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Made a substantial copy edit while preserving the tone of the original. (Assuming that we want to preserve the tone.) --Bobbing up and down 06:36, 10 September 2007 (CDT)

Examples don't fit definition[edit]

The article says:

Supernatural refers to phenomena that are "beyond" the natural world. It is a distinctly anti-materialist idea.

It often refers to... well, hmm. What could possibly not be natural? Perhaps ghosts, angels, gods, and Zombies. Probably Uri Geller, too.

Amusingly, these entities don't fit the definition immediately above. You define "supernatural" as being "beyond the natural world." But the religions describe angels as speaking with humans, and gods as either breeding with humans or causing miracles in the natural world -- all events within the natural world. And zombies? Zombies are just dead humans that have been raised to life (sort of). None of the examples are "beyond the natural world" in any meaningful sense of the phrase. How about a redefinition of "supernatural" that includes the examples? Ungtss 17:30, 1 November 2008 (EDT)

You're insane, right? ħumanUser talk:Human 01:10, 2 November 2008 (EST)
Um, you define supernatural as being "things beyond the natural world" and then list a bunch of things that (as described) interact with the natural world. If you want supernatural to mean "imaginary" that's one thing. But I don't think you want it to. What do you mean by "supernatural," and how come none of the listed items meet the definition of supernatural? Ungtss 05:45, 2 November 2008 (EST)

Richard Carrier's definition[edit]

Philosopher at work! Richard Carrier defines supernatural as:

Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.

The blog post goes into some detail supporting this idea. I read it and went "aha, that's it!" I found it on this LessWrong post.

Note it ties into one of the fundamental streams of New Age culture and alternative medicine: vitalism in everything.

Other commenters on the LW post note: "Mind as an irreducible simple is basic to all religions." I think this also nails it nicely.

Anyone disagree? So what would we do with this post? - David Gerard (talk) 14:27, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

This seems to me to fit in with the 'beyond nature' definition, or should that now be 'beyond nonmental'. Should we amend that section accordingly?
Furthermore Carrier splits the supernatural from the paranormal. This, along with the non absoluteness (ugly term) of his definition, removes a lot of the problems with our first section. I'm just not smart enough to do the re-write. Jack Hughes (talk) 15:28, 10 January 2011 (UTC)

David, I'm not sure I agree. Carrier's definition of "supernatural" is really a definition of non-materialism, i.e. dualism and idealism. Dualists claim that mind (or at least some aspects thereof) is not reducible to matter; idealists agree, and add that matter is wholly reducible to mind. Whereas to me, discussion of supernaturalism seems to assume a prescriptive idea of the laws of nature, as things that could possibly be violated. Whereas, a purely descriptive concept of the laws of nature leaves no room for a supernatural, since any supposed "violations" are just evidence that the laws were not what we thought they were, and hence not violations at all. Myself, I am an idealist, but I believe the laws of nature are purely descriptive, and hence (by definition) cannot be violated. So I am a supernaturalist in Carrier's sense, but I don't think I actually am one, and think his definition is mistaken. (((Zack Martin))) 10:33, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

I find Richard Carrier's definition very worthy of inclusion. I tried to add it in, but two other people deleted it immediately. Perhaps my writing was bad? I can't tell because no clear reason was given. I'll try writing a better version, and maybe add it later, though I'll check back here first.--Brianpansky (talk) 01:38, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

I just added a much shorter version. The actual problem is that this article is really badly written. That first definition needs cleansing fire - David Gerard (talk) 09:35, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
I guess I forgot to thank you for the concise addition you made. I've now also cut out a lot of stuff that seemed unnecessary, and I think it makes the article an easier read. Brianpansky (talk) 05:34, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

@Bob. Yes, irreducible mind is very woo ish. You know why? Because woo people believe in the supernatural. Shocker! Who would have thought that Carrier's definition of "supernatural" would be what people who believe in the supernatural actually believe?? How is this possible? /sarcasm

But it's not just what woo people believe. Aren't you aware that most religious people believe substance dualism to be true? Well, Carrier just described that belief as well.

Of course, to be fair, if you didn't understand all of this from the article, maybe I need to update the article to describe it better. Brianpansky (talk) 22:20, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Cleaning up the article[edit]

The article was kind of rambling, and the thoughts presented didn't really look coherent. So I tried to correct this. Someone called Spud undid my edit, claiming I had reduced the article to a dictionary definition. Spud's argument is invalid, because dictionaries do not criticize definitions, which the article did at the time. However it was dry, which is probably approximately what Spud meant. We need a balance here, and I hope my most recent edit is a good step in that direction. Brianpansky (talk) 19:45, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Reading the article as it stands it looks like nothing could be supernatural. But there are people who believe in ghosts and who believe they are supernatural. I don't believe in ghosts but I regard belief in ghosts to represent a belief in the supernatural. So I think there is something missing here.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 20:53, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Also I find the Carrier stuff incomprehensible. ""mind" as a fundamental substance of the universe" Sounds like woo to me.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 20:58, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
YMMV. I thought it defined "woo" nicely - David Gerard (talk) 22:38, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Dude, Bob...this section is about cleanup. You are off topic here. And maybe you should read the link to Carrier's article, you do sound very confused. Run along now, and take any further off topic complaints to a different section. Brianpansky (talk) 22:16, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Dude Brianpansky. Pointing out that that version of the article did not really define Supernatural is so about cleaning it up. And so is identifying incomprehensible quotes. Think about it. --Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 12:51, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Good point. I just immediately thought "anything about Carrier's definition should go in the Carrier's definition section!1!". Sorry about that. Anyways, maybe that part could be fixed by including how it relates to notions about souls, Substance Dualism, etc? Brianpansky (talk) 19:02, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Frankly I don't think the Carrier quote should even be in the article or at least not as a separate section. This is what "X" thinks about the Supernatural? No doubt we could find multiple definitions from other people. Why is this - rather incomprehensible - one significant? Also plese don't refer me to the original article for explanation, if it can't be summarised in a comprehensible way within the context of the article that is another reason it shouldn't be there.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:59, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I found it entirely comprehensible and put it in because I thought it hit the nail on the head. You appear to be complaining that you are hard of reading - David Gerard (talk) 21:06, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
It is a terrible definition. First, I don't see what it has to do with things that are generally considered supernatural like ghosts or magic. Second, it is extremely muddled philosophically. I am not entirely sure what he means by "reduce." If he is referring to reductionist physicalism, then this essentially lumps every other position in philosophy of mind under the umbrella of "supernatural," which is absurd. By this standard, even Bertrand Russell, as a neutral monist, was a "supernaturalist." And, again, what do arcane debates in philosophy of mind have to do with ghosts and witches? Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 21:28, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I'm with David. Carrier is on point. Yes, Bob, I'm going to add a better description. It seems that Nebuchadnezzar might not have actually read Carrier's article. He literally talks about magic and ghosts. As for the "it's just one person's definition" we already have people who think it is exactly how the term is used. I would be in favor of looking around for how other people (both believers and skeptics) use the term as well. Brianpansky (talk) 05:00, 30 August 2014 (UTC)
I am writing about this word salad which is presently on the wiki:
  • Richard Carrier defines "supernatural" as meaning that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things: "mind" as a fundamental substance of the universe (along with quarks and leptons). He believes this to be a useful working definition for philosophers that captures the conventional meaning sufficiently.
(1) "Supernatural" pretty obviously refers to gods, witches daemons or whatever. (2)"Mind" is simply the working of "brain" it has no separate existence and is certainly not a "fundamental substance of the universe" (3) This is nowhere near the "conventional meaning".
The question is not whether this point is explained well in some guy's blog - the issue is whether is is well expressed here on the wiki.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 09:15, 30 August 2014 (UTC)
Carrier crapped in the porridge and lost me with "flashlights, arc welders, glowsticks, volcanic magmas, and so on" as examples of "fire burning under water." He might as well be talking about the aqueous fire in an opal, which is totally equivalent to combustion, am I right?
He spends a lot of time with various sorts of argument from Hogwarts, or argumentum a verrucas porcorum, using examples from science fiction, with convenient Wikipedia links, to illustrate his claims about what supernatural phenomena look like to the casual observer.
He seems to have conflated the supernatural with volition and other mental activity. That's where the malarkey about "irreducible mind" comes in... Well, yes, perhaps that's one way supernatural events could come about, but to me it looks like an assumption based on skimpy evidence, or none at all.
Too bad there isn't a Ministry of Magic to vet and certify philosophers, so the rest of us could tell who provides useful food for thought (stercorem pro cerebro habes) and who is bullshitting. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 14:42, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────OK, I read the article and it doesn't really answer the points I made above. When Harry Potter unlocks a door with a spell, the spell itself doesn't "know" anything. It is not ascribed any mental states. And it still suffers from the problem of sweeping up naturalistic but non-physicalist theories of mind into the supernatural category. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:08, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

Bob, I agree this needs to be well explained in the wiki, and currently isn't. Also, you said "Mind" is simply the working of "brain" it has no separate existence and is certainly not a "fundamental substance of the universe"
[Edit, maybe in that quote you are still criticizing the vagueness of our wiki article here. So you can ignore this paragraph where I do not interpret the quote from you that way.] I'm not sure why you felt the need to actually say this. I think you are missing the point. Do you think Carrier believes that mind is a fundamental substance of the universe? He doesn't. Neither do I. Rather this is the hypothesis that supernaturalists seem to believe.
As for Nebuchadnezzar, (aside from still needing to read the article, try searching for mentions of "Harry Potter"), the theories you bring up are probably important for us to consider here. But tentatively (from my attempts so far to learn about them) I suspect your objection wouldn't stand, and those theories look deeply confused. Brianpansky (talk) 03:04, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
@Brianpansky. If you wanted to write that that what he felt to be pseudoscience then it was was outstandingly badly written. Look at the quote in italics above. It is: Richard Carrier defines "supernatural" as meaning that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things: "mind" as a fundamental substance of the universe (along with quarks and leptons).
But now you state "Do you think Carrier believes that mind is a fundamental substance of the universe? He doesn't."
I may be a little bit "slow in reading" here but I'm still trying to reconcile this.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 11:12, 31 August 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────One problem with Carrier's "work" is that he uses too many examples from the type of fiction that is meant to be thrilling or at least entertaining. Writing in 2007, he may have been unaware of Stephenie Meyer's award-winning children's stories; at least we are spared his views on them. Tales told to captivate a supportive flock, such as Mme. Blavatsky's, more accurately characterize supernatural beliefs as they are found in the wild. An exploratory definition of the supernatural that misses mentioning folk belief systems such as vodoun or santeria is lightweight stuff.

Reading between the lines, it seems Carrier is too eager to assume that "mechanism" means something like a hollow planet full of clockwork. The mechanism of a vaccine doesn't need anything like that, any more than it needs to be "aware" of how to find its target. If one wanted a love potion, I'd suggest researching major histocompatibility complex and sexual selectionWikipedia's W.svg, and how to aim that process at a single individual. No need for the potion to include nanobots, or to "know" what it was brewed to accomplish. Talk about "indistinguishable from magic..." Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:28, 31 August 2014 (UTC)

Ah well. I suppose I'd better read the thing as trying to understand it via the apparently bastardised version provided in our article by Brianpansky seems to be impossible.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 12:54, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
Good luck with that, Bob. I've been over it superficially a couple of times without much joy. If you notice (or anyone else notices) where Carrier implies our own minds are supernatural or not, kindly point it out. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 13:12, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
My God! It goes on and on and on! But, Sprocket, I don't think he says minds are supernatural. It seems to me that the only thing he is using a vast amount of words to say is: "If any "supernatural" thing actually existed and could be tested and demonstrated then it wouldn't be "supernatural"."
It that is the case then, then, well - duh?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 13:26, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
And now look at the "improvement"!
  • " Mind as fundamental entity: Richard Carrier defines "supernatural" as the category of some kind of "mind stuff" (and it's causal effects) that cannot be reduced to nonmental things: "mind" as a fundamental substance of the universe (along with quarks and leptons). Or, rather than quarks and leptons, perhaps it would be more apt to compare this stuff to the stuff of a similarly pseudoscientific view of the universe, Alchemy. Carrier believes this to be a useful working definition for philosophers that captures the conventional meaning sufficiently."
While Carrier's original stuff was heavy going Brianpansky's weird bastardisation achieves the incredible feat of making it even less comprehensible.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 14:56, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
The pace here is going faster than I can easily respond to. A few things, Bob says "then it was was outstandingly badly written" and indeed I have repeatedly said the description needed to be improved. As for your interpretation that Carrier is saying that If any "supernatural" thing actually existed and could be tested and demonstrated then it wouldn't be "supernatural" this is not a correct interpretation. Rather, though the evidence we have points towards only natural, fundamentally non-mental stuff existing, if there was a supernatural thing, we could in theory investigate it and conclude that it was indeed irreducibly mental.
My apologies if my edits made it even less comprehensible.
Sprocket, the mechanism of a vaccine is natural on Carrier's definitions. ALL known and confirmed forms of causation fit Carrier's definition of natural.
As for whether Carrier thinks our minds are supernatural or not, he is an advocate of Naturalism. This is obvious in his book Sense and Goodness Without God, as well as his website where you can find more writings about Naturalism. — Unsigned, by: Brianpansky / talk / contribs
I'm still not seeing it. The spells in Harry Potter are not ascribed minds that "know" anything. On the phil of mind matter, I'm not saying that something like neutral monism is correct, I'm saying that using Carrier's definition forces us to label it "supernatural," which it isn't. I'm sure Russell would be surprised to learn that he was a supernaturalist. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 03:17, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Harry Potter wands are depicted in the books as being possessed by such minds. From the Harry Potter wiki, "A wand is a quasi-sentient magical instrument through which a witch or wizard channels her or his magical powers to centralize the effects for more complex results". In Carrier's article, he speculates that it might be the universe in Harry Potter which has the mind (maybe he didn't read the Harry Potter books, or remember that part like I did). Either way.
I'll start a discussion section for exploring whether neutral monism poses a problem or whatever.
Fair enough. I am apparently not well-read enough in Harry Potter studies. But there are plenty of other mythologies where magic is not ascribed mental properties.Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 03:33, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Of course a vaccine works by natural means. I mentioned it because its mechanism does not involve a planet full of machinery, nor does it involve nanomachines in a saline solution, which Carrier proposes as a possible love potion. Going on in a similar but tangential vein, there are various ways to shield a person from the white man's bullets. The ones involving many layers of kevlar fabric or certain thicknesses of steel are famously more effective than the supernatural efforts of the witch doctor. Enough about that.

Taking examples from the Harry Potter universe, or worse, from a wiki-exegesis of it, is about as useful and interesting as using Atlas Shrugged for a manual while forging domestic policy. I don't think I will be reading any more of Carrier's stuff. Early in the linked article, I was reminded of the Marx brothers' "tuttsi fruttsi ice cream" scene in A Day at the Races where Chico sells Groucho book after book, each one necessary for understanding the previous one. Again with the examples from entertaining fiction, sorry. I will leave you guys to talk amongst yourselves about how defining the supernatural in terms of mind does or doesn't say mind is natural. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 14:16, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

I still have no idea what point Sprocket was trying to make, or what problem they see with Carrier or his position. Oh well. Brianpansky (talk) 05:31, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
Carrier writes much and says little. His examples taken from modern Western popular fiction are a distraction, with little bearing on how the supernatural is viewed by those who take it seriously. With that, his notion of the supernatural looks like a straw man. As for his position, can you articulate a synopsis of it in five hundred simple direct words or less? Under two hundred would be better. By "simple" I mean to exclude philosophical terms of art, and by "direct," I mean that using "q.v." is cheating. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 10:52, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
Oh you're back. I don't see the "straw manning" at all. Any serious religious example I think of fits his definition. He writes so much there because he has had to cover the ground that so many people try to quibble when he writes it more shortly. Apparently there's no way for him to win.
As for describing it to you, I dunno what is so difficult about everything presented to you so far, which leaves me with little idea of how to proceed, but I'll float something by you and see if it helps before I dump it into the article itself:
You know what a mind is, right? You have a mind, so of course you know what it is. And, in contrast, you can probably understand that particle physics, or even quantum physics, are examples of things we can probably conclude are mindless. Now it would be supernatural if a mind was not the result of the interaction of any non-mind stuff, but simply existed on its own. If it had any power to interact with other minds, or the physical world, that is what we could call a supernatural power. The effects of such supernatural power would simply happen, without non-mind interactions causing them. Brianpansky (talk) 09:27, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
In other words, his proposed definition of the supernatural is disembodied mind interacting with perceived reality. What did I miss?
Now, for some quibbles:
  • I do not know what a mind is, even though I have a working sense of how to use the word, and a layman's understanding of some of the underlying neurology.
  • I deny that I "have" a mind. It might be less inaccurate to say I inhabit a mind, or associate with one, or am one. Is it the same mind I had half an hour ago, or twenty years ago? Memories from those times seem to persist, but that doesn't prove anything. First we need to know what this "I" is, anyway.
  • What does "particle physics, or even quantum physics, are examples of things we can probably conclude are mindless" even mean, anyway? Physics is an elaborate system of description. The description comes from minds working with other minds. If you mean that you think the underlying reality is mindless, then say so.
  • The universe of discourse here should not be limited to religion.
How are we supposed to know how well Carrier's definition fits with instances of supposed supernatural activity out in the wide world, where people have believed in, or reported them? Before attempting to define the supernatural, it makes sense to find out how various peoples have recounted it, or claimed to experience it. A little less conversation about entertainment, a little more anthropology, please. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 14:30, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
If saying you have "a" mind seems wrong, then use "you are a mind" or something. You experience things, you have thoughts and concepts and so on.
"If you mean that you think the underlying reality is mindless, then say so" Yes, that's what I meant. But I thought saying stuff like "underlying reality" would be too much for you and your "exclude philosophical terms of art" request.
Studying entertainment is anthropology (I think?), but of course you mean we need to look at how people use the word in the real world. That's fair enough. There is some of this in the sections titled ”A Brief Ethnography of Contemporary Naturalism” and “The Natural-Supernatural Distinction” (intellectual people give their views in these sections) here: http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/rea.html
From my own experience I'm already pretty sure the usage matches, even between entertainment and non-entertainment. Brianpansky (talk) 09:03, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Naturally, you are free to continue thinking that examples lifted from contemporary fiction count as anthropology. Actually, I mean we need to examine believers' cognitive grasp of the supernatural, and to observe its influence on how they lead their lives.
You have not addressed the core of my request, which was for a self-contained synopsis in simple words and few of them. As far as his definition goes, does "disembodied mind interacting with perceived reality" miss the mark, and if so, how? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 11:30, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry I forgot to say that yes, your understanding of my simple-word description (which I did provide) is basically accurate. I'd say that "disembodied" is inaccurate a bit though, because you can propose such mind stuff that is basically glued to an object or body, and I’m not sure if “disembodied” is accurate when used that way.
As for “we need to examine believers' cognitive grasp of the supernatural, and to observe its influence on how they lead their lives”, I agree that is relevant to our article, and are you saying maybe different definitions would influence how they lead their lives differently?
I also provided a substantial hyperlink in the comment you just responded to, by the way. Brianpansky (talk) 12:05, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
I am saying that before any definition is attempted, it makes sense to survey the concept or activity to be defined. so as to avoid the distraction of studying the anatomy of straw men.
Perhaps there is another word than "disembodied" ("incorporeal" has a fine Latin ring to it) that signifies "unattached to the kind of body we normally associate with a mind." At any rate, you reach fewer of your audience by using a hundred words when half a dozen will do. If more words are needed to forestall objections, at least put a tight synopsis at the head of what you have to say. Since skimming readers may just look at the top and bottom of the text, it doesn't hurt to rephrase the synopsis in conclusion. That way you can escape the tl;dr trap.
I saw that hyperlink. I think the author abuses the word "ethnography" in it. Hyperlinks are a fine feature of the modern era, especially compared to the stacks of books, slips of paper, and note cards that aided the memory of previous scholars. Still, there is a place for self-contained exposition without the use of such "q.v." pointers. Too many of them start giving the appearance of a courtier's reply. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:58, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Repeated destruction of my edits[edit]

Repeatedly people simply undo everything I edit on that page, and do not provide explanation. I may be a bit new here, but this is just confusing.

Please help, this is getting mighty frustrating. Am I doing something wrong, are they also doing something wrong...just, ugh.

I wrote that above message in the forums, and I even further mentioned that I had indeed been using this talk page, and the people deleting my work have not been. And my forum post was also deleted, go figure, by Miekal, one of the people who deleted my stuff in this article. They left me a frustrating note: "theres a talk page for this article, use it" haha, very funny after I just said that I did use it. And also when the people deleting my edits aren't using this talk page. So what good will using this talk page do me? I'm really frustrated. I have been looking over guidelines etc, but I can't find anything. Brianpansky (talk) 22:45, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Miekal being an unhelpful dick has been a topic of discussion in the Saloon Bar before - David Gerard (talk) 22:47, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Actually i was going to give a reason, but thanks. love ya too.
As for the edits, things like "pagan gods and virgin births aren't supernatural because they, in the myths, "happended" doesn't make for good skepticism, imo.--Miekal 22:49, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Miekal, may I inquire as to whether you realize that the passage you are criticizing is actually one that I saw problems with as well? That was one of the reasons I edited the page. To change it. Since you undid that edit, you made the passage that you claim not to like part of the article again. Brianpansky (talk) 22:55, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Waait, what? ... Well then, i apparentaly confused which dif was whos when i was looking at that... nevermind, actually, im an idiot.--Miekal 22:57, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Ah, a mix up. That happens. Brianpansky (talk) 23:03, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Sorry again--Miekal 23:05, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────There may be hope after all. Let's assume Brian is making a good-faith effort to improve a rubbishly written article on a difficult subject. Bafflegab indeed. Still, a gentle hint @Brian: you won't win the hearts and minds of the mob with pokes at an established member who is far from clueless.

From where I sit, the article reeks of greedy reductionism or some such, and could stand some serious renovation. Dry definition is tedious, and speculative taxonomy is worse. Finding missional things to say will not be easy. Where to, now? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:13, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Neutral Monism[edit]

TOW has a nice chart.

It was proposed that neutral monism doesn't fit somehow with Carrier's definition of "supernatural" as "irreducible mental" stuff. That can be discussed in this section.

I'm not familiar with it, but it proposes that both "matter" and "mind" are just different arrangements of a "neutral stuff" that is neither mind nor matter. On the surface, this seems natural, not supernatural (I'm using Carrier's terminology) because it claims to reduce "mind" to something that is not mind.

Though I also get the impression that they may just be reducing some mental things to other mental things. I'm also suspicious that they are not using the term "matter" in a way I would understand.

But alas, I don't have a lot of time right now to read about it. Here is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the subject. Hopefully some of us will have time to check this out, and sometime I'll also go to Richard Carrier's forums to ask him about the subject.

The mental is not irreducible in this scheme, but it is not reducible to physical substance. Rather, both the mental and physical are reducible to the neutral entities.
Another counterexample would be a David Chalmers-style property dualism, which asserts that the mental and physical are both fundamental, and neither are reducible to each other. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 04:37, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps for now it would help if you described why you think these pose a problem (or whatever). You say "If he is referring to reductionist physicalism, then this essentially lumps every other position in philosophy of mind under the umbrella of "supernatural," which is absurd" but I fail to see what is absurd about it. Brianpansky (talk) 05:10, 1 September 2014 (UTC)
Er, because equating everything that's not reductionist physicalism to supernaturalism is not true? Ideas like neutral monism and property dualism were conceived of as naturalistic theories of mind. I don't know how else to explain it. Perhaps Carrier is not defining it that way and would allow non-reductionist physicalism in too, but it is hard to tell because he doesn't get into what he means by "reduce." His position is not well-articulated. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 05:22, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

Starting again[edit]

As I find the page to be of doubtful utility I have a proposed re-start here. Comments welcome. --Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 07:57, 2 September 2014 (UTC)


OK. So I think we should replace this version with the version here. Various editors have made a start on it and it looks better than the existing one. Any disagreements or issues? If not I (or maybe somebody else) will make the replacement. If an editor who has a particular attachment to the existing version they might with to turn the parts they created into an essay.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:34, 5 September 2014 (UTC)

I've been wondering when it would be time to make the move. No time like the present. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 20:00, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Knowing how easy it is to make accusations of indecent haste it might be best to wait to see if there are any objections. To be honest, I can't see how there could be as this version is fully in accordance with our objectives while the existing one is ... different. My feeling is that we should give it a few hours at the very least. But you may feel that I am being too conservative. (And that's with a very small "C".)--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 20:51, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Festina lente is OK too. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 21:26, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Way less terrible than present article, which I still don't actually like. Brianpansky, think we can start again from Bob_M's version? I think so - David Gerard (talk) 20:58, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Make it so! Scream!! (talk) 22:30, 5 September 2014 (UTC)
Well, at least it looks like an article (the history section is great). But I disagree with the assertion (that seems to be repeated 4 times in the opening) that evidence of the thing being real would mean it isn't supernatural. This isn't how the word generally is used, and I have no idea where people are getting this idea. At best, it is merely one way to use the terminology. Brianpansky (talk) 09:31, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
I would guess that (for the most part) only non-believers could make the mistake of thinking that this is what the word means. And I guess they would get that idea merely from the fact that lack of evidence coincides with claims that fit Carrier's definition. Brianpansky (talk) 09:59, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Pretty obviously if a thing is real and can be reliably repeated under laboratory conditions it would no lounger be supernatural. But perhaps I'm wrong. Can you give an example of something which is both supernatural and has been reliably repeated, tested, examined and thus demonstrated to exist under controlled conditions?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 13:11, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
No that isn't "pretty obviously”. Maybe I could just repeatedly assert that my definition is the pretty obvious one (or maybe even the [One True Definition]), but instead I've done more than that to support its merit.
Your implication that such an example is needed shows that you aren’t following along with what I said just above, or elsewhere on this talk page. My definition is a category for things with a certain aspect, not for whether it has been found to exist yet. Your level of apparently ignoring of what I’ve said doesn’t give me confidence about the future of working with you on this article. Brianpansky (talk) 14:18, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
If IT is real, demonstrable and repeatable under controlled conditions then it is NOT supernatural. End of. Scream!! (talk) 14:20, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
That isn't an argument, Scream.
I also just noticed that Bob maybe didn't even read the part where I said I don't believe any such things exist, because he asked as if I have such evidence. Brianpansky (talk) 14:31, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Wasn't intended as an argument - it's more like a definition. Scream!! (talk) 14:55, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
And a self-evidently true one as well. The statement of Brianpansky which I took exception to was: But I disagree with the assertion that evidence of the thing being real would mean it isn't supernatural.
So I'm asking him for examples of things which fit this description where "being real" means able to to investigated using the scientific method.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 15:14, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
More assertions of your definition being "self-evidently" true. Do you mean demonstrably a very common way of actually using the word? Though not yet demonstrated here? Or do you mean any definition whatsoever is true "self-evidently"?
As for your request for examples, is this the same request for examples as before? Or a different request? If it's the same request, then notice I responded to that. If it's a new request, then I don't know what you mean by "this description", please clarify Brianpansky (talk) 15:31, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
This guy is impenetrable. Don't know what his sort of "argument" is called, is it JAQing off? Anyhow he's a twit. Scream!! (talk) 15:55, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it is the same request as before. I repeated it in an effort to understand what you are trying to say. To be honest, I'm starting to wonder if you are serious.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:03, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Brian has a bit of a point where it comes to certain things like psi which are sometimes considered supernatural but allegedly able to be investigated by "scientific methods." But, in any case, Bob's article is clearly superior. Replace this one. I see it's already been replaced. I am slow today. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:35, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

To respond to the point you crossed out our Neb what I asked was: "Can you give an example of something which is both supernatural and has been reliably repeated, tested, examined and thus demonstrated to exist under controlled conditions?"
We could theoretically test for many supernatural things like PSI, ghosts, mediums, astrology or whatever - the question is whether we conclude there is evidence they exist or are are true after the test has finished. If there is no evidence they remain in the supernatural world. If there is good evidence then they leave it.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:44, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Responding to Bob, this is really frustrating, a few of you seem quite impenetrable to me. For now I’ll be brief.
Your request: “Can you give an example of something which is both supernatural and has been reliably repeated, tested, examined and thus demonstrated to exist under controlled conditions?” My answer is no.
I’m a Naturalist, after all. Brianpansky (talk) 16:42, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Then your statement: 'But I disagree with the assertion that evidence of the thing being real would mean it isn't supernatural' is incomprehensible.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:54, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Was my following line, "this isn't how the word generally is used", at least comprehensible? Even if you disagree with my assertion of how the word is generally used? Brianpansky (talk) 16:54, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
"If there is no evidence they remain in the supernatural world." Not necessarily. I am going to try to address this in a new section I will add on phil of sci. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:56, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
OK. :-)--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 17:02, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Hi Neb. You begin. "A common line of thought is that science cannot test the supernatural." Is it? I've certainly never maintained that.
In fact it sounds kind of straw-mannish to me. Surely any real-world claim (supernatural or not) can be tested scientifically. Santa brings the presents at Christmas. The earth is flat. The moon in made of cheese. God heals the sick via prayer. The Sun God makes the sun rise every day. Surely the question is what is the result of whatever test you have set up, not whether you can carry out a test.
I seem to recall debating this with another editor who maintained that is something could be tested scientifically therefore is was scientific. But all the things I mentioned above can be tested - the issue is the result of the test.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:10, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
But thinking about your point some more I guess it depends on whether your are talking about claimed real world supernatural event A or claimed supernatural intervention by mythic being B. Claimed supernatural event A could be investigated, but I can't see how science would get a handle on being B.
So OK, I can see how a form of this argument could be made.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:30, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Read on. It's a position endorsed by the NAS. In fact, I agree with you and cite Laudan on that point. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:32, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Indeed. I seem to have responded too quickly to the first assertion in the section. I still think it might be a bit to strongly worded though.
I'm not sure why you need to mention both division between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism though. Surely your point can be made only with reference to methodological naturalism? It seems to be the only one you need.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:42, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Why not? It's a commonly made distinction. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:49, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. And, at times, a significant one. I just don't see why it is relevant in this case. In terms of the supernatural, and how science deals with it, the result is the same whether your perspective is methodological or philosophical. Or I may be missing something.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 20:04, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
I would still say that there is a distinction between the two, but it is not as strong or clear-cut as statements from the NAS would have it. Methodological naturalism is useless when it comes to untestable metaphysical ideas such as Last Thursdayism. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 20:28, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

I still can't get over how silly this is: Then your statement: 'But I disagree with the assertion that evidence of the thing being real would mean it isn't supernatural' is incomprehensible.

If evidence came along that there was an irreducible mind, then I would still call such a mind supernatural. I wouldn't suddenly call it natural! Meanwhile, Bob apparently would suddenly call such a thing natural. So you can see that I dissagree with how to use the word. I use a different definition for "supernatural", as I've been saying all along.

How difficult is this to grasp? Brianpansky (talk) 13:03, 24 September 2014 (UTC)

Ceasing to be supernatural[edit]

In this rev, each paragraph of the introduction ended with a similar assertion:

  • "...they do not conform to a naturalistic worldview."
  • "if these events could be demonstrated ... they would cease to be 'supernatural' and could be investigated by science."
  • "[with] evidence ... they would leave the realm of the supernatural and enter the world of the mundane."
  • "Were it possible to demonstrate ... then the explanation would cease to be supernatural."
  • "if they could [be demonstrated] they would leave the realm of the supernatural."

While that kind of repetitiousness is an effective way to make a message memorable, in this context it seems a bit heavy-handed. I've rearranged the intro to put most of that in the first paragraph, with a footnoted coda in the last one. It flows better that way, to my eyes, at least.

I also restored the Abbey quote, with a link to who he was. It seems apropos and harmless, but I'm not married to it. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 16:32, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Yes, I did rather beat that point to death and beyond. (Though it's a desire which seems to be coming back.)--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:36, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
I think I preserved most of the pummeling intact in the first paragraph. I'd rather see the article turn into not so much of a polemic as an exploration. One way to condense all four points of the mission might be, "Bullshit and trickery exist, and here is what they look like, so you don't get fooled." This article still could use plenty of "and here is what it looks like." Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 16:48, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it's a bit too much like an encyclopaedia article at the moment. --Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 16:55, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

"...many traditional religious/supernatural beliefs are on the wane..."[edit]

I believe that there is a global study that confirms this, but I'd have to root around for it. I've just fact-tagged it for now. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 17:17, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Ah yes, I had meant to work on that. In fact I started to but then found that the situation globally is a tad complex. Europe, the US and the rest of the world are not necessarily going in the same direction at the same speed.--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 17:28, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

Early societies[edit]

I accept that the word "primitive" may have been badly used in the following cut sentence."Subsequently primitive societies regularly gave supernatural explanations to virtually any natural event for which they had no readily-available naturalistic explanation."

But it is my impression that pre-enlightenment or classical societies sought supernatural explanations for events for which they had no rational explanation. Is this in dispute? In Europe at least there where whole armies of gods and goddesses making it rain or bringing the Sun, weren't here?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 17:19, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

For one we have no way of discerning the particular content of Paleolithic religions. Two, this idea is challenged by Pascal Boyer in Religion Explained. See chapter one, pp. 15-18. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 18:00, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Ok, I've skimmed that. Let's talk about Greek and Roman societies - the classical ones I mentioned. Would you agree that they had various pantheons of gods who were responsible for various things including the weather, the seasons and volcanoes?--Bob"I think you'll find it's more complicated than that." 19:14, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Boyer doesn't dispute that. He is arguing against religion as a general explanatory schema. Also, see on p. 12 Evans-Pritchard's account of the incident with the Zande. They accept a naturalistic explanation, what they see as the how of the collapse of the hut (the termites). But what they are interested in is the why, which is explained by supernatural means (witchcraft). Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:45, 6 September 2014 (UTC)
Boyer strikes me as excessively pedantic and hair-splitty. That example with the termites doesn't really refute that religion provides explanations, even if you bothered to distinguish the how's and why's. In the particular example, the villagers knew termites collapsed the hut, but had an additional explanation for how the hut collapsed with the inauspicious timing that it did (e.g. malice). He spends a lot of time pointing out that culture and religion doesn't go through a conscious and scholarly process of critical thought and scientific inquiry, but we knew that already. That's obviously not what is meant by "religion provides explanations." He talks too much and says very little.-- (talk) 01:39, 3 October 2014 (UTC)