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"Does Anything Supernatural Exist?" (Debate & Group Discussion)

This event is sponsored by the Portland State University Freethinker's Club and The Center for Philosophical Naturalism.  The main listing for the event is here:

The following is an excerpt from that webpage:

Title: Which worldview is superior: supernatural or natural? 
Date: Wed. April 9, 2014
Time: 7:30-9 pm (free parking after 7 pm)
Venue: Portland State University (PSU) Smith Memorial Student Union, room 296/298.
Parking: Parking is free after 7 pm. Parking structure 1: SW 6th & Harrison, Portland, OR. Parking structure 3: 1631 SW 12th Ave, Portland, OR. All PSU free parking spaces are listed here: Questions about parking? Call PSU Parking Services here:[masked]-3442. (See the parking map below; Parking Structure 1 is preferred as it has a bridge on the second floor of the parking structure connected to the Smith Memorial Student Union.)

Most Americans are religious, and they believe in the supernatural. A University of California (U.C. Berkeley) paper states this opinion about a religious poll taken in 2012: "Atheism is barely growing; one percent of Americans positively did not believe in God in 1965, two percent in 1991, and three percent in 2012."[1] This strongly implies that the vast majority of the population believes in at least the possibility of the supernatural. If one were to step back, and survey all the facts of the known world, which worldview makes more sense: a supernatural worldview or a natural worldview? Do gods, demons, spirits, angels, reincarnation, heaven, hell, or any other such entities or processes described in the world's religions exist, or are they all imaginary? The supernaturalist will defend the reality of at least one of these entities, while the naturalist will deny the reality of them all.

The panel will consist of two people representing each worldview. Bernie Dehler (President of the group called "The Center for Philosophical Naturalism") will argue for a naturalistic worldview. Phil Smith (a philosophy professor at George Fox University) will argue for a supernatural worldview, by representing a Christian perspective. Our moderator is Marko Balogh from the PSU Freethinker's group. The moderator's role is to make sure both sides have equal time.

(Note: Parent guidance is suggested for children, as Bible stories may be discussed which have very graphic narratives of sex and violence.)

FORMAT (total time is 1.5 hrs.):
1. (6 min.) Student leaders explain their position
-- Why naturalism makes better sense (3 min.) -- Why supernaturalism makes sense (3 min.)

2. (6 min.) Audience volunteers to testify why they left religion (supernatural thinking) to be atheist, and vice-versa -- Former religious believer (3 min.) -- Former atheist, now supernatural believer (3 min.)

3. (20 min.) Presentations "How do you define your worldview, and why is it the best of all alternatives?" (Exact order to be randomly determined later)
-- Phil Smith (10 min.) -- Bernie Dehler (10 min.) 4. (20 min.) Bernie/Phil cross examination -- Cross examination 1 (10 min.) -- Cross examination 2 (10 min.)

5. Audience Q&A (35 min.; 5 min. each gives time for at least 7 questions) -- Open mic, each questioner gets 5 min. max, mostly interactive on questioner's terms.

[1] "More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Key Finding from the 2012 General Social Survey"

Parking Map:
(Modified from here: )

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  • Jerzy

    I think Bernie's presentation was right on the topic and responses right on target. However, I was disappointed in the content from Dr. Phil Smith of George Fox University, who didn't really get to the point of identifying what he means by supernatural, and why does he claim that exists. Simply attacking an atheist default of null hypothesis is not useful. He also used a number of logical fallacies. His argument can be summarised as there are some universal "truths" [a very poorly defined term] and other clues, therefore... Christian god - fallacy of begging the question. In addition, argumentum ad populum [most people believe in something supernatural therefore... you guessed it... god] then he also contradicted himself saying most Christian who believe in "certain" Bible myths are wrong [so does having a majority opinion mean it's true or not].
    Good to see You all.

    1 · April 10, 2014

    • Jill

      So right, a huge list of logical fallacies, I was kind of surprised he didn't hear himself , one right after another.
      And it seems that he believes, that when majorities in history have believed one thing or another, then whatever it is, is therefore a 'truth". Also, I felt his exuberant dramatic tone was overkill, over the top theatrical.(now I'm doing ad hominem, oops) A calmer voice tone is more effective to get people to listen. Is that appeal to something?

      April 10, 2014

    • Jill

      Athena, seems I can't recall acquainting, yet here's a video from your suggested:­
      apparently some atheists cited only slight errors, I enjoy this style.

      April 10, 2014

  • Jill

    When I listen to debates, the concept of the 'supernatural', believing in something without proof, is the entire point of 'faith', isn't it?
    I kind of want to say, "whatever", but it's fun anyway. A hoot & a half. Thanks to both 'sides'.

    April 9, 2014

  • Marlee

    Can't make it this time, but sounds like a thought-provoking discussion!

    April 9, 2014

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