There is overwhelming agreement amongst naturalists that a naturalistic ontology should not allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. I argue, against this prevailing consensus, that naturalists have no proper basis to oppose the existence of supernatural entities. Naturalism is characterized, following Leiter and Rea, as a position which involves a primary commitment to scientific methodology and it is argued that any naturalistic ontological commitments must be compatible with this primary commitment. It is further argued that properly applied (...) scientific method has warranted the acceptance of the existence of supernatural entities in the past and that it is plausible to think that it will do so again in the future. So naturalists should allow for the possibility of supernatural entities. (shrink)
Current evolutionary and cognitive theories of religion posit that supernatural agent concepts emerge from cognitive systems such as theory of mind and social cognition. Some argue that these concepts evolved to maintain social order by minimizing antisocial behavior. If these theories are correct, then people should process information about supernatural agents’ socially strategic knowledge more quickly than non-strategic knowledge. Furthermore, agents’ knowledge of immoral and uncooperative social behaviors should be especially accessible to people. To examine these hypotheses, we (...) measured response-times to questions about the knowledge attributed to four different agents—God, Santa Claus, a fictional surveillance government, and omniscient but non-interfering aliens—that vary in their omniscience, moral concern, ability to punish, and how supernatural they are. As anticipated, participants respond more quickly to questions about agents’ socially strategic knowledge than non-strategic knowledge, but only when agents are able to punish. (shrink)
Traditionally, the term ’God’ has been understood either as a proper name or as a description. However, according to a new view, the term God’ in a sentence like "Jesus Christ is God" functions as a kind term, much as the term ’tiger’ functions in the sentence "Tigger is a tiger." In this paper I examine the claim that divinity can be construed as a ’supernatural’ kind, developing the outlines of an account of the semantics of God’ along these (...) lines, and suggest that it might solve an important philosophical problem concerning the Incarnation. (shrink)
When proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) theory deny that their theory is religious, the minimalistic theory they have in mind (the mini-ID theory) is the claim that the irreducibly complex adaptations found in nature were made by one or more intelligent designers. The denial that this theory is religious rests on the fact that it does not specify the identity of the designer—a supernatural God or a team of extra-terrestrials could have done the work. The present paper attempts to (...) show that this reply underestimates the commitments of the mini-ID Theory. The mini-ID theory, when supplemented with four independently plausible further assumptions, entails the existence of a supernatural intelligent designer. It is further argued that scientific theories, such as the Darwinian theory of evolution, are neutral on the question of whether supernatural designers exist. (shrink)
Belief in souls is only one component of supernatural thinking in which individuals infer the presence of invisible mechanisms that explain events as paranormal rather than natural. We believe it is important to place greater emphasis on the prevalence of supernatural beliefs across other domains, if only to counter simplistic divisions between rationality and irrationality recently aligned with the contentious science/religion debate.
Cotard's syndrome is a psychotic condition that includes delusion of a supernatural nature. Based on insights from recovered patients who were convinced of being immortal, we can (1) distinguish biographical experiences from cultural and evolutionary backgrounds; (2) show that cultural significance dominates biographical experiences; and (3) support Bering's view of a cognitive system dedicated to forming illusory representations of immortality.
In this paper I shall assess Clarke’s assertion that all definitions of miracles that purport to satisfy the criterion of religious inclusiveness should substitute the term ‘supernatural’ for ‘non-natural’. In addition, I shall attempt to strengthen Clarke’s conception of the supernatural by offering an analysis of what it means for something to be ‘above’ nature. Lastly, I shall offer a new argument as to why Clarke’s intention-based definition of miracles is necessarily less religiously inclusive than Mumford’s causation-based definition.
Atran & Norenzayan's (A&N's) target article effectively combines the insights of evolutionary biology and interdisciplinary cognitive science, neither of which alone yields sufficient explanatory power to help us fully understand the complexities of supernatural belief. Although the authors' ideas echo those of other researchers, they are perhaps the most squarely grounded in neo-Darwinian terms to date. Nevertheless, A&N overlook the possibility that the tendency to infer supernatural agents' communicative intent behind natural events served an ancestrally adaptive function.
Both intention-based and causation-based definitions of the miraculous make reference to the term ‘supernatural’. Philosophers who define the miraculous appear to use this term in a loose way, perhaps meaning the nonnatural, perhaps meaning a subcategory of the nonnatural. Here I examine the aetiology of the term ‘supernatural’. I consider three outstanding issues regarding the meaning of the term and conclude that the supernatural is best understood as a subcategory of the nonnatural. In light of this clarification, (...) I argue that a prominent causation-based definition of the miraculous should be revised so as not refer to the supernatural. I further argue that authors of intention-based definitions of the miraculous need to consider whether or not they should continue to refer to the supernatural, in their definitions of the miraculous, in light of the conclusions discerned here. (shrink)
According to embodied cognition theory, our physical embodiment influences how we conceptualize entities, whether natural or supernatural. In serving central explanatory roles, supernatural entities (e.g., God) are represented implicitly as having unordinary properties that nevertheless do not violate our sensorimotor interactions with the physical world. We conjecture that other supernatural entities are similarly represented in explanatory contexts.
Abstract The aim of this paper is to attain a philosophical evaluation of the ideas of the French author Maurice Bucaille. Bucaille formulated an influential discourse regarding the divinity of the Qur’an, which he tried to demonstrate through a comparison of some of its verses with what he defined as scientific data. With his works, which encompass a criticism of the Bible and a defense of creationism, Bucaille furthered the idea that Islam is in harmony with natural sciences, and ensured (...) himself long-lasting fame in the Muslim world. Such ideas have found numerous followers and the description of the “scientific miracles” of the Qur’an has turned into a popular genre. Several attempts have been made to criticize Bucaille about specific positions he holds. The thesis I develop here is that, even if Bucaille's work cannot be easily dismissed, a severe methodological shortcoming emerges through the analysis of the logic behind his claims regarding miraculous and supernatural events. Current attempts at defending the harmony between Islam and science should therefore credit Bucaille, but at the same time, be aware of the risk of inheriting his methodological flaws. In the first section, I briefly recall the works of Bucaille and his contribution to the debate on the harmony between Islam and science. In the second section, I reconstruct Bucaille's view of science and his analysis of the sacred scriptures. In the third section, I investigate how Bucaille characterizes the concept of supernatural. In the fourth section, I put forth a general evaluation of his reasoning. (shrink)
By applying some of the standard criteria used to judge the adequacy of scientific explanations, Richard Swinburne tries to show that the best explanation of everything is that God exists. That is, he contends that the best explanation for the existence of the universe and human life is that there is a God. I contend that Swinburne is right to appeal to the criteria of adequacy but wrong to construe them as he does. The criteria, plausibly applied, show that the (...) God hypothesis is actually inferior to naturalistic explanations. In fact, they provide excellent reasons for believing that the God hypothesis---indeed all supernatural explanations---are false. (shrink)
Brown, Jean Review(s) of: Indexer please enter the following minimum information (where available): TITLE, AUTHOR(S) and ISBN for each book reviewed.Supernatural selection: How religion Evolved, by Matt J. Rossano Oxford Press. 2010.
THE OBJECT OF THIS ARTICLE IS TO SHOW THAT SCEPTICISM IS NOT ALWAYS USED TO CHALLENGE BELIEFS: IT IS SOMETIMES USED TO "FOSTER" CERTAIN BELIEFS. GLANVILL’S SCEPTICISM REGARDING OUR KNOWLEDGE OF NATURAL CAUSES IS BASED ON THE WEAKNESS AND LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING. BUT THIS ALLOWS HIM TO ARGUE FOR THE EQUAL POSSIBILITY OF BOTH NATURAL AND NON-NATURAL CAUSES, AND THUS OPENS THE DOOR TO BELIEF IN THE SUPERNATURAL. HUME, HOWEVER, WHOSE SCEPTICISM IS ALSO BASED ON THE LIMITATIONS OF (...) THE UNDERSTANDING, REJECTS ANY EXPLANATION WHICH IS OVER AND ABOVE OUR UNDERSTANDING, THAT IS, EXPLANATIONS IN TERMS OF NON-NATURAL CAUSES. (shrink)
For generations, African beliefs and practices regarding witchcraft and traditional healing have been located at the intersection between the natural world and the supernatural world. Despite the impact of both colonialism and, in the contemporary context, modernization, the complex interplay between these worlds has not been reduced. The interaction between nature and religion, as a facet of culture, has long been a subject of inquiry in anthropology, and nowhere is this more evident than in the study of African witchcraft (...) and traditional healing. A distinct relationship exists between witchcraft beliefs and traditional healing methods. This relationship brings these two aspects of African culture together in such a complex manner that it is difficult to attempt to understand the dynamics of African witchcraft without referring to traditional healing methods, and vice versa. In this paper, the authors outline the various ways in which African witchcraft beliefs and practices, as well as traditional healing beliefs and practices, interact within the nature/culture domain. This interaction will be conceptualised in a Merleau-Pontian sense, focusing on the indeterminacy of the natural and supernatural worlds. In its presentation of an essentially anthropological case study focused on southern Africa, the paper draws on various ethnographic examples of African communities in the southern African context. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology , Volume 7, Edition 1 May 2007. (shrink)
Using a process-oriented understanding of the relation between actions and agents, the author argues that an ontological agent is the ongoing effect or by-product rather than the antecedent cause of actions. Applied to the relation between natural and supernatural in philosophical cosmology, this allows one to claim, first, that agents (whether natural or supernatural) are not sensibly perceived, but only inferred from the ongoing observation of empirical actions; second, that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural (...) is then conceivably a distinction between interrelated processes rather than between independently existing agents; and third, that a higher order process of supernatural origin could be operative in a lower order empirical process without interference even though its existence and activity could only be established on the basis of a faith commitment, not empirical evidence. What Paul Ricoeur referred to as a “surplus of meaning” over and above the scientific explanation of an event would be in play with the claim of divine guidance for the cosmic process. (shrink)
Scientific rationalism has long been considered one of the pillars of true science. It has been one of the criteria academics have used in their efforts to categorise disciplines as scientific. Perhaps scientific rationalism acquired this privileged status because it worked relatively well within the context of the natural sciences, where it seemed to be easy to apply this kind of rationalism to the solution of natural scientific problems. However, with the split in the scientific world between the natural sciences (...) and the social sciences, the role of scientific rationalism, especially in the social sciences, becomes less clear-cut, with the ambiguous status of positivism in the social sciences making scientific rationalism more of a shaky foundation than a pillar of social science. The weaknesses inherent in scientific rationalism are most exposed within the context of anthropology, and particularly in the anthropological study of the supernatural, or supernatural beliefs. This paper will attempt to point out some of the weaknesses of scientific rationalism specifically within the context of the anthropology of the supernatural and religion. By doing so, it is hoped to show, with reference to some phenomenological ideas, that, while scientific rationalism does have its merits within anthropology, a rigid application of rationalism could become a limitation for anthropological studies of those aspects of human life that challenge Western scientific rationalism. The debate around the position of anthropology as a science or non-science is related to the issue of the role of scientific rationalism. This debate is indeed part of the history of anthropology and is as yet unresolved As such, the ideas of several earlier scholars will be referred to in an attempt to contextualise the arguments presented in this paper. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology , Volume 6, Edition 1 May 2006. (shrink)
How might the supernatural be represented in those religious paintings that imply a continuity between the virtual space of painting and the real space of the beholder? Such an implied continuity, dependent upon an engagement where the beholder imaginatively realigns her frame of reference to that of the picture, might be thought to threaten a necessary distance demanded of religious works. This paper examines how a number of painters exploited innovative displacement devices, utilizing inherent ambiguities as to where a (...) painting is relative to its beholder through the withholding of perspectival distance and positional cues for a discrete section of the work. (shrink)
In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the (...) class='Hi'>supernatural (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative. We will discuss five arguments that have been proposed in support of IMN: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, the argument from procedural necessity, and the testability argument. We conclude that IMN, because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat. (shrink)
Metaphysical dualities divorce humankind from its natural environment, dualities that can precipitate environmental disaster. Loyal Rue in Religion Is Not About God (2005) seeks to resolve the abstract modalities of religion and naturalism in a unified monistic ecocentric metaphysic characterized as religious naturalism. Rue puts forward proposals for a general naturalistic theory of religion, a theory that lays bare the structural and functional features of religious phenomena as the critical first step on the road to badly needed religion-science realignment. Only (...) then will humanity be equipped to address the environmental imperative. (shrink)
This is an unpublished talk written for a meeting of French philosophers. The paper describes the evolution versus creationism/intelligent design controversy in the U.S. A number of philosophers and scientists try to resolve this issue by sharply distinguishing the realm of science versus any talk of the supernatural. These pro-evolutionists often appeal to science's essential commitment to "methodological naturalism," the view that scientific methodology is essentially committed to naturalism and cannot meaningfully entertain hypotheses concerning the supernatural. I criticize (...) methodological naturalism, suggesting that such an appeal is misguided and counterproductive. I suggest an alternative view of the supernatural consistent with scientific knowledge. (shrink)
Religion is not an evolutionary adaptation per se, but a recurring cultural by-product of the complex evolutionary landscape that sets cognitive, emotional, and material conditions for ordinary human interactions. Religion exploits only ordinary cognitive processes to passionately display costly devotion to counterintuitive worlds governed by supernatural agents. The conceptual foundations of religion are intuitively given by task-specific panhuman cognitive domains, including folkmechanics, folkbiology, and folkpsychology. Core religious beliefs minimally violate ordinary notions about how the world is, with all of (...) its inescapable problems, thus enabling people to imagine minimally impossible supernatural worlds that solve existential problems, including death and deception. Here the focus is on folkpsychology and agency. A key feature of the supernatural agent concepts common to all religions is the triggering of an “Innate Releasing Mechanism,” or “agency detector,” whose proper (naturally selected) domain encompasses animate objects relevant to hominid survival – such as predators, protectors, and prey – but which actually extends to moving dots on computer screens, voices in wind, and faces on clouds. Folkpsychology also crucially involves metarepresentation, which makes deception possible and threatens any social order. However, these same metacognitive capacities provide the hope and promise of open-ended solutions through representations of counterfactual supernatural worlds that cannot be logically or empirically verified or falsified. Because religious beliefs cannot be deductively or inductively validated, validation occurs only by ritually addressing the very emotions motivating religion. Cross-cultural experimental evidence encourages these claims. Key Words: agency; death anxiety; evolution; folkpsychology; Maya; memory; metarepresentation; morality; religion; supernatural. (shrink)
In “A Subjectivist’s Guide to Objective Chance,” David Lewis says that he is “led to wonder whether anyone but a subjectivist is in a position to understand objective chance.” The present essay aims to motivate this same Lewisean attitude, and a similar degree of modest subjectivism, with respect to objective causation. The essay begins with Newcomb problems, which turn on an apparent tension between two principles of choice: roughly, a principle sensitive to the causal features of the relevant situation, and (...) a principle sensitive only to evidential factors. Two-boxers give priority to causal beliefs, and one-boxers to evidential beliefs. The essay notes that a similar issue can arise when the modality in question is chance, rather than causation. In this case, the conflict is between decision rules based on credences guided solely by chances, and rules based on credences guided by other sorts of probabilistic evidence. Far from excluding cases of the latter kind, Lewis’s Principal Principle explicitly allows for them, in the form of the caveat that credences should follow beliefs about chances only in the absence of “inadmissible evidence.” The essay then exhibits a tension in Lewis’s views on these two matters, by presenting a class of decision problems—some of them themselves Newcomb problems—in which Lewis’s view of the relevance of inadmissible evidence seems in tension with his causal decision theory. It offers a diagnosis for this dilemma and proposes a remedy, based on an extension of a proposal due to Ned Hall and others from the case of chance to that of causation. The remedy suggests a new view of the relation between causal decision theory and evidential decision theory, namely, that they stand to each other much as chance stands to credence, being objective and subjective faces of the same practical coin. This has much the same metaphysical benefits as Lewis’s own view of chance and also throws interesting new light on Newcomb problems, providing an irenic resolution of the apparent disagreement between causal and evidential decision rules. (shrink)
The present paper challenges the narrow scientistic conception of Nature that underlies current projects of naturalization involving, say, evaluative or intentional discourse. It is more plausible to hold that science provides only a partial characterization of the natural world. I consider McDowell's articulation of a more liberal naturalism, one which recognizes autonomous normative facts about reasons, meanings and values, as genuine constituents of Nature on a more liberal conception of it. Several critics have claimed that this account is vitiated by (...) the threat of supernaturalism. Responsiveness to normative facts is, I argue, a phenomenological datum that we have good reason to take at face value. I trace the source of the supernaturalist objection to a misreading of McDowell's perceptual analogy with respect to value and a related failing to clearly distinguish physical and logical notions of an object. (shrink)
There is a prima facie case of unfairness against God unless Self-revelation is given by the deity to all people. The possible replies that God's Self-revelation has always and everywhere been available to everyone through many religions; or that special knowledge of God is a matter of divine gratuity; or that more is expected of those who receive such enlightenment; or that it comes as a moral reward; are found to be wanting. Nevertheless, provided there remains an argument for selective (...) divine Self-revelation in terms of spiritual readiness, the case against God remains unproven. (shrink)
Simone Weil wrote in her notebooks that “Friendship, like beauty, is a miracle.” This paper investigates her discussions of friendship in the larger context of her understanding of the mediation of opposites, modeled on the Pythagorean and Platonic models of mathematics. For Weil, friendship was not only miraculous, butalso a key to understanding the relationship of the divine to the human. Convinced that friendship and love create equality between parties where none exists naturally, Weil concluded that friendship “is full of (...) marvelous meanings with regard to God, with regard to the communion of God and man, and with regard to men.”. (shrink)