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October 27, 2009


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I think the Tao Te Ching (also in no way perfect but a nice little book all the same) covers it's back on this subject.

Myers says "eople can claim that their god is aloof and unknowable, admitting in their own premises that they have no knowledge at all of him.

I can accept that, as long as these people are aware of the import of what they are actually saying.

I like that, it's a tongue in cheek death blow to many religious arguments so applause there.

But as I said, my favorite philosophical angle on all of this, that mapped out by the Lau Tzu book is that the truth is unknowable yet can be pointed at, not directly transmitted but recognized as the case.

Fluffy perhaps, but takes a side step to Myers otherwise knockout blow.

Surely science by definition can only deal with the natural, whereas the supernatural supposedly transcends nature and its laws.

Also, how does one distinguish between a supernatural event, which by its definition could never be explained by science, and an unexplainable event, which science might one day be able to explain.

Would a scientist even recognise a supernatural phenomena, since its existence would need to be proven objectively by evidence.

While Science and Religion might overlap in the big questions they seek to answer, but otherwise their methodology (faith vs evidence) and answers would seem completely different and indeed often in conflict as witnessed by age-old secular/religious struggle.

Tao, I get what you're saying. It's sort of like pointing at a strawberry field and saying, "I can't really describe what the berries taste like, or prove to you that I love their juiciness, but I invite you to pick one, put it in your mouth, and taste for yourself."

However, in this case there is evidence for a strawberry field. Just not the taste. I read Myers as saying that if religion posits supernatural forces which operate in the physical world, this is akin to a strawberry field -- something demonstrable, albeit with effects that are essentially immeasurable.

Absent this sort of evidence, Taoism's and Zen's pointing finger really isn't different in kind from religious dogma, such as a Christian saying "I can't show Jesus' love to you, but if you open your heart to him, you'll discover it for yourself."

For me, the problem arises when a claim of objective reality is ascribed to a subjective phenomenon. I think Taoists are on firm ground when they say "I feel the Tao guiding me." But not when they say "The Tao guides all things," if Tao is taken to mean a force above and beyond the laws of nature (which, actually, I don't think philosophical Taoism does).

George, I like your distinction between supernatural and unexplainable. Yes, people often jump to a supernatural explanation (like how life began on earth) when it is more honest to simply say, "We don't know yet how this happened."

As noted above, I think it's agreed that something truly supernatural would be outside the bounds of science. But many, if not most, religious and mystical claims are within those bounds, because they posit a link between immateriality and materiality.

If that link -- such as ESP -- is genuine, then people able to tap into the supernatural should be able to demonstrate some ability above and beyond normal human capacity. As Myers notes in his blog post, this could be some knowledge unknown to science, but which can be confirmed as being true of the physical universe.

So far, this hasn't happened, notwithstanding thousands of years of people seeking the divine, and often claiming to have realized it.

interesting ... but i suppose even ESP or other paranormal events, might not be supernatural - perhaps there are other human senses we have not observed or understood, but will one day have the technology to do so.

In any event, i think real science is that which is supported by the objective evidence and repeatably accurate every every time, everything else is belief, faith or speculation.

It may well be that what is speculation today becomes science tomorrow, but it remains speculation and myth today. This is why Science is such a good reference for Truth imo.

On the issue of the Tao, philosophically i understood it to be intergral and interwoven in the fabric of the universe, not trasncendetnal to it - which makes it natural, indeed i thought it was understood to represent the flow of nature, rather than being supernatural. However, since the Tao has not been objectively proven and indeed cannot be defined, it also is not science.

Good sirs!

I was hoping you'd indulge me if I express a bit of puzzlement about these strange and mysterious goings on here at your chosen place of non-worshipping worship.

Now, I'll concede I'm out of my depth with all this talk of models represented as sub-symbolic models and all. Nevertheless, isn't there a whiff of triumphalism when one speaks of transcending those (apparently) burdensome feelings of specialness? That sense of being "real and true [rather than] imaginary and false"? In other words, can you really be so sure that you haven't just found a new way to be "special" in your "non-specialness"?

Dang, commented on the wrong post. Definitely not so special.

Brian in Colorado, you have a point. However, I still feel less special now, compared to when I considered myself especially special because I was on the One True Godly Path, notwithstanding some admittedly special feelings about my newfound non-specialness.

It's a matter of degree. Before, I felt special a lot. Now, not nearly so much -- mostly just when I contemplate my lack of speciality in a blog post, or when talking with someone. It's much like celebrating a loss of fifty pounds with a large sundae. Inconsistent, but understandable.

My apologies if it was I who inadvertently aroused the troll.

Brian from Colorado, no problem. He pops up with some insults from time to time. Then I delete them. It doesn't take much to arouse fundamentalist hatred toward open-minded free-thinkers, unfortunately.

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