Intelligent Design Mind Naturalism

Bencze: The mind as a hybrid between two realms

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Philosopher and photographer Laszlo Bencze on a reasonable understanding of methodological naturalism.

Galileo was a methodological naturalist because he was not a methodological supernaturalist, the only other option. Galileo was interested in the natural world, specifically the movements of the planets and their moons. He studied these movements via natural methods, i.e., he observed them through a telescope. He did not use supernatural methods in his studies. What might “supernatural methods” be? He might have written his questions about the solar system on slips of paper and burned them with incense in expectations of receiving visions explaining everything. Of course that “supernatural methodology” sounds very silly. I’m not aware of any serious Christian thinker who ever used that method of inquiry. All of them understood that if a person wished to understand the workings of a non contingent God in the world created by God there was no choice but to study that world directly. Its functioning could not be predicted from first principles as Aristotle thought. Nor could any human presume to question God directly to receive answers. That approach was unsuccessful for Job and would be equally unsuccessful for anyone else. God is not a cosmic librarian who is compelled to satisfy idle curiosity on demand.

The admission that the only way to understand the natural world is by observing it most certainly does not preclude the existence of a supernatural world. But direct study of the supernatural world by observation is not possible. Understanding of the supernatural world comes via revelation and via the normal actions of the rational mind. In fact rational thought necessarily leads to the conclusion that a supernatural world must exist. The rational mind is itself a mystery because it partakes of qualities which are supernatural though it exists in our natural realm. Thus the mind is a kind of hybrid between the two realms. So we have the perplexing difficulty of assigning logic and mathematics to either the natural world or the supernatural world. The modern prejudice is to assign both to the natural world, the world of material things, and say that they “emerge” from that world. That view makes little sense. I say that God equips us with the ability to understand both logic and mathematics as a result of being made in his image. He gives us the tools to understand things that are immaterial and beyond physics (hence “metaphysical”).

Thus by combining our minds with our observations of the natural world through normal means we come to that understanding which we call science. The methodology of science is natural insofar as it allows no supernatural shortcuts to knowledge. Yet it is supernatural insofar as the mental tools it relies upon cannot be explained as artifacts of the natural world. Hence when used fairly and correctly, the term “methodological naturalism” is nothing more than an admission of man’s limited place in the world. We cannot conjure answers directly from supernatural realms. We can only persist doggedly in observations of what is open to observation. Yet, our reliance on methodological naturalism in no way limits our world to that which can be observed because the very act of observing relies upon that great, mysterious, non-natural thing: the human mind.

See also: Why the human mind remains a mystery to naturalists.

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8 Replies to “Bencze: The mind as a hybrid between two realms

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    Fascinating and very cogent, imho: ‘a hybrid between two realms.’

    That last sentence establishes the link between God’s mind, what we observe and our own minds; which is why Dawkins’ assertion that everything in the world only appears to have been designed, is so completely vacuous.

    In the scientist, secular knowledge-faith and space-time coinhere, and when the former coinheres with Christian knowledge-faith, it has clearly boosted the progress of science. This latter continuum seems to evoke a mind-heart continuum, an analytic-unitive continuum, a worldly-wisdom, sapiential continuum

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Nor could any human presume to question God directly to receive answers. That approach was unsuccessful for Job and would be equally unsuccessful for anyone else. God is not a cosmic librarian who is compelled to satisfy idle curiosity on demand.

    Why shouldn’t we ask questions of God? Why wouldn’t He answer them? Even if He told us to go away and stop bothering Him that would be better than the stony silence we’ve had since Biblical times. Wouldn’t it?

  3. 3
    cantor says:

    Seversky June 9, 2015 at 6:20 pm
    the stony silence we’ve had


    the stony silence you’ve had.


  4. 4
    StephenB says:


    Galileo was a methodological naturalist because he was not a methodological supernaturalist, the only other option.

    Well, not exactly. Galileo was not a methodological naturalist for the simple reason that there was no such thing prior to the 20th Century. Scientists of that era thought that science was primarily about natural causes, but they certainly did not claim that science was exclusively about natural causes.

    Accordingly, there was no reason then, nor is there any reason now, to claim that a scientist cannot use empirical methods to study a supernatural phenomenon. If Moses were to come back and part the waters of the Red Sea, methodological naturalism would rule out a miracle and characterize the event as a meteorological anomaly. Never mind that the waters went their separate ways at the same moment that Moses raised his arms.

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    The mind as a hybrid between two realms

    So Laszlo Bencze is a dualist. But is he a true dualist? I ask because I meet people would call themselves dualists while insisting that the brain is not necessary for mind.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Indeed if truth is the object then the option of the supernatural can not ruled out and so any investigation ruling that out has already compromised itself. Already wrong.

    Its not mysterious I say.
    its just our thinking soul that uses our great memory to observe/figure out the universe.
    Its impossible anything we know is not in the memory organ. So memory is the dominant tool for our soul to use.
    Our mind is just our memory as the bible implies. Our soul is a real thing and the mind is. One immatyerial and one material that lets us , immaterials, exist in the material.
    Remember Jesus had to work with his memory which was a material organ. He had no memory, i think, of being God.
    Thats why as a kid he GREW in wisdom. He had too because he brought none with him. not that he learned things he never knew before.

  7. 7
    tarmaras says:

    In Indian philosophy matter is seen as a medium of communication between minds. It is, in a sense, objective information that can be accessed by observers and facilitate a “shared-experience” for the observers. But for this to be possible both mind and matter must be types of information, one more abstract (mind) and the other more contingent (matter).

    I found this idea in Ashish Dalela’s book Six Causes, about the Vedic view on creation, and I will share a quote that I think is relevant to the discussion (Chapter 6: The Material Cause of Creation, subsection Serializing Information):

    “When ideas exist in the mind, or in the senses, they are generally grasped as a unit. The idea of a man or woman, or ideas of yellowness or circle exist in the mind and senses as a single concept and percept. But, when this information has to be communicated, it cannot be transferred as unit. To communicate, the ideas have to be serialized.

    An artist serializes a form into a painting through incremental strokes of the paint-brush. A musician serializes his insight through notes and words of a song. An author serializes his ideas through words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters in the book. The perception of a circle must be serialized by defining an origin and a radius as two separate values. The perception of a color must be serialized by defining relative proportions of RGB color hues. What is perceived as a single idea, color or form, may need many symbols.

    To serialize information, a physical space and time are required. Many ideas can be serialized simply through static shapes in space. Words in a book are examples of how information can be serialized simply by forms extended in space. Extension is therefore a basic requirement for matter, because to objectify information we need to represent information as extended forms. When elementary forms have to be combined to create complex propositions, serialization includes time. Symbols are ordered in time to create propositions. The need for the existence of space and time arises from the need for communication. The external material world must be extended as space because information has to be objectified as forms, which require space. It must be extended as time to create complex propositions from elementary symbols. Space and time are now the medium in which we can encode and represent ideas. These ideas may be observed by others, enabling communication.

    Descartes also defined matter as something that is extended; he called matter as res extensa as opposed to the mind called res cogitans.But Cartesian extension was stipulated as a matter of fact, not as a necessity arising out of needs for communication. The extended substance objectifies and serializes ideas and percepts within a thinking substance.”

  8. 8
    harry says:

    There is no problem with theistic methodological naturalism that does not close its mind to the possibility of non-material realities like rationality, consciousness and free will. This is reasonable since we have yet to discover by what principles matter is to be configured such that free will, rationality and consciousness will emerge.

    If they are genuinely non-material realities created by God and animate living things by His decision only, then we never will discover such principles because they don’t exist. And even if we did get rationality, consciousness and free will to reliably emerge as epiphenomena of a given configuration of matter, simply referring to them as “epiphenomena” of that configuration wouldn’t make them material. They would still be non-material realities that, like gravity, somehow influence matter, and they would still be, ultimately, the creation of God.

    Not that I think such a configuration of matter will ever be discovered, since it is matter that is an epiphenomenon of Mind, not the reverse. Planck had it right: A Mind is the matrix of all matter.

    Incorporeal angels and demons are far less mysterious entities than we are, since we are composites of rationality, consciousness, free will and matter. We are far more unlikely realities than are the angelic and the demonic.

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