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Author Topic:   Inductive Atheism
Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 1 of 536 (604352)
02-11-2011 8:57 AM


Inductive Atheism
This thread is derived from the RAZD Vs Bluegenes  Great Debate  the bluegenes Challenge  and the extensive Peanut Gallery coverage of that debate. If (as seems to be the case) there remains appetite for ongoing comment and wider participation on this ever present issue perhaps this a better place for it than the peanut gallery?

The only known source of supernatural concepts is the human imagination. Scientific inductive reasoning thus leads to the tentative theory that ALL supernatural concepts are derived from human imagination. This theory can be falsified by presenting another source of such concepts. Either the existence of such an entity or a supernatural concept derived from a non-human source. This theory predicts that where the source of any specific supernatural concept becomes known that source will turn out to be human imagination. This theory is not weakened by assertions that unevidenced sources might exist (anymore than evolutionary theory is weakened by Last Thursdayism)

Discuss.

(If you want to. If promoted)

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.

Edited by Straggler, : Fix links

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 25 by Otto Tellick, posted 02-12-2011 11:53 PM Straggler has responded
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AdminSlev
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 113
Joined: 03-28-2010


Message 2 of 536 (604354)
02-11-2011 1:23 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Inductive Atheism thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

Jon
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 536 (604359)
02-11-2011 1:47 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
02-11-2011 8:57 AM


Re: Inductive Atheism
I'm having difficulty understanding how you plan this thread to be different from your other posts and threads in which you bring up the topic of supernatural concepts being derived from the human imagination.

What do you hope to discuss in this thread that you and others have not discussed ad nauseam on the forums already?

I'm also not sure how any type of scientific methodology is in any way applicable to the area of human imagination.

Jon

Edited by Jon, : grammar


Check out Apollo's Temple!
Ignorance is temporary; you should be able to overcome it. - nwr

This message is a reply to:
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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 4 of 536 (604361)
02-11-2011 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Straggler
02-11-2011 8:57 AM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Ok so I haven't followed very much the peanut gallery, but I think I do get a sense of what is going on.

But first of all, could you give me your definition of 'supernatural' ?

Here is how I see it: the problem is you approach this in a scientific way, which is essentially what RAZD is complaining about. Science works primarily works on the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, that is:

Hypothesis A predicts B
B is oberved
Therefore A is true.

Of course, A here is regarde only as tentatively true. This is effectively what you are doing in this case:

If all supernatural concepts come from the human imagination, then all supernatural concepts of which we know the source should be the human imagination
all supernatural concepts of which we know the source is the human imagination
Therefore all supernatural concepts come from the human imagination

(tell me if I'm wrong on this. But in my limited reading of the peanut gallery this is the impression I had)

The problem RAZD has is that you are applying a logical fallacy that is acceptable in science, but are applying the same reasoning on a question that is at heart non-scientific.

Not only that, but your method for identifying sources of supernatural concepts is science, which implies a clear case of begging the question because science uses methodological naturalism. It will only be able to identify natural sources for supernatural concepts. So the option of showing ''the existence of such an entity'' as you said in the OP is, even in theory, unprovable through science.

Science today cannot conclude ''God'' for any observed phenomenon, we all know this. But then, neither can it conclude ''No God'' either, because it becomes the circular reasoning I mentioned above. But this is exactly what you are doing here.

Let's approach it from another angle. The only evidence for any supernatural claim you will ever have is either personnal experience or the account of someone else's personnal experience. (if you have another type of evidence for the supernatural. I'm all hears). In either cases, even if the experience is genuine (not imagined), science will still be silent on it because it will be unrepeatable, untestable, and therefore, unscientific. And if you only accept what is scientific as true, then you will never even be able to maybe have evidence that a supernatural source for supernatural claims exist.

Edited by slevesque, : No reason given.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 5 of 536 (604362)
02-11-2011 1:50 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Jon
02-11-2011 1:47 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Jon writes:

I'm have difficulty understanding how you plan this thread to be different from your other posts and threads in which you bring up the topic of supernatural concepts being derived from the human imagination.

Maybe it will be different and maybe it won't. Let's see.

Jon writes:

What do you hope to discuss in this thread that you and others have not discussed ad nauseam on the forums already?

You could ask that question of practically any EvC question.

Jon writes:

I'm also not sure how any type of scientific methodology is in any way applicable to the area of human imagination.

Why wouldn't it be?


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 Message 3 by Jon, posted 02-11-2011 1:47 PM Jon has not yet responded

Straggler
Member
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 6 of 536 (604368)
02-11-2011 2:22 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by slevesque
02-11-2011 1:48 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Slev writes:

But first of all, could you give me your definition of 'supernatural' ?

A causal agent which is neither derived from nor subject to natural law and which is itself claimed to materially inexplicable.

Slev writes:

And if you only accept what is scientific as true, then you will never even be able to maybe have evidence that a supernatural source for supernatural claims exist.

Can you give me a specific example of non-scientific evidence for the existence of god(s) that you consider relevant?


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 442 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 7 of 536 (604372)
02-11-2011 2:41 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by slevesque
02-11-2011 1:48 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
The problem RAZD has is that you are applying a logical fallacy that is acceptable in science, but are applying the same reasoning on a question that is at heart non-scientific.

If a patient sees a doctor and complains that the CIA has set up an invisible base on the moon and is using undetectable lasers to alter the minds of his closest friends to...

The subject of undetectable lasers and government conspiracies is 'non scientific' at heart - but the doctor would be being perfectly within the realms of science to diagnose the patient as suffering paranoid delusions despite the fact the doctor has not at any point ruled out that the delusions are actually real experiences.

Science today cannot conclude ''God'' for any observed phenomenon, we all know this. But then, neither can it conclude ''No God'' either, because it becomes the circular reasoning I mentioned above.

Then how is it different when science today can conclude there are probably horses but probably not any unicorns?

Let's approach it from another angle. The only evidence for any supernatural claim you will ever have is either personnal experience or the account of someone else's personnal experience.

Yes - this is characteristic of delusion.

(if you have another type of evidence for the supernatural. I'm all hears).

Science is designed to overcome our brains unconscious failures and biases. So a double-blind experiment where multiple people speak to the same God and get some confidential information like a password might be a good start to proving that whatever we're calling God in our experiment is a real entity.

In either cases, even if the experience is genuine (not imagined), science will still be silent on it because it will be unrepeatable, untestable, and therefore, unscientific.

Not necessarily silent. It could point out that the experiences were not under controlled conditions and that the default stance would be 'interesting, but probably human error' just like in a non double blind medical trial.

Here is how I see it: the problem is you approach this in a scientific way, which is essentially what RAZD is complaining about. Science works primarily works on the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent

Kind of, but kind of not.

Hypothesis x is an explanation of A.
It has explanatory power.
It is consistent with all available evidence.
It is parsimonious.
It is not falsified.

RAZDs objection, worded as best as I can make it, is that all theories are consistent with all available evidence when there is no available evidence as in this case. Though you are right, in that RAZD sees this as stemming from a host of logical fallacies, as his worldview insists this must be the case (RAZD is big on worldview explanations for positions...).

But first of all, could you give me your definition of 'supernatural' ?

I'm perfectly happy to scrap the term. Since this is about atheism we'll stick with gods and assume they are as natural as pies. The same reasoning applies then as government conspiracies (with the notable point that we happen to at least know government conspiracies in general exist).

What do we mean by a god? Let's stick with something like 'an intelligent agent that governs some aspect of nature on planet earth'. Governs essentially covers 'creation, design, and/or continued operation. That is to say, if said intelligent agent so decided they could alter or suspend the continued operation of something, redesign it, or create new ones. These agents are not human and they are of at least equal sentience if not more so.

If a dualist wishes to argue that there is some other realm in which deities live as an explanatory hypothesis for the lack of evidence then it is upon them to define the characteristics of this realm.


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 8 of 536 (604373)
02-11-2011 3:07 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Straggler
02-11-2011 2:22 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
A causal agent which is neither derived from nor subject to natural law and which is itself claimed to materially inexplicable.

Ok so we have pretty uch the same picture of what it is. I asked because sometimes, people define it as ''an unexplained natural phenomenon'' which is somewhat a self-serving definition. (I don't argue that no natural phenomenon's aren't misconstrued as supernatural, just that you can't define it that way)

Can you give me a specific example of non-scientific evidence for the existence of god(s) that you consider relevant?

I think that pretty much all genuine evidence of anything supernatural will be non-scientific, because it will be unrepeatable, which is a major criterion in science.

Example: I see someone walking on water. If it truely is a supernatural event, I won't be able to repeat it. (contrary to if it is just a natural phenomenon, then I should be able to repeat it)


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 9 of 536 (604375)
02-11-2011 3:46 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Modulous
02-11-2011 2:41 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
If a patient sees a doctor and complains that the CIA has set up an invisible base on the moon and is using undetectable lasers to alter the minds of his closest friends to...

The subject of undetectable lasers and government conspiracies is 'non scientific' at heart - but the doctor would be being perfectly within the realms of science to diagnose the patient as suffering paranoid delusions despite the fact the doctor has not at any point ruled out that the delusions are actually real experiences.

I agree, but the doctor uses Occam's razor to pose this diagnostic. It does not come from any sort of scientific hypothesis that says ''all CIA conspiracies are the product of human imagination''.

This cannot be said of many claims of the supernatural, which usually involves someone seeing something that seems totally unnatural to him/her.

Then how is it different when science today can conclude there are probably horses but probably not any unicorns?

Is it truely science that is concluding this, or is it logical thinking ?

Remember, we have defined science to be naturalistic, through methodological naturalism. By definition, it cannot make claims on something supernatural. (I'm supposing you intended unicorn here to be a supernatural being, and not just a horse with a horn)

Yes - this is characteristic of delusion.

This is characteristics of a whole lot of things. How many 'claims' about your own personal life do you have only your own and/or others personnal word for it.

This is because all those claims are events of the past. It is probably characteristics of the majority of things you did last week.

Science is designed to overcome our brains unconscious failures and biases. So a double-blind experiment where multiple people speak to the same God and get some confidential information like a password might be a good start to proving that whatever we're calling God in our experiment is a real entity.

Yes, this is a logical technique that can be applied in a scientific context. And of course, the same can be applied to claims of the supernatural.

But this does not mean that science can conclude the existence of God.

Not necessarily silent. It could point out that the experiences were not under controlled conditions and that the default stance would be 'interesting, but probably human error' just like in a non double blind medical trial.

That would be the stance of the scientist, or any human for that matter. But it doesn't mean science doesn't stay silent on this issue.

Hypothesis x is an explanation of A.
It has explanatory power.
It is consistent with all available evidence.
It is parsimonious.
It is not falsified.

This isn't a logical construction. It's a list of chracteristics you have assigned to hypX. If you build a logical argument, you will find affirming the consequent, just like in the case of every single scientific hypothesis.

RAZDs objection, worded as best as I can make it, is that all theories are consistent with all available evidence when there is no available evidence as in this case. Though you are right, in that RAZD sees this as stemming from a host of logical fallacies, as his worldview insists this must be the case (RAZD is big on worldview explanations for positions...).

ANd he would be right in that worldviews do have a great deal of impact on someone's position.

I'm perfectly happy to scrap the term. Since this is about atheism we'll stick with gods and assume they are as natural as pies. The same reasoning applies then as government conspiracies (with the notable point that we happen to at least know government conspiracies in general exist).

What do we mean by a god? Let's stick with something like 'an intelligent agent that governs some aspect of nature on planet earth'. Governs essentially covers 'creation, design, and/or continued operation. That is to say, if said intelligent agent so decided they could alter or suspend the continued operation of something, redesign it, or create new ones. These agents are not human and they are of at least equal sentience if not more so.

If a dualist wishes to argue that there is some other realm in which deities live as an explanatory hypothesis for the lack of evidence then it is upon them to define the characteristics of this realm.

That isn't really a definition.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 4782
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 10 of 536 (604377)
02-11-2011 4:04 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by slevesque
02-11-2011 3:07 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Example: I see someone walking on water. If it truely is a supernatural event, I won't be able to repeat it. (contrary to if it is just a natural phenomenon, then I should be able to repeat it)

I don't understand. Why would this not be repeatable? If you saw someone walk on water could they not repeat the feat in front of more witnessess?

But then they might refuse and might deny the first episode. Then you would be right in not having a repeatable experience. In which case you have nothing but your original perception of the episode.

You have no evidence, scientific or otherwise; only what you think you saw. Human perceptions are notoriously bad. Even in crowds. We all know this.

You would be left without any "genuine evidence."


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 11 of 536 (604378)
02-11-2011 4:13 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by AZPaul3
02-11-2011 4:04 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
I don't understand. Why would this not be repeatable? If you saw someone walk on water could they not repeat the feat in front of more witnessess?

I mean repeatable in it's scientific definition. In that anyone, anywhere, could repeat it and have the same results. I think we can agree that if it is up to someone's 'will' if something physically happens or not, then it is not repeatable in a scientific way.

But then they might refuse and might deny the first episode. Then you would be right in not having a repeatable experience. In which case you have nothing but your original perception of the episode.

You have no evidence, scientific or otherwise; only what you think you saw. Human perceptions are notoriously bad. Even in crowds. We all know this.

You would be left without any "genuine evidence."

You are left without genuine 'scientific' evidence. This does not mean if 500 people saw me walk on water, it couldn't be considered evidence that a supernatural phenomenon occured. (of course, other options should be looked into first. Is it a trick ? is it an as-of-yet unknown natural phenomenon ?)


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ZenMonkey
Member (Idle past 2849 days)
Posts: 428
From: Portland, OR USA
Joined: 09-25-2009


Message 12 of 536 (604381)
02-11-2011 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by slevesque
02-11-2011 1:48 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
slevesque writes:

Science works primarily works on the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, that is:

Hypothesis A predicts B
B is oberved
Therefore A is true.

I need to go back and read the rest of this thread more carefully, but I am compelled to point out right away that this is wrong. Remember that science works by falsification. Thus, what you're looking for is the contrapositive:

Hypothesis A predicts B.

If B is NOT observed, then A is NOT true. (Or at least A is much less likely to be true than you thought, depending on how necessary B is.)

If B is observed, then A is still at least possible, if not more likely than it was before.

No logical fallacy there. You are correct in saying that you can't PROVE hypothesis A is true. But that's not a problem for science, and no-one should ever say that you can prove something in science. All science does - and this is quite a lot, actually - is to demonstrate that hypothesis A is the best hypothesis at the moment.

The explanatory power and likelihood of hypothesis A being true increases every time it allows you to predict not only B, but C and D as well. This is another way of saying that hypothesis A has to keep passing the parsimony test - is it the hypothesis that explains the most evidence and is contradicted by the least evidence? Eventually you get to a point where A has held up so well under testing that to withhold consent to it being true is just intellectually perverse. At that point, you have a theory. But it remains a principle of science that any hypothesis or theory is always tentative, and something can always come around to force it to be reconsidered.

That's how it works.


I have no time for lies and fantasy, and neither should you. Enjoy or die.
-John Lydon

What's the difference between a conspiracy theorist and a new puppy? The puppy eventually grows up and quits whining.
-Steven Dutch

I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. - John Stuart Mill


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slevesque
Member (Idle past 2979 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 13 of 536 (604384)
02-11-2011 4:58 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by ZenMonkey
02-11-2011 4:42 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Yeah well I think it should be obvious that if Hypothesis a predicts B, both observing be and observing notB will give you information on the validity of A ...

Afterall, correct predictions are one of the criterions we use to intuitively judge which theory is more successful, not just the shortcomings of competing theories.

AbE Ok concrete example. It was the successful prediction of the cosmic microwave background by the Big Bang Theory that made it ''win the war'' on the Steady-State theory in cosmology back in the 60's.

Edited by slevesque, : No reason given.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 442 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 14 of 536 (604391)
02-11-2011 5:49 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by slevesque
02-11-2011 3:46 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
I agree, but the doctor uses Occam's razor to pose this diagnostic. It does not come from any sort of scientific hypothesis that says ''all CIA conspiracies are the product of human imagination''.

There is basically this theory in psychology. It's obviously more sophisticated than that. Either way the doctor is proceeding as if the theory - however it was derived (through occams razor etc) - is true.

abe: in case it wasn't clear: the diagnosis (the patient is suffering from paranoid delusions, not actually being persecuted by unseen agents) is the doctors theory. He presses ahead as if it were true and prescribes antipsychotics or whatever.

This cannot be said of many claims of the supernatural, which usually involves someone seeing something that seems totally unnatural to him/her.

I still don't understand why 'this cannot be said of many claims of the supernatural' what does something being totally unnatural to the claimant have to do with it. People can be deluded that parts of their own body are completely unnatural to them, diagnosis is fine there.

Remember, we have defined science to be naturalistic, through methodological naturalism. By definition, it cannot make claims on something supernatural. (I'm supposing you intended unicorn here to be a supernatural being, and not just a horse with a horn)

No - just a horse with a horn. If you want to propose a horse that is supernatural you'll need to explain what that means to me.

Is it truely science that is concluding this, or is it logical thinking ?

Science doesn't conclude anything. But a person can examine evidence and infer conclusions based on a certain disciplined process of reasoning. Most scientists don't get paid to write papers about unicorns - but you'll certainly find scientists using scientific methods to conclude that Brontosaurus never existed, that Apatosaurus is no longer extant, and may other such things.

This is characteristics of a whole lot of things. How many 'claims' about your own personal life do you have only your own and/or others personnal word for it.

But my personal experience is not the ONLY way to acquire evidence of my personal experiences. I can demonstrate to my partner I did the washing up by showing her the clean dishes, for example. I can back up my claims of athletics success with medals, certificates, trophies and newspaper clippings.

Claims of ontology are even easier. I have personal experience of cats. If you doubt me I can give you evidence that cats exist.

If there is some ontological thing in my personal world that you think can only ever be experienced by me individually and that can never be corroborated to be real by a third party let me know.

Yes, this is a logical technique that can be applied in a scientific context. And of course, the same can be applied to claims of the supernatural.

But this does not mean that science can conclude the existence of God.

Well if God doesn't exist this is trivially true. Is there some specific reason that science cannot conclude the existence of God?

That would be the stance of the scientist, or any human for that matter. But it doesn't mean science doesn't stay silent on this issue.

If scientists aren't the 'voice of science' who is? Science is a method, and doesn't say anything to anyone ever about anything.

This isn't a logical construction. It's a list of chracteristics you have assigned to hypX. If you build a logical argument, you will find affirming the consequent, just like in the case of every single scientific hypothesis.

That is a logical construction, it is abductive reasoning. Yes, abductive reasoning is deductively invalid as you described. But it isn't affirming the consequent or deductive logic that drives us to good conclusions in science...so as I said 'kind of, but not quite'.

That isn't really a definition.

Yes, it is.

You want to actually try expanding on your position. Explaining your problem with it? Providing a better definition? I gave a list of properties that gods have that distinguish them from other entities as well as some they share with other entities. What else are you looking for? Do better. Try not to dismiss a three paragraph explanation for we might mean as 'god' in this thread with 5 words, thanks.

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16107
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.3


Message 15 of 536 (604422)
02-11-2011 7:34 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by slevesque
02-11-2011 1:48 PM


Re: Inductive Atheism
Consider the case when we infer from abundant forensic evidence that John Smith murdered Fred Jones.

This is certainly inductive, and it is certainly not a repeatable event, since even if Smith was willing to repeat the slaying of Jones, Jones would not be able.

Now the conclusion that Smith murdered Jones either is scientific or it is not. If you say that it is, then you must give up your very narrow concept of repeatability as the hallmark of science; but if you say that it isn't, then you must give up the idea that induction should only be applied to scientific questions. Either way, your argument fails.

(In principle, there is a third option, which is that you should stick to your guns and say that no amount of evidence is sufficient to convict a man of murder unless his victim can be brought back to life and murdered again; this would be consistent with the views that you have so far expressed and avoid my dilemma, but I assume that you are not going to take this way out.)

---

Myself, I think you are wrong about the issue of repeatability. For example, you object in a subsequent post that even if someone was willing and able to walk on water whenever he was asked, this would still not fulfill the criterion of repeatability, which, you say, would require that anyone could do it at will.

But by that criterion it would be unscientific for me to believe that some people can slam-dunk a basketball, on the grounds that I cannot do it myself. This would be a strange conclusion, and stranger still because the default position of science is a universal negative --- so that it would then, consequently, be scientific to assert that it is not possible to slam-dunk, no matter how often I observed evidence to the contrary!

---

As to methodological naturalism, I think that this is a principle that can be taken too far. We must certainly not frame our epistemology so that it would a priori exclude us from coming to some conclusion even if that conclusion was both true and well-evidenced.

Now it is true that if we wish to scientifically investigate how someone walks on water, we must assume that he is doing so by natural means, and that it is in some way a trick. There is no scientific method for investigating the mechanism of something that is actually a miracle. But this should not, I think, preclude us from provisionally accepting, given a sufficient weight of evidence, that it is in fact a miracle and that trying to find a mechanism is futile.

We should require strong evidence to come to such a conclusion --- what I say certainly does not legitimize God-of-the-Gaps style thinking. We cannot say: "I don't understand it, so God did it"; but in a case such as I have described, we do understand hydrodynamics, and we know that the man ought to sink. To ascribe supernatural powers to him would be an argument from knowledge and not ignorance.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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