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Thread: Definitions: Natural Vs. Supernatural.

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    Definitions: Natural Vs. Supernatural.

    I have gone around this issue a bit, and I still maintain that the definitions of natural and supernatural are so ambiguous as to be without meaning. Why can't a supernatural universe, for instance, be open to investigate with knowable laws and function? The problem is we have no way to compare these two ideas. Unlike with with most things we define, like a table or chair, there is no objective way to distinguish between supernatural and natural - it is a complete guess.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    I have gone around this issue a bit, and I still maintain that the definitions of natural and supernatural are so ambiguous as to be without meaning. Why can't a supernatural universe, for instance, be open to investigate with knowable laws and function? The problem is we have no way to compare these two ideas. Unlike with with most things we define, like a table or chair, there is no objective way to distinguish between supernatural and natural - it is a complete guess.
    It's something I've seen taken up quite a bit on this forum. I believe Nick holds a similar view, and pre Enlightenment, there wasn't really a distinction. But I think the word "supernatural" is still useful if for nothing more than to distinguish between the processes of the natural world, and direct divine intervention in the natural world regardless of whether or not that divine intervention is purely through knowable laws of physics or some sort of mystical interaction. If you're using the word "supernatural" to mean something like "spiritual," or "divinity," then I think distinguishing between natural and supernatural is still useful in the sense that the natural explains those processes we can examine/investigate through natural means, whereas it seems it requires spiritual means to examine/investigate much of the spiritual realm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    It's something I've seen taken up quite a bit on this forum. I believe Nick holds a similar view, and pre Enlightenment, there wasn't really a distinction. But I think the word "supernatural" is still useful if for nothing more than to distinguish between the processes of the natural world, and direct divine intervention in the natural world regardless of whether or not that divine intervention is purely through knowable laws of physics or some sort of mystical interaction. If you're using the word "supernatural" to mean something like "spiritual," or "divinity," then I think distinguishing between natural and supernatural is still useful in the sense that the natural explains those processes we can examine/investigate through natural means, whereas it seems it requires spiritual means to examine/investigate much of the spiritual realm.
    It is a useful short hand but for the reasons I stated it is no meaning - in the objective sense. I mean in what sense is this a natural world? Compared to what?
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    It is a useful short hand but for the reasons I stated it is no meaning - in the objective sense. I mean in what sense is this a natural world? Compared to what?
    Natural in the sense that it can be perceived and examined by the physical senses I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    Natural in the sense that it can be perceived and examined by the physical senses I think.
    Natural to me would be that which is created and sustained by natural forces (non-intelligent forces of nature).
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Natural to me would be that which is created and sustained by natural forces (non-intelligent forces of nature).
    I guess it depends on who you're asking then. An atheist is obviously going to refuse the notion that "nature" has anything to do with a creator/sustainer. And since most people in the sciences and philosophy disassociate their fields from the religious, you're probably going to be talking past people who use non-religious language to describe ordinary phenomena.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    I guess it depends on who you're asking then. An atheist is obviously going to refuse the notion that "nature" has anything to do with a creator/sustainer. And since most people in the sciences and philosophy disassociate their fields from the religious, you're probably going to be talking past people who use non-religious language to describe ordinary phenomena.
    But that is my point Adrift - they have no objective justification for their position. The distinction is arbitrary, philosophical.
    Atheism is the cult of death, the death of hope. The universe is doomed, you are doomed, the only thing that remains is to await your execution...

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    I think a theist could say "natural" means something like "consistent with the way things normally operate according to the laws of nature God has created". This leaves plenty of room for miracles and doesn't risk heading into the territory of deism. I think Christians who argue there is no distinction between natural and supernatural are promoting a position that they know deep down is indefensible.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    But that is my point Adrift - they have no objective justification for their position. The distinction is arbitrary, philosophical.
    I don't think it's arbitrary necessarily (as I explained in my first post). But anyways, if we lived in a pre-Enlightenment world, making your point might be easier. In a world that is now familiar with heavily secularized language I think you're going to be swimming upstream. For a lot of people you're going to have to first justify belief in the spiritual before you can move on to why words like "supernatural" are unjustified.

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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    I have gone around this issue a bit, and I still maintain that the definitions of natural and supernatural are so ambiguous as to be without meaning. Why can't a supernatural universe, for instance, be open to investigate with knowable laws and function? The problem is we have no way to compare these two ideas. Unlike with with most things we define, like a table or chair, there is no objective way to distinguish between supernatural and natural - it is a complete guess.
    I think I understand what you're saying. But just to play devil's advocate, the distinction could be made clearer than a complete guess, couldn't it? What if the stars lined up to spell "I am that I am"? Even the most hard-nosed naturalist would have to concede that something is probably going on other than naturalism.

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