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On the standard of observation...

#1Moorish_IdolPosted 2/26/2013 7:44:20 PM(edited)
A couple quick disclaimers before I begin:
I am in no way asserting that what I am about to type is 100% flawless. I welcome anyone to point out any errors in logic, since this is very much a "thought in process".
Also I will be assuming materialism, and I will be using the name "God" for simplicity sake to refer to any and all deities. Also just to remind everyone, I am a deist, if that helps you to understand where I'm coming from.

Here we go...

There exists a standard for determining the existence of something: it has to be observable, on a consistent basis. Or in regards to historicity, it must have been consistently observable at some time. This principle is applied especially throughout the sciences -- observable, in this sense, encompasses not only the senses but also whether the object in question is measurable, quantifiable, predictable to a degree, etc.

These properties, of course, rely on the physicality of the object, in whatever way that may be; either as a direct observation of its matter, or as the object's effect on surrounding matter (until the object itself may be directly observed, ideally).

Now, what about God?
God can't be observed directly, nor measured, nor quantified. God's existence, essentially, can't be demonstrated. The reason being: God is not physical; God is not of nature. God is essentially supernatural -- assumed to be above nature, or existing without the properties of nature.

Despite this, nearly every person I have heard who has professed a disbelief / lack of belief in God has done so on the basis that there is no proof for God in the form of observable evidence. And until such a time when God is able to be observed (or measured, demonstrated, etc.), they say it is safe to assume God does not exist, or to at least remain agnostic.

Here is where my question(s) come in: why do we take our standard of observation for the natural world, and apply it to the supernatural? Why do we essentially refuse to believe in something which is inherently non-observable on the grounds that it is not observable?

I was thinking about the possibility of having two (or more) "standards" for observation, specific to application.

I could look at nature empirically, and determine that a prevailing standard for belief should be applied. But I don't feel comfortable applying that same standard to the supernatural or to God, because there it is inherently not applicable. Could we be doing ourselves a disservice by insisting on all-inclusive empiricism? Shouldn't we develop a second standard to apply to the supernatural, by which we determine the validity of supernatural claims?
#2AynRandySavagePosted 2/26/2013 8:14:02 PM
Could we be doing ourselves a disservice by insisting on all-inclusive empiricism?


Absolutely. Anyone who does so has a hopelessly myopic worldview.
#3AynRandySavagePosted 2/26/2013 8:15:10 PM
But as to the second part::

Shouldn't we develop a second standard to apply to the supernatural, by which we determine the validity of supernatural claims


I'd love to figure out how to do that, but I don't have a clue how.
#4squareandrarePosted 2/26/2013 8:18:30 PM
Shouldn't we develop a second standard to apply to the supernatural, by which we determine the validity of supernatural claims?

And what would those standards be? Faith? People have faith in countless mutually exclusive religions, so that isn't a good standard. What would you propose?

The problem here is that we reject supernatural claims all the time on basic natural standards. If you expect me to believe in your supernatural entity, you need to give me something to differentiate it from every other magical concept that humanity has ever thought up. Because from my perspective, the world looks exactly how you would expect it to if there were no god.
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"Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money."
-- Leon Lederman
#5Moorish_Idol(Topic Creator)Posted 2/26/2013 9:54:35 PM
And what would those standards be? Faith? People have faith in countless mutually exclusive religions, so that isn't a good standard. What would you propose?

That's a problem. I'm not sure what they'd be. This is more of an idea of concept, I don't have the specifics. I'm not sure what they'd look like. As a deist I want to appeal to reason, but I feel like that wouldn't be an agreeable standard for everyone (otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion).

The problem here is that we reject supernatural claims all the time on basic natural standards.

That's precisely what I'm talking about. While I understand why we do this, I'm not entirely comfortable doing it. It seems like it would be better to be consistent within nature, and consistent within "supernature" -- as opposed to being solely consistent within nature and expecting supernature to react accordingly.
#6Moorish_Idol(Topic Creator)Posted 2/26/2013 9:55:56 PM(edited)
I guess what my overall point is, though, is that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the supernatural purely because it conflicts with our knowledge of the natural. If they are truly mutually exclusive as far as demonstrability is concerned, I don't understand why we expect of the supernatural what we expect of the natural.

It seems awfully inconsistent, or perhaps too consistent, depending how you look at it.
#7squareandrarePosted 2/26/2013 10:16:45 PM
You talk as if the supernatural can't reveal itself. We simply don't see grandiose displays of god's power now that we have the means to really document and observe. And every claim of the supernatural is easily debunked.

Even when talking about the supernatural, the principle of parsimony should still apply.
---
"Physics is not a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money."
-- Leon Lederman
#8Moorish_Idol(Topic Creator)Posted 2/26/2013 10:36:13 PM
You talk as if the supernatural can't reveal itself.

Well yes, I am a deist. Not really "can't," more like "doesn't".

We simply don't see grandiose displays of god's power now that we have the means to really document and observe. And every claim of the supernatural is easily debunked.

Debunking what, exactly? I'm not really considering things like miracles. Rather, things like the mind-body problem, consciousness, post-life existence or lack thereof, etc., are still heavily debated today with support for each side (either biologically or philosophically).

Even when talking about the supernatural, the principle of parsimony should still apply.

In what way does parsimony relate? I am a bit lost on that.
#9AynRandySavagePosted 2/26/2013 10:38:30 PM
Moorish_Idol posted...
I guess what my overall point is, though, is that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the supernatural purely because it conflicts with our knowledge of the natural. If they are truly mutually exclusive as far as demonstrability is concerned, I don't understand why we expect of the supernatural what we expect of the natural.

It seems awfully inconsistent, or perhaps too consistent, depending how you look at it.


Well if we're talking about supernatural claims *conflicting* with natural ones, then the best way approach I've seen for this is David Hume's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Miracles
#10Moorish_Idol(Topic Creator)Posted 2/26/2013 10:44:34 PM
I used the word conflicting perhaps in err, but what I meant was that it presents in a way that makes natural observation useless. Not necessarily a miracle, per se, but rather an idea which can't be observed in materialistic means.