Author Topic: Supernatural  (Read 1623 times)

Lord J Esq

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« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2005, 02:52:05 am »
Before this thread gets too far off-topic, I want to take my shot at answering Leebot's question. This was addressed by Carl Sagan in Cosmos, and you'll find it an occasional subject of interest elsewhere amongst scientific and philosophical circles. The answer, as Sagan gave it--and with which I agree--is that the curiosity to achieve a satisfying understanding of whatever phenomenon is an innate, evolved function of the human mind. Understanding something presumably helps us to exploit or to respond to said phenomenon, with minimal time spend in on-the-spot thinking. Intuitively, the benefits of this are clear.

However, when we "understand" something, there is no guarantee that our understanding is accurate. Indeed, perfect understanding is an elusive feat. When we think we understand something, we may only be partially correct (in which our understanding contains errors and/or incompleteness), superficially correct (in which our understanding properly describes the phenomenon in question but not its underlying nature; i.e., describing an effect accurately but messing up on the cause), situationally correct (in which our understanding is true in this specific case, but not in the more general case), or we may even be not correct at all (conf. "religion").

The methodology of reason and the apparatus of science are both continually evolving, and not only is much of our veracious understanding relatively new with respect to the sum of human history, but so too is most of our capacity for veracious understanding. Human curiosity precedes civilization itself, but science and objectivity are institutionalized within civilization; they are not endemic to feral human beings. I'm talking diamonds in the rough, here. Precision is as valuable a tool in understanding as is breadth of exposure. And what this all means is that humanity yearned for the truth before it really had a good system for getting its hands on the truth. Far easier to look up at the moon and see God than launch a rocket at it to collect moon dust.

Hence, religion and superstition were born as imperfect predecessors to the scientific institution. And because our genetic makeup is almost no different today than it was before civilization began, our propensity as individuals therefore is geared toward the easy answers of faith-based knowledge. Inasmuch as believing in things that are not true is usually far from lethal, the practice survives across all human cultures.

To make a long story short: Invoking the "supernatural" is one way that human beings obey the precept of following the path of least resistance on the way to satisfying their curiosity of the unknown.

Lastly, out of sheer pride, I'd also like to point out that your defintion of the supernatural, Leebot, is exactly the same one I gave earlier. =P

Luminaire85

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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2005, 05:05:17 pm »
I would also agree that the desire to understand is an evolved behavior. Not surprising that Mr. Sagan can express this idea far better than I. (Yet another reason to read Cosmos, too.)

It's true that some pre-Renaissance cultures had developed treatments or medicines. However, knowing what treats a disease is much different than knowing how or why, which is where the invokation of the supernatural comes in. Thanks for pointing that out, BZ.

Leebot

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« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2005, 06:53:10 pm »
Quote from: Lord J esq
Lastly, out of sheer pride, I'd also like to point out that your defintion of the supernatural, Leebot, is exactly the same one I gave earlier. =P


Hehe, well I didn't copy you. I'd had that definition prepared beforehand so I wouldn't get influenced by any other definitions.