RE: [asa] The whole of reality (subject name changed)

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Thu May 28 2009 - 17:04:05 EDT


The reason science can only investigate the physical aspect of nature is on how science collects data, which is by means of purely physical devices. It would be miraculous if purely physical devices reacted or recorded nonphysical or supernatural “data.” I find easier to deal with the concept of physical than material. Material carries a lot more baggage as a term and I do not know how to define it operationally.

What is real is the physical data. How the data is interpreted is where theory comes in whereby constituents are postulated and further corroborated experimentally. That is in essence what science is.

One real does not need direct human sensible experience except to read the measuring devices and thus obtain the data. Note that all phenomena are not physical. Love is a human phenomenon that goes beyond its physical manifestation where even the supernatural comes into play.

Humans as “detectors” can experience nonphysical and supernatural phenomena. That is why I do not define science via the human “detector” but by means of purely physical devices.

The notion of empirical is equivocal since includes purely physical devices as well as humans ad detectors. There is nothing wrong with definitions. That is what makes human communication meaningful and unambiguous.

If one can classify phenomena into clear differences, then that ought to clarify the different kinds of knowledge we use to study the whole of reality, that is the seat of all phenomena. Photons are very physical but they are not ghosts.

Spirit is a supernatural concept. It is an element of what makes humans in the image of God. Therefore, science can never tell us of what a human being is. One needs knowledge of God and more so His Son, Jesus the Christ.

It may be so that all our conception of reality and what underlies it may change in the future. However, as of now, we have to make the best our brains allow us to comprehend.

From: Bill Powers []
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 4:19 PM
To: Alexanian, Moorad
Cc: Gregory Arago; Cameron Wybrow;
Subject: Re: [asa] The whole of reality (subject name changed)


Just some quick questions.

Why do we say that science can only investigate the physical?
Is there a difference between the material and the physical?
Are some immaterial things physical?

It is not at all clear why we presume that the spiritual and the physical
cannot interact.
Science all the time investigates the invisible, even in principle
invisible (quarks). When it does so is it utterly clear that it is
investigating the physical?

Science studies phenomena; and what are phenomena?
Ultimately, in all cases, phenomena must be capable of human sensible

Complex instruments, in conjunction with complex theory of the invisible,
are employed in enabling us to make of the invisible phenomena.

Are all phenomena physical?

Why presume that because we can make of the invisible something that
influences our senses that it is physical?

Are all such invisible entities physical by definition, or is it an
empirical conclusion.

It seems that it is definitional.

It is perhaps better to drop notions such as physical, immaterial, and
nonphysical, and speak instead of just the phenomena and the stories we
concoct about the phenomena. Does it really add anything to call
photons physical, although they are immaterial? What is spirit and how do
we distinguish it from the physical? This is by no means clear. What is
called physical today in the early days of science was considered a type
of spirit.


  On Thu, 28 May 2009,
Alexanian, Moorad wrote:

> Gregory,
> The reason science cannot study the nonphysical and the supernatural is
that by definition those two sets are the relative complement of the purely
physical elements of the physical set.
This is so since science has been defined by its subject matter, which is
data that can be collected, in principle, by purely physical devices.
In other words, purely physical devices cannot detect thoughts and other
mental concepts, self, etc. nor the supernatural.
> The physical and the supernatural sets do overlap, but are not the same.
For instance, humans are elements of the union of the physical, nonphysical,
and supernatural sets. This is the reason I take the supernatural as being
part of Nature because humans are part of Nature. In addition, the creation
of man in the image of God forces us to make the supernatural an aspect of
> Knowledge, the number pi, mental abstractions, etc., are nonphysical but
certainly not supernatural. I think, as C.S. Lewis indicates, reasoning is
indeed supernatural. However, God is Supernatural but, as Creator, is not in
Nature. Of course, the incarnation is a deliberate invasion of God himself
into His creation.
> Different kinds of knowledge study different aspects of the whole of reality. For instance, to study only the physical aspect of man does not tell us who man truly is. The claim that it does, is reductionism at its worst. This is my qualm with evolutionary theory, which will eventual base all on genetic coding, which is purely physical.
> I am here merely indicating what my thoughts are regarding what is real. Future research may prove some aspects of this wrong. However, I doubt it.
> I am attempting to order the different kinds of knowledge, which are defined by their subject matters, and integrate them so that we truly deal with the whole of reality. This must be accomplished without any sort of reductionism.
> I hope I have answered all your questions Gregory. If not, keep on asking. Some of this material can be found in my website:
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> From: Gregory Arago []
> Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 12:49 PM
> To: Bill Powers; Alexanian, Moorad
> Cc: Cameron Wybrow;
> Subject: RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
> Hi Bill and Alexanian,
> I suppose the thread has turned a bit off topic, since nobody,s talking about Behe any more. But then again, that,s often when the fun begins on ASA, when people diverge from often travelled pathways. : - )
> As with Bill, I agree that that what Moorad is proposing is appealing. The triad of physical/non-physical/supernatural means that <science> cannot study the <non-physical> or the <supernatural>. It also restricts the <physical> and the <supernatural> from overlapping. And it claims that <science> only studies one-third of what constitutes human beings, i.e. as an <entity>, which is what Moorad calls them/us.
> I can,t help but suggest that Moorad,s triad echos the language of <positive science>, like what a zoologist would speak, and not the language of <reflexive science>, as an anthropologist would speak. But perhaps that is part of his legitimization strategy.
> I wonder how Moorad distinguishes between what is <non-physical> and what is <supernatural> given that if we *are* (as a fact) created imago Dei, the <non-physical> aspects of humanity would be presumably available also in/to the <supernatural>. I also wonder if Moorad,s triad is reasonable or logical or mystical given that it opposes two different base concepts. Why not <natural>, <non-natural> and <supernatural> instead? Why not <superphysical> instead of <supernatural>? Perhaps he,ll address these questions here or in a new thread.
> How does he distinguish the <natural> from the <physical.> (Or is that not important?) For example, <physics>, as a scientific and academic discipline, is typically categorized as a <natural science.> Is he taking offence that <natural> is typical a <larger> or <wider> category than <physical> and thus trying to simplify his definition of <science>?
> And then what about all of those <sciences>, i.e. as many people call them, that do not particularly study <physical> things? Does his perspective disqualify them as <science> or devalue their contribution to human (self-)knowledge? Or does his position actually uplift those fields because they study human beings, which are partly <supernatural> entities? And what about all of the human-social scientists who don,t think that there is anything <supernatural> about human beings? Are they contradictory in their own disciplines?
> It also doesn't seem to me that Moorad has answered Bill,s question, or at least not directly. Bill asked: <The materialist will argue that if ,every, behavior can be accounted for by a physical process that the living are nothing but physical. What would you say to that?>
> Moorad answered: <To the materialist I would say, go tell your wife, husband, children, friends, etc. that they are nothing but a complicated solution of the Schrödinger equation. Let us see how they take that.>
> The materialist, as you know, Moorad, can argue for <non-physical> things just as easily as the person who believes in spiritual reality. I think this is partly what was behind Bill,s question. Aren't there various <levels> of explanation, which are available even to materialists, Moorad? Or is it just something simple like <vulgar materialism> and not something more sophisticated like <dialectical materialism> that you would argue this way against? One could just as easily point the figure at <mechanistic> thinkers in our age of electricity and computers (i.e. machines).
> Indeed, there are those in science who think <consciousness> will one day be explained via physical or material processes. How do you respond to them? Is it merely fantasy? Is the <power> of <science> blown way out of proportion (no pun intended given the DPRKs recent posturing on the Korean Penninsula) to what is most important in people,s lives? Are you <promoting> a humanisation of <science> or rather greater relevance for whatever fields study the <supernatural> in human existence, to contribute to our self-community knowledge? I,d sure appreciate your insights, Moorad, as I think you offer a unique view amongst the ASA listserve community.
> I think Moorad,s position can help to <put science in its place>, to <situate> it or draw boundaries around it, so to speak. But I worry that by limiting <science> to merely physical things, he,ll lose the strongest weapon available against scientism. The uniqueness of human-social scholarship conveys something that <science> as Moorad considers it can never address. But don,t trust me on the <never>, folks, just because I,m on your side working in a (roughly 2/3 of the academy) realm that is predominantly against us.
> Gregory
> --- On Tue, 5/26/09, Alexanian, Moorad <> wrote:
> From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
> Subject: RE: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
> To: "Bill Powers" <>
> Cc: "Cameron Wybrow" <>, "" <>
> Received: Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 7:14 PM
> Bill,
> A human is a physical/nonphysical/supernatural entity. Also, life cannot be characterized in purely physical terms. I totally reject physicalism; however, the subject matter of science is data that can be collected, in principle, with the aid of purely physical devises.
> To the materialist I would say, go tell your wife, husband, children, friends, etc. that they are nothing but a complicated solution of the Schrödinger equation. Let us see how they take that. Also, let the materialist live by what he/she preaches by not using words that cannot be characterized in terms of the purely physical. For instance, do not use the words like love, kindness, sin, etc. Let us face it, if a materialist description of him/her was realized, then he/she would be reduced to a pile of useless chemicals, viz. no life, no consciousness not self at all, the original dirt.
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> The new Internet Explorer® 8 - Faster, safer, easier. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free!<>
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu May 28 17:05:14 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 28 2009 - 17:05:14 EDT