Why I don’t think supernatural agents exist

1: All explanations known to be true are reducible to ‘physical processes’.

2: By induction this creates a strong bias in favor of physical explanations.

3: There is no strong evidence that any particular non-physical explanation is true.

Therefore thinking any particular non-physical explanation is true is epistemically unjustified.

This position could be countered by:

A: Producing strong evidence for a non-physical explanation.

B: Showing the application of induction to be inappropriate.


When I’ve used this line of reasoning the responses I’ve seen are:

  1. By claiming there are no supernatural events with strong evidence I am assuming what I’m trying to prove, as the only reason I think that is because I think there are no supernatural events.
  2. The entire project is misguided because whether a transcendent personal creator exists is a philosophical, not an empirical question.
  3. The epistemic value of induction possibly breaks down when looking at the creation of everything (this is my own objection).

The problem with 1 is I’m simply not making an assumption. And I’m not begging the question. However to realize why not it is necessary to actually understand what I am trying to say.

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2 Responses to Why I don’t think supernatural agents exist

  1. Mike Gage says:

    I think if you were arguing with a competent theist, the objections would be along the following lines:

    You need to clear up exactly what you mean by “known” in (1) and “strong evidence” in (3). It would seem different people would judge such things differently. For example, I imagine William Lane Craig would say about (3) something like, “I disagree. I think I’ve given very good reasons to think there is strong evidence for God’ existence and interaction with the world in the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Argument for Jesus’ Resurrection.” (It’s best if you imagine it in his voice, too)

    Second, as it’s currently presented, it does look like you’re begging the question in both (1) and (3) in that both of those statements seem to be very close to your conclusion. I recognize they are not exactly the same, but I think a question-begging argument could definitely be made. The problem could be made better depending on those clear definitions I mentioned.

    • You are certainly correct. ‘Known’ is a term I should probably avoid.

      What I’m trying to get at with 1 is the set of truth claims about which we have effective certainty (earth goes around sun, Washington DC is capital of US, kangaroos are native to Australia, etc). Even this conception is deeply problematic, but there aren’t any supernatural events in this set of claims.

      Perhaps modifying 1 to “All explanations we are certain about only involve natural processes”?

      3 simply doesn’t look right. 1, modified so it doesn’t have an objectionable statement, combined with 2 sets of the inductive case.

      With 3 I was trying to say 1 and 2 mean we need a high level of evidence, and none of the arguments Christians use are good enough. However looking at it again this isn’t clear.

      So Craig’s response ‘no Kalaam and Resurrection do provide evidence strong enough to overcome the inductive case’ would be the sort of response I’d like. We can then talk about whether it meets that standard.

      However Craig’s actual response is that induction doesn’t create a counter case against the supernatural. Hence we shouldn’t treat the resurrection more skeptically than any other historical event. Though the man is a clever sophist, in a debate with Richard Carrier in his intro he said he would assume, based on Kalam, God exists, hence the resurrection is plausible, and if you don’t assume that you’ll never believe the resurrection. Then Carrier proceeded to flounder, and visibly ignore Craig, as Carrier was not trying to argue that even if God exists we should still disbelieve the resurrection.

      On begging the question 1 is about what we have an extremely high level of evidence about, 3 is about what we have a high level of evidence for, the conclusion is about epistemic justification.

      OTOH if you don’t find epistemology fascinating it sounds kind of silly to say “All of the evidence points to X, therefore we should believe X”.

      Anyways thankyou for the comment, I really was looking for ideas on what is wrong with it.

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