• Bob Ross
    1.2k
    For a long time I have been, theologically, an agnostic; but over the years I have slowly gravitated towards atheism. The final straw, or step, for me, was when I came across Graham Oppy's argument for naturalism from the principle parsimony, which can be summarized as follows:

    [T]he naturalist does not have beliefs in anything over and above the things the theist believes in. From the standpoint of the naturalist, the theistic beliefs of the theist are pure addition; and, from the standpoint of the theist, the naturalistic beliefs of the naturalist are pure subtraction. In short, naturalism is a simpler theory than theism. A central premise of my argument in support of atheism is the Principle of Parsimony. This general principle states that if there are two competing theories and one is simpler than the other, then, unless the more complex theory provides a better explanation of something than the simpler theory, one should endorse the simpler theory. Since naturalism and theism are competing theories, and, as I just explained, naturalism is simpler than theism, the Principle of Parsimony implies that unless theism provides a better explanation of some relevant phenomenon than naturalism, one should endorse naturalism.

    Upon digestion, I find this sort of argument quite compelling: I have not come across any phenomena which required anything supernatural to best explain it. Therefore, it does seem more parsimonious (to me) to simply be a naturalist.

    I don't think any of the big ticket items—e.g., morality, free will, consciousness, etc.—require supernaturalism for their explanation either.

    So, for those who are supernaturalists in this forum: what phenomena do you believe cannot be sufficiently explained naturalistically?

    Graham Oppy's Principle of Parsimony Argument Link
  • NotAristotle
    252
    Hi,

    I would begin by questioning the soundness of accepting a principle such as the principle of parsimony. Why would a simpler theory be prima facie preferable? What virtues does it espouse over a more complex theory? It may be easier to understand a simpler theory, so maybe there are practical reasons to choose it; but in terms of the veracity of a theory, I don't see why a simpler one is of greater import.

    Secondly, I do think there are some phenomena that are not accounted for by the naturalistic thesis. What I have in mind are much the things you would expect me to say as a supernaturalist: places like Heaven and Hell, entities such as angels and demons, but also events such as the miracle of Fatima, and other miracles that I believe in as a Christian, such as the resurrection. I realize that the occurrence of such supernatural phenomena may provoke incredulity from a naturalist. Belief in these things is not only through testimony, but also an article of faith for me.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    I would begin by questioning the soundness of accepting a principle such as the principle of parsimony. Why would a simpler theory be prima facie preferable?

    The principle of parsimony is NOT that the simpler theory is better: it is that the theory which posits the least conceptual entities to explain the same thing is better than one that posits more.

    I have no doubt that Oppy means "naturalism is simpler" in this sense.

    The reason this seems to be a sound epistemic principle, is that a theory which is less parsimonious [than another theory which explains the same phenomena] has patently extraneous/superfluous concepts.

    What I have in mind are much the things you would expect me to say as a supernaturalist: places like Heaven and Hell, entities such as angels and demons, but also events such as the miracle of Fatima, and other miracles that I believe in as a Christian, such as the resurrection. I realize that the occurrence of such supernatural phenomena may provoke incredulity from a naturalist. Belief in these things is not only through testimony, but also an article of faith for me.

    That is fair. To Oppy's point, I think it is more parsimonious to explain the empirical data (that you would use to justify your belief in such things) under a naturalist account.

    For example, just to take one, any miracle you give me seems, to me, to be better explained via naturalistic events--e.g., demonic possession described in most old texts was really seizure-related (e.g., epilepsy), etc.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    You might be interested to read Shamik Dasgupta, especially what he has to say on "Absolute Velocity" -- http://shamik.net/papers/dasgupta%20symmetry%20as%20an%20epistemic%20notion.pdf

    I think you will also find discussion of the "Invariance Principle" as it pertains to physics interesting and perhaps quite agreeable. -- I think Nozick talks about it to some extent.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    In short, naturalism is a simpler theory than theism.

    There are arguments against naturalism from perspectives other than the theistic. But from a theistic perspective the problem with this argument is that it makes of God one being among others, an explanatory catch-all that is invoked to account for purported gaps in naturalism. In other words, it starts with a naturalist conception of God which is erroneous in principle. Quite why that is then turns out to be impossible to explain, because any argument is viewed through that perspective, for example by the demand for empirical evidence for the transcendent. I think the proper theist response is not to try prove that God is something that exists, but is the ground or cause of anything that exists. That is not an empirical argument.

    So, for those who are supernaturalists in this forum: what phenomena do you believe cannot be sufficiently explained naturalistically?Bob Ross

    Phenomena are appearances - that is the origination of the word. And from a non-theistic philosophical perspective, something this doesn’t account for is the nature of the being to whom phenomena appear.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I think the proper theist response is not to try prove that God is something that exists, but is the ground or cause of anything that exists. That is not an empirical argument.

    So, for those who are supernaturalists in this forum: what phenomena do you believe cannot be sufficiently explained naturalistically? — Bob Ross


    Phenomena are appearances - that is the origination of the word. And from a non-theistic philosophical perspective, something this doesn’t account for is the nature of the being to whom phenomena appear.
    Wayfarer

    Wayfarer, looks like your answer to Bob Ross regarding the phenomena that are not accounted for on a naturalistic account is just this: everything.

    I find that just a bit humorous.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    When you demand evidence for belief in God, I think a perfectly rational theistic response is 'look around you, you're standing in it'. From a theistic perspective - not necessarily one that I share, but am sympathetic too - the order of nature is indicative of a prior intelligence. And let's not forget that while science discovers and exploits the order of nature, it doesn't explain it. That's what I mean about the shortcoming of empirical demands - 'show me where this "god" is. You can't produce any evidence'. It's a misplaced demand. But, that said, I'm not going to go all-in to try and win the argument, it's take it or leave it, and most will leave it.
  • Tom Storm
    8.4k
    There are arguments against naturalism from perspectives other than the theistic. But from a theistic perspective the problem with this argument is that it makes of God one being among others, an explanatory catch-all that is invoked to account for purported gaps in naturalism. In other words, it starts with a naturalist conception of God which is erroneous in principle. Quite why that is then turns out to be impossible to explain, because any argument is viewed through that perspective, for example by the demand for empirical evidence for the transcendent. I think the proper theist response is not to try prove that God is something that exists, but is the ground or cause of anything that exists. That is not an empirical argument.Wayfarer

    Nicely put. I think that's a fair response to the argument from a more sophisticated theistic perspective. David Bentley Hart explores this in his essay, 'God, Gods and Fairies'.

    To speak of “God” properly—in a way, that is, consonant with the teachings of orthodox Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Vedantic and Bhaktic Hinduism, Bahá’í, much of antique paganism, and so forth—is to speak of the one infinite ground of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things.

    God so understood is neither some particular thing posed over against the created universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a being, at least not in the way that a tree, a clock, or a god is; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are. He is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom all things live and move and have their being. He may be said to be “beyond being,” if by “being” one means the totality of finite things, but also may be called “being itself,” in that he is the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity underlying all things.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I am reminded of the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism. This is a debate that may have implications for both naturalists and supernaturalists and one that both can engage.
  • Leontiskos
    1.3k
    Graham Oppy's argument for naturalism from the principle parsimonyBob Ross

    Along the same lines as 's post, see Edward Feser's, 'Is God's existence a "hypothesis"?' (link)
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    Thank you: I will take a look!
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k



    There are arguments against naturalism from perspectives other than the theistic.

    True. But that is not the topic of this OP.

    Phenomena are appearances - that is the origination of the word. And from a non-theistic philosophical perspective, something this doesn’t account for is the nature of the being to whom phenomena appear.

    We only have appearances to directly work with; and we only posit anything besides them to account for them.

    You are absolutely right that ontology is not itself directly knowable from mere appearances, but such appearances are the content of which we extrapolate (reason) about what ontology there probably is. So, in short, I think you are sidestepped the conversation by trying to point out a technicality, which does not, in the end, serve your purpose.

    But from a theistic perspective the problem with this argument is that it makes of God one being among others, an explanatory catch-all that is invoked to account for purported gaps in naturalism.

    Not at all. The idea is that the phenomena (viz., those appearances) can be explained more parsimoniously with naturalism than (classical) theism.

    One is not presupposing naturalism and then trying to add on supernaturalism; but, rather, posited both theories, and seeing if one is more parsimonious than the other.

    . Quite why that is then turns out to be impossible to explain, because any argument is viewed through that perspective, for example by the demand for empirical evidence for the transcendent.

    That is not an empirical argument.

    I, nor do I think Oppy, claim(s) that God must be empirically verifiable: that’s nonsense. I wouldn’t even say everything that is natural is empirically verifiable. In fact, I would argue that certain perfectly natural studies are not capable of scientific investigation. Ethics is a great example; so is math, logic, (metaphysics of) truth, and epistemology. Nor, @Leontiskos, do I think that God is a hypothesis, in the scientific sense of the term; and I don't think that negates anything in the OP.

    I think the proper theist response is not to try prove that God is something that exists, but is the ground or cause of anything that exists.

    I don’t think you are fully appreciating the OP’s argument: it isn’t demanding a proof, per se, of God’s existence: it is demanding an example, at a bare minimum, of a phenomena (i.e, an appearance: event) which cannot be explained more parsimoniously with naturalism (over supernaturalism)---in other words: is there anything which seems to demand we posit, conceptually, something supernatural? That’s the question.

    Bob
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    it isn’t demanding a proof, per se, of God’s existence: it is demanding an example, at a bare minimum, of a phenomena (i.e, an appearance: event) which cannot be explained more parsimoniously with naturalism (over supernaturalism)---in other words: is there anything which seems to demand we posit, conceptually, something supernatural? That’s the question.Bob Ross

    Well, given the tendency to reject every account that is found in the world’s religious literature of such events, then probably not. None of those accounts appear in peer-reviewed scientific literature and are probably impossible to replicate (heck, plain old psychological studies are pretty hard to replicate.) So, given all that, you’re probably on pretty safe ground.

    I’ve been reviewing a bit of Rupert Sheldrake’s material again. He claims to have evidence of psychic phenomena that call naturalism into question, at least insofar as they’re paranormal. The phenomena he speaks of are fairly quotidian in nature - dogs who know when their owners are about to come home, the sense of being stared at, and so on. He is, of course, characterised as a maverick or crank by a lot of people, but he persists, in his quiet way, and claims to have significant evidence. The argument then turns into one about whether he does present evidence.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    That quote you gave is dancing dangerously close between atheism and theism.

    In a classical sense, God is absolutely separate from the nature that He created. Some of what you quoted, sounds an awful lot like pantheism; which, I would say, is really just a form of atheism.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    Unfortunately, I am not that familiar with the debate between scientific realists and anti-realists; but I do hope that naturalists and supernaturalists can engage in fruitful discussions herein!

    As @Wayfarer rightly pointed out, the terms "naturalism" and "atheism" are not synonymous nor is "supernaturalism" and "theism"; and this OP revolves around the former of each, and not the latter.

    In the case of supernaturalism, the obvious example is going to be (classical) theism; and for naturalism, it is going to be a form of physicalism (in conjunction, presumably, with other views compatible with it---e.g., a theory of truth, moral realism/anti-realism, etc.).
  • Leontiskos
    1.3k
    Nor, Leontiskos, do I think that God is a hypothesis, in the scientific sense of the term; and I don't think that negates anything in the OP.Bob Ross

    When Oppy speaks of the "theory" of theism he is clearly construing theism as a hypothesis.

    The principle of parsimony is NOT that the simpler theory is better: it is that the theory which posits the least conceptual entities to explain the same thing is better than one that posits more.Bob Ross

    Which is to say nothing else than that the simpler theory is better.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    I don't think that one needs to limit themselves to what is scientifically peered reviewed or easily replicable. However, every example I have heard seems, to me, to be better explained naturalistically.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    When Oppy speaks of the "theory" of theism he is clearly construing theism as a hypothesis.

    Oppy is not speaking of the "theory" of theism as a scientific hypothesis; which is what Feser, in the link you gave, was complaining about. Oppy does not think that a metaphysical theory that posits God's existence is something verifiable via the scientific method: that's nonsense.
  • Tom Storm
    8.4k
    I think more sophisticated theology will sometimes look a lot like pantheism or even atheism to some. Bentley Hart is a Greek Orthodox Christian and academic who is strongly influence by the Patristic Tradition.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    Interesting: I will have to check out their work!

    However, I think the point in the OP still stands: what phenomena requires us to posit God's existence to explain? That is the million dollar question.
  • Leontiskos
    1.3k
    - I would suggest giving an actual reference to the source you are using in the OP.
  • Tom Storm
    8.4k
    what phenomena requires us to posit God's existence to explain?Bob Ross

    An atheist is always going to say 'no' to any given phenomenon, from the question of being to why there's something rather than nothing.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    I don't think that one needs to limit themselves to what is scientifically peered reviewed or easily replicable. However, every example I have heard seems, to me, to be better explained naturalistically.Bob Ross

    But how would you find out? In the absence of that kind of data, what criteria can be selected? Recall the original point of Popper’s falsifiability was to differentiate empirical claims from other kinds, although it’s now wrongly taken to imply a kind of verificationism. Popper, as it happens, held to a form of dualism, in that he believed in a ‘third realm’ that contains the products of the human mind that, once created, lead an existence independent of their creators. This includes theories, scientific knowledge, mathematical constructs, cultural artifacts, and works of art. According to Popper, World 3 objects can influence both the physical world (World 1) and the mental world (World 2), yet they are not reducible to either. So whether that is a form of naturalism is debatable - and the reason it’s debatable is because the concept of naturalism is constantly changing.

    As far as theism and atheism is concerned, the traditional divide formed between naturalistic science, which seeks explanations purely in terms of natural laws, and non-physicalist or metaphysical philosophies which are often but not always associated with religion (another very hard term to define!) But surely, in effect, naturalism leans towards explanations in terms of what have been known as natural laws - but then, there’s a whole other issue there, in philosophy of science, as to whether there are ‘natural laws’ and what that means (per Nancy Cartwright ‘How the Laws of Physics Lie’). And that debate, again, is not itself subject to a naturalist explanation, as it’s ’theory about theory’.
  • Janus
    15.5k
    I don't think that one needs to limit themselves to what is scientifically peered reviewed or easily replicable. However, every example I have heard seems, to me, to be better explained naturalisticallyBob Ross

    I would go further and say that all explanations based on reason are naturalistic. "God did it" is not really a cogent explanation. Even if it were accepted as an explanation, there is no detail, no step-by-step explication of just how God could have done it. None that can really make any rational or experiential sense at all to us in any case.

    Of course, a theist can say they believe God did it regardless, and that's OK provided it is acknowledged to be a matter of faith. Even the Catholic Church accept the evolutionary account for example, and it's not at all clear what part they think God played. When it comes to the Big Bang, there is no explanation for any prior to the very beginning. Theists can say God did it, but that doesn't add anything to the actual explanations of how the process from BB to now unfolded.
  • 180 Proof
    14.1k
    :up:

    Cite a 'supernatural-Y' that (testably) explains some natural-X.

    Also, do you dispute that questions which are 'answered by mysteries' (e.g. supernaturalia-of-the-gaps aka "illusions of knowledge" or "just-so stories") are merely begged?

    If not, then you are a naturalist, Wayfarer. :smirk:

    If, however, you dispute that mysteries beg questions, please defend either (A) 'mysteries answer questions without begging them' or (B) 'why supernaturalia are not mysteries (i.e. not inexplicables)'. :chin:
  • flannel jesus
    1.3k
    I would begin by questioning the soundness of accepting a principle such as the principle of parsimony. Why would a simpler theory be prima facie preferable? What virtues does it espouse over a more complex theory?NotAristotle

    This might be a completely wacky idea, but---

    In the realm of the multiverse, simpler universes appear more commonly than more complex universes. This is true for multiverse ideas like Max Tegmark's Mathematical Universe or Stephen Wolfram's Ruliad - universes exist for all mathematical or computational structures. The reason simpler universes occur more often is because they occur in their simplest form, but then they re-occur because they can be re-specified in more verbose forms in more complex universes as well.

    Obviously that's a completely speculative reason to believe in parsimony, but there's a way to make sense of it there.
  • substantivalism
    224
    I am reminded of the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism. This is a debate that may have implications for both naturalists and supernaturalists and one that both can engage.NotAristotle
    That is what I've been coming into conflict with but in a more generalized sense of meta-metaphysical attitudes. What happens to the god debate or the debate among competing theories if we all became deflationists/pragmatists/quietists?

    That is, in Carnap's sense and other modifiers of his position, we all accept a plurality of languages that say things true/false within a language but any questions as to choices among languages are not to be truth bearers. The only debate to be had now is how all these languages may be cohered or shown to be mutually impossible to inter-translate. With possibly no clear end goal in sight. Some may in that case prefer their ideas of parsimony which may restrict the range of or lengths that their philosophical imagination may take them. I.E. that its metaphorical story telling of a "scientifically" realist sort.

    It's rather redundant of me to say that most of philosophy in general doesn't change those phenomenological impressions we intuitively take as fundamentally true in the moorean sense. Its outside the confines of those certainties that we can't help but speculate to our own detriment. Perhaps we shouldn't? If we start down that road then the certainties of our everyday world might start to crumble under the weight of our scientific "truths" or soul weighty "revelations". Which can be truly detrimental in some cases.

    No matter the outcome of supernaturalism vs naturalism, or all the critiques of classic philosophy, I'm still not going to drink bleach or attempt to walk through the nearest wall by mere will alone. Is that because I've accepted a scientific truth about the world? I have some immutable knowledge? Naturalism is true? Some weighty revelation of a spiritual sort has made itself to me? Does it even matter what excuse I come up with?
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    I just linked it at the top.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    This doesn't answer the question in the OP; and isn't necessarily true.
  • Bob Ross
    1.2k


    But how would you find out? In the absence of that kind of data, what criteria can be selected?

    What do you mean?

    It is not scientifically peer-reviewed that ‘a=a’, ‘1+1=2’, ‘every change has a cause’, ‘p → q, q, therefore p’, ‘truth is the correspondence of thought with reality’ (or whatever theory of truth you would like to insert here), ‘knowledge is a justified, true, belief’ (or whatever theory of knowledge you would like to insert here), etc.

    It is nonsense to think that scientism, which is what you are arguing here for, is true.

    We believe things based off of evidence-based reasoning; and science is not the only form of valid evidence (as clearly exemplified in my examples above).

    As far as theism and atheism is concerned, the traditional divide formed between naturalistic science, which seeks explanations purely in terms of natural laws, and non-physicalist or metaphysical philosophies which are often but not always associated with religion (another very hard term to define!) But surely, in effect, naturalism leans towards explanations in terms of what have been known as natural laws - but then, there’s a whole other issue there, in philosophy of science, as to whether there are ‘natural laws’ and what that means (per Nancy Cartwright ‘How the Laws of Physics Lie’). And that debate, again, is not itself subject to a naturalist explanation, as it’s ’theory about theory’.

    You seem to be trying to win by means of drowning your opponent in over-complicated, irrelevant information.

    For intents of this OP, naturalism is the view that everything in reality is a part of the processes of nature; and supernaturalism is the view that some things transcend those processes of nature.

    In terms of laws, it is commonly accepted that there are laws of physics; but it doesn’t matter either way for all intents and purposes of the OP. Even if you reject the existence of laws proper, if you believe everything in reality is a part of the processes of nature, whatever they may exactly be, then you are a naturalist.
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