The supernatural exists.
Debate Rounds (3)
R1 Con: Stipulations of the debate.
R1 Pro: Opening statement defending resolution
R2 Con: Rebuttal and/or opening statement negating resolution
R2 Pro: Rebuttal to Con's opening and/or defense of Pro's opening against first rebuttal.
R3 Con Second rebuttal and/or defense of opening against Pro's rebuttal.
R3 Pro: States "this space intentionally left blank"
Good evening, and thank you for coming to tonight's debate.
My opponent stipulates that I may defend any version of the supernatural I wish, so let me define the version of supernatural I intend to defend in this debate.
The supernatural refers to one of two things: (1) to anything that exists that is not describable by the laws of physics and chemistry, and (2) any event in the natural world whose cause is not also part of the natural world. By "the natural world," I mean the world of matter and energy, or that aspect of reality that is describable by the laws of physics and chemistry.
What I will argue is that rationality and justified true beliefs are not possible if all that exists is the natural. Naturalism (the view that only the natural exists) is self-refuting because it undermines the necessary preconditions for rational thought and justified belief, including whatever line of reasoning lead to belief in naturalism. If we are in fact rational and justified in at least some of our beliefs, then some version of supernaturalism must be true.
If naturalism is true, then all of our beliefs are determined by non-rational cause and effect. After all, the brain is just a physical object that obeys the laws of nature. For whatever belief one has, it doesn't matter whether there are good reasons for it. So long as the brain fizzes in the right way, that belief will emerge. A belief can only be rational or justified if it is the result of good grounds. But arriving at a belief through physical causes is quite different than arriving at a belief through a line of reasoning and "seeing" the logical relations between propositions. In fact, we frequently dismiss the validity of a belief by pointing to its causes. For example, people frequently say things like, "You only believe that because you were born in a western culture." A belief that is caused by an accident of birth is said to be unjustified on that basis. If the fact that a belief is caused is any reason to dismiss it as being justified or rational, then given naturalism, none of our beliefs are justified or rational, including the belief in naturalism because they are all caused by our brain chemistry. The perception we all have of thinking through a line of reasoning is just an illusion since each step in the process is directly caused by the underlying chemical activity in our brains which happens deterministically according to the laws of nature.
One might respond by saying the brain acquired the ability to produce mostly true belief through evolution since true beliefs are more advantageous than false beliefs. So even though our beliefs are caused by blind mechanistic events in the brain, as long as the brain is "programmed" through evolution to result in mostly true beliefs, the fact that our beliefs are caused by brain chemistry doesn't undermine the reliability of our belief-producing cognitive faculties. Our beliefs may not be "rational" in the sense of being arrived at through a process of sound reasoning, but they can nevertheless be reliable.
However, natural selection can only act on behavior. What determines whether you survive and reproduce in any situation is the movement of your body parts, not whatever belief or desire that might be going on in your head. The only way belief and desire could contribute to survival value is if belief and desire determined your behavior. Under naturalism, it isn't possible for your beliefs and desires to affect your behavior. Your behavior is determined by your brain chemistry. The brain fizzes in a certain way, and that fizzing produces electrical signals that are sent to your muscles via your nervous system. Since there is no soul under naturalism, all of your mental events are caused by the brain. The mental events themselves don't cause anything. Each brain state, from moment to moment, is caused by the previous brain state according to the laws of nature. There is no room from anything like a desire or a belief to have any causal influence over the brain. The desire and belief are, themselves, caused by the brain. They are passive and just ride on top of brain activity. The feeling we have of intending to act, then acting on that intention, is just an illusion created by the brain. One and the same brain state might simultaneously cause the sensation of desire and the movement of the arm, but the desire does not cause the arm to move. Since natural selection selects for adaptive behavior wholly apart from whatever belief/desire might be associated with that same brain state, natural selection cannot select for true beliefs or reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties. So if naturalism is true, we should not expect to have developed the capacity for arriving at true beliefs. That makes naturalism self-refuting.
But let's suppose that somehow or other beliefs and desires actually DO affect our behavior. Under naturalism, they can only do so by virtue of their underlying physical brain state. That is, it would not be the semantic content of our desires and beliefs that result in behavior; rather, it would be the syntatic content of the underlying brain state. So we'd be in exactly the same situation. If syntax determines our behavior, then it doesn't matter what the semantic content is. If a false belief has just the right syntax to get our bodies moving in such a way as to ensure our survival and reproduction, then false beliefs would be just as adaptive as true beliefs. If it happened that true beliefs resulted in adaptive behavior, that would just be dumb luck. It would be a remarkable coincidence if it happened that mostly true beliefs were associated with syntax that lead to adaptive behavior.
But let's suppose that somehow or other, even under naturalism, that even the semantic content of our desires and belief affect our behavior. It's hard to imagine how that could even be possible under naturalism, but let's suspend belief for a moment and pretend that it's not only possible, but actual. In this case, one might argue that since true beliefs are generally more advantageous that false beliefs, that evolution would tend to result in reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties. The problem, though, is that for any true belief one might think is adaptive, it's trivially easy to think of a false belief that would do the same thing. For example, one might think that if one has a true belief that snakes are poisonous and ought to be avoided, that will result in a person living longer than somebody who thought snakes were safe and frequently stuck their hands down in rattle snake nests. But it is just as easy to imagine a person who wrongly thinks rattle snake are safe and fun to play with and that the best way to play with them is to run away from them. Running away, rather than sticking their hand in the nest, would ensure the person's survival. Or, you can imagine a person has an innate desire to die by poisoning, and he wrongly and stubbornly believes that fresh fruit and vegetables are the best poinsons by which to commit suicide. That would result in a person eating healthy and living longer. Since it's just as easy for a false belief to result in adaptive behavior as a true belief, there is no reason to think that evolution would produce reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties given naturalism.
So naturalism is self-refuting. If naturalism were true, we should not expect that any of our beliefs would be true or that we'd have reliable belief-producing cognitive faculties. And with that being the case, belief in naturalism is irrational. However, if we are quite convinced that we are rational beings and that we do generally have true beliefs rather than false beliefs, then to be consistent, we must reject naturalism. Rejecting naturalism--that the natural world is all their is--entails embracing supernaturalism--that some things exist beyond the natural.
Therefore, supernaturlism is true.
You start by saying "Naturalism (the view that only the natural exists) is self-refuting because it undermines the necessary preconditions for rational thought and justified belief, including whatever line of reasoning lead to belief in naturalism. If we are in fact rational and justified in at least some of our beliefs, then some version of supernaturalism must be true."
So what exactly are the necessary preconditions for rational thought and justified belief? Oh you didn't explain that? Because you certainly smuggled in the idea that our rationality is only explained by some version of supernaturalism. You need to demonstrate what the necessary preconditions for rational thought are.
Technically defending naturalism is not my burden as I'm rejecting the supernatural, but I will.
I'll also accept your definition of naturalism being the view that only the natural exists, but that the natural includes physical reality and constructs contingent on physical reality. So things like rationality are not physical, but that certainly doesn't mean they're not natural. Rationality and justified thought are contingent on the physical brain, therefore we have no reason to believe that justified belief or rational thought are products of the supernatural.
You said "thinking through a line of reasoning... is directly caused by the underlying chemical activity in our brains which happens deterministically according to the laws of nature.""
This seems like a free will argument. I don't totally disagree with the idea that we are subject to our brain chemistry, but you're only referring to the proactive behavior of the brain. You're forgetting its ability to react to stimulus. Seeing as there are countless non-deterministic stimuli like sound and light, the reaction to these stimuli couldn't be predetermined, because of the different ways the brain has to react to different stimuli. Sure your brain "fizzes" in a general manner as your genetics dictate, but because of non-deterministic input into to the brain, the brain can not pre-determine what the input will be, thus the brain's reactions are not predetermined.
Beliefs are products of information input. Yes, information is natural as it is also contingent on the brain. So if you teach a kid there's a magic man in the sky who cares if you're good or bad (santa clause on christmas eve flies in the sky) and their brain reacts to this input in a way that makes sense for the kid, he may believe it. Regardless, this belief in santa clause couldn't have been produced with just the kid's brain chemistry alone as there was no way to know about santa without the non-deterministic santa information being input into their brain by you.
You then say "So even though our beliefs are caused by blind mechanistic events in the brain..."
Can something blind react to light? Ok, then brain mechanisms that react to light are not blind. We observe things by using light, and our observations develop our beliefs.
You then claim "Under naturalism, it isn't possible for your beliefs and desires to affect your behavior."
Ok, so like with the kid example, on christmas eve, the kid decides to go outside at night and look for santa clause. Would the kid go outside to look for santa clause if he never believed in santa? This is how it's possible for his belief, a product of a reaction to natural non-deterministic informational input, to affect his behavior.
You say "So if naturalism is true, we should not expect to have developed the capacity for arriving at true beliefs. That makes naturalism self-refuting."
Nope. Arriving at true beliefs requires the brain's reaction to non-deterministic informational input of truth claims and observations of non-deterministic physical occurrences. So as the brain's activity is differentiated to manage differentiated stimuli/information, so are people's beliefs. Arriving at true beliefs happens when someone can demonstrate the belief, replicate it, and use the demonstration and subsequent replications to make accurate predictions within the subject area of the belief. It's definitely not pre-determined by the brain.
I agree that false beliefs like true beliefs require brain chemistry, but true beliefs aren't created in brain chemistry; they're a result of a constructive process that we use to determine if beliefs match with reality or not. This process is contingent on the brain, making the process natural. Our beliefs then inform our actions, so if we believe more true things and fewer false things then we're more likely to act beneficially to our longevity and not counter to it.
You say "The problem, though, is that for any true belief one might think is adaptive, it's trivially easy to think of a false belief that would do the same thing."
And I agree. I just think that the false beliefs that lead to adaptability are the exception...a small exception. So that overall vastly more true beliefs yield adaptability than do false beliefs.
So I reject supernaturalism, because you have not demonstrated anything supernatural, you've only attempted to negate naturalism, which you misrepresented, and you've been corrected in your errors.
-Naturalism is the natural + the contingent on natural.
-Brain chemistry has to react to non-deterministic stimuli accordingly therefore it is not deterministic.
-Beliefs require informational input into the brain that is subjected to a constructive process that attempts to match a belief with reality.
-Our beliefs inform our actions and are ever intertwined. A child who didn't believe in/didn't know of santa clause would not look in the sky on christmas eve for santa. A child who does believe in santa might. Beliefs-->Actions.
-Yes false beliefs can lead so success, but overall way more true beliefs result in successes than do false beliefs, that it's simply better to believe true things based on the much higher probability of a true belief leading to success/adaptive behavior/etc..
Please present a demonstration of something supernatural, and provide evidence for it, not evidence against it's contrast.
Con begins his rebuttal by claiming that "Proving a negative is not demonstrating your claim." I think he means that disproving naturalism does not prove supernaturalism. So he's claiming that my attack on naturalism, even if sound, would not prove supernaturalism.
But Con is mistaken. By the law of excluded middle, either the natural world is all that exists or the natural world is not all that exists. If the natural world is not all that exists, then something exists beyond the natural world. And that is how I defined the supernatural--something existing beyond the natural world. So it follows inescapably by the laws of logic that if naturalism is false, then supernaturalism is true.
Con goes on to insinuate that I did not say what the necessary preconditions for rational thought and justified belief were. But I did so quite plainly. One of the necessary preconditions is that our beliefs are the result of good grounds rather than blind mechanistic causes. I explained already why these are distinct and how one leads to justified belief and the other doesn't.
I also explained why, given naturalism and evolution, the probability that our belief-producing cognitive faculties are reliable is low. It follows that one of the necessary preconditions for rational thought is that supernaturalism is true.
There's one more thing I want to address before I refute Con's arguments. He claims that I misrepresented naturalism. That is an illigitimate claim given that he stipulted at the beginning of the debate that "I will argue any version of the supernatural you wish." He gave me permission to define supernaturalism, which entails a definition for naturalism. By Supernatural, I mean anything beyond the natural, and by "natural," I mean what is describable by the laws of physics and chemistry. It follows from my definition of "supernatural," that naturalism is the belief that only what is describable by the laws of physics and chemistry exist. If I am allowed to define "supernatural" any way I wish, and if my definition of "natural" follows from my definition of "supernatural," then Con can't fault me for misrepresenting naturalism.
I went on to argue that given naturalism, beliefs and desires must somehow be by-products of the material brain, and I made my arguments on that assumption. In reality, I don't think it's even possible for beliefs and desires to be merely the by-products of the brain, but I let that slide in the interest of space. Even given that they are, that does not salvage our rationality since under naturalism, (1) the beliefs are not arrived at through grounds, (2) it is impossible for the beliefs and desires to influence our behavior, and (3) even if they did influence our behavior it is still unlikely that our belief-producing cognitive faculties would be reliable.
Now, let's see how Con responded to each of these arguments.
My first argument relied on the premise that since the brain is a physical object that it behaves deterministically according to the laws of nature. Con attacked this premise on the basis that brain reacts to stimuli, like light and sound, which are non-deterministic since the "brain can not pre-determine what the input will be." But clearly it doesn't follow that because the brain gets no say in what input it receives that it therefore does not behave deterministically according to the laws of nature. A pool ball gets not say in how hard it is hit by the cue ball and at what angle, but it nevertheless behaves deterministically according to the laws of collision. Once sound hits the ear drum, a cascade of determinitic causes follows.
Con claims that "beliefs are products of information input," but he fails to recognize that on naturalism, nothing about the "information" has any bearing on the final belief. When a parent tells a kid about Santa Clause, all that happens is that sound waves interact with the ear, which send an electric signal to the brain, which results in a certain physical brain state. The belief is arrived at, not by virtue of the semantic content of the original statement, but by the blind mechanistic causes that happen in the air, the ear, and the brain. So it isn't by virtue of any semantic content in propositions the kid becomes aware of that results in his belief, but merely the syntactic structure of the underlying physical processes. And as I argued earlier, unless our beliefs are the result of good grounds, rather than blind mechanistic causes, they are not justified or rational.
Con seems to be under the impression that as long as the input comes from outside the brain, that brain chemistry alone is not what contributes to belief. But on naturalism, outside input can only contribute to belief by affecting brain chemistry! So even given outside input, the belief is still arrived at purely by brain chemistry, given naturalism.
Con reacts to the phrase, "blind mechanistic causes" by saying, "Can something blind react to light? Ok, then brain mechanisms that react to light are not blind. We observe things by using light, and our observations develop our beliefs." Honestly, I'm not sure if this is a joke or not, but I think the safer bet for me is to go ahead and respond to it as if it's not a joke. By "blind," I did not mean "inability to have visual perception." I was using "blind" as a metaphor representing non-sentience. There are laws that describe how physical entities interact with each other, and those laws operate wholly apart from those entities thinking about it, making decisions about it, etc. When gravity pulls an acorn to the ground, the acorn doesn't choose to fall, and gravity doesn't choose to pull it. The same is true of atoms, molecules, and electrons. An electron that moves through a magnetic field will undergo a force perpendicular to its motion, causing it to accelerate in that direction. There's no thinking that goes on in the process. The electron is just behaving deterministically according to the laws of nature. That is true of everything in the natural world, including the brain.
I argued in the previous round that given naturalism, our beliefs and desires cannot contribute to our behavior. Pro's response essentially boiled down to, "Yes they can." He gave the example of a kid who goes to look for Santa Clause because of his belief. The problem is that Con didn't explain how that's possible on naturalism. Responding to an argument by simply denying the conclusion does not amount to a refutation.
Con goes on to explain how justiied beliefs can be arrived at through observation and experimentation, but this all assumes that the semantic content of brain input has some bearing on belief, which I argued against. Con hasn't responded to my arguments. He's simply asserted various negations. On naturalism, all of this input can only contribute to belief by virtue of it sentactic content, not its semantic content. It is only by affecting brain chemistry that any input can influence our beliefs, and it does so deterministically according to the laws of nature. So Con's claim that "It's [Our beliefs are] definitely not pre-determined by the brain" is false under naturalism.
After agreeing with me that for any true belief that results in adaptive behavior, there is a false belief that would result in the same behavior, he went on to claim that "vastly more true beliefs yield adaptability than do false beliefs." But that negates his agreement. Besides that, the question isn't whether there are, in fact, more true beliefs that are beneficial than there are false beliefs that are beneficial. The question, rather, is whether in any situation where there is a true belief that would result in adaptive behavior, there is a false belief that would accomplish the same thing. And Con has agreed that there is. It follows that since evolution selects for adaptive behavior regardless of whether the unlying belief is true or false, that it's improbably our belief-producing cognitive faculties would be reliable.
Just Google the argument from ignorance fallacy, real fast, and you will see that you committed a textbook example.
The burden of proof is on the one making the claim not the one rejecting it. I reject the claim that the supernatural exists, therefore you, the one making the claim, have to demonstrate that it does without using a false excluded middle. I also said you could argue any version of the supernatural you wish; I didn't say you could argue against the not supernatural. Either way, I was being nice and letting you attack naturalism, but you flawed with respects to that too, so here's the false excluded middle.
In the law of the excluded middle, either a proposition is true, or its negation is true. You have tried to prove supernaturalism's negation is false. See the error? You have not tried to prove your claim is true, you've only tried to prove another claim is false. The law of the excluded middle in our case would be either supernaturalism is true, or naturalism is true. The excluded middle would not be either supernaturalism is true or naturalism is false. True and false are actually a false dichotomy. True and not true, or false and not false would be true dichotomies.
Speaking of false dichotomies, supernaturalism and naturalism are a false dichotomy, because supernaturalism isn't claiming that EVERYTHING is supernatural, and naturalism is claiming that EVERYTHING is natural. In fact, in most versions of supernaturalism, supernatural things can interact with or have affects on the natural world, which means not everything is supernatural, and therefore is a false dichotomy to naturalism (everything is natural). But if you wish to argue that everything is supernatural, I would love that debate as well.
Also, you fail to realize that there is no excluded third (another name for the excluded middle) as subnaturalism could exist as well. If you agree there is a natural and a supernatural, why is there no subnatural? Ever wondered that before? Why does there only have to be something beyond nature? Couldn't there be something behind/under nature? Then it gets you thinking...well if I can't logically prove a subnatural and think it's kind of silly, how is it different from the supernatural in any way?
Now imagine that I were trying to prove that subnaturalism is correct, because supernaturalism is false. Now do you see your error?
Please tell me that you have no reason to believe that subnaturalism is a thing. Then if you would like, I'm serious, anyone can try this...throughout this debate, just replace supernaturalism with subnaturalism and the argument doesn't change.
You say "One of the necessary preconditions is that our beliefs are the result of good grounds rather than blind mechanistic causes."
Good grounds are contingent on our brains just like your "blind mechanistic causes" and are therefore natural. You keep polarizing the inner-workings of the brain and constructs like reasoning. They work in tandem. Your brain chemistry is a tool to reach these "good grounds" of which you speak that are the preconditions for rational thought. These good grounds exist in nature, because reasons--grounds--are natural constructs that are results of a cognitive process that we actively employ to distinguish things that match with reality and things that don't; all of which are contingent on our brain's ability to react to non-deterministic information.
You then say "under naturalism...the beliefs are not arrived at through grounds"
Naturalism includes constructive cognitive processes that match beliefs with reality by using both brain chemistry and non-deterministic informational input, which leads to authentic reasoning under the laws of nature.
And you continue "[under naturalism] it is impossible for the beliefs and desires to influence our behavior."
All because of your deterministic brain fizzing idea that ignores the brain's reactive fizzing to previously unaccounted for stimuli that isn't deterministic. Our beliefs derived from natural processes of matching beliefs with reality inform our actions...naturally.
You said "A pool ball gets no say in how hard it is hit by the cue ball and at what angle, but it nevertheless behaves deterministically according to the laws of collision."
Yes, when brains receive information they cannot function without the laws of physics/chemistry, just like the pool ball can't move without the laws of collision...but the problem with your analogy is--if our brains are the pool ball and the stimuli is the cue ball--the pool ball has no agency. All of the pool ball's actions are passive unlike the active agency of the brain. So when an active agent is subjected to stimulus, a greater amount of results can occur due to the agent's ability to imbue the stimulus, and more importantly, actively react to the imbued information. So if we were all passive brains in this natural world, then maybe your deterministic physical law following would make sense.
So, then you say "[under naturalism] The belief is arrived at, not by virtue of the semantic content of the original statement, but by the blind mechanistic causes that happen in the air, the ear, and the brain. "
You just lumped air and brain together as if both are the same when it comes to reacting to "blind mechanistic causes". Air has no agency, it's passive. Brains have agency, they're active. Mechanistic causes that happen in the air may lead to a predictable result, but the brain has agency and can therefore imbue stimulus and, as an agent, actively and semantically arrive at a belief.
Then you said "So even given outside input, the belief is still arrived at purely by brain chemistry, given naturalism."
This is a contradiction. You're saying that a belief is arrived at when given outside input AND purely by brain chemistry. You slipped here. How can it be purely brain chemistry if it also uses outside input?
The next thing you said was my favorite and I'm glad you took the bait when I mentioned blind can't detect light.
"By "blind," I did not mean "inability to have visual perception." I was using "blind" as a metaphor representing non-sentience."
And there it is. You first mentioned in round 1 "blind mechanistic events in the brain..."
So I will take your definition of blind and apply it to what you had said. "non-sentient mechanistic events in the brain..."
I don't know of anything the brain does that isn't sentient...including being sentient enough to detect light. Calling mechanistic events in the brain "blind" is irrational because of this.
You then give countless examples of non agents "acorns...gravity...atoms, molecules, and electrons..." When gravity pulls an acorn to the ground, the acorn doesn't choose to fall, and gravity doesn't choose to pull it."
Yeah and if any of those things were agents, and didn't behave passively, you might be able to argue the same for the brain, an agent.
You claim "The problem is that Con didn't explain how [beliefs contributing to our behaviors] is possible on naturalism."
Yes, I did. Matching beliefs with reality is done by our brain. We are agents who can actively do things with respect to our beliefs, like the kid who imbues the santa information and chooses to act by going outside and looking for him. Yes the unavoidable laws of physics/chemistry are still in play, but the idea of agents matching beliefs with reality is not blind mechanistic behavior. Our beliefs inform our decisions.
I never said that for EVERY true belief success there is a false belief success. There are false belief successes, but they aren't the norm.
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1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Death23 1 year ago
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