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Old 25th February 2017, 08:01 AM   #1
rakovsky
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Question If science proved a supernatural phenomenon to exist, would that make it "natural"?

The article Testing the Supernatural deals with the question of whether "supernatural" is just a label for a phenomenon that we haven't been able to explain using our scientific understanding of the world:
Quote:
I refer to the term "supernatural" as a label-of-the-gaps...

One way of thinking about it is with an analogy to Dark Matter. In astronomy it was observed that galaxies rotated more rapidly than expected. Using the light emitted from the galaxy, you can estimate the amount of material needed to emit that light, and use that to determine rotation speeds. The amount of mass estimated from the light emitted is far less than the amount of mass estimated from the rotation speeds - somehow there is a large amount of mass unaccounted for. Astronomers named this extra mass "Dark Matter". Notice, that this is not an explanation for the extra mass, but a label for "something I don't know is causing this effect".

In this way, the term "supernatural" may be a label for "something I don't know is causing this effect", where the effect may be a miracle claim, prayers answered, origin of the universe, origin of life, etc... Thus, the phrase "supernatural explanation" is a meaningless phrase - there can be no supernatural explanation, just as Dark Matter is not an explanation. However, as Fishman uses in his title, one could test "supernatural worldviews" - those constructions that use the label to suggest some unknown (and possibly unknowable) agency at work.
...
One might think that a scientific theory can't have anything like this in it, but that is not correct. For example, consider the wavefunction in quantum mechanics. Here we have an entity in a theory which is not directly observable - even in principle - yet the theory makes very specific predictions. It is possible to have such entities in a scientific theory, and we accept such entities in so far as the predictions which come from them are observed.

...science ... can test specific predictions that incorporate unknown, and possibly unknowable, entities that have direct physical effects.
https://bblais.github.io/testing-the-supernatural.html

So if God exists and prayer worked with God using a divine willpower to enact His will, would that be "supernatural"? Maybe, tot he extent that the Lord would be a "supernatural" being. What if the human was given a divine ability like prophecy? Would that be "supernatural", or would the explanation for the phenomenon make it "natural"?
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Old 25th February 2017, 08:17 AM   #2
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How do you define supernatural? If it's acausal actions that just magically happen, then no, it's not natural.

If it has its own rules of causality that can be traced and understood, then it's natural, even if potentially a completely different kind of physics, so to speak.
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Old 25th February 2017, 08:24 AM   #3
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I have no problem with the idea that ghosts might turn out to be natural after all.

But no amount of pretended semantic confusion or imagined semantic loopholes will rehabilitate the current unphysical narrative for ghosts.
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Old 25th February 2017, 08:30 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by rakovsky View Post
The article Testing the Supernatural deals with the question of whether "supernatural" is just a label for a phenomenon that we haven't been able to explain using our scientific understanding of the world:

https://bblais.github.io/testing-the-supernatural.html

So if God exists and prayer worked with God using a divine willpower to enact His will, would that be "supernatural"? Maybe, tot he extent that the Lord would be a "supernatural" being. What if the human was given a divine ability like prophecy? Would that be "supernatural", or would the explanation for the phenomenon make it "natural"?
You need to explain yourself. If what you call "supernatural" can have any effect on the real world, then it can be detected, measured and tested. OTOH, if it has no effect on the real world it is of absolutely no consequence.

ETA: How many amputees have regrown limbs by means of prayer?
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Old 25th February 2017, 08:38 AM   #5
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Ghost don't exit, as proven by the LHC:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sc...-a7598026.html

But yes, anything currently considered supernatural would, if found to be scientifically explainable, by definition become natural.
This has happened many times in the past: see thunderbolts or earthquakes.

Or, as a famous philosopher said:
"I mean what’s the use of us sitting up all night saying there may or may not be a god, if this machine comes along the next morning and gives you his telephone number? "
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Old 25th February 2017, 10:06 AM   #6
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Trying to say praying for miracles is no different than the quantum wave function? That's a stretch.
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Old 25th February 2017, 10:17 AM   #7
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Supernatural is like regular natural, except it's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and can leap over logic in a single bound.
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Old 25th February 2017, 02:02 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Supernatural is like regular natural, except it's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and can leap over logic in a single bound.
I like this. And, like regular natural, Supernatural is restricted to heroics in comic books and other fiction. If the fourth wall breaks, there'll be evidence — else it was simply more fiction.
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Old 25th February 2017, 02:12 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Donn View Post
I like this. And, like regular natural, Supernatural is restricted to heroics in comic books and other fiction. If the fourth wall breaks, there'll be evidence — else it was simply more fiction.
Plus, you want to have a MacGuffin - gamma ray accident, born in another star system, son of God - something or other we can't really check. If you have a haunting, you want to have a story about a tragic death.
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Old 25th February 2017, 02:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
Plus, you want to have a MacGuffin - gamma ray accident, born in another star system, son of God - something or other we can't really check. If you have a haunting, you want to have a story about a tragic death.
Supernatural wears its underpants on the outside. This can mean it has nothing on underneath, or that there is no underneath! Deep.
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Old 25th February 2017, 04:32 PM   #11
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The Babbage quote springs to mind.
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Old 26th February 2017, 12:57 AM   #12
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"Supernatural" is a 100% meaningless term. It's just weaponized special pleading.

It's like saying 2+2=5 in "Supermathatics" or that Denmark is south of Egypt in "Supergeography" or you owe me 10 dollars in "Supereconomics."
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Old 26th February 2017, 02:32 AM   #13
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Yes.

However, a large number of claims of supernatural phenomena directly contradict things that we know about the universe to a very high degree of certainty. The chance of those things actually being demonstrated and explained is extremely low, so the term "supernatural" is often used to refer to those claims.
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Old 26th February 2017, 03:11 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post

Or, as a famous philosopher said:
"I mean what’s the use of us sitting up all night saying there may or may not be a god, if this machine comes along the next morning and gives you his telephone number? "
Majikthise?
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Old 26th February 2017, 03:24 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Captain_Swoop View Post
Majikthise?
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Old 26th February 2017, 03:50 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
How do you define supernatural? If it's acausal actions that just magically happen, then no, it's not natural.

If it has its own rules of causality that can be traced and understood, then it's natural, even if potentially a completely different kind of physics, so to speak.
Yes, it depends on one's definition of "natural". If it means "of this universe", then "supernatural" could be a "natural" thing from another universe. Or perhaps it's something that is from _a_ universe... or what.
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Old 26th February 2017, 06:15 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
If it's acausal actions that just magically happen, then no, it's not natural.
Quantum mechanics is not natural?
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:00 AM   #18
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sceptics can never accept 'the paranormal'. The moment they accept it, the phenomenon will not be classified as 'paranormal' but as 'part of nature'. So, don't ever think that a sceptic will accept a paranormal event as paranormal.
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:03 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by baron View Post
Quantum mechanics is not natural?
It totally depends on what you define as 'natural'.
The phenomena in quantum mechanics can be classified as paranormal (when there is the will to do it).

When you define 'nature' as 'govern by laws', the probability nature of the phenomenon of quantum mechanics can be seen as 'supernatural'.

It's all depending on our definitions of the concepts.
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spacetime exists 'outthere'. It's all events together.
We, minds, experience moment by moment the unfolding of events. But that's not how the phenomena exist outthere. In spacetime all events already exist simultaniously. Only the interaction with a mind, establishes the experience of time
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:05 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
sceptics can never accept 'the paranormal'. The moment they accept it, the phenomenon will not be classified as 'paranormal' but as 'part of nature'. So, don't ever think that a sceptic will accept a paranormal event as paranormal.
And?
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:08 AM   #21
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And...

The sceptics do not even have a clear concept of 'paranormal vs natural'.
That's of course fundamental before you can even begin a reasonable discussion.
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spacetime exists 'outthere'. It's all events together.
We, minds, experience moment by moment the unfolding of events. But that's not how the phenomena exist outthere. In spacetime all events already exist simultaniously. Only the interaction with a mind, establishes the experience of time
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:09 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
And...

The sceptics do not have a clear concept of 'paranormal vs natural'.
That's of course fundamental.
And?
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:13 AM   #23
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What 'and'? It's not very smart to be sceptic against the 'paranormal', when you do not have a clear concept or definition of 'the paranormal'.
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spacetime exists 'outthere'. It's all events together.
We, minds, experience moment by moment the unfolding of events. But that's not how the phenomena exist outthere. In spacetime all events already exist simultaniously. Only the interaction with a mind, establishes the experience of time
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Old 28th February 2017, 06:12 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
It totally depends on what you define as 'natural'.
The phenomena in quantum mechanics can be classified as paranormal (when there is the will to do it).

When you define 'nature' as 'govern by laws', the probability nature of the phenomenon of quantum mechanics can be seen as 'supernatural'.

It's all depending on our definitions of the concepts.
I can't find a definition of 'paranormal' in any dictionary that fits the one you use here.
For example, from the Oxford dictionary:
Quote:
Denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding.
Dictionary.com gives this:
Quote:
of or relating to the claimed occurrence of an event or perception without scientific explanation, as psychokinesis, extrasensory perception, or other purportedly supernatural phenomena.
Nor can I find any definition of 'nature' that fits the one you list here either.

So, yes, you're absolutely right, it does all depend on our definitions of the concepts. If you write your own, that have no relation to the actual (i.e. commonly-accepted), then you can basically prove anything.
Doesn't make you right though.
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Old 28th February 2017, 09:39 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
It totally depends on what you define as 'natural'.
The phenomena in quantum mechanics can be classified as paranormal (when there is the will to do it).

When you define 'nature' as 'govern by laws', the probability nature of the phenomenon of quantum mechanics can be seen as 'supernatural'.

It's all depending on our definitions of the concepts.
It's the word 'paranormal' that lacks meaning, not 'natural'. Quantum mechanics is the best candidate for explaining observation and therefore arguably fits the description of 'natural' better than, or as well as, anything else. 'Paranormal', on the other hand, is a word applied to phenomena that either do not exist or are as yet unexplained, where such phenomena would be better described as 'not existing' or 'unexplained' respectively.

I see why someone might believe that, say, teleportation on a quantum scale equates to teleportation on a macro scale and since the latter has always been classed as 'paranormal', then so must the former be, but that's not correct. Such terms describing quantum events are just approximations. Quantum processes can only be described by mathematics. Particles do not teleport in the conventional sense, neither do they travel, neither do they even exist as we intuitively understand objects to exist. Linguistic descriptions are simply the best way for people, like me, who aren't quantum physicists to talk about quantum physics.
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Old 28th February 2017, 01:00 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
sceptics can never accept 'the paranormal'. The moment they accept it, the phenomenon will not be classified as 'paranormal' but as 'part of nature'. So, don't ever think that a sceptic will accept a paranormal event as paranormal.
So far there has never been any objective data for even one paranormal event.

And without such data, then one cannot expect paranormal events to be taken seriously.
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Old 28th February 2017, 03:57 PM   #27
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Whenever science gets a handle on a phenomenon that has been elusive that phenomenon gets classified, and named, and cataloged under the relative sub-discipline.

Thunder and lightning are no longer angry gods, and fall under meteorology.

Vampires do not cause Tuberculosis, S.I.D.S, or other ailments. Those are now handled by doctors, and not vampire hunters.

That kind of thing.
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Old 28th February 2017, 04:26 PM   #28
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In order to begin understanding the nature of a supernatural phenomenon one has to see it first.
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Old 28th February 2017, 06:54 PM   #29
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Alternative medicine reality that works is medicine reality.
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Old 28th February 2017, 10:05 PM   #30
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Apparently I live in two parallel universes because I recall this very subject already having a thread.

Deja vu
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Old 1st March 2017, 12:19 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Maartenn100 View Post
What 'and'? It's not very smart to be sceptic against the 'paranormal', when you do not have a clear concept or definition of 'the paranormal'.
We've given several clear concepts and definitions of "paranormal" in this thread.
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Old 1st March 2017, 05:11 AM   #32
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If science can explain something, it is pretty much natural by definition.

Another axiom though is that a sufficiently advanced technology would appear to be magic (supernatural) to a person from the past. Maybe someday we will invent a technology that allows us to appear to cast spells like Harry Potter. Or simulate powers like ESP. In that case, these would still be natural rather than supernatural phenomena.
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Old 2nd March 2017, 08:08 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
So far there has never been any objective data for even one paranormal event.

And without such data, then one cannot expect paranormal events to be taken seriously.
Yes, there is "evidence" for paranormal events.
A lady seeing her dead brother alive is "evidence", it's just not conclusive for skeptics.

It looks like what happens is that phenomena gets classed as paranormal until there is enough evidence to prove it very strongly, and then the skeptics change to saying it existed all along and there was evidence for it.

Example:
Quote:
Ball lightning
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_lightning
Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, spherical objects
Once enough evidence has been collected to prove ball lightning exists, skeptics will re-classify what they had always been calling paranormal and nonsense as natural and real.

So skeptics will hardly be caught saying "This is paranormal and real".
They can only be caught saying that something is "paranormal and fake" and then later admitting that the same thing is "real", but then adding that it's natural.

Same thing with cryptozoology. Hardcore skeptics will say big komodo dragons, small flying dragon-looking reptiles, and giant squid are fake nonsense hoax "cryptos" and that cryptos don't exist.... until they end up catching the cryptos. Then they say the dragons and giant squid are real, but keep on saying that cryptos are nonsense hoaxes.

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Old 2nd March 2017, 08:10 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
Whenever science gets a handle on a phenomenon that has been elusive that phenomenon gets classified, and named, and cataloged under the relative sub-discipline.

Thunder and lightning are no longer angry gods, and fall under meteorology.

Vampires do not cause Tuberculosis, S.I.D.S, or other ailments. Those are now handled by doctors, and not vampire hunters.

That kind of thing.
Great point.

+1
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Old 3rd March 2017, 01:30 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by rakovsky View Post
Yes, there is "evidence" for paranormal events.
A lady seeing her dead brother alive is "evidence", it's just not conclusive for skeptics.

It looks like what happens is that phenomena gets classed as paranormal until there is enough evidence to prove it very strongly, and then the skeptics change to saying it existed all along and there was evidence for it.

Example:


Once enough evidence has been collected to prove ball lightning exists, skeptics will re-classify what they had always been calling paranormal and nonsense as natural and real.

So skeptics will hardly be caught saying "This is paranormal and real".
They can only be caught saying that something is "paranormal and fake" and then later admitting that the same thing is "real", but then adding that it's natural.

Same thing with cryptozoology. Hardcore skeptics will say big komodo dragons, small flying dragon-looking reptiles, and giant squid are fake nonsense hoax "cryptos" and that cryptos don't exist.... until they end up catching the cryptos. Then they say the dragons and giant squid are real, but keep on saying that cryptos are nonsense hoaxes.
The two examples you give here are not the same.
Squid exist, so it is no stretch to assume that giant squid exist. Lizards exist, so the same follows. We have a mechanism, a foundation in reality, a means for these things to be possible, even plausible.
The same is not true for ghosts. There is no plausible means or mechanism for this to be true. There is nothing, nothing at all, within commonly-accepted reality that gives any kind of credence to the possibility of ghosts. Indeed, science has now ruled that out completely.
I think you are also misrepresenting the position of skeptics, at least this one.
I have never claimed that ball lightning is a paranormal phenomenon. Neither have I claimed that giant squid are cryptozoological nonsense. The basic position of scientific skepticism is to ask for evidence. If the evidence is good, then the proposition is provisionally accepted. This can change, because scientific knowledge is always progressing, and pushing back the frontiers of ignorance. Your portrayal of skeptics as closed-minded scoffers, who never admit their mistakes, is, frankly, a strawman.I cannot bring to mind a single poster, on the skeptical side of the fence, on this forum who thinks like this.
Believers in the paranormal, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. They refuse absolutely to accept any non-paranormal explanation for what they think they know or have encountered. They either refuse to present evidence, rely on anecdotes rather than facts (studies, experiments, heck even a video would do) or argue that the particular brand of paranormal they believe in is immune to testing ( because god/ Satan/ the spirits won't let themselves be tested, for example, or because negative results show the testees are lying). There are multiple examples of this behaviour on this forum.
To return to your first example. A woman saying she has seen the ghost of her dead brother is evidence that she believes this to be so. It is not, in itself, evidence of the existence of ghosts, because we've only got her word that that is really what she saw. Human perception is fallible. We need something more than the subjective, unsupported say-so of one person. This is why skeptics will not accept that this shows ghosts are real. Not because the idea of survival of some kind after death scares us. Not because we are sour-faced, closed-minded, emotionless robots. No, because we want to know the truth, because we want to understand the universe we live in, in all its beauty and majesty, and the best way we have found so far of doing this is scientific skepticsm.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 05:22 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Yak View Post
The two examples you give here are not the same.
Squid exist, so it is no stretch to assume that giant squid exist. Lizards exist, so the same follows. We have a mechanism, a foundation in reality, a means for these things to be possible, even plausible.
The point stands, even if the examples are not the same. Hardcore skeptics are not going to buy into extreme crypto-animals, plausible or not. They don't believe megalodon is still alive or that a giant Yeti is hiding in Tibet or a warm blooded plesiosaur visits Loch Ness, or that the Jersey Devil is real, or that a dinosaur lives in the Congo, etc, even if you were to agree there is "a means for these things to be possible" or "a foundation in reality".

Hardcore skeptics will say these things don't have a way for them to be plausible, because more people would be photographing them, or there isn't enough fish for megalodon to eat, an ape can't survive in winter, a plesiosaur can't take summer vacations unnoticed in Loch Ness or remain unseen. If we hadn't had physical examples of platupuses, I'm sure hardcore skeptics wouldn't believe in those things either, saying poison tipped feet and bill-mouths are not "plausible" for mammals, and that they have no "foundation in reality"

Whether or not there is actually a plausible way for any of the crypto-animals to exist doesn't mean that the hardcore skeptics are going to believe in cryptozoology or agree that any of the cryptos have a plausible way of existing or have "a foundation in reality".

Go back to 1800 and hardcore skeptics are going to say that sailor tales, like kraken taking down ships are not "a foundation in reality" and there is no plausible mechanism for a komodo dragon to survive the ice age when the large land reptiles died out, and that large reptiles don't toxic saliva to hunt large mammals.

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Old 3rd March 2017, 05:33 AM   #37
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I think you are confusing 'possible', 'plausible', and 'has no foundation in reality'.

They are not the same thing.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 05:42 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Yak View Post
The same is not true for ghosts. There is no plausible means or mechanism for this to be true. There is nothing, nothing at all, within commonly-accepted reality that gives any kind of credence to the possibility of ghosts.
Ball lightning is also "unexplained" in its mechanisms.
Your logic is that if there is "no plausible means for it to be true", then any such phenomenon absolutely definitely cannot exist.


Quote:
I think you are also misrepresenting the position of skeptics, at least this one.
... The basic position of scientific skepticism is to ask for evidence. If the evidence is good, then the proposition is provisionally accepted. This can change, because scientific knowledge is always progressing, and pushing back the frontiers of ignorance. Your portrayal of skeptics as closed-minded scoffers, who never admit their mistakes, is, frankly, a strawman.

Main representation I am making in this thread is that it seems to me that:

Quote:
Skeptics will hardly be caught saying "This is paranormal and real".
They can only be caught saying that something is "paranormal and fake" and then later admitting that the same thing is "real", but then adding that it's natural.
Do you believe that anything is "paranormal and real"?

The only possibility is that you will later admit that some things labeled "paranormal" turned out to be real, turned out to have foundation in reality, and that their mechanisms came to be explained or came to be seen by you as plausible.

You are not admitting that paranormal ghosts or inter-dimensional spirit beings are real. The only possibility conceivable within the skeptics' framework is that somehow ghosts could turn out to be real, have foundation in reality, etc., whereupon you "admit your mistake" as you call it, that there was no foundation in reality.

Quote:
I cannot bring to mind a single poster, on the skeptical side of the fence, on this forum who thinks like this.
Over on my thread:

In the polls, the skeptics are voting that
Quote:
Humans have no anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms
Examples of processes of information transfer currently unexplained in terms of known mechanisms include:
Electromagnetism, precise time measurement by the mind, precognition/premonitions, extreme animal navigation, and the placebo effect.

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Old 3rd March 2017, 06:11 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by rakovsky View Post
Ball lightning is also "unexplained" in its mechanisms.
Your logic is that if there is "no plausible means for it to be true", then any such phenomenon absolutely definitely cannot exist...
I think we need to draw a distinction between "black swan" type phenomena which are not clearly impossible but haven't been convincingly shown to exist and "magical" phenomena which, in the way they are described, appear to contradict bits of reality we are already pretty confident about.
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Old 3rd March 2017, 06:16 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by rakovsky View Post
Do you believe that anything is "paranormal and real"?

The only possibility is that you will later admit that some things labeled "paranormal" turned out to be real, turned out to have foundation in reality, and that their mechanisms came to be explained or came to be seen by you as plausible.

You are not admitting that paranormal ghosts or inter-dimensional spirit beings are real. The only possibility conceivable within the skeptics' framework is that somehow ghosts could turn out to be real, have foundation in reality, etc., whereupon you "admit your mistake" as you call it, that there was no foundation in reality.
Nothing is both paranormal and real. That's just a matter of definitions.

Yes, if something labeled 'paranormal' turns out to be real then the initial label was an error. When considering "the only possibility", don't omit the possibility that nothing currently labelled 'paranormal' will turn out to be real.
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