How should we define the supernatural?



When you get sick, do you go to a doctor who uses naturalism and materialism? Do you accept the materialistic and naturalistic germ theory of disease as a valid explanation for how infectious diseases occur? Do you accept the materialistic and naturalistic explanation for the origin of lightning?

I would contend that for 99.999% of the conclusion you come to, you rely on materialism and naturalism.

Red herring.

(Ashwin S) #182

I also pray when I get sick. There have been occasions where things have happened without the help of medicine. One example is that my son (a breach baby) was born with hip displasia… we prayed, he got better without any major treatment (usually they put the kids in cast for him to get better). The doctor was a Catholic, and he said it was a miracle. Everybody doesn’t view the world the same way you do.

I do consult doctors and medicines and am grateful for the know how. But I don’t attribute healing only to doctors/medicine. I believe it happens by God’s grace.

No it’s not.


Do you think germs cause disease? Do you think natural and materialistic processes produce lightning? When you see the ground across your entire neighborhood covered in water, do you think it was due to naturalistic and materialistic rain?

(Ashwin S) #184

You are now speaking in circles without addressing anything I have said.


Do you use the materialistic and naturalistic explanations for those phenomena?

(Ashwin S) #186

Using one explanation does not mean they are the only explanation. This is an error in your logic I have highlighted before.
Sometimes, I even point to some occurances as miracles.


What I am pointing out is that you probably use naturalistic and materialistic explanations for almost all phenomena you see going on around you in nature. Do you use supernaturalism when you do your engineering? Probably not, right?

(Ashwin S) #188

There are cases where materialistic explanations are useful. There are many cases where it’s trivial or just not relevant.
For example, when my son wakes up in the morning and I hug him and talk to him, materialistic explanations are trivial and not relevant. This is true of every relationship I have. I don’t know about you.

When I see the sun set over a beach, again materialistic explanations are trivial/irrelevant.

When I do calculations in engineering, it helps. However, when I design products, aesthetics plays a big role which is as important as any calculation based on “materialism”.


So how do you explain the red coloring of a sunset? How do you explain the path of the Sun through the sky? How do you explain the methods that you use to build something? For most people, they use naturalistic and materialistic explanations for these things. You may think they are irrelevant, but they really aren’t.

(Ashwin S) #190

What is the complete explanation for the red colouring sun? One good explanation is that God created beautiful sunsets for our enjoyment.
It’s far more meaningful than an explanation involving frequencies and wavelengths of light.

Like I have already admitted. They are relevant in some contexts. However, they almost never complete/sufficient explanations.
Even in Engineering scenarios, factors like aesthetics come into play which involve value judgements that are meaningless in a materialistic scenario.


So you reject light scattering as the explanation?

How is light scattering not a complete and sufficient explanation for the wavelengths of light that reach your eye at sunset?

(Ashwin S) #192

Of course not. I accepts it’s one explanation. I just acknowledge other explanations too… and some of them such as God creating beautiful sunsets for our enjoyment are more relevant in more situations than the one involving light being scattered.

It doesn’t explain the beauty of a sunset, or the feelings when enjoying one. It doesn’t explain my consciousness which is able to enjoy the sunset.
It doesn’t explain the purpose of sunsets for human beings.


So how does this other explanation work for sunsets? How does this creation part work, when does it happen, and what observations lead to this conclusion?

(Ashwin S) #194

Belief in a creator is a stand taken on faith and personal experience.
You are asking these questions based on a belief that empiricism is the only way to have knowledge.
This is a standard you yourself cannot actually maintain in real life. A lot of things you believe are based on a world view which involves commitments to philosophical positions without empirical evidence.
Where is the empirical evidence that everything that exists is material?


Quite the opposite. It is the standard you use as an engineer in real life.

Again, I only claim empirical evidence for the material where such evidence exists. Outside of that, my answer is “I don’t know”.

(Ashwin S) #196

That’s a ridiculous claim. I have said this a few times, but I will repeat myself again. A good portion of engineering (esp product design) deals with customer inputs. These inputs are completely value based and the solutions involve engineering, aesthetics, art etc.

Precisely. Empirical evidence answers a very limited set of questions and it’s not the only way to know things.
Many important decisions in life are made apart from evaluating “empirical evidence”… such as which friends you trust, whom you marry, what your child’s favourite night time story is etc…
I suggest you honestly evaluate your own life and every decision you take and write down how many of them have a good empirical explanation and how many don’t. I guarantee that you will be surprised by the % you get.

(Jon Garvey) #197

Now, that’s an important remark. Leaving aside the fact that speaking of “materialist” and “natural” explanations begs the question in the thread of whether those terms mean anything, and if they do how they arise; leaving that aside, I say, the wavelengths reaching the eye at sunset are not the aesthetic or spiritual experience - or even simply the visual one. Still less do they explain them.

Everything that creates what Ashwin eulogises - and everything that makes it possible for even someone unmoved by the experience to get what he is talking about - is downstream of that, in the mind.

The viewer sees no wavelengths - only red and orange and blue, which on materialism are mere epiphenomena. In fact, not only shifting colours, but an entire idea is constructed from the sensory data, memory complexes and cognition. That experience, on materialism, is entirely an epiphenomenon.

The colours, the shapes, the sound of the waves, the chill of the breeze, the smell of the sea - none of those exist outside the conscious mind, being interpretations of - who knows what, for all our investigations terminate in the sensory experiences of our minds.

Our minds are, by the very fact of their unified subjectivity (ie the indivisible “me”) are not explicable in terms of materials. They can only be experienced, or rather, they can only be the subject of experience. Nobody can, even in principle, make any number of “its” into an “I.”

Show the sunsest viewer a palette of the same colours, and it’s leave him cold. Show him a list of wavelengths and he’ll yawn.

So there’s a kind of choice to be made (though not necessarily an absolute dichotomy): either the mental world is an epiphenomenon on a real “material” world; reality being wavelengths, mass, velocity, and so on - a host of abstract and ultimately unknowable postulates.

Or else the real world is that of the mind, consisting of meaningful colours, smells, sounds - and indivisibly from them the spiritual impressions accompanying those experiences. Incidentally, it’s that mental world that also contains visual representations, through maths or writing, of the wavelengths, masses and the other 2nd-order things that the mind speculates as lying outside itself.

Now, it could be that real minds get their input from some “substrate” out there, which for want of a better word you can call “matter” (though “another mind” would be an equally valid explanation). But it’s pretty hard to see how it relates to reality. After all, if light is simply wavelengths, what exactly is it that makes my writing “500nm” less real than the blue you see out of the window on a sunny day?

It would seem that the answer is that your mind doesn’t experience a wavelength, “500nm,” as reality, whereas it does experience blue skies as reality - and here’s another conundrum: as you read this your mind can experience a blue sky from memory as a kind of reality, even if (like here) the sky is grey.


And for the engineering you use naturalistic and materialistic theories.

The difference is that I admit those are subjective judgments, and I don’t claim they come from an objectively real supernatural realm.

(Ashwin S) #199

If you think your subjective feelings are not considered in engineering. Reconsider, the next time you drive a car on a winding road. You can be assured every car is tested for the sense of confidence it gives to the driver.
This is not fully achieved through materialistic calculations alone.

What “subjective”?.. How do you explain "subjective " judgement in materialistic terms?

(Dale Cutler) #200