Personal Experiences are Occasionally Valid Evidence for Supernatural Claims

Image result for image of guardian angel protecting children on bridge
Who is YOUR guardian angel?

 

Conservative Christian:

[Let’s] examine what you mean by evidence. If you are like most of them, evidence is limited to what may be observed at least indirectly through the five senses and that by more than one person in different places and at different times. This is a minimum requirement for any kind of certainty.

For certainty in argument, proof must be based on deductive logic alone. The alternative inferential logic can give the most reasonable option but can never give the logical necessity required for formal proof. That leaves very little that we can prove in a formal sense. No one-off events, no personal experience, no history, no ethics, no love or other sentiment. To require this kind of proof in all daily living is impractical, even dysfunctional.  We do need certainty in scientific areas like engineering and medical research. To promote certainty, we look for outcomes that are both valid and reliable. They are reliable when the rule holds and we get the expected outcome every time. They are valid when the outcomes are what they say they are; they are true to their nature.

Note that the quality of truth applies only to validity. Conversely, some questions are in psychology tests purely because they give a reliable outcome and have no logical connection to that outcome. Statistics only.

So, your demand for ‘proof’ is inappropriate if it includes an assumption of reliability. One-off events and personal experiences are valid on occasion even without scientific reliability. The processes we use to establish such truth involve inferences at the conscious level and intuition sub-consciously. There are also cross-checks that give adequate reliability. We assume these processes in daily life. Without them, we tend to become dysfunctional and experience too many fractured relationships.

Gary:  All this may well be true.  My child’s love for me cannot be proven scientifically yet I believe it to be a fact.  I assume that my child loves me based on factors that cannot be measured, weighed, or examined under a microscope.   And when it comes to personal experiences, it is certainly possible that supernatural events occur in the lives of individuals, events which by definition defy the laws of science, thereby making it impossible to validate the veracity of these claims with the standard methods used by science.

However, atheists such as myself do not claim that it is impossible that events which cannot be measured and quantified by science do not occur.  They very well may.  What we state is that if one is going to make a universal truth claim; a claim that is true for every person, at all times, and in every location, then there must be verifiable evidence to support such a claim using universally accepted standards of evidence.  Subjective preferences and personal experiences are not sufficient for universal truth claims.

So, if you as a Christian wish to believe that a first century Jewish baby was born of a virgin mother, fathered by a (holy) ghost, and given supernatural powers that give him the ability to grant you life after death, that is your certainly your choice.  But don’t expect most modern, educated non-believers to accept these fantastical claims as fact without quality evidence!

The problem for Christians is:  quality evidence does not exist for your 2,000 year old supernatural tale.

 

 

 

End of post.

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33 thoughts on “Personal Experiences are Occasionally Valid Evidence for Supernatural Claims

  1. Gary,

    An interesting post and snippet from that Conservative Christian. I can’t even understand what s/he is babbling about evidence and how it is collected, utilized, and cumulatively confirmed over various time-frames, some of which that might take 10-20 years or more, by many relevant scientific disciplines (interdisciplinary or collaborative science). S/He lost me immediately in their 2nd sentence:

    …evidence is limited to what may be observed at least indirectly through the five senses…

    What time-warp did this person fall through or come from!? For the last 20-50 years minimum, medical sciences and scientists/doctors now know that the human body has around 20-21 different sensory-receptors:

    https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/think-you-have-only-5-senses-its-actually-a-lot-more-than-that

    So when a person flippantly blurts erroneous gibberish right from the start, I have a very hard time listening to ANYTHING that follows. As any accomplished debater knows, you DON’T start off your argument/position with a bogus premise! Hahahaha! 😄

    So, your demand for ‘proof’ is inappropriate if it includes an assumption of reliability.

    Now this made me laugh so hard and loud I scared the cat out of the room! 😄 “Assumption of reliability”??? Huh? If one tests something 100-times and the same result occurs 100-times today, next week, next year, ad infinitum… umm, last I checked with reasonable, acclaimed scientists, doctors, engineers, etc, THAT is consider reliable with NO assumptions. And when there are many cumulative sources — several/many that are INDEPENDENT sources as well — that do not corroborate the veracity of narratives in their 4th-century CE canonical New Testament, especially the Gospels, then it is very reasonable, even highly plausible that everything concerning Christology/Christendom is bogus, things of hyped-up legends via storytelling… very common in Antiquity.

    Now today individual paranormal, metaphysical (psychiatric?) events/behaviors are a completely different ballgame, as you properly pointed out to this person. But all of the accrued, documented testimonies around the world of these individual’s weird paranormal experiences DO NOT equal Universal truth! That conclusion is not rocket science.

    Am I missing something here? This Conservative Christian wrote in extremely general, vague terms so perhaps I’m not psychic or telepathic, huh? 😉

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      1. Thanks Gary.

        One of my pet-peeves with evangelical Fundamentalists probably like this Conservative Christian is their severe laziness, the complete absence of any drive or earnestness to go the distance, do all the legwork and homework necessary to formulate the best possible conclusions/answers to life and reality. They disguise this laziness, their gross indolence as “Faith.”

        If an honest, equitable, honorable Christian today EVER studied, researched, and scrutinized with the same fine-tooth comb they so quickly use on pagan or secular arguments against Theism, Christianity, and their “Holy Bible,” they quickly or eventually could NOT DENY the cumulative, independent sources of earliest Christianity or Judeo-Christianity (“The Way” Movement) and the lack thereof which compellingly and/or convincingly demonstrates their beliefs, or “Faith” is based on a Greco-Roman, sociopolitical Sales & Marketing scheme/scam — a Kangaroo court and jury of historical events (non-events?) as I’ve mentioned before.

        They’d rather thrust their brains of curiosity and fairness of exhaustive facts and evidence of the time-period into the sand, ala the proverbial ostrich metaphor. 🙄😒 A sort of intellectual suicide for fairy-tales and myths, ironically an unhealthy form of unaccountability or disownership for their life’s actions and words. In psychology and psychiatry that is clinical Codependency as well as severe laziness!

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  2. Gary, I think these two quotes (both by you) are incompatible with one another…

    “it is certainly possible that supernatural events occur in the lives of individuals, events which by definition defy the laws of science, thereby making it impossible to validate the veracity of these claims with the standard methods used by science.”

    “if one is going to make a universal truth claim; a claim that is true for every person, at all times, and in every location, then there must be verifiable evidence to support such a claim using universally accepted standards of evidence.”

    In the first quote you state that supernatural events are possible, but not scientifically testable because, by order of logic, science only explores the natural world and the supernatural is by definition beyond the scope of nature.

    In the second quote, you say that only scientifically verifiable truths can be universal.

    BUT, if a supernatural even did occur, the reality of that event would be universally true by the above definition!! 

    So maybe you just mean that we cannot CLAIM a universal truth unless it can be accessed by the methods of science?  But that doesn’t work either! 

    To explain, the statement “if one is going to make a universal truth claim;… then there must be verifiable evidence to support such a claim using universally accepted standards of evidence (science)”  is itself a universal truth claim that is NOT accessible by the methods of science!

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    1. Like it or not, western industrialized cultures have adopted the Scientific Method as the gold standard for universally accepted truth claims. This decision was made because the Scientific Method has proven to be the most reliable method for evaluating how our universe operates. Western industrialized nations selected the Scientific Method over and above divine revelation and the proclamations of ancient holy texts for the simple reason that the Scientific Method has proven more reliable than these ancient methods of divining universal truths.

      So I am not claiming that the Scientific Method IS the sole source of truth. I cannot prove this. I can only demonstrate the reliability of the Scientific Method compared to all other methods of determining universal truths (crystal balls, tarot cards, prayer, holy texts). I am only claiming that for most modern, educated, people, universal truth claims must be backed up by evidence which can be evaluated by the Scientific Method (except when it comes to their particular religion). All other claims are personal preferences, subjective personal experiences, and wishful thinking (faith).

      I suggest that religious people such as yourself adopt the same standard for your religious beliefs which you proclaim/preach to be universal truths applicable to all people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Is the below truth claim just a personal preference, subjective personal experience or wishful thinking? Is it accessible to the scientific method? If so, how? If not, why should we believe it according to your standard?

        “I am only claiming that for most modern, educated, people, universal truth claims must be backed up by evidence which can be evaluated by the Scientific Method (except when it comes to their particular religion). All other claims are personal preferences, subjective personal experiences, and wishful thinking (faith).”

        There is, I think, a confused epistemology.

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        1. It is the epistemology of science, medicine, engineering, and every modern industrialized nation on the planet. Bottom line: It works. I do not need to justify it to satisfy your superstition-dominated mind.

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          1. … So that’s a “no”, then?

            So I ask again – By your standard of credibility for a universal truth claim, why should I believe the statement that all universal truth claims must be scientifically verifiable?

            I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding here. I’m not saying science is not useful in the pursuit of truth – indeed it is.

            But the claim that ‘science is the only reliable way to discover truth’ is logically fallacious.

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            1. That is not what I said. I said, “Science is the most reliable method of determining universal truth claims discovered by human beings to this point in human history.”

              Big difference.

              I am not urging you to use the Scientific Method (and to abandon crystal balls, tarot cards, prayer, and ancient holy texts) because I have evidence that the Scientific Method is the ONLY reliable method to discover truth, but because I have massive evidence that it is the most reliable method by far.

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              1. Gary, you’re missing my point…

                “the Scientific Method is the ONLY reliable method to discover truth”

                This claim is not a scientific claim… So how do you know it’s reliable?

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                1. And you missed what I said.

                  I said: “the Scientific Method is the MOST reliable method to discover truth”

                  And yes I can use the Scientific Method to prove this claim. For instance, I can compare the predictions of science against the predictions of the Bible. Such as, the scientific prediction that “water will always boil at the same temperature at sea level” against biblical predictions such as the Old Testament author who predicted that the city of Tyre would never again be inhabited.

                  You see, when a scientist makes a new claim, every scientist on the planet tries to prove her wrong. Scientists love ripping to shreds someone else’s research. But this is a good thing. If a new claim survives this intense scrutiny, then we can be very confident that the claim is true. Compare this to the Bible. Claims in the Bible cannot be contested. To do so is a “sin”. Biblical claims are held to be God-breathed and sacrosanct. Yet so often, the claims in the Bible have proven to be false. Of course, conservative believers will never admit that there are errors in the Bible, only errors in our human interpretation of the Bible. Right…

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                  1. So you can use science to establish the unscientific truth that “all truth comes from science”? Still self-defeating.

                    I know, I know, you’ve altered the claim a bit to “science is the BEST way to discover truth”.

                    We’re really talking about two different things. I agree that science is useful in discovering truths about reality, but the point I am trying to drive home is that science presupposes logic and philosophy.

                    Therefore, to try to prove a certain philosophy by science is arguing in a circle.

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                    1. I know that conservative Christian apologists love to go off into the weeds of philosophy on this issue, but that is unnecessary. All one needs to do is look at the method used by every industrialized nation on the planet for evaluating universal truth claims to accept the Scientific Method as the BEST method. Modern industrialized nations due not consult a tarot card reader, a witch, or an evangelical pastor for advice on universal truth claims. They consult scientists and other experts who use the Scientific Method.

                      -You don’t need the scientific method to pick your wife or husband. That is a preference not a universal truth.
                      -You don’t need the scientific method to select your breakfast cereal or ice cream. That is a preference not a universal truth.
                      -You don’t need the scientific method to be a Yankees fan. That is a preference, not a universal truth.
                      -You don’t need the scientific method to be a fan of the Rolling Stones. That is a preference, not a universal truth.

                      But if you want to know if the earth was once entirely covered by flood waters, your best bet would be to consult science, not an ancient holy book or a (holy) spirit. If you want to know how old the universe is, your best bet is to consult science, not an ancient holy book or a spirit. And if you want to know if a first century peasant came back from the dead, ate broiled fish, and later levitated into outer space, consult science, not an ancient holy book or a spirit.

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            2. @ Taylor Neill.

              So I ask again – By your standard of credibility for a universal truth claim, why should I believe the statement that all universal truth claims must be scientifically verifiable?

              For the same reason that if a doctor claimed that the maple syrup he had in his syringe was an excellent generic substitute as a vaccine for measles solely because the Pope had personally blessed it, even if you were an utterly devout Catholic you would be a Giant Nob to allow the doctor to inject you.
              And this is why we don’t inject people with Maple Syrup.
              Now, the question is, are you a Giant Nob or not?

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    1. Everyone has a choice regarding which method of investigation they prefer to use to determine universal truth claims. No one can say that their method is the one and only true method of evaluating our universe. But one of those methods can rightly claim to have proven itself to be the most reliable of methods used by human beings to date: the Scientific Method.

      If you, Neil, choose to live your life based on the pronouncements of ancient scientifically ignorant texts and by perceived communications with a first century dead peasant, that is your choice. I cannot prove your method of truth evaluation wrong. But I can demonstrate that it has proven to be highly inaccurate and therefore highly unreliable over the last 2,000 years.

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              1. Whichever one makes the most sense. My default posture is always one of skepticism. This applies equally to scientific and religious claims. As ever, I will follow the evidence where it leads.

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                1. Science says it is impossible for dead brain cells to be revived. If Jesus’ brain was truly dead for three days, science says it is impossible that he came back to life.

                  So who do you believe: Science, which states that the reanimation of a brain dead body is impossible, or, an ancient holy text which states that such an event did occur 2,000 years ago?

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                  1. Haha, not so fast!  First, science doesn’t “say” anything – Scientists do (as Frank Turek is fond of pointing out).

                    But yes, we can infer from the data that we accumulate by scientific means that there is no natural explanation for the Resurrection… But that’s the WHOLE point!!! No Christian anywhere has ever claimed that the Resurrection was a natural event!  The opposite is true.  It was significant BECAUSE it was a supernatural event.

                    And you’ll remember from your own words, the supernatural is not accessible by the methods of science – it is, by definition, beyond nature; ‘SUPER’-natural. 

                    You have also conceded that the supernatural is at least possible.  So the question becomes – ‘is there any good reason to believe that a supernatural event has occurred?’. I emphatically believe that there is.

                    There is early, independent eye-witness testimony and circumstantial evidence from the first century – biblical and extra-biblical – for the central claims of the New Testament. Some of the most well accepted claims about Jesus (those in which the majority of NON-religious scholars accept) are the following:

                    (1) Jesus was crucified under the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate

                    (2) He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea

                    (3) His tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers

                    (4) Jesus’ followers truly believed that they had seen appearances of him after his death

                    (5) Christianity experienced explosive growth and mass conversion of skeptical Jews due to the events following Jesus’ death

                    What best explains all of these historical facts?

                    Combine this with the Christian’s experience of God, and the implausibility of Atheism, and I think he/she is amply justified in religious belief.

                    I know that, despite vague assertions otherwise, you rule out supernatural events, a priori. And given the absurd and superficial characterization of Christianity that is common here, this is probably not heading in a productive direction, but I wanted to respond for any interested.

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                    1. I didn’t say anything about a supernatural resurrection. I was talking about the reanimation of dead brain cells. Do you claim that Jesus’ dead brain cells came back to life?

                      If you want to claim that Jesus’ brain dead body was magically replaced by a supernatural body, that is one thing. that is a supernatural act. This is what our friend “ft” believes. But if you claim that Jesus dead brain cells came back to life, then you are contradicting science which says that dead brain cells can NEVER, under any circumstances, come back to life.

                      So which is it: Do you trust science or an ancient middle eastern holy book?

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                    2. I just want to know which authority is higher for you: science or an ancient middle eastern holy text.

                      Science says that brain dead bodies don’t come back to life. The Christian holy book says it has happened and will happen again. The Hindu holy books say that a man who lived prior to Jesus caused a water buffalo to speak in a human language for 45 minutes. Science says that it is impossible for water buffalo to speak in a human language. Which authority do you believe: science or the ancient holy book?

                      If your answer for the science defying claim in the Christian holy book is different from your answer for the science defying claim in the Hindu holy book, why??

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                    3. Gary, again, this is a flat contradiction. If the supernatural is possible (your own premise) then it is not… Well, impossible. The fact that there is no natural means for a supernatural event to occur is an obvious entailment of what it means for an event to be supernatural!

                      This is why it is important to note that science doesn’t actually “say” anything – the people interpreting the data do. But even if you want to personify science this way, by your own stated positions, science could only “say” that there are no natural means for this event or that event.

                      Finally, as I’ve stated, reason and evidence is my standard for evaluating all claims – scientific, religious or otherwise.

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                    4. Do you believe that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and became the emperor of Rome? Were you there to see it? Was there a recording of the event? Of course not.

                      None the less we have good reasons to believe that it happened. So obviously this is a silly standard.

                      I believe it in the resurrection for a variety of reasons, but I listed a few of them already in this thread (see 1-5 above).

                      Alright, that’s all from me for now. I’m sure we’ll meet again. Be well.

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                    5. I accept the claim that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon for one simple reason: Like most educated westerners, I accept overwhelming majority expert opinion on all issues about which I am not an expert. And I trust overwhelming majority expert opinion because these experts use a tried and tested method of universal truth investigation: the scientific method.

                      So why do you believe in a first century, science defying, “resurrection”?

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      1. But this still misses the point. See above re: the unscientific truth that “science is the only way to know truth”.

        “science is the only way to know UNIVERSAL truthS”.

        Now you’ve got it correctly.

        Like

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