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Jeffrey Wise

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In the debate about whether God exists or not, there is a third possibility: that "God" does exist, but only within our brains.

In recent years, neuroscience has greatly expanded our understanding of the fabulous capabilities of our brains, especially our subconscious minds. This is made dramatically apparent when computer scientists try to duplicate things humans find easy like vision, speech, inference, etc. (e.g., IBM's Watson Jeopardy-winning super computer).

Isn't it possible that spirituality springs from our subconscious brain as it bridges between the outside world and our conscious minds; that the only truly supernatural force is us - our conscious minds? Isn't a jet airliner flying at 35,000 feet across the Atlantic at nearly the speed of sound a better "supernatural" accomplishment than a burning bush?

As I suspect you will agree, this is a very rich and complicated topic, but perhaps by working together, we can begin to establish a case for it, or against it!

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    Feb 22 2011: I dont agree with the next:
    "that the only truly supernatural force is us - our conscious minds? "

    I wouldnt say it is supernatural, and im not sure from whom its the next quote but I think it works pretty well: "Everything which can be done is natural"

    I agree with the idea that the spiritual notions and the idea of god comes from a construction from our mind, but also agree with Matthieu that this is just part of the same framework of "god doesn't exist" category.
    • Feb 22 2011: I agree that we are not "supernatural" entities in the traditional sense of the term - of being outside/above nature. We are totally a product of nature! But doesn't have to mean that we cannot create things that are outside/beyond nature - "supernatural" in that sense. I don't mean this on a philosophical, metaphysical level; of course, anything we make or do is part of the natural world. But there is something very special about our intellectual creations - but for our (natural) conscious minds, they are beyond nature's ability.

      The point I'm trying to make is that we are capable of doings that are outside/above nature in that they can not occur in the natural world without our conscious intelligence - like a Boeing 747 jet or a super computer. So in that sense, we are the the only provable "supernatural" force (and I think the only one). In saying this, I'm not trying to elevate us to the level of gods, rather I'm trying to enhance the meaning of the term "supernatural." Being that there is nothing beyond/above the natural world, the traditional use of the term is obsolete, but I think there is value in keeping the word but using it in this expanded sense.

      Please suggest a better way of expressing this.

      But the bigger issue remains: can a common ground be found between the spiritualists and the atheists based on our growing understanding of ourselves? Can we develop a new synthesis that gets us past the "God" issue?
      • Feb 22 2011: I do not believe in the existence of the supernatural (in the traditional definition of above-nature).

        Since we are a part of nature anything we do (such as building a Boeing 747) must also be a part of nature, in the sense that it is created by nature. There are many examples of nature constructing it's own transport mechanism to distribute part or all of itself to another location. How is this different?

        To me the use of the term supernatural today is synonymous with magic (not illusion), in that they are both used to describe something that can not be explained using our current understanding of nature/science/so on.

        Unfortunately it seems to me that the current state of human nature prevents such a synthesis. But I do believe this will not always remain the case, that there will be a time when the general consensus is that the debate is irrelevant.

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