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Hierophant

Bias Against the Supernatural

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"You do not believe in miracles | Bible | God because you have a preconceived bias against the supernatural."

 

I hear this statement come up a lot when theists are debating agnostics/atheists, it really becomes tiresome. There are actually two arguments I have against this statement, and I think my second argument has more power to put theists into an apologetic stranglehold than the first.

 

Here is my first objection to the bias against supernatural statement:  It is not a matter of taking a predetermined stance against the supernatural, it is the mere fact that there is not good evidence to support the idea the supernatural exists. In my opinion, theists believe agnostics/atheists do not buy into the supernatural merely because they secretly hate God, or even the idea of a God.

 

According to theists, those outside of religion are there because they want to live in sin, or they were hurt by the church, etc. In their mind, they just cannot reconcile the idea that people are not in the church because they find the evidence to be illogical and contradictory.

 

Consider how many different versions of Jesus/God we hear from various apologetics. My favorite being “God is love.” Based on our observable reality, I just do not see how that is possibly true. At any given moment, there are thousands of living organisms experiencing pain and suffering. Children are being raped, tortured, and murdered. If what Christians say is true, and that God is all-knowing, then what exactly is he doing when these heinous acts are being carried out…shrugging his shoulders? Is that love, is that how anyone would even describe love, let alone the standard of maximum love – sounds like divine apathy. How can you say you love someone, but yet not act consistently to ensure their safety and well-being? In the Bible, some NT writers comment that God chastises his children as a good father would do. Dare they push that analogy too far. What good father lets his children starve to death? What good father sits by while his children are abused? So really, the father analogy does not make it past punishment to correct behavior. Anything beyond that, it simply does not work nor is applicable.

 

Really, I am just scratching the surface of anti-apologetics with my argument against the God of love. I could write a book on the various discrepancies I hear from Christians. Most of which cannot keep their own theology straight. I have yet to meet a Christian who presents a systematic way of thinking about the Christian God, or the Bible, without contradicting themselves at some point in time, usually sooner than later.

 

My second rebuttal to the claim nonbelievers are biased against the supernatural is that often times, I wish there was a supernatural. I wish there was an all-powerful being who would be able to handle the problems I find overwhelming. How about climate change? “Carbon emissions causing global warming – I got you fam” – God.

 

I do not like the idea that everything in this life is so tentative. There are so many variables outside of my control. I would much prefer divine protection and guidance – if there was such a being inclined to provide these things. There are definitely some comforts I lost as I came to terms the world most likely is naturalistic. While a believer, I used to think that if I kept my head down and tried to do the right thing, then things would never get too bad, maybe a significant inconvenience, but nothing heinous. I used to think that people who really suffered somehow brought it upon themselves. Now I know that you never know if something absolutely terrible will happen to you or the ones you love. Plenty of people are born into this world, live shit lives, and then die. That is it, end of story. And frankly, that sucks. I wish things were not that way. I wish there was some justice in an afterlife. I wish that people who suffered in this life could find peace in a next one, but once again, there is no good reason to believe any of that is true. At the end of the day, the universe is cold, hard, and unforgiving. Reality more often than not, is disappointing.

 

Perhaps many people find a naturalistic worldview comforting, I do not. But it is the reality I have to contend with. I would much prefer a universe where a loving God was in control. It would look a lot different than the world around us.

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1 hour ago, TinMan said:

"You do not believe in miracles | Bible | God because you have a preconceived bias against the supernatural."

 

My preconceived bias was FOR the supernatural. I was raised and thoroughly indoctrinated into Christianity and I had no desire whatsoever to leave it. If I was merely following my preconceived bias, then I would still be a Christian. My loss of faith has absolutely nothing to do with preconceived bias and everything to to with the overwhelming weight of the evidence.

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The very separation is from the start problematic for me. What is the supernatural exactly? Usually something the ability of current science to explain through its models. Something we have no idea Why and HOW it happened. Ok, that is 99 percent probably of my daily life. I have no idea of the profound reasons why the sun goes up , what is the exact chemical composition of the cucumber I just ate or anything .

 

I mean we have not even defined our terms thoroughly. 

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Myrkhoos said:

The very separation is from the start problematic for me. What is the supernatural exactly? Usually something the ability of current science to explain through its models. Something we have no idea Why and HOW it happened. Ok, that is 99 percent probably of my daily life. I have no idea of the profound reasons why the sun goes up , what is the exact chemical composition of the cucumber I just ate or anything else.

 

And anything that happens that can be perceived by me is in some way natural as I am a part of nature. If there is supernatural it is unperceivable.

 

I mean we have not even defined our terms thoroughly. 

 

In my experience, the supernatural is generally defined as something that operates outside of natural laws as we know them. For example, if we could speak an incantation of some sort and that manipulates the physical world - it would be defined as supernatural. Going to Christianity, someone rising from the dead is supernatural...it defies what we know to be true of the physical world.

 

Some apologist, like J.P. Holding would say the supernatural does not exist; in that, Holding makes the argument that God lifting a box is not really different in humans lifting a box, other than God is utilizing a method we are not familiar with. I am sure that would difficult to really define, but I have an impression of what he means.

 

You also provide some idea of the supernatural as I have heard it over the years, it is un-perceivable. You could describe it as a world that exist right behind our perceived reality. Of course there is no known way to establish such a thing does exist.

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I think theists generally have a preconceived bias against the natural.  It's not enough that our lives are surrounded by the beauty, uniqueness, intelligence, grace, and emotion of the natural world; they need gods, ghosts, and goblins to make themselves feel complete and satisfied.  

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9 hours ago, TinMan said:

"You do not believe in miracles | Bible | God because you have a preconceived bias against the supernatural."

 

 

I shouldn't have to 'believe' in miracles. Maybe just observe or experience one.

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I'd say if you want me to believe some extraordinary claim then just show me some evidence. Actual evidence, not a Bible verse or a quote from Joel Osteen. Requiring good reason to believe something is not a bias, it is clear thinking.

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3 hours ago, florduh said:

I'd say if you want me to believe some extraordinary claim then just show me some evidence. Actual evidence, not a Bible verse or a quote from Joel Osteen. Requiring good reason to believe something is not a bias, it is clear thinking.

Interesting here. Jesus from the Bible was said to have performed numerous miracles in front of masses of crowds. Healings, ressurections, materialisations. I fail to see modern day preachers of any denomination with that kind of activity. :). Of course I know some apologetics to this.

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All claims about the supernatural are far better explained by reasons other than the existence of actual supernatural processes or entities.

 

For example, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is best explained as an allegory for the annual death and rebirth of the sun as a regular natural process.  All other alleged miracles in the Bible have similar natural explanations for how the stories arose.  Their value is as moral fables, not as claims about actual events.

 

The best explanation of miracles is from the philosopher David Hume, who argued more than two centuries ago that lies and deception are vastly more probable causes of miracle stories than any inconsistency in the laws of physics. 

 

Belief in the supernatural is solely a psycho-social process of emotional comfort, combined with a corrupted distortion of moralistic parables.

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You test a supernatural claim and find it is false, but the proponents say "that was just one anomaly, the next one..." 

So you test another and it to is false, but they say "oh, your sample size is too small" 

So you spend a century testing ten thousand claims and find all to be false. "Yeah, but you haven't tested this one and this one is real" 

So after a thousand years and a million false tests you finally pack up and are confident that no such thing exists. "Ha! See, you are running scared of this new claim! You cannot disprove this one!" 

 

How much evidence do you need before you can finally say something is a fact? It would be subjective as to the quantity and quality of the evidence, but at some point the weight must be considered beyond reasonable doubt. 

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12 hours ago, Wertbag said:

You test a supernatural claim and find it is false, but the proponents say "that was just one anomaly, the next one..." 

So you test another and it to is false, but they say "oh, your sample size is too small" 

So you spend a century testing ten thousand claims and find all to be false. "Yeah, but you haven't tested this one and this one is real" 

So after a thousand years and a million false tests you finally pack up and are confident that no such thing exists. "Ha! See, you are running scared of this new claim! You cannot disprove this one!" 

 

How much evidence do you need before you can finally say something is a fact? It would be subjective as to the quantity and quality of the evidence, but at some point the weight must be considered beyond reasonable doubt. 

 

Depends.  How are you testing the claim?  There are surveys and questionnaire that are designed and worded to get a certian response.  Then after they send out the surveys the results come back that most people agreed with the view they are trying to push.

 

If this is the way one kind of sampling test works then there would be scrunity on how tests in general are done.  How you test a claim is important.  If you test a thousand claims with a weighted and compnman's scale, then you will get the results you hope for every time.  It will point to no truth, only to what you want to hear.

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10 hours ago, Lost_more_then_Once said:

How you test a claim is important.  If you test a thousand claims with a weighted and compnman's scale, then you will get the results you hope for every time.  It will point to no truth, only to what you want to hear.

Absolutely, exactly why I say both the quantity and quality of the evidence is subjective. A flat earther will look at thousands of hours of videos, tens of thousands of photos and dozens of first hand interviews and hand wave away the lot as fake, then see one grainy photo from the moon with a smudge on it and claim that is 100% proof that it was faked. 

Everything is held to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, but how each individual decides when we have reached that point is up to them. 

 

In my example it would not matter if the testing was done in a lab environment, with strict rules, double blind testing, with repetition from a dozen other labs and full audit by outside experts. Proponents of the idea will still hand wave all of that away because there is always another band wagon to jump on. The fairies at the bottom of your garden might be fake, but the ones at the bottom of mine... 

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8 minutes ago, Wertbag said:Absolutely, exactly why I say both the quantity and quality of the evidence is subjective. A flat earther will look at thousands of hours of videos, tens of thousands of photos and dozens of first hand interviews and hand wave away the lot as fake, then see one grainy photo from the moon with a smudge on it and claim that is 100% proof that it was faked. 

Everything is held to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, but how each individual decides when we have reached that point is up to them. 

 

In my example it would not matter if the testing was done in a lab environment, with strict rules, double blind testing, with repetition from a dozen other labs and full audit by outside experts. Proponents of the idea will still hand wave all of that away because there is always another band wagon to jump on. The fairies at the bottom of your garden might be fake, but the ones at the bottom of mine... 

 

Hmm.  But still the issue comes back to "how do you test it?"  Think of a supernatural claim like a rare natural phenomon.  For instance compare the supernatural claim that your house is haunted, with the rare claim that there are lights in the sky dancing as a natural phenomon.  Now those dancing lights have been studied over the centuries, and because of this even if it is rare, there are tests on the claim of the dancing lights.  Even to test on their rare occurance what are the causes behind them.

 

Moving to ghost stories one person can say their house is haunted, but any haunted-like situation is rare.  Therefore you might not see it when you come over to test it.  Perhaps it's haunted only when the right conditions are met.  At night when the owner of the house has his in ignition run wild about being in the dark.  Perhaps the haunting only occures after a rainstorm and a leak in the roof eventually leads to a source of water dripping on something else that the owner hears in several rooms.  Perhaps there is another explaination entirely but the cause is just as unknown because when the claim is tested it is never at the right time.  Like the northern lights the symptoms of being haunted are rare never there when the claim is tested.

 

I think anything can be tested to see if it has merit, but only if there's an oppurtunity to test it.  Supernatural claims might not give that oppurtunity, even if your willing to test it a thousand times.  On the other hand if you test something a thousand times it holds the argument that nothing is there stronger then if you don't test the claim at all.  Nonetheless it can always come back to the question "how was it tested."

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2 hours ago, Lost_more_then_Once said:

Nonetheless it can always come back to the question "how was it tested."

 

The effect of prayer on hospital patients, for example, has been studied several times. Sometimes, with the knowledge that people are praying and the patient is praying and the patient has a belief in prayer, the placebo effect is sometimes demonstrated. Prayer without the patient's knowledge does not have that advantage. From one such study:

 

"... This study therefore showed that remote intercessory prayer did not improve outcomes after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. In fact, the knowledge of being prayed for was associated with a slightly but significantly higher rate of postsurgical complications."

 

Countless studies over decades regarding haunted places have found quite mundane reasons for the perception of some that the place is haunted.

 

Remote viewing has been studied by the military of at least two major powers and the programs were dropped due to lack of results.

 

How many times must we fail to find evidence before we can confidently conclude there's nothing there? The charge is repeatedly made that there hasn't been serious scientific investigation into (fill in the blank) yet actual scientists have made countless physical tests and conducted countless trials on all of the extraordinary claims that just won't die. Also note that the Amazing Randi still has his million dollar prize waiting for someone to claim it.

 

What do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine. What do you call something supernatural that exists? Natural.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Lost_more_then_Once said:

But still the issue comes back to "how do you test it?"

Of course there is a massive range of phenomena that is commonly classed as supernatural.  Some things are very easy to test, such as people claiming abilities like mind reading, teleportation, telekinesis, aura healing, talking to the dead or dowsing.  In those cases you can control the environment and ask them to perform what they claim. 

Then there are the external supernatural phenomena such as ghosts, for which it is claimed there are several ways to test.  Many investigators (and reality TV shows) have used infra-red cameras, white noise recordings, motion sensing cameras, heat monitors or other real world test equipment in an attempt to show these entities.

 

We have shows like Sensing Murder, which has been made for over 14 years in over 15 countries, many seasons of investigations and using dozens of hand picked self-claimed experts.  All with not a single solved crime or actionable piece of information.  Another example would be the hundreds of end of the world prophecies which are self refuting. 

 

Really it all comes down to what is being claimed, and how that claim interacts with the real world.  Whatever the claimed interaction is, should be testable.  If it is claimed a ghost can physically move objects, then that is a clear real world event that can be looked at.  The only ones that couldn't be tested are when the phenomena is so rare as to not be repeatable, or for the claimed supernatural entity to not interact with our world (such as the deist god, an energy that starts the universe but then takes no active part in it).

 

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On 9/27/2019 at 12:04 PM, TinMan said:

"You do not believe in miracles | Bible | God because you have a preconceived bias against the supernatural."

 

 


Yeah I have heard this, but it's absurdly easy to turn on it's head.  

Let's say we have somebody who is full-blown religious and believes in everything: God, Ghosts, Demons, Angels, etc.  

Even if they believe in all of that, they cannot remain intellectually honest without admitting that their belief comes from one worldview - i.e. their religion.  They reject all other of the hundreds if not thousands of faiths in the world.  

I like the line from, I think it was Matt Dillahunty:  "Atheists just believe in one less god than you."  

And if you have somebody who does believe in God but doesn't believe in other supernatural elements, I'd seriously like to ask them why.  For starters, we have just as much, if not more "evidence" of hauntings (I'd stop just short of calling internet creepypasta "scripture" though).  Secondly unlike most deities, we know that the people who supposedly have died and become ghosts did at least exist (for the most part).  

It's just frustrating that people turn off their critical thinking when god enters into it.  As a recent bitter Facebook status of mine went:  

Person A: "I will make this thing magically happen..."

Person B: "Hmmm.... I wonder what the trick is..."

Person A: "In the name of JESUS!"

Person B: "HALLEJULAH! MIRACLES ARE REAL!"

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