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Is belief in the supernatural, by definition, not rational?


wenglund

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On another thread one of our favorite critics exclaimed:

No. You think you have laid out a rational grounds. But your rationality begins with a preexisting belief in the supernatural, when such a belief is not by definition rational.

I presume for example that you believe that reason the golden plates can't be presented by the LDS Church for inspection is because an angel took the golden plates back to heaven.

Sure its a reasonable explanation, if angels exist.

Many scholars avoid this problem, by defining faith as believing something to be true, when their is no rational reason to do so.

Before challenging the assertion that belief in the supernatural is not by definition rational, I think it only fair to allow Jaybear the chance to make his argument, if he is able.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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On another thread one of our favorite critics exclaimed:

Before challenging the assertion that belief in the supernatural is not by definition rational, I think it only fair to allow Jaybear the chance to make his argument, if he is able.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

In my view, belief in the supernatural can be rational -- meaning that a reasonable person can hold supernatural beliefs. However, I would never go far as to say that proof of God exists etc... And, when I pronounce my theism I do so with the full understanding that my beliefs are non-demonstrable.

To me, it seems far more likely that this universe of ours began with a driving force. Yet, I can understand the views of atheists who chalk it all up to chance. The chance argument, to me at least, is not very persuasive -- but I can see the rationale behind it.

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I think that to totally dismiss the supernatural, fey, paranormal, whatever you want to call it, simply because you have not experienced it, in the face of the testimony of millenia of legend, myth, and story from all corners of the world that such things do indeed exist, is irrational.

To quote the Bard; "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5)

- SlackTime

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In my view, belief in the supernatural can be rational -- meaning that a reasonable person can hold supernatural beliefs. However, I would never go far as to say that proof of God exists etc...

If by "proof" you mean "definitively established", then I agree. However, if by "proof" you mean "evidence in support thereof", then I disagree. Belief in the supernatural or God isn't JUST something a reasonable person can hold, it is also something that may be held by virtue of rational reasoning (contrary to Jaybear's baseless assertion), and based on perceived evidence.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I agree with sethpayne. I think supernatural beliefs can be held by a rational person, because without evidence otherwise, it is called, exploring possibilities.

I believe the term is "inductive reasoning".

What makes a belief irrational (IMO) is when the belief is held contrary to scientific evidence.

Yet, people can, at times, reasonably disagree over whether the so-called "scientific evidence" (not to be confused with scientific hypothesis and theory) is actually "contrary" to the belief or not. It's called a "paradigm clash".

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I believe the term is "inductive reasoning".

Yet, people can, at times, reasonably disagree over whether the so-called "scientific evidence" (not to be confused with scientific hypothesis and theory) is actually "contrary" to the belief or not. It's called a "paradigm clash".

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Thanks for the added clarification. For an example of irrationality that I was suggesting, I will use the flat-earthers. However they want to believe, we have so much evidence that the earth is round, that it is impossible for their belief that the earth is flat, to be rational.

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It pretty much depends on what you mean by "supernatural". If you mean "unexplained or unexplainable by current science" then no, it's not necessarily irrational.

If you mean "breaking the physical laws of the universe" then it might be.

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Thanks for the added clarification. For an example of irrationality that I was suggesting, I will use the flat-earthers. However they want to believe, we have so much evidence that the earth is round, that it is impossible for their belief that the earth is flat, to be rational.

Just curious, what proof do we have that the earth is round? I assume you mean roughly spherical. If I can identify what constitutes infallible proof, we can work on what makes a belief irrational.

- SlackTime

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Just curious, what proof do we have that the earth is round? I assume you mean roughly spherical. If I can identify what constitutes infallible proof, we can work on what makes a belief irrational.

- SlackTime

I threw that out there as an obvious example. I didn't intend on debating over specifics, and proper definitions, etc.

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wenglund:

Yes religion can be rational in the absolute sense of the word. However rational does not indicate correctness, or provability. To give a rational example. The belief in a geocentric universe is rational, complete with complex diagrams, and it appeared to make sense, until Copernicus came along.

You touch on an important point. In terms of deductive reasoning, there is a difference between validity and soundness:

A deductive argument is said to be valid if and only if it takes a form that makes it impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless to be false. Otherwise, a deductive argument is said to be invalid.

A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true. Otherwise, a deductive argument is unsound.

For example, a schitzophrenic may argue that if somebody is trying to kill you, healthy survival instincts will reasonably cause you to fight or take flight; and since all the people around you are conspiring to kill you, it is reasonable for you to kill everyone else first.

This arguement may rightly be deemed rational in the sense that the reasoning is valid (the conclusion is, via compassionate reconstruction, ensured by the premises).

However, for those who may rightly view as false the premise "all people around you are conspiring to kill you", his argument may be rightly be deemed as irrational in the sense that it is unsound.

The problem is, with much, though not all, of religious faith, we aren't talking about deductive reasoning so much as we are inductive reasoning (to understand the difference, see Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning).

As such, unlike with the findings of Copernicus, the "truth" of religious beliefs is relatively indeterminate--at least not definitively.

This does not mean, contrary to Jaybear's baseless assertion, that the beliefs are irrational (they may very well be valid in the sense that the conclusions may reasonably be supported by observations/premises). It just means that they cannot be determined to be deductively sound or unsound--though they may be subjectively assessed as rationally weak or strong.

Perhaps it would help to utilize a specific example of religious belief and rational. May I suggest Alma 32?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I threw that out there as an obvious example. I didn't intend on debating over specifics, and proper definitions, etc.

But that is precisely why it makes such a good example to use. If it is so obvious, then it should be easy to demonstrate why it is so obvious and that makes it useful in determining what we need to do to make religion obviously irrational, or not. So please indulge me with what proofs we have that the earth is a sphere.

I'll even be happy to list a few I can think of...

1. The way things come up "over" the horizon, was one that suggested the possibility to Columbus, at least that's how the story goes.

2. Astronauts in space "see" the earth as a roughly sphereical ball.

3. Airplanes can fly "around" the earth and they never seem to come to an "edge".

I'm open to other suggestions.

- SlackTime

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But that is precisely why it makes such a good example to use. If it is so obvious, then it should be easy to demonstrate why it is so obvious and that makes it useful in determining what we need to do to make religion obviously irrational, or not. So please indulge me with what proofs we have that the earth is a sphere.

I'll even be happy to list a few I can think of...

1. The way things come up "over" the horizon, was one that suggested the possibility to Columbus, at least that's how the story goes.

2. Astronauts in space "see" the earth as a roughly sphereical ball.

3. Airplanes can fly "around" the earth and they never seem to come to an "edge".

I'm open to other suggestions.

- SlackTime

Well exactly, whatever evidence there is you can use for your comment. You can probably come up with the acceptable evidence on your own (you don't need me to provide them), about why people believe the earth to be round. . . or whatever shape you want to specify.

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But that is precisely why it makes such a good example to use. If it is so obvious, then it should be easy to demonstrate why it is so obvious and that makes it useful in determining what we need to do to make religion obviously irrational, or not. So please indulge me with what proofs we have that the earth is a sphere.

I'll even be happy to list a few I can think of...

1. The way things come up "over" the horizon, was one that suggested the possibility to Columbus, at least that's how the story goes.

2. Astronauts in space "see" the earth as a roughly sphereical ball.

3. Airplanes can fly "around" the earth and they never seem to come to an "edge".

I'm open to other suggestions.

- SlackTime

Geological measurements. Google Earth.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Well exactly, whatever evidence there is you can use for your comment. You can probably come up with the acceptable evidence on your own (you don't need me to provide them), about why people believe the earth to be round. . . or whatever shape you want to specify.

Oh well, I guess then that maybe belief in a flat earth is not as irrational as I thought. If you aren't prepared to defend such an "obvious" irrationality, then maybe disbelief in the supernatural is not nearly as "rational" as we are led to believe.

- SlackTime

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Oh well, I guess then that maybe belief in a flat earth is not as irrational as I thought. If you aren't prepared to defend such an "obvious" irrationality, then maybe disbelief in the supernatural is not nearly as "rational" as we are led to believe.

- SlackTime

My purpose for using the example was for people to understand what I was trying to say. My thinking was that unless a person reading this is a flat-earther, they will understand the example I'm giving. If I wanted to argue and pose a debate, I could have used a Mormon example. But I wasn't trying to ruffle feathers.

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What makes a belief irrational (IMO) is when the belief is held contrary to scientific evidence.

this seems to make religion irrational then, or at least a good part of it, one example water into wine, water comprised of H2O would seem devoid of the properties to produce alcohol. Healing a blind person by spitting in mud.

An arguement of rationality and aupernatural (which brings in religion) seems about as productive as CARM vs. MADB discussing faith, grace, works, and salvation...a endless debate of circles.

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The proof of a round earth go back to the ancient Greeks then the Muslims.

http://www.gma.org/space1/nav_map.html

Magellan finally proved it by sailing west.

Absolute confirmation was when we sent up spacecraft, and took pictures of a slightly pear shape ball.

http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/2429/globe_west_2048.jpg

All of that evidence, however, is second hand. Unless you're an astronaut, that is.

The point being that most people believe the Earth is round because people they trust told them it is round, not because they went out and proved it themselves.

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The proof of a round earth go back to the ancient Greeks then the Muslims.

http://www.gma.org/space1/nav_map.html

Magellan finally proved it by sailing west.

Absolute confirmation was when we sent up spacecraft, and took pictures of a slightly pear shape ball.

http://veimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/2429/globe_west_2048.jpg

My interest was to see whether there were preconceptions involved in our "obvious" example that made belief in a round earth the "simplest" answer, but not necessarily the "only" answer. One assumption in all light-based measurements and visual perceptions of the "roundness" of the earth is the assumption of light traveling in a straight line. But of course, it doesn't always, and if that assumption is wrong, then what happens to the "obvious".

In any case, we make assumptions about a lot of things, and it is only natural that we do so, but I think we need to recognize our own predilections to interpret in a particular way and color what is "obvious" to us.

- SlackTime

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Before challenging the assertion that belief in the supernatural is not by definition rational, I think it only fair to allow Jaybear the chance to make his argument, if he is able.

I take it then that you believe that JS's claim that an angel took the golden plates to heaven, is a perfectly rational explanation as to why the plates are not available for inspection.

How about this one. Two prisoners are locked in a cell. When the guard approaches the cell in the morning, he finds one of the prisoner strangled to death with his own shoelace. The other prison says it wasn't me, a demon appeared out of the ether, strangled his cell mate, and then disappeared.

Do you consider the cell mate's explanation a perfectly "rational" explanation of what happened?

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this seems to make religion irrational then, or at least a good part of it, one example water into wine, water comprised of H2O would seem devoid of the properties to produce alcohol. Healing a blind person by spitting in mud.

Ironically, this is an irrational/unscientific conclusion to jump to. First of all, you are assuming, sans evidence, that the wine was alcoholic. It may not have been. Second, you are assuming, sans evidence, that the water molecules were all that were involved in changing the water to wine, whereas there is nothing to suggest that other chemicals couldn't have been supernaturally added (anyone familiar with grape Koolaid can attest to water being changed to the flavor of grapes). And, third, even were your evidence-deprived assumption correct that only the water molecules were involved, this does not negate supernatural alterations in atomic make-up of the hydrogen and oxygen moleculs to that of the chemical composition of wine. In short, there is no "scientific evidence" that disallows water being changed supernaturally to wine. As such, you cannot reasonably claim that the supernatural explanation is "irrational".

The same holds true for conclusion regarding healing the blind (by the way, the mud isn't what healed they blind, rather it merely acted as a catalyst for faith). Having just had my sight in my blind left eye restored through cataract surgery several weeks ago, I may reasonably posit that if the blind eye can be made to see naturally, then there is no logical reason to suggest that it couldn't be done supernaturally. So, again, you cannot reasonably claim that the supernatural explanation is "irrational".

An arguement of rationality and aupernatural (which brings in religion) seems about as productive as CARM vs. MADB discussing faith, grace, works, and salvation...a endless debate of circles.

Given your unproductive contribution to the discussion thus far, I can see why you might think so. Not surprisingly, I see things otherwise. To each their own.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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I take it then that you believe that JS's claim that an angel took the golden plates to heaven, is a perfectly rational explanation as to why the plates are not available for inspection.

That is correct.

How about this one. Two prisoners are locked in a cell. When the guard approaches the cell in the morning, he finds one of the prisoner strangled to death with his own shoelace. The other prison says it wasn't me, a demon appeared out of the ether, strangled his cell mate, and then disappeared.

Do you consider the cell mate's explanation a perfectly "rational" explanation of what happened?

Not that the analogy is substantively relevant, I think it a rationally valid explanation, though not one I would be inclinded to believe. Do you understand the difference between rational and believable?

But, I am not the one making the assertion that belief in the supernatural is, by definition, not rational. You are. It then falls to YOU to evinced the supposed general "definition" which allegedly negates the rationality of supernatural beliefs, and make YOUR case. Good luck with that.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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