explain. He therefore believes that humans have infinite intellectual capacity. Can he explain why humans should have infinite intellectual capacity? If he cannot, then the naturalist assumes himself supernatural.
Thus, naturalism is self defeating.
Thankyou, over to con.
Definition of Supernatural
I totally agree that once a subject is explored with science, then it is natural not supernatural. However, I don't really think that just because we are unable to explain something, that this thing is by default supernatural.
For example, thunder used to be unexplained yet it is a natural phenomena 2000 years ago just as it is now. There might be some phenomena we might never be able to explain. For example, why does light move as a particle sometimes and a wave? In the event that we are not ever able to figure this out, this problem is still not supernatural. The way light works is still a natural phenomena that yes lacks a complete explanation.
Supernatural the word is often used to define certain forces that we don't understand well, and are also outside and above the natural world and yet still able to interact within it. Most claimed supernatural events are also unable to be analyzed scientifically. If they were, then they would be an accepted part of science. Often supernatural things are derived from mythology or storytelling and have some sort of intelligence. So I submit to you a more complete definition of the supernatural.
This is what naturalists like myself mean when we say we don't believe in the supernatural. The reason we don't believe in it is because there is no way of scientifically confirming that it exists. No naturalist claims that everything is knowable to humans. We admit many scientific mysteries all the time. So we naturalists use a different definition of supernatural than my opponent personally does when we say we don't believe in the supernatural.
In conclusion, naturalists do not have a problem with the supernatural because it claims that some things are unknowable, but because these supernatural things cannot be scientifically confirmed and therefore lack good evidence.
My opponent remarks that "just because we are unable to explain something, that this thing is by default supernatural." He gives different examples concerning thunder and light which I will examine in due course.
The first problem is, on what basis does my opponent assign the 'supernatural' classification? We only have one way to distinguish a supernatural claim from a natural claim, and that is through our ability to explain a subject.
Ironically this is evident in my opponents examples:
"For example, thunder used to be unexplained yet it is a natural phenomena 2000 years ago just as it is now. "
Thunder was universally a supernatural thing 2000 years ago, it has become natural because of our ability to explain it.
" There might be some phenomena we might never be able to explain. For example, why does light move as a particle sometimes and a wave? In the event that we are not ever able to figure this out, this problem is still not supernatural."
A naturalist might maintain that it is natural while a person with supernatural predilections would just as quickly conclude supernaturalism. When my opponent says "In the event that we are not ever able to figure this out, this problem is still not supernatural." This is entirely subjective. Why isn't the problem supernatural? How do you distinguish? Because the problem sounds 'sciency'?
My opponent later admits "Most claimed supernatural events are also unable to be analyzed scientifically. If they were, then they would be an accepted part of science." This is my very point. It is only possible to distinguish a supernatural claim from natural through our ability to explain the subject. The naturalist, who believes there is no such thing as supernaturalism thereby endows himself with a supernaturally infinite intellectual ability because he assumes that nothing exists which he cannot explain.
He also claims "No naturalist claims that everything is knowable to humans.". Well, ofcourse they don't, but they are acting on that assumption because their unwritten doctrine is: "Nothing exists which cannot be explained", because this is their only way to differentiate a natural from a supernatural claim.
Over to you, Dan.
Thunder was considered supernatural but that doesn't mean it was. In fact we discovered that it is part of nature. Whether or not something is part of nature does not depend on how much we know about it.
Here is the definition of Supernatural:
1. of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.
2. of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to God or a deity.
3. of a superlative degree; preternatural: a missile of supernatural speed.
4. of, pertaining to, or attributed to ghosts, goblins, or other unearthly beings; eerie; occult.
5. a being, place, object, occurrence, etc., considered as supernatural or of supernatural origin; that which is supernatural, or outside the natural order.
6. behavior supposedly caused by the intervention of supernatural beings.
7. direct influence or action of a deity on earthly affairs.
8. the supernatural.
a. supernatural beings, behavior, and occurrences collectively.
b. supernatural forces and the supernatural plane of existence: a deep fear of the supernatural.
As you see, there are actually many definitions of supernatural. But as you can see, it relates to something above or beyond nature. It is applied to people from mythology. It is also unexplainable by natural laws. Often thinks people call supernatural often have no direct scientific evidence.
So while the supernatural is unexplained by humans, that is not the entire definition. The supernatural is also beyond the natural world, doesn't have scientific evidence, and often relates to mythology.
A Play of Words
When people use the word supernatural, they do not use it the way my opponent does. No real scientist claims that scientific mysteries are supernatural by definition. In fast, this is the first time I have heard this and I work with scientists all the time.
When scientists sometimes say they don't believe in the supernatural, they usually mean something like my definition: something that is beyond nature and scientific research. Keep in mind that some things can be in nature and still be beyond our limited understanding of nature. For example atoms are an integral part of nature and were once beyond our knowledge. Naturalism was derived from nature and concerns what is in it.
: the physical world and everything in it (such as plants, animals, mountains, oceans, stars, etc.) that is not made by people
: the natural forces that control what happens in the world
: the way that a person or animal behaves : the character or personality of a person or animal
As you can see there is nothing in there that says that something in nature has to be known by humans. 4000 years ago, we didn't understand dirt very but that doesn't mean dirt was supernatural. Since something does not have to be explained to be in nature, the unexplained can be in nature and is covered under naturalism. Therefore, it is no supernatural.
Problems with the Supernatural
So why do I have a problem with the supernatural? Is is because I believe we already know everything? No. It is because it tried to claim the existence of things for which we don't have scientific evidence.
Thanks very much to my opponent for participating in this debate!
Regarding all the definitions my opponent posted: The nature of this discussion is philosophical, this is why it was posted in philosophical debates. Philosophy, by its nature, is an attempt to grasp what is beyond a mere definition. It is an effort to find deeper truths about the reality of our existence and beliefs. Ofcourse there are many definitions of supernaturality and nature, but if the debate were about definitions it would look like:
"hi, Naturalism is supernatural",
"no, Oxford dictionary says.."
"thanks, i'll be off then."
My argument is designed to grasp at the deeper truth of naturalism, in that it is in practice indistinguishable from the sentiment "nothing exists which cannot be explained", which assumes man has the power to explain everything that could ever exist, and is therefore endowed with supernatural intellect. The reason why it is indistinguishable is that humans can only ever define something as natural or supernatural through our ability to explain it. Critically my opponent has offered no other way, by which in practice, humans can divide natural from supernatural.
He cites examples like thunder and light, but in the case of thunder he only fortifies my argument by showing that our definition is entirely dependent on our ability to explain. In the case of light the distinction between natural and supernatural is only dependent on the predilections of the assessor. He argues "No real scientist claims that scientific mysteries are supernatural by definition." but many theistic scientists believe scientific mysteries have a supernatural cause, as evidenced by the cosmological arguments for God. The only distinctions he can make are flawed by subjectivity.
When something is 'indistinguishable from', it is necessarily 'the same as', so by showing that naturalism in practice is indistinguishable from "nothing exists which cannot be explained", I show the deep flaw in naturalism, that its possesor assumes he has a supernatural ability to explain everything that could ever be.
Thanks again to my opponent, I hope everyone enjoyed the debate!
The supernatural according to everyone else's definition is that which cannot be explained with natural science, has no scientific evidence (according to naturalists), is often related to mythology, and is above or beyond the natural world.
My opponent wants to strip this definition down to just that which cannot be explained with natural science. This fundamentally changes the definition of the word. He wants to do his in the name of "philosophy" and finding "deeper meaning." The problem is that when naturalists say they don't believe in the supernatural, they mean the common definition. I am one of these naturalists. My opponent wants to change that definition and then still claim that naturalists don't believe in it. This can only be valid if not believing in the common definition logically means you don't believe in by opponent's definition of the supernatural.
But here is the problem. If we are using my opponent's definition of the supernatural, then every naturalist, atheist, etc believes in the supernatural. If the supernatural is that which is beyond the knowledge of humans, then we can all agree that this definition exists. However we atheists are still going to not believe in the supernatural if it is the common definition.
If my opponent wants to change the definition of the supernatural and still claim that naturalists don't believe in this new one, then he needs to give some support. So lets look at his justifications for this "deeper" definition.
"[naturalism] assumes man has the power to explain everything that could ever exist"
This is not a justification of this "deeper definition". This is a repeat of a strawman definition of naturalism. We naturalists don't actually claim that the supernatural doesn't exist. We only claim that there is no evidence for the supernatural and therefore people should not believe in it and all frameworks of knowledge should not include the supernatural. We readily admit that there are some things that we cannot explain in nature (which I already defined) and maybe there are things above nature, but we can't confirm them.
"humans can only ever define something as natural or supernatural through our ability to explain it"
I have spent this entire debate providing the common definition of supernatural which is much deeper than just what we can't explain. As said before, the supernatural must also be beyond nature. If we find an element we can't explain, don't just assume that it is supernatural. Do some research and try to figure out if it is actually a part of nature. Scientific mystery does not equal supernatural. We should have learned from the Greeks on that one.
"my opponent has offered no other way, by which in practice, humans can divide natural from supernatural."
I have actually provided another way. I have provided a commonly used definition used by naturalists and religious people alike. In the last round, I showed how this definition is logically supported by our definition of nature.
"He argues "No real scientist claims that scientific mysteries are supernatural by definition." but many theistic scientists believe scientific mysteries have a supernatural cause, as evidenced by the cosmological arguments for God."
Even these scientists have arguments to try to show that these mysteries are from God. For example, the cosmological argument, tries to rule out all non-God explanations to show God made the universe. They don't argue supernatural from scientific ignorance alone.
"He cites examples like thunder and light, but in the case of thunder he only fortifies my argument by showing that our definition is entirely dependent on our ability to explain."
I have been arguing that these things are natural even if we can't explain them. That is because the supernatural has to be beyond nature and these things are a part of nature. I never claimed their classification depends on our knowledge.
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