Scott: The essence of my comment was as follows. The ability to construct a "logically possible" theology around a belief in the supernatural shouldn't be a sufficient reason to claim "you're stuck" with a specific definition of God's nature. IE. what you already believe. Since the supernatural is defined as that which you consider not nature, it is unclear as to what you would consider evidence that it is not true. Sure, things that we once thought were supernatural, such as opening a woman's womb, can cross over when they become transparent, but given the abundance of phenomenon that are still opaque and God's supposed omni-properties, it seems there could always be something you can point as "supernatural."
Well, we could, for example, find the unresurrected body of Jesus. That would cause massive revisions in my conception of who God is, and leave it up for grabs as to where I would go next.
VR (previously): We could not literally do mathematics, which is the very foundations of the science on which naturalism rests its case. If naturalism is true, then there are no scientists, and there is no scientific method, and we're all epistemically screwed.Naturalism doesn't imply that we cannot think of abstract things. Nor does naturalism claim that abstract things, such as circles and squares, have a causal effect on their own, such as creating universes or designing human beings.
The definition of 'naturalism' isn't necessarily limited to physical things with mass. Quantum teleportation allows the polarity of an photon to be transmitted instantaneously without any known method of transmission. There doesn't appear to be any "matter" involved, yet we can repeat it time and time again in a laboratory. it's science, not the supernatural.
In my detailed development of this line of argument, I maintain that there are four things that have to be left out of the causal order at its most basic level: subjectivity (all facts are objective from the point of view of scientific naturalism), normativity (things aren't the way they are at the level of physics because it's better for them to be that way), intentionality (it can't be part of a physical description of something that it is about something else) and free of purpose. If you are putting any of those things on the ground floor of the universe, you are moving in at least the direction of a mentalistic world-view which is creates a significant break with orthodox naturalism.
VR (previously) But if naturalism is true, then everyone has natural, physical causes for all beliefs, and this got to be ten times more damaging than sociological causes.
Scott: From my perspective, sociological interactions ultimately result in physiological changes that shape our beliefs. There is no dualism here. This seems to indicate a misunderstanding of my position as I think they are part of the same system.
VR: I'm sure that is your position. However, if my beliefs have sociological causes, and physicalism is false, then maybe there can be rational inference and mental causation. Hasker and I have argued at length, though, that even if the weakest form of naturalism is true, supervenient physicalism, there can't be any genuine mental causation.
I'm not saying that all beliefs acquired though social means must be wrong, or that such an acquisition method is "bad". It's one of many natural factors that ultimately results in physiological changes which determine our beliefs. However, social factors, geographical location and chronological presentation appear to be a unusually strong factors in accepting a particular religious belief. In addition, religions also make specific, yet conflicting claims about what is reasonable to expect from God and his nature, based on revelation and religious scriptures.
VR: If Christianity depends on a "word" that has to be spread, then some people are going to get an easier access to the truth than others. The same would be true of religious unbelief. It is, I think, less prevalent in Saudi Arabia than it is in the United States.
VR (previously) If naturalism is true, then there is no real mental causation, just physical causation that mimics mental effects.
Scott: It appears that your position is that beliefs are opaque and somehow except from causation.
VR: Nope. The perception of a logical connection between one proposition and another can cause a conclusion to be drawn. However, we are perceiving a logical connection, something that does not exist in a particular place and time. Therefore this is possible only if the physical (or natural) is not a closed system.
Scott: If I were to make an educated guess, this seems tied to the Biblical idea that we are made in God's image or that we must somehow be able to disengage our beliefs from causal factors since God judges us for them.
VR: If you mean that I think determinism is false, and that libertarian free will is true, then I do accept that, but that is distinct from my argument. And of course some of my fellow Christians are Calvinistic determinists who think that God can be the ultimate cause of our actions and judge them just the same, because we wanted to do them.
Scott: It's likely that our decision to distinguish phenomenon as being "mental" was based on our lack of knowledge about neurobiology, it's complex nature and the intimate relationship with have with our thoughts. As such, it seems it would make more sense to say we did the best with what we had at the time. Today, evidence strongly indicates that our beliefs are a culmination of our experiences, which are stored as electro-chemical patterns in our brain.
VR: No. The problem arises because the definition of the physical makes it impossible to make attribute determinate mental states to any genuinely physical system. You have a bunch of non-mental information at the basic level, you have the ways that non-mental stuff is put together, but however you put it together it will invariable fail to entail a determinate result as to what I believe. The reason it appears to do so is that we surreptitiously attribute properties to brains that are not really characteristics that a truly physical system can possibly have.
VR (previously) I think that Christian theism has some problems in the area of the problem of evil, but these are not worse problems than naturalists have in explaining consciousness, for example.
If we currently can't explain consciousness, then a supernatural being created the universe specifically for human life, who is actually three persons; one of which became a God-Man born of a virgin, who died for our sins, was resurrected three days later and ascended to a non-material realm by traveling through the earth's atmosphere? This simply doesn't follow. Instead, "we don't know all the details right now" seems to be the most reasonable response. Until we can gain a more thorough understanding the enormous amount of observable activity going on in our brains, saying that we cannot account for consciousness is like saying you know an particular event doesn't occur in a three thousand page novel despite only having read one word. Claiming an unobservable "God did it" is an argument from ignorance.
No, there's a fundamental problem of property incompatiblility. There is a conceptual chasm, and you can't cross that chasm by exploring the territory on one side of the chasm. What physical facts entail the truth, which I know, that I am Victor Reppert. That statement is false when you say it, even though there is no physical difference which explains the difference.
Vr: Previously: No other religion has the kind of archaeological support that Christianity does. Have they found that battleground in Palmyra, New York, where the book of Mormon says a huge battle took place? Thought not. Is there a good DNA match between Jews and American Indians? You mean they look more like Orientals? Who witnessed Muhammad reciting and transmitting the Qu'ran?
Scott: Out of all religions, Just because Christianity has the most plausible description of God's nature doesn't mean such a description must be accurate or is plausible when compared to agnosticism. If you say we must use faith to "plug the holes" in God's nature, then why plug them with a God who judges our choices based on incomplete information? Why plug them with a God who eternally exiles us from his presence without a chance to learn from such an exile? Why plug them with a God who found the smell of burnt offerings "pleasing" or demanded the violent death of a himself as a man, before he would forgive us of our own nature, which he himself supposedly created?
VR: These are common, but, so far as I can tell, by no means universal theological positions.
VR: Previously" But maybe some naturalists need to take the Outsider Test and see how things look from the perspective that miracles are possible. I could argue that you have been brainwashed by the scientific establishment to rules these possiblities out. But I won't. The world just makes more sense from the perspective of Christian theism than it does from any other perspective.
Did Hume say that miracles are impossible? No. He said it would be incredibly difficult to tell if one actually occurred. Today, his argument is much stronger due to our current understanding of human behavior and our process of observation. And if miracles are possible, then why have they decreased in number along with eye-witness literacy rate and technological advances in reporting, such as video and still cameras, orbiting satellites and a more detailed understating of biology? I'd think these factors would cause reports to go up exponentially, even if the overall number that actually occurred dropped. And why does God still only appear to perform miracles in what could be mistaken for statistical chance, even when our ability to detect them increases? This doesn't seem to really make sense from any perspective.
Maybe God doesn't want to give us demonstrative knowledge of his existence. God doesn't perform miracles to show off.
Anyway, Scott, thanks for an interesting and challenging post!